Thursday, September 27, 2007

Does it matter whether gambling is morally wrong?

Mark Hebert at WHAS-11 TV posts on his blog about a Survey USA poll that finds that most Kentuckians do not consider gambling morally wrong. He goes on to point out, correctly, that this result may not necessarily bear on the question of whether gambling should be expanded in Kentucky.

There are plenty of things that are fine in moderation, but which in excess constitute vice: Drinking alcohol, ingesting pharmaceuticals, or sitting in the hot tub--although ingesting pharmaceuticals and drinking alcohol while sitting in the hot tub, even in moderation, is probably a bad idea under any circumstances. A lot of other things are bad in excess too, including eating, talking, and giving advice.

And gambling.

Gambling on a personal level is wrong when it leads to the bad stewardship of resources. No one quibbles about spending money on entertainment. Gambling, in moderation, can fall into the category of entertainment. There is little practical difference between going out and dropping $120 at the ball game and dropping $120 at the Blackjack table: it can either be a harmless use of entertainment dollars, or a waste of resources, depending on the ratio of that $120 to the rest of what you have--and on what else you should have spent it on.

But that is still largely irrelevant to the policy question of whether gambling ought to be expanded in Kentucky. There are plenty of people--people, in fact, who vigorously oppose expanded gambling in Kentucky--who don't think gambling is wrong per se. Plenty of them, for example, have no problem with gambling at horse tracks.

I'm one them.

The question of whether we should change the state constitution to allow the installation of casinos in the state is a question with potentially drastic economic, cultural, and social implications that have little or nothing to do with whether gambling, in and of itself, is wrong.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Now They've Done It: Inviting a promoter of terrorism to speak at Columbia U. is one thing, but a homophobe?

Well, it appears that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has really done it now. Before his recent and controversial appearance at Columbia University, Ahmadinejad was known to support global terrorism, and was thought to be developing nuclear weapons for the possible use against the West. He also leads a famously repressive government.

These things are bad, of course. But they are just run of the mill bad guy qualities. Contributing to people who want to bring about mass killings and creating weapons of mass destruction are, let's admit it, just a little ho-hum anymore. After all, there's so many people doing it these days.

But the real perfidiousness of this man--the revelation that has sent shock waves across the politically correct world--was the shocking news that came in his Columbia speech: he is a homophobe.

That's right: a homophobe. And worse than that. He is a homophobe who doesn't believe homosexuals exist in Iran at all, which makes him, not just a homophobe, but a homo...something that means you don't believe in it at all.

Oh, the horror of it!

Of course, Ahmadinejad may believe homosexuals don't exist in Iran because he's killed them all. But that's nothing compared to the fact that he is a homophobe.

For Columbia University to invite the leader of a terrorist nation who wants to create nuclear weapons is one thing, but inviting someone who harbors homophobic thoughts to speak is quite another.

Does Columbia University really expect the American public to believe that they can't find a respectable terrorist who supports the gay rights agenda to speak at their school? Academic freedom is all fine and dandy when it comes to mass killing, but Columbia University clearly needs some remedial awareness training in the dangers of thought crime.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Do conservatives really dominate Kentucky's editorial pages?

WHAS-TV 11's Mark Hebert reports on his blog about a new report issued by Media Matters that purports to show that nationally and in Kentucky conservative political columnists outnumber writers on the opposite side of the political spectrum.

Media matters, a liberal media watchdog group... Oh, wait. Oops. Did I say that word? "Liberal"? Of course, I meant "progressive," as in "progressive media watchdog group." I forgot that you're not supposed to use the "L" word anymore. Liberals don't really exist. And besides, the word "liberal" is so, um, well, it's just got this very negative connotation to it.

I wonder how the word "liberal" got so unpopular? Anyway, ...

Media Matters claims that nationally syndicated conservative writers are run more often in newspapers than lib..., er progressives. Excerpt from the press release:
Conservative Syndicated Columnists Dominate Kentucky Daily Newspapers Each Week -- Conservative syndicated columnists appear a total of 54 times per week in Kentucky newspapers. Centrist columnists appear a total of 14 times, while progressive columnists appear a total of 34 times.
I have no doubt that this is true. Conservatives tend to dominate political commentary, while liberals tend to dominate the newsrooms--and the editorial boards of newspapers themselves. The difference being that conservatives views are marketed as "opinion," whereas liberal views are largely marketed as "news".

There I go again. Of course, I meant progressives. Liberals, remember, don't exist.

But Mark's headline is misleading: "Conservatives Dominate Ky. Editorial Pages." Is that what the report says? No. And if it does, it's wrong.

Note: I took my information from Mark's blog, since the report is apparently--at least from my several minute search for it--either unavailable or nicely hidden on Media Matters' website.

