Contra Mozilla

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas to All

Merry Christmas to all. And now, a poetry reading from Hillaire Belloc:
Noël! Noël! Noël! Noël!
A Catholic tale have I to tell! And a Christian song have I to sing
While all the bells in Arundel ring.
I pray good beef and I pray good beer
This holy night of all the year,
But I pay detestable drink for them
That give no honour to Bethlehem.
May all good fellows that here agree
Drink Audit Ale in heaven with me
And may all my enemies go to hell!
Noël! Noël! Noël! Noël!
May all my enemies go to hell!
Noël! Noël! 
The Sailor's Carol, from The Four Men, pp. 243.
I can't speak to what my co-blogger is doing, but I am away visiting family and friends in Texas. We wl probably not be posting much over the next week or so.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Some Secularist Suggestions

Apparently, some secularists have attempted to write their own alternative version of the Ten Commandments. These attempts to improve on Gods' revelations never go well. This set of suggestions (they are hardly commandments) are not an exception. Mike Flynn and William M. Briggs each perform an autopsy. From Mr. Flynn's post:
One senses throughout the article that particular love of theory that is the root of all evil. Unlike the original Commandments, there is a steady whiff not of practicality but of theoretical bromides and academic huff-and-puffery that sound very kool until examined more closely.

It is not clear which of the original ten commandments they find objectionable. Even the commandment to avoid false gods is applied relative to things like White Race, the Almighty Dollar, the Fatherland, and other modern deities. And the commandment against false oaths is presumably acceptable as long as one does not believe they will be caught at it by an all-knowing deity. Otherwise, the court system collapses. Besides, we are all aware of the many words and phrases that Must Not Be Uttered in these, our modern times. Only the staunchest capitalist will demand that people work seven days a week. 
So perhaps they object to honoring their father and their mother.
Secularists are these days desperate to retain morality without God. Perhaps they have realized that some sort of morality, some ethics, is necessary for society to function. They are not anarchists as much anymore, but they cannot quite bring themselves to accept the rule of God. As Chesterton said,
Now who that runs can read it,The riddle that I write,Of why this poor old sinner,Should sin without delight-But I, I cannot read it(Although I run and run),Of them that do not have the faith,And will not have the fun.                              

Progressive Stupidity

As frustrating as it is to see the decline of conservatism, the decline of liberalism (as having something to do with increasing a person's liberty, even while increasing governments' power to supposedly preserve that liberty, whatever that means) is itself a pity. We are left with simple Leftists, and those useful idiots who like to call themselves "progressives."

Useful idiot is a reasonable term to employ for the kind of person who makes a "PSA" video which encourages teens to sneak into their parents' bedrooms, steal their firearms (failing to check whether said firearm is loaded or not, place said gun into their backpacks, bring it to school, and then pull it out and place it on their teachers' desk and ask to have it taken away because they don't feel comfortable with a gun in their home.

The number of laws which this breaks is... well, it depends on the state and local jurisdictions, but a few of these are felonies. It also sows distrust between parents and children and teaches children to place more trust in (state-employed, unionized) teachers than their own parents. And of course, the parents's rights to own firearms are violated in the name of...what, exactly? What this video encourages is anything but safe, so safety is out.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Passive Aggressive Resistance

The Public Discourse recently had an article advocating an interesting sort of passive resistance for faithful Christians who are being increasingly compelled to violate their consciences as regards their participation in so-called "gay marriage."
Although it may not be acceptable to all in this situation, it would be acceptable to many. It is simply this: to obey the law and serve gay weddings, but to make it known publicly that you believe that the law forcing you to do this is unjust, needs to be changed, and is obeyed only under protest and out of your respect for law and the democratic process...
I could well imagine a pious religious couple, running the kind of wedding-focused catering hall that I once worked at in New York, posting on its premises an announcement something to this effect:
[lengthy statement declaring that the store owners are Christians, that they oppose "gay marriage and the "gay lifestyle," and that they will nevertheless provide the demanded services out of obedience to the law, but that they would like to see the law changed]
We are required by the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) provision of New York State's anti-discrimination statute to make our wedding facilities available to anyone who seeks to use them, including gay and lesbian couples who want to marry under New York's same-sex marriage law. We believe strongly in the democratic process and the rule of law. For this reason, we will obey the state law governing our business. However, we obey this law only under the gravest protest, as we believe it violates our deepest moral and religious convictions. It does so needlessly and with apparent intent to polarize our country and inflame an already overheated cultural war.
Such a declaration would have many advantages over simply giving in silently to an unfair law to save one’s business. It would strike out in a public way against the injustice of such a law and gain sympathy from many quarters for the business owner’s point of view. 
It would also cast the business owner in the sympathetic role of the admirable peacemaker. His opponents would be cast in the role of authoritarian bullies picking on pious religious folks and opposing simple live-and-let-live solutions to the problems posed by American pluralism. Finally, such a declaration would probably discourage gays and lesbians from ever wanting to hold their wedding celebrations at any establishment that posted such a statement. The catering hall owners would have a strong First Amendment right to air their views, and by doing so they would probably end most instances where they are asked to do what their religion and moral sense forbids. 
It’s possible that such a declaration might drive away the business of liberals sympathetic to gay marriage, but it is just as likely that it would gain sympathy from many quarters, including not only from social conservatives who oppose gay marriage on principle, but from many liberals and moderates who resent small guys being pushed around by state bureaucrats. If the declaration were properly worded and sounded a courteous-yet-concerned tone of inclusiveness, it would probably attract and repel equal numbers of people. Most potential customers, I suspect, would not be affected one way or the other.

Suffice it to say that I am on the fence for this one. I think it is a good fallback position*, though I suppose that as a fallback position it loses some of the "we're just trying to leave in peace" overtones. I am also less-than convinced that it is a position that we will be allowed to fallback to--today, compulsion for participation, tomorrow laws against protesting against said compulsions. Today, it's free exercise of religion (and rights of association which are under assault--Constitutional protections thereof be damned--and tomorrow it will be the rights of free speech.

On the other hand, there is a slightly more aggressive version of this, in which the "shopkeepers" post (and state) that all proceeds from providing services to "gay marriages" (weddings, receptions, honeymoon,s etc as applicable) will go to support the National Organization for Marriage (or a comparable pro-marriage and frankly pro-sanity organization).

*Similarly, the idea that the Church should refer to the Sacrament only as "Holy Matrimony" and not ever as marriage," and to the civil institution/partnership as "marriage" but never matrimony, is a fallback position which ultimately leaves much to be desired. In both cases, there are better options even as "fallback" options.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Conservative Visions: Conservatism after Obama

I have read two articles of interest concerning conservatism and its fight against liberal progressiveness. The first--which I shall discuss here--was on The Witherspoon Institute's Public Discourse site, is is more or-less about the basics of what conservatives should attempt to do to reclaim America, post Obama. The second was on The Imaginative Conservative, and is about reclaiming conservatism from the libertarians (and frankly, from the Randian-objectivists), and I will possibly come back and discuss it later.

In the Public Discourse article, the author, Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute, suggests that we need to go beyond just enacting legislation or coopting current institutions and laws--that we need to articulate an actual vision of what an America fundamentally transformed by conservatism should like like:
Part of the conservative response will necessarily take the form of something many American conservatives love: policy. Given, however, the scale of modern liberalism’s advances, policy development just isn’t going to be enough. If conservatives are serious about up-ending some of the key assumptions driving American social, foreign, and economic policy since 2008, they need to go beyond framing legislation. Instead, they must seriously consider what a conservative fundamental transformation of America would look like...
In short, conservatives determined to roll back America’s steady slouch toward a progressivist dystopia must be more than just adept at cutting deals, devising legislation, or using social media (as important as such activities are). Without the forceful elucidation of principles that conservatives hold dear, it will be all too easy for conservative responses to the “Obama effect” to become exercises in damage control rather than establishing a full-spectrum conservative agenda as the new normal.
He suggests rooting this vision in the writing of Edmund Burke and Adam Smith--a good pair of choices, though they would need additional thinkers (Eric Voegelin, for example, or for a different emphasis someone like Fr. Schall) to further it.

