Monday, November 30, 2009

Initial Impasses In Aristotle's Metaphysics

This is the first of a series of articles by Thomas Cothran on Aristotle's Metaphysics. There are traditionally considered to be three branches of philosophy: First, logic is the branch of philosophy the provides the method by which the other two branches proceed. It is the study of reason as an instrument of truth. Second, practical philosophy is the branch of philosophy concerned with the knowledge of the first principles of the practical order, and includes the philosophy of art, the study of man's ability to create, and moral philosophy or ethics, the study of the absolute good of man. Finally, there is theoretical philosophy, the study of the being of things. This branch encompasses the philosophy of mathematics, the study of things according to quantity; the philosophy of nature, the study of things according to their sensible properties; and, finally, metaphysics or ontology, the study of being itself. The Metaphysics is obviously the last of these. It is "first philosophy," a study of being itself and the causes and principles of individual beings. --MC

In order to orient the inquiry of the Metaphysics, Aristotle begins with the traditional opinions about the causes of things as a whole, and draws out their inherent difficulties. This, in part, follows from his general dialectical method: he does not begin with first principles and deduce from them a universal philosophy, but begins with the traditional beliefs that he has inherited. In one sense, this method takes into account the "thrownness" of the philosopher; that is, the fact that the philosopher is always historically situated and does not have immediate access to objective truths from which he can begin his philosophy. To start in any other way covertly imports one's inescapable intellectual inheritance into the inquiry, and allows this inheritance to be acknowledged and addressed up front. This gives Aristotle's dialectic an advantage over any deductive metaphysics, in that his starting points need not be incontrovertible.

Aristotle examines the philosophy of those that went before him by drawing out their inherent tensions and contradictions. From these tensions, he establishes the problematic from which the Metaphysics will work. Aristotle must get some idea of what sort of thing metaphysics reveals; that is, of the nature of the metaphysical question. The immediate difficulty lies in the fact that one cannot know what metaphysics asks about without knowing the object of the metaphysical question. One must know the end before the beginning.

As an initial matter, the metaphysical question concerns the source of things. But is this source one or many? If there are irreducibly many sources of things (e.g., the four elements, or the four causes), then there is no metaphysical knowledge, but different kinds of knowledge for each kind of source. The sources can be irreducibly many either in kind or in number. If the sources are irreducibly many in kind, then thinghood is impossible, for thinghood implies a kind of unity which is grasped in thought when one grasps its cause. However, if the causes of the thing are multiple in kind, then no unity exists by which one might grasp the thing. Yet things present themselves to us in a kind of unity which we immediately and pre-reflectively grasp without trouble. Positing a multiplicity of sources different in kind is simply insufficient to explain everyday experience.

On the other hand, if the source of things are irreducibly many and differ in number, but not in kind (Aristotle calls these elements), then there will be nothing other than the elements. The sources would differ by virtue of their particularity alone (being this atom and not that one, for example), and if there were no causes higher than these elements, nothing could exist other than these elements. Syllabic sounds, for example, in order to come together and form words, have to take on the reality of a whole above and beyond the parts. This whole necessarily takes the form of an unified cause incompatible with an ontology that posits irreducibly many sources.

A multiplicity of causes precludes the unity that things possess, and fails as an explanation of ordinary experience. If, however, the cause of things is one (this would be called "oneness" or "being", and applies univocally to all things, the Parmenidean problem arises. To understand being in this way would be to understand being as a universal genus or category. "But", Aristotle says, "it is not possible for either oneness or being to be a single genus of things," for then there would be only one Being. Being, understood as a universal category, would rule out individual beings as illusions, because a species is differentiated within a genus by differentia outside the genus. "[I]t is not possible either to predicate the species within a genus of their own differentia, or to predicate the genus without its species of the differentia."

In the footnote to his translation, Joe Sachs explains it this way:

If we define doves as wild pigeons, the species is doves, the genus pigeons, and the differentia is being wild. If this is a sound definition, it cannot be true that (all) wild things are doves, or, the more important point here, that (all) wild things are pigeons. The reason is that all characteristics by which a genus is differentiated into the species are outside the genus.

The characteristics that differentiate genus into species must be outside the genus, for if the differentia were within the genus, then those characteristics would belong solely to the species or to the genus as a whole. In the first case, if only pigeons were wild things, then the terms "wild things" would have no meaning or extension other than "pigeon", and differentiating doves by the characteristic of wildness is simply to differentiate doves by the character of being doves. If the differentia existed only within the species, the only way the species could be differentiated from the genus would be by tautology (essentially saying a dove is different from other pigeons because it is a dove). In the second case, no differentia would separate doves from other pigeons, collapsing the species into the genus.

The basic problem: being, it seems, cannot be one because it abolishes all difference, and it cannot be manifold because it abolishes all unity. It is from this problematic, the apparent tension in being between the one and the many, that Aristotle's metaphysics takes its direction.

More revelations on the Scientific Ministry of Fear

More revelations on the inner workings over at the Scientific Ministry of Fear, from the London Times:

SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based.

It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.

The UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was forced to reveal the loss following requests for the data under Freedom of Information legislation.

The data were gathered from weather stations around the world and then adjusted to take account of variables in the way they were collected. The revised figures were kept, but the originals — stored on paper and magnetic tape — were dumped to save space when the CRU moved to a new building.

Read the rest here.

HT: Michelle Malkin

The Banning of Academic Rigor: Anti-censorship groups now calling enforcement of curriculum standards "censorship"

The civil liberties crowd is always looking for new things on which to slap the "censorship" label, but this time it has really outdone itself. It is now apparently considered censorship to push for higher educational content in schools.

In Montgomery County, Kentucky, several parents whose children are in an accelerated college preparatory class questioned several books a teacher had planned on using in the class because they don't adequately contribute to accelerated college preparation. The parents apparently had the crazy idea that putting their kids in an advanced college prep course meant that they would be reading academically challenging books instead of literary fluff.

This of course sent "anti-censorship" groups into paroxysms of indignation, all the more so because, in addition to the books being light on the intellectual side, they also contained some racy content, making them all the more worthy of inclusion in school curricula.

After the dust up, the Kid's Right to Read Project, a place where indignation sometimes gets in the way of common sense, fired off a letter to Montgomery County Superintendent Daniel Freeman:

But they picked a bad time to do it: right before "Banned Books Week."
The view of the parent who objects to the books is not shared by all, and she has no right to demand removal of the book. Public schools have the obligation to “administer school curricula responsive to the overall educational needs of the community and its children.” Leebaert v. Harrington, 332 F.3d 134, 141 (2d Cir. 2003).
Maybe in its next manifesto, the Kid's Right to Read Project could explain how the "overall education needs of the community and its children" are served by spending valuable time on literary cotton candy in a class that's supposed to be preparing students for the greater rigors of higher education.

You have to be careful what you do around the time of Banned Books Week because you might be unwillingly enrolled in the narrative that groups like the American Library Association propagate about conservatives running around the country censoring school books, a narrative that somehow always leaves out any coverage of the most banned book of all: the Bible.

The books in question in the Montgomery County case were these:
Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
Deadline by Chris Crutcher
Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles
The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds
What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
Now I haven't read these books, and, being an English instructor and a fairly well-read person, I've never, with one exception, even heard of them either. If they're on a list of great books somewhere, I've never encountered it. Maybe they're appropriate for a course on Early 21st Century Lightweight Pop Fiction for Bored Teenagers, but a college prep course? C'mon.

The only book that has any reputation at all is The Rapture of Canaan, a story with the not-very-original politically correct plot line about an evil fundamentalist church called "The Church of Fire and Brimstone and God's Almighty Baptizing Wind." There's realism for you. And it is a measure of its literary quality that it impressed Oprah, who made it a selection for her Book Club in 1997.

According to "teenreads.com," undoubtedly a bastion of discriminating literary taste, Knowles Lessons from a Dead Girl "does a credible job of exploring friendships, particularly those of girls, in all their complexity and depth." I bet.

These are books about self-obsessed teenagers with names like "Chip," "Lainey," "Rudy," and "Chaz" who are depressed because they didn't make the football team or are upset because they can't figure out what dress to wear for homecoming. Including books like these in a serious college prep course is a little like screening Beach Blanket Bingo at a classic film festival.

