Saturday, November 19, 2005

Advancing the Discussion on Prostitution: Another Comment Promotion

M.J. Watson offered something particularly interesting to our conversation about prostitution. So here it is:

At the root of the view that prostitution is harmful to women, and men, is (the idea) that there is something intrinsically valuable about our sexuality that should not be commodified. To engage in prostitution is to treat oneself as a means rather than an end. Connie's view seems to rely only on the criterion of consent. Whatever one consents to is legitimate.

My view is that one can consent to an activity that nonetheless is demeaning and immoral. I don't know that there is a prior principle to appeal to that would prove either of us right or wrong, but let me give two illustrations of why sex is intrinsic to us in a special way, even at the risk of making this too long of a comment.

1. Imagine Fred says to Steve, "Hey Steve, Betty and I are playing tennis on Thursday night. But I can't make it, would you be willing to fill in?"

Now imagine Fred says, "Hey Steve, Betty and I are having sex on Thursday night, but something has come up and I can't make it. Would you be willing to fill in?"

We may laugh at this, but our laughter reveals that we know there is something not quite right about this scenario. Sex is not just another activity.

2. On a more serious note, consider why we think rape is wrong. Leon Kass has an amazing article about the rape of Dinah in Genesis. He notes that today rape is seen as wrong merely because it violates a women's consent and because of the physical harm. But on the older view rape is also considered wrong because it also violates her "womanliness", or, to really use antiquated language, her virtue (her specifically sexual virtue).

But on the consent-only view it's hard to understand what makes rape the specifically awful crime that it is. It is a violation unlike any other because of the special nature of our sexuality, and thus the act of rape is intrinsically different from a punch in the nose or another violent assault.

I grant these examples don't prove that the consent-only view is wrong. As I said, I'm not sure what would do that. But I hope they illustrate why we have good reason to think there is something intrinsically valuable about our sexuality and that it thus should not be treated like a widget to be commodified.

Friday, November 18, 2005

St. Thomas and the Ho's

I'm a feminist more than a moralist on prostitution. It hurts women.

My friend and colleague Mr. Homnick writes:
However, we must also recognize the right of polities to place transactions of that nature outside the law. The vast majority of localities have exercised that right and most of them enforce those laws to some degree.

I think the right of a society, namely ours, to uphold its mores and sensibilities is under great scrutiny these days, if not outright attack.

Although the philosophical father of our constitution John Locke pays homage to "natural law," which asserts that one doesn't require a Bible to believe that prostitution should be proscribed because it is intrinsically harmful, I wonder if he meant it. I'm tempted to think he would view it as a question of the property rights of a vulva's legal owner.

Thomas Aquinas, the champion of natural law, holds that prostitution is a violation of natural law because it's a misuse of the teleology of sex, that is, the purpose of marital act, to engender intimacy and love. The Catholic obsession with procreation is in there too, but not even a Darwinist could argue that procreation is anything but a natural function. Interestingly and compassionately, Thomas' objection is mostly that the unintentional products of such unions will grow up without fathers, which he sees as indispensible to the proper development of a human being.

The repercussions of prostitution are harmful on the personal level in a number of ways then, and we religionists maintain that natural law does not descend from revelation (i.e., the Bible, etc.), but that the two cannot help but be in harmony as they are both functions of a moral order that supercedes man's will and desires. There's a vibe to things. Prostitution hurts women, and everybody else involved, too.

But Aquinas, as political philosopher, is pretty pragmatic: the open toleration of prostitution would be harmful to the social order, but a jihad, if you will, against it would create even greater social ills. Political philosophers are good that way--even the best of a society's laws, constitutions or aspirations should not be suicide pacts.

Thomas (scholastic types call him "Thomas"), as any good philosopher should, defers to practical wisdom but recommends that we gear the law to the highest, not the lowest or easily achievable in man, because the latter is incapable of fostering what Aristotle saw as the true end of a society, to enable and inspire civic (and individual) virtue, virtue being a positive thing, not an absence of "sin."