There are some flaws to this piece, however. The biggest, most glaring flaw is that the transformation of America did not begin with President Obama, though this certainly accelerated things. In a sense, it began with the Fall, with the introduction of Original Sin, which ensures no perfect society can be built nor can a good one long stand. More recently, there are a number of trends which can be traced to times before President Obama, though some of them really started to come to a head during his administration.

The erosion of marriage is one large example. It began largely with the introduction of no-fault divorce and the widespread use of contraception, continued with the easy access to pornography and to the widespread "gentlemen's clubs," and has most recently foundered on the perilous shores of "gay marriage" and the now free-for-all attempts at redefining any semblance of marriage out of existence. The open hostility to religion is another example, and one can find it before the rule of Obama, though things have certainly gotten worse, since we now have gone from lacking adequate protections of religious liberties to the passage or laws (or declarations of edicts) which actively oppose some religious rights (among which I include the rights of conscience).

Friday, December 12, 2014

Intellectual Rape

Where to begin? The more information which is coming out of this UVA rape scandal thing, the more it looks like the Rolling Stone's article about the incident was fabricated. Because narrative trumps truth or something. Sadly, the Rolling Stone isn't the only one guilty of this among media outlets (mainstream or otherwise). Those that don't just makeup "the facts" as they go along tend to be, um, creative in their interpretations, shall we say? And thy are often inaccurate (and outright biased and lazy) in their reporting to boot:
It’s absolutely true that we don’t have a wave of outright fabrication-out-of-whole-cloth. But what we have is much worse. We have a tsunami of inaccuracy that is generally tolerated, embraced and even celebrated so long as it serves the right political and cultural goals. 
Yes, the latest shocking revelations about Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Rolling Stone’s journalism are stunning. They really, really messed up. Even more than we previously realized. They should receive every bit of opprobrium coming their way. But they should not be the scapegoat for a problem that is riddled throughout journalism....
But Rolling Stone’s gang rape story was published in an environment of credulity regarding that statistic [that 1 in 5 women on college campuses are sexually assaulted--more on that in a moment] and everything it suggests. It is likely true that college campuses are some of the most sexually confusing environments young men and women can find themselves in. It is of course true that any rape or attempted rape should be dealt with severely. It’s true that the way we handle sexual assault on campuses couldn’t be more messed up. But good policies are not aided by really bad numbers. And the Rolling Stone article was advocacy journalism designed to get policies changed. Yes, Erdely and Rolling Stone made some major journalistic malpractices. But so did a lot of other media outlets who parroted this claim without any of the skepticism they should have applied. 
It's hard enough to determine what is really going on when information is withheld (or cut), but matters are only exacerbated when the reporting is deliberately biased as it so often is.

The various little "ism" ideologies (racism in favor of one or another non-white group, gay liberation-ism, and perhaps especially feminism) don't really care about things like "facts" or "truth" or "reality": what matters is "narrative," and getting what they want when they want it and from whom they want it, the lives and safety and rights and livelihoods of others be damned:

Where most of us are primarily concerned with whether a given claim is correct, others seem more attentive to how we react to that claim in the first place. Did you ask questions about Jackie’s story as it was reported? If so, you must hate women, work for the patriarchy, or hope to prove that nobody is ever raped. Did you believe Jackie uncritically and with a full-throated roar? Excellent, then you must be a good person who wants to help women, move the country forward, and do something concrete about the issue of sexual assault. It’s really that simple, my dear. 
Amazingly, these presumptions tend to remain intact through thick and thin. In consequence, a person who incorrectly judged the veracity of Rolling Stone’s story can remain on the side of the angels, while a person who was correct to doubt the account is dismissed as a devil who just got lucky. Sure, the zetetics might have been right in a technical, factual, reality-based sense. But that they tried to investigate the matter in the first instance tells us something terrible about their character. And yes, the story may have been completely and utterly wrong. But at least its advocates took a stand for something nice. Did you? Wait, you’re not a rapist, are you? 
....As Slate’s Hanna Rosin noted last night, we are now at a tipping point of sorts. The Washington Post’s latest deep-dive, Rosin writes, “strongly implies, without outright saying so, that the gang rape at the center of Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s article might be fabricated.” Indeed so. And should we subsequently learn that the Post’s implication was warranted, this will mean that Sabrina Erdely and her source have conspired a) to mislead millions of people on a matter of basic fact; b) to potentially damage the reputations of the men they accused; c) to cast a trio of Jackie’s friends as amoral, vain, criminally negligible monsters; and d) to libel the fraternity that is implicated, as well as the University of Virginia writ large.
In the case of this Rolling Stone article, as with the phony "1 in 5 college women are raped/sexually assaulted" statistic (it's actually more like 6 in 1000, according to the DOJ's actual statistics), the point is not to present actual facts, and certainly not with abundance, so that others can form their own opinions (let alone make sound judgments about what is actually happening). Rather, the point is to drive home the narrative, to force this particular worldview and all its ugly consequences down our throats. The people who do this are complete tools. They are tools of the movement, tools of the feminist/black panthers/gay power grab, tools which are helping to cause the downfall of our civilization.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Vertical MegaCities

I'm kind of a fan of this as an idea: building cities up and not out. I personally wouldn't want to live in one, but I know many people who would. And it it help combat the idiotic whining about overpopulation (or for that matter, climate change, if the buildings are "green" and "sustainable") then count me in.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Certifiable Insanity

That's how I would describe every member of the Minnesota State High School League not named Emmett Keenan. Public showers of the sort used by students in high school gym class (and sports' teams) can be awkward enough as it is. This just goes over the top. Oh, and coed hotel rooms? Not a brilliant idea either.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Playoff Selection Post

Ok, one more football post, but maybe I should cap this at three in a row. I may update this one after the actual selections have been made. Suffice it to say that this year feels like a strong vindication for those who said we'd need more than 4 teams for a good play-off. I count myself as one such person, though I don't think there is a magic number which works every year. I did propose a scheme in which we could have a variable number, 6-12 as needed, and which makes use of the committee to 1) choose how many, and then 2) choose the seeding order.

This year there are 6 teams which have good claims to be in--the link lists them, but there are no surprises here, and I don't actually agree with Sports Illustrated's assessment this time. Florida State should probably rank first, by nature of the fact that they are the lone undefeated, and that they played three power-5 foes in their out of conference games (Oklahoma State, Florida, and Notre Dame), with good (though way too close) wins over Georgia Tech (who just beat Georgia...), Louisville, and Clemson (each won at least 9 games).

I would rank Oregon second, much as I hate to do so, because they had the best out-of-conference win (Michigan State), and avenged their only loss (Arizona) in dominant fashion. After those top 2, it gets a little more murky. For one thing, the two conferences with the best records against other power 5 conferences were the Pac-12 (8-3) and the ACC (10-7, 4-0 against the SEC). The SEC west was decent, and went 4-0 against power 5 conference opponents, but given that there are 7 teams in the SEC west, having only 4 power-5 foes seems a little cowardly. Granted, two of those foes were Wisconsin (LSU) and Kansas State (Auburn), but the conference itself didn't seem as dominant: e.g. LSU barely getting the win at home against a Wisconsin team which just lost 59-0 to Ohio State's third-string quarterback, Auburn escaping Manhattan with a with over a good KSU team which was blown out by TCU and beaten soundly by Baylor, and Alabama escaping Morgantown against WVU (albeit a WVU team which was better than its record and which was a brutal teams to play in Morgantown, as witnessed by Baylor).

