Monday, February 28, 2005

Give a hoot, read this column

Everybody in the universe should read this op-ed by Bjorn Lomborg, author of the iconoclastic book, "The Skeptical Environmentalist." Know that everything contained within that column is based on the best numbers available--most of which come from the UN itself, and other environmentally alarmist organizations.

In "The Skeptical Environmentalist" Lomborg systematically dismantles nearly every point environmentalists make--using their numbers. He does so--in truncated form--in this column, as well. Did you know that
even if America's trash output continues to rise as it has done in the past, and even if the American population doubles by 2100, all the rubbish America produces through the entire 21st century will still take up only the area of a square, each of whose sides measures 28km (18 miles). That is just one-12,000th of the area of the entire United States.

This might seem far fetched, because America already has 76878 square miles of trash, i.e. Nebraska, but this is only because you've been fed numerous doomsday scenarios throughout your life, about the apocalyptic effects of pollution. Lomborg is a voice of optimism. And not just optimism for optimism's sake. Optimism because optimism is warranted.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

metapost--with added Hayek to enrich flavor

Posting has been light lately, because I've been working on my brief for Van Orden v. Perry for Con Law 2. I give oral arguments tomorrow, and then I'll be done with it. Normal posting won't resume until sometime next week, because I'm going to state wrestling to watch mis hermanos wrestle for the title. And then I'll need to spend a few days catching up with all the stuff I've been postponing in my other classes.

And I also want to finish reading Volume I of Friederich Hayek's "Legislation, Law and Liberty." I'm only on page 29 right now, and it's already in the top five of books I've read. The first chapter, "Reason and Evolution," should be required reading for political science or philosophy majors. Never have I seen such a thorough epistemological undercutting of modern liberal thought--much of it, Hayek shows, is based on a "synoptic delusion" which is "the fiction that all the relevant facts are known to some one mind, and that it is possible to construct from this knowledge of the particulars a desirable social order." This chapter is one of the most convincing defenses of deference to tradition I have ever read--and this from the person that wrote the essay "Why I am not a Conservative."

update: never have spicy chicken wings and fries covered in ranch, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, ice cream with caramel, veggies and ranch, two fountain drinks and two pieces of cinnamon toast in one sitting. I mean, if you want to ever want to get up.

where were you on that one, Hayek? Huh? i'm dyin' here, man.

A correction and a thought

Correction: Although serious questions have been raised as to whether Ward Churchill is a Native American, the source I quoted earlier had misquoted him. He didn't actually admit he wasn't a Native American. OJ Simpson, however, remains NOT A JEW. I'll keep you updated as the situation matures, though.

Thought: Hey, Harvard, did I mention how much I love Fubu?

NY Times, p0wnd



Iowahawk uncovers the vast Rovian conspiracy. Not quite as funny or absurd as the New York Times infamous "web of connections," but still good. click to enlarge.

update: okay, the "Hear be Jews" portion is friggin' hilarious. AIPAC, GOPAC, PNAC...Tupac. Heh.
Posted by Hello

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Individualism v. Communitarianism

An interesting opinion column by David Liang today in the Collegian: Western Culture more individualistic compared to East. (Don’t blame him for the tortuous headline—that’s entirely at the discretion of a copy-editor who has just given the column a cursory one-over.)

In the West, people generally regard themselves as unique individuals within a society to which they have little or no social obligations. In fact, people feel positively annoyed if they feel their individuality is threatened. As a result, Westerners are more oriented towards personal goals of success.

However, East Asians (people from Japan, Korea, China and other Sinic countries) tend to place more emphasis on teamwork and the overall success of the group of which they perceive themselves to be part. Success is sought as a team rather than a personal badge of merit.

[…]

Since Westerners are inclined to believe that individuals are separate units within a society, it would only make sense for each person to be entitled to certain rights and freedoms. But there's a much less developed sense of "individual rights" among Asians, and any conception of rights is based solely on the individual's "share" of the total rights in the collectivity. This is largely why so many Chinese people find the western concept of "human rights" to be a very fishy one.

But then, having developed this interesting point, he wimps out in the conclusion:

Having lived in both cultures, I can't honestly say that I prefer one over the other — both have their merits and shortcomings. Perhaps as globalization takes hold and nations are drawn together, both cultures will gradually be integrated into one that combines the best of both worlds. My cynical side tells me that will never happen. But, hey, it never hurts to hope.
What David misses, is that individualistic cultures allow for groups (at the whim of the individual) but it is the nature of the communitarian culture that it cannot tolerate the individual—one precludes the other, in Eastern cultures.

That is, in a radically individualist culture, people are free to associate as they want. If they want to meet up with like-minded individuals and form a hippie commune amongst them, that’s fine—as long as they don’t coerce others into joining, they can be as group-oriented as they want. However, systems that are at the opposite ends of the spectrum from individualism—be they communist, fascist, or what have you—the individual cannot be tolerated. The group is all that matters. If people aren't kept rigidly in line they will naturally act so as to benefit themselves and those close to them, possibly at the expense of the group effort. Individualist nations are free nations, and communitarian nations, unfree. This is a truism.

[internal update: Just ask yourself whether you'd want to live in America and be a communist, or live in North Korea and be a libertarian.]

Therefore, if David wants a mishmash of both styles of living, he paradoxically has to fully embrace radical individualism—it’s total freedom is the only philosophy that allows collectivism and individualism to coexist, based on a general principle of non-coercion.

This is why I find the racial group identity tenant of diversity to be so pernicious. It, in a sense, coerces people to be a part of a group—you can’t help if your black, but diversophiles claim that, nevertheless, you are part of a larger black group of which you share a culture and attitude. Also, they claim to speak for all blacks, despite what any individual may say. Take the “Ask A Black Man” panel. A few blacks were brought out as representative of all (despite their disingenuous aping of individualist rhetoric). Group identity is being forced on these people through government organs, via the common lure of affirmative action and the ever-present, over-inflated fear of racial discrimination.

Rejected SAT Question

13. OJ SIMPSON : JEW ::

A. bolt : ratchet
B. needle : thread
C. Ward Churchill : Indian
D. bicycle : wheel

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

In a tent down by the river

Here's a great WaPo story about Thomas Van Orden, the plaintiff in the case that I'm writing a brief for, and arguing. He objects to a Ten Commandments monolith being placed on public property, arguing that it violates the Establishment Clause.

There is no question that this doesn't violate the Establishment Clause, but that doesn't really matter. The Court stopped actually reading the Constitution a long time ago. Instead, the apply extra-Constitutional tests cooked up by prior Justices.

Anyways, the WaPo story is hilarious. Of Van Orden, we learn that:

He's homeless; he's destitute; and his law license is suspended.

But never mind all that, Thomas Van Orden admonishes anyone who gets stuck on the fact that he sleeps nightly in a tent in a wooded area; showers and washes his
clothes irregularly; hangs out in a law library; and survives on food stamps and the good graces of acquaintances who give him a few bucks from time to time.


And why did Van Orden decide to challenge the monolith?
Why not him? As he likes to say, "I have time; my schedule is kind of light."

Van Orden isn't necessarily against religion:
Van Orden is a self-declared religious pluralist who was raised Methodist in East Texas and joined the Unitarian church in Austin in the 1990s. That was before he sank into a major depression that destroyed his family life and legal career and rendered him homeless. "I miss it," he said about church. "But it's hard to get up and go on Sunday morning when you live in a tent."

Heh.

Larry Summers v. Diversity

If you want to know why Larry Summers is coming under such fire for his uncontroversial remarks to the effect that, statistically speaking, the highest achievers among men in math and science are more than the highest achievers among women in math and science, you just have to read the speech. The point about genetic differences between men and women is just the rallying point for the unthinking Liberals in the Ivory Tower.

