Sunday, August 24, 2008

A "Homophobic" gene?

The article below is undoubtedly satirical but it is satire with more truth in it than the author perhaps realizes. Feelings of revulsion towards homosexuality ARE normal, by any criterion of normality you care to name. And his basic point that tolerance is deserved on both sides of the fence is long overdue

As a Christian who takes the Bible seriously, I believe that any sexual activity other than that between a man and his wife is illicit. This includes adultery, premarital sex and, of course, homosexuality. But I've also been doing what my parents always taught me to do: listen to those who disagree with me. And I think I've discovered something rather shocking: opposition to homosexuality must itself be genetic.

For as long as I can remember, homosexuals have been explaining why gay people have no choice about their orientation. And it finally dawned on me that their arguments explain why being anti-gay is also not a choice but an innate predisposition beyond our power to restrain. This led me to embrace my convictions and stop trying in vain to repress who I am. Since millions suffer from this same condition, I'm hopeful that my epiphany will help others accept themselves and their convictions, too. Here are insights that helped me, in no particular order.

Insight 1: You cannot control whom you love

Although there are different kinds of love, some of which involve choice and some of which do not, this realization about passion led me to a very liberating conclusion. If we can't control whom we love, that's because we can't control our strong passions. But passions can be both for and against. And, just as gay love is a passion which is impossible to control, I now know that my passionate anti-gayness must also be impossible to control. I might wish I could change, but it's hopeless. My judgmental tendency draws me as irresistibly as their same-sex affection.

Insight 2: People shouldn't have to restrain acting on their innate desires

I used to think that restraint was the key differentiator between animals and men. But then it was explained to me that sexual urges are such a deep element of real human nature that it's wrong to suppress them. This led me to realize that moral urges are an equally deep aspect of human identity, and it must be unhealthy to try to suppress them, too. Just as someone may feel a deep desire to have same-gender sex, I often suffer the seemingly irresistible urge to espouse my views on sexual ethics. In fact, my desire to express my beliefs is so deeply human that even the First Amendment to our Constitution explicitly protects it. So it must be truly unhealthy to try repressing something as innate as opposition to homosexuality.

Insight 3: If one identical is twin gay, both are gay 50 percent of the time

Although my instinctive reaction to this statistic is to note that-even among genetically identical people-when one is gay, still fully half of the siblings manage to not be gay, I eventually figured out what this meant for people like me. While research has yet to confirm my suspicions, the likelihood of identical twins sharing a strong disposition to oppose homosexuality is probably even higher than 50 percent. Given the fact that one or both parents may be carriers of the traditional morality gene, it seems perfectly natural that children in some families might all express a strong disposition to denounce gay behavior. And if I inherited this from my parents, well, who can blame me for that?

Insight 4: No one would choose to be gay

After all, who would choose to suffer discrimination, fear, alienation and family discord? I used to worry that this argument would prevent disapproving of any behavior at all, since it seems to entail the unusual conclusion that the more despised something is the less anyone can be blamed for it. But then I realized that I have been ridiculed, called intolerant and fired from an academic post for my beliefs on this subject. In fact, I've often thought how much easier my life in this culture would be if only I could lay down the burden of believing in traditional morals and embrace homosexuality. Since no rational person in the United States in 2008 would choose to be anti-gay if he didn't have to be, it must not be a choice.

Insight 5: Being gay isn't a choice anyone ever actually makes

The realization that no one (straight or gay) ever consciously flips a switch to set their sexual preference led me to the recognition that I never chose to be anti-gay. It's not like I went to bed one night thinking supportive thoughts about gayness and then woke up the next morning committed to opposing it. It's more accurate to say that one day I just sort of realized, almost to my horror, that I thought gay behavior was wrong. I felt like I had been suppressing my innate moral voice because of social pressure before finally coming to terms with it. On top of my parents both being pro-gay and having lots of gay friends, I had actually taken a seminar on gay theory from Richard Mohr, one of the county's most prominent gay philosophers. I would gladly have been homo-endorsant if I could have been. But all to no avail. And I clearly can't un-choose what I had never chosen in the first place.


I know this column might frustrate some people who will resist seeing how their arguments, if true, have helped me embrace my own unfashionable alternative beliefstyle. But that's okay. I don't blame people who criticize me. Thanks to their insights, I've also come to realize that their homophobophobia probably isn't a choice either.


Censorship online: who needs evidence?

A new UK parliamentary report says the internet must be regulated to protect children - even though there's no proof they are being harmed.

