Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A Danish View: What’s Wrong With Europe and Right With America

Flemming Rose is culture editor of Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that published those highly controversial cartoons of Muhammad.

In a recent column, he explains his decision to publish the cartoons, and goes further to explain how his ideological outlook has changed over the years.
The worldwide furor unleashed by the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that I published last September in Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper where I work, was both a surprise and a tragedy, especially for those directly affected by it. Lives were lost, buildings were torched, and people were driven into hiding.

And yet the unbalanced reactions to the not-so-provocative caricatures — loud denunciations and even death threats toward us, but very little outrage toward the people who attacked two Danish Embassies — unmasked unpleasant realities about Europe’s failed experiment with multiculturalism. It’s time for the Old Continent to face facts and make some profound changes in its outlook on immigration, integration, and the coming Muslim demographic surge. After decades of appeasement and political correctness, combined with growing fear of a radical minority prepared to commit serious violence, Europe’s moment of truth is here.

Europe today finds itself trapped in a posture of moral relativism that is undermining its liberal values. An unholy three-cornered alliance between Middle East dictators, radical imams who live in Europe, and Europe’s traditional left wing is enabling a politics of victimology. This politics drives a culture that resists integration and adaptation, perpetuates national and religious differences, and aggravates such debilitating social ills as high immigrant crime rates and entrenched unemployment.
Rose then briefly outlines his personal ideological journey.
As one who once championed the utopian state of multicultural bliss, I think I know what I’m talking about. I was raised on the ideals of the 1960s, in the midst of the Cold War. I saw life through the lens of the countercultural turmoil, adopting both the hippie pose and the political superiority complex of my generation. I and my high school peers believed that the West was imperialistic and racist. We analyzed decaying Western civilization through the texts of Marx and Engels and lionized John Lennon’s beautiful but stupid tune about an ideal world without private property: “Imagine no possessions/ I wonder if you can/ No need for greed or hunger/ A brotherhood of man/ Imagine all the people/ Sharing all the world.”

It took me only 10 months as a young student in the Soviet Union in 1980-81 to realize what a world without private property looks like, although many years had to pass until the full implications of the central Marxist dogma became clear to me.
Returning to the subject of immigration, Rose contrasts Europe and America.
What’s wrong with Europe? For one thing, Europe’s approach to immigration and integration is rooted in its historic experience with relatively homogeneous cultures. In the United States one’s definition of nationality is essentially political; in Europe it is historically cultural. I am a Dane because I look European, speak Danish, descend from centuries of other Scandinavians. But what about the dark, bearded new Danes who speak Arabic at home and poor Danish in the streets? We Europeans must make a profound cultural adjustment to understand that they, too, can be Danes.

Another great impediment to integration is the European welfare state. Because Europe’s highly developed, but increasingly unaffordable, safety nets provide such strong unemployment insurance and not enough incentive to work, many new immigrants go straight onto the dole.

While it can be argued that the fast-growing community of about 20 million Muslim immigrants in Europe is the equivalent of America’s new Hispanic immigrants, the difference in their productivity and prosperity is staggering. An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development study in 1999 showed that while immigrants in the United States are almost equal to native-born workers as taxpayers and contributors to American prosperity, in Denmark there is a glaring gap of 41 percent between the contributions of the native-born and of the immigrants. In the United States, a laid-off worker gets an average of 32 percent compensation for his former wages in welfare services; in Denmark the figure is 81 percent. A culture of welfare dependency is rife among immigrants, and taken for granted.

Europe must shed the straitjacket of political correctness, which makes it impossible to criticize minorities for anything — including violations of laws, traditional mores, and values that are central to the European experience. Two experiences tell the tale for me.

Shortly after the horrific 2002 Moscow musical theater siege by Chechen terrorists that left 130 dead, I met with one of my old dissident friends, Sergei Kovalev. A hero of the human rights movement in the old Soviet Union, Kovalev had long been a defender of the Chechens and a critic of the Russian attacks on Chechnya. But after the theater massacre he refused, as always, to indulge in politically correct drivel about the Chechens’ just fight for secession and decolonization. He unhesitatingly denounced the terrorists, and insisted that a nation’s right to self-determination did not imply a free ticket to kill and violate basic individual rights. For me, it was a clarifying moment on the dishonesty of identity politics and the sometime tyranny of elevating group rights above those of individuals — of justifying the killing of innocents in the name of some higher cause.

The other experience was a trip I made in the 1990s, when I was a correspondent based in the United States, to the Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. There I wrote a story about the burgeoning, bustling, altogether vibrant Russian immigrant community that had arisen there — a perfect example of people retaining some of their old cultural identity (drinking samovars of tea, playing hours of chess, and attending church) while quickly taking advantage of America’s free and open capitalism to establish an economic foothold. I marveled at America’s ability to absorb newcomers. It was another clarifying moment.
Rose understands that liberal (in the classic sense) societies are under attack from two directions. On the one hand, there are the radical Islamicists. On the other, the secular leftists.

The two groups are, at the moment, allies — although if the Islamicists should gain powers they would show as little mercy to the secular leftists as to Christians.

Both the secular leftists and the radical Islamicists are weaker in the U.S. than in Europe, so there is much more hope here.

But the same conflict does play itself out on this side of the Atlantic.

It’s Known as Multilateral Cooperation

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Marquette Manipulating Freshman Test Scores: An Alum Responds

From the Blog of Nate.

Nate Romano is a Marquette alumnus who, upon graduation, went to law school at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and is now practicing law.

He reacts to the news that Marquette has been manipulating and inflating the reported SAT and ACT scores of entering freshman with the same sort of disappointment that we feel.
Now, I’m all about Marquette being higher ranked. But, you know, I’d much rather they actually do something to improve their rankings, rather than cooking the books.

Professor McAdams is right on when he says that this is cooking the books and, despite similar widespread use among other colleges and universities, that one should expect more from a Christian and Jesuit institution. After all, while this may not be “bearing false witness” per se, it is not exactly the complete truth, either. And should those who claim a moral highground actually, you know, have the moral high ground? Though maybe it is too much to expect that institutions spouting their “Catholic heritage” from the rooftops to actually follow through and do more than the minimum required to not be sinning.

But, as I mentioned, that is not even my main issue with this. My main issue is, why waste time and energy trying to find ways to finesse rankings? Why not try to actually improve the school so that, when your rankings do go up, it is because you are a better school, not just that you figured out which loophole to exploit?
Our guess is that Romano’s reaction is going to be pretty typical of alumni.

We doubt any Marquette graduates leave with the illusion that they have left a perfectly-run university. But on the other hand, there are few if any hardened cynics. Most feel they got a pretty good education from a pretty good school.

But this particular issue is likely to move their attitudes a notch in the direction of cynicism.

Will they turn deeply alienated? No. Will they be disappointed? Almost certainly.

Just Not in the White House, Please!

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Supreme Court: Scouts Can Recruit in Public Schools

The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to hear an appeal from an atheist father who wanted the Boy Scouts excluded from recruiting in his local public schools.

This left standing a lower court decision allowing the Scouts the same access that other groups have. According to the Associated Press:
A Michigan appeals court said that Mount Pleasant schools allowed other organizations to use class facilities, including a hospital group, an Indian tribe, a Baptist church, and a hockey association.
Thus we have the continuation of a fairly consistent pattern of courts unholding the principle of neutrality in dealing with religious groups.

Liberals, of course, continue to insist that religious organizations and expressions must be rigidly excluded from the public sector.

But they have neither the Constitution nor the developing case law on their side.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Marquette Manipulates Reported Freshman SAT & ACT Scores

Marquette University has begun to manipulate the entrance examination scores it reports on entering Freshmen. Beginning with the Freshmen who entered in the fall of 2005, the University adopted a “new methodology” to inflate the SAT and ACT scores reported to U.S. News and World Report, to the federal government and to other agencies.

The change appears to be driven by a desire to improve Marquette’s standing in the U.S. News and World Report rankings.

Analysis of Marquette’s 2004 Freshman Profile and 2005 Freshman Profile shows the extent of the manipulation. For example, it’s possible to compare the old methodology (a straightforward reporting of scores) with the “new methodology” for the years 2000-2004.

First, for the American College Testing program (ACT):
  1. Old: 25.2
    New: 25.7
  2. Old: 25.2
    New: 25.5
  3. Old: 25.4
    New: 25.7
  4. Old: 25.3
    New: 25.6
  5. Old: 26.0
    New: 26.4
If the level of inflation here doesn’t seem very large, the results for SAT scores (verbal plus math) are more dramatic.

  1. Old: 1158
    New: 1192
  2. Old: 1151
    New: 1172
  3. Old: 1169
    New: 1200
  4. Old: 1166
    New: 1200
  5. Old: 1177
    New: 1218
How is this statistical legerdemain achieved? Daniel Gemoll, Marquette’s Director of Institutional Research, explained it to us.