I myself am very uncomfortable with discussions of hypocrisy. It's a word thrown around far too loosely these days, and has become a rhetorical weapon instead of an tool for understanding things. Yet I seem to be defending it. I find our drug laws ridiculous, yet here in Los Angeles, we saw firsthand the carnage of the crack epidemic, which was mostly not the result of crack being illegal but of the overwhelming hunger for it that addiction creates. It strips the individual of every shred of his or her human dignity. We cannot legalize drugs.

But I can also say that consideration of these things led me to change my mind and disagree with the administration about its opposition to proposed laws banning torture of terror suspects. The law must be morally directed toward the best in us, not to accommodating the worst, toward moral progress rather than regression to the slime we rose from. There are circumstances where some of us would break anti-torture laws to save innocent life, but the law should not make such moral courage easily achievable.

To requote Mr. Homnick, "we must also recognize the right of polities to place transactions of that nature outside the law." If we can proscribe the soul-numbing effects of prostitution and drugs (and I believe we must), then surely torture should be one of those transactions that our polity places outside the law as well. If it's true of an addict or a whore (or a drug dealer, or a pimp, or a john, or the john's poor bastard), how could being a torturer (or the tortured) not numb one's soul?

A Bit of Biblical Archaeology

I wouldn't suggest making too much of this at present, but it is an interesting tidbit: archaeologists recently discovered that there was indeed at least one person named Goliath living in Gath during the time that the Bible says David slew a Philistine giant of that name from that village.

According to the UPI story on the subject, the archaelogist responsible for the find, Prof. Aren Maeir, thinks it very unlikely that the Goliath referred to on the tiny ceramic shard mentioning the name is the Goliath mentioned in the Bible. However, as noted in the Yahoo! story on the matter, Maeir "said finding the scraps lends historical credence to the biblical story."

Many scholars have argued that the story of David and Goliath is a myth made up hundreds of years after the reign of the Jewish king. The scrap indicates that, at the very least, there was indeed at least one person named Goliath in the region during the time the encounter is supposed to have taken place.

WFB's Birthday Tribute

NRO is celebrating Bill Buckley's birthday party today, even though it's really on Nov. 24. I'm wistful in hearing about it because while I've been blessed to meet many of my heroes and even become friends with some of them, I've never managed to meet Buckley. I've read about him, written about him, carefully followed his career, and heard him speak. The recurring thought is that few persons have lived a more interesting life or worked more tirelessly for what they believed.

The website has an interesting page of tributes. This one jumped out at me:

James Piereson

I recall an event from the 1970s, a debate on a midwestern college campus between Bill Buckley and a liberal or left-wing speaker whose name I have justly forgotten. I had never met Mr. Buckley at that time, though (as the saying goes) I had seen him on television and was taken by what he had to say, though not yet persuaded on all counts. That would come later. Of course, having spent time on that campus, I had become accustomed to the boorish and juvenile manners of academic leftists, who were not beneath screaming insults at those with whom they disagreed or, more politely, stalking out of the lecture room in disgust at the thought that another person should be allowed to advance views that they did not endorse. During the course of the exchange, Mr. Buckley presented his views articulately, as he always did, and in good humor, which was something I had not expected and which left a deeper mark on me than anything he actually said. He made his case amid hisses and boos from some members of the audience, and some less than dignified remarks from his opponent on stage. I was astonished, when the debate was over, to see Mr. Buckley walk across the stage with his wide smile to extend a hand to his adversary in debate, who was surprised as well, not being accustomed to gentlemanly conduct of any kind. Indeed, that is precisely the kind of conduct one never expected to see on a campus at that time.

Mr. Buckley thus impressed upon me the enduring truth that there is a connection between the way leftists think and the manners by which they conduct themselves, and also between his own gentlemanly conduct and his conservative ideals. Mr. Buckley is a powerful debater, but that night he went a long way to making a convert through his own exemplary character.

