Thursday, April 24, 2008

Subjects, objects, justice

Will Saletan does a roundup of various news items and scientific studies in his Human Nature column at Slate. I thought this one would be of interest to the CLR. Blurb:

"... [DNA-based decreased culpability arguments are causing] a gradual invasion of personal responsibility by genetic determinism. It's a conceptual shift from thinking of people as subjects to thinking of them as objects. The shift helps defense lawyers who need excuses for their clients' behavior. But it comes at a price: If your client is an object, why should we treat him like a subject?"

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bolivian President Evo Morales has told a UN forum that capitalism should be scrapped if the planet is to be saved from the effects of climate change.

Last year, a similar issue was the focus of a Reason Foundation discussion. If you get the chance, part 1 is probably applicable:

Monday, April 14, 2008

Plan 9/Satellite Ballroom buyout

There's plenty of rumors flying about the future of the corner. Consensus says that Plan 9 and Satellite Ballroom might be bought out by CVS. This has sparked some opinions from students and community members. It may make for a good topic for next Sunday.

Attached: A facebook group and two articles--

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A parent lets a nine-year-old find his way home on the NYC subway

A parent let her nine-year-old ride the subway alone.

Was I worried? Yes, a tinge. But it didn’t strike me as that daring, either. Isn’t New York as safe now as it was in 1963? It’s not like we’re living in downtown Baghdad.

Anyway, for weeks my boy had been begging for me to please leave him somewhere, anywhere, and let him try to figure out how to get home on his own. So on that sunny Sunday I gave him a subway map, a MetroCard, a $20 bill, and several quarters, just in case he had to make a call.

No, I did not give him a cell phone. Didn’t want to lose it. And no, I didn’t trail him, like a mommy private eye. I trusted him to figure out that he should take the Lexington Avenue subway down, and the 34th Street crosstown bus home. If he couldn’t do that, I trusted him to ask a stranger. And then I even trusted that stranger not to think, “Gee, I was about to catch my train home, but now I think I’ll abduct this adorable child instead.”

Long story short: My son got home, ecstatic with independence.

Long story longer, and analyzed, to boot: Half the people I’ve told this episode to now want to turn me in for child abuse. As if keeping kids under lock and key and helmet and cell phone and nanny and surveillance is the right way to rear kids. It’s not. It’s debilitating — for us and for them.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Child Protective Services raids polygamist compound, removes 500+ women and children

You've probably all heard about this since it's been all over and other news sites for the past week, but the Texas Children's Protective Services has carried out a massive raid on a compound holding members of a secretive, radical branch of the Mormon Church, the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints (FLDS). The FLDS continues to practice polygamy, has long been disavowed by mainstream Mormons, and is reputed to arrange marriages of its members to girls as young as 13, or possibly younger. These practices are hard to prove as many of the children have been born into the sect and lack proper documentation of their ages, and members of the sect rarely make contact with the outside world. The current spiritual leader, Warren Jeffs, has been convicted of accomplice to rape and sentenced to 10 years in prison for coercing a 14 year old girl to marry her 19 year old cousin. The entire sect is ruled by the church elders, who have absolute control over their followers. The FLDS has been left in relative isolation since a similar raid half a century ago in Arizona that was tarnished by a negative media backlash. So far the Texas government has removed over 500 women and children from the compound on suspicions of physical and/or sexual abuse, after they were called by a sixteen year old girl, pregnant with her second child, who reported being abused.

At what point should the ability to practice religion freely be limited by the need to protect basic human rights? Should the government force extremist religious groups to be more transparent in order to prevent abuse? Why has the FLDS, which has long been associated with physical and sexual abuse of its women and children, been tolerated for this long?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Smoking Bans Kill

Never underestimate the law of unintended consequences.

Smoking Bans Kill, Part II

A new study reported in the Journal of Public Economics finds that smoking bans are associated with increases in alcohol-related traffic deaths. "We observe an increase in fatal accidents involving alcohol following bans on smoking in bars that is not observed in places without bans," the researchers report. They surmise that drinkers respond to bans by driving further to find bars where they're allowed to light up, either because the bars are in a different jurisdiction or because they have outdoor seating. That means more time on the road in a less-than-sober condition:

"The increased miles driven by drivers who wish to smoke and drink offsets any reduction in driving from smokers choosing to stay home after a ban, resulting in increased alcohol-related accidents," the study says.

The authors, Scott Adams of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Economics Department and Chad Cotti, currently at the University of South Carolina, call the results "surprising."

"We thought we would see a reduction," Adams said. "Our first thought was, 'Throw it away, it must be wrong.' "...

The 2-year study looks at highway fatality data involving a driver with blood alcohol content over 0.08 in cities and counties with bans and compares it to incidences in surrounding areas without bans. The study was not funded by outside organizations, the authors said.

Results show an increase in accidents in areas after smoking bans were enacted and near the jurisdiction lines.

A Wisconsin anti-smoking activist quoted by Madison's Capital Times seems irritated by the study and reacts skeptically. But the results need not be seen as an argument against smoking bans (the interpretation I'd favor). They could be seen as an argument for stricter bans that forbid smoking even outdoors and for wider bans that do not allow escape to more tolerant jurisdictions. Adams tells the Times "a well-enforced national smoking ban would get rid of the drunken driving increases related to smoke bans."

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Persuant to last week's Obama discussion, I found an especially eloquent summation of the Hillary camp:
"[Hillary supporters believe that] their highly substantive candidate was unfairly undone by a lightweight showboat who got a free ride from an often misogynist press and from na├»ve young people who lap up messianic language as if it were Jim Jones’s Kool-Aid."
I just thought that it was particularly expressive.

Also, there is a lot of good material on . Some of my favorite videos are:

Living Large: The American Middle Class

Organ Transplants: Kidneys for Sale

Gridlock: Hell on Wheels

These are really great commentaries about different issues that don't often get debate, and might make for interesting discussions.

Olympics Official Warns Against Boycott
What would a boycott of the Olympics mean? When is it a duty of a nation to boycott an Olympics? What would the consequences be of doing so?