Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Hapsburg Approach to Education Reform: The EKU education forum

I suppose it's not a big secret that education policy is plagued by ideological inbreeding. If there were any doubts about this, they would be dispelled by a cursory look at the line-up at the Forum on the History of Education in Kentucky, which will be held at Eastern Kentucky University on Sept. 8.

While one can count on hearing the endless slogans about Diversity among the educrats, you won't find it in the line-up of establishment figures included in the program. Here are the "approved panelists" for the 10:00 session:
  • o P. G. Peeples, Lexington Fayette County Urban League
  • o Stu Silberman, Prichard Committee for academic Excellence
  • o Elaine Farris, Clark Co Superintendent
  • o Ruthanne Palumbo, Fayette County legislator
  • o Kevin Noland, KDE/UofL
  • o Richard Angelo, UK Education Policy
  • o Terry Holliday, Kentucky Education Commissioner
  • o Sharron Oxendine, KEA President
  • o Erik Myrup, History, UK/FayetteABC
If this were a breeding program instead of an education conference, we'd end up with a bunch of hemophiliacs on our hands. The state teacher's union is included, but not the professional associations representing school administrators, school superintendents, and school boards? And you will look in vain for any representation from parent organizations.

And don't even bother to look for organizations that have been critical of mainstream education policies in Kentucky. The only panelist on any of the three panels that appears to be from an organization critical of the establishment is Erik Myrup, a professor of history at the University of Kentucky who wrote an opinion piece in the Herald-Leader last July critical of the inordinate emphasis on testing in schools. Other than that, it appears to be pretty slim pickins in the Diversity department.

I know, I know. Who would actually take them seriously when it came to all the Diversity rhetoric. What was I thinking?

And since when do you class professional spinmeisters for large institutions as "media"? Here's the list for the "Media Forum":
  • o Linda Blackford, H-L
  • o Mark Neikirk, NKU
  • o Mark Hebert, WHAS/UofL
  • o Ronnie Ellis, CNHI News
  • o Richard Wilson, C-J/Independent Colleges
Folks, Northern Kentucky University and U of L are not "media" in the sense anyone uses that word in this context. Both Neikirk and Hebert are former reporters and editors. I don't know Neikirk, I'm sure he's a very competent at what he does; I know Hebert is, but if you think they have latitude to let their hair down in a discussion in which their institutions are self-interested, you don't know how the world works.

Where is Mandy Connell, WHAS radio's morning talk show host? She's actually, like, really a media person. Where is Lucy May, the former Lexington Herald-Leader reporter who covered the controversy over the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (KERA) in the late 90's--and who (much to the chagrin of the educational establishment) reported both sides of the issues?

And where in all this mix is Penny Sanders, the former director of the Office for Education Accountability, the legislature's education enforcement arm (which had its wings unceremoniously clipped when it was reckless enough to take an honest look at the state's KIRIS tests in the late 90's)?

This is one of the many things that doom any efforts to reform public education: the unwillingness to include anyone in the discussion who might question the fundamental assumptions of the educational establishment.

Here we go again.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The people who are gay but really aren't

Jake at Page One makes fun today of Indiana State Rep. Phil Hinkle, who was caught with a male gay prostitute but who, despite this, claims he's not gay.

Pretty preposterous. In fact, it's almost as preposterous as the people who have been arguing that the priests involved in the sex abuse scandal who were abusing post-pubescent boys (which was the majority of them) were not gay.

But don't count on hearing that point made on Jake's blog.

College Quotas for Gays

As the price of higher education continues to skyrocket, the priorities of universities continue to move from academics to other things. Elmhurst College has become the first college to ask applicants about their "sexual orientation."

College diversity quotas favor traditionally low academically performing minorities. There has also been discussion of applying Title IX quotas to math and science programs because of the high percentage of males studying these disciplines. Now we could see quotas for gays in higher education.

In other words, it's a bad time to be a straight Asian male wanting to be a scientist or an engineer.

But this idea could potentially have disastrous consequences for gays. In Sweden, a national gender equity plan to eliminate discrimination against women turned ugly when, instead of helping women, it resulted in discrimination against them when females began applying in larger numbers than males. Just think, if colleges and universities impose sexual orientation quotes at their institutions, what would happen to dance and drama programs.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

NY Mayor Bloomburg to exclude clergy from 9/11 event

New York Major Michael Bloomburg is excluding clergy from participation in the 10th anniversary commemoration of 9/11. Wouldn't it make more sense to exclude politicians?

Where is Jack Conway when you need him to interfere in the free market outside of Louisville?