The report only considers nationally syndicated columnists. But syndicated columnists are only part of the content of a newspaper's editorial page. There are the staff editorials, written by the mostly liberal editorial staff of the newspaper, and the resident columnists for the particular newspapers, which also are largely liberals.

Progressive I mean.

If Media Matters were not trying so hard to find what it wants to find, it would add an additional study of the political registration of newspaper staff in this country--and in Kentucky.

But don't hold your breath.



Monday, September 17, 2007

"The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry." Be there.

One comes to an appreciation of Wendell Berry not through any discursive process, but rather by what you might call a direct intuitive vision: his appeal is not primarily rational, but poetic. That isn't to say that Berry's vision of the world is irrational; far from it. But people tend to forget their Aristotle.

Okay, I know. Most people have never heard of Aristotle. But then, they wouldn't know Berry either, would they? The point is that The Master of Those Who Know recognized that the poetic reasoning is one form of informal reasoning and is perfectly legitimate.

While others help you understand; Berry helps you see.

The always incredible folks at the Intercollegiate Studies are holding a conference called, "The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry," Saturday, October 20, in Louisville, Kentucky at the Seelbach Hotel. Berry will be there for a portion of it, apparently.

If you're anywhere in the vicinity (as I am), it is a not-to-be-missed event.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Does James Ramsey think most Kentuckians are bigots?

My comments on James Ramsey's State of the University address yesterday appeared in today's Louisville Courier-Journal. Ramsey, of course, invoked the "D" word: "Diversity". As I mentioned, Ramsey's definition of diversity is completely different from a good many, if not most of the people who fund his university.

"While we celebrated many successes, we were reminded that not everyone in our state holds dear to the same values and commitments to diversity that we cherish at the University of Louisville," he said, adding that the university must deal with "prejudices both real and perceived."

In other words, anyone who disagrees with the idea that taxpayers should subsidize live-in sexual relationships of university faculty and staff is a bigot.


And "not everyone in our state"? This is the state, after all, that cast more "yes" votes on the marriage amendment than "yes" and "no" votes on any other constitutional amendment in Kentucky history.

Are most Kentuckians bigots? Well, Ramsey didn't say this in his speech. Or did he?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Do-it-yourself journalism kits for CJ editorialists: A response to David Hawpe

I never thought I'd see the day.

“Where is The Family Foundation of Kentucky when we need it?" asks David Hawpe in his editorial in last Wednesday's Louisville Courier-Journal. "Where are the outraged position papers from Family Foundation senior policy analyst Martin Cothran, denouncing this assault on traditional family values?”

It’s nice to feel wanted—particularly by Hawpe, who so seldom calls upon me to do anything except go away. But now, it seems, Hawpe is forsaking the billy club for the olive branch.

Could this be the beginning of a beautiful friendship?

Hawpe asks why The Family Foundation, instead of opposing taxpayer funding of live-in sexual partners of university staff, isn’t doing something about easy divorces in Louisville, provided by the helpful people at Legal Aid Society, who are offering “do-it-yourself” divorce kits. Well, I have thought about this suggestion by my new friend, David Hawpe, and I think I have struck upon an idea.

How about if we get some influential voice in Louisville to speak out against what the Legal Aid Society is doing? Someone who cares about the good of society, and who is willing to call a spade a spade. Someone who has the public’s ear, and who isn't shy about telling other people what he thinks.

Someone who...oh, wait. What am I thinking? This is a perfect description of my new pal, David Hawpe.

Just think, instead of mentioning efforts to make divorce easier to obtain in a tongue-in-cheek columns to make fun of groups he doesn't like, he could actually make a positive difference. I'll suggest this to him next time we go out on the town.

One of the distinguishing features of the brand of liberalism exemplified by journalists of the type that inhabit editorial offices of big city papers like the Courier-Journal is that the best way to help the poor is by ensuring that they are provided with easy access to all the vices available to the rich.

This is why, for example, so many so many of them support public funding of abortions. Without this assistance, poor women wouldn't have the same access to abortion mills that women from the class of society occupied by people who run large newspapers have. Now poor women can be exploited by the abortion industry just like more wealthy women!

Likewise, the poor don't have the same access to pricey lawyers some of the rest of us have, and this is unfair. The solution? Give the poor the same legal access to divorce as those who can afford it themselves. The prospect of women in poor families being abandoned by their husbands just as easily as middle and upper class women may not sound like much in the way of progress to you and me, but you ought to see the high-fiving it elicits down at the Legal Aid Society of Louisville!

I hate to say this about David (we're on a first name basis now), but (and since we're amigos, I know I can say this without offending him) he seems to share this attitude with the rest of his editorial friends.

The next time we get together for a vegetarian meal at his favorite non-smoking establishment, I'll gently break it to him that, by this reasoning, crack is a good thing, since, before it became widely and cheaply available, cocaine was only available to the rich.

But I know he'll receive this well. We're that close.

