Thursday, April 28, 2005

Randi Rhodes--Hoax? Drudge Fantasy?

I have gotten two emails, and the comment below, on my previous post on the "kill the president" bit RR ran on her show.

Randi has not received any calls or visits from the secret service because it is a non issue. Just like when Man Coulter said about Clinton, "I don't know whether we should impeach him or assasinate him!" the Secret Service didn't see fit to waste thier time.

There was no direct threat.

Drudge, as usual, get it wrong. His name is now Dredge, as in digging up sewage.

So...I'm glad I was wrong. It sounded ridiculous, and it was. I should have waited.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Update on Randi Rhodes

More on gunfire and the Prez, from Err America (via Drudge):

White House Spokesman Scott McClellan called the clip "very inappropriate and over the line."

AIR AMERICA President of Programming and co-COO Jon Sinton said in a release: "We regret that a produced comedy bit that was in bad taste slipped through our normal vetting process. We do acknowledge that it was an internal error and internal discipline will be enforced."

Rhodes apologized for the skit on her show today. "It was a bit,” Rhodes said. “It was bad. I apologize a thousand times."

What If I Joke About Joking About Shooting the Prez?

Randi Rhodes is in a bit of hot water.

Since Drudge moves stuff, here is the post:

The red-hot rhetoric over Social Security on liberal talkradio network AIR AMERICA has caught the attention of the Secret Service, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

Government officials are reviewing a skit which aired on the network Monday evening -- a skit featuring an apparent gunshot warning to the president!

The announcer: "A spoiled child is telling us our Social Security isn't safe anymore, so he is going to fix it for us. Well, here's your answer, you ungrateful whelp: [audio sound of 4 gunshots being fired.] Just try it, you little bastard. [audio of gun being cocked]."

The audio production at the center of the controversy aired during opening minutes of The Randi Rhodes Show.

"What is with all the killing?" Rhodes said, laughing, after the clip aired.

"Even joking about shooting the president is a crime, let alone doing it on national radio... we are taking this very seriously," a government source explained.


If you are joking, and it is obviously a joke, then it can't be a crime. Let me try this:

"If you look at Randi Rhodes' picture, you'll see that she is actually quite attractive. Or would be if it were dark, you had had a lot of beer, and it was closing time. And if you were a het chubby-chaser."

(No, that wasn't funny; that's beside the point).

Now, I joked about someone who joked about killing the president (and I have used the phrase "killing the president" twice in this post). Does that mean I should listen for the heavy hand of the state to knock on my door?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Chopped Liver and "Conservatives First"ism

I'm sure you've seen references to this study. But here is the link, just to be sure.

Abstract of the paper:

This article first examines the ideological composition of American university faculty and then tests whether ideological homogeneity has become self-reinforcing. A randomly based national survey of 1643 faculty members from 183 four-year colleges and universities finds that liberals and Democrats outnumber conservatives and Republicans by large margins, and the differences are not limited to elite universities or to the social sciences and humanities. A multivariate analysis finds that, even after taking into account the effects of professional accomplishment, along with many other individual characteristics, conservatives and Republicans teach at lower quality schools than do liberals and Democrats. This suggests that complaints of ideologically-based discrimination in academic advancement deserve serious consideration and further study. The analysis finds similar effects based on gender and religiosity, i.e., women and practicing Christians teach at lower quality schools than their professional accomplishments would predict.

Now, here is my own thought: ANYONE who defines themselves by some irrelevant characteristic (lesbian, black, conservative, marxist, vegan) ought to be a failure as an academic. Example: Ward Churchill is actually a pretty important writer, according to some people I respect. But he primarily defined himself as a Native American, and when that lie was outed he was let go. He should never have been hired, because we don't need professional Indians, or Latinos, or conservatives.

We DO need, IMHO, good professionals who HAPPEN to be Indians, or Latinos, or conservatives, as a side matter.

So....people on the left are right to say that we shouldn't hire profs whose core identity is "conservative." But then they also should oppose hiring profs whose core identity is ANY OTHER kind of anti-intellectual activism.

I have a friend, very liberal, who happens to be a lesbian. Great person, terrific scholar. One of the lesbian organizations in Political Science was looking for "symbolic" representation, and complained that no lesbians had a voice on a certain committee. Since my friend was at that time chairing THAT committee, I immediately began referring to her loudly and gleefully as "Professor Chopped Liver."

