Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003
WOW. Via Crescat Sententia, Eugene Volokh has one of the best arguments for tolerance of homosexuality that I've seen in a long time:

Say that a few Hindus are hired as teachers in a public school district; and that some people start to complain. Hindus, they point out, routinely and unabashedly violate three of the Ten Commandments (they worship other Gods, they create images of their Gods, and they don't observe the Sabbath). What's more, the Hindus would therefore be bad role models for children: Some kids, seeing the teachers' example, might be drawn towards Hinduism; and other kids, seeing some nearby authority figures who aren't Christian, might have their belief in Christianity undermined -- and of course the results of that would be truly dire, since they would jeopardize the children's salvation. Therefore, the people argue, the school must refuse to hire Hindu schoolteachers. My guess is that such an argument would be pretty broadly condemned, even by many conservatives and Christians[....] So my question, as many of you might well have guessed, is: Why shouldn't devout conservative Christians apply the same principles to homosexuals that many of them would to Hindus?

You have to read the whole thing.

Saturday, August 23, 2003
As I look at the blog to see if there are any comments out there (long, empty echo chamber) I notice the two Google-supplied ads at the top. One is for Hispanic telemarketing lists. Er, wasn't I criticizing those?

Friday, August 22, 2003
The U.S. News and World Report college rankings are in, and instead of linking to them, I decided to write a small haiku encapsulating my, and indeed the entire University of Chicago community's, reaction:

Northwestern beat us
We are not in the top ten
--But we outrank Brown!

Thursday, August 21, 2003
Prompted by Tacitus and Matthew Yglesias's complaints about receiving telemarketing calls in Spanish, I realized that the current cultural view of Latinos is hopelessly flawed. When I say "Latino", who pops into your head? Probably not Martin Sheen or even Emilio Estevez, but Ricky Martin/taquerias in Spanish Harlem or Cicero (depending on city affiliation)/billingual education/migrant workers/Telemundo. You probably don't think about the large numbers of suburban middle-class Latinos in the American Southwest whose families have lived here since before the Mexican-American war, nor Sammy Sosa (Dominican Republic), nor Brazilian jetsetters, nor Cameron Diaz. Nope, your base conception of Latino culture is shaped by urban Chicano/recent Mexican immigrant culture, neighborhoods where everything is in Spanish and you feel alienated by them and they feel alienated by you. Thus you classify them as a Fanonian/Sartrian "Other", and not much in the culture contradicts you. And since our main cultural impression of Latino culture comes from these barrios....

Saturday, August 16, 2003
WE'RE NUMBER ONE! Click here for details.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003
Another out-there suggestion from the deep recesses of my brain: Most classical liberal political theory postulates that government is the result of a social contract between the governing and the governed. Hence, those who are not full members of this social contract, such as minors (denied full membership due to lack of suffrage), do not have all of the rights and responsibilities of a full member. So how do we justify trying minors as adults for certain crimes? Because they are not able to vote or emigrate, they cannot approve (either actively or tacitly) the social contract. They are given a jury, but this jury is explicitly not one of their peers--it is a jury of members of the social contract trying someone who is barred from participating in the social contract. That's got to be contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of the Bill of Rights.* Now, I realize that to put a 16-year-old murderer/rapist behind bars for only five years is not adequate punishment or protection for the community at large. However, there are two ways in which the court system may be refined so as to more adequately give juvenile offenders a more just place in the social contract:
1. In all criminal cases involving a minor, at least one quarter of the jury must be made up of minors (of the same age or older than the defendant).
2. (The more controversial option) Whenever a minor is charged as an adult, the voting age in the state where the minor is tried will be automatically lowered to the age at which the prosecution claims the minor committed the crime. Of course, this option would sort of include option #1, as the voter ranks (from which juries are chosen) would now include "minors". (Of course, this option would never pass a state or federal legislature, because I have a feeling that many legislators are afraid of reprisals from the younger generation.)

*I would suggest that this idea be tested by an appeal, à la Gideon v. Wainwright, to the Supreme Court

Wednesday, August 06, 2003
Via Will Baude of Crescat Sententia: Francis Boyle, the University of Illinois law professor most noted for claiming that St. Patrick's Day pub crawls are anti-Catholic and anti-Irish, has just condemned his alma mater, the University of Chicago, as a "moral cesspool" for producing John Ashcroft, the Federalist Society, and Straussian neo-conservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz--in short, half of GWB's war advisory circle. Would Dr. Boyle like to include John Mearsheimer, Cass Sunstein, Martha Nussbaum, Andrew Greeley, George Chauncey, and every other non-neo-conservative faculty member as part of the cesspool?

You've probably noticed that from time to time I have tried to create various "middle paths" between libertarian and liberal ideas on the marketplace, public schools, the tax structure, etc. Just a few minutes ago I came up with an idea that will probably never work, but then, they thought the same thing about

Short description: The Opt-In Welfare State

Long description: You work for the government (federal/state/local) for four years and get all of the benefits of the welfare state (federal health insurance, Medicare, Social Security, unemployment, subsidies,etc.) for the rest of your life, as well as free college education. If you choose not to work for the government for four years, you can either pay a slightly higher tax rate to receive the welfare-state benefits or you can go libertarian, pay the "mininum" tax (which covers stuff everyone shares, like roads, the military, public works, and public education) and forego the welfare state. There can also be "hedge the bet" options where you work for only two years and get half-benefits.

So how did I come up with this model? Simple--it's based upon current practices. We're currently bribing 17, 18 year olds to risk their lives for the next few years in exchange for paying for college and all those sweet veteran's benefits. For idealistic college graduates, the non-governmental Teach for America promises the forgiveness of college loans in exchange for teaching in a low-performing school for a few years. A friend of mine once told me that the Department of Energy will pay for graduate studies in the sciences in exchange for working for them one year. So currently the federal government is funding the college educations of military recruits (who tend to be less well-off) and grad students (whose family backgrounds are typically from the higher half of the socio-economic map).

But if people are given the option of leaving the welfare state, does this mean that all of the money will drain from the pool? And does this put an unfair burden on the poor? Please comment: Tell me if you would opt in to this program, your current economic status, and the economic status you think you'll have twenty years from now.

For example: Me: Would opt in at least partially, on beaucoup de financial aid, fairly secure and comfortable

Tuesday, August 05, 2003
WOW. Sullivan's contemplating both leaving the Catholic Church and voting for Howard Dean. More later.

Friday, August 01, 2003
I read two reviews of the new "Sisters of Magdalene" movie (in Salon and NYTimes) today; the movie's about the Irish Church's virtual enslavement of sexually suspect girls during the mid-to-late twentieth century. And it made me more ashamed to have given money to the Catholic Church, if more shame is even possible after my former bishop was found to be a child molester, recent stories about the Vatican's inaction during the Holocaust... yeah, yeah, you know the rest.

And the Vatican still thinks it has any moral authority? A few days ago the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith released its plea to Catholic politicians to vote against recognition of same-sex marriages. I don't see anything immoral in a loving same-sex relationship, but I understand that many people do. Okay. But I think that even those who view homosexual conduct as sinful would agree that rape, enslavement, or letting people be murdered when you're in a position to stop it are all far worse.