A Clerk of Oxford: Blogging, Academia, and Aspiration

Photo Credit:  A Clerk of oxford

Photo Credit: A Clerk of oxford

One of the consequences of my friendship with Jessica is that I have been brought in touch with a fairly wide cross-section of British historians (and such). Mind you, I know only a few of them well, and a couple have become close friends but, I see a good bit of their public work. Frankly, I wish I was as well connected with American ones.

I have found many of them via Twitter, and that has led to several of them being featured here. One of my favorites, not least because her interests cross mine in several areas is A Clerk of Oxford. The other thing is that she is, I think anyway, a superb writer, able to transport one to the historical places she writes about. Frankly, I love her blog.

She has just published her 1000th post, and its tone is a bit sad, on what should be a joyous occasion. For those of you who read our blogs but don’t write one, I’ll tell you a secret: It ain’t easy. Coming up wit material that is both interesting and that one know well enough not to make too many mistakes is hard. To be able to write it in an interesting fashion is harder yet. She does it very well, far better than I do. So very heartfelt congratulations to her.

But the tone of her post was not all that cheery, as you’ll see. My impression was that she was turned down for a new position (I may well be wrong (if so, I hope she’ll forgive me.) and that it was done with open contempt by a senior faculty member. Well, that’s not unheard of, sadly not in business, and certainly not in academia. But it is not helpful, to the institution and certainly not to one turned down.

I have heard, from some of my friends over there, stories of the rankest incompetence, which would get you bounced off the curb in my company, no matter how senior you are, especially in the faculty leadership. For the most part they were told to me in confidence and so I will forbear sharing them with you but, I’ll say this, I believe every word she says here.

What we call ‘academia’, as practiced in universities today, is a modern invention, not more than a century or two old, and it seems to me that it’s swiftly reaching the point at which it becomes no longer sustainable; but scholarship and learning are much bigger than academia, and living somewhere like Oxford helps you to hold that in mind. The human desires to understand, to study, to teach and to learn are fundamentally good and beautiful things, however much any particular institution or any age may distort them, and Oxford’s long history of scholarship is a reminder of that: from its medieval origins, the monks and friars who gathered here to study and teach, through its history of benefactors, women and men who endowed colleges and gave money, asking nothing in return but prayer, to the countless generations who have laboured in its libraries to win the secrets of books, a silent wrestling-match with no prize but knowledge.
This is an idealistic picture, I know, but you’ll have to forgive me for being a little wistful right now. Most of the scholars, great in their day, who have worked within Oxford’s cloisters would not survive five minutes in modern academia, and I can’t help feeling that’s not a good thing. Of course I know that the world I’m describing would for most of its history have excluded people like me (a woman, from a non-traditional-Oxford background). But in effect, it still does; it still speaks in code, to keep insiders in and outsiders out. You might think that after eleven years in Oxford I’d have learned to crack the code, learned to fit in, but I’m as mystified as ever. It’s not just Oxford, anyway, but academia as a class – a culture still dominated by patronage, opacity and exclusion, only now in different ways. Now they talk the language of inclusion, while being as exclusive as ever. Oxford has a little bit of polite verbiage they put in their job adverts these days: ‘Applications for this post are especially welcome from women and ethnic minorities, who are under-represented among the University’s academic staff’. Well, you can certainly apply; but if you don’t respond well to an aggressive and hostile interview, you might end up quoting that verbiage back to yourself rather wryly. If I leave academia now, I just become a statistic. But I’ve received so much kindness and such rigorous teaching in this place (the vast majority of it from women); when I leave, I’ll take that with me, and do some good with it somewhere.]

A Clerk of Oxford: Blogging, Academia, and Aspiration.

And so I have little add, except that I offer her congratulations on a thousand posts, many of which I have enjoyed thoroughly, and commiseration and sympathy on her setback, which I hope will resolve itself to something even better. It can happen, and often does, at least two of my friends have oxford degrees and neither was a traditional type in college.

Toward the end of her post she included a poem by C.S. Lewis (and you all know what sucker I am for poetry).