Gas prices in Louisville have been consistently lower, by about 20 cents, than surrounding areas. Where are the investigations! Wake up, Attorney General Jack Conway! I mean, when gas prices were higher in Jefferson County lat year, Jack's office launched an investigation, and filed an injunction against Marathon Oil.  Of course, it was dismissed by a judge because Jack didn't meet the burden of proof he needed to interfere with the free market (just like when his predecessor, Greg Stumbo did the very same thing for the very same reason--political popularity). But now it is 20 cents higher in counties surrounding Jefferson.

Why no investigations when gas prices are 20 cents higher than Jefferson County in other counties? Isn't this unfair to consumers in other counties? Why does Jack only try to interfere with the free market when the price for a commodity is high in Louisville?

Get on the stick, Jack!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Where are all the dead scientific theories?

Why does it sometimes seem like arguing with New Atheists is like shooting fish in a barrell? Here is biologist Jerry Coyne, fresh from getting schooled by philosopher Ed Feser, on what he seems to think is a really cogent argument against Christianity in his article titled, "Where are all the dead gods?":
In a very famous essay, “Graveyard of the gods,” H. L. Mencken made a huge list of deities that are no longer worshiped, including Osiris, Diana, Cronos, Elim, Astarte, Huitzilopochtli, and so on. It’s a very short piece and well worth reading since it’s often cited. Mencken was an atheist, so his point was obvious:
All these were gods of the highest eminence. Many of them are mentioned with fear and trembling in the Old Testament. They ranked, five or six thousand years ago, with Yahweh Himself; the worst of them stood far higher than Thor. Yet they have all gone down the chute. . . ask the rector to lend you any good book on comparative religion; you will find them all listed. They were gods of the highest dignity—gods of  civilized peoples—worshipped and believed in by millions. All were omnipotent, omniscient and immortal.
And all are dead.
This is a problem for theologians, for what if this graveyard is to be the fate of Jesus, Yahweh, and Allah?  And of course, the existence of thousands of different deities in currently active religions is also a problem—that is, if you’re one of those modern and “sophisticated” theologians unwilling to claim that your god and religion are right and everyone else’s is wrong.

Okay, now let's just replace the deities mention by Coyne here with failed scientific theories of the past and see what happens:
In a very famous essay, “Cemetery of the Scientists,” T. Z. Tinkleheimer made a huge list of scientific theories that are no longer believed in, including alchemy, astrology, spontaneous generation, Lamarckism, phrenology, Ptolemaic astronomy, the Luminiferous aether theory, physiognomy, numerology, and so on. It’s a very short piece and well worth reading since it’s often cited. Tinkleheimer was skeptical of science, so his point was obvious:
All these were theories of the highest eminence. Many of them are mentioned with fear and trembling in older scientific treatises. They ranked, many years ago, with Darwinism Itself; the worst of them stood far higher than Newtonian gravity. Yet they have all gone down the chute. . . ask your friendly neighborhood science professor to lend you any good book on the history of science; you will find them all listed. They were theories of the highest dignity—theories of  civilized peoples—taught and believed in by millions. All were held to be definitive, explanatory of the data, and unquestionably legitimate.
And all are dead.
This is a problem for sceintists, for what if this graveyard is to be the fate of evolution, the big bang, and quantum theory?  And of course, the existence of thousands of different scientific beliefs in currently active theories is also a problem—that is, if you’re one of those modern and “sophisticated” scientists unwilling to claim that your scientific hero and his theory are right and everyone else’s is wrong.
See what I mean? The lack of philosophical sophistication of people like Coyne is witnessed not just by the fact that they use stupid arguments like this, but that they don't seem to realize just how stupid they are.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ten Dangerous Books for Boys, or, how to scandalize the Politically Correct reading establishment

It is now well-recognized that boys are not reading. What is the problem? Most commentators want to say that boys have an aversion to books. But the problem is quite the opposite: books have an aversion to boys. The New York Times Sunday Book Review's new edition features an article which attempts to address this problem. Here is the proffered solution:
[B]oys need to be approached individually with books about their fears, choices, possibilities and relationships — the kind of reading that will prick their dormant empathy, involve them with fictional characters and lead them into deeper engagement with their own lives. This is what turns boys into readers. 

Excuse me while I dab my eyes delicately with my hankerchief, touched as I am by this tender thought.

