Want to buy a Koran at UNL?

Good luck.

Daily Nebraskan – Muslim students buy out Qurans in protest
Religious sensitivity made its way into the classroom early this semester for University of Nebraska-Lincoln students in an Introduction to Islam class.
When Michael Huston went to the bookstore to buy a copy of the Quran for the class last month, he learned it was sold out. However, it wasn’t bought out by students from the class.
Huston. a senior art major, learned that a few students from the Pakistan Students Association had bought all the books because they didn’t want non-muslim students to accidently deface the Quran.
“It seems more like a protest in general to get people aware of their stance,” Huston said about PSA students’ sensitivity to the Quran’s usage. “It’s kind of bizarre that they would go to that extent.”
Summayia Khan, president of the Pakistan Students Association, declined to comment.
Misuse or defacement of the Quran, which is highly respected within the Muslim faith, can be considered blasphemy.
“The concern from the Pakistan Students Association over whether it was appropriate for non-muslims to use the Quran was resolved in a pleasant, collegial conversation between the instructor of the class, the president of the Pakistan Student Association and myself,” said Sidnie Crawford, chairwoman of the classics and religious studies department at UNL.

Of course, the Pakistan Students Association has a right to protest against non-Muslims handling the Quaran, and they did so peacefully and in a way that brought some coin to the university bookstore. Still, this hardly demonstrates a respect (or even tolerance) for liberty, as their actions were specifically aimed at limiting the ability of those not in their religion from reading their religious texts.

Of all the trials that students in the Pakistan Students Association have gone through, joining the Scientologists in hiding their beliefs from others is perhaps the dumbest.

A Home Investment Visa Program?

There are already investment visas for people who want to buy factories or ethanol plants, so the legal structure for a Home Investment Visa program is largely written. While the flurry of activity a Home Investment Visa program would cause would require some extra workers at the Internal Revenue Service (to collect the extra income in taxes), Homeland Security (to process the visa paperwork), and elsewhere in the government’s bureaucracy, even this spending would be directly tied to jobs and help stimulate the economy.

Note that the multiplier on the “buy a house, get a visa” strategy would be much larger than any possible domestic multiplier since the money would come from outside the economy (and efficiency would improve as well.)

I think there would be considerable support among economists that immigration (buy a house, get a visa), a payroll tax cut and maintaining state and local funding would be reasonably good policies in this recession (albeit not necessarily sufficient) yet these policies seem to be the ones that the political system rejects out of hand.  (See also Matt Yglesias here and here).  Now, I can understand rejecting these policies as compared to doing nothing, ala a precautionary principle, but why these policies are rejected compared to taking a trillion dollar gamble is puzzling even to someone like myself schooled in public choice. 

via Marginal Revolution: Buy a House, Get a Visa.

Alternatively, we could nationalize Citi, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and JP Morgan, or give tens of billions in subsidies to the shareholders in these companies until they’ve recuperated their losses from the federal balance sheet.

It is the call of two men and one woman: Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi.

What will be their decision? What would be yours?

The Future of Modifying our Genes to Improve our Health

I agree with Christine Rosen’s 2005 op-ed that the stem-cell debate and the eugenics debate are parrallel issues. Of course, I disagree with Rosen about the conslusions of this. In the debate between health and sentimentalities, and support the former. She goes for the latter.

Christine Rosen on Eugenics and Stem-Cell Research on National Review Online
Praise for the forward march of science; progressive and liberal leaders championing new scientific techniques that promise to cure disease, eradicate illness and suffering, and advance the progress of the human race; elite institutions of higher education embarking on their own initiatives, training students, and supporting researchers in the new science; California’s self-described progressive citizenry passing a law granting state funding and support to the cause, with other states preparing to follow suit; the intellectual elite of the country decrying the obstructionist, anti-modern views of the people who oppose or publicly challenge the underlying ethical rationale of the new science.

   This might sound like our contemporary debate over embryonic stem cells, but it’s actually an apt description of the eugenics movement in the United States in the early 20th century. Eugenics, a term coined by British scientist Francis Galton in 1883, was the movement to “improve the human race through better breeding,” and in the first few decades of the early 20th century in the United States it found a ready and eager audience. California and many other states passed compulsory eugenic sterilization laws that led to the sterilization of tens of thousands of Americans. Congress passed an Immigration Restriction Act in 1924 based on the testimony of eugenicists and fears about the fitness of new immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. And the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1927, upheld the sterilization of a supposedly “feebleminded” woman as constitutional, with progressive Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. declaring, “three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Underwritten by the wealth of some of the country’s most prestigious families, such as the Carnegies and the Harrimans, eugenics was something every enlightened American believed in, since the movement promised to end needless suffering, increase economic prospects by alleviating the burden placed on the state by the feebleminded and their many illnesses, and generally improve health and well-being for all citizens. Eugenics was the future.

