Hykleriet kender ingen grænser

Under imamernes hysteriske skrigeri over JyllandsPostens, i øvrigt ret uophidsende, tegninger af Muhammed spillede Fogh rollen som statsministeren der forsvarer pressefriheden imod formørkede anslag fra både indenlandske og udenlandske barbarer der ikke havde fattet rækkevidden af deres krav (eller også havde de fattet rækkeviden af deres krav, og var bare nogle dumme svin). Dengang var tavsheden fra visse andre partier (desværre også det jeg selv er medlem af) larmende.

Dengang var der ingen der kunne være i tvivl om at hverken imamerne eller de partier der støttede dem direkte eller indirekte handlede ud fra specielt idealistiske eller principfaste. De spillede blot et politisk kort i et politisk spil med det formål at konsolidere deres egen magtposition. Men det virkede faktisk som om statsministeren mente hvad han sagde.

Nu ved vi at det gjorde han ikke.

Det burde jo ikke komme som nogen markant overraskelse for folk der følger lidt med i det danske mediebillede at regeringen ikke kan lide DR. Og det er for så vidt heller ikke unormalt for denne regering at forsøge at kastrere DR. De af os der kan huske de diskussioner der gik forud for ansættelsen af Plummer og de af os der har fulgt specielt P1 i de par år der er gået siden, vidste godt i forvejen at regeringen fra første færd har ønsket at svække DRs publicistiske profil.

To gennemgående træk for denne kampagne har været et nærmest enøjet fokus på lytter-/seertal og et politisk ønske om at få DR til at operere på (semi-)kommercielle vilkår. Som det til overflod fremgår af resten af sendefladen er kommercielle ætermedier over en kam noget lort, og enøjet fokus på seer- og lyttertal virker stærkt fordummende på indholdet.

Indtil nu har det (næsten) været muligt at se denne kampagne som udtryk for dumhed, inkompetence og almindelig fantasiløshed. Det har trods alt i hele perioden været Brian 'Kulturkamp' Mikkelsen der har været den (u)ansvarlige minister for public service-kontrakten og håndteringen af forholdet til DR.

Indtil nu. Med sin seneste bredside har Fogh imidlertid entydigt demonstreret at pressefrihed, det er noget pressens minister kun er interesseret i at forsvare pressen når den ikke skriver noget han ikke kan lide.

Hykleriet er åbenbart.


Fisking a couple of Rethugs

PZ Myers has a Rethuglican and a Rethuglican-wanna-be being shredded by commenters in one of his threads. Since they are actually able to put up something approaching a fight, I figure I might as well join the dog-pile:

"the Republican party stands against... stem cell research"

How would you feel about funding churches and anti-evolution seminaries?

Apples to Oranges fallacy, with a dose of Red Herring. Stem cell research is sound science, creationism is religious establishment.

From what I have gathered, most conservatives are against FEDERAL funding of stem cell research which is a good thing.

For Korea and Europe.

I'm all for stem cell research for as long as it's done by private individuals and companies.

Leaving aside the fact that basic research can - almost by definition - never be profitable, I am not at all sure that I want private, for-profit interests to control (sole) access to stem-cell knowledge.

In order to prevent pharma companies from selling snake oil, you need regulation. And you cannot make meaningful regulation unless you have scientists who are knowledgeable in the subject and whose sole financial dependence is to the public interest. Back in yesterdecade, when the tobacco companies controlled access to tobacco research, that industry managed to obstruct much needed legislation in no small part by virtue of this fact.

"against education"

The policies of the Democratic Party have long been more anti-education (in practice) than those of the Republican party.

If you want to discuss a particular policy, I'm game. But AFAIK, the USA has no federal education policy. So, in order to prove your claim, you will have to either point to a) parts of the party platform that are explicitly anti-education, b) federal initiatives that indirectly damage education, and/or c) show that the majority of the US population lives in states (or maybe even counties) where major Democratic politicians advocate anti-educational policies.

For The Party it is easy to show both a) and b) (pandering to the Christopaths and faith-based snake oil programs, respectively).

The Republican party advocates market-based solutions, vouchers and private schools which all are sane alternatives to the platform of the Democratic Party.

