Thursday, December 30, 2010

My comments on FOX-41 on Instant Racing

My comments last night on the Franklin Circuit Court's decision to approve Instant Racing:

My comments are also included at WAVE3, and WHAS-11

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Is the Opposition to Climate Change Ecological or Technological?

by Thomas Cothran

Let's set aside the empirical question concerning climate change (i.e., is human activity causing dangerous weather patterns) for a moment and ask about what sort of politics under-girds the climate change movement.

I propose that the concealed political agenda behind much of climate change advocacy is, at bottom, anti-environmental. The reason behind the regulations issued in response to climate change warnings is precisely the desire to avoid real change; environmental regulations seek to preserve technological society. If we could find a new source of energy in nature, a cleaner fuel, and so on, we could maintain our environmental ideology--that nature exists primarily to be exploited by a form of industrial capitalism set free from the natural limits of human needs.

Climate change advocacy warns of an apocalypse that will end life as we know it, precisely because it seeks to protect life as we live it. As the global economy increasingly becomes driven not by the satisfactions of basic human desires but by profits abstracted from fundamental human needs, the natural limitations on industrial activity are increasingly abandoned; for profit, unlike human needs, has no upper limit.

The fundamentally violent relation of human beings to nature that regards nature primarily as a resource to be appropriated rather than as a creation that is good in itself, a thing to be safeguarded rather than assaulted, is not called into question by the climate change movement but rather sublated, concealed, made more sustainable.

Climate change advocacy therefore does not seek to end the assault on the earth, but to extend it, to make it more complete, to make it more cunning.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More evidence that public schools are hopeless

This story is being filed in the "Why education reform never works" file.

According to the News & Observer, North Carolina school districts are "using their Race to the Top funds to advance structural reform by… purchasing iPads." Durham, N.C., says the report, is spending $3.5 million in Race to the Top funds to “put Apple iPads in the hands of students and teachers at two low-performing schools.” “Our kids are telling us, ‘This is how we learn. This is what we want,’” says Durham Public Schools Superintendent Eric Becoats.

Yeah. I bet. They probably want lunch time extended to three hours, but don't tell Superintendent Becoats. Says Frederick Hess at Education Next:

Ah-ha, yes, this is the change we’ve been waiting for. Look, I own an iPad. I like the iPad. But I’ll tell you, when I’ve been to schools that feature one-to-one computing, personal computers, and iPads, they seem to get mostly used in one of two ways. Neither impresses me. The first involves students working on graphics, clip art, powerpoints, or adding sound and visual effects to video shorts. The second is students Googling their way to Wikipedia for material to cut-and-paste into powerpoints or word files.

This was all brought home to me again, just the other week, when I had a chance to spend a couple days visiting acclaimed “technology-infused” high schools. Yet, most of what I saw the technology being used for was either content-lite or amounted to students using Google-cum-Wikipedia as a latter day World Book Encyclopedia. Making powerpoints and video shorts is nice, but it’s only us “digital tourists” who think it reflects impressive learning.

I'm sure I will be attacked once again as an enemy of public education, but with friends like those in the Durham, North Carolina school district, public schools don't need enemies like me.

University of Kentucky: Higher ed's poster child for religious discrimination

When the Ben Stein's movie "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" came out several years ago, Darwinists, critical of the movie's portrayal of several cases in which believers in Intelligent Design were discriminated against by the Darwinist establishment, denied that scientists who differed from the prevailing consensus were discriminated against in academia.

All of a sudden comes the case of Martin Gaskell, who was the top candidate for the position of observatory director at the University of Kentucky until a few professors, mostly in the biology department (New motto: "No Christians need apply"), got it in their heads that he was a creationist--or Intelligent Design advocate, they don't appear to know the difference-- at which point his candidacy was effectively over.

The main argument used by the Darwinists against "Expelled," was that the cases didn't actually constitute discrimination based on Darwinistic dogmatism. In the Gaskell case, their main argument is that they should be discriminated against because of his religion because his religion forces him into something less than Darwinist purism.

The irony of the case is that Gaskell is not a creationist. He has said he thinks creationism is bad science and that he has no problems with the standard theory of evolution. The worst thing he said about the theory of the theory of evolution is that it had some flaws.

But dogmatists brook no dissent, nor do they tolerate anything but complete acquiescence.

Had Gaskell been some sort of secularist, he might have gotten by with the remark and gotten the job. But Sally Shafer, who apparently acts as UK science's heresy hunter, determined, according to an e-mail now made public, that Gaskell was a "potential evangelical."

The University is claiming, in the face of the facts, that it didn't do anything wrong. And, of course, they're getting support from those we could have predicted would stick their heads in the sand, primary among which is P. Z. Meyers:
Of course, Gaskell has a predisposition: he's a devout Christian, so that persecution complex is rooted deeply. He claims he was denied the job because he's an evangelical Christian. I say he's just inventing rationalizations…something else his religion has made him very good at. And the newspapers are helping him out.
Never mind those damning e-mails and the entire discussion attested to by witnesses that it was his religion that did him in. And never mind the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that some of these same people would club you over the head with if the institution had discriminated against a minority.

In fact, one of the arguments used to defend UK's actions in the Gaskell affair is to say that he would have public outreach responsibilities and that his religious views would embarrass the University. Okay, let's just simply apply this to a similar discrimination case against, say, an African American, another group protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Let's say that the University of Kentucky was looking for an agriculture extension officer for a certain part of the state. The job obviously involves public outreach. And let's say that this part of the state had few if any black population and a history of racist sentiment. And let's say an African American man applied for the job and was clearly the most qualified applicant on paper.

