Wednesday, January 31, 2007

We Can’t Allow Heresy

Vagina Monologues: Lesbian Pedophile Seduction

It was just announced Monday. The controversial play “The Vagina Monologues” is going to be performed on the Marquette campus.

To get some idea of the controversy surrounding the play, check out an editorial in the Marquette Tribune endorsing the idea, and a column by GOP3 blogger Daniel Suhr opposing it.

We’ve just watched the HBO version of “The Vagina Monologues” (which we got from the Raynor Library), and read the 2006 version of the script at the same time.

Our first reaction is that this whole controversy is silly. Much of TVM is shtick humor, no more raunchy than what one might see on Comedy Central, in which audiences titter -- with a teenage level of maturity -- at hearing naughty words.

As a columnist in Slate put it:
Considering all the brouhaha surrounding The Vagina Monologues--Eve Ensler’s one-woman show, which has become a cult artwork and a rallying point for feminist activists and fund-raisers--the volume that reproduces them is bewilderingly slim. “You mean this,” the incredulous noninitiate will ask, “is it?”

This is an insultingly slim book. It consists of a handful of monologues by women who once felt uncomfortable with, but now rejoice in, their vaginas. There’s an inhibited old woman, an abused Southern black woman who becomes a lesbian, a lesbian dominatrix, a masturbation enthusiast, and a woman who wants to “reclaim” -- from whom is left unclear -- the word “cunt.” The book is padded with a few tiresome questionnaires devoted to what your vagina would wear if you dressed it up, what it would say if it could talk, and (this of a 6-year-old girl) what your vagina smells like, as well as a half-dozen “Vagina Facts” (like that the clitoris has twice as many nerve endings as the penis).

The first thing that will strike nonideologues is Ensler’s clumsy prose, which ranges between bad Rod McKuen (“It was a mouth. It was the morning.”) and the very worst of Henry Miller (“Then the quivering became a quake, an eruption, the layers dividing and subdividing”). While Ensler would call this a work of desacralizing, it’s ultimately a work of desexualizing. I take a backseat to no one in my enthusiasm for the vagina itself, but the Vagina According to Ensler is a combination between a bath toy and a household appliance. Its vision of female sexuality is at least as narrow and insulting as Henry Miller: A woman is a machine you work like a crank until you produce the desired quantity of fluid--from you and from her.
The show most certainly does talk about “violence against women” (the supposed socially redeeming aspect of the play) but that is only a small part. If somebody really wants to educate people about that issue, there are better ways than having a female actress read what is really little more than a stand-up comedy routine.

Conservatives have made much of some morally questionable monologues, and such monologues are certainly there.

The most notorious is the one in which a lesbian seduces a teenage girl.

If one reads the 2006 version of the script, one will find that the girl is 16 years old, and the lesbian who seduces her is 24.

But the script has been sanitized. In the original off-Broadway version, the girl was 13 years old. (The HBO version uses the sanitized script too.)

This is a bit like a politician who uses the “n-word” to refer to black people, and then manages to edit the word out of the only recording of him doing that. One can’t forget the way he really spoke. And one can’t forget that Ensler had the adult lesbian seducing a 13-year-old.

The seduction is portrayed as a sort of liberation. The character says:
Afterwards the gorgeous lady teaches me everything about my Coochi Snorcher [vagina]. She makes me play with myself in front of her and she teaches me all the different ways to give myself pleasure. She’s very thorough. She tells me to always know how to give myself pleasure so I’ll never need to rely on a man. In the morning I am worried that I’ve become a butch because I’m so in love with her. She laughs, but I never see her again. I realize later she was my surprising, unexpected and politically incorrect salvation. She transformed my sorry-ass Coochi Snorcher and raised it into a kind of heaven.
Child molestation, in other words, becomes a liberating experience for the child.

At one point, the script read:
Now people say it was a kind of rape . . . Well, I say if it was rape, it was a good rape then, a rape that turned my sorry-ass coochi snorcher into a kind of heaven.
Our guess is that the feminists who tout this play would go ballistic at a favorable portrayal of a man raping a 13 year old girl. But we suppose different standards apply to lesbians.

Also suspect, from a Catholic moral perspective, is a monologue where the narrator is a lesbian dominatrix prostitute. At least she doesn’t engage in sex acts with children.

While we respect the position of the University that academic units can make their own decisions as to what sort of presentations are appropriate for the curriculum, we frankly can’t see why anybody would want to present this silly mélange. Anybody who thinks it’s somehow liberating for women has some very odd notions about “liberation.”

Some pundits have suggested a counter-production called the “Penis Parables” in which men recite the ways in which they obsess about their penises. But the irony here is that men traditionally have obsessed about their penises, while women have not obsessed about their vaginas.

Which is one of the ways in which women are generally more sensible than men.

But for feminists, this sort of gender difference is unacceptable.

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Marquette Tribune: No Free Speech For Conservatives

It used to be that one could expect journalists to favor free speech. After all, who has a more intense interest in free speech than people whose occupation is expressing themselves in writing?

Indeed, at one time journalists, in spite of their liberal political beliefs, would side with free expression even for conservatives. After all, wasn’t it all part of a single package -- free speech for liberals and free speech for conservatives?

Those days are past, and nothing shows it better than the fledgling journalists at the Marquette Tribune. On a variety of free speech issues that have arisen on campus over the last two years they have shown a consistent pattern: they have favored free speech for liberals, and supported the University when it shut up conservatives.

Let’s start with the editorial in yesterday’s paper on “The Vagina Monologues,” a feminist play that is supposedly about violence and sexual exploitation of women, but in fact promotes a broader agenda of sexual promiscuity and lesbianism. The rather vapid response of the Tribune is:
Unfortunately, sexuality evolved into a phenomenon often fraught with confusion, hurt and even oppression. As Catholics, we reject oppression and stand in solidarity against the reality of sexual violence as we are called by God to treasure and respect His gifts to us.

Understanding exactly how we as Catholics should tackle this tremendous undertaking presents a challenge - one we feel can benefit from academic exploration. The university’s recent approval of a reading of “The Vagina Monologues” offers an extremely pertinent discussion framed within the context of faith and education.
In the context of free and open discussion on a college campus, a performance (or reading) of “The Vagina Monologues” is certainly defensible.

The Tribune treats the issue of who will lead the discussion on the play, and does call for the inclusion of someone who can “represent Catholic teaching” and would “ensure adequate attention be paid to the reading’s relationship to our Catholic community.” A good idea, but mere tokenism, given the leftist slant of the panel already announced.

But is the context “free and open discussion on a college campus?” At the Tribune, it’s not.

The paper has consistently supported the University when it has stifled conservative student expression. As they admit:
Students for Academic Freedom was denied recognition as a student organization by the Office of Student Development yesterday after being drawn out for months. . . . In the end . . . we agree with the decision to deny recognition to the group. Certainly, concerns over free speech at Marquette are valid. Although students technically have no First Amendment rights here, it remains a bad idea for the university to step in and restrict speech.

Three cases from the last three years all drew public fire: Adopt-a-Sniper, the dental school blogger and the quote removed from the office door of philosophy graduate students. The university handled each case poorly; each time criticism was richly deserved.

However, we agree with the university’s end decisions in each situation and we have faith the university will continue to pursue and support academic freedom. We’re not convinced that Students for Academic Freedom would have achieved anything additional.
It’s not clear what they mean concerning the Dental School blogger. Did they favor the initial draconian punishment, or the lighter punishment that was eventually levied?

But the case of the Dental School blogger was entirely nonideological. In the three cases where campus conservatives were shut up, the Adopt-a-Sniper Republican fund raiser, the Dave Barry quote a Philosophy graduate student posted on his door, and Students for Academic Freedom, the Tribune sided with the University in shutting up student expression.

Editor Ryan Nilsson, reached for an interview yesterday, insists that any claim of a liberal bias on the Tribune editorial board is a “vast oversimplification,” and says that he is “a conservative Catholic.” He further named two other members of the board, saying that one is a Republican and the other claims to be “Catholic as hell.”

Editorial Board member Tim Horneman responded to our query on this issue with the following e-mail:
I think it would be hard to argue from reading all of our editorials this school year, that there is a strong bias one way or the other. We have at times agreed with the administration, as we did in today’s editorials; we have at other times sharply disagreed with the administration, as we did with the South Africa decision. We have sometimes supported MUSG ideas; we have sometimes opposed them. Our opinions have probably, at times, put us at odds with a large part of the student body. Other times, the students would agree with us entirely.

