Saturday, February 19, 2005

The NYTimes can go to hell.
I'm sorry, their editorial on Lawrence Summers strains the bounds of credulity today.
It's fun to toss out provocative ideas and watch as everyone's ears redden and all eyes turn to the daring speaker who started the hubbub. But it's an exercise better restricted to radio talk show hosts than the heads of major academic institutions. Harvard is supposed to be teaching its students not just how to start a controversy, but also how to have an intelligent conversation.
When I see similar simpering condemnations of the likes of Ward Churchill on the pages the NYTimes, I'll take their whining more seriously.

I've suspected that they were a worthless yellow-rag, though I was withholding judgement; now I know. Utterly, utterly mindless drivel is all the editorial page is capable of.
Let's remember
incidents like this the next time some expert tries to tell us that we can't attack Islamic enemies during their holidays.

Friday, February 18, 2005

One of Jonah Goldberg's
correspondents sent him the following:
EMERGENCY PLANNING MEETING to Protest Summers & Sexism
TODAY (Friday) 2:30 pm - Loker Commons

Larry Summers' remarks on women in science at the NBER Conference are now publicly released. National media attention is focused on Harvard -- in this climate a student protest has the potential to capture major news coverage and impact national public discourse.


* The dining hall workers union is organizing against the hostile environment created by his comments.
* Yale students demonstrated on Thursday in solidarity.
* Senior faculty are challenging him and suggesting his resignation.


Students and alumnae are planning a demonstration before the faculty meeting next Tuesday afternoon -- when professors convene to discuss a vote of "no confidence" in Summers.

What issues will we raise? From resignation, to childcare for Harvard workers, to a women's center, to finals clubs, let's get planning and put together an agenda!

Join us if you're concerned about improving the climate of this campus for women and about a feminist agenda at Harvard.
Lay aside the typically hyperbolic ranting that so pervades all leftists sit-in moments on campus, I was genuinely puzzled by something, namely, the specific mention of Finals Clubs as something on the agenda for the Harvard community.

Now, Finals Clubs at Harvard have a fairly long tradition. I wasn't a member, nor did I attend any of their parties, but they were the places to be if you wanted that sort of thing. But there's something important to note: Finals Clubs don't officially exist. I mean, they exist, but the University doesn't recognize them as official campus clubs. All organizations on campus must include a provision in their constitution expressly forbidding discrimination based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Finals Clubs are men's only clubs, and therefore violate the gender-exclusion prohibition. Therefore, they cannot apply for status as an offical Harvard student club, and so, they don't officially exist. (This is the reason why Harvard also does not officially have any sororities or fraternities, though I understand Sigma Chi had some Harvard affiliates while David was there.)

What's the University supposed to do about organizations that don't in anyway fall under the University's perview? It'd be like the University trying to regulate how often students eat at Pinnochio's (love those cheeseburger-subs).
ABC News
did an "investigation" into John of God, a Brazilian con-man who channels physicians and King Solomon to perform mircales on the sick and dying. They interview James Randi for the show, and I see that he's hopping-mad about the way he was presented, and the way the show turned out. Apparently, he'd taped for an hour or so, and ABC only used 19 seconds of his comments. Plus, the comments they used make him seem like a cantankerous old man.

While I didn't see this particular "news" story, I've seen similar shows on paranormal and super-natural phenomena, and the formula is the same: 50 minutes of the most incredulous crap you've ever heard, 5 minutes of pointless commentary from the host, 3 minutes of carefully edited skepticism, and 2 minutes of "on-the-other-hand" to make the skeptic seem like a dunderhead.

Why do news organizations do this? It's almost cliche.
I can see the logic
behind a recent EU regulations that requires that airlines notify you what airline you're flying with. Apparently, there have been cases where passengers by tickets on one airline, only to end up, unknowingly, shuffled off to another airline. For example, a flight from Egypt crashed early last year, and many passengers weren't told that they had been passed off to an airline that had known safety issues.

However, this is silly:
The so-called "denied boarding" directive, drawn up by previous transport commissioner Loyola de Palacio, entitles passengers to greater compensation in cases of overbooking, last-minute cancellations and delays that can be attributed to the airline.