I have met Bill Buckley on many occasions since, and on every occasion I have walked away with one over-riding thought: What a wonderful man this is!

My own thought upon reading this reflection is that it's not so difficult to be gracious in victory. And Buckley experienced a great deal of that.

Wanna See the New Zorro Flick?

S.T. Karnick, the greatest living film critic in the English language™, has a new review of the latest Banderas/Zeta-Jones bash over at Tech Central Station.

As usual, you will emerge refreshed, edified, and just a little bit smarter than you were going in.

For instance, did you know this?

First, a little history. McCulley began publishing his Zorro tales in pulp magazines in 1919, with the serialization of The Curse of Capistrano, which was published in book form as The Mark of Zorro after being adapted for a highly successful Douglas Fairbanks movie of the same name in 1920. McCulley published his last Zorro tales in 1951. Although the series evolved over time, especially the film adaptations, the central premise remained constant: an unprepossessing young nobleman assumes a disguise as Zorro ("the fox") and uses his wits, sword, and whip to fight an unjust and oppressive political order. (The concept is obviously based on Baroness Orczy's hugely successful "Scarlet Pimpernel" series.)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

For Love Or Money

A friend of mine who has a political role in a country other than our own was describing to me her battle on behalf of free government health care for prostitutes. She maintains that she is doing this on a moral as wall as a pragmatic basis. The efforts of the Catholic Church to thwart her initiative were viewed by her with disdain.

I made the following points in my response.

1) I am not convinced that prostitution should be illegal, but I think it should be against public policy so that we don't get absurd anomalies like the German government denying a woman unemployment benefits because she had a job offer - as a prostitute - that she was not accepting. I would be perfectly content to live in Nevada where the populace has deigned to allow prostitution as a legal enterprise subject to licensing and registration requirements.

2) However, we must also recognize the right of polities to place transactions of that nature outside the law. The vast majority of localities have exercised that right and most of them enforce those laws to some degree.

3) Inasmuch as this is an illegal activity in these venues, it is inappropriate to attach any special rewards to this activity. The conferring of a free health-care program is a sizeable financial award.

4) Furthermore, this constitutes a benefit attached to this field that is not present in waitressing or house-cleaning or other things that unskilled people do to scrape by until they can better themselves. So besides for the reward for those already engaged, we are now offering an incentive for those who are considering.

5) The same set of inferences that are drawn from illegality as a profession (contrasting prostitutes to waitresses) can be drawn from the conflict with social mores (pitting prostitution against marriage). We cannot give advantages to a prostitute that we are not giving a wife.

6) In general, there is no such thing as "free" health-care. This is a euphemism for taking money from taxpayers to give to others. This means that we are making those waitresses and wives pay taxes so the prostitutes can receive a benefit that they do not. This is a palpable absurdity.

There are more details that could be added to this, but for now this should suffice to the case.

Europe: Revitalization Or Decline?

The question that any analyst of Europe asks is whether the E.U. can be revitalized or whether it is fated to continue an incremental downward spiral to marginality. While pundits on both sides of this political equation have opinions, answers aren’t readily available.

All one can look at are signs, but these are available in abundance.

The French who often tell rude jokes about Boring Belgians are now seeing rich French figures who have found their next door neighbor an escape from draconian French taxes. The Halley’s of the Carrefour supermarket chain have settled in Belgium as has Philippe Jaffre former head of Elf Aquitaine, the state oil company.

Fiscal exiles include singers Charles Aznavour and Patrica Kaas; the actress Emmanuelle Beart and Isabelle Adjani, among others.

For those who are obliged to pay at the highest income bracket (80 percent) as well as a “solidarity tax on wealth,” it often means an annual tax bill greater than their income. In order to conceal the effect of onerous taxes, the French government estimates that the flight of capital accounts for a loss of about $2 billion a year while unofficial estimates have it closer to $30 billion.

