Archived Posts July 2005 - Page 9 of 12 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jballor
Monday, July 11, 2005

Today is the UN-sponsored World Population Day, which most of us have never heard of, I’m sure. From the name, I cynically (and rightly) assumed that rather than celebrating human life, this day would instead address many of the spurious “crowded planet” concerns put forth most popularly in Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb (first edition 1968).

Equality empowers…to do what exactly?

You won’t see Ehrlich’s name plastered all over World Population Day materials, but I’m convinced that his thesis is what underlies the effort. Instead, the campaign has cloaked itself in the language of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Are we having too many children? One way to address the problem is to acknowledge that “reproductive health and rights – such as the right to decide on the number, timing and spacing of children – are central to women’s empowerment and gender equality, and to women’s enjoyment of other human rights.”

A surface reading of such a statement should be non-controversial. If it means that we are all against forcing women to bear children against their will, so be it. But somehow I think there’s a more insidious meaning beind the “right to decide.”

World Population Day 2005 is a day of measured celebration for those opposed to the expansion of human population. A UN report released in 2004 shows that “because of its low and declining rate of population growth, the population of developed countries as a whole is expected to remain virtually unchanged between 2005 and 2050” For developed nations, “The primary consequence of fertility decline, especially if combined with increases in life expectancy, is population ageing, whereby the share of older persons in a population increases relative to that of younger persons.”

And there are signs of success even in the developing world, since “in the least developed countries, fertility is 5 children per woman and is expected to drop by about half, to 2.57 children per woman by 2045-2050. In the rest of the developing world, fertility is already moderately low at 2.58 children per woman and is expected to decline further to 1.92 children per woman by mid-century, thus nearly converging to the fertility levels by then typical of the developed world.” (More at the aptly named

So if the goal of the UN project is to get the world birth rates to fall below replacement levels (usually averaging 2.1 children per woman), they are well on their way. Developed nations continue to set the pace for non-replacement, where “fertility is currently 1.56 children per woman and is projected to increase slowly to 1.84 children per woman in 2045-2050.”

Blog author: jballor
Friday, July 8, 2005

As the jobless levels across the nation continues to decline, Michigan continues to lag behind. The nationwide unemployment rate decreased to 5.0% in June, to the lowest levels since September, 2001 according to reports. Meanwhile, Michigan remains at the bottom of the list with the worst unemployment levels, upwards of 7%.

But the key to understanding why these improving numbers have not translated into job gains in Michigan appears in the same report: “Factory payrolls shrank for the fourth straight month as auto assembly and parts plants cut back on production. A glut of inventories has prompted many automakers to slow production lines until demand can catch up. Some 96,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost since August 2004.”

Michigan’s manufacturing-centered economy has simply been unable to compete in the global marketplace, and state policies have tended to restrict rather than promote new business enterprise. An op-ed piece in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal argues that Gov. Granholm’s proposed tax plan

does nothing to reduce the excessive overall tax burden on job providers. The governor’s $2 billion bond proposal places taxpayer dollars under the control of “independent job creation experts” (the administration’s term; in the real world, we call them entrepreneurs) and instructs them to invest directly into the perceived industries of tomorrow.

This additional debt does nothing to improve Michigan’s attractiveness to investors, but instead hopes the administration’s handpicked experts will invest “other peoples’ money” effectively. And the governor’s $40.5 billion budget increases spending $1.6 billion above last year’s level and includes $300 million in tax increases. History and basic economics teaches us that Gov. Granholm’s attempt to tax-spend-and-borrow Michigan to prosperity will fail.

The answer to increasing economic growth, creating jobs and raising incomes in Michigan is simple and works whenever tried: Reduce taxes.

On the heels of the defeat of proprosed protections for intellectual property at the hands of the European Parliament, according to the AP the European Commission is addressing an aspect of the same debate: online music and copyright.

With respect to the potential economic benefits, “The most effective model for achieving this is to enable right-holders to authorize a collecting society of their choice to manage their works across the entire EU,” said the Commission in a statement, adding such a system would “considerably enhance” earnings for artists.

It seems the European Commission is determined to be a force for unity, while the European Parliament is a bit more, shall we say, divisive.

