Friday, February 23, 2007

Strenuous Casuistry

Mickey Kaus roasts Matt Yglesias' canard about firing incompetent teachers over a slow fire. (Mmm, Canard Roti, and on a Friday in Lent no less.)

Matthew Yglesias displays the strenuous casuistry loyal Democrats will employ to avoid the need for any confrontation with teachers' unions on the question Steve Jobs recently raised--firing lousy teachers. According to Yglesias the issue isn't firing bad teacher but attracting good ones:

... the reason politicians rarely push for it is that the actual payoff is very, very low. The issue is that there isn't this vast pool of highly effective potential hires out there. The schools with serious teacher-quality problems tend to have them because the better teachers, by and large, don't want to work there and schools have problems filling all the slots with minimally qualified people. The real action (also disliked by teacher unions, if pissing off unions is your goal) is in the certification process, who counts as a qualified teacher, and what counts as an effective teacher (here's where the accountability comes in). If in the future that created a situation where there were tons of people looking to break into the teaching field then it might make sense to expend political capital on making it easier to fire people.


a) It's easier to hire good teachers if you can fire bad ones. Competent people want to work for competent organizations. Which offer would you be more likely to take: "Come work for our school district. We weed out the deadwood and we're doing a great job preparing our kids," Or "Come work for our district and spend your life beating your head against a bureaucratic wall." Yes, teachers should be paid more--but it's weird that an idealistic liberal would think good candidates are only motivated by money. (And if you could fire bad and mediocre teachers then school districts wouldn't have to spend a big chunk of any pay raise boosting the salaries of ... bad and mediocre teachers).

b) You obviously want to do both-- weed out bad old teachers and expand the pool of potential good new teachers by allowing certification of people who haven't met the mindless credential requirements fiercely defended by the unions.** Yglesias conveniently pretends you can only do the former after the latter--"if" in the "future," after a couple of more generations have sloughed through mediocre or criminally lousy schools, we've managed to amass a huge pool of "tons" of people trying to break into teaching, then it "might" make sense to take on the union protection of incompetents. "Might." That's good of him!

c) Of course, if Yglesias shies from a confrontation now--by kicking the can off to some distant "future," and then only maybe--he'll shy from the confrontation ten years from now. Paul Glastris, in a recent bloggingheads debate on Yglesias' post, unexpectedly blurted out the real reason Dems like him don't want to confront the unions, no matter how sound and obvious the policy reasons for doing so.

**--as a means of protecting their members from uncredentialed hires who would do a better job!

Kaus doesn't address the issue of indoctrination into leftist ideology which is an essential part of the poor thinking skills of students, but his point is valid. It would be better to avoid public control of education in the same way we avoid public control of news media and other forms of thought formation. But if you are going to have government run schools it is essential to have competition or else the schools become a tool of special interests.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Are Gay People Sinners?

Pastorius has a typically thoughtful post on recent comments by someone named Tim Hardaway. Not being a sports geek, I really don't know who that is but his comments are pretty ugly:

I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States.
Read Pastorius' post for further details (including discussion of a rather interesting possible change of heart on the issue by Louis Farrakhan).

Pastorius and I have been friends for many years, and one of the things I like about him is that we can argue, often heatedly, and never get pissed off at each other. (Well, some times we do get pissed off, because we have that testosterone thing going. But we never hate each other, which is what I'm trying to say.) Here is my reaction to something Pastorius says about a quarter of the way down:
They are gay. And, they go to church. My church is not pro-gay. But, these men go anyway, because they believe that Christ was the Messiah, and that he died for their sins, and they are thankful for that fact.

And, so they go to church and contribute to our worship services, and their contributions are beautiful and appreciated.

Just as a thought experiment, substitute the word "sinners" for "gay" and see what you get:
They are sinners. And, they go to church. My church is not pro-sinners. But, these men go anyway, because they believe that Christ was the Messiah, and that he died for their sins, and they are thankful for that fact.

And, so they go to church and contribute to our worship services, and their contributions are beautiful and appreciated.

Still agree with that? Me too. And it applies to you and me both (except that my contributions are probably a lot less beautiful than yours, but whatever...)

But here is where I have a problem: when people say "my temptations are not really sins, or at least are not as sinful as yours." This is pharisaism, pure and simple, and Jesus had a much bigger beef with such people than he did with garden variety sinners who confessed their faults.