In the first place, a substantial number of students submit both the ACT and the SAT with their admissions application. (24.8% did in the 2004 entering class.) It’s possible to convert an SAT score into an “equivalent” ACT score, using data supplied by the publishers of the SAT. If a student submitted both an ACT score and and SAT score, one of the two scores will be relatively better than the other.

With the 2004 and earlier freshman profiles, both the ACT and the SAT scores of such students were included in the reported averages . Beginning with 2005, only the test on which the student did relatively better was included. Thus if a student scored 30 on the ACT and 1,100 on the SAT, the SAT score (which was relatively worse) was discarded.

But that’s only half of it.

The SAT consists of two subtests (verbal and math). The “SAT score” reported by the College Board (which administers the test) simply sums the two scores.

But a fair number of students have taken the SAT more than once. This provides Marquette with some room for finagling. If the student did better in math the first time he or she took the test, and better on the verbal portion the second time around, Marquette takes the math score from the first test and the verbal score from the second test and combines them to produce a “SAT score” that doesn’t correspond to any SAT score that the student ever actually achieved!

The ACT test consists of four subtests (Science, Reading, Math and English), and Marquette does exactly the same thing with these. If a student who took the ACT twice, Marquette might produce a “score” that is the average of the science and math scores from the first try, and the Reading and English scores from the second try.

And again, if the student also took the SAT, this pseudo-ACT may be entirely thrown out if the student did better on the SAT.

And What is Wrong With That?

If this sounds like cooking the numbers, that’s because it is. In fact, it’s about as close to just making up data as you can get without actually making up data.

While in fact every SAT or ACT score included in the reported averages consists of actual student performance, the sample of performance is skewed. Students will, merely due to the luck of the draw, do better on one subtest than another, or do better on the day they take the ACT rather than the day they take the SAT.

So the procedure is a bit like Major League Baseball calculating batting averages excluding those games in which a player got no hits.

Gemoll explains that Marquette did an informal survey and found that “several” other colleges use this method of reporting scores. Indeed, it is sometimes called the “Notre Dame method” since that Indiana school supposedly pioneered it. Gemoll could not recall the names of other schools using the method.

As of this writing, two phone calls to the Office of Institutional Research at Notre Dame have not been returned.

We did manage to contact a knowledgeable source at Boston College, who denied any such finagling with scores. The source did say that if the student took the SAT twice, the better score is used and the other discarded – consistent with the school’s admissions practice. (The ACT is not a factor with this east coast college.) Our source insists there is no fiddling with subtest scores.

We also contacted a knowledgeable source at the University of Santa Clara (a Jesuit school) who denied any such fiddling with the scores.

Richard Hurst, Director of Institutional Research at Loyola of Chicago, said “we don’t do it that way,” explaining that “the grief is not worth it” and “it’s not terribly beneficial, so why do it?” Hurst said “that kind of chipping away doesn’t really improve your scores.”

Finally, we found one highly regarded Jesuit university, which we are not at liberty to identify, that does exactly what Marquette does with the subtest scores, although this institution does report both ACT and SAT scores for all students who took both tests.

Not Surreptitious

Marquette does acknowledge, but in a rather opaque manner, that it is manipulating the data it reports. For example, the 2005 Freshman Profile contains the following disclaimer on the Contents page:
Note: After extensive analysis, a new methodology was adopted this year for reporting ACT and SAT test scores to the federal government and external agencies, such as U.S. News and World Report. The changes made are consistent with procedures for calculating and reporting test score results used by many other universities and result in higher reported test score averages.
A similar disclaimer goes out whenever scores are reported: to U.S. News and World Report, to the federal government, or to other agencies.

The problem, however, is that the disclaimer quickly gets lost as everything gets stripped away but the reported ACT and SAT averages. Further, nobody to whom these scores are reported knows how to “correct” them, and thus they have to be used pretty much as reported.

The Broader Issue

Regardless of how widespread this fiddling with test scores is, it’s clear that there are many ways of reporting data, and that manipulation is widespread.

Schools can, for example, report scores based on the “census,” or on “final enrollment.” Whichever looks better.

We have an unconfirmed (but believed to be reliable) report of one school that has a two-step application process. The “second step” is the actual full application with the application fee, while the first is nothing more than a “glorified inquiry.” The school treats all the “first step” inquiries as “applications” so they can report a lower “acceptance rate” and appear to be more “selective.”

Some schools no longer require SAT scores. That, however, doesn’t prevent some students from sending them. Since students who send the SAT scores tend to be particularly strong, the institution gets to report “high SAT scores” that overstate its selectivity. This, in some cases, may be an incentive to not require SAT scores.

Further, it is not at all uncommon for schools to exclude certain groups when they report admissions data: scholarship athletes, programs for the “underprivileged” and so on.

Conclusion

The irony of all this is that it may in fact be counter-productive. U.S. News and World Report not only uses freshman test scores in their college rankings, they use graduation rates also. But when they do this they take into account freshman test scores — the higher the freshman test scores, the higher they expect the graduation rate to be.

So reporting higher freshman test scores has the effect of “raising the bar” and making Marquette’s graduation rate (which is quite good) appear less good than it otherwise would.

In an academic world of universities that are intensely image conscious, and incessantly spin the information they release, Marquette hardly stands out, on this issue, as uniquely sleazy.

Still . . . it has a rather bad odor. Is it too much to expect a supposedly Christian university to tell the truth in the most straightforward and forthright way?

Leftist Marquette Student Moves To the Middle

Greg St. Arnold, political activist with JUSTICE and blogger, has been away from campus this past year, in Africa.

It seems the experience has affected his politics.

From My Fourth Blog: Politics, some reflections on how:
I’ve just spent eight months away from America. I was in Kenya studying for two semesters and got to travel around a bit in East Africa and pay a visit to South Africa as well. The thing I’ve been telling people since I’ve been home is that it was amazingly educational for me; it wasn’t all great, it wasn’t all dangerous, it wasn’t anything you would think it was. I’ve just learned a lot and readjusted my ethical and political philosophies accordingly.

In another forum I called myself politically moderate, prompting close friends to email me and ask if I was joking or lying. In the past I was planted rather firmly on left-most side of the political spectrum, appreciative of Michael Moore’s documentary prowess and Dennis Kucinich’s bilingual oratorical ability. I was uncompromisingly dismissive of George Bush’s bumbling foreign policy, Condoleezza Rice’s vision of postwar international politics, and virtually all things with the word Republican attached to them. Retrospectively, I can say this was a bit unfair. My time abroad has opened my eyes a bit, in two ways especially.

First, I have come to appreciate, around the edges at least, some of the goals of the Bush foreign policy. I have seen firsthand how dogmatic some people are in their hatred and denunciation of the United States, and how their hatred itself is built on a foundation of simplistic platitudes, caricatures, and prejudices. (Example: You Americans are so fat, You Americans have so much money, You Americans live in a filthy decadent society.) Letting these attitudes fester can birth terrorism, and so it is right to take the fight to these attitudes globally, aggressively, proactively.
St. Arnold then explains he doesn’t necessarily favor the war in Iraq, but does like the thrust of Bush’s anti-terrorism policies.
What Bush has said unequivocally is that 9/11 was a transformative event in international relations, and America needs to aggressively fight to counter the forces and ideas that spawned 9/11. I’ve come to find myself in agreement with this goal.

The second part of the Bush agenda I have found myself agreeing with more and more is the continual push to open new markets and promote free trade amongst nations. By supporting such initiatives, this administration, like its Clintonian predecessor, is seeking to raise the standard of living, reduce poverty, and provide billions of others access to the consumer goods we so often take for granted here in this country. . . . there is really no suitable alternative that seeks to do what NAFTA, FTAA, and CAFTA are doing. Bilateral trade agreements can and do work, but why not create a framework for broader international participation and enrichment? That is what these regimes seek to do. Promoting economic freedom is what has facilitated the introduction of a Swahili language version of Microsoft Windows in East Africa, a product that will grant millions of people formerly shut out of the technological world the opportunity to join it. Obviously Bush wasn’t personally responsible for this, but the economic ideology he espouses laid the groundwork for such an event.

Two dramatic departures from previously held positions, I will admit. . . . My sophomore year I manned a table in the Raynor library urging people to call their representatives and oppose CAFTA. Can’t say I’d do that again. My freshman year I emceed an anti-Iraq War protest. Can’t say I’d do that again either. Probably won’t work for Kucinich ‘08 if it materializes. In fact, I’ve had to reevaluate whether or not I can call myself a Democrat still. I can and do, as a matter of fact, but I don’t think it prohibits me from appreciating or approving of certain policies espoused on the Republican side of the spectrum. It sounds cheesy and cliché, but I really feel like my mind has been liberated from the partisan shackles that once held it captive. And ultimately I think that’s the goal of education. So it was a good time abroad.
St. Arnold still would not be entirely at home at a meeting of the College Republicans. He likes Russ Feingold, and seems to favor gay marriage.