And let's also say that at the University there were faculty and staff in the agriculture department who indicated in their e-mails that they didn't think highly of blacks and that there was a concerted effort to torpedo his candidacy for the job, and that one of the reasons they gave for saying he was not qualified--in spite of his expertise and experience--was that they felt that his race would impair his ability to do outreach in this part of the state.

What then? Well, I think we know what would happen then: there would be an outcry the likes of which we have seldom heard.

The case has now gone viral. The New York Times covered it on Saturday, and the Washington Post on Friday.

Now the University that talks a good game about Tolerance and Diversity in its press releases is about to become higher education's poster child for religious discrimination.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mild winter in Britain? What mild winter in Britain?

Just in case you were wondering about predictions of exactly how Near the End Is, you might want to check out the situation at The Met Office in England, a frequently cited authority on Global Warming. Turns out the Met Office predicted a mild winter in England this year.


As anyone listening to the news knows, England is now experiencing what appears to be the coldest December on record, "the worst December weather the UK has seen for almost 30 years."

But the even more interesting thing is that the Met Office is now denying that it made this prediction:
The Met Office has not issued a seasonal forecast to the public and categorically denies forecasting a ‘mild winter’ as suggested by Boris Johnson in his column in the Daily Telegraph.
But the blog Autonomous Mind points out that the Met Office, along with experiencing a warm weather deficiency, is also experiencing a memory deficiency. Here, says Autonomous Mind, is what the Met Office was saying in October:

The latest data comes in the form of a December to February temperature map on the Met Office’s website.

The eastern half of England, Cornwall, Scotland and Northern Ireland is in for temperatures above the 3.7C (38.6F) average, more than 2C warmer than last winter.

The map also shows a 40 per cent to 60 per cent probability that western England and Wales will be warmer than 3.7C (38.6F), with a much smaller chance of average or below-average temperatures.

But it doesn't apparently matter, says the Met Office:
Following public research, the Met Office no longer issues long-range forecasts for the general public...
Say whut? The organization that is predicting long term Global Warming is no longer predicting long term Global Warming?

What they mean, of course, is that they are not making forecasts about the weather months in advance, which, in relation to their Global Warming climate predictions, are short term forecasts. But here's the problem, if they can't get short term weather forecasts right, then how can they be trusted with long term climate forecasts?

We have already pointed out on this blog how all weather events are now considered to confirm the Global Warming hypothesis. In a previous post, one representative of the Chicken Little contingent went great lengths and a lot of effort to argue that my citations of articles showing that both short term cold weather events AND short term warm weather events are both taken as confirming the Global Warming theory were somehow misrepresenting the articles.

But all of the bluster from this particular individual doesn't change the fact that this is exactly what the articles suggested: that warm weather in Europe and lack of snow is somehow and indication of Global Warming and that record short term cold and increased snowfall are also confirmation of it. Both are to be taken as consisted with the Hypothesis.

So our first Global Warming Observation here at Vital Remnants is this:

I. All short term weather events are taken to confirm the Global Warming Hypothesis. No short term weather evidence can be considered to disconfirm long term predictions of Global Warming. This makes it very difficult to consider the theory scientific, since one of the criteria used by the Scientizers is that science must be falsifiable. It is scientific only to the extent that it has long-term falsifiability. So in the short term, anyone who points to colder weather and snowfall anomalies as reason to doubt the Hypothesis, can conveniently be dismissed as a crank while anyone who uses warm weather and the exact same snowfall anomalies as evidence for the Hypothesis is celebrated--or, if properly situated academically, given more grant money. It also makes it quite convenient for adherents of the Hypothesis, since no one is allowed to say that they are blowing smoke for another 40 years.

But now we have our second Global Warming Observation:

II. Long term Global Warming predictions must be considered reliable in spite of the inability to get short term predictions right. In other words, despite blowing it on short term weather predictions, which would seem to be more simple and straightforward than long-term climate predictions, we are still supposed to believe that the long-term climate predictions are correct and to spend lots of taxpayer money on that assumption. In other words, in those cases in which their predictive capability can actually be tested now, their ability to predict can look very poor, but in those cases in which their predictive capabilities cannot be tested, we are supposed to trust them.

So when you hear in the media say that snow is "now just at thing of the past," and "snow is starting to disappear from our lives" in 2000, for example, and then your country experiences disruptive snow in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010, you tend to begin to doubt whether these people really can be trusted to tell you what it is going to be like in 40 years.

So there they are. And I will have to warn all those who will now descend on me telling me how ignorant I am about Global Warming that I will have to insist that my assertions must be dealt with according to the same rules they demand apply to their assertions: they cannot be disconfirmed by short term evidence, and their inaccuracy in areas in which they are testable cannot be taken as an indication of unreliability in areas in which they are not testable.

Friday, December 17, 2010

More evidence for Global Warming

This just in from England's The Daily Mail:
The Big Freeze will hold us in its grip for at least another month, forecasters warn.

Arctic conditions are expected to last through the Christmas and New Year bank holidays and beyond.

With temperatures expected to fall to -15c (5f), the Met Office said this is ‘almost certain’ to become the coldest December since records began in 1910.

Yesterday’s snowfall was largely in the South and West, and in Wales while the South was braced last night for another 10in of snow accompanied by treacherous ice.
Now we go back to Global War ..., er, I mean Climate Change alarmists to explain why this is evidence for Global Warming...