I would probably put Baylor third, because they have a win over the best opponent (TCU, albeit barely), and I've long loathed that "worst loss" always manages to trump "best win" (see both Texas and USC in 2008, for example, or Oklahoma State in 2011, or Oregon in 2001, or Washington in 2000). I could maybe be convinced that they should get left out over their own cowardly scheduling, but I think that the only really fair way to do that is to also leave out the TCU team that they beat on the field. The thing is, TCU's marquee opponent was Minnesota, which had a decent season this year (8-4, a win over Nebraska), but they're not exactly a top-tier team, nor have they been any time recently.

Other marquee opponents of the top-6 teams not named Baylor or TCU include Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Florida, Michigan State, and Virginia Tech--all of whom have been consistently decent if not actually good in the recent past. If Baylor is 3rd, Alabama should be fourth given that the world would cry foul over leaving the SEC out, and I could be persuaded to swap the rankings of Baylor and Alabama. Oddly enough, I think that of the three teams which are in likely contention for getting left out (Baylor, Ohio State, and TCU), Baylor would probably actually fare the worst in the playoff itself, so the part of me that wants not-FSU (Winston), not-Oregon (rival), and not Alabama (SEC) to be champion is kind of rooting against Baylor's getting in.

This is not how I think the committee will rank tings, anyway. My gut impression is that Alabama will be ranked first for playing in the SEC, and Oregon will probably get ranked second. I have trouble believing that FSU gets left out, or that the committee will now jump Baylor over both OSU and TCU. I can see the Big-12 getting left out of this one, with FSU possibly getting a 4th place seed. In this scenario I would probably root for Ohio State to win it all.

I called it. FSU got the 3rd seed and not the fourth, and the Big 12 got the shaft, which is I suppose one way to resolve which team (Baylor or TCU) should get in over the other. Alabama got ranked first (for being from the SEC), and Oregon second (for being dominant and for avenging its only loss).

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Some Links and Thoughts on the OSU Coaching Search

Now that the news of Mike Riley's leaving OSU (for the second time) has settled a little, here are a few more links and thoughts about the coaching search.

First, most of my picks seem to be tossed around as possibilities by the media. What was I thinking with Steve Spurrier, though? South Carolina isn't going to fire him, and OSU isn't really a better destination for him. And of course, I mentioned Jim Harbraugh as a possibility (albeit a remote one), but  probably shouldn't have bothered, given that his alma mater is Michigan, who just happen to be in the market for a new head coach. I see that Brady Hoke and Beau Baldwin are both possibilities (or at least that some media outlets consider them as such), and Beau Baldwin is actually the fan favorite, at least according to one poll.

I had actually considered including Bronco Mendenhall as a possibility, but ruled him out since he is at arguably a better job right now. He would be a very good choice, and has some history coaching at OSU. I also overlooked Jonathan Smith, the rising star offensive coordinator at Washington--perhaps best known to Beaver Nation as our Fiesta Bowl season's quarterback. Matt Wells of Utah State and Tim DeRuyter of Fresno State are two other head coaches from the second-tier that I considered but skipped over initially--but they both seem to be on others' shortlists, so there's that.

One thing which kind of surprises me is how few of these lists are including Ed Orgeron--though I did notice that Ted Miller of ESPN suggested him as a possibility. I'm also surprised that virtually no one is listing Mark Banker as a possibility--is Mike Riley taking him to Nebraska and I just missed it? Actually, the defensive and/or offensive coordinators which I am consistently seeing suggested are from UCLA (Mazzone), ASU (Norvell), and USC (Wilcox), plus Oregon's Scott Frost.

I still think that Ed Orgeron would be the best available choice if he can coach like he did at USC. Brady Hoke, Beau Baldwin, or Bronco Mendenhall would all be pretty good choices as well. I think Dennis Erickson (mentioned on a few of the linked lists), Jeff Tedford, and Rick Neuheisel (I'm pretty sure I've seen his name floated somewhere) would all be mistakes, Wells is probably the best mid-major, Frost is probably the best choice of the coordinators, and Jonathan Smith would be the most interesting gamble. Who knows who's actually on Bob de Carolis' list, though?

Update: Woah, didn't see that one coming. And in addition, the beavers not only poach Wisconsin's head coach, they get a $42 million facilities upgrade to go with it. The future suddenly looks bright at OSU.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Riley'd Up

One of the more shocking developments in college football this year is that Mike Riley has been hired away from Oregon State by Nebraska. Some are calling this a an excellent hire for all parties involved (including OSU), and to some extent it probably is, though some are questioning whether this is an upgrade for Nebraska. A lot of fans at OSU have been grumbling about Mike Riley and the beavers' performance over the last 5-ish seasons, though I'm sure that no shortage of this jealousy comes from looking south and seeing rival Oregon's rise.

I'm left to wonder who will replace him. A few interesting names come to mind, bearing in mind that OSU isn't exactly an A-list destination, though it may be the best opening this year behind Michigan and Florida (who already have their man). Riley was about as good as Beaver Nation could probably get, and get to stay. Here are a few of the names which come to my mind as reasonable possibilities, though I am kind of passing over the mid-major coaches and coordinators--I just don't know enough about them:

  • Ed Orgeron: This seems like probably the best choice on the list. He has experience as a head coach, and was actually pretty successful at USC as interim head. He's also a great recruiter, and would probably be a good choice here.
  • Jim Harbaugh: This is probably the longest shot on this list. He seems like he wants to stay in the NFL; in the event that he does go back to coaching college, what reason would he have to go to OSU? Especially since his alma mater, Michigan, is also looking to hire somebody. Still, it would be pretty impressive if they could snag him, and it does seem like he'll be leaving San Francisco in the near future. He also knows a thing or two about building up a program.
  • Mark Banker: He's been a decent enough defensive coordinator,and I suspect that he would likely stick around at OSU if he turned out to be a good coach. There would be continuity, which is not a bad thing.
  • Brady Hoke: Yes, he was just fired at Michigan. Then again, his predecessor was Rich Rodiguez. How's that going tor Arizona?
  • Bo Pelini: this would be just weird (effectively: OSU and Nebraska would be swapping head coaches), but Pelini hasn't exactly been a  complete failure. He's won about 9-10 games every year, which fall short of the standards at Nebraska, but which would be fine at OSU.
  • Steve Spurrier: This is a stretch, since he would probably have to be fired from South Carolina first. If that actually happens, he would almost certainly be the best choice possible. He's an excellent coach who built South Carolina up from the ground into a perennial contender in the SEC east (this year excepted). He's also been pretty loyal to South Carolina. On the other hand, he's also pretty old (he'll be 70 next year), so he may be more likely to retire, and I can't see his leaving South Carolina unless they fire him (and certainly no for OSU), which seems unlikely.
  • Beau Baldwin: This would be an interesting move, since FBS is a bit of a step up from FCS, but Eastern Washington has been a very good team for quite a long time. One wonders how their coach would fair in the "big leagues" of college sports--especially if they were moved to a program which is already somewhat established (as opposed to, say, Appalachian State).
  • Craig Bohl: Ditto to Baldwin, but with a season in the FBS (albeit, a 4-8 season at Wyoming). North Dakota Sate, his previous job, was every bit as good as (in fact, better than) Eastern Washington.
  • Chris Klieman: Same comments as the previous two; he's been defensive coordinator and is now head coach at North Dakota State
  • Scott Frost: It may seem a little awkward to poach a name from a rival school, then Oregon's offense has been pretty good under coordinator Frost.
  • Pat Narduzzi: Has Overseen some excellent defenses at Michigan State, but then I'm not sure he would leave there for OSU.
  • Justin Fuente: He's done a decent enough job at Memphis.
  • Will Muschamp: Yes, he was recently fired from Florida. He would also be a bit of a personality change after Mike Riley, and I'm not so sure he'd have much success at OSU. Plus, he seems more likely to go become a defensive coordinator for somebody else first (apparently both Auburn and Texas A&M have made some very big offers to him).

