Saturday, February 27, 2010

Liberal Bias in Wikipedia

Since Wikipedia editors are self-selected, there are no checks to prevent ideologically biased people getting positions as editors and infusing their biases into articles.

One clear example is here.

An editor who goes by the handle Gamaliel has decided that the conservative media watchdog organization Newsbusters is not a reliable source. Apparently, the editor deleted material gotten from Newsbusters.

Newsbusters is a conservative source. And their posts are virtually always supported by primary source text or video of the media coverage they consider “biased.”

If Wikipedia excluded all sources with an ideological bias, excluding Newsbusters might make sense, but then the New York Times has an ideological bias.

But in fact, this same editor accepts the liberal media watchdog site Media Matters as a reliable source!

And then another editor insists that liberal activist group FAIR is an “accurate and reliable source.”

Apparently, “reliable” means “agreeing with my ideological biases.”

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Diktat on 8:00 a.m. Classes: Registrar Responds

We recently blogged about the demand from the Registrar’s office that more 8:00 a.m. classes must be offered at Marquette.

We noted how silly the mandate seems. Neither faculty nor students like 8:00 a.m. classes. Not only are there plenty of classrooms available at 9:00 a.m., individual departments, colleges and programs have every incentive to accommodate students who need to take a class at 8:00 a.m.

We asked Registrar Georgia McRae to explain the rationale for the policy, and she kindly sent us this statement.
Thank you for your inquiries. I understand how you and others might be confused when you see empty classrooms. Please know that I am doing research in response to your questions and will keep the provost and the deans apprised of my findings.

Second, I would like to clarify that the Course Scheduling Policy is a University policy, not a Registrar policy. The Office of the Registrar does not make academic policy, but is often charged with implementation of approved policies that pertain to its responsibilities, such as scheduling classrooms.

The following are key underlying concepts guiding the course scheduling policy and its implementation:
  1. To ensure that our scheduling is student-centric: that is, more courses needed to be spread throughout the day so that students are not faced with time conflicts for needed classes.
  2. We do not have an unlimited number of classrooms at the appropriate size, with the appropriate seating and with the appropriate technology during each time block of the day. This policy attempts to distribute these classrooms in an equitable way across all colleges.
  3. With increased enrollment, we needed to find a way to gain classroom space, without building more classrooms. There are no resources budgeted for new classrooms in the near future.
  4. To give us some flexibility to move a class, without undue hardship on other faculty, when the enrollment outgrows the room capacity, or when we encounter ADA issues. That is, if we have a few classrooms available in each time block, then we have the option to move just the one class that needs to be moved, rather than encounter a domino effect of moving 3-5 classes in order to accomplish our need.
I hope this helps you to understand that there were many considerations that went into the policy and that it was not done in haste, without considerable thought before approval and implementation.
Unfortunately, much of this isn’t really compelling. For example, enrollments. Hard economic times have produced hard times for recruiting a new Freshman class. The Freshman class that Marquette is recruiting for this coming fall appears to be about as large as the one that entered in the fall of 2009, but only at the expense of a greater “discount” of tuition (disguised as larger scholarship grants). There is no reason to think that enrollments will increase. We are, in fact, hoping they don’t decrease.

As for avoiding student conflicts: it’s boneheaded policy to try and force somebody to do something they have every incentive to do anyway. Where a real need for an 8:00 a.m. section exists, deans and department chairs have every incentive to accommodate students. But the reality is that students just don’t like 8:00 a.m. classes, and enrollments are miserable.

As for the claim that “We do not have an unlimited number of classrooms at the appropriate size, with the appropriate seating and with the appropriate technology,” the survey done by our research assistants shows that the empty classrooms were often medium-sized or large.

For example, for Cudahy (for which we have detailed statistics), looking at the classrooms that are available all day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday we find one with a capacity of 41 students, and two with a capacity of 44 each. Looking at the classrooms that are free all day on Tuesday and Thursday, we find one with a capacity of 44, one with a capacity of 41, one with a capacity of 39, and one with a capacity of 24. These are not little seminar rooms.

As for technology: not all classrooms have the latest video technology, but instructors, without any exception that we know of, get assigned to a room with the technology when they want it. And given that virtually every classroom on campus is handicapped accessible, we have trouble seeing how issues created by the need to accommodate disabilities could be causing great problems.

What we have here is yet another example of bureaucrats (and Registrar Georgia McRae may not be the one at fault) implementing something that seems like a good idea to them, all the while remaining oblivious to the actual consequences “on the ground.”