Our decisions in the Tuesday Tribune, as I wrote on the Tribune editors’ blog late Monday night, came after lengthy, at times contentious, discussion. To suggest we didn’t consider all sides - or that a bias one way or the other led us to simply discount some perspective - is a result that, I believe, would not be reached by a careful reading of the editorials.

We gave particular voice to Catholic concerns when we approved of a reading of “The Vagina Monologues,” with our recommendation that a theologian representing Catholic teaching be present at the forum. We acknowledged the concerns Students for Academic Freedom had over free speech, although we disagreed that a group was necessary or productive for the cause.

Simply attributing our decisions to liberal bias or conservative bias or pro- or anti-administration bias, I believe, shortchanges the consideration we put into these editorials. We have no problem if people disagree with us - in fact, we welcome them to send us Viewpoints and continue the discussion of these issues - but to simply dismiss our opinions as one-sided doesn’t do justice to the editorials we wrote or the deliberation we put into them throughout Monday.
Unfortunately, all the talk about “deliberation” and “contentious discussion” doesn’t change the fact that the Tribune has consistently come down against free speech for conservatives.

One can, of course, engage in “deliberation” and “contentious discussion” and come down in favor of free speech. We don’t doubt that the Tribune editorial board thinks that it is engaging in fair deliberation without ideological bias. We just doubt that it actually is.

A particularly egregious editorial in the Tribune supported the University on the issue of the censorship of a quote from Dave Barry posted on the door of a Philosophy Department graduate student. Philosophy Department chair James South tore down the cartoon, explaining that he had had “complaints” and that the quote was “patently offensive.” Even the liberal Journal-Sentinel took the University to task.

We discussed the Philosophy Department issue with Nilsson yesterday, and he derided concern about free speech by saying “it’s a bumper sticker” and “a lot of these things are being blown out of proportion” by bloggers and talk radio.

So that seems to be the philosophy at the Tribune. Free speech isn’t a serious matter. And least, not when conservatives want to do it.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Marquette Rejects Students For Academic Freedom: More Coverage

Marquette’s refusal to recognize the campus Students for Academic Freedom has been covered by both student newspapers, and the campus blogs.

In The Warrior, an article by Mary Ellen Burke is titled “SAF denial dampers hopes for Student Bill of Rights.” It offers a very detailed and balanced account, with the history of student government actions seeking to protect academic freedom for students, and extensive quotes from SAF president Charles Rickert, Mark McCarthy, Dean of Student Development and Vice Provost Margaret Bloom.

“You have the right to remain silent — especially if you’re a student,” Burke observes.

The Tribune has a somewhat shorter article by Lindsay Fiori titled “OSD denies Students for Academic Freedom recognition.” Given the Tribune’s editorial position opposing SAF, the Fiori article is ironically a bit more favorable toward the organization than the Burke article in The Warrior. Fiori of course quotes the usual University spokespeople, but also quotes us, and includes extensive quotes from Rickert, including some real zingers. For example:
“Today was a defeat for the free marketplace of ideas at Marquette,” Rickert said. “It’s sad universities today are no longer places of civil and reasoned debate among different viewpoints.”
And further:
“This response means that throughout the course of 18 weeks OSD clearly did not hear what I was saying because they were either not listening or were trying to frame debates in ways SAF never meant,” Rickert said. “From the moment SAF applied, OSD was only looking for reasons to deny it. They were not helpful or specific on what to modify in our constitution and took two months to even give an initial opinion.”
The blogosphere chimed in as Daniel Suhr of GOP3.COM dissected Marquette’s decision. Suhr notes that the Office of Student Development disagrees with some of the stances of the SAF national organization, and then argues:
I entirely agree that MU should evaluate the national affiliate. However, in cases when a parent organization’s agenda conflicts with Marquette’s mission, the past practice has been to simply say that Marquette’s mission takes precendence in the specific areas of disagreement, not to deny the group outright. Thus, even though both the national Democratic Party and Amnesty International support abortion and gay marriage, we have College Democrats and AI on campus. If Marquette objected to certain parts of the nationwide SAF Information Center, common practice would have been to specify that the Marquette chapter could not advocate those objectionable parts of the national group’s agenda.
But of course, “common practice” can be ignored when the real intention is to stifle the group.

Suhr goes on to take issue with a reported comment of Mark McCarthy that “The main focus of such an organization is on academic freedom, which is really under purview of faculty.” Suhr responds:
This is typical of the administrators’ mindset - students are to be babied. They bring nothing valuable to campus but their tuition dollars and butts in the lecture hall chairs. Academic freedom is of interest to everybody! SAF argues that students need the freedom to express themselves in the classroom or in assignments without fear of ideological punishment. I suppose it should not be surprising that the administration that does not see a need for a student voice on governance issues does not believe students have academic freedom.
Also on GOP3, Brandon Henak urges readers to take action to support SAF by writing Marquette administrators.

Finally, talk show host Charlie Sykes links to one of our posts on the issue, and notes the irony of the situation:
Now, this is odd.

John McAdams has the story, including the newspeak explanation by MU bureaucrats that Students for Academic Freedom is inimical to. . . . academic freedom.

A fascinating glimpse of the academic mindset.
Fascinating, but all too typical, we are afraid.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Marquette Statement on Rejection of Students For Academic Freedom

From Brigid Miller, Director of University Communication, on today’s rejection of the application of Students For Academic Freedom to become a recognized student group.
As you may know, the Office of Student Development worked with the student over a period of several months regarding concerns about the group’s proposed constitution and discussed numerous options or revisions for the student to consider. When this student decided not to amend the constitution, the office notified the student that the group would not be recognized as a Marquette student organization.

Some of the issues identified in the proposed constitution, i.e., reading lists, academic conferences and classroom speakers, are curricular decisions within the purview of individual faculty members or faculty departments. Preserving this faculty discretion is a key tenet of academic freedom.

Procedures are already in place on campus to address many of the concerns cited in the proposed constitution for Students for Academic Freedom.
This statement, which appears to echo arguments fed to Miller by the Office of Student Development, is close to bizarre.

Just reading it, one might gather that Students For Academic Freedom was asking for the right to censor class reading lists at Marquette. One might gather that the organization was asking for the right to veto particular speakers or cancel conferences they don’t like.

In reality, all they asked for is the right to criticize the University, faculty and administrators on any of these issues.

Thus, “academic freedom” to these people means not merely that they get to make the relevant educational decisions. It means they cannot be criticized for decisions they make.

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Marquette Rejects Students For Academic Freedom

This was expected, but the rejection letter is here.

We just phoned Dean of Student Development Mark McCarthy, and he refused to comment, saying “let the Tribune get the story.”

We can understand why he would refuse to comment, since he and other Marquette bureaucrats have failed to articulate any coherent reason for rejecting the organization.

The rejection letter to Charles Rickert, President of the organization said:
. . . we find that a number of the programs and events proposed in your constitution and the affiliation of your group with the national Students for Academic Freedom Information Center and its programs and activities are inimical to Marquette’s committment to academic freedom.
What the organization has proposed to do, and which McCarthy clearly sees as unacceptable, is to criticize instances of liberal and leftist bias on campus.

In his discussion with Rickert, McCarthy first stressed grievance procedures available to students who feel they have been discriminated against on the basis of their political opinions.

Further, he questioned whether students are qualified to judge bias!

Quite clearly, criticizing Marquette, particular programs at Marquette and individual professors is viewed by Marquette bureaucrats as “inimical to Marquette’s commitment to academic freedom.”

In other words, “academic freedom” doesn’t include the right to claim that faculty and administrators are using their freedom in a biased way!

Committee on Faculty

McCarthy had asked the Committee on Faculty to provide some confidential commentary on Students for Academic Freedom, and that group discussed the issue for about a half-hour back in the fall.

According to William Thorn, Secretary of the Committee, the discourse quickly became side-tracked with a discussion of supposed threats to academic freedom at other universities, particular the cases of Ward Churchill at the University of Colorado and Kevin Barrett at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Members of the Committee were quite negative about any off campus group coming in and trying to critique or evaluate the curriculum or instruction at Marquette. Members said “we have an evaluation system.”

Much of the discussion involved attempted intrusion by state legislators at state schools.