This list is already pretty long, and there are a number of names not on it (again, many mid-majors like Utah State, Fresno State, and a few good coordinators from programs like Arizona State, Mizzou, UCLA...). And a lot of these are long-shots, either in that they probably wouldn't work out too well, or they'd leave if they did, or are unlikely to leave their current jobs for OSU.

If I had to rank these options factoring for likeness of being hired and likeliness of being successful, probably the top five would be Orgeron, Hoke, Banker, Fuente, and Baldwin. If Spurrier becomes available for some reason--a very outside chance--he would probably be the best choice of all, if OSU could convince him to move across the country and if nobody else swooped in with a better offer. But of actual names on the table, I think Orgeron would be the best choice, if he could be the coach he was at USC last year. The second trick would be getting him to stay at OSU, which has one of the worst heading coaching salaries--and possibly among the least resources in general--of power-5 schools.

Tough Luck

'Tis the time of semester when I get inundated with students requests for deadline extensions, and frankly for free points. Since many of these requests are for extensions on weekly homework assignments which they had 4-5 weeks to complete, I tend to be unsympathetic.

Better still is the number of students asking for extensions on an extra credit assignment (which improves a midterm grade and covers the same material as the midterm in question). It seems that a number of them let the two week deadline slip by without remembering to ever attempt the bonus test.

Bummer for them. Bummer for me, too, since they keep sending these requests. It's bad enough that I pretty much have to watch a motivational video to keep dealing with them:

Of course, they keep coming, so I get a little exasperated. It's not like this deadline was kept a secret or anything. A few also couldn't figure out how to ass teh bonus to their midterm scores, despite that fact that this is spelled out (with an example) in the actual midterm instructions. Luckily, there's a motivational video for that, too:

Ah, but there are some who are persistent. They feel like a college course should be scored like a video game, or a gameshow, or the like. I'm pretty sure I would get fired (or otherwise disciplined) for treating the course like a gameshow, but if I did:

They also spend a lot of time whining about how there is no curve. The semester will be all over in about a week. A new semester (with the same students) can commence in about a month. And still, I love my job.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

On Victim-Blaming

I suppose this is not entirely unrelated to the insanity at Ferguson, but it is a sort of different topic: it is intellectually dishonest to dismiss precautions, warnings, and (after the fact) lesson-drawing from one's misfortunes as "blaming the victim." Here is Dr. Budziszewski breaking down the intellectual and moral silliness which pervades most cries of "blaming the victim":
Why is it so difficult to make a few simple distinctions? The perpetrator is entirely to blame for robbery and assault. But the victim in this case is to blame for foolhardiness and indiscretion. The victim’s foolishness does not mitigate the perpetrator’s guilt for his crime. But the perpetrator’s guilt does not mitigate the victim’s blame for his folly. The perpetrator deserves our reprobation, and should suffer the full penalty of law. But the victim, who has already suffered the penalty of natural consequences, deserves our pity -- and a stern talking-to.
In his postscript, the good professor addresses what might be called the opposite fallacy, which is when the victim blames himself for something which actually might not be his fault. Actually, his advice is good general advice to at least a substantial minority, if not an outright majority, of college students today: drop out of college, get a blue collar job for a few years, and then when you have learned what you can form the school of hard knocks, return to the academy ready to earn and education of the sort attainable there.

Friday, November 28, 2014

On Ferguson

People keep asking me what I think about the whole Ferguson debacle. Honestly, I try not to, because the situation is too depressing. With that said, I don't have all the information, and am just no interested enough to pour through the evidence and court documents. From what I have read, it seems likely that Michael Brown's death at the hands of office Darren Wilson was in fact a justifiable homicide, that it was in self-defense.

Brown seems like a bully, and while this isn't the end I wish upon bullies in general, it does seem like an almost inevitable end for the thug that he apparently was. Nothing that I have seen suggests that this guy was a "good kid" who just had a bad day. I'm sure his family and friends see things differently, but then again, his own stepfather is doing his best to incite violence, so there's that. On the other hand, there is something to be said about the militarization of our police, and this wouldn't be the first time that a police office caused a wrongful death and then got off scott-free. Still, most the evidence (and accounts) which I have seen suggest that in this case, the office was justified.

I can state that there is a wrong way to handle this. That seems to be the exact thing which his "community" is doing. Let me be blunt: this "community" seems to be largely the black community of St. Louis and beyond which is stupid and or gullible enough to to believe that this incident involves some sort of racism. Anybody idiotic enough to believe liars like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, or for that matter President Obama, and foolish enough to resort to violence and vandalism and robbery and riots and arson as a response to a non-indictment charge is probably doing more to further racism than any men in white hoods could ever hope to have come pass.

It's absurd to think that this helps anybody. It's insane to believe that this is the right reaction at any level. The fact that very few of the victims of this violence have any connection to the original case--other than living in the same city--makes it all the more random and pointless. This is not to say that targeted violence against Officer Wilson and his family--as might be suggested by, say, the New York Times (who apparently published his wife's name and the street they lived on) is any better. Still, there is some insanity to the fact that, among other thing, the church which Micheal Brown's family attends was burned down during this rioting.

It is nice, however, to see that a few members of the black community have the right basic attitude concerning this, even if they still voice a little of the "us (blacks) vs. them (everybody else)" chip-on-the-shoulder which is so detrimental to real community-building.

As a final thought, I think that Carl Olson is essentially correct: "Men without roots turn into looters; men without purpose turn into predators."

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Pope Francis Is Not a Progressive

It would be nice if our idiotic media would stop portraying the pope as being another simple progressive: in his own words, he is not a center leftist, and to portray him as such is an "oversimplification":
If you don’t follow European politics, the Social Democrats are the main center-left party, so it’s a bit like an American asking the pope if he’s a Democrat. 
Francis actually laughed out loud, and then said: “Caro, questo è un riduzionismo!”
The Italian basically translates as, “My dear friend, that’s an over-simplification!” 
Francis went on to talk about how he tries to follow the Gospel and the social teaching of the Catholic Church, not any party line... 
In truth, the idea of Francis as a Social Democrat in Strasbourg — and, therefore, as a repudiation of the Catholic Church’s perceived drift to the political right under Pope Benedict XVI — depends entirely on listening to only part of what Francis had to say.
The mainstream media is rather corrupted, and thus corruptive. It twists the pope's words, and really it flat out ignores those things which he says about retaining the Church's moral teachings:
Had it been Benedict who journeyed into the heart of secular Europe and said the exact same things, the question likely would have been: “Holy Father, are you on the far right?” The difference has little to do with what Francis actually said, and everything to do with how the narrative dictates he should be perceived.
It's all about the angle, or the narrative. It's all about getting the people to buy into the story.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Expert Bias

An acquaintance of mine semi-recently wrote that he has learned one thing in his years of trying to follow "expert opinions." This is that while the experts almost certainly have their biases, he surely has his own, and his are probably much worse off, much harder to see around, and much more likely to give in to error.

After mulling it over for some months, I have three thoughts about this.

The first is that there is certainly some credence to this notion. It also gives an interesting twist to Matthew 7:5 and Luke 7:42:
"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye" (Luke 6:41-42).
The second is to wonder who gets to decide who the experts are. There are biases in that process, too. Is it those who have a degree, or especially an advanced degree? Certainly some such people should be experts, but then again there are those who have studied the problem on their own--and whose funding (read: livelihood) is unlikely to depend on the answer they give.

