Patterico's Pontifications

3/14/2007

Global Cooling Hysteria In The Media

Filed under: Accepted Wisdom,Environment,General — Justin Levine @ 3:33 pm

[posted by Justin Levine]

Time Magazine:  June 24, 1974      [hat-tip: The John And Ken Show]

Proving the continued resiliency of apocalyptic belief.

Are you really sure that you want to stand by these statements Megan? Do you really think that man-made global warming is “largely settled” and “not worth debating”?? Is that because you can provide links showing as much? Or can you only cite other scientists who simply proclaim that it is “settled”?

2/2/2007

Maliciously Redefining “Actual Malice”

[posted by Justin Levine] 

Another frightening attempt by the state to kill blogging in one fell swoop. Fortunately, the proposed bill has apparently died a quick death.  [Hat-tip:  Instapundit]
This sorry episode brings to mind a point that many don’t seem to appreciate regarding the definition of “actual malice”. The concept was created by the Supreme Court in order to insure a minimum level of protection under the First Amendment to the (federal) Constitution. As a result, I would contend that “actual malice” is not subject to being redefined by states in any manner. This seems elementary to me.

Naturally, a state is free to enact its own definition of “actual malice” that gives greater free speech protections than the federal Constitution, but it certainly cannot restrict or minimize the definition in any way. This would be like saying that an individual state has the ability to unilaterally redefine the phrase “unreasonable search and seizure” in such a way that it could essentially choose to ignore any Supreme Court rulings on the Fourth Amendment. Everyone knows it can’t do that. Yet for some reason, people seem to think that states should be free to disregard Supreme Court rulings related to the First Amendment. Quite bizarre in my view.

Perhaps the main problem is that the phrase “actual malice” still remains an amorphous legal concept in the eyes of many. The vagueness that attaches itself to the term allows a great deal of wiggle room for those who would wish to enact greater restrictions on speech. Attempts at restricting the Constitutional definition of “actual malice” deliberately feed off of this ignorance.  

Even subtle attempts at redefining the term can have very negative consequences. Take California’s attempt to define “actual malice” for instance [Civil Code 48(d)]:
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1/2/2007

Accepted Wisdom™: The Saddam Nostalgia Edition

Filed under: Accepted Wisdom,General,War — Patterico @ 2:00 pm

(Accepted Wisdom™ is a semi-regular feature of this site, highlighting contradictory viewpoints held by [in this case some of] the elite.)

It is Until recently, it was Accepted Wisdom™ that:

It was wrong for the United States to provide support to Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, despite arguments that it was the only way to achieve stability in the region.

And at the same time:

The best option for ending the violence in Iraq is for the United States to put Saddam Hussein back in power. This is the only way to restore stability to the region.

Oh, well. I guess the elite can’t argue Viewpoint #2 any more. Looks like it’s back to an emphasis on contradictory Viewpoint #1.

And don’t forget: the viewpoints are indeed consistent, if you remember the connecting thread: The United States Is Always Wrong.

UPDATE: Some commenters are objecting that this is hardly a universal view. Fair enough. But some have certainly advanced it.

Jonathan Chait had a column in the L.A. Times titled Bring Back Saddam Hussein, which some people believed was an exercise in Swiftian irony, because they hadn’t read it. Jonah Goldberg said: no, don’t bring back Saddam! Give us a Pinochet! — a silly suggestion which isn’t much different. Psyberian tells us in comments that Imus has made the same argument as Chait. And at least one commenter on this site (our friend Neville Chamberlain) has said restoring Saddam was our best option until he was killed. I’m sure there are other examples besides the ones I have cited. (This guy, for one.)

But OK, I’ll grant you, these folks do not make up the entirety of the elite. For that reason I have added “[in this case some of]” to the first sentence of the post.

8/30/2006

Why Orwell Still Matters (Hitchens Is Right)

Filed under: Accepted Wisdom,Current Events,General,War — Justin Levine @ 12:06 am

[posted by Justin Levine]

Christopher Hitchens has attempted to take up the mantle of George Orwell in the current era. He makes the argument that much of what Orwell had to say should still speak to us today. After reasearching the primary documents for myself, I think Hitchens is right on the money. [Scroll down after the jump for what I offer as proof.]

