Friday, May 04, 2007

For the first time in my life, I fear for my country...

(Via RedState) Pollster Rasmussen Reports:

Democrats in America are evenly divided on the question of whether George W. Bush knew about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in advance. Thirty-five percent (35%) of Democrats believe he did know, 39% say he did not know, and 26% are not sure.


61% of the reality-based community believe that is or may be a FACT? And almost a quarter of our whole nation? No wonder they hate Bush's guts. I would too, if I were that deranged.

I just can't wrap my mind around this yet, and my astonishment is genuine. I had no idea, really. It's one thing for Harry Reid to shoot his mouth off for the netroots. It's one thing for the lefties to cocoon themselves against any and all dissent to enjoy the self-pleasure of bashing the other guys. But folks, this is national madness. We are one nation, come unglued.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

The LA Times: The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

According to a front-page headline in today's LA Times, "France's Royal Relishes the Role of Underdog." Really? She wouldn't rather be ahead in the polls? Just asking.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Times Sinks Deeper Into the Abyss

I see that the new newspaper circulation numbers are out, and the ineffable Los Angeles Times, chock full of self-esteem, leftist silliness, and journalistic ignorance, is down over 4 percent from last year. The numbers apparently are for only print circulation, a revealing bit of myopia on the part of the bean counters, but I rather doubt that online readership could possibly compensate very substantially for the reported decline.

Let us be very clear and very blunt: The readership decline is driven by the biases and ignorance inherent in modern journalism. The LA Times in particular is a swamp of leftist assumptions, analytic ignorance, and pedantic silliness masquerading as "reporting." An example: The recent front-page, above-the-fold tear-jerking stories about the injuries suffered by a man and his daughter at the claws of a bear. Was this story really worth something on the order of 7000-8000 words or more? And then there are the editorials, not quite as knee-jerk leftist as a couple of years ago, but still pretty silly. And the op-ed page: a repository of high-minded ignorance from the likes of Rosa Brooks and Erin Aubry Kaplan and other worthies with little to say, poor writing skills, little information to reveal, few analytic talents, but a column to file each week. Even the ineffable Robert Scheer was worth more space than this crew. The problems of modern newspapers are far deeper than any tension between the newsroom and the accoutants. I have said it once before and I am happy to repeat: Modern journalism is a swamp of ignorance, stupidity, laziness, dishonesty, bias, and arrogance. And they wonder why their business model is failing. Actually, I suspect that they do not wonder; it would be no surprise if they blame it on the perceived ignorance of the masses.


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Hiring Bias?

The NY Sun has this article about Mark Moyar, an historian who has had a very hard time getting a job, in part, it seems, because his major book attempts to argue that Vietnam was not a mistake. Now, on the face of it, it sure seems pretty odd. Moyar has two books, has very good credentials, and should be able to find a job, regardless of his conservative credentials. And I think the presumption has to be that his views, as opposed to his scholarship, made it more difficult for him. But it's not quite a slam-dunk case. History departments have been weeding out military history positions for years (they'd rather teach the history of fashion or peasants or sex or something) and job searches are notoriously fickle things. You just don't know what goes on when a bunch of prickly, over-sensitive, egoistic types get together in a committee room and try to agree on a candidate.

But fair warning: if you're interested in being a professor, be careful with what you write.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Dang. Abstinence Fails Yet Again...

Vice paid its tribute to virtue again the other day, or however the saying goes, when Bush’s chief of the $15 billion African AIDS initiative, which pushes abstinence, got outed as a consumer of professional sex services.


Although it must be, um, liberating to have little in the way of standards, I wouldn't deny anyone their schadenfreude at someone else violating theirs. It's only human, both the failing and the schadenfreude.

But let's not pretend that the "reasonable" people have any genuine enthusiasm whatsoever for the concept of abstinence. If they did, they'd be disappointed, not gleeful, that Randall Tobias failed his duty:


It’s denied by no one that only abstinence can prevent AIDS. The ideal, the 100% solution.

The agreed-upon protocol for AIDS prevention, and generally held across the ideological spectrum to have effectiveness , has been ABC: Abstinence (for the single), Be faithful (for the married partnered), and, of course, Condoms.

However, since the American education establishment might fairly be regarded as “progressive,” as is the western social science community, which includes those NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations, better understood as secular do-gooders as opposed to religious do-gooders) who prowl Africa, you have to wonder about the "progressive" commitment to abstinence as a desirable thing. This is the 21st century after all, not the 19th, and tradititional sexual moralities are so, I dunno, bourgeois.

I expect the average progressive ABC program goes something like this:

"Be careful about who you have sex with. Don't just sleep with any old body. The more careful you are, the more you know about your partners, and the less casual your sex, the safer you are.*"

Now that we’ve got that out of the way,

“…people are going to have sex whether or not they're taught about abstinence, as studies show. So teaching people how to have sex in the safest manner possible is therefore better than teaching them nothing about how to more safely have sex.*”

So here’s how to use a condom…


There’s been a spate of sociology lately indicating that abstinence programs are ineffective, and that should not be dismissed out of hand. However, the objections to abstinence were a dogma of their own and started well before any survey results started trickling in. People are going to have sex anyway.

But the hole in the condom, if you will, is that they aren't 100% effective, and 90% is pretty much as generous as estimates get (and 5-10% less in male-to-male relations).