The third is to note that the experts do in fact still have biases, often systematic ones, and at time ones which are unwarranted. Funding is an easy example, but there are plenty of others. The "experts" in psychology state that homosexuality is not (ever) a mental disorder (or a moral one--but they never admit this)--but at this time one of the requirements for becoming a certified (read: licensed, degree-holding) expert in psychology is to state that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. Meanwhile, the "experts" who write textbooks on embryology once universally stated that an unborn child was in fact still a fully human child--right up until 1973, when the Supreme Court decided otherwise. Suddenly the textbooks altered their phrasings--hardly an unbiased point.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Catcalling and Bad Methodology

I've had occasion to post something about the infamous "catcalling" video set in New York (and some of its spin-offs and derivatives). I never really thought of it as a particularly well-done experiment (if it can be called that). The experiences of a single fairly attractive white woman wearing slightly provocative (but not overtly so) clothing strolling through a few streets in a single city and then sifting the footage and pairing it down to 2 minutes sounds more like selective anecdotes than actual data, even for sociology.

And so here is a sociologist explaining why that is. Some choice samples of the piece:
In effect, this was a research project, and it had an implicit research question (“Do conventionally attractive white women get verbally harassed in New York?”) and produced an answer: the video. However, in doing so without any reflection on its own method, it amply demonstrates the crucial substantive and political importance of research methods.... 
The Hollaback video also shows why “data” without theory can be so misleading—and how the same data can fit multiple theories. Since all data collection involves some form of data selection (even the biggest dataset has selection going into what gets included, from what source), and since data selection is always a research method, there is always a need for understanding methods.... 
Removing the means of implicit biases can be eye-opening. For example, after decades of lack of women in major orchestras, some big symphonies started doing their interviews blind — musicians played their instruments behind a curtain. Lo and behold, women, previously greatly lagging in professional employment in symphonies, started being evaluated as performing much better.

Data without theory is without context--but beware the biases in the theory!

Friday, November 21, 2014

The End of the Republic

About nine years ago I was driving home with some friends from a party--memory fails me what it was, perhaps a wedding--as discussing current and future events. One of my friends made the seemingly bold prediction that we would see a dictator ruling the country within our lifetimes. I won't say that we laughed it all off--we all entertained it as a possibility, if not the most likely one.

The way things are going, we may not need to wait to the end of our lifetimes. I don't think we're going to get an absolute dictatorship during this presidency--though we may move closer than we already have--but there have been a few actions taken which should give cause for concern. The recent executive action on immigration is a part of it, but the problems began far before this (starting with giving unparalleled control of the federal government to the statist faction ironically named the "Democrat" party after the 2008 elections). A republic, a polity, can thrive only as long as the virtues of it people; and when it falls, expect a tyrant to replace it.

To Nobody's Surprise

A few things which ought to surprise nobody:

First, there is the New York Times' coverage of Sen. Mary Landrieu's great  and beneficent leadership the Keystone pipeline's rejection by the senate. They wrote two stories before the vote, one which would praise her for successfully getting the pipeline approved, and one which would praise her in the event that the bill failed. The first praises her leadership and tenacity which enabled her to get things done, the second her leadership and tenacity to fight the good fight even against insurmountable odds. No, really. Landrieu is the current (Democratic) senator from Louisiana, and is facing a probable loss in the run-off elections to the Republican challenger.

Second, there is a recent sex-ed conference for middle-school and high-school kids which took place in Oregon:
"Even the mainstream media is jumping on the news that children being sent by schools to a sexuality conference in Oregon encourages all kinds of obscene sexual behavior, taking meth-amphetamines, simulated sex acts and even instructions on how to have sex over the internet... 
Diller says she came away from the conference deeply scarred. “I monitor Planned Parenthood sex education on a regular basis and I have seen some unbelievably horrifying situations that young people are put in because of the abortion giant’s fixation with sexualizing children, but never have I seen so many adults work so hard to defile young people than at this conference,” she said. 
She also said that she grieves for the students “who spent two long days with adults who relentlessly threw the most vile, deceptive, sexually soaked garbage in their faces in an apparently successful attempt to numb them to sin, to turn them against Christianity, and to tempt them with the embrace of debauchery in some of its most vile apparitions.”"
In addition to encouraging these kids to engage in all sorts of "obscene sexual behavior," this conference is encouraging the taking of meth-amphetamines? This seems like an outrage, a shock, a horror: but it would not really surprise me if true. Horrifying, yes, but surprising, no.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Occupy...A Home

I've never been much impressed with the "Occupy" movement*. The "issues" which they claim to hold dear--and more importantly the solutions they propose--may look like nice things on the surface (well, some of them), but their class-warfare rhetoric and and unruliness as a mob alone are causes for concern**. Their general lack of awareness (often including self-awareness) tends to make the movement itself look ridiculous.

But, credit should be given where it is due, and they have done a good work in Madison. Indeed, it is one of the seven corporal works of mercy, to house the homeless. This they are attempting, by latching onto the "tiny house" movement:

The activists behind Occupy Madison have come up with a tiny solution to a big problem: building mini-homes for the homeless community as part of an ongoing political campaign against homelessness in Wisconsin's capital city. 
Madison's housing vacancy rate, 1.8 percent, is four times lower than the national average, and an estimated 3,000 people reported having spent at least one night in a shelter last year.  
The homes are around 98 square feet and will be equipped with a microwave, a small refrigerator, and heating, according to the organizers. The units are built on wheels and will have to be moved every 48 hours to circumvent the city’s parking requirements, which prohibit trailers from staying outdoors on the same location for more than two days. 
"It’s very difficult to be homeless in Madison within city limits; there is no provision for camping outdoors," Bruce Wallbaum, a board member of OM Build, Occupy Madison’s nonprofit organization in charge of building the units, told Al Jazeera.

Marsha Rummel, a Madison councilwoman who sits on a housing committee, embraces the idea of micro-homes. While she doesn't believe they are the ultimate solution, she told Al Jazeera they can be "one part of the package.''

"Madison clearly has a challenge for housing people," she said.

One home is already close to completion, with plans for up to eight more within a year. Over time, the organizers hope to expand the project into an eco-community with facilities of various sizes, including one-bedroom houses...

Other cities with strong Occupy movements have already established such communities, such as Portland's Dignity Village and the Quixote Village in Olympia, Wash., which started to provide housing to the homeless ahead of the nationwide Occupy Wall Street protests...

Those who live in the mini-homes are expected to help build their own houses to give people "a sense of dignity” while taking part in community activities, Wallbaum said.

"You go through an application process, you start work in the shop, you start earning hours toward a tiny home and eventually you reach a point where you’re in line to get a tiny home," he explained...

Occupy Madison is also working with church leaders to find an arrangement that would provide a permanent location for the mobile houses on the churches’ parking lots, "but that would also require the city’s zoning laws to change," Wallbaum said.

Councilwoman Rummel said that she was mulling the possibility of introducing legislation that would allow churches and non-profits groups to accommodate the homes.
There's a lot to like about this. And the houses, while inexpensive (about $3000 each) seem to provide the basic necessities of a home:
Ninety-six square feet is obviously a scant amount of space, even within the tiny house movement. But the design, created by structural engineer and Occupy Madison volunteer Steve Burns, features a full-size bed, a kitchen that includes a mini-fridge and a microwave, and a bathroom with a compost toilet. 
Most of the interior details, including the kitchen counters and cupboards, are made out of repurposed materials, and the lumber involved is all reclaimed, collected from across Madison. “We have what we call ‘Pallet-Palooza,’ ” says O.M. board member Walter Wallbaum. “We take apart old warehouse pallets, then mill them and make them into siding.” 
To generate electricity, the nonprofit’s model home uses a donated solar voltaic system. Heat, meanwhile, is supplied by a small propane heater, though Wallbaum says that future iterations of the house will experiment with more sustainable heating methods.