The internet is made up of hardcore pornography, videos of fighting, bullying, rape and websites that glorify extreme diets, selfharm, and suicide. Or at least that's the impression you could easily be left with after reading an alarm-ridden report just published by a UK parliamentary committee. And that means further support for the idea of controls on what we can and cannot view, all in the name of protecting children.

Harmful Content on the Internet and in Video Games , a report by the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee was published last Thursday. The committee's report draws on an earlier report for the UK government authored by popular clinical psychologist, TV pundit and presenter Dr Tanya Byron, published in March. The Byron Report concluded that `[C]hildren and young people need to be empowered to keep themselves safe'.

In what amounts to a child-centred approach to understanding the impact of technology on children, Byron recommended setting up yet another regulatory body, called the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. The government has already agreed to do this before the end of the year. The council's remit will be to work with internet service providers (ISPs) and industry to place the interests of children at the forefront of how the games industry and myriad website publishers must rate, monitor and, in some cases, censor their content.

The consensus is that parents can no longer be trusted to deal with the various hurdles that our risk-averse society has created. In the absence of parental skills, bodies like the new council will help alert parents to the potential dangers when children happen to stray online without any supervision.

News of all this has caused some protest, but only amongst those who produce games and websites. The booming computer games industry argues that it has already put in place all the necessary checks and balances to regulate games. They insist their own standard, Pan European Games Information (PEGI), is good enough for the job.

On this, Bryon's report fudged the issue. She thought a combination of PEGI and the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) ratings would do the job, arguing that both the BBFC and PEGI could put their stickers on the front and on the back respectively on each games' packaging. The select committee's recommendation, on the other hand, is to extend the remit of the BBFC to include computer games.

But regulating the games industry is just one part of the select committee's focus. They also warn that children regularly stray online unsupervised, especially to websites like YouTube and other various social networking websites. What particularly worries the committee is that these websites are full of content uploaded by all kinds of people about any subject of their choosing. And in the case of social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, they worry that children are inadvertently putting themselves at risk by posting information about themselves online.

In consequence, fingers are being pointed at website owners including Google (which owns YouTube) because the committee argues that they are not doing enough to protect children from a mass of inappropriate content. The committee believes big service providers like YouTube should be more proactive in reviewing material, more efficient in removing it if it is unsuitable, and better at flagging it up with a label where necessary.

The problem with websites, and the internet in general, is that they are very hard to regulate. Websites like YouTube thrive on massive amounts of content that is constantly being uploaded by thousands of people every day. Google have said that to try to regulate all of this content (some estimate as much as 10 hours worth is uploaded every minute) makes the task of censorship nearly impossible.

As a result, the debate around the select committee report has narrowly focused on who should be regulating who, whilst completely ignoring the major assumption behind this discussion: that the internet is causing children harm. Indeed, no-one seems to be challenging the misconstrued evidence about why children and their parents need help in dealing with the internet's content.

In fact, self-regulation and censorship is already happening. The government-endorsed Internet Watch Foundation, set up in 1996, aims to ensure that all ISPs and mobile operators remove any offensive or illegal content that they might inadvertently host.

The Byron Report and the new select committee report raise the bar of internet regulation. But the central claim that the internet causes children harm is not backed up with any serious evidence. Likewise, the focus on the internet's `dark side' is also unfounded. The obsession with protecting children is opportunist and a convenient means to deflect criticism of the proposed regulation of content; critics are simply told that we must err on the side of caution. The available research offers no conclusive proof either way that the internet is doing irreparable harm to children. As the select committee admits, there is `still no clear evidence of a causal link between activity or behaviour portrayed on-screen and subsequent behaviour by the person who viewed it'.

There is nothing new about using the vulnerable to justify restrictions on what can be viewed, particularly those who are regarded as lacking the maturity or capacity to understand what is being shown (which has always included children and those with special needs, but would once have included women, too). What is new about the select committee report is that it uses the language of risk so as to by-pass the need for evidence of harm or offence; this `you can never be too sure' outlook will always trump the ambiguity of the research to date. The cause of protecting children conveniently makes sense when it is, as the committee says, `based on the probability of risk'. As the committee declares, `incontrovertible evidence of harm is not necessarily required in order to justify a restriction of access to certain types of content in any medium'.

Not only is the new report blase about the lack of evidence to support its conclusion that this new media content can be harmful; the committee cannot even define what is meant by `harmful content': `The definition of what is "harmful" is not hard and fast: for one 10-year-old, a scene will seem very real and disturbing, whereas another will be able apparently to dismiss it or treat it as fantasy.'

But while there is little evidence being presented on how and why the internet is a threat to children, once the spectre of children being at risk is raised, everyone closes ranks. Yet again, the internet provides the perfect prism through which to discuss the culpability of adults as being unfit or ill-equipped to bring up children.

