Thursday, July 31, 2008

The world according to Jake

So what do you do when your credibility is in question because you make wild charges on your blog to the point where you have to complain because you finally got yourself hold of a big story and the state media is reticent about reporting it because they don't trust you?

You ... make more wild charges!!!

That, in any case, is how it works in Jake's World. First Jake at Page One Kentucky tries to smear a conservative commentator by saying he's "probably homosexual" because the commentator has the temerity to point out in the state's largest newspaper that U of L is spending Bucks for Brain's money on Dragqeenology by saying he's "probably homosexual". Then, when someone calls him on the carpet about it, instead of fessing up that it was completely unfound and hateful, you do it again. And you do it in the most hateful way you can, all the while charging the person toward whom you are directing your hate with being hateful.

In his response to my response to his newest unfounded charge that I'm a "gay-hater," he digs his little hole even deeper by calling me a "closet queen".

It goes without saying for that if you disagree with Jake (or anyone else with whom he agrees) you must necessarily hate them. What a tiny little place Jake's World must be. One day, he will grow up and figure out that big people can actually disagree with each other and do it respectfully. Until then--and until he apologizes for reckless public charges against people he knows little about, it appears we're going to have to keep treating him like a juvenile you don't trust with the car keys.

There Jake goes again

I just can't get enough of the proponents of peace, brotherly love, and universal harmony who go around talking about how bad it is to hate people and then start spewing hateful language themselves. Jake at Page One Kentucky is like many open gays who take any expression of disagreement with their beliefs as a personal insult and who then start hurling vitriol.

This is the guy, remember, who publicly accused a Family Foundation policy analyst earlier this year of being "probably gay" for the sole purpose of smearing him. When asked to justify his charge, he shut off the discussion on his blog (he wasn't faring very well, I'll have to say). Clearly the man is not exactly the paragon of journalistic integrity.

In today's edition of Jake's World he accuses me of being a "gay-hater" for my post about the Louisville Courier-Journal turning a blind eye to the more-than-close relationship suggested in the e-mails between former U of L Education Department Dean Robert Felner and Tom Shroeder--a relationship which, if it were not homosexual in nature, would be all over the front page of the CJ. The irony, of course, is that the e-mails were published by ... Page One Kentucky--by Jake himself!

Felner and Schroeder apparently cooked up a scheme to defraud the federal government out of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of dollars by funnelling them to a now defunct nonprofit corporation in Illinois. A couple of the e-mails are peppered with verbal emoticons like "Honey" and "Hugs", clearly suggesting a more than professional relationship.

Jake has been feeling like big stuff lately because he has been scooping the CJ on the details of the Felner story, and has criticized the paper for being slow in its coverage--and there is some justification for that. At the same time you can't blame a newspaper that actually attempts to maintain some minimal level of journalistic credibility if it is forced to take incautious hotheads like Jake with a certain grain of salt. If Jake hadn't undercut his own credibility in the past by issuing wild public charges about people, maybe people would view his other pronouncements with a greater level of confidence.

My post had nothing to do with hating gays: it had to do with the continuing double standard practiced by the media in which they are all over any sexual angle of a story except if it could possibly reflect badly on homosexuality.

But then, why should I expect Jake to recognize a double standard in the CJ when he's so busy employing double standards himself?

University of Kentucky drops in national ranking

The University of Kentucky dropped in U. S. News and World Report's national college rankings from 112th in 2007 to 122nd in the 2008 rankings and was near the bottom of top-tier schools in the percentage of classes with fewer than 20 students. This is one more indication that President Lee Todd and those running the university may not have their priorities in order.

When UK was challenged on its attempt to implement health benefits for the live-in partners of its staff last year, the university defended itself by saying that it needed such a program to pursue top-20 status, prompting The Family Foundation to point out other, more important factors such as class size and lagging faculty salaries that were being ignored in favor of special interest social policy.

Looks like UK needs to figure out whether it is there to serve students who have to foot rising tuition bills or whether it is going to continue dabbling in special interest politics through its employee benefits policies and its increasing emphasis on social and political activism in some of its departments. If it started putting first things first maybe it would begin rising in the rankings instead of falling.

The U. S. News and World Report College Rankings are the most well-known college rankings.

UPDATE: This information came across my Google Reader and I assumed it was new. In fact, thanks to a little sleuthing on the part of Art Jester at the Herald-Leader, we determined that the content is entirely accurate, but the report was originally issued in August of 2007. In fact, the 2009 rankings are going to be released this month.

The CJ looking the other way

Anyone notice that in the growing fraud scandal at the University of Louisville over federal education money that was apparently lining the pockets of Education Department Dean Robert Felner, e-mails pretty clearly indicated that not only was Felner engaging in financial fraud, but he was apparently doing it with his gay lover who was getting a cut of the money in his bogus nonprofit Illinois organization.

One of Felner's e-mails to Tom Schroeder in Rock Island, Illinois, his partner in crime, begins "Hi Honey." And several end with "Hugs".

Does this mean that the Felner scandal is an indication that gays are more likely to engage in financial fraud? Of course not. But what is interesting is that in today's story in the Louisville Courier-Journal, which has been a day late and a dollar short trying to keep up with the breaking story in the blogosphere, didn't even mention the gay angle on this story.

Now when was the last time the media failed to mention a sexual angle in a scandal story? If Felner has been engaged in a heterosexual relationship with a co-conspirator in this case you know darn well they would be all over it. But as it stands not only does the CJ look like it is protecting James Ramsey and his increasingly ridiculous administration at U of L, but it also looks like it is running interference for the gay community--just like they did during the last election.

Let's see how long it takes the CJ to acknowledge the Felner/Shroeder relationship in this case. We're starting the clock now...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Some responses to "Lack of Ideological Diversity at UK"

A couple of letters in the Lexington Herald-Leader in response to my piece on the lack of ideological diversity at the University of Kentucky.

8 ways to neuter a youth ministry

Have them call you by your first name. This sends the signal that you're one of them. If they try to call you "Mr. So and So", insist that they call you "Dave" or "Chuck" or "Bob". If you have an unhip first name that does not lend itself easily to contraction such as "Everett" or "Mason" or "Virgil", make up a nickname for yourself that is more suitable. This is easier in the south, where you can get away with people calling you "Skeeter," or "Chigger" or "Hoss." Depending on where you live, "Possum" or "Catfish" might also do. This will implicitly tell them that you are no better than they are and will eliminate the impression that they have something greater to aspire to.

Wear sneakers. Sandals or thongs are even better. Oh, and wear shorts. Even in winter. This tells your kids that they needn't take things too seriously. Seriousness implies challenge and sacrifice which may have been good for males in more masculine times, but for today's more effeminate male is unbecoming. Besides, seriousness isn't fun. If your youth group is co-ed, the girls will already be wearing shorts, flip flops, and skimpy tanktops. Be careful: this could counteract the feminizing effect of the rest of what you do.

Have pizza. Frequently. Pizza sends the signal that you are informal. It's easily acquired, you eat it with your hands, and all you have to do to clean up is to throw away the box. Pizza is to formality what a cross is to a vampire: it drives it away sqealing. And if it is accompanied by drinks served from 2-liters in plastic cups it is guaranteed to keep formality at bay.

Play games. Not only are games fun, but they take up time that would you would otherwise be expected to use for studying something substantial, like the Bible. Studying the Bible takes time and effort and requires actual thinking from your youth. If you find yourself in a position where you have to do it, make a game of it. Effort in any form in which it may be recognized as such should be avoided at all costs. You also will want to use a modern paraphrase when you do read the Scriptures--or at least a Bible with an appealing title like "The Adventure Bible" or "The Teen Bible." Don't ever let your youth get the impression that they will have to put forth serious effort forth in learning about the Faith.

Stay topical. If there is time after eating and playing to discuss anything substantive, make sure you stick to relevant topics that the kids are already familiar with. This will help keep them focused on themselves and their own concerns. If you try to take them beyond where they already are, it will come of as too much like school where they are expected to actually learn something. Self-discipline and hard work may be fine at school, but remember, this is religion we're talking about here.

Give them something colorful to write on and tiny little pencils to do it with. This will keep the mood light and breezy. Colorful, cartoonish worksheets are ideal. They can be filled out easily and thrown away quickly--preferably on the way out the door. Make sure your kids don't have to take anything home with them: this might give them the impression that what they do in youth group has implications outside Wednesday night.

