Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Intellectual sendup . . .

Spot is a dog of his word. He said he would post again on the Center of the American Experiment’s website for tongue-tied politically conservative college students. The site, whose creative godmother is Katherine Kersten, is called Intellectual Takeout, an apparent reference to establishments everywhere selling soft noodles.

With buttons that pop, lots of colors, lots of pictures, Intellectual Takeout looks like it could be a site called campuscoeds.com. (Update: Spot just found out that a site by that name exists, and gentle reader, it could get you in a heap of trouble if you are reading this while taking a break at work and decide to check the site out. Highly unrecommended.) Spotty says that Intellectual Takeout is a form of pornography, now that he thinks about it.

One offering on the main page is Ideas to Go: if you’re on the run to class, pick up some quick ideas and talking points. Like that’s gonna work. Spot would love to be there when the first student says in history class Well, Ronald Reagan single-handedly defeated Communism. Oh? says the professor. Spot will leave the rest to his readers’ imagination.

Grasshoppers, Spotty says that it is never good to go into a battle of wits lightly armed. Intellectual Takeout stands a good chance of getting you humiliated by giving you a false sense of security. One has to wonder how often Intellectual Takeout will be footnoted on college papers.

The site also offers a page called the “Daily Dish,” which is supposed to be an edgy slam on liberal goings-on at a different college each day. According to the Star Tribune article cited in an earlier post, the first target of the Daily Dish is that den of Lutheran radicalism, St. Olaf College in Northfield.

[N.B. Today’s Daily Dish is about the Pledge of Allegiance kerfuffle in the courts. The Daily Dish is housed under the Campus Network button, so Spot thinks he has the general purpose of the Daily Dish right.]

The Oles’ offense? Teaching the theme of sustainability throughout the year. You see, trying to figure out how to live within the means of our Earth Mother, and examining whether we are doing so, is so inimical to our ecological rape in the name of economic growth that sustainability is heresy to conservatives, or what are called conservatives today. As Pat Robertson is reported to have said of the earth, Might as well use it up; Jesus is coming!

An especially charming feature of Intellectual Takeout is the quality of the cited references to its articles. Let’s look at some for the St. Olaf Daily Dish.

One reference breathlessly reported is a paper by Bruce Yandle, Madhusudan Bhattarai, and Maya Vijayaraghavan of the Property and Environment Research Center. PERC, as it known by its friends, is a Montana think tank dedicated to improving environmental quality through markets. Delightful. It’s our old friend Adam Smith again. See Spot’s post A dope slap from the Invisible Hand.

Distilled to its essence, the article says, economic development degrades the environment, but only up to a certain point, then it gets better. In other words, when people have enough to eat, they start to worry about other things, like the surroundings they live it. Fair enough. The DD takes the study to make the following syllogism: Increased oil consumption increases economic growth. Economic growth improves the environment. Therefore, increased oil consumption improves the environment.

Laying aside the fact that the paper was published by a bunch of biostitutes, it clearly does not support the high school debate argument of the DD. There will come a point, perhaps very soon, when increased energy consumption is going to do anything but promote economic growth. Second, when population and consumption exceed the carrying capacity of an environment – in other words when it becomes unsustainable – the environment collapses. Think Haiti.

Another powerful reference is 'Sustainable growth' is not sustainable solution, an article by Jonah Goldberg. Jonah, as most of Spot’s readers will know, is an editor of National Review Online and a well known scholar and writer on economics.

Finally, Spot wants to mention his favorite cited reference to the DD piece: Inside a conservative teach-in by Scott Johnson, one of the authors of Power Line. Scott tells the heart-warming story of the obstacles he overcame to speak to students at St. Olaf a year ago. Apparently, Scott had submitted a seminar topic he wanted to teach for the Nobel Peace Prize Forum being hosted at St. Olaf. The title of the seminar was Facts are better than dreams. The reports of the death of irony are clearly exaggerated.

The seminar was about Winston Churchill’s warnings to the English people in the 30s about the dangers of Nazi Germany, a variation of the peace through strength theme. St. Olaf turned Scotty down. But, as Scott says, some students wouldn’t take no for an answer and got Scott the gig. Whether it was part of the Forum itself or not, Spot cannot tells.

Scott tell us what an emotional experience it was, and how “mostly guys” stuck around afterward to express appreciation: My impression was that they appreciated hearing someone articulate a point of view that expressed their own instinctive respect for the guardians of freedom.

And then these same guys went back to their dorm rooms and ate Cheetos and played Halo 2 late into the night.

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