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June 2013 Archives

June 3, 2013

Turkey And "A Menace Called Twitter"

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Sometimes you don't have to take sides. An example may be the current civil insurrection in Turkey, pitting agitated citizens who are young secularists or liberals--they are not necessarily the same, especially in Turkey--and even historic preservationists against the government and its probably majoritarian religious conservative backers.

Parsing the conflict, columnist Mustafa Akyol persuades this reader that there is reason to identify with both sides--and neither.

And yet, the present government has come a long way toward reconciling with the West in recent years. If it were overthrown, the secularist replacement might seem better nominally, but could set back Turkey's amazing economic progress and its recent diplomatic exertions. The government doesn't listen well to critics, but there is no reason to think its replacement would do better.

Photo Credit

Continue reading "Turkey And "A Menace Called Twitter"" »

Worst IRS Offense: Divulging Tax Files

Stories pile up that the IRS investigations into conservative groups was not just about the Tea Party, but also about pro-life groups, pro-Israel groups and conservatives in general. It also was about pursuing donors and principals in such groups. This is in sharp contradiction of early assertions that the attacks were the product of a few "rogue" IRS agents in Cincinnati and "not political".

But maybe the most damning aspect of the IRS scandal is that confidential tax files about Tea Party people and others may have been disclosed to their political opponents and adversaries in the media. There is no way to excuse or explain that away. The people responsible should be found and prosecuted. It's a thoroughgoing criminal act. It is the kind of thing that destroys confidence in government.

I understand what Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) meant today when he said that Tea Party groups had asked for special tax treatment. Yes, but so did groups on the left--who got the tax breaks quickly. You may argue against having such tax breaks, but how do you argue for selective application of them?

Furthermore, there isn't even any ambiguity about leaking people's tax returns to their political foes. That is a job-firing, jail-time offense.

Continue reading "Worst IRS Offense: Divulging Tax Files" »

June 7, 2013

Ball State Should Get on the Ball

Ron Coody writes today in the Fort Wayne (IN) News-Sentinel that the Freedom from Religion Foundation of Madison, WI has provoked an "inquisition" into the teaching of a professor of physics at Ball State University in Indiana. Mr. Coody points out that the challenge to Prof. Eric Hedin in his class on the boundaries of science and religion essentially would deny the Indiana professor the same kinds of academic freedom that his critics--notably Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago--exercise regularly in their own classes.

The question Mr. Coody does not ask is why did Ball State respond to an attack on academic freedom by launching an "investigation" of the matter? Why was it not dismissed it out of hand, the way it would have been if the professor had been accused of athiesm? And, once launched, why has has the investigation taken over three weeks so far to resolve? Failure to stand up to attempts at academic intimidation, especially ones coming from an activist group in another state, cannot add prestige to Ball State University.

Continue reading "Ball State Should Get on the Ball" »

The News They're Not Reporting

The reader probably has some frustrations similar to mine: There are so many news stories that are not getting reported. Part of the problem is the lack of investigative reporter depth in the media. You would think otherwise, given the controversies regularly and breathlessly announced. But in reality, the news reporting teams of the broadcast and cable networks mostly chase stories that have been covered in a couple of major daily newspapers, plus a few online blog posts that cannot be safely ignored.

The money on TV long haas gone to glitz settings and big names rather than gumshoe reporting. Serious investigative journalism takes time and doesn't produce quick results that pay off in high ratings. The same is true now of print media.

Conservatives are particularly bereft in this environment. To the extent the kinds of issues they would like examined are ignored in the mainstream media, while the "conservatives" on camera seem addicted to the same sensationalized formulas and repetitious "personalities". It's hard, apparently, to vet new people for interviews and opinions, so why not go with the same Congressman or former this or that--over and over and over?

