William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Category: Culture (page 1 of 170)

The best that has been thought and written and why these ideals are difficult to meet.

U Penn’s Latest Conn: Religious Schools Shouldn’t Be Accredited

We sell only the best educations. Trust me!

We sell only the best educations. Trust me!

Tell the truth: English Departments at our “top” universities are stuffed to the quad with (A) Progressives or (B) Conservatives?

Anybody claiming (B) is either ignorant (I mean this politely) of university politics or lying, and probably lying. Does the correct answer, (A), thus imply English Departments contain only leftist ideologues? No, sir, it does not. It does however mean that the majority of the faculty will be slavishly devoted to NPR and Jon Stewart, and that the minority of tradition-minded faculty will have learned to keep their mouths shut, or face being purged.

Here’s another opportunity for truthfulness: would you rather have your offspring learn English from a Department which bases its lessons on books chosen for (A) political correctness and the demographic characteristics and sexual proclivities (and excesses) of their authors, or (B) their intrinsic beauty and cultural importance?

If you said (A), then you’ll be happy to learn that our top universities, each accredited by sober agencies, are just the place. Think of accreditation as a secular imprimatur, an official guarantee that your child will not be able to take her mind off race and sex, even if she wanted to.

But if (B) is your choice, well, you’re running out of options. Best bet is to try a smaller school, perhaps even a Christian one (like many top schools used to be, e.g. Harvard, Georgetown). If you told the truth on the first question, you already know why.

Christian and religious schools are accredited, too. They (think they) have to be. Money is on the line. Our government, in its wisdom, says schools must be accredited else no loans to students, and no money to the schools, either (a simplification, but largely on the mark). If a school lacks accreditation, the credits earned by students won’t be transferable, and degree-obsessed employers might not accept the diploma.

The aptly named Peter Conn, a professor of English and education at the University of Pennsylvania, wants Christian schools to lose their accreditation. He says that any Christian school receives accreditation is a farce, as he wrong in he Chronicle of Higher Education.

Conn is upset at the insularity of religious schools. His obvious unfamiliarity with Christianity explains why he doesn’t know Matthew 7:3. Don’t bother to look it up. It’s the one about the plank in the eye.

Conn, a man, says accreditation “confers legitimacy on institutions that systematically undermine the most fundamental purposes of higher education.” Purpose? Hmm. Conn’s school is hosting a talk by Amanda Lock Swarr, “Forcing Sex: Violent Contestations over South African Masculinities.” Where “In preparation, we will be reading the introduction to Sex in Transition as well as ‘Paradoxes of Butchness: Lesbian Masculinities and Sexual Violence in Contemporary South Africa.’”

Or you could attend the Queer Method Conference, but I’m afraid we’ve already missed the ARCH center’s symposium on Addressing Global Rape Culture.

Conn, a man, says, “Skeptical and unfettered inquiry is the hallmark of American teaching and research.” Conn, a man, says, “such inquiry cannot flourish—in many cases, cannot even survive—inside institutions that erect religious tests for truth. The contradiction is obvious.”

At U. Penn, you can sign up for ENGL 090.401, Gender, Sexuality and Literature: Our Cyborgs, Our Selves: “Women’s bodies have also been among scifi’s most persistent objects of analysis…” Or ENGL 390.401, Reproductive Fictions: “fictional narratives often prompt us to consider how and why certain bodies, lives, and social structures are reproduced.”

Conn, a man, says accrediting Christian schools is a “scandal” and a “fiasco” and that it “makes a mockery of whatever academic and intellectual standards the process of accreditation is supposed to uphold.”

At U. Penn, you can take ENGL 769.401 Feminisms and Postcolonialities: “…to explore key intersections of gender and sexuality with the dynamics of colonialism, decolonization, nationhood, and globalization.”

Conn, a man, says, “Let me be clear. I have no particular objection to like-minded adherents of one or another religion banding together, calling their association a college, and charging students for the privilege of having their religious beliefs affirmed.”

