Sunday, March 29, 2009

Policy Making in Washington

Friday, March 27, 2009

Atheist Gives Aquinas Lecture

The recent annual Aquinas Lecture at Marquette featured Dr. Daniel Garber who delivered his address “What Happens After Pascal’s Wager: Living Faith and Rational Belief.” Garber’s credentials as a philosopher are outstanding. He holds a Ph.D. from Harvard, is an expert on the metaphysics of the 17th Century (which necessitates his knowing five languages and being an authority on Descartes, Leibniz, and Pascal among others), is currently the Chair of Princeton’s Philosophy Department, and of course he is an atheist.

The reader here may expect some quick condemnation of Marquette’s Philosophy Department for daring to invite an avowed nonbeliever to speak at an event that has as its namesake the great St. Thomas. This is certainly not the case. Aquinas himself was influenced by Aristotle (who was obviously not a Christian), and held that truth could be discovered through man’s reason as well as through divine illumination. Garber’s non-belief certainly does not inhibit him from imparting truth to his listeners. And since much of modern philosophy can be traced to either an agreement with or a reaction against Aquinas, the Philosophy Department would be justified in presenting the voice of dissent as well as concurrence.

We can’t help noticing that orthodox Christians have been in rather short supply at Marquette recently, with the talk by Mary Gerhart and Allan Russell being just one example. There ought to be more representatives of an actual Catholic position on this campus.

However, after reading some of his more positional works (such as an article for Criterion), we have to conclude at Gerber seems to be, of all atheists, one of the most commendable. In a chapter of one book Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life (a real subtle title), Garber lays out the reasons for his atheism and the temptations he has had to become a believer.

He describes himself as being raised a “secular Jew” and having become a “closet libertine.” Upon studying Pascal, he found the arguments toward theism to be “attractive, almost persuasive.” The reason for the attraction was that Pascal’s writings showed him that as an atheist, his search for pleasure was a “sign of [his] deeper misery and fear of what will eventually become of [him]. Few atheists, if they experience such feelings, are often willing to admit them; likewise, few believers are willing to admit to their moments of doubt.

The difference between him and his fellow atheists has not gone unnoticed by Garber. He mentions that his colleagues do not understand how anyone can be a theist, let alone why anyone as enlightened as Garber might want to be one. This is crucial. Many atheists assume that since God’s existence cannot be proved (or, in some cases, that it can be disproved) it is irrational to order one’s life around the unfounded assumption. Not only is it irrational, but history has proved it to be fraught with terrible consequences. After all, look (the atheists say) what atrocities have been committed upon mankind in the name of baseless religions.

(The Twentieth Century, with massive slaughter conducted by regimes both explicitly secular [Mao’s, Stalin’s, Pol Pot’s] and de facto secular [Hitler’s] has pretty much taken the force out of this argument.)

Garber, on the other hand, takes an entirely different (and in my opinion, much more honest) tack. He begins with the notion that no argument can prove or disprove God’s existence, an assessment with which most theists would agree. He then introduces Pascal’s famous wager: considering what is in store for the believer if God does not actually exist as opposed to what may be in store for the non-believer if he does, it is in fact rational for the self-interested individual to believe regardless of evidence for or against God. Of course, believers (as well as Pascal) do not rely on man’s self-interest alone; there is of course the grace of God that causes the heart to believe.

Garber may not use the same verbiage as the believers, but his discussion of “mindset” in the Criterion article indicates that he argues his points on the same plane. A mindset to Garber is the way in which each individual’s mind cognitively orders the world around it. Certain individuals are predisposed to one mindset, while other individuals may have a second mindset that conflicts with the first. One person sees the facts surrounding the assassination of a politician and thinks, “hmm…mass conspiracy!” Another sees the exact same set of facts and instead believes it must have been the work of a deranged dissident. Of course, neither mindsets have any real bearing on what actually occurred. “Mind-sets are the glasses through which people look at the world.”