Inconvenienced travellers will be able to claim up to 250 euros for flights of less than 1,500 kilometers (940 miles), or 400 euros -- compared to 150 euros previously -- for flights between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometers.
I've flown quite a bit, and I've certainly had my fair share of delayed and cancelled flights (nothing like spending four hours on the runway in Newark). But I have never thought the airline owed me money for delays. In my opinion, with the confluence of mechanical, environmental, and regulatory variables, it's amazing that a flight ever leaves, let alone on-time.
I think it's fair to say
that the FAA should back off from this one. Do they really want to require pilots to file seven days before performing an emergency rescue flight?
Over at the Corner,
Jonah has an excerpt from a NYTimes article on the Lawrence Summers flap. My favorite part:
Everett I. Mendelsohn, a professor of the history of science, said that once he read the transcript, he understood why Dr. Summers "might have wanted to keep it a secret."

"Where he seems to be off the mark particularly is in his sweeping claims that women don't have the ability to do well in high-powered jobs," said Professor Mendelsohn, part of a faculty group that sharply criticized Dr. Summers's [sic] leadership at a meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences on Tuesday. "There's an implication that they've taken themselves out of that role. But he brings forward no evidence."
I note this for two reasons. First, contrary to Professor Mendelsohn's claim, Summers makes no such sweeping claims about the ability of women. The man should wear his glasses when reading.

Second, I took a class from Mendelsohn my freshman year. A core class, Science-B. I believe it was called, "The Darwinian Revolution," and it detailed the rise of old-earth science and pre-Darwinian concepts of nature (Lamarckism, anyone?), and the affect Darwin had on science (everything from "why didn't I think of that" to peals of uproarious laughter) and political thought (social Darwinists and Communists, alike).

My thoughts on Mendelsohn? Well, I love the way he said the word, "jacobins." Aside from that, I was unimpressed. As one of my classmates observed, "Where's the analysis? If he's just going to recite a timeline, I can read this crap myself."

By the way, I hated this book, but I enjoyed this one. I think the entry where the sailors whack birds with rock hammers is my favorite.
The fight against AIDS
in sub-Saharan Africa has another obstable: tradition.
Throughout sub-Saharan Africa the death of a father automatically entitles his side of the family to claim most, if not all, of the property he leaves behind, even if it leaves his survivors destitute.
A father dies of AIDS, and his wife and kids are left with nothing, even if the mother or the children are also fighting the disease.
Is it just me,
or is there a rich irony in this paragraph from Paul Krugman's op-ed today?
By repeatedly shilling for whatever the Bush administration wants, [Alan Greenspan] has betrayed the trust placed in Fed chairmen, and deserves to be treated as just another partisan hack.
Krugman calling someone else a partisan hack? Pot. Kettle. Black.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Harvard has released
the transcript of Lawrence H. Summers' remarks that caused the current furor.

UPDATE: I've read the transcript now. This is a tempest in a teapot. If anyone thinks that Summers is going to base Harvard's hiring policy on anything he said here, they're simply batty. Summers' quite reasonable observation that little girls tend naturally toward more social games (Summers' little girls assigning familial roles to their toy trucks, for example) doesn't mean he thinks women don't belong in the sciences.

UPDATE II: Oh, good lord. When did it become racist to observe that there aren't that many Jewish farmers, when there aren't that many Jewish farmers? If you're in a conversation about under-representation of one group in a particular field, doesn't it make sense, as part of the overall conversation, to say, "Look, all fields have groups that are under-represented. Maybe this group is just like the others"?
That weird cookie story
from Durango, CO just won't die (for context, see previous posts here and here). The parents of one of the girls involved are getting their restraining order, and Mrs. Young appears to be the recipient of numerous packages of cookies:
She's received hundreds of crank calls, along with truckloads of "strange" packages—some containing cookies or cookie crumbs.

"All this over cookies," she said. "Our home is like a funeral parlor. They've robbed us of our laughter. My spirit, my soul, is damaged."

Despite that, Young said she believes going to court was the right thing.

"I don't know how to change. I don't know how to compromise my principles," she said.
What principle is she in danger of compromising? Suing nice people?

I love the "They've robbed us of our laughter..." line. Pttthththththhhh. You robbed you of laughter. Your silliness and lack of common sense caused you to become a social pariah. There's no blaming others for this.
Speaking of things on MSNBC,
they have a silly little editorial by Howard Fineman called, "On the left hand of God," that gives the perennial, and often ignored, advice to Democrats that most people in this country believe in Jesus and think the Bible is a good thing. Nothing particularly insightful there.