One red-herring having nothing to do with Students For Academic Freedom (proposals that the official Marquette evaluations of professors be made public) got dragged into the discussion.

The commentary submitted to McCarthy was generally quite negative, although no vote was taken on the issue.

Given McCarthy’s initial negative reaction to the student group, it appears that he went to the Committee on Faculty not to seek guidance, but rather to try to enlist allies against the group.

A Threat To Academic Freedom?

Thus Marquette’s position is that having a student group on campus that will criticize individual professors, programs and the University as a whole for bias is inconsistent with academic freedom.

But we can’t imagine that Marquette would object if the Gay/Straight Alliance attacked Marquette for being insufficiently “gay friendly.”

Marquette, until recently, provided a link on the Student Government web site to something called Dogears. On this web site, students were allowed to post evaluations of professors.

The comments could be extremely negative. For example, one professor was described as a “prime example of a white elitist male.” Another was described as “extremely, extremely biased. Chooses favorites like it’s his job. Doesn’t read papers – I even turned the same one in twice to prove this.”

And of another professor: “. . . this course was very frustrating, overwhelming, boring, uninteresting, confusing, unorganized. I need more adjectives!” And of a different professor: “I believe this to be the worst class I have taken at Marquette, and that is saying a lot.”

And these faculty were attacked by name, and by students who were anonymous.

Given that Marquette explicitly allowed negative evaluations of professors to be publicly posted, it’s difficult to see why it would be a terrible threat to academic freedom to allow a particular group of conservative students to attack professors for leftist bias.

Does Academic Freedom Mean Professors Can Say Anything?

One might believe that if professors are in any way limited in what they can say in class, this is a violation of academic freedom.

But the classic formulations of academic freedom are far from giving professors carte blanche to say anything they want.

In the first place, the classic statements from the American Association of University Professors make it clear that academic freedom applies when an academic is talking about his or her subject matter. Thus an historian can espouse any conclusion about the origins of the Civil War (even a highly controversial one), but math professors don’t have the right to spout off about the Iraq War.

The same statements affirm that students should not be indoctrinated, and have a right to disagree with their professors.

For example, a 1967 statement from the AAUP says “Students should be free to take reasoned exception to the data or views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion.”

These sorts of restrictions are most certainly still applicable, as documents from Temple and Penn State show.

There is one final restriction on what professors are allowed to say. The doctrine of a hostile learning environment precludes certain kinds of statements that are gratuitously demeaning or insulting. Of course, this doctrine can be abused, as intolerant students claim to be “offended” upon hearing viewpoints they don’t like. But it’s perfectly sensible that, in the vast majority of college classes, negative comments about homosexuality should be out of bounds. Why not equally prohibit a professor of engineering saying that “Republicans are selfish bastards?”

What should be acceptable is a professor teaching a course on sexual ethics outlining in a sympathetic and favorable way the view of the Catholic Church that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. Or a professor in a class on public policy coming down on the side of the Democrats on a particular issue.

If criticism of particular professors should be allowed it’s even more obvious that students should be allowed to criticize majors that they think are biased, or criticize Student Government if it sponsors an ideologically biased slate of speakers.

Students For Academic Freedom Would Have No Power

The most important point here is a simple one. No student organization has the power to fire any professor. Or to reduce the professor’s salary. Or to determine the content of any reading list.

All Students For Academic Freedom would be able to do is criticize what they consider to be abuses.

Anybody seeing their criticism could make up their own minds as to whether it was well-founded.

In other words, the only power the student group would have is the power to publicize what they consider to be abuses.

But college administrators don’t like publicity. They don’t like having their decisions questioned, and don’t like having a variety of derelictions and failures publicized.

And if they are liberal administrators, they especially don’t like conservatives doing it.

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Darfur Action Coalition Meeting This Thursday

From the Marquette Darfur Action Coalition, a flyer advertising a meeting this coming Thursday.
This February, Wisconsin legislators are considering a bill to keep money out of companies that do business in Sudan--a nation whose government is accused of genocide.

What can you do to help?

Join MU’s Darfur Action Coalition on Thursday, February 1st, as we kick-off our Wisconsin divestment campaign!

Where: AMU 252

When: February 1st: 4:30-6:00 p.m.

Stop by anytime, stay as long as you like.

Bring your friends! Refreshments will be served.

Learn more about divestment and how it could help end the violence in Darfur.

Fill out postcards for your Wisconsin legislators, asking them to co-sponsor the bill.

Questions or comments: e-mail neal.styka@marquette.edu (414) 455-5975

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

“God Gap” Increased in 2006 Elections

From The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, a summary of how religion affected the 2006 elections.

Bottom line: the polarization that separates religious people and secular people (the latter group including a fairly large number of nominally religious) increased. Particularly instructive were comparisons with 2002, the last national non-presidential election year.
The GOP held on to voters who attend religious services more than once a week, 60% of whom voted Republican compared with 61% in 2002. A majority (53%) of those who attend church at least once a week also supported Republicans. But less frequent churchgoers were much more supportive of Democrats than they were four years ago. Among those who attend church a few times a year, for instance, 60% voted Democratic, compared with 50% in 2002. And among those who never go to church, 67% voted Democratic; four years ago, only 55% did so. As a result, the gap in Democratic support between those who attend church more than once a week and those who never attend church has grown from 18 percentage points in 2002 to 29 points today.
In other words, there was a general swing toward the Democrats (obvious on election night) but those who frequently attend religious services moved hardly at all in a Democratic direction, while those who seldom or never attend religious services moved sharply in Democratic direction.

Click on image to enlarge

Thus two things were going on. 2006 was a “deviating” election in which short-term forces favored the Democrats. But it also continued the “secular realignment” — here “secular” means it’s happening over decades — which is sorting out the parties.

The Mainstream Media spin on the election was that white evangelical voters voters were going to defect from the Republicans in large numbers, supposedly because of the “outing” of Republican Representative Mark Foley as a homosexual who exchanged obscene e-mails with a former page. This fit nicely into the Mainstream Media stereotypes of conservative Christians as homophobes would would go ballistic at learning that a Republican congressman might be gay.

In fact, evangelical Christians yet again calculated that, on issues like abortion and gay marriage, they are better represented by the Republicans.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

That’s Certainly Possible

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

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Political Giving Among Celebrities

From we live our lives among giants, a fascinating post linking to a list of political contributions of celebrities.

There are no big surprises there. The Hollywood crowd is firmly in the Democratic camp.

Country singers, however, are heavily Republican.

Game show hosts are heavily Republican! Check out, for example, Bob Barker, Wink Martindale, Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek.

If he had to come up with a completely ad hoc out-of-left-field explanation for this, it might be that they don’t like a large portion of the money they give out to their contestants confiscated by the government.

People who think the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” represents the best of American values will be gratified to learn that both the star (Jimmy Stewart) and the director (Frank Capra) gave overwhelmingly to Republicans.

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Los Angeles Times: Politicians Unfairly Targeting Wal-Mart

Not all the liberal mainstream media gets completely bent out of shape about the giant retailer headquartered in Arkansas.

From a recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times.
Targeting Wal-Mart again

Maryland tried to single out Wal-Mart with a healthcare law. But a federal court told the state to back off.


WHAT DO Johns Hopkins University, Northrop Grumman Corp., Giant Food Inc. and Wal-Mart have in common?

Answer: They are the four biggest private employers in Maryland. Yet last January, when the Maryland General Assembly passed its Fair Share Health Care Fund Act, requiring companies with more than 10,000 Maryland employees to spend at least 8% of their total payroll on workers’ health insurance costs, it did something interesting. Though all four qualified under the law, legislators ensured that only one — Wal-Mart, the super-villain of documentary films, watchdog websites and countless news investigations — would have to obey it.

This week, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an industry group’s challenge to the Maryland law, saying that it is preempted by the 1974 ERISA Act, a federal law that sets minimum standards for employee benefits plans. Although the court made a kind reference to Maryland’s “noble purpose” (in trying to offload some of its swelling health coverage costs), it made clear that Wal-Mart faced substantial losses.

The Fair Share Act could hardly have been more clear in its intent to punish Wal-Mart specifically, and unfairly. The act was passed — over the veto of then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich — in an atmosphere of widespread public revulsion at the retailer’s practices of discouraging unions and stinginess with benefits. Similar laws are on the books or under consideration in New York and Minnesota; and the super-retailer has certainly received its share of targeted legislative grief from city councils all over Southern California. But the Maryland law was so blatantly targeted at Wal-Mart as to amount to a “bill of attainder” — a legislative act pronouncing a person guilty of a crime. Such acts are prohibited by the Constitution.

