Thursday, September 29, 2011

The GOP Synthetic Riot That Helped Get Us The Worst Presidency In Modern Memory
Where Are They Now?

So here's a little article on the GOP douchebags who shoved and screamed at vote-counters in FL in 2000. See, they wanted to make sure that democracy didn't work, and to insure that the candidate they preferred "won."

These disgusting douchebags seem to have approximately the opposite view of the U.S. and democracy that I do. I passionately wanted the votes counted, in order to see who really won. I wanted Gore to win--in fact, I didn't realize how important it was for him to win until I saw how evil the Bush camp was during the recount debacle--but that was a distant second to my desire to see the will of the people carried out. It had become clear by this point that hand-counts were far more accurate than machine counts--and that everyone associated with voting machines, including the manufacturers--acknowledged that. However the Bush camp continued to propagate a cover story they knew to be false--that hand-counts were "subjective."

So, way to go, rioters! You subverted American democracy, and gave us one of the worst presidencies in American history--a presidency that divided us, drove us to one of the worst foreign policy disasters in our history, and wrecked the economy. But even if Bush had somehow, against all odds and evidence, turned out to be a good president, that wouldn't really matter much. The real point here is: you don't believe in democracy, and neither does your party.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Orwellian Craziness at the University of Wisconsin--Stout
Theater Professor's Firefly Poster Ripped Down by Campus Cops

Wow. This is some insane fascist shit right here.

Here we see left-wing-y campus thought-policing intersecting with fascistic coppiness to produce some actions which are so insanely indefensible that it's kinda hard to believe they're for real. If one Lisa A. Walter does not lose her job over this, something needs to be done. There ought also to be a push to fire anyone who's on this alleged campus "threat-assessment team." If you live in Wisconsin, how about contacting your state legislators about this ridiculousness?

Is this some post--9/11-related craziness? Or some other variety of craziness?
The NRA: A Wing Of The GOP

We all belonged to the NRA when I was a kid--back when it was a legitimate sportsman's organization, before it was turned into a radical right-wing GUNZ RULEZ organization.

To my shame, I joined again briefly back in the '90's because it was required by the local gun club in C'ville--the Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club. The club was great--it had great grounds, great facilities, everybody was nice...until it came time to re-up, and I told them that I didn't think I could, in good conscience, join the NRA again. Their cover story was that they bought their insurance through the NRA...but I offered to pay for private insurance for myself. It wasn't just that they didn't let me do so...I'm not even sure it was possible. It was that they dismissed the idea in about half a second, and their whole attitude toward me changed. They made it clear that I was not welcome there anymore. Anybody who didn't love the NRA obviously had no place there.

The NRA kept calling me to drum up political support for Republicans for years and to get me to re-up. I would point out that they had become a de facto part of the GOP, and that, given the current derangement of that august party, I could not support them. They always answered that they just supported pro-gun candidates, and it was just a coincidence that they were always Republicans. Among more specific arguments, I told them that I just didn't believe that anymore.

Well, here's more proof: the always-entertaining Wayne LaPierre telling us, in effect, that the very fact that Obama hasn't tried to take our guns shows just how dedicated he is to taking our guns. It is, you see, an axiom that all Democrats are anti-firearm. If the evidence indicates otherwise, then so much for the evidence.

[Link via Drum]

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fascist NYC Cops At the Wall Street Protests

I'm no fan of the Wall Street protestors. But they are merely annoying. This shows NYC cops committing criminal assault against protestors.

These guys are fascists. They belong in jail. Actually, it's too bad that the crowd didn't take matters into its own hands and fight back when these assaults occurred (not that I think these protestors have it in them). Of course, many of these guys are cops precisely because they are cowards, and would never try anything even remotely like this without a badge. This way, they are guaranteed to get away with almost anything with virtually no chance of any repercussions.

How much farther can this stuff go before Americans get fed up? When they do, of course, it won't be because some dirty hippies protesting on Wall Street got pepper sprayed. But the irrational, fascist violence against, e.g., people taping cops from their own yards ought to provoke a backlash sooner than later. Or so you'd think...  But perhaps this is a frogs in hot water case.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Terra Nova

Wow. So that really sucked, huh?

Or, rather: sucks, present tense, as the first episode is still going on. But it was so bad I turned it off. I mean, I know that it's like in the Constitution or something that any movie or t.v. show with dinosaurs in it has to suck...but...damn...  I mean that is some pure D turbocharged suckage.