Would that this modest blog site were able to do more original research. It it were possible, there would be, for example, a reporter calling on the judge and prosecutor--and the parole office--that put Nakoula Basseley Nakoula away last fall after his vulgar video on Islam was wrongly cited for provoking the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Wasn't his parole violation, seen in the light of reality, far too trivial to warrant such a long sentence? (He's still in jail.) Wasn't the promise of prosecution proffered by then-Secretary Clinton & Co. essentially political in nature? And if it was an exaggerated penalty, what does that say about the danger of politicized justice in America? Just asking: did local law enforcement have any contact with State Department or other federal officials?

Continue reading "The News They're Not Reporting" »

June 8, 2013

A Public Defender's Potpourri Day

What would offend the olfactory nerves of a public defender? "Ryan" gets to find out at a city not far away. Here's his report (reposted from Richochet.com).

I stepped into the elevator in my building this afternoon and had to breathe slowly. It brought me back to the old bowling alley; cigarette butts, leftover something, spilled beer. Those smells don't bother me too much, but when you add in a mix of body odor, gingivitis, and an overdose of cheap perfume, I start to have a negative sensory overload. I had three floors to guess the mixture of clients...

The woman in her Betty Boop fleece pants with the frayed bottoms - they looked just fine when she held them up to her waist at the store, but she was wearing heels at the time so they typically find themselves a few inches below her flip-flops at home. Her hair is a stringy blond and her face is gaunt. She walks with exaggerated movements, almost as if there is some sort of opiate coursing through her veins, seeming to reduce the force of gravity just a bit. If she goes for more than four hours without a fix, she becomes violently ill. We will talk all about her case in my office and she'll be ready to resolve, but when we get into the courtroom, it will be the same thing as last time and every time - not today! My cats; my rent; my... - until one day she doesn't show up at all and gets picked up on a warrant.

Next to her sits a little gang banger, the source of that "vat o' perfume" smell; flat billed baseball cap from some team with bright red colors. He can't even name the sport, but I comment anyway just because it gives me an inward chuckle: boy, that Votto sure is on fire. Those two grand-slams really killed my fantasy team this week! He just stares at me through bloodshot eyes and pulls out the medical marijuana card that he got for his early-onset low back pain. That's great, bud, but I don't see anywhere on this card where it says you can take off running for three blocks before finally stopping to pull the taser prongs out of your thigh.


Continue reading "A Public Defender's Potpourri Day" »

Census, the IRS and Issue of Trust in Government

The issue of trust in government agencies like the Bureau of the Census is sure to come up in confirmation hearings for John H. Thompson, President Obama's new nominee for Director. That is not due to any problems with the distinguished Dr. Thompson or with the Census Bureau, despite cyclical demands that the Census stop asking people so many questions.

The looming trouble for the Bureau and other data-gathering agencies is that people's fears and indignation have been excited as never before by the recent IRS scandals, the snooping on AP and FOX and revelations about cyber-data gathering. It bears noting, therefore, that the Bureau's questions are not unfair or adversarial, let alone selectively targeted at any group, and that they are well justified under both the enumeration clause and the commerce language of the U.S. Constitution. That's why Sen. Rand Paul's legislation to sharply limit Census questions, however appealing it may appear superficially, isn't going anywhere.

The Census should not bear the stigma of the IRS' shame. That's not only important to the Bureau and other statistical agencies, but also to the public.

Continue reading "Census, the IRS and Issue of Trust in Government" »

June 9, 2013

For Now, Hold Your Fire on the NSA

Edward Snowden, the 29 year old contract employee who revealed the NSA data-mining. is no hero. The data processor, like Private Bradley Manning, had an inside but ant's level view of the NSA projects. Snowden sounds very much like a self-dramatizing romantic.

He says he doesn't want to hurt anyone, but if his revelations to a left-wing writer for the UK Guardian results is one or more terror plots getting past scrutiny, he definitely will have done great damage to real people.

On the other hand, the increasing ambition of the NSA has to be a source of concern for any civil libertarian. Concern, but not hysteria. Congress, in particular, needs to review its oversight functions.

