Friday, April 07, 2006

Shaken, but stirred

I was a bit shaken by this message from Dan Simmons laying out the future if more people don't realize that we have always been in a war for civilization. That war continues, not the "clash of civilizations" much talked-about these days but the defense of the only actual civilization against barbarism in the form of Islam, in the form of Catholicism, in the form of socialism. This is only a taste:
“Your enemy is he who will give his life to kill you,” said the Time Traveler. “Your enemies are they that wish you and your children and your grandchildren dead and who are willing to sacrifice themselves, or support those fanatics who will sacrifice themselves, to see you and your institutions destroyed. You haven’t figured that out yet – the majority of you fat, sleeping, smug, infinitely stupid Americans and Europeans.”

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Noodlefood comment:
This discussion has clarified in my mind the idea that libertarians - and Libertarians - really have no clear philosophy. "Tolerance" appears to be a synonym in their minds for "lack of thought" or simple fuzzy-mindedness. Sometimes in trying to explain to people what Objectivism is, I slip into the "It's like libertarianism, but..." mode, because I expect people will be more likely to have some idea of libertarianism than about Objectivism. That's a mistake and I'm glad to realize it. As to whether small "o" objectivism exists, certainly many people think it does. It does seem to be a contradiction in terms, however, since its difference with Objectivism appears to reside in its rejection of certain people's interpretations of the ideas of Ayn Rand. Ad hominem arguments can hardly form the basis of a coherent philosophy.
AIDS sense (finally)
I am boulversé by this Marginal Revolution post referring to a Washington Post article about the UN's blunders on estimating the extent of African AIDS. The Washington Post! After all these years, all the Duisburg suspicions and the Kary Mullis accusations appear to be vindicated. The article talks about how "independent researchers and U.N. officials"
raise questions about monitoring by the U.N. AIDS agency, which for years overestimated the extent of HIV/AIDS in East and West Africa and, by a smaller margin, in southern Africa

So I put in this comment:
Note that the article says nothing about the predicted massive declines in population that were supposed to be caused by AIDS in Africa, blamed on First World neglect. In fact, it mentions "burgeoning populations". Years ago many voices reported that most African "HIV cases" had never actually had a test, PCR or other, for HIV. Someone was sick, so they had AIDS. And, gee, what do you know, AIDS cases give you a stick to beat the West with and bring in more money for the kleptocrats. This article marks the beginning of the collapse of the entire AIDS conspiracy, responsible for the unnecessary deaths of thousands and the wasting of billions of dollars in scarce resources.

I'm convinced this is big. There was a big outcry about the article a few months ago in Harper's, I believe it was, casting doubt on the "HIV=AIDS" thesis. I wonder what will be said about this.

Update: Dean Esmay, as I expected, has picked up on this story. Nice analysis, saying what needed to be said, even though for years it was like talking into the wind:
To be sure, both of the above-linked stories take the view that HIV, and HIV alone, is the cause of AIDS. But, the establishment--by which I mean CDC, NIH, WHO, and the world's medical associations--now have to face up to at least two things:

1) We were greatly misled about the crisis in America and Europe.

And now,

2) We were greatly misled about the crisis in Africa.

Some of us have been saying for some time now that their numbers for Africa made no damned sense. If you looked too close at them, they always fell apart.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Is it or isn't it?

Geez, Financial Times will there be riots in April in Paris or not? That's all I want to know, so I know whether we should bring tear gas masks:
Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France’s ruling UMP party, on Monday grabbed centre stage in an attempt to find a compromise over the government’s controversial youth labour law as students and trades unions planned mass protests on Tuesday to demand its complete withdrawal.

If Sarkozy doesn't do something effective without caving in entirely to the leeches and goldbrickers, he's not going to get my vote in the next French presidential election.
Dealing with immigration

VDARE has been working hard dispelling immigration myths:

The fact of the matter is that most illegal aliens are law-breaking criminals already, and they’re also liars, cheaters, and thieves (i.e.—stealing a life in the U.S. that does not belong to them), just for good measure.
. And Juan Mann is quite right about the upshot:
But in my humble opinion, this "making it a crime" business is just one gigantic red herring for the reconquista crowd.

As long as the federal government is not particularly interested in enforcing immigration laws anymore, all of these legal distinctions don’t really hold my interest.