Watch movies. Not only does this get you out of doing something you would have to mentally prepare for, but it keeps the focus on entertainment. You have two options here. You can show something religious, as long as it is cartoonish and silly. Veggy Tales are perfect: they give you the impression you did something religious even though you really didn't. Alternatively, you can show a popular secular film and pretend it has religious themes. After the movie, you can spend five minutes discussing them in a cursory way before everyone gets antsy and wants to go home anyway.

Do your own thing. Keep your kids in their own age group and try to stay away from older members of the congregation. These are people who do uncool things like work and support their families. Exposure to senior citizens should definitely be avoided. They come from a generation in which children were not expected to be entertained all the time, and they might remind your youth that there is more to life than youth. And fun. And games.

And that wouldn't be good.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Tolerance Police get another one wrong

Roger Clegg at Phi Beta Cons points out that in the New York Times' recent story on the National Science Foundation study finding that there is no gap in average math scores between boys and girls got Lawrence Summers wrong. The story claims that the study repudiates Summers, the former president of Harvard University who was run off from the university in a fit of ideological uniformity when Summers had the audacity to point out that males and females are different.

Summers had noted that boys and girls have different math capabilities, but, Clegg points out, not that their average scores were different, as the New York Times suggests. What Summers had said was not that the average scores of boys were higher than that of girls, as the National Science Federation study apparently found (at least that is what the Times' story seems to suggest), but that, while girls' scores are clumped in the middle, boys scores fell out on the extremes: that boys are both the best at math and the worst.

The moral of the story is that, if you question any of the central dogmas of the Tolerance Police, you can count on the fact that they won't care whether their charges have any basis in reality or not.

William F. Buckley, Jr. Online

Hillsdale College now has the complete writings of William F. Buckley Jr. archived and searchable online. I'm assuming, given all the restrictions that would normally apply through copyright law that Buckley must have helped arranged this--or at least signed off on it. It could be his final, and possibly greatest gift.

John Wohlstetter at Letter from the Capitol says that the transcripts of Firing Line programs are available at the Hoover Institute, but I'm not seeing how you can get them. A few of the programs are digitized and available in RealVideo, VHS, and DVD format. Let's hope Hoover has the resources to get the make the rest of them available.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My list of top 5 Inklings books

Christopher Mitchell of the Marion Wade Collection at Wheaton College selects his five favorite books by the Inklings and those associated with them at Christianity Today. The Inklings was the group of Christian professors at Oxford in the 1940s and 50s and their friends who informally commiserated together in their writings and whose thinking focused on a classical Christian vision of literature and reality. Its most well-known members included writers such as C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams.

Here is Mitchell's list:
  • The Wise Woman, by George MacDonald
  • Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton
  • The Descent of the Dove, by Charles Williams
  • The Tolkien Reader, by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Till We have Faces, by C. S. Lewis
This seems to be a rather idiosyncratic list. How can you have a list of favorite Inklings books without the greatest Inkling book of them all: The Lord of the Rings? I have only read three of these five books, but of those three I have read, I would only include one of them on my list: that of a non-Inkling, G. K. Chesterton. Chesterton and MacDonald only make the list, by the way, by virtue of the fact that they are the two major influences on the Inklings.

Here is my list:
  • Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton
  • Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis
  • The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald
  • Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry, by Owen Barfield

Journalists favor Democrats in donations 15-to1

Investor's Business Daily reports that the contributions of journalists to candidates in the current presidential election favors Democrats 15-to-1. Here is William Tate to explain:

An analysis of federal records shows that the amount of money journalists contributed so far this election cycle favors Democrats by a 15:1 ratio over Republicans, with $225,563 going to Democrats, only $16,298 to Republicans .

Two-hundred thirty-five journalists donated to Democrats, just 20 gave to Republicans — a margin greater than 10-to-1. An even greater disparity, 20-to-1, exists between the number of journalists who donated to Barack Obama and John McCain.

Searches for other newsroom categories (reporters, correspondents, news editors, anchors, newspaper editors and publishers) produces 311 donors to Democrats to 30 donors to Republicans, a ratio of just over 10-to-1. In terms of money, $279,266 went to Dems, $20,709 to Republicans, a 14-to-1 ratio.

But remember, the media are not liberal. They have assured us, remember. And if we say it over and over to ourselves, we'll believe it too.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Can music save your mortal soul?

I have found, when my ears are accosted at home with unpleasant sounds purporting to be music, that Shakespeare comes in handy. “This music mads me,” I will say to my 16-year-old son, who is the most common source of the dissonance. “How irksome is this music to my heart!” I will declare to my 12-year-old, who is listening to some newly discovered band. “When such strings jar, what hope of harmony?”

They get the message.

It sometimes seems a part of the cycle of life—doesn’t it—for parents to criticize their children’s music? What to the ears of the younger generation is sweet perfume sometimes sounds to the older one more like dirges in the dark. It must just be part of parenting, this tendency to say the same thing to our children about what they listen to as our parents said to us. And as the words leave our mouths, it occurs to us that, 25 years or so down the road, their own children will be listening to something else, which our children will resist with the same protests, remembering how their own music used to make them smile.

Most people, I suspect, simply conclude from this that it’s all a matter of taste, that there really is no fixed point from which one generation’s music can be said to be better than another’s. And when do this—relegate music to the less important category of things for which no verdict can be returned—they have taken the first step toward the modern tendency to underestimate the importance of music.

But the very fact that we think we can argue about it betrays a deep-seated understanding that there are judgments we can make about music, that some are right and some are wrong—that some music is good and some music is bad. Whatever we believe about whether a particular piece of music is good or bad, most of us would agree that music can have an exalting or degrading effect on us. But we do argue about it, and apparently think it is rather important.
Indeed, one of the salient features of modern culture is its apparent obsession with music.

“Nothing,” said Allan Bloom, in his 1987 classic The Closing of the American Mind, “is more singular about this generation than its addiction to music.” Music is what young people seem to admire the most.

Today, music is easy to acquire. But that’s not how it used to be. It wasn’t that long ago that there simply was no other way to hear music than to hear it live. Music was something you heard at social gatherings, such as dances and concerts. But then there came the phonograph record, which allowed people to hear music without being in the presence of the actual people who played it. Then there was magnetic tape, which formed the basis for later 8-track players, and then cassette tapes, and then the compact disc (the “CD”) which overtook them all.

I remember a few years back now, around the time we had young children, I walked into a “record store.” It had been about two years since I had bought any music. I looked around in vain for the LP albums, seeing nothing but CDs. So finally I walked up to the cashier and asked, cluelessly, “Where are the records?”

But he just smiled and turned away.

The easy availability of music certainly has something to do with why there is so much more of it now than before, but we still seem to somehow need it more than we used to. Why?

The power of music has long been acknowledged in Western thinking. Plato believed that music was “bestowed for the sake of harmony”—Music had the power to restore the soul when the soul lost its harmony. In his Republic, musical education (which included poetry) was essential in the inculcation of virtue.

Music has not only been seen as facilitating virtue but as exciting devotion. Sir Thomas Browne, in his Religio Medici, says music could strike in him “a deep fit of devotion and a profound contemplation of the First Composer.” It was the earthly image of the divine order, “an Hierogliphical and shadowed lesson of the whole World, and creatures of God.”

More modern writers too have acknowledged the power of music. In George Orwell’s 1984, Winston Smith has had his very humanity suppressed by the “Party.” But, being essentially human, his humanity cannot be fully effaced, and he recognizes in the simple song of a prole woman, as she washes clothes, the strains of the human. Members of the Party, Smith observes, never sing.

And it is not only philosophers and novelists who appreciate the humane power of music. When the spirit of the Lord departs from Saul in the sixteenth chapter of the book of Samuel, and the Lord sends an evil spirit, Saul’s attendents advise him to hire a musician:
But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him. And Saul’s servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee. Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on a harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand and all shalt be well.
That player turns out to be David. In fact, if it hadn’t been for his skill on the lyre, David would never have come to Saul’s court, and would never have become king.

Not only can music soothe the savage beast within, but the god without. In ancient times, music—rhythm in particular—was seen as having the power to seduce even the gods. Rhythmic prayer was seen as the preferred method of gaining the ear of the divinities: it would be easier for the god to remember, and the rhythmic sound could be heard over long distances. “Thus one tried to compel the gods by using rhythm and to force their hand,” said Friedrich Nietszche. “Poetry was thrown at them like a magical snare.”

What is it about music that gives it this kind of power?

