Thursday, January 30, 2014

Russian Man Kills Friend After Argument...Because Poetry Is Superior To Prose

You've got to love the Russians, man.

They shoot and stab each other over stuff that matters.

What Happens if HRC Wins in 2016?

I mean:

(1) The crazy wing of the GOP hates x Clinton for any value of x.

(2) The crazy wing of the GOP especially hates the x such that x = Hillary Clinton.

(3) The crazy wing of the GOP basically believes that no Democratic president can be legitimate.

(4) The crazy wing of the GOP has gotten crazier every time they've lost a presidential election in the last 20 years.

(5) The crazy wing of the GOP really, really hates Obama and is barely clinging to minimal rationality as things stand now.

What happens if HRC wins the nomination in '16?

What happens if she wins the general?

I mean, will it be a freakout of epic proportions? Or has the crazy gotten about as bad as it can reasonably be expected to get? Might it burn itself out? (Didn't work that way with Obama's 2012 win...) Might the CWotGOP finally get some sense slapped into it?

I, for one, don't expect it to be pretty.

EFF: International Protest Against Mass Surveillance

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Carolina 78 Tech 65

Not a pretty game.

But ugly wins are wins.

Go Heels, Beat Tech

That is all.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"Girls With Short Hair Are Damaged"



No wait [wipes tears from eyes]...I can LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL

Hold on I can...get myself under control here...

Oh man, don't click on that shit unless you really can't resist.

"Return of Kings" is, at my best guess, a troll site. Or maybe its just click bait for losers. I don't know. It seems so blatantly, over-the-top, intentionally, flamboyantly idiotic that it's a little hard for me to believe that it's for real. I mean, here's some:
No woman in all of human history has ever looked better with short hair than she would with a head full of healthy locks. Despite this irrefutable fact, American women are “chopping it off” in greater numbers every day. This rears its ugly head in an array of ugly permutations, from the boy-like pixie cut to bizarre semi-shaved head topographies. The