France obviously needs this tax revenue to support the generous compensation for the unemployed. All an out-of-work person has to do to maintain generous benefits is call in every six months to confirm that no new job has been secured. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has proposed giving the unemployed a bonus of $1200 for taking a job, even as the government weighs a three strikes rule - a loss of payments if three job offers are turned down.

When the government tried to make it easier for small companies to lay off workers, thousands of strikes took to the Paris. Apparently French workers don’t realize the easiest place to lose a job is also the easiest place to find a job.

Whenever enlightened French officials discuss the value of privatization, they are obliged to retreat from that position because union leaders refuse to give ground from the commanding heights of the state guided economy.

According to one study the average French pay stub lists more than 40 deductions, compared to two in Britain and four in the United States. The government says it doesn’t want anyone’s tax bill to exceed 60 percent of household income, but as long as it refuses to eliminate the anomalous wealth tax, the proposal is little more than an empty wish.

France, of course, is not alone on the socialist scale. Germany has a minimum wage almost twice as high as the one in France and it also suffers from an unemployment rate of over eleven percent.

Mrs. Merkle’s lead during the recently completed campaign virtually evaporated when she discussed the need for social welfare retrenchment. A dose of the medicine needed to put a charge in the lackluster German economy is still not politically acceptable. As a consequence, the near tie in the election has left Germany without a policy direction and close to political paralysis.

Clearly if things get worse, change might be more readily accepted. Yet the downward slope in Germany with the precarious status of the banks and the intractable high unemployment rate might well have served as a catalyst for reform. But a mandate for change did not emerge from the election.

This analysis, of course, is a snapshot. History, on the other hand, is a montage. Yet a montage is composed of snapshots. What one sees is ominous. Decline is palpable. In fact, the axis of the world’s economy has already shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific. World shaking events surround us and for most Europeans the news cannot be good.

Alito Bit Of This, Alito Bit Of That

Although they were written without knowledge of the other, R. Emmett Tyrrell's essay and the one penned by yours truly form a perfect complementary tandem in today's American Spectator. Both are responses to the Alito job application which was discussed below by the estimable Mr. Karnick, who astutely assayed its radioactivity.

Tyrrell focuses on the fact that liberals have been pretending for at least a quarter-century that Reaganite ideas do not exist, and to the extent that they do exist they are outside the "mainstream" - this despite these ideas being in the political ascendancy since 1980.

I concentrate more on the need within the conservative camp for a pact of total loyalty, not to abandon Alito come Hell or high water. Here's a teeny excerpt:

All the gung-ho movement types were itching to volunteer for the battlefield. Okay, here it is. They had better be as good as their word. Because there will not be another chance. If Alito ends up twisting in the wind, with conservatives suddenly finding some taint in an obscure ruling of his and leaving his carrion in the open field for the vultures, then it's over for them. They won't get another chance. Not now, not ever. Not with this President. Not with any future Republican President.

It's very nice that everyone thinks of himself or herself as a person of principle. Not a sell-out. Motivated by morality. Informed by reason. Modified by experience. Calibrated by individuality. Guided by the spirit of the past. Animated by the spirit of the present. Inspired by the spirit of the future. We know all the lines, pal, but now is not the time: now it's time to put up or shut up. To, er... do your business or get off the pot. Push, as we have noted, has in fact come to shove.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

My Other Favorite Blog . . .

Is The American Scene, written primarily by Ross Douthat of The Atlantic Monthly. Ross just has an endlessly interesting grab bag of topics that typically hit my sweet spot of Christianity, politics, law, etc.

His latest entry is a very good discussion of whether the Narnia stories are actually allegory, which they are typically assumed to be. If you like Narnia or discussions of literary genre, you should check it out.

Crime Doesn't Spay

A wonderful headline from today's news: San Francisco Passes Sweeping Dog Laws.