On the other hand, he bristles at the rhetoric of Venezuelan strong-man Hugo Chavez who called George Bush “the biggest perpetrator of genocide the world has known.”

Here is an interesting question: how would St. Arnold’s politics be different if, instead of going off to Africa he had stayed at Marquette taking the usual classes that left-leaning students take (and spending a lot of time with JUSTICE and Office for Student Development folks)?

We doubt that change would have occurred.

Perhaps it’s a good thing for Republican students to be exposed to a liberal or left-leaning faculty.

But for left-leaning students, this amounts to merely more of the sort of indoctrination that caused them to be left-leaning students to begin with.

For them, nothing is better than seeing how ideas work themselves out in the real world.

Da Vinci Code Boosts Opus Dei Numbers

From The Scotsman:
THE controversial religious organisation lambasted in the blockbuster movie and book The Da Vinci Code has revealed that membership inquiries have soared in the past year.

The film and book portray Opus Dei as a murderous and secretive cult within the Roman Catholic church. Despite this negative view, membership applications have increased tenfold.

The film, based on the book by Dan Brown and starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, centres on the controversial theory that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and that the two had a child.

Opus Dei is portrayed as a ruthless suppressor of the truth, using any method - including murder - to protect the church. But Opus Dei’s website insists their primary aim is to encourage spirituality in every area of members’ lives.

Jack Valera, Opus Dei’s UK spokesman, said: “We’re getting 10 times more enquiries than we would normally get. Over the last two months, as the hype for the film has built up, we have had about 50 inquiries a month about membership. We would normally get about three or four a month.

“Some have mentioned the book or the film in their e-mails. It’s quite surprising, and I believe it’s down to the publicity surrounding the run-up to the film.”
This suggests the wisdom of Christians who have greeted the film as creating a “teachable moment,” during which people will be willing to listen to a serious discussion of church history, and the ways The Da Vinci Code distorts it.

At our church, the sermon yesterday was exactly that.

Then there is the fact that, in spite of much apparent evidence to the contrary, people aren’t terminally stupid.

Rather than simply accepting the sinister picture of Opus Dei presented by the movie, they leave the moving asking “Just what is Opus Dei? Could it really be as bad as the movie makes out?”

Those that bother to investigate find out that it isn’t.

Just what is Opus Dei about? The Scotsman explains:
Opus Dei, whose name means Work of God in Latin, was founded in 1928 by a Spanish priest named Josemaria Escriva.

He wanted to extend the spiritual boost people receive from Sunday worship through the rest of the week. Although his ideas were initially frowned on by the church hierarchy, Catholic leaders later embraced the organisation and Escriva was made a saint in 2002.

A member of Opus Dei would be expected to go to Mass every day, and also read a portion of Scripture and of an uplifting religious book each day.

In addition, a member should attend an evening meeting during the week for prayer and reflection and have a one-to-one spiritual chat with a more senior member of the organisation.
None of this changes our assessment that the book and film are a deplorable exercise in anti-Christian bigotry.

But bigotry can backfire.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Memorial Day Weekend

Click on image to enlarge

Sister Helen Prejean’s Lack of Credibility

Sr. Helen Prejean is a political activist nun who goes around the country opposing the death penalty.

Writer of the famous book Dead Man Walking, she has also written a book titled The Death of Innocents about two men who were convicted of murder and executed. She assures her readers that both were innocent.

We’ve already dealt with the way in which she badly distorted the details of one of the cases: that of Dobie Williams in Louisiana.

It turns out that she was equally dishonest with the other one: Joseph O’Dell in Virginia.

According to the New Oxford Review:
This methodology of simply asserting your ideal version of facts and not acknowledging or accounting for contrary facts continues in Prejean’s handling of her involvement with Joseph O’Dell. He was executed in Virginia for the abduction, rape, forcible sodomy, and murder of Helen Schartner. Schartner was struck on the head with a gun, sodomized and raped before being strangled to death. In addition to lying to the police about how he came to have blood on his clothes, the best evidence of O’Dell’s guilt was that Schartner’s blood was on his jacket. Testing showed that only three of every thousand people share the same blood characteristics as Schartner. Also, a cellmate of O’Dell’s testified that O’Dell told him he killed Schartner because she would not have sex with him.

After the trial, LifeCodes, a DNA lab that O’Dell himself praised as having “an impeccable reputation,” tested the blood on O’Dell’s jacket — and found that it was a genetic match to Schartner. When the results were not to his liking, O’Dell, and of course Sr. Prejean, attacked the reliability of the lab O’Dell had earlier praised. Again, as with Williams’s conviction, the federal court reviewing the case characterized the evidence against O’Dell as “vast” and “overwhelming.”

Even when she can bring herself to make a cursory reference to the fact that O’Dell had a criminal history of violence, she omits the most damning portion of that record: an abduction charge in Florida where O’Dell struck the victim on the head with a gun and told her that he was going to rape her. This very similar crime helped the jury conclude that O’Dell would be a future threat to society. It supports the other evidence of his guilt and thus undermines Prejean’s claim of innocence.
The review goes on to discuss Prejean’s self-righteousness: how she derides Justice Antonin Scalia’s Harvard education in contrast with her work in an “inner city African American housing project in New Orleans.”

The notion that working in the inner city may distort, rather than clarify, moral issues is one that has never entered her politically correct head. (In her case it probably did neither. She was doubtless a self-righteous liberal when she moved into the inner city.)

It’s tempting to cut the Sister some slack, giving her credit for being “idealistic” and “trying to put her faith into practice” in spite of her writing a distorted and tendentious book.

But we think that is misguided. She is, quite simply, dishonest. And her dishonesty is in the service of her own ego and her own feelings of moral superiority.

Catholic orders deserve better people.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Let’s Pray For Cold Weather

Click on image to enlarge

Global Warming Scare Tactics

From, of all places, the BBC:

Unlike the usual treatment in the U.S. media, they actually went out and talked to some scientists. They reported the following:
Hardly a day goes by without a new dire warning about climate change. But some claims are more extreme than others, giving rise to fears that the problem is being oversold and damaging the issue.

How much has the planet warmed up over the past century? Most people reckon between two and three degrees. They are not even close. The real figure, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is 0.6C.

It’s not surprising most people get it wrong. We are bombarded by stories warning us that global warming is out of control. The most extreme warn us we will be living in a tropical Britain where malaria is rife and Norfolk has disappeared altogether.
According to the BBC, the media has hyped absurdly large figures.
In 2005 the scientific journal Nature published the first results of a study by Climateprediction.net, a group of UK climate scientists. They had been testing what effect doubling the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere would have on temperature.

The vast majority of their results showed that doubling CO2 would lead to a temperature rise of about 3C. Such an increase would have a major impact on the planet. The scientists of Climateprediction.net say that is what you would expect their model to produce, and many other scientists have produced similar results. However a tiny percentage of the models showed very high levels of warming - the highest result was a startling 11C.

Attention grabbing

When it came to selling the story to journalists, the press release only mentioned one figure - 11C.

The ensuing broadsheet headlines were predictably apocalyptic, from “Global warming is twice as bad as previously thought” to “Screensaver weather trial predicts 10C rise in British temperatures.”

They may be dramatic but they are also wrong. Dr Myles Allen, principal investigator at Climateprediction.net, blames the media.

“If journalists decide to embroider on a press release without referring to the paper which the press release is about, then that’s really the journalists’ problem. We can’t as scientists guard against that.”
But it’s not just journalists hyping absurd numbers. It’s bureaucrats too.
Even government agencies have been criticised for overselling climate change. When the Environment Agency publicised research on global warming over the next 1,000 years, it predicted cataclysmic change; temperature rises of 15C and sea levels increasing by 11m. The agency said action was needed now.

But this isn’t how the study’s lead author, Dr Tim Lenton sees it. His research shows if you did nothing for a century you would still only get a fraction of the worst case scenario. He says there’s consternation among scientists at the presentation of their science by the Environment Agency. Scientists would have liked to have seen a more balanced picture presented.
The simple fact is that the Global Warming hustlers have a political agenda. They want to use the bogey of climate change to promote a massive increase of government regulation of the economy and of people’s lifestyles.

No doubt some conservatives doubt global warming because they don’t want more government regulation. But it’s important to keep clear on the fact that the liberals, whose scare tactics are reliably echoed by the media, have dominated the debate way too much.