Minus the bad language, sexual themes, and the drug abuse, they might pass for some of the cheap fiction my friends and I used to read in school. If you would have told us at the time that books like this would be brought into a college prep class by teachers and taken seriously, we would have had a big laugh and thought that that would be pretty cool. But that's because we were ignorant teenagers who hadn't yet developed anything remotely resembling judgment.

As it turns out, some people never did--and many of them are apparently teachers.

The teacher in whose class such literary specimens were to be held up as examples of quality literature was Risha Mullins. While students in a serious class might be reading Shakespeare's Hamlet proclaiming "To be or not to be," Miss Mullins students are treated to characters soliloquys include lines like "I was a zit on the butt of the student body."

Impressive stuff, you'll have to admit.

Mullins apparently travels the country giving lectures to other teachers on promoting student reading. This, in and of itself, is a scary thought.

If merely trying to maintain some reasonable level of quality in the literature students read at school is now to be labeled censorship, then the odds of improving schools may have just become prohibitive.

In the Montgomery County case, all you had was parents challenging whether books deserved a place in the curriculum of a college prep course. They weren't removed from the school library or eliminated from the readings for the reading club there. They were adjudged unfit for a place alongside Beowulf and the Canterbury Tales.

Oh, and then there's Kentucky's state teachers union, which, with admirable consistency, almost always gets it wrong, rushing to the aid of the teacher, whose job they claim is in jeopardy despite the fact that it's not. Action against the teacher hasn't even been considered. It's simply a question of deciding what gets taught in a class, a judgment that is made every day and gets that much more difficult when national groups whose only interest is making a few cheap headlines stick their bothersome noses in places they don't belong.

UPDATE: I have begun responding to some of the arguments made in the comments section of this post here. My first response addresses the question whether a person is justified in making certain assertions about books they have not themselves read. Other responses will be noted here as they are posted.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Where is the Scientific Integrity Patrol on Climategate?

The Scientific Integrity Patrol, which blew up over the appointment of Francis Collins as the head of the National Institutes of Health because he was a Christian, has been noticeably silent about Climategate. The silence of the Jerry Coynes and P. Z. Myers of the world doesn't even ascend to the level of a double standard, as pointed out nicely by Michael Egnor at the Discovery Institute:

Compare the pro-science blogosphere’s silence about fraud and scientific misconduct in climate science to another recent controversy in science: the appointment of Francis Collins as Director of the National Institutes of Health. Collins is a scientist of the highest professional and personal reputation. His scandal, according to the science blogsphere, is this:

He’s a Christian who publicly talks about his belief in God.

Read the rest here.

A bad argument against bad arguments is a bad argument

On the basis of having assigned numerous papers to his college students on the issue of gay marriage and, not having encountering good arguments against it, James Hanley at Positive Liberty has concluded that there are no good policy arguments against it.

First, the evidence:

Over the last several years, I have assigned the question of same-sex marriage to my American Government students three times. I never ask them to write directly about whether they support SSM, but phrase it as a question of federalism–should the issue of SSM be left to the states or nationalized via a constitutional amendment? Note that the latter option allows for either constitutionalizing a right to SSM or constitutionalizing a ban on it. Students need not allow their personal views to slip into their paper (indeed the ideal paper answers the question solely on the basis of federal vs. national powers, without recourse to the rightness or wrongness of SSM), yet unsurprisingly, nearly every student makes their views on the issue clear. Having now read over 100 student papers on SSM, I can state with certainty that I’ve yet to hear a good justification for banning it.

Then the conclusion:

It’s an intriguing thing to discover that there are no good arguments for a particular public policy. I’m accustomed to thinking there are reasonable and reasoned arguments on each side of nearly every policy issue ... Should we treat gays differently than straights? Sorry, all the best efforts at justifying treating unfavored groups differently have already been tried out and discredited.

The argument seems to go like this: College students are uniformly bad reasoners, and on the basis of the uniformly bad reasoning I have experienced, there has been uniformly bad reasoning in support of the position that gay marriage is a bad idea. Therefore gay marriage is not a bad idea. Quod Est Demonstrandum.

We're wondering what other bad positions we will have to accept because today's college students cannot articulate good arguments against them. But perhaps there is more to his argument:

To those who would cling to discrimination, I say, you’ve lost intellectually. Indisputably lost. You’ve had plenty of time to come up with good arguments in support of the status quo, so if any actually were available I would have heard them by now. But in the last five years, the time during which I’ve been actively thinking and reading about this issue, I’ve yet to hear one argument that has given me pause, even for a moment. And so my patience with the other side in this argument has run out, which means, of course, that I cannot ever assign this topic again. But it was a good exercise while it lasted.

Does this mean he's basing his argument on more than just the papers of his students? If so, then why so much emphasis in his post on his student's bad reasoning--and why only a vague reference to any arguments outside this context? Never mind that he has not proven that laws that don't accommodate same-sex marriage constitute "discrimination": how does citing bad arguments for an opponent's position bolster your own? Don't we routinely question the strength of a team with a weak schedule?

If you're going to be serious about trying to establish that the case against same-sex marriage is weak, don't you have some obligation to cite something better than the papers of your rationally incompetent college students? In fact, I'm wondering what he would think about a student paper written with reasoning as bad as that contained in his post.

I have never encountered a convincing argument in favor of same-sex marriage. And Hanley's post certainly does nothing to improve the situation.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Washington Times: Denialists responsible for Global Warming researchers bad behavior

Maybe we should just be glad the Washington Post is acknowledging it at all, but in their editorial today, the paper makes the case that the real problem with overstating the Global Warming threat and trying to suppress dissenting opinions in scientific journals is that it makes the alarmists in the journalistic community look bad. And besides, it's all the fault of Global Warming denialists anyway:
Whatever else comes out about the stolen documents, they have become examples of how not to react to climate-change deniers. You need not dig very far into the stolen documents to discover why climate researchers shouldn't overstate an already strong case. One discusses how scientists can't account for a recent, measured lack of warming -- a fact that climate-change deniers use to ignore the massive body of evidence that global warming could be a dire threat. Really, it demonstrates that the Earth's systems are extremely difficult to predict in detail.

...The case that governments should hedge against that outcome is formidable enough. Climate scientists should not let themselves be goaded by the irresponsibility of the deniers into overstating the certainties of complex science or, worse, censoring discussion of them.
That's called accepting the responsibility for your enemies behavior. This is how it works at the Washington Post.

Environmentalists dealing with denial on Global Warming

The glacial response of the mainstream alarmist media is beginning to break up. Fissures are beginning to show in the wall of cold silence that has greeted the recent revelations that Global Warming researchers at the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia overstated the implications of the data and tried to suppress dissent.

Here is one of their own, George Monbiot of the Guardian, calling for a house-cleaning at the CRU:

I have seldom felt so alone. Confronted with crisis, most of the environmentalists I know have gone into denial. The emails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, they say, are a storm in a tea cup, no big deal, exaggerated out of all recognition. It is true that climate change deniers have made wild claims which the material can't possibly support (the end of global warming, the death of climate science). But it is also true that the emails are very damaging.

The response of the greens and most of the scientists I know is profoundly ironic, as we spend so much of our time confronting other people's denial. Pretending that this isn't a real crisis isn't going to make it go away. Nor is an attempt to justify the emails with technicalities. We'll be able to get past this only by grasping reality, apologising where appropriate and demonstrating that it cannot happen again.

Ouch. You can hear the ice cracking. Obviously Monbiot's Global Warming alarmist fervor is undaunted by the revelations. In fact, he is outraged precisely because the revelations threaten cherished Global Warming dogma. Still it's a stunning condemnation:

Some people say that I am romanticising science, that it is never as open and honest as the Popperian ideal. Perhaps. But I know that opaqueness and secrecy are the enemies of science. There is a word for the apparent repeated attempts to prevent disclosure revealed in these emails: unscientific.

The crisis has been exacerbated by the university's handling of it, which has been a total trainwreck: a textbook example of how not to respond. RealClimate reports that "We were made aware of the existence of this archive last Tuesday morning when the hackers attempted to upload it to RealClimate, and we notified CRU of their possible security breach later that day." In other words, the university knew what was coming three days before the story broke. As far as I can tell, it sat like a rabbit in the headlights, waiting for disaster to strike.