We should be extremely suspicious whenever politicians, campaigners and `experts' play the children card. Almost any kind of restriction can be justified if the young are supposedly at risk. Amidst all this panic, we need to draw the opposite conclusions to the select committee report and demonstrate why the internet should be left alone. While the internet still remains relatively uncensored and unregulated, it causes us to act like adults in how we deal with it, and in how we supervise others, including our children. However, if this latest set of proposals gets through, it will mean allowing the authorities to decide paternalistically what we can watch or play. In the name of protecting children, we will all be treated as children.


The Right to Earn a Living is Under Attack

In Louisiana it is illegal to sell and arrange flowers without permission from the government. Aspiring florists must pass a subjective licensing exam that is graded by existing florists, who have a direct incentive to keep new competitors from entering the market. Thus the failure rate is higher than that of the Louisiana bar, which results in hundreds of well-qualified would-be entrepreneurs being denied the ability to work in their chosen profession. No one can honestly believe that Louisiana's flower cartel is necessary to protect consumers from renegade flower sellers. Rather, it is a classic case of protecting favored groups at the expense of consumers and entry-level entrepreneurs.

Such is the state of economic liberty in America today. Across the nation, the basic right to earn an honest living is under attack. Legislators and bureaucrats are teaming up with entrenched special interests to create needless obstacles to countless entrepreneurs' pursuit of the American Dream. In the past few decades there has been a nationwide explosion of protectionist regulations -- while there were about 80 occupations with such barriers to entry in 1981, today there are over 1,000.

An Institute for Justice (IJ) case that last week attracted international media attention vividly illustrates the uncontrolled growth of occupational licensing and the outrageous lengths that a cartel will go to protect all facets of its business from the most harmless of trades.

Mercedes Clemens was threatened with thousands of dollars in fines and criminal prosecution unless she stopped . . . massaging horses. In Maryland two powerful groups decided to monopolize the growing field of animal massage by requiring all practitioners to spend four years in veterinary school -- where massage is not even taught.

Suggesting that only people with veterinary degrees are capable of massaging animals is like suggesting that only people with medical degrees are capable of massaging humans. Preventing Clemens -- who is a licensed human-massage therapist and certified in equine massage -- from working in her chosen trade has absolutely nothing to do with consumer or animal safety and everything to do with the financial interests of the veterinary cartel.

In 2004 the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in Powers v. Harris, "[W]hile baseball may be the national pastime of the citizenry, dishing out special economic benefits to certain in-state industries remains the favored pastime of state and local governments." And for decades, following the instructions of the U.S. Supreme Court, federal and state courts have stood by while legislators engage in this "favored pastime" at the expense of consumers and entrepreneurs.

In the absence of meaningful judicial supervision, politicians have gone to almost any imaginable length to protect special interests. When a powerful lobby demands protection from competitors, governments have been all too willing to invent -- and courts all too willing to accept -- patently ludicrous excuses for shutting down entrepreneurs. A court upheld Louisiana's florist-licensing scheme, for example, because requiring florists to take a test, which would be graded largely on the subjective beauty of their floral arrangements, might help protect the public from "infected dirt."

The true victims of this new "favored pastime" are people like Clemens and countless other Americans, honest individuals whose lives have been turned upside down solely to protect the politically powerful. Such examples are seemingly endless.

In Texas all computer-repair technicians must now become private investigators. "If you're investigating or analyzing data, then you should need a little more credentials than someone who just repairs computers," the legislative sponsor said. The PI license requires a criminal-justice degree -- or a three-year apprenticeship under a licensed private investigator. If a consumer knowingly takes his computer to get repaired by an unlicensed specialist, he faces thousands of dollars in fines and a year in jail. This law no doubt benefits special interests, but those benefits come directly at the expense of ordinary repair technicians and their customers.

A new law in Philadelphia will make it a crime in the coming weeks to talk about the Liberty Bell for money without the government's permission. Unlicensed tour guides will be subject to hundreds of dollars in fines for talking about the place where the Declaration of Independence was written.

Perhaps the most well-organized cartelization effort underway in the United States today is in the interior-design industry. A powerful faction of insiders has already put thousands of its competitors, mainly middle-aged and elderly women, out of work. The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) represents less than 3 percent of all designers, but its members have designated themselves as spokespeople for the entire industry. In over 30 years of lobbying, ASID has never presented a single shred of evidence to support its extraordinary claim that literally "every decision an interior designer makes affects life safety and quality of life." ASID has been relentless in teaming up with legislatures coast to coast in its strategy for total cartelization. IJ has documented these efforts in a study titled "Designing Cartels."

