Wednesday, April 06, 2005

This is why we have free speech laws in the U.S.

So that we can avoid a complete cluster-intercourse trial like this on in Canada.

Check out this article.

Or this earlier one.

Or this even earlier one.

An excerpt:

Much of yesterday's proceeding was punctuated by angry shouts and taunts from a gallery packed with members of the Jewish and native communities. And many of the jeers were directed at Crown attorney Brent Klause, who was booed and called a racist several times.

"This isn't a circus. I've had enough. I just think it's time we had some decorum," Mr. Klause said, after he asked the judge to put a stop to the constant comments from the gallery.

Many of Mr. Ahenakew's supporters were angered that Mr. Klause had challenged the native leader's assertion that aboriginals aren't immigrants because they were born "here on this land."

"Your people came across the Bering Strait," Mr. Klause said to Mr. Ahenakew, which elicited jeers.

He later apologized to the court after suggesting Mr. Ahenakew was media savvy and not "an unsophisticated individual from some remote northern band."

"That's bullshit," one middle-aged aboriginal man said later as he demanded an apology from the Crown.

The guy was right about one thing. That's bullshit.

David Ahenakew made overtly anti-Semitic remarks. He did. He really did. Now, he is being made a martyr.

You want to expose the guy, embarrass him in the press, fine. But to have the freakin' state put the guy on trial....Things are not so bad that some ham-handed prosecution can't make it worse.

(Props/nod to JP)

George McGovern

An important figure in American history, and an incredibly energetic intellectual, will be visiting Duke next week. He is doing a book tour, for his new book, The Essential America: Our Founders and The Liberal Tradition. I have read parts of it, and while I think he is wrong he is hardly completely wrong, and always interesting.

For more info, see the news release.

But, the essentials....

George McGovern
April 13
Duke East Campus
White Lecture Hall
5:00 pm
Followed by Q&A
(Books will be available for purchase, if you are interested)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Moron Intellectual Diversity

(I meant to write "More On Intellectual Diversity", but now that I look at the title I'll leave it. Freud smiles).

I found this, at Gadflyer:

In fact, liberal bias in the academy is a fiction based on the same sort of selective analysis used to "prove" bias in the media. While there are certainly plenty of liberal professors, never mentioned are inherently conservative departments like economics, right-leaning frats and student groups, the influence of campus ROTC or the fact that for every left-leaning Vassar or Oberlin there is an equally conservative Washington and Lee or BYU.

Instead, the focus is on departments like sociology or ethnic and women's studies where there's a lot of progressive thought. In those departments conservatives collect liberal professors' statements, take them out of context and use them to weave a circumstantial case of bias. The goal is not to promote diversity of opinion but to convince people that our nation's universities have been hijacked by, as the title of one book put it, "tenured radicals" who brainwash our youth with their crypto-socialist ideology.


Well....thanks for playing, but no. Econ departments and Business schools are also mostly liberal in terms of affiliation. The ratio is 5-3, instead of 10-1, but still. Academic leftists are kidding themselves with this kind of crap. It is simply a fact that far and away most academics are liberal, and far too many have long ago stopped caring about honest intellectual discourse. They are so comfortable, and isolated from real debate, that they can't stand to have anyone disagree. When I tell colleagues that I am conservative, their response (seriously) is "But you seem smart."

Sure, lots of people do good teaching, and are honest intellectual brokers. But there is a real problem. The only solution is an intellectually diverse commitment to good pedagogy.

I was on an NPR show recently, where we talked about this. Interesting response from Judith Wegner: see no, hear no, say no, do no.

I try to be fair, but most faculty are just so sure that (1) There is no bias, and (2) Conservatism is to intellectualism as Creationism is to biology. If you believe #2, you can't argue #1 with a straight face. Unless you are a liar or a fool. And they are not fools.

Some Links:
1. On the documentary from AcademicBias.Com....A small role here for KGrease himself. I tell the drama of Robert Brandon, revealing all the facts for the first time. (Okay, no, but I do appear in the film for a few minutes).
2. NPR "State of Things" show on the subject
March 31, 2004
3. Duke's rather raucous forum (yes, I was brilliant. Thank you).
4. And then....Coturnix. An interesting and (for him) fairly balanced polemic. I think I disagree with him, but there are some good points here.
5. Poliblogger on Ward Churchill and academic freedom.
6. Post on MB article from the Chronicle
7. Ju-Gen on Western Culture
8. Finally, as I blogged before, here is Peter Lange (Duke Provost) addressing, if not quite answering, a difficult question.
9. Finally plus one (sue me): This.