When the emails hit the news on Friday morning, the university appeared completely unprepared. There was no statement, no position, no one to interview. Reporters kept being fobbed off while CRU's opponents landed blow upon blow on it. When a journalist I know finally managed to track down Phil Jones, he snapped "no comment" and put down the phone. This response is generally taken by the media to mean "guilty as charged". When I got hold of him on Saturday, his answer was to send me a pdf called "WMO statement on the status of the global climate in 1999". Had I a couple of hours to spare I might have been able to work out what the heck this had to do with the current crisis, but he offered no explanation.

By then he should have been touring the TV studios for the past 36 hours, confronting his critics, making his case and apologising for his mistakes. Instead, he had disappeared off the face of the Earth. Now, far too late, he has given an interview to the Press Association, which has done nothing to change the story.

And then the coup de grace:
No one has been as badly let down by the revelations in these emails as those of us who have championed the science. We should be the first to demand that it is unimpeachable, not the last.
One wonders if the trickle of melting denialism will turn into a torrent. I wouldn't bet on it.

Stupid athiest tricks

According to the London Times, the children featured in an atheist advertisement calling on families to bring up their children without religion were children brought up with religion. Not only that, but the children in the atheist ad were, in fact, from an evangelical Christian family.

The ad features the smiling faces of two happy children with the slogan, "“Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself.” Only trouble is that Charlotte and Olly, according to the Times, "are from one of the country’s most devout Christian families."

Looks like these atheists grew up, but it might still be a good idea to let someone else choose the photos the next time.

HT: Uncommon Descent.

Seeking self-starter with no business experience to run the economy

If you ever wondered why the government seems to be taking over everything under the Obama administration, consider the percentage of members of the cabinet who have private sector experience in the Obama administration compared to previous administrations.

From Nick Shulz at the American Enterprise Institute.

HT: Carpe Diem

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Smoking ban study never happened

As we recently reported, a study of the effect of smoking bans on heart disease was uncritically passed on by enthusiastic media-types, including one of my local papers, the Lexington Herald-Leader, despite the fact that is was typical junk science. Well, now the story gets even more interesting.

Turns out, not only was the study badly done, but it wasn't even a study. So points out Michael Siegel at The Rest of the Story, a watchdog group on tobacco policy:
As it turns out, it appears that there was no study. These were simply preliminary data on hospital admissions in one community. There is a study ongoing in which acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) rates will be compared between communities with and without smoking bans, but those data have not yet been collected.
What was reported turns out to be "preliminary results from a larger study," a study which has not even been conducted yet:
Well, if the study has not yet been conducted, then how can the "authors" issue a press release with the study's conclusion?

If ever there was an example of researchers coming to a pre-determined conclusion about their research hypothesis, this is it.

Anti-smoking researchers are apparently so eager to communicate favorable findings to the public that they can't even wait to conduct their studies any more. In this case, data from the intervention group was obtained and immediately released, before the data from the control communities could be examined for comparison purposes.

As Grier correctly points out, the 27% decline in heart attacks in Starkville doesn't mean anything in the absence of knowledge of what happened in communities without smoking bans. If there were also large declines in heart attacks in those localities, then the observed decline in Starkville was not attributable to the smoking ban.
When it comes to furthering political agendas--on this and other issues, like Global Warming--not even scientific integrity stands in the way. So far no word from the usual crowd who are always ready and willing to talk about junk science as long as it doesn't gore their own politically correct ox.

Health Care Reform bill would enforce unpopular new mammogram guidelines

As it turns out, the new guidelines on mammograms, which are as unpopular with Democrats as they are with Republicans, would be mandated under the current version of the health care reform bill:

The Democrats downplaying the gravity of new recommendations for breast cancer screening have left out an inconvenient fact: their health care bills would automatically adopt them.

Both the House and Senate health reform proposals would force insurance plans to follow the new mammogram guidelines for women ages 50 to 74 as part of a minimum swath of services deemed by the legislation to be medically essential.
Read the rest here.

Is Jake at Page One a Climategate denier?

Jake over at Page One takes another in a series of potshots at the Rand Paul campaign, this time for not genuflecting to the Global Warming alarmists. He quotes Paul campaign manager David Adams for calling Global Warming a "hoax."

Now why would Adams say this, particularly in light of new revelations about "Climategate": e-mails that have become public from the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia (the source of much Global Warming hysteria) showing how climate researchers have spun the data on warming--data much which they cannot now produce, and commiserated in stifling opposing scholarly opinions on the issue, among other very naughty things for supposedly reputable scholars to do?

Come to think of it, we haven't seen anything on Jake's blog about Climategate. Looks like a Climategate denier to me.

Is science a casualty of Global Warming alarmism?

Willis Eschenbach at Watt's Wrong with That? on the beating science itself has taken from the Global Warming crowd:
People seem to be missing the real issue in the CRU emails. Gavin over at realclimate keeps distracting people by saying the issue is the scientists being nasty to each other, and what Trenberth said, and the Nature “trick”, and the like. Those are side trails. To me, the main issue is the frontal attack on the heart of science, which is transparency.

Science works by one person making a claim (hypothesis), and backing it up with the data and methods that they used to make the claim. Other scientists attack the work by (among other things) trying to replicate the first scientist’s work. If they can’t replicate it, it doesn’t stand. So blocking the FOIA allowed Phil Jones to claim that his temperature record (HadCRUT3) was valid science.

This is not just trivial gamesmanship, this is central to the very idea of scientific inquiry.
Read the rest here.

And while your there, check out the e-mail correspondence detailing the history of unsuccessful attempts Eschenbach has made to get the actual data upon which global warming alarmism is based.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Your Daily Dose of Climate Fraud: Lord Monckton on Climategate

Lord Monckton on the scandal that has now enveloped the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, where scientists doctored, misrepresented, and destroyed data in order to fabricate a Global Warming crisis:

The tiny, close-knit clique of climate scientists who invented and now drive the “global warming” fraud — for fraud is what we now know it to be — tampered with temperature data so assiduously that, on the recent admission of one of them, land temperatures since 1980 have risen twice as fast as ocean temperatures. One of the thousands of emails recently circulated by a whistleblower at the University of East Anglia, where one of the world’s four global-temperature datasets is compiled, reveals that data were altered so as to prevent a recent decline in temperature from showing in the record. In fact, there has been no statistically significant “global warming” for 15 years — and there has been rapid and significant cooling for nine years.

Worse, these arrogant fraudsters — for fraudsters are what we now know them to be — have refused, for years and years and years, to reveal their data and their computer program listings. Now we know why: As a revealing 15,000-line document from the computer division at the Climate Research Unit shows, the programs and data are a hopeless, tangled mess. In effect, the global temperature trends have simply been made up. Unfortunately, the British researchers have been acting closely in league with their U.S. counterparts who compile the other terrestrial temperature dataset — the GISS/NCDC dataset. That dataset too contains numerous biases intended artificially to inflate the natural warming of the 20th century.

Finally, these huckstering snake-oil salesmen and “global warming” profiteers — for that is what they are — have written to each other encouraging the destruction of data that had been lawfully requested under the Freedom of Information Act in the UK by scientists who wanted to check whether their global temperature record had been properly compiled. And that procurement of data destruction, as they are about to find out to their cost, is a criminal offense. They are not merely bad scientists — they are crooks. And crooks who have perpetrated their crimes at the expense of British and U.S. taxpayers.

Read the rest here.

Advocating the American Dream may cost you your teaching certificate in MN

It's now official. Not only is passing on Western civilization declasse among the Educrats, advocating the American Dream may end up costing you your teaching license in some places. We go now to Katherine Kersten at the Wonderland desk of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune:

Do you believe in the American dream -- the idea that in this country, hardworking people of every race, color and creed can get ahead on their own merits? If so, that belief may soon bar you from getting a license to teach in Minnesota public schools -- at least if you plan to get your teaching degree at the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus.

In a report compiled last summer, the Race, Culture, Class and Gender Task Group at the U's College of Education and Human Development recommended that aspiring teachers there must repudiate the notion of "the American Dream" in order to obtain the recommendation for licensure required by the Minnesota Board of Teaching.

...The report advocates making race, class and gender politics the "overarching framework" for all teaching courses at the U. It calls for evaluating future teachers in both coursework and practice teaching based on their willingness to fall into ideological lockstep.
Further proof that the foxes are in charge of the educational henhouse. More here.