What he did offer was a thought, though certainly not original, that gets lost, I think:
In 1964, the emerging conscience of the Democratic Party was the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The civil rights movement he led was based in the churches. Democrats weren’t afraid of that link then, and they shouldn’t be now.
What happened to the Democratic Party in those 40 years? Read King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and imagine a modern Democrat so freely evoking Paul of Tarsus, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, etc.
I heard quite a while ago that
a sequel to The Mask was in the works. When I saw a commercial for it the other day, I wasn't that surprised that it didn't star Jim Carrey; I was suprised that it starred Jamie Kennedy. I figured that didn't bode well, especially when I realized the film was far more family-oriented than the first. I decided then that I won't be seeing the film.

Now I see that MSNBC has its review up. What'd they think of Kennedy?
Kennedy comes off as a poor man’s Seth Green, which should give you some notion of how forgettable he is.

He lumbers through a painfully protracted rendition of "Can’t Take My Eyes Off You." Unlike Carrey’s rubbery adaptability, Kennedy’s countenance resembles a lime-green Jell-O mold of Gary Busey’s face frozen by Botox injections.
That inspires confidence, doesn't it?
I've been reading with some interest
about "The Gates" in New York's Central Park. I don't know. I've never been enamored with Christo's work: Wrapping the Reichstag, draping a curtain across some canyon, or his killer umbrellas. This is art?
Watching a little of the Summers
bruhaha over at The Crimson, I see that the editorial staff has written an overly-emotional paean to "repentance" today. (There is, however, a dissenting group of editors.)

One comment about the professors' gripes against Summers. Early in his tenure as Harvard president, Summers made comments to Cornell West that induced the man to leave the University. I think the convesation was something like:
Summers: "Hey, Dr. West, would you mind putting aside your musical career and, you know, produce some scholarship worthy of the Harvard name?"

West: "What are you, some kind of racist? I'm out of here. Where's Jesse Jackson when you need him?"
A friend of mine used to say this about West: "Joe, he's a mile wide and an inch deep." His departure didn't deprive Harvard of grand scholarship; it deprived them of a famous name. Is that really a bad thing?
My apologies for the lack of posts.
Sometime after my last post on Tuesday, Blogger decided to have a major hiccup, and I was unable to log in at all the rest of Tuesday or yesterday.

Today seems better.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Today's Crimson
cheers Howard Dean's ascension to the chairmanship of the DNC. The conclusion entertained me:
Dr. Dean's short stint in national politics has shown that he is the kind of leader who can build a new Democratic Party, a Party that relies on grassroots enthusiasm, not big money donors. The Democratic Party needs a change. Dr. Dean has the passion and the experience to make it so.
He's also shown that he suffers from a serious case of diarrhea-of-the-mouth. Remember this?
Diane Rehm, WAMU (public) radio: Why do you think he's suppressing that report?

Dean: I don't know. There are many theories about it. The most interesting theory that I've heard so far, which is nothing more than a theory, I can't—think it can't be proved, is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now, who knows what the real situation is, but the trouble is that by suppressing that kind of information, you lead to those kinds of theories, whether they have any truth to them or not, and then eventually they get repeated as fact. So I think the president is taking a great risk by suppressing the clear, the key information that needs to go to the Kean commission.
Yeah, let's suggest the President had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks; that'll attract voters.
So, can we stop pretending
that the U.N. has any moral authority now?
this piece of news, will Nancy Hopkins apologize to Lawrence Summers for her meltdown?

Monday, February 14, 2005

As a reader
so helpfully pointed out, the pregnant woman (Sarah Brady) who killed her attacker did so with her attacker's own knife. Brady credits her maternal instincts in getting her through the attack.
I was purusing
The Harvard Crimson this morning and saw that the Veritas Forum finished up a meeting this weekend.

Back when I was president of HOC, we were invited to speak at a Forum event: "Rand or Jesus, Which Fountainhead?" The discussion, in particular, was about the nature of truth and how it's validated. We elected a gentleman named Barry to be our representative, and the Forum flew in a man named Michael B. Yang, author of Reconsidering Ayn Rand. David is far more qualifed than I to comment on this book, as he's read it, I've only skimmed a few pages. David, if I'm not mistaken, thought the book to be crap (Yang seems to misunderstand basic concepts in Objectivism, he uses lots of straw men, etc).

