"We need a measurement . . . ."

Actually, that's the last thing these guys need or want.  The very notion of the possibility of useful measurement is under increasing attack, because it implies that someone has an identifiable goal and that he should be judged by whether he's achieved it, with inconvenient consequences if he has not.  Two recent examples, the first in the area of the border security:
[A]s the immigration debate has gathered speed, even border analysts who praise the Obama administration’s enforcement efforts have grown frustrated with the Department of Homeland Security’s reluctance to produce data to assess them.
House committee members were shocked earlier this week to hear testimony from that DHS can't predict when or if ever it will develop and reveal a useful measurement for whether it is controlling the border with Mexico:
For several years before 2010, border officials used a measure known as operational control to describe the level of security along the southwest line.  But in 2010, Ms. Napolitano said the department would drop that standard, arguing it did not reflect a substantial buildup of agents and detection technology in recent years, and it was insufficiently flexible to account for the varying terrain and fast-changing conditions along the nearly 2,000-mile southwest border, where most illegal crossings occur.
Nor has the White House exactly been helpful:
Obama administration officials said on Thursday that they had resisted producing a single measure to assess the border because the president did not want any hurdles placed on the pathway to eventual citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally.
All of which sounds a lot like the long-simmering quarrels over public school testing.   In Rhode Island, there is a movement afoot to require all graduating high seniors to pass a proficiency test.  A student group objected that the test is too hard, or too unrelated to their curriculum, or both.   To prove it, they persuaded a group of reasonably successful adults, including some state senators, to take the test.  Sixty percent flunked, unable to achieve even a "partially proficient" score.  Does that mean the test is bad, or that the adults were ignorant?  Neither proposition was attractive, so the discussion veered into a familiar rut:
Students are trying to push back against the idea that a single test score can measure the entirety of a person’s value, worth, and future success by inviting objectively successful people to take the test themselves and see how they do.
. . . 
“I would much rather hire students who have the creativity and strategic thinking to pull together this effort in which 50 Rhode Island leaders will take this test than” students who sit in class and get prepared to pass “the NECAP with flying colors,” [said a senator who flunked]. 
“I think my takeaway message from this is that the test is not a good indicator of whether or not someone is going to be able to achieve academically,” she said.  “It’s not a good indicator, taken on its own, to be an indicator of academic achievement or career achievement.  And placing this barrier on our young men and women in our high schools without giving them the resources previously to ensure that they are going to succeed is just setting them up for additional failures.”
Another state senator, Adam Satchell, criticized standardized tests more generally, "arguing that a one-size-fits-all model cannot properly assess twenty-first century skills." Which are?
We’re trying to teach students twenty-first century skills--how to speak, how to use technology. That’s not what this test measures. It’s not an accurate measurement of our students.
It's a familiar complaint.  Somehow we're always designing tests, disliking the results, and arguing that they don't really measure the right thing, or that the tests are OK in their way but are being used for the wrong purpose, though it's not always easy to see what the right purpose would be and how it's different.  The Rhode Island students argue, for instance, that the standardized test under discussion for their school district was "explicitly not designed to be used to make decisions about individual students," which certainly would make it an odd test for the school district to have invested public money in.  Similarly, the border-security test now mysteriously doesn't quite measure border security:
In a recent interview, David V. Aguilar, the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said he had first proposed the concept of operational control years ago when he was the chief of the Border Patrol.  He said it was meant to describe immediate conditions in limited patrol sectors, and he lamented that it had become the broadest measure of security advances across the entire border. 
“It was never meant to be applied that way,” Mr. Aguilar said.
I see only one solution.  Stop the testing.  Quit making the compensation of any state employees dependent in any way on the tasks they achieve, which only leads to bickering and resentment.  Fund border security according to a committee's estimate of the number of illegal border crossing that might have occurred under other conditions, using the models previously developed by AGW enthusiasts.  Fund schools on the basis of bums in seats, an easy metric. Better yet, since it's not their fault if the kids don't show up, pay them on the basis of citizens of school age with a pulse, whether or not they're in the classroom. In fact, to use the developing voting system as a guide, why require a pulse?