Lange on "Biased" Teaching

Peter Lange, Duke Provost, was recently asked this question at an Academic Council meeting (March 24):

"In the Jan. 25 issue of the Chronicle, a Duke student complained about what he perceived as propagandizing in one of his classes: 'One of the most insulting moments of my Duke education occurred in an ancient Chinese history class in spring 2003, when the U.S. was preparing to invade Iraq. Our teacher took a break from Confucius and the Han Dynasty to stage a puzzling "teach-in" about Iraq in conjunction with some national organization. During this supposedly neutral discussion, she regaled us with facts and assertions suggesting that the Iraq war was scandalous, foolish and doomed to fail.' If the student's account provides to be accurate, do you think that the instructor's conduct was a legitimate use of class time? Or did it go beyond the limits of academic freedom, in which case, what action do you think might be appropriate on the part of the academic administration?"

His response, in part:

Creating, fostering and enhancing our culture of learning must be our goal. This goal must guide our decisions about how we judge and possibly intervene in any specific event or incident that may appear to threaten the quality of that culture. In determining whether such a threat exists and whether and how to respond to it, it is worth remembering that our culture of learning is best fostered by shared norms of conduct, ones that encourage and accept the free expression of ideas and that reflect mutual respect for the expression of ideas by others.

Such shared norms, and the behavioral habits that reflect them, stand in some contrast to formal rules that seek sharply to define "appropriate" or "legitimate" behavior. Such "rules" in the academic context are likely almost always to falter in the face of the complex processes through which students learn and our faculty teach or, at times, through which our faculty learn from what their students say and do. The application of formal rules, while occasionally necessary, is unlikely to advance the deeper commitments that must support a true culture of learning.

I have to say, I largely agree. If faculty are not committed, genuinely committed, to real teaching, I don't see that some Jesuitical set of rules and appeals procedures is going to help.


UPDATE: Then, there's this. Question: When exactly did Paul Krugman sell his soul? He makes Jerry Springer look honest and tasteful.

An Academic Question
(NYT, April 5)

It's a fact, documented by two recent studies, that registered Republicans and self-proclaimed conservatives make up only a small minority of professors at elite universities. But what should we conclude from that?

Conservatives see it as compelling evidence of liberal bias in university hiring and promotion. And they say that new "academic freedom" laws will simply mitigate the effects of that bias, promoting a diversity of views. But a closer look both at the universities and at the motives of those who would police them suggests a quite different story.

Claims that liberal bias keeps conservatives off college faculties almost always focus on the humanities and social sciences, where judgments about what constitutes good scholarship can seem subjective to an outsider. But studies that find registered Republicans in the minority at elite universities show that Republicans are almost as rare in hard sciences like physics and in engineering departments as in softer fields. Why?

One answer is self-selection - the same sort of self-selection that leads Republicans to outnumber Democrats four to one in the military. The sort of person who prefers an academic career to the private sector is likely to be somewhat more liberal than average, even in engineering.

But there's also, crucially, a values issue. In the 1970's, even Democrats like Daniel Patrick Moynihan conceded that the Republican Party was the "party of ideas." Today, even Republicans like Representative Chris Shays concede that it has become the "party of theocracy."

Consider the statements of Dennis Baxley, a Florida legislator who has sponsored a bill that - like similar bills introduced in almost a dozen states - would give students who think that their conservative views aren't respected the right to sue their professors. Mr. Baxley says that he is taking on "leftists" struggling against "mainstream society," professors who act as "dictators" and turn the classroom into a "totalitarian niche." His prime example of academic totalitarianism? When professors say that evolution is a fact.
Think of the message this sends: today's Republican Party - increasingly dominated by people who believe truth should be determined by revelation, not research - doesn't respect science, or scholarship in general. It shouldn't be surprising that scholars have returned the favor by losing respect for the Republican Party.