I'm against it. I say that we should let sweeping dogs lie.

(Great line from the article. Attorney Dawn Capp, a lib, hits this one out of the park: "Bad legislation far outnumbers dog bites in the history of humanity.")

Runaway Bride

(Hopefully not a poem about the Alito nomination.)

Ah, once the joy seemed nigh
And the ecstasy quite soon
The valiant knight rode high
The jaybird sang his tune.
Midnight heard love's sigh
And its ardor roared at noon
Stars twinkled in the sky
In the merry month of June.

Oh, who loving tongue did tie?
Who trampled poetry to ruin?
Thrust the valiant knight awry
Jaybird whimpering like a loon?
Darkling vultures overhead fly
Casting shadows on the moon.
Who dared Love's truth deny
In the teary month of June?

Can the tears those lovers cry
Bring the heart back its boon?
May the new respect they try
Refresh joy from the jejune?
Or was it just a seductive lie
As Fate drew a grim cartoon?
That's for you to say, not I
In the weary month of June.

(Or would you prefer some Byron?)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Judge Found in Hot Tub with Dead, Underage Male Prostitute

No, it's even worse than that, as regards the prospects for Judge Alito to be confirmed for the Supreme Court: a document that suggests he has opposed Roe v. Wade has been found, the Chicago Tribune reports:

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito wrote in 1985 that he "very strongly" believed the Constitution "does not protect a right to an abortion," and he said he was proud of his work as a lawyer in the Reagan administration arguing against the position enshrined in the landmark decision Roe vs. Wade.

Alito made the comments in an application for a job as deputy assistant attorney general, when asked about his "philosophical commitment" to the Reagan administration's policies. He also staked out conservative positions opposing racial and ethnic quotas and said he disagreed with Supreme Court decisions that kept a high wall between church and state, as well as those that gave criminal defendants greater procedural protections from police.

The story did not say exactly how the document came to light, which is an interesting side question. In any case, the revelation suggests that Democrats will question Alito even more aggressively on this issue during the confirmationg hearings:

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats said Monday that in light of the revelations in the newly revealed document, they expect Alito to be more open about his current views than previous nominees.

Perhaps Judge Alito will be able to survive by parsing his words carefully, as Judge Roberts did during his confirmation hearings, seeming to endorse Roe while leaving room to vote to overturn it later, but it is a certainty that the War over Judicial Philosophy conservative Republicans have hoped for is about to begin in earnest—with Alito right in the center of the crossfire.

Promoting a Comment on Science: Evolution and I.D.

I'm going to do something I think will make our blog even more interesting. We had a commenter on the thread about evolution and intelligent design that Jay started who put in some serious effort to moving the conversation forward. So, I'm moving the comment up to the main page for the edification of any who would like to read it.

The identity of the commenter is a secret. We know him only as . . . Bubba.

Here it is:

Ok, since I WAS a Science major, not a Literature or a PolySci major as it appears most of those who post are, please let me ramble on for a minute.

The "Scientific Method" starts with a hypothesis, and tries to systematically go about to prove or disprove the hypothesis. “Science” is publishing your conclusions, along with your methods and materials, so that other “scientists” may review and prove or disprove your work with their own work, thus creating an open debate.

“Science” relies upon “laws” (e.g., Gravity, Thermodynamics, Motion) which have come to be relied upon as fact after multitudes of experiments and an innumerable number of blackboards of mathematical equations seem to be able to describe and predict the outcome of experiments relative to these “laws”.

OK, where am I headed? The statement was made “Scientifically there is no debate about evolution”. Balderdash. Go read some scientific journals. Open up a “Chemistry (or Physics) For Dummies” book. Use some intellectual integrity to subject your beliefs and theories to serious scrutiny.