Heck, I'll watch almost anything with dinosaur FX in it. I'll even watch Jurassic Park II. Well, parts of it. I love dinosaur crap so much that I'll even watch the parts of Jurassic Park III if they're the ones with the Spinosaurus in long as there's nothing else on and I can turn the sound down.

Anyway...I knew Terra Nova was probably going to suck, but I had no idea that it would suck so unequivocally. I mean, every scene, every idea, every line of dialog, every can you make a big-budget show like this that doesn't have a single good thing about it?

What an amazing super-fail.

Oh, uh...I should add that the, "dinosaurs"...look pretty damn good at first glance...but they are so swamped by the suckitude of everything else that I don't see that it matters.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Vapid Self-Indulgence of Lefty Protesters

Every. Freaking. Time.

You know just about the only thing that can make me sympathetic with Wall Street and the filthy rich?

These jackasses.

Yes, the same people who frequently give the World Bank a bit of good press are now doing their thing for Wall Street. My personal rule is: when the puppets come out, I tune out. The same goes for stilts, "Anonymous" masks, and the other trappings of lefty inanity.

This is self-indulgent bullshit, and these people are over-privileged, under-educated, self-absorbed nitwits acting out in public with the goal of getting a bit of attention. Two hard facts, children:

1. To the extend you are having any effect at all--a very small extent, of course--you are making the situation worse by making the good guys look stupid and the bad guys look sober and sensible.

2. If you really cared about the issues, really cared about effecting change, you'd put on grown-up clothes, ditch the props, and read a goddamn book on the subject you're protesting.

These people are not serious, and their protest is not serious. It's mindless performance art, and I can virtually guarantee you that, if Fox News is covering this story at all, they're focusing on the props.

Jesus. This helps solidify my hypothesis that many otherwise sensible people I know who grew up in the '60's and turned out conservative were influenced by the annoying vapidity of the hippies.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations


So, so much neuropseudoscience cropping up these days. But sprinkle enough sciencey-sounding mumbo-jumbo on something, and even the veriest BS can squeak by...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Harnessing the Web for Blue Team Advertising

So I predict another election of the Dems getting their butts kicked by the Pubs on the advertising front. The red team has a natural advertising advantage because they're already largely disconnected from reality, and their base responds to baser appeals. But it seems to me that the good guys could profit from developing, say, some kind of wiki to cull the best rhetorical/advertising ideas from web denizens. Ideas could be floated, tweaked, punched-up and voted on by web Dems, and the party could keep an eye on the wiki for the best ideas.

This needn't just be about advertising, either. Web Dems could put their heads together to think of the best way of handling the sophistical "job creators" locution. That's a tough one, because there's no real claim there, it's just a buzzword. It'd be nice if there were some devastating response to deploy each time the GOP dropped that crap into a conversation.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

If He Refuses to Buy Health Insurance, Should we "Let Him Die"?
Or: Dworkin and Ron Paul

I've been jousting with some web liberals off and on about the "let him die!" outburst at the recent Republican debate. Of course the enthusiasm for needless death was appalling...but some Dems have been breathlessly going on about how barbaric it is to let people who can't afford insurance to suffer without adequate care. That, of course, is an entirely different point. I don't know what to say about the case of voluntary non-insurance...but I do know that it's worth thinking about...and that the answer is not obvious. This has provoked anger from some of my liberal interlocutors...but today Julian Sanchez notes that Ronald Dworkin seems to conclude something similar. I frequently get told that I'm "not really a liberal" (as if that were a horrific judgment to live with); nobody can say that about Dworkin.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Elizabeth Warren Explains It All For You
Why It's Fair For the Rich to Pay More In Taxes

Why is it so hard for Dems to make this rather simple case?

Jesus. It's just amazing how inept the Dems are at articulating the--largely excellent-reasons in favor of their general positions. What Warren does in that clip is not amazing--it should be routine.

Now that Perry's ad strategy is out--Michael Bay meets "Morning in America"--there seems to me to be even better reason for the Dems to emphasize calm, clear, reasoned messages. We simply can't beat the GOP at bullshit. They've got that market cornered. The low-information voters they target eat that crap up. The way for the Dems to win is to make the 'Pubs fight on their turf--in the arena of reasoned debate. The GOP has ceded all that territory to the Dems. It's long past time to turn that decision against them.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Another "Key to the Whitehouse" Evaporates?

We recently noted that the GOP is trying to shift the direction of one of Lichtman's "keys to the Whitehouse" by manufacturing a scandal out of the Solyndra business.