. . . [T]he fate of the Fair Share Act demonstrates how easy it is for a statewide experiment to run afoul of federal regulations, even if that experiment is about solving a problem rather than aiming public opprobrium at a popular target.
Nothing so rallies the biases of the trendy left as Wal-Mart. Not only does it offend the political biases of the leftists (opposition to unions, support for school choice), but even more importantly it inflames their cultural biases.

But you don’t make sound public policy by asking: “Who is it that we really, really hate, and what can we do to hurt them.”

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Friday, January 26, 2007

The Sooner the Better

Classic Media Bias: Anti-War Protest vs. Anti-Abortion Protest

From the Media Research Center:
Another classic contrast in media bias is emerging with Saturday’s “anti-war” march on Washington, just six days after the annual March for Life. Already, the Washington Post is showing more love in column inches for the left-wing protest. The Post had no article previewing the pro-life march, but on the front page of Thursday’s Post, in a box promoting its “Faces of the Fallen” pages of the war dead, it ran a promotional blurb for a protest planned for Saturday in the District: “Actors, Other Activists Plan Mall War Protest, Jane Fonda and Susan Sarandon are expected for Saturday’s anti-war rally and March -- Metro.” But the Post never even use the word “liberal” to describe anyone in the story. Jane Fonda was an “actress, author, and peace activist.” Jesse Jackson a “civil rights activist.” The organizing group simply “describes itself as a coalition of 1,400 local and national organizations,” and apparently none of them are left-wing. The story had photos of Fonda, Danny Glover, Tim Robbins, and Susan Sarandon listed in a caption as “among the activists expected.”
You can read all the details of the Post’s fawning treatment of the leftist protestors on the MRC web site.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Improvised Explosive Device

Politically Correct “Tunnel of Oppression” Coming to Marquette

The bureaucrats at Marquette seem to be planning a spring full of politically correct indoctrination.

Here is an e-mail we got today:
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2007 13:40:12 -0600
Subject: You’re Invited...
From: Kate Kusiak
Thread-Topic: You’re Invited...

. . . to be a part of Remove the Blindfold, a new program coming to Marquette this April!

What Is Remove the Blindfold?

Remove the Blindfold is modeled after a well-known event called Tunnel of Oppression, which is organized on a number of college campuses across the country. It allows participants the opportunity to explore various forms of oppression and discrimination including racism, heterosexism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and ageism. The Tunnel of Oppression is intended to be eye-opening and conscious building [sic] and is targeted at those students who have rarely experienced difference. The rationale is that students are unable to fully understand oppression and discrimination until they have experienced it first-hand. The experience should stimulate thoughts, feelings, and emotions around the issues and images presented.

Who Is Sponsoring Remove the Blindfold?

It is a collaboration between Residence Life and Intercultural Programs.

Who Can Participate?

We are inviting all student organizations to be a part of this important program.

What Does Participation Involve?

Student organizations that want to be a part of Remove the Blindfold will create displays representing the form of oppression or discrimination they choose.

Here is a list of potential ideas for a display:

Hurricane Katrina
Homelessness
Body Image
Sexual Assault
Racial/Ethnic/Religious Oppression
Sexual Orientation
Ability
Educational Opportunity
Faith/Religion
Holocaust
Women’s Issues/Gender
Global Oppression/Awareness

When Is It?

It will take place from April 15 – April 20, 2007.

How Does My Organization Volunteer to Participate?

If your organization would like to be a part of Remove the Blindfold, please reply to this email and we will get in touch with you. Or, if you would simply like additional information, please reply to this email and we’ll answer any questions you have.

We look forward to working with you!

Carla Cadet, Cobeen Hall Director
Dannie Moore, Abbottsford Hall Director
Ed Gricius, O’Donnel Hall Director
Pamela Peters, Assistant Dean for Intercultural Programs
Meredith Galloway, Graduate Assistant for Intercultural Programs
Note the elitist assumption that Marquette students have “rarely experienced difference,” need their “eyes opened” and their “conscious” [sic] built.

(We perhaps should not blame these people for the use of “conscious” for “conscience” or “consciousness.” That text was in fact plagiarized from a web page at the University of Maryland.)

Of course, people who mount events like this are hardly “tolerant of difference.”

In their world, there are few if any legitimate political differences. There is only “racism, heterosexism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and ageism.” Banish those things and political conflict will melt away in a society of equality for all. Except for those evil heterosexual white males, who should feel eternally guilty for being oppressors.

Marquette is hardly on the cutting edge in this. It’s become a standard project of the usual suspects at many universities.

An excellent critique can be found on the Critical Mass blog.
Ball State joins a growing list of schools that have staged their own interactive tunnel visions of “hate” (defined in terms of the usual -phobias and -isms). Some of the more ambitious Tunnels of Oppression have been put on at Arizona, where tunnel-goers were cast as Jews in a Nazi gas chamber (some were cast as gay Jews); Maryland, where false sexual assault statistics were presented as true and where white students were handcuffed to a wall to simulate the experience of slavery; and Regis University, which also disseminated false sexual assualt numbers and where tunnel-goers confronted their “ableism” by trying to do tasks while blindfolded or while sitting in a wheelchair.

The Tunnel of Oppression is a good example of what passes for enlightenment on today’s campuses. It is not about disseminating information (not about disseminating true information anyway), or about providing historical context for understanding the conflicts that define our age, but about oversimplifying those conflicts through a disingenuous appeal to our emotions. The Tunnel of Oppression -- which proudly casts itself as a “sensory experience” -- encourages students not to think rationally about what ails the world, or to inform themselves by learning facts and studying context, or even to take reasoned, principled action against injustice, but to react viscerally to images of violence, to become hysterical on cue.
Of course, if the people organizing this really wanted to showcase all aspects of oppression (rather than push a leftist agenda) they might include displays on: Somehow, we don’t think that any of these forms of oppression will interest the folks doing Remove the Blindfold.

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Milwaukee Indymedia: Call to Censor UWM Conservative Paper

Not new, but we just discovered this today:

. . . from Well Armed Sheep, a post about how a local leftist Internet discussion board urged the censorship of a conservative University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student newspaper.

The post said:
Many UWM students today discovered the existance of an ultra-right newpaper on the UWM campus. It has massive distribution, no surprise, and promotes a racist, sexist, anti-worker agenda.

This could be something that we could easily accomplish with some solidarity. If you are interested in organizing a meeting, please post below. Thank you!

P.S. FOR NOW, WHEN YOU SEE THE PAPER’S LYING OUT, OR SITTING IN ONE OF THOSE WOOD CABINET THINGS, FEEL FREE TO PLEASE TAKE THEM OUT AND THROW THEM IN THE RECYCLING BIN. I RECYCLED ABOUT 100 OF THEM TODAY ALREADY AND IT FELT GREAT!
That’s right.

The post is urging that the paper be censored by leftists confiscating and discarding all the copies.

The poster then posted the following:
destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times destroy the UWM times
It’s a revealing insight into the mentality of local leftist activists.

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Seems It’s Always the Resolution

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

More Censorship on a College Campus

From National Review, yet another story of censorship on a college campus.

We’ve all noticed, of course, that censorship is more likely to happen on college campuses than anywhere else in American society.

If there is one thing that militant Islamists will not tolerate, it is the charge that they are intolerant. Back in 2005, it will be recalled, the publication by a Danish newspaper of cartoons mildly satirizing the violence recently inflicted in the name of Islam generated violent protests throughout Europe. Most American television networks and newspapers, normally eager to cover “controversial” stories involving fundamentalist Christians, refused even to display the cartoons so as to show what the fuss was about — for fear of giving “offense.” More recently, an indirect allusion by the pope to the historic tendency of some leaders of Islam to spread their faith through violence, along with an exhortation to consider the proper relation between faith and reason, led to another wave of violent protests, including the murder of a nun in Africa.

The administration of Pace University, a largely business-oriented school with 14,000 students on its campuses in New York City and the Westchester county area, recently joined the self-censorship bandwagon regarding Islamism when school officials warned the school’s chapter of Hillel, the national association of Jewish college students, against screening the award-winning film Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West, on the ground that the film might incite hate crimes against the college’s Muslim students.