Okay, let's get something straight here: solution's like this are part of the problem. I'm normally against shooting spitwads in class, but I will make an exception in this one case. The entire educational establishment has tried for about 50 years to force boys into their effeminate mold. They've succeeded in evacuating literature of all the things that boys like in books: danger, bloodletting--and an iron moral code that is not preached at them in some smarmy way, but assumed in the moral universe of the book by the heroic characters, who not only believe it, but enforce it with a vengeance.

Boys have had to seek their pleasure in cheesy horror novels because the wimpy Cultural Authorities won't give them the adventure books that were once staples in every boy's life.

Of course, what writers like this really mean by "pricking their dormant empathy" is producing books about contemporary boys just like they perceive their prospective readers to be who are alienated, cynical, and disinterested. Exposing them to boys who are just like them, we are given to believe, will have some kind of therapeutic effect, the exact nature of which is never actually explained.

The thought that they should be exposed to heroic characters who represent an ideal that should be imitated has yet to cross their minds. And then they wonder why boys are interested.

This is supposed to work with girls, who unaccountably read authors like Judy Blume, an author, one writer has remarked, has been popular with many girls because she is "the only adult who didn't lie to them." But if you scratch the surface of such platitudes, what you discover is that being "honest" with children involves telling them lies, such as that we live in a basically amoral universe. Girls buy these books, of course, because girls do what they are told.

Boys, on the other hand, who have their own innate sense of justice, will have no part of this.  They are not interested in  getting in touch with themselves and others. The minute the politically correct schoolmarms approach, they head for the woods, where they are allowed to pick up sticks and pretend they are swords and fight monsters and hunt frogs and swing from trees--anything but be preached to by people whose sermons consist of politically correct twaddle.

The liberals have a routine: They produce books that spout the establishment agenda, but are so bad that they provoke opposition here and there in isolated places, the vast majority of which has no practical effect because most people just don't care. But it allows them to appear as if they are braving real dangers when, in fact, the worst thing that could happen to them is to break their fingernails on their keyboards as they write about how brave they are.

I'm not against letting these people portray themselves as brave, so long as they experience some actual pain, the perpetration of which I am not at all opposed.

Here are some books that predate the Conspiracy Against Boys. They are examples of a genre of books once deemed by Digby Anderson as "blood and morality" books. They're the books boys want but that the Reading Establishment frowns upon--because they don't lie. 

Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Am I embarrassed by the fact that the first book on my list of books for boys is by a woman? You bet I am. So why did I do it? There is a story about the battle of Salamis in which Xerxes proclaims, as he sits on a promontory watching the battle in which the Greek ships, some commanded by women, are defeating his forces, proclaims, "Their women fight like men, and our men fight like women." While many contemporary men write like women, Laura Ingalls Wilder writes like a man. She  was not primarily concerned with changing boys into the docile beings that women think they want in the way of men (but, when they finally see the actual results, are horrified). She portrayed boys as they really are: squirming, fighting, eating, mischievous, frequently lazy, often distracted, sometimes unconsciously cruel, but always lovable--not despite these things, but because of them. Writing of her husband's childhood, Wilder gives you a portrayal of boyhood in the mid-19th century, long before anyone thought that boys ought to be more like girls. The literary critic Mark Van Doren once said that a poet "is a namer, not a describer"--which is just another way of saying that adjectives are for sissies. Wilder (with a masculine penchant for nouns and verbs), produced pure poetry as she writes about her husband's childhood, simply telling what Almanzo did, where he did it, and what it was like, and who he did it with. She told (as we recount here the many things you can do with nouns) when, where and how he did it, how much of it he did, what was done to him--and what he had. Oh, and the dude can eat. Practically every chapter features Almanzo consuming mass quantities of his mother's home cooked food. In one of the other books in this series, he eats 21 pancakes in one sitting. Check it  out.

Call it Courage, by Armstrong Sperry. I submit that every boy be required to kill a large white shark with a knife as well as a charging wild boar to prove his manhood. That at least is what Mafatu has to do to prove his in this short but fabulous book about a Polynesian boy who is afraid of the sea after his mother dies, but who leaves in one of the village canoes, ends up on a deserted desert island, and in addition to killing wild beasts, has to deal with the threat of cannibals. It just doesn't get any better than this. He returns to his village with a necklace of sharks' teeth and boar tusks and they realize he has become a man. I told my boys when they were younger about the traditional Cothran rite of initiation into manhood, which involved tying them down on a hill of fire ants for 24 hours (just like the Indians), but, unfortunately, they were already too inured to my somewhat warped sense of humor by that time to take me seriously. They also pointed out that there are no fire ants in Kentucky and that no Cothran had ever actually had to do this. Obstacles that could be overcome, I argued, but to no avail. Every time I hear they need a book to read, I go get a copy of this book and give it to them, at which point they remind me that they have read it before and that, anyway, this is the tenth time I have tried to hand them this same book. Too many times, fathers are simply unappreciated.

Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson. This is the book that Henry Fonda's crotchety character in On Golden Pond makes his grandson read when he (the boy who has been too long under the influence of the effeminacies of the city) comes for a visit. Stevenson was a great writer. Period. Jim Hawkins' widowed mother runs the Admiral Benbow. One day, Billy Bones, who, it turns out, has a treasure map sought by a bevy of less than savory pirates, shows up at the inn. Once the pirates are dispatched by several certified males who come to help, the adventure begins as they go hunting for the treasure, whose location is indicated by the map. There is gold, skulls and crossbones, rum, and "yo, ho, ho"s--all the necessary elements of a respectable pirate story. Jim becomes a man in the process. It is a book that will scandalize your local women's studies professor--which is just one of the very good reasons for reading it. All of Stevenson's books are good. Boys may also enjoy his Twice Told Tales.

The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow, by Allan French. This is the heroic tale of an Icelandic boy whose father has been killed, who is betrayed by those close to him, and who goes on a quest to avenge his father's death. It's got swords, bows and arrows--and, in a shocking turn of events that would force the evacuation of the campus at any teachers college, actually uses them in physical violence against the bad guys for a good cause. Allan French, I am told, was a member in good standing of the Kolbieters, a group of Oxford scholars and others who translated Norse sagas together for fun. His The Red Keep is also good.

The Mark of Zorro, Johnston McCulley. Somehow this story made it into a modern movie, although the effeminate cultural barbarians dutifully sterilized it of all the aristocratic patriotism in the original, leaving Zorro an oversexed and overgrown adolescent. Dispense with the Antonio Banderas movie. Even the Disney series (great as it was) does not approximate the original pulp fiction work of McCulley. What a great yarn. Returning from school in Spain, where, unbeknownst even to his own family and the girl he loves, he has become an expert with a sword, Don Diego de la Vega rejoins his father in Old California, pretending to have become a sissified dandy. He becomes the scourge of the corrupt army officers who are persecuting the poor as he becomes, in disguise, Zorro (Spanish for "the Fox"). Your school librarian (do they still have actual books in your school library?) will need smelling salts as your child reads of this son of a nobleman ("Boo, hiss," they will say) stands up for the poor and dispossessed--and who, horror of horrors, stands squarely on the side of the Church, which is portrayed in a solidly positive light in the character of Fray Filipe. And there is an extra bonus: there are sixty other Zorro stories, many, I am told, as good as the first and all equally anathema to the politically correct Cultural Authorities.

The Cat of Bubastes, by H. A. Henty. Henty wrote over 100 books, all of which featured a young teenage boy (he is given different names in the different books, but is essentially the same character) who is witness to various great historical characters and events. In Under Drake's Flag, it is Ferdinand Drake, the British privateer accosting the Spanish fleet, in The Young Carthaginian, he accompanies Hannibal as he plagues the Romans across the Italian peninsula. In this book (my favorite of the ones we have read), Amuba, a young prince of his tribe, is taken prisoner and enslaved in the household of the High Priest of Egypt. The sacred Cat of Bubastes--the official cat god of the Egyptians--has died and must be replaced with another one, chosen by the priest for its special qualities. But Chebron, son of the High Priest, accidentally kills the cat, setting off this harrowing tale. The bonus in this one is that the Pharoah is Thutmose III, portrayed here as the Pharaoh of the Exodus, and therefore Moses himself is part of the story. This book contains quite a number of fascinating (and historically accurate) observations about the Egyptian religion. Every boy should be given a good dose of Henty in order to inoculate him against the Plague of the Feminizers.

Little Britches: Father and I were Ranchers, by Ralph Moody. Moody wrote a number of stories (all excellent) about growing up in Colorado at the beginning of the 20th century--and other places, after his mother, upon the death of his father, moves them back east. Ralph's father grew up in a deaf household, and says little. But in one scene, Ralph comes home from school with his clothing torn. He admits to his indignant mother that he has been in a fight with a bully at school, to which his mother responds (in a remark that will cause palpitations of delight among the ) that he should never, ever fight at school no matter what the circumstances. But that night, as he is milking the cows, his laconic father asks, "Heard you got in a fight today at school." "Yes, sir," responds Ralph. "Did you lick 'im?" his father asks calmly, not bothering to stop with his own work. "Yes, sir." "Good," says his father. Nothing else was said. It made me remember one of my sons, who was having a problem with a boy at school who was constantly taunting him, asked me whether he could just slug the kid. I told him that if he did, the principal would throw him out of school for a week and that I would ground him on top of that, but that, if he needs it, it might be worth the cost. You can continue on with Man of the Family, The Home Ranch, Mary Emma & Company, and Shaking the Nickel Bush. And don't miss Fields of Home, where Ralph spends a summer with his crotchety, unpleasant grandfather who, despite his dyspeptic demeanor, teaches Ralph lessons he will remember for the rest of his life.