Evolution is a theory that has been propounded, promulgated, and legislated without the accompaniment of hard scientific experimentation and data. In fact, the theory of Evolution is believable only after one has blinded one’s self to laws of Science which have been overwhelmingly proven and been accepted as fact for hundreds of years, such as Newton’s laws of thermodynamics, and the definitions of Entropy and Enthalpy.

Alternatively, there is no debate about the veracity of Evolution only if debate has been outlawed in the public forum, or the debaters are shouted down or called “religious extremists” by those who are afraid that open, honest SCIENTIFIC debate would not substantiate their pet theory.

Q: Where did the large molecules come from?

A: They were put together from small molecules after having been zapped with solar radiation.

Q: Where did the small molecules come from?

A: Energy fused micro-molecules together.

Q: Where did the micro-molecules come from?

A: Nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms.

Q: Where did the Nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms come from (since “Matter is neither created nor destroyed”)?

A: (no answer)

Q: Where did the solar radiation or the energy required to overcome the laws of Entropy come from?

A: (no answer)

The statement was made: “…I have no problem debating it and even reconciling it, but as tbm says, ID is not science, it's religion…”

It is clear that to believe in the theory of Evolution as though it had been proven factually has become such a matter of complete 'faith', and is no less 'a religion' for its believers than the Evolutionists accuse those who believe in Intelligent Design, or “Heaven” forbid, those who believe in the Bibical account of Creation of having.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Terrell, Jesse, Jesus and Steve

Jesse Jackson has come out in support of Terrell Owens' Right As A Black Man to act like a total buttface.

Presumably because Mr. Owens has been oppressed for like 400 years.

For you Wal-Mart shoppers who gravitate to the books, CDs, major appliances or frozen foods aisles instead of the toy department, Terrell Owens is a fabulously talented wide receiver. (For our overseas friends, that's a job in American football.) He recently, majorly and publicly, disrespected his corporate employer, the Philadelphia Eagles; his boss, coach Andy Reid, a solid/stolid walrus-like fellow in both girth and facial hair; and his team leader, quarterback Donovan McNabb, he of Rush Limbaugh fame.

Consequentially, Terrell has been suspended indefinitely, meaning that according to the terms of his contract he will continue to collect $200K a game to sit on his butt instead of aiding/torturing his team.

Now I've seen Terrell's life story, and folks, it actually is heartbreaking. He was raised by a strict if not psychotic grandmother, and his mother was a substance abuser who could not tell Terrell who his father was.

Until the day the older man from across the street came over, warning Terrell to keep away from his daughter because she was Terrell's half-sister.

So one might think that Terrell was jealous of gruff but fatherly Andy's affection for Donovan, who is one of the classiest and cuddly guys in all of football, and is the ultimate company man. He's the spokesman for Campbell's Chunky Soup. (Although his mom has become the star of the commercials, it just makes Donovan all the more cuddly.) Donovan throws the ball at a receiver's feet instead of forcing it in there and risking an interception, playing his coach's game instead of his own. Donovan is also Black, and I mention this only because I have not known Jesse Jackson to stand up for a White Man's Right to be a buttface.

I don't want to get into Terrell's head, but he reminds me of Steve Christ: "Dad, you always loved Jesus best. Jesus this, Jesus that..."

Steve's brother had a story they call The Prodigal Son, where the disenchanted son took all of his inheritance contract up front in cash, and promptly went forth and blew it all. He saw the error of his ways and resolved to go back to the family home, not to get his old place back, but just to get a job cleaning the stables or something. Home was good.

Terrell has apologized to the Eagles, to Andy, and even to Donovan. He wants to play football, and he wants to play it for the Philadelphia Eagles, whom he considers family.

Fair enough, Terrell. Tear up your contract and the $200K per game it pays, and offer to work for your Eagle family on the suicide squad, the guys who ram full speed into each other on kickoffs. For whatever the union-mandated league minimum is.