In 1919, when he was still an undergraduate (and not yet a Christian), C. S. Lewis published a poem called ‘Oxford’. It’s full of youthful idealism, but it would be unjust to call it naive; the boy who wrote this poem had lived through a war worse than anything most of the people who inhabit a place like Oxford can even begin to imagine. He had a right to his idealism and his hope for a better world.

It is well that there are palaces of peace
And discipline and dreaming and desire,
Lest we forget our heritage and cease
The Spirit’s work — to hunger and aspire:

Lest we forget that we were born divine,
Now tangled in red battle’s animal net,
Murder the work and lust the anodyne,
Pains of the beast ‘gainst bestial solace set.

But this shall never be: to us remains
One city that has nothing of the beast,
That was not built for gross, material gains,
Sharp, wolfish power or empire’s glutted feast.

We are not wholly brute. To us remains
A clean, sweet city lulled by ancient streams,
A place of visions and of loosening chains,
A refuge of the elect, a tower of dreams.

She was not builded out of common stone
But out of all men’s yearning and all prayer
That she might live, eternally our own,
The Spirit’s stronghold — barred against despair.

And my hope that she will keep blogging because I, at least, and I know I’m far from alone, love her blog, and her insights. And I hope it all works out for her.

 

Progressive Authoritarianism

responsibility-42This is quite interesting, and a fair read of where our society/government is trying to go, and why. It also goes into some detail as to why if we are wise, we probably don’t want to go there. By Joel Kotkin writing in The Orange County Register.

Left-leaning authors often maintain that conservatives “hate democracy,” and, historically, this is somewhat true. “The political Right,” maintains the progressive economist and columnist Paul Krugman, “has always been uncomfortable with democracy.”
But today it’s progressives themselves who, increasingly, are losing faith in democracy. Indeed, as the Obama era rushes to a less-than-glorious end, important left-of-center voices, like Matt Yglesias, now suggest that “democracy is doomed.”

Yglesias correctly blames “the breakdown of American constitutional democracy” on both Republicans and Democrats; George W. Bush expanded federal power in the field of national defense while Barack Obama has done it mostly on domestic issues. Other prominent progressives such as American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner have made similar points, even quoting Italian wartime fascist leader Benito Mussolini about the inadequacy of democracy.

Like some progressives, Kuttner sees the more authoritarian model of China as ascendant; in comparison, the U.S. and European models – the latter clearly not conservative – seem decadent and unworkable. Other progressives, such as Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir, argue that big money has already drained the life out of American democracy. Like Yglesias, he, too, favors looking at “other political systems.” .
. .
Progressive authoritarianism has a long history, co-existing uncomfortably with traditional liberal values about free speech, due process and political pluralism. At the turn of the 20th century, the novelist H.G. Wells envisioned “the New Republic,” in which the most talented and enlightened citizens would work to shape a better society. They would function, he suggested, as a kind of “secret society,” reforming the key institutions of society from both within and without.

In our times, Wells’ notions foreshadowed the rise of a new class – what I label the clerisy – that derives its power from domination of key institutions, notably the upper bureaucracy, academia and the mainstream media. These sectors constitute what Daniel Bell more than two decades ago dubbed a “priesthood of power,” whose goal was the rational “ordering of mass society.”
Increasingly, well-placed members of the clerisy have advocated greater power for the central state. Indeed, many of its leading figures, such as former Obama budget adviser Peter Orszag and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, argue that power should shift from naturally contentious elected bodies – subject to pressure from the lower orders – to credentialed “experts” operating in Washington, Brussels or the United Nations. Often, the clerisy and its allies regard popular will as lacking in scientific judgment and societal wisdom.

Unlike their clerical forebears, this “priesthood” worships at the altar not of religion but of what they consider official “science,” which often is characterized by intolerance rather than the skepticism traditionally associated with the best scientific tradition. Indeed, in their unanimity of views and hostility toward even mild dissent, today’s authoritarian progressives unwittingly more resemble their clerical ancestors, enforcing certain ideological notions and requiring suspension of debate. Sadly, this is increasingly true in the university, which should be the bastion of free speech.