A Texas Ranger, by N. A. Jennings. This book is part of the Lakeside Classics series that has been published by R. R. Donnelly and Sons Printing company once a year since 1902. These books are fairly rare but each one is a primary source account of American history. This one is an autobiographical account of Jennings, who, writing later in his life, recounts his time as a Texas Ranger in the late 1800s, a time of trouble along the Texas-Mexican border very similar to what the region is experiencing today. I just got back from McAllan, Texas, which lies right across the border from Reynoso, where drug cartels have engaged in full battles in the city streets. Some of the violence has spilled over into Texas. I asked a priest I was with who was the principal of a school in Reynoso if it was as bad as the news accounts had made it sound. "It is worse," he responded. In Jennings time, gangs from Mexico were terrorizing settlers along the border, and the Texas Rangers were called in. Forget Walker, this is the real story of real men who, with a good horse and a good gun, executed justice on the frontier. In one scene, a new ranger, wet behind the ears, joins the group. That night, they take him on a snipe hunt, leaving him (as veterans of the game have traditionally done) wandering out in the middle of nowhere (in this case the desert) to find his way home, no snipes actually being available. The young man returned several hours later, at which point the others, safely cooling their heels around the fire and snickering, ask him whether he had caught the snipe. "Yup," he said, holding up a wriggling burlap sack in his hand. As they traded questioning glances among themselves, the rookie suddenly flung the contents of the bag around the fire. It had been full of rattlesnakes. For the pranksters it was a mostly sleepless night. This book will cause equally sleepless nights for the Feminizers.

Old Squire's Farm, by C. A. Stephans. Stephans was a writer and editor at The Youth's Companion, one of the great 19th century family magazines, from which these stories were taken. He recounts his youth, which he spent mostly in the company of his cousins and grandparents. He and his cousins were orphans of the Civil War after the three sons of the Old Squire (their grandfather) and his wife were killed in the war. The old folks raise them on their farm in rural Maine. The girls help do chores and cook, and the boys work hard and get into trouble. The accounts of their adventures at the little school, building a fortified sled to drive through the gauntlet of hostile boys in the settlement down the road, the summer swims in the watering hole, and tricking the mean bull down the road into disturbing a hornets nest are pure Americana. In one scene, as the boys are sheering sheep, a young man shows up at the barn door looking for work. His dress tells them he is from the city. With a twinkle in his eye, the oldest of the boys (the smartest and most mischievous), tells the newcomer that they might be able to use him, but that, in order for them to see whether he is capable, he must first shave the pig. In a hysterically funny scene, the young man from the city, with a determination that impresses them all, actually does it. The Old Squire, returning from town, realizes what the boys have done, and suppressing his own mirth, hires the determined young man. There are stories of sorry and stories of love; stories of hardship and stories of laughter. And then there is the final scene, in which, years after the cousins have all grown up and left, they all return to the farm to surprise their lonely grandparents, who they see, as they peer through the window, eating supper all by themselves, bereft of all whom they have loved. At this point, even male readers are allowed to cry (but only here). They realize that one of them must forsake his own career to care for the people who sacrificed their own life for them. And there is a sequel: Skating on Ice, which is just as good.

