Saturday, October 23, 2004

O wad some Power the giftie gie us...

An election prediction, from an Arab journalist in Washington.

Interesting. An excerpt:

Given the regional nature of the US and the differing political philosophies of the two parties, each presidential candidate has a natural base and certain regions to work with.

For John Kerry, he has the north-east corridor and progressive coasts while Bush has strength in the confederacy, the deep south, the old west and the farm belt.

The areas up for grabs are Appalachia, the industrial north, and the upper Mississippi basin.

I would have said the only "Appalachia" up for grabs was WV, and one might want to mention FL. But, otherwise this is a good a summary as one could get in 500 words or less. Makes me think of Robert Burns:

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion:
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
An' ev'n devotion!

Of course, that poem was "To a Louse." Why did that make me think of Al Jazeera?

...A Dabba Doo Time, We'll Have a Gay Old Time

If the Flintstones made political ads, they might make them like these. They'd have a gay old time. (Special bonus: Play the Flintstones theme, loud. Now THAT is music! I just never get tired of it.)

First, the "John Kerry/John Edwards don't hate gay people, so they must be gay themselves" argument. It's all good, but the shot of Bush at the end, standing in front of an eagle and holding a football, looking not so presidential but very heterosexual...that's the best.

Then, the famous George Bush / Tony Blair bit.

Question: why do BOTH SIDES like to make homosexual jokes about men trying to work together?

Yabba dabba doo.

Friday, October 22, 2004

O Daniel boy, the Pipes, the Pipes

A question: How come Duke (and my department in particular) is getting blasted for supporting the Palestinian Solidarity Movement?

In the same week, we also co-sponsored Daniel Pipes, Students Against Terror, and Gary Bauer.

If there is a bias there, it is TOWARD a pretty extreme pro-Israeli perspective (both Pipes and Bauer), or at least leaning that way (since SAT was the group organizing counter-protests to PSM). Then, just for fun, we sponsored Barney Frank. (HEY! AIN'T WE GOT FUN!??)

Several people (including the estimable, and reportedly cute, Dread Pirate Gryphon) have asked why I didn't advertise that we also supported Pipes, et al when I was "crowing" about free speech. (I have to admit, I am warming to the Dread Pi. He makes actual arguments, and the Princess Bride riff is very nice. Plus, he's a gun nut, and what's sexier than a Southern transplant living in New York, packin' heat?)

LOOK! The whole point is that I am not trying to give equal time, or organize debates, or control issues. My job in sponsoring speakers is simply to support discourse on the Duke campus. I will sponsor ANY group that (in my considered judgment) does not overtly advocate violence, and is invited by a legit Duke student group. I have gotten about 12 gagillion flames (though admittedly not from the Dread Pi) saying that refusing to renounce violence (what PSM did) is the same as advocating violence (what PSM didn't do). It's not. It's just not the same.

My advice? Learn to make better arguments, using actual logic, and then still don't send me any more emails. Pull the wings off flies, or something constructive like that.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Phillip is Winning

Several people have asked me (apropos the earlier post) if I thought Kurian "won" an argument.
Not yet, but he is doing pretty well. Of course, he is taking the ass-whuppin he deserves (in my opinion, and according to Saunders' Law) for his remarkably poorly argued and bigoted column.

But the response has not been "What a stupid argument you made!" (Though this one is pretty close; well done, Dave!)

It has been "The Chronicle should be closed down for publishing this," or "Kurian should be arrested, or punished." Or, even "Duke should be boycotted by all Jewish students and alumni, because an independent student newspaper published one editorial by one student seeking attention for making an outrageous argument."

(Full disclosure: I know PK well, and consider him a friend. He's a good guy, smart and concerned about the welfare of others. He recently won a Melcher, for excellence in journalism , as well as a Truman.)

Here's the way that academic freedom works, for faculty and students, IMHO.

1. All opinions can be expressed, and publicly evaluated, if even one person wants to do so. I mean all: racism, sexism, even a claim that pro wrestling and the NBA are fake. All opinions.
2. All opinions must be supported by an argument, which will be judged by its use of logic and evidence. Judging arguments by "I'm offended" is ruled out.