Christian apologists have spoken in these terms for quite some time, though they use words other than mindset: presuppositions, a priorism, and sometimes worldview. There are some issues on which all people must decide before any other decisions in life are made. Either God is, or he is not. We exist in some form after death, or we do not. The normal atheist might view such decisions as irrational; Garber correctly posits that these decisions are prerational. And though his decision is to reject the existence of God, he does note that “in a very real sense, the secular scientific view is as much a question of faith as is the theistic mind-set insofar as it cannot be established at the most fundamental level by rational argument alone.”

Explaining more fully his decision to not give in to theistic temptations, Garber seems to indicate that (unlike many arrogant believers and nonbelievers) his choice was not made to exhibit his rational intellectual superiority over his opposites. He explains that he chooses not to take Pascal up on his wager because by so doing, he is certain he would become a believer. But his belief would be founded upon self-deceit: he would be willingly subjecting his rationality to an entity he knows cannot be rationally proved to even exist. This last step he is unwilling to take. But in reducing the arguments of both theism and atheism to the great struggle of comprehending the interrelationship of reason and faith and truth, Garber certainly emphasizes the relevance of Aquinas and provides an excellent example of how atheists and theists should carry on their endless debate.

John Burke

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Free Speech is Dead in Canada — At Least If You Are a Christian

From Ezra Levant’s blog, how “Human Rights Commissions” in Canada have created a right not to be offended — at least is you are a politically correct minority.

One key point: “human rights” laws are never enforced in an even-handed way. Some groups are assumed to be protected, and others not.

Next key point: you have more rights if you are charged with murder than if you are accused of a human rights violation. Further, people charged with human rights violations in Canada have fewer rights than people once called before the Star Chamber.

Scary fact: people like those who staff “Human Rights Commissions” in Canada are fairly common in the United States, especially in academia. And especially in humanities departments, sociology departments, victim studies programs and education schools.

It’s riveting, so watch the whole show.

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Franz Kafka Airport

Another piece of fine investigative reporting from The Onion.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Being a Global Warming Skeptic

From (of all places) the New York Times Magazine:
FOR MORE THAN HALF A CENTURY the eminent physicist Freeman Dyson has quietly resided in Prince­ton, N.J., on the wooded former farmland that is home to his employer, the Institute for Advanced Study, this country’s most rarefied community of scholars. Lately, however, since coming “out of the closet as far as global warming is concerned,” as Dyson sometimes puts it, there has been noise all around him. Chat rooms, Web threads, editors’ letter boxes and Dyson’s own e-mail queue resonate with a thermal current of invective in which Dyson has discovered himself variously described as “a pompous twit,” “a blowhard,” “a cesspool of misinformation,” “an old coot riding into the sunset” and, perhaps inevitably, “a mad scientist.” Dyson had proposed that whatever inflammations the climate was experiencing might be a good thing because carbon dioxide helps plants of all kinds grow. Then he added the caveat that if CO2 levels soared too high, they could be soothed by the mass cultivation of specially bred “carbon-eating trees,” whereupon the University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner looked through the thick grove of honorary degrees Dyson has been awarded — there are 21 from universities like Georgetown, Princeton and Oxford — and suggested that “perhaps trees can also be designed so that they can give directions to lost hikers.” Dyson’s son, George, a technology historian, says his father’s views have cooled friendships, while many others have concluded that time has cost Dyson something else. There is the suspicion that, at age 85, a great scientist of the 20th century is no longer just far out, he is far gone — out of his beautiful mind.

But in the considered opinion of the neurologist Oliver Sacks, Dyson’s friend and fellow English expatriate, this is far from the case. “His mind is still so open and flexible,” Sacks says. Which makes Dyson something far more formidable than just the latest peevish right-wing climate-change denier. Dyson is a scientist whose intelligence is revered by other scientists — William Press, former deputy director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and now a professor of computer science at the University of Texas, calls him “infinitely smart.” Dyson — a mathematics prodigy who came to this country at 23 and right away contributed seminal work to physics by unifying quantum and electrodynamic theory — not only did path-breaking science of his own; he also witnessed the development of modern physics, thinking alongside most of the luminous figures of the age, including Einstein, Richard Feynman, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi, Hans Bethe, Edward Teller, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Witten, the “high priest of string theory” whose office at the institute is just across the hall from Dyson’s. Yet instead of hewing to that fundamental field, Dyson chose to pursue broader and more unusual pursuits than most physicists — and has lived a more original life.

