29 June 2009

An important debate

Comment has just published my article, titled: Religion and democracy: Habermas vs. Flores d'Arcais. From the first paragraph:
Few issues ruffle more feathers, more frequently, than the place of religion in the political realm. According to the reigning modernist framework, rooted either in liberal individualism or in some form of secular collectivism, the state is neutral territory. Here neutrality is defined, not merely as formal indifference to what John Rawls labels the comprehensive doctrines that divide the particular communities comprising the state or nation, but as emptying the public square of every value-laden worldview that resists rational discussion and therefore threatens to divide a polity.

Feel free to read the rest if you are so inclined.

25 June 2009

D. G. Hart and 'world-and-life-viewitis'

Darryl G. Hart has fought hard to make himself the bête noir of the christian university community in North America and, truth to tell, he has largely succeeded. This is a typical entry from his blog: If the Bible Speaks to All of Life, Why Not the Confession? Here's Hart in his own words:

[A] recent speaking engagement at Grove City College . . . got me thinking about the world-and-life-viewitis that has reached epidemic proportions among Protestants. Most evangelical Protestant colleges these days are justifying their existence and identity by saying they provide a wholistic [sic] vision on learning that is grounded in the Christian faith. The Lordship of Christ, the authority of Scripture, even the cultural mandate come in for aid and comfort.

This ideal is an honorable one and springs from generally wholesome motives. Who would not want to see Christ honored in all aspects of the created order, and who would want to be unfaithful where Scripture has revealed God’s holy will?

There’s just one problem: the Bible doesn’t speak to all the arts and sciences, let alone whether incoming freshmen should receive a laptop or whether it should be an Apple or an IBM machine. In fact, the one place where Christ is revealed, the Bible, has very little to say about the curriculum of an undergraduate education. If we say that it does, we are in danger of putting the imaginations of men above the Word of God — that is, making the Bible say what we want it to say.

This point becomes pretty plausible if we consider that the Reformed creeds and catechisms have nothing to say about rhetoric, logic, grammar, music — the list could go on but not much longer for the medieval university’s curriculum. It has even less to say about quantum physics or critical theory and the vast range of subjects offered by today’s universities. But if the Bible speaks to all of these areas of human endeavor and inquiry, don’t we need to revise the confessions so that the church may rightly speak on what God has revealed?

Or could it be that what the creeds and confessions teach is pretty much the sum of what the Bible reveals? In which case, for the other areas of life we are left to our reasonable ability to make sense of God’s created order, thus leaving the church jurisdiction over divinity and the university faculty authority over the arts and sciences.

Hart represents a particular school of Reformed Christians who not only put great emphasis on the confessions of the 16th and 17th centuries, but also put something of a lutheranizing two-kingdoms spin on these confessions and on the Scripture on which they are based. This school is primarily associated with Westminster Seminary California, Hart's former employer. The expanding influence of Abraham Kuyper's worldviewish Christianity comes in for special criticism from this group.

In response three points can be made here.

First, Hart is correct to observe that the Bible has nothing to say about quantum physics and a host of other issues. He is also right to assert that we should not try to make it say what it doesn't say. My friend Roy Clouser has addressed this error in speaking of the encyclopedic assumption, i.e., the belief that the Bible is a kind of encyclopedia giving us scientific data about human origins, astronomy and, well, even political science.

However, Hart is missing something of the all-embracing character of the life in Christ as understood in Scripture as a whole. One need hardly accept the encyclopedic assumption to recognize that biblical religion has implications for how we live all of life, not just what we do in church on sundays: "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31). Or this, also from St. Paul: "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ" (Colossians 2:6-8).

Second, and perhaps more seriously, Hart's approach to Scripture is based on an inadequate epistemology. The Bible, it seems, is filled with a number of propositions, which have relevance to some of our activities in God's world, but not to most. In this huge swath of territory we simply rely on our own native reason, which we share with all human beings, whatever their religious commitments. Scripture informs our spiritual life, but not much beyond that. If Hart is correct about this, then it is little short of amazing that so many people emphasizing the need for a consistent christian worldview have found so much to write about. Are the issues to which they draw attention not genuine issues? Can their concerns be dismissed so easily?