Kurian violated #2, as I see it. His column was ad hominem and poorly argued in the extreme.

But the critics are violating #1 when they say that Duke, or the Chronicle, or even Kurian should be punished for allowing this opinion to be heard. He can certainly be abused in print or in person for expressing a view that is nonsense, but he cannot be sanctioned for having violated the rule against saying something stupid or offensive, because there is no such rule.

It seems to me Kurian has done a great service. We at Duke are now going to have a conversation about the view he expresses, which in my opinion is fairly widely (though secretly) held by lots of people on the left. Since (again, in my opinion) this view simply does not bear scrutiny, it may force people to rethink that view, which until now they have been able to maintain without challenge.

So, yes, Kurian is on the verge of winning, since one of his claims was that some shadowy conspiracy of fear prevents alternative views from being expressed. To the extent that a heavy-handed response makes him a martyr, rather than just a person who holds an opinion supported by neither logic nor evidence, he wins.

If all we do is call him an Anti-Semite, he wins. For an array of responses, see this. The original post is perfect: the worst thing you can do to bad arguments is quote them verbatim and in context. Way to go, LGF! But then if you look at the responses, you see that the desire is to blame the Duke faculty, the larger University, the newspaper, and probably the state of North Carolina, for the fact that one badly argued and patently incorrect view was held up to full scrutiny by publishing it in a newspaper.


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Saunders' Law


Barry Saunders, of the N&O in Raleigh, has an interpretation of freedom of expression, in the press and at colleges. He says, "freedom of speech means you can say what you want. But you still gotta take the ass-whuppin'" if people disagree with you. Is that so hard?

Look at what is happening to Phil Kurian, because he wrote this. People are offended. Our Prez takes a hand.

I have come to believe that nobody but Barry Saunders (and, of course, your own K. Grease) understands the nature of freedom of speech in private universities.

First, 1st Amendment pretty much doesn't apply. It says "CONGRESS will make no law...." Nothing about Larry Moneta. Universities have "in loco parentis," like it or not.

Second, even if you get to speak, you are not guaranteed an audience, or agreement from whatever listeners you do get.

Finally: you have no formal protection against getting offended, or upset. People go nuts if they get offended, and act like their own (nonexistent) "rights" against being upset somehow trump other people's rights to express their views. A commitment to freedom of expression, as a means to improving education, means that sometimes people are going to get offended.

Which made me think of this handy Name-Calling List. Since nothing is more upsetting than an opponent who is making a better argument than you are, using logic and evidence and that sort of thing, your best bet is to be a big crybaby and act all hurt. Call the person beating you in an argument names! These will come in handy; make sure you commit them to memory:

  • Person winning an argument with a conservative--A godless communist
  • Person winning an argument with a liberal--A heartless fascist
  • Person winning an argument with a black person--A racist
  • Person winning an argument with a Jewish person--Anti-Semitic
  • Person winning an argument (accented speech) with a white person--A foreign terrorist (use "Islamic extremist" if they look Arab.)
  • Person winning every argument with me--Dear*

(*I call her "dear" because she's my wife. And, yes, Snookums, you are right!)

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Patrick Buchanan Slides Home

Wow. The Arian Heresy.

Pat says:

If Bush loses, his conversion to neoconservatism, the Arian heresy of the American Right, will have killed his presidency. Yet, in the contest between Bush and Kerry, I am compelled to endorse the president of the United States. Why? Because, while Bush and Kerry are both wrong on Iraq, Sharon, NAFTA, the WTO, open borders, affirmative action, amnesty, free trade, foreign aid, and Big Government, Bush is right on taxes, judges, sovereignty, and values. Kerry is right on nothing.

Here is the whole piece.

(Nod to NC)

Richard II

K. Grease took the heir to the Mungowitz fortune to see Playmakers' production of Richard II. Did a review for WUNC's TSOT. Here is the text.