IT WAS FOUR YEARS AGO that Dyson began publicly stating his doubts about climate change. Speaking at the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at Boston University, Dyson announced that “all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated.” Since then he has only heated up his misgivings, declaring in a 2007 interview with Salon.com that “the fact that the climate is getting warmer doesn’t scare me at all” and writing in an essay for The New York Review of Books, the left-leaning publication that is to gravitas what the Beagle was to Darwin, that climate change has become an “obsession” — the primary article of faith for “a worldwide secular religion” known as environmentalism. Among those he considers true believers, Dyson has been particularly dismissive of Al Gore, whom Dyson calls climate change’s “chief propagandist,” and James Hansen, the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and an adviser to Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Dyson accuses them of relying too heavily on computer-generated climate models that foresee a Grand Guignol of imminent world devastation as icecaps melt, oceans rise and storms and plagues sweep the earth, and he blames the pair’s “lousy science” for “distracting public attention” from “more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet.”
The fact that anthropogenic global warming has become a sort of faux religion is important.

It’s no accident that environmentalists tend to be secular -- atheists and agnostics. When one decides that one does not believe in God, the desire for personal righteousness does not go away. It has to be redirected.

In the environmental movement, it has been redirected into a kind of pantheism in which nature is sacred, and any tampering with nature is a kind of blasphemy.

And those who disagree with the orthodoxy are heretics endangering the True Faith, and need to be shut up.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dressing Down Gordon Brown

Things that happen in Europe typically don’t penetrate the American media or American public opinion, but here is a classic political speech in which British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is taken to task.

The key question: is anything that is said here not equally applicable to Barack Obama?

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Health Care Discussion

The Rising Costs of Health Care:
Where Do We Go From Here?


A town hall forum featuring:

Dr. Alison Barnes
Panelist: Professor of Health Law, Marquette University Law School

Dr. Robert Kraig
Panelist: Communications & Program Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin

Jon Rauser
Panelist: President, The Rauser Agency, Inc.

Scott Krienke
Panelist: Senior Vice President of Product Lines, Assurant Health

Guy Boulton
Moderator: Health Care Journalist, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

March 24, 5:30 p.m. in the
Raynor Libraries Conference Center, Rooms B & C


Unlike a lot of discussions in academia, this one seems to represent a diversity of opinions, so it should be worth checking out.

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Disaster

Bringing Some Accountability to Brown Deer Government

Citizens for Responsible Government, Brown Deer Affiliate has a newsletter out, which any citizens of that village should check out.

We don’t claim expertise in the policy issues there, but given the long history of school board members who “go native,” forget to represent the taxpayers and promote gradiose and expensive projects, some skepticism of the school board is in order.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Natasha Richardson: Victim of Socialized Medicine

From the Associated Press:
NEW YORK – As a steady stream of celebrities pay their last respects to Natasha Richardson, questions are arising over whether a medical helicopter might have been able to save the ailing actress.

The province of Quebec lacks a medical helicopter system, common in the United States and other parts of Canada, to airlift stricken patients to major trauma centers. Montreal’s top head trauma doctor said Friday that may have played a role in Richardson’s death.

“It’s impossible for me to comment specifically about her case, but what I could say is . . . driving to Mont Tremblant from the city (Montreal) is a 2 ½-hour trip, and the closest trauma center is in the city. Our system isn’t set up for traumas and doesn’t match what’s available in other Canadian cities, let alone in the States,” said Tarek Razek, director of trauma services for the McGill University Health Centre, which represents six of Montreal’s hospitals.

While Richardson’s initial refusal of medical treatment cost her two hours, she also had to be driven to two hospitals. She didn’t arrive at a specialized hospital in Montreal until about four hours after the second 911 call from her hotel room at the Mont Tremblant resort, according to a timeline published by Canada’s The Globe and Mail newspaper.

