Thursday, December 19, 2013

Off My Game

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) square off over surveillance programs. That's no surprise.
Paul, a Kentucky Republican with strong tea party-backing, and King are both considered likely GOP presidential candidates in 2016.
Paul I knew about. But King? I hadn't heard anything suggesting King was a presidential candidate. Now, I'm not as plugged into this world as I used to be, but I would have thought I'd hear some rumblings. But no, it turns out I just missed the memo.

In any event, I think King is too "iconoclastic" (if you will) to be a likely 2016 standard-bearer. But I have to think that the 2016 GOP primary will be one of the more bizarre in recent memory anyway, so who knows?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Publish It Already" Roundup

I have an article coming out very soon in the Florida International University Law Review that is, I think, quite pertinent to some ... high-profile issues ... that have recently come up. But "very soon" isn't soon enough. Argh.

Some things taking up browser space:

* * *

A white former(?) prosecutor gets himself arrested, both to see what the criminal justice system is like from the other side and, inadvertently, to discover just how hard it is to get arrested if you're a white guy in a suit.

David Hirsh writes an open letter to Claire Potter, who famously opposed-then-supported the ASA BDS resolution. Potter responds here. I'd greatly appreciate if Hirsh continued this conversation; his energy to do such things vastly exceeds my own, and Potter's response was not just unconvincing, but worrisome in how seemingly little thought she's given to the application of her radical politics to the Jewish context. Anti-Semitism, for her, seems to be a slur that impedes open discussion, rather than a central point of analysis anytime largely non-Jewish institutions act upon their Jewish counterparts.

Walter Russell Mead has a stellar essay on the ASA boycott. I would quibble slightly at where he draws the line regarding anti-Semitism, but it's mostly semantic -- I don't think anti-Semitism necessarily requires conscious or even unconscious malign intent. Though I might set that threshold for saying a person is anti-Semitic, it is not a necessary condition for an action to be. If an action is taken without due regard and consideration for Jewish rights and equality, that's anti-Semitic regardless of the intention of the actor (the corollary being, one can say or do something anti-Semitic without being anti-Semitic). There is no right to opine on marginalized minorities without knowing about them.

In just a few days, two universities (Brandeis and Penn State - Harrisburg) have pulled out of the ASA.

Finally, on a happier note, my congratulatiosn to Mais Ali-Saleh, valedictorian at Israel's Technion University (Israel's premier tech university). Ali-Saleh is a Muslim Arab woman, and I have no doubt that she's faced considerable discrimination. But that makes her perseverance and accomplishments more laudable. Incidentally, if Ms. Ali-Saleh did ask to speak at an ASA invent (and, we'll say, in her "official capacity" as Technion's valedictorian), would she be boycotted? If the answer is yes, it seems to run counter to the movement's supposed goals of solidarity. If it is no, then the boycott is overtly discriminating against Jews. A tough call, and a question I've long wondered how BDSers would answer.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Facing Race

This is a truly fascinating study:
Harvard business professor Michael Norton describes a study testing people’s willingness to talk about race. He made volunteers play a simple game. One picked a face from a field of 12 and the other asked yes/no questions in order to guess who they had in mind. Among the field of faces, six were white and six were black.

Even though asking if a person was black or white would eliminate half of the contenders, 43% of people did not mention race. If the other volunteer was African American, they were even less likely to mention it. In that scenario, 79% didn’t ask if the face they had in mind was white or black.

They reproduced the experiment with children and found that, while little kids would ask about race, by nine or ten, they’d stopped. The little kids often beat the older kids at the game, given that race was a pretty good way to eliminate faces.

Interestingly, the people who didn’t mention race were probably trying to appear not racist, but their decision had the opposite effect. The partners of people who didn’t mention race rated them as more racist than the partners of people who did. Bringing up race was, in fact, a way to signal comfort with racial difference.
Very, very interesting.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Thus Proving His Point

Sayeth Rich Santorum:
Free health care is just that, free health care, until you get sick. Then, if you get sick and you don’t get health care, you die and you don’t vote. It’s actually a pretty clever system. Take care of the people who can vote and people who can’t vote, get rid of them as quickly as possible by not giving them care so they can’t vote against you. That’s how it works.
Kevin Drum is confused:
WTF? I recognize that sometimes extemporaneous witticisms go astray, and God knows that Santorum is probably more vulnerable to that than most. But even for him this is inscrutable. I wonder if he knows that every American over the age of 65 has been receiving government health care for the past half century?
Yes, every American over 65 has received government health care for the past half-century, and most of them are dead! Coincidence? I think not!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

If Babies Had Guns....

Taking a stupid idea way too seriously.

So I haven't remarked on the Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) bumper sticker "If babies had guns they wouldn't be aborted", primarily because I refused to believe it wasn't a parody. But for some reason, I felt like actually taking the idea seriously. If babies had guns, would they be less likely to be aborted? I doubt it -- in fact, I think the abortion rate would increase.

We'll analyze the hypothetical under two conditions. Under the first, "more realistic", scenario, the baby lacks the cognitive capacity to understand what a gun is or how to fire it. Under the second scenario, the baby is fully aware of the nature of a gun and how to use it, and of the prospect that the mother could potentially abort it.

Under the first scenario, abortion would become far more attractive. You have floating in your uterus an entity constantly and unknowingly interacting with an active firearm. This is not a comforting thought. I'd be inclined to abort that sucker before it gives a kick and accidentally blows my small intestines out my belly button.

The second scenario is far more interesting. The baby has a gun, the mother has the ability to abort the fetus. Both know of the other's capacity to use lethal force, but neither can know (until it's too late) if such force is actually going to be deployed. And we'll stipulate that each party will survive the use of lethal force against the other (the woman survives the abortion, the fetus can blast its way to freedom).

This scenario is probably one of those modified prisoner's dilemmas (stag hunt, chicken ... I'm too lazy to check which). But think of it this way: you and a partner are locked in separate rooms, without the ability to monitor the other. Each room contains a button which, if pressed, immediately (a) detonates the other room and (b) releases you. If neither of you presses the button for nine months, you'll both be released without harm.

It is possible, to be sure, that both parties will exercise tremendous willpower and not press the button. But the temptation would be very strong. Applied to the abortion context, it probably will just lead to more deaths on one side or the other -- whoever's nerves break first.

So there you ago. If babies had guns, the abortion rate would probably stay the same or go up. Thank you for your patience as I take a stupid idea and take it way too seriously.