She fumed that one of the things that holds back any movement is the need to make sure everyone's "papers are in order." And she was exactly right.

As long as conservatives define themselves as conservatives first, and scholars second, they will end up at second rate schools. And they will deserve it.

(nod to TtwbC)

UPDATE: Check out Alex Tabarrok, in a similar vein. It seems our views are pretty close. That almost certainly means we are both wrong, of course....

(Nod to JH)

Sunday, April 24, 2005


At first, I thought this must be a joke. Check out the SWOTT (actually, it should be "SWOT AT", like you would do to a fly, but...) web site.

They say:
We develop the Summer Workshop On Teaching Terrorism (SWOTT) to: 1) offer an intensive short-course on the fundamentals of terrorism; 2) introduce academics to new and innovative techniques utilized to teach terrorism; and 3) provide access to high-level officials working in the intelligence and counter-terrorism fields.

"Teach terrorism"? Maybe, teach ABOUT terrorism? Or will they have a theme dance, "Osama Enchanted Evening"? (Notice it does say "about" on this page)

Later, we are told:
A good teacher and an informed person can be quite different individuals. We wish to produce "informed teachers" from our workshop. A good teacher captures students attention, engages them in such a way that they want to learn, and often gets them to learn without them even realizing it. An individual with great information who does not know how to convey it in a way that is easy to consume is worthless. Academics, in particular, who take part in our program will leave with a better understanding of terrorism and its intricacies and armed with new teaching techniques and resources to relay their knowledge to their students.

So...they are ACTUALLY teaching teaching.

I think it worked; I am terrified by the fact that whoever wrote this announcement could take themselves this seriously.

(Nod to MWT, who is blameless, as he nearly never takes himself seriously).

Friday, April 22, 2005

BN lays down the smack

I give you Brendan Nyhan.

Word, man. Word.

I reproduce my favorite pic for you....

BIlly Joel and Hershey's Kisses: Foiled Again

I just walked over in front of the main admin building (Allen) here at Duke.

There is a protest. Students Against Sweatshops is protesting the fact that a subcontractor employs people from a firm that has (allegedly; I am willing to believe it) abused union organizers.

The SAS activists have wrapped parts of the building in aluminum paper. The symbolism? They want to "foil" Duke's complicity in this heinous labor abuse.

The company in question, Angelica's Coporation, is guilty of trying to run a business (laundry) where margins are REALLY thin....what am I trying to say.....foil thin? They have been charged with some safety violations, including (this is from the Duke students' literature) "allowing 200 lb bags of dirty laundry to fall 15 ft onto workers."

Some questions:
1. Does it really matter that the laundry was "dirty"? Or is the idea of actual work so repugnant to the students that the real protest is the fact that anyone has to handle dirty laundry at all?
2. Foil: WTF? I mean, you had all sorts of "Duke's dirty laundry," or union-bashing, to work with. Instead, they wear foil hats and hand out Hershey's kisses (wrapped in foil, doncha know).
3. Billy Joel? When I walked by, Billy Joel's famous nonprotest song, "We Didn't Light the Fire", was playing. Seemed too perfect. Some lyrics, for the "we are so bored, we'll protest anything, just so we feel better ourselves, and even if there is no purpose or impact" generation:

We didn't start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on...

(maybe they got the idea to use the song here?!?)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Question You Dread

The other day, it happened.

My son asked me the "question." The one you know a kid will ask someday, but you hope that they won't.

We were driving in the car, and there it came, out of nowhere: "Dad....why didn't the Skipper and the others just KILL Gilligan? They would have gotten off the island."


Anyway, you can also check this about the economics of monetary policy and the island of the Gilligan.

(Nod to J.M.P.P., who is a link in the chain of life)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Beyond Self-Caricature, and Without Self-Knowledge

Yobbo chews on ugly Stacy, PETA-maid.

No, it's not so easy as to be beneath him, or anyone else. As I have said before, PETA nation is not just a bunch of lovable nutcases. They are dangerous terrorists.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

From "Notes from the Lounge", an excerpt:

Even in econ departments, liberals outnumber conservatives, though not quite as overwhelmingly as elsewhere. And, if you'll forgive the cheap-shot, economics is "inherently conservative" in more or less the same way that biology is "inherently anticreationist" or physics is "inherently anti–perpetual motion machine." If there aren't many full-blown socialists in econ departments, I'm gonna go out on a limb and suggest that it's not because Karl Rove gets to vett the macro textbooks.