In October 2000, Richard II might have been just a curiousity, worth only a frivolous review. I might then have assigned moral qualities to the characters, made the 2000 version allegorical. Or maybe Georgebushical; I might have had Bolinbroke say “New-cue-ler”.
In 2004, I don’t think anyone will say the play is frivolous. Richard II is not about politics; its subject is leadership. Tragedy, in its Aristotelian sense, is the fall of a highly renowned man or woman, someone admirable, who falls from a position of great esteem to a position of utter disgrace as a result of a tragic flaw.
Richard II is a tragedy, then, only if we can admire Richard himself. Chandler Williams, as Richard, gives a remarkable, mannered performance, twisting into fury and shame and delight, dominating the stage and then shrinking all of space around himself like a shroud. His embodiment of kingship at the beginning is nearly perfect. His movements are languid, unhurried and sure. He is an island of easy repose in the face of the fury of Bolinbroke and Mowbray’s quarrel.
By the end, when Richard is opened for our inspection, all the certainty is gone. We pity him. We may come to feel we understand him. But there is little to admire in Richard. Yet tragedy this is.
The tragic blight here is on humanity itself. The play raises questions about civil life, and leadership. We hope that great challenges embiggen our kings…our presidents. In Richard II…no. No leader is big enough to face the challenges he is presented with. The choices are epic, but the choosers are puny and flawed.
Your reviewer is tempted to shoe-horn current events of our day into the plot of the play. We see, after all, a ruinous foreign war, disastrous tax policies, and truly polarized politics, with strutting men flinging their gauntlets of honor, doing battle over tiny slights, real or imagined.
But that would misunderstand the message. Not in policies, but in people, should we see reflections of Richard II. When George Bush had that, “How dare you? I’m the President!” look in the first debate. When John Kerry becomes angry at reporters, sure that they are out to skewer him, or ruin him, traitors all to his cause. I can easily imagine Richard II windsurfing for hours.
And who among you have not felt the pain of John of Gaunt? The lines of his soliloquy are often quoted out of context, and robbed of their meaning. Listen, as an American in 2004, to his rage:
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,… Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth,Renowned for their deeds as far from home,For Christian service and true chivalry,… Dear for her reputation through the world,Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,Like to a tenement or pelting farm:… That England, that was wont to conquer others,Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
Though I have seen the play before, I was moved here to tears. It was partly by Kenneth Strong’s powerful performance as Gaunt. But it was more that I heard, or understood, Gaunt’s speech for the first time. I recognized America. Our leaders fall tragically short of what the people need, of what the nation, in its greatness, deserves.
Richard II has been called “the most subtle piece of psychological analysis” in all the history plays. (The Meaning of Shakespeare, vol. 1 [University of Chicago Press, 1965], 148). It is unsettling to see wretched Richard laid bare, stripped of his conceit. But the real laying bare happens when we confront leaders not as we imagine them, but as they are. We endow our kings with a sense of majesty, imbue them with infallibility, and then we scorn their hubris. We, the people, have met the tragedy, and it is us.
Go…see Richard II at Playmakers. Take your children. Take their high school classmates. And then go, and sit upon the ground, and tell sad stories of the dearth of leadership.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

I never MetaAnalysis I didn't like

A very interesting site on trends in the Electorals. From the work of Princeton's Prof. Samuel Wang.

(Nod to AWV. You have risen above human kind, to demigod.)


Jon Stewart also has a book out now.

A sample review:

Great!, October 17, 2004

Nicole "Jem" (New York, New York) I thought it was good. I guess thats my opinion. I would definitely recommend this book if you have a sense of humor!

K. Grease would recommend this book if the above is how you talk. I guess that's my opinion.

(nod to AWV, who is on a roll)

Dems Gone Wild

Here are two wild and crazy liberal guys, doing whatever it is that men do instead of lifting up their shirts.

Jon Stewart showing it for free. Must be hard to know that much. How does he fit his head through the door? A genius. And he called Tucker Carlson a "dick." Also a connoisseur of insults, apparently.

Tim Ryan, rappin' with a sound track. Courtesy of a fan. Bless the hip-hop generation.

You won't be able to sit still, I guarantee. I think K. Grease needs a sound track for his life. I was thinking of the Shaft theme. Or else Pee Wee Herman's "Tequila" bit.

(Look, I looked for a version of the Shaft theme that did NOT try to load 3 or 4 aggressive spywares, but couldn't find it. If someone can suggest something....)

(Nod to MP, via AWV (with friends like that....?). And a nod also to SdM. Now practice your defense against that slow near side draw.)