UNC Scrooges It Up

Another setback in the War on Christmas:

For as long as anyone can remember, Christmas trees adorned with lights and ornaments have greeted holiday season visitors to [University of North Carolina] Chapel Hill's two main libraries.

Not this year.

The trees, which have stood in the lobby areas of Wilson and Davis libraries each December, were kept in storage this year at the behest of Sarah Michalak, the associate provost for university libraries.

Michalak's decision followed several years of queries and complaints from library employees and patrons bothered by the Christian display, Michalak said this week.

As symbols go, Christmas trees have about as much religious content as the Easter bunny. Associate Provost Michalak manages to outdo the ACLU, which has never (at least not yet) raised a stink about government sponsorship of holiday decorations, including Christmas trees in public locations.

In fact, here's a story from a couple years back where officials in Maui, under legal threat from the local ACLU, hastily erected a Christmas tree. Because—I am not making this up—they had a menorah on display. Explanation:

In its letter to the county sent Tuesday, the ACLU cited case law that found government displays of religious symbols on their own could be perceived as an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. But government displays that included secular holiday symbols, like Christmas trees, alongside religious symbols, did not endorse religion.
So it's not as if the library was an imminent lawsuit target. Instead, it appears that Associate Provost Michalak was most interested in promoting her own religion, brain-dead relativism:
Aside from the fact that a UNC Chapel Hill library is a public facility, Michalak said, libraries are places where information from all corners of the world and all belief systems is offered without judgment. Displaying one particular religion's symbols is antithetical to that philosophy, she said.

"We strive in our collection to have a wide variety of ideas," she said. "It doesn't seem right to celebrate one particular set of customs."

Indeed. For in this season of joy, peace, generosity, and love, it's just not fair that misery, hatred, selfishness and violence aren't given their fair share of the public discourse. You wouldn't want to foster the impression that the University is taking sides on something like that.

Over the next few weeks, I suppose Associate Provost Michalak and the (I suspect mostly imaginary) "employees and patrons" who complained will look at the bare empty spots where the Christmas trees used to stand and get a wee bit of black self-satisfaction. I caused that. Me. One suspects that removing a bit of beauty—even secular kitschy beauty—from the lives of others is as good as it gets for them.

To nobody's surprise, many, many more complaints about the trees' absence were generated as a result of the Michalakian action. As a result, UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp issued a statement, which is good enough to quote in full:

I understand that the Library staff made the decision not to put up a Christmas tree this year after giving it a lot of thought. The university administration doesn't get involved in decisions like that. Departments can choose to put up a tree or not. And if you take a walk across campus, I think you'll see that. The facade of Memorial Hall, our major performing venue, is fully decorated for the holiday, and The Nutcracker is its major December attraction. Student Stores is like any retailer this time of year. They have a tree decorated with Carolina ornaments in the window and, in the store, there is a mantle decorated with Carolina stockings. The Student Activities Fund Office has a Christmas tree in its window. There's a big Christmas wreath with a Carolina-blue ribbon on it in the Student Union. Our own Carolina Inn is again featuring its Twelve Days of Christmas displays throughout the hotel. And just as we have for the last 59 years, our Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is featuring The Star of Bethlehem.

So Christmas is recognized on this campus.

Thanks for your interest in Carolina, and have a joyous Christmas season.

Holden Thorp

If I may paraphrase Chancellor Thorp: pay no attention to the crazy lady in the library.

I particularly like how Thorp refers to an Associate Provost as "Library staff". In Academia, that's major disrespect.

Car Wars IV: A New Hope

This is some rescue. When you came in here, didn't you have a plan for getting out?

I was struck by this paragraph in today's Washington Post story about the current status of the automaker bailout:

The sums being discussed by lawmakers and the White House fall well short of the automakers' request. Democratic aides said they are talking about providing $15 billion to $17 billion, which would be expected to see GM and Chrysler through the end of March, when president-elect Barack Obama would be in position to take over long-term plans for returning the industry to profitability.
This is our most desperate hour. Help us, Obami-Wan; you're our only hope.

Because, thank goodness, Obama has shown great aptitude in the past in returning giant industries to profitability.

Oh, wait…

I find your lack of faith disturbing.

The Big Three have been in decline for decades. The only question is whether they're going to burn up billions more in taxpayer money on their way out.

It's not as if America doesn't know how to build stuff. Here's Joel Kotkin at Forbes:

Indeed, until the globalization of the financial crisis, American manufacturing exports were reaching record levels. Overall, U.S. industry has become among the most productive in the world--output has doubled over the past 25 years, and productivity has grown at a rate twice that of the rest of the economy. Far from dead, our manufacturing sector is the world's largest, with 5% of the world's population producing five times their share in industrial goods.
We could have a healthy manufacturing sector, including automobile manufacturing, but propping up mismanaged firms makes that less likely. Here's the WSJ, speaking sense to all that will hear:
The car makers' request for a bridge loan, by contrast, looks like a $34 billion bridge to nowhere. It has already morphed into an opportunity for political extortion -- and we don't even have a bill yet. When, in a couple years, costs have not come down as expected because of political pressure to keep the unions happy and the green cars aren't selling -- because they were designed in Washington, not for consumers -- the companies will be back for more money.
Back to Capitol Hill, in their hybrid landspeeders! You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.

As the WSJ points out, the incentives are all wrong. You can't serve two masters: the more automakers need to keep the President and Congress happy, the less likely they will be to keep customers happy, by making cars at a profit that people actually want to buy.

And on the flip side, government won't want its blank checks to go for naught. So "it will only be a short step for Congress to begin to coerce consumers to buy the cars that Washington prefers."

I have a very bad feeling about this.

[Quotes, some lightly-altered, from IMDB.]