Where do you get the plural tense from? There is only one proposition in that paragraph: Scale back on public education and let the Invisible Hand work.

As someone else has already pointed out, the Invisible Hand is a stochastic process that only works properly if you have both a high number of service providers and a large ensemble of consumers and a relatively large number of purchase decisions over the life of each consumer.

If either of these conditions does not apply, you have, in the first case, a natural monopoly or, in the second or third cases, consumer information overload.

The Dems only want more money (which some states already spend more than the so called "welfare" states in Europe) on education

Again, federal and local levels are two different things. At the federal level, funding is currently the only issue. Until and unless you define a federal curriculum, that's the end of the story (and, I might add, it isn't the Dems who are up in arms against that idea).

and are unwilling to fight against the teacher unions that uphold the poor quality of education by fighting for the "rights" of bad teachers.

Bad teachers have rights. Sociopathic murderers have rights. Republican politicians have rights. Even Bush has rights. There are many and more ways to raise the standards of education without infringing on the rights of even bad teachers.

Besides, until and unless you provide a concrete example of a right of teachers that infringes upon the quality of education, you simply don't have a case.

"against the environment"

Economic growth is more important than "controlling" (which can't be done) global warming (for example).

I call bullshit. First, we can indeed control global warming. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30-40 % over the next couple of decades would keep global mean temperature rise from exceeding two K.

Second, global warming hurts the global economy immensely. The profits of the few multinational corporations that stand to gain from our failure to protect the global climate are dust and ashes compared to the costs of more extreme weather.

Moreover, allowing polluters to pollute is directly contrary to the core libertarian premise that 'you break it, you bought it:' The only reason it is usually financially viable to pollute is because somebody else pays for cleaning up after you.

In the case of cyanide leaking from disbanded gold mines, the people who profit are the shareholders of the corporations that failed to properly secure their mines against this, while the people who pay the bill are the people who fish in the stream, use it for irrigration, bathe in it or drink from it. And, of course, in the case of semi-civilised countries, the taxpayers.

In the case of global warming, the beneficiaries are the shareholders of the companies failing to limit emissions, and the energy consumers in the First World and Asia.

The loosers are, among other people, the pacific islanders who stand to loose their homes and livelyhoods (in some cases even their whole country), the Dutch, who will need to foot the bill for bigger dikes, several major fishing nations who will find themselves out of a catch, due to extinctions and changed migration patterns, insurance companies worldwide who have to pay for more storm damage to their clients, the people who get killed in the storms that the insurance companies have to pay for, the people who survive those storms and can look forward to higher premiums, and so on and so forth.

Until and unless I see you proposing a workable way in which polluters can pay for these very real damages (not to mention cover the aestethic loss involved in loosing part of the Earth's biodiversity), greenhouse gas emissions are nothing short of vandalism.

Economic growth also leads to technological research and development which has always been mankind's best weapon (of adaptation) against nature and "overpopulation".

Leaving aside the fact that it is almost alway far more expensive to clean up than it is to prevent the spill, there is nothing whatsoever that indicates that new technology as applied only by the market will solve more problems than it creates.

Individual technologies can, of course, solve more problems than they create. But, equally, it is possible for new technology to create more problems than they solve. Since many and more such problems are invisible and transmitted over large distances, it is virtually impossible to seek redress for damages caused, hence removing any incentive to adress the issue in a purely market-based system.

Further, a good rule of thumb is that a cure is ten times as expensive as prevention (and this is a very conservative estimate). With this premise, even if eight out of every nine new technologies solve more problems than they create, a purely market-based system is still uneconomical.

"against alternative energy research"

On the contrary - the Republicans want to lower corporate taxes so that companies can invest more into the kind of research they want to which ultimately means investing into alternative energy research (since it's their future incomes that depend on exploiting alternative energy sources).

OR it allows shareholders to pocket the cash and run. If such tax breaks really were about R&D, the tax breaks would be specific deductions for R&D costs. General corporate tax breaks is pure corporate welfare. Nothing more, nothing less.

The Republicans also want to make oil more available by advocating drilling oil in Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico.