So much so that even the liberal BBC has to demur.

Cheers

Click on image to enlarge

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Capital Times Anti-War Speaker Says Murdering Blair Would be Justified

Most newspapers try to maintain at least the pretense of objectivity, notwithstanding that bias may creep into their stories, columns and even photos.

Thus, back in August, when it was announced that incendiary anti-Iraq War British MP George Galloway was going to speak in Madison, we found it a bit odd that the Madison Capital-Times cosponsored the event.

When we contacted Managing Editor Phil Haslanger he explained that the Capital-Times is “more activist than most papers.”

We wonder how people at the paper feel about this. From The Independent:

The Respect MP George Galloway has said it would be morally justified for a suicide bomber to murder Tony Blair.

In an interview with GQ magazine, the reporter asked him: “Would the assassination of, say, Tony Blair by a suicide bomber — if there were no other casualties — be justified as revenge for the war on Iraq?”

Mr Galloway replied: “Yes, it would be morally justified. I am not calling for it - but if it happened it would be of a wholly different moral order to the events of 7/7. It would be entirely logical and explicable. And morally equivalent to ordering the deaths of thousands of innocent people in Iraq — as Blair did.”

A particularly interesting question is: will Galloway’s statement be covered by the Capital-Times?

He’s Not Alone, Unfortunately

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Hypocritical Ploy From the Anti-Wal-Mart Crowd

Check out first this ad, which claims to be an “agreement . . . proposed in good faith by Wal-Mart Watch – A Campaign of Five Stones and the Center for Community and Corporate Ethics.”

It first appeared in the New York Times.

It basically “proposes” that Wal-Mart do all the things that liberal activists want it to do — provide higher wages and full health care coverage for all its workers, impose environmental and labor standards on all its suppliers all over the world, use local suppliers, and so on.

The sincerity of the ad is quesionable on its face, since Wal-Mart could not possibily afford to do all that the activists want.

While the activists like to quote the huge-sounding profits of the giant retailer, the reality is that their margins are paper thin. From a paper produced by one of John Kerry’s economic advisors:
Overall, it is no easier for Wal-Mart to change compensation than many other companies. This year Wal-Mart will earn about $6,000 per employee. This is virtually identical to the average for the retail sector and somewhat below the national average of $9,000 in profits per employee in the corporate sector. Some companies make substantially more, like Microsoft ($143,000 per employee) or General Motors ($12,000 per employee). Overall, it is not much easier for Wal-Mart to change compensation than, say, a small business making $24,000 a year and employing four people.

If Microsoft paid each of its employees an additional $5,000 or expanded its health benefits, its profits would be largely unchanged. If Wal-Mart took the same step — and did not pass the cost on to consumers – it would be virtually wiped out.

In the last fiscal year, Wal-Mart had revenues of $288 billion and costs (including taxes and other charges) of $277 billion — a razor-thin profit margin of 3.7 percent of revenues. Even a very small increase in its costs, without a corresponding increase in revenues, would wipe Wal-Mart’s profits out entirely.
So how seriously should one take an ad that asks the giant retailer to do think they could not possibly afford to do?

But here is the kicker. A link to the ad appears on the front page of the Wal-Mart Watch web site (no surprise here).

But right next to the link is an ad for Battle-Mart, a site that promises readers “you’ll find the resources to draw a line in the sand and defend your community.” Further:
Whether you want to stop a Wal-Mart from being built in your community, prevent an existing Wal-Mart from expanding, or hold a Wal-Mart accountable for its actions in your hometown, Battle-Mart is here for you.

This year grassroots powered citizen groups will successfully thwart Wal-Mart’s advance. Those victories are all of ours — and we can learn from them to take the fight to many more fronts.
So while Wal-Mart Watch is claiming to offer “an agreement of shared principles offered in good faith to the executives and board members of Wal-Mart” it is promoting the “line in the sand” attitude of activists who want to stop the giant retailer at all costs.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

An Apple For Jihad

Media Bias: Da Vinci Code vs. The Passion

From the Media Research Center, an analysis of how ABC, CBS, and NBC treated “The DaVinci Code” as compared to how they treated Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” The latter, of course, was a very orthodox Christian account of the Crucifixion of Jesus, while the former portrayed Christianity as a complete sham.

Key points:
  1. The DaVinci Code received an enormous publicity push from the broadcast networks.
  2. The Passion of the Christ was treated as a social problem – the biggest TV anti-Semitism story of that year – while The DaVinci Code was presented more often as an “intriguing” theory rather than threatening or offensive to Christians.
  3. In their push to promote The DaVinci Code, the networks routinely failed to address the aspect of the book that most offended Christian sensitivities: the claim that Christianity itself is a lie.
  4. While the faith of millions of Americans, Christianity, is singled out for criticism, with one “fascinating” fictional detail after another, the networks either refused to air or barely aired mild Mohammed cartoons out of great sensitivity to American Muslims.
  5. While Mel Gibson was attacked and psychoanalyzed for his religious beliefs, DaVinci Code author Dan Brown and filmmakers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer were never personally examined or challenged: about their personal religious beliefs, or their willingness to milk controversy, play fast and loose with facts, and offend Christians with the objective of making millions.
  6. The networks also bought into the DaVinci Code craze by picking up and publicizing other Code-related books attacking Christianity and the Catholic Church, but their standard of evidence was hardly an example of what a skeptical journalist would apply.
Doubtless the (mostly secular) reporters who produced this kind of coverage didn’t see themselves as being hostile to Christianity. The problem is that they were rather casual about a book and movie that slander Christianity, the Catholic Church, Opus Dei and the Catholic clergy.

Were they equally casual about every issue relating to religion, that would suggest a bias, alright, but not a particularly anti-Christian bias. But they were not casual about “The Passion of the Christ.” They never dismissed attacks on the film by saying “it’s just a movie.” They were not casual about cartoons considered offensive to Moslems.

They are only casual about attacks on Christianity.

CNN: Concealing That William Jefferson is a Democrat

A colleague of ours — one who doesn’t usually like the phrase “liberal media bias” — couldn’t resist bringing this to our attention.

On the front page at the CNN web site right now: a story about Democratic Congressman William Jefferson, who was caught by the FBI in a sting operation taking a $100,000 bribe.

The story linked from the front page details how House Speaker Dennis Hastert is objecting to the FBI seizing documents from a House member’s office.

But what does neither the CNN front page nor linked story reveal?

That Jefferson is a Democrat.

Admittedly, the front page shows that Jefferson is black, and somebody might assume that black members of Congress are Democrats. But why not say it?

Indeed, the thrust of the story, with Hastert criticizing the FBI and Nancy Pelosi demanding Jefferson’s resignation, might suggest that the Democrats are the ethics warriors and the Republicans are siding with an unethical member of Congress.

Admittedly, a story CNN ran on Monday identified Jefferson as a Democrat. And a story that ran on the site on May 17 followed the usual practice of adding “D” or “R” after the names of member of Congress. But that story, which mentioned that Jefferson was under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, focused on the Abramoff scandal and explicitly identified as Republicans two members under investigation.

But today, for Jefferson at least, the practice of labeling members as Democrats or Republicans seems to have been suspended.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

But We Don’t Favor Shooting Them

Click on image to enlarge

Spivak & Bice: Trying To Make Welfare Reform Look Bad

Great catch from The World According to Nick:

. . . Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnists Cary Spivak and Dan Bice ran the following blurb on their blog:

A new study finds that Wisconsin welfare reforms initially instituted by then-Gov. Tommy Thompson didn’t work as well as advertised.

The changes did reduce welfare rolls by putting more single parents in jobs, but the programs came up short in helping the neediest of the needy. It also found that a large number of welfare applicants, particularly in Milwaukee, ended up being investigated for abusing or neglecting their children.

The New York Times reports today:

Experts said they were startled by the high proportion of welfare applicants in Milwaukee who had come to the attention of child welfare officials: in a five-year period, 40 percent of the parents were investigated for the possibility of abuse or neglect, and a child had been removed from the homes of 16 percent.

Maybe it’s a good thing for Thompson that he didn’t run for governor this time.

Blogger Nick Schweitzer checked the New York Times article that Spivak and Bice referenced, and found that immediately following the paragraph they quoted was this:
Since most of these parents had already been investigated, the study did not indicate that the welfare program itself, with its required work or training efforts, was causing child abuse. But at the least, Dr. Courtney said, the findings show that many parents seeking welfare are having “a profound difficulty balancing the demands of work and parenting.”
So . . . instead of welfare reform making otherwise good mothers into abusers, it seems that mothers who were already abusers before welfare reform continued to be abusers.

We have always been a bit puzzled by the fact that a fair number of liberals (not all by any means) don’t like welfare reform. What it has achieved is what the Great Society in the 60s claimed to want to achieve: independence and employment for women on welfare.