I find that there is a lot of truth in this concept, unfortunately like any other closed society, it breeds corruption. Who hasn’t noticed amongst this ‘elite’ a huge amount of influence peddling, not mention pandering, to obtain funding. In Wolf Hall, we watched as Thomas Cromwell curried favor with Henry VIII, do we not see the same process underway (for quite a while now) in Washington?

The killer “app” for progressive centralism, comes from concern about climate change. A powerful lobby of greens, urban developers, planners and even some on Wall Street now see the opportunity to impose the very centralized planning and regulatory agenda that has been dear to the hearts of progressives since global “cooling” was the big worry a few decades ago. This new clout is epitomized by the growing power of federal agencies, notably the EPA, as well state and local bodies of unelected regulators who have become exemplars of a new post-democratic politics.

Of course, this is in large part the model presented by postwar Europe, and we are watching as it demonstrably fails, which makes it less and less likely to be a model we should follow. Most likely the free-est country in Europe is the UK, not least because they share our suspicion of government (although it is not nearly as virulent). But the UK has, since 2008, created more jobs than the rest of Europe combined.

The fly in the ointment here, of course, remains the electorate. Even in one-party California, local constituents are not always eager to follow the edicts of the nascent “new Republic” if it too strongly affects their lives, for example, by forcibly densifying their neighborhoods. Resistance to an imposed progressive agenda is stronger elsewhere, particularly in the deep red states of the Heartland and the South. In these circumstances, a “one size fits all” policy agenda seems a perfect way to exacerbate the already bitter and divisive mood.

Perhaps the best solution lies with the Constitution itself. Rather than run away from it, as Yglesias and others suggest, we should draw inspiration from the founders acceptance of political diversity. Instead of enforcing unanimity from above, the structures of federalism should allow greater leeway at the state level, as well as among the more local branches of government.
Even more than at the time of its founding, America is a vast country with multiple cultures and economies. What appeals to denizens of tech-rich trustifarian San Francisco does not translate so well to materially oriented, working-class Houston, or, for that matter, the heavily Hispanic and agriculture-oriented interior of California. Technology allows smaller units of government greater access to information; within reason, and in line with basic civil liberties, communities should be able to shape policies that make sense in their circumstances.

This is, of course, nothing less than the federalism the founders designed into our system, which wasn’t new, even then, the catholic Church calls it subsidiarity, although it, like politicians, has always had trouble practicing it. In the eighteenth century as in the twenty-first, America is simply too large to be governed by an elite, centered in the capital, let alone by a clerisy without the requisite skill to understand even the concepts of what most people do.

One possible group that could change this are voters, including millennials. It turns out that this generation is neither the reserve army imagined by progressives or the libertarian base hoped for by some conservatives. Instead, notes Pew, millennials are increasingly nonpartisan. They maintain some liberal leanings, for example, on the importance of social justice and support for gay marriage. But their views on other issues, such as abortion and gun control, track closely with to those of earlier generations. The vast majority of millennials, for example, thinks the trend toward having children out of wedlock is bad for society. Even more surprisingly, they are less likely than earlier generations to consider themselves environmentalists.

They also tend to be skeptical toward overcentralized government. As shown in a recent National Journal poll, they agree with most Americans in preferring local to federal government. People in their 20s who favor federal solutions stood at a mere 31 percent, a bit higher than the national average but a notch less than their baby boomer parents.

If so, and I tend to agree, they may well save us all, simply by thinking for themselves, and acting in their own self-interest. Because I think it self-evident that being ruled by a distant, connected (to each other) is not in our best interest, either individually or as a society.
Hat tip to Gene Veith at Cranach, The Blog of Veith

The ‘Good’ Old Days, or Were They?

plow1930sWe often talk here about ‘The Good Old Days’ but you know, for those of us who have been around a few years, we often look back through our rose tinted rear view mirrors. In many ways, things are much better than they ever have been.

