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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope


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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection: Feels Like Rain, performed by Buddy Guy and Bonnie Raitt

The left-wing stranglehold on academia

Neil Gross, a sociologist at the University of British Columbia, has recently completed a study about liberal dominance of institutions of higher learning. Its conclusions are discouraging for conservatives, but not surprising:

Neil Gross is a sociologist at the University of British Columbia who previously held posts at the University of Southern California and Harvard, has a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, and received undergraduate training at Berkeley. He edits Sociological Theory and has written a book on the liberal philosopher Richard Rorty.

He has all the markers of an academic on the left, and Gross confesses in his introduction to this study of faculty politics that he has “very liberal social attitudes” and that his views on the economy and law are center-left. Nevertheless, he registers clearly the overwhelming ideological slant of higher education. Reviewing survey and voter registration data, he concludes that “the professoriate either contains the highest proportion of liberals of any occupation in the United States for the period 1996-2010 or is right behind another famously liberal occupational group, authors and journalists.”
It’s a galling situation for people on the right, and the response by people on the left only makes it worse. If the underrepresented group were a favored one, liberal observers would invoke disparate-impact theory, which holds that any situation that is demographically disproportionate signifies bias at work and needs public intervention. But in this case, the excluded group is conservatives, which makes the imbalance the conservatives’ own fault. 
Gross examines and debunks various hypotheses which are frequently put forward to explain or excuse this phenomenon before coming to this conclusion:

Why is academia liberal, then? Gross’s data indicate that it isn’t because liberals and conservatives have different values or mental habits, or that liberals discriminate against right-leaning graduate students and job candidates. Rather, it is because academia has a reputation for liberalism, and conservative undergraduates decide on their own not to continue in the field.
The key moment, Gross maintains, is the decision whether or not to go to graduate school. Young conservatives may not know all that much about academia at the faculty level, but popular stereotypes and a few off-putting experiences in class can sufficiently discourage them from pursuing academia as a site for success. A freshman orientation session that divides white males from everyone else, incessant talk about diversity, multiculturalist reading assignments, and so on may not bother them that much (and they can always find safe spaces such as College Republicans), but such things do convince young conservatives that staying on campus as a career move is foolish. An English major who reveres Great Books needs only one occasion of a teaching assistant ridiculing him for a dead-white-male fixation to decide, “I don’t need this.”
I've often wondered how conservatism survives considering the absolute dominance of liberals in elementary, secondary and post-secondary education. I think it's probably because a lot of young people become conservatives when they start earning a living and they realize for the first time how much the tentacles of the state slither into their paychecks and their personal lives. Freedom is a powerful instinct.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection: Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart perform I'll Take Care of You:

When I dream

I tend to view everything through a political lens. My friends know not to bring up certain topics in social situations because of the risk setting me off. My brother, who is apolitical, once told me I was "tortured by politics".  One of the reasons I started this blog was to provide an outlet for my rants so that my friends and family didn't have to listen to them. So, it comes as no surprise to me that politics sometimes invades my subconscious.

I had a very elaborate dream last night. In it, I was a university student at a huge and futuristic campus that was beside a lake. I was walking with a female friend who was rushing to get to class - she said "You don't keep Ronald Reagan waiting, you know." She told me she was taking a course given by Ronald Reagan, and that it was top secret and only open to invited students. I begged her to take me with her, and she agreed to sneak me in just one time.

We went to a huge open square that had a big platform in the centre with a classroom on it that looked like the bridge on the Enterprise in Star Trek. Reagan was seated in a large chair in the centre like Captain Kirk and all the students were arranged around him in swivel chairs. When the lecture started, all the lights dimmed and costumed actors appeared on the square while Reagan narrated the action in his best "tear down this wall" voice.

In the first scenario, dozens of people appeared in brightly coloured rain coats and milled about. Then it started to rain and the rain-coated people all formed a single line and stood in the downpour. Reagan asked the students what it meant, like he was asking his disciples what a proverb meant. Someone said "It's the spontaneous order generated by the free market in response to price signals." Reagan said "Well, that's the obvious interpretation."

By then the next scenario had started. A door opened at the side of the square into an elevator that was filled with flames. A man appeared beside me with his clothes on fire, but he wasn't burning or in any pain. He turned to me and said "Well, Eric - should I go into the elevator?" Everyone turned to look at me, and Reagan said "Well, should he?" I didn't know what to say, so Reagan clapped his hands and all the lights came on, and he said "That's all for today people."