HT: Karnick on Culture

Take the Climategate pop quiz

Gavin Atkins has provided an enjoyable way to while away the hours as the End of the World slowly recedes into the future with a Climate Science quiz. See how much you know about how Global Warming research is really done.

Don't Know Much about Education

The chief reason schools are failing is that people don't know what the problem is. And the reason they don't know what the problem is is because the educational establishment is telling us that it is something other than what it is. We need more technology; we need more tests; we need to pay teachers more; we need to spend more money on schools; etc., etc., etc.

But the chief problem with our schools is that, thanks to the wonderful people who are in charge of educational policy, they have fundamentally changed their purpose--and parents haven't caught on. Schools are now so preoccupied with things like technology and multiculturalism and various fads and gimmicks that they have almost literally rendered themselves incapable of doing what schools are meant to do.

So what are schools meant to do?

The chief thing they're meant to do is to pass on Western civilization. But if you said this in a meeting of modern professional educators you would be hooted out of the room--or perhaps rather patted on the head and thanked for your input. And definitely don't bring it up in the education department of you local state university (or, for that matter, any teacher training program).

This is attempted in various places and from time to time. E. D. Hirsch Jr.'s "Core Knowledge" program is implemented at this or that public school--if the school is fortunate enough to have someone there to defend it against its detractors, of which, in the educational establishment, there are many. It is, in fact, a measure of the plight of education in our country that a program such as Hirsch's--in which the simple transmission of cultural knowledge is seen as important--should be so controversial.

Instead of passing on our culture, schools now see themselves as in the business of either adapting children to the current culture through vocationalism or trying to change culture through Political Correctness. These goals are justified on the grounds that our current society and the modern economy demands something fundamentally different from what was demanded in previous times. This, of course, is complete nonsense.

The needs now are the same as they have always been: people who are functionally literate in reading, writing and mathematics, who know history and literature, and who know how to think. Period. But our educational policy is dictated by people who are largely opposed to proven methods of reading instruction, who think that serious instruction in grammar is counterproductive to writing, who promote touchy-feely approaches to math instruction, and who are members of university departments (by which I mean education departments) talk a good game on "critical thinking skills", but know a good specimen of logic if it had a sign on it.

Frank Furedi, author of Wasted: Why Education Isn’t Educating, seems to understand at least part of the problem:

In virtually every Western society, education is in trouble. Unfortunately, however, policymakers tend to obsess only about the symptoms of the problem – unsatisfactory standards in core subjects, growth of a cohort of poorly schooled underachievers or erosion of classroom discipline – and not the cause.

Yet the main reason education often is not educating is because it finds it difficult to give meaning to human experience. Time and again, curriculum specialists inform us that because we live in a world of rapid change, the conventions and practices of the past have become outmoded, outdated or irrelevant. Present educational fads are based on the premise that because we live in a new, digitally driven society, the intellectual legacy of the past and the experience of grown-ups have little significance for the schooling of children.

The implicit assumption that adults have little to teach children is rarely made explicit. But there is a growing tendency to flatter children through suggesting that their values are more enlightened than those of their elders because they are more tuned in to the present. So children are often represented as digital natives who are way ahead of their text-bound and backward-looking parents...

Read the rest here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Whoville? The Real Grinch is in Frankville

My piece on Gov. Grinch stealing the state Christmas tree ran in today's Lexington Herald-Leader.

Peer review, Global Warming-style

Retired climatologist Tim Ball on what e-mails between Global Warming advocates traded between each other show about how the science of Global Warming really works:

NYT refuses to publish e-mails embarrassing to Global Warming advocates

It is amazing how liberal journalists all of sudden discover scruples when faced with decisions about printing information that goes against there editorial positions. Here is the Worldwide Standard on the New York Times blog refusing to print e-mails from someone who hacked a server that are causing not a little embarrassment for Global Warming alarmists:

With the release of hundreds of emails by scientists advocates of global warming showing obvious and entirely inappropriate collusion by the authors -- including attempts to suppress dissent, to punish journals that publish peer-reviewed studies casting doubt on global warming, and to manipulate data to bolster their own arguments -- even the New York Times is forced to concede that "the documents will undoubtedly raise questions about the quality of research on some specific questions and the actions of some scientists." But apparently the paper's environmental blog, Dot Earth, is taking a pass on publishing any of the documents and emails that are now circulating. Andrew Revkin, the author of that blog, writes,

The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.

Ahem. Has anyone noticed that this is the same paper of record that published the Pentagon Papers?

Global Warming alarmists spin like a top on embarrassing revelations

If you ever wanted to see spinning at its finest, get a load of the response from Real Climate on the embarrassing revelations now coming out on the web from private e-mails from the Climate Research Unit of the School of Environmental Sciences of the University of East Anglia, an allegedly reputable center for climate research and one of the bastions of Global Warming alarmism. The e-mails were made public after the files were allegedly hacked from a Russian web server, although it is apparently not clear whether they were hacked or released from someone within the community. In any case, the authenticity of the e-mails has apparently been acknowledged.

Here is one assessment from Investigate Magazine:

As the fallout from CRUHACK grows, the biggest story is not actually whether data was manipulated in individual cases, although in my view that's bad. And it's not that global warming scientists were so arrogant in 2004 as to mock the death of an opponent, although that too is bad.

It's not that some of these scientists were sitting on taxpayer-sourced slush funds worth tens of millions of dollars each, for an industry total of somewhere close to US$100 billion, whilst their supporters raised merry-hell about Exxon sponsoring skeptic research to the tune of a few million, although this too is massively hypocritical.

It's not that the scientists show signs of being political activists, and even helping promote a global governance agenda.

No, in my view the biggest scandal to erupt from CRUHACK is the death of peer-reviewed climate science.

We now all know – the entire industrialized world – that while global warming scientists and their supporters were publicly ridiculing skeptic's arguments as "not peer reviewed" because – by implication – the arguments were not good enough, that in fact some of the top scientific advisors to the UN IPCC were conspiring (and that is the right word) to sabotage any attempt by other scientists to publish peer reviewed papers challenging global warming.

And what these e-mails reveal? Well, according the Real Climate, some of whose participants apparently wrote some of the revealing e-mails, nothing important. That is, unless you consider comments that seem to indicate intentions to mislead the public on Global Warming, doctoring data to help their cause, and support for suppressing article submissions to peer-reviewed journals that disagree with politically correct positions on the issue.

Here is a comment from one of the e-mails, referring to several papers from people who have the nerve to disagree with the Approved Opinions:

K and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is !

So, how do we explain that? Here is "Gavin" at Real Climate giving it the ol' college try:

Bad papers clutter up assessment reports and if they don't stand up as science, they shouldn't be included. No-one can 'redefine' what the peer-reviewed literature is.

If the papers are really "bad" (likely translation: "disagree with us"), then why would a "redefinition" of the peer-review process be necessary? And even if they can't actually do it, are we supposed to be comfortable with the fact that Global Warming scientists would like to?

As Investigate Magazine further points out:

The next global warming believer who raises "peer review" as a defence of global warming deserves to be metaphorically tarred and feathered and laughed at for the rest of his or her natural life.

The Wegman report to the US Congress found unhealthy links between the IPCC's scientific advisors. The CRUHACK emails now prove that festering scientific corruption beyond reasonable doubt.

The integrity of climate science died this weekend. It will never be the same.

Looks like some people have some splainin' to do.

Friday, November 20, 2009

James Kalb on "Inclusiveness"

I think that James Kalb is the most interesting and insightful political thinker writing today. I will be reviewing his book The Tyranny of Liberalism soon. The only thing holding me up is the fact that, after every paragraph, I end up walking around in a stupor, pondering some incredible insight he has brought to some political or social issue.

My family has become used to it, and know just to leave me alone until I come out of my trance.

In fact, we may have to induct him very soon into the Wisdom Hall of Fame--my list of Modern Wise Men. What are we at now, eleven? The last inductee was David Bentley Hart. Kalb may be next. If he added a more poetic element to his prose, he could pass for Richard Weaver.

Here is Kalb, making another stunning point, this time about "Inclusiveness," a species of "Diversity":

Inclusiveness tells us that characteristics that traditionally define personal identity have no legitimate social role. If my specific identity as a man or member of a particular people is connected to my position in the world, that's intolerable and something has to be done about it.

... From an egalitarian standpoint, it's all a pointless exercise.