Andy Reid is known as a very religious person, and I bet he's familiar with the tale. Donovan McNabb seems to be a well-grounded man, too, and even though his counterpart in the story is the Faithful Son who gets aggravated at the welcome return of the Prodigal, I think he would welcome Terrell back, too.

Jesse Jackson is reputed to be a Reverend, which implies some familiarity with the Bible. It would be good if he passed Steve's brother's story on to the newest member of his congregation.

Late Disclosure: I'm a Philadelphia Eagles fan, and Terrell's criticism of his quarterback is not unwarranted, making this all the more tragic. Whoda thunk that a Proud Black Man and Rush Limbaugh might end up with the same conclusion? Mr. Chunky Soup just threw a game-losing interception on Monday Night Football, for lack of a reliable receiver. (Terrell's replacement zigged when he shoulda zagged.)

Hurry back, Terrell. We can work this out. Read some scripture, eat a little crow, overlook your quarterback's inadequacies, and get us to Super Bowl XL. All will be forgiven, I assure you.

Welcome to Hell, aka American Culture

Journeyman professional basketball player Paul Shirley writes in his latest column of his visit to a rock music show in which a band he likes, Stellastarr* [sic], opened for the Bloodhound Gang. Shirley and his brother enjoyed the opening act greatly, though the sound quality was poor, and they stayed to check out the first three songs by the headliner, expecting "some semi-funny rap/rock by some guys from Philadelphia."

They were treated to a bit more than that, in an experience the likes of which we have all had, where a fairly dubious but essentially trivial cultural product suddenly turns perfectly putrid:

The fact that their first tune was perhaps the worst song I have ever seen performed live did not help their case. Their fate was sealed when, between songs, one of the members of the band had the tank top he was wearing torn off by the lead singer in order that we in the paying audience could be treated to a viewing of his naked torso. The now-shirtless troubadour played along, in that staged-funny way, and acted as if he were surprised by the action. He then gathered up his shirt, rubbed it into his already-sweaty armpit and faked a toss into the crowd -- which probably would have been enough to convince my brother and me to leave the scene. But he took it to another level. Seeing the madness in the eyes of the crowd, he jammed the shirt down the front of his pants and pulled it, through his crotch, out the back. And then threw it into the crowd, where people actively clamored to catch it. If I had been in possession of a hand grenade at the time, I would be writing this from prison.

Any reasonably civilized American today knows exactly how he feels.

Goodbye, Genius: Peter Drucker Dies

I'm a history/law/religion type guy, but I didn't know myself as a younger person and studied social sciences like economics/political science/public administration. One author who stands out to me from that period and whom I still enjoy reading is Peter Drucker. Here was an individual who wrote penetratingly about management and organizations and who launched no fads. There was no "Theory X" or "Re-engineering" with Drucker. He simply had an awesome sense of effectiveness and strategy. Accordingly, he was paid astronomical sums for his advice. Tom Peters, for instance, is fun, but he's just a cheerleader compared with Drucker.

Fortune magazine has a good obit/homage to Drucker available:

He had a brilliant line that skewered both groups: “The reason reporters call these people gurus is that they’re not sure how to spell ‘charlatan.’”


Drucker simply didn’t care about the conventional view on any management topic, since he had thought them all through and knew where he stood. Yet I was still surprised by the vehemence with which he disdained the modern vogue for exalting leadership, as distinct from paltry old management. It infuriated him, though he was too polite to say so unless you asked him about it, which I did. His reasoning was extremely simple: “The three greatest leaders of the 20th century were Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. If that’s leadership, I want no part of it.”


There were many things Drucker wanted no part of. Big universities, for instance. He scorned them all to remain at tiny Claremont College—payback, perhaps, for the scorn they’d heaped on him early in his career. Economists dismissed his work as cheap sociology. Sociologists had no use for business. And Drucker was dismissive of them all. “No economists were interested in organizations,” he explained in a 2001 interview with my colleague, Jerry Useem. The field “was based on the asinine assumption that organizations act like individuals. They don’t.” Here, Drucker had sensed a huge opportunity. Like any great entrepreneur—“somebody who creates something new,” as he once defined the term—he was raiding these older disciplines to create one that didn’t yet exist. Physics sprang from Newton, economics from Adam Smith. And Peter Drucker became the undisputed father of management—the discipline devoted to the study of organizations.