That seems pretty fair. ATSRTWT.

Sanchez is getting tired of the whining of conservatives about oppression, and I am, too. Neo-Maoist student groups are going into classes and confronting profs about their opinions. It's no better to do that just because you happen to be conservative Neo-Maoists, folks.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned a "developing situation." It didn't develop. But it involved a student demanding an apology from a prof who had criticized US foreign policy. This was a class where evaluating US foreign policy is directly relevant to the subject matter of the class, and the conduct of the war in Iraq was being compared to conduct of the first Gulf War, the Viet Nam war, and WWII. The prof gave his view that some members of the administration had made significant mistakes in the run-up to the war. I wasn't there, but I expect he may even had been rather caustic.

Look: the prof gets to be critical in that situation. You disagree, argue with the prof. If the prof then gives you a bad grade, or even just calls you names in class, because you disagreed, THEN we have a problem.

But there is no guarantee that smart people will always agree with you. I still say that conservative students should be thankful, 'cause they get to play against the first team. Liberal students get a smile and pat on their pointy little heads: "Good liberal! Here's a biscuit. Now, run along while I argue with this conservative."

Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Sex Party

TtwbC points to the Sex Party, in British Columbia. Here's the link.

You might think they don't have political skills. But in fact there is some history of sex and politics. If nothing else, you could get the Johnson treatment, which is always satisfying.

Almost Unbelievable

Steven Taylor updates the "Your Conference Got Punk'd!" post.

I find this a little hard to believe. Did they really not look at the paper? I would be interested to know what the acceptance rate at that conference is.

Now, this could easily happen at the American Political Science Association meetings, but I am surprised it happened at the World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI).

Actually, no I'm not. Reading the story in Reuters, I can see it. Yikes.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Cuba: World's Only Democracy

I love Whacking Day. I do.

And here, for example, is why.

Anyone with this self-description can be counted on for some truly splenetic prose.

Green Light!

Wow. I have always thought it was true, but now it is confirmed by F.I.R.E.

Duke University is listed as a "green light" university. Which means:

"Green light" institutions are those colleges and universities whose policies nominally protect free speech. We say "nominally" because our assessment is based solely on the published policies, not on the actual implementation of those policies. Some colleges disregard their own policies in practice or use them in unreasonable ways. A green light assessment does not mean that administrators on a given campus respect free speech—only that the university's policies do.

My experience is that our administrators do, too. Respect free speech, I mean.
(Sure, there was that Larry Moneta thing with the water buffalo, but that was when he was at UPenn...)

What did I say? What did I say?

Excerpt from a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed appears here.

A shorter excerpt:
One morning a few weeks back, David A. Sandoval was sitting in his office at Colorado State University at Pueblo and speaking to a local reporter on the telephone. The reporter had called to get the Chicano-studies professor's opinion on Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado at Boulder professor who had recently tripped the switch of national outrage by calling the victims of the World Trade Center bombings "little Eichmanns."
In the firebrand's defense, Mr. Sandoval offered the standard-issue rhetoric of academic freedom: Mr. Churchill's words were hurtful and terrible, yes, but it was nonetheless "appropriate for him to raise the issues" as a university professor. However, with the reporter's next question, the conversation dropped abruptly from the rhetorical sphere.
Can you think of any circumstances, the reporter asked, where a professor's speech would constitute a firing offense?
"Yeah," said Mr. Sandoval, "I would pull professor Dan Forsyth from the classroom in a second."
With that, yet another investigation of a professor was set into motion, one that would follow a pattern that is fast becoming typical. In the shadow of the Ward Churchill controversy, the past several weeks have seen a flurry of verdicts handed down from ad hoc investigative committees -- some of them the result of proceedings lasting years; some spurred by complaints made against professors in recent months; all of them vying for the same awkward balance between defending academic freedom and demonstrating public accountability.
In some precincts of the debate over academic freedom, commentators say these investigations are just a natural outgrowth of scholarly debate -- an honest effort to get to the bottom of things. Others contend these are not really investigations, but inquisitions.

If you read the story, you find that Ward Churchill wrote some controversial (okay, insulting and stupid) stuff, and Dan Forsyth said some controversial (again, insulting and stupid) stuff to students in his class.