Continue reading "For Now, Hold Your Fire on the NSA " »

June 10, 2013

Computer Privacy a Growing Imperative

Hand-wringing about computer security breaches by foreign and domestic hackers, combined with NSA's intelligence-gathering and hacking counter-attacks, leave the individual feeling helpless. The annoyance factor is monstrously large, though hard to quantify, but the danger of serious compromises of intellectual property and personal privacy is in even more serious territory. George Gilder's recent breakthrough paper on this should be read by anyone concerned about the developing headline story.

Meanwhile, Dell is one example of an original equipment manufacturer that is trying to fill an obvious need with a new private product. Constant fixes and patches are not enough.

Continue reading "Computer Privacy a Growing Imperative" »

Forbes Hails Gilder as "A Modern Prometheus"

This is publication day for Knowledge and Power (Regnery Press). Forbes gets things rolling with a review by Ralph Benko that describes the book as Gilder's "most brilliant work yet--one of potentially explosive importance if taken to heart by our political and policy thought leaders."

Benko acknowledges that Knowledge and Power is "not for the faint of heart or the closed of mind," a book to sit down and read, not an amusement while standing in line at an airport. "Its early chapters drive the reader up a challenging learning curve." But it is worth it because "this near pitch-perfect book" proves that Gilder is "an intellectual Titan, in fact, a modern Prometheus..(bringing) humanity the fire of Knowledge..and Power."

george-gilder-1.jpgA very agreeable insight from Benko is that the new Gilder book "imports the fruits of a vividly fresh worldview from the intellectually vibrant Discovery Institute, based in Washington State, to the too-often stagnant Washington, D.C." This month, as it happens, also will see publication of another pathfinding book by Discovery Sr. Fellow Stephen C. Meyer: Darwin's Doubt (Harper). In August the public can expect Jay Richards' Infiltration(McGraw-Hill), the first new explanation of the housing and financial bust of '08 and how its repetition may be prevented.

The core messages of Gilder's new economic theory are based on information theory. "Once we, of DC, get done rethinking economic policy along Gilderian lines the world likely never will be the same," writes Benko. "It will be better. Information theory laps classical economics and, perhaps at last, drives the wooden stake into the heart of undead Keynians dogma haunting the capital. Gilderianism eats Keynesianism for breakfast."

Continue reading "Forbes Hails Gilder as "A Modern Prometheus"" »

Conservative Prison Reform Launched

Richard Viguerie, famous for, among other things, the innovation of direct mail campaign fundraising , is also a public intellectual of perpetual energy and enthusiasm. In today's New York Times, which I will link through the Viguerie site, Conservative Hq, Viguerie makes the case for prison reform with arguments that appeal especially to conservatives: "Public safety, compassion and controlled government spending."

Lowering recidivism rates saves money, obviously. It also saves lives. It's true that locking up bad guys lowers crime rates. But it also bothers the Christian conscience that we have such a huge prison population--especially if we have available common sense reforms that will lower both the crime rate and the number of people in prison. Viguerie's article points out that Texas developed such a program and put it into practice in 2007. The plan is saving money and cutting parole failures.

Continue reading "Conservative Prison Reform Launched" »

June 11, 2013

Some Catholics Pray for Pope Benedict

There are variations in the prayers for the Church that are part of the Catholic Mass. In some parishes the priest asks for prayers for the pope (Pope Francis now), the local bishop and all clergy and religious. In others, retired bishops are mentioned by name. But apparently it is rare to hear prayers offered for the "retired Pope, Benedict XVI".

Perhaps it is because there is no liturgical experience for having a "retired pope".

But prayers might now be in order. Pope Benedict XVI, who is living in the Vatican complex, is reportedly in failing health, still fit in mind, but greatly deteriorated in body.

Continue reading "Some Catholics Pray for Pope Benedict" »

June 12, 2013

Regulatory State Morphs into Snooping State

The NSA controversy has some people in both parties understandably worried that the Government has over-reached. However, it is likely that we will find that the NSA's broad sweep of data is far safer for civil liberties--and for national security--than the alternative means that might be needed if the NSA were not on the job.