Michael Abdurakhmanov, the Hillel president at Pace, said that, as a courtesy, he had told the college’s Muslim Students Association about the planned showing and invited the association to suggest a speaker for a panel that would comment on the film following its showing, but that the association instead notified a dean. Having heard rumors that the dean, Marijo Russell O’Grady, wanted to block the film’s showing, Abdurakhmanov made an appointment to see the dean along with the head of the student organizations on campus, David Clark. Shortly after the meeting with Dean O’Grady began, Abdurakhmanov reports, the dean “warned” him that because of the recent “hate crimes” that had been committed against the Koran at Pace — a few weeks earlier, two copies of the Koran had been found in toilets on campus, and (unspecified) racial slurs had been discovered on walls — any attempt by Hillel to show Obsession might result in the police being called in, and Hillel officers being investigated as possible suspects in the bias incidents. Mr. Abdurakhmanov reports that, while bias incidents had been committed against Judaism as well as Islam, “school administrators showed concern only for the sensibilities of Muslim students.”

Abdurakhmanov told the New York Times that Hillel still plans to show Obsession in the spring. The president of the MSA, Zeina Berjaoui, however, said that her organization would oppose the showing because the film “says Islam is a terrorist religion.” No reasonable viewer of the film should come to that conclusion — but then again, Berjaoui evidently didn’t claim to have seen it. However, it may help to clarify Berjaoui’s perspective to note that she is a Lebanese woman who told a reporter for NYU’s Urban Journalism Workshop, during an anti-Israel demonstration in New York last summer amid Israel’s military response to Hezbollah rocket attacks, that “Hezbollah is just a resistance movement,” one that “like Hamas, is giving the Palestinians and Lebanese a voice.” In other words, Pace has effectively allowed an apologist for Islamist terrorist groups to exercise veto power over the portrayal of Islamist terrorist groups on campus.

It is understandable, though hardly excusable, that several European governments, faced with substantial, restive, domestic Islamic populations, have treated the problem of radical Islam with kid gloves. What excuse can there possibly be, however, for an American college administration to try to suppress the showing of a film that graphically illustrates the problem? Is it healthy or desirable for mainstream American Muslims to pretend that the problem doesn’t exist, by trying to prevent an open discussion of it?

We frankly wish that someone would show the film on the Marquette campus.

Our guess is that, if a student organization did it, the campus bureaucrats would react the same way those at Pace did.

There is a history here.

First was the 2005 Arab Heritage Celebration. The events, many sponsored by the University Ministry, MUSG and the Office of Student Development, demonized Israel and made excuses for Palestinian terrorism.

The second was a September 2005 program sponsored by Manresa titled “Jews of Conscience.” Again, the panel was virulently anti-Israel. The implicit definition of “Jews of Conscience” was “Jews who are anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian.” Pro-Israel Jews, apparently, are thought not to have a conscience.

The reality, on many (if not most) college campuses today, is that Muslim students are considered a politically correct victim group like blacks, women and homosexuals.

The bureaucrats see themselves as being in the business of protecting such groups, rather than encouraging free speech.

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Politicians and Drug Companies

From Fox News, an explanation of the effects of political threats on innovation in the drug industry.
For a while there it seemed like there wasn’t much a pill couldn’t cure.

Everything from high cholesterol to “erectile dysfunction” to something that I really thought was a joke when I first heard about it: “Restless Leg Syndrome” (which sounds a bit more dignified with its “RLS” acronym).

But you may have noticed that the number of breakthrough pharmaceuticals for serious illnesses is decreasing. And the question is … why?

Well, Hillary Clinton is one answer. George Bush is another. Politicians scare the hell out of drug companies, almost as much as trial lawyers. And when drug companies get scared, they don’t spend as much on research. They hoard their cash, as rainy-day funds for lawsuits and lobbyists. Pfizer has $13 billion; Johnson & Johnson of New Brunswick, N.J., $15 billion; Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., $9 billion; and Madison, N.J.-based Wyeth, $8 billion. Swiss drug-maker Roche Holding AG has $17 billion.

But why are drug companies scared of politicians? Because politicians get off on controlling things ... like prices. And when you begin to fiddle with prices, ripple effects go all the way down the supply chain to the point of origin.

For pharmaceuticals, the point of origin is the laboratory, where new drugs are created.

It takes many years to create a breakthrough drug like, say, Lipitor. The payoff is enormous — Pfizer has sold about $12.2 billion worth of Lipitor. But the cost of Lipitor’s development was enormous, too. Politicians focus just on the payoff, saying these drug companies don’t deserve all that cash. But without the huge incentives of striking it rich, would any company have spent so much time and money developing a drug like Lipitor?

For politicians, incentives don’t matter. For the folks who actually invest their own time and money on things, incentives are all that matters.
The issue here is hardly a new one. Since the era of democracy in ancient Greece, politicians have sought to curry favor with voters by confiscating the property of those who have a lot and distributing it to political supporters.

In other words, politicians like Hillary have been around for close to 2,500 years.

Of course, politicians won’t admit they are confiscating property. Rather they will talk about “reforming the patent system” or price controls on drugs or having the government “negotiate prices” with the drug companies (with the intentions of using governent’s monopoly purchasing power to drive down drug company profits).

The Founders of this country were acutely aware of this problem, and thought they had designed a political system to deal with it. Assuming President Bush is willing to veto any confiscatory legislation, they will be proven right.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Do the Vast Majority of American Favor “Cut And Run” in Iraq?

The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, consistent with about every other poll done recently, is a litany of bad news for President Bush. It shows majorities opposing Bush’s troop surge, the president’s approval rating at 33 percent, and 71 percent saying the country is seriously off track.

A majority even disapprove Bush’s handling of the economy, which in fact is going great guns.

But one anomaly stands out.

While 64 percent of the sample says the U.S. did the “wrong thing” to get into the war, only a bare majority want to cut and run.

The poll asked:
Do you think (the United States should keep its military forces in Iraq until civil order is restored there, even if that means continued U.S. military casualties); OR, do you think (the United States should withdraw its military forces from Iraq in order to avoid further U.S. military casualties, even if that means civil order is not restored there)?
Only 52 percent of the sample said “withdraw forces,” and 46 percent said “keep forces.”

Admittedly, opinion is moving in an anti-war direction. In a December 2004 Washington Post/ABC News poll, 58 percent said “keep forces.”

Still, the overwhelming support for an immediate cut-and-run policy isn’t there. Opinion is nearly evenly divided.

What about all those other poll results that show discontent with the war? They are all (more or less) correct too. There is deep-seated discontent. It’s just that the American public hasn’t really reached a consensus around the idea that we should bug out now and to hell with the consequences.

Which is doubtless why the Democrats whine and moan about the war, but few will flatly say that we have lost and should simply admit defeat and get out.

Interestingly, this particular poll seems to have a bit of a pro-Democratic bias in the sample. Thirty six percent of respondents called themselves Democrats, and only 24 percent Republicans (35 percent said they were Independents). This gives the Democrats a 12 point edge in party identification.

The most recent Gallup Polls give the Democrats only a four to six point edge. When this sample bias is taken into account, the situation isn’t quite so bad in terms of support for the war, although it certainly cannot be called good.

Middle School Students Protest Abortion, Run Afoul of School Officials

From Fox News, the story of a Christian anti-abortion protest that school officials tried to stifle.

Happily, the Alliance Defense Fund stepped in, and got a settlement that allowed students wear pro-life T-shirts and distribute leaflets in the future.

The argument school officials made was that students of middle school age need to be “protected” from issues such as abortion.

But these are the same kind of school bureaucrats who are happy to have first graders indoctrinated on the subject of homosexuality, with books such as Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate.

One person commenting on the issue observed:
I think the reason this is becoming such a big issue, is that it is an ugly truth . . . which is difficult for people to digest. If students were protesting the Iraq war, or apartheid, or saving trees/recycling paper, we would not hear a word about it . . . it would be tolerated and looked at as a healthy practice of free speech. But, the protesting of abortion, and the facts that support the beliefs of the pro-life students are hard to hear and thus, create an uproar from administrators . . .
And another:
Sadly, our children know far too much about sex, abortion, drugs, homosexuality, and who knows what else. Our society seems bound and determined to expose their young minds to every horror known to man.
So it seems that society is happy to expose young teens and even pre-teens to plenty of information about sex and reproduction, so long as the information doesn’t include the embarrassing reality of abortion.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

More Talk Than Action

Jim Ott: Global Warming Skeptic

A real coup from blogger Josh Schroeder, who asked former Channel 4 weatherman Jim Ott about the notion of global warming.