Conservatives should be worried by the alienation of the universities; they should at least wonder if some of the fault lies not in the professors, but in themselves. Instead, they're seeking a Lysenkoist solution that would have politics determine courses' content.

And it wouldn't just be a matter of demanding that historians play down the role of slavery in early America, or that economists give the macroeconomic theories of Friedrich Hayek as much respect as those of John Maynard Keynes. Soon, biology professors who don't give creationism equal time with evolution and geology professors who dismiss the view that the Earth is only 6,000 years old might face lawsuits.

If it got that far, universities would probably find ways to cope - by, say, requiring that all entering students sign waivers. But political pressure will nonetheless have a chilling effect on scholarship. And that, of course, is its purpose.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Parent abuse

Me, this morning, driving carpool: "I can't believe people keep knocking down those bricks around the driveway. I have to rebuild that wall every two weeks. It's like I never make any progress."

My son, with even tone and not looking up from his book: "Yep, Dad, you are truly the modern Sisyphus. You should write about it. As much as I like to hear about this every morning, I'm sure others want to hear about it even more."

Butthead. I wish I had said it.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Old Yobbo, But Good Yobbo

Yobbo on PETA: He seems upset. Quite right, of course, but upset. It must be hard to live in Australia. You get people like....well, like this. And you can't just kill them. Though, now that I think of it, PETA would not object to killing humans.

Conservatives Less Likely to Advance?

Some research, summarized in the Chronicle (premium ATSRTWT)
Thursday, March 31, 2005
Conservative Professors Are Less Likely to Advance in Academe, Study Finds
A report released this week offers evidence that American academe is dominated by political liberals, and that conservatives are less likely to attain jobs at top colleges. The report, based on a study that relied on data from a fairly large sample of institutions, is the first to attempt to answer the question of whether conservatives in academe face discrimination in hiring.

Published in The Forum, a journal of applied research in contemporary politics, the report is based on a 1999 survey of 1,643 faculty members at 183 colleges and universities in the United States. The study was conducted by Stanley Rothman, a professor emeritus of government at Smith College; S. Robert Lichter, president of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, a research group affiliated with George Mason University and supported by conservative foundations; and Neil Nevitte, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto.

Stephen H. Balch, president of the National Association of Scholars, an advocacy group that supports tradition-minded education, hailed the report as groundbreaking. "It's the first time that a rigorous social-science study has brought forth strong evidence" for discrimination against conservatives in academic hiring, he said.

The report also says that over the past several decades academe has become increasingly liberal, and that liberals outnumber conservatives even in disciplines like economics, which are often perceived as more-conservative fields.

The study examined the correlation between the quality of professors' academic
affiliations (measured using U.S. News & World Report rankings and Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching classifications) and three measures
of ideological orientation: self-identification on a "right-left" scale, political-party designation, and self-reported attitudes concerning abortion, the environment, and several other political and ideological topics.

Ideology Ranks Second
According to the study, academic achievement -- measured by such variables as how many articles, chapters, and books a scholar has published and the amount of time spent on research -- mattered most in determining the level of institution at which a professor teaches. But ideology was the second-most-important factor.

"The ideological orientations of professors are about one-fifth as important as their professional achievements in determining the quality of the school that hires and retains or promotes them," says the report. After taking professional achievement into account, the study showed that being a Republican or conservative significantly reduces the predicted quality of the college where a scholar teaches. Women and Christians, it also concluded, are similarly disadvantaged.

"We did validate the notion that conservatives are discriminated against," Mr.
Rothman said in an interview. "No one has ever done that before."

But Roger W. Bowen, president of the American Association of University Professors, said the study's methodology is "suspect" because the sample size of the survey was too small. "It's difficult to determine its value," he said.

Mr. Bowen also said the study does not take into account other theories about why there may be fewer conservatives in academe: that conservatives may self-select themselves out of academe, or that "the intellectual cream rises to the top." Even if there are many more liberals than conservatives in academe, he added, "So what? What difference does it make to students?"

In the report's conclusion, the authors acknowledge that the results are "preliminary," but say that conservatives' complaints of the practical effects
of what they see as liberal bias in academe deserve to be taken seriously.

