Monday, December 22, 2008

Random Thoughts

I like to read the writings of Thomas Sowell (left), especially his "Random Thoughts" columns. I thought I'd do something similar today:

1. Why is it that Democrats think it’s evil “dynastic politics” when the offspring of Republican politicians seek public office, but that somehow it’s wonderful when the offspring of Democrats do so—even going so far as to support Caroline Kennedy for appointment to a Senate seat with absolutely no prior experience in elective office (not even as “co-president”)?

2. A generation ago, perhaps the biggest concern of environmentalists was particulate air pollution—i.e., smog, or soot in the air. Several decades of stringent air-quality laws have caused a tremendous reduction in particulate air pollution, leaving the current generation’s environmentalists with little to gripe about in that regard. Could this be the driving factor behind their seemingly zealous search for a new class of air pollutant—in this case, an old, naturally occurring substance called carbon dioxide, or what plants “breathe” to produce oxygen? Following a “logical” progression, one wonders what will happen when/if hydrogen-powered cars come on the market and become the prevalent form of human transportation. The product of hydrogen combustion is not particulates or carbon, but simple water vapor. If hydrogen-powered cars eventually cause elevated levels of O2 in the air—that is, what human beings and other animals need to breathe—will the next generation of environmentalists want to classify oxygen as a pollutant? (Consider that water vapor provides about 90% of the "greenhouse" effect that warms the Earth.) It sounds absurd, but then who would have thought thirty or forty years ago that people would be saying the same today about a relatively innocuous substance like carbon dioxide?

3. I’ve sometimes wondered why I don’t like to watch basketball anymore. Undoubtedly, some of it has to do with the insufferable attitude that so many of today’s athletes have, physically gifted and rich though they may be. (And don’t get me going on the notion that college and pro basketball players and teams from the 1960s and 1970s could match their modern-day counterparts—there simply is no comparison in terms of skills and athleticism, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool.) However, I think the real reason I don’t watch basketball anymore is rooted in three de facto rule changes that make all those sparkling moves possible. The first is that “palming” the ball is hardly ever called anymore. The second is that “traveling,” likewise, is hardly ever called, either before or after the dribble. And the third is that, thanks to “breakaway” rims, hardly anyone is ever given a technical foul for hanging on the rim, which in turn makes it relatively “safe” to dunk in traffic. Many actual rule changes have been instituted since the 1970s—the three-point shot, the “alternating possession” rule on held balls, the institution of a shot clock, the rules regarding how many foul shots are awarded and when, etc.—but the changes I’ve mentioned have made basketball, at all levels, a completely different game from what it once was. I’m not saying it’s worse, but it’s definitely not as interesting to me.

4. Concerning the passage of Proposition 8 in California and its chances of actually taking legal effect, I’m left wondering (a) when it supposedly became a “fundamental civil right” for someone to be able to marry another person of the same gender (given that marriage in general was never considered a fundamental right under common law), and (b) how a person can be a “bigot” for supporting traditional marriage between one man and one woman. Personally, I favor the idea of civil unions between homosexual couples, with all that implies, but, setting aside all religious considerations, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to reserve the term “marriage” for what it has always been. The fact that homosexuals want the courts to say otherwise is instructive with regard to their intent, which obviously is to use the courts to bludgeon society into accepting homosexuality as the functional and moral equivalent of heterosexuality—and, more importantly, to impose sanctions against individuals and non-government organizations that refuse to do so. That’s a scary thought, but when legislatures abdicate to the courts their responsibility to make policy decisions, there simply is no telling on what rocky shore the resulting tidal wave might throw us.