HT: Anthony Watts

Europe to Ireland: Prevening the killing of babies violates human rights

Time magazine reports that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that a woman's rights were violated because of the Ireland's anti-abortion laws. The woman had had cancer and then became pregnant. She feared that the pregnancy would bring her cancer back, but when she couldn't find any doctors to tell her she was right, she sued in the European Court.

I mean, what do doctors know about things like health, anyway?

The European Union's legal authorities don't like the fact that Ireland's abortion laws protect unborn children "except in cases of cervical cancer, pre-eclampsia and ectopic pregnancy"--in other words, in cases in which the mother's life really is in danger and not, as in the U. S., where the procedure basically serves as birth control.

Laws against killing babies violate human rights? Maybe these people didn't learn anything after all from the last big war about the value of human life.

There are silly evangelical interpretations of the Bible that point to the European Union as the Beast of Revelation. I may have to reassess them now.

Where was the KY Human Rights Commission on the Gaskell Affair?

The Associated Press is on the story of the Scientific Inquisition at the University of Kentucky:
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — University of Kentucky scientists wondered to each other in internal e-mails if an astronomer's Christian faith would interfere with a prestigious job as the director of a new student observatory, according to court records in the man's discrimination case set for trial in February.

Even though Martin Gaskell says he is not a creationist, he claims he was passed over for the job at UK's MacAdam Student Observatory three years ago because of his religion and statements that were perceived to be critical of the theory of evolution.
While we're all marveling at the intolerance of a university that preaches Tolerance and Diversity but practices Intolerance and enforces Uniformity, let us take a moment ask where Kentucky Human Rights Commission was during all this.

According to the deposition of Gaskell, it was revealed that, on the advice of his attorneys, he had filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, but never heard anything back. Why does the Human Rights Commission have plenty of time to use its statutory status to lobby for left wing social causes but has no time to bother with religious discrimination complaints from people like Gaskell?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The next thing to go, care of same-sex "marriage" advocates: Incest laws

The cultural barbarians are at the gates, pressing their irresistible logic. Now that we are subjecting things like same-sex "marriage" to the "rational basis" test in courts, why not also apply it to incest? Here is Eugene Volokh, already asking the questions that, if we follow the logic of those who are pushing for the legalization of same-sex marriage, will bring incest laws down as well:

Given the recent news story about father-adult daughter incest, I thought I’d ask a few questions about adult-adult incest (speaking specifically of parent-child, grandparent-grandchild, or brother-sister, and setting aside cousins and the like):

(1) Should it be illegal, and, if so, exactly why? Is it just because it’s immoral? Because legalizing incest would, by making a future sexual relationship more speakable and legitimate, potentially affect the family relationship even while the child is underage (the view to which I tentatively incline)? Because it involves a heightened risk of birth defects (a view I’m skeptical about, given that we don’t criminalize sex by carriers of genes that make serious hereditary disease much more likely than incest does)?

(2) Given Lawrence v. Texas — and similar pre–Lawrence decisions in several states, applying their state constitutions — what exactly is the basis for outlawing incest? Is it that bans on gay sex are irrational but bans on adult incest are rational, and rationality is all that’s required for regulations of adult sex? Is it that bans on gay sex don’t pass strict scrutiny (or some such demanding test) but bans on adult incest do? Is it that Lawrence rested on the fact that bans on gay sex largely foreclose all personally meaningful sexual relationships for those who are purely homosexual in orientation, whereas incest bans only foreclose a few possible sexual partners?
Read the rest here, if you have the stomach. And if your stomach is strong, read the comments.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More on UK's Gaskell Affair: What a tangled web they're weaving

Well, the defenders of Scientific Correctness have themselves into another fine logical mess.

They are claiming once again that Intelligent Design is a religious, rather than a scientific position. So far the claim has served them well. It allows them to simply dismiss it without actually doing any intellectual heavy lifting. They can simply raise their noses high, sniff audibly, and utter, in a dismissing tone, vague things about the integrity of science.

But the Gaskell affair at the University of Kentucky has got them all tied up in logical knots. Gaskell was the best qualified of seven candidates for the post of observatory director at UK until one member of the search committee got wind that he was a Christian, at which point some members of the committee--and apparently some faculty in the biology department--began a campaign to smear his reputation in order to deny him employment. They ended up hiring the third best candidate for the position rather than have a Christian on staff in one of their science departments.

It started when Sally Shafer, a UK staffer apparently in charge of keeping the university religion-free, Googled information on Gaskell and discovered he had given a lecture at UK in 1997 on science and religion, in which he went over the long list of Christian scientists in history and said that he adhered to the majority position in science that the universe--and the earth--were very old. He went on to say that, although he accepted natural selection, there were some unanswered questions about it.

Shafer, apparently appalled that Gaskell would discuss religion and science in the same lecture, and clearly disturbed that he had used the two words anywhere in the same vicinity, swung into action and reported Gaskell to the search committee as (brace yourself, this is strong language) a "potential evangelical."

Several other appalled committee members began calling him a "creationist" and "Intelligent Design" advocate, although the first is certainly untrue, and the second is not entirely clear from the record. In any case, the consequence was that he was passed over, even though, according to court documents, he was clearly the most qualified candidate. Gaskell then sued the university for religious discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

But what is interesting is the reasons now being given to justify his treatment at the hands of UK's Scientific Inquisition.