Now Ralph Nader is back, up to his old tricks, doing his part to help the right from the left by fomenting a primary challenge, thus attacking another of Lichtman's "keys" that favored Obama. He's got the vapid and useless Cornell West on board, too.

Nice going Ralph. You gave us Bush/Cheney, and now you're trying to give us Perry. This guy is the best friend that the GOP ever had.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Republican "Job Creators" Myth

At Crooks and Liars.

That's our GOP--adept at spinning out stupid buzzwords and talking points...bad at policy and governing.
Is the GOP Trying to Spin Solyndra as a Scandal In Response to Lichtman?

So a couple of weeks ago, everybody was talking about Lichtman's claim that an Obama win in '12 was a slam dunk. One of Lichtman's "keys to the Presidency" is a lack of scandals. Surprise...two weeks later, the GOP is trying to manufacture a scandal out of the Solyndra business. My guess is that this is a direct result of Lichtman's work coming to their attention. This is one thing that the GOP has the power to change instantly--they are adept at scandalmongering, and all they have to do is insist that it's a scandal's a scandal. The news outlets will give it the he-said-she-said treatment, and then the bad guys have opened up another front.

Next we'll be hearing about Troopergate 2011...
The "Wisdom of Crowds" Evaporates If Judgments are Shared

Extremely interesting, if true.

Seems to me I've observed it evaporating in discussions in hiring meetings...
Lichtman Response to Silver


I'm rooting for Lichtman, because I want him to be right about '12...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

GOP: There Are Unknowable Reasons Why Obama's Jobs Plan Is Bad

They've rejected Obama's jobs plan in record time.

It's not o.k. to create jobs and then pay for the plan because...wait for it: "there may be...unforseen downsides."

They're not even bothering to make up excuses anymore. Now it's just "there may be reasons this is bad that nobody knows about." It's like trying to make policy in conjunction with a particularly nasty undergraduate who's just read DesCartes's first Meditation...  We do not have absolute certainty that this plan is perfect...ergo we reject it.

I hope these guys rot in political hell...but, realistically speaking, they're probably going to win in 2012 by wrecking the economy. And don't forget, we'll then get to hear, for the next fifty years, how Obama was "the black Jimmy Carter"... I mean, they warned us that that we shouldn't have elected a Democrat, because the economy would go down in flames...and they're seeing that that prediction comes true...
The Negative Real Interest Rate

Like M.Y., I've been baffled that this isn't a centerpiece of current discussion. It is currently so bloody cheap for the government to borrow that it seems crazy not to do it. It is, apparently, currently cheaper to fund projects by borrowing than by paying for them without borrowing. Even those who are averse to borrowing in general need to recognize that it is rational under certain conditions.
Perry Attends Fashion Show


We've never heard the end of some expensive Democratic haircuts, nor of Al Gore and the "earth tones"...  If a Democratic candidate went to a fashion show, we'd be hearing about that for the next ten years or so. Of course IOKIYAR...

Note that we're also looking at the possibility of the second Republican president in a row who was a cheerleader in college. That never gets a mention, but imagine if the tables were turned an they were Dems. Imagine what that would "obviously" indicate. Imagine the essays to which we'd be treated by Peggy Noonan and George F. Will. Imagine what Rush and Beck would make of it...

Gore, who was captain of his high school football team and who served in Vietnam, was a wimp. Bush, who avoided Vietnam and was a cheerleader, was tough. It's an axiom, you see: Dems are wimps and 'Pubs are tough. If the actual empirical evidence seems to disconfirm that...well, to hell with the evidence.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Boehner: GOP Obstructionism Will Continue
Economy Be Damned

If you're going to reject evolutionary biology and climatology, I suppose you might as well reject the science of economics as well.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Neuroscience Hates Free Will

Well, when you see a report about neuroscientists and free will, you know they'll be gunning for it. Tedious. Very, very tedious. Here's a wee, breezy summary of some current ideas for research.

I personally think that it's empirical investigation that will ultimately settle issues about free will...but it'll be a long, long time before that happens. The current climate in neuroscience seems to be one of sophomoric iconoclasm and puerile scientism. I really, really want to see good data and conceptually sophisticated experiments. We don't have that now, and we won't have it for awhile, however and unfortunately.