To me, that makes a world of difference. You can write anything you want, because of academic freedom. That doesn't mean it's good, or should be rewarded with tenure (do you hear me, U of Col?), but universities simply cannot punish profs for anything they write. Nothing. Ward Churchill, you go, girl. the classroom? C'mon. Dan, Dan, Dan: If the claims are true, and you really said to students what it is claimed you said, you deserve to be punished. Not because you said stuff that was wrong (no truth squads patrolling the hallways, please), but because you are a terrible teacher.

I share F.I.R.E.'s concern about investigations becoming witch hunts. We have a non-partisan concern about political correctness of the left or the right exerting a chilling effect on academic discourse.

But you can't direct racist harangues at students. You can't do that. Here is the money quote from the Chronicle article:

It just so happened that, shortly before the phone rang with the reporter's call, a student had come to Mr. Sandoval's office to discuss a class she had attended the day before -- taught by Dan W. Forsyth, an anthropology professor at Pueblo. The student, a Chicana freshman named Victoria Watson, had brought with her a written complaint that described the last few minutes of the class, when she said Mr. Forsyth ranted about "lazy, bitter Mexicans." Ms. Watson then wrote that, when she moved to exit the classroom before the end of her professor's tirade, Mr. Forsyth yelled "screw you."

I don't think this happens very often. I also think that it is more likely to happen with profs on the extreme left, and there are plenty in the academy. But if I...if we...don't all decry this kind of teaching, there is no credibility in the defense of the real academic freedoms. To my mind, profs have much greater responsibilities to civility and moderation in the classroom than they do in the written page. Dan Forsyth, shame on you, man.

Longer excerpt


(nod to TtwbC: thanks!)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Sometimes, You have to Laugh

And this is one of those times.

AlRetPunkGang: good on ya!

Could They be More Confused?

There is a big problem at games at Fenway: not enough parking. Not nearly enough.

So, prices to park are really high.

What do the geniuses who "control" prices do? They establish parking lot rent controls, so the prices won't be so high!


Mayor Thomas M. Menino is planning to crack down on sky high prices at private parking lots around Fenway Park, saying he will seek authority to cap fees and stop what he called the gouging.
''Someone came up to me and said, 'I just paid $100 to park,' " said Menino, who attended the Red Sox home opener Monday. ''I blew my top."
Menino said he will seek City Council approval for an ordinance to cap private parking fees, the exact rate to be determined after a meeting with the lot operators later this week.
''We are going to come up with a strategy to make sure this doesn't happen in the future," Menino said. ''My goal is to have control over the fees. This may be the market, but it's not right."
Game-day parking has long been a big-money issue near Fenway Park, where hand-lettered signs line the streets, and attendants herd vehicles into just about every available space, typically charging large fees. Gas stations, some retail centers, and a hotel dedicate spaces to fans for the day. During last fall's playoffs, Menino appealed to the operators of 23 city-licensed private lots, some of whom were charging $80 or more, asking them to voluntarily lower rates.

This means that there will be (a) more parking available, or (b) less parking available, or (c) prices have no impact on behavior, and greedy people suck. The mayor either believes (c) is correct, or he is an amazingly good liar. Me? I'm pretty sure the answer is (b), so more people will park illegally. Wait....that means the city gets more revenue from those pirates dressed as tow truck drivers: "Shiver me timbers! I be gonna tow yer caRRRRRRRRR!" Now I understand the mayor's game: he wants to be the only gouger in town!


Nod to MWT, who should know better than to forward me stuff that pisses me off this much. I am going down the hall now to put him over the turnbuckle. I'm thinking of an "Airplane Spin Toss, Face First."

Review of Caeser and Cleopatra


The new Playmakers production of George Bernard Shaw's play, "Caesar and Cleopatra" is a comedy with a tragic heart: Rulers are a living sacrifice. The best rulers sacrifice themselves completely, and know that is what they are doing. That self-awareness is their crippling flaw, and their signal virtue.

I liked this production a lot, more than I expected to like it, in fact. A Shaw script always plays out on several levels. It can be tiring, but this production works well. Still, imagine a costumed clown, shrieking a song in falsetto and juggling chain saws.standing in front of Michelangelo's "David." If all you look at is the clown, and the chain saws, you'll miss the art. Shaw's plays require some attention.