Quite apart from the general problems with the oil-based economy, these particular projects involve intruding upon national parks and nature reserves, amplifying the ecological problems. I have already made the case for equating pollution and vandalism, and until and unless I see an adequate answer to it, I'll consider that subject closed.

"against universal health care"

And this is a bad thing?


Have you ever read a book on economics?


Keeping in mind that economic planning doesn't work and that you can advocate Socialism only by relying on moral arguments it seems to be you who's advocating unscientific, religious crap here.

Keeping in mind that the premise of the above paragraph is utterly false, it seems reasonable to surmise that the conclusion is likewise nonsense.

More substantially, we see that socialism does, indeed, work. Take a look at European economies. Compare and contrast places like Italy, Greece, Portugal and Southern France and Germany with places like England, Scandinavia, Finland and Northern Germany.

Or, even better, one could take the numbers in this report by Svenskt Näringsliv - hardly card-carrying socialists.

Their graphs are utterly misleading, of course. Sweden is highlighted everywhere - a fun exercise is to highlight Norway as well (Sweden is red, Norway green):

The correct graphs look like this:

(GINI is a standard measure of inequality in the income distribution)

Notice that even when the Swedish Industrial Union cherrypicks which countries it wants to show us data from (I mean come on, what is Luxemburg doing in the same sample as the US?), they still cannot show that income redistribution is a shibboleth on the national economy.

One should always be careful with cross-atlantic comparisons. The US has a number of advantages that are completely due to geographic and historical accident, most prominently among which is the fact that WWII and the Cold War left the US with puppets in SE Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

But perhaps the second-most important point to remember about the American economy is that the Dollar is tied to the Oil Barrel. This means that Dollars enjoy a reputation as an extremely stable currency, allowing the US to commit to greater economic excesses and for a longer time than any other country without loosing investor confidence.

When the US currency goes over the edge (i.e. the moment OPEC switches trading currency to the Euro or Japan or China decides to pull plug on their Federal Reserve Bonds), it will crash all the harder, but for a while Libertarians everywhere can cite this illusive prosperity.

Because governments can't plan (also known as "the economic calculation problem") they can't adjust supply properly with demand.

In the case of health care, government ability to plan has little and less to do with fluctuations in supply/demand ratio. There is a 5-10 year lag between gearing up production of medical staff and the results of said gearing. No system can predict demand 5 years into the future, and no private market would ever retain surplus employees for years on end just to maintain capacity (and many health care functions require continual practice, so fire-and-hire policies are never going to work when fluctuations are on the scale of years).

there isn't enough workers,

This has little to do with health care planning. The near-chronic lack of medical staff is due mainly to the fact that the universities have greatly underfunded medical departments.

you have to wait from months to years to get treatment

To make a case, you need to prove that the lines grow longer the more government-run the system. Saying, as you do here, 'universal health care systems have long lines, ergo market-based systems don't' is a blatant non sequitour.

(it's no wonder our cancer survival rate is lower than that of America's)

An assertion that you have yet to back up with hard numbers.

And in the unlikely event that you do find numbers that superficially support your conclusion, remember to check (before posting them) that they take into account a) the patients that are only diagnosed post-mortem and b) the average time of first diagnose. Earlier diagnose runs a greater risk of false positives.

Because if you post some bogus numbers, I promise you that I will tear them apart.

and the whole system is basically a free rider of the American system (Americans pay the bill of r&d and we take advantage of your innovations since our system doesn't create enough wealth, or can't allocate resources efficiently enough, for r&d).

This is patent bullshit. Apart from the fact that - as other people have mentioned - most medical research is, in fact, publicly funded, I would point out that the leading commercial developer of insulin worldwide is a Danish company (Novo Nordisk). GlaxoSmithKline, possibly the world's leading developer of pharmaceuticals is based in Canada, not the US. Do you want me to dig out more examples, or will you concede the point?

"especially if you get a prolonged cancer....."

Chances of surviving one is higher in America. The welfare system sacrifices lives in the name of egalitarianism.

Again you make this claim, and again you fail utterly to back it up.