Hey, Conn, man, I agree with you. It has “become a melancholy fact of our contemporary cultural life” that university humanities departments have become bastions of asininities and foolish thought.

My advice to tradition- and reason-based schools is to skip accreditation. Do you really want to be in the same camp with Conn’s English Department? Accreditation costs too much anyway. Eschew government money. Do you really want to grip the purse strings of an increasingly immoral Mother?

Your Big Government Update

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Government Is Driving Inequality

One thing my lefty friends are right about is the growing number of rich. The distributions of income and of wealth are moving ever farther from uniform.

The left say it is the fault of corporations, like Google and Apple, and it is true that they’re raking it in. But to say it is the fault of corporations is like blaming the fever for the disease.

CNBC’s Rick Santelli—the guy whose previous rant launched the Tea Party—is back and has identified the cause. Government. The plot above is from Brian Maloney, a Santelli supporter, which he summarizes with these points:

1. By keeping interest rates artificially low, the Janet Yellen-led Federal Reserve has encouraged reckless government borrowing and spending while crushing savers, especially America’s retirees.

2. The Fed has focused all its efforts on making the rich even richer through Quantitative Easing while working people suffer and are ignored by Washington’s elite.

The most fun you can have is to show your lefty friends that Democrats and other big government supporters have more money (or at least no less) than Republicans and small government advocates. Big government supporters support monetary policies which make them richer. The evidence for this abounds, but it does not compute. And is therefore never accepted.

Instead, there are ever more calls for larger government to punish “the rich.” The punishment works, to an extent. Some are ruined, but except for a pittance the money flows to those who already have it. Income and wealth inequality grows.

This is why you have Joe Biden and Mrs Clinton running around saying they are “poor” and “dead broke”. Clinton shifted her millions and millions and millions into a fund which, by an accounting trick, is no longer her “personal” money. But who decides how it is spent? She does. Hilarious. Consequence? “Hillary cares for us!”

Trick is know when to move to cash. I’m thinking soon, soon. Near the mid-terms? Or closer to when our dear leader exits the scene?

Hobby Lobby Theocracy

Apoplexy wasn’t in it the day after the Hobby Lobby decision. A theocracy was only days away, screeched the left.

And you know what? The left were right again. A theocracy is coming, and when it arrives, those who refuse to deposit a pinch of incense into the flames will take it in the neck.

The new, or new-ish, religion is The State. Worship of, propitiation given to, prayers offered to, earnest supplicants for The State. The State is mother, The State is father.

Remember The State’s parable of Julia? She was held as the ideal congregant. A human being who from her lucky escape from the womb to her death relied on only one thing. The State.

Here’s what the new acolytes were angry about. The State said to employers, “Thou shalt give your employees these drugs and thou art forbidden to require from them any recompense.” Those employers who worshiped a different God said no. Sacrilege! That is the only thing that could have accounted for the frenzied anger. A god has been dishonored!

It’s true that some of the outrage was conditioned on the flight from reality (and science) that began with birth control and ends (or at least pauses before discovering a new diversion) with calls for State recognition of polyamory. Incidentally, remember when some of us predicted that? Slippery slope, said our unthinking enemies. Sigh.

That The State said It Shall Be and it wasn’t was too much for worshipers to assimilate. No debate was welcome or possible because, well, who can question a god?

Since the natural enemy of The State is Nature, which is to say Reality, look for ever shriller calls for its debasement.

The Curse of Doorknobs

Just so you don’t think it’s all doom and gloom around here, a bright (or at least funny) spot. Vancouver a short while back gave the cry, “What about the children!” and banned doorknobs.

Yes, doorknobs! Vancouver banned doorknobs.

The State having spoken, functional devices which previously all thought harmless and of little except decorative interest were seen as the true evil menaces they really were. The State cannot err.

Replacing doorknobs are those handle-type openers. If you want to see what one looks like, click to the Daily Mail, which has a picture of one sticking out of the arm of a schoolboy who ran into one.