In ancient times, music was thought to reach the soul more directly than rational speech. This was Plato’s reason for carefully censoring music in his Republic. He believed, as Alan Bloom pointed out, that “music is the medium of the human soul in its most ecstatic condition of wonder and terror”:
Music is the soul’s primitive and primary speech and it is alogon, without articulate speech or reason. It is not only not reasonable, it is hostile to reason. Even when articulate speech is added, it is utterly subordinate to and determined by the music and the passions it expresses.
Music, unlike literature, bypasses the rational. This is what makes it so appealing—and so dangerous. This is how it can reach us deep inside—and cause us to clench our fists in rage.

“Who,” said Nietszche, “can refute a tone?”

There is an order of ontological importance in which music holds the predominant place, and it is well-stated by Peter Kreeft: “Poetry,” he says, “is fallen music, and prose is fallen poetry.” Music is the highest thing, then poetry, then prose. Poetry shares with music rhythm, and with prose words: it is musical prose, prosaic music. This is why Plato includes poetry in the musical education of the guardians in his Republic. Music is at the top and prose at the bottom. The modern view of music turns this order upside down.

We see the modern view articulated in John Milton’s Paradise Lost, when Satan leaves his new home in Hell to see what mischief he might cause on Earth. The first thing the demons do when Satan leaves (Well, actually it is the second thing. The first is to form small groups.) is to begin singing together—a sort of infernal “Kumbaya.” As the flames climb high into the night, one group of devils sits together singing, and another engages in some sort of philosophical discussion: “discourse,” Milton mistakenly suggests, “more sweet.”

“For eloquence the Soul,” Milton says, “Song charms the Sense.”

Milton’s belief that rational eloquence is “more sweet” than music is a distinctly modern view of music, a mistake he compounds by having the devils sing harmoniously. But harmony is the good of the soul. Devils might sing, but they would never, in the classical view, sing in harmony. When it comes to music, Milton the Christian is wrong, and Plato the pagan is right.

There are two mistakes that can be made about music: the Rationalist Mistake and the Romantic Mistake. One we can associate with Milton, the other with Nietzsche. The Rationalist Mistake is to think that the form of the music doesn’t matter, only the lyrics. The Romantic Mistake is to think that only the music matters, not the lyrics.

In the popular music of my generation, the primary themes were sexual. It followed the music of the 1960s which at least had some idealism, however misguided. It was the era of disco. People were too busy shaking their booty or getting down to worry too much about the social concerns of their forbears in the previous decade. Their concerns were also in stark contrast to the dark nihilism of the generation that came after—and that still seems to be with us.

But, whether the music contains sexual themes or themes of suicide and depression, the response of children when their parents ask them about the lyrics of the music they listen to is invariable. In fact, their answer is almost always the same: “Mom!” This response is usually followed by some explanation about how what the singers are actually saying in the song doesn’t really matter. This is the Nietszchian response, and it is made primarily by children.

The Miltonic response is made primarily by adults. It is the belief that the music doesn’t really matter, only the lyrics. This is a common mistake made in discussions over music in church, where it is often argued that we can take the same musical patterns that have been in the service of secular objectives, and, by putting new words to these tunes, we automatically transform them into worship songs.

Of these two mistakes, the second is easily the worse. At least the Romantic Mistake acknowledges the truth that it is not the rationalistic but the purely musical aspect of music that is it’s most significant aspect. The Rationalist Mistake misses the point altogether.

Music is indeed important, but one wonders if those of us who seem so obsessed with it—young or old—understand exactly how important it really is. We play with music as with a toy, when in fact we are really playing with fire.

And fire, as everyone knows, is the Devil’s only friend.

The civilization that had to teach itself with its own books

The following is the text of my Letter from the Publisher in the new issue of The Classical Teacher:

I was talking with a couple of fellow teachers at an end of school party recently. One of them, a student at a local seminary, told me about a Greek professor at another prominent protestant seminary, the author of a widely used Greek textbook, who had gotten in a car accident and lost part of his memory. Among the various things this professor could no longer remember, ironically, was Greek. So, continued my friend, the man had gone back to try to relearn the language—using his own textbook.

What a fitting metaphor, I thought, for the plight we face in education today. As a civilization, we are the authors of a great and glorious educational tradition, one which took centuries, even millenia, to achieve. Yet here we sit, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, having forgotten what we knew, and having to relearn it from our own books. We have created a famine, to quote the Bard, “where abundance lies.”

Unlike the Greek professor who forgot Greek, however, our memory loss is self-inflicted. Our education establishment here in the United States spent the better part of the twentieth century throwing its heritage overboard in a mad rush to load up on the latest educational fads and gimmicks. And most of these innovations have themselves been discarded in their turn, only to give way to new ones equally transient.

No wonder the education reform ship never seems to get underway.

We can now look back on a long chronicle of failed attempts at “school reform,” very few of which have even attempted to take a prudent look at our cultural heritage for instruction and insight. We have attempted instead to “build bridges” to future centuries, only to find out, once there, that we had been going down the wrong road in the first place.

Wide is the gate and broad is the way that lead to educational destruction, and there are many who go in by it. But we don’t need to be looking for a bridge to a future century; in fact, we might learn more by taking a look back at past centuries to see what our educational institutions were doing right.

“Progress,” said C. S. Lewis.
means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.
And one benefit we could gain from going back and getting on the right road, is the simple lesson of how much can be learned when on the right road. To put it another way, not only do we need to look to our past to find out the best way to educate children, but, in looking to our past, we will find out that looking to our past is the best way to educate children.

In going back to classical education, a system of education that reigned in Europe and America until the early twentieth century, but we will also not only realize that classical education is the best philosophy of education, we will realize that it is a system of education that values the past.

Russell Kirk famously said, “We stand on the shoulders of giants.” How, then, can we ignore them?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Holsinger nomination is still dead

Kentuckian James Holsinger, President Bush's nominee for Surgeon General, got grilled by a U. S. Senate health committee over his 1991 paper for a United Methodist Church committee on the health ramifications of homosexual behavior. Holsinger has invited political enemies on both ends of the political spectrum by, on the one hand, having written the paper, and on the other, by not even trying to defend it.

Here is the Washington Post relating the offensive nature of the paper:
Holsinger said he prepared the paper for a study committee of the United Methodist Church. In it, he argued that the sexes are anatomically complementary and that "when the complementarity of the sexes is breached, injuries and diseases may occur."
Thinking that the sexes are anatomically complementary now apparently constitutes a thought crime in Washington and in the media. Instead of standing up for what he said he believed, Holsinger immediately wilted in the media glare that followed his nomination for the position, and his dissembling continued before the Senate committee. This is how far we have come:
Holsinger said yesterday that his views had evolved and that the issues he raised in the paper would not be relevant in public health discussions today. "I have a deep appreciation for the essential humanity of everyone, regardless of their personal circumstances or sexual orientation," he said.
Of course people's essential humanity has nothing to do with it, and saying that it does goes beyond the bounds of surrendering yourself to the ideological thought police and constitutes rendering them aid and comfort.

Why is the Bush administration even continuing to push his nomination? It has been dead for months.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The enemies of ideological diversity are at it again

While the academic left runs roughshod over ideological diversity in places like the University of Kentucky's Gender and Women's Studies Department, the establishment of the Milton Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago has run into trouble because, well, of ideological diversity. Here is Gordon Crovitz writing in today's Wall Street Journal:

The University of Chicago recently announced it will create a new institute to add to its outsized reputation in economics, business and law. This became controversial because of the name: the Milton Friedman Institute. Some 100 members of the faculty last month wrote the university president to object that this would imply that the Chicago faculty "lacks intellectual and ideological diversity.

What a beautiful irony: liberals who run an institution getting upset when conservatives get their own little spot--on the grounds that it threatens the ideological balance.

Oh, and why is it again that liberals get the run of whole departments and when conservatives have the opportunity to establish an institute through an outside grant the champions of diversity try to run them off?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Copyright law made simple

It might just be us people in the publishing industry that find this really, really cool, but here is a "slide rule" from the American Library Association for determining whether certain material is copyrighted. Why can't they make everything this easy?

Friday, July 18, 2008

The next taboo to go: incest

Rod Dreher asks the key question: "If God doesn't exist (that is, if there is no such thing as absolute moral truth), why shouldn't the woman have sex with her brother?" This in response to an article from the Times Online about a British academic who had "consenting sex" with her brother since they were teenagers and saw nothing wrong with it.