In my own Political Visions and Illusions I undertake to explore the five political ideologies of liberalism, conservatism, nationalism, democratism and socialism. Despite their respective followers having access to reason, they nevertheless manage to embrace quite different visions of politics and indeed of reality as a whole. It is not too difficult to see the impact of more than one mutually incompatible worldview at play. It is also evident that these are a matter of adherents making entirely too much of a good thing, which is what Scripture calls idolatry. If Scripture is silent on a lot of particular things, it speaks clearly on idolatry, which inevitably affects the whole of life, including those academic disciplines left up to "our reasonable ability."

Third, Hart's approach must be viewed against an historical trajectory that has seen the secularization of any number of universities over the centuries, despite their christian origins. Here's Hart once more: "Or could it be that what the creeds and confessions teach is pretty much the sum of what the Bible reveals? In which case, for the other areas of life we are left to our reasonable ability to make sense of God’s created order, thus leaving the church jurisdiction over divinity and the university faculty authority over the arts and sciences." I agree that the church as institution should not attempt to pronounce in the arts and sciences. But Hart appears to be saying more than this. If we read this in light of what he's said above, we are left with a pretty toxic mix, and one that has led to the erosion of the christian character of countless universities in the past, from Harvard and Yale to Hamilton's own McMaster University, whose Divinity College sits with increasing unease on its campus among the other faculties of arts and sciences.

Disparage as he might the supposed pandemic of world-and-life-viewitis amongst evangelical Christians, Hart's approach does not represent a workable alternative. There is simply too much that it does not take into account, and for that reason it is unlikely to gain a foothold in the christian universities of North America. Though he undoubtedly has much to offer in the fields of "divinity" and liturgy, if we seek discernment with respect to the idolatries afoot in "secular" areas of life, we had best turn elsewhere.

24 June 2009

Wills on Buckley

Half a century later it is difficult to recall that William F. Buckley and Garry Wills were once friends and colleagues at the former's National Review. This was before they parted on less than amicable terms. Given this longstanding rivalry, ending with apparent reconciliation a few years before Buckley's death, some of us may not know quite how to read Will's testimonial to one of the leading lights of American conservatism: Daredevil. On the surface it reads like an affectionate tribute, but then there's this:

Bill was not, and did not pretend to be, a real intellectual. He gave up on the “big book” that his father and others were urging him to write. For years he tried to do a continuation of José Ortega y Gasset’s The Revolt of the Masses. This had been a sacred text for his father’s guru, Albert Jay Nock. Bill took intellectual comrades like Hugh Kenner with him for his winter break in Switzerland, to help him get a grip on this ambitious project. But he told me he realized in time this was not his métier. He was not a reflective thinker. He was a quick responder. He wrote rapidly because he was quickly bored. His gifts were facility, flash, and charm, not depth or prolonged wrestling with a problem.

Bill needed people around him all the time. Frequently, when he told me he had to write a column, I would offer to withdraw from the boat cabin or hotel room where we were. He urged me not to, and as he typed (with great speed and accuracy) he would keep talking off and on, reading a sentence to me, trying out a word, saying that something he was writing would annoy old So-and-So. When I appeared on his TV show to discuss a new book of mine, it was clear to me that he had not read the book—he was given notes on each author he interviewed. Once he asked me if I had read all of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. I said yes. “Haven’t you?” He had not. I suspect that was true of the other capitalist classics he referred to, by Ludwig von Mises, Wilhelm Roepke, and others. He could defend them with great panache. But he did not want to sit all by himself for a long time reading them. One of his teachers at Yale, the philosopher Paul Weiss, told me that Bill was very good at discussing books he had not read.

That doesn't even measure up to damning with faint praise. But Wills is kind enough to show us the salutary influence he himself had on his former mentor, successfully breaking him of his racism, antisemitism and, eventually, even his war-hawkishness. It's nice to know that Wills was in the right all along and that Buckley might even admit it if he were still around. Of course we'll have to take Wills' word for it, won't we?