I’m an electrician, mostly. I can hold my own in a few other trades, mostly those that serve farmers, what we usually call millwrights. These are the guys that put together the grain (and occasionally livestock) handling equipment used in agriculture today. It’s come a long way in my lifetime, from storing ear corn in a crib to dumping wet corn in a pit and automatically storing (and maintaining) corn at about 14% moisture until the market is right.

It’s always good to talk about farming because for almost all of us, our ancestor’s were farmers, some here and some like mine in other countries (Norway, in my case). But my family came here in the late nineteenth century and got in on a small scale bit of the Bonanza farms up in northwest Minnesota and eastern North Dakota. That land, the old bed of lake Agassiz) was so flat that you could see a water tower about forty miles away.

This came up because I ran across a post (actually a series) from Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom, where she talks about the changes in farming. The link above takes you to the series from her label #TBT for Throwback Thursday, I think. The articles are all excellent, and will explain a lot about how our farmers feed the world, and how it has changed.

The article I want to highlight today is called The Changing Face of Farming, and like reading Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, it will give you good insight on why and how specialization occurs.

So learn and enjoy, I think you should subscribe yourself but don’t be surprised if I feature her here every once in a while as well!

200 years ago my family was farming, but the farm looked much different from our family farm today.

Chickens scoured the yards and fields for something to eat and when a chicken was needed for dinner one was butchered.

A milk cow grazed the pasture during the day and was milked both morning and night to provide milk and butter for the family.

Pigs wallowed in mud outside the barn and provided pork, bacon and lard to cook with.

My great-great grandfather worked in the fields of Illinois raising crops to feed and sell to make a living for his family.

My ancestors did their own banking…in a mason jar in the back yard.

They did their own milling of their wheat and oats for flour on the table.

They did their own taxes, made their own clothes, probably built their own house,

Over the years our family farm has evolved.  In the early 1900’s my family moved to Kansas.  Somewhere along the line someone decided they were tired of milking a cow two times every day and that one of my farm mom’s before me could buy the milk and probably it was delivered to their doorstep. 

Chickens are not found on our farm today.  The coyotes and raccoons really like the taste of them.  I am guessing my ancestors also found it hard to keep a small flock of chickens.  Neighbors could raise bigger groups in open barns even back in the 1950’s.  The butchering process is often messy (I have heard and not witnessed).  It was easier to have the neighbor with all the right equipment take care of that job, so time could be freed up to go to the lake.

My family from my great grandfather to my father all raised pigs outside on dirt and in the weather.  Pigs were never my favorite.  I remember watching my dad’s fingernail grow back oh so slowly after a pig bit it off.  It is much easier to go to the store to buy the cuts of pork I do wish to eat when I want pork.

My farmer ancestors before me probably did their own taxes.  Today, things are so complicated that I am thankful for an accountant to take care of those matters for me.

My grandmothers made most of the clothes my mom and aunts wore growing up.  I have a quilt that used the scraps of those dresses and I used to love it when they would sit around and point at the patches telling me whose dress that was and how old they remember they were when they wore it.  I am guessing that your family history is much the same.  You may have to go back a few more generations than I did, but at one point in your family’s history it is highly likely that your family had a farmer.

Farms today did not become bigger overnight.  It has been an evolution since the beginning of farming.  Michael is better at growing pigs than Raymond.  Raymond doesn’t like growing pigs so sells the family farm and moves to town.  Michael raises a few more pigs to make up for the ones that Raymond no longer grows.  Raymond follows his dream of being an accountant.

Keep reading The Changing Face of Farming, and do follow the other link and subscribe. It’s good stuff.

View from the Trenches: Open Letter to the SARC

Screen-Shot-2015-05-14-at-9.33.52-AMI’m a senior electrician and operations manager. In both roles, my major function is to lead, and to get people to do their best, as well as to get the job done: on time and on budget. In other words its up to me to get the best my people can do, whether they are white, brown, black, or purple; male, female, or other. I just don’t care.