There are certain human activities that there is no strictly rationally reason to condemn, but have been universally abhorred by civilized people. One of them is incest. Another is cannibalism. The only objection you can have against them is a religious one. Yet there are still people who claim who reject religious explanations for things who want to condemn them.

But it won't last long.

Tidying up my life

I get more and more e-mails informing me that I have been invited to be someone's "friend" on Facebook or some other such technological monstrosity. I just wanted everyone to know, however, that I am no longer accepting new applications for friendship. This is partly due to the fact that, after 49 years, I have acquired a sufficient number of friends to meet my requirements and I no longer have any unmet psychological needs.

In the past, it is true, I have made various levels of friendship publicly available. There is, first,
  • The General Friendship Plan, which involves a general acknowledgment of your existence, and other privileges including personal greetings when meeting in public.
  • The Silver Friendship Plan, under which I include you in my computer address book and promise to remember your name.
  • The Legacy Gold Plan, in which I will pay at least passing attention to any births, deaths, and weddings in your immediate family. This level also includes a guarantee that I will remember the names of your spouse and children, and that I will invite you over for dinner occasionally.
  • The Friendship Executive Circle, which includes a spot on my cellphone speed dial.
But the number of friends I have accumulated over the years is so substantial that it has caused me to consider actually purging my list of friends and paring it down to something more manageable.

So don't be surprised if you get an e-mail from me indicating that, in my effort to tidy up this one aspect of my life, you have been identified as unneeded and that I am therefore uninviting you from my life.

There is a possibility that a few positions could come open upon the death of any of my current friends. In that case, it might be possible to make a few additions. So if you know any of my current friends, you'll know what you need to do to improve your chances.

Like everyone other person I know, I have an increasing need for efficiency. It's just one of the costs of living in the modern world.

Doin' the James Ramsey Shuffle

University of Louisville President James Ramsey, far-famed for lying to a legislative committee about his university subsidizing domestic partner benefits, is apparently standin' by his man in the case of former education dean Robert Felner, who is accused --making excuses for criminal activity to top it all off.



Apparently the standards are getting pretty low at UofL. Now it's okay for department deans to be “a little weak...violating the law now and then.” I wonder if that's what they teach in business ethics at Ramsey's university.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Requiring a higher standard for the existence of God than for anything else

Whoever the mysterious scholar is who writes over at Just Thomism was right on in his recent post in saying that the standard that is often required of evidence for God is a standard that no other truth could meet:

What is usually meant by evidence, however, is “evidence that can be persuasive to a hostile opponent when given within the confines of a combox or short debate” or “evidence that I can just look at and immediately understand the whole scientific structure in which it reveals itself as evidence”. Under this restriction, there is no “evidence” for God’s existence, or for any other scientific, mathematical, logical, or academic truth.

This is sort of what I was saying in a post several weeks ago in which I articulated why I believe in God--only he (whoever "he" is) has said it much better.

No word from Louisiana science group on atheist conspiracy

The Louisiana Coalition for Science thinks it has the smoking gun in its case that SB 733's requirement that objectivity characterize science instruction in the state is a creationist plot: that pro-Intelligent Design groups supported it. SB 733 is the Louisiana legislation that has caused Darwinist science groups to come out in public opposition to critical thinking and logical analysis, and that was recently signed into law by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Here is the offending language:
The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, upon request of a city, parish, or other local public school board, shall allow and assist teachers, principals, and other school administrators to create and foster an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning. [Emphasis added]
No comment yet from the organization concerning why documented atheist opposition to the bill doesn't prove that there is a conspiracy to impose atheism on Louisiana students through opposition to the bill.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

If I could only write captions like these people

The people at despair.com have done it again:

Pennybacker's sermon against sermonizing

Albert Pennybacker's editorial appeared in Monday's Lexington Herald-Leader right below my piece calling on the University of Kentucky to practice what it preaches about diversity.

The headline for his piece was, "Foundation using religion to divide, not to embrace." The "Foundation," of course, is a reference to The Family Foundation, which is the organization that has been spearheading the attempt to bring attention to the taxpayer-funded political activism at the state's universities.

Trouble is, the Family Foundation did not use religion in its effort to expose the hypocrisy at UK. Nowhere is religion even mentioned in any of its comments on the issue. In fact, as far as I know, Pennybacker is the first one to invoke religion in this debate. Ironically, he invokes it in order to condemn people who invoke it, which is just slightly self-defeating.

In fact, this is hardly the first time that The Family Foundation has been charged with bringing religion into a public debate by people who can't seem to stop talking about it. I'm thinking here of State Rep. Kathy Stein (D-Lexington), another public figure who is so opposed to the inclusion of religion in public life that she can't stop talking about religion--especially in debates in which no one else is talking about it.

In fact, Pennybacker is not only the first one who has mentioned religion in this debate, but he is a minister--Rev. Albert Pennybacker. Does anyone find it strange that the very person bringing religion into the debate is himself not only the only person who is discussing religion, but is himself employed in a religious vocation?

Sheez.

Now to be fair, Rev. Pennybacker didn't write the headline, but the content of the piece says basically the same thing and includes other charges that are both untrue and unfounded.

The basic problem with Rev. Pennybacker's piece is that he clearly doesn't understand what he is talking about. In fact, I don't think he even read the publications that discussed the six UK professors that he spends so much time decrying since the only copies available were given to legislators and the press.

We didn't distribute them to ministers like Rev. Pennybacker.

If he had read them, he couldn't have written that the Foundation "attacked respected professors at the very best of our Kentucky universities and sought to manipulate state funding against them."

How does reprinting what the University of Kentucky website itself said about the professors constitute an "attack"? Nothing was even said about them except what the university itself said about them, and none of it had anything to do with whether they were good or bad people. All they did was to discuss the groups they were involved in and what their studies focused on.

"And this action," he says, "... is taken on the basis of the foundation's ideological agenda." Well, if we have an "ideological agenda," at least we are furthering it with private money, not the public money that liberals at UK are furthering theirs with. Why is Rev. Pennybacker upset at ideological agendas that are privately funded and not those that are funded with tax and tuition money? Could it possibly be because he shares the latter and not the former?

"Second," he said, "the foundation is an integral part of a larger network of exclusivist religion -- 'my way or the highway' -- which is always suspect." There he goes talking about religion again.

This is an indication that Rev. Pennybacker just simply doesn't understand the issue. In fact, his argument is exactly what we have been saying about UK. Has Rev. Pennybacker read the "Commitment" on the Gender and Women's Studies website? The whole point is that there is only one way department staff can approach gender and women's issues. It's their way or the highway.

"Good religion," he argues, "affirms an open mind, advocates honest inquiry and applauds sound intellectual contributions to understanding the complexities in the life we share." Well, once again, it's nice to hear Rev. Pennybacker in his sermonic mode, but if he's so concerned about open minds, why doesn't he go talk to the ideological gatekeepers at UK who brook no dissent in their own departments?

Of course, as far as "complexities" go, Rev. Pennybacker is not going to find any at places like the Gender and Women's Studies Department at UK, where only one perspective is welcome.

Rev. Pennybacker then goes off and talks about sex, another topic which he has inserted into the discussion and then wants to blame on someone else.

My past associations with Rev. Pennybacker have always been pleasant and I consider him a gentleman, but I think he should at least understand the issues he is discussing before he makes intemperate public statements about them.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Freeman Dyson calls for tolerance toward global warming skeptics

Freeman Dyson's scientific credentials are unimpeachable. He has sounded a skeptical note about global warming alarmism before on the grounds that the information we have is not sufficient to make confident predictions about such things. Here he is standing up for the right of global warming skeptics to be heard.

More on the government imposed ethanol famine from the American Conservative

Here is a sample from Timothy Carney's article in the American Conservative, "Burning Dinner: Government’s scheme to fill gas tanks leaves stomachs empty":
As food prices worldwide shatter records, a quixotic campaign has been launched on the Left and the Right to roll back the government programs that force ethanol upon the American population. Other countries, too, are rethinking programs that turn plants into fuel. The lobby to defend ethanol subsidies and mandates is entrenched—agribusiness, some venture capitalists betting big on government action, and certain hawkish conservatives hoping to end our dependence on Arab and Venezuelan oil. But with corn futures topping $7 a bushel, riots over food prices erupting around the world, and landscapes in the U.S. changing forever, political support for this subsidized moonshine may be on the wane.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Gay Penguins and the Inductive Argument from Hell

So far as I know, there is no name for a particular kind of science article in which an observation is offered of some sort of animal behavior, and then, under the Darwinian assumption that humans are simply advanced animals, concludes that the behavior is somehow indicative of how humans too should be able to act.