The problem, beyond the fact that it has been pushed by Republicans, is this: if the welfare rolls can be cut by about 60% (and they have been) without increasing poverty (and poverty has actually declined since welfare reform took effect) that clearly implies that a very large number of women were on welfare who did not need to be.

That’s what conservatives have long said. And that’s what liberals, for an entire generation, strongly denied.

Which is why the success of welfare reform has been such an embarrassment to liberals.

Episcopal Paganism

From Built on a Rock, a document from the official website of the Episcopal Church. (Click here if you can’t open the Word document.)

What it does, in trendy feminist fashion, is take key pieces of the liturgy and replace “Father” with “Mother” or “Lady.”

For example:

The Word

A hymn, psalm, or anthem may be sung.

The people ( P) standing, the celebrant (C) says

C: Blessed be the Lady who births, redeems and sanctifies us.

P: And blessed be all of her creation forever. Amen

C: Nurturing Mother, our hearts are open to you. You know our yearnings and our deepest fears. Purify our hearts with your burning love, that we may learn to love you more and more. Amen.

C: Loving Lady, have mercy.

P: Mother Jesus, have mercy.

C: Loving Lady, have mercy.

The effect, of course, is rather Wiccan/Pagan — which is doubtless OK with the people who promulgate stuff like this.

As you might guess, the comments are rather withering:
  • Double, double, toil and trouble!
  • Well, at least they left the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer alone.
  • But now it appears to be addressed to a different god than the rest of the liturgy.
  • We say “Our Father” because Jesus did — and we know who his mother was.
  • But if God is “mother,” who is “father”?
  • In a certain sense, it should be no surprise that the “bridge church” has become a bridge to nowhere!
The problem, of course, is that while a few people who value trendy secular ideologies more than traditional Christian understandings hang around in “Mainstream Protestant” denominations and make trouble with things like this, it’s clear where they are headed: out the door.

They in fact have little interest in religion except to the extent that it supplies some spiritial-sounding rhetoric for what is really a secular liberal agenda.

The religious movements and groups that are growing have no problem with “God the Father.”

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Religion of Peace

This feature may not be reproduced or distributed electronically, in print or otherwise without the written permission of uclick and Universal Press Syndicate

Teaching Intolerance in Saudi Textbooks

From the Washington Post, an article by Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House:
Saudi Arabia’s public schools have long been cited for demonizing the West as well as Christians, Jews and other “unbelievers.” But after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — in which 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis — that was all supposed to change.

A 2004 Saudi royal study group recognized the need for reform after finding that the kingdom’s religious studies curriculum “encourages violence toward others, and misguides the pupils into believing that in order to safeguard their own religion, they must violently repress and even physically eliminate the ‘other.’” Since then, the Saudi government has claimed repeatedly that it has revised its educational texts.

The problem is: These claims are not true.
Shea goes on to explain how Freedom House came into possession of a collection of current Saudi textbooks which were snuck out of the country.
Some of our sources are Shiites and Sunnis from non-Wahhabi traditions — people condemned as “polytheistic” or “deviant” or “bad” in these texts — others are simply frustrated that these books do so little to prepare young students for the modern world.
Freedom House then had the textbooks translated independently by two fluent Arabic speakers. What was taught?
FIRST GRADE

“Every religion other than Islam is false.”

“Fill in the blanks with the appropriate words (Islam, hellfire): Every religion other than ______________ is false. Whoever dies outside of Islam enters ____________.”

FOURTH GRADE

“True belief means . . . that you hate the polytheists and infidels but do not treat them unjustly.”

FIFTH GRADE

“Whoever obeys the Prophet and accepts the oneness of God cannot maintain a loyal friendship with those who oppose God and His Prophet, even if they are his closest relatives.”

“It is forbidden for a Muslim to be a loyal friend to someone who does not believe in God and His Prophet, or someone who fights the religion of Islam.”

“A Muslim, even if he lives far away, is your brother in religion. Someone who opposes God, even if he is your brother by family tie, is your enemy in religion.”

SIXTH GRADE

“Just as Muslims were successful in the past when they came together in a sincere endeavor to evict the Christian crusaders from Palestine, so will the Arabs and Muslims emerge victorious, God willing, against the Jews and their allies if they stand together and fight a true jihad for God, for this is within God’s power.”

EIGHTH GRADE

“As cited in Ibn Abbas: The apes are Jews, the people of the Sabbath; while the swine are the Christians, the infidels of the communion of Jesus.”

“God told His Prophet, Muhammad, about the Jews, who learned from parts of God’s book [the Torah and the Gospels] that God alone is worthy of worship. Despite this, they espouse falsehood through idol-worship, soothsaying, and sorcery. In doing so, they obey the devil. They prefer the people of falsehood to the people of the truth out of envy and hostility. This earns them condemnation and is a warning to us not to do as they did.”

“They are the Jews, whom God has cursed and with whom He is so angry that He will never again be satisfied [with them].”

“Some of the people of the Sabbath were punished by being turned into apes and swine. Some of them were made to worship the devil, and not God, through consecration, sacrifice, prayer, appeals for help, and other types of worship. Some of the Jews worship the devil. Likewise, some members of this nation worship the devil, and not God.”

“Activity: The student writes a composition on the danger of imitating the infidels.”

NINTH GRADE

“The clash between this [Muslim] community (umma) and the Jews and Christians has endured, and it will continue as long as God wills.”

“It is part of God’s wisdom that the struggle between the Muslim and the Jews should continue until the hour [of judgment].”

“Muslims will triumph because they are right. He who is right is always victorious, even if most people are against him.”

TENTH GRADE

The 10th-grade text on jurisprudence teaches that life for non-Muslims (as well as women, and, by implication, slaves) is worth a fraction of that of a “free Muslim male.” Blood money is retribution paid to the victim or the victim’s heirs for murder or injury:

“Blood money for a free infidel. [Its quantity] is half of the blood money for a male Muslim, whether or not he is ‘of the book’ or not ‘of the book’ (such as a pagan, Zoroastrian, etc.).

“Blood money for a woman: Half of the blood money for a man, in accordance with his religion. The blood money for a Muslim woman is half of the blood money for a male Muslim, and the blood money for an infidel woman is half of the blood money for a male infidel.”

ELEVENTH GRADE

“The greeting ‘Peace be upon you’ is specifically for believers. It cannot be said to others.”

“If one comes to a place where there is a mixture of Muslims and infidels, one should offer a greeting intended for the Muslims.”

“Do not yield to them [Christians and Jews] on a narrow road out of honor and respect.”

TWELFTH GRADE

“Jihad in the path of God — which consists of battling against unbelief, oppression, injustice, and those who perpetrate it — is the summit of Islam. This religion arose through jihad and through jihad was its banner raised high. It is one of the noblest acts, which brings one closer to God, and one of the most magnificent acts of obedience to God.”
Interestingly, the Saudi government not only runs a public school system in Saudi Arabia consisting of 25,000 schools, but it also runs schools in 19 world capitals. One of these is in Fairfax County, Virginia, right outside Washington, DC.

Looking at the school’s web site, we have trouble seeing it as sinister, although a devout brand is Islam is apparently taught there. But within Saudi Arabia, without the moderating influence of American culture, one can see how this sort of teaching is a recipe for terrorist violence.

Their Way is a Lot Cheaper

John Trever

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Planned Parenthood: Quick-Service Clinic for Affluent Yuppies

From the Associated Press:
WOODBURY, Minn. - Shoppers come to this upscale brick strip mall to pick up bouquets of cookies decorated like soccer players, or $39.99 bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape. Soon, they’ll be able to get emergency contraception, too.

Planned Parenthood wants to expand its services to more areas, and the organization’s leaders hope a plush fast-service clinic coming to this well-heeled St. Paul suburb next month will attract a new group of women who value convenience and can afford to pay full price.

It could be to reproductive health care what companies like MinuteClinic and RediClinic are to strep tests and ear infections. Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit, but its leaders hope the new clinic will make enough money to help subsidize the rest of its operations.

Sister affiliates in states including California, Massachusetts, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Alabama have opened 87 express clinics in the last two years, and more are in the works. But Sarah Stoesz, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, said this one will take the focus on the customer to a new level.

“Ours will have a very different look and feel,” Stoesz said. “We’re going to the women where they spend their lives, to help them solve some of the problems in their lives.”

The clinic will not perform abortions. Instead, lotions, essential oils and decorative carrying cases for pills and condoms will beckon shoppers inside, where they can also get oral contraceptives, pregnancy tests and screening for HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea — all in about 20 minutes. If customers are interested, the clinic may add massages and other spa services later, spokeswoman Marta Coursey said.

