Friday, December 28, 2007

A letter to my house guest

I didn't want the evening to get unpleasant, so for the sake of your son and the other guests I sucked this up. But I can't keep it inside, so I'll vent here, where you will almost certainly never see it. Because you don't read blogs, do you. No, you watch Fox news. And you read the Bible. So you already know everything you need to know.

I actually thought for a while that we were going to get along. When you said you believed in freedom and small government I was right there with you. But then you told me that you supported George Bush. How could that be? I asked. You say you support small government, but George Bush has expanded both the size and the power of the government more than any other president in history, and yet you support him? Yes, you said, because George Bush is a man of God, and because he is a man of God, whatever he does must be good. He doesn't lie, because lying is not Godly, and George Bush is a man of God.

OK, well, I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.

Then you told me about the cancer, and I sympathized. And you told me about how hard it was to get laetrille, and I sympathized, because even though I don't think it's going to do you any good, I think you have the right to put whatever you want into your own body free from government interference. I thought you would agree. But when I asked you if you thought marijuana ought to be illegal you said yes, and when I asked you why you said because marijuana is a mind-altering substance.

OK, well, I may not agree with what you say and all that...

But then I asked you if you thought alcohol ought to be illegal. You took another sip of your 2003 Old Vines Zinfandel and said that alcohol should be legal. But alcohol is a mind-altering substance too, I said. And with a smirk on your face you replied, "I'm not consistent."

Well, I'm sorry, but that is not OK with me. Because what that means is that you, sir, are not a man of principle. You wrap yourself in the Bible and the flag and speak of duty and honor and natural law, when the fact of the matter is that the only thing that guides you is your own desires. Laetrille and alcohol ought to be legal in your mind not because of any principle, but simply because you want to consume laetrille and alcohol. You complain about liberals being self-centered, when the fact of the matter is that in your mind it's really all about *you*. You support George Bush because he's promised to make *you* safe. By whatever means necessary.

That is not OK with me.

I told you that my grandparents' generation fled Germany for Palestine in the early 1930's. You thought I was a Jew. Hitler would have agreed with you. But I do not consider myself a Jew, and neither did many of my ancestors. I didn't tell you this, but when the Gestapo came knocking on my maternal grandfather's door it came as a shock to him. He actually had no idea that he was Jewish. He thought of himself as German through-and-through. (I know this because I interviewed him a few years before he died and he told me so. I taped the interview. I'd put an audio clip up so you can hear him say it in his own words, but he says it in German so you wouldn't understand it anyway. And besides, you don't read blogs.)

Hitler came to power in much the same way that George Bush did. He was democratically elected. And he then proceeded to do much of what George Bush has done: dismantle the rule of law in favor of a cult of personality based on a promise of security, except that the bad guys back then weren't Al Qaeda and illegal immigrants, they were the Gypsies and the mentally retarded and the homosexuals. Oh, and the Jews. Let's not forget the Jews.

I actually pointed this out to you (more gently, because as I said, I didn't want to make a scene) but I think it went straight over your head: Hitler enjoyed enormous popular support in Germany, much more than George Bush is having (because, frankly, Hitler was a hell of a lot smarter than Dubya). The point is that although Hitler is nowadays considered the very paragon of evil, he was not regarded that way by his contemporaries. In fact, even some of George Bush's ancestors were supporters. Hitler was regarded by most Germans at the time as a great leader, a great patriot, a courageous man who restored Germany's strength and restored her rightful place in the world after the humiliating defeat of World War I. (And if he'd been just a little less reckless he might still be regarded that way today.)

Evil often comes wrapped in a flag and carrying a Bible.

And no, I'm not talking about George Bush. I'm talking about you. Because you wrap yourself in the mantle of principle, but when it comes to the real test you don't live your life according to principle, you live it according to your own desires. You want your Zinfandel and your laetrille and to impose your narrow-minded and bigoted view of the world on everybody else with the force of arms.

And you would deny your own son the right to marry the person he loves just because it doesn't fit your notion of "natural law". (You didn't see the irony when I asked if you thought contraception should be illegal and you said, "Of course not." I didn't really expect you to. But I wasn't surprised. Of course contraception should be legal because, after all, *you* want to be able to use it! And it's all about you, isn't it?) You cause unnecessary suffering to further your own selfish desires and don't bat an eye. In fact, you're proud of it. That, to me, is the definition of evil.

Maybe you get some credit for marching for civil rights back in the 50's, but today, sir, you are a bigot and a hypocrite.

And that is not OK with me.

I welcomed you into my home at the request of your son, who, as I told you, is one of the finest human beings I have ever had the privilege to know. I would share a foxhole with him any day of the week before I would share another drink with you. I welcomed you into my home and you spent the evening spewing your vile right-wing fascist bile while never once asking my opinion about anything. I wonder, if I had behaved that way in your home, would you have extended me the same courtesy? II'd give long odds against it.

I welcomed you into my home and I was civil to you. but make no mistake, I didn't do it for you. I did it for your son.