From Hardaway's quote, he seems to fall into that camp and a lot of people on the anti-gay-marriage band wagon do also. More's the pity. But my point is that gay Christians often do as well, and seem especially sensitive to have the term sinner applied to that particular part of their lives. Maybe the folks in your church don't think that way, which would be a great blessing, but there are enough out there who do that being clear on the issue is important.

I think gay people deserve to go to hell because I think I deserve to go to hell, as do all human beings, and I can't quite believe that gay people are not human. Christ's atonement is big enough for all of us, but the price of admission is confessing the sin.

NOTE: I left this comment on CUANAS but I have changed the last paragraph here for emphasis.

Tammy Bruce on the O'Reilly Factor

Tammy Bruce went on the O'Reilly Factor to talk about Bill Maher's vitriol against President Bush. (The video is at HotAir.)

For Maher and Hollywood and Leftist elites like him, President Bush represents a father figure who they resent and feel unable to please. They project their own hatred for their father or parents on who the Left traditionally sees as parents--the government. And unless they see themselves in the president (as they did Bill Clinton), their malevolence overwhelms any shred of decency or reason in the process. They resent him because he represents values they cannot match, and they're jealous of him because the American people embrace him and have given him power.

I agree with the substance of Tammy's point, but I want to amplify the bit about "father-figures". Here is the comment I left on her blog:

I don't think it is their father that most MalNars have a problem with but, rather, their Father. My evidence is admittedly circumstantial and anecdotal, but in my many conversations with such people, I find that if you let them talk they will pretty quickly turn the conversation to religion, long before the most zealous evangelist could have hoped to do so. Their objections seem to be:

1) They wish God didn't exist,
2) They are angry at God for not existing,
3) They are angry at God for not solving their personal problems, and
4) They wish God would just leave them alone.

Rational? No. But these points all come up often enough that the pattern is pretty predictable.

They often do have issues with their parents as well, but I find that they never have really good explanations for why. No specificity is what I mean. Just general "MyparentsdidnotunderstandmeandwerealwaystryingtoteachmeaboutGod" mumbo-jumbo.

I recognize that some people have legitimate and sincere questions about God and that not all atheists or agnostics fall into the MalNar mind-set. But it almost always does work the other way around.

NOTE: After reading Tammy's post and submitting that comment, I actually watched the video, and both she and O'Reilly bring up the religion angle.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dhimmi Sawyer?

Pastorius catches this important point about Diane Sawyer's recent interview with Ahmadinejad:

Diane Sawyer wears an Islamic headress to interview Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It is so important to her to get the interview, and promote her career, that she is willing to submit herself to Sharia.
Go here for the transcript.

In a world where muslims threaten violence if Westerners do not submit to their standards of behavior, Sawyer's capitulation does indeed send a dangerous signal and she ought to be ashamed. When "showing respect" can easily be interpreted as appeasement, there should be no question that an honest person should refuse.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Giuliani and Gun Control

Since the presidency will not have nearly as much power over the abortion issue as it will over gun control, this article about Giuliani's views is almost more disturbing to me than the one I discussed last week:

Rudy Giuliani addressed a potentially troublesome issue with conservative voters, saying his policies as mayor to get handguns off the street helped reduce crime in New York.

"I used gun control as mayor," he said at a news conference Saturday during a swing through California. But "I understand the Second Amendment. I understand the right to bear arms."

He said what he did as mayor would have no effect on hunting.

Look, "understanding" the Second Amendment isn't the same as defending it, and "using gun control" suggests that he doesn't really understand it all that well. There isn't really enough to this article to dissect, but if he really does think that gun control helped reduce crime in New York, he hasn't taken much time to review the statistics. Being tough on crime was probably the biggest change Giuliani made to the policies of New York, and he deserves full credit. But his approach will not translate well to the national scene (which doesn't have a police force, among other differences) and if he thinks that gun control was had a positive effect in New York, he is a very dangerous candidate indeed.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Schlussel vs Hannity

La Shawn Barber calls attention to this claim by Debbie Schlussel that Sean Hannity is using her work without attribution:

Readers of my work and of this site know that I risked my life to go undercover to Hezbollah events and rallies in Dearbornistan to bring you exclusive info on Al-Husainy, the man who delivered the invocation on Friday at the Democratic National Committee Winter Meeting. And that I've been writing about Al-Husainy since the beginning of year and before (in the Wall Street Journal).