This week's model for human behavior comes, via Scientific American, from the Central Park Zoo, and involves two male penguins named Roy and Silo.

The first order of business in such an article is to make the behavioral observation. In this case, we find animals engaged in deviant behavior. We go now to the action in Central Park: "Two penguins," says writer Emily V. Driscoll,
native to Antarctica met one spring day in 1998 in a tank at the Central Park Zoo in midtown Manhattan. They perched atop stones and took turns diving in and out of the clear water below. They entwined necks, called to each other and mated. They then built a nest together to prepare for an egg. But no egg was forthcoming: Roy and Silo were both male.
Robert Gramzay, a keeper at the zoo, watched the chinstrap penguin pair roll a rock into their nest and sit on it, according to newspaper reports. Gramzay found an egg from another pair of penguins that was having difficulty hatching it and slipped it into Roy and Silo’s nest. Roy and Silo took turns warming the egg with their blubbery underbellies until, after 34 days, a female chick pecked her way into the world. Roy and Silo kept the gray, fuzzy chick warm and regurgitated food into her tiny black beak.
Where are the Anita Bryant's of the animal world when you need them?
After the behavioral observation, comes the generalization. It is not only these animals who have decided to lead a life of bohemian extravagance: it turns out that such scandalous behavior is common in the animal kingdom:
Like most animal species, penguins tend to pair with the opposite sex, for the obvious reason. But researchers are finding that same-sex couplings are surprisingly widespread in the animal kingdom. Roy and Silo belong to one of as many as 1,500 species of wild and captive animals that have been observed engaging in homosexual activity. Researchers have seen such same-sex goings-on in both male and female, old and young, and social and solitary creatures and on branches of the evolutionary tree ranging from insects to mammals.
After the behavioral observation and the generalization comes the human application, which consists of asking why it is that humans are so out of touch with their more distant evolutionary relatives. Here it is (you knew it was coming):
These observations suggest to some that bisexuality is a natural state among animals, perhaps Homo sapiens included, despite the sexual-orientation boundaries most people take for granted.
This scientific reasoning procedure--from observation of the behavior of particular animals, generalization to the entire animal kingdom, and finally the application to human beings--takes the following form, when stated as a syllogism:

Proposition #1: Birds do it
Proposition #2: Bees do it
Proposition #3: Even educated fleas do it
Conclusion: Let's do it, lets fall in love (with someone of the same sex)

It's not exactly a model piece of logical deduction. In fact, it's the Inductive Argument from Hell. But publications like Scientific American seem willing to ignore this weakness in the interest of social progress. The main problem is that if humans are to accept bisexuality as normal because it is not uncommon in the animal kingdom, then wouldn't humans be forced to find acceptable other, less becoming behavior which is even more common in nature?

What, for example, about sexual promiscuity in general? In a March 18, 2008 story in the New York Times, Natalie Angier explains that our tendency to condemn acts of adultery like that on display in the famous case of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer ignore the prevalence of such behavior among non-human creatures:
It’s all been done before, every snickering bit of it, and not just by powerful “risk-taking” alpha men who may or may not be enriched for the hormone testosterone. It’s been done by many other creatures, tens of thousands of other species, by male and female representatives of every taxonomic twig on the great tree of life. Sexual promiscuity is rampant throughout nature, and true faithfulness a fond fantasy.
Of course, I'm against letting Spitzer off the hook simply because his behavior is reflected in other species, and yet there is something about the process of comparing his behavior to that of the great grey shrike and the freshwater flatworm, as Angier does, that seems to throw the universe into balance.

In any case, if we are supposed to accept bisexuality because of two penguins in Central Park, then why not promiscuity? Romantic sponges, they say, do it. Oysters down in Oyster Bay do it. What, then, is preventing us from doing it as a part of the normal course of human affairs?

And then there is cannibalism. Cannibalism too is a common occurrence among the brutes. In a National Wildlife Federation article titled, "Eating Among Friends," by Dave Brian Butvill, we are regaled with manifold examples throughout nature of animals whose diet includes even members of their own nuclear animal families. "":

I would say that the majority of animal species that are carnivorous might, at some point in their lives, engage in cannibalism if the right conditions are present,” says David Pfennig, a biologist at the University of North Carolina who studies the behavior. And in some cases, he and other scientists are finding that it makes perfectly good sense to eat among friends—even when you’re the meal.
Yes, I know. You are less appalled by animals eating others of their own kind than by the fact that there actually exist specialists in animal cannibalism in our universities. But there you have it: from the African Lion to the dime shaped fingernail clam, says Butvill, animals are having their close relations for dinner on a daily basis--and they are not surviving until the dessert course.

Cold Cape Cod clams, 'gainst their wish, do it. Even lazy jellyfish, do it. They all do it. So what's holding us up? Nothing, if Darwinian ethics is all you have to go by.

Obviously, there are some forms of animal behavior that are already common among humans. I am thinking specifically of the female histiostoma murchiei, a mite, which tries to create a husband upon her own specifications. But using the behavior of animals as a model is a dangerous business. The Ichneumon wasp tortures other insects; the female rheobatrachus, an East Australian frog, takes her young into her mouth and swallows them; and then there is the hippopotamus (a species in dire need of an Emily Post), which attracts its mate by urinating and defecating.

Where are the articles in science magazines touting these behaviors as models for human beings?

Finally, I'm trying to recall if there has ever been a case in which a woman has, immediately after a particularly romantic encounter with her mate, turned on him and eaten him. But if it ever were to happen, can we expect the Darwinists to come to her defense by pointing to the female redback spider? This spider (and here is where Darwinian ethics meets its Waterloo), along with a number of other spider species, eats the male immediately after mating.

It is, admittedly, a dastardly reversal of the more normal human sequence, in which the human female first has the male for dinner, and only then submits to the conjugal act, but it is normal for many kinds of spiders. Is there any reason then, from a Darwinian perspective, to consider it abnormal if it were engaged in by humans?

Of course, farmers have known about the strange things that animals do for millenia. My stepfather was telling me just the other day about taking my boys out with him to feed the cattle, only to find, when he reached the herd, one of his two bulls directing his romantic attentions toward the other. Farmers are fairly familiar with this kind of behavior, but, innocent of the advanced Darwinian perspective, they have never attempted to derive a moral lesson out such incidents.

Besides, why it is that the higher animals (that's us, say the Darwinists) should model their behavior along the lines of the lower animals? I mean, isn't that one of the benefits of being a higher animal: that you can look down on those lower than you in the natural scheme of things, shake your head, and feel smug about your more civilized behavior?

If you can't do that, then what's the point of being a higher animal? That's what I'd like to know.

So while I am happy to know that Roy and Silo have found some sort of domestic bliss, I think in the final analysis, that there are few human lessons we can draw from it, other than that maybe there are Central Park Zookeepers who need something else to do.

"Lack of Ideological Diversity" at UK in today's Herald-Leader

My article discussing the lack of ideological diversity at the University of Kentucky was printed as an opinion piece in today's Lexington Herald-Leader.

UK Gender & Women's Studies in its own words

A comment on a previous post points out an interesting thing: the mission statement for the University of Kentucky's Gender and Women's Studies program states explicitly that it is coming from a "feminist/womanist"perspective.

Here is the department's mission statement:
The Gender and Women's Studies Program at the University of Kentucky investigates gender broadly conceived and the cultures and contributions of women worldwide from feminist/womanist perspectives. The purpose of the program is to develop and coordinate an interdisciplinary curriculum in Gender and Women's Studies at the undergraduate and graduate levels; support critical research, teaching and public programming in Gender and Women's Studies that take into account various beliefs about gender, race, class, and sexuality; and foster interdisciplinary collaboration. The Gender and Women's Studies Program aims to serve the University and the Commonwealth through promotion of equity and commitment to excellence.
Now there is a recipe for academic objectivity and integrity if I've ever heard one.

Oh, and here is their "Committment":
The Gender and Women's Studies Program of the University of Kentucky is a feminist/womanist academic enterprise. Faculty share a commitment to research and teaching about the lives, cultures, perspectives, and activities of women worldwide; this commitment includes increasing understandings that what are commonly referred to as "women's issues" are societal issues that effect all individuals, regardless of gender.