What really rankled the reactionary elements of higher learning, was portions like this one:
It is after all not the case that the role of women in science is the only example of a group that is significantly underrepresented in an important activity and whose underrepresentation contributes to a shortage of role models for others who are considering being in that group. To take a set of diverse examples, the data will, I am confident, reveal that Catholics are substantially underrepresented in investment banking, which is an enormously high-paying profession in our society; that white men are very substantially underrepresented in the National Basketball Association; and that Jews are very substantially underrepresented in farming and in agriculture. These are all phenomena in which one observes underrepresentation, and I think it's important to try to think systematically and clinically about the reasons for underrepresentation.

Jews, Catholics and white people?!?! What do they know of discrimination! Only the intellectual elites of Ivy-league universities truly know about the ravaging effects of discrimination. Various seminars have been attended, classical works deconstructed for useful narratives, and departments formed so that these enligthened few might discover the true face of discrimination.

But if that one got the crowds blood boiling, this little anti-diversity nugget must've sent 'em over the top:
First, it would be very useful to know, with hard data, what the quality of marginal hires are when major diversity efforts are mounted. When major diversity efforts are mounted, and consciousness is raised, and special efforts are made, and you look five years later at the quality of the people who have been hired during that period, how many are there who have turned out to be much better than the institutional norm who wouldn't have been found without a greater search. And how many of them are plausible compromises that aren't unreasonable, and how many of them are what the right-wing critics of all of this suppose represent clear abandonments of quality standards. I don't know the answer, but I think if people want to move the world on this question, they have to be willing to ask the question in ways that could face any possible answer that came out.

He's...he's... questioning diversity? Grab the torches! The sun revolves around the Earth, facts be damned! Recant your views or you shall burn like something that is flammable!

This speech, of which you read the whole thing, is really landmark. A university president (of Harvard, no less!) has come out and questioned the prevailing dogmas of higher education. Not so much even questioned them, but suggested that they should be questioned. And yet, because of this, he is irrationally attacked with a passion heretofore seen only in the Mongol invasion of Europe.

Because of this, Summers will be forced to recant his views (I think he has already apologized) and he will offer sops to the various aggrieved groups: more slots for minority hires, more diversity seminars, and, ironically, more women in math and science positions. But even as he is forced to accept the irrational tenants of diversity and political correctness, he will stand as an example. There are questions to be asked of diversty--even the Harvard president said so.

This is promising.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Eureka--(updated)

I just had a eureka moment in the Rec. My libertarian side and my conservative side actually met together to produce a coherent argument against gay marriage. This is huge, for me. I have been schizophrenic over this: my libertarian side saying "to hell with marriage" and my conservative side saying "we need to make a stand by this tradition." I have managed, I think, to reconcile these two wildly different points of view. I think. It will require more thought, but one of the most difficult spots has been plugged.

I don't have the time to write about it now, and my thoughts are still at a preliminary stage, but it just feels really great to finally have my two ideologies cohere together. Before, I was tepidly for gay marriage, but now I might actually be against, if this argument coheres the way I think it will.

Here's four cryptic points that are helping me work these two disparate views together:

1) Definitional disassociation.

2) Hayekian conservatism.

3) A legitimate government goal is the welfare of those that cannot protect themselves.

4) The very worst culmination of a paternalistic, welfare state, is when that state adjudicates* "love**." [see update for asterisks]

That shouldn't make any sense yet. But mayhaps it will, eventually.

update: did I mention how excited I am? I checked out about every book by, or about, Friederich Hayek in the library.

I don't know what it is about the Rec. Whatever it is, whether its the serenity of lifting weights, the brief liberation from studying, or the fact that I am surrounded by taut, greasy man bodies, the Rec is just the perfect place to think about taut, greasy man bodies.

update II: gay marriage, I mean. It's the perfect place to think about gay marriage. Yup, taut, greasy gay marriage.

update III: *should be "legislates" not "adjudicates" and **should be "taut greasy man love" instead of ... er, no it shouldn't. Scratch that last one.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Nonprocreation and law

Interesting discussion on gay marriage here in the comments.

Here's my contribution:

smijer wrote:

"[O]ur society would not tolerate legal obstacles to marriage for people who cannot naturally reproduce. [...] So, the argument that marriage is "for" reproduction fails, because under that view it would be unobjectionable to erect legal barriers to non-reproductive marriage."

Marriage, conceptually, is a one man one woman bond for the purpose of procreation. We translate this concept into law by saying (with a few exceptions) that any man can marry any woman. It is an imperfect approximation that has arisen over the years, but the law always contains some degree of arbitrariness, even as it tries to meet a specific goal--for example, we think that rational citizens should be allowed to vote, so we set a voting age. Marriage should be about procreation, so we say that one man and one woman should be allowed to get married, which is a pretty common-sense standard for this.

But, yeah, its true that nonprocreating unions will be formed under this, just as rational people under 18 will be denied the vote and irrational people over 18 will be given it.

To rephrase your quote above as a question, "why would we find it objectionable for legal barriers to be erected to non-reproductive marriage, if marriage is supposed to be about procreation?"we would find it objectionable because all the years of associating marriage with both "one man one woman" and "procreation" have made each element a part of the whole, regardless of the correctness of that view. Its the case in law that we could prevent all violations if we made the government powerful enough in enforcing them (like put in cameras at stop lights, or have mandatory house inspections for illicit drugs)... but I prefer small, unintrusive government, so that is why I would find it objectionable. One man one woman is simply the best rule of thumb for procreation that we can have, without an intrusive government.

I should note that I sit the fence on gay marriage. I'll argue for either side, depending on who I'm arguing with--I just find it to be a fascinating subject. When I'm arguing I either take the conservative position against gay marriage (protect the institution of marriage), the libertarian position against (government shouldn't be involved in marriage at all) or the conservative position for gay marriage (denying two loving, caring individuals the right to marriage does more to harm the institution than help it, and marriage might also help in bringing the reckless, AID's spreading behaviors of many gays under control).

Yeah, that's right, the conservative position for gay marriage. I don't even consider the liberal argument for gay marriage (some blather about "equality" or somesuch) to be an actual argument (I have the same trouble as Keith), whereas the conservative argument for gay marriage I find very compelling. Here's Andrew Sullivan, a prominent gay conservative (although he has trended left lately), on the conservative case for gay marriage.

the marketplace of ideas--the twisting of a metaphor

In The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System v. Southworth, (2000), the Supreme Court decided that student activity fees could be used to fund groups that some students might disagree with. In this specific case, a student group argued that they shouldn’t be compelled to financially support messages that they disagreed with, but the Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion, said that this compelled funding was necessary to precipitate the free exchange of ideas.

This logic stems from the “marketplace of ideas” metaphor which is a common justification for free speech. It says that the only way to determine the value of ideas is to not restrict any of them and see which ones naturally raise to the top—to use a “market” mechanism to separate the wheat from the chaff in the arena of ideas, rather than to use the top-down mechanism of censorship, which presumes to know the value of all ideas. To use a marketplace is to let each individual decide for themselves.

In this case the “marketplace of ideas” is being twisted to justify the forcing of students to fund messages they don’t agree with through their student activities fees. This is a subsidy of ideas, quite opposite the concept of a marketplace. In a true marketplace of ideas, those that thought an idea was good would contribute to it or otherwise assist in spreading it. By forcing people to fund all ideas, no matter how bizarre, unpopular, or even offensive they are, the marketplace is explicitly being rejected in favor of some sort of socialist mechanism.

Being a marketplace doesn’t mean that all ideas should get equal airing. A marketplace specifically rejects that notion, and says that ideas will gain funding according to how many people support that idea. In a marketplace of ideas, anyone is free to believe in any idea they want, but no one is free to force others to contribute to an idea with which they don’t agree.

Basically, a socialist-type subsidizing of all ideas is being justified under the “marketplace of ideas” metaphor, despite the fact that they are polar opposites. The free exchange of ideas is being assumed synonymous with forcing others to fund ideas with which they disagree. Orwell wrote in his essay Politics and the English Language, that “the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” Here is just such a case. Be leery anytime that a metaphor is used as part of an argument—they are often used to gloss over holes in an argument, or put a sugar coating around what can be a very bitter pill.