Not being airlifted directly to a trauma center could have cost Richardson crucial moments, Razek said.

“A helicopter is obviously the fastest way to get from Point A to Point B,” he said.
And further:
Centre Hospitalier Laurentien in Ste-Agathe does not specialize in head traumas, so her speedy transfer to Sacre Coeur Hospital in Montreal was critical, said Razek.
But this sort of thing is not some anomaly in an otherwise efficient system.

From the Mises Economic Blog:
In writing about socialist medical care like they have in Canada, one of my points has been that socialist systems tend to be undercapitalized, as in such a system, capital becomes a liability rather than an asset. For example, the county where I work has about 80,000 residents and has as many MRI machines as does Montreal, which has several million people living in the area.

One doctor has pointed out that it took close to three hours to drive Richardson from Mount Tremblant to the trauma center in Montreal because Quebec has no medical helicopter system, unlike the USA, where such helicopters are common.

We should not be surprised. In Canada, no medical device has the capability of producing an income, so hospitals and medical care facilities often lack what is common in this country. For example, if a hospital or medical practice here purchases an MRI, that machine is able to provide an income to the provider as patients use it.

However, because no one can charge medical consumers for anything in Canada, the decision to purchase an MRI machine is purely one of cost. Medical facilities have only so much money to use, and the purchase of a device that performs MRIs means funds are drawn away from paying medical workers.

I remember a dentist friend telling me about visiting a dental clinic in Germany, which has had socialized medical care for years. He said it was like stepping back into the 1960s.

So, Ms. Richardson, RIP.

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Scapegoat

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Top Ten Obama/Biden Gaffs

All the things you won’t see in the mainstream media: a collection of the gaffs made by Barack Obama and Joe Biden -- and including only those since the November election.

Do any of these show Obama and Biden to be bumbling klutzes? No, but ask yourself how many of these you have seen in the mainstream media.

Comparable gaffs by George Bush you most certainly have seen, since they were repeated endlessly by on CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN and MSNBC.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Poll on Doyle’s Budget Proposals

From the new MacIver Institute, a poll on Governor Doyle’s budget plan.

While the McIver Institute is an avowedly free market and limited government “think tank,” the poll appears to be quite fair. For example, most of the questions are in a “balanced” format, where respondents are asked to chose between two alternatives, rather than presented with a single alternative (which usually results in a large percentage agreeing with whatever proposition is offered).

The poll, for example, tells respondents what (1.) “Some say the best way to cut Wisconsin’s six billion dollar budget deficit is Governor Doyle and the legislature should focus on cutting spending and only increase taxes as a last resort,” and then that (2.) “Others say the best way to cut Wisconsin’s six billion dollar budget deficit is Governor Doyle and the legislature should focus on raising taxes and cut spending only as a last resort.”

When asked to chose between the two, alternative (1.) -- cutting taxes -- was preferred by 83% to 15%.

By 62% to 33%, the public said that Doyle should keep his promise to lay off 10,000 state workers. (One could argue that it biases things to tell respondents that Doyle has promised this.)

Not all responses are what a limited government person would want. Respondents said they “favored” rather than “opposed” the fact that “Governor Doyle’s budget will create a new 7.75 percent tax on individuals making more than $225 thousand dollars and couples making more than $300 thousand dollars,” and did so by 62% by 35% majority. Selfishness likewise shows its face when 53% said they favored the fact that “Governor Doyle’s budget creates a new $95 million dollar sales tax on Wisconsin products sold to out of state buyers.”

Results like this tend to legitimate the survey.

Robust majorities opposed Doyle’s proposal for new state government workers, and the fact that “Governor Doyle’s budget gives taxpayer funded health care benefits to the unmarried partners of state and university employees.”

All in all, the survey should stiffen the backbones of Republicans in the state legislature, and give some Democrats in swing districts something to think out.

This is most certainly a valuable maiden project for the MacIver Institute.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bluegrass Friday Night

We are rather a fan of the Cream City Bluegrass Band.