HT: Slashdot

The Thinking Toolbox: Thirty-Five Lessons That Will Build Your Reasoning Skills, by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn, illustrated by Richard LaPierre, ISBN 0974531510, 234 pp. Christian Logic, 2005.

Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn are brothers who live in Indiana (more about them at and The Thinking Toolbox is a follow-up to their first book, The Fallacy Detective. These books are primarily intended for use as homeschooling textbooks, and the Bluedorns’ interest in this area stems largely from their education at home growing up.

In an interview, Nathaniel gets at the intention behind the book: to make logic accessible and enjoyable for students. “Logic books are notorious for being very difficult, very austere,” he says. Instead, logic should be “a very enjoyable thing that everybody can do.” Hans affirms that the first step is to get kids to “think at all, and then the next step is to get them to think correctly.”

The book is a course of 35 lessons, with illustrations, applications, and exercises forming distinct little units. Colorful illustrations abound in the book, courtesy of Richard LaPierre. The book starts with the most basic building blocks of critical thinking, inculcating rules like “Just because somebody tells you something, that doesn’t mean it is true,” and moving on to examine things like the different kinds of discourse, and recognizing the difference between facts, opinions, and inferences.

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, July 7, 2005

I’m not sure whether this reflects the fractiousness of the European “Union,” or European unity in opposition to protection for intellectual property (or both), but yesterday the European Parliament “overwhelmingly rejected a proposed law Wednesday to create a single way of patenting software across the European Union.”

“Patents will continue to be handled by national patent offices … as before, which means different interpretations as to what is patentable, without any judiciary control by the European Court of Justice,” said EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, representing the EU head office at the vote.

So in one sense this development maintains the status quo, with each member state retaining the sovereignty to fashion its own patent law. Of course, it undermines the unity of Europe as a market governed by common regulations and laws. This follows months of volleying the bill back and forth between the Parliament and the Commission, which originated the measure.

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, July 7, 2005

ARMAVIRUMQUE passes along an excerpt from an article posted yesterday by The New Republic, “The Killing Machine,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa. The article is about Che Guevara, and the famous photograph that “thirty-eight years after his death, is still the logo of revolutionary (or is it capitalist?) chic.”

Llosa interviews Javier Arzuaga, a former Catholic priest, self-described as “closer to Leonardo Boff and Liberation Theology than to the former Cardinal Ratzinger.” Arzuaga’s relates the following:

there were about eight hundred prisoners in a space fit for no more than three hundred: former Batista military and police personnel, some journalists, a few businessmen and merchants. The revolutionary tribunal was made of militiamen. Che Guevara presided over the appellate court. He never overturned a sentence…. I pleaded many times with Che on behalf of prisoners. I remember especially the case of Ariel Lima, a young boy. Che did not budge.

For more about Guevara, check out ARMAVIRUMQUE for a link to a story in The New Criterion, “The real Che,” by Anthony Daniels.

You may also recall the recent Hollywood release, The Motorcycle Diaries, examined in part in an Acton Commentary by Bruce Edward Walker, “Scary Movie: Hollywood Humanizes the Despot.” Walker writes that the film is “frightening in its attempts to humanize the South American ideologue and revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. The film is an attempt to validate the Communist ideology as a cure for the diseases of poverty and illness and as a substitute for the religion that is, in the film’s depiction, petty and ineffective.”

So we see the irony of a rabid Communist like Che Guevara becoming a pop culture icon, so that, in the words of Llosa, “His likeness adorns mugs, hoodies, lighters, key chains, wallets, baseball caps, toques, bandannas, tank tops, club shirts, couture bags, denim jeans, herbal tea,” and more. Whence comes this contradiction?

As I commented in a relevant blog post over at Brad Warthen’s Blog, some of the contemporary appeal can be linked to the popularization and idolization of Guevara by Zack de la Rocha and the group Rage Against the Machine. Their music is featured in The Matrix movies, and they are perhaps most famous for their subversive politics and revolutionary ideology. The group was formed in 1990 and broke up in 2000, a decade in which their popularity peaked, influencing a generation of pop culture.

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, July 7, 2005

Are you a blogger? Then you are invited to take the MIT Weblog Survey of 2005.

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