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Real Cost of ObamaCare: Your Freedoms

One of the fundamental problems with the health care “reform” proposals of liberal Democrats is that they have a hidden agenda. Fundamentally, the seek government control of the entire health care system -- even if it’s left under nominal priivate ownership.

From CNN, an analysis of what would really happen if Obama gets his way.
NEW YORK (Fortune) -- In promoting his health-care agenda, President Obama has repeatedly reassured Americans that they can keep their existing health plans -- and that the benefits and access they prize will be enhanced through reform.

A close reading of the two main bills, one backed by Democrats in the House and the other issued by Sen. Edward Kennedy’s Health committee, contradict the President’s assurances. To be sure, it isn’t easy to comb through their 2,000 pages of tortured legal language. But page by page, the bills reveal a web of restrictions, fines, and mandates that would radically change your health-care coverage.

If you prize choosing your own cardiologist or urologist under your company’s Preferred Provider Organization plan (PPO), if your employer rewards your non-smoking, healthy lifestyle with reduced premiums, if you love the bargain Health Savings Account (HSA) that insures you just for the essentials, or if you simply take comfort in the freedom to spend your own money for a policy that covers the newest drugs and diagnostic tests -- you may be shocked to learn that you could lose all of those good things under the rules proposed in the two bills that herald a health-care revolution.

In short, the Obama platform would mandate extremely full, expensive, and highly subsidized coverage -- including a lot of benefits people would never pay for with their own money -- but deliver it through a highly restrictive, HMO-style plan that will determine what care and tests you can and can’t have. It’s a revolution, all right, but in the wrong direction.

Let’s explore the five freedoms that Americans would lose under Obamacare:

1. Freedom to choose what’s in your plan

The bills in both houses require that Americans purchase insurance through “qualified” plans offered by health-care “exchanges” that would be set up in each state. The rub is that the plans can’t really compete based on what they offer. The reason: The federal government will impose a minimum list of benefits that each plan is required to offer.

Today, many states require these “standard benefits packages” -- and they’re a major cause for the rise in health-care costs. Every group, from chiropractors to alcohol-abuse counselors, do lobbying to get included. Connecticut, for example, requires reimbursement for hair transplants, hearing aids, and in vitro fertilization.

The Senate bill would require coverage for prescription drugs, mental-health benefits, and substance-abuse services. It also requires policies to insure “children” until the age of 26. That’s just the starting list. The bills would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to add to the list of required benefits, based on recommendations from a committee of experts. Americans, therefore, wouldn’t even know what’s in their plans and what they’re required to pay for, directly or indirectly, until after the bills become law.

2. Freedom to be rewarded for healthy living, or pay your real costs

As with the previous example, the Obama plan enshrines into federal law one of the worst features of state legislation: community rating. Eleven states, ranging from New York to Oregon, have some form of community rating. In its purest form, community rating requires that all patients pay the same rates for their level of coverage regardless of their age or medical condition.

Americans with pre-existing conditions need subsidies under any plan, but community rating is a dubious way to bring fairness to health care. The reason is twofold: First, it forces young people, who typically have lower incomes than older workers, to pay far more than their actual cost, and gives older workers, who can afford to pay more, a big discount. The state laws gouging the young are a major reason so many of them have joined the ranks of uninsured.

Under the Senate plan, insurers would be barred from charging any more than twice as much for one patient vs. any other patient with the same coverage. So if a 20-year-old who costs just $800 a year to insure is forced to pay $2,500, a 62-year-old who costs $7,500 would pay no more than $5,000.

Second, the bills would ban insurers from charging differing premiums based on the health of their customers. Again, that’s understandable for folks with diabetes or cancer. But the bills would bar rewarding people who pursue a healthy lifestyle of exercise or a cholesterol-conscious diet. That’s hardly a formula for lower costs. It’s as if car insurers had to charge the same rates to safe drivers as to chronic speeders with a history of accidents.

3. Freedom to choose high-deductible coverage

The bills threaten to eliminate the one part of the market truly driven by consumers spending their own money. That’s what makes a market, and health care needs more of it, not less.

Hundreds of companies now offer Health Savings Accounts to about 5 million employees. Those workers deposit tax-free money in the accounts and get a matching contribution from their employer. They can use the funds to buy a high-deductible plan -- say for major medical costs over $12,000. Preventive care is reimbursed, but patients pay all other routine doctor visits and tests with their own money from the HSA account. As a result, HSA users are far more cost-conscious than customers who are reimbursed for the majority of their care.