The Burning (Unburnt) Bush

I have in my personal library two liturgical books issued by the Church of Scotland. One is The Scottish Psalter of 1929, a thin volume whose split pages, coupled with the regular metres of the versifications, enable a congregation to mix and match texts and tunes in the course of worship. The second is The Psalms and Church Hymnary: Revised Edition, containing only texts (with very small print!) and no music. Both are printed by Oxford University Press. On the front is a shield carrying the ancient symbol of the Reformed Churches, the Burning Bush. Here is the version used by the Church of Scotland, overlaid against the diagonal Cross of St. Andrew:

The motto, "Nec tamen consumebatur," is Latin for "And it was not consumed." Some versions of this shield, most notably that of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, carry an alternative motto: "Ardens sed virens," meaning "burning but flourishing." The symbolism of the burning bush originates with the 12th national synod of 1583 of l'Église réformée de France, which now uses an updated version, overlaid with the Huguenot Cross:

Why the burning bush? The biblical allusion is, of course, to Exodus 3, especially verse 2: "And the angel of the LORD appeared to [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and lo, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed." Here's a rough translation from the website of l'Église réformée:
This burning bush, in addition to signifying the mysterious and unseen presence of the Lord, is also the symbol of the decisive meeting between Moses and God, that is to say, the call of God (who calls him by his first name) and the former's response to that call. . . . The logo thus indicates that each of us is personally called by God.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church, Hanover Presbytery, in the United States, uses a modified version of the burning bush:

while the Presbyterian Church in Canada currently uses this stylized version:

As far as I know the Presbyterian Church (USA) makes no use of this symbol, except for a possible allusion to it in the two small flames at either side of the cross below:

I have seen no evidence that either the Reformed Church in America or the Christian Reformed Church makes use of it. If anyone knows differently, please let me know.

Incidentally, in Orthodox usage the burning bush is referred to as the Unburnt Bush (perhaps a more accurate name), which is strongly associated with the virginity of Mary.

16 June 2009

Mid-June snippets

  • While the explosive growth of Christianity in sub-saharan Africa is a fairly new development, there is one country in that continent boasting ancient christian roots, as reported in this fascinating article: Living history in Ethiopia. An intriguing excerpt:

    The 11 rock-hewn churches in the town of Lalibela have often been called the "Eighth Wonder of the World." Like the monoliths at Axum, they are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And, according to legend, they were each carved out of a single piece of rock at record speed, "as angels worked on them during the night." The churches, many carved in deep trenches with only their roofs exposed, others cut directly into the rocks of caves, are all connected by a labyrinthine series of tunnels, paths and steep steps. Each has been used continuously since the beginning of the 13th century. Most are decorated with a Star of David, underscoring the church's close kinship with King Solomon. One displays a very old painting of a black Jesus.

  • This is a grizzly story that I would not otherwise flag, save for its legal ramifications: London autopsies reveal 3 babies may not have been full-term. A woman has been arrested in this case, but if it turns out the infants were aborted before birth, will they drop the charges and let her go?

  • While we're on the subject, it is helpful to remind ourselves occasionally that the early Christians, contrary to their pagan neighbours, strongly disapproved of exposure of infants and abortion. David W. T. Brattston gives us a summary of ancient sources on the subject: Early Christians and Abortion.

  • I recently discovered, much to my surprise, that the tune to Go Tell Aunt Rodie, played by every young violin student of the Suzuki method, was composed by none other than Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In the Presbyterian hymnal the tune is called ROUSSEAU, while Cyberhymnal calls it GREENVILLE. Sensing a paedagogical opportunity here, I have set the opening words of Rousseau's Social Contract to this tune, which is available here exclusively and for the first time.

  • What? I'm shocked, shocked! at the vicious rumours that the Iranian president might have rigged his country's recent election: Iran protest cancelled as leaked election results show Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came third.

  • Could Canada's foremost cranky conservative really be flirting with the likes of Noam Chomsky? Read it here: Popular theatre.

  • Happy 794th birthday to Magna Carta. I hope a big celebration will be planned for six years hence.
  • Twilight Zone: The After Hours

    Nancy and I have recently been watching old episodes of The Twilight Zone on youtube. We were reminded that there was more than one series with this title on television, the first running from 1959 to 1964, the second from 1985 to 1989, and the third in the 2002-2003 season. Here are two versions of the same episode, The After Hours, the first of which aired in 1960 and the second of which was first broadcast in 1986. Watch both and see which you think is the better version. I have my own preference, and you may be able to guess which it is.