I, however, can add perspective to Yang in a discussion environment. While Barry had prepared some remarks regarding Rand's view of truth, and his understanding of the Christian view, Yang took his time for opening comments to share his conversion narrative. While it did add some perspective to Yang's approach, it said nothing germaine about why we were there.

It was disappointing, really. Barry would say something, Yang would throw out a straw man to debase it, and then redirect to the audience for comments. Barry finally said something like, "Now wait, I have a few things to say about some comment you thought you'd get away with." Yang gave him a surprised look, and Barry took him to task for a number of his misconceptions.

An example: Yang said that one of his problems with Atlas Shrugged was the money speech by Francisco D'Anconia. Yang talks about how Rand harps merely on "money is the root of all evil," and how that's a problem because Scripture says, "for the love of money..." Two points: Scripture may say that, yes, but the cliche is merely "money is...", not "for the love of money is..."

Second, and more importantly, if Yang had turned the page in his copy of Atlas, he would have noticed that Francisco continues by saying, "Or did you say it's the love of money that's the root of all evil?" So, there it is. The thing that Yang found so troubling wasn't even an issue at all. (I understand that he commits the same error in his book.)

Why is this important? Well, Yang presents himself as a former Objectivist who converted to Christianity because, well, he read the New Testament to disprove it, and then found that, if memory serves, "Jesus spoke in a way no one else did, not Ayn Rand, not John Galt" (apparently forgetting that Rand created Galt). He began to have second thoughts about Objectivism because he found that Rand wasn't very knowledgeable about Christianity (hardly surprising, as Rand was Jewish), and he claimed she misinterpreted Scripture. He also made sure we understood that he's probably read the books, both fiction and non-fiction, more times than everyone else on the planet. So he knew Rand's ideas, and he was super-qualified to discuss them.

And that's all fantastic, except he clearly didn't understand anything he read, and he established that his retention and research skills are severely lacking. I mean, if one of the big reasons why you leave Objectivism is because you think Rand doesn't understand Scripture, I'd think you would really, really analyze the offending passages to make sure that you aren't misreading them (which Yang clearly was).
The children of rape
are another legacy of the genocide in Dafur. The children are often referred to as janjaweed, or "devil on horseback."

The taboo against rape victims in this culture means that many of these women may be cast out, and their children will be forever marked (the fact that the mothers are African and the fathers Arab means that they will be more easily distinguished).

The Sudanese Foreign Minister is being most helpful, though, by saying reports of rape are exaggerated and are used by aid agencies to justify their presence. Of course, I shouldn't expect anything better from someone who also generally denies the genocice, as well.
The Iraqi election results
are in:
The Shiite coalition, backed by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric, won 48 percent of the vote, against 26 percent for the Kurdistan Alliance, a partnership between Mr. Barzani's Kurdish Democratic Party and a rival Kurdish group, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which has said it will push its president, Jalal Talabani, for the post of president in the new government.

Dr. Allawi's party, the Iraqi List, won 14 percent. The remaining 12 percent was scattered among 108 other parties and alliances, none with more than 1.8 percent, the tally posted by Sheik Yawar's group, the Iraqis Party.
Since no party got a majority, this may prove to be a stabilizing thing -- they'll need to create a coalition government, which may require moderation in legislation. We'll see.
In a previous post,
I had wondered if cases of teacher-student sex were on the rise, or if this was just the theme du jour for the MSM. Here's a partial answer.

Here's a comment from the story I found interesting:
Female teachers are often treated differently in the media than male teachers who have sex with underage students.

"The main dichotomy is in coverage — men are demonized, women are diagnosed," [Matthew Felling, media director of the Center for Media and Public Affairs,] said. "Men are beasts, but women are troubled, or mentally ill." Or the women are simply portrayed as voluptuous and sexual. In the LaFave case, suggestive photographs of her surfaced shortly after the news of her affair with the student broke.
That is an interesting dichotomy. The men are all perverse Humbert Humbert types who need to be beaten and jailed, while the women tend to be portrayed as merely ill. In the end, though, they're all still rapists.
So, am I supposed to be
happpy for them, or am I supposed to hold in my own vomit?

Here's a question: Now that they're getting married, does this alter the moral status of their relationship, or is it still really, really creepy?
The suicide-pact leader
I mentioned earlier is clearly a nutjob. Well, now we have an idea of how much of a nutjob he really is.