The bills seriously endanger the trend toward consumer-driven care in general. By requiring minimum packages, they would prevent patients from choosing stripped-down plans that cover only major medical expenses. “The government could set extremely low deductibles that would eliminate HSAs,” says John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a free-market research group. “And they could do it after the bills are passed.”

4. Freedom to keep your existing plan

This is the freedom that the President keeps emphasizing. Yet the bills appear to say otherwise. It’s worth diving into the weeds -- the territory where most pundits and politicians don’t seem to have ventured.

The legislation divides the insured into two main groups, and those two groups are treated differently with respect to their current plans. The first are employees covered by the Employee Retirement Security Act of 1974. ERISA regulates companies that are self-insured, meaning they pay claims out of their cash flow, and don’t have real insurance. Those are the GEs (GE, Fortune 500) and Time Warners (TWX, Fortune 500) and most other big companies.

The House bill states that employees covered by ERISA plans are “grandfathered.” Under ERISA, the plans can do pretty much what they want -- they’re exempt from standard packages and community rating and can reward employees for healthy lifestyles even in restrictive states.

But read on.

The bill gives ERISA employers a five-year grace period when they can keep offering plans free from the restrictions of the “qualified” policies offered on the exchanges. But after five years, they would have to offer only approved plans, with the myriad rules we’ve already discussed. So for Americans in large corporations, “keeping your own plan” has a strict deadline. In five years, like it or not, you’ll get dumped into the exchange. As we’ll see, it could happen a lot earlier.

The outlook is worse for the second group. It encompasses employees who aren’t under ERISA but get actual insurance either on their own or through small businesses. After the legislation passes, all insurers that offer a wide range of plans to these employees will be forced to offer only “qualified” plans to new customers, via the exchanges.

The employees who got their coverage before the law goes into effect can keep their plans, but once again, there’s a catch. If the plan changes in any way -- by altering co-pays, deductibles, or even switching coverage for this or that drug -- the employee must drop out and shop through the exchange. Since these plans generally change their policies every year, it’s likely that millions of employees will lose their plans in 12 months.

5. Freedom to choose your doctors

The Senate bill requires that Americans buying through the exchanges -- and as we’ve seen, that will soon be most Americans -- must get their care through something called “medical home.” Medical home is similar to an HMO. You’re assigned a primary care doctor, and the doctor controls your access to specialists. The primary care physicians will decide which services, like MRIs and other diagnostic scans, are best for you, and will decide when you really need to see a cardiologists or orthopedists.

Under the proposals, the gatekeepers would theoretically guide patients to tests and treatments that have proved most cost-effective. The danger is that doctors will be financially rewarded for denying care, as were HMO physicians more than a decade ago. It was consumer outrage over despotic gatekeepers that made the HMOs so unpopular, and killed what was billed as the solution to America’s health-care cost explosion.

The bills do not specifically rule out fee-for-service plans as options to be offered through the exchanges. But remember, those plans -- if they exist -- would be barred from charging sick or elderly patients more than young and healthy ones. So patients would be inclined to game the system, staying in the HMO while they’re healthy and switching to fee-for-service when they become seriously ill. “That would kill fee-for-service in a hurry,” says Goodman.

In reality, the flexible, employer-based plans that now dominate the landscape, and that Americans so cherish, could disappear far faster than the 5 year “grace period” that’s barely being discussed.

Companies would have the option of paying an 8% payroll tax into a fund that pays for coverage for Americans who aren’t covered by their employers. It won’t happen right away -- large companies must wait a couple of years before they opt out. But it will happen, since it’s likely that the tax will rise a lot more slowly than corporate health-care costs, especially since they’ll be lobbying Washington to keep the tax under control in the righteous name of job creation.

The best solution is to move to a let-freedom-ring regime of high deductibles, no community rating, no standard benefits, and cross-state shopping for bargains (another market-based reform that’s strictly taboo in the bills). I’ll propose my own solution in another piece soon on Fortune.com. For now, we suffer with a flawed health-care system, but we still have our Five Freedoms. Call them the Five Endangered Freedoms.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Misbegotten Scheme From the Registrar: Offer More 8:00 a.m. Classes

In Political Science, we learned about this last Friday, February 12.