    Incidentally, while viewing the first version, pay attention to the music, which was scored by the incomparable Bernard Herrmann, who was in the middle of his famous cinematic collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock. Everyone knows the theme that the programme eventually settled on (listen to the arrangement of it in the colour episode above), which has become a musical cliché. But Herrmann scored the theme for the first season and, as expected, did a terrific job.

    15 June 2009

    Managing decline

    Though we North Americans tend to think of cities as permanent and expanding features on our landscape, it is a fact of life that, like everything else in the world, they wax and wane and may even die. Timbuktu was once a great centre of culture and learning, but is now a shadow of what it was half a millennium ago. There is no reason to think that our own cities are exempt from this process.

    Indeed there are a number of American cities that have not fared well with the shift from an industrial to a service economy. The one with which I am most familiar is just over the border: Detroit. Now there is a co-operative effort by more than one level of government to manage the decline of such urban centres: US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive. Given my deep familial roots in southeastern Michigan, I am saddened at the decline of urban life in the region.

    Yet all periods of mourning must end, and life must go on. For the city of Flint, Michigan, 60 miles north of Detroit, this means effectively abandoning up to 40 percent of the city's built-up land in a necessary downsizing effort.

    Flint, sixty miles north of Detroit, was the original home of General Motors. The car giant once employed 79,000 local people but that figure has shrunk to around 8,000. Unemployment is now approaching 20 per cent and the total population has almost halved to 110,000. The exodus – particularly of young people – coupled with the consequent collapse in property prices, has left street after street in sections of the city almost entirely abandoned.

    Durant Hotel, Flint, Michigan
    Durant Hotel

    In the city centre, the once grand Durant Hotel – named after William Durant, GM's founder – is a symbol of the city's decline, said Mr [Dan] Kildee [Genesee County Treasurer]. The large building has been empty since 1973, roughly when Flint's decline began. Regarded as a model city in the motor industry's boom years, Flint may once again be emulated, though for very different reasons.

    But Mr Kildee, who has lived there nearly all his life, said he had first to overcome a deeply ingrained American cultural mindset that "big is good" and that cities should sprawl – Flint covers 34 square miles. . . . But some Flint dustcarts are collecting just one rubbish bag a week, roads are decaying, police are very understaffed and there were simply too few people to pay for services, he said. If the city didn't downsize it will eventually go bankrupt, he added. . . .

    The local authority has restored the city's attractive but formerly deserted centre but has pulled down 1,100 abandoned homes in outlying areas. Mr Kildee estimated another 3,000 needed to be demolished, although the city boundaries will remain the same. Already, some streets peter out into woods or meadows, no trace remaining of the homes that once stood there.

    Choosing which areas to knock down will be delicate but many of them were already obvious, he said. The city is buying up houses in more affluent areas to offer people in neighbourhoods it wants to demolish. Nobody will be forced to move, said Mr Kildee. "Much of the land will be given back to nature. People will enjoy living near a forest or meadow," he said.

    Mr Kildee acknowledged that some fellow Americans considered his solution "defeatist" but he insisted it was "no more defeatist than pruning an overgrown tree so it can bear fruit again".

    Given that growth and decline are facts of life, and given that political authorities are under a divine mandate to do public justice, how do they manage decline in a just fashion? It is easy to distribute the pieces of an ever-expanding pie, but what happens when the pie is contracting? The corporate private sector has had to face these sorts of issues for decades, but now municipal governments are having to make similar tough decisions. Are there equitable ways to do so?

    14 June 2009

    King of glory

    Seven whole days, not one in seven,
    I will praise thee;
    in my heart, though not in heaven,
    I can raise thee.
    Small it is, in this poor sort
    to enrol thee:
    e'en eternity's too short
    to extol thee.

    George Herbert, 1633

    Becoming adult

    Writing for Breakpoint's Worldview Magazine, John Stonestreet explores Our Adolescent Culture. Taking as his springboard Diana West's The Death of the Grown-Up: How America’s Arrested Development Threatens Western Civilization, he suggests that, whereas adolescence as a distinct stage of development was unknown before the mid-20th century, what was originally seen as a transitional phenomenon has overtaken the entire culture such that our social and political institutions nurture a kind of permanent immaturity. Take note of Stonestreet's six marks of an adolescent culture, which seem all too evidently applicable to North America.