There is the problem of finding a more "permanent" place to put these homes--city ordinances do not allow them to be parked in any location for more than two days, though the movement seems to be working with the city council and local community (including churches) to resolve this, which is another point in their favor:
Rather than building the homes on a particular lot of land — and thus adding another expense — the houses are mounted on trailers which can be legally parked on the street, as long as they’re moved every 48 hours. Parking on the street may not even be necessary after Occupy organizers successfully convinced the Madison Common Council recently to change the city’s zoning laws so the homes could be parked on private property with permission.
And the fact that the homeless people in question actually take part in building these homes is another good touch--the poor often need a  hand and not only a hand-out, as the saying goes. This is not the solution to all of the homeless problems--neither the problems faced by nor those caused by the homeless--but it is a step in the right direction, and for that Occupy Madison should be commended.

*Disclaimer:I am not a part of the teaparty movement, either, nor is it fair to say that I back establishment-types and the "status quo".

**No, I am not a part of the 1%. I'm out of my twenties and I still don't even own my own house yet!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cardinal O'Malley on Priestettes

Should the Catholic Church begin ordaining women to the priesthood? No, if for no other reason than that it is beyond her power and authority to do so. I think that Sean Cardinal O'Malley has the right basic approach to this:
In an interview with “60 Minutes” on CBS that producers said took more than a year for them to persuade him to do, O’Malley seemed troubled by reporter Norah O’Donnell’s question as to whether the exclusion of women from the Church hierarchy was “immoral.”

O’Malley paused, then said, “Christ would never ask us to do something immoral. It’s a matter of vocation and what God has given to us.”

“Not everyone needs to be ordained to have an important role in the life of the Church,” he said. “Women run Catholic charities, Catholic schools …. They have other very important roles. A priest can’t be a mother. The tradition in the Church is that we ordain men.”

After O’Donnell pointed out that the Church doesn’t discriminate by race, only by gender, O’Malley smiled and said, “If I were founding a church, I’d love to have women priests. But Christ founded it, and what he has given us is something different.”
It's not about what we want. It's about adhering to what Christ established, ultimately about following Christ. If I or any other mere man were to start my own or his own) religion, then anything goes. Such a religion isn't seeking the good or the true, nor is it really even actually seeking self-fulfillment (an illusory concept), but rather it seeking self-gratification.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

On Comet Landings and the Sorry State of Our Culture

Phileae Lander: I'm on a comet, Rosetta Probe!
Ok, those who know me probably figured I would eventually get around to writing about the comet landing. This is one of those truly great milestones in science, or in space exploration. I can imagine that the folks at Planetary Resources are also gleefully rubbing their hands together: one step closer to asteroid mining! This is one of those amazing feats which deserves our applause and praise, and those who pulled it off are heroes in their own right. Matt Taylor may be remembered for this achievement along with names like Buzz Aldrin or Neil Armstrong or John Glenn, or Alexy Leonov and Yuri Gagarin. He landed a robot on a comet 300 million miles from earth, and that robot has subsequently transmitted from that comet. (Bonus: it has found some organic molecules there). So congratulations to Dr. Matt Taylor and all the other scientists who worked on this project!

I wish I could end my post there. What a great achievement for mankind! Here's something that humanity has done to be proud of.

But, of course, this achievement was a bit soured. There are always killjoys. Apparently, it's ok for women to dress like sluts but not for a man to wear a shirt portraying them dressed as such (what, you thought it was the cool laser guns that are being decried?). Look, I'm not a huge fan of the guy's shirt either, but since he just landed a probe on a comet, I think he deserves a pass. (As one wag put it, if I ever land a probe on a comet hurtling through space millions of miles from earth, you'll be lucky if I decide to wear pants). The shirt:
The shirt? This guy is the man!
That this backlash comes from feminist circles--and that it is nearly unanimous--should be telling. That the shirt actually shows images of what feminists the world over repeatedly say women should be allowed to dress like is more so:
Suddenly an activist culture railing against the social norms of how women are supposed to look had fangs out for someone defying social norms of how a scientist should look. This intolerable shirt-against-humanity, clad with images of illustrated women in super hero spandex and seductively brandishing laser blasters conjured memories of Aeon Flux or Trinity in the Matrix, or Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Madonna and Beyoncé – All feminist icons....

Try telling a feminist what they can and cannot wear to a space launch and good luck with the lawsuit.
In other words, if I woman dresses in a manner like those depicted on the shirt, she's a feminist icon and should be lauded for it, and let no man (or woman) say otherwise! But if a man wears a shirt depicting women in this way, then he must be a misogynist creep and must be denounced posthaste, whatever may be his accomplishments.

There would be humor in the fact that a movement which is supposedly mostly women who have supposedly moved beyond "traditional gender stereotypes" has resorted to commenting more about the man's shirt than his actual accomplishment. The conversation that these women are having is essentially this: "Can you believe what he wore to that interview?" "No, just look at that fashion faux paux." The men are mostly interested in the fact that he landed on a comet. The women are interested in the style of shirt he picked from the wardrobe this morning. I said there would be humor, but humor stops here: they have reduced this poor man to tears.

The sheer hypocrisy of the feminist movement is galling. It is also a giant leap backwards for women themselves:
On the surface, this is a shocking case of political correctness gone mad. But this shouldn’t distract us from the depressing insight it gives us into modern feminism. During a week in which comedian Dapper Laughs was banished from British television, and a petition was launched to stop pick-up artist Julien Blanc from entering the UK, the shaming of Taylor confirmed that modern feminism is forsaking women’s liberation in favour of pettily policing people’s behaviour.... 
Modern feminism, in contrast to first- and second-wave feminism, appears to be obsessed with the superficial. It focuses on how words, images and attitudes affect women, rather than trying to tackle larger social problems. This is a damaging trend, not only for feminism, but also for women themselves. Modern feminists’ focus on behaviour, its propensity for censorship and its increasingly anti-man rhetoric, is creating a dogmatic and divisive feminism that turns women into victims who need protecting from the big, bad world, rather than equipping women with the tools to tackle real issues of gender inequality.
Nor is this little temper tantrum from feminists an isolated incident. Remember the group four of young men who developed the date-rape drug-detecting nail polish for women--and the standard feminist reaction to them? The reaction which labelled this attempt to curtail date rape as just another part of the rape cultureHere's a refresher:
However, Katie Russell from Rape Crisis England & Wales was critical of the idea, saying that the charity will not support the invention.

“Whilst Undercover Color’s initiative is well meaning, on the whole,” she said, “Rape Crisis does not endorse or promote such a product or anything similar. This is for three reasons: it implies that it’s the woman’s fault and assumes responsibility on her behalf, and detracts from the real issues that arise from sexual violence.”
Or the cries of "slut-shaming!" every time somebody opines that women (and often men) should dress more modestly? Or the feminist circling the wagons around Lena Dunham over the (autobiographically admitted) molestation charges? These are all recent things. We don't have to dig back very far to find these various stories. The tale they tell suggests reveals how pointless and less-than pointless, indeed, how manipulative and shrill modern feminism has become.

The same applies to talking about a man's shirt in this instance. Too soon.

Indeed, the movement is not only full of bossy busybodies, but indeed of outright bullies. I can think of only one other movement which rivals the modern feminist for its bullying demeanor, and that is the homosexualist movement--but that is for another day. John C. Wright puts this issue of real bullying by feminists into focus:
The issue is this: The termagants, bullies, and harridan harpies who vexed this weakling to the point of tears, on the day which was his triumphant crowning achievement and should have been the happiest of his life, they are not modest Christian women objecting to a tasteless shirt, nor are they scientists worried that their profession create a dignified public appearance.
The harpies crap on the feast. That is their role. That is who they are.