The convenience factor — combined with profitable body products — could make it work, said Bruce Kelley, a senior consultant with Watson Wyatt Worldwide, a benefits consulting firm. He said fast clinics in pharmacies and supermarkets are catching on and will keep multiplying.

But it won’t take patients on subsidized health plans if they can’t pay out of pocket. Those customers can visit one of Planned Parenthood’s 22 existing clinics in Minnesota, which operate on a sliding scale based on the patient’s income.

Stoesz and her colleagues picked Woodbury because it has a large population of younger women, and the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic is about a 20-minutes drive away, not counting traffic. Woodbury’s 1999 median family income was nearly $85,000, well above national and state averages.

The Woodbury clinic is designed to be a cut above even the nicest Planned Parenthood express clinics — like the one in Somerville, Mass., near Boston and Harvard University. That one sits in a storefront across a plaza from a Starbucks, amid a shopping area near a major transit line.

“It’s very fresh, upbeat — people getting being responsible, doing their shopping, getting the Starbucks and going in and getting their contraception,” said Dianne Luby, who heads the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. Luby said the clinic should break even within 18 months.
While no abortions will be done at the Woodbury clinic, although women will be referred for abortions, and profits might be used to subsidize abortions at other locations.

James Martin, SJ, on “The Da Vinci Code”

Via Commonweal, a CNN interview with Jesuit James Martin, discussing the movie “The Da Vinci Code.”
Martin: As a moviegoer I found it really tedious and really long, and as a priest, I found it really anti-Catholic, so not a good combination in my book.

CNN: All right, but did you feel that it was blasphemous, or did you feel that it was just a murder mystery based on a fiction novel?

Martin: Well, it’s based on a novel, obviously, but it crams all the anti-Catholic stereotypes it can into the movie. You have the evil Opus Dei monk, you have the conniving bishop, you have people murdering, the Vatican covering things up, perpetrating this lie. The only way it could have been any more anti-Catholic is if they had slapped a subtitle saying “the Catholic Church is evil” through the whole movie —

CNN: Oh, Father! Don’t you think that because it’s so over the top, it will dispel all the worries that this is going to change people’s vision of Christianity?

Martin: The problem is that Dan Brown and his admirers have been presenting him and his book as if it is fact. He says that it’s based on historical research, and a lot of people I talk to, like the woman you just quoted [in the intro to the segment], say it’s objective. They’re trying to have it both ways. They’re saying it’s based on research but that it’s all just fiction. So I think it will end up confusing some people, unfortunately.

CNN: Well, director Ron Howard basically says, look, if you don’t like the story, don’t go see it, and author Dan Brown is starting to come out and speak about it. Take a look at what he had to say [plays video clip of Brown saying]: “A very wise British priest noted recently in the press, ‘Christian theology has survived the writings of Galileo and the writings of Darwin, surely it will survive the writings of some novelist from New Hampshire.’” There you go. It kinda makes sense. What’s your response?

Martin: That’s a pretty thin response to bigotry. It’s like saying, hey, I’m going to open up a restaurant that doesn’t serve blacks or Jews and if you don’t like it don’t come. . . . People should have the guts to stand up and say either I don’t believe in the Catholic Church or I do, but to hide behind this veil of fiction is really bologna.

CNN: But, Father, at the same time, you just said it was over the top, and honestly, I’ve seen the movie, and it didn’t change my view of Christianity. I thought it was just a movie. So don’t you think that by seeing this movie people are going to realize, yeah, it’s just a movie. It’s not reality.

Martin: It’s like the Oliver Stone movie JFK. It’s so artfully presented that a lot of people are going to leave the movie theater and say, that’s the way it was. . . . If you’re dealing with people who know a lot about church history, great, but a lot of people don’t, and in this vacuum comes what I call the theological equivalent of junk food.

CNN: The fortunate thing is that at least it’s getting people to research Christianity and its roots?

Martin: You would hope so, but if you look at the New York Times bestseller list, you see a lot of books like the Jesus Papers and Holy Blood, Holy Grail. They’re going from one bit of junk food to another. They’re not going to go out and buy a book of church history; they’re going to buy another Dan Brown novel.

CNN: Very quickly, you’ve had a little fun with this. Yesterday, you were leaving awfully quickly, you stumbled across a reporter, and what did you say?

Martin: I said that I had to rush home because, like all priests and monks, I have to go assassinate somebody.

CNN: Oh, goodness, Father! You can’t talk like that. I’m praying for you, okay?

Martin: Thank you, I’m praying for you, too.

Debunking “The Da Vinci Code”

Via Dappled Things, a splendid debunking of the pseudo-historical pseudo-theological nonsense of The Da Vinci Code.

The ironies surrounding the book (and now the movie) are huge.

One of the most acute ones involves author Dan Brown’s embracing of Gnostic sources about the early history of the Church — sources that mainstream Christianity rejected as heretical.

The Gnostics were, quite simply, elitists who thought themselves intellectually and therefore morally superior to the ordinary run of humanity. According to the The Catholic Encyclopedia, gnosticism is:
The doctrine of salvation by knowledge. This definition, based on the etymology of the word (gnosis “knowledge”, gnostikos, “good at knowing”), is correct as far as it goes, but it gives only one, though perhaps the predominant, characteristic of Gnostic systems of thought. Whereas Judaism and Christianity, and almost all pagan systems, hold that the soul attains its proper end by obedience of mind and will to the Supreme Power, i.e. by faith and works, it is markedly peculiar to Gnosticism that it places the salvation of the soul merely in the possession of a quasi-intuitive knowledge of the mysteries of the universe and of magic formulae indicative of that knowledge. Gnostics were “people who knew,” and their knowledge at once constituted them a superior class of beings, whose present and future status was essentially different from that of those who, for whatever reason, did not know.
Orthodox Christianity, on the other hand, has always been a very public faith.

Jesus taught pretty much anybody who would listen, including both the uneducated masses, and some rather disreputable sorts of people.

If you had lived during New Testament times, and run into the Apostle Peter, he would have told you everything he knew about Jesus.

And probably repeated a good part of it. He would have talked your ear off. A Jehovah’s Witness is nothing compared to the early apostles.

Had you run into a Gnostic, and he would condescend to talk to you at all, he might have made some oblique comments, trying to test you to see whether you were intellectually “up” to receiving the occult “knowledge.”

And which group does Dan Brown side with? The elitists. The nose-in-the-air “we know better than you do” snobs.

But then, sociologically, those are the people to whom he is trying to appeal.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Onion: Heroic Computer Dies To Save World From Master’s Thesis

From The Onion:
WALTHAM, MA—A courageous young notebook computer committed a fatal, self-inflicted execution error late Sunday night, selflessly giving its own life so that professors, academic advisors, classmates, and even future generations of college students would never have to read Jill Samoskevich’s 227-page master’s thesis, sources close to the Brandeis University English graduate student reported Monday.

The brave laptop, even after fulfilling its mission, steadfastly resists a technician’s data-recovery attempts.

“This fearless little machine saved me from unspoken hours of exasperated head-scratching and eyestrain, as well as years of agonizing self-doubt over my decision to devote my life to teaching,” said professor John Rebson, who had already read through three drafts of Samoskevich’s sprawling, 38,000-word dissertation, titled A Hermeneutical Exploration Of Onomatopoeia In The Works Of William Carlos Williams As It May Or May Not Relate To Post-Agrarian Appalachia. “It was an incredible act of bravery. This laptop sacrificed itself in order to put an end to Jill’s senseless rambling.”

“From what I read—specifically, pages one through 76—this computer was put through a lot of painful, torturous passages,” said Department of English graduate faculty advisor Judith Mendel, who was scheduled to meet Samoskevich on Thursday to discuss the possibility of publishing the “atrocity” in the department’s academic journal. “Thanks to this laptop’s valor, Jill’s classmates or future students will never have to pick their way through dense and discursive passages about ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’ and North Carolina farming communities. Also, I get to have a free lunch period Thursday.”

Mendel said that even her most scalding critiques and fundamental dismantling of the paper’s core arguments could never have demoralized Samoskevich in the way this computer’s single system shutdown did. “Jill called me last night and told me that she was too crushed to even consider starting over from scratch,” Mendel said. “One determined computer has triumphed over years of misapplied literary theory.”

The day before the crash, the computer reportedly resisted an attempt by Samoskevich to transfer files to an external drive when it failed to recognize a USB port, convincing some that the laptop’s self-destruction was premeditated.

According to Samoskevich’s roommate, Pamela Roscoe, the ThinkPad had been “up to something” for months.