Now I know what you’re going to say, and you’re right. At least he didn’t run into a doorknob!

Comment Policy

If you are an employee of The State, or rely on it for the majority of your living, common courtesy requires you to self-identify your conflict of interest. (Right, JH?)

Update High priests dispatched to investigate possible blasphemy.

Don’t Go To Confession; Humpty-Dumptying The English Language; More

Australian Anglicans unveil their new confessional.

Australian Anglicans unveil their new confessional.

A Time To Die

The play is done! But, as you can see, you cannot see it. This being the 5th of July and a Saturday in what must be a very long weekend, I decided to hold off posting it until next week when there is a better chance of people being near their computers.

Regular readers will remember that George R.R. Martin offered to accept $20,000 from any of his readers who longed to be killed off in a ghastly manner in his next novel. Not being as famous as Martin, I offered the same service for the low, low introductory price of $10.

Though the hour is late, there is still a chance to participate. Click the Donate tab at the top and I’ll find a way to squeeze you into your grave. But before you do, you’d better…

Go To Confession

But not in the Anglican Church in Australia. The enlightened leaders of that organization are now forcing priests to rat out parishioners who confess to acts which carry jail terms of at least five years.

“Forgive me, enlightened one, for I have sinned. It has been forty-two weeks since my last confession.”

“Go on, my son.”

“I accidentally side-swiped another car on my way home last week and didn’t report it.”

Sounds of pages flipping. “Were you at the time going more than 40 KPH?”

“Um, I don’t recall. Maybe.”

“Hmm….” More page flipping. “Well, was the other car moving at the time?”

“No, it was parked.”

Flip, flip, flip. “Now we’re getting somewhere. Was this on a public street or in a private lot? Such as might be found at a Drake’s Supermarket?”

“Right on the street.”

“One final question. Were you drinking at the time?”

“Well, I might have had one or two beers at the pub. But I was fine to drive.”

“My son, according to the Criminal Code, if you’re found guilty—and you have just confessed to the crime, so that is not really in question—your offense has a maximum sentence of six years. I’ll be sending a recording of this conversation to the police. Slide your ID through the slot. I’d advise you not to attempt to flee. That can add considerably to your tariff…”

Confession no longer means what it used to mean, and this is because of…

Humpty Dumpty’s Revenge

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

How many remember Carroll wrote Alice as a parody of intellectual insanity? Never mind. Satire isn’t what it used to be. The danger of the absurd becoming the normal is too great to attempt it.

Case in point. The enlightened leaders of Vancouver’s public schools have, in their new “LGBTTQ+” policy, mandated the use of “gender-free pronouns xe, xem and xyr” (PDF). These replace the usual masculine and feminine pronouns, which, if accidentally heard by (say) a boy pretending to be a girl, might hurt his feelings.

“The Vancouver Board of Education’s policy also includes making restroom and sports activities accessible to all transgender students, regardless of their biological sex.”

How many boys will pretend, at least for the day, to be girls to have access to the girls’ locker room?

Mike Lombardi, vice chairman of the Vancouver Board of Education, said his Humpty-Dumptying of the English language will “create a safe learning environment for every child.”

Don’t giggle, dear reader. Just wait until the school board sends home a form which has been purged of “hurtful” (science- and reality-based) pronouns and which requires you to participate in the Humpty-Dumptying. If you refuse, it will be you who is deemed to be mentally ill, not the fantasists.

Gender no longer means biological sex or grammatical classification of nouns but, “A socially constructed concept of identity based on roles, activities, and appearance such as masculine, feminine, androgynous, etc.”

So if you believe you are a fish, you are a fish. And everybody else ought to believe you’re a fish, too. Who insists you are not a fish is a speciophobe. In this way, socially constructed means self constructed. Reality does not choose your identity, you do. And your choice cannot be questioned. Whatever crime against reality you commit, others must also commit to honor your choice.

