In which the squirrel meets the train

Sam Harris is debating William Lane Craig tonight at 7 PM EST. Since Harris’s arguments are so inept and factually incorrect that I could beat him in a debate while simultaneously playing ASL and Ms Pac-man, I tend to doubt Craig will have much trouble with him. It should be interesting to see if Craig elects to make his own positive arguments and challenge Harris to refute them or if he takes a cue from TIA and shreds the arguments that Harris puts forth.

Since the title of the debate makes it sound as if Harris is attempting to talk his book, The Moral Landscape, I suspect even many atheists will be underwhelmed by his futile attempt to use science as a basis for deriving ought from is. Anyhow, I’m not staying up to watch it, so if anyone feels so inclined, please go ahead and provide color commentary or summarize it here.

Sooner or later

It doesn’t matter when the “transition” takes place. As happened with the Soviet withdrawal, once American combat forces are withdrawn, whenever they are withdrawn, the puppet regime forcibly installed by it will fall:

On Wednesday, Pres. Barack Obama held a video conference with Afghan president Hamid Karzai and welcomed the Afghan leader’s announcement of the first seven areas to transition to Afghan forces this July. The White House hopes that a smooth transition will help them to begin drawing down American forces this summer and end the foreign combat mission in the country by 2014.

Alas, this is wishful thinking. The troop withdrawal begins at a time when security in Afghanistan is worse than it has been in nine years. The Taliban are resurgent and have stepped up attacks as part of their spring offensive. On March 29, insurgents captured a district in eastern Nuristan Province, an area U.S. troops are turning over to the Afghan authorities. “The white flag of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is flying over the Want district center, while some policemen of the puppet administration flee toward the provincial capital after slight resistance,” boasted Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid.

Even more worrying, al-Qaeda is making a comeback in areas recently vacated by the coalition forces.

It’s not only those who don’t know history, but those who refuse to acknowledge its lessons, who are doomed to repeat it.

Why liberals are so inept at debate

A woman explains why liberals can’t defend their opinions on Salon:

When you live, say, on a coast or in a very blue state, you grow accustomed to being surrounded by people who believe like you do. You get to thinking that the only people who would dare contradict you are ignoramuses. Meanwhile, I began directing all my anger toward the Republican Party at Janet. On the day that Congress voted to defund Planned Parenthood, I found myself furious at Janet, just Janet, as the face of all that was bad in the world….

I don’t speak for Janet, but I think there’s something deeper at play. Janet’s willingness to associate with so many liberal friends — though I know she seeks refuge in chat rooms and magazines that share her beliefs — makes her a better and more interesting person. She has her beliefs challenged constantly. She is more well-read and educated in her politics than most of the liberals I know. Too many liberals I know are lazy, they have a belief system that consists of making fun of Glenn Beck and watching “The Daily Show.”

It is a massive disadvantage to have no understanding of the other side’s reasoning – such as it is – or ideology. Because it is, for the most part, avowedly anti-intellectual, the Left regularly puts itself at a complete disadvantage by refusing to pay attention to anything but its own dogma. I have seen this again and again in both the journalistic and the academic world, which heavily relies on credentialism rather than knowledge.

It is not an accident that TIA unmasked the limited range of knowledge possessed by biology and philosophy PhDs and RGD exposed the strict limits of the mainstream economics PhDs. I have long known that the petty intellectual emperors wear no clothes outside their own little disciplines, as autodidacts, dilettantes, and renaissance men seldom go in for academics these days. The Dread Ilk will recall how a look at the curriculum for a biology major showed that the graduate would not possess a conventional broad-spectrum liberal arts education, which is why calling an academic on his assertions outside of his area of expertise will reliably expose him as an intellectual bluffer.

What is true of the liberal credentialentsia is doubly true of your average run of the mill liberal. Whereas the liberal academic only possesses a narrow range of knowledge, the average liberal possesses virtually none at all. His education consists of having been told about things, so he thinks in terms of reference points rather than actual facts. And, because he willfully cringes away from any perspective that might challenge his opinions – or more accurately – expose his ignorance – his intellectual development is halted at the level of an elementary school child parroting back the assertions of his teacher.

But conservatives should not be too proud. They are guilty of a similar, albeit lesser sin, as they tend to avoid studying the intellectual roots of their own ideology as well as those of competing ideologies. One reason I respect conservatives like Jonah Goldberg and Glenn Beck even when I disagree with their advocated policies is that they make a point of encouraging conservatives to read more deeply in the conservative tradition. When Hayek as at the top of the economic bestseller lists, this is strong testimony concerning the intellectual development among conservatives. Needless to say, one never sees liberal media figures encouraging liberals to read Dewey, Sanger, or any of the historical progressives whose influence still dominates modern American liberalism.

Grinding downward

I knew that housing prices had declined since their 2006 apex, but I hadn’t realized just how far they had fallen. The highwater mark of NAR’s median existing home price was $227,100, which is $71,000 more than last month’s $156,100. That amounts to a 31.3% decline in home prices, which is 37.4% when corrected for CPI-U inflation. The chart below puts it in perspective.

U.S. Median home price

It may be worth keeping this ongoing price collapse in mind before concluding that rising metal, commodity, and stock market prices prove the inflationary case, especially since the effects of that price collapse still remain unaccounted for.