I'm not so sure I believe this, at least not as baldly as it's stated. So often, I find that people who consider themselves conservatives do not consider this to have much to do with their work as scholars. But it is clearly true that those who consider conservative evangelizing to be the essence of their work DO get punished in academe. I would like to think that the same is true for people on the left; it may not be. But the point is that by comparing only those who consider their work and their politics to be inseparable, you are picking the bottomfeeders of academics in the first place.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Snaps, Slaps, and Cold Water

Well, we raised $411 for Special Olympics. (A picture of the action: That's Tallman Trask with the ball and the hat, and John Burness sitting tall on the vat, about to get wet...)

I did my time in the Dunk Tank. Worked on some snaps, to try to get people mad enough to (1) spend money, and (2) miss the target (water was COLD! 63 deg F).

Here they are, in no particular order. Important to yell them just as someone starts to throw.

Hey, don’t throw it so far! You’re liable to hit my car, and wake up your sister!

Your mama so fat, her blood type is Ragu!

I heard that your mama has so much armpit hair, it looks like she has Buckwheat in a headlock!

Your mama so fat, she wears two watches, one for each time zone she blots out.

I hear your mama can’t lie down at the beach anymore; housecats keep trying to cover her with sand!

I hear your mama so fat, her favorite song is: “We are family! Hardees, Dunkin Donuts, and me!”

I hear your mama so ugly, she came in first place in the ugly contest. She also came in second, and third, ‘cause she’s fat, too!

Sidd Finch Lives

I had forgotten about this.

Great story: Tibetan monk, one work boot. 168 mph fastball.

Happy April Fools Day...

(Nod to JJ, who is better with stories than with days of the week)

Who's Pro-Choice Now?

From the NYT, a while back:

March 27, 2005
Choice Is Good. Yes, No or Maybe? By Eduardo Porter By EDUARDO PORTER

CHOICE is the driving force of capitalism. Choosy consumers determine what products and companies thrive or die as they pick among tubes of toothpaste or plans for cellphone service. Choice fuels competition, innovation and efficiency.

These days, consumer choice has claimed a prominent new position as a policy tool: the prescription for everything from improving public schools to paring bloated health care costs to saving Social Security.

Yet even as choice is brought to bear on the nation's most pressing problems, critics point out that expanding consumers' options is not always a good idea. People, they argue, often do not know how to choose properly or they simply refuse to choose. Sometimes, critics argue, government should limit people's choices. That is, choose for them.

"More choice can be worse than less choice," said Sheena Iyengar, a psychologist at Columbia University.

Advocates of unfettered markets are riled by these arguments. "If you were to walk into a Wal-Mart and say to people, 'Don't you feel really depressed by having 258,000 options; shouldn't it be their obligation to reduce the choice you must endure?' They would think you were nuts," said Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives.

Free marketeers like Mr. Gingrich argue not only that consumers are better than the government at making choices that drive an efficient economy. Choice, they argue, is a right. The government can limit it only when one person's choice imposes costs on the rest of society.

"The notion of entrusting a bureaucrat with the power over people's choices is inauthentic in a particularly offensive way," said Richard A. Posner, the legal scholar and federal appeals court judge.

But empirical studies have found that people, regardless of intelligence, do not always choose well. Often they prefer to let inertia take over, unable or unwilling to choose for themselves.

For instance, participation rates in 401(k) plans are known to rise sharply when the default choice for the employee is switched to an opt-out from an opt-in.

In Sweden, where personal savings accounts were carved out of the social security system in 1998, 9 out of 10 new entrants to the work force let their investment portfolio go to a default fund set up by the government, instead of choosing one themselves.

Too many options may drive consumers away. In one experiment, Ms. Iyengar found that people who were shown a selection of six different jams in a store were about 10 times as likely to buy a jar than those exposed to a range of 24 flavors.

In another study, she found that people who chose one chocolate from a selection of 30 expressed more regret and uncertainty about their decision than those who chose among six kinds. That's because with 29 other options, there is a bigger chance of losing out on something better.

Of course, lack of choice will also inhibit people. When Ms. Iyengar gave undergraduate students $10 and the option to spend it right away or invest it, only 6 percent of them chose to invest when the professor decided the asset allocation.

The key is whether people understand their choices, said Richard H. Thaler, an economist at the University of Chicago. "People have to know what their preferences are and they have to know how the options they have map onto their preferences," he said.