They are filth, pure and simple. Don’t give them any cover or concealment by making their madness sound sane.

If you thought his shirt was tasteless, then land a flying interplanetary probe on your own comet first, jerkmouth, and you can wear a godzilla-dam mothra-flocking neon TUXEDO with saint Catherine wheel epaulettes and twin buttock rockets up the tails for your news conference, if you like. Until your accomplishments in life match his, shut your odious, oleaginous, obnoxious trap.

It was his lucky shirt. Given to him by his lady. He just did something no one else his history has ever done, ever.
Or, as Mollie Hemingway notes, we ought to start standing up to these bullying and harassing harridans:
How many times have you heard the line that feminism is simply “the radical notion that women are people”? And when was the last time you thought that sentiment even remotely expressed whatever the h-e-double-hockey-sticks is going on in feminism these days?...

Some of the people most worried about feminist bullies are women. That’s because we suffer from the image they project of women being perpetual victims. And not just perpetual victims but frail little things unable to handle cartoon images of scantily clad women. In my list of things in life that have been tough, I’d rank roughly everything before “seeing a really cool guy wearing a shirt.”

Feminist bullies are so invested in the false idea that women are oppressed that they’re giving all women a bad reputation. Women, contrary to the image perpetuated by feminist bullies, are not weak. We are strong. We can handle all sorts of things and do so every day. We live full lives with complex and meaningful relationships and we have many professional and personal accomplishments. Women and girls are able to navigate life quite well, thank you very much, and it’s actually easier when women aren’t constantly talking about how supposedly oppressed we are. We’re not. I mean, sure, everyone in life has troubles. None of those troubles, for the vast majority of women, include “seeing a dude wear a shirt while discussing how he just landed a spaceship on a literal freaking comet.”...

It’s not just women who are hurt by feminist bullies. Everyone is. That’s because human relationships are harmed in the toxic outrage culture. The very perpetuation of humanity relies on men and women getting along well. People who stoke resentment and anger between the sexes, or create false claims about women’s oppression, are making it more difficult for happy, healthy, human relationships to flourish...

Last week we saw Kim Kardashian slather her body with oil and put everything on display. Much joviality ensued. I mean, if anyone suggested that she wore something inappropriate to work, I missed it.

But we live in a culture where third-wave feminists engage in “slut walks” to send the message that nobody should be judged by what they wear. And yet if you make cartoons of the very same things these women wear on slut walks and put them on a shirt, that’s “ruining the comet landing”? That doesn’t even make sense.
A fine summary of the whole modern feminist movement: hypocrites employing double-standard to harass and bully their opponents--really, any man who looks like a target of opportunity--who no longer stand for anything good. Actually, they are less concerned with the "the radical notion that women are people" and more with the actually radical notion that men aren't.

There's Psycpaths and Then There's Sociopathic Psycophaths

And among the latter category, there's the Man in the Yellow Hat and his evil pet monkey. The language at the link is NSFW, unless your boss an coworkers also have both a child under the age of 4 and a good sense of humor about it (and even then).
"His best friend (other than George and their doorman) seems to be a woman named Dr. Weisman, a highly regarded scientist, and beyond their friendship, the relationship has professional tones to it. She’s introduced Yellow Hat guy to colleagues, whom he impresses with his work, which happens to come in the form of “drawings.” He’s had to give some high-profile speeches and he seems respected by the community in general. He’s clearly important enough that no one bats an eye when he shows up places with his Monkey of Destruction. Perhaps because they’re distracted by the completely ridiculous yellow get-up he’s wearing."
I wonder if he's related to our president?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Today's Most Insidious Post Award Goes To...

Hyperbole aside, the Puffington Host I mean the Huffington Post, has what just may be the most awful post I've read today. Ok, so it was written a few days ago, but then again I really don't frequent sites like Huffington Post if I can help it. I'm sure I missed a few more recent posts, and I'm sure I could find worse things written at, say, Jezebel or any number of blogs. But the post by Amanda Scherker about bad sex ed advice from the past is definitely insidious.

Let's looks at a few of the things that are "bad advice":
"1. Girls find making out boring, but they'll do it to please boys."

It's not such a stretch to see where that's going. Back then, it was "making out." Now the same argument is sometimes used in terms of sex, or for that matter sexting. Sure, there are many girls who are willing to give away the milk without charging for the cow, and quite a few who enjoy the experience without feeling any sens of shame or guilt or lowered self-esteem. Many more do not. This is one of those "read between the lines" bits meant to fool those girls who don't want to give away the farm (so to speak) into doing so anyway.

"2. Keep your mind virginal, or else... 'Not only is the mind to be kept pure, but the imagination must be carefully guarded. Turn away from obscene pictures as you would from the most loathsome contagion.' "

So keeping custody of the eyes is now bad advice? Telling young men (and increasingly, women) that pornography is not a good thing is now "bad advice?" Sure, most don't take the advice, but it's a bit ridiculous to treat the advice as "bad" or "hilarious"--it really is good advice, and those happy few who follow it will indeed be the happier for it. Or, if you'd rather, those many who ignore it will be the worse for doing so, and their relationships will be the shallower for doing so.

"6. Reading romance books is VERY dangerous for your private parts. 'It is not only that novel-reading engenders false and unreal ideas of life, but the descriptions of love-scenes, of thrilling, romantic episodes, find an echo in the girl's physical system and tend to create an abnormal excitement of her organs of sex ' "

Aside from that certain types of writing are meant to inspire lust, and thus are pornography in another form, it's not really bad advice if their are some women (or men) who get excited by the reading. It may be that not all do, but some do, and giving them fair warning is hardly "bad advice."

"8. Real boys wait."

Again, how is this bad advice? Sure, it is a bit odd to state that "When a boy waits for sex, he'll be 'ready with a big splendid manhood to offer'" since the two aren't really related. But waiting is bad advice now? Really? And reading further, we see the implication that fidelity is also hilariously bad advice. What?

"10. Don't jar pickles the wrong way, and don't have sex the wrong way (or something...) 'You wouldn’t take a diamond and platinum brooch to try to pry open a jar of pickles with it, would you? Using sex in the wrong way adds up to the same thing.' "

Apparently the bimbo writing this column for Huffington Post doesn't understand the concept of analogy. This is actually good advice (I'm sure there's more context to it), if advice it is, albeit wrapped in a bizarre analogy. Sex is not for utility, that is, sex and with it our own bodies is debased when used as just another means to the end of pleasure, or (worse perhaps) to take the other person for a "test drive" before deciding whether the relationship should get serious. To make a mockery of abstinence and of purity is anything but "hilarious."

Some days I can't even. This is one of those days. The real moral of this story is that anything resembling abstinence or outright purity is not only a morally neutral thing, but actually a bad thing. And that is why we must fight back in the culture wars. There will be no peace in them, since the other side will be driven inexorably forward until any hint of Christian morality is removed, firs from the public square and the from our private lives.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Catcalling in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

You have surely by now heard of--if not actually watched--the video of the woman who walked around New York silently for 10 hours and was subjected to a bit of verbal harassment (along with a few unsolicited compliments and salutations). Perhaps you have also seen the response video of the man who walked around the same areas for three hours and was subjected to a roughly equal amount of verbal harassment?

These videos seem to demonstrate that some people in New York are jerks (but we already knew that!), though that is not of course the narrative being drawn from them. Actually, from the first of the two videos, the narrative varies depending on which professionally aggrieved or perpetually offended group is the one doing the narrating.