As we were filing out, my friend looked at me with disappointment like I hadn't made the cut. I begged her to get me added to the course so I could learn what I was supposed to have said, but she just shook her head sadly. I went to the Registrar's office and asked to be added to Ronald Reagan's course, but they said no such course existed, and that Reagan wasn't even on the staff of the university.

I can imagine a psychoanalyst stroking his goatee and saying "Interesting - what do YOU think it means?" after hearing this story, but I'll leave that can of worms unopened for now. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Life in the Ivory Tower: Brown University asks "are you curious about prostate play?"

Brown University, the Ivy League school located in Providence, Rhode Island, is hosting its annual "Sex Week" and as part of the festivities sexologist Charlie Glickman will teach male students “how much fun prostate stimulation can be”:
The official event description asks students: “Are you curious about prostate play?”
Glickman will “talk about the common concerns that sometimes keep people from exploring it (and how to overcome them), tips for easy and pleasurable anal penetration, prostate massage, which toys work best for prostate fun, pegging, combining prostate pleasure with other kinds of sex, and much more,” it continues.
Following the presentation the school will host a night of “sex and chocolate in the dark” where students are advised to “bring blankets, pillows, friends, and questions for a night of cozy conversation in a dark, anonymyzing [sic] space.”
The events are part of Brown University’s annual sex week, paid for by the student activities office.
The week of activities are set to conclude with a “Lace and Leather Burlesque Show.”
Brown, founded in 1764, is the seventh-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States, and is ranked 15th among US national universities by US News & World Report. It is also one of the most difficult schools to get into, with an admission rate of 8.7% of applicants. Distinguished alumni include John D. Rockefeller Jr., John F. Kennedy Jr., and Ted Turner. Undergraduate tuition costs almost $43 000 a year.

I guess they don't call it "brown" for nothing.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection: Eric Burdon sings The Devil and Jesus, from his new album 'Til Your River Runs Dry:

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Harper's anti-gay agenda finally revealed

Wait ... what? He's backing the opponents of pending anti-gay legislation in Uganda? Well, this is certainly awkward.

I remember walking past a crowd of protesters in Toronto during the 2006 election who were chanting, among other things, "Racist, sexist, anti-gay! Stephen Harper go away!" That attitude was pervasive among the bien-pensants of the Annex and the faculty lounges at U of T and York, and it still persists. All it would take, we were told, was a Conservative majority government and then the Secret Agenda would be revealed, bound in baby seal skin and sewn with human hair, and gays would be rounded up by the army and sent to concentration camps on Baffin Island.

I've never experienced homophobia from Conservatives, although I've engaged in many lively but respectful debates about gay marriage with my fellow travellers. I don't believe that most Conservatives, including the Prime Minister, are homophobic. Yes, there are people in the Conservative Party who are bigots, including some MPs, but there are also bigots on the Liberal and NDP benches too (I wrote about that here if you're interested). Most Conservatives I know are laissez-faire on the subject of sexuality, and although we may disagree about gay marriage, we absolutely agree on the subject of basic human rights.

So, it comes as no surprise to me that the Harper government is quietly supporting opponents of  a draconian law working its way through the Parliament of Uganda which aims to rid the country of homosexuals:
Canada is quietly financing a concerted grassroots effort to aid gay Ugandans’ fight against their country’s proposed anti-homosexuality bill — and preparing them in case it passes, says a senior Department of Foreign Affairs source.
Since November, when the Ugandan Parliament renewed its effort to pass the legislation, which Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has called “abhorrent,” Canada has spent $200,000 to kick-start several gay rights initiatives in the region. The source confirmed that the Canadian involvement was specifically focused on fighting the Ugandan bill.
Homosexuality is already criminalized, but the proposed legislation would renew and reinvigorate efforts to rid Uganda of its gay population, and has attracted sweeping international condemnation.
The bill sought stiff jail terms for homosexuals, and those who failed to report them to the authorities, and in some cases life imprisonment. Legislators also sought to implement the death penalty for Ugandans who practise homosexual acts with an “aggravating factor,” which includes a spate of criteria, including being HIV-positive.
 The Ugandan bill is truly abhorrent. Among other things, it specifies the death penalty for the crime of "aggravated homosexuality":
[The bill would] Define a new crime of “aggravated homosexuality” for those who engage in sex with someone under the age of 18, who are HIV-positive, who is a “repeat offender” (so broadly defined as to include anyone who has had a relationship with more than one person, or who had sex with the same person more than once), or who had sex with a disabled person (consensual or not). The penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” is death by hanging.
Bravo to the Conservative government for not only taking a stand on this issue, but putting resources in the hands of local opponents on the ground in Africa. I'm proud to be a Conservative right now.

Saturday, March 02, 2013