This might be easy when choosing between chocolate and vanilla ice cream. But it gets progressively more difficult as the number of flavors increases. When the risks are high and the decisions complex - as when choosing between medical procedures or investment portfolios - consumers may become easily flummoxed.

In one experiment, Mr. Thaler and Shlomo Benartzi of the University of California, Los Angeles, asked employees in one company to select among three 401(k) portfolios.

Unbeknownst to the employees, one portfolio was their own. The other two reflected the average and median choices of all the workers in the company. Yet only one in five employees preferred his or her own portfolio over the median. "Apparently people do not gain much by choosing investment portfolios for themselves," Mr. Thaler wrote.

Mr. Thaler and Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago Law School suggested that it is proper for the government, or an employer, to set boundaries to choice to achieve desired social objectives, an approach they call "libertarian paternalism."

Sweden's default fund for social security accounts - a mixed low-fee portfolio - is an example of such paternalism. Another would be to place the dessert display at the far end of the company cafeteria. Employees could still have dessert, but the hurdle to make that choice would be a little higher. Obesity might decline.

Eric J. Johnson and Daniel Goldstein, co-director and associate director, respectively, of the Center for Decision Sciences at Columbia University, found that big majorities of Americans approve of organ donations, yet only about a quarter consent to donate their own. Meanwhile, nearly all Austrians, French and Portuguese consent to donate theirs. The difference?

In the United States people must opt to become an organ donor. In much of Europe, people must actively choose not to donate. So if organ donation is considered a social good, American defaults could just be flipped around.

Despite the problems, free marketeers argue that more choice is better, simply because it builds character. For instance, Judge Posner said, allowing people to invest part of their Social Security taxes in personal accounts is a step toward a system in which people pay for their own retirement. "It makes people more independent and responsible for their future," he noted. "It makes them better citizens."

Some questions: If you lead with a professional psychologist as the advocate for one side, would you balance that with well-known scholar Newt Gingrich? Does the author think that the fact that I want to allow vasectomies also means that I want to have a vasectomy? Do you have to be an idiot to write for the Times, or is it just one of those extra things that helps at bonus time?

This is a false dichotomy. Imagine that I have three choices, examine all of them, and choose A. Now, imagine that I have 100 choices, examine all of them, and choose A. In both cases, I choose A, so the outcome utility is the same. But my search costs were much higher, so of course I'm worse off with more choices, given that in both cases I choose A. It's trivial.

But if there are, in equilibrium, 100 viable choices, that must mean that some people are choosing EACH of those 100 choices. So, obviously a diverse capitalist economy with lots of choices makes the entire population better off.

Furthermore, brand name and lots of other market innovations reduce my search costs. I don't have to reexamine every alternative, every time.

Life arrangers just can't stand the thought of letting people make their own choices. "Libertarian Paternalism" misses the point. We are not trying to make everyone better off. We are allowing everyone to choose, and take responsibility for, their own path in life.

(nod to JP, who knows things)

Dunk Tank Blues

Aw, jeez. It's cold today. And windy.

And I have to go sit in a #$%&%@ dunk tank. At 2 pm.

Noon John Burness
Senior VP Public & Government Affairs
12:30 p.m. Durham Police Sgt. Dale Gunter, East Campus
1 p.m. Heather Dean and Jesse Longoria (in support)
GPSC President and DSG VP Athletics/Campus Services
1:30 p.m. Anthony Vitarelli
Campus Council President/Young Trustee
2 p.m. Mike Munger
Professor/PoliSci Dept. Chair
2:30 p.m. Karen Hauptman, Chronicle Editor
3 p.m. Duke Police Officer Juan Chirino
3:30 p.m. Duke Police Officer Kelly Mankowski
4 p.m. Jim Wulforst, Duke Dining Director

I'm thinking the highlight of the day will be at the outset. John Burness (who is Jewish) was accused of being anti-Semitic for allowing the PSM conference this fall. He is also very funny. He also weighs about 275, on a 5'4" frame. EVERY dive he does is a cannonball. I hope there is some water left for me.

UPDATE: I went by and looked at the dunk tank. It's real high, frighteningly so, and the water is this gross opaque green. Ick. 65 degrees at game time. That's cold water.