Regardless, we are in danger of the NSA imbroglio distracting us from more imminent and damaging domestic intrusions on citizen privacy. Do you remember when the President after the 2010 elections--and the return of a Republican House--let it be known that he would effect his will through administrative means, rather than relying on legislation? In agency after agency that is transpiring in ways that endanger liberty.

Continue reading "Regulatory State Morphs into Snooping State" »

Major Libertarian Award Goes to Gilder

George Gilder received notice today from Mark Skousen, noted libertarian leader and organizer of the 1800 member Freedomfest that is held in Las Vegas each July:

"I'm happy to announce that you have won the Leonard E. Read Book Award for 2013 for your breakthrough work 'Knowledge and Power.' This award is given yearly at FreedomFest for the outstanding libertarian book of the year. Congratulations!

"We will present the award at this year's FreedomFest (time to be announced) in front of the entire audience, and encourage attendees to go to your session on Saturday when you will be discussing it, followed by an autograph session."

Leonard E. Read was famous, among other things, for the great essay in economics, "I, Pencil", on the genius of collaborative free enterprise worldwide--the kind of unforced cooperation that lets hundreds of groups and thousands of people produce everything, from a pencil on..

It's very appropriate, given Knowledge and Power's new and unique explanation of the nature of creativity.

June 13, 2013

Turkey: "Trying to Start a Civil War?"

Claire Berlinski has a personal report on Taksim Square in the new Spectator (U.K.)

People, she points out, have asked if Prime Minister Erdogan, by personally directing the water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas, is "trying to start a civil war." When Erdogan left the country, things quieted down. When he returned, back came the riot police.Oddly, he seems to have divided his own party and united his diverse and normally non-coopeerative opposition.

Some meetings are being held at last.

But Americans are especially anxious on the diplomatic front as the USG starts to move toward sanctions (favored by Turkey) against Syria.

June 14, 2013

Broadband: A Policy Problem Solved

Fifteen years ago Discovery Institute and its fellows were part of the national debate over regulation of telecommunications. The pro-regulation crowd thought the government was needed to spread the new benefits of broadband. But here has what has happened in just the past few years (hat tip to C. L. Hoewing of Verizon):

THE STATE OF BROADBAND BY THE NUMBERS

*In the year 2000, 4.4% of American households had a home connection to broadband; by 2010 that number had jumped to 68%.

*Broadband networks at a baseline speed of >10 megabits per second now reach more than 94% of U.S. homes.

*Overall, average delivered broadband speeds have doubled since 2009. In 2012, North America's average mobile data connection speed was 2.6 Mbps, the fastest in the world, nearly twice that available in Western Europe, and over five times the global average.


Continue reading "Broadband: A Policy Problem Solved" »

How to Purge Faculties of Real Diversity

The "fourth criterion" for tenure should be "collegiality", according to a current stream of university thinking. (The first three are said to be "research, teaching and service.")

We are supposed to want "productive dissent," and the key word that must be interpreted, of course, is "productive." Who decides? A scientific critic of Darwin's theory in the biology department is, by definition, an unproductive dissenter. An advocate of free market economics in most universities does not add the stimulus of intellectual diversity, you see, but instead threatens "unproductive" dissent.

Continue reading "How to Purge Faculties of Real Diversity" »

June 17, 2013

Eve of Publication Success for Darwin's Doubt

It's being called "a game changer" in the debate over Darwinian evolution. And the pre-publication campaign has been so successful that Steve Meyer's book already is "Number One" at Barnes and Noble. The official pub date is tomorrow.

In the way a healthy economy works, the scientific case against Darwinism and for intelligent design has built slowly, but surely. Darwin's Doubt is the most comprehensive and in many ways the best researched treatment of the subject and one that actually will change minds rather than simply appealing to those already decided. This is a tour de force.

