Cincinnati & national politics -- movies -- music -- law

Friday, May 28, 2004

My opinion on science

Today's movie reviews are pretty sparse--the major movie opening is "The Day After Tomorrow." Looks like enjoyable crap to me. But something in Roger Ebert's review caught my eye. For those of you who haven't watched any of the almost-offensive, but mostly-ridiculous cross-branding of the NBA playoffs and this movie, TDAT is about what would happen were global warming to cause an "instant ice age" that cause weather catastrophes all over the world. Yes, it's that dumb.

So then Ebert says, "Of the science in this movie I have no opinion. I am sure global warming is real, and I regret that the Bush administration rejected the Kyoto Treaty, but I doubt that the cataclysm, if it comes, will come like this."

It's come to this. I appreciate that science is not, well, an exact science, but that science is not something that lay people can really have a particularly worthwhile opinion about. Scientists can differ on certain topics, but I'm quite confident that Roger Ebert is not qualified to express a very knowledgable "opinion" on global warming. Then again, this is a world where average joes debate evolution and intelligent design as if both are science and where it is news when polls show that people think global warming is a serious problem.

But science doesn't care about people's opinions. Science doesn't reflect attitudes. Science is, at its heart, the pursuit of truth. And truth, at least in science, is not a matter of opinion.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Morality and Economy

I try not to go after Peter Bronson too often, because usually he makes criticism too easy. But, his column today go me thinking. It tracks one of his semi-regular themes -- the chronicling of poverty in a Cincinnati neighborhood. In this case, he focuses his attention on the West End, the apparent homebase of the "Tot Lot Posse," a drug gang recently hit with federal indictments.

The main thrust of Bronson's piece appears to be that stronger families are needed to combat drugs and violence. One paragraph caught my attention:

Cops can't install responsibility where it's as scarce as high school diplomas. They can't get civil rights leaders to stop ignoring young men who push drugs and kill each other. They can't make mothers stop finding excuses for "babies'' who would rather sell crack rocks for $500 a day than put sliders in a sack for minimum wage.

And then I realized that Bronson says nothing about poverty and its role in leading the residents of the West End to dealing drugs. Instead, it's all about morality and responsibility. If only parents taught their kids right, those kids wouldn't sell drugs.

Which got me thinking about conservatives in general and how they split into two camps: social conservatives and fiscal conservatives. (Believe me, I know that's no revelation.) And it mystifies me that both camps are lumped together politically into the Republican party.

The Bronson article is the perfect example. Bronson is a social conservative. For him, working minimum wage in a legal job is better than making more money doing something illegal. In other words, legality is key and legality is tied to morality (as we see in the argument that people injured "resisting" the police only get what's coming to them, since "resisting arrest" is illegal).

But the fiscal conservative is about limited government intervention in markets. For them, market forces will achieve optimal results in most cases. So, for the absolute fiscal conservative (say, the libertarian), the solution is to legalize drugs and rely on market forces to bring prices down, thus making violent drug dealing a less attractive alternative to minimum wage jobs.

Now, it seems to me that both of these views have some merit. There is something to be said for stronger families to help steer kids away from drugs. There also is something to be said for making drug dealing less attrative economically. But these two views are not easily reconciled, so I find it odd that both find room under the "big tent" of the Republican party.

(P.S. Of course, there are other alternatives that also have merit, but fall more into the liberal camp -- raising minimum wage, for example. But I'm not trying to propose a perfect solution in this post.)

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Obvious PR Move

So, Rumsfeld has made a "surprise visit" to Abu Ghraib. Rumsfeld has known about the abuse at Abu Ghraib for months and only now it's important enough for him to hop on a plane and take care of the problem? Come on. This is ridiculous PR crap and absolutely nothing more.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Local theater a Tony winner


Saturday, May 08, 2004


As the Red Cross investigation and accounts from Iraqi prisoners begin to show the possibility of a broader pattern of abuse and even torture, I think we, as Americans, must consider a very difficult question: do we prefer to believe that these acts were committed by individual without the direction of their superiors, and thus acknowledge that the capacity to commit this sort of evil lies in each of us, or do we believe that the soldiers acted at the direction of their superiors and question, on a grander scale, exactly what it is that our military is trying to accomplish?

Friday, May 07, 2004

What did Bush say anyway?

I'm kind of mystified by the headlines I'm seeing this morning. The NYT says, "Bush Sorry for Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners." The Washington Post reads, "Bush Apologizes, Calls Abuse 'Stain' on Nation." (I can't even find an article about it on the Enquirer web page.)

But I don't read what Bush said to be very much of an apology. Here's what he said, "I told him I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners, and the humiliation suffered by their families. I told him I was equally sorry that people who have been seeing those pictures didn't understand the true nature and heart of America."

Now, I don't want to get into nit-picky semantics, but there's something incredibly passive and wishy-washy about that apology. It's second-hand, and it's in the past tense. He's not apologizing, he's reporting that he did apologize. And he's not saying that his is sorry, he's indicating that he was sorry at some point in the past.

It's the difference between, "I'm sorry," and, "I told him that I was sorry," and there is a difference.

This is particularly strange because, really, I don't think that it's King Abdullah II of Jordan who deserves the apology. American soldiers didn't abuse, demean, and possibly torture King Abdullah or the people of Jordan. And even though Jordanians and Iraqis are both mostly Arabs, that doesn't mean that Jordanians and Iraqis are the same. That's kind of like apologizing to the president of Angola for something that happened in Namibia because, you know, they're all Africans. Or Gaddafi apologizing to Chirac for the bombing of flight 103, because, you know, they're all Europeans.

Bush doesn't deserve credit for apologizing; what he said doesn't quite cut it.

UPDATE: lawroark seems satisfied. For the reasons above, I just can't agree.