David Brooks over at the Weekly Standard disagrees. Brooks writes:

GEORGE ORWELL was one of the best essayists of his time, and Christopher Hitchens is one of the best essayists of his. Orwell is famous for his intellectual honesty and his willingness occasionally to anger his allies on the left. So is Hitchens. A book by Hitchens on Orwell seems natural and inevitable–like an Ali-Frazier fight or a Hepburn-Tracy movie. The publishers are not hyping things when they advertise this book as “a true marriage of minds.”

But for all the wisdom that Hitchens brings to this book, there is a problem with his “Why Orwell Matters”–for it leaves the reader with the impression that Orwell doesn’t actually matter any more. To enter Orwell’s world is to reenter a world of totalitarian nation-states, Communist intellectuals, blacklists, European imperialists, proletarian masses, and pre-feminist attitudes. But the Cold War really is over, and none of those other things is very important today. As you take the Hitchens-guided tour through some of those old, old controversies, it occurs to you that the categories Orwell used to analyze his own world would mislead us if we relied on them now.

I haven’t read Hitchens’s book yet. I can’t really tell from his essay if Brooks hasn’t read much Orwell or not. He might merely be giving an opinion on Hitchens’s own writing rather than making a substantive judgment on Orwell himself.

In any event, the substantive conclusion on Orwell is wrong. Orwell is most certainly relevant in the current era of war. Some of his passages make the hair on the back of my neck stand up because his writing seems so prescient over 50 years later – The fundamental nature of the anti-war Left, the U.N., anti-Semitic thought, the problems of British entanglement with Inida and the current parallels to the Iraq situation, etc.

Here are just a few select excerpts from some of Orwell’s essays:

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3/29/2006

Accepted Wisdom on Immigration (A Reprise)

Filed under: Accepted Wisdom,Immigration — Patterico @ 6:02 am

(Accepted Wisdom is a semi-regular feature of this site, highlighting contradictory viewpoints held by the elite.)

In light of the recent protests over the immigration bill, I thought it might be a good idea to reprise an installment of Accepted Wisdom regarding illegal immigration, first published here in November 2003.

It is Accepted Wisdom™ that:

We should not enact divisive laws that burden illegal immigrants. These immigrants are necessary to our economy, because they do jobs nobody else wants to do for the same wage.

And at the same time:

The federal government needs to impose strong sanctions against corporate executives who employ illegal immigrants, to send a strong message that it is illegal to hire undocumented workers.

2/23/2006

Accepted Wisdom on Punishment for Murder

Filed under: Accepted Wisdom — Patterico @ 6:00 am

(Accepted Wisdom is a semi-regular feature of this site, highlighting contradictory viewpoints held by the elite.)

It is Accepted Wisdom that:

Any method of execution — including lethal injection — is cruel and unusual punishment, and therefore unconstitutional, because it inflicts unnecessary suffering on the prisoner.

And at the same time:

Life in prison is a better punishment than death, because prisoners suffer much more being kept alive in prison than they would from an execution.

(P.S. This installment of Accepted Wisdom was inspired by a recent actual letter to the editor of your favorite local L.A. rag.)

12/6/2005

Poopy-Pants Tim

Filed under: Accepted Wisdom,Blogging Matters,Nobel Peace Prize — Dafydd @ 12:03 am

Posted by Dafydd the Great, Mr. Lizard himself. Not by Patterico, thank goodness.

Those of us who read and love Patterico’s Pontifications (I resist the impulse to link to the same blog you’re reading) know that Tim McGarry’s charge that the tone of PP “frequently descends to the emotionally puerile” is a load of kakky-doody.