The first night, Tuesday Night, I contacted Sean on his cellphone. He was, as usual, "too busy" and couldn't be bothered to do the right thing. He admitted he knew he used my work uncredited, and I managed to get him to promise to have me on to discuss my original work, he said, "if we talk about this again on the show." I also suggested having Al-Husainy, himself, on along with myself, since I'm only the single commentator who actually knows something--actually, a lot--about him. Sean promised that if they had the imam on, he and John Finley would have me on, too.

But, as is usual for Sean these days, he did not keep his word. Last night, not only did they rip my work off again, but they questioned it (without mentioning my name or allowing me to be on to defend it). Suddenly, Hannity was saying Al-Husainy "reportedly" was at pro-Hezbollah rallies, and Colmes claimed, "We've been unable to confirm that," and questioned my New York Post column's accuracy.

Well, that's interesting to me--they never attempted to "confirm" this in the least. Since I'm the source of the info--I WAS THERE AT THOSE RALLIES and wrote about it in the New York Post column they ripped off--why didn't they contact me? [...]

There is much more, but this is the substance of the claim. Since I don't watch TV, I didn't see the show (and probably wouldn't have been watching it anyway) and I can't see a link to a transcript on Hannity's site, I can't tell if these charges are accurate. La Shawn specifically says in her comments that she hasn't tried to contact Hannity for confirmation and strongly implies that she isn't inclined to do so. But this seems like a serious enough charge that a little more research is worthwhile.

A quick Google News search on "Al-Husainy" yeilds several stories, most of which credit Schlussel. Just counting the first page of 10 results, I found the following breakdown:
4 by Cal Thomas who cites Schlussel.
2 by Paul Barrett who supports Al-Husainy and is therefore irrelevant to our topic.
2 by David Limbaugh who cites Schlussel (but links to a story that does not).
1 by Robert Spencer who does.
1 by News Hounds blogger Ellen who attacks Hannity but doesn't mention Schlussel.

So, out of 10 or 11 stories that popped up on a 0.14 second search, only one comes from a relevant source that doesn't cite Schlussel. It seems that we can conclude two things: 1) Major conservative commentators (Cal Thomas, Robert Spencer and David Limbaugh, to say nothing of La Shawn herself) recognize Debbbie Schlussel as a prime source on this subject and 2) Hannity's failure to acknowledge this is at least a breach of courtesy. It may be that he is getting his info from sources that are not themselves properly attributed, but that is no excuse for someone with Sean Hannity's resources. If I can find this out in a few minutes, he certainly can.

I have tried contacting Hannity, but so far have (unsurprisingly) not received a reply. Others with more clout should take up the question. It must be admitted that Debbie Schlussel's posts on this subject are shrill and abrasive, which may be counter productive in generating sympathy for her complaint. But there is a principle of conservative integrity here that I think it is in all of our interests to defend.

UPDATE: Evidently my idea of posting comments on this issue in the forum has been blocked by the moderators:
And Reader Paul tells me that the chat portion of his site,, has been erasing threads where plenty of my readers (a/k/a Sean Vanity's former, now-disenchanted fans) are posting about how Sean ripped me off. All of those readers are getting banned for the reason of "Contempt of Host."
She only cites one instance, so I can't tell if this is indeed a pattern, but here is the email:
"I just signed up for this forum and noticed no postings about Debbie Schlussel and her complaints against Sean? Curious if they're being removed or I'm simply missing them? It'd be interesting to hear Sean's comments regarding the issue."

ONE PERSON REPLIED AND THEY SAID SOMETHING ALONG THE LINES OF: No one other then Debbies family and friends pay any attention to her.

I THEN REPLIED BACK: Evidentally Sean does and he's not a family member. Rush gives her credit for her work. I'll save you further embarassment by not mentioning others. Let's stick to the Sean issue. Your reply was cute but flawed.

All within a half hour I checked back again and I couldn't access the site. Check out the message I got:

You have been banned for the following reason:
contempt of host
Date the ban will be lifted: Never
[Unnecessary line breaks removed.]