They will be playing this Friday evening, from 9:00 p.m. until midnight, at Paddy’s Pub on the East side of Milwaukee, at 2339 N. Murray Avenue. If you are any kind of bluegrass fan at all, this is a dandy way to spend Friday night.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More Bogus Bookkeeping

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Forthcoming at the Law School

From On the Issues with Mike Gousha, two programs that promise to be stimulating and informative:
Thursday, March 26 — Superintendent of Public Instruction Candidates Tony Evers and Rose Fernandez—Join us for what is sure to be a spirited and informative discussion as the candidates for superintendent address the challenges facing the Milwaukee Public Schools and districts across the state of Wisconsin. Tony Evers is currently Deputy State Superintendent. He has been a teacher, principal, and superintendent of the Verona and Oakfield school districts. Rose Fernandez has been a nurse, hospital administrator, businesswoman, and advocate for virtual schools. Learn more about their positions on key issues when the candidates visit the Law School just 10 days before the election. 12:15 to 1:15 p.m., Marquette Law School, Room 325

NEW Wednesday, April 8 — Educational reform advocate Dr. Howard Fuller—The former Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools, Dr. Fuller will visit the Law School to discuss what works in urban education, the future of the school voucher program, and his “no excuses” approach to educating our children. Dr. Fuller is an outspoken advocate for educational options for low-income families. Passionate and sometimes controversial, he is a Distinguished Professor of Education at Marquette University and Founder/Director of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning. Noon to 1 p.m., Marquette Law School, Eisenberg Memorial Hall, 3rd floor.
The programs are open to all, but you must register to attend here.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Marquette Gets An Earmark

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hypocrisy of Card-Check Supporters

From FreedomWorks:
Yesterday, Congressman George Miller (D-AFL/CIO, and sometimes D-CA) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Orwellian “Employee Free Choice Act” into both houses of Congress.

The measure would require a company to accept the unionization of its workers without a secret ballot if half-plus-one of its workers sign cards requesting either a union or even a union election…and those signatures can be requested in public. It also would impose binding arbitration on companies which can not agree to a union contract, giving the new unions tremendous incentive to offer extremely expensive terms to the company and then take their chances with a likely pro-union arbitrator (assuming the plan gets set up where the arbitrator has some affiliation with the government.)

Although this information first hit the web more than a month ago, it bears repeating: In 2001, Congressman Miller was the lead signature on a letter to a department of the government of the Mexican state of Puebla which says:
As members of Congress of the United States who are deeply concerned with international labor standards and the role of labor rights in international trade agreements, we are writing to encourage you to use the secret ballot in all union recognition elections.

We understand that the secret ballot is allowed for, but not required, by Mexican labor law. However, we feel that the secret ballot is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they might not otherwise choose.

We respect Mexico as an important neighbor and trading partner, and we feel that the increased use of the secret ballot in union recognition elections will help bring real democracy to the Mexican workplace.
Check out some of the context of the letter here. Basically, the people signing the letter were unhappy that workers might be (supposedly) “intimidated” into joining company unions, rather than the unions that the leftists like. So if the secret ballot is likely to produce the result they want, they are all for it.

Who were the signers? All liberal Democrats, with the exception of one socialist.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur - D-OH
Bernie Sanders - I-VT…Sanders, a socialist, is now in the Senate
William Coyne - (former) D-PA
Lane Evans - (former) D-IL
Bob Filner - D-CA
Martin Sabo - D-MN
Barney Frank - D-MA
Joe Baca - D-CA
Zoe Lofgren - D-CA
Dennis Kucinich - D-OH
Calvin Dooley - (former) D-CA
Pete Stark - D-CA
Barbara Lee - D-CA
James McGovern - D-MA
Lloyd Doggett - D-TX

So, if the secret ballot brings “real democracy” in Mexico, why are they against it in the U.S.?

The answer, of course, is obvious.

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Oxymoronic

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Where Did the Global Warming Go?

From Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe:

Jacoby lays out a fanciful scenario, and asks how it would play out in the media.