... A makeshift remedy, but the best available within the liberal order, is provided by "coolness." It seems trivial, but people take it much more seriously than they will admit because there's nothing else on offer.

...At bottom, coolness is as silly as people think. It is notoriously unsustaining. It is completely obscure what it wants us to do. Those who try to live by it either crash and burn, fall into gross hypocrisy ("sell out"), or grow out of it. Within the liberal order, though, growing out of it means growing out of the only thing, other than sex, drugs, celebrity, or lots and lots of money, that redeems life from quotidian dullness. It means turning into a boring, conventional, older person, just like Mom and Dad. And that would be intolerable.
Read the rest here.


The state Holi ... er, Christmas tree is here!

What, you are asking yourself, is all that clatter arising at the State Capitol? There you were, all snug in your bed, with your kerchief and cap, visions of sugar plums dancing in your head, and you have to spring up to see what's the matter.

It's a press release from the Governor's office. So you tear open the shutter and pull up the sash, and what to your wondering eyes should appear but the state Christmas tree that has just arrived.

And there's the little old driver so lively and quick that you know in a moment it must be Gov. Beshear, all dressed in fur, from his head to his foot (and his clothes all tarnished with ashes and soot), cameras flashing, smiling and making sure everyone sees him next to the tree that his administration was going to change to a "Holiday tree"--before, that is, there was a veritable citizens' revolt demanding that the Christmas tree be brought back.

But like all politicians, when they meet with an obstacle, they mount to the sky and make it look like they were on the right side of the issue in the first place. So there he was, his eyes twinkling, his dimples merry, his cheeks like roses and his nose like a cherry, declaring:
“During the first Christmas holidays in 2008 after I became governor, Jane and I had the honor of lighting the Commonwealth’s Christmas tree, and we are looking forward to doing so again this year, and every year while I am governor.”
As one observer pointed out, the word "Christmas" is used in the press release about 56 times, which is why we laughed when we saw it, in spite of ourselves.

The University of Kentucky Health Police given new powers

The University of Kentucky has now implemented their total ban on tobacco use on campus:
The tobacco ban at the University of Kentucky includes outdoor areas and applies to chew, pipes, cigars and snuff as well as cigarettes. Kentucky leads the nation in the production of burley tobacco, and has some of the nation's highest smoking rates.
So far no word from the UK Health Police about junk food and soft drinks, which are even less healthy.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Ritualized emotion" among the Tolerance Police

From James Taranto's "The Diversity Sham" in the Wall Street Journal, commenting on the increasing intolerance at our bastions of academic freedom when it comes to "Diversity":

This is how "diversity" works in practice: Intellectual contention is drowned out in a sea of emotion, much of it phony. Members of designated victim groups respond to a serious argument with "pain" and "shock" and accusations of "hate," and university administrators make a show of pretending to care.

... But this sort of emotional frenzy is nonetheless inimical to the spirit of rational inquiry that universities are supposed to encourage.
Read the rest here.

How to Become a Major in U. S. Army Without Really Trying

More from those right-wing wackos over at NPR trying to embarrass the Obama administration:

Two years ago, a top psychiatrist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was so concerned about what he saw as Nidal Hasan's incompetence and reckless behavior that he put those concerns in writing. NPR has obtained a copy of the memo, the first evaluation that has surfaced from Hasan's file.

Officials at Walter Reed sent that memo to Fort Hood this year when Hasan was transferred there.

Nevertheless, commanders still assigned Hasan — accused of killing 13 people in a mass shooting at Fort Hood on Nov. 5 — to work with some of the Army's most troubled and vulnerable soldiers.

Read the rest here.

One place where "Diversity" isn't practiced by liberals

Ann Coulter on the application of "Diversity":
Among the worst aspects of America's "diversity" is that liberals' reaction to a heterogeneous population is to create a pecking order based on alleged victimhood -- as described in electrifying detail in my book, Guilty: Liberal 'Victims' and Their Assault on America.

In modern America, the guilty are sanctified, while the innocent never stop paying -- including with their lives, as they did at Fort Hood last week. Points are awarded to aspiring victims for angry self-righteousness, acts of violence and general unpleasantness.

But liberals celebrate diversity only in the case of superficial characteristics like race, gender, sexual preference and country of origin. They reject diversity when we need it, such as in "diversity" of legal forums.

After conferring with everyone at Zabar's, Obama decided that if a standard civilian trial is good enough for Martha Stewart, then it's good enough for the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. So Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is coming to New York!
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dave Barry on sociology

Dave Barry's description of sociology:
SOCIOLOGY: For sheer lack of intelligibility, sociology is far and away the number one subject. I sat through hundreds of hours of sociology courses, and read gobs of sociology writing, and I never once heard or read a coherent statement. This is because sociologists want to be considered scientists, so they spend most of their time translating simple, obvious observations into scientific-sounding code. If you plan to major in sociology, you'll have to learn to do the same thing. For example, suppose you have observed that children cry when they fall down. You should write: "Methodological observation of the sociometrical behavior tendencies of prematurated isolates indicates that a causal relationship exists between groundward tropism and lachrimatory, or 'crying,' behavior forms." If you can keep this up for fifty or sixty pages, you will get a large government grant.
Read more wise college advice here.

HT: Newmark's Door

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the Obama administration's contradictory policy on terrorism

If Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a captured enemy combatant, then why is being tried in federal court? And if he is not a captured enemy combatant, they why are we still calling it a "War on Terror?"

Pat Buchanan hones in on the central contradiction in the U. S. policy on terrorism:

[I]f we are at war, why is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed headed for trial in federal court in the Southern District of New York? Why is he entitled to a presumption of innocence and all of the constitutional protections of a U.S. citizen?

...Enemy soldiers who commit atrocities are not sent to the United States for trial. Under the Geneva Conventions, soldiers who commit atrocities are shot when caught.

When and where did Khalid Sheikh Mohammed acquire his right to a trial by a jury of his peers in a U.S. court?

Read more here.




Abortion coverage was included in national Republican health plan

This is the kind of thing that doesn't instill much confidence in the national Republican Party.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The decline of Derby art

Churchill Downs has unveiled the 2010 Kentucky Derby artwork, and we are, ... ahem, underwhelmed. Derby art has experienced a recognizable decline since the glory years of the Brereton Jones administration, when it went back to the mid-1800s and snagged a real artist by the name of Edward Troye, a Swiss emigre who painted many of the great thoroughbreds of the era.

After the classic art favored by the Jones administration, Derby art sunk into a Thomas Kinkade-like kitsch for several years, and then, during the Fletcher administration, it sunk to art deco. Now, 2010's Derby art has shifted again to include French artist Linda LeKimff, whose paintings are one part Matisse, one part Jean de Brunhoff (illustrator of Babar the Elephant), and one part Peter Max.

Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit. She's not that bad.

I don't know if Governors have anything to do with these decisions or whether Churchill Downs makes them. But it's not real clear why LeKimff is particularly fitted for the Derby job. Paris is great and all, but what's the connection with Kentucky? Troye lived here for 35 years and his paintings actually captured the atmosphere of the Bluegrass and its horse culture.

But perhaps we should be more appreciative of Ms. LeKimff: This may be the last Derby art that has something to do with horses. It may very well be that, after 2010, Derby art will begin focusing on a new symbol: slot machines.

Al Gore, detecting a little more heat than is actually there

Al Gore, who is heading the stampede toward destroying the economy to head off the End of the World by global warming alarmists, on The Tonight Show talking about geothermal energy, and apparently getting it wrong. We'll pause to await the outrage by all the champions of science...

Gen. Casey in need of further Diversity training

Further evidence that Hasan did everything but send Army officials a notarized written announcement that he was going to start shooting:

“Diversity” is one of those words designed to absolve you of the need to think. Likewise, a belief in “multiculturalism” doesn’t require you to know anything at all about other cultures, just to feel generally warm and fluffy about them. Heading out from my hotel room the other day, I caught a glimpse of that 7-Eleven video showing Major Hasan wearing “Muslim” garb to buy a coffee on the morning of his murderous rampage. And it wasn’t until I was in the taxi cab that something odd struck me: He was an American of Arab descent. But he was wearing Pakistani dress -- that’s to say, a “Punjabi suit,” as they call it in Britain, or the shalwar kameez, to give it its South Asian name. For all the hundreds of talking heads droning on about “diversity” across the TV networks, it was only Tarek Fatah, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, who pointed out that no Arab males wear this get-up -- with one exception: Those Arab men who got the jihad fever and went to Afghanistan to sign on with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In other words, Major Hasan’s outfit symbolized the embrace of an explicit political identity entirely unconnected with his ethnic heritage.