...We are concerned to analyze gendered cultural constructions and the effects of patriarchy; but we recognize that women's activities and gender relations occur simultaneously with other hierarchical and unjust social relations and inequalities of power including, but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, family composition, gender identity, race, region, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and the inequitable distribution of resources in and among countries and groups globally.

Gender and Women's Studies is more than a body of knowledge about these subjects: it is a set of approaches and critical frameworks through which to critique, produce, and act upon knowledge. For all our diversity, Gender and Women's Studies faculty at the University of Kentucky are committed to and reflect these commitments in our research, service, and teaching. [Emphasis added]
Diversity? Let's see, under these guidelines we're bound to find a department whose faculty ranges from the far left to the extreme left--and all the great variety of political perspectives in between.

Can you imagine a political science department in a public university that would have, in its mission statement, a stricture that it was coming at political science solely from the perspective of the Democratic Party--or an economics department that limited itself only to "socialist perspectives"?

And has anyone noticed that all of the staff and administration of this department are women? Can we men have our own little ideological fiefdom on campus at public expense that excludes females from its administration and staff in order to promote patriarchy?

This is utterly absurd, but I have the sense that someone is going to try to justify it anyway.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Photoshop Diversity: Universities misrepresent minority presence on their campuses

The viewbooks of hundreds of universities give the impression that they have more minority students than they actually have say a sociologist at Augsburg College:
Black students made up an average of 7.9 percent of students at the colleges studied, but 12.4 percent of those in viewbooks. Asian students are also more likely to be found in viewbooks than on campus, making up 3.3 percent of real students on average and 5.1 percent of portrayed students.
The problem seems to have primarily to do with black students:
...“Black equals diversity for many people. If you show African American students, people think that means your institution is diverse,” said Timothy D. Pippert, an assistant professor of sociology at Augsburg, who led the study. “They are defining diversity as that face.”
It wouldn't be the first time universities misrepresented how diverse they were.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Physician Heal Thyself: Jim Wallis needing to practice what he preaches

Jim Wallis, one of the most well known voices of the evangelical left, is upset about political comments made by James Dobson and Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family. Seems he's against questioning people's motives and thinks one should be respectful in their political discourse. Only problem is his own rhetorical past.

Here's Justin Taylor at Between Two Worlds justifiably calling him on the carpet.

The Constructive Cormudgeon on how to be a popular Evangelical writer

Doug Groothius, in a humorous (and sarcastic) mood.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Time Magazine touts biased study on gays in the military

Every time someone brings up the issue of gays in the military, I think of the scene in the movie "Meatballs" in which Bill Murray and his friend land themselves in an Army recruiter's office. The recruiter, filling out his form, asks the two men a series of questions in a monotone, perfunctory voice, one of which is whether they are homosexuals. The two men look at each other for a moment, and then Murray turns to the recruiter and answers, "No sir, but we're willing to try."

Of course, in the new politically correct military, recruiters can't even ask that question any more.

In the new issue of Time Magazine is an article titled, "Gay Soldiers Don't Hurt Unit Cohesion" about a study conducted by the Michael D. Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, an institution I know a little about since I hold two academic degrees from it.

Let's just say I'm not shocked.

Like most other "research centers" at public universities, the Michael D Palm Center is a left-wing advocacy group clothing itself in scholarly garb. In fact, if you go to its website you can see the latest news from the group about the publication of a new book by Dr. Nathaniel Frank, "the country's leading expert on 'don't ask, don't tell.'" "The book Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America," the site continues, "will be published in the winter of 2009."

Gee, I wonder where the Michael D. Palm Center stands on the issue.

In fact, the group has long advocated for gays in the military, a fact that the Time story conveniently failed to mention. "The study," says Time, in an attempt to portray the study as somehow objective, "was conducted by four retired military officers, including the three-star Air Force lieutenant general who in early 1993 was tasked with implementing President Clinton's policy that the military stop questioning recruits on their sexual orientation."

The article says the panel was "bipartisan," meaning, apparently, that it was made up of people who had already in favor of gays in the military from both parties.

Not only that, but if you actually read the report, it contains no information about whether the policy actually works. According to the Time article:
"Evidence shows that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly is unlikely to pose any significant risk to morale, good order, discipline or cohesion," the officers states. [sic]
But the "evidence" in the report itself consists exclusively of opinion polls of what different groups of people think about the policy, not on what the policy actually does. Among the stunning findings of the report, for example, is that (get this) journalists don't like the policy.

Woah! We be researchin' now!

And then there is this gem:

Alexander said at the time he was simply trying to carry out the president's orders and not take a position. But he now believes the law should be repealed because it assumes the existence of gays in the military is disruptive to units even though cultural attitudes are changing.

Further, the Defense Department and not Congress should be in charge of regulating sexual misconduct within the military, he said.

"Who else can better judge whether it's a threat to good order and discipline?" Alexander asked.

Right. As if keeping politics out of the military was what these people really want. What Alexander fails to mention is that the military was doing just fine until Bill Clinton repealed the original policy on this matter in almost complete disregard for what the Defense Department wanted to do. But that wouldn't look good in the group's press release, would it?

I will consider this one more piece of evidence that, when it comes to research by gay rights groups on any question having to do with gays, science is always subordinate to politics.

Potential faculty recruits for UK's Gender and Women's Studies Department

This just in from the Outer Space Desk (thanks to Carl Olsen at Insight Scoop):
A GROUP of glamour lesbians who believe the world was created by an alien civilisation 25,000 years ago have criticized the Catholic Church for being out of touch.
Yes, according The Daily Telegraph, Eden Bates, spokes ... well, we're not sure what, for the Gay Raelian Society said that "the Catholic Church was archaic and people needed to come to a better understanding about the world around them":
Ms Bates said the Raelians didn't care if a person was gay or straight or bi-sexual or even just a little bit curious.
As long, apparently, as they're not Catholic.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Bobby Jindal for Emporer

Okay, if he keeps doing things like this, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is going to end up as the new conservative hero. At a time when the most daring thing conservative politicians seem to want to do is to stick a wet finger in the air, Jindal once again proves he's not scared of doing what he thinks is right.

Looks like Jindal has the very things he thinks rapists shouldn't.

Scorsone in robe and wig, care of Marc Carey

Page One's "Jake," who levels the charge of "homophobia" upon the slightest provocation, has accused Marc Carey of, ... sigh, "homophobia" because he photoshopped Scorsone, an openly gay state senator who Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear is apparently considering for a circuit court judgeship, wearing U. S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's judicial robe (which, as far as I can tell is pretty much the same as any other judicial robe).

Carey's response was to photoshop Scorsone again, this time with a judicial wig. I love it.

So, why is it exactly that gays can wear women's clothing and it's the "T" in "GLBT" and it's campy and diverse and all that stuff, but when someone else photoshops them wearing women's clothes, it's a case of homophobia?

What am I missing?

The eight most lucrative college majors

Harvard's Greg Mankiw on the eight most lucrative college majors.

Scorsone up for judge

State Sen. Ernesto Scorsone (D-Lexington) may seek appointment to a circuit judge's post. I'm waiting for someone to argue that he has a judicial temperament.

I'll try to hold my guffaw until then.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Anthony Esolen on hierarchy

The inimitable Anthony Esolen (one of our 12 Modern Wise Men), a brunette, responds to a blonde on the issue of hierarchy over at Mere Comments. Here's a sample:

She might as well have said, "We have matured beyond thinking," because it is absolutely impossible to reason without ordering principles, and ordering principles imply hierarchy. The blonde in question (I speak of blondes here not materially, but essentially) gives evidence of it. Had she said, "We have matured beyond drawing conclusions," she'd have been not a whit less absurd.

Check it out.

ACLU admits Louisiana Science Education Act not a problem as written

The group that brought the suit that ended up as Dover v. Kitzmiller says the Louisiana Science Act, which anti-Intelligent Design groups predicted would bring about a scientific apocalypse in the state is okay as written.

Word has it, however, that Barbara Forrest can still be seen carrying a sign saying, "The End of Science is Near."

Oh, and then there is this: atheist Jason Streitfield, in the American Chronicle, defends the act, saying:
Ultimately, by reacting negatively to this bill, atheists and supporters of Darwinian evolutionary theory are proving their opponents right: they are acting like reason and the facts are not on their side. This could be enormously damaging to their cause.
You can say that again. Count me in with those who will be reminding the opponents of ID repeatedly that we now have them on record against critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and objectivity.