SUPPOSE the climate landscape in recent weeks looked something like this:

Half the country was experiencing its mildest winter in years, with no sign of snow in many Northern states. Most of the Great Lakes were entirely ice-free. Last December 25th, not a single Canadian province had woken to a white Christmas. There was a new scientific study discussing a mysterious surge in global temperatures — a warming trend more intense than computer models had predicted. Other scientists were admitting that, because of a bug in satellite sensors, they had been vastly overestimating the extent of Arctic sea ice.

Of course, there would be a huge media hue and cry. There would be flat out hysteria.

But what has really happened?
The United States has shivered through an unusually severe winter, with snow falling in such unlikely destinations as New Orleans, Las Vegas, Alabama, and Georgia. On December 25th, every Canadian province woke up to a white Christmas, something that hadn’t happened in 37 years. Earlier this year, Europe was gripped by such a killing cold wave that trains were shut down in the French Riviera and chimpanzees in the Rome Zoo had to be plied with hot tea to keep them warm. Last week, satellite data showed three of the Great Lakes — Erie, Superior, and Huron — almost completely frozen over. In Washington, DC, what was supposed to be a massive rally against global warming was upstaged by the heaviest snowfall of the season, which all but shut down the capital.

Meanwhile, the National Snow and Ice Data Center has acknowledged that due to a satellite sensor malfunction, it had been underestimating the extent of Arctic sea ice to the tune of 193,000 square miles — an area the size of Spain. In a new study, University of Wisconsin researchers Kyle Swanson and Anastasios Tsonis conclude that global warming could be going into a decades-long remission. The current global cooling “is nothing like anything we’ve seen since 1950,” Swanson told Discovery News. Yes, global cooling: 2008 was the coolest year of the past decade — average global temperatures have not exceeded the record high measured in 1998, notwithstanding the carbon-dioxide human beings continue to pump into the atmosphere.

None of this proves conclusively that a period of planetary cooling is irrevocably underway, or that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are not the main driver of global temperatures, or that concerns about a hotter world are overblown. Individual weather episodes, it always bears repeating, are not the same as broad climate trends.

But considering how much attention would have been lavished on a comparable run of hot weather or on a warming trend that was plainly accelerating, shouldn’t the recent cold phenomena and the absence of any global warming during the past 10 years be getting a little more notice? Isn’t it possible that the most apocalyptic voices of global-warming alarmism might not be the only ones worth listening to?

But for many people, the science of climate change is not nearly as compelling as the religion of climate change. When Al Gore insisted yet again at a conference last Thursday that there can be no debate about global warming, he was speaking not with the authority of a man of science, but with the closed-minded dogmatism of a religious zealot.
Of course, the religious zealotry isn’t merely the result of some arcane theology. It’s the result of the class interests of the New Class — liberals and leftists who can use it to extend their control over the economy.

Thus, in the past generation, we have had the DDT scare, the result of a book called Silent Spring by Rachael Carson (1962). We have had The Population Bomb by Paul R. Ehrlich (1968). We have had Club of Rome The Limits to Growth in 1972. We had the “coming ice age” which dominated the media in the middle 70s.

All of these environmental scare eposodes turned out to be wrong, but all had one thing in common. They all justified a massive government intervention in the economy.

And that, of course, has always been the point of the environmental movement.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Perfection in Rhythmic Gymnastics

Thursday, March 05, 2009

New Education Research: Unions Hurt Children

In the current issue of the prestigious American Journal of Political Science, an article from Terry Moe, who is William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science at Stanford University.