This is the way of the malleist. Reality itself must obey our commands.

On Your Duty To Dress Well

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There was no argument about it. I looked good. Overcoat, scarf, brown fedora, all topping an old-fashioned, close-to-the-body cut suit, tie, pocket square, adult shoes. The rule is: never skimp on shoes or hats, because it always shows. But everything else came from thrift stores.

One of the fellows who sat across from me obviously put just as much effort into his outfit. Doubtless he agreed with me that dressing well is a duty, that looking good makes for a superior and pleasant citizenry, that sloppiness in appearance is a manifestation of sloppiness in morals.

His t-shirt had the exact right shade of irony; the superhero emblazoned on it hadn’t been seen on television in decades. This signaled his lone-wolfiness. His jeans had an artful rip, surely put there by the designer who must have labored hours deciding exactly where to place it. Neon tennis shoes, probably costing more than my entire outfit. His greasy hair, each strand placed to look like it wasn’t placed, and scruffy beard were standard-issue hipster, but maybe that’s because he considered his Google Glasses would cause people to overlook this unoriginality.

He was right. So aware of that geeky carbuncle was I that I couldn’t think of anything but how I wanted to slap it off his face. I don’t like having my picture taken. At least he was the best, or at least most honestly, dressed of the trio that interviewed me.

The outcome was as predetermined as the color of the pocket square I would choose. Which I would have known had I first read the fate of another well dressed gentleman interviewing with the poorly attired:

The cognitive dissonance on display is painful to see. As in: Clothing is totally not a big deal! Because we’re cool like that! But it’s plain that it biased the interviewers. The team’s disappointment upon seeing the suit was immediate and unanimous. If you truly believe that suit equals loser, you can’t help it. Nevertheless, the fiction of objectivity has to be maintained, so he denies it to the candidate’s face, to us, and himself.

Scene Two. Wedding followed immediately by a reception on site. Plenteous good food and drink music and dancing. And well dressed people, their outfits showing an awareness of the occasion. At least until the meal ended, and then a few folks dashed out to disrobe and put on their Standard Summer Ugly, defined as message t-shirt, shorts, and garish shoes (Winter is the same, except the shorts are replaced by jeans). The reason given? Comfort.

Now just you take a look at the picture of Mr Sean Connery above. Perfectly dressed. Does he appear uncomfortable to you? No, sir. He does not.

Here, from the same source, is a man skating while dressed as a gentleman should be. Does he appear uncomfortable? No, sir. He does not.

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My late grandfather had a picture of his dad and uncle fishing in the Detroit river from around the turn of the last century. Both men carried stringers, bait, rods, and wore three-piece suits, because why? Because that is what men did. They knew they had a duty to society to look their best, even when at leisure.

My great grandfather and uncle did not look uncomfortable. Indeed, they were, as my grandpa assured me, at ease. I was not uncomfortable in the interview, except when peered at from behind a direct feed to the NSA (motto: We’re spying on you for you own good).

Of course, it goes without saying that Cary Grant had a right to dress like he didn’t give a damn about his onlookers, but he knew that the social contract required he do better.

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If you are uncomfortable in your adult clothes, likely as not it is a habitual mental aberration, cured by stopping thinking about it. But it’s also probable that the fit of your garments stinks.

The boxy suits sold nowadays are designed for 1950s barrel-shaped robots, not men. This too is easily fixed. Take your purchases to a tailor and have him alter them to your body. Do not trust the department stores to do this for you. We’ll speak of this more later, but you will find that clothes meant to fit you and not some generic statistical homme moyen are eminently comfortable. Movement will be easy and free. And you will look good—as you should.

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Thanks to our friend John Cook for the picture source.

Companies Should NOT Be Forced To Fund Employees’ Birth Control. SCOTUS Update

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Update The original post appeared on 26 March 2014. See the second update below for commentary on the Supreme Court decision, which I think is only a small, temporary victory. But do read the original, too. You’d hate to make an argument that’s already been shown to be fallacious, right?