According to the critics of Intelligent Design, ID is a religious position, not a scientific one. But if it is a religious position, then those who hold it cannot be discriminated against on the basis that they hold it under the Civil Rights Act. If ID is a religious position, then its advocates should not be allowed in university science departments. But if it is a religious position, then it is discrimination not to hire them on that basis.

Oooh. Not a good dilemma to be in. But the critics--on this blog anyway--just go on blindly ignoring the inconsistency.

Again, it is not clear that Gaskell holds to an Intelligent Design position. We're just granting it for the sake of argument here.

If Intelligent Design is a religious position, then Gaskell cannot be denied employment on the basis of holding believing it. And if it is scientific, then he should not be denied employment for holding it.

Go ahead Maniacs, tell me how you get out of this one.

Monday, December 13, 2010

How to avoid Incorrect Thoughts about the Civil War

Well, we are always looking for opportunities to congratulate ourselves on our Moral Superiority. Now that we all worship at the double altar of Tolerance and Diversity, we must mark every opportunity to trumpet all the ways in which we are Tolerant. And all the ways in which we are Diverse.

In doing this, we must make very sure that we clean up our history to show that we have always been this way. This involves, of course, forgetting ways in which we have not really been. And this also involves telling ourselves over and over again how good we are and how good we have always been.

Now that we are approaching the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we must remember to be very Correct in all of our recollections of what happened in that unfortunate eve ..., or, rather, that Great And Glorious Crusade. We must always remember that all northerners were morally pure and that all southerners were bad, bad people.

Already we are seeing this process in action, and we must congratulate the Associated Press for passing along the comments of Bob Sutton, chief historian for the National Park Service, who reminds us that "Slavery was the principal cause of the Civil War, period." The story appears in yesterday's Lexington Herald-Leader, where we are reminded, in no uncertain terms, that the Civil War was about slavery.

The idea is to make sure we understand that the North was categorically against slavery and that the South was categorically for it, and that this was the only important reason for the War.

To say that the cause of the Civil War was anything else is a very serious Thought Crime.

This is very important, and we should all begin a regimen leading up to the anniversary in which we repeat to ourselves every day: "The North was good, the South was bad." Just do it over and over again, and you will soon purge all doubts from your mind.

We realize that, in every other circumstance, we are reminded by the Cultural Authorities not to look at things in a "black and white" way and that history is "more complex" than we think. But it is important to remember that this rule does not apply when it comes to the Civil War and the issue of slavery.

Now, of course, in doing so, there are certain things that we must banish from our minds: things that must be put down the Memory Hole. They are thoughts based on so-called "historical facts" that, unfortunately, authorities at the Ministry of Truth (with offices at your nearest college campus) have neglected to eliminate from the historical record.

We will be listing these unfortunate historical anomalies in the coming months, so that we can, through the helpful process of Doublethink, eliminate them from our conscious mind.

Let us start with the first of these things. This is a very unfortunate historical anomaly, and it involves Abraham Lincoln. Now fortunately most popular historical accounts portray Lincoln in the proper Historically Correct way as a Crusader Against Slavery and as the man who wanted the War so he could Eliminate Slavery. But if you look hard enough, you can still find some of these "historical facts" that do not comport with this view. Until they are fully eliminated by the Diversity officials in our academic institutions, we must make sure we look the other way whenever we encounter them.

Here is Lincoln, in his inaugural address, given on March 4, 1861, 41 days prior to the beginning of the Civil War:
Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States, that by the accession of a Republican Administration, their property, and their peace, and personal security, are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed, and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that:

"I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."

Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this, and many similar declarations, and had never recanted them. And more than this, they placed in the platform, for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves, and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:

"Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes."

I now reiterate these sentiments; and in doing so, I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible, that the property, peace and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration. I add too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given, will be cheerfully given to all the States when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause -- as cheerfully to one section as to another.
Now I think you will agree that this is quite disturbing. It does not at all go along with Lincoln as the Crusader to Free the Slaves that we have all learned from the Cultural Authorities. So, until we have eliminated all references to this document our documentary histories, we must simply look the other way when we see such things.

If we encounter them, we must simply repeat our mantra: "The North was good, The South was bad." Repeat it however many times you must until the Incorrect Thought goes away.

There are other things in the First Inaugural Address that might undermine our feelings of Moral Superiority over those who try to point to such things, but we must deal with these one at a time so as not to cause needless doubts in our own minds about the Historically Correct opinions that we are obliged to hold as Enlightened Liberals.

We will be giving updates and news flashes, as the anniversary approaches, of other unacceptable facts and some further steps we can take to protect our Moral Superiority.

Stay tuned.

No "Holiday Tree" this year

No more nasty little PR disasters like last year's attempt by the Beshear administration to rename the state's Christmas Tree a "Holiday Tree." Nope. This year, the administration is even displaying blatantly Christian nativity scenes.

Guess they learned a lesson.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The University of Kentucky's "Gaskell Affair": Further adventures in intellectual "Diversity" at UK

Expect anytime now to see the following lines chiseled in stone on the wall outside the University of Kentucky's Ministry of Truth building:

Uniformity is Diversity
Favoritism is Equality
Bigotry is Tolerance

If you are a left-wing ideologue applying for a faculty position at the University of Kentucky, you have a comfortable and welcoming place awaiting you in the "Gender and Women's Studies" department. But if you have what the University of Kentucky thinks look suspiciously like, ... ahem, a religion, you might just be refused a job.