Are you a competent electrician, able to do all of the duties of the position? That’s my only question. Granted there are parts of the job that require physical strength, there are parts that require a certain type of intelligence. If I need five hundred feet of trench hand dug in wet clay, I’m unlikely to (if I can help it!) send a five foot two, 98 pound electrician (whatever their gender) to do it. To me that’s common sense. But it happens, it also happens that I end up doing it myself, I don’t like it either, but that’s life. The mission is the thing. And my mission is to get the electrical done, come hell or high water.

One of the places I learned that was in Air Force ROTC way back in the age of steam airplanes, and I learned it from men who had driven airplanes from England to places like Schweinfurt, and from islands like Saipan to Tokyo. They understood the costs of the mission very well and accepted it. That mission (unlike mine), projecting through air power the overwhelming force of the United States, cost them the loss of many of their friends. They, and their friends, willingly paid it. They were warriors.

And we are lucky, we still have warriors but, it seems to me that the Air Force has forgotten their mission, and become a touchy-feely, don’t hurt me outfit. If so, it has become a flawed weapon, not to be trusted, and that is the point of this article.

I start with the original poster’s explanation of the author because it is right to do so.

Kayce M. Hagen is a pen name assumed by an active duty enlisted airman. She wrote the following words to capture her thoughts after attending mandatory annual training given by her base’s Sexual Assault Response Coordination (SARC) office. I’m publishing her letter here not just because it captures in visceral form a sentiment I’ve heard repeatedly from airmen who are frustrated by increasingly tone-deaf and overwrought approaches to this issue, but also because I believe her input raises (or renews) two important questions. First, what is the current Sexual Assault Prevention program doing for the Air Force? Second, what is it doing tothe Air Force? Kayce’s input explores these questions in a powerful way. Enjoy and respond. -Q.

★       ★       ★       ★       ★

Dear SARC,

I got up this morning as an Airman in the United States Air Force. I got up and I put on my uniform, I pulled back my hair, I looked in the mirror and an Airman looked back. A strong, confident military professional stared out of my bathroom mirror, and I met her eyes with pride. Then I came to your briefing. I came to your briefing and I listened to you talk to me, at times it seemed directly to me, about sexual assault. You talked about a lot of things, about rivers and bridges, you talked about saving people and victimization. In fact you talked for almost a full ninety minutes, and you disgusted me.

You made me a victim today, and I am nobody’s victim. I am an American Airman in the most powerful Air Force in the world, and you made me into a helpless whore. A sensitive, defenseless woman who has no power to protect herself, who has nothing in common with the men she works with. You made me untouchable, and by doing that you made me a target. You gave me a transparent parasol, called it an umbrella and told me to stand idly by while you placed everything from rape to inappropriate shoulder brushes in a crowded hallway underneath it. You put my face up on your slides; my face, my uniform, my honor, and you made me hold this ridiculous contraption of your own devising and called me empowered. You called me strong. You told me, and everyone else who was listening to you this morning that I had a right to dictate what they said. That I had a right to dictate what they looked at. That I had a right to dictate what they listened to. That somehow, in my shop, I was the only person who mattered. That they can’t listen to the radio because they might play the Beatles, or Sir Mix-A-Lot, and that I might be offended. That if someone plays a Katy Perry song, I might have flashbacks to a night where I made a bad decision. I might be hurt, and I’m fragile right? Of course I am, you made me that way. […]

When you isolate me, you make me a target. When you make me a target, you make me a victim. You don’t make me equal, you make me hated. If I am going to be hated, it will be because of who I am, not because of who you have made me. I am not a victim. I am an American Airman, I am a Warrior, and I have answered my nation’s call.

Help me be what I am, or be quiet and get out of my way.

Read it all: One Airman’s View: Open Letter to the SARC : John Q. Public.

There is nothing to add to that, except to thank God for women, no warriors, like Kayce.

Lead her

Follow her

—or—

Get the hell out of her way!