To b fair, there were a few jerks in the 10 hours' worth of the woman walking. There were a few more jerks in the three hours' worth of the man's walking*. All of which goes into a personal theory of mine: men and women receive about the same amount of verbal abuse and harassment on average, but we deal with it differently. I do not here intend to go into details, but might I suggest that this is a large part of what's behind the typical woman's complaints about harassment from colleagues.

Indeed, I suspect this is also a large part of the harassment women face in the STEM fields, where such things are alleged to happen frequently. In truth, guys pretty much do this to each other too, though admittedly they may focus a bit more on the one obviously different person in the group (e.g. the one female present). It should be remembered that this is sometimes how we bond, including how we at times bond with coworkers (light hazing).

I can't explain it either, but it does seem to me that the disruption of this particular bonding behavior is one consequence (intended or otherwise) of an integrated workforce. Certainly it is a consequence of the disappearance of mens' space (e.g. the increasing forbidden-ness of any men-only clubs or establishments).

And for a palette cleanser, here is a video of what it's like to be Princess Leia in New York:


*The woman got 100+ instances of harassment in 10 hours--basically an average of once every 6 minutes. The man got 30+ instances of harassment in 3 hours--basically, an average of once every 6 minutes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Marriage and the Clash of Worldviews

Another day, another story for the "clash of orthodoxies" file, if that is a fair label (some so-called "orthodoxies" hardly involve right thinking or right belief). This time the item in question comes from Slate via Business Insider, and yes it's a little bit old, but it's been making rounds recently for some reason. It is yet another of those articles in which much of the analysis is correct (albeit slightly distorted), and is basically a good case for not doing what the article urges us to do: in this case, adopt similar attitudes towards marriage (and let's be honest, sex) as the Dutch.

I mean to give some credit where credit is due: the author does identify some real cultural problems in America. One of these really is the fixation on marriage as the be-all end-all. Not everybody is meant to be married: this is a true statement, as the writer of this article notes: "I am not here arguing against marriage, but against marriage as a rite of passage, against the assumption of all little girls that they will one day be married in a white dress on a green lawn." Indeed, marriage is a vocation, and a highly important one. From the standpoint of human society, marriage and parenting are the two most important of all vocations--but yet there are some single vocations which are more important and necessary still (many of which are also in decline in America and more broadly in the West).

The writer, Katie Roiphe, argues that if we adopt a dutch attitude towards marriage, fewer people will care about marriage. She cites this as a good thing, I consider it a very bad thing. To quote from Miss Roiphe:
"What would it mean to end the centuries-long American fixation on traditional family structures? Would we be able to look at families living outside of convention without as much judgment, as much toxic condescension?... 
If we woke up one morning and discovered that in America marriage was suddenly regarded as a choice, a way, a possibility, but not a definite and essential phase of life, think how many people would suddenly be living above board, think of the stress removed, the pressures lifted, the stigmas dissolving... 
Whatever one thinks about the institution, the truth is that marriage is increasingly not the way Americans are living. If one goes strictly by the facts—that the majority of babies born to women under 30 are born to single mothers, or that about 51 percent of American adults are married—one has to admit that marriage can’t be taken for granted, assumed as a rite of passage, a towering symbol of our way of life. But somehow this hasn’t dimmed our solid sense of marriage as the American normal. 
If we suddenly stopped being in thrall to the rigid, old-fashioned ideal of marriage, we could stop worrying about low marriage rates and high divorce rates. We could stop worrying about single mothers and the decline of marriage as an institution, especially in the lower middle class, and the wasteful industry of wedding planning." 
Yes, much of this would probably result from Americans' no longer caring about marriages. The problem is, much of this stuff is actually healthy for a society. The decline of the Traditional family--nucleus one man and one woman wed for life, but also including the earlier decline of the larger extended family--spells much mischief for society. The social stigmas have at times been taken too far--but that they can be taken so far implies that they have a rightful place.

We should as a society discourage adultery, fornication, polyamory, polygamy, and worse forms of sexual degeneracy. We should not encourage women to go become single mothers--or rather, we should acknowledge that this is often the gritty reality (inasmuch as the alternative, abortion, is far worse), but we should not encourage women to actively seek out this "lifestyle." And the high divorce rate should be a cause of concern, even as it is declining (largely as a result of fewer people getting married to begin with).

The creator of XKCD, Randall Munroe, is probably not a conservative, but occasionally he articulates the conservative argument for such customs as "stigmas" and "taboos."

The problem, at the end of the day, is that there are ultimately only two "right" ways to live: faithfully in a marriage, or singly celibate. Any alternative is what was once called "sin," and now has been--as any evil act often is--euphemized as "alternative lifestyles" or "lifestyle choices." A rose by any other name--but these alternative choices are not so much comparable to roses as to the thorns. Ultimately, those who engage in them are hurting themselves, their "partners," and all-too-often, society at large (if only on a small scale).

As an ironic aside, she also writes this line: "We could instead focus on actual relationships, on intimacies, on substance over form." Um, substance = form + matter--perhaps this is the source of so much of her confusion?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Comparative Religion

Comparative religion tends to make people comparatively religious, as the saying goes. Prominent scientist (TM) and philosophical hack Lawrence Krauss has suggested that we should start using comparative religion to indoctrinate children against any religion (save his--atheism is hardly exempt from the charges made against other religions). His analysis of the effects of this are mostly right--which is why I largely believe that we ought not require religion be taught in public schools. This is also why I don't think that universities should be required to teach courses on the Bible, and why I don't think that "Great Books" programs are a cure-all. Too many people in academia (especially) are morally and intellectually compromised to the point where having them teach these subject matters largely result in their ruining these subjects for their students.

This is not to say that all comparative religion classes, or courses covering the Bible, or Great Books programs, are bad. All can be well-done, and well-taught, and when well-taught they are invaluable. But on the whole the effect of requiring a secular-skeptic type academic to teach a religion class will be a comparative religion class so presented as to systematically undermine every religion covered, with the deliberate end being a cultivated skepticism.

We really are at a point in which world-views clash cosmically. Our differences of opinion are increasingly (or perhaps merely more openly) over what constitutes the good and not how to best encourage it. I concur with Dr. Krauss as to the effects of requiring all students to study "comparative religion," and as a result he wishes taht this requirement be put in place whereas I hope it is not.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Since When Does a State Judge have the Power to Overturn a State Constitution?

Apparently, since now. It was bad enough when federal judges overturned duly passed state constituions--often basing their decisions on patently ideological grounds--but it is arguably even worse when a state judge overturns his state's own constitution. The message this sends is that the Constitution is irrelevant. One wonders how much time will pass before federal judges begin to follow suit with the federal Constitution.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Playoff SEleCtion Committee Released their First Ranking

Middle finger firmly extended to footballs fans everywhere, the college football playoff SEleCtion released their first rankings. Three of the top 4 and 4 of the top 6 teams are from a single conference. Any guesses which one?

There are three consolations for this:

  1. A lot of these SEC teams still have to play each other. A lot of the others do not. Thus, I expect to see some of these teams eliminated (e.g. if unbeaten Mississippi State beats Ole Miss)
  2. Notre Dame still plays ASU and USC. Win out, and they should be "in." FSU will be in if they win out. And if one foTCU/Baylor/KSU wins out, they will have a strong case for being "in," especially KSU or TCU. Ditto for Oregon or Arizona or Utah, especially if Oregon wins out and then beats Arizona in the conference championships (unlikely, but possible). Arizona State has a weaker but still viable case (lost to a better team that Utah, but by a much wider margin).
  3. If the final rankings pick three from the SEC, or two consistently, maybe we'll finally get a real playoff.

Here's hoping that we can put into place something a little better, e.g. only conference champs with 4 or only 2 from any given conference with 8 (I like 12, but that's a very long shot).