At the university that preaches "Diversity" at every available opportunity, a leading candidate was turned down for the position of Observatory Director at UK when, after seeing a discussion on a personal website, UK officials determined he was "potentially evangelical." The University was sued for religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

UK denies it discriminated based on religion, but the judge points out that the "record contains substantial evidence," said the judge, "that Gaskell was a leading candidate for the position until the issue of his religion (as Gaskell calls it) or his scientific position (as UK calls it) became an issue." And it is pretty clear, from the evidence, which of the two--religion or his scientific position--it is.

A paper he wrote religion and scientific issues and a similar talk he gave at UK started a discussion among search committee members about how his religious beliefs might affect his scientific views. Even though Gaskell nowhere indicates he is a creationist (and in fact gives indications that he at least believes the commonly accepted scientific evidence about the age of the earth), several committee members and other staff decided, on the mere basis of talking about science in the context of religion, decided he was.

Sally Shafer, one of the committee members sent colleagues a set of websites and links having to do with Gaskell, concluding, "clearly this man is complex and likely fascinating to talk with--but potentially evangelical." Several others admitted that it was factor or a "theme" in the decision, which is prohibited in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In fact, even the search committee chair was exercised over this. Here is the text of an e-mail sent by Professor Thomas Troland, to Professor Michael Cavagnero, the chair of UK's department of physics and astronomy, before the decision was made:
It has become clear to me that there is virtually no way Gaskell will be offered the job despite his qualifications which stand far above those of any other applicant. Other reasons will be given for this choice when we meet Tuesday. In the end, however, the real reason why we will not offer him the job is because of his religious beliefs in matters that are unrelated to astronomy or to any of the duties specified for this position ... If Martin were not so superbly qualified, so breathtakingly above the other applicants in background and experience, then our decision would be much simper. We could easily choose another applicant, and we could content ourselves with the idea that Martin's religious beliefs played little role in our decision. However, this is not the case. As it is, no objective observer could possibly believe that we excluded Martin on any other basis than religious.
The judge mentions that Troland "subsequently retracted these comments to some extent," although he doesn't explain in detail. But he does say that these comments "remain direct evidence if religious discrimination." And, anyway, the remaining evidence would probabloy be sufficient to prove it in court.

That's how "Diversity" works at the University of Kentucky. If has Gaskell had only had posts on his website about "Queer Theory" or "Black male-bodied drag queens" (a particular favorite down the road at the University of Louisville), he could have passed the Diversity test at UK.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The TSA playmate of the month

Donna D’Errico (and tell me that isn't a fake name), a former Playboy "playmate" and Baywatch guest star, is complaining that she was singled our for a full airport body scan, which she apparently thought was humiliating .

Let's see if we've got this straight: she exposes herself to the thousands of Playboy readers (surely there are no more than that anymore) in a full photographic spread, but she's bothered by a couple of TSA employees leering at her?

Maybe she would have felt better if the image quality of the scanners was more top quality.

It's a crazy world.

Could this be the end of the Great Corn Conspiracy

The Great Corn Conspiracy may just be foiled after all. Ethanol subsidies, a huge federal boondoggle and nothing more than corporate welfare, are now getting some heavy duty opposition in the form of The New York Times and the Washington Post.

These subsidies not only promote an inefficient source of energy, they also put increased demand on corn, driving up food prices.

Kill the Ethanol Monster!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

WSJ on pork barrel Hal

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article yesterday on the drunken sailor the House Republicans just put in charge of the nation's fiscal sobriety. It seems that the appointment of "Pork Barrel Hal," who the House Republicans just put in charge of the House Appropriations Committee, isn't exactly, well, popular with the Tea Party crowd, who thought they put Republicans in power to, you know, change things.

Rogers is the Kentucky congressman who had the Daniel Boone Parkway renamed after ... himself. Why? Because of the service he has rendered his community by funneling taxpayer money into his district. Yeah, Daniel Boone discovered the place, but it was Rogers who paved it.

Mark Meckler, national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, added, "You couldn't possibly choose to send a worse message to the people who just drove this election."

Over the past three years, Mr. Rogers has obtained 135 earmarks worth $246.4 million, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense. He was the fourth-biggest earmarker among lawmakers last year.

... Mr. Rogers, in an interview with Ed Lane, publisher of a Kentucky business newsletter, responded to his critics in 2006. "Pork is the bad word for making good things happen," he said.
If there has ever been fiscal restraint in Mr. Roger's neighborhood, no one has ever noticed it before. Mr. Rogers has been saying "would you be mine" to countless federal programs and getting his way for years now, and now claims, in the wake of the election, that he is a Tea Party convert.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Why will Hal Roger's appoint as House Appropriations chair be "good for Kentucky"?

The fox the House Republicans have put in charge of the nation's financial hen house received plaudits today from fellow Kentucky congressman Ben Chandler. Chandler said that the appointment of 5th district congressman Hal Rogers by House Republican leaders to head the House Committee that doles out federal money, would be "good for Kentucky."

Now why, do you suspect, might Roger's appointment be "good for Kentucky"? It will only be "good for Kentucky" if Rogers really hasn't sworn off federal earmarks like he says he has.

If Rogers, the quintessential pork barrel politician, really is a convert to the anti-earmarks cause, then he WON'T be good for Kentucky because he WON'T be bringing home the bacon like he has for virtually his whole career.

The only way he will be "good for Kentucky" is if he's the same Hal Rogers he has always been which he's now not supposed to be.