Marquette’s Registrar is demanding that more classes be offered at 8:00 a.m. This generated about as much enthusiasm as one would expect. Not only do most faculty not want to teach 8:00 a.m. classes, but most students don’t want to take 8:00 a.m. classes. When political science has offered multiple sections of a given course (say, Introduction to American Politics) the 8:00 a.m. section has always had a poor enrollment.

The question then becomes: why would the Registrar want to do this? It might seem that offering classes evenly spread across the day would be a better use of facilities. But is there a shortage of classrooms at other hours?

We sent two research assistants out to check on the availability of classrooms at the 9:00 a.m. hour for Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes, and for the 9:30-10:45 time slot for Tuesday-Thursday classes.

The research assistants went to the Physics building (1st and 2nd floors), Chemistry (basement and 1st floor), Biology (1st floor), Lalumiere (floors 1-3), Engineering (floors 1 and 2), and Business (floors 2-4).

This wasn’t every building with classrooms, but it probably covers the majority of classrooms on campus.

The results:

Wednesday survey: 46 classrooms occupied and 37 empty

Tuesday survey: 44 classrooms occupied and 25 empty.

These data are subject to a small margin of error. Perhaps our RAs didn’t count some class (or empty classroom) behind a closed door that had no glass panel allowing one to look in. But our RAs quite simply saw many empty classrooms. In principle, classrooms may be in use only one day a week for a discussion section. But are Tuesday or Wednesday less likely to have these than other days?

Why the Registrar thinks we need more 8:00 a.m. classes when we currently have so many vacant 9:00 a.m. classrooms is a mystery.

A separate analysis for Cudahy Hall used the Class Facility Usage sheets from the University database.

It showed:

Tuesday-Thursday: 9:30 classes -- vacant classrooms (7), occupied classrooms (7)

Monday,Wednesday,Friday 9:00 classes -- vacant classrooms (9), occupied classrooms (5)

Of course, the Registrar should know all this. Indeed, it would be a stunning example of incompetence if the Office of the Registrar didn’t know exactly how classrooms are utilized.

There are, of course, instances where an 8:00 a.m. class is dandy. If students in a particular program literally have to take a particular class during a particular semester, putting it at 8:00 a.m. is a fine way to reduce conflicts with other classes, since so few are offered at that hour. And where multiple sections of a class are offered, it may be good to provide an option for students who are “jammed up” with other classes and work schedules in the middle of the day.

But academic departments, schools and programs have plenty of incentive to accommodate student needs and preferences. And indeed, they are likely to be much better informed about student needs and potential scheduling problems than the Registrar’s Office.

So just what is going on here?

[Update - Feb. 23, 2010]

Arts and Sciences Dean Jeanne Hossenlopp replied to our inquiry with the following statement:
There have been a few issues that have come up this year with respect to course scheduling. For some departments, the challenge is offering enough 8 am courses. For others, scheduling discussion sections or graduate courses may be the more pressing concern. We are working with the Registrar to address these issues and the discussion continues. As you know, in Arts and Sciences we have a particular challenge given the number of courses that we offer and we are trying to find an effective way to balance things at the college, rather than solely at the department level. We need to look more carefully at a variety of data including classroom capacities, “smart” classroom requests versus availability, and look for patterns in cancellations. We are still gathering data that will be useful in mapping out how to optimize the constraints in classroom scheduling.
Huh?

We still don’t know what the perceived problem was.

Why did the Registrar think there needed to be more 8:00 a.m. classes?

As for the need to “look more carefully at a variety of data:” shouldn’t the Registrar have looked at the data before she started demanding more 8:00 a.m. classes?

We have a call in to Marquette Registrar Georgia McRae. Perhaps she will tell us what the issue is.

[Developing . . . ]

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Planned Parenthood: Party to Sexual Abuse of Minors

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Changing Climate on Climate Change

From George Will:
WASHINGTON -- Science, many scientists say, has been restored to her rightful throne because progressives have regained power. Progressives, say progressives, emulate the cool detachment of scientific discourse. So hear now the calm, collected voice of a scientist lavishly honored by progressives, Rajendra Pachauri.

He is chairman of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared the 2007 version of the increasingly weird Nobel Peace Prize. Denouncing persons skeptical about the shrill certitudes of those who say global warming poses an imminent threat to the planet, he says:

“They are the same people who deny the link between smoking and cancer. They are people who say that asbestos is as good as talcum powder -- and I hope they put it on their faces every day.”

