Dynamist Blog


Instapundit corrects the mistaken view that Americans don't know what it's like to lose a war and thus can't comprehend "the humiliation of occupation." Glenn notes that:

In fact, of course, the American South knows what it's like to lose a war, and to be occupied, which may possibly explain why the American South is also far more military-minded than other parts of the United States -- or, for that matter, than London. And the American South certainly didn't like being occupied. Reconstruction was very unpopular, and my grandmother can still tell stories that she heard from her grandmother about Union soldiers passing through and stripping the place bare of everything except what they were able to hide, and of the years (decades, really) of privation that followed the war.

Southerners are, and were, extremely proud and prickly, which made the whole losing-and-occupation experience particularly unpleasant. (Taking offense at being dissed is not a black thing. It's a southern thing that blacks have only recently been allowed to express without fear of violent reprisal.) But, as Glenn notes, our ancestors eventually rejoined the Union and even became devoted to it. He doesn't note another effect, which helps explain his views and mine: If war is coming, Southerners know that it's better to fight on the other guy's territory.

Actually, most Americans are descended from refugees (or prisoners) from occupied lands of one sort or another. It's a tribute to the power of American identity that nobody notices.


I'll be speaking in St. Louis on Thursday, with two events open to the public: an afternoon talk at UMSL and an evening talk at the Discussion Club, which meets at the St. Louis Junior League. Details on these and other future appearances are on the book tour page. I'll be on KTRS radio in St. Louis tomorrow morning at 8:45 CT.


In response to this earlier posting called "Gay Marriage and Third-Party Response," I received this email:

My name is Michael Demmons and, like yourself, I write a blog. I recently linked to your site via Independent Gay Forum. I have to say that I am very happy to have stopped by. I am a Canadian who works in the United States. I am also gay. My partner and I went to Ottawa, Canada a couple weeks ago and got married--legally married. It was one of the happiest days of my life. I met Robert three years ago and we have been together ever since.

One of the things that keeps me awake at night is that I am here on a temporary work visa. It matters not whether Robert and I are married. If I lose my job, I have ten days to pack and leave the country. No questions asked. No choices. I leave my house, my life, my husband. Robert would have to stay here initially to ensure that everything got straightened out. Presumably, he would attempt to find a job in Canada and move there. However, with the currency exchange rate between our two countries, it is much more advantageous for him to stay here, at least for awhile, to pay off his student loans in USD$$.

I want you to know that I appreciate your opinions on the subject, and I'm glad that someone of your popularity and "straight" orientation is not afraid to espouse them. Hopefully, marriage will become an "equal opportunity" institution here in the United States and I will not have to pack and go on short notice some day.

A government-recognized secular "family registry" of the sort proposed by blogger Bill Ernoehazy in this reaction to the Massachusetts decision would also solve the problem. But I think we'll get gay marriage long before we get legal recognition of families as matters of contract rather than status.


My friend and former Reason Foundation colleague Bill Eggers, one of the sharpest analysts of state government reform, has some advice for dealing with the budget crisis. (Unfortunately the article is oddly formatted, leading with the author credit.)


A new Pew Center survey finds some interesting, though not surprising, trends in attitudes toward homosexuality.

Opposition to gay marriage has increased since the summer and a narrow majority of Americans also oppose allowing gays and lesbians to enter legal agreements that fall short of marriage. Moreover, despite the overall rise in tolerance toward gays since the 1980s, many Americans remain highly critical of homosexuals--and religious belief is a major factor in these attitudes.

A 55% majority believes it is a sin to engage in homosexual behavior, and that view is much more prevalent among those who have a high level of religious commitment (76%). About half of all Americans have an unfavorable opinion of gay men (50%) and lesbians (48%), but highly religious people are much more likely to hold negative views.

Religiosity is clearly a factor in the recent rise in opposition to gay marriage. Overall, nearly six-in-ten Americans (59%) oppose gay marriage, up from 53% in July. But those with a high level of religious commitment now oppose gay marriage by more than six-to-one (80%-12%), a significant shift since July (71%-21%). The public is somewhat more supportive of legal agreements for gays that provide many of the same benefits of marriage; still, a 51% majority also opposes this step.