Philosophers, as usual, aren't helping all that much. Compatibilism, that "wretched subterfuge, has gummed up serious discussions of free will even in philosophy, and it's apparently gumming them up in neuroscience as well. For the purposes of doing some science on this, I reckon we should just treat 'free' as ambiguous, make it clear which sense we're talking about, and move on. However, if it really is free will that these researchers are interested in, compatibilism can safely be ignored. Compatibilists don't care about free will, but, rather about free action. The compatibilist holds (ignoring some details) that I'm free so long as I act on the basis of my desires, even if those desires were themselves determined. Libertarians--in the metaphysical sense, not the political sense--think that freedom requires free will...that is, requires that our volitions themselves be, at least to some extent, under our control.

I'm not sure why compatibilists are even part of this discussion. Nobody (this side of epiphenomenalists, anyway) really doubts that our desires sometimes cause our actions. So nobody really doubts that some acts are compatibilist-free. It's freedom of the will that's the interesting--and, most of us would say--important--issue.

Reports on the relevant neuroscience make it sound almost laughably primitive, though. We get arguments that run roughly like this: something happened in your brain before you acted; therefore your action wasn't free. However, nobody anywhere thinks that there won't be activity in the brain prior to free actions. We should expect all sorts of stuff going on in there, including stuff that's relevant to the action itself. If I'm thinking about moving my right hand, I'd expect that there will be all sorts of twitchy little things happening in my hand, my spinal cord, and all sorts of different regions of my brain. And, if I'm being asked to do some task that can be made automatic or nearly so, we should expect that the role of consciousness will often be minimized. The very kinds of experiments neuroscientists are running--make the cursor follow the dot and so forth--involve the kinds of actions that are likely to cut conscious decisions out of the picture.

Since I do think that the loss of free will would be a disaster for humanity, I have a dog in this fight, and am not entirely objective. However, it's very difficult to avoid the suspicion that the neuroscientists in question are gunning for free will, not investigating it dispassionately. Nobody thinks that all actions are free; everybody realizes that many are not. What we seem to be getting are inferences like: we see some actions that don't look obviously free, ergo no actions are.
War Nerd on 9/11, Bush/Cheney, and Iraq

If half the American population were half as mad as it should be about the disaster of the Bush/Cheney administration's response to Iraq, the streets would be filled with non-stop protests. This starts out with some nasty and gratuitous comments about Princess Diana--about whom I have no opinion...but these kinds of insults are sheer jackassery. But it gets better after that, and ends like so:
But Bush’s support held [in the election of 2004]. That’s when I lost my country, when he was reelected. I used to be an unhappy American nationalist, like a passenger in the back seat wondering how many drinks the driver’s had. But when we invaded Iraq, the car hit a tree—and all the passengers got out and voted to reelect the driver.

That’s the legacy of 9/11: Two dozen spoiled unemployable dimwits managed to lobotomize my country, bankrupt it, make it such a nasty alien place I didn’t even feel part of it any more. I can’t give Osama much of the credit for that, I just don’t see him as that smart—but you know, he did say his goal was to destroy America. And with a lot of help from all you guys who used to be my fellow Americans, he could die content, because he actually managed it.
Yep. That's about the size of it...
TPM: CBO Conclusions Consistent with Obama's Jobs Bill

Of course, this is mere science...
Joss Whedon: "It's Always, Always About Power"
No, It Isn't

Well, it's silly to nit-pick something like this, but since I like Whedon and I ran across it and the alternative is reading more A. J. Ayer...well, you see where I'm going with this...

Whedon's talking about surviving high school, and he probably has better things to say about it than I do. All I've really got is: (1) find some interesting things and study them hard (math comes to mind); (2) find something you love and do it (I did debate; it's not the best thing to do, but it's not the worst); (3) learn to fight well (I learned Judo; MMA and BJJ are better now); (4) get some good friends (two or three will do the trick, even if you don't fit in with the Herd); (5) aim hard for college, and get into one where the nerds rule (the egg-headier the better). (And I'm tempted to add (6) Get high sometimes, but not too much...)

But, as I said, Whedon has probably thought more about this than I have. Unfortunately, he quotes Bacon's "knowledge is power" line, and then follows it up with this: "And it's always, always about power."

No, it isn't.

This is a line that's trickled down from dumb lefties to smart liberals.

Sometimes it's about power; much more often it isn't.Power is a side-effect of knowledge, but it's not the main reason for seeking knowledge. The right view here is the Aristotelian one: knowledge is intrinsically good, and we seek it primarily in order to satisfy our natural human desire to understand. To reduce it all to technology, or power, or whatever is to debase it. Sane people seek power only so they have the power to defend the more important things--life and liberty and loved one and so forth. Without power, bad people will take away the things we need in order to live a good life. But that in no way means--nor does it come close to meaning--that "it's always about power."