Ott is rather a skeptic. He prudently doesn’t deny that human activity might have made the planet warmer, he’s just not sure.

Some key points:
Even if we are witnessing the beginning of a long term climate change in progress (and I think it is too soon to say that we are), there are numerous other causative factors that could be involved. We know this because the earth’s climate has gone through major changes long before humans could have been a factor. To assume that the last 20-25 years of warm weather are due to human activity would be similar to having an effect that could be caused by any of ten different factors, and just assuming that one factor was responsible, and ignoring all others. Part of the reason this attitude is prevalent in the area of climate change is that the other factors are not very well understood, so it’s convenient to latch onto one that, at least in theory, is understood.
And further:
In summary, there’s a lot we still must learn about climates and climate change, and I feel that continued research in these areas is very important. Making assumptions and predictions without a better understanding than we have now may lead to some incorrect predictions, and therefore improper actions. Assuming that whatever seems to be happening at the present time will continue to happen is a common reaction. After the brutal winters of the early 80s many people assumed we were in for more of the same in subsequent winters. It didn’t happen. Assuming that the climate will continue to warm now and that it’s due to human activity is just that: an assumption. We don’t have all the information we need, and we certainly don’t have all the answers.
One could deride Ott as “just a TV weatherman.” But he’s clearly well informed, a professional where weather is concerned, and perhaps independent of the political pressures and ideological biases of other scientists who are adamant that catastrophe looms unless we mend our sinful ways.

Students For Academic Freedom To Office of Student Development: Give Us an Up or Down Verdict

We’ve blogged about attempts of the Marquette chapter of Students for Academic Freedom to get recognized as an official student organization at Marquette.

As of last semester, officials in the Office of Student Development had made it clear to the student group that their Constitution, as written, was not acceptable. But no official verdict had been forthcoming.

Now, the organization is putting the student affairs bureaucrats on the spot by demanding an up or down ruling.

The following is an e-mail sent just this morning by the President of the organization:
From: Rickert, Charles
Sent: Mon 1/22/2007 12:13 PM
To: McCarthy, Mark; Kusiak, Katherine
Cc: Neumann, Kelly; Dooley, Jon
Subject: Students for Academic Freedom: Letter of Determination

Office of Student Development:

At your earliest convenience, the members of Students for Academic Freedom request an official determination of either acceptance or rejection by the Office of Student Development. In a previous meeting, it was stated that formal decisions are communicated through written letter. In the event of rejection, the reasons for refusal would be clearly articulated.

Students for Academic Freedom has demonstrated considerable student interest in the organization while affirming that our mission and constitution are well within the realm of rightful student organizations at Marquette University. As such, the members of Students for Academic Freedom chose to retain its original constitution for the Office of Student Development to review.

On behalf of Students for Academic Freedom, thank you for your time, effort and careful consideration. I look forward to receiving the official judgment.

Best regards,

Charles

Charles Rickert
Students for Academic Freedom
Students for Academic Freedom is a conservative student organization, that has as it’s objective to criticize leftist bias in university programs, speakers series and courses.

One cannot imagine the OSD bureaucrats minding the Gay/Straight Alliance criticizing Marquette for being insufficiently “gay friendly.” One cannot imagine they mind if the Black Student Council complains about the lack of “diversity” and demands more affirmative action hiring, more “diversity” requirements in the curriculum and more scholarships limited to black students.

So quite clearly student groups that intend to criticize Marquette and its policies can get recognized and supported by the student affairs bureaucrats.

But they are in the business of recognizing and supporting politically correct demands coming from politically correct victim groups. Letting conservative students speak is an entirely different matter.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Letter to the Editor: Global Warming Fascism

Here is an e-mail Letter to the Editor written in response to our post on Global Warming Fascism. In that post, we discussed the suggestion, by global warming believers, that people who deny global warming should be put on trial and punished for their heresy.
Suggesting that “warming skeptics be put on trial like Nazi war criminals” shows a woeful lack of historical understanding. Who stifled thought outside of the mainstream? Who imprisoned the nonconformist? Using the denial of the holocaust is logically absurd for reasons you point out.

Yet there is an analogy regarding the Nazis though. Consider the study of eugenics that was popular in 1930s Germany. The German scientific community was bullied into, if not accepting, at least not criticizing, certain “scientific truths” regarding the racial characteristics of the Jews.

It is getting pretty scary when people such as Heidi Cullen and David Roberts want to punish dissent. They are becoming more strident and vicious and would be defenders of freedom are becoming more cowed. The academic and media establishments have a very distorted view of freedom. They insist on absolute freedom to expound any ridiculous ideas without having their logic questioned. Cranks such as Ward Churchill and Kevin Barrett can rant what meets any definition of hate speech at public expense while potential dissenters are restricted from using their 1st amendment rights in the name of campaign finance reform.

Keep up the good work.

Roger Cross
Another Marquette Warrior
Class of ‘69

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Got To Mess Things Up

Marquette’s Howard Fuller in Louisiana

From the website of a Louisiana TV station:
Howard Fuller offered a passionate plea Wednesday to give families living in poverty the choice of where to send their children to school.

“Why are we afraid to free the people?” Fuller asked the audience of about 60 people gathered at the Shaw Center for the Arts.

Fuller is a former Milwaukee public school superintendent and is now a professor at Marquette University. For years he has been a leading proponent of school choice. He is the chairman of the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

Fuller painted a grim picture of education in many communities today.

“People always ask me, ‘Why are you so mad? Why are you such an angry Negro?’” he said. “I’m mad because on average 17-year-old black and brown teenagers do math as well as a 13-year-old white child.”

Even as this achievement gap, as measured by national standardized tests, persists, Fuller cannot understand why it does not arouse the same passion as previous civil rights struggles for racial quality.

“What I’m really mad at is we ain’t mad,” Fuller said. “What we have is a bunch of docile, conciliating black people who should be in the streets every day.

“Here are we in 2007, we can sit down at the lunch counter, but our kids can’t read the menu,” he said.
Why aren’t we mad? Or more specifically, why aren’t more black people mad?

It’s pretty simple. The Civil Rights revolution allowed millions of black people to rise to middle class status. This, or course, is exactly what the Civil Rights revolution was supposed to do.

The problem was that a lot of the black middle class is in the public sector, and especially in the public schools that are threatened by the competition that choice would allow.

Add to this the fact that middle class black activist organizations (for example, the NAACP) are in bed with white liberal and leftist activists. The latter group, both for reasons of ideology and interest fight to protect the public sector.

There are, of course, a good number of black political figures who favor school choice, and many more who have taken the opportunity choice provides to open schools and educate (mostly) black kids.

But the black community, which virtually spoke with one voice during the Civil Rights era, is now split.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Jimmy Carter: America’s Worst Ex-President

Via Power Line, an article by Joshua Muravchik in Commentary about an inept president who has become an even worse ex-president.

There is much to tell about Carter, but perhaps the most revealing fact is his descent into anti-Semitism.
Sounding a more contemporary note of Jew-bashing, Carter echoes newly revived speculations about a conspiracy among American advocates of Israel’s cause. “Because of powerful political, economic, and religious forces in the United States,” he writes, “Israeli government decisions are rarely questioned or condemned, [and] voices from Jerusalem dominate in our media.” Who might those “powerful . . . religious forces” be? The Christian Right supports Israel, but no one has ever accused it of dominating the media. Carter can only mean the Jews.
Muravchik sums up Carter’s character and personality as follows:
Ever since his presidency, there has been a wide gap between Carter’s estimation of himself and the esteem in which other Americans hold him. This has manifestly embittered him. For all his talk of “love,” the driving motives behind his post-presidential ventures seem, in fact, to be bitterness together with narcissism (as it happens, two prime ingredients of a martyr complex). But he has worked hard to earn the reputation he enjoys. In contravention of the elementary responsibilities of loyalty for one in his position, he has denigrated American policies and leaders in his public and private discussions in foreign lands. He has undertaken personal diplomacy to thwart the policies of the men elected to succeed him. And in doing so he has, at least in the case of North Korea, actively damaged our security.