Do not judge him as harshly as he speaks of others. Nothing prepared him for the unnerving horror of encountering disagreement. Global warming alarmists, long cosseted by echoing media, manifest an interesting incongruity -- hysteria and name calling accompanying serene assertions about the “settled science” of climate change. Were it settled, we would be spared the hyperbole that amounts to Ring Lardner’s “Shut up, he explained.”

The global warming industry, like Alexander in the famous children’s story, is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Actually, a bad three months, which began Nov. 19 with the publication of e-mails indicating attempts by scientists to massage data and suppress dissent in order to strengthen “evidence” of global warming.

But there already supposedly was a broad, deep and unassailable consensus. Strange.

Next came the failure of The World’s Last -- We Really, Really Mean It -- Chance, aka the Copenhagen climate change summit. It was a nullity, and since then things have been getting worse for those trying to stampede the world into a spasm of prophylactic statism.

In 2007, before the economic downturn began enforcing seriousness and discouraging grandstanding, seven Western U.S. states (and four Canadian provinces) decided to fix the planet on their own. California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger intoned, “We cannot wait for the United States government to get its act together on the environment.” The 11 jurisdictions formed what is now called the Western Climate Initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, starting in 2012.

Or not. Arizona’s Gov. Jan Brewer recently suspended her state’s participation in what has not yet begun, and some Utah legislators are reportedly considering a similar action. She worries, sensibly, that it would impose costs on businesses and consumers. She also ordered reconsideration of Arizona’s strict vehicle emission rules, modeled on incorrigible California’s, lest they raise the cost of new cars.

Last week, BP America, ConocoPhillips and Caterpillar, three early members of the 31-member U.S. Climate Action Partnership, said: Oh, never mind. They withdrew from USCAP. It is a coalition of corporations and global warming alarm groups that was formed in 2007 when carbon rationing legislation seemed inevitable and collaboration with the rationers seemed prudent. A spokesman for Conoco said: “We need to spend time addressing the issues that impact our shareholders and consumers.” What a concept.

Global warming skeptics, too, have erred. They have said there has been no statistically significant warming for 10 years. Phil Jones, former director of Britain’s Climatic Research Unit, source of the leaked documents, admits it has been 15 years. Small wonder that support for radical remedial action, sacrificing wealth and freedom to combat warming, is melting faster than the Himalayan glaciers that an IPCC report asserted, without serious scientific support, could disappear by 2035.

Jones also says that if during what is called the Medieval Warm Period (circa 800-1300) global temperatures may have been warmer than today’s, that would change the debate. Indeed it would. It would complicate the task of indicting contemporary civilization for today’s supposedly unprecedented temperatures.
Will goes on to opine that global warming has become a kind of religion.

And indeed it, and environmentalism generally, is. People have a deep-seated desire to feel “saved.” The fact that they may come from a culture where going to church and engaging in sexual restraint is derided doesn’t change that.

So the deep-seated desire for righteousness expresses itself in environmentalism. But like traditional moralists, they are not content to merely live righteous lives. They demand the right to force their notions of righteousness on everybody.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Live Blogging Archbishop Listecki

From Marquette Law School.

Introduction from Mike Gousha. Nice round of applause.

Gousha: What is it like to follow Dolan?

Listecki: Listecki talks about how outgoing and friendly Dolan was. He liked to laugh a lot, had a sense of joy.

Dolan "Has at least one big belly laugh every day."

Gousha: Are you similar to Dolan?

Listecki: Similar in many ways. Difference in training. Difference in way we come at things.

Listecki was trained in civil law, which is its own "language." Listecki never intended to go into legal practice.

Gousha: You've been called the "law and order bishop." Or the political bishop.

Listecki: Explains he wrote a letter about Nancy Pelosi when she just flatly misrepresented the Church's position on abortion.

But doesn't want to "stick his nose" into everything.

There is a real church teaching, and it should not be allowed to degenerate into "this is just an opinion" or "that is just an opinion."

Also supported the Bishop that took Notre Dame to task for giving honorary degree to Barack Obama.

Listecki was one of many bishops in both cases.

"For those two things I get called 'political.'"

Gousha: what about somebody who has done good work for the poor, but favors "abortion rights."

Listecki: Life is the fundamental right. It doesn't make a lot of sense to talk about the other good things somebody has done if they condone abortion.

Gousha: So you aren't going out looking for a fight. But then why don't all bishops take such positions?

Listecki: Differences in personality.

