You’ve got to give it to the media: they have been putting up a strong fight to de-legitimize the Tea Party Tax Day Protests. They’ve called the participants extremists, Republican tools, crazies… and still, people came. I was one of the nearly 10,000 people at the St. Louis protest Wednesday. While the atmosphere wasn’t as intense as the protest February 27th (after all, that protest was a close-knit 1500 people) it was still exciting and I think everyone left feeling proud to be American.

The media obfuscates the intentions of the protests, saying that they were only about taxes or anti-Obama rallies. MSNBC, the beacon of truth, said on television today that it can’t believe people are protesting having taxes taken from their paychecks when so many people are without jobs right now.

I can’t speak for every person at every Tea Party, but most of them were average Americans who had never been to a protest before (they had a show of hands) and were just fed-up with spending that won’t be paid for generations. (Essentially stealing from our grandchildren.) THAT is what the tea parties were about: a demand for effective policies to get us out of the crisis without putting our country at a disadvantage. Grassroots activism, like Tea Parties, is exactly what the Right needs now. These were average Americans, fighting the good fight, practicing their right to assemble.

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Studlife reported Monday that over the past weekend, thirty-five Wash U students (most of them members of Green Action) piloted seven vans to Washington, DC, to attend Power Shift, a national environmental lobby conference. According to Mapquest, Washington is 867 miles from St. Louis. That makes a round trip 1,734 miles, and seven round trips 12, 138 miles. For some perspective, that is 49% of the Earth’s circumference at the Equator. Green Action literally drove half way around the Earth to attend this conference. If the vans were getting 30 mpg (an unlikely figure indeed), the trip would have generated approximately 3.55 tons of CO2. I think I know what to get Green Action for the next gift-giving holiday. You might think I’m being too harsh, that although it smacks of hypocrisy, the lessons acquired at the conference probably outweigh the tons (!!!) of carbon Green Action generated. Perhaps… but I also happen to be on the Power Shift email list, and thus received an email from Power Shift organizer Jake Brewer informing me that I could watch the proceedings of the conference, live, “from the comfort of [my] laptop” at http://www.powershift09.org/live.

What sort of karma could possible atone for such hubris? Well, this is certainly a good start.

Transparency

January 23, 2009

Obama has talked
(Constantly)
about Transparency.

But the Facebook grassroots campaign and the “openness” of the new administration seem to be a thing of the past. Immediately after being elected, Obama hedged on his promises to do a great number of things quickly within his first term. His “transparency” allowed only 4 reporters to the re-do of the oath Wednesday. Only one outlet was given an inauguration interview: one that donated to his campaign. Does this sound like Change and Transparency?

But this is not the first time a leader has come in with promises of Change, promises to fix a broken economy. To change the standing of a people’s in the international world. Think of 1933 Germany.

Transparency was the unique promise Obama gave to the American people: we could follow the change in our country like we were a part of it, somehow. It was part of the reason Obama became the media’s darling. Now that the campaign is over, so is that Transparency. But people are still following, some blindly, without thought to the Change within Obama himself and all his previous promises.

Right now, the only transparency for Obama are ice sculptures like the one Wash. U. commissioned for its campus.

Obama Ice Sculpture

Obama Ice Sculpture

A few days ago, the following article from the New York Times was forwarded on to me: “Professors’ Liberalism Contagious? Maybe Not.” In case you didn’t get through the article, the general idea is that the longstanding accusation from the Right that liberal professors indoctrinate students with liberal ideology is, well, bunk. The author, Patricia Cohen, writes that, “three sets of researchers recently concluded that professors have virtually no impact on the political views and ideology of their students.” One of the three works cited appears in the current issue of PS: Political Science and Politics, the journal of the American Political Science Association. The study (PS: Political Science & Politics (2008), 41 : 773-783 Cambridge University Press), authored by Mack Mariani of Xavier University and Gordon Hewitt of Hamilton College, examined several surveys conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI). These surveys were administered to incoming freshmen and graduating seniors at a number of U.S. colleges and universities, and included a question asking students to classify their political views as either “Far Left,” “Liberal,” “Middle of the Road,” “Conservative,” or “Far Right.” The researchers based their methodology on a simple (and entirely reasonable) assumption: “If students’ political views are being changed by a left-leaning professoriate, we should be able to see evidence of that influence.” Their study tested to see whether students’ political self-classification (on the scale listed above) changed from the freshman survey to the senior survey. The data suggest that such changes are negligible and are consistent with those of non-students in the same age range. Mariani and Hewitt thus conclude that “there is no evidence that faculty ideology at an institutional level has an impact on student political ideology.”

