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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Monday, 28 March 2005

Topic: The Culture

The Uses of Philosophy

Teaching is getting dangerous ? see this - an item by someone (Jacqueline Marcus) who teaches philosophy at a college in Florida.
In the Florida legislature, House Republicans, on the Choice and Innovation Committee, recently voted to pass a bill that threatens to restrain academic scholars. The law would allow students to sue teachers for beliefs that do not concur with conservative perspectives. If, for example, professors argue that evolution is a scientific fact instead of a theory, and if they don?t devote equal time to creationism, under this bill, initiated by conservative David Horowitz?s campaign, students can sue the professor for being biased.

Although the bill has two more committees to pass before it can be considered by the full House, it represents a growing threat against the very foundation of scholarly research. The intended goal of this bill is to portray professors as tyrannical monsters who terrorize Republican-conservative students, rendering them into poor, helpless victims under the authority of those, ah yes, Brutal Liberal Dictators!

Indeed, the phrasing of the bill is comical. It turns the essential meaning of ?liberal education? upside down: ?leftist totalitarianism? by ?dictator professors? in university classrooms. How?s this for an Orwellian twist? The bill is titled ?The Academic Freedom Bill of Rights,? sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala.

In this rather oppressive atmosphere, particularly if one lives in a conservative county, as I do, teaching philosophy is a dangerous occupation. It?s not quite as dangerous as being a liberal journalist, but it has its risks.
Whine, whine, whine ?

But a good anecdote here -
A conservative student actually tried to push me aside at the beginning of class, dressed for the occasion in his tie and suit, with a digital camera, to deliver his Thou SHALL Kill presentation. It never occurred to him to discuss his proposal with me after class or during my office hours. He simply presumed that he was at equal status with the teacher, and that he has the ?Academic Freedom? to take up precious class time with his flaky opinions on interpreting the word ?kill? in the 6th Commandment.

I explained that students are paying to learn from an accredited teacher with degrees in philosophy/humanities. They?re not paying to hear HIS opinions. The test will be on Plato. He stormed out of the class and then dropped out the next day. (Praise the Lord!)

Here?s a follow-up question for Republican legislators: Some students still believe that Saddam was responsible for 9/11. Now if I were to tell them that even the Bush administration has announced that Saddam was not responsible for 9/11, under this bill, if passed, would students have the right to sue me because I clarified fact from fiction? Do I now become a Big Bad Liberal Dictator for challenging misinformation?
Hey, kids don?t want to learn what they don?t know to be true.

What?s the point in that?

Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, asks questions ?
- Will a professor be able to counter-sue the student on grounds of terminal stupidity?

- What's stopping these students from getting their full does of 'creationism' in Sunday school? Or, are they lazy - wanting 'creationism' in school so they can cut Sunday school?

Give them a good used toaster!
And over at FAFBLOG the Medium Lobster has this to say -
Freedom is ever-marching, and its latest target for emancipation is none other than the Gulag Academia, where millions of students are held hostage by totalitarian educators whose cruel practice of teaching them things they don't already believe could soon be put to an end.

Florida Republicans are considering passing an "Academic Freedom Bill of Rights" which will give college students the power to sue "dictator professors" who offend their beliefs by teaching material which contradicts them. The Medium Lobster hails this as a measure long overdue. For far too long, higher education has been concerned with "education" and "instruction," mere euphemisms for harsh indoctrination into the totalitarian ideology of Fact. But now students will be given the tools to fight back, to free themselves of their oppressive enslavement to a world in which life evolved over millions of years through natural selection, dinosaurs weren't wiped out six thousand years ago by the flood of Noah, and the evil Xemu was not responsible for the existence of body thetans.