O.k., that's way too much on that.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Administrative Bloat in Academia

This, "Administrators Ate My Tuition," via Leiter, is right on the money. We've got so many deans, sub-deans, deanlings and deanlets that we literally can't keep track of them all. Add in an army of "coordinators" for the disastrous and widely-reviled general education program the administration at my school forced on us, and you get even more of these folks. Then, of course, there are the administrators associated with the innumerable programs, centers, initiatives and inter-, multi- and trans-disciplinary this-s and thats.

Where is your tuition money going? It's a fairly easy question to answer. It's going to prop up lots of highly-paid and vastly unnecessary administrators, a preposterously beautiful campus, and innumerable distractions and amusements for students, including over-funded sports teams. Vast wealth might flow to some faculty at some schools...but there are many of us out here, doing yeoman's work, and it is barely trickling down to us at all. Hell, most of us aren't even the kinds of people who care much about money, and our salaries are still commonly insulting.

Don't some professors teach very little? Yes. Not most of us. Don't even most of us get summers "off"--i.e., to devote to scholarship? Yes. Wouldn't tuition be cheaper if professors had to teach more classes? No, because people like me would quit. Part of why most of us took this gig is for the flexibility and time to devote to research/scholarship. Try to make us teach 40 hours/week, and we'll go get easier, higher-paying, less-frustrating jobs. You'll be left with the profs who don't devote any time to their classes anyway, so teaching an extra one or two won't matter to them.

So, you want to lower tuition costs, don't look to the faculty, look to the administration. They're the ones with the big fat salaries, and they're the the ones making the decisions about--to use two examples from my own institution--building new football stadiums and adding palatial new wings to already palatial fitness centers.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Packer: Obama Versus the Nihilists

Here. Not new--basically the conventional wisdom among sane people currently. Probably true as well.
Timothy Williamson on Naturalism

This is worth a read, especially by non-philosophers whose world-views are roughly similar to mine. Such folk often think they are naturalists (even if they aren't familiar with the term, or don't know what it means). Personally, I'm not currently a naturalist. Alternatively, I might count as one...but only because I have such an expansive and indeterminate view about what nature is like.

Unfortunately, the unofficial metaphysics and epistemology of most non-theistic liberals I know is naturalistic...and that, I believe, is an error. It rarely matters much, though it occasionally comes up in conversation with philosophically clueless scientists and science enthusiasts, who will often say, roughly, that philosophy is bullshit, and, if pressed for a reason, they'll say something...well, something incoherent, but something that, if cleaned up and clarified, basically entails that naturalism is obviously true. Which, of course, it isn't, and which, of course, philosophy shows us. So the funniest part of all this is to hear someone saying something which even a little philosophy shows to be fairly stupid while, simultaneously, saying that philosophy is stupid. (Not that naturalism is a stupid view--of course it isn't, and it isn't close to being so; what's stupid is the view that naturalism is obviously true. It is painfully obvious that it isn't obviously true.) Of course I don't hold it against people that they have a hunch that philosophy may all be bullshit...hell, most philosophers have that same inclination. It's the dogmatic assertion that it must be by people who know nothing about it, and who are, it seems, most in need of it that is amusing.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Obama's Job Speech

Top notch. Excellent work. Good ideas presented in a tactically savvy way.

The question, of course: how to get the GOP, in the grip of false theories, hellbent on Obama's destruction (and willing to harm the country to accomplish that goal) can be persuaded to do the right thing.

Webocrats have already, as usual, given up. It's what they do; it's who they are.

Obama clearly indicated his strategy: he's going to link the American Jobs Bill to even bigger deficit reduction than is already in the pipeline. His general strategy is to force the GOP's hand by making their irrationality and destructive obstructionism as clear as possible--to bring them to as much of an outright self-contradiction as is possible in such cases. Here that means: show that Republicans are willing to forgo bigger, long-term deficit reduction in order to block the short-term jobs bill that the country so desperately needs. That, combined with the fact that the GOP has advocated many of the measures being advanced, is probably not enough to force Republicans to act as if they are good and reasonable...but it might be enough to make it clear to the voters that the Republicans are neither good nor reasonable.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Long Beach, CA > Westboro Baptist Church

Long Beach, you so awesome.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Students Cannot Stop Texting

So, fed up with the problems I had in an unusually big class last year (though I've gone back to medium-sized (i.e. 40 student) classes this year, I've (a) banned laptops and tablets, and (b) instituted a policy according to which you get kicked out of class for texting.Today was the FOURTH CLASS OF THE SEMESTER, and I saw a girl texting under the table. I asked her what she was doing, and she fumbled around, picked up her pen, and sat there as if she were then read to take notes. "Uh, no," sez me, "what were you just doing?" Her eyes get very wide, and she reaches down and picks up her phone, which she has thrown on the floor. She holds it up. I say "uh, no. Out." I jerk my thumb over my shoulder and stand there while she fumbles around getting her things together and walks out.