Jeg onsker dere alle, “GOD SYTTENDE MAI!”*

Norsk flagAll across the upper Midwest today, and wherever else we have roamed, you’ll hear the phrase above. It’s important to us, it’s also a good reason to drink Aquavit, one of the few good things we got from the Swedes. You see, as all the Ole’s and Lena’s know, the 17th of May is Norwegian Constitution Day, celebrated here and at home as well.

Many people mistake it for Norwegian Independence day which it is not.

On May 17, 1814, after ratification by the national assembly organized by the independence movement on May 16, the new Constitution for Norway was signed. The reality that this Constitution came in context with a very strong movement in Norway for Independence from Sweden. Unable to gain international support forced  Norway after a short war to negotiate with Sweden.  Norway was allowed to keep its own Constitution, but had to accept the King of Sweden as its monarch. For more historical information and perspective, read, “Constitution of Norway” in Wikipedia.

So we were stuck with loyalty to the Swedish Crown until 1905. It was never all that popular but Norwegians being rather stolid, we soldiered on, and in good time…

This meant that  Norway was subservient to Sweden under the King of Sweden. The vision of and movement for Independence continued and was at long last brought to fruition on June 7, 1905 when, having revoked the Constitutional amendments which ended the “personal union” with the King of Sweden, the Norwegian Parliament took action to create an Independent  Norway with its own KING. This is a very complicated and interesting process with democratic ideas and processes pressing the whole process.

Norway did gain its own King! The Parliament invited Prince Carl of Denmark to become King. Understanding the Norwegian movement toward democracy, he said he would consider becoming the King only after a Referendum of the People of  Norway to vote on whether they wanted a Republic or a Constitutional Monarchy.

Coat of Arms of Trondheim

The PEOPLE of  Norway voted 79% for ththe Constitution. Prince Carl accepted election as KING of  Norway. He and his family came to  Norway. He was the MORE popular when he chose the historic name of Nowegian kings, “HAAKON” and became King Haakon VII of Norway. King Haakon VII took the OATH as monarch on November 25, 1905 – 2 days after he arrived in Norway from Denmark. King Haakon VII was crowned KING of  Norway at Nidarosdomen (the cathedral in Trondheim) on June 22, 1906.Excepted from:

Today is SYTTENDE MAI!

I suppose I could add here that my mother’s family is from Trondheim, the ancient capital while my father’s is from Oslo, the current capital.

Coat of Arms of Oslo

I read a story, which I believe to be true, that when during World War Two, King Haakon VII was holding court, in exile in Scotland, a young man, a member of the Resistance, who had been injured by the Germans and escaped, was brought to the King. At the door, he straightened up and despite grievous injuries to his leg, walked without a limp to the King. Afterward, he remarked that, “A man does not limp while his legs are the same length”. Such is the Heritage we have carried down from the Sagamen of the Viking age. And such is our reverence for freedom, independence, and written constitutions. We waited 90 years for a King of our own, who says perseverance, and steadfastness doesn’t pay.

O Valdres,  O Valdres, thou home in our hearts.

For immigrant families, an ocean apart.

Your valleys and mountains with lofty peaks high,

The mem’ries we cherish tho’ years have gone by;

O Valdres, your beauty is seen by day’s light,

Queen of the Valleys, a beacon at night.

For you now, O Norge, our hands cross the sea,

We all join together in one family.

Our homeland forever, our homage we give,

From all distant shores wherever we live,

O Norge, you call us from all walk of life,

In peace, love and joy, our hearts now unite.

Gretchen Dokken-Hellie

* I wish YOU ALL, “Good 17th of May!”

Around the Web This Week

6a76f4a3-4ad2-4ae2-8a3b-c092e85586afSort of a compendium of odds and ends today, without a lot of commentary from me.

My dearest friend, partner and editor here, Jessica, is celebrating the third anniversary of her blog today, although she is only present in spirit, because of her health problems. My post about it is here.

The Federalist had a bit more on the Amtrak wreck, I think he makes some valid points, especially regarding the unseemliness of many reactions.