“There were definite warning signs,” Roscoe said. “It infected itself with a virus so Jill couldn’t send e-mail attachments, and it would noticeably lag or shut down while she was typing out particularly long, dry sentences. I guess when she got to the chapter about how the ‘imitative tactility’ used in the first two stanzas of ‘Young Sycamore’ can act as a ‘neo-structuralist, pre-objectivist perlustration and metonymy’ of the importance of anti-Episcopalian sentiment in the rise and fall of central West Virginian coal miners’ unions, the computer just decided that something had to be done for the greater good.”

We Think It’s Worth a Belly Laugh

Click on image to enlarge

John McCain: Hated By Liberals at The New School

From the New York Times:
The jeers, boos and insults flew, as caustic as any that angry New Yorkers have hurled inside Madison Square Garden. The objects of derision yesterday, however, were not the hapless New York Knicks, but Senator John McCain, the keynote speaker at the New School graduation, and his host, Bob Kerrey, the university president.

As Mr. McCain came to the lectern, dozens of students and professors stood and turned their backs on him. Many waved their fliers.
Another New York Times article adds more detail:
The historically liberal university has been roiled in controversy in recent weeks over the selection of McCain, a conservative Republican and likely 2008 presidential candidate, to deliver the commencement address.

Some 1,200 students and faculty signed petitions asking the university president, former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, to rescind the invitation. Petitioners said McCain’s support for the Iraq war and opposition to gay rights and legal abortion do not keep with the prevailing views on campus.

Kerrey, a Democrat who served in the Senate with McCain and, like McCain, is a decorated Vietnam War veteran, addressed the controversy almost immediately after the 2,700 graduates and thousands of other parents and friends filed into Madison Square Garden for the ceremony.

As he spoke, several dozen students and faculty turned their backs to him and lifted signs saying “Our commencement is not your platform.”

A few students yelled catcalls at McCain, saying things like “full of it,” and “We’re graduating, not voting.”
Not only was McCain heckled, so was Kerry. One student yelled at him, “You’re a war criminal!”

Just what does this say about contemporary liberalism?

We can’t imagine liberal students at Marquette acting like this en masse (although there are a few that are similarly intolerant). But the Marquette students attend a school where the student body is evenly balanced between liberals and conservatives. They also attend a Catholic university that, at least nominally, upholds the Catholic position on things like abortion and “gay rights.”

But what is it about liberals such that, if you get a critical mass — if you get a culture so lopsided that intellectual diversity is missing — they turn nasty and intolerant?

One might be tempted to say that whenever attitudes are too one-sided, intolerance follows. But when McCain spoke at Liberty University, a school where the students are as lopsidedly conservative as those at The New School are liberal, he was applauded. This in spite of the fact that he had attacked Liberty’s president, Jerry Falwell, as an “agent of intolerance” in the 2000 presidential election.

Why is it that when you get a critical mass of “tolerant” liberals, they turn nasty and intolerant? Quite simply, because there is nothing tolerant about liberalism at all.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Islamic Extremism in Boston

From Jeff Jacoby of The Boston Globe, a Boston issue that bears watching elsewhere in America.

It involves the fact that the Islamic Society of Boston is suing Ahmed Mansour and a variety of other people for defamation. Mansour was run out of Egypt for speaking out against radical Islam and working for the rights of Christians and other religious minorities.
Mansour is just one of many people and organizations being sued for defamation by the Islamic Society of Boston, which accuses them all of conspiring to deny freedom of worship to Boston-area Muslims. In fact, the defendants — who include journalists, a terrorism expert, and the founder of the American Anti-Slavery Group, plus the Episcopalian lay minister and the Jewish attorney who together with Mansour formed the interfaith Citizens for Peace and Tolerance in 2004 — appear to be guilty of nothing more than voicing concerns about the ISB’s construction of a large mosque in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury.

More than a few unsettling questions have been raised about the ISB and its mosque project. For example:
  • Why did city officials provide the land for the mosque for just $175,000, when the parcel was publicly valued at $400,000? And where did that $400,000 figure come from, when the land’s market value had earlier been assessed at $2 million?
  • What is the Islamic Society’s relationship to Yusef al-Qaradawi, a radical Islamist who praises suicide terrorism and endorses the killing of Americans in Iraq? For several years the ISB listed him as a trustee, though now it says that was an “administrative oversight.” Was it also an oversight when a videotaped message of support from Qaradawi, who is banned from the United States, was played at an ISB fund-raiser in 2002?
  • After it was reported that another trustee, Walid Fitaihi, had written that Jews are “murderers of the prophets” who will be punished for “oppression, murder, and rape of the worshipers of Allah,” why did the ISB drag its heels for seven months before unequivocally repudiating his words?
But if anything should raise eyebrows, it is the decision of the Islamic Society to pursue Mansour for his comments about the ISB at a press conference in 2004. He had gone to pray at the ISB’s current mosque in Cambridge, and described at the press conference what he had observed: “I am here to testify that this radical culture is here, inside this society,” he said. He had seen “Arabic-language newsletters filled with hatred against the United States.” Books and videos in the mosque’s library promoted “fanatical beliefs that insult other people’s religions.” A religious man who prays five times daily, he stressed that he was “not against the mosque. . . . I’m against extremists.”
We have to wonder: just how widespread is Islamic extremism in America? We honestly don’t know, but find reports like this rather chilling.

ScrappleFace: U.S. Troops on the Border Will Face North

From Scrapple Face, stunning news about a committment that President Bush has made to Mexican President Vicente Fox.
In an effort improve his sagging popularity in Mexican public opinion polls, President George Bush today reassured his Mexican counterpart that his move to place more National Guard units at the border is actually intended to keep illegal aliens from escaping the U.S.

With Congress moving toward heavier penalties for undocumented workers and their employers, President Bush reportedly told Mexican President Vicente Fox that the U.S. government will do all it can to “retain the people who do the jobs no one else will do.”

In a 15-minute phone call to Mr. Fox, President Bush reiterated his commitment to immigration reform that would ensure the right of Mexicans to “run away from your pathetic third-world dump, without restricting the flow of U.S. dollars that prop up your alleged government.”

The White House said moving more National Guard units to the border would shore up the president’s conservative Republican base.

“They always like to see military deployments,” an unnamed White House spokesman said, “and since most members of Congress never visit the border, they won’t realize that our troops are facing north.”

And I Want to Work for the Government When I Grow Up


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Mexico’s Elite: Looking Out for Numero Uno

From The American Conservative, are article about how Mexico’s political elite, who have the temerity to lecture the U.S. about our immigration policy, reap the benefits of a corrupt system that creates the incentive for poor Mexicans to emigrate.
Mexico City—A watchword of Mexican politics is “Show me a politician who is poor and I will show you a poor politician.” In accord with this adage, many Mexican officials enjoy generous salaries and lavish fringe benefits. Even as they live princely lifestyles, they and their fellow elites pay little in taxes and refuse to spend sufficient money on education and health care to create opportunities in Mexico — a country that abounds in oil, natural gas, gold, beaches, fish, water, historic treasures, museums, industrial centers, and hard-working people. Rather than mobilizing these bountiful resources to uplift the poor, Mexico’s privileged class noisily demands that Uncle Sam open his border wider for the nation’s “have nots.”
Read the entire article.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Wherever Needed


Click on image to enlarge

Europe’s Two Culture Wars

From the current issue of Commentary magazine, an essay by George Weigel on what is fundamentally wrong with Europe.

Fundamental wrongs are usually spiritual.

In the case of Europe, Weigel sees two different culture wars on that continent.
The first of these wars . . . “Culture War A” — is a sharper form of the red state/blue state divide in America: a war between the postmodern forces of moral relativism and the defenders of traditional moral conviction. The second —“Culture War B” — is the struggle to define the nature of civil society, the meaning of tolerance and pluralism, and the limits of multiculturalism in an aging Europe whose below-replacement-level fertility rates have opened the door to rapidly growing and assertive Muslim populations.

The aggressors in Culture War A are radical secularists, motivated by what the legal scholar Joseph Weiler has dubbed “Christophobia.” They aim to eliminate the vestiges of Europe’s Judeo-Christian culture from a post-Christian European Union by demanding same-sex marriage in the name of equality, by restricting free speech in the name of civility, and by abrogating core aspects of religious freedom in the name of tolerance. The aggressors in Culture War B are radical and jihadist Muslims who detest the West, who are determined to impose Islamic taboos on Western societies by violent protest and other forms of coercion if necessary, and who see such operations as the first stage toward the Islamification of Europe. . . .

The question Europe must face, but which much of Europe seems reluctant to face, is whether the aggressors in Culture War A have not made it exceptionally difficult for the forces of true tolerance and authentic civil society to prevail in Culture War B.
Weigel’s detailed and subtle essay paints a picture of secular elites who are so enmeshed in fighting Culture War A that they are likely to lose Culture War B.