Translation: heavyweight research from a heavyweight scholar. Peer reviewed. The abstract explains the results:
Students of American politics rarely study public sector unions and their impacts on government. The literature sees bureaucratic power as rooted in expertise, but largely ignores the fact that bureaucrats often join unions to promote their own interests, and that the power of their unions may affect government and its performance. This article focuses on the public schools, which are among the most numerous government agencies in the country, and investigates whether collective bargaining by teachers—the key bureaucrats—affects the schools’ capacity to educate children. Using California data, analysis shows that, in large school districts, restrictive labor contracts have a very negative impact on academic achievement, particularly for minority students. The evidence suggests, then, that public sector unions do indeed have important consequences for American public education.
Good scholars don’t just dump data into top journals without an explanation of the theory that led them to expect the results they got (or in rare cases, another result), and Moe lays out his expectations early in the article:
The unions use their power—their basic work-denial power, enhanced by their political power—to get restrictive rules written into collective bargaining contracts. And these restrictions ensure that the public schools are literally not organized to promote academic achievement. When contract rules make it difficult or impossible to weed out mediocre teachers, for example, they undermine the most important determinant of student learning: teacher quality (Sanders and Rivers 1996). And when contract rules guarantee teachers seniority-based transfer rights, they ensure that teachers cannot be allocated to their most productive uses (Levin, Mulhern, and Schunck 2005). Much the same can be said about a long list of standard contract provisions. This is to be expected. Except at the margins, contract rules are simply not intended to make the schools effective.
Moe’s “dependent variable” (what he is explaining) is something called the API, which is derived from student test scores. The higher the API, the higher the test scores.

There are always methodological issues with an analysis of this sort. We might wonder, for example, whether heavily black districts with a lot of Democratic voters elect liberal school boards that readily cave in to the teachers’ union. But those districts might have kids that perform poorly for reasons having nothing to do with the quality of schooling. Moe deals with these issues decisively -- controlling for minority population in each district, as well as a host of other variables.

Bottom line: both at the elementary and the secondary levels, restrictive union contracts harm student achievement.

When Moe breaks down his results, some complication enters. Restrictive union rules seem to hurt more in large school districts, and in districts with a large minority population.

But of course, these are the districts most at risk. Unionization, in other words, hurts most in the places where conditions are already worst.

This study, in a way, is a follow-up to a 1990 study (Politics, Markets, and America’s Schools) in which John Chubb and Moe showed that private schools are better organized to educate kids than public schools. In that study they stressed the role of unions doing the same things they have done to kill the auto industry — introducing rigidity in how things are organized and promoting a “then versus us” mentality among the workers.

Quite simply: your pro-union liberal friends ought to be ashamed of themselves. Don’t look for them to repent anytime soon, however. Unions — and particularly the teachers’ union — are their political allies.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Still More Discrimination Against Christians on a College Campus

From the Christian Post:
A Christian fellowship group that has been on the Wright State University campus for over 30 years was denied registration as a student group this year for its faith-based policies.

Representatives of Campus Bible Fellowship, which ministers to students at secular colleges, reported that they were turned down by school officials earlier this year when they tried to re-register the group.

The Office of Student Activities at the Ohio-based university named two reasons for the denial, according to CBF representatives.

First, CBF refused to adopt university-mandated nondiscrimination language in its membership requirements that would have forced the group to nix a requirement that voting members maintain religious and behavioral standards.

Second, Wright State objected to the requirement in CBF’s constitution that voting members “accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior” and subscribe to the group’s articles of faith.

The group, which primarily emphasizes Bible study, has not been able to meet on the campus since and has turned to a civil liberties group for help.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which defends First Amendment rights – including religious liberty – on college campuses, has written a letter to university’s president, calling for an immediate reversal of the ban on the Wright State CBF chapter.

“A Christian group has the right to be Christian, a Jewish group has the right to be Jewish, and a Muslim group has the right to be Muslim,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff.

“Courts have affirmed this principle time and time again,” he added. “It is shocking that in a free society, public universities like Wright State still don’t seem to understand or respect this crucial component of religious liberty.”

The Feb. 12 letter from FIRE to Wright State President David R. Hopkins cited a federal legal precedent setting forth the principle that “if Wright State is to allow expressive organizations to exist on its campus at all, it must allow religious organizations to exist, to define their missions, [and] to select their own members.”

According to FIRE, the university’s attorney Gwen Mattison had informed a FIRE representative over the phone that the ban would be lifted for the remainder of the academic year. However, when FIRE wrote in an e-mail, attempting to confirm the details of the phone conversation, Mattison dismissed the details as “incorrect.”

