Thursday, Oct 05, 2006
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Editorial briefs

Out there at IPFW

You’re probably still on your own if you want the education establishment to help you with Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster, but if you want to delve into UFOs, just head out to Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. IPFW’s Division of Continuing Studies is offering a three-session class called “UFOs – Perception, Reality and Sightings in Indiana.”

Now, if a serious university is going to offer a course on something as, well, out there as UFOs, it might be hoped that a certain skepticism would be brought to bear. As Mike Kelly, IPFW’s director of personal and professional development, puts it, “We support critical thinking, obviously, no matter what the topic is.” And says Michael Shermer, founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and the executive director of the Skeptics Society, a university setting is ideal for critical discussions of claims of UFO sightings. But a danger exists when institutions such as IPFW affiliate with a class that offers such claims as fact, because “it lends credibility where there actually isn’t.”

You decide how much critical thinking there will be. The class is being taught by Roger Sugden, assistant state director and chief investigator of the Mutual UFO Network and a member of the Independent Crop Circle Research Association. At the Mutual UFO Network’s Web site (, a highlighted story is an “expose” of how the government “tried to shoot down UFOs and lost the battle.”

Adjusting the attitudes of some servants

U.S. Attorney Joe Van Bokkelen, representing the Northern District of Indiana, has run into a bit of political reality. He and his team of federal prosecutors have jailed a former state political party chairman and more than 30 local government employees, but some question whether the aggressive stance on public corruption will have a long-term impact. He acknowledges disappointment that his office’s efforts don’t seem to have changed the expectations voters have for their public servants. “For the life of me, I don’t understand why public officials think they’re entitled to more money than the statute says,” Van Bokkelen told The Times of Munster.

They don’t necessarily think they deserve it; they just think they can get away with it. Even if it doesn’t have an impact on voter perception, such an aggressive attitude toward the public’s money and trust can improve the political landscape in the long run, as more of our public servants come to believe they can’t get away with it.

A pig is a pig

Another scoundrel is trying to play the “get out of trouble free” card by entering alcohol rehab. Former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., says he strongly believes he is an alcoholic and has “accepted the need for immediate treatment for alcoholism and other behavioral problems.” How nice. One of those “behavorial problems” was using his position of power to hit on teenage boys with e-mails that cannot be printed in this paper. That was the action of a pig, a condition that undoubtedly existed before alcohol became a problem and is not likely to go away with a little rehab.

Unanimity not possible or desirable

A new Supreme Court term opened Monday, and Chief Justice John Roberts has talked about “seeking greater unanimity on the court.” We’re not sure such unanimity is either possible or desirable. That would mean a consensus on whether the Constitution is the bedrock of our legal system or a “living document” that should change with the times. Unanimity would require convincing the living-document types they are wrong, which would be mighty difficult, or the bedrock adherents to lose their minds.

Today’s briefs by Leo Morris for the editorial board