Another fine example that economically left-wing people and Christians are from the same tree. Both live in a world which can be protected only by preventing facts from flowing in. This is why most left-wing "debators" start relying on ad hominem and moral arguments when things get rough.

I will leave as an exercise to the reader to determine how many milliTards of irony this paragraph contains.

The U.S. poverty rate in 2005 was 12.6%, barely different from the rates in previous recent years. The rate has been roughly stable for around three decades [source].

I don't give much for a static poverty ceiling, which your source is using. The fundamental problem with a static debt ceiling is that by the standards of 1800 AD, even a displaced Katrina victim living in a trailer with only a TV and one set of clothes would be fabulously wealthy.

As for debt, yes, household debts rose, but household ASSETS rose by a much greater amount. That's why net worth increased so much.

And, as others have pointed out already, the lion's share of that increase comes from rising real estate prices. Rising real estate prices do not create wealth. It moves wealth from first-time buyers (who have to pay higher interests on their mortgages than they would if prices were lower) to people who inherit real estate (whose real estate has become more valuable without a comparative increase in the mortgage).

It also allows people to borrow more money (the only practiceable way to capitalise the extra value of your house), but this is all borrowed money, hence the illusion part.

By the way, the movement of wealth from first-time buyers to last-time sellers would also contribute to increasing the median - first-time buyers will inevitably tend to be below the median - and the gain is spread across the rest of the distribution in a more-or-less equal manner, hence raising the median value without generating any wealth (or even the illusion of wealth) at all. This is why a median by itself never says much of anything about the distribution. You always need to provide at least the mean or the standard deviation (preferably both) in addition to the median.

And second, even indigent and uninsured Americans have access to free or low-cost comprehensive primary health care services through a network of public and private agencies and programs, including the federal government's Community Health Centers Program. So Ed Darrell's claim that "50 million have almost no access at all" is yet more nonsense.

Conveniently, you neglect to mention that these 'Community Health Centers' mainly diagnose - their actual treatment options are quite limited.

In conclusion, I'll note that the libertarians have failed to make a convincing case.

As usual.


The difference between 'appropriate' and 'legitimate' speech

I was recently asked by a commenter to make a post dedicated to a discussion of the limits of free speech. I have posted so often in defence of controversial speech that I figure it an interesting exercise to see if I/we can come up with a consistent principle that would exclude the obviously illegitimate and only that.

To touch off the discussion, Ted offered four examples of controversial speech.

This case is not as simple as the ones that were brought up in the comments section where the request was raised. But then again, nobody promised that the world had to be simple.

The first complication is that the above four examples actually represent three different cases of assembly (the two last pics are from the same picket on the same day) and eight different cases of speech: Four cases of physically picketing someplace, and four cases of publishing pictures of the picket.

This is not a trivial distinction: Even if one considers the picket illegitimate, it does not automatically follow that the publication of the pictures is also illegitimate, and conversely, even if the publication of the pictures was illegitimate, the picket itself may have been pure as the driven snow, speech- and assemblywise.

I will start by noting that I'll try to distinguish between legitimacy - as in 'should this be legal?' - and appropriateness - as in 'should this be frowned upon?' A large part of the difference is that the former is content-neutral, while the latter is not.

Prohibiting something is an act of force by the state - as Perlsø (The Pragmatic Libertarian) likes to put it, prohibiting something means being willing to send men with guns to somebody's house. For something to merely be socially inacceptable is another kettle of fish, since this does not, in a well-ordered society, imply threats of violence. Hence the reason to require more consistent justification for outright prohibition than for 'mere' social exclusion.

The reason that I attempt to make this distinction is that we are now moving from cases (the Cartoon Jihad, etc.) where I feel that not only should the speech be legal, it is also highly appropriate and should be approved by society, into a realm where I will probably often be saying that 'I condemn his speech (and I think we should boykott his business), but I don't think prohibition is warrented,' and doing so, I want to practice this bit of mental housecleaning to avoid the most glaring inconsistencies.

Having thus laid some of the ground for our foray into the matter, I will turn in before my brain starts leaking out of my ears due to lack of sleep.

See you tomorrow (or maybe saturday).


