Friday, April 8, 2011

Thoughts on a Government Shutdown

Random thoughts on the impending government shutdown:
  • Some 800,000 "non-essential" workers will be furloughed. If they're non-essential why are the taxpayers paying for them in the first place?
  • The GOP has passed a rider that would ensure that in the event of a shutdown military families would be paid. The President has promised to veto it. Why? He calls compensating the families of those who are facing mortal peril every day to keep us safe from Islamic extremists a "distraction". A distraction?
  • Democrats have been all over the media declaring that Republicans are going to shut down the government over funding to Planned Parenthood, the Environmental Protection Agency, and National Public Radio. I don't understand this. Republicans are trying to find money to cut from our budget anywhere it is currently being spent on "non-essential" items. Neither PP, the EPA, nor NPR is essential, but the Democrats refuse to pass a continuing resolution that would keep the government functioning if it contains cuts to these programs. So, my question is why isn't it the Democrats who are going to shut down the government over funding to PP, EPA, and NPR?
  • Isn't Planned Parenthood a private corporation? Why are taxpayers subsidizing them in the first place?
  • For the last two years Democrats have tried to portray Republicans as the "party of 'No' ". Who is it that's saying "No" to passing the continuing resolution?
  • Of fifteen departments in the government  the Departments of Health and Human Services, Energy, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, and Education could cease to exist altogether at a savings of hundreds of billions of dollars and no one would miss them except the employees of those departments.

The End of the World

With footage of the horrific tsunami that devastated Japan fresh in our minds and the dire predictions of Al Gore about global warming still buzzing about, I thought I'd share this video animation of what would happen on earth if an asteroid the size of Japan hit the planet. According to scientists it'd make Mr. Gore's global warming scenarios seem like a cruise to Antarctica in winter.

Note: The relevant part of the video stops at about 6:50. The narration that follows was somehow tacked on by whoever posted the video to YouTube and has nothing to do with the first 7 minutes:
I was piqued by a couple of things mentioned toward the end of the video. The narrator claimed that scientists believe there've been a half dozen such strikes in the history of the earth and that they caused the earth's temperature to rise so high that the planet is completely sterilized. If so, how did living things repopulate the earth's surface? What was left to re-establish life? Or did these collisions occur before the first life is believed to have evolved?

It was also claimed that in such a catastrophe the oceans vaporize and situate themselves as a canopy of vapor high in the atmosphere for thousands of years before precipitating back to earth in torrents of rain water, refilling the ocean basins. Does that sound like anything one might find in, say, the first few chapters of Genesis? Just asking.

One last thought. Might the asteroid and its effects on the planet be an apt metaphor for our national budget deficit?

Law School PC

A former student of mine named Caleb, who now attends law school at Widener, sends me this dispatch from the culture war front:
There is a professor here, Lawrence Connell, who teaches criminal law and criminal procedure, along with a couple other occasional classes. Professor Connell was the faculty advisor for the Federalist Society, and is one of the few conservative professors on campus. Last spring, he taught a criminal law class, where, apparently, he made various "violent" hypotheticals.

It is common for criminal law classes to feature rather violent situations, in order to discuss the differences between murder, manslaughter, etc. What made these hypos different is that he used the Dean in several hypos (i.e. "The Dean made me mad so I shot her;" I was not in the class, so this is second hand, but that is a fair representation of the types of hypos that were done). It is, I should mention, common for professors to use the Dean, other professors, or even students in hypos. I should also at this point mention that our Dean is a black woman (Linda Ammons), and Prof. Connell is a white male.

Fast forward to the fall, when I was in one of his two criminal procedure classes. There were no violent hypos in this class, but rather hypos about criminal activity (for example, "A police officer sees a black dude walking down the street and he has a bulge in his coat. The officer does a Terry stop. Has there been a 4th Amendment violation?") At the end of the semester, Prof. Connell was placed on administrative leave, and charges were brought against him in a faculty proceeding. The charges were ostensibly due to these violent hypos, but many people believe that it is more due to his anti-PC views (for example, apparently the use of the term "black dude" or "black folks" is racist).

While the faculty charges were dropped, for now, a charge brought by students is working its way through a different administrative process.
Caleb links to some articles on this matter here, here, and here. This last is a partial interview with Prof. Connell.

I'm sure the professor doesn't see much humor in this situation, but those not affected by the stupidity of his accusers might be forgiven for laughing at how pathetic it is that these future lawyers would be so oblivious to the injustice they're doing to this man. To see how ridiculous the allegations of racism are (they almost always are ridiculous, it seems) all one need do is read the interview at the third link above.

The law professor's plight reminds me of the movie based on the novel by Philip Roth titled The Human Stain. The film version featured Anthony Hopkins in the role of a septuagenarian literature professor by the name of Coleman Silk. One day Silk asked his class about two students on his roll who had never shown up for class and whom he had never seen. He wondered aloud whether the two really existed or whether they were "spooks". Well, it turned out that they were African-Americans, and when they found out about Silk's "racist" musings they pressed charges against him, and he was hounded by the faculty senate and administration to the point where he finally resigned. The irony of the story was that unbeknownst to any of his antagonists who sought to have him censured Silk was himself half black but so light in appearance that all his life he passed for white.

As in the real-life case of Prof. Connell such behavior on the part of people who suddenly find themselves in a position to destroy someone who is far more accomplished than they are is simply evil. Faculty members who take these charges seriously are behaving just as immaturely and cruelly as are the students who bring them. At least students are expected to act immaturely because they're students. But faculty and administrators who are so incapable of sensible discernment as to not dismiss these charges out of hand or, worse yet, are willing to defame a colleague and devastate his career because they dislike his politics, are in the first case simpletons and in the second case despicable.

P.S. Caleb sent along an addendum lest anyone be given the wrong impression of the general quality of the Widener Law School student body:
Despite what the students here apparently did, most of the students I know have been appalled by this situation, and strongly supported Professor Connell (even the extreme liberals!). I don't want you to think that the students at Widener are all indoctrinated with Michael Moore-esque tendencies; although some of them certainly are, many more certainly are not.
P.P.S. Caleb reports that Professor Connell has now sued the Dean for defamation.