King Solomon's Mines, H. Rider Haggard. Haggard is probably the greatest of all the old adventure writers. His style influenced Tolkien, and was popular and beloved in his time. He wrote this book on a bet. Stevenson had just written Treasure Island, to much popular acclaim. He wagered with a friend that he could write an adventure book that would outsell Stevenson's work. He won the bet. Surprisingly, the book is still in print, despite the fact that it portrays blacks as primitive African tribesmen, when everyone knows that that is a historical myth and that precolonial Africa was more advanced culturally that Europe at its cultural zenith. I was shocked when several years ago, the movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen featured, as one of the four literary heroes returned from the grave, Sean Connery in the role of Alan Quatermain, the  protagonist of King Solomon's Mines. I had assumed the book had been entirely forgotten. Mines was written when Africa was still the Dark Continent, mysterious, not fully explored, and dangerous. It was also a time when lost civilizations, long dead, were being uncovered. King Tut's tomb had just been discovered, and the discovery by Schliemann of the lost gold of Troy was still fresh on everyone's mind. Haggard's literary innovation was to have his characters discover great civilizations too, but with a twist: they were still there, alive and thriving. Haggard also wrote about women, mostly of the disquieting and intimidating type, who enjoy the unfair advantage of supernatural powers which they use to strike fear into the hearts of men. It's kinda creepy. C. S. Lewis' favorite fantasy book (with the possible exception of George MacDonald's Phantastes) was Haggard's She Who Must Be Obeyed, although I much prefer Morningstar, a book which Roger Lancelyn Green has called the "greatest evocation of ancient Egypt ever written."  Haggard also coauthored, along with the great writer of Fairy Tales, Andrew Lang, The World's Desire, a sequel to Homer's Odyssey, and which features Helen of Troy, whose fabled beauty is so great it is literally physically debilitating to the man who beholds her. Haggards's historical fantasies are vivid, exotic, and beautifully written. His stories are as evocative as their titles: Montezuma's Daughter, Nada the Lily, Alan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, People of the Mist, Ivory Child, Treasure of the Lake, Queen Sheba's Ring, Maiwa's Revenge, Pearl-Maiden, Red Eve, The Ghost Kings. Haggard spent much time in South Africa, and combines a classic literary style with the African tradition of storytelling. And don't miss his Zulu trilogy: Marie, Child of Storm, and Finished.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Seinfeld Economics: Obama's nonexistent economic policy

The distinguishing feature of the Seinfeld show, it has been said, is that it was not about anything. If you scratched just slightly below the surface, there was nothing there. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Obama administration's economic plan suffers from the same problem: there isn't one.

Even the liberals are beginning to express the worry that the man they bowed the knee to as "the One" are wondering "one what?" As my good friend Mike Allen has pointed out, if a liberal president can't even maintain Maureen Dowd's support, he's in trouble.

Let's take ourselves back to the new Reagan administration of the early 1980s for a moment. The Reagan administration took the national helm at a time of high inflation and high unemployment. When it took office, it announced a plan to deal with the problems, which included:
  1. Reducing the growth rate of government spending
  2. Reducing the marginal tax rate and the capital gains tax
  3. Reducing government regulation of private business
  4. Controlling the money supply.
The plan did not work immediately, resulting in criticism from his political detractors. Reagan's response was that his plan would take time to work. For months, Reagan urged the country, "Stay the course." It became the theme of his communication strategy in 1981 and 82.

Now let's contrast the early 80s with the current economic crisis. If Obama were to hold a press conference tomorrow and said to reporters, "We need to stay the course," would anyone know what he was talking about? What course? What could he say he was referring to?

People worried in the early 80s. But whatever you think of Reaganomics, everyone knew what the then president was going to do about it. He could give you a detailed, point by point plan. If it worked, everyone would breath easy; if it didn't, then we would have to try something else.

But the problem with the Obama administration is that there are no details. There is no point by point plan. In fact, there is no plan at all. There is nothing about which we can say, "Yes, it worked," or "No, it didn't work" so we can try something else.

Here is Obama's Economic Plan:
  1. ???????????????????????
  2. ???????????????????????
  3. ???????????????????????
  4. ???????????????????????
The only thing the Obama administration has done is to throw money at the problem. But throwing money at the problem is not an economic policy.

I think the reason the U. S. stock market is now so volatile, and world economy so skittish is not because the Obama administration's plan is no good. The reason for the fear and uncertainty in the United States and around the world is not that the Obama administration's plan is not working. The problem is that the Obama administration has no plan.

And the lack of a plan to deal with the problem is a part of the problem.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Evangelicals bad, radical leftists good

On yesterday's episode of National Public Radio's "Fresh Air," with Terry Gross, Terry interviewed Ryan Lizza, author of the recent New Yorker hit piece on Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann. Lizza researched some of the people who have influenced Bachmann, a group which consists of a who's who of mostly standard, sometimes goofy, evangelical thinkers.

Lizza would name one of them, as Terry would express shock and amazement. He would name another, and Terry would express disappointment and unbelief.