Why should a company be forced to pay for its employees’ contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization services just because its employees are employees?

There is no justifiable answer to that question, though I invite you to provide one. There are several popular irrational answers. (If you are going to comment, and you do not answer this question, we will assume your answer is they should not.) Here are the major ones.

(1) The government mandates that they should. It is true that the government mandates that businesses—such as the Little Sisters of the Poor—provide these services, while also forbidding businesses recompense. But this is not an answer to the question because it is circular: the government mandates because the government mandates.

(2) We can’t let businesses control the sex lives of their employees. A non sequitur. The sex lives of employees are their own business, not the business of businesses. Indeed, this answer is backwards. The government is mandating that employers meddle in the sex lives of their employees by providing, at “no cost”, items which make certain sexual activities more desirable and therefore more likely (why worry so much about getting drunk and sleeping with the wrong guy if you know your boss will pay for a morning after pill?). Not giving condoms free is not “meddling” with anybody.

(3) It makes good business sense. Pregnant employees are costly and those raising families are less attentive to their duties. Let this be true: businesses who refuse to pay for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization services will experience greater expenses and suffer lower incomes than companies which provide them. But it is not within the purview of government to force private businesses to take specified levels of profit. If a man of business feels he would rather forgo 30 pieces of silver than violate his conscience, that is his call and not the government’s. And then the statement is not true, or at least not always. Employees from stable, traditional families are often observed to be good, stable, and productive employees.

(4) Employees who are given these sexual services are healthier, and healthier employees make for better business. Again, let this be true. But employees should make provisions for their own health. Saying that employers must be responsible for the health of their employees, especially in sexual matters, is circular and absurd (except in special and rare cases where the employment activity is dangerous; and even here it is doubtful, because the employee freely enters into a relationship with his employer). If employers were responsible for the health of employees, the burden on employers would be vast (should employers necessarily monitor the food employees eat?). And again, the statement is not generally true.

(5) The government already mandates employers pay for other services. These are just additions. This is circular: that the government has already forced employers to fund other things is not justification that employers should fund still more. If anything, given the burden employers already face, and which causes them to hire fewer employees rather than more, this argues that employers should pay for fewer services.

(6) If we let employers get away without paying, they might be able to get away without paying others in the future. Slippery slope. Governmental control for the last century has been in one direction: increasing. There is no reason in the world to suppose government will allow any diminution in control.

(7) Letting people not pay because of religious beliefs is a clear violation of Church and State. This assumes what it set out to prove: that all employers must pay. It is therefore circular. And even if it were not, there is no “clear violation.” A man’s right to practice his religion, and not just his right to worship, is ensconced in the Constitution, whereas a woman’s “right” to “birth control” pills is found nowhere in that document. And the religious beliefs in question are not minor nor recent: these are long-standing, foundational moral questions, the very guide of life for many religious people.

(8) Even if individuals can have religious rights, corporations cannot. The government can force the mandate on corporations. First, the government is forcing the mandate on corporations and individuals. Second, it’s false to say corporations, like the Little Sisters, cannot be religious. Think of a corporation formed by religious whose purpose is to disseminate materials on the evils of contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization services. (These exist.)

(9) If employees must pay for these expensive services, they will have less money. This is true. But it is equally true that if employers must pay for these services, they will have less money, perhaps so much less that they have to fire (or not hire) other employees. It does not follow that because an item wanted by some employees is expensive, that the employer because he has more money should be mandated to purchase the item for his employee. After all, housing and food costs more than condoms, but we do not require employers to provide them free.

(10) It’s too late. The government already passed its mandate. We’re only talking about the pernicious influence of religion and what the law should be. Circular: assumes that employers must pay because the government mandates they pay. If anything, we’re talking about pernicious effect of secularists who would prohibit free expression of religion.