If I'm a chicken in this hen house. I am not sleeping tonight.

Why did BBC take down "Coldest December day on record" headline

Now you see it, now you don't.

It's still available on a screen capture, but the BBC's story on the "Coldest December day on record" suddenly got turned into "Record cold continues." Strange how that works.

If we said the former, of course, it would not adequately communicate the Global Warming idea that The End Is Near. The knowledge that The Sky Is Falling might not be entirely clear.

Personally, I am comforted to know that there are attentive monitors on hand to make sure that we do not deviate from the party line on these things.

HT: Anthony Watts

Any reason for repealing DADT apparently will do

We want to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" because ... we will lose Arabic translators.

I'm wondering what the Arab countries, who are notoriously intolerant of homosexuality, think of this reason for pushing gays in the military.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

NEWS FLASH: Republicans didn't really mean it on fiscal restraint

The incoming Republican congressional majority leadership had its first big test of whether it really meant what it said about changing the big spending culture in Washington. It failed. Big time.

After telling Americans that it had marked earmarks for elimination, House leadership just put the poster boy for federal earmarks at the helm of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, the body that doles out federal cash. Hal Rogers (R-KY), who has funneled millions in taxpayer money back to his eastern Kentucky district has been selected as committee chairman by the House Republican Steering Committee.

When it comes to drunken sailors, Rogers ranks an admiral:
This fiscal year, Rogers sponsored or co-sponsored 50 earmarks totaling $93.4 million, ranking 10th out of the 435 representatives, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan research group that tracks money in politics.
There are all those newly elected Tea Party candidates? They should be screaming bloody murder about this.

Can the revolution be over this soon?

Other posts on this issue:

Take that, Sean Hannity: What conservatism really is

Time magazine's 1953 review of Russell Kirk's classic work, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot. This book should be required reading for those who would mistake some of what passes for conservatism today:
Russell Kirk* has news for most Americans: "Conservatism is something deeper than mere defense of shares and dividends, something nobler than mere dread of what is new." The American asks: "Is it? And if so, what?" The question has a special interest to a nation which is the reputed champion of a position that has almost dropped out of its own conversation.

Neither Kirk nor any other expounder of conservatism can blueprint the conservative mind or doctrine. Blueprints belong to the radicals, the Utopians, the innovators who drew the plans for new societies in the solitudes of their own minds. The history of conservative thought is found unpackaged, warm with the lives of men, glimpsed by the poets and novelists, hammered out by practical politicians who turned from immediate experience to distill the principles of experience.
Read the rest here.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Prichard Committee challenges the CJ on the facts about Louisville schools

The Prichard Committee is calling the Louisville Courier-Journal on the carpet for factual inaccuracies in its editorial last week attacking the Jefferson County School Board for firing Superintendent Sheldon Berman. Prichard apparently thinks the CJ has some obligation to truth in its editorials.

We're not sure where Prichard got that idea.

The CJ, which on education issues plays Charlie McCarthy to the Jefferson County Teachers Association's Edgar Bergen, had stated that "percentages of students testing proficient in basic academic skills have risen steadily." Not so, says Susan Weston at Prichard:
I respectfully submit that since 2007, proficiency levels in Jefferson County Public Schools have risen steadily only in high school writing. In every other tested subject at every level, proficiency declined in one or more of the last three years.
And that's not all:
I turn to another claim in the same editorial, this time the one that says "students rated novice have dropped sharply."

For that statement as well, I respectfully submit that the editorial has not accurately described the facts.

Far from dropping sharply, the percent of Jefferson students scoring at the novice level increased from 2007 to 2010 at every level in reading, mathematics, science, and social studies and at the elementary level in writing. The only novice results that have a net three-year decline are middle and high school writing, and while the 14.5 percent decline for high schools is a large one, the 0.24 percent shift for middle schools is not a drop to which the modifier "sharp" can reasonably be applied.

This is interesting (and a little ironic), since, in the old days, it was the Prichard Committee who played the role of Tokyo Rose in the war on ignorance in Kentucky. When I was the one battling Prichard on education issues, they were the ones misleading the public on education issues, trying to conceal problems in the implementation of the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) and actively trying to suppress the public release of important information showing problems with the state tests.

Could it be that they have now come over fully from the Dark Side?

Is philosophy really dead? Ed Feser responds to Stephen Hawking

I have always wondered what it be like if some fisherman, gloating over his catch, were to be standing next to the giant great white shark he had just landed, and, while cameras were flashing, the thing just turned and swallowed him in one bite and then flopped back into the water. This is sort of what has happened to Stephen Hawking and and Leonard Mlodinow, whose book The Grand Design, declares that philosophy has become a casualty of modern physics, and that, because of this, we know God did not create the world (much less exist).

But reviewers on both sides of the philosophy/science divide have found much wanting in The Grand Design, perhaps because, as the reviewer for the Economist put it, after summarily declaring philosophy dead, they then go on to acknowledge its significant contribution to the discussion of laws of nature, and then make an attempt to engage in it for a good part of the book. "It soon becomes evident," says the reviewer, "that Professor Hawking and Mr. Mlodinow regard a philosophical problem as something you knock off over a quick cup of tea after you have run out of Sudoku puzzles."

The scientists who have reviewed the book seem to largely think that what Hawking and Mlodinow have to say about physics is not particularly new, and anyway is not as widely accepted as they seem to suggest. The philosophers likewise have not been impressed, pointing out that, despite their dismissal of philosophy, the two scientists don't seem to even understand what they are condemning, and demonstrate their ignorance of what they purport to have rendered irrelevant by their own sloppy and confused attempts to treat philosophical issues.