I still haven't been able to get my account validated on so I can't do any primary research, but this doesn't look good. I am having a hard time understanding Hannity's motivation in all of this. How much would it cost him to give a simple acknowledgment of his sources? Even if, per my speculation above, he didn't originally get the information directly from Schlussel, it only makes sense to give her credit after the fact, especially compared to the cost in credibility and good will for failing to do so. Pride goeth before a fall...

UPDATE: Michael Reagan gives proper credit on the Hannity show. Well, this is better than nothing, but I am still disappointed.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Global Warming Fears Cause Local Freezing

From the WSJ:

Some school districts are blaming a recent federal mandate to switch to a less-polluting diesel fuel for a spate of school-bus breakdowns that left thousands of kids stranded and shivering in the extreme cold this week.

On Monday, when temperatures dipped below zero in East Allen County, Ind., 36 of the county's 155 school buses started up fine but soon conked out because the new fuel, thickening in the cold, clogged fuel filters. That same day, 30 miles outside of Pittsburgh, Hempfield area schools had the same problem with 26 of their 80 buses.

The malfunction is evidently caused by ultra-low-sulphur fuel, which has 15 parts per million sulphur compared to the normal 500 ppm. Below the fold (which requires subscription) the article admits that there are additives to the fuel which can prevent these sorts of problems, but those additives add $0.37/gallon to an already subsidized cost of $1.93/gallon (nearly a 20% increase). In other words, as usual, the attempt to solve existing problems entails other problems with unforseen costs.

But the real story here is that we have traded real suffering in the present to achieve a slight future impact on an ephemeral and unproven global "crisis". Any one of those kids could have gotten seriously ill or, God forbid, died due to standing out in sub-zero weather. The astute reader will note that this is the same sort of tradeoff we saw with the DDT ban. I still say it is not worth it.

(This post would not be complete without a totally gratuitous mention of the fact that school buses would not be nearly as vulnerable to bad government policy if the schools were privatized.)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Giuliani and Abortion

Ann Althouse discusses Sean Hannity's interview with Rudy Giuliani and the latter's aparent attempt to apeal to social conservatives. His points are fairly unremarkable and pretty much what we have heard from centrists for the past few decades. Easy to ignore, actually. But pay a little attention to what he says about whether Roe v. Wade was a good decision:

Where I stand on abortion is: I oppose it. I don't like it. I hate it. I think abortion is something that, as a personal matter, I would advise somebody against. However, I believe in a woman's right to choose. I think you have to ultimately not put a woman in jail for that, and I think, ultimately, you have to leave that to a disagreement of conscience, and you have to respect the choice that somebody makes.

Note, first of all, that he did not answer the question. But the disturbing thing about Giuliani's statement is not what it reveals about his policy preference -- which we knew and could be persuaded to accomodate for reasons of expediency -- but what it shows about his view of conservatives. The mere suggestion that conservatives would like to see women thrown into jail for seeking an abortion is insulting and shows a disturbing lack of engagement with conservative principles.

If Giuliani had been trying to appeal to liberal voters and had said, "Of course, I believe in a woman's right to choose, but I think women ought to be prevented from actually eating their babies," wouldn't that make you want to scream? But that is only slightly more exagerated than what he implies about the conservative position.

This is precisely the problem that Bush had with the Miers nomination. He wants to appeal to conservatives but he does not have a clear idea about what conservatives find appealing or, more importantly, why.

Note, also, that this proves that Sean Hannity is not a conservative ideologue but merely a republican tool. If he were the former, he would not have let Giuliani's slur go unrebuked. At least he could have made some comment to counteract the proliferation of this facile caricature. If you watch his show regularly, it quickly becomes aparent that he is only good at rebutting the Cynthia McKinney faction of the crazy-left. If he is confronted with a liberal (or centrist) that has a modicum of sense, he retreats to his list of talking points and waits for the commercial break. Maybe that is all we can expect of media pundits, but I confess that I have long since lost my patience with the lot of them.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Burma's Plan to Eradicate Christianity

I have mentioned before the fact that Burma is one of the worst persecutors of Christians (and how little attention the MSM pays to this fact). Previously this persecution has been harrassing but unofficial, but now even that line has been crossed:

The military junta of Burma has created a strategy to eradicate Christianity from the country. Entitled “Programme to Destroy the Christian Religion in Burma,” the leaked government memo, possibly drafted by a state-supported Buddhist group, delineates measures to be enacted to decrease and terminate the Christian faith within Burma.