It became clear to me that we needed a good comparison of the figures who influenced Bachmann we shouldn't respect and imitate (exclusively evangelical) and the figures we should admire and emulate (almost all secular).  Here is the list for those of you who were confused in any way. I know you will agree that the liberal heroes clearly are superior to those of Michell Bachmann:

Michelle Bachman's Heroes (Bad) Liberal Heroes (Good)
John Eidsmoe (Professor who believes many of the founding fathers were Christians) Margaret Sanger (Symphathized with Nazis, advocated eugenics and population control of the lower classes)
Francis Schaeffer (Late Christian thinker who believed that your worldview should affect what you do) Robert C. Byrd (Late Democratic Senate leader who was a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan)
Robert Wilkins (Presbyterian pastor who has romantic view of the institution of slavery in the old South) Barney Frank (Gay Congressman whose live in "partner" was running a prostitution ring out of his apartment without his knowledge)
Nancy Pearcey (Follower of Francis Schaeffer who thinks your worldview should affect what you do) Che Guevara (Totalitarian pro-Soviet revolutionary who presided over Cuba's first firing squad sessions and founded the Cuban labor camp system for political prisoners)
R. J. Rushdoony (Late theologian who believed Old Testament Law still applies and that Christians should convince enough other people of their views that they will affect culture and politics) Bill Ayers (Leader of communist revolutionary group that conducted terrorist bombings in the 60s and 70s)

Culling the herd of poor people

I mean, when is the last time a public university hospital answered to an archbishop? Or a Jewish hospital voluntarily elected to place itself under the ultimate authority of the Pope?

The University of Louisville Hospital and Louisville's Jewish Hospital want to merge with St. Joseph's Hospital and St. Mary's Hospital under an agreement that would result in placing them under the authority of a Catholic health care organization and the prospect has set off wailing and gnashing of teeth among Caring Liberals who fear it will interfere with their philanthropic plans to sterilize poor people and control their numbers through birth control.

These benevolent liberals are concerned about the fate of "reproductive services" (defined as services that prevent reproduction) that they fear poor people will lose access to under an agreement that would result in placing the two non-religious hospitals under Catholic strictures on abortion, sterilization, and birth control.

The Church, for its part, operates under the old-fashioned notion that poor people should be treated with dignity and respect, and that those goals properly excludes the attempt to decrease their numbers like they were a herd of elk.

What's nice to see is the new breed of Catholic hierarchy which are slowly replacing the liberal leaders of the past (who were the ones in charge, we might point out, during the mishandling of the priest abuse scandals), and who are, praise be, standing up for Catholic principles. Here's the account given of Archbishop Kurtz's take on the situation in USA Today:
Louisville Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz said Thursday he would only approve a merged hospital system under Roman Catholic ownership if all the participants, including University Hospital, agreed to follow the church's ethical rules for medical care.

In other words, the Archbishop is standing on the principles of the Church, and is apparently willing to let the deal go if those principles cannot be followed. Which leaves, of course, the other parties, who must either stand on their ethically questionable principles that violate the sanctity of human life, or on their concern for the financial bottom line.

This is one of the tragedies of modern health care: hospitals now are all about making money. In fact, one of the things the Catholic Church needs to do is to return the practice of medicine under their control into a charitable enterprise it once was.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Sterilization of horses bad; sterilization of poor people good

While some liberals are protesting the prospect that wild horses might be sterilized in Wyoming, other liberals are protesting the prospect that poor people might not be sterilized in Kentucky.

Like I said, it's a crazy world.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Why are the advocates of "reproductive services" against the reproduction of poor people?

The Caring and Compassionate Liberals Who Want to Control the Population of Poor People are in a tizzy over the prospect of the Catholic Church taking over University of Louisville Hospital and Jewish Hospital of Louisville partly because, they say, it would prevent these hospitals from offering "reproductive services" to poor people.

Under Catholic strictures on such things, these hospitals could no longer offer abortion, sterilization, and birth control, the things the Caring and Compassionate Liberals call "reproductive services."

But who is against "reproductive services"? The Kind and Compassionate Liberals Who are Against the Reproduction of Poor People? Or the Catholic Church, which is for the reproduction of everybody?

In fact, isn't it anti-reproductive services the Caring and Sympathetic Liberals want to perpetrate on poor people?

Just thought I'd ask.

Rah Rah Science, care of the Discovery Channel

As I was watching the discussion following last night's Discovery broadcast of "Curiosity," a program which, among its other problems (like being basically a cheerleading session for atheism), portrayed Hawking's views as agreed upon, settled science, physicist Sean Carroll voiced a belief that has become a common meme among a certain variety of atheist scientist: that if religious truth claims have effects in the objective, physical world, then they come within the purview of scientific analysis.