Gousha: How do you find Milwaukee?

Listecki: Lots of resources and lots of development. The city a "great gift." Talks of arts. Lots of diversity. We still have people coming over as the first generation from Europe.

Gousha: What are the challenges?

Listecki: For any bishop, it is always personnel, schools and finances. Sexual abuse a pressing issue that always has to be addressed. Have to be sure that never, ever happens again.

Then the issue is healing. Have to deal with the emotional aspect.

Gousha: Don't unresolved sexual abuse law suits affect the well-being of the Archdiocese?

Listecki: Yes they do.

Gousha: Is bankruptcy "on the table."

Listecki: Yes, de facto it is something you might have to do.

Listecki: All cases must be reported, and Listicki is obligated to remove the priest immediately, if the charge is "credible." That's by charter.

Other issue: older cases. Beyond statue of limitations, but we will do what we can.

Third case: Adult complains about sexual abuse. Listicki will respect confidentiality if asked. Adult situation different from minor situation. Minor abuse always reported.

Gousha: Police Chief said Listecki's statements were untrue.

Listecki: Question was asked whether archbishop would report sexual abuse of minors. Insists he has a legal obligation to do that. Chief was not there. FBI looked at policy, prosecutors looked at policy, and passed it.

Gousha: Claim that LaCrosse archdiocese sided against victims of sex abuse much less than the national average.


Listecki: Claims that the numbers went back way before he took over, and his board (which made the decisions) acted with professionalism.

Will meet with any individual victim of abuse, but doesn't believe in politicizing issue (a swipe at activist group SNAP).

Gousha: How important education?

Listecki: We have to do our best to make Catholic education accessible and affordable. Education a way out of poverty. Especially Catholic education [Ed. a well-deserved swipe at public schools.]

Gousha: What do you do to reach younger people? What about "social media," for example?

Listecki: First, talk to younger people. Listecki can't text, "my fingers are too fat."

But regardless of the technology, "face to face contact is the most important."

Audience Question: What about the outlook for vocations?

Listecki: Pointed out that in LaCrosse, the archdiocese was heavily dependent on foreign priests. Claims to have changed that.

Says the Church has too long been in "containment mode." Didn't challenge people. Believes "the vocations are there" is people are challenged to consider them.

He notes that in Milwaukee, under Dolan, men going into the priesthood have increased from one per year to five or six.

Audience Question: What about Catholic kids in public schools?

Listecki: Talks about the need to convince parents that the sacrifice of paying for a Catholic school is worth it.

He sometimes hears Catholic educators, asked to explain why their schools are special, say "we teach values." He thinks that a pretty lame reply, and that it needs to go way beyond that.

Audience Question: What about the vocation of the Catholic lawyer?

Listecki: Says it's a "noble vocation." Law is a language to itself, and it's worth learning the language.

But there is a potential ethical problem: a lawyer must be willing to represent "both sides" in a case -- or more properly, either side. How is this resolved? By a "commitment to the ethics of the profession?"

Audience Question: What about the Latin Mass?

Listecki: Thinks it's fine for people who prefer that mode of spiritual expression. Cites the Pope on this. Doesn't think there will be any stampede of Catholics to the Latin Mass, but there is nothing wrong with having it available.

Audience Question: Priesthood vs. lay roles in church

Listecki: He certainly doesn't propose anything radical, but he applauds the revival of the role of deacon, which languished for centuries.

Mentions something called Mission 21.

He tells of how he wanted to be a priest from age two and a half or three years old. (He doesn't actually remember, but was told this by his parents.)

Mentions that you hear stories of parents forcing a young man into the priesthood, but this was not the case with him. One parent wanted him to be a doctor, and the other a lawyer. He never remembers wanting to be anything but a priest. But notes that "God always gets the last laugh," since he is now an Archbishop, and can't function as a simple parish priest.

Winding Up

Listecki gets a good round of applause at the end.

As the crowd leaves, he has an impromptu press conference with four of the local TV stations (Channels 4, 6, 12 and 58) and the Journal-Sentinel. The questioning is respectful but pointed, since Listecki was involved in some controversy in LaCrosse on the issue of priestly sexual abuse.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

School Choice from an Economics 101 Perspective

Marquette Student Government: No Free Speech About Homosexuality

Last night, the Marquette University Student Senate passed a resolution condemning “prejudicial attacks” on gays and lesbians, claiming that “On Marquette’s campus LGBTQ issues in the past have been overlooked” and that “LGBTQ individuals have been subjected to intentional and unintentional prejudicial attacks . . . .”