Because appearances can be deceiving. Caesar is one of history's most famous rulers. But he was also famous for one of history's worst comb-overs, trying to pull a few scraggly hairs over his bald spot in hopes some of them might take root and grow. The Roman historian Suetonius wrote of Caesar: He was embarrassed by his baldness, which was a frequent subject of jokes on the part of his opponents; so much so that he used to comb his straggling locks forward from the back, and of all honours heaped upon him by senate and people, the one he most appreciated was to be able to wear a wreath at all times. Shaw includes a joke about the baldness, and wreath, and a dozen other barbed comedic touches. It will make you laugh.

The basic setting of the play, Caesar's meeting and initiation of the young Cleopatra into the rigors and rituals of ruling a nation, are easily understood. But I was reminded, particularly in this production and under David Hammond's direction, of another play by Shaw. That
other play is also about an older man transforming a young woman. In fact, Caesar and Cleopatra (written in 1901) presages several of the themes we see 15 years later in Shaw's "Pygmalion." But there is something deeper, and a little darker, in Caesar and Cleopatra.
We first meet Caesar before the Sphinx, or what he thinks is the Sphinx. Thinking he is alone, he tells the Sphinx of his wandering. He had found flocks and pastures, men and cities, but no other Caesar:

"... no man kindred to me, none who can do my day's deed, and think my night's thought.

As a ruler, he is always utterly alone. I was reminded of Eisenhower's famous words to the incoming President Kennedy in 1961: "No easy matters will ever come to you ... If they're easy they will be settled at a lower level." Shakespeare had Henry IV say it more simply: "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown."

Into this ruler's reverie slips Cleopatra. In her, Caesar finds his Liza Doolittle, a girl with no more sense of power politics than if she were the royal housecat. He begins to remake her, to show her her own power as a ruler. Almost immediately, she begins to bloom, saying, "Oh, I love you for making me a Queen"

But she learns, quickly, that for a real Queen, old pastimes no longer satisfy. She rebukes her serving maids. The giggling girls do not realize how much they reveal of themselves because Cleopatra, following Caesar's lead, does not bid them be silent as once she would have done. She promises them, and herself: "You laugh; but take care, take care. I will find out some day how to make myself served as Caesar is served.

Later, as she is speaking to the eunuch Pothinas, we learn how much she has been transformed, from girl to queen. He is surprised, and cowed, by her new-found power, and self­knowledge. In one key passage, she realizes that she could govern, even if Caesar left: "for what Caesar is to me, I am to the fools around me. Pothinus says this is just the vanity of youth, but Cleopatra corrects him: "No, no: it is not that I am so clever, but that the others are so stupid."

Pothinus responds: "Truly, that is the great secret."

So, Shaw has introduced us, with remarkable deftness, to the great paradox of leadership: rulers aren't clever, but the others are so stupid. And the stupidity is feigned: we want our leaders to be our betters, and we pretend that they are. Shaw subtly invokes Machiavelli: Cleopatra must sacrifice a part of her soul, and all of her youth. The State must survive, and be ruled. The consequences are secondary, human frailties are beside the point.

At the end of the play, a murder is committed. Caesar has seemed to argue for justice, for its own sake, but in the end Caesar reveals himself, speaking to the murderer: had you set yourself in the seat of the judge, and with hateful ceremonies and appeals to the gods handed that woman over to some hired executioner to be slain before the people in the name of justice, never again would I have touched your hand without a shudder. But this was natural slaying: I feel no horror at it.

The ruler must do what needs to be done, not because it is right, but because it is needful.
The entire cast is strong, though I thought that Christopher Coucill's Caesar outshone the rest. It is a difficult role, requiring a strength and confidence that must be felt, not just acted. Because, in the end, Cleopatra must be sincerely transformed by Caesar's example.

His work is done, and he can leave, confident that Egypt is secure, and well-ruled. We know, of course, that he is returning to face the Brutal dagger, in the Senate chamber.

Cleopatra will never be the same, however, for now she has vision: "When I was foolish, I did what I liked, except when Ftatateeta beat me; and even then I cheated her and did it by stealth. Now that Caesar has made me wise, it is no use my liking or disliking; I do what must be done, and have no time to attend to myself. That is not happiness; but it is greatness."

Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra gives us both happiness and greatness. This last comedic installment of the Playmakers' season-long meditation on the burdens of ruling others, and ruling ourselves, is well worth seeing.

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.