Americans like “gays and lesbians”; “homosexuals” not so much

The Gallup poll just released an interesting series of results on attitudes towards gays and lesbians and public policy.   Their main takeaway: for the first time ever, more than half of all Americans actually find gay relationships “morally acceptable.”   There’s also a clear majority (about 60%) for “legal” relationships between gay/lesbian adults.  They also point out that there’s been a lot of movement on the moral approval question: e.g., among Catholics, the approval has gone up 16% in just four years and among men up 14%.  (Lots more interesting breakdowns at the site).  As readers of this blog know, one should generally be skeptical of making too much of any one opinion poll, but what these results clearly tell us is that there is a definite trend of increasing support for gay/lesbian relationships and it does tell us how this support varies by groups.

It’s also worth noting, as the title of the post implies, that even here, there’s strong question-wording effects.  Here’s the results from a recent survey from CBS news (archived via


*Questions below asked of partial samples

Do you favor oppose ____ serving in the military?
Homosexuals: 59% Favor, 29% Oppose
Gay men and lesbians: 70% Favor, 19% Oppose

Do you favor or oppose ____ being allowed to serve openly?
Homosexuals: 44% Favor, 42% Oppose
Gay men and lesbians: 58% Favor, 28% Oppose

So, the public favors getting rid of DADT for even the clearly inferior “homosexuals,” but for “gay men and lesbians” it’s no contest.  We can also safely presume that Gallup’s numbers would’ve been lower if they had used “homosexuals.”  So, which results more accurately reflect public opinion?  Who’s to say, that’s why you always need to be suspicious of over-interpreting poll results.  That said, there is a clear story here.

Iron Man 2

Well, that’ll teach me.  Next time I’ll listen to Slate’s Dana Stevens instead of Big Steve.   Couldn’t decide whether to hit the theater for this one, but I did so last night, and it wasn’t worthy it.   I didn’t go in expecting it to be as good as the first one, but I didn’t expect to be outright bored, either.   The movie has a terrific cast, and Robert Downey Jr is pretty irresistible in the Tony Stark role, but there was far too much pointless action and not nearly enough of the fun of the first movie.  Since, Dana Stevens is a pro, I’ll quote her review, which I agree with entirely:

The Iron Man franchise should trust Downey more, trust that we want to hang out with Tony Stark as he putters in his absurdly high-tech workshop or nurses a hangover in agiant plaster donut. The first movie got its reputation as the thinking man’s blockbuster for a reason: It relied on Downey’s winning, mercurial presence for its firepower. Succumbing to the temptation (or the industry pressure) to ramp up the clanky special effects for the second outing, Iron Man 2 throws away its most irreplaceable special effect.

This bit from EW’s Lisa Schwarzbaum gets right at it, too:

Are returning director Jon Favreau and the Marvel Studios producing team buckling under pressure to give the people more of what they think the people want, and make it bigger, too? That’s the only reason I can think of for the time and money devoted to loud, long, escalating battle scenes, waged among inconsequential war machines (there’s nothing duller) that are themselves merely the products of CG artists — undifferentiated action sequences that stall long stretches of the story and threaten to stomp out the quotient of fun. Which is an odd choice, since people who loved the original are exactly the people who don’t want clang for clang’s sake: We want zingy repartee, we want characters, we want attitude to spice up the further adventures of a superhero still getting used to the demands and perks of the job, and drinking too much under stress. We want what Downey had in mind when he pushed for Justin Theroux to write the screenplay: quick-thinking wit from the hip writer-actor who co-wrote Tropic Thunder.

Of course, if you’re in to big faceless robots having pointless clashes, this is your type of movie.   Downey, Sam Rockwell, and others are great in this movie– we just don’t actually see enough of them.

Libertarianism and market failure (and Rand Paul failure)

When I switched over to Chrome last week, one bookmark I forgot to update was Mark Kleiman’s blog.  Mistake.

First, Kleiman has a great post on the libertarian fantasy of total deregulation.  Libertarians point to the success of airline deregulations, but Kleiman rightly points out, this was only economic deregulation, not safety deregulation.  Here he is:

But – a vital point – this was all about the de-regulation of pricing, not of safety. The Civil Aeronautics Board went out of business, but the Federal Aviation Administration is still there, still writing and enforcing safety regs. Now it’s true that competitive pressure in truck and airlines creates additional incentive for corner-cutting. But the de-reg bills simply let prices float; they didn’t repeal any of the safety rules or reduce the power of the government to enforce them. The general hollowing-out of the Federal bureaucracy that started under Reagan and continued through Bush the First, the Gingrich Congress, and then Bush the Second has no doubt led to some loosening in practice, but that was a different process.

Now, on libertarian principles the airline safety regulations were no more justified than the government-enforced price cartel. To a true believer inlaisser-faire, if someone wants to run a cheap and nasty airline, it’s up to the passengers – at least the consenting adults – to decide whether or not to fly. Just as with employment discrimination, a true libertarian counts on the market to find the right solution…

But if you believe what Rand Paul claims to believe, we can’t even have the discussion. If it’s wrong to interfere with “economic relations among consenting adults,” then it’s wrong – immoral – to have licensing requirements for airline pilots or big-government safety inspections for aircraft. Of course that’s an insane position, but it’s straightforwardly the libertarian one, along with eliminating medical licensing and food-safety laws.

And, speaking of Rand Paul, writing at the same blog, Jonathan Zasloff argues pretty convincingly that Rand Paul is not a libertarian, but an Old Right conservative.    In many ways, its all semantics, but if Rand Paul were a “true” libertarian there’d at least be some ideological consistency there, but he’s only a libertarian when it favors big business.  When it comes to the state’s ability to crush its citizens in the name of national security or allow consenting adults to marry, there’s no libertarian to Paul:

Rand Paul wants to keep Guantanamo open.  He supports military commissions.  He opposes gay marriage and as far as I know, has never said anything about gay rights in other contexts.  Although he has a lot of trouble with Title II of the Civil Rights Act, he has never complained about things like parking requirements and other local land use regulations that represent perhaps the most over-regulated portion of the economy.

I’ll try and go the remainder of the week without picking on libertarians.

The Opportunity Cost of a Texas education

So, yesterday I posted about the new History standards in Texas.  Not long after, I was going through David’s “Monday folder” and saw his social studies test from last week.  First thing that popped out at me was a problem he missed– a question about opportunity cost.  Sure, most of the test was questions about NC imports and exports, etc., but among that was the question on opportunity cost and another on division of labor.  I was damn impressed.  This is a very valuable concept that I now use all the time, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t learn about it until college.  Glad to know David is learning about (admittedly, unsuccessfully so far :-)) in 4th grade.  Which brings me back to Texas.  There are opportunity costs in teaching about the UN takeover of the world– not just filling their heads with Tea party paranoia, but more importantly, there’s only so much time in a History class and you have to wonder what important concepts they are not learning as a result.  Good job, NC.

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