In this latest outrageous abuse of fundamental rights, the document explicitly sights [sic - cites?] Christianity’s peaceful message as a source of exploitation, stating, “The Christian religion is very gentle – identify and utilize its weakness.” Evangelization is to be punished with imprisonment, with the end goal being that, “There shall be no home where the Christian religion is practiced.”

A roughly five percent minority, Christians have long faced religious persecution, which has often been endorsed, if not directed, by the military regime. Churches have been burned down, and Christian children have been banned from attending schools. The government has allegedly supported Buddhist monks in setting houses of worship aflame and forcibly converting citizens in predominantly Christian regions. Some 27,000 Karen, a largely Christian tribe in eastern Burma, have been forced from their homes in the past year.

The Burmese government has an extensive track record of human rights violations. The junta disregarded democratic elections of 1990 and arrested the winning party’s leader, Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi of the opposition party National League for Democracy. Kyi currently remains under house arrest, despite international advocacy on her behalf.

Joseph K. Grieboski, President of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, expressed his indignation over the military junta’s intentions, stating, “This is proof once more that Burma is one of the world’s worst suppressors of fundamental rights. The junta’s blatant disregard for the beliefs of its people demonstrates its complete disregard for anything but its own power. We call on the international community to continue its pressure on the junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi and to begin a process of liberalization.”

World wide, Islam is the worst offender in persecuting Christians, but it is wise to remember that Buddhists and Hindus also get in on the act.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Biden Says ...

...what everyone was already thinking:

Mr. Biden is equally skeptical—albeit in a slightly more backhanded way—about Mr. Obama. "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," he said. "I mean, that’s a storybook, man."

So naturally he gets in trouble.

Look, I have no love for Joe Biden and I hope his career really is over. But this comment seems pretty innocuous to me. The first word that comes to mind when I look at Barack Obama is "clean". (Clean-cut would probably be better, but no one says that anymore. Sounds too naive, too dorky.) And Obama's campaign has tried to project that image... clean as in wholesome, honest, not corrupted by the system. Does anyone honestly think that Biden meant to imply that all other black people are dirty? Or even all other black candidates? Only in Washington DC.

Any stick will do to beat a dog, and Joe Biden can use a good beating. But, really, is this the sort of discourse that we want in our political culture? Seems it wasn't too long ago that conservatives were complaining about the loss of decorum in politics. This is not the sort of thing that will restore it, if it was ever there.

Update: Obama responds graciously and comes off looking ... clean:
Asked about Mr. Biden's comments, Mr. Obama said in an interview, "I didn't take it personally and I don't think he intended to offend." Mr. Obama, who serves with Mr. Biden on the Foreign Relations Committee, added, "But the way he constructed the statement was probably a little unfortunate."

But later in the day, with Mr. Biden coming under fire from some black leaders, Mr. Obama issued a statement that approached a condemnation. "I didn't take Senator Biden's comments personally, but obviously they were historically inaccurate," he said. "African-American presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton gave a voice to many important issues through their campaigns, and no one would call them inarticulate."

Good job! Focus on the issue of articulateness and just pretend the C-word never happened. This, people, is how you present an image of honesty and integrity.

By contrast look at Sharpton's comment:
Mr. Sharpton said that when Mr. Biden called him to apologize, Mr. Sharpton started off the conversation reassuring Mr. Biden about his hygienic practices. "I told him I take a bath every day," Mr. Sharpton said.

Probably more likely to get repeated than Obama's response, but ultimately lowering the discourse. I don't care how many baths Sharpton takes, he's still dirty and this sort of comment just proves it.

Update: Biden attempts to explain what he really meant and digs himself even deeper:
"The word that got me in trouble is using the word 'clean.' I should have said 'fresh.' What I meant is: he's got new ideas."

Sorry, Joe, but no one is going to buy this. If you had followed my advice and stuck with clean-cut, you'd have been better off. Everyone understood what you meant the first time, but now you not only look like a bigger idiot and a dishonest one at that.