*cough* diversity *cough*.

I'm the "big mac" of hamburger hills

Out of all the columns I've written, I've got the most response for this current one. Most of it is because people have simply confused rhetoric with reality. That is, if I speak ill of V-Day it means I'm pro-rape or somesuch. I should have thought my belief that "any man who lays a finger on an unwilling female should be forced through a meat-grinder and fed to chubby kids at a sweltering Alabama fat camp" should have cleared the air on that a bit. Maybe I needed a more violent metaphor. (Unsuprisingly, no one took offense at this notion that men shouldn't be given a presumption of innocence and that gruesome summary execution was the way to go. Nor did anyone think that my characterization of frat boys as "randy" and trying to get "fresh" on girls was off-base, or that girls should be allowed to shoot them for these minor indiscretions.)

This part of one of the emails is my favorite:
I have been reading the Collegian for 38 years and your "opinion" is the first since Viet Nam that really scares me because of the basis of your opinion.
I love that: "Grant Reichert's opinion: the scariest thing since 'Nam."

update: boo! did'ja get a flashback there? was it V-Day redux?

update II: okay, but seriously, my favorite excerpt is this first line from an email I recieved:
Surprisingly, as a liberal feminist woman, I agreed with you on several points of your article.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

metapost

I added a blogroll to the sidebar with some of my favorite blogs on it. Instapundit, the blogfather himself, obviously sits atop the column of links. If you want to be introduced to the blogosphere, he's a good guide. He is sparse with the commentary, but links generously and blogs prolifically. The rest of the sites on the list are the ones I check at least weekly, if not daily.

Or in the case of Protein Wisdom, hourly. I mean, check out this post. Genius. PW's often too ironic by half, but if you can get all the in-jokes it's, y'know, genius.

And if you take the comics as seriously as I do, check out The Comics Curmudgeon. Family Circle fan's need not apply. I mean, assuming they exist.

I'm not going to have much time to blog here, until about next Thursday, so take some time and check out the links. I'll link more blogs to the blogroll later, and I might add a local listing from K-State bloggers, when I get the time.

A few statistics

I was searching around databases through the KSU website for studies about how gender is correlated with support for the death penalty (for my political inquiry and analysis class), and I stumbled upon an interesting study. From the abstract (link probably won't work off-campus):
Although blacks are arrested disproportionately for most types of violent crimes, disagreement persists as to the extent to which official arrest data are indicative of differential offending behavior or selection bias on the part of law enforcement personnel. [...] Multivariate logistic regression results show that the odds of arrest for white offenders is approximately 22% higher for robbery, 13% higher for aggravated assault, & 9% higher for simple assault than they are for black offenders. An offender's race plays no noteworthy role in the likelihood of arrest for the crime of forcible rape. These findings suggest that the disproportionately high arrest rate for black citizens is most likely attributable to differential involvement in reported crime rather than to racially biased law enforcement practices. [emphasis added]

This would seem to belie the notion that society in general, and our criminal justice system in particular, is saturated with institutional and overt racism. You just don't hear stuff like this from the MSM or from college professors.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The ideological difference

Judge Richard A. Posner observes an interesting dichotomy between liberals and conservatives:
[L]iberals think that the average person is good but dumb, conservatives that he or she is "bad" (in the sense of self-interested) but smart. Liberals trust the intellectual elite (because they are good) to guide the masses (because they cannot guide themselves); conservatives distrust the elite (because the elite are bad and therefore dangerous) and think the masses can guide themselves. So in the social security debate, liberals oppose private accounts because they do not think the average person competent to manage money for retirement but think government can be trusted to manage it; conservatives support private accounts because they give the opposite of the liberals' answers to the goodness and competence questions.

I think that this last portion is a perfect way of framing the social security debate. There really is no justification for not supporting at least some degree of privatization unless you believe people are too incompetent to deal with their own money.

A plea for clarity

Today the Collegian came out against Affirmative Action, citing "reverse-discrimination:"


Affirmative action was once needed to ensure everyone in America was getting a fair break.

But as society has progressed, the policy has become a form of reverse discrimination with jobs potentially going to less qualified applicants because of their minority status.

I don't focus on the "reverse-discrimination" angle when I argue against affirmative action because it seems the least persuasive argument against affirmative action to me. It conjures up images of angry white males and many liberals immediately tune out when it is mentioned.

Plus, it assumes that the phrase "discrimination" is inherently bad. But discrimination just means "The ability to see or make fine distinctions" or "to judge wisely," which would actually seem to be a good trait. Rather, for discrimination to be bad it must of a certain type, such as "racial discrimination," which is what the Collegian means in the excerpt above. Is this just semantic nit-picking, though, to insist on the distinguishment between "discrimination" and "racial discrimination?" I mean, people know what is being referred to when "reverse-discrimination" is used, right? So what's it matter?

Clarity in wording is vitally necessary in the "diversity" debate. Take the word "diversity"--anymore, it has no meaning, except that it is undeniably a social good. Whenever I talk with someone about diversity, I refuse to let them use that word, unless they further clarify it as "racial diversity" or talk about the specific program in question, not just allude vaguely to "diversity" in general. If allowed to just speak about "diversity" a person can shift through any number of different definitions of the word--and, as a side note, its always assumed that tolerance is an inherent part of diversity. We need to insist on the same clarity of thought when using "discrimination"--a word that, in itself, is morally neutral.

And, as I said, I don't focus on the "reverse-discrimination" angle. The most compelling case against affirmative action is that it actually harms those it purports to benefit. Richard Sander, a Liberal law professor at UCLA, published an article in the Stanford Law Review about a study of law school data that showed affirmative action actually leads to less black lawyers, because it sends black people to schools that they aren't qualified for. These blacks then have a high dropout rate. Without affirmative action, these black people would have went to a less difficult school and been more likely to get their law degree.

Also, affirmative action calls into question the achievement of all blacks and demeans them as people. Justice Clarence Thomas regularly has his intelligence and qualifications called into question by liberals, just because he is thought to have benefited from affirmative action.

"Reverse-discrimination" is also not the best argument because affirmative action has always been a form of "reverse-discrimination." Affirmative action operates more or less the same way it used to, so it's not like it all of the sudden became "reverse-discrimination." The argument should be not whether reverse-discrimination is bad, because insofar as it is "racial discrimination" itis always bad. Rather, the argument should be about whether racial discrimination is justified based on its end result of a more racially representative hiring outcome. This is where one must begin arguing that some incoherent notion of "diversity" is not a valid goal.

The Collegian delves into the "diversity" morass with a confusing paragraph:

There’s no argument that a more diverse company or university will generate more perspectives and ideas – enriching the experience and quality of life for everyone involved. But diversity can be achieved without such a policy.
I totally agree with the statement that there's "no argument that a more diverse company or university will generate more perspectives and ideas"--there is no argument, it was just asserted by Justice Powell in Regents of California v. Bakke, and solidifed by Justice O'Connor's reiteration of it in Grutter v. Bollinger. No one has actually argued for it--it's just a central tenet of "diversity" that it's beneficial, studies to the contrary be damned.

But I think the Collegian meant to say that there's no argument that diversity doesn't lead to more perspectives and ideas (although even then they should have more precisely said that there's no good argument.)

But again, for this statement to even begin making any sense, "diversity" has to be defined. Otherwise, I'll just assume that "diversity" means "difference" in which case the above sentence is tautological: "difference causes difference of perspective"? Well, duh! But "diversity" doesn't mean "difference" when it is used on campus to refer to the specific multiculuralist agenda, so it's impossible to say what the Collegian is getting at when they say "diversity" here.

