26 June 2009


Sri Lanka astrologer is arrested (BBC.com, June 26, 2009)
The authorities in Sri Lanka have arrested a popular astrologer who predicted that the president will be ejected from office, police say.

Chandrasiri Bandara announced last week that the government would flounder in September and October because of political and economic problems.

The opposition have condemned the arrest and warned that the country is heading towards a dictatorship.

Astrology is taken seriously by numerous Sri Lankan politicians.
We've been having a desultory conversation over at Think of England about why, personally and as a society, we tolerate charlatans. I tried to suggest, perhaps too obliquely, that Brit was more bothered than Peter and I because Brit thinks that his particular belief system, rational empiricism, is True and Right and Better than the belief systems of women who purchase silver bracelets to improve their chances of getting pregnant and of the charlatans who sell them. Rational empiricism, especially as practiced by the Brits of the world, has its advantages, G-d knows, but it has its disadvantages, too.

In any event, as Mr. Banadara is discovering, in cultures that believe in the power of astrology, astrologers have power.

25 June 2009

23 June 2009

The Terribly Attractive Terrible Idea

It occurs to me that, in my Intro to Law course next semester, I should burn a copy of the Constitution while denouncing it as a pact with the Devil (as, of course, it is). I would also make clear that, simultaneously, the Constitution is the pinnacle of human intellectual achievement and that the two characteristics are intimately related.

22 June 2009

What To Spend On Grandma?

So, I've been brushing up on my healthcare policy in preparation for the debates about Obama Care. I'm agin it, I'm just trying to figure out why.

My best guess right now is that one reason I'm against it is that it's going to have to ration care to deal with the last 6 months problem. About half of all life-cycle health spending comes in the last 6 months of life. An aging population that, more and more, doesn't die young just makes the problem bigger: young people tend to die quickly and cheaply, old people die slowly and expensively. On the one hand, this is likely to be a nice case of giving the people what the ask for, good and hard. People who hate those heartless, profit-making HMOs are going to love the cuddly and benevolent government when it tells them they've lived long enough; "Here, have some nice morphine."

In any event, in doing my research, I stumbled across this nice .pdf of a presentation on long-term health care spending (at the rate we're going, every dollar of gdp will be spend on health care in 2082) by Peter Orszag, who, in 2007, was director of the CBO. This presentation has lots of nice information in it, but I was particularly struck by this slide showing not much correlation between per capita healthcare spending an quality of care:

Now, I don't want to rest too heavily on this graphic. I don't know how quality of care was defined, and it's possible that hard cases are shipped to hospitals in high spending areas, but this chart is certainly suggestive. Combined with another slide in the presentation showing that, in 1975, 33% of personal health care expenditures were paid out of pocket while today only about 15% are paid out of pocket, we start to see a way out of the "health care crisis," which is really a "paying for health care crisis."

19 June 2009


My marriage can drink.


Apparently, PETA is mad at President Obama for swatting a fly. But what business is it of PETAs, given that flies are not animals. Another example of mission creep. (Of course, I'm really just in it for the title.)

16 June 2009

A Picture...

Sometimes people ask me why I went back to school. In terms of this diagram, I wanted to move left from the area labeled, "Learn to say 'No.'"

14 June 2009


The week before last I spent on two university campuses, separated by a pretty far distance on any spectrum you'd care to name. On both, I was walking through campus with a (different) friend when we saw signs saying "LGBTQ." In both cases, my friend, no stranger to campuses in either case, stopped to wonder what "Q" added to "LGBT."

The answer turns out to be that, while Gays think of themselves as men and Lesbians think of themselves as women, Queers -- in the words of the surprisingly good Wikipedia entry -- deny that gender [sic] is part of the essential self. That is, Queers theory holds that no fact about gender is not socially constructed.

Now, much of sexual identity is socially constructed. Little Victorian boys in both Britain and upper class America ran around in long hair and dresses, which in no way prevented them from conquering the world. Gay men claim that a cornucopia of anonymous sex is the true expression of male sexuality, but I beg to differ. Much of who we are as men and women depends on what society expects us to be.

But that doesn't mean that Queer Theory isn't fundamentally nuts. First, there are differences between men and women beyond the purely biological. For example, while different cultures have different rates of violence, the ratio of violent acts committed by men to those committed by women is surprisingly stable across cultures. Across cultures, young men die at disproportionately high rates when compared to young women -- men take risks that women don't take.

Second, like the academic feminism that birthed it, Queer Theory consigns itself to impotence. Society is so warped by the patriarchy that all that can profitably be done about it is peer reviewed whinging for tenure. We are where we are; we can't go back. Make the best of it.

Third, notice how these peerless thinkers have divorced themselves from mainstream Western history, philosophy, thought and science. They misread Foucault and Derrida by thinking that anything can be treated as text, from our genetic code to what we non-Queer Theorists laughably refer to as the facts on the ground. What more anti-Darwinist idea can there be then that we are really self-defined selves free from constraint? At the same time, what more anti-religious idea can there be?