    I have little to add to his analysis. Nevertheless, as an instructor at a post-secondary institution, I have sometimes wondered whether universities really help young people move into adulthood, or whether they inadvertently prolong adolescence beyond what is healthy for the student and the society at large. I ask this as someone who was not fully self-supporting until well beyond 18 years of age, due entirely to my pursuit of graduate studies towards a PhD.

    But there's another factor. Forty years ago my own baby-boomer generation, under the cover of a radical critique of society, coined such terms as "the establishment" and "the system," and put retreads on "status quo," "capitalism," "patriarchy" and "military-industrial complex," all terms of opprobrium describing forms of society to be opposed. To be sure, there was an element of truth behind these labels, though they were too easily tossed about as means of discrediting a complex network of social patterns which such simplistic terms could never hope to capture in their entirety.

    Could the use of such language have been the first signs of a society refusing to grow up? If one can blame "the system" for every personal failure, one is perhaps implicitly absolved from having to take responsibility for rectifying it. Far from empowering the young, as some would have it, such an attitude is more likely to nurture resentment and stifle initiative, the very things we expect adolescents to outgrow. Perhaps it's time, if not to abolish adolescence, at least to recover its original meaning: becoming adult!

    12 June 2009

    Thomas Nelson's bad idea

    Americans have the reputation of being one of the most bible-reading nations on earth. There is a huge market in that country for specialty or niche bibles, which cater to certain sectors of the reading public. Some months ago I wrote of The Green Bible, which prints in green letters passages having to do with creation. Now Thomas Nelson has published The American Patriot’s Bible, something which, admittedly, makes my skin crawl:

    One could pinpoint numerous errors and one-sided assertions in such a project, for example, the facile overstating of the christian beliefs of the founders. (The inclusion of Thomas Paine here is little short of ludicrous.)

    But the principal reason this is such a misguided project is that it is based on a severe misunderstanding of the biblical covenant. In the Old Testament God entered into a special relationship with the children of Israel, promising them a homeland at the crossroads of three continents and giving them a law by which to order their lives as his peculiar people. When the psalmist says: "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!" (Psalm 33:12), he obviously has Israel in mind.

    In the New Testament God continues to choose a people for himself, but on a different basis: the shed blood of Christ and his victory over death for their sins. The Apostle Peter says: "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (I Peter 2:9). The holy nation is not ethnic Israel, but the church, the Body of Christ, whose members are drawn from every nation on earth. One tires of having to remind people of this.

    Perhaps it's time for a moratorium on niche bibles of all kinds. From now on there should be the biblical text only, bound in a plain black cover.

    10 June 2009

    Torture and the rule of law

    The following is my regular Christian Courier column dated 8 June 2009:

    At one time it was a commonplace occurrence to see convicted criminals treated in painful and humiliating ways. Grisly penalties were applied to murderers, pickpockets and heretics, and ordinary people turned out in large numbers to witness these spectacles, apparently learning the hard lesson that, to coin a cliché, crime does not pay. However the English Bill of Rights of 1689, adopted after the previous year’s ouster of King James II, prohibited the application of “cruel and unusual punishments,” in language that would eventually find its way into the US Bill of Rights and our own Charter of Rights and Freedoms, where the word “treatment” was notably added.

    What then of pre-trial treatment? What means are permitted in questioning a suspected criminal, that is, someone who has not yet been found guilty of a punishable crime? Since ancient times brutal means have often been employed to elicit a confession or incriminating information from a defendant. Such means are still used throughout the globe, despite the existence, among other similar treaties, of the 1985 United Nations Convention Against Torture, of which Canada and the United States are signatories.

    Arguments against torture are based on two types of reasoning, principled and pragmatic. On the principled side, it is argued that human beings have an intrinsic dignity that ought not to be violated through mistreatment, even if it is in the interest of a larger good, for example national security. An argument can also be made that those who engage in torture must suppress their own humanity to bring themselves to commit such an act. In short, torture is unjust.

    Those of a more pragmatic bent insist that, even if torture were not morally wrong, its use is not effective, as the victim could easily confess to something he did not do in order to end the ordeal. Even if the suspect is guilty of harbouring information about fellow conspirators that might be crucial to stopping a terrorist act, he could just as easily give false or misleading information to his interrogators, who would not necessarily know the difference.