Still, the Collegian asserts that "diversity" (whatever that may be) "can be achieved without such a policy." They continue on later with an utterly laughable and internally contradicted mess of a paragraph:
Employers should attempt to recruit applicants of all races, genders and perspectives, but then make a decision based on skills and job experience
The first part of that sentence cannot coexist with the latter. Either employers should attempt to hire minorities, or they should make a decision based on skills and job experience. It's impossible to do both. Did the Collegian mean to say that the "attempt" to hire minorities should be no more than a perfunctory acknowledgment of "diversity" and that qualifications should reign supreme? Or did they mean the inverse of that, that qualifications are subordinate to the need to "attempt" to hire "diverse" people? The Collegian boxed itself in by acknowledging at the outset that "diversity" was an uncontested and uncontestable social good.

But if you thought that previous paragraph was contradictory, take a look at this beauty:
We still have a long way to go and there’s no denying that the past is hard to overcome. But, it’s time to move away from discrimination policies and toward diversity goals that are fair to all people. [emphasis mine]
That last sentece contains two massive contradictions. First, what is the difference between "discrimination policies" and "diversity goals?" It's impossible to tell because "diversity" was never defined. But I fail to see how "diversity goals" could mean anything if they don't ential something like affirmative action. Are they just a pointless goal with no hope of being fulfilled? And anyways, "it's time to move...toward diversity goals"? What do they think we've been doing this whole time? Did the Collegian think that affirmative action just needed a new euphemism?

If "diversity goals" have any meaning or force then they would require some sort of affirmative action--that's how you meet goals, by trying, not be swearing off affirmative action and then just hoping it happens. No; if diversity is a goal, then it has to be fostered by some type of discriminatory action. This leads to another contradiction in that last sentence, that "diversity goals are fair to all people." By the Collegians own metric (affirmative action is reverse-discrimination and reverse-discrimination is unfair), "diversity goals" would be, and are, unfair because they would entail reverse-discrimination.

This whole skein of contradictions and assertions leads me back to my original point: what the "diversity" debate needs the most is clarity of thought. Words like "diversity" only confuse the debate leading to the tortured reasoning exhibited in the Collegian editorial above. No one really gives a second thought about the desirability of "diversity" because it's indoctrinated into college students from the moment they get into college. Professors who should be teaching students to think critically and analytically mindlessly parrot the dumb mantra of diversity.

Students don't queston "diversity" not only because they've had it drilled into them, but because they don't know how to do it without sounding small-minded or racist. It took me a long time to get to the point where I was willing to say that I disliked "diversity." I read and reread Peter Woods "Diversity: Invention of a Concept," Dinesh D'Souzas "Illiberal Education," Richard Bernsteins "A Dictatorship of Virtue" and myriad other books, so I could properly frame the debate. Its a hard subject to grapple with, and not made any easier by the obfuscatory rhetoric used by diversophiles.

Sometime later, I hope to post a pithy guide to debating diversity--a few hints and suggestions on how to frame the debate and cut through the fog of diversityspeak. But I've got to write a brief for Van Orden v. Perry before next Wednesday for Constitutional Law 2, and I'll have to prepare for oral arguments for next Friday), so it'll probably be light to nonexistent posting until then. I'm defending the presence of a ten commandments monument in a public area near some gov't buildings which should be a cinch, but it still takes a lot of busy work to get all the relevant precedents and research done.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A belated note on Ward Churchill

I didn't write about the controversy over faux-Indian professor Ward Churchill because it didn't seem like anything special to me. C'mon, a far leftist professor thinks Americans are comparable to Nazi's, that our capitalist structure is to blame for genocide, and that we deserve and caused 9/11--and this is news, how? Churchill was the stereotypical tenured radical. People on the right should give thanks everyday that people like Churchill exist. They are the most effective recruitment a Republican could hope for.

I do not think that Churchill should be fired for what he said. He had tenure, and as Jeff G. at Protein Wisdom points out, this should be respected, because, in theory, this is what tenure is all about: being able to say unpopular but possibly very true or revolutionary things without having to worry about repercussions. If Churchill is fired over what he said, this would probably redound to the ultimate detriment of libertarian and conservative professors, who, as Jeff points out in the post above, often say very unpopular, un-P.C. things, by the standard of academia. FIRE has also came out in support of Churchill's academic freedom.

But if Churchill is fired over misrepresenting himself as an Indian or for shady scholarship (there have been questions raised in this area too--see "faux-Indian" link above), then that would be hunky-dory. But the free speech rights of people with even the most deplorable opinions have to be protected in order to best protect the rights of everyone else, as I noted here.

Monday, February 14, 2005

"I choo-choo-choose you!"


Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Posted by Hello

Taking back to the Fourum Part... ah whatever

Fourum: Grant Reichert: bulimia is not funny.

Me: Death isn't funny either, but jokes about it sure are. And, c'mon: "reverse-vomiting"? Frickin' genius. It took me like 20 years and 6 months to come up with that one.

And, man, was it worth it.

Interesting observations at 2:29 AM

1) "Mayn't" is actually a real word. This changes things considerably.

2) If you print a blank sheet of paper in word it comes out nicely warmed.

3) "Methinks" is possibly the most sublime word ever coined.

4) Cue tips are okay for casual use, but addiction can be a dangerous thing.

5) Somesuch is not a word, but I'm going to start using it as one. It can be thrown in at the end of any sentence to add flavor. For e.g. I think I am going to solve parametric equations without a calculator or somesuch. Can also be used as a standalone sentence to punctuate the ambiguous or uncertain nature of the previous sentence. For e.g. Futurama is the best animated series ever. Or somesuch.

6) I would really like some pie about now. Apple would be good, but y' know what? I'd even go blueberry, because we're at war right now, against, like, Islamist nutballs or somesuch, and I too have to make sacrifices. But no Cranberries because those things are just vile.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The "laugh test"

is a test I use to measure the appropriateness of the humor in my columns. To wit, if I laugh at a joke in one of my columns it should probably be taken out.

Here's an example of a joke from the column I'm writing now about Nonviolence week activities that I might have to toss due to violation of the laugh test:

"Obviously any guy that would so much as lay a finger on a girl deserves to be run through a meat grinder and fed to kids at a sweltering Alabama Fat Camp."

See, even though I find it humorous, contemporary community standards seem to frown upon joking about extremely violent deaths and cannibalism by obese minors.

The biggest influence on my as a comic writer was Gary Larson's "Far Side" comic strip, wherein the flippant violence of nature was a recurring punchline. And if you've ever watched Adult Swim on Cartoon Network, it seems that I'm not alone in my morbid comic tastes.

Internal Dialogue, Externalized: Episode 2

Myself: Are you sure “ironical” is a word. It sounds so… grating.

Me: Dude, it’s in the dictionary. End of story.

Myself: But, like, if “hedgepickle” was in the dictionary would that be a word?

Me: And like Socrates you cut to the pith of the situation. Congratulations, you have exposed my sophistry for what it is. That is, y’ know, sophistry. I commend you on your intellectual prowess; you have picked away the thin film of argumentation layered over my flawed assertion. You are a font of wisdom to my sinkhole of ignorance. I beseech your forgiveness.

Myself: Are you being sarcastical?

Me: Sarcastical isn’t a word, you frickin’ hedgepickle.

Myself: Hah! I told you it wasn’t a word! Score another one for me!

Me: You’re not Me; I’m Me. You’re Myself. And we were talking about ironical.

Myself: What were we talking about?

Me: Ironical.

Myself: What?

Me: Ironical.

Myself: Again, I couldn’t hear you.

Me: Ironical.

Myself: Still think it’s a word?

Me: The word has lost all meaning to me. And its so grating, y'know? What was Webster, like some monarch or something? Screw that, we live in a democracy, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to use ironical. Webster can shove it up his wordhole, I’m sticking with ironic.

Myself: Because there both adjectives y’ know? What’s the difference?

Me: Wait… their both adjectives? Wow, that’s like ironical.

Myself: I’m going to stop talking to you for a while if that’s okay with you.

