Category Archive 'Cant'

11 Dec 2016

Up Yours, Microsoft!

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For your Christmas edification, the fat, bloated, and incompetent corporation that owns your PC has delivered a sanctimonious PC sermonette which ought to make a lot of viewers want to go out and throw up in the street.

16 Apr 2011

Letter From the President of Yale

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Yesterday, Yale alumni received from Richard Levin, Yale’s smarmy and unctuous current president, the following letter connected with the Title IX Civil Rights complaint made by 16 students and alumni associated with the Yale Womens’ Center.

April 15, 2011

Dear Graduates and Friends of Yale,

As you may know, Yale was recently informed by the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education that it will be investigating a complaint made by a group of current students and graduates alleging that the University is in violation of Title IX of the Higher Education Act. Title IX mandates that no one be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any federally supported education program on the basis of sex. We have not yet received a copy of the complaint, and the notification from the Office of Civil Rights does not provide details. We believe that the investigation will focus on Yale’s policies and practices concerning sexual harassment and misconduct.

It is imperative that the climate at Yale be free of sexual harassment and misconduct of any kind. The well being of our students and the entire community requires this. Should transgressions occur, they must be addressed expeditiously and appropriately.

We will cooperate fully with the Office of Civil Rights in their investigation, but the Officers, the Dean of Yale College, and I believe that we should not await the investigation before asking ourselves how we might improve the policies, practices, and procedures intended to protect members of our community. I write to describe some of the measures we are taking immediately.

I have appointed an external Advisory Committee on Campus Climate, chaired by Margaret H. Marshall ‘76JD, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts and a former Fellow of the Yale Corporation [famous for contriving to have heard, and writing the infamous opinion in, Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health which produced the ruling that the Commonwealth of Massachusett’s 1780 Constitution, adopted at a time in which sodomy was a capital offense, required Massachusetts to recognize Gay Marriage –JDZ]. The other members of the Committee are Seth P. Waxman ‘77JD, former Solicitor General of the United States and a partner at WilmerHale LLP; Kimberly Goff-Crews ‘83BA, ‘86JD, Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students at the University of Chicago; and Elizabeth (Libby) Smiley ’02BA, former president of the Yale College Council and a director at Barbary Coast Consulting in San Francisco.

I have asked the Committee for advice about how sexual harassment, violence or misconduct may be more effectively combated at Yale, and what additional steps the University might take to create a culture and community in which all of our students are safe and feel well supported. The Committee will spend time listening to members of our community about the situation as they live it and will make its own assessments. We have policies in place, and a number of recommendations developed during the last year are being implemented. Nevertheless, I am confident that there is more that we can do, and I am grateful to the members of the panel for contributing their time and wise counsel.

The Committee will advise me directly, and I will review its recommendations with the Yale Corporation after the report is completed early in the fall semester. After review by the Corporation, the Committee’s recommendations will be made public.

Even as the Committee does its work, I want to take advantage of the remaining weeks of this semester to ensure that student concerns are heard directly by the senior leadership of the University. I am grateful to the Women’s Center for initiating this week a series of dinners with students and administrators. Following this lead, I have asked senior administrators to join with masters and deans over a meal in every college dining hall and in Commons in Reading Period, during the days following Spring Fling when classes do not meet, and when I hope students will take the time to engage in a conversation about the campus climate and our policies governing sexual misconduct. These will be informal opportunities to engage with Deans Mary Miller and Marichal Gentry, Provost Peter Salovey, and Vice President Linda Lorimer, along with your master or dean. I have asked the Provost, Vice President, and Deans to report back to me on the suggestions for improvement that they receive and to share what they have learned with the external Committee as well.

I have also asked the Deans of the Graduate and Professional Schools to ensure that similar conversations occur in each school.

The deepest values of our institution compel us to take very seriously the issues raised by the complaint brought to the Office of Civil Rights. We welcome this opportunity to learn from our community and from best practices elsewhere to protect all who study and work here.

Those deepest values being sanctimony, cant, and conformity to fashion.

Glenn Reynolds (another Yale alumnus) observed with justifiable disgust:

[Y]ou used to be able to punish the sort of behavior complained of here on the ground that it violated general principles of decency and acceptable public behavior. But after a half-century or so of attacking even the notion of general principles of decency and acceptable public behavior — especially where sex is concerned! — that doesn’t work.

Universities have long told the larger culture that it must simply put up with whatever is said, however offensive, in the interest of free expression. Now we see more evidence that that was always a lie, a self-serving cover story that was really meant simply to protect speech that the larger culture didn’t want to hear, with no intention to protect speech that people at universities don’t want to hear. Universities, meanwhile, have become some of the most hostile environments for free speech anywhere in America.


05 Oct 2010

The New Flavor of Campus Cant: Sustainability

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Peter Wood, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, describes how a new kind of totalitarian stupidity is taking over America’s colleges. But the good news is it’s displacing the older equivalent stupidity: racial cant. In other words: Ebola isn’t all bad; it’s killing off the Plague bacillus.