Carter’s special rancor toward Israel remains to some degree mysterious, as such sentiments often are, but it is likely we have not heard the last of it. As the protests and criticisms of him continue, he may well sink deeper into his sense of angry martyrdom, following the path recently trod by academics like John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, who fancy themselves victims of the very Jewish conspiracies they set out to expose. It is sad that a President whose cardinal accomplishment was a peace accord between Israel and one of its neighbors should have devolved into such a seething enemy of Israel. It will be sadder still if this same man, whose other achievement was to elevate the cause of human rights, ends his career by helping to make anti-Semitism acceptable once again in American discourse.

There is little doubt, in sum, that the electorate was right in 1980 when it judged Carter to be among our worst Presidents. It is even more certain that history will judge him to have been our very worst ex-President.

Another Religious Fanatic Mixing Religion & Politics

From Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe:
He was a man of faith who didn’t hesitate to mix religion with politics. He headed an assertive political organization with the word “Christian” in its name. He believed his moral values should be reflected in US law and legally imposed on those who resisted them. He invoked “God Almighty” in his speeches and compared himself to Moses, the prophet Amos, and other biblical heroes. He condemned public policies he opposed in overtly religious terms -- as “a blatant denial of the unity which we all have in Christ,” for example. He shrugged off those who called him an extremist. “Was not Jesus an extremist?” he asked.

He wasn’t one to fetishize church-state separation. “I want it to be known . . . throughout this nation that we are Christian people,” he declared. “We believe in the Christian religion. We believe in the teachings of Jesus.”

He was what some today might call a religious fanatic, a theocrat, or (as a US senator said of the president last year) a “moral ayatollah.” He was, in many circles, decidedly unpopular.

He was also a Nobel laureate for peace and a champion of human dignity. He was an American hero. He was Martin Luther King Jr.
King, of course, had every right to use religious rhetoric and appeal to Christian ideals to promote his political agenda.

But so do the Pope, and Jerry Falwell and President Bush.

Liberals, of course, never mind “mixing religion and politics” if it’s done to achieve liberal results. Which means, of course, that they don’t really mind mixing religion and politics at all. They just don’t like conservatives.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Maybe In Wisconsin

Newspaper Blog Readership Triples in Past Year

The mainstream media have traditionally looked somewhat askance at bloggers.

The most famous put-down was from CBS’ Jonathan Klein when faced with the meltdown of that network’s bogus story about Bush’s National Guard duty.
It’s an important moment, because you couldn’t have a starker contrast between the multiple layers of checks and balances, and a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing what he thinks.
And indeed, during the “Wisconsin Blog Summit” last March, a representative from a state newspaper got up to berate bloggers for being mere parasites feeding off news reported by traditional outlets.

But where blogs are concerned, it seems that established news outlets are deciding to switch rather than fight.

The Public Relations Society of America notes:
The number of people reading Internet blogs on the top-10 U.S. newspaper sites more than tripled in December from a year ago and accounted for a larger percentage of overall traffic to those sites, according to research released yesterday by Nielsen//NetRatings.

Unique visitors to blog sites affiliated with the largest Internet newspapers rose to 3.8 million in December 2006 from 1.2 million viewers a year earlier, the data showed.

“As Web 2.0 becomes a predominant online consumer model, traditional publishers are adopting interactive forums like blogs,” Carolyn Creekmore, senior director of media analytics, Nielsen//NetRatings, said in a press release. “It makes perfect sense for online newspapers, where responding to a blog posting is like writing an instant letter to the editor.” she continued.

Blog pages accounted for 13 percent of overall visits to newspaper sites in that month, up from 4 percent a year earlier. Total visitors to the top newspaper sites rose 9 percent to 29.9 million.

About 60 percent of online newspaper readers were men, with the percentage rising to 66 percent of blog readers, Nielsen//NetRatings said.

The top U.S. newspaper site in December belonged to NYTimes.com, with 13.2 million unique viewers, followed by USAToday.com, with 9.1 million viewers, and washingtonpost.com, with 7.6 million viewers.
Thus while the circulation of print editions of newspapers is down across the board, and the readership of online newspapers has risen significantly, blogs associated with these same newspapers took off like the Space Shuttle.

The Nielsen document is here.

Quite clearly, blogging is the form of journalism suited to the age of the Internet.

Traditional print journalists, remember, banged out stories and columns on a manual typewriter, and submitted them to editors on a fixed schedule. The editors, when done editing them, shipped them off to be typeset, printed and distributed.

When newspapers first went on the Internet, they simply continued the process, but in addition to a printed edition, the same text would appear online -- still on a fixed schedule, with the number, length and formatting of articles identical to the print version.

Over time, newspapers have moved to exploit the capabilities of the Internet, and that involves going to blogs, which allow columnists, reporters and editors who write as many articles as they want, write the length the want and post when they want. And if they want, get instant feedback from readers in the form of comments.

The basics of good journalism haven’t changed. A good blogger is a good reporter, and a good reporter can easily be (with just a little training in simple technology) a good blogger.

Thus mainstream outlets are finally using the technology to its full potential. But they should have the grace to admit that the guys (and some gals) in pajamas were there first.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Global Warming Fascism

We fully expect people to get pretty hot under the collar about hot-button social issues like abortion, gay marriage and affirmative action.

It’s not even surprising when people on one side of the debate try to shut up people on the other side. The gay lobby is particularly likely to do this, as cases in Canada, in the U.K., in U.S. schools of Social Work, and indeed from the Gay/Straight Alliance right here at Marquette.

But what about an issue like supposed “global warming?” That’s an arcane scientific issue, right? People should be tolerant of differing views, right?

Apparently not.

Case One: Punish Meteorologists Who Question Global Warming

From The Independent:
A leading climatologist on the Weather Channel in the United States has caused a squall in the industry by arguing that any weather forecaster who dares publicly to question the notion that global warming is a manmade phenomenon should be stripped of their professional certification.

The call was made by Heidi Cullen, host of a weekly global warming programme on the cable network called The Climate Code, and coincides with a stretch of severely off-kilter weather across the US this winter and moves by Democrats to draft strict new legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Specifically, Ms Cullen is suggesting that the American Meteorological Society (AMS) revokes the “seal of approval” that it normally extends to broadcast forecasters in the US in cases where they have expressed scepticism about man’s role in pushing up planetary temperatures.

“It’s like allowing a meteorologist to go on-air and say that hurricanes rotate clockwise and tsunamis are caused by the weather,” she wrote in her internet blog. “It’s not a political statement . . . it’s just an incorrect statement.”

Ms Cullen is not alone in trying to marginalise doubters, who mostly argue that recent rises in temperatures are caused by normal cyclical weather patterns. They were described as “global warming deniers” by former vice-president Al Gore in his recent film An Inconvenient Truth.
The problem is that whether hurricanes rotate clockwise (in the northern hemisphere) is not a controversial political issue, while global warming is.

Claiming that global warming as a result of human activity has been “proven” to the satisfaction of all serious scientists is simply untrue.

But note that, even if it had been, a century ago it had been “proven” to the satisfaction of scientists who dealt with human intelligence that blacks were less intelligent than whites.

Just thirty years ago, the media were abuzz with predications of a “New Ice Age.”

There really is a strong consensus among economists that the Minimum Wage is a bad idea. Should any economist who favors that policy have his Ph.D. revoked? Should any academic who says that a centrally planned economy is better than a market economy be fired for incompetence?

Case Two: Senators Try To Intimidate Oil Company

This page October, liberal Senators John D. Rockefeller IV and Olympia Snowe sent a letter to the CEO of ExxonMobil Corporation demanding that it cease funding of scientists who are critical of the “global warming theory.” The following passage gives an idea of the tone of the letter:
In light of the adverse impacts still resulting from your corporations activities, we must request that ExxonMobil end any further financial assistance or other support to groups or individuals whose public advocacy has contributed to the small, but unfortunately effective, climate change denial myth. Further, we believe ExxonMobil should take additional steps to improve the public debate, and consequently the reputation of the United States. We would recommend that ExxonMobil publicly acknowledge both the reality of climate change and the role of humans in causing or exacerbating it. Second, ExxonMobil should repudiate its climate change denial campaign and make public its funding history. Finally, we believe that there would be a benefit to the United States if one of the world’s largest carbon emitters headquartered here devoted at least some of the money it has invested in climate change denial pseudo-science to global remediation efforts. We believe this would be especially important in the developing world, where the disastrous effects of global climate change are likely to have their most immediate and calamitous impacts.
Coming from members of Congress, such a demand has to be considered a threat of adverse political action.