Continue reading "Eve of Publication Success for Darwin's Doubt" »

June 18, 2013

Spare Us the Puerile Sarcasm

Dennis Prager is in for it now.

Dennis-Prager.jpgHe has a fine column at National Review on intelligent design and why many scientists now accept its validity (though not as many as see the increasing flimsiness of Darwinian theory).

As usual, however, some of the comments are telling. Darwinists apparently can't abandon a silly argument, even when it is refuted again and again. And they often propose it as if the thought was brilliantly original to them. Thus we have the assertion that design can't be true, because (drum roll, please) what kind of designer would be so incompetent that he would create a world where little babies die, animals eat other alive, and my back gives me pain?

Continue reading "Spare Us the Puerile Sarcasm" »

Larry Kudlow has Hour of Gilder Tonight

CNBC's Kudlow & Co has George Gilder on tonight from 7pm-8pm ET for a full hour as the featured guest. It's part of the roll-out of Knowledge and Power.

Meanwhile, Steve Meyer is on after 3 p.m. ET on the Dennis Miller Show.

June 19, 2013

Gilder's New Paradigm on Kudlow Show

George Gilder and his book Knowledge and Power were given a warm welcome on the Larry Kudlow show last night. Here is a link to a short segment.

June 20, 2013

The Obama State Intimidates Media

Question of the day: How much does AP really care about freedom of the press? How much does CBS?

Even before Republicans won the U. S. House of Representatives in the 2010 elections the Administration let it be known that going forward it would try to enact its measures by administrative means. In other words, it was going around Congress. The AP and other media seemed to take that in stride. The news spotlight today is still often on Congress, and the Administration likes to use the Republicans in Congress as a foil and Congress (I include both parties) is less relevant now than it has been in a generation.

For example, one reason for hostility to the Gang of Eight immigration act is public suspicion that whatever measures for increased border security are enacted, the Administration simply will enforce the ones its likes and ignore or neglect the others.

Continue reading "The Obama State Intimidates Media" »

June 21, 2013

How to Move a Boulder

Virtually all large state and private universities discriminate against conservatives in hiring and in tolerance for diversity. At least that is the nearly universal opinion of conservatives. Colorado's state regents have decided--perhaps for the first time in the country's public university systems--to order a study on the subject. Technically, they will inquire as to whether there is an atmosphere of ideological intolerance in the university system, and especially at the flagship Boulder campus. Practically, they will inquire as to what can be done about it.

The University of Colorado already is doing something positive and original by hiring Reagan biographer and public policy intellectual Dr. Steven C. Hayward to teach a course on conservatism. I expect it will be well-enrolled and help start a conversation about effective academic hostility to ideological debate. Some of the progressives will be foolish enough to belittle the enterprise, which, of course, will help validate the point of its need.

Continue reading "How to Move a Boulder" »

June 23, 2013

Plan Well to Commemorate 500th Anniversary of Protestant Reformation

Christians are beginning to realize that a potentially embarrassing anniversary is coming up in 2017, only four years from this October: the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. It could serve to underscore the continuing division of the Church, "the Body of Christ." It could highlight the diminished authority that Christianity receives in the West, even as Africans and Asians converts seek the faith. Worst of all, reliving the tumultuous history of the 16th and 17th centuries could rekindle the flames of mutual animosity.

Or, more likely, Christians of all sorts, under assault by a culture increasingly indifferent to faith where it is not hostile, may rally to common convictions. Perhaps, they can hope for substantially more unity coming out of the anniversary commemorations than they have going in. Planning for a substantive anniversary, therefore, would seem to commend itself to leaders in all denominations.

Continue reading "Plan Well to Commemorate 500th Anniversary of Protestant Reformation" »

Academic Discrimination? Follow the $

Some opportunities for investigative journalism are huge, but unexplored. As a glaring example I give you the subject of academic discrimination and the suppression of dissent.