And by the way, why is it that when someone makes bold public statements about science, they are asked for their credentials, but any random person off the street is allowed to make philosophical proclamations unmolested?

In fact, a cursory review of the reviews of the book reveals an interesting thing: the less qualified the reviewer is in either field (physics or philosophy), the more positive his review. I wonder what that suggests.

The philosopher Edward Feser points out that Stephen Hawking's assertion--in his new book, The Grand Design--that "philosophy is dead" is not true simply by virtue of Hawking trying to kill it by doing it badly:
The English philosopher C. D. Broad once noted that “the nonsense written by philosophers on scientific matters is exceeded only by the nonsense written by scientists on philosophy.” You might think there could be no better illustration of Broad’s dictum than Richard Dawkins’s unhappy forays into the philosophy of religion. If so, you should take a look at the latest volume from Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow.

To be sure, the bulk of The Grand Design is devoted to a fairly lucid exposition of the central theories of modern physics. Had Hawking and Mlodinow stuck to science, there would have been little to object to. (Though also little reason to take notice. Did we really need yet another popular account of relativity, quantum mechanics, and string theory?) But they have grander ambitions: a new philosophy of science, in the service of a new theory of the origins of the universe, one that will forever put paid to the claims of natural theology. “Philosophy is dead,” Hawking and Mlodinow assure us, for science can now do what philosophers have tried to do, only better. Unfortunately, their attempt at one-upmanship proves only that Cicero’s famous quip about philosophers may have been misdirected; for The Grand Design demonstrates conclusively that there is nothing so absurd but some scientist has said it

Before nemesis comes hubris, and in the case of Hawking and Mlodinow, that means a basic failure to grasp the philosophical ideas they airily dismiss. Like the village atheist whose knowledge of theology derives from what he saw last Sunday on The Jimmy Swaggart Telecast, our authors assume that when philosophers have argued for God as cause of the world, what they mean is that the universe had a beginning, that God caused that beginning, and that to rebut their position it suffices to ask “What caused God?” But from Aristotle to Aquinas to Leibniz to the present day, most versions of the First Cause argument have not supposed that the universe had a beginning in time, and none of them is open to so simple a refutation. Their claim is rather that even if the universe were infinitely old, it is still the sort of thing that might in principle not have existed at all. That it does exist therefore requires explanation, and this explanation cannot lie in some other thing that might in principle have failed to exist, since that would just raise the same problem again. Accordingly, the explanation can be found only in something that could not have failed to exist even in principle — something that not only does not have a cause, but couldn’t have had one, precisely because (unlike the universe) it couldn’t in theory have failed to exist in the first place. In short, any contingent reality, like the universe, must depend upon a necessary being, and this necessary being is what defenders of the First Cause argument mean by “God” ...
You can read the rest in National Review.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Michael Shermer, Pretend Skeptic: Why scientific reductionism doesn't work

Michael Shermer, the founding publisher of Skeptic Magazine, seems to be skeptical of all things but one: science. Somehow, the power of the skeptical criteria he applies to everything else is strangely extinguished when he encounters his own preferred belief system.

In a recent article published at Big Questions Online, Shermer says:
It would certainly seem so if you are reading these words online, but in fact you are not actually “seeing” the computer screen in front of you. What you see are photons of light bouncing off the screen (and generated by the internal electronics of the screen itself), which pass through the hole in the iris of your eye, through the liquid medium inside your eye, wending their way through the bipolar and ganglion cells to strike the rods and cones at the back of your retina ...
His account of the act of seeing continues for several excruciatingly detailed paragraphs in which we are taken on a tour of the brain that we can easily imagine being narrated by Ben Stein and in which we expect at any minute to be asked to stay outside the rope and not to touch the exhibits.

This process proceeds until, says Shermer, we reach the neuron level, where particular neurons fire in particular circumstances. Shermer points out that several neuroscientists have even "found a single neuron that fires when the subject is shown a photograph of Bill Clinton and no one else!"

Unfortunately, this neuron frequently gives long boring policy speeches and attempts to mess around with other nearby female neurons and can create extremely embarrassing situations, so scientists have decided it's best not to study this one too closely.

But we finally arrive at this little gem:
The models generated by biochemical process in our brains constitute "reality." None of us can ever be completely sure that the world really is at it appears.
Shermer calls this idea "belief-dependent realism," about which he promises to enlighten us in a future book, where, presumably, we will be treated to a series of letters, words, and sentences the perception of which will be routed through a long, involved neuroscientific process that will take us back to the neurons which his book will argue don't have any necessary connection with reality.

So one wonders why we should believe him.

This is the problem will all such accounts of experience that try to reduce conscious experiences to physiological processes: they undercut the very arguments used to support them, since the thoughts that produced the arguments and the thoughts that resulted from reading or hearing them are the very things the arguments have attempted to show aren't really real.

The way we derive a truth, in other words, is the truth itself. But if this is so, then isn't the truth "the way we derive a truth is the truth itself" only its own arbitrary derivation? And if so, how can we believe it's true?

Shermer, in fact, seems to be aware of this:
I claim that the only escape from this epistemological trap is science. Flawed as it may be because it is conducted by scientists who have their own set of beliefs determining their reality, science itself has a set of methods to bypass the cognitive biases that so cripple our grasp of the reality that really does exist out there.
"Is there a way around this epistemological trap?" he asks later. "There is. It's called science."