Will students learn more in such an environment? Of course not. If any thin-skinned adolescent can mau-mau his educators into avoiding any subject that fails to reinforce his own prejudices, universities will be engaged in the antithesis of teaching. But this is precisely the point: America has done so much to oppose tyranny in the form of earthly despots that it can only proceed to liberate humanity from the greatest dictator of all: Reality, which tyrannically insists that man acknowledge That Which Is rather than That Which Would Be More Convenient For Us.

Freed from the tyranny of Reality and the dangerous threat of its advance guard, Information, America's youth will be free to live in a world consisting solely of their own pre-existing beliefs, where messy ideological review and examination of fact have become unnecessary. As usual, the Bush administration has been admirably and ably leading the charge in this direction for years.
America's youth will be free to live in a world consisting solely of their own pre-existing beliefs, where messy ideological review and examination of fact have become unnecessary? So be it.

Posted by Alan at 20:03 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 29 March 2005 08:35 PST home

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Fahenheit 911 vindicated?

See this item on the wires...
The FBI played an active role in arranging chartered flights for dozens of well-connected Saudi nationals -- including relatives of Osama bin Laden -- after the 9/11 terror attacks.

The New York Times reported that the documents show Federal Bureau of Investigation agents gave personal airport escorts to two prominent Saudi families who fled the United States, while several other Saudis were allowed to leave the country without first being interviewed, citing newly-released US government records.

The Saudi families, in Los Angeles and Orlando, had requested the FBI escorts out of concern for their personal safety in the wake of the attacks. ...
The flights DID take off BEFORE the nation's commercial fleet was allowed to resume flying.

Michael Moore has it right? Who’d have thunk it?

Not that it matters now.

Bob Patterson, columnist for Just Above Sunset, the parent weekly to the web log, comments below...
CBS radio is reporting that FBI papers obtained through the "freedom of information" act show that members of Osama bin Laden's family were permitted to leave the USA during the flying ban right after 9/11 (as was alleged in Michael Moore's documentary film "Fahrenheit 911.")

It's time to change the Freedom of Information act.

Can't Bush do it with an executive order?
Well, yes. But he doesn’t need an executive order.

See this from October 11, 2002
... In his October memo, Attorney General Ashcroft recognizes "it is only through a well-informed citizenry that the leaders of our nation remain accountable to the governed and the American people can be assured that neither fraud nor government waste is concealed." Then he talks about "other fundamental values" including "safeguarding our national security, enhancing the effectiveness of our law enforcement agencies, protecting sensitive business information, and not the least, preserving personal privacy." In instructing agencies dealing with FOIA requests, Ashcroft pointed out that "any discretionary decision... to disclose information protected under the FOIA should be made only after full and deliberate consideration of the institutional, commercial and personal privacy interests that could be implicated by disclosure of the information."

Ashcroft assured agencies that should they decide to withhold information, they will be fully supported by the Department of Justice "unless they lack a sound legal basis or present an unwarranted risk on the ability of other agencies to protect important records."

At a mid-March conference in Philadelphia on computer-assisted reporting sponsored by Investigative Reporters and Editors, some journalists reported that the number of FOIA request refusals is on the rise, along with the time it takes to hear from the government. In a report in the March/April 2002 issue of Columbia Journalism Review, John Giuffo writes that "It's not just access to sensitive data about infrastructure and water supplies... that is being blocked." Barbara Fought, a Freedom of Information law officer at Syracuse University, during one of four panels convened to discuss the impact of the Ashcroft memo said that "We're beginning to hear about a few problems, which I think signal a different tone with the Bush administration and the Attorney General." ...
Ah well.

Posted by Alan at 19:58 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: The Culture of Life

Thinking of toasters in Rochester?

I have a friend in upstate New York who might actually know Steven Landsburg. Landsburg seems to be an ?Adjunct Associate Professor? of economics at the University of Rochester - and I used to live in Rochester. Landsburg writes a monthly column for SLATE.COM and calls himself a libertarian economist ? whatever that means.