On the contrary, the question seems never to have been asked, its answer assumed by those who would desire the government mandate employers provide these services. It is enough for many that the government demands it, and that some (vocal) people want to have these services without having to foot their own bills, to conclude that the mandate is valid. But every argument which asserts this is circular, as shown. Attempts to bypass the question via a shift to balancing religious over “women’s” rights are non sequiturs.

I answer that the government’s mandate is a move to ingratiate itself with a portion of the public in an effort to secure its future cooperation. This is done in two ways. The first is by appeal to emotion, e.g. promulgating a “War on women!”, and the second by disguising increased taxation. The mandate just is an indirect tax. How? Those with money, because they are “employers”, are told to surrender the money and give it to others. Only the step of first handing the monies to a bureaucrat who would then redistribute them is missing. Since the mandate is a tax, it will in general lead to a drop in employment and economic activity, as these are the effects of most taxation.

The mandate is also responsible for increased servility in the public, already at dangerous levels. People demand a thing, politicians and bureaucrats anxious for power award the thing by forcing “the rich” to provide it. People don’t care where the thing comes from, as long as it arrives. The line between business and Government blurs, and finally fades, both in the minds of the public and in reality. After all, both are the “source” which gives, gives, gives. The part of the business which remains free is seen by the public as not yet regulated and therefore to be suspected (“You didn’t build that”). Why doesn’t the government mandate employers provide meals, housing, clothing, transportation? Aren’t these more important to women’s health (men are curiously left out of these arguments) than condoms and the like?

For the public—especially women: those women will not be responsible for their own bodies and demand to suffer no consequences from being female—the only surviving argument, and a powerful one, is I want it.

Update Another popular argument, encapsulated in this headline: Andrea Mitchell Slams Hobby Lobby: ‘What Right Do They Have to Interfere With Medical Decisions by Women?’. So a woman makes a “medical decision” to engage in, say, unprotected sexual intercourse and it thus becomes somebody else’s responsibility to foot the bill for the consequences of her behavior. Not paying is “interfering.” This is obviously absurd.

SCOTUS Update The SCOTUS decision is in and, for once, it’s good news. Of a sort. Hobby Lobby won on the grounds of religious freedom, which is nice in its way. But they should have won on the grounds the government has no right to force employers to give without requiring any obligation contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization services to their employees just because they are employees.

A certain segment of our population has suffered the conniption fit most glorious over the ruling (e.g. among many here and here). “Today’s decision from five male justices is a direct attack on women and our fundamental rights,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and echoed by Nancy Pelosi. Elizabeth Warren said, “Can’t believe we live in a world where we’d even consider letting big corps deny women access to basic care based on vague moral objections.”

Heaven forfend any should have moral objection, vague or otherwise. Did we not know that morality is old hat? Rather, we have pride in our immorality.

Forget it. These ladies have somehow derived or discovered the heretofore unknown and preposterous fundamental right possessed of all women to be given whatever they demand merely because they demand it. What’s troubling is that their opponents in power do not deny this sexist absurdity (men are not given the equal “right”). Instead, they sheepishly point to (the true) necessity of religious freedom. “We’d force employers if we could, but First Amendment and all that. Just please don’t say we’re anti-woman!”

Which is precisely what they are saying and will say. The trouble with winning victories on the wrong grounds is that they are all too often fleeting. This SCOTUS decision is like a retreating army feeling a stand of trees to dissuade the advance of its foes. It buys some time and brings some joy, but the enemies’ arms have not been destroyed and they will soon find another path.

Until we attack the idea that the State is God, that it can give us whatever we want, “free” and as if by magic, there will be no end to this culture war. In his concurring opinion the sometime literate Justice Kennedy suggested that since religious people cannot be coerced into footing the bill of women’s proclivities, instead the government should pay. After this suggestion is accepted, thus will Hobby Lobby still foot the bill, albeit indirectly.

And thus will the government seem mightier than before. And thus will the immorality caused by these “free” “women’s health” accoutrement increase.

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