This might seem bland enough, although actual harassment and discrimination against gays (and a long list of other groups) has long been against university rules. So why a redundant resolution?

A big problem comes with the phrase “prejudicial attack.” Actual physical attacks are against civil law, as well as university rules. Harassment has long been against university rules. The resolution mentions that “Some of these attacks take the form of derogatory jokes,” and that is the only form of “prejudicial attack” mentioned in the resolution.

Doubtless, telling derisive jokes about gays and lesbians is not nice, and could indeed be considered a form of harassment -- which again, is already outlawed. We have trouble seeing why homosexuals should have a special protection that (say) blonds, or Polish people or rednecks or people considered “too religious” don’t have.

Giving the Game Away

The true intent of the resolution was revealed when a conservative senator proposed the following amendment, to be added to the text:
Espousal of traditional Christian or specifically Catholic teaching on homosexuality shall not, if done respectfully and in the appropriate context, be considered a “prejudicial attack” or an expression of “prejudice.”
The amendment was voted down!

And it was voted down by a wide margin, with only four senators supporting it, and approximately 17 opposing it. After the amendment was defeated, the motion itself passed.

The intellectual level of the debate was revealed when one senator asked what “espousal” meant!

Given a chance to protect the right of Christian and specifically Catholic students to affirm Church teaching on homosexuality, the Student Senate, after considerable debate, refused to. It’s appalling that, on the campus of a supposed Catholic university, Catholic teaching about the sinfulness of homosexual acts is not supposed to be even expressed.

Not only is Church teaching not an officially enforced orthodoxy (which it shouldn’t be) but opposition to Church teaching is the official orthodoxy -- at least if Student Government (and the bureaucrats in Student Affairs, who monitor and ride herd on Student Government) gets its way.

Indeed, it largely already has. A source close to student government who spoke to us about the issue asked that his or her name not be used, because “we are probably the minority group on our beliefs . . . I’d rather not use my name.”

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

New Computer Worm Threat

Obama: Giving Liberal Ideas a Try-Out For the First Time in Decades

From Matt Welch at Reason.com:
In just about every speech at their 2008 convention, Democrats promised voters that a change in the White House would, in Barack Obama’s formulation, restore “our moral standing” in the world. Replace the unilateralist cowboy at the top with a humbler multilateralist, and the path would finally be cleared to fix vexing international issues such as curbing carbon emissions and dealing with the mullahs in Iran. Like many of the party faithful’s long-nurtured beliefs, this hope has disintegrated on contact with reality.

“America is losing the free world,” said a January headline in the Financial Times. While that statement is exaggerated, the sentiment behind it has been gaining traction around the globe, especially in the wake of the climate conference debacle in Copenhagen. It’s not just that the less confrontational American president has been unable to deliver results. He can’t even get his phone calls returned.

“On the last day of the [Copenhagen] talks, the Americans tried to fix up one-to-one meetings between Mr Obama and the leaders of South Africa, Brazil and India—but failed each time,” Gideon Rachman wrote in the Financial Times piece. “The Indians even said that their prime minister, Manmohan Singh, had already left for the airport. So Mr Obama must have felt something of a chump when he arrived for a last-minute meeting with Wen Jiabao, the Chinese prime minister, only to find him already deep in negotiations with the leaders of none other than Brazil, South Africa and India.”

It was easy for many Democrats to believe, during the nightmare years of “freedom fries,” that George W. Bush alone was to blame for the diplomatic prickliness between, say, Washington and Paris. But the basic conditions for American foreign policy have more to do with America’s outsized position in the world than with any particular politicians. Bill Clinton tangled constantly with the French, and now a visibly irritated President Nicolas Sarkozy has gone within a year from vying for Obama’s attentions to taking (in the words of a competing politician) an openly “anti-Obama position.”

Obama’s approach was supposed to produce a more cooperative Tehran and Moscow, fewer terrorists in the Muslim world, and vast new initiatives to fight global poverty. Instead, Iran has murdered dissenters while speeding up its nuclear program, Russia hasn’t discernibly budged even after the U.S. abandoned its missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland, a Muslim suicide bomber was stopped at the last minute from blowing up a plane over Detroit on Christmas, and global gatherings have produced even less concrete action than usual.