The deadly Amtrak derailment this week spawned a frenzy of sleazy opportunism on social media as lefties rushed to declare—before any evidence of the cause of the accident was available—that it clearly showed the need for more federal billions to subsidize Amtrak.

As the official investigation has released actual information, it seems likely that the real cause was excessive speed: the train was traveling at more than 100 miles per hour as it entered a tight curve where the safe limit was 50 miles per hour. How is more government spending supposed to prevent this kind of operator error?

Oh, and contrary to the media’s “Amtrak fan fiction,” as Sean Davis calls it, Congress just authorized $1.4 billion in new subsidies to Amtrak less than five months ago. So there goes that narrative.

There is obviously something unseemly about this—far more unseemly than a violinist distraught over not being able to retrieve the source of her livelihood. This is a tragedy in which people were killed and injured, yet many a media hack’s first thought was about how to score political points against Republicans.

More at The Federalist

National Review has something to say about Paul Krugman’s Pretense of Economic Knowledge

It is wrong to call economics “the dismal science.” Dismal, yes; science, no.

Econometrics and mathematical modeling are enormously valuable, but they also contribute to the pretense of knowledge, which is a lethal intellectual epidemic to which the scientist manqués of the economics world are especially vulnerable. There are competing factions and schools of thought within the proper sciences, of course, but the outsize role played by economic schools — from New Keynesians to Austrians — is evidence of the corrupting influence of politics, which distorts economic analysis in both its weak form (simple political affiliation) and its strong form (servile political advocacy). And as with the scientific case of freelancing gadflies such as Neil deGrasse Tyson, economists damage their individual and corporate credibility the farther they stray from their fields of genuine expertise. It is no surprise that, e.g., purported science guy Bill Nye until recently held foolish and ignorant views on genetically modified crops, views of which he has, to his credit,repented. Nye, who holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering, is more a science enthusiast than a scientist, much less a scientist with any particular expertise in agricultural genetics. There is no reason to suppose that he has particularly well-informed views on any given question, and the temptations of cultural affiliation — the people who are terrified of GMOs are many of the same people who care deeply about climate change and the contents of Texas high-school biology curricula — often lead us astray.

More at National Review

As all know, I’m no particular fan of Jeb Bush, not least because I think there must be a Democrat not named Clinton, and a Republican not named Bush qualified to run for President. I’m not much of a fan of dynasties (at least in America, I rather like Queen Elizabeth, although Prince Charles, not so much, which highlights the problem). In any case, Jeb said some very cogent things about Christianity last weekend at Liberty University.

[…] Giving a fiery speech last month at Tina Brown’s “Women in the World Summit,” Clinton plainly said: “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” so that women can have unfettered access to “reproductive health care and safe childbirth.”

One would like to imagine that Clinton was speaking only about primitive cultures where children are forced into marriage and childbearing, or where genital cutting is common. But we know that she also meant religious conservatives closer to home whose beliefs get in the way. She explicitly criticized Hobby Lobby for not paying for its employees’ contraception.

By contrast, Jeb Bush, who will become the GOP nominee if Republicans are smart, assumed a much different tone and direction in his recent commencement address at Liberty University.

“How strange, in our own time, to hear Christianity spoken of as some sort of backward and oppressive force,” he said. “It’s a depressing fact that when some people think of Christianity and of Judeo-Christian values, they think of something static, narrow and outdated. . . . I cannot think of any more subversive moral idea ever loosed on the world than ‘the last shall be first, and the first last.’ ”

He also spoke of what our world would have been like without the “unalloyed compassion, such genuine love, such thorough altruism,” as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described Christianity.

It would be defined, Bush said, by “power without restraint, conflict without reconciliation, oppression without deliverance, corruption without reformation, tragedy without renewal.”

He’s right, of course. More at The Washington Post.

And three links on the British general election, which may well have lessons for us, as well

Dan Hannan: Left’s hatred devoured its own election campaign

Charles Utley: Time to Reflect on the Past and the Future

UEA’s Eastminster: UEA’s experts react to the General Election 2015 result

Enjoy!

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