The Family Foundation, of course, has paid quite a bit of attention to issues involving marriage. It has been involved for several years in the Commonwealth Marriage Initiative Task Force that is trying to come up with ways to strengthen marriage in Kentucky.

It's not something The Family Foundation has talked much about publicly, but now that, David and I are on such good terms, I don't see why he shouldn't know about it.

I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that the folks at the Courier-Journal don't know this. But I've got a way to help solve this problem of journalists who criticize groups for not being involved in issues that they should be involved with, when, in fact, they are: For David's next birthday, I'm going to buy him and his editorialist friends a "do-it-yourself" journalism kit.

Just to show how much I care.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to the laboratory: Another example of how the process is rigged against Intelligent Design

If there was ever any doubt that the process for determining the legitimacy of Intelligent Design is rigged against it, that doubt seems now to have been dispelled.

Recently, Baylor University, an allegedly Baptist university, went back on agreement with William Dembski that would have allowed him to participate with one of its faculty members in a research project on information theory that had implications for the other theory that Dembski has made famous, and of which he is the best known exponent: Intelligent Design.

The project would have cost Baylor nothing, since the project was being funded by a grant from the Lifeworks Foundation. The grant was processed through the normal administrative channels at the school, and Baylor President John Lilley signed off on it. Then, about a month later, Dembski was called in to the office the Dean of Baylor’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, under whose auspices the research was to be done, and told the whole thing was off. Something about the "good of the department."

Dembski, who taught at Baylor from 1999-2005, gives on his website the whole seedy chronology of the actions of the Indian givers at Baylor who didn't actually have to give anything except their consent--and did, only to go back on their word.

There are two stories here: the first being that this is the same institution of higher indoctri..., excuse me, learning, that tried to run off Francis Beckwith, in part, at least, because he publicly advocated the legal case against excluding Intelligent Design from scientific discussions in public schools. The school finally had to back down in the Beckwith case on account of his formidable body of published scholarly work that, in another circumstance, would have had university officials beating down his door to hire him. Its handling of the Beckwith case became a public embarrassment to Baylor, as well it should.

But there is a more significant aspect to this case.

The opponents of Intelligent Design have for several years now deployed as their chief argument against it that the theory lacks research to support it. But a funny thing always happens on the way to the laboratory--or on the way to the publisher. Baylor's action takes its place alongside another recent event that shows just how determined are the scientific establishment in particular and the academic gatekeepers in general to squelch any critical reconsideration whatsoever of Darwinism.

The first was the treatment of Richard Sternberg, the editor of a publication of the Smithsonian Institutes's National Museum who published a peer-reviewed article which came to positive conclusions about Intelligent Design. The article's publication set off the academic equivalent of the Inquisition among the scientific community. Sternberg was personally vilified, his motives impugned, and his reputation besmirched--all because he had the temerity to take his colleagues at their word.

For years critics within the scientific community have been challenging Intelligent Design proponents to get their papers published in peer-reviewed journals. But when Sternberg actually let it happen, they came down on the perpetrator like a hammer. Put up or shut up, Intelligent Design scholars are told, but when they actually go to trouble of putting up, they are told to shut up.

Now we know where Lucy got the idea of snatching the football away just before Charlie Brown got a chance to kick it. The scientific establishment demands that Intelligent Design prove itself, but at the same time will do everything in its power to prevent it from getting the opportunity to do so.

The recent incident at Baylor is of the same genus. We are constantly hearing about the lack of research support for Dembski's theory. So you would think, in the interest of open scientific inquiry, that the same academic community that has been calling for Intelligent Design to prove itself would be supportive of actually seeing it get the opportunity.

Think again.

The opponents of Intelligent Design need to get together and decide whether they really want to give the theory a fair shake. If the scientific community chooses instead to stonewall every opportunity for the theory's proponents to prove it legitimate, then there will be no question why it happened--and it won't be because of any inadequacy in the theory.

If the critics want to say that the theory fails the test of science, then they're going to have to allow it to be tested scientifically. To tell Intelligent Design advocates that they must prove their theory scientifically, but that, at the same time, they will be systematically denied the means and the opportunity of doing so is hardly model behavior for a group of people who make such a show of objectivity and openmindedness.

Lexington Forum to host discussion of domestic partner benefits

I will be in a panel discussion at the Lexington Forum Thursday morning at 8:00 to discuss the issue of domestic partner benefits at state colleges and universities. Here is the announcement from the Lexington Forum:
A discussion on Domestic Partner Benefits. Speakers include: Senator Ernesto Scorsone (D-Fayette); Representative Mike Harmon (R-Boyle); Martin Cothran of the Family Foundation; and UK Political Science Professor Ernie Yanarella. (The meeting also is open to the general public. There is a $10 breakfast fee for non-members, payable at the door)
The meeting will be held at the Lafayette Club on the top floor of the Chase Bank Building in downtown Lexington