These developments illustrate a phenomenon that has been playing out across a variety of public policy areas: Progressive Democrats, after being outfoxed by Ronald Reagan, triangulated to the policy margins by Bill Clinton, then routed under the first six years of George W. Bush, are having many of the nostrums they championed during the wilderness years tested in the real world for the first time in decades. The initial results of this long-delayed peer review have been a shock to the progressive system.

The Copenhagen crackup was a dream killer in more ways than one. Not only did the breakdown give the lie to the notion that a cranky Texas oilman was the single greatest impediment to international cooperation and enlightened environmental policy; it laid waste to the argument that yoking the developing world to a “do as we say, not as we did” policy of energy consumption will somehow prove to be an economic and environmental “win-win.” If that’s true, the leaders of India and China—the latter of which has been serially praised for its green-energy initiatives by the likes of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman—certainly don’t believe it. No amount of international do-goodism is going to prevent countries from acting in what they perceive to be their own self-interest.

Obama and the Democrats have been peddling a similar win-win line about the creation of up to 5 million “green jobs” in America, through a combination of cap-and-trade carbon permits, home weatherization, clean coal, higher gas mileage standards, environmental regulation, and various renewable-energy mandates. The “green jobs” political juggernaut has been credited to Van Jones, who was obliged to resign as Obama’s “Green Czar” last summer after reports surfaced that he’d signed a petition supporting an investigation of Bush’s involvement in 9/11. What’s interesting about Jones’ beautiful-sounding concept is that even its chief supporters admit there’s no evidence the theory is true. Which is hardly surprising, since most of Obama’s proposed environmental policies involve making energy more expensive while using more tax dollars to subsidize expensive clean energy sources. As The New Yorker put it in a long, flattering profile of Jones in January 2009, “the mechanics of creating green jobs—or even what jobs should qualify for the title—have yet to be worked out.”

The debate over these phantom jobs, against a backdrop of double-digit unemployment, will likely suck up the political oxygen in Washington after the protracted health care debate finally wheezes to a close. But Americans already have found empty pots at the end of other Democratic rainbows.

The $789 billion stimulus package of February 2009, thanks to a theoretical “multiplier” that would convert federal dollars into more than their worth in job creation, was supposed to (according to administration economists) “create or save” 3.5 million jobs and prevent unemployment from reaching as high as 9 percent by the end of 2010. Instead, joblessness shot through the 10 percent barrier before the end of 2009, and the government’s own tracking of the jobs allegedly created or saved has become a laughingstock with its double counting and imaginary ZIP codes.

What about the lobbying scourge that Democrats (like all good opposition parties) opposed so vociferously in 2008? Progressive theory holds that regulation of K Street, as opposed to a cutback in overall regulation, is the key to “change the culture of corruption” in Washington, as candidate Obama repeatedly promised to do. How’d that work out in practice? In December Politico reported that “Washington’s influence industry is on track to shatter last year’s record $3.3 billion spent to lobby Congress and the rest of the federal government—and that’s with a down economy and about 1,500 fewer registered lobbyists in town.”

In the truer-believing regions of the progressive political world, the broad agenda of carbon price hikes, centralized health care, greater regulation, increased taxes, and government-mandated diversity in boardrooms are not just sound and moral policy. They are inherently popular, if only the usual obstacles to justice and reform can be neutralized or removed.
Of course, liberal Democrats are intent on “neutralizing” and “removing” such “obstacles” by shutting up talk radio with the Fairness Doctrine, demonizing the Tea Party movement, and bullying potential opposition (health insurance companies, drug companies) into compliance.
Such fantasies can serve as a salve when you live on the margins of the policy debate. And as long as you remain on the sidelines, the underlying proposals tend to go largely unchallenged. But now that progressive economic thought has its first real foothold in Washington since the 1970s, many long-marginalized ideas are being dusted off for real-world testing, from taxing stock transactions to “getting people out of their cars.” If we’re lucky, those debates will take place before the ideas are cemented into law. Better yet, maybe the growing unpopularity of central planning will dissuade the enthusiasts from inflicting their experiments on the rest of us in the first place.
The problem, of course, is that the liberal-left New Class lives to inflict its experiments on the rest of us. The power, influence, prestige and incomes of the group are tied up in using politics. So they won’t tire of that.

They will always be a threat to a free society, and they will always need to be fought off. Happily, the most immediately threatening of their power grabs -- the attempt to seize control of the health care system -- has been defeated.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Another Example of How Liberals Don’t Believe in Free Speech