In other words, we must be skeptical of everything--except scientific skepticism. But why does science get a pass? Science is a cognitive process like any other, and must therefore suffer from the same solopsistic fate. Why are scientific thoughts not "models generated by biochemical processes" that "none of us can ever be completely sure" about just like the ones Shermer finds around him so ready at hand?

Once you believe in scientific reductionism, you can't believe it anymore. If you accept it, you must therefore reject it. Once you accept its presuppositions, you are forced in short order to abandon them. It is Chesterton's "thought that stops all thought," a universal intellectual solvent which, despite its pretensions to rationality, is the most anti-rational of all theories.

Anyone who decides to accept Shermer's argument passes under a sign that reads: "Abandon all truth, ye who enter here." But Shermer himself just averts his gaze whenever he encounters the admonition.

In fact, Shermer can't even get through is own article without having to assume the opposite of what he's just told us:
Even when two models appear to be equally supported by observations, over time we accumulate more precise observations that tell us which model more closely matches reality.
Whoah. Hold on there. Weren't we just told that reality was only a model in our brain? How, then, can we use it to assess the models in our brain?

Chesterton had already refuted Shermer as long ago as 1908:
That is the ultimate evil against which all religious authority was aimed. It only appears at the end of decadent ages like our own: and already Mr. H. G. Wells has raised its ruinous banner; he has written a delicate piece of scepticism called "Doubts of the Instrument." [the early 20th century equivalent of Shermer's The Believing Brain] In this he questions the brain itself, and endeavours to remove all reality from all his own assertions, past, present, and to come. But it was against this remote ruin that all the military systems in religion were originally ranked and ruled. The creeds and the crusades, the hierarchies and the horrible persecutions were not organized, as is ignorantly said, for the suppression of reason ... For we can hear scepticism crashing through the old ring of authorities, and at the same moment we can see reason swaying upon her throne. In so far as religion is gone, reason is going. For they are both of the same primary and authoritative kind. They are both methods of proof which cannot themselves be proved. And in the act of destroying the idea of Divine authority we have largely destroyed the idea of that human authority by which we do a long-division sum. With a long and sustained tug we have attempted to pull the mitre off pontifical man; and his head has come off with it.
Shermer takes note that he himself is more optimistic about the effects of drinking the reductionist Kool-Aid than is Stephen Hawking, who at least has the decency to keel over from the philosophical concoction and admit that scientific reductionism leads to an epistemological dilemma from which there is no escape: all facts are theory-laden, and there are cases where no observation can prove one model necessarily right or another wrong.

So what does Shermer propose as the way out of the trap he has set for himself? He has none. In the final analysis, we find him being slain in the Scientific Spirit:
[E]ven though there is no Archimedean point outside of our brains, I believe there is a real reality, and that we can come close to knowing it through the lens of science — despite the indelible imperfection of our brains, our models, and our theories.
So this is where he ends up: swinging from the chandeliers at the scientistic version of a Holy Ghost Revival, crying, "I believe!" Which, of course, is very unbecoming for a scientist.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

More Darwinist agression on Kentucky theme park

Critics of the Creation Museum are in an uproar over a Noah's Ark theme park to be built in northern Kentucky. Gov. Steve Beshear, interested in tourism dollars from the project, announced a tax break today for the construction of the theme park. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader:
State involvement in the $150 million project brought outrage from groups focused on the separation of church and state, but Beshear said there was nothing "remotely unconstitutional" about the proposal.
I am happy to have been quoted in one of the stories on this issue, but did not mention to the reporter that I have been observing the behavior of the Darwinists and Civil Libertarians," another group with close kinship relations, for some time. I always take careful notes when I make these observations, then carefully look at what I have written under a microscope. Then I subject my words to careful chemical analysis to figure out what I actually said, just to be sure. In the process, I have come to some conclusions about the response of these groups to outsiders.

My studies indicate that the aggressive traits of Darwinists and civil libertarians whenever they encounter anyone who disgrees with them seems to stem from a curious cultural intolerance intrinsic to their genetic makeup. Among their more aggressive members, this even takes the form of attempts at complete elimination of dissent.

This penchant for cultural aggression was demonstrated again by a member of one of the more hostile tribes of civil libertarians, who told interpreters, "The Constitution doesn't prevent you from putting up a water park ... It does prevent you from putting up Noah's water park."

Members of both Darwinists and civil libertarian groupings have made frequent use of the Constitution ever since the document was introduced into their tribal culture. It now serves as a cultural totem in their society, although the form of it they worship is a corrupted form of the original, lacking the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, and missing the Second Amendment altogether, which, in fact, some members use for target practice.

Gay soldier cause of WikiLeak, but nobody's asking and nobody's telling

The man who engineered the leak of classified information that has compromised American diplomacy--not to mention intelligence--was not only gay, but an activist who was calling for a change in military policy on gays.

Omigosh. Did I really just say that?

Did I really say that at the very same time that advocates of changing the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy are arguing that there is no downside to gays in the military that a gay soldier just committed one of the most serious breaches of security in modern times--for reasons directly related to his sexuality?

I can't believe I said that. I must be a homophobic bigot.

As penance, I will now go and beat my head against a wall and repeat Diversity slogans over and over again until I have convinced myself that these stories have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

And by the way, please, if you want to avoid committing any anti-gay rights Thought Crimes, under no circumstances should you read the following articles:
Just don't do it.

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