Last time I went on a really good vacation, I took two books with me. One was David Brooks' Bobos in Paradise. The other was Drucker's The Effective Executive. He'll be missed, but some of his predictions are still probably good for twenty more years or so. Start reading.

Debate And Switch

What is a small club like this for if not to have a convivial place in which to let off some steam?

In this context, I would like to comment about the debate in the Kansas school board about whether Intelligent Design should be afforded some diminutive mention in the science curriculum. The strategy of those who would deny the right to mention that "some believe that only intelligent design can explain such a high level of systematization" is to say that there are no serious scientists who believe such a thing. They say that one cannot legitimately make reference to the debate between random evolution and intelligent design because no such debate exists. We all recall Ted Koppel's breathless report that his staff had polled ten heads of Biology departments in universities and not one acknowledged that such a debate exists among legitimate scientists.

After a telephone conversation today with a friend who was parroting that position - a conversation in which I uncharacteristically blew a gasket - it occurred to me that I could vent in this venue my true thoughts and feelings. So, if the members of the Reform Club will forgive me, I will address my next remarks to these activists:

You f***ing liars. You outright frauds. You miserable creeps. To stand up there and pretend that the only legitimate scientific position in positing the origin of staggeringly complex organisms with trillions of interactive components is random non-systematic mutations modified only by the fact that the flawed ones are likely to burn themselves out?

It's one thing to pick that as the better choice in the debate. My side says that you can't create a thing with trillions of components and geometrically compounded amounts of possible permutations. And if you could get one with all the parts just right, there would still be plenty of intermediate ones that could survive. Your side says that it is reasonable to assume that all the guys without eyebrows died out, the ones without armpit hair, the ones with one eye, the ones with one nostril, the ones with one testicle, the ones without male nipples; none of them could endure the grueling survival-of-the-fittest reality show. (Survivor MMDDCCLLXXVIII was especially exciting, when they voted the males without nipples off the island into the sea.)

If the audience determines that you have the better argument, you win. If mine prevails, then I win.

But to say there is no f***ing debate? To say that no sane person can make a scientific argument for the existence of design, system, structure, plan? What total garbage! What absolute tommyrot, bilge and poppycock! Shame on you for your lack of elemental academic integrity.


Thanks. I feel better now.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

On The Commission of Lies

2 out of every 3 top lefty bloggers agree:

What this country will end up needing is something like a Truth and Reconciliation Commission because what the country needs is not so much for particular people to go to jail but for the lies and the lies to cover up earlier lies to stop. The country can't get past what has happened or move forward until we can get the truth on the table, deal with it and move on.

Not really making a partisan point here, but I myself don't think people are ever satisfied with commissions. There's usually a minority dissent, and folks go on believing the side they came to dance with.

I've been interested in the investigations into the Pearl Harbor attack, which might be the closest historical analogue to this, and with parties reversed. Surely someone had blundered. This article seems to be a fair recap.

Seems right after Pearl Harbor, the Roberts Commission found the Hawaii commanders culpable, and FDR and Washington in the clear. Then as the war was winding down in '44, a court-martial was held, and one of the commanders was vindicated.

In November '45, after the war had ended, there was yet another commission which voted along party lines, and with an election coming up, the majority Democrats once again vindicated FDR, even though he was already dead.

In 1995, the Democratic administration's Undersec of Defense killed another inquiry. Finally, in 1999, the Republicans passed a Senate resolution vindicating the naval officers.

Almost sixty years later, and still they were voting along party lines. There will be no reconciliation.