The pursuit of diversity on campuses remains a highly visible priority, but it is being subtly demoted by enthusiasm for sustainability. As an ideology, diversity is running out of steam, while sustainability is on fire. This month hundreds of colleges will mark the eighth annual Campus Sustainability Day, with activities to include a Webcast offering “social-change strategies and tools” to help campuses lower carbon emissions. …

Diversity and sustainability are the two most characteristic ideas of the modern academy. Diversity asks us to focus on group identity and personal affiliation, and it puts race at the center of the discussion. Sustainability asks us to focus on humanity’s use of natural resources, and it puts climate at the center of discussion. Outwardly, diversity and sustainability belong to separate narratives. They deal with different topics and might, in principle, have no more friction between them than typically exists between English departments and physics labs. Or between polar bears and tropical fish. But in fact, diversity and sustainability have a complicated, decades-old rivalry.

They vie, in effect, for the same conceptual space and the same passions. Both are about repairing the world; both invite exuberant commitment; both are moralistic; and most of all, both are encompassing ideas that crowd out other encompassing ideas. They also compete for the same financial resources.

Diversity and sustainability are also both second-wave movements. Diversity is second-wave affirmative action; sustainability is second-wave environmentalism. …

One index of the rise of sustainability at the expense of diversity is the size of the institutional memberships of their professional groups. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education now lists as members 800 colleges and universities in the United States. The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, by contrast, has about 150 member institutions.

Diversity is a story of a once-fresh ideology that swept through higher education in a spirit of triumph but that quickly seems to be losing its status as the sexiest ideology on campus. Diversiphiles would like to keep the adrenaline flowing, but it is hard. Freshmen now arrive on campus already having sucked on multicultural milkshakes from kindergarten to senior prom. Diversity for them is just the same ol’ same ol’. …

I view this changing of the ideological guard with wariness. Diversity was pretty bad; sustainability may be even worse. Both movements subtract from the better purposes of higher education. Diversity authorizes double standards in admissions and hiring, breeds a campus culture of hypocrisy, mismatches students to educational opportunities, fosters ethnic resentments, elevates group identity over individual achievement, and trivializes the curriculum. Of course, those punishments were something that had to be accepted in the spirit of atoning for the original sin of racism.

But for its part, sustainability has the logic of a stampede. We all must run in the same direction for fear of some rumored and largely invisible threat. The real threat is the stampede itself. Sustainability numbers among its advocates some scrupulous scientists and quite a few sober facilities managers who simply want to trim utility bills. But in the main, sustainability is the triumph of hypothesis over evidence. Its scientific grounding is mostly a matter of models and extrapolations and appeals to authority. Evoking imminent and planet-destroying catastrophe, sustainatopians call for radical changes in economic arrangements and social patterns. Higher education is summoned to set aside whatever it is doing to help make this revolution in production, distribution, and consumption a reality. …

The diversity movement has always been rife with contradictions. Seeking to promote racial equality, it evolved into a system that perpetuates inequalities. But whatever else it is, the diversity movement thirsts to be part of mainstream America. Its ultimate goal is to make diversity a principle of the same standing as freedom and equality in our national life. The sustainability movement, by contrast, has no such affection for the larger culture or loyalty to the American experiment. It dismisses the comforts of American life, including our political freedom, as unworthy extravagance. Sustainability summons us to a supposedly higher good. Personal security, national prosperity, and individual freedom may just have to go as we press on to our low-impact, carbon-free new order. In this sense, it goes beyond promising to redeem us from social iniquity to redeeming us from human nature itself.

Many campus adherents to sustainability may eventually tire of its puritanical preachiness and its unfulfilled prophecies, but for the moment, sustainability has cachet. Diversity, meanwhile, has aged into a static bureaucracy, and diversicrats increasingly spend their energy polishing the spoons. …

In the end, I suspect that a quarter-century or so of hugging identity politics close and trying to feel perpetual shame about the nation’s racial past just proved too dreary. Sustainability may be based on a grimmer view of life in general, but it offers relief from that ever-expanding story of group oppression that had eventually become all that diversity had to offer. In an odd way, sustainability is liberating.

Hat tip to Matthias Storme.

03 Oct 2009

30 Years After

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America has not changed all that much from the days when Hester Prynne won her letter. We are still the same nation of boobs and Babbitts and blue-nosed Puritans which nearly a century ago used to drive H.L. Mencken right up the wall.

Leftwing or rightwing, you’d think the typical member of the American commentariat just fell off the turnip truck and came stumbling down the highway pulling hayseeds out of his ears for all the weeping and wailing over the generation-ago naughtiness of Roman Polanski.

Both sides of the political spectrum are making the elementary error of confusing rape in the statutory sense resulting from the female being too young lawfully to provide consent with the kind of rape which is a grave crime of violence and a terrible violation of a person’s will and sovereignty of person.

Read the Grand Jury testimony (Part 1 Part 2) of the young lady (whose current privacy I propose to respect by referring to her as Dolores Haze) and one can easily perceive that it is a version of events particularly uncomplimentary to Mr. Polanski, collaboratively achieved by the prosecuting attorney and the sullen and inarticulate young woman who is bringing a complaint against him, while trying to put the best possible light upon her own conduct.