On The Other Hand, This Solves That Title IX Issue

Apparently at some point while I wasn't paying attention, someone decided it was OK for a "transgender" male to beat the crap out of women in Mixed Martial Arts. Steven Crowder writes a column opposing the idea, which indeed ought to be opposed as pure nonsense.

But let us be generous and open-minded. From a purely Roman gladiatorial perspective, I can see why they might think this idea has appeal. And I suppose it answers the PUA crowd's concerns about the bias of Title IX. As long as we can find enough men willing to "transgender" themselves, we could soon have both men's sports and "women's" sports equally dominated by men. Think of the scholarships! It might solve the disparate attendance at college issue, too.

There's just a small price to pay. Well, especially for the PUA crowd.

Here's Something You Don't See Every Day

Given his early performance, I wonder if our new Pope has one of these.

Warning from D.C.

Authorities On Alert As Hundreds Of Crazed Sociopaths Enter Congressional Chambers


I don't have much to say about this case, except that when I was a teenager I can remember coming across several women who were drunken to the point of incapacity. It always struck me that my duty for the evening included watching over them to make sure they were OK in the end. The young weren't any brighter or better able to handle their early experimentation with alcohol back then, but nobody got hurt on my watch.

I'm not sure why young men today don't feel the same way about things. I am sure they ought to.

Pope Francis on Gay Unions

It sounds as though, before his election to the Papacy, our new Pope had a similar notion to the one we were just discussing: a kind of legal union (what I am calling, after Aristotle, an ethical society of friendship) ought to be available for non-marriage cases. He seems to favor retaining the distinction between the institution of marriage, which is founded in the organic family, and the new institution, which is ideally founded on the manner in which a partnership of friendship can encourage virtue in each of the parties.

We'll see where this goes, now, but it points to a way in which a settlement is possible -- assuming people can accept that a family is different from a friendship, even a very close one with common property (on Aristotle's terms).

Against Keeping Score

Some advice against husbands and wives keeping a log of housework in order to ensure equal distribution:
Andy Hinds, in a response to Bradner, toyed with the idea of keeping track of the hours spent on chores. "If my log shows that I'm putting in as many hours as she is, I'm vindicated. If it shows that I'm not, then I have impetus to step up my game and make my wife happier. Win-win."

Hinds's solution here gets at the heart of why this kind of quantification is pretty much useless when you're talking about domestic chores in a relationship. Imagine that Hinds discovers that he is in fact putting in as many hours as his wife. Is that actually going to make his wife less unhappy? Here, honey, I have data showing that you are complaining for no reason. My figures confirm that your unhappiness is your own damn fault. Now, I've done my hours for the week, so I'm going to watch the tube while you fold the laundry. Ain't objectivity grand?
Objectivity, it turns out, is highly overrated.

Russian Thinkers

The Russian leadership may be tyrants in league with criminals, but at least they're smart?
It’s instructive to view ourselves through a Russian mirror. The term “paranoid Russian” is a pleonasm. “The fact is that all Russian politicians are clever. The stupid ones are all dead. By contrast, America in its complacency promotes dullards. A deadly miscommunication arises from this asymmetry."
There's probably some truth to that.

"Savor the Richly Deserved Defeat of Feinstein's 'Assault Weapons Ban'"

They're right.  We ought to savor it, and not just because good news out of Washington is rare these days.  We ought to savor it because it was a bad law that deserved to be rejected on the merits, and it was.  We ought to savor the success of citizen activism, in the form of the NRA and GOA and all the smaller, state-level gun rights groups.

It doesn't happen often enough, but when it does, it sure is nice to see.

The Difference Between Marriage and an Ethical Society of Friendship

As we watch the final collapse of the political opposition to the idea of something like "gay marriage," it might be worth reviewing why the idea seems so difficult to oppose on rational grounds.  The reason is that we have failed to recall what marriage is for, and why society has a duty to support it.

In Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Book VIII, Aristotle talks about a kind of ethical society based on friendship.  He envisions an arrangement that looks very much like this thing we have started to call "gay marriage" -- it is an ideally-permanent union of two (or more, but usually only two) people, for the purpose of each other's happiness (happiness here is eudaimonia, the rational pursuit of virtue), involving all property held in common.  He assumes the two people will usually be men.

There's nothing wrong with such a union.  In fact, if it is done on Aristotle's grounds, it's quite right -- and need not include any sort of sexual element, homo- or otherwise.  Much of our inability to formulate a rational rejection of 'gay marriage' comes from the fact that the form they are asking for is unobjectionable.

What is objectionable is the error of conflating it with matrimony, which is a wholly different institution with a wholly different purpose.  The purpose of the ethical society is the happiness of the two people who create it.  The purpose of matrimony is not principally about the two people who form it at all, and is certainly not about their happiness.  Matrimony is principally about the creation of a blood tie between two families, so as to provide resources that sustain and educate the next generation.

The reason society has a duty to support marriage, and the families it forms, is that society depends on its function.  Society will die if a certain number of men and women don't form marriage-based families, creating and educating their young to assume social roles as adults.  This traditional recognition is why marriage involves all the attendant forms of support that it does:  for example, the idea that your spouse and children ought to have access to your medical plans at work, or the idea that society owes a duty to support a widow(er) and/or orphans of a working spouse.

We lost the ball when we stopped treating marriage itself according to its own norms, and allowed it to evolve in to a sort-of ethical society of friendship.  We can see this in the kind of writing that people do about marriages:  you should marry if it will "make you happy," the most important person in the marriage is your spouse (whose happiness should be valued above the children, because after all the children will grow up and leave someday), divorce should be available whenever a couple would be happier divorced than married.  All of this makes sense if what we are calling "marriage" isn't traditional marriage at all, but a kind of ethical society based on friendship.

It's easy to see how the error was made.  Even Aristotle himself talks about cases in which a man is friends with his wife.  The unity of property has already occurred in marriage, and the bond is permanent, so why not try to be friends too?  There is no good reason why not, and indeed many excellent reasons to do so.  The only concern is that you don't forget that the marriage has a different purpose than the friendship, so that the duties arising from marriage persist even if (for whatever reason) your friendship ends.  Especially in cases when the blood union of the marriage has been realized in children, the duty to support the unity of your families persists even if you come to hate each other.  It can only be rightly broken in cases of severe violation of the duties of the union by one spouse -- traditionally adultery and physical abuse.  Even then, the duties survive the dissolution of the union:  this is what lies behind our legal institutions of alimony and child support.  The violator must continue to answer to his or her duties, even if the spouse can no longer be rightly asked to live with such a person.

Ethical societies need to be considered separately, and if 'the ship has sailed' on treating them differently from marriages, then we must rebuild marriage and family under another name.  We must then also strip what we are now calling "marriage" of its social support, because it is unjust for society to be asked to support a union that is only about the happiness of the two people united.  There is nothing wrong, and much right, with such a union:  but society has no interest in it.  You have no right to demand of your employer that he should support your friend.  You have no right to demand it of your fellow citizens as tax-payers.

It would be better, of course, if we can make the old distinction stick.  I wonder if we can.  American society has grown selfish and self-centered, and I wonder how many Americans are still capable of accepting any permanent duty to anything besides their own happiness.  If that ship has sailed, none of this current debate will matter.  We who survive will be rebuilding the old order from the ashes.

The Wealth Tax

It's not enough to tax income anymore: in Europe, they're ready to take the next step. If you had money deposited in a bank in Cyprus, some of it just got taken away.
If less concerned about political correctness, one could say that what just happened was daylight robbery from savers to banks and the status quo. These same people may be even more shocked to learn that today's Cypriot "resolution" is merely the first of many such coercive interventions into personal wealth, first in Europe, and then everywhere else.
The attendant graphics suggest that "most" European countries will only need to take 11 to 30 percent private investments to stabilize themselves. Only a few will need more than that percentage of their citizens' private savings.

Well, it doesn't matter. Governments are entitled to take whatever they need, of course.

St. Patrick's Day

In the morning...