The decision to ban CBF, said FIRE, goes against Wright State recognition procedures.

“It is understood that some student organizations may be created for the purpose of deepening the religious faith of students within the context of a denominational or interdenominational grouping, and that some student organizations may be created for the purpose of perpetuating a national cultural tradition,” states a Student Handbook on student activities.

“Where these purposes are clearly stated in the constitution or bylaws of a student organization and appear to be reasonable, a student organization may be granted recognition through customary procedures as an exception to this policy,” the handbook reads.
More here.

It’s hard to rationalize this as the result of misguided bureaucrats making some blunder. Rather, there has to be an active animus against Christians here.

That’s extremely common among the college bureaucrats that handle “student affairs” and such. They see their job as promoting a politically correct agenda, and Christians (if they are really Christians) can’t conform to the demands of political correctness.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

You and Wall Street

Monday, March 02, 2009

Academia, the Second Amendment and the First

From The Recorder at Central Connecticut State University:
For CCSU student John Wahlberg, a class presentation on campus violence turned into a confrontation with the campus police due to a complaint by the professor.

On October 3, 2008, Wahlberg and two other classmates prepared to give an oral presentation for a Communication 140 class that was required to discuss a “relevant issue in the media.” Wahlberg and his group chose to discuss school violence due to recent events such as the Virginia Tech shootings that occurred in 2007.

Shortly after his professor, Paula Anderson, filed a complaint with the CCSU Police against her student. During the presentation Wahlberg made the point that if students were permitted to conceal carry guns on campus, the violence could have been stopped earlier in many of these cases. He also touched on the controversial idea of free gun zones on college campuses.

That night at work, Wahlberg received a message stating that the campus police “requested his presence”. Upon entering the police station, the officers began to list off firearms that were registered under his name, and questioned him about where he kept them.

They told Wahlberg that they had received a complaint from his professor that his presentation was making students feel “scared and uncomfortable”.

“I was a bit nervous when I walked into the police station,” Wahlberg said, “but I felt a general sense of disbelief once the officer actually began to list the firearms registered in my name. I was never worried however, because as a law-abiding gun owner, I have a thorough understanding of state gun laws as well as unwavering safety practices.”

Professor Anderson refused to comment directly on the situation and deferred further comment.

“It is also my responsibility as a teacher to protect the well being of our students, and the campus community at all times,” she wrote in a statement submitted to The Recorder. “As such, when deemed necessary because of any perceived risks, I seek guidance and consultation from the Chair of my Department, the Dean and any relevant University officials.”
Blogger Ed Brayton said the action served to “reinforce every stereotype about the ridiculous behavior of leftist academics.”

But the most cogent comment came from the CCSU campus:
“If you can’t talk about the Second Amendment, what happened to the First Amendment?” asked Sara Adler, president of the Riflery and Marksmanship club on campus. “After all, a university campus is a place for the free and open exchange of ideas.”
Not in this era of political correctness.

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Climate Facts the Media Hasn’t Shown You

Wishing That All Humanity Would Disappear

From Jeff Jacoby:
THERE’LL ALWAYS BE an England, but will there be Englishmen to inhabit it? Not many, if Jonathon Porritt gets his way. The chairman of Britain’s Sustainable Development Commission declares that “having more than two children is irresponsible” and that couples who “decide to procreate” should first consider their “total environmental footprint.” According to the Sunday Times, Porritt wants the British government to “improve family planning, even if it means shifting money from curing illness to increasing contraception and abortion.” Ending or preventing human life, in other words, should take precedence over extending or saving it.

Such misanthropy is not unique. Greenpeace co-founder Paul Watson, now president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, wants to “radically” reduce the world’s human beings by five-sixths. Population alarmists Paul and Anne Ehrlich have described “the birth of an average American baby” as a “disaster.” Alan Weisman’s 2007 best-seller The World Without Us celebrates the Eden the world would revert to if only mankind would vanish. There is even a Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, which urges “people who care about life on planet Earth” to “refrain from further reproduction.”

Those on the green fringe do indeed care about life on Earth -- every kind of life, it sometimes seem, but one.

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