These results are, however, considerably less conclusive than they may first appear. Mariani and Hewitt completely pass over the question of whether the far left-liberal-moderate-conservative-far right question accurately assesses political views. Had they considered this issue, they would have noticed some interesting trends. In addition to posing the political-spectrum question noted above, the HERI survey also asks respondents to provide their views on a number of political issues such as taxation, abortion, and capital punishment. Although students’ self-classification did not change significantly while in college, their responses to the political questions moved noticeably “to the left.” Below is a chart showing the percent changes in responses to the political questions. [Note: the data below are from a report on the class of 2005, while the data utilized by Mariani and Hewitt were on the class of 2003, as the issue-specific data was not made publically available for 2003. The data sets are otherwise roughly equivalent, however.]

-“Marijuana should be legalized”

Freshman %: 31.5 Agree; Senior %: 44.0 Agree; Change: +12.5

-“Abortion should be legal”

Freshman %: 49.3% Agree; Senior %: 59.8% Agree; Change: +10.5

-“Wealthy people should pay more in taxes than they do now”

Freshman %: 50.7 Agree; Senior %: 60.1 Agree; Change: +9.4

-“Same-sex couples should have the right to legal marital status”

Freshman %: 60.0 Agree; Senior %: 66.7 Agree; Change: +6.7

– “The Death Penalty should be abolished”

Freshman %: 39.1% Agree;  Senior %: 45.1% Agree; Change: +6.0

-“There is too much concern in the courts for the rights of criminals”

Freshman %: 61.4 Agree;  Senior %: 50.0 Agree; Change: -11.4

These data indicate significant changes in political views, even though it occurred within a population that exhibited very little change in political self-identification. This suggests that what freshmen understand by the terms “liberal,” “conservative,” etc is very different from what seniors take those terms to mean. A graduating college senior may classify as moderate many policies that a freshman would identify as distinctly liberal. Such a trend may actually be the most significant effect of liberal faculty members of their pupils. By markedly shifting the realm of discourse to the left, ‘conservative’ positions become more extreme (in a society where extremism is generally viewed negatively), while ‘liberal’ positions become more moderate (in a society where moderation is identified as a great virtue). The 2008 Presidential election provides a timely example of this phenomenon: John McCain, a Republican moderate enough to have been considered as the Democratic VP nominee four years ago, was painted as a dangerous reactionary; while Barack Obama, a true Liberal’s Liberal, found impressive support amongst those voters who identified as moderate or independent.

None of this is suggest either that professors are wholly responsible for this shift in ideology, nor to suggest that whatever role professors do play is the result of a nefarious plot to indoctrinate.  I merely wish to propose that we are a bit premature in tolling the bell for contagious liberalism in the Academy.

Vandals on Campus

November 15, 2008

Sometime during the night of November 3 and the morning of November 4th, Washington University in St. Louis’ campus was vandalized. As of today, a week and a half later, the vandals have not been caught or punished and as far as I am aware, there is no investigation of the incident.

These vandals pasted fliers over every visible portion of campus. They chalked the sidewalk, they wrote on windows and doors, they whitewashed posters to sides of buildings.

All of this hoopla was done to urge the Wash U. community to go and vote for Barack Obama. While I find the call of civic duty itself laudable, the method was questionable at best. A recent survey had shown that 80% of campus was voting for Obama, so this material was nothing more than self-congratulatory.

The propaganda posted ranged from merely bothersome to offensive. Posters stapled to trees. Soviet-style images of Obama’s face affixed to walls. Hundreds of little “Vote for Change!” leaflets littering the ground. Obama stickers attached to microwaves, tables, chairs. Posters with a vampire Sarah Palin face with the word “Frightening” glued to walls.

Was anything done about this? Of course not. One doesn’t have to wonder what the reaction would be if the “Frightening” signs had been replicated to have pictures of Barack Obama; everyone would have been up-in-arms about the “racism” of the posters. But the “sexist” posters get laughs or indifference. The hypocrisy is absurd.

All the papers and posters and writing on windows might have even been okay had the perpetrators cleaned up after themselves. (They definitely should have recycled, as they claim to love the environment.) As far as I have witnessed, they did not clean up their mess. Maintenance was forced to pick up after them as the Obamamaniacs (friends of the “everyman” as they like to be seen) celebrated the victory. The irony is palpable.

Some might say this is a rant of a bitter conservative, and perhaps that is true. But it is over a week later and there are still 12 “Frightening!” Sarah Palin signs whitewashed to the side of a building, and it’s definitely not maintenance’s job to take care of it. And they probably will remain there until a good Samaritan conservative keys them apart.

November 13, 2008

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