    Nevertheless, the temptation to torture is one that many officials find irresistible when confronted with a threat to the lives of innocent people, much as in wartime a country’s government will be tempted to retaliate in kind against an attack on civilians. There can be no doubt that al Qaeda and similar organizations have employed unjust means, precisely to entice their opponents to respond in illegal ways and thereby discredit themselves.

    Admittedly the United States was in a difficult international position as it sought an effective response to the 9/11 attacks. The Bush administration severely botched the public relations side of this as it needlessly alienated otherwise friendly governments needed to mount an effective multilateral defence.

    Moreover, the fact that Washington claimed to be waging a war on terror was, from the outset, deeply misguided. It is precisely because this “war” has such a nebulous and unattainable aim that the government prosecuting it will tend to lose sight of which means are appropriate in its pursuit. If our aim is to eradicate terror, residual bourgeois sympathies, schoolyard bullying or something similarly unrealistic, any effort to do so will almost inevitably tempt us, in our choice of means, to flirt with the edges of legality and rectitude. Why? Simply because no means whatever will enable us to reach a goal so vague as to lack a reasonable chance of success.

    Better to keep a feasible goal before us and to choose methods proper to its accomplishment, avoiding those that corrupt us and transgress the norms of justice.

    09 June 2009

    Cardus' coursepack

    My good friends at Cardus have come up with something that looks like an invaluable resource for teachers, students and other Christians wishing to know how their faith impacts life. I've not yet seen a copy, but judging from their past work, I hope this gets wide circulation.

    We also take note in passing that Cardus is now on youtube. I must admit to being puzzled at some of the so-called related videos shown at the lower right of the screen. Exactly how "Hitler Finds Out Canucks Sign Sundin" and "Original Alex Rios Video 'You are a bum!'" relate to the new Cardus video is not altogether clear.

    01 June 2009

    More resignations from Order

    The fallout continues from last year's controversial award of this country's highest honour to abortion doctor Henry Morgentaler: Resignations from the Order of Canada. One of those whose resignation the Governor General accepted is Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, Archbishop of Montreal.

    June snippets

  • I am a bit late with this, but congratulations are due to Redeemer's class of 2009, which graduated a week ago saturday. May the Lord guide them as they seek to serve God and neighbour to his glory. Congratulations are also due to Redeemer itself, as indicated in this news item, dated friday, 29 May:
    In a joyous ceremony in Redeemer’s Commons, David Sweet, Member of Parliament for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale announced today that Redeemer University College will be receiving a $2.9 million investment from the federal government’s Knowledge Infrastructure Program (KIP).
    Unfortunately, plans for the construction of a new political science building were not included in the grant.

  • Mixolydian Knight has caught the Associated Press in a rather careless error: AP misinformed. The Church of Scotland will be surprised — not to mention disconcerted — to hear that it is part of the Anglican Communion.

  • The lituus? What's that? The BBC's Pallab Ghosh tells us: 'Lost' music instrument recreated.
    The 2.4m (8ft) long trumpet-like instrument was played in Ancient Rome but fell out of use some 300 years ago. Bach's motet (a choral musical composition) "O Jesu Christ, meins lebens licht" was one of the last pieces of music written for the Lituus. Now, for the first time, this 18th Century composition has been played as it should have been heard.
    Listen for yourself here. This would seem to put to rest the urban legend that the lituus fell out of use due to parents' inability to fit it in the family car when driving the children to their music lessons.

  • More often than not my home state of Illinois makes headlines due to some questionable activity on the part of its politicians. Now we learn, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune, that admissions staff have been pressured by trustees, state legislators and other powerful people to admit specific academically unqualified students to the state's best-known public university: University of Illinois admits it bowed to clout on admissions. Perhaps it's time to admit that, after nearly two centuries, Illinois is a failed experiment and that its territory and people should be distributed among the surrounding states.

  • Just when it seemed that there was nothing left to discover, meteorologists are reporting the discovery of a new type of cloud. It's being called the asperatus, and it's the first new cloud to be named since the well-known argentonimbus, which is distinguished from other clouds by its conspicuous silver lining.
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