Here he suggests one could look at the still living body of that woman with no brain waves as one looks at a used toaster. It?s a curious argument.
? the same argument that applies to the disposal of a dead body applies as well to the disposition of a living but permanently unconscious one. Thomas Jefferson (one of those dead wise men who we sometimes go to for advice) admonished us that the Earth belongs to the living. Once Terri Schiavo essentially stopped living, it became frivolous to care about what she might prefer.

Now on to the preferences of her husband and parents. This is essentially a fight about what to do with her body: He wants to dispose of it; they want to feed it. And the question arises: Once someone has decided to dispose of a resource, why would we want to stop someone else from retrieving it? If I throw out a toaster, and you want to retrieve it from my trash, there's a net economic gain. If Michael Schiavo essentially throws out his wife's body and her parents want to retrieve it, it seems pointless to prevent them.
Perhaps you should read the whole thing. It actually makes sense, in a very odd way.

Imagine Terri Were a Toaster ?
An economist considers the Schiavo case.
Steven E. Landsburg - Posted Monday, March 28, 2005, at 12:27 PM PT ? SLATE.COM

Since Swift, one knows the essence of irony is keeping one?s readers guessing as to whether you are serious, or you are not. Here? You decide.

Then go read Swift?s ?A Modest Proposal.? Same sort of thing.


Bob Patterson, columnist for Just Above Sunset, the parent site to this web log, comments ?
Used toaster?

I recently bought a used copy of "Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America With Einstein's Brain" (from 2000) by Michael Paterniti. (The Dial Press.) It seems they may make a movie based on this non-fiction book.

The guy who did the autopsy of Albert Einstein took the brain for scientific study? (Wistar Institute is a University of Pennsylvania "facility once famous for its vast collection of brains and bones.") Michael Paterniti was an editor who wound up with the opportunity to drive Thomas Harvey and (honest!) Einstein's brain across America. "On the Road" for Goth geeks?

This is an amazing book. It's like "On The Road" for science nerds. I will do a Book Wrangler column about it soon.

Does any one remember a movie titled "Hitler's Brain"?

There may be some good reasons to cremate Terri Schiavo, but I sincerely hope they do an autopsy before the cremate her.
Why? What?s the point?

One might consider this - Schiavo: case closed (Keith Olbermann)
? Through his attorney, Mr. Schiavo announced that after his wife?s life ends, he will delay the planned cremation of her body, and ask the Chief Medical Examiner of Pinellas County, Florida, to conduct a full autopsy on the cause of her now impending death.

If he, as some blood relatives of his wife now suggest after a decade of suggesting otherwise, somehow abused her, or he led to the heart stoppage that put her in her present state, it is not likely to be missed by the autopsy.

If he, as his in-laws and all of his critics now suggest after nearly a decade of suggesting otherwise, had an ulterior motive in seeking to end her treatment, it is not likely to be missed by the autopsy.

And if the part of her brain that makes her her was not irreparably damaged (in fact, turned to liquid)? as examination after examination and court after court has found? it is certain not to be missed by the autopsy.

In short, Mr. Schiavo has just given his critics three opportunities to prosecute him by authorizing, in fact requesting, the autopsy. If he?s been lying, or the doctors have been wrong, or any of the hysteria stirred up by those operating both in good faith and bad in this case, is true? then he is a complete idiot.

This case should now be considered closed. Obviously it will not be. It will be perpetuated by a few good, sad people who do not want the woman they know as daughter, sister, or friend, to die. It will be perpetuated by others who cannot come to grips with the incongruity of part of her brain still acting automatically, like a stoplight in the middle of a desert. But mostly it will be perpetuated by people who do not and have not given a damn about Terri Schiavo, or her parents, or anyone but themselves and the opportunities to exploit this situation for their own personal or political beliefs.