Mr. Fatah would seem to be a genuine “multiculturalist”: That’s to say, he’s attuned to often very subtle “diversities” between cultures. Whereas the professional multiculturalist sees the 7-Eleven video and coos, “Aw, look. He’s wearing#...#well, something exotic and colorful, let’s not get hung up on details. Celebrate diversity, right? Can we get him in the front row for the group shot? We may be eligible for a grant.”

Read the rest here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Will victims of Ft. Hood receive a Purple Heart?

Was the Ft. Hood massacre an act of terrorism--or was it merely the result of stress? If it was the result of a terrorist act, which the Obama administration is loathe to admit because it could damage the progress of Diversity in the Army, then the victims should receive the Purple Heart. But if it was only an act of stress relief, which seems to be the preferred theory of the military (and of the largely anonymous posters to this blog), then they should not receive Purple Heart.

Of course, since, according the Terrorism Denialists it is really Hasan who is the victim here, maybe he deserves an award of some kind.

HT: Roger's Rules

Revival Meeting at the Church of Darwin

So now they're having revival meetin's at the Church of Darwin. Click here for pictures of the singin' and clappin' at this years revival, which commemorates the Dover v. Kitzmiller decision striking down Intelligent Design.

HT: Ed Brayton.

News Flash: At least Hasan wasn't engaged in sexual harassment

This just in: The Fort Hood massacre could have been worse: Hasan could have gotten drunk with his buddies and groped a females soldier or two. We have to put these things in perspective. In fact, why hasn't General Casey thought of this?

Now we go to Ann Coulter, on location:
Far less offensive speech has been grounds for discipline or even removal from duties in the military. In the aftermath of the Tailhook scandal, for example, two Navy officers were reprimanded and reassigned after putting up a sign with the words of a nursery rhyme altered to include a vulgar sexual reference to liberal congresswoman Patricia Schroeder.

But a Muslim Army doctor can go around a military installation somberly advocating the beheading of infidels, and the girls running the military treat him like he's Nicole Kidman and they're press junket reporters.
Read more here.

The Tailhook scandal, which involved the sexual harassment of several female soldiers who were allegedly groped by some drunken Navy aviators, destroyed or damaged the careers of fourteen admirals and about 300 aviators.

Now let me grab my calculator here, hang on ... Okay, so you add fourteen to three hundred and you get ... you get 314. Now then, let's subtract zero from 314, and that's ... 314. That's 314 more careers damaged or destroyed as a result of sexual harassment of several females soldiers than careers damaged or destroyed as a result of the idiotic worship of Diversity by Gen. Casey and his Diversity warriors that resulted in the deaths of 13 people at a military base.

Will any heads roll? We're not holding our breath.

Not getting any respect

All of this criticism on my blog of my controversial theory that a Muslim guy who shoots up a military installation shouting "Allahu akbar!" was an act of terrorism is really stressing me out. It's enough to cause a guy to go out and shoot up some place and kill a bunch of people.

At least then I could gain the respect of my critics.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Catholic Church joins Ft. Hood casualties as victims of Diversity

Add the Catholic Church to the pro-Diversity body count.

Some are criticizing the Catholic Church for saying it will discontinue some $10 million worth of social services it provides through Catholic Charities in Washington, D. C. if the politically correct city leadership require the church to hire gays who disagree with Church doctrine.
The Catholic Church weighs the lives of tens of thousands of sick, homeless people against the chance to slap down the dignity of gay people again, and obviously the most important thing is to make sure the primacy of heterosexuality is preserved.
So huffs P. Z. Myers.

But did you heard Myers make the same argument against the liberals who vowed to oppose the U. S. House health care bill because of the Stupak amendment which prohibits insurance companies from funding abortion services? Aren't they weighing the health of tens of millions of people against the chance to slap down the constitutional rights of women?

Neither did I.

Horse track seeking bailout shells out 127 million to buy online gambling business

Churchill Downs, which would receive the lion's share of a public bailout in legislation supported by Kentucky's Democratic political leadership, just dropped a cool $127.8 million to purchase Youbet.com, an online and telephone betting operation.

For an industry looking for a public handout, they sure have a lot of money to throw around.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

America's new Shariah law

Pamela Geller at the American Thinker:
Shariah law forbids criticism of Islam. And here we are.

We are witnessing an Islamized America. This is well beyond political correctness. We are enforcing Shariah law. We will not insult Islam -- that is Shariah law. We self-censor -- that is Shariah law. We disrespect ourselves and our nation so that we might respect Islam. This is dhimmitude ...
Read the rest here.

Gen. Casey: threat to diversity worse than Ft. Hood massacre

Here's George Neumayr of the American Spectator, a journalist in serious need of sensitivity training:

General George Casey's staggeringly inane comment after the shooting captures the atmosphere that explains it: "Our diversity, not only in our Army, but in our country, is a strength. And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that's worse."

Diversity at this point is a synonym for mindlessness and self-hating hypocrisy. Were Hasan a virulent and outspoken Christian military chaplain, he would have been branded a hate criminal and whisked away. But since he is a Muslim, since Obama isn't at "war with Islam," and since Islam is so obviously a religion of peace, he was given a wide swath.

Under the paralysis of a PC culture, all Muslims are moderate Muslims and anyone who says otherwise is a bigot. If Hasan didn't define Islam as a religion of peace but as a religion of jihad, that was okay; he would come around in time to the superior liberal understanding of Islam as non-violent...

Read the rest here.

Doesn't Neumeyr understand that Diversity demands not offending people who want to destroy us? Next thing you know, he'll by arguing that a guy shooting a bunch of people because of his religious ideology is terrorism.

Sheeez.

What's Wrong With this Picture? Navy color guard too white?

Navy officials, not seeing enough color in the color guard, booted off several white males so they could look more diverse. From the Navy Times:
Naval Academy leaders removed two midshipmen from a color guard that performed at the World Series last week because they were white men, and replaced them with a non-white man and a white woman so the academy could present a more “diverse” profile, according to several sources, a move that has reportedly angered mids and alumni.

As it turned out, the color guard still ended up all white because the male replacement forgot parts of his uniform.

Two white, male members of the color guard learned Oct. 28 they were being replaced with a white woman, Midshipman 2nd Class Hannah Allaire, and a non-white man, Midshipman 2nd Class Zishan Hameed, on orders of the school’s administration, according to an internal e-mail message provided to Navy Times by an academy professor. With a national television audience, Naval Academy leadership worried the color guard it planned to send wasn’t diverse enough, the e-mail said ...

Read the rest here.

But where is the radical jihadist in this photo? I mean, if we're going to be diverse, let's be diverse.


Osama bin Ladin: Uncle Sam wants YOU!

I am reminded of the scene in the movie "Stripes" in which Bill Murray's character and two friends go into an Army recruitment office for an interview before joining. The recruiter asks whether any of them are homosexuals. "No sir," says Murray, "but we're willing to try."

One thing you can say about women in positions exposed to combat (including pregnant women) and gays in the military: at least they're loyal. But now the politically correct agenda that has already turned the military into a giant maternity ward and a field for social experimentation has been extended to include people who, like, aren't even on our side.

More about how the politically correct chickens came home to roost at Ft. Hood:

It is becoming increasingly apparent that Nidal Hasan was not only unhinged, but also an entirely inappropriate character to counsel U.S. soldiers on war-related stress and injuries. The wingers are exaggerating much of this--the fact that he attended the same mosque as two of the 9/11 hijackers is guilt by association, at best; the fact that he communicated with an Al Qaeda leader is more troubling, but the emails were monitored and judged to be non-threatening.

What is very troubling is that his colleagues at Walter Reed seem to have had grave doubts about the guy (it'll be interesting to see the evaluations he received from superiors)--and yet he was allowed to continue to counsel American troops, troops who were in an extremely delicate psychological state. That seems beyond careless. And the question has to be asked: Was this a matter of political correctness? Was the Army reluctant to discharge a Muslim in a sensitive position because it might be portrayed as an act of bigotry or censorship--that he was fired for his views?