Me: I was thinking the same thing.


update: Internal Dialogue, Externalized: Episode 2, Epilogue

Me: *cough* Hedgepickle *cough*

Myself: What was that?

Me: I thought you weren't talking to me.

Myself: Oh that's real mature. Grow up, will you?

Me: The rate at which I grow is determined by the uncontrollable flow of time. You know that, so why must you insult my maturity? Its not my fault. And, y'know, takes one to know one, so hah!

Happy Valentine's Day


She couldn't wait until tomorrow. And you try saying no to that face.

More sordid V-Day pics, here.

Posted by Hello

And the Grammy for best hard rock performance goes to...

"Slither" by Velvet Revolver? I mean, its okay, I guess, if you like mediocre, derivative, throwback rock. It's not a bad song by any stretch, but is it better than top contender, "Duality*"? No way, they're not even in the same league.

Duality was a masterpiece. It was amazing; they were actually playing Slipknot on the radio. If you can make such dark, heavy music mainstream, now that's a feat. And Slipknot didn't get on the radio by going all pop-y or holding back on their heavy riffs. They retained a complex, dark sound, but it was just undeniably great music.

Now, Slipknot is not my favorite band, and I do think there masks are ridiculous, but denying Duality its proper spot at the top of its genre is a travesty. My blog will go black in protest.

Push my fingers into my eyes...
It's the only thing that slowly stops the ache...
But it's made of all the things I am today...
Jesus, it never ends, it works it's way inside...
If the pain goes on...
Aaaaaaaah!

I have screamed until my veins collapsed
I've waited last, my time's elapsed
Now, All I do is live with so much fate
I've wished for this, I've bitched at that
I've left behind this little fact:
You cannot kill what you did not create
I've gotta say what I've gotta say
And then I swear I'll go away
But I can't promise you'll enjoy the words
I guess I'll save the best for last
My future seems like one big past
You'll live with me 'cause you left me no choice

I push my fingers into my eyes
It's the only thing that slowly stops the ache
If the pain goes on, I'm not gonna make it!

Pull me back together
Or seperate the skin from the bone
Leave me all the Pieces, and then you can leave me alone
Tell me the reality is better than dream
But I found out the hard way,
Nothing is what it seems!

I push my fingers into my eyes
It's the only thing that slowly stops the ache
But it's made of all the thing I am today
Jesus, it never ends, it works it's way inside
If the pain goes on, I'm not gonna make it!

All I've got...all I've got is insane...
All I've got...all I've got is insane...
All I've got...all I've got is insane
All I've got...all I've got is insane

I push my fingers into my eyes
It's the only thing that slowly stops the ache
But it's made of all the thing I am today
Jesus, it never ends, it works it's way inside
If the pain goes on,
I'm not gonna make it!

* Click on the link and watch the Duality video. The video cost about a half million to make, for reasons which are obvious, if you watch it.

Free speech on college campuses

On the Constitutional Law message board, my professor linked an article about a professor that had been investigated for harrasment based on messages that he had on his door. These messages included "Regime change starts at home," "stop the war," and "How many Iraqi children did we kill today?" The question posed was whether this was protected speech or whether the material violated the schools anti-harrasment policies. I wrote (slightly modified here):

"Is this protected speech or does the material violate equality embodied in the college's anti-harassment policy?"

Both. It's constitutionally protected speech and yet it probably violates the college's anti-harrasment policy.

I say "probably" because I haven't read the specific policy, but most anti-harrasment policies are overbroad and ambiguous, restricting things like speech which would "diminish the worth of any individual" based on a protected status.

Universities, supposed bastions of free speech, suffer from the stultifying effects of political correctness embodied in such overbroad anti-harrasment policies as above. A virtual cottage industry has sprung up around defending the free speech rights of students and professors from their own university's policies. It seems anymore you are less free to speak on the grounds of a university, than off them.

FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, was formed to protect the freedom of speech of students and professors. Their various guides to free speech on campus (located at http://www.thefire.org/index.php/guides/) are invaluable resources if you want to know your rights and learn about the effect of various supreme court decisions on free speech.

FIRE has K-State listed as a "Red light" school for free speech, based of our schools various policies (see http://www.speechcodes.org/schools.php?id=585 for details). Policies which restrict speech just because it might tend to demean or offend someone are abhorrent to the open atmosphere that should take place on campuses.

Some unsavory speech has to be allowed to most fully protect the free speech of everyone else. If someone has an idiotic or hateful idea, then let them speak it. That's the great thing about free speech: it tends to reveal the idiots and hatemongers rather quickly.

Real and substantive harrasment does, and always will, occur. But this inevitability should not be used as a blanket excuse to justify infringing upon the free speech rights of everyone with vaguely worded anti-discrimination and -harrasment policies surrounded in airy rhetoric about protecting individuals from being "diminished" or "demeaned."

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Reciprocal schadenfreude post

The Right-wing blogosphere has another head on its wall: Eason Jordan, senior executive at CNN.

And how about the left-side of the blogosphere? They took down Jeff Gannon. That's right, the Jeff Gannon. See here, here, here and here. Or just start at Ace of Spades and keep scrolling.

Oh, it's so funny it hurts.

Dude, where's my intercultural dialogue?

From the Collegian, we hear of the latest diversity event, "'Ask a black dude' panel informs students."


Three panelists answered questions to help break down stereotypes and misconceptions Thursday as part of "Ask a Black Dude."

"Ask A Black Dude" is a project designed by the American Ethnic Studies Student Association, headed by president Kara Wilder, sophomore in speech. This event is part of a series designed by AESSA called the "Say What?" series.

The series was created to make people aware of the diversity on campus, break down stereotypes and create intercultural dialogue on campus, Wilder said.

Okay, the first reason: to make people aware of diversity on campus. Well, just speaking for myself, this is the first I've ever heard of...whadjacallit?..."diversity." Awareness must be created! Awareness is the first step toward power! Because once we have power, THE PROLETARIAT WILL CAST OFF THEIR CHAINS AND DISMANTLE THE OPPRESSIVE CAPITALIST APPARATUS!!!

Oh, sorry, I got a little carried away there. But, y' know, diversity.

And, anyways, how does this make people aware of diversity, merely by asking a "black dude" a question? Or is it just being around the "black dudes" that makes us aware of diversity? Do they think we've never seen black people?

Second reason, "to break down stereotypes"--more on this later, but let me just say here that the whole concept of "diversity" (insofar as it is a concept, which is indeed debatable) is founded on the group stereotype, or group identity.

But it looks great on a poster, doesn't it? All glossy and big and such? I mean, you'll have like one hispanic guy with a shiny white grin, a black guy with a shiny white grin, a female, homosexual Islamic paraplegic with a shiny white grin, all of them grinning whitely, and GRINDING THE WHITE MALE OPPRESSOR INTO THE EARTH WITH THEIR HEELS AND/OR WHEELS!!!!

Oh... again, a little carried away. Diversity.

And, the third reason for this lovely (to be pronounced in three syllables as "lov-EL-y" for maximum mockage) series (pronounce this as you wish) is to *pucker lips like an idiot from Dilbert* "create intercultural dialogue on campus."

Okay, so "intercultural dialogue." If that means anything, it means people from different cultures talking together. So, black dudes evidently constitute a culture. Okay, so what is "culture?" Courtesty of my physical anthropology book, "Humans Emerging":
Culture: humans' systems of learned behavior, symbols, customs, beliefs, institutions, artifacts, and technology, characteristic of a group and transmitted by its members to their offspring.
So basically culture is a shared set of "things" (to use a scientific term) that bind a group together. These black dudes, then, if they are participating in intercultural dialogue, are sharing their black dude culture (which they must, by definition, share with all other black dudes) with the differently cultured audience. But wait, from the article:

The panelists assured the audience that they were not representing all black people, but rather themselves, as individuals.