Don Rummy takes one for the White House

The Danish Broadcasting Service now reports that the war criminal Donald Rumsfeld has stepped down. While I observe this with no small amount of schädenfreude, I doubt it'll really change anything much. But you read it here first (at least I beat Dispatches from the Culture Wars to it).

EDIT: And it also looks like the Rethugs didn't have enough Diebold machines emplaced...


A point I've been looking to take up with Ed Brayton

At a recent post at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, Ed Brayton comments that:

The reason there is both a free speech clause and a free exercise clause is that the latter covers far more than speech, and because in light of their experience freedom of religion was a particularly important right to protect.

To which I replied:

This is actually a point I've been wanting to take up for some time: What exactly is covered by free exercise that is not covered collectively by free speech, free press, freedom of peaceable assembly, inviolability of the home, habeus corpus, etc.?

It seems to me that explicitly mentioning religious practice as protected either signals that religious practice is protected above and beyond - say - political speech, or is in clear violation of Ockham's Razor.

From where I'm standing, there seem to be two inheirent problems with that:

Firstly, I can think of legitimate religious excersise that would not be covered by other civil liberties. Thus, explicit mention of religion conveys the impression that freedom of religious practice is more far-reaching than other civil liberties.

For instance, it is clearly both constitutional and legitimate to prohibit libel and slander. But if you couch your libels and slanders in religious terms, a case can suddenly be made that libel and slander laws do not apply, because religious speech is protected in ways that go above and beyond ordinary free speech. Not a very good case, I admit, but a case none the less.

Or, to take a less open-and-shut example, a case could be made that it is constitutional to prohibit lying in advertismen. Would such a law (assuming it was not unconstitutional on free speech grounds) require a religious exemption for televangelists?

If religious speech is protected above and beyond ordinary free speech, then a rather compelling case could thus be made that televangelists are allowed to defraud people as long as they couch their fraud in religious gibberish.

Or take a faith healer, who advocates medically unsound practices. Assuming that this could be forbidden without violating freedom of speech (which I very much doubt, but let's go with the notion for the sake of the argument)

Now, personally, I think that if someone is stupid enough to fall for a televangelist or faith healer, it's their money, their health, and their problem.

Nevertheless, these two groups of frauds are clear examples of people who use their target audience's superstition to make a buck - I see no indication that they would be above using the same superstition to game the law.

My second concern is that explicitly protecting religious practice - even when the protection extends no further than the other civil liberties - makes it less likely that the ordinary civil liberties will be enforced: It is usually easier to draw a bright line saying 'religious practice here,' than to take on a messy argument over free speech and the limitations thereof.

Thus, we often (at least in Europe) see lawsuits over matters that would clearly be covered by freedom of speech waged over freedom of religion. The problem with this is fairly obvious: It deprives the public record of a precedent case (re)establishing freedom of speech - not to mention the possibility for creating conflicting precedents.

And that's leaving quite aside the issue of symbolism: I find it a most unhealthy signal to send that religious expression is somehow different from ordinary expression - it is precisely this kind of implied dualism that (mis)leads people to conclude that religion should be subject to some special 'respect' or overt veneration.

Of course, all of these concerns would be moot if there is even one example - contrieved or otherwise - of acceptable and legitimate religious practice that is not covered by the other civil liberties (of course, that would then raise the issue of why that practice isn't covered).

Whether I'm right in my assumptions or not, this should be an interesting one to watch.


And some people think the Church isn't dangerous

It should come as no surprise that they are wrong.

Of course, this archbishop is absolutely correct in his overall strategic analysis. Christopaths and Ayatollahcritters share the same overall objective: A return to the dark ages. Let's just hope that the let-us-pander-to-people's-antidemocratic-notions-to-show-'respect' crowd of fellow-travellers and apologets and appeasers will treat this as a wake-up call.

Not that I'm holding my breath.


The WorldNutDaily Gets it right!

Now, before any of my Honoured Readers (humour me here) move to pay their dues on any expensive bets, I should probably mention that this is a letter to the editor.

Of course, given the editorial - ah - style of the WorldNutDaily, one can surmise that at least some of the editors must agree with at least part of the letter.