Michael Schiavo?s insistence on an autopsy will resolve more than just how hopeless his wife?s situation really has been. It will also be an autopsy on the credibility of those who have tried to manipulate her insentient condition. For, unless Michael Schiavo is a battering spouse or murderer, and a complete idiot, his public critics will be revealed as snake-oil salesmen who have not only exploited his wife, but also thousands of Americans who? just like me, and no doubt just like you? would love nothing more than to see Terri Schiavo rise from her bed and go home, happy, healthy, and fully restored.
I suppose it?s the not-yet-really-retired newsman in Bob than wants a scoop ? the husband wants her dead and cremated to cover a murder he committed in cold blood, or some such thing ? but it seems to be just a sad story of unhinged people.

And our friend Vince comments ? ?And by unhinged people - of course - you refer to Karl Rove and fellow persecutors??


Posted by Alan at 19:48 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 29 March 2005 08:37 PST home

Topic: God and US

This is not good - as things come to a point...

Is this the nub of the matter – people who place their faith in the formalities of constitutionalism versus those who place their literal faith in the God-revealed truths they believe are enshrined in the Declaration, truths that alone give meaning, in their eyes, to America as a political project? That about sums it up.

You see, there’s no middle ground possible once you start using the word “murder” as we see here - from Mark A. R. Kleiman, Professor of Policy Studies at the School of Public Policy and Social Research out here at UCLA –
…think of this from the perspective of the people getting their news from Fox and Rush Limbaugh. The feed-Terri forces, including Tom DeLay, have been telling their supporters loudly for two weeks that there's an innocent woman in Florida being killed by her husband and a cabal of judges.

Of course that's not the way the case looks to you and me, but imagine just for a moment that it did.

Consider a case of actual judicial murder. Imagine that some state court judge in Florida had issued what purported to be a "judicial order" under which court officers had seized someone who had accused the judge of corruption and were holding that person in a cell for "contempt of court" and refusing him food and water, hoping for him to die before he could testify against the judge.

And imagine further that the higher-court judges were all part of the same corrupt organization and had refused to interfere with the "order" of the lower court.

Wouldn't you expect the governor to send in the state troopers to rescue the victim? I would. (And if instead the judge had "ordered" the victim killed at once, and there was no time to get a higher court to overrule him, I would absolutely expect the governor to send the troopers in, and even to order them to shoot the court officers if necessary to rescue the prisoner.)

And if the governor were in on the racket, too, wouldn't you expect the President to figure out a way to get the Federal government involved, even if that meant encroaching on the sovereignty of the state? A harder question, but at the very least I'd expect to see the President protesting loudly and persistently, even if the Federal courts for some bizarre reason decided they lacked jurisdiction. I wouldn't be satisfied if he just signed a bill giving them jurisdiction and then shrugged when they refused to exercise it. And if a Congressional committee had the bright idea of issuing a subpoena for the victim and the judge as a way of effectuating a rescue, I'd expect the President to offer the Congress the use of the U.S. Marshals to enforce that subpoena.

So there's no reconciling the rhetoric of "murder" with the failure of the two Bushes to act even more forcefully than they have. What to you and me looks reckless looks, to those who think an innocent person is being starved to death by court order, intolerably weak.

The President "stood up for life" only until it became politically inconvenient. Then he backed off, not even mentioning the "murder victim" in his Easter message.

Once there is no more new news, the Schiavo affair will fade from public consciousness. But the image of the President as a straight shooter, someone who stands up for what he believes in, and someone who manages to get his way has surely suffered, and may not recover soon.

And that damage to the base comes on top of the alienation of reality-based and process conservatives and libertarians, and of whatever the incident might have done to mobilize Democrats.

Wishful thinking? Maybe. But wouldn't it be poetic justice if it worked out that way?
Well, maybe.