We all tend to assume it is the product of an increasingly conformist culture. But consider the alternative, or additional explanation, of intellectual corruption--the willingness to promote a point of view--based on grant money--to the exclusion of views disapproved by the grant-makers.

Continue reading "Academic Discrimination? Follow the $" »

June 24, 2013

London Mayor Lampoons Climate Change

Boris Johnson often is mentioned as a possible future Conservative Prime Minister for Britain. Whether that ever happen, the ruffle-haired blond Mayor of London has a sly satirical wit that should endear him to the voters.

His column on the case suburban swimming pool builders in England have against the threats--make that the "promises"--of global warming makes delicious reading. So do the comments that follow it.

President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and all the Establishment of the U.S. and U.K. just know that global warming is real and man made--and horrific. The greatest danger facing the world, the President says.

But it's a big letdown for swimming pool builders in England's green and pleasant land.

Catholic Radio Hosts ID Series

Catholic scientists and philosophers who support intelligent design, such as Dr. Michael Behe, Fr. Michael Chabarek, Dr. Ann Gauger and Dr. Jay Richards, along with a number of non-Catholics who are leaders in the field, such as Dr. Steve Meyer, Dr. Doug Axe and Casey Luskin, are showcased in a new radio series from Radio Maria.

A key benefit of the online series is that it allows intelligent design proponents to speak in their own voices, instead of having their views filtered through a second party. A total of some 20 interviews are underway, hosted by Tim Murname.

Continue reading "Catholic Radio Hosts ID Series" »

Dawkins Joins Ziegfeld Follies & The Beatles

Richard Dawkins, you are too cool for school! Imagine appearing in Cannes in an Aloha shirt; people don't expect that from Oxfordshire!

Busby's.jpg

See it right here on our stage: the world's most famous evolutionary biologist discovers the overhead shots of old Busby Berkeley and Ziegfeld Follies movies, bringing them forward a whole couple of decades with psychedelics and The Doors ("Break on through to the other side!") and the Beatles' Yellow Submarine. He ranges all the way from "23 skidoo!" to "Groovy!"

Here in one talk The Selfish Gene meets the Manic Meme (starting five minutes in) and you have encapsulated the latest thinking and animation of the 1930s-60s.

Oh, Dickie, you belong in a new release of Gold Diggers of 1933!

Continue reading "Dawkins Joins Ziegfeld Follies & The Beatles" »

The Case Against Universal National Service

Aspen Institute must have an incredible budget from the various large corporations and foundations that are bankrolling the "Summit" that is going on in Colorado today and tomorrow. It is funding expenses for two hundred of the famous and mighty--from Chelsea Clinton to Gen. Stanley McChrystal--to promote universal national service as "socially mandatory" for all youth 18-25.

There is a bill in Congress, introduced recently by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), that will make national service a legal requirement.

This idea is indestructible, it seems. It reappears about every 10 years, but the current effort seems to have the biggest bucks behind it. The reason, I believe, is that over the long haul the state is the enemy of the independent sector. It is the natural foe of Tocqueville's democracy and what some philosophers call "mediating institutions." In all totalitarian regimes, the state tries to squeeze out private voluntary associations, either by proscribing them, or by competing with them (with force and money), or both. Universal national service advocates would hate the "totalitarian" label and suppose that their good intentions would protect against misuse of the program they want.

How blind can they be?


Continue reading "The Case Against Universal National Service" »

June 25, 2013

National Service Would be an Obama-Corps

The American Spectator today runs an article by me that makes some of the arguments in the blogpost yesterday, along with some others. Stay tuned.

June 26, 2013

Reviewer Calls Gilder's Knowledge and Power "Book of the New Millenium"

Rich Karlgaard writes in the July 15 issue of Forbes, "Gilder, age 73, is now back with a new book, Knowledge and Power (Regnery), based on information theory. I will say that Gilder's newest is his best-the book of the year, maybe of the new millennium. I'll be referring to Knowledge and Power in coming issues. Meanwhile, buy it and read it so we can compare notes!"

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