As the Wall Street Journal noted:
The Senators aren’t dumb enough to risk an ethics inquiry by threatening specific consequences if Mr. Tillerson declines this offer he can’t refuse. But in case the CEO doesn’t understand his company’s jeopardy, they add that “ExxonMobil and its partners in denial have manufactured controversy, sown doubt, and impeded progress with strategies all-too reminiscent of those used by the tobacco industry for so many years.” [Our emphasis.]
The Journal goes on to observe:
Every dogma has its day, and we’ve lived long enough to see more than one “consensus” blown apart within a few years of “everyone knowing” it was true. In recent decades environmentalists have been wrong about almost every other apocalyptic claim they’ve made: global famine, overpopulation, natural resource exhaustion, the evils of pesticides, global cooling, and so on. Perhaps it’s useful to have a few folks outside the “consensus” asking questions before we commit several trillion dollars to any problem.
Case Three: Put Global Warming Skeptics on Trial

Jeff Jacoby explains what some of the environmentalists have been saying.
Then there is “Grist,” an environmental webzine whose staff writer David Roberts recently proposed that global warming skeptics be put on trial like Nazi war criminals.

“When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming . . . we should have war crimes trials for these bastards -- some sort of climate Nuremberg,” Roberts wrote. Negative publicity led him to recant, but he is far from the only one invoking the Holocaust as a way to silence global warming heretics.

Environmental writer Mark Lynas, for example, puts dissent on climate change “in a similar moral category to Holocaust denial -- except that this time the Holocaust is yet to come, and we still have time to avoid it. Those who try to ensure we don’t will one day have to answer for their crimes.” This totalitarian view is taking root everywhere, making skepticism on climate change taboo and subjecting anyone reckless enough to question the global-warming dogma to mockery and demonization. Former vice president Al Gore lumps “global warming deniers,” some of whom are eminent scientists, with the “15 percent of the population (who) believe the moon landing was actually staged in a movie lot in Arizona” and those who “still believe the earth is flat.”
In any moralistic crusade, a diversity of opinions is not welcome. What matters is orthodoxy, and the urge to silence heretics is intense.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

They Invited Themselves

Conspiracy Thinking Among Marquette Students

Yesterday was the first day of our Kennedy assassination class -- POSC 191.

In order to get a general discussion of conspiracy theories going, we polled students on two kinds of conspiracy theories other than the killing of JFK.

First, we asked them whether the United States in fact landed a man on the moon.

The vast majority say that we did, with only four out of 56 students saying we didn’t. Another three evaded an answer by saying they “Don’t know.”

Yesterday, for the first time since we have taught the course, we asked students about a possible 9/11 conspiracy. We gave them four options. They could say the U.S. government was “surprised” by the attacks, that the government “knew about” the forthcoming attacks and allowed them to happen, or that the government (and not militant Muslims) “mounted” the attacks. The final alternative was “don’t know.”

Our results were as follows:
  • “Surprised” -- 23 students
  • “Knew about” -- 18 students
  • “Mounted the attacks” -- 4 students
  • “Don’t know” -- 11 students
One might wonder whether this particular class was packed with self-selected conspiracy believers. But believers in a moon landing conspiracy were few in number.

Apparently, 9/11 conspiracy theories are getting some traction. They hark back to the critics of Franklin Roosevelt, who claimed he let the Pearl Harbor attack happen in order to get the country into World War II.

So it’s probably the case here, as in most other things, that there is nothing new under the sun.

Letter to the Editor: Marquette’s Discriminatory Scholarships

Via e-mail, a response to our post on Marquette’s “women only” and “minority only” scholarships:
I can’t disagree with your recent post regarding the questionability of the scholarship programs you referenced. I do have to differ, however, with the identification of white males as exclusively discriminated against.

An often-missed scholarship program among those offered at Marquette is the Jesuit High School Scholarship Program, offering a half-tuition award to a student from each of the 48 Jesuit high schools in the US. This sounds fair enough until you consider that the Jesuit Secondary Education Association identifies only 15 of its member schools as co-ed. In other words, Marquette annually offers 33 half tuition, renewable scholarships exclusively to males. They’re no small scholarships, as their value increases along with the tuition increases students typically see over the course of four years. But besides that, there isn’t much of an advantage for Marquette in offering such a large scholarship to such a small pool of applicants, especially when it is left up to the high school to choose the recipient.

In my opinion, this is only the beginning of the problems within Marquette’s scholarship programs. Consider the elimination of the Raynor Scholarship (the only completely merit-based full tuition award) and the subsequent introduction of the Urban Scholars Program. These two events are unrelated, yet indicate a change in focus in scholarship awarding that is not good. In principal, the idea of attracting diversity through a program such as the Urban Scholars is good, but it ignores many different kinds of diversity (as we have seen is common at Marquette) and once again draws from a relatively small pool of applicants (as opposed to the Raynor or Burke). Most unbelievably (and in my opinion, an insult to the recipients), the requirement for maintaining this new scholarship is a 2.0 gpa!! If my understanding is correct, this is the standard requirement for graduating, and a student with below a 2.5 can’t even graduate if their major is in Education or Accounting. Does Marquette want these students to be educated, or does it want their faces popping up around campus?

Regardless of legality, the bottom line is that there are some definite glitches to be worked out in the scholarship system. Scholarships should be used as a tool to reward good students, but more importantly to attract them to this university. Marquette seems to be taking steps in the wrong direction.

-Katie Wycklendt

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Congressman Big Head

Marquette Scholarship Programs Discriminate Against White Males

This really isn’t news, since a lot of organizations do this, but it’s still considered morally questionable by most Americans.

From an e-mail from the PR people at Marquette:
Scholarships available for women and students of color The Association of Marquette University Women is offering a $2,500 scholarship to a junior woman student beginning her senior year in fall 2007 and enrolled full-time in any college or program at Marquette. The scholarship is designed to aid women students who demonstrate financial need. The eligible candidate must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.3. Interested students should complete the online application and essay no later than Friday, Feb. 2, 2007. No late applications will be accepted. E-mail for more information.

The Ethnic Alumni Association is offering $1,000 scholarships to two Marquette students of color who demonstrate financial need for the next academic year. One scholarship will be awarded to a student participating in the Educational Opportunity Program and one to a non-EOP student. Interested students should complete the online application and essay no later than Friday, Feb. 2, 2007. E-mail for more information.
In spite of the fact that such programs are quite common, their legality is questionable. One “Urban Journalism Workshop,” for example, ran afoul of Federal civil rights enforcers for kicking an applicant out of the program after finding out she was white.

We frankly would like to see Marquette sued over these programs.

Dental School Blogger Fiasco Continues to Resonate

Checking our hit counter a few minutes ago, we noticed a lot of hits from the site studentdoctor.net.

Checking out the link that was sending us all the traffic, we found that it was a post on a discussion board, and that a poster on the board had just discovered our post from over a year ago about the Marquette Dental School’s harsh punishment of a student blogger.

The person who posted the link was not favorably impressed with what Marquette did. He said:
Man after reading this . . . I am glad I chose not to go to Marquette. Talk about being anal!! Suspending the student for calling somebody a cockmaster of a professor, that’s hilarious!
Another poster had about the same opinion.
WOW. . . What happened to that thing we used to have in this country?? I believe it was called freedom of speech?? I remember some important document being signed by a bunch of important political figures mentioned something about that. . . . . lol [laughing out loud]. . I think they took the blogs of that student and made it into a personal vendetta. . . They used him as an example. . That’s why they imposed such a harsh sentence on that guy.. Imagine that, to work hard to get your way into dental school, make it through your first year to have it thrown away over a stupid blog. . . .
This poster is a bit naïve, since the First Amendment protects people from government, not from employers or private schools that might want to shut up members of their organizations.

Still . . . naïveté or not, it’s a key element of American culture that people should be able to speak freely. Private sector organizations that have a legal right to punish people for speech should exercise that right sparingly -- and be well-prepared to defend their actions if they do so.

Given the strong cultural presumption that people should be able to speak freely, any private organization that punishes people for speaking needs needs a really compelling and convincingly articulated reason.

If not, they may find themselves with a public relations problem that lasts and lasts.