When you get right down to it, the immigration problems of the border areas of the US don't really hold my interest, either. I don't have any faith that Congress will do anything at all about illegal immigration except to exacerbate the problem. So I will assert my sovereign individuality by staying away from those areas of the country negatively affected by illegal immigration. And I will adjust my investment and political predictive strategies to reflect continuing and worsening effects on the US economy from what, practically speaking, is an open borders policy. Maybe I'll go live in, oh, just to take a random example, Mexico?!

Monday, April 03, 2006

I am curious, grumpy
I wish James Randi would return from the hospital. He's had some sort of heart problem. Despite his execrable politics, I always enjoy his debunkatory Commentary. He's got some associates doing it for now. They're OK, but sometimes the PC shows through, as in this from Hal Bidlack:
In my area, political science, all too often students are taught history as names and dates to be memorized. I think this is tragic. You can memorize that the Battle of Hastings was in 1066 and think yourself taught. But how much richer is your understanding of history to know that the Norman’s use of the simple stirrup, a cleverly twisted bit of metal allowing the rider to be more stable in the saddle, helped turn human history.

So I had to send him a letter:
For Hal Bidlack,

I must disagree with your downgrading of emphasis on dates in history. Far too little emphasis is placed on putting historical events in chronological context. I play a little game at the supermarket. When the cash register comes up with a recognizable number for the price of my order, say $17.76, I mention the connection to the cashier, who is often a student, "Hey, that's the year the Declaration of Independence was signed". When anything more obscure than 1776 comes up, I'm inevitably met by a blank stare or the question, "Oh, are you a history professor or something?" (I'm not). But how can a student accurately consider the little things like stirrups or Washington's temper when he can't place the Norman Conquest or Valley Forge in its proper century? History teachers these days seem to be afraid to require students to learn dates. They are the ABCs of history. I heard of one student who, when asked how Napoleon traveled to Moscow, asked, "Didn't they have cars back then?" Such are the dangers of not knowing your centuries. A far more pervasive emphasis on chronology would immeasurably enrich our students' ability to analyze history.

Robert Speirs
Tallahassee, Florida

This isn't just grumpiness. I'm perhaps a little obsessed with dates. But at least knowing "which came first" can be priceless. As when you start talking about Islamic influence in Persia and then you realize you're discussing events that happened before Muhammad was even born! Ooops. Then you mix up the Mongols and the Huns. Douple oops - by like seven hundred years. If you don't watch it you'll have Julian the Apostate running around with Alexander and Joan of Arc being burnt by the Crusaders. Time and space just aren't flexible enough. Darn Einstein!

Update: Response from Bidlack:
Mr. Speirs,

You raise a good point. I certainly did not mean to suggest that dates are
unimportant. Rather, I was trying to suggest that if *only* dates are taught,
history loses some of its magic. I certainly would never suggest that having no
knowledge of historical context is acceptable. Sorry if I appeared otherwise,
I'll seek to make that clear in a future column.

Hal Bidlack, Ph.D.

Good on yer, Bidlack. OK, maybe I will de-emphasize the "only Randi" meme.

Side point - is it legit to post someone's response to one's email without asking? Ah, blogo-ethics. What a puzzle palace!
More immigration babble

On Bloomberg, Kevin Hassett has a spectacularly wrong-headed article on immigration, including such stunners as this:
If we take the harsh approach, choosing a policy that admits almost nobody, we give up the large potential economic gains associated with diversity in the workforce.

So I sent him an email:
You say in your Bloomberg article:
Second, immigrants tend to have different skill sets, so they increase the beneficial diversity of the workforce, making firms that hire immigrants and the overall economy more productive.

New Orleans is an example that illustrates the latter. A friend recently returned and mentioned how quickly the city is snapping back to life. He saw construction under way throughout the city, performed by swarms of workers who appeared to be predominantly Spanish-speaking. Without those construction workers, restaurants, hotels and other businesses might still be closed.