Such laws exist today for one reason: Our nation's judicial system fails to protect the right to earn a living. Courts have decided that this fundamental right -- economic liberty -- is simply not as important as other rights, and less-important rights are thus not subject to meaningful judicial scrutiny and rarely are afforded protection under the law. If the government can simply dream up a conceivable reason for violating economic liberties, even if that reason is based on no facts, the regulations are generally upheld. Amazingly, courts will even help by inventing their own hypothetical rationales for economic protectionism. This system does not just stack the deck -- it gives the politically powerful a hand full of jokers.

Thankfully, entrepreneurs are fighting back. Taxicab drivers, African hair-braiders, sign-hangers, waste haulers, casket sellers, and others have battled the odds (with help from IJ) to strike down occupational-licensing schemes. Mercedes Clemens's lawsuit has already caused one of the licensing boards to backpedal. The Philadelphia tour guides, now represented by IJ, have a hearing in federal court on October 6. In Texas computer-repair technicians and interior designers are standing up for their constitutional rights.

F.A. Hayek famously wrote that "the great aim of the struggle for liberty has been equality before the law." That is precisely what the fight for economic liberty is all about.


NATO, Georgia and Russia

by Tibor R. Machan

Thomas Friedman of The New York Times writes that he is against expanding NATO. While he condemns the Russian government for its muscle flexing vis-…-vis the Republic of Georgia, he considers Georgia's desire to join NATO unwise. As he recounts his and some of his allies reasoning at the time when the USSR collapsed, "It seemed to us that since we had finally brought down Soviet communism and seen the birth of democracy in Russia the most important thing to do was to help Russian democracy take root and integrate Russia into Europe. Wasn't that why we fought the cold war - to give young Russians the same chance at freedom and integration with the West as young Czechs, Georgians and Poles? Wasn't consolidating a democratic Russia more important than bringing the Czech Navy into NATO?"

No doubt, the desire expressed by Mr. Friedman, the famous author of The World is Flat, a very reasonable defense of globalization, is understandable and were it not for Russia's bad history and habit of expansionism, reasonable. But, alas, as with so many millions of people across the globe, the governmental habit keeps reasserting itself and with Russia this habit includes bullying its neighbors.

Having been in Georgia twice over the last two years and having lived under the Soviet regime in Hungary in the early and mid-fifties, I was interested in Friedman's column about Russia v. Georgia today. I, too, believe, as Friedman does, that it would be valuable to tame Russia and that perhaps expanding NATO is an obstacle toward that end.

I do not believe, however, that Friedman gives sufficient weight to how justly frightened most people near the Russians are of the Russian government and many Russian people. I believe it's too optimistic to expect Russia to change its proclivity of wanting to be in charge of its neighbors, especially as regards their international alliances. The Russian habit of expansion via conquest and intimidation has not abated, I am afraid. This, I believe, explains why so many of those surrounding nations look at something like NATO for protection. Are the Russians justified in regarding this a threat? Not if they think about history. But perhaps that is just the problem, they do not.

The pacifist impulse is not a strong one within the current Russian leadership which is mostly made up of but barely reformed ex-Soviets. Unless Russian leaders become less bent on physically ruling the region and firmly, credibly commit to co-existence with their vulnerable neighbors, the NATO option simply cannot be discounted. Some kind of security measure will have to be available to these countries and arguably any will irk the Russians. And Mr. Friedman, who is an educated individual concerning geo-political matters, ought to know this and provide his commentary on the recent Russian v. Georgian conflict in that light. In short, what advice does he have for leaders of countries like the Republic of Georgia given the evident aggressiveness of Russia? As it is, his exhortations in support of less concern with Russia's tendency to bully a country its neighbors sound more like wishful thinking than sound advice.

It isn't that Russia cannot change--the Russian people are not all adherents to the previous policy of expansionism and even those who have been can rethink matters. Many, for example, want to trade with the rest of the world rather than pick fights. But unlike after World War II, when much of the aggressive leadership of the Third Reich had been incapacitated, after the fall of the Soviet Union the people who were loyal to some more or less virulent version of Stalinism remained free to influence Russia's domestic and foreign affairs and are still vying for power. These people continue to hope to recover the sort of political and military prominence in the region that the Soviets believe was their historic birthright.

So it is going to be necessary, at least for a while, to not only be reasonable with the Russians but also back up reasonableness with sufficient muscle. Whether NATO is the answer or something else, I am not sure. All I am sure about is that the leadership of the Republic of Georgia has good reason to want to gain protection against Russia's current government.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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