WTF?????  I do not not force students to come to class. I make it clear that they never, ever have to attend. But if they do, they have to pay attention. I made it clear the first day that texting was a kick-out-able offense. About 30 minutes shy of a week since I made that policy clear, the incident described above happened. Again I ask: WTF?

An it's not like the class was boring or moving slowly. We were actually moving along at a brisk clip, the stuff was hard, and the vast majority of the students were clearly suffering from some brain pain.

Jebus. Very annoying.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Schedulegate and Racism

I think liberals tend to jump to racism/sexism hypotheses too quickly. I've argued that the GOP's vitriolic hatred of Obama is just a further point on the trajectory of insanity that it was on during the Clinton administration. But things like the "you lie" fiasco have begun to sway me toward the racism hypothesis. The utter, almost casual disrespect that the GOP shows for the President is really striking--or seem so to me. They hated Bill Clinton, but they didn't seem to be so openly and casually contemptuous of him. Schedulegate seems to me to be another instance of the type of thing I'm pointing to. Of course, it's hard to tell with the GOP; they're now so nutty, and so contemptuous of Democrats, that they might be treating a white Democrat just as disrespectfully. So I'm not yet willing to fully embrace a racism hypothesis here.
Heather MacDonald on The Teaching Company
Some Free-Market Fantasies

Well, there's this. MacDonald complains about the bizarre/loony types of courses that run rampant in today's universities--"regendering" this and than, deconstructing the other thing, and every kind of niche course about the holy trinity, race, class, "gender." That, she's right about. There is little doubt that there is entirely too much of that crap. It is also fairly well-known that the intellectual standards in such courses are fairly low, inherited from the quasi-philosophy that sprang up in LitCrit and similar areas.

Look, it's not that there aren't interesting questions about race, class and sex--there are. There are all sorts of interesting questions about them. But (a) they are currently radically over-emphasized in the academy, and (b) there is no excuse for the slack standards that prevail in their study.

So yes: one ought to be concerned about the proliferation of trendy, crappy, lefty courses in the academy.

However, MacDonald is simply wrong about the cause of this problem, and so about its solution. Yes, it's professors who bring this stuff to students...but students eat it up and seek it out. The problem is a certain free-market-ish approach higher education--that's not the solution. What do students want? All sorts of crap that's bad for them. Mindless lefty po-mo nonsense is fairly popular, as are vocational and business courses that teach students almost nothing, as are courses about sex, as are courses in which you get to watch a lot of movies. Easy courses that emphasize free-wheeling, emotional lectures with plenty of opportunities so "share your feelings," especially about the things 19-year-olds are interested in--i.e. sex--are always a hit. You want a free market approach to higher ed? That's what you're going to get. You really would not believe how many students have asked me "when am I ever going to have to know about statistics?" When indeed.

Perhaps demand would fall off a bit if certain areas of the humanities and social sciences were not pumping out profs who were pushing these things. But it wouldn't fall off a lot. Contra MacDonald, students are not clamoring for the history of Greece and Rome, but getting Regendering Greece and Rome instead. There's always a core of students who want, e.g., the history of Greece and Rome. But students with a scholarly bent are, sadly, a minority in the average contemporary university. Most of our students, for example, are primarily interested in vocational training and entertainment. If we left it entirely up to market forces, my bet is that we'd have more of the po-mo-y crap, not less. The most popular class would be something like An On-Line Introduction to Using Sex To Get Ahead In The Workplace Through Film.

Conservatives try to make the free market the solution to every problem, but it won't work here. Perhaps the older, wish-I'd-have-gone-to-college crowd that buys TLC tapes wants to learn about the great books--good on them if they do, and it suggests they've got better sense than the average privileged 19-year-old...but who would have thought otherwise? But in this case the conservative commitment to the classics is simply at odds with what the free market would select. The invisible hand will not do the trick here. And Perry-esque plans to make universities more like businesses will simply exacerbate the problem.