"I'm not representing my entire culture, I'm representing me and my experiences. I think it will give people an insight into what it [sic] like to be a black man, not every black man," Criswell said. [emphasis added]

He's not representing his culture? But what about the intercultural dialogue? What happened to that? If your just representing yourself, then why the hell should we care what you have to say? That would be interperson dialogue, and I've already got that mastered.

And look at what he said, "I think it will give people an insight into what it [sic] like to be a black man, not every black man." But if what it means to be "a" black man is different for every black person, then is this even a coherent concept? This knowledge that people learn of "what its like to be "a" black man" is not applicable to any other black person except for the person quoted here, by his own admission.

This doesn't seem to be a very efficient way to promote diversity, if we have to give every black dude their own panel to sit on in order for us to be able to understand them. As I pointed out in my columns, you can't reconcile individual identity with a strong group identity. You can speak platitudes out of both sides of your math about "individuality" and "diversity" but you cannot get passed the inherent flaws of the diversity agenda.
The panelists hoped that people would not feel they are representing anything other than themselves and that it would be illogical to suggest that they are.
THATS EXACTLY WHAT I'VE BEEN TRYING TO SAY THE WHOLE TIME. THANK YOU!!!!
"If I see a guy wearing a red shirt acting a certain way and the next day I see a different guy wearing a red shirt, I'm not going to assume he's going to act the same way," Jackson said.
YES!!! So we agree. This is great. Down with "diversity" and such. But where's my intercultural dialogue? I was promised an intercultural dialogue, and here I get all these "individuals" that are speaking for themselves. Bait and switch! Bait and switch!

Also from the article, I found that there is a major more pathetic than political science: "[one of the panel members is a] sophomore in social science with an emphasis on diversity."

That is really sad. No, I'm serious, that IS sad. Diversity as an emphasis? Do these people even know why diversity is used now? It's not because we all the sudden recognized its inherent utility--no. Justice Powell created "diversity" as a justification for affirmative action in The Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.

None of the other justices agreed with this portion of his opinion, it was so bizarre and even illogical. This dicta from the Bakke case was solidified into something like a constitutional principle in the case of Grutter v. Bollinger. And that's why we speak of "diversity" now--not because we recognized that it should be extolled in the pantheon of American ideals along with "liberty" and "equality." Diversity was simply the justification used to keep affirmative action alive. It was, as Justice Clarence Thomas put it in his dissent in Grutter v. Bollinger, a "faddish slogan of the cognoscenti."

So its really sad that this student is being used like that. The real people that lose out under diversity are those that it purports to help, and those that buy into it the most.

Just, y'know, sad.

update: And this Wilder gal that's mentioned at the beginning of the story, that's president of the American Ethnic Studies Student Association? Yeah, she sits by me in Spanish 2. Talk about awkward. But at least I'm free riding off her diversity. It, like, enhances my education tenfold!

Friday, February 11, 2005

Spongebob vindicated

I was right.

And notice they call it a "tolerance" video--as if a one hour montage of cartoon characters and catchy music is going to implant as basic an attribute as "tolerance" into the youth.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Posting will resume Friday

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Libertarian view of war

David Freedman, an extreme libertarian (maybe even anarcho-capitalist), in his book "The Machinery of Freedom" described his view of war:
I do not like paying taxes, but I would rather pay them to Washington than to Moscow—the rates are lower. I would still regard the government as a criminal organization, but one which was, by a freak of fate, temporarily useful. It would be like a gang of bandits who, while occasionally robbing the villages in their territory, served to keep off other and more rapacious gangs. I do not approve of any government, but I will tolerate one so long as the only other choice is another, worse government.
9/11 has changed many libertarians, though. Many libertarians now fall under that amorphous category of "neocon"--they support proactive wars of freedom as necessary to protect their own freedom. And now, its not just a matter of who you would rather pay taxes to; it is, with the ever present possibility that nuclear arms might find their way into the hands of terrorists, a battle for the survival our nation as we know it. Many libertarians have, in a sense, gotten serious--possibly another reason why Bush won the election.

update: But to maintain this new libertarian base, and expand it, President Bush has to really push his "Ownership society" agenda. Many libertarians are deeply skeptical of President Bush because of the spending in his first term. I will be kind and say that this spending was a planned Keynesian measure to stimulate the economy and pull us out of an economic downturn. But many libertarians would take the decidedly less charitable view that--to mix three metaphors--President Bush was spending like a drunken bull in a candy store.

I guess he could always use the Homer Simpson defense, from the episode where he became the garbage commisioner:

Marge: How could you spend 4.6 million dollars in a month?

Homer: They let me sign checks with a stamp, Marge! A stamp!

Friday, February 04, 2005

Overlooked News

If you've haven't tapped into the blogosphere this past week, you've probably missed two important stories. Hugh Hewit writes:
The first is the genuinely scandalous assertion by CNN's Eason Jordan, made at the World Economic Forum, that the United States military has targeted and killed a dozen journalists.

And the other:
THE SECOND SUBJECT for mulling is John Kerry's extraordinary interview with Tim Russert last Sunday. There's a lot to absorb here, including Kerry's assertion that he did indeed run guns and CIA men into Cambodia on secret missions--and to aid the Khmer Rouge no less!

And this is the point where I rhetorically ask: "What if a Republican had done this?"

update: The first of the two stories will probably hit the MSM pretty soon, because a tape of the incident is said to be in existence. And you can't argue with images.

"Creating History"

Here's an interesting article about San Francisco State's College of Ethnic Studies. You would expect ethnic studies to be the most peaceful, tolerant College on campus, right, seeing as how its dedicated to race awareness? Yeah, you'd be wrong. Money quote:

Some of these problems have persisted, in one form or another, through the four deans since Hirabayashi. When Almaguer took over, he says, the college was "very ethnically Balkanized, very separated, particularistic. Every group and department was only interested in themselves, what they were doing. There were lines of difference within all the units -- different Asian groups, different Latino groups -- but there was very little appreciation of the commonalities that people might have.

"And that's the irony: We embrace the ethnic categories -- black, Asian, Latino, Native American -- that are so inherently problematic. Clearly, race is a very problematic category in this country that is fraught with boundary problems. And so for ethnic studies to use this strategic essentialism, to basically invest in and valorize a certain identity -- that's a problem with an area of study that is so deeply rooted in identity."


The article also mentions the interesting origins of Ethnic Studies:

In November 1968, on an already tense campus, George Mason Murray, an English instructor and Black Panther minister of education, was suspended after allegedly encouraging black students to carry guns on campus as protection against racist administrators. Students protested, and just days later, led by the Black Students Union and the newly formed Third World Liberation Front, they went on strike.

[...]

It wasn't until March 1969, three months after the San Francisco State local of the American Federation of Teachers had joined the strike, that a settlement was reached. Assenting to the Third World Liberation Front's demand for a "School of Ethnic Studies for the ethnic groups involved in the Third World," the university established what would come to be the College of Ethnic Studies. The hope, at the onset, was that ethnic studies could correct the imbalances of America's Eurocentric academy -- that new perspectives could be taught from the inside out, says James Hirabayashi, the school's first dean.


The founding was inherently political--it was about appeasing a distraught constituency of the university:
Administrators have perhaps learned that lesson. Ross Frank, an associate professor in ethnic studies at UC San Diego, calls the creation of his own department in the 1980s "a rear-guard measure" by the university -- a sop to minorities to pre-empt any sort of unrest. "It's been a win-win situation," he says.

Ethnic Studies isn't about "learning." Instead, its the thoroughly postmodern endeavor of instilling the right ideology and polarizing a group for progressive action. Its a "Cultural Revolution" of sorts, in which technical skills and rational thinking are subordinate to championing the "right" ideas--ideas that are absolutist in their conception, and so any who might question them are automatically enemies.