You don't deserve him.

Peace on earth

From CNN:

"BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) -- Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests attacked each other with brooms and stones inside the Church of the Nativity..."

On Christmas. Gotta love the irony.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Whack! (Whinny!) Whack! (Whinny!) Whack! Whack! Whack!

Because I know my loyal readers just can't get enough of this topic, here's the latest volley in the battle over the extent to which genes influence intelligence. Some choice excerpts:

Flynn points out that scores in some of the categories—those measuring general knowledge, say, or vocabulary or the ability to do basic arithmetic—have risen only modestly over time. The big gains on the WISC are largely in the category known as “similarities,” where you get questions such as “In what way are ‘dogs’ and ‘rabbits’ alike?” Today, we tend to give what, for the purposes of I.Q. tests, is the right answer: dogs and rabbits are both mammals. A nineteenth-century American would have said that “you use dogs to hunt rabbits.”

“If the everyday world is your cognitive home, it is not natural to detach abstractions and logic and the hypothetical from their concrete referents,” Flynn writes. Our great-grandparents may have been perfectly intelligent. But they would have done poorly on I.Q. tests because they did not participate in the twentieth century’s great cognitive revolution, in which we learned to sort experience according to a new set of abstract categories. In Flynn’s phrase, we have now had to put on “scientific spectacles,” which enable us to make sense of the WISC questions about similarities. To say that Dutch I.Q. scores rose substantially between 1952 and 1982 was another way of saying that the Netherlands in 1982 was, in at least certain respects, much more cognitively demanding than the Netherlands in 1952. An I.Q., in other words, measures not so much how smart we are as how modern we are.


[Flynn] looked first at [Richard] Lynn’s data, and realized that the comparison was skewed. Lynn was comparing American I.Q. estimates based on a representative sample of schoolchildren with Japanese estimates based on an upper-income, heavily urban sample. Recalculated, the Japanese average came in not at 106.6 but at 99.2. Then Flynn turned his attention to the Chinese-American estimates. They turned out to be based on a 1975 study in San Francisco’s Chinatown using something called the Lorge-Thorndike Intelligence Test. But the Lorge-Thorndike test was normed in the nineteen-fifties. For children in the nineteen-seventies, it would have been a piece of cake. When the Chinese-American scores were reassessed using up-to-date intelligence metrics, Flynn found, they came in at 97 verbal and 100 nonverbal. Chinese-Americans had slightly lower I.Q.s than white Americans.


Flynn took a different approach. The black-white gap, he pointed out, differs dramatically by age. He noted that the tests we have for measuring the cognitive functioning of infants, though admittedly crude, show the races to be almost the same. By age four, the average black I.Q. is 95.4—only four and a half points behind the average white I.Q. Then the real gap emerges: from age four through twenty-four, blacks lose six-tenths of a point a year, until their scores settle at 83.4.

That steady decline, Flynn said, did not resemble the usual pattern of genetic influence. Instead, it was exactly what you would expect, given the disparate cognitive environments that whites and blacks encounter as they grow older.


Flynn then talked about what we’ve learned from studies of adoption and mixed-race children—and that evidence didn’t fit a genetic model, either. If I.Q. is innate, it shouldn’t make a difference whether it’s a mixed-race child’s mother or father who is black. But it does: children with a white mother and a black father have an eight-point I.Q. advantage over those with a black mother and a white father. And it shouldn’t make much of a difference where a mixed-race child is born. But, again, it does: the children fathered by black American G.I.s in postwar Germany and brought up by their German mothers have the same I.Q.s as the children of white American G.I.s and German mothers.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Democrats Just Don't Get It

It's the lead story all over the news, but the Washington Post is as good a source as any:

"Angry congressional Democrats demanded Friday that the Justice Department investigate why the CIA destroyed videotapes of the interrogation of two terrorism suspects."

Forgive me, but I'm just not very optimistic that having the Justice Department investigate this will do any good. The JD, even (perhaps especially) with Michael Mukasey at the helm, is just as much a lap dog for the administration as the Republicans in Congress. No one gets into this administration without being vetted for loyalty to the Party and the Dear Leader (or perhaps I should spell that deer leader?) This administration is a pseudo-christian cult, and an investigation will do about as much good as having the Church of Scientology investigate itself.

Where are the Congressional subpoenas? Where are the contempt-of-congress indictments for the White House's refusal to comply? The Dems' attitude reminds me of Marvin the Martian.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"Proof" that blacks are less intelligent than whites

Reuters reports:

"Black Americans are 10 times more likely to be imprisoned for illegal drug offenses than whites, even though both groups use and sell drugs at the same rate, according to a study released on Tuesday."

This must be because blacks are genetically less intelligent than whites. What other explanation could there possibly be? I guess Dennis Bider was right all along. I'm so sorry, Dennis. Please come back. I miss you so much.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

So much for the free market

Sometimes government is the answer.

Too bad Denis isn't around any more. I'd love to hear what he had to say about this.