This belief is fine as far as it goes. But what ends up happening with secularists like Carroll is that it is only negative conclusions about religion and the supernatural that are admitted into the scientific discussion; positive conclusions need not apply. Not only that, but, using their methodology, negative conclusions are assured. Just go back to Carroll's recent discussion of the immortality of the soul:
If you claim that some form of soul persists beyond death, what particles is that soul made of? What forces are holding it together? How does it interact with ordinary matter?
In other words, any supernatural entity must comply with exclusively natural criteria, in which case, well, it wouldn't be supernatural any more, would it? So, under Carroll's method of verifying supernatural entities, a negative outcome is the only outcome possible. The game is fixed from the beginning.

This also means, ironically, that naturalism, under this methodology, is unfalsifiable--the favorite demarcation criterion of secularists between science and non science. In other words, under their own definition, this kind of naturalism is not science, since it is not falsifiable.

It's a crazy world.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Does education or indoctrination make your religious beliefs more liberal?

According to a new USA Today study, the more educated Americans are, the more liberal their religious beliefs become. But why?
Each year of education ups the odds by 15% that people will say there's "truth in more than one religion," says University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Philip Schwadel in an article for the Review of Religious Research. 
For each additional year of education beyond seventh grade, Americans are:
•15% more likely to have attended religious services in the past week.
•14% more likely to say they believe in a "higher power" than in a personal God. "More than 90% believe in some sort of divinity," Schwadel says.
•13% more likely to switch to a mainline Protestant denomination that is "less strict, less likely to impose rules of behavior on your daily life" than their childhood religion.
•13% less likely to say the Bible is the "actual word of God." The educated, like most folks in general, tend to say the Bible is the "inspired word" of God, Schwadel says.
Of course, the more secular you are, the more you will interpret this data to mean that the more developed a person's intellect becomes the less it will tolerate conservative religious beliefs. This assumes that American education actually develops your intellect, which, of course, is slightly suspect.

But the larger question is how much the change in views about religion are really due to the amount of education they have received and how much is due to the amount of secular indoctrination to which they have been subjected.

Most people "catch their opinions," said Samuel Johnson, "by contagion."

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Review of Edward Feser's Last Superstition

There is an excellent review of Edward Feser's The Last Superstition in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review by Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J. It contains a nice summary of Feser's book, which is the best refutation so far of the New Atheists philosophically vulnerable position:
The secularists and naturalists have created the myth that there is a war going on between science and religion. There never has been a war between religion and true science. In fact, the first universities were founded by the Church in the Middle Ages in connection with cathedral schools. The conflict is not scientific, but philosophical—that is, the philosophical interpretation of the results of scientific investigation. The atheists claim that everything in the universe can be explained without any reference to purpose, meaning and design. The atheists have to eliminate purpose from nature because purpose means striving for a definite end, and that implies intelligence. For the universe, that intelligence can only be God. Therefore atheists try to remove purpose and replace it with various forms of evolution, which has been called a “universal acid.” Feser states this well: “And the elimination of purpose and meaning from the modern conception of the material universe was not and is not a ‘result’ or ‘discovery’ of modern science, but rather a philosophical interpretation of the results of modern science which owes more to early modern secularist philosophers like Hobbes and Hume…than it does to the great scientists of the last few centuries” (11). He goes on to say that the war between science and religion is not a scientific or religious dispute, but a conflict between two “rival philosophical worldviews”—moderate realism and materialism. 
The author’s arguments are based on the certain metaphysical principles worked out by Aristotle and perfected by Aquinas, namely, the four causes that are involved in the production and motion of all material things: material, formal, efficient and final. The final cause it the most important for, without it, no agent would act. Aquinas said that the final cause is “the cause of causes.” Every agent acts for an end; to deny that is either stupid or perverse. Those who deny final causes are trying to persuade others that there are no final causes—that is their purpose. So they use final causality to deny it and that is a contradiction that should be obvious to any intelligent observer.
Read the rest here.

HT: Carl Olsen

Monday, August 01, 2011

Instant Racing a product of democracy, casino-style

My article Instant Racing's Bizarre Path to Approval Bizarre appears in today's Lexington Herald Leader. Here's an excerpt:
A law that would allow gambling on racing of dead horses was approved by a state legislative committee in May when, in the only vote ever taken by elected lawmakers on the issue, one legislator voted in favor of the measure and four voted against it.
The law began its journey through the approval process when racetracks and the Beshear administration sued no one and cleared its final hurdle on its way to implementation in June when another legislative committee decided to do nothing.
Welcome to democracy casino-style.