They can, in other words, summon the courage to attack declining Christian values, but not to confront militant Islam.

We frankly find our self thinking that they fully deserve to lose Culture War B, and that if they end up living under a rather fundamentalist Islamic regime, then justice will have been done.

But the collateral damage will be huge.

Slow Learner


Eric Allie

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

“The Da Vinci Code” Bombing Big Time

And this among critics and the Cannes glitterati who have no particular affinity for the Catholic Church.

According to CNN:
At Cannes, one scene during the film, meant to be serious, elicited prolonged laughter from the audience, and when the credits rolled, there was no applause, only a few catcalls and hisses. Things were no better Stateside, where the film screened for critics in New York.
According to Reuters:
Opening the annual Cannes film festival, Ron Howard’s adaptation of the Dan Brown bestseller was described variously as “grim,” “unwieldy” and “plodding.”
Another Reuters article quotes movie critics:
“‘Da Vinci’ never rises to the level of a guilty pleasure. Too much guilt. Not enough pleasure,” said Kirk Honeycutt of the Hollywood Reporter.

He called Tom Hanks’s performance as symbologist Robert Langdon “remote, even wooden,” and found the long passages of religious and historical debate cumbersome.

Lee Marshall of Screen International agreed.

“I haven’t read the book, but I just thought there was a ridiculous amount of exposition,” he told Reuters.

“I thought it was plodding and there was a complete lack of chemistry between Audrey Tautou and Tom Hanks.”

While critics argue that the controversy surrounding the film, and the fact that more than 40 million people have bought the book, will ensure a strong box office performance, word-of-mouth is likely to hit sales later on.
We have long planned to avoid the film, because we don’t like to put money in the pockets of people who trade in anti-religious prejudice.

It’s not that we think people like Tom Hanks and Ron Howard are on some anti-Christian crusade. Rather, they seem to be merely heedless and clueless.

But that’s bad enough.

Apparently, we won’t be missing much.

German Government Spies on Journalists

From the International Herald Tribune:
BERLIN The German government admitted Monday that the Federal Intelligence Service had recruited and spied on journalists from 1993 until as recently as last year.

“The government regrets the incidents,” said Ulrich Wilhelm, the government spokesman after he had been bombarded with questions during the Monday regular news conference.

Wilhelm said the Chancellery had ordered the Federal Intelligence Service to stop such activities following a string of allegations emerging over the last few days that the agency had recruited journalists to spy on their colleagues.

The parliamentary controller’s committee, which monitors the activities of the intelligence services, will hold a special session Tuesday amid calls by the German Association of Journalists and the Association of Newspaper Publishers for a “rigorous investigation.”

Wilhelm said the agency had been ordered to answer questions. “We will confront the issue of what conclusions to draw in terms of personnel.”

The allegations were made in a confidential report drawn up by a retired federal judge, Gerhard Schäfer, who presented it last week at a closed meeting of the parliamentary group responsible for the intelligence services.

In the 170-page report, Schäfer showed how the Federal Intelligence Service, which is the equivalent of the foreign secret service or the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, had kept tabs on several journalists, including some from the weekly newsmagazines Der Spiegel and Focus and the daily Berliner Zeitung.

Schäfer, who had spent over a year gathering the evidence, said that the actions by the agents “were unlawful” but that the agency went to such lengths to spy on journalists because they wanted to find out who in the agency was leaking information to the media.

And Not Hank’s Shoes Either

Marquette Theologian on “The Da Vinci Code”

When the Journal-Sentinel wanted somebody to discuss The Da Vinci Code they turned to Marquette’s Professor Robert Masson.

In a bit of rash rhetorical excess, they compared him to “Robert Langdon,” the fictional hero of the book.

But Masson is a scholar, and while he approaches the novel (now a movie) with equanimity, he isn’t at all taken with the whole enterprise.
Masson takes a good-natured but critical view of Brown’s work, which he sees as not only factually flawed, but also philosophically flawed.

“Somebody referred to ‘The Da Vinci Code’ as a ‘factish novel,’” he said. “There isn’t much historical fact behind it. It’s fiction like Harry Potter and Dr. No and James Bond and ‘Star Trek.’ He’s writing a novel, and if you take it as a novel, it’s not so damaging. The problem is that a lot of people don’t get the difference.”
Masson has no trouble with the idea that a painting such as “The Last Supper” may contain symbolism, but sees that as beside the point, and doesn’t think the symbols point to some hidden truth.
“In [author] Brown’s narrative world, religious truths are encoded as secrets and puzzles, and indeed, much of the narrative plot, as well as the engagement of readers who get caught up in it, is driven by the allure of solving the puzzle and getting to the bottom of the secret. That’s the kind of game Brown’s hero is playing. He’s running around trying to solve puzzles and treating religion as though it’s a puzzle and then he adds to it the whole conspiracy theme.”

But religious thought isn’t a detective novel, Masson said. “We’re not talking about clues or puzzles.”
Treating religion the way hobbyists treat (say) the Kennedy assassination, as a puzzle to be solved, is simply wrong-headed.

It’s especially wrong-headed when, as in the case of the JFK assassination, people refuse to accept the solution because playing the game is more fun than believing the truth.

Cannes Underwhelmed by “The Da Vinci Code”

From Heart, Mind & Strength, the fact that the response to “The Da Vinci Code” at the Cannes Film Festival has been lukewarm at best.

The film seems to faithfully follow the book of the same name, which is (not to put too fine a point on the matter) a pastiche of lies and misrepresentations designed to attach Christianity and particularly Catholicism.

Christian groups have been gearing up to debunk the movie, viewing its release as a “teachable moment” during which to talk about church history.

Unless the movie is more popular with general audiences than it has been at Cannes, that may not be necessary. While the movie JFK was a compelling piece of cinema (all the while twisting history in the service of a paranoid agenda), “The Da Vinci Code” may be just a big fat clunker.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

But FDR Was a Democrat

Congresswoman Gwen Moore Arrested in Darfur Protest

Congresswoman and Marquette alumna Gwen Moore has been arrested, along with several other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, at a protest that blocked the front entrance of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington today.

Moore’s explanation for her actions involved Marquette. According to the Associated Press:
She said she received a petition from Marquette University, her alma mater, with 4,500 signatures calling for the United States to help end genocide there.
We actually signed that petition, thinking it would do no harm, while doubting it would do any good. Perhaps it did some good.

Ward Churchill Guilty of Academic Misconduct

From the University of Colorado, Investigative Committee of the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct, the finding that controversial professor Ward Churchill has been guilty of several forms of academic misconduct, including plagiarism.

You can read the entire report here.

This was not simply a matter of being sloppy with quotes or citations.
The Committee found that Professor Churchill’s misconduct was deliberate and not a matter of an occasional careless error. The Committee found that similar patterns recurred throughout the essays it examined.
Churchill became notorious on the basis of a long series of incendary comments he made, the most well-known being his comparing the victims in the World Trade Center 9/11 attacks to Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann.

Church is an archtypal — if rather extreme — example of a politically correct race hustler in academia.

Big Indian Bucks in Wisconsin Politics

Back in October, 2005, the Lakeland Times reported that the Forest County Potawatomi Community was budgeting $7.2 million to influence the 2006 election cycle.

Now comes columnist Bruce Murphy, who reports:
. . . legislative insiders say lobbyists for the Potawatomi are now whispering that the true figure could be more like $14 million. That’s an unprecedented level of spending that would blow away the state teachers’ union, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and any other interest group.
In an attempt to confirm this amount of spending, we reached Ken Walsh (the person who handles public relations for the tribe).

Walsh said “I don’t know where Mr. Murphy picked that up” and insisted that “$14,000,000 is high.”

Walsh declined to disclose the actual Potawatomi budget, saying “I’m not going to get into whether it’s fourteen million or ten or seven.”

He mentioned Potawatomi issue ads on the Crandon Mine issue, and ads touting the economic advantages to Wisconsin of Potawatomi gaming. He seemed to us to be implying that $14,000,000 may be the total budget for political and PR activities (although he did not say so directly).

Walsh insisted that the Potawatomi “give to candidates with both ‘D’ and ‘R’ after their names.” This, of course, is the normal pattern of giving among business groups.

But cut and slice it as you want, it’s still a lot of money.

One of the things that galled us during the debate at Marquette about the use of the “Warriors” nickname was the assumption, from the politically correct crowd, that Indians are an oppressed victim group, deserving of all the deference that oppressed victim groups get in politically correct quarters.

In reality, some Indian tribes are rich, rolling in cash. (Those who aren’t lucky enough to have big-time gambling enterprises aren’t nearly so well off.) To treat them as victims, or give them any privileges we would not also give to (say) Wal-Mart makes no sense.