A new national survey of 1,515 adults, conducted Oct. 15-19 by the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life finds that homosexuality in general --not merely the contentious issue of gay marriage --is a major topic in churches and other houses of worship. In fact, clergy are nearly as likely to address homosexuality from the pulpit as they are to speak out about abortion or prayer in school, say people who attend church regularly.

The clergy in evangelical churches focus considerably more attention on homosexuality-- and address it far more negatively--than do ministers and priests in other denominations. Two-thirds of evangelical Protestants who attend church services at least once a month say their ministers speak out on homosexual issues, compared with only about half of Catholics (49%) and just a third of mainline Protestants (33%). And compared with others who attend services where homosexuality is discussed, substantially more evangelicals (86%) say the message they are receiving is that homosexuality should be discouraged, not accepted.

The poll finds that people who hear clergy talk about homosexuality are more likely to have highly unfavorable views of gays and lesbians. This is especially the case in evangelical churches. Fully 55% of evangelicals who attend services where the issue of homosexuality is addressed have very unfavorable views of homosexuals. This compares with 28% of those who regularly attend services in non-evangelical Protestant and Catholic churches where clergy discuss homosexuality. Similarly, evangelicals who hear sermons on this issue are much more apt than others to believe that gays and lesbians can change their sexual orientation and to view homosexuality as a threat to the country.

The survey underscores how the debate over societal acceptance of homosexuality has shifted since the mid-1980s. The public has moved decisively in the direction of tolerance on many questions; in particular, discrimination against homosexuals is now widely opposed.

As I've said before, saying that homosexuality is wrong has increasingly become the defining public characteristic of evangelical Protestants. Publicly disapproving of gays separates them from popular culture--and, hence, reinforces religious commitment--while exacting little personal toll. When I was a kid, evangelical churches disapproved of dancing, of rock music, of working women, of divorce. Now they incorporate all of those elements in their church programs. (They still don't like divorce--who does?--but today's evangelical churches not only have programs for divorced members, they even arrange their buildings' security so non-custodial parents can't swipe the kids.) What's left? Gays. That's why pastors tend to talk so much about them.


The Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled that the state must issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Instapundit has lots of links. All hell will now break out. I only hope that the movement toward gay marriage survives the ensuing backlash.


In response to reader requests, you can now read archives, as well as the blog page, in large print. On archive-item pages, the type size is even adjustable. Adrian Quan, who designed this beautiful site, did the work. If you're looking for website or graphic design, check him out.


Wesley Clark wants to enlist our good friends the Saudis as commandos to snuff out al Qaeda terrorists in the Afghan-Pakistan border area--as if working with the Pakistanis weren't problematic enough. John Kerry responded diplomatically. From NYT report:

"I have great respect for Wes Clark," Mr. Kerry said, "but his proposal to rely on Saudi commandos to go into Pakistan to find Osama bin Laden just won't withstand scrutiny."

Mr. Kerry said in a statement that the Saudis had supported the Taliban in Afghanistan and often turned a blind eye to Al Qaeda and added, "I fear operational collaborations with the Saudis in Pakistan and Afghanistan would create serious intelligence and security risks."

Or, to put it in plain English, Are you crazy?


On Tech Central Station, Tyler Cowen makes a good argument that the media are biased, but not for the reason you think:

Both left-wing and right-wing commentators lament media bias. The right wing cites the predominant Democratic orientations - often 80 to 90 percent - of major journalists. The left wing cites the right wing pundits, such as Rush Limbaugh, or the growing success of Fox News.

Why do the major media sometimes slant to the left, and other times slant to the right? The answer is simple: viewers want them to. We look to the media for entertainment, drama, and titillation before objectivity. Journalists, to get ahead, must produce marketable stories with some kind of emotional slant, which typically will have broader political implications. The result: it looks like media bias when in fact journalists, operating in a highly competitive environment, are simply doing their best to attract an audience.

I think there's also some self-selection bias on the supply side. Particularly opinionated people--Paul Krugman and Bill O'Reilly are pictured on the TCS site--are attracted to opinion journalism. People suspicious of institutions are attracted to investigative journalism. And people who want to hit it rich go into other fields.

But Tyler's point is absolutely true: You may hate certain types of commentary or certain types of stories, but generally they're wildly popular with someone. Read his story here.

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