Although there are vast differences between the eugenics movement of the past and the stem-cell research of the present, there is an eerie similarity to their rhetoric and tactics. Like eugenics, promoters of embryonic-stem-cell research talk of its endless promise, declaring it the scientific “path to the future,” as two state senators from Massachusetts wrote in a recent opinion piece. Embryonic-stem-cell promoters claim that their science will lead to cures for a range of diseases and the alleviation of much human suffering. And they denounce those who question the ethics of their pursuit as backward or blindly religious. But as we continue to debate the ethics of embryonic-stem-cell research, it is worth recalling that movements waged in the name of scientific progress often leave a troubled legacy.

Three recent stories can be connected, I think, to look ahead a few years to the future…

Imagine if we could knock out genes that regulate the body in such a way that it would reduce a criminal’s propensity to rape, murder, theft, burglary, financial embezzlement, or other anti-social behaviors. It would be merciful, and (if such therapy was heritable) would pay off for future generations, as well.

Thankfully, our current President is doing more to usher in an age of eugenetical therapies than any other American, in at least a century.

Props to Obama on Security

Barack Obama is doing a fine job securing our country, and our world.

He successfully ignored calls from right-wing hawks for a “defense stimulus.” Some thinkers associated wanted us to spend billions building weapons systems that are only of much use in attacking the People’s Liberation Army. Why we would want to start (or even accelerate) an arms race with our partner in economic recovery is strange, especially considering how the sole point of contention between the United States and the People’s Republic, the issue of Taiwan, is going away.

In America, striking signs of this are talk of a formal ‘truce’ between the KMT and the Communist Party, as well as the resumption of direct flights between Taiwan and the mainland, and even cooperation between the National Palace Museum (台北) and the Palace Museum (北京).

For me, the most striking example was this last summer, when the Chairman of the KMT visitied the Chairman of the Communist Party in Beijing. My grandfather-in-law, a former officer in KMT who followed his general in defecting to the Communist Party during the Civil War, express his surprise at the shocking meeting

“Impossible! How can the heads of the KMT and the Communists meet together?”

(The last such meeting between the KMT and the Communists was not as friendly.)

The best the rightwing netroots can come up with is spinning Secretary of State Clinton’s visit to China as a ‘diss’.

Obama also deserves props to recognizing the Middle East is changing, as well. Again standing up to the right netroots, Obama is waiving some sanctions against Syria in an attempt to build relations between our countries.

Obama has made serious misteps, form the new Buy American law to inexplicably stabbing General Zinni in the back. But so far, from appointing Clinton as SecState, Gates as SecDef, ignoring calls for a defense stimulus, and trying to warm relations with Syria, he’s getting the major decisiosn right.

Islamists, Europeans, and Free Speech

Last year, Network Solutions (a hosting company that caused Chet trouble on an unrelated problem) yanked the website of Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, who produced a movie entitled “Fitnah” to protest the murder of the director of the movie “Submission” Both “Fitna” and “Submission” focus on perceived mistreatment of women in Islam.

Britain yesterday decided that avoiding another terrorist strike was more important that free speech or even Continental Unity (as Mr. Wilders is a Parliamentarian in a fellow EU member state). Wilders’ response is typical of his bravery and showmanship:

“I’ll see what happens at the border,” Geert Wilders told Radio Netherlands on Wednesday. “Let them put me in handcuffs.”

The right-wing lawmaker was invited by a member of Parliament to show his anti-Islam movie “Fitna,” which calls the Koran a “fascist” book and accuses Islam of being a violent religion. He was told by the British Embassy in a letter Tuesday that he could not set foot in the country.

Previous attempts to show the film, in the real world and online, have been met with death threats and self-censorship. In the U.K., making the film is cause for expulsion from the country.

My hat off to Mr. Wilders, and other defenders of intellectual freedom everywhere.

Update: Geert Wilders has been denied entry at Heathrow Airport, and was then detained.

Update 2: More on the retreat of free-speech in Europe, from The Economist.