Herald-Leader on record in support of ideological uniformity

In its July 2 editorial, "Academic Witchhunt,"the Lexington Herald-Leader charged The Family Foundation of Kentucky with engaging in a "witchhunt" in its efforts to shed light on taxpayer-supported political and social activism at the University of Kentucky, and on the university's hypocritical rhetoric about "diversity" when, in fact, there seems to be little diversity in the ideological makeup of its own faculty.

In its frenzied attempt to burn The Family Foundation at the rhetorical stake for doing little more than reprinting several UK web pages, Herald editors didn't bother to address why it is that amidst the tiresome propaganda about diversity, left-wing professors get to occupy comfortable offices at our state universities while conservatives seem nowhere to be found.

There are entire departments at UK where there is not a conservative in sight. One of them is the "Gender and Women's Studies" department, a little bastion of state supported left-wing activism where conservatives don't even get to be the object of witchhunts--since there aren't any to hunt.

We have challenged the ideological mullahs in the department to produce just one faculty member on its staff who supported the Marriage Amendment of 2004, which was approved by over 70 percent of voters--the very people whom the Herald-Leader expects to stand placidly by like good little taxpayers while their public universities use their tax money to undermine their beliefs.

In the Herald-Leader's news story, former director of the Gender and Women's Studies Dept. Joan Callahan defends the program by saying that "there is no longer a single, traditional view" on the family. You can say that again. Not only is there no longer a single traditional view in her former departent, there isn't any traditional view at all: there is now a single liberal view.

"The days of exclusion are coming to an end," she said. Oh really? If the "days of exclusion are over" in this little political fiefdom, then Callahan ought to be able to point to at least one faculty member in the Gender and Women's Studies program who has a traditional view on the matter.

We're not holding our breath.

Instead of the diversity people like Callahan like to talk about, there is none in this particular program. UK’s website lists faculty affiliations with groups like the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and The Fairness Alliance, along with hyperlinks to those organizations.

Professors are listed as teaching “family planning and abortion” and also “involving students in activism” as part of the course descriptions.

One professor teaches a course for UK’s Discovery Seminar Program called “I know my Rights” that focuses on civil liberties law. Problem is, he's not even an attorney. His sole qualifaction for teaching about constitutional law appears to be that he is a Board member of an ACLU pro-abortion program.

Another professor even has UK funding her research on the negative impact of The Marriage Amendment on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender couples and paying them $100.00 to be interviewed about their “challenges.”

It would make an interesting thought experiment to imagine what the Herald-Leader's response would be if, instead of the left, the right had control of a whole department at one of our public universities. How would the Herald respond if UK's website proudly touted the fact that it had a whole department filled with professors who were members of prominent right-wing organizations?

Would it call those who pointed it out "witchhunters"? Not likely. In fact, it would be spearheading the attempt to draw attention to it--and naming names as it did so.

Would Lee Todd take time out from his empty rhetoric about diversity and join his pals at the ACLU to issue a statement about "academic freedom" to defend such a department, as he has done for the "Gender and Women's Studies" program? We doubt it.

But the Herald's editorial serves at least one useful purpose: it puts it on record in opposition to real diversity in our public universities.

Thanks for the clarification.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Are biofuel requirements working against the poor?

The BBC reports that Oxfam is telling the EU that the emphasis on biofuels is working against the poor by raising food prices and that it won't help on carbon emission anyway.

CJ's David Hawpe defends UK and UofL's Ideological Uniformity Initiative

In yesterday's Louisville Courier-Journal, editorials editor David Hawpe condemns The Family Foundation for drawing attention to the lack of ideological diversity at our state universities and for questioning why, in a time of tight state budgets and rising tuitions, our public universities are spending public money to fund scholars and campus organizations who promote left-wing special interest political and social causes on campus.

Hawpe says that the best thing to do with The Family Foundation is to ignore it, and he spends almost a thousand words in the state's largest newspaper explaining why.

Sort of defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

I'm trying to remember how many times The Family Foundation has been condemned in Courier-Journal editorials. It's become sort of a ritual. Now it is going to pretend the organization isn't there--by talking about it.

It's nice to be ignored: you get so much attention that way.

Hawpe first observes that, although it tried, The Family Foundation "failed to start much trouble" with an op-ed piece in the CJ on UofL's use of "Bucks for Brains" money on a scholar whose specialty was studying the cultural influence of "black, male-bodied drag queens."

Really? Failed to start much trouble? I now count six UofL faculty or officials who have written in to the CJ indignant that anyone would question the funding of special interest political and social activism on its campus. That doesn't count the letters and internet comments on the CJ website--on both sides of the issue. Add to that an editorial by one of the opinion editors. What's his name? ... Oh yeah: David Hawpe!

If it didn't start much trouble, then why is Hawpe writing about it?

The self-defeating response by Hawpe was rivaled only by UofL's response to the charge of a lack of diversity on its campus, which, strangely, was to roll out a parade of left-wing professors to deny it. UofL isn't lacking in diversity and they've got a whole faculty full of liberal professors willing to say so. If you think you have fallen down the rabbit hole, you have.

No wonder Hawpe identifies with these people.

Six different UofL professors and faculty published in the CJ in defense of the university's Ideological Uniformity Initiative and not a single, solitary conservative from the university on the other side willing to identify himself.

I wonder why.

Hawpe then comments on similar criticisms The Family Foundation made of UK, where the "gender and women's studies" program enjoys a publicly subsidized ideological monopoly, saying, "UK president Lee Todd and state American Civil Liberties Union director Michael Aldridge have issued appropriate statements defending academic freedom." Gee, Lee Todd--and the ACLU. No liberals there!

Then Hawpe, his eyes and ears covered, desparately trying to ignore The Family Foundation (you remember, the group that didn't start the trouble Hawpe is not concerned about), tries to paint a scary picture of what could happen if The Family Foundation gets its way. He recounts events in Florida in the early 1960s in which a number of faculty were dismissed at the behest of the Johns Committee on grounds of homosexuality.

Of course, homosexuals are no longer fired, but recruited. Conservatives, on the other hand, are not fired. They don't have to be, since they don't get hired in the first place. We have challenged UK's "gender and women's studies" department to produce a single, solitary conservative on its diverse staff.

So far, no response.

UK and UofL don't need a John's Committee to rid themselves of conservatives who might challenge the liberal ideas that now enjoy protected status at their ideologically uniform campuses: they've got people like Hawpe to hold them at bay.

We wonder what Hawpe's reaction would be if, instead of left-wing causes, right wing causes were getting taxpayer and tuitions subsidies from our public universities. What would be Hawpe's reaction if, instead of Queer Theory and the study of "black, male-bodied drag queens" the university had a scholarly enclave of white supremacists which the university proudly boasted about on its website. Let's call it the "Aryan Studies Center."

Would Hawpe be writing editorials defending its publicly supported status? Would Lee Todd and his pals at the ACLU be talking about academic freedom?

Not a chance.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A question for supporters of UK's Ideological Uniformity Initiative

Commenters on a previous post about the University of Kentucky's Ideological Uniformity Initiative, centered in the Gender and Women's Studies Department, seem still not to be able to address the two issues that The Family Foundation has raised about the university:
  1. Despite all the tiresome rhetoric from the University of Kentucky about being "diverse," the Gender and Women's Studies Department is as far from being diverse as it is possible for an academic department to be; and
  2. At a time of rising student tuitions and a strained state budget (in fact, at any time), there is no good reason to be funding programs that amount to little more than the promotion of left-wing political and social activism.
Instead of addressing himself to these questions, one commenter, Art, tries to argue that when I point to particular professors as an examples of faculty members who are liberal political or social activists in a department that contains no conservative political or social activists I am somehow logically committed to opposing everything in which that faculty member is involved, which, of course, is nonsense.

He points to Robert Tannenbaum, one of the professors in question, listing his qualifications, which are largely impressive, but which include the ACLU, and Art asks what the problem is. Of course, there is no problem with a professor whatever his qualifications being involved in the ACLU. But if Tannenbaum had listed, not the ACLU, but the ACLJ, and it turned out that one of the departments in which Tannenbaum taught was filled exclusively with others whose views on civil rights were as far to the right as other professors teaching in the Gender and Women's Studies Department were to the left, he would be screaming bloody murder.

If Art stayed on point, of course, he would have to say that either UK is not being hypocritical in talking about diversity but not practicing it, or that it is okay for public institutions to promote political and social activism at public expense, or both.