It might be true that Africa could be educated more deeply on proper use and into a better percentage, but the fact remains that in the media- and sex education-saturated US, the failure rate of condoms is pretty much the same. By the light of reality-based metrics, how much improvement we can reasonably expect is questionable.

Further, even if the use of condoms could be successfully be framed as safer (although still not safe) sex, the failure rate in the face of a fatal disease is unacceptable by any standard we use for safety in any other hazardous situation, like crossing the street or climbing a ladder.

If my understanding of the math is correct, condom failure rates are annualized: If you have sex even with a condom in Botswana---where 35% of the population is already infected---your risk of exposure over 10 years is 35%. Not good. In fact, since condom failure rates are calculated by the resulting pregnancies, not by actual failure and trickle-down theories, "exposure" might not fully describe the awful truth.

Which brings up an imaginary dialogue with me playing both parts (since lefties aren’t as game as Socrates’ foil Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic):


If you had a pill that could make smoking safe for 90% of people, but would leave the others at grave risk, would you still dispense it?

---Certainly.

Would you stop urging people to quit smoking?

---That’s ridiculous.

Would you be afraid that dispensing the pill might make people less apt to quit?

---Human nature being what it is, I'd have to say that's possible, if not likely.

That people might actually be less afraid to take up smoking?

---Again, human nature being what it is...

If anyone could tell me with a straight face that some progressive person or NGO could teach abstinence in the US or Africa with the same passion as they could an anti-smoking class, perhaps I'd change my mind. But most would admit that’s a laughable mental image.

Turns out that the right isn't the only side capable of cultural imperialism. And if I felt they'd done the math on the true risk of sex in Africa even with condom use, and had a true appreciation of just how many deaths a 10% failure rate amounts to, I wouldn't be writing on this, and neither would Harvard researcher Edward C. Green. This is his opinion/account of Africa being used as a proxy battlefield in the West’s own culture war (do read the whole thing):

Condoms have been regarded as the first line of defense for everyone, everywhere, and anyone who disagrees with this orthodoxy has been dismissed as a religious fanatic with ‘an agenda...'

...reality is very different from the Western experts' perception. Surveys today suggest that more than half of African males and females between the ages of 15 and 19 are abstaining from premarital sex, and increasing proportions of adults are having sex with only one partner. Yet few who work in AIDS prevention have called attention to these important trends, perhaps because they contradict the image of the hypersexed African that Western AIDS experts have been selling since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic. They depict Africans as "polygamous by nature," and supposedly so driven by hormones and poverty that commercial and transactional sex, and the inability to make responsible decisions about sex, are simply part of what it means to be African. If you accept this condescending view, condoms seem to be the only realistic solution to AIDS.

The trouble with the image of the hypersexed African is that it was never true for most Africans. Meanwhile, sexual behavior in Africa has changed. Not only in Uganda, but also perhaps in Senegal, Kenya, and elsewhere, abstinence and faithfulness have worked better than condoms. I document the evidence for Uganda and Senegal in detail in my 2003 book Rethinking AIDS Prevention. I also show that in about 1999, Kenya switched to a Uganda-style approach. In the past four to five years, casual sex on the part of Kenyan men and women has declined by about 50 percent, and HIV infection rates have fallen...


For the record, I don't necessarily accept Green's proposition that A and B are even occasionally more effective than C. But it issues a serious challenge to abstinence being a lost cause, that people can't or won't adopt new behaviors. Indeed, C, trying to get people to use condoms, stakes many lives on the belief that people will.

The New Papacy, of modernism, of sociology, of statistics, must be content to work from worst to best on hopes of a better average. But that approach never gets anywhere near its destination, because what is not easily and universally achievable, the best course, must be discarded. We’re realists, after all, and there’s no time for idealism.

Fair enough, but we cannot surrender the conduct of human events over to (by definition) mediocrity, or more etymologically correct, the meanness of the social sciences. No society can survive by aiming toward the lowest, by being happy just to bail water.


As a matter of little-known fact, the Bush Africa AIDS program is not "A only"---it just guarantees a certain level of funding for abstinence programs because nobody else in the world will. It's been made out as “A only” by proponents of “C only” because they want abstinence to fail; I must suspect that they are doing everything possible to make sure it does. If they were solely, and properly, concerned with African lives, they’d bite the anti-bullet and tolerate even religion being enlisted into the cause. But if abstinence saves just one life…

(No, I don’t think that riff will work. Oh, well.)


I myself don’t know anyone on the right who’s opposed to the distribution and instruction in the use of condoms. (Such folks exist, of course, and likely believe Elvis is still alive too. No offense.) But the rest of us wouldn’t stop passing out Kevlar vests to our troops, although if it led to overestimating their effectiveness and therefore to unnecessary risks, concern for their lives would require that we emphasize their failure rate over and over.

And, of course, if there were a 100% guaranteed way of not getting shot, we would make that the primary focus of their education.

But those who favor the Kama Sutra and disdain the Bible don’t feel that way. They don’t want bourgeois sexual morality to prove out, for abstinence to succeed, and God forbid that the Bible regain any traction, even tangentially.

In this reality-based age, where every bean can be counted and the social sciences are both king and queen, such a thing would be intolerable. But the Golden Age of Sexuality that today's progressives and their ideological spawn revere---the Fifties to the Eighties of the past century---of liberation, of contraception and penicillin, where all sex was consequence-free, is gone. Dead and gone.

It all seemed so sweet at the time, but its taste now is of ashes.



*actual quotes