And Andrew Sullivan here
… It's been striking lately how the rhetoric of some conservatives has morphed into revolutionary tones. Bill Kristol, at heart an ally of religious radicalism, calls for a revolution against the independent judiciary we now have. Fox News' John Gibson has argued that "the temple of the law is not so sacrosanct that an occasional chief executive cannot flaunt it once in a while." Bill Bennett has said that the courts are not the ultimate means to interpret law and the constitution, that the people, with rights vested in the Declaration of Independence, have a right to over-turn the courts if judges violate natural law precepts such as the right to life. Beneath all this is a struggle between conservatives who place their faith in the formalities of constitutionalism and those who place their literal faith in the God-revealed truths they believe are enshrined in the Declaration, truths that alone give meaning, in their eyes, to America as a political project.
Ah, a civil war on the way – this one concerning theocracy as a model. A war for God’s rule… or man’s. I wish God told ME what he wanted.

Think I’m kidding?

In Ohio the religious right openly says their aim is to take control of the state government - “to win control of local government posts and Republican organizations" in Ohio.
In a manifesto that is being circulated among church leaders and on the Internet, the group, which is called the Ohio Restoration Project, is planning to mobilize 2,000 evangelical, Baptist, Pentecostal and Roman Catholic leaders in a network of so-called Patriot Pastors to register half a million new voters, enlist activists, train candidates and endorse conservative causes in the next year.
And the Washington Post reports this
Some pharmacists across the country are refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control and morning-after pills, saying that dispensing the medications violates their personal moral or religious beliefs.

The trend has opened a new front in the nation's battle over reproductive rights, sparking an intense debate over the competing rights of pharmacists to refuse to participate in something they consider repugnant and a woman's right to get medications her doctor has prescribed. It has also triggered pitched political battles in statehouses across the nation as politicians seek to pass laws either to protect pharmacists from being penalized -- or force them to carry out their duties.
And this from the magazine Proud Parenting -
(Lansing, Michigan) Doctors or other health care providers could not be disciplined or sued if they refuse to treat gay patients under legislation passed Wednesday by the Michigan House.

The bill allows health care workers to refuse service to anyone on moral, ethical or religious grounds.

The Republican dominated House passed the measure as dozens of Catholics looked on from the gallery. The Michigan Catholic Conference, which pushed for the bills, hosted a legislative day for Catholics on Wednesday at the state Capitol.

The bills now go the Senate, which also is controlled by Republicans.

The Conscientious Objector Policy Act would allow health care providers to assert their objection within 24 hours of when they receive notice of a patient or procedure with which they don't agree. …
Well, something is up.

Posted by Alan at 19:40 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: God and US

Quote of the day…

AFP (yes, the French news service - Agence France Press) offers a run-of-the-mill story from Pennsylvania.

Teaching Darwin splits Pennsylvania town
Sunday, 27 March 2005
DOVER, United States (AFP) - The pastoral fields and white frame houses appear at peace, but this Pennsylvania farm town is deeply at war over teaching Darwin or Christian creationism in its schools.

Since last year the school board voted to have high school biology teachers raise doubts about Darwin's 145-year-old theory and suggest an alternative Christian explanation for life. The city has since been deeply riven over the issue of separation of church and state.

In January the school board ordered teachers to tell students that Darwinism is not proved, and to teach as well an alternate theory, "intelligent design," which posits that a grand creator, God, is responsible for the development of living organisms.

"Darwin's theory is a theory ... not a fact," the school board declared in their statement to the teachers. "Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view," said the report.

The command landed in the sprawling, red-brick Dover high school like a bomb. Biology teachers refused to read it, while around 15 students walked out in protest.
"Reading it sends the message that it is a legitimate scientific idea or theory," said Jen Miller, a biology teacher who is also a church-goer and daughter of a minister.

As news of the dispute spread, the small city of 25,000 found itself the focus of a national battle over Darwinism, creationism and the role of religion in schools. …
And it goes on and on.

But the killer quote? Pastor and parent Ray Mummert – “We've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture!

Poor baby! I feel his pain! You really do have to be wary of such folks.

Posted by Alan at 19:31 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

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