So, in order to try to bring him back to the points I made, which were the only reasons for pointing to the professors in question, let's ask Art a question:

If there was a department at the University of Kentucky--let's call it the Family Studies Department--which recruited and accepting only professors with religious right qualifications, and which, on their website, boasted of their professor's past and present involvement with groups like Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, and the Family Research Council in glowing terms on their website and someone from, say, the ACLU objected, what would be his reaction?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Barak Obama's Latin slogan--and a proposed one for McCain

Okay, I never thought I would see the day. Reuters is reporting that Barak Obama has a Latin campaign slogan: "Vero Possimus," which is a rough translation of "Yes, we can." Literally, it translates "We are truly able" or "We truly can". The last time I saw a Latin slogan for a campaign was when the English made seats for the House of Lords elected, and some of the old codgers, apparently not hip on the 20th century, employed the Dead Language in their own campaigns.

I'm being slightly facetious, of course. I'm a Latin teacher. I love it.

Obviously the McCain campaign will now be scrambling to invent their own Latin slogan so as not to be embarassed by Obama, and I have just the thing. Ready? We now unveil the McCain campaign slogan:
Commeatus Veritatis

That is a rough translation of the "Straight Talk Express." Literally, it means "Convoy of Truth."

Take that Democrats.

Where Obama and McCain stand on ethanol subsidies

Before someone jumps me justifiably for not knowing where the two presidential candidates stand on the federal ethanol subsidies travesty that is partly responsible for rising food prices, there is this word just in (June 25) from Greg Mankiw's excellent economics blog about where the candidates stand.

Biofuels largely responsible for higher food prices says World Bank report

If you have already thought about this economically, as many of us have, you know this already, but the Guardian is now reporting that the emphasis on biofuels has pushed global food prices up 75. Anyone with the least bit of economic sense would have known this from the beginning (and did), but it was apparently lost on the Busy administration and the many Republicans and Democrats who voted for the several pieces of legislation that have succeeded in bring this about.

This is one of the chief economics questions that people should be asking Barak Obama and John McCain.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

World Magazine gets Wendell Berry wrong

Anthony Bradley at World Magazine laments that some evangelicals are planning on voting for Obama. Fair enough. The man voted against a partial birth abortion ban, which places him, in my estimation in the same category as a person who favors slavery: you just don't vote for him, no matter what else he believes.

But Bradley then makes the following statement:

So why aren’t Christians, en masse, joining the Constitution Party? It may have something to do with the fact that for most Christians, our theology really does not inform our politics. Politics and faith are two unrelated compartments for most of us, if we’re honest. This compartmentalization, in part, explains why so many evangelicals uncritically embrace the socialistic and Marxist visions of Jim Wallis, Wendell Berry, Shane Claiborne, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, and so on.

Wendell Berry? A Marxist? C'mon guys. Bradley is obviously frustrated, but that doesn't excuse a statement like this. Berry is not a Marxist, or even a socialist. He's certainly not a member of the religious right and his views on some things are problematic, but in large part Berry propounds a vision of Christian community--and a view of the environment thoroughly based on the book of Genesis--unparalleled by any evangelical thinker.

World Magazine editors, are you listening?

Looking for conservatives in all the wrong places

Ellen Riggle, associate director of the "Gender and Women's Studies Program," has responded to The Family Foundation's call for diversity in her department with the following in the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky student newspaper:
The faculty members whose profiles were published in the handouts had varying reactions to the complaint. Ellen Riggle, associate director of the Gender and Women's Studies Program, said she did not think the handouts were personal attacks on either herself or her colleagues, but an attack on the university community at large.

"This is an attack on education in general, all professors contributing to
the academic mission, and the students at UK," she said.

Riggle said she has faith that students are able to evaluate the ideas presented to them, and her mission, and mission of her colleagues, is to facilitate the learning of those critical skills. And, Riggle said, she believes that their mission is to conduct research, which addresses problems facing the Commonwealth, the nation and the world.

"The Gender and Women's Studies Program and its faculty contribute critically to the study of these problems and the mission of the university," Riggle said.
An "attack on education in general"? This from someone who heads a department in which education seems to take a back seat to left-wing political ideology. But Riggle says nothing about why her department, although it claims to be diverse, has no conservatives in it.

Then there is this:

Melanie Otis, an assistant professor in the College of Social Work, said the handouts are indictments targeting all faculties engaged in the scholarship that contributes to the elimination of social injustice.

Gee, I wonder what she means by "social injustice". Oh, but wait. There is Lucinda Ramberg. Maybe she is the conservative we were looking for in this diverse department:
Lucinda Ramberg, assistant professor in the women's studies program, said as a scholar of kinship, she shares an interest in the Family Foundation's definition of "family."
Looks promising. She's "interested" in the Family Foundation's definition of "family" (note how that word is put in quotes). But, alas, it is for naught. Turns out she spouts the same erroneous figures about traditional families favored by those who don't seem to like traditional families very much:
But, with less than 25 percent of U.S. households comprised of nuclear families, according to the 2000 census, Ramberg said that the form of the family has varied through culture and time.
I wonder what her definition of a nuclear family is. In fact, that figure comes from counting only families with a mother and a father with one or more children younger than 18 still at home--and no one else. That wouldn't even include Ozzie and Harriet--once the kids moved out. As David Blankenhorn has pointed out, it doesn't include married couples who can't have children, or married couples who don't have children yet, or married couples with children, but with grandparents also in the home, or boarders, or foster children.

But that erroneous 25 percent figure does seem to bolster the liberal view of families, doesn't it?
I wonder if there is any professor in the diverse "gender and women's studies department" to dispute this figure.

Not likely.

Hunting the witchhunters

In a post yesterday I discussed the recent Lexington Herald-Leader article about the University of Kentucky supporting left-wing political and social activism on it supposedly diverse campus.

Art posted a comment as follows:
Is the following quote from the H-L article accurate?

"The Family Foundation of Kentucky issued the fliers, which question the
need to spend state funds supporting the six individuals, to state lawmakers who
were in Frankfort last week for a special session on pension reform."

The answer, of course, is that it is misleading at best. The quote implies that the Foundation was concerned primarily with particular staff members. What it is concerned about is two things:
  1. That there is public money being spent to support political and social activism (in this case left-wing, but right-wing activism would be equally objectionable)
  2. That UK claims to promote diversity when, in fact, it has whole academic departments in which there is no ideological diversity whatsoever.
The individuals were random examples from UK's website. Who they were or what they do is only relevant to the extent that they prove one of these two points.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

No Leftists Here: UK "women and genders studies" makes excuses for itself

Dontcha love those headline writers? In Monday's Lexington Herald-Leader, a story about the build up of left-wing activism in the University of Kentucky's "women and gender studies" department was titled, "Group targets 6 on UK staff." I bet the editors were high fiving after they cooked that one up. The story itself is not that bad.

The Family Foundation of Kentucky published several issues of its "Insight" publication to legislators featuring several members of the UK staff. The university's website waxed eloquent about their involvement in Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and their cutting edge scholarship in faux academic disciplines like "Queer Theory." That was the origin of the "group targets 6" headline. The Foundation never said anything bad about these individuals, didn't call for them to be fired. All it did was republish what was on UK's website. The story quoted both myself and Family Foundation executive director Kent Ostrander.

And do you think the university was appreciative of our assistance in drawing attention to the qualifications of their faculty? Apparently not. Here is a little example of the Orwellian Newspeak produced by one of its professors in response to the Family Foundation:

But Ostrander's assertions drew direct crossfire from one of UK's
best-known faculty, Joan Callahan, a philosophy professor and former director of
gender and women's studies.

Callahan likened the foundation's effort to U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy's
controversial ”witch-hunting“ for alleged Communists in the early 1950s.”

"It's an attempt to stigmatize and undermine these particular faculty members," Callahan said of the foundation. "It's an attempt to play on fear in the community and the state."

That's right: "witch-hunting." Now this is news to me. I was actually unaware that there were witches on the UK staff, but, hey, given all the other exotic things their faculty are into, why should I be surprised?

But the charge of McCarthyism is truly ironic. Here is a department on which there is not a single, solitary conservative, and it is accusing other people of engaging in intolerance. It seems like the only "fear" going on here is a fear that the public might find out about the hypocrisy at UK.

This is a university that blathers on about "diversity" and yet can't seem to bring itself to practice real diversity on its staff.