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

More disappointing news for the Hasan denialists

More on the kinder, gentler treatment given radical jihadists in the military from that bastion of right wingnutism, NPR:

Starting in the spring of 2008, key officials from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences held a series of meetings and conversations, in part about Maj. Nidal Hasan, the man accused of killing 13 people and wounding dozens of others last week during a shooting spree at Fort Hood. One of the questions they pondered: Was Hasan psychotic?

"Put it this way," says one official familiar with the conversations that took place. "Everybody felt that if you were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, you would not want Nidal Hasan in your foxhole" ...

Read the rest here.

Are We There Yet? How long have we been reforming schools now?

How long have we been talking about "education reform" in this country? If you don't know the answer, just go and read Diane Ravitch's The Troubled Crusade. It's been going on for over a hundred years.

The result? We're still talking about it.

Our prediction: as long as there are public schools, there will be constant talk of education reform and no appreciable change. In fact, I'm beginning to wonder if it isn't all designed that way. They make changes--whether they involve changing the school calendar, or being in new "education technology," or trendy education techniques--only so it will looks like they are actually doing something and serious about making progress, when, in reality, nothing beneficial is actually happening.

We are now officially opposed to any further educational reform. It's a money pit. Stop wasting money on it. The only ideas even worth trying are things like school choice and (to a lesser extent) charter schools--things that wrest control of education from public education bureaucrats.

While federal officials are still asking, "Gee, what happened" with Nidal Hasan ...

More on Nidal Hasan from journalists outside the military who, with out any trouble, are diagnosing the problem that military investigators still seem unaware of:
Hasan's classmates at the Uniformed Services University, the military college where mass killer Nidal Malik Hasan recently took graduate courses, claimed to have repeatedly complained to their superiors about his persistent anti-American tirades.

According to the New York Post, one said he cautioned those in charge that the ranting Hasan was a "ticking time bomb" after he gave a presentation defending Islamic suicide bombers. Another classmate stated he voiced his complaints to two civilian faculty members and five officers.

Read the rest here.

Rooting for the Russian: Mixed Martial Arts and its detractors

Fedor Emelienenko beat the larger by thirty pounds Brett Rogers with a smashing overhand right in the middle of the second round of a mixed martial arts fight on CBS Saturday night. The nationally televised fight was another indication of the rise in popularity of MMA.

It was a good fight for the public to have seen. Rogers was a little whiney, but, after all, he did lose. The Russian Fedor, who is for all practical purposes undefeated after almost thirty fights, graciously complimented his opponent, and then, having putting a wooden Eastern Orthodox cross around his neck, thanked his fans here in the U. S. But he saved most of his appreciation for "the Orthodox Russian people" back home. "His people."

I have received lectures from people of the feminine persuasion on why MMA should be outlawed. In fact, a lot of people have a problem with the primal nature of MMA. But these are contests of strength and skill involving two athletes who will wail on each other for three rounds and then, once the final horn has sounded, hug each other and shake hands out of respect. If these people have a problem with destructive behavior, they would do better monitoring the playgrounds of our schools where schoolgirls can be found humiliating each other and then refusing to speak. In the final scheme of things, that's a far worse problem.

The biggest problem MMA suffers is the tiresome bombast and bad sportsmanship of a few fighters. Fighters like B. J. Penn routinely taunt their opponents after winning. If MMA's critics were really concerned about destructive behavior, let them talk about that. I'm with 'em.

But what was striking about Saturday's fight was the support Fedor got from the Chicago crowd. Here you had a popular and well-liked American fighter, Brett Rogers (a man whose good reputation is well-deserved), fighting a Russian who doesn't even speak English. Who do they root for? The Russian. When did you think you would ever see that happen?

What is it about Fedor that people like? Here is the greatest heavyweight fighter in the world reacting humbly and appreciatively, and holding a cross--not like the pop stars who blurt out thanks to the Almighty after accepting an award for some piece of cultural trash they helped perpetrate on the public (Have we talked yet about things that are destructive yet?), but because he is grounded in the culture of his homeland and lives a genuinely devout Christian life there. Oh, and he's really good at what he does.

I, too, am rooting for the Russian.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What the Health Care bill says

Here is a great summary in the Wall Street Journal of the provisions of the health care bill passed by the House last Saturday.

HT: Maverick Philosopher

Federal officials investigating Fort Hood shooter: Okay, so they're not Sherlock Holmes

Thomas Joscelyn at the Worldwide Standard, wondering why federal officials investigating Fort Hood shooter are scratching their heads:
The FBI and other federal authorities are reportedly still trying to figure out Maj. Nidal M. Hasan’s motive for opening fire at Fort Hood.

Let’s take a look at Hasan’s June 2007 50-slide presentation to senior Army doctors to see if we can unravel this mystery. According to the Washington Post, Hasan was “supposed to discuss a medical topic during” the presentation, but instead “he lectured on Islam, suicide bombers and threats the military could encounter from Muslims conflicted about fighting wars in Muslim countries.”

Hasan’s presentation was titled, “The Koranic World View As It Relates to Muslims in the U.S. Military.” It is fairly obvious that Hasan endorsed the jihadist view of the world in which believers are rewarded, while the infidels are punished. And only those believers who truly follow Allah’s commandments will be rewarded in the afterlife. Allah’s demands, according to Hasan, included participation in an offensive jihad against Islam’s enemies...

Read the rest here.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Keith Burgess-Jackson on the Cult of Diversity

Philosopher Keith Burgess-Jackson saying things that might get him shouted down by the tolerance crowd:

The United States Army cares more about diversity than it does security. I suppose this doesn't surprise me. Colleges and universities care more about diversity than they do truth. Many business firms care more about diversity than they do profit. Our government cares more about diversity than it does justice. Diversity: that before which all else must kneel. Diversity: that than which nothing greater can be conceived. Diversity: the summum bonum. Diversity: the end that justifies the means.

Grinch op-ed

All the Whos down in Whoville, the tall and the small, were up in arms recently. They were fed up with Gov. Grinch making off with their Christmas tree and replacing it with a "Holiday Tree."

The Governor, dressed up as Santa Claus, had crept into town under the cover of political darkness, slithered down the Capitol chimney, and decided to shove the state Christmas tree up through the fireplace.

But as he did this, he heard something. And it wasn't the coo of a dove.

Instead, it was a reporter at the Associated Press, who had just gotten a press release from the Kentucky Finance Cabinet seeking donations for a state "Holiday Tree," and he caught the Governor red-handed.

"Santy Claus, why?" asked the reporter, getting out his notepad and taking a pencil from behind his ear, "Why are you taking the state Christmas tree? Why?"

But the Governor was sly and the Governor was slick. He sent for a spokesperson and he sent for her quick. The aid, Cindy Lanham, explained that "the holiday tree reference is meant to be inclusive of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year's."

Oookay.

Why not just throw in Easter, Columbus Day, Presidents Day, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day? And don't forget Groundhog Day, and the much neglected Friendship Day. I mean, if we’re going to be inclusive …

The chief problem, apparently, was that the Christmas tree could only be appreciated by people who actually celebrate Christmas. To most people that’s kind of the idea, but Gov. Grinch was having none of it.

The Governor and his spokesperson told the reporter that they were going to take the tree back to the workshop. "We'll take it up there," they said, gesturing toward the Division of Forestry, "and we'll bring it back here."

So they patted the reporter on the head, and sent him back to the media office on the 2nd floor of the Capitol building, at which point, the Governor went to the chimney and stuffed the tree up. The last thing he left was the log on the fire.

Apparently, the Governor really thought this act would be appreciated. So he put his hand to his ear. And he did hear a sound rising over the bluegrass. It started in low, then it started to grow...

Problem was it was sound of over 25,000 people on the "Save the Christmas Tree" Facebook page wanting their Christmas tree back. In fact, the thing blew up into a major public relations headache for state Grinch officials.

The AP story spread far and wide, and was even carried by national news organizations like Forbes and USA Today.

What went wrong? The Governor’s staff must have puzzled over it ‘till their puzzler was sore.

The exact problem with the state Christmas tree was never quite clear. Were there complaints about it? Was there some problem with the word ‘Christmas’? And who exactly was it who had issues with a baby in a manger bringing peace on earth and good will toward men?

It wasn’t those tolerant liberals was it? Why is it always the people who pride themselves in being tolerant who get offended by these things?

The liberals have somehow failed to notice that every time they try not to offend people it just makes them mad.