– Dafydd

6/15/2005

Dafydd: “Mainstreaming Celebrity Decadence”

Filed under: Accepted Wisdom,Crime — Dafydd @ 11:02 pm

Mark Steyn was on Hugh Hewitt today (as is his wont on Wednesdays), and he used this phrase. I almost jumped, as this is just what I was reaching for in my previous post, Dafydd: Can Celebrities Be Convicted Anymore?, where I suggested it was no longer possible to convict important celebrities of any serious crime — a crime where being guilty means being evil (murder, attempted murder, rape, molestation, armed robbery, and so forth).

Steyn did not elaborate overmuch, but I understood he was inadvertently creating a general case from which my observation could easily be deduced… namely, that we have entered an era in which we simply expect our celebrities to be deviant, decadent, narcissistic, and even nihilist, and we do not hold it against them when they live down to our expectations.

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6/3/2005

Maternity, Feminism, and Unintended Consequences

Filed under: Accepted Wisdom,General,Law,Real Life — See Dubya @ 5:11 am

I ran into someone from a place I used to work the other day, and caught up on some office gossip. Moe Green had taken over the Tropicana club, Fredo was in Havana, etc., etc. But the interesting part, in a fairly conventional way, was the story of a woman (whom I’ll call Shirley McZoobooboombah-OnStar, which is her real name) who arrived not long before I left and became pregnant soon after she arrived, or possibly she was pregnant when she started the new job. She continued working up till nearly her due date and then went on maternity leave about the time I moved on. Well, it emerged from my interlocutor that she returned to work for a month or three after she had used up her leave, and then gave her notice that she was quitting.

I gather that this is a fairly common story and a bit of a problem for employers, who obviously don’t want to hire and train an employee, only to immediately have to subsidize her pregnancy and fill her spot with a temp, and then after all that to have her move right along and need to repeat the process. The problem here is that employers begin to turn the gimlet eye on all female applicants of a certain age who might present a risk of doing something similar.

That’s where labor law comes into it. For example, employers can’t just ask someone in an interview whether she’s planning on having kids. That would be discriminatory. If a woman thought she didn’t get a job (or lost a job or was passed over for promotion) because she might get pregnant, she would probably have grounds for a lawsuit. Nonetheless, women are often scared that exactly this sort of discrimination will occur and they won’t be able to detect it or prevent it. I don’t doubt that this fear is quite reasonable.

The thing is this: I think businesses would be less likely to discriminate against women in general, or married or cohabiting women aged 23-36 in particular, if they could be assured there is less of a likelihood of someone pulling a Shirley on them. Some ruthless companies might prefer never to hire women because of the risk that they may have to pay a maternity benefit, but I think they’re the exception. Most companies will, I think, gladly hire talented women and won’t mind paying out maternity benefts and letting them raise a family, as long as the company gets a reasonable return on their investment in the form of a few years of loyal service. But they gotta watch out for Shirley. And so Shirley, by cashing in on the system, adds a drop of poison to the well for all other women with careers.

It’s a ‘tragedy of the commons’ problem for women. There exists a perverse incentive for individuals to do what Shirley did, even though it’s against the interests of women as a group.

I’m not sure that there’s anything particularly original in my analysis up to this point. But like Pat O’Brien said, “This is all new to me; I don’t do this for a living.” I’m curious about this tension between a woman’s short-term interests and women’s long-term interests. It seems that there ought to exist a strong social sanction among women, or at least among career-oriented women, against doing what Shirley did. If there is such disapproval, though, I haven’t really heard of it. Why not? Seems like it ought to be an affront to Sisterhood or feminine solidarity or some such. There ought to be an amusing, snarky nickname for people who exploit maternity benefits, because “pulling a Shirley” just isn’t going to catch on. Well, here’s your chance to invent one, if you’re so inclined, and leave it in the comments. (more…)

5/31/2005

Asymmetrical Votefare

Filed under: Accepted Wisdom,Politics — Dafydd @ 4:33 am

Accepted wisdom: the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination is Hers for the asking.

But what if it isn’t? Why should it be? What magic quality would She have to raise herself above all those who have hewed more wood and hauled more water than She, for many more years than She, and to much greater effect?

In other words — why Hillary?

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