Laboring on a construction site is a unique skill Americans don't possess?? Am I missing something? How many of the original inhabitants of New Orleans who left could NOT do the work of a laborer on a construction site? Of course, now they're all busy being brain surgeons and nuclear physicists. But. And why would construction sites full of legal immigrants - even, perish the thought, citizens! - not provide as much business for coffee shops as illegals who send most of their money back to Mexico? Hmm, you don't think there are so many illegal immigrants on N.O. construction sites because, being illegal, they're cheaper? And they can't complain about hours and accidents? Nah, couldn't be.

the net effect is that society gains when people move to the U.S.
That very much depends on who those people are. If they have higher crime rates, lower rates of education, including lack of English language ability, and lower skills in general, it's not logical to say that the country would benefit, even compared to having no population growth at all. And it's definitely illogical to say that illegals are as valuable or productive as legal immigrants carefully selected for their skills and productivity would be. Australia and Canada, for instance, have been screening immigrants in this way for years. Our legal system tries, tremendously incompetently, to do the same thing. I still don't know what skills you're talking about that illegal immigrants possess, or why Hispanics, for instance, are so valuable because of their "diversity". Talk about assuming your conclusion! The mass of illegals has exactly the same set of skills as any other mass of uneducated, non-English-speaking peasants would have in America.

Robert Speirs
Tallahassee, Florida

Read the whole article, if you've got your Tums handy.
Last word on God
I seem to be clearing up a lot of old conundrums these days. I don't think anyone who talks about Heaven really knows what it would be like to go there, in the words (approximately) of the old song. I don't think the concept "God" and the concept "exist" should be mentioned in the same breath. So when Razib on Gene Expression came out with a post based on Justin Barrett's Book, "Why would Anyone Believe in God?", including ponderings such as this:
Lots of people say they don't believe in superhuman agency (including gods and ghosts) but will still modify their behaviors around cemeteries on spooky nights ("just in case"). I also run into plenty of people who say they don't believe in God but they really have chosen to act as if they don't believe in God because they are angry with God or don't like God. With these qualifications in place, certainly there are a number of factors that might predispose individuals to become atheists.(from Barrett)
I just had to add my two cents:
I haven't read the book, but isn't it true that the concept "belief" is as undefined and conveniently flexible as the concept "God"? Isn't it true that one cannot "disbelieve" any more than one can "believe" in some concept if that concept is irrational and self-contradictory? So there are not atheists and believers. There are merely wise men and fools.
Then I realized I didn't want to talk about things that don't make any sense. Well, that simplifies life. Although I still may have to think about exactly why people say they believe or disbelieve in God.
More on open borders
The Econlog fallacies are attracting some attention on Parapundit. They bring in the IQ analysis:
Think higher IQ people are better off in lower IQ countries? That's basically the argument that Jane Galt (Megan McArdle in real life) and Bryan Caplan would have you believe... Make sense? One problem: Show me a country with a low average IQ where 125 IQ computer programmers or electrical engineers make more money than they do in the United States or Japan or Germany. Anyone? Anyone? Show me the low IQ country where European and American corporations can't skim off the smart cream with first world job offers because the smart fraction is making so much money they do no want to leave.
And there's good stuff in the comments, too, such as this from John S. Bolton:
If comparative advantage were applicable as proposed, an even more effcient means of getting brains to match up with the largest possible number of brawns, as they called them; would be emigration of the brightest to places like Africa.
Read the whole thing and the whole comments.
Update: Just happened to think: That Bottom of the Pyramid book does seem to suggest that there's money to be made from the wretched - even the dumb - of the earth. But I think the thesis still holds. You can make a lot more money from rich, intelligent, productive people than you can from poor dumb ones. The difference of opinion seems to come in when some people insist, contrary to all experience, that dumb people can be turned into smart ones and will then go about getting productive and then rich.
Immigration questions
That darn Econlog is at it again:
The alternative ideology that I would propose might be called transnational libertarianism. The ideal libertarian world would have no economic borders. There would be no problem of illegal immigration, because all forms of immigration would be legal.

So I asked a few questions, which I have no answer to, but which need answering:
If immigration restrictions are wrong, why do almost all countries in the world have them? And if weak, unenforced US restrictions are bad, why aren't the immigration rules almost everywhere else worse? Why would countries, especially poor countries, harm their economies with strict immigration controls? Yet most do.
And is it entirely irrelevant that the crime rate among illegal immigrants is much higher than that among citizens? Do you favor admitting violent felons?