The Governor eventually brought the state Christmas tree back, reversing his decision. But why did he do it in the first place? It could be his head was not screwed on just right. It could be perhaps that his shoes were too tight. But some think that the most likely reason of all may be that the Governor's political judgment is two sizes too small.

Other people have tried to stop Christmas from coming, but it comes just the same. It comes without ribbons. It comes without tags. It comes without packages, boxes, or bags. It even comes when there’s no state Christmas tree.

In fact, the only thing that was ever really in danger was the reputation of a few out-of-touch politicians who may or may not have avoided joining the roast beast in getting carved up on the next election.

Health Care bill includes gay benefits

As it turns out, a vote for Obama's nationalization of health care was also a vote for domestic partner benefits. "House members overwhelmingly approved a health care reform bill Saturday that recognizes gay unions and makes health care more affordable for gay families," said one report.

This from the "Human Rights Campaign":
Unequal Taxation of Domestic Partner Benefits – the bill ends the unfair taxation of employer-provided domestic partner health benefits, incorporating the language of the Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act. Without this tax penalty, more people will be able to afford employer-provided coverage for their families, and more companies will be able to offer these important benefits.
This national imposition of domestic partner benefits basically makes the debate going on in the different states moot. This is thanks to a little behind the scenes move by Jim McDermott (D-Washington).

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Let schools decide on the evolution of the state Christmas tree

Christmastreeaphobics still angry over Beshear reversal: Over at Barefoot and Progressive, they are under the impression that I have "worked myself up into a phony lather" about Gov. Grinch's replacement of the state Christmas tree with a "Holiday tree." I must have done a pretty good job of hiding my amusement. Why would it make me mad to see Beshear politically shoot himself in the foot? All I did was to quote Dr. Seuss to reporters who wanted my comment. No sense in getting mad when politicians you would rather see out of office do things that help ensure they won't be around very long.

Former proponents of letting the people decide on expanded gambling but who changed their mind for political convenience can't spell: Must be too much to drink at the casino. Blue Bluegrass can't seem to spell State Sen. Thayer's name right. Its "Damon," folks, not "Damien." But go ahead and read about why we should not let the people decide on the gambling issue from the people who elected a man who said exactly the opposite.

Rich horse tracks find another excuse to expand gambling: Ohio is allowing expanded gambling, therefore we should have it too. Let's hope they don't legalize drugs and prostitution.

State universities want more of your money: The Kentucky Council of Postsecondary Education will consider larger tuition increases than it said it was going to allow. Some state universities, already swimming in taxpayer cash because they won't control their spending, may be asking for more. Oh, and anyone notice that higher education has already implemented many of the ideas Congress wants to try on health care and that costs are even more out of control there than in the health care industry?

State universities wanting even more money. Not only tuition, but state money. They're insatiable.

State K-12 Schools having to actually get serious about school accountability: For years, state school officials have been telling everyone how serious they are about holding school accountable. Then, when they get pressure to implement charter schools from the federal government--which would result in real accountability--they oppose it. But the loss in federal money Kentucky could incur because of their intransigence may be too much for them.

Evolutionists reasoning badly: Kenneth Miller, a professor of genetics at Brown University spoke at the University of Kentucky on Oct. 21, making an impressive case for the compatibility between the belief in evolution and religion, but makes a big logical error unbefitting an upstanding member of the human species we will discuss next week.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Our new name

Okay, so we're finally bowing to pressure from friends who say I should have a blog name that people can actually pronounce. And it wouldn't hurt, they further advise, if it was actually in English.

Sheeez.

So I am changing the name (but not the web address--this is my way of sticking to my guns on this issue when I'm really not) to "Vital Remnants," which was a close runner up in the original blog name competition.

There is, of course, a book by this name, which has nothing to do with this blog, although we are a big fan of the book and think it's a really cool title (with the extra added advantage that no other blog has taking it yet like they have with every other cool name).

So we're going to keep it unless someone sues us or asks us nicely to use something else.

The two sides of Jake

Okay, I'm going to make a big admission here. We actually enjoy Jake over at Page One Kentucky. We read his blog regularly. It has that National Enquirer appeal that we just can't resist. In fact, we think he is terribly funny, and we often find ourselves so amused by his posts that we larf and larf. Seriously.

He has also done many good deeds, including giving University of Louisville President James Ramsey regular booby prizes for his numbskull exploits to embarrass the university (and, by association, the state).

We've even considered giving him some kind of award for all of this, like maybe three or four free personal insults without a follow-up response from us. We might just have to make that his Christmas present.

The only problem is that Jake has this Jeckyl and Hyde thing going on. One moment he will attack the bad guys and then, after imbibing some potion unique to Page One (Well, maybe not entirely unique: they seem to drink the same stuff over at LEO), he shakes and shudders, grows hair all over his body, starts to howl at the moon, and attacks us--the good guys.

It's at these times that we must secure our doors and hide the family.

In a recent such fit, Jake, having boiled and mixed the right chemicals and chugged them down, accused us of not really caring about education and supporting mountain-top removal. These are obviously the charges of a man suffering under chemical induced delusions.

Do I really not care about education? In fact, I teach for a living. I am also a director for an online program which this semester boasts over 600 enrollments.

Do I really support mountain-top removal? In fact, I oppose it 200 percent. I think it should be outlawed. Period.

Someone, please, when he stops foaming at the mouth and the twitching subsides, tell Jake these things. Shake him, slap him a few times (give him a couple for me), and tell him where we really stand.

And for Heaven's sake, get him some help.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Obamidas Touch

Ann Coulter, on Obama's bad hair day on Tuesday:
Just two days before the election, Obama was at a rally in New Jersey assuring voters that Corzine was "one of the best partners I have in the White House. We work together. ... Jon Corzine helped get this done."

Except the problem is that voting for Obama a year ago was a fashion statement, much like it was once a fad to buy Beanie Babies, pet rocks and Cabbage Patch Kids. But instead of ending up with a ridiculous dust-collector at the bottom of your closet, the Obama fad leaves you with higher taxes, a reduced retirement fund, no job and a one-year wait for an MRI.
Read the rest here.

Associated Press article on Gov. Grinch's change of heart on state Christmas tree

Here is Joe Biesk's story from the AP on Gov. Beshear's foxhole conversion on the state Christmas Tree. It is truly a wonder just how out of touch the Beshear administration is with what Kentuckians believe. In what political parallel universe is it a good idea to change the name of the state Christmas tree to the state "Holiday tree" in a state as conservative as Kentucky?

But not only are their ideas bad in their inception, these people are also just slow on the uptake.

Last week, the Governor and his advisors unapologetically defended the idea of his "Holiday Tree." It took them an entire week to realize what a truly astounding political blunder they had made.

It started when the Associated Press story about the decision got wide play all over the state, as well as around the country. Then a Facebook group formed that, as of this writing, has over 15,000 members.
“For Gov. Beshear, it is a Christmas tree. Period. The end,” [Kerri] Richardson said. “That first request from the Finance Cabinet didn't reflect that, but the governor speaks for himself. He's calling it a Christmas tree. That's what it is.”
No, Kerri, it's not the end. In fact, it may be just the beginning. Despite the Governor's new attitude, the Facebook group is still growing. In one utterly ridiculous decision, the Governor created a whole new body of opposition. Amazing.

These are 15,000 people that could be tapped the next time the Governor makes a bad decision--like running for reelection.

And then there's our favorite "ethicist": Paul Simmons. Simmons was the ethics professor at Southern Seminary in the days before Al Mohler cleaned the seminary's Aegean stables. They used to trot him out every time the issue of abortion flared up so he could explain the ethical justification for killing unborn babies. Now, Simmons, who works for James Ramsey over at U of L, is being trotted out to explain why Christmas trees should be called something else.

Here is Simmons from an earlier story:
Using the term “holiday tree” typically is intended to avoid offending people who are not Christian, said Paul Simmons, an ethics professor at the University of Louisville.
Maybe Simmons could tell us precisely who was offended by the state Christmas tree. Then we could compare it to the 15,000 members of the Facebook group.
And he said “holiday tree” is the more fitting description, considering that the tradition started among pagans and was later blended into the Christian celebration of Christmas.
Hmmm. So why is this a reason to call it a "Holiday tree"? Is there a buildup of pagans in Frankfort? It would explain a few things.