It requires only reading a little between the lines and paying attention to details to note that Miss Haze and her mother obviously sought out Mr. Polanski’s acquaintance with the young lady’s career advancement in mind. Her mother readily gave permission for her daughter to meet and to pose in private for Mr. Polanski.

Gosh, when an attractive young woman harboring entertainment industry ambitions agrees to “pose” alone and in private for a famous Hollywood director, is it possible to imagine that anyone involved would suppose for a minute that such a meeting could lead to hanky panky?

The famous director and the nymphette met twice for photography sessions featuring the young lady disrobing. When Miss Haze went with Mr. Polanski to Jack Nicholson’s house for the second photo session, even the simple people back where I grew up would have observed that they were not getting together to say the rosary.

Ex post facto protestations of reluctance aside, the philosopher is obliged to note that Miss Haze seems far from innocent and her overall behavior the opposite of unwilling. She was not a virgin at the time of her sexual encounter with Mr. Polanski. She had disrobed in front of him in private on two occasions. She implicitly recognized the social and convivial aspects of that private meeting at Jack Nicholson’s house by willingly drinking champagne with Mr. Polanski, and by sharing a Quaalude with him (which she identified for the uncertain director, who even consulted her about its likely effects on him).

After which festivities, Miss Haze willingly took off all her clothes, and hopped naked into a jacuzzi. Sexual activity ensued.

In her Grand Jury testimony, Miss Haze makes some effort to portray herself as startled and frightened by Mr. Polanski’s completely unexpected advances. To believe her testimony to be literally true requires supposing that the social connection between these two people was unrelated to the well-known Hollywood casting couch and to believe that anyone might meet an older man alone, drink and do drugs with him, disrobe for him, and hop naked into a jacuzzi while having no intentions of granting greater intimacies. If any particular editorialist actually believes that, I can only say, in the Irish manner: May God preserve your innocence!

The more cynical among us tend to suspect that, had some substantive career assistance (or even an appropriate gift) been forthcoming, no statutory rape complaint would ever have been lodged. Consequently, I tend to view the Polanski affair, not as an authentic case of rape, but as a payment dispute in which one side is able to whistle up the assistance of the criminal law.

Polanski, of course, was behaving unethically, using his fame and worldly position to obtain the sexual services of an indecently young girl, whom he evidently couldn’t, or wouldn’t, be able to repay with his patronage.

There is no doubt that the relations between Roman Polanski and Dolores Haze were against the law.

But, the “he drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl” narrative is wildly inaccurate and inflammatory. In reality, Polanski cynically had exploitative sex with a much younger girl when she made herself available, with dubious intentions of repaying her in the manner she expected. They drank and did drugs together. You can hardly accuse a man of drugging a victim into submission by sharing a drug with her.

The plea bargain arrangement made (Polanski would plead guilty unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, and be let off with the 42 days he served under psychiatric evaluation) indicates pretty clearly that the prosecutor took the same view of the Polanski case at the time that I do now. Polanski broke the law, doing something fairly shameful he ought not to have done, but it was not really rape at all. He deserved some legal penalty, but he did not deserve the gravest possible punishment.

What happened back in the 1970s is exactly the same thing which has happened again 30 years later. America’s psycho-sexual insanity was provoked by the Polanski affair the way a bull is provoked by a red flag. All the Christers and the wowsers began howling for Polanski’s blood, writing misleading hysterical jeremiads about drugging and raping poor little 13 year old maidens, and the next thing you knew, Judge Rittenband, who was sensitive to public opinion, expressed the intention of throwing out Polanski’s plea bargain, while keeping his guilty plea. Facing an exemplary penalty, Polanski wisely fled into exile.

The only things that seem to have changed in 30 years are: Roman Polanski has become a very old man and the middle-aged Dolores Haze says she has forgiven him. The American obsession with striking poses of self-righteousness has not changed, nor our intelligentsia’s penchant for inflaming mob opinion with misleading narratives.

23 May 2009

President Above-It-All

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“In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists.”

–Dick Cheney

Rich Lowry hits Obama’s nail right on the head.

Put Barack Obama in front of a Tele PrompTer and one thing is certain — he’ll make himself appear the most reasonable person in the room.

Rhetorically, he is in the middle of any debate, perpetually surrounded by finger-pointing extremists who can’t get over their reflexive combativeness and ideological fixations to acknowledge his surpassing thoughtfulness and grace. …

It’s natural, then, that his speech at the National Archives on national security should superficially sound soothing, reasonable and even a little put upon (oh, what President Obama has to endure from all those finger-pointing extremists).

But beneath its surface, the speech — given heavy play in the press as an implicit debate with former Vice President Dick Cheney, who spoke on the same topic at a different venue immediately afterward — revealed something else: a president who has great difficulty admitting error; who can’t discuss the position of his opponents without resorting to rank caricature, and who adopts an off-putting pose of above-it-all righteousness.

Read the whole thing.

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