The Western tradition wasn't conducive to the radical change that many desired--so they created a new history:
For one thing, the first generation of ethnic studies programs was divided along racial lines, with the curriculum focusing on single groups, rather than the collective experience of minorities. "It was about creating history," Frank says, "about communities and people whose histories had largely been erased from academia." [emphasis added]

This may have been more a slip of the tongue than a mission statement, but it nevertheless is true. In Robert Bork's "Slouching Toward Gomorrah" he writes:

A prominent Afrocentrist lectured at Wellesley, where Lefkowitz teaches, stating that Greek civilization was stolen from Egypt and that Egyptians were black. He claimed, among other things, that Aristotle stole his philosophy from the library at Alexandria. During the question period, Lefkowitz asked the lecturer why he made that claim when the library had been built after Aristotle's death. His only answer was that he resented the tone of the question. Several students accused Lefkowitz of racism. Her colleagues, who knew that the lecturer was making historical misrepresentations, remained silent.

When Lefkowitz went to the dean of the college to point out that there was no evidence for some of what the Afrocentrists were teaching Wellesley students, the dean replied that each person has a different but equally valid view of history.


History is just a metanarrative that can be used as a tool by those that feel oppression in every facet of their life. By filling their heads with therapeutic, but ultimately useless, information they are perpetuating their underclass status, which they will in turn blame on 'racism.' Ralph Ellison, an African-American and author of Invisible Man, gave some prescient advice to people that might be enticed to retreat into racial literature and ideas for comfort:
I read Marx, Freud, T.S. Elliot, Pound, Gertrude Stein and Hemingway. Books which seldom, if ever, mentioned Negroes were to release me from whatever 'segregated' idea I might have had of my human posibilities. I was freed not be propagandists...but by composers, novelists, and poets who spoke to me of more interesting and freer ways of life.
He also noted the need to seperate the arts from politics:
“I am a novelist, not an activist,” Ellison told John Corry in the New York Yimes interview. “But I think that no one who reads what I write or who listens to my lectures can doubt that I am enlisted in the freedom movement. As an individual, I am primarily responsible for the health of American literature and culture. When I write, I am trying to make sense out of chaos. To think that a writer must think about his Negroness is to fall into a trap."
I have no idea if the American Ethnic Studies classes at K-State are anything like those in San Francisco--in fact, I'm pretty sure they're much different. But I'd still wager that anything worth learning in them could be learned in another class, and that as an instrument for creating understanding and alleviating racial tensions they are largely counterproductive.




Algonquin Round Table

*****Rush transcript from Ruth Ann Wefald's (wife of KSU President Wefald) luncheon with Townsend scholars.*****

---------------------------------------------

Ruth Ann: ...Did anyone see "Naturally 7" at McCain last night?

Townsend Scholars: ...

Grant: I got an email about that. So what was that all about anyways?

Ruth Ann: Oh, they were this wonderful group of African-American singers that performed without accompaniment. They had just amazing voices. And one of them could make all sorts of imitations--like a drum, a flute, or--

Grant: --Was he that guy from "Police Academy" that could make all the sounds?

Ruth Ann: ...

Ruth Ann: What?

Grant: That guy, was he from "Police Academy?"

Ruth Ann: ...

Ruth Ann: Why, I don't know.

---------------------------------------------

Which, what a faux paux! Man was my face red. I mean, geez, not knowing what Police Academy is? I was embarassed for both of us.

Lessons from Orwell

In an essay entitled "Politics and the English Language" George Orwell lamented the debilitation of the English language by politics. He laid out a few rules which I think are a great guide for any writer.

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to
seeing in print.

ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Most writers would improve, I think, if they paid special attention to rule number one. Everybody uses cliched metaphors, similes and figures of speeches with abandon, and once you actually stop and take a look at your own writing for such lazy verbiage, its a real eye-opener. Orwell gives the examples of "an axe to grind," "ride roughshod over" and "Achille's heel." These types of phrases are signal a lack of imagination, laziness, and are sometimes used to gloss over holes in an argument.

If you can comb your writing for these types of overused memes, and weed them out, you will have a much clearer and concise product. Making writing clear and concise was Orwell's main concern, evidenced in his creation of the twisted "doublespeak" and "newspeak" in 1984. When the general usage of language decays, its no wonder that political discourse will follow, in a sort of perverse feedback loop. Or, as Orwell wrote, "[Language] becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts."

So, like, you know, clean up your writing, alright? Just sayin' is all.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Post updated... for the children

A Fisking


I am sure that Grant, as a white male from Kansas, is a well-qualified expert on the subject of diversity.
I like how diversophiles say things that would be a racist comment if it you rephrased it for a different race. What if he had written that black peoples views shouldn't matter on some subject, merely because of the color of there skin? But I'm white, so fair game for diversophiles. They just can't stand that a white boy would have the temerity to challenge their pseudo-religions Diversity dogma.

This is even the second such remark that has graced the paper, the first one coming in the fourum. It plays into the base stereotype of whites as insensitive and blind to the difference of others. I'm not qualified to talk about diversity, because I'm white. I feel doubly slighted by this, as I have put in extensive time researching this subject.

But I enjoy the collegian posting such things--it exposes the hypocrisy of the diversophiles.



However, being that I am a white male from Nebraska, I am infinitely more qualified to discuss the subject. You may not know this, but Nebraska is a bastion of diversity; we grow wheat and corn.
He makes a good point: Nebraska is pitiful. Credit where credits due.




The irony of two middle-class, white men discussing this topic is not lost on me.
Again, another veiled racial slur--I mean, if I weren't white of course. I don’t care if Aaron thinks he is unqualified to write on diversity, but I don’t want to have him assuming ignorance on my part just because of the color of my skin. Of course, this might have just been an ironic joke, so you know? Benefit of the doubt and such.



Nonetheless, I feel that someone must stand up for the ideals of diversity. After all, diversity in higher education is such a compelling issue that the Fulton County (Georgia) Daily Report of December 15, 2004, recalled that the U.S. Supreme Court decided in a recent case involving the University of Michigan’s law school that the state has a compelling interest in ensuring a diverse student body.
Yeah, and this is what I disagree with. That’s what we’re arguing about. Justice O’Connor in Grutter v. Bollinger, the case in question, pretty much accepted at face value everything the University of Michigan told her about the importance of diversity. I don’t believe the state has a compelling interest, despite what the Supreme Court says, in promoting diversity. You can't just cloak an assertion by putting it in the mouth of someone of authority, and think it can pass as an argument.



The case centered on a group of white students who brought a suit against the law school, which had awarded extra points in the application process to students in racial minorities. Remember that this Supreme Court is one of the most conservative in memory. Additionally, the case was so important that many of America’s top Fortune 500 companies filed “friends of the court briefs” defending diversity.

Last week, Grant argued that we need less racial and ethnic diversity and more diversity of opinion.

This is a crudeparody of my argument. I wrote that we should worry less about FORCING diversity based on arbitrary characteristics—not that I we should actively deny racial and ethnic diversity, as Aaron writes. I Don't think we need less racial diversity--I think we need to reevaluate the concept of diversity, inherently flawed, and immoral as it is. I say ditch the diversity mantra and associated programs and just let whatever may happen, happen.

To phrase my argument as Aaron does makes it look like I’m advocating the forcing of minorities out of school. This is a pitiful strawman argument.

Also, I didn’t even say we need “more diversity” of opinion. In fact, I argued that the phrase “more diversity” was incoherent, insofar as we are all individuals, and so unique.
Aaron had all weekend to pore over my column and analyze it. And this is what he got from it?

However, there are several flaws in his argument. First, he operates under the false assumption that affirmative action and other diversity initiatives require quotas. This is simply not true, because the Supreme Court ruled that quotas were unconstitutional in 1978.
This is baldfaced misrepresentation of what I said. This is what I wrote:

Therefore, while in its operation, “diversity” usually works like affirmative
action or quotas, it’s nonetheless done under the pretense of promoting a
“viewpoint.” [emphasis added]
I don’t say that diversity requires quotas, I said that “in its operation” diversity works “like…quotas.” Saying something is “like” something is explicitly saying that it ISN'T that thing you are comparing it to. For example, saying that forks are like spoons isn’t saying that forks ARE spoons. Its saying that they share a certain common bond, such as that they are both silverware.

I'm correct in saying that the "operation" of diversity is "like" quotas. From Peter Wood’s “Diversity: Invention of a Concept:”



For a Law School student body of roughly 1,200 students at the University of Michigan, a critical mass of African-Americans is about 8 percent (96 students); for Hispanics, a critical mass is about 4 percent (24 students). It is odd and convenient that the “critical mass” for a minority appears to occur in rough proportion to the relative size of its population in Michigan.
That is why I said its “like” quotas in its “operation.” Because "diversity" produces a set number of each race in proportion with its numbers in the population at large. But, you know, Aaron can score some cheap points if he simply lies about what I wrote.



Second, he fails to realize that people of different races and ethnicities inherently undergo different experiences. Communication scholars like Deborah Tannen argue that women and men not only have different styles of communication, but also different perspectives on the world. Other intercultural communication scholars and anthropologists have the same perspective on people of different races and ethnicities.
Yes, certain races DO undergo different experiences. I never deny this. I merely say that all individauls think differently as well. I just don’t think inviting in the members of those cultures that score substantially less on objective tests is better for my education, than if you admitted the best students of any culture. Again, I’m not for forcing the exclusion of other cultures, so have fun destroying that strawman.



For example, some cultures have a communal perspective that clashes directly with the American individualistic culture. Interaction between these cultures fosters understanding between them and exposure to unique ways of problem solving.
Assertion. “Unique” ways of problem solving? How about just finding the “best” way? I am not a cultural relativist. There IS a best way. You can find it regardless of your culture. And again, I am not for the forced exclusion of these cultures; its just that we shouldn’t admit the less qualified members of just because of what culture they come from.

And this talk of “cultures” is obfuscation. Diversity as affirmative action works on skin color and gender, end of discussion. They don’t ask you your “culture.”

Even people who might appear to be of a similar culture and background can have fundamentally different perspectives. For example, a minority student from my high school and with my socioeconomic background would have a very different perspective of attending a predominately white school than I have.

But is this perspective relevant to my education? And is it relevant enough to force a better qualified student out to let in this unqualified student just because he has a different "experience." Personally, I would rather talk with a more qualified, and thus intelligent student, about political science, than a kid that had a certain perspective in highschool. What good is he going to be in drawing comparative analyses between the US and Finlands healthcare systems?

In his last column, Grant clamored for more differences of viewpoint, which he likened to having more Metallica fans. Such an analogy between someone’s ethnic or racial identity and someone’s musical preferences is not only terribly misguided but demeaning to those individuals’ identities.
Grant fails to understand the depth and breadth of those individuals’ experiences. *Sigh* I was merely showing that “diversity” isn’t about bringing together people that are different—rather, its about the immutable characteristics of race and gender. Again, this is a caricature of my argument, to say that I was comparing being a Metallica fan to being of a certain racial identity. Only insofar as they are both aspects of "difference"—I was making no qualitative claims as to which is better. This is just another slur built off a distortion of what I actually wrote.
I doubt that Grant can offer a single example where society suffered from having
too much diversity.
That’s a high standard. As long as we don’t suffer from diversity, its peachy-keen. Aaron is also exploiting the dual use of the word “diversity.” I was using it to indicate the various campus programs, such as affirmative action, diversity training and diversity events, that typically fall under its rubric. Aaron falls back to diversity simply meaning “difference”—a point which is incoherent, as I showed in my first column.

But even by this standard, his argument is ridiculous on its face. Name one time diversity has caused suffering in a society? Look at the millions of ethnic, tribal, and racial conflicts throughout world history. Aaron’s remark is breathtakingly ignorant.


Wars are fought all over the world because people don’t understand each others’ religions and cultures.
Okay, here we’re back to earth. But doesn’t this completely contradict your previous statement, that you can’t have diversity and suffering? Buellor?

Aaron’s flaw, again, is the shifting meaning of diversity. Here he assumes that diversity is accompanied by racial and cultural understanding. Thus his reasoning is circular: if diversity means tolerance, then OF COURSE diversity doesn’t lead to suffering. But diversity DOESN'T entail tolerance, and in fact is inimical to it.


I know that K-State isn’t the United Nations Headquarters, but if we can have just a little more understanding and a little more diversity, why wouldn’t we do it?
Because money doesn't grow on trees. Because the time would be better spent elsewhere. Because it violates individuals rights. Because it is inherently racist. You know, all the arguments I made in my columns.


Grant reminds me of that Dr. Seuss character who refuses to eat green eggs and ham, even though he's never actually experienced them and doesn’t know what he’s missing. Maybe one day he will experience the benefits of diversity, and, like the poor, misguided character in “Green Eggs and Ham," he’ll change his ways.
This drips of condescension. I’m just blind; maybe one day I’ll see if I open my mind. I hate when people make comments like this—they assume that only ignorance could possibly explain one’s difference of opinion. If they could only see the light. That’s why I ended my column with an extended hand “No matter what your opinion, I ask only that you question it.”

Sigh... I try. Well, that's about all the diversity I can handle for one lifetime.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Three articles

First, from the LA Times:
President Bush's agenda for the next four years, much of which he will highlight in his State of the Union address tonight, includes many proposals that would not only change public policy but, the GOP hopes, achieve an ambitious political goal: Stripping money and voters from the Democratic Party and cementing Republican dominance for years after he leaves office.

One of the clearest examples is an effort to limit jury awards in lawsuits against doctors and businesses. The caps might not only discourage "frivolous" lawsuits, as Bush argues, but also deprive trial lawyers of income from damage awards that they could then give to Democrats.
Second, the NY Times:
Howard Dean emerged Tuesday as the almost assured new leader of the Democratic National Committee, as one of his main rivals quit the race and Democrats streamed to announce their support of a man whose presidential campaign collapsed one year ago.
Third, liberal opinion columnist Mark Brown:

Maybe you're like me and have opposed the Iraq war since before the shooting started -- not to the point of joining any peace protests, but at least letting people know where you stood.

[...]

But after watching Sunday's election in Iraq and seeing the first clear sign that freedom really may mean something to the Iraqi people, you have to be asking yourself: What if it turns out Bush was right, and we were wrong?

[...]

If it turns out Bush was right all along, this is going to require some serious penance.

Maybe I'd have to vote Republican in 2008.

First we see the assertive Republican agenda. Assertive and popular--who doesn't want to hit lawyers in the pocketbook? On top of all that, this popular idea could also harm the Democratic party by depriving one of their core supporting groups of money that could be donated.

Even more fortuitous for the Republican party is the likely ascension of Dean to DNC. This is obviously disastrous for the Democrat party as a whole--the extremist faction of the party, lead by Dean, propagandized by Michael Moore, funded by George Soros, and given legitimacy by the speeches of Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer, is a large part of why many voted Republican. But, aside from the possible actions of Dean to further radicalize the party, his mere ascension would also indicate the mood of the party. It would show that anger, resentment, and extremism still take precedence over a reasonable evaluation of what the party needs to do to win elections. The only hope for the party in this regard is Hillary Clinton, someone willing to moderate their image and rhetoric.

Last, the Mark Brown column shows that maybe some of the more moderate liberals are starting to question there beliefs, even as the majority runs lemming-like toward political oblivion. His column is also a promising indication that the Vietnam-complex might be dead. It has distorted the views of the pacifist left since the sixties, and caused them to wallow in defeatism and knee-jerk disbelief in the morality of America's foreign interventions.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Rabelais-blogging

I stumbled across a rather humorous anecdote about Francois Rabelais, a satirist during the Rennaisance.

It seems, when Rabelais died, he left a one sentence will:
"I have nothing, I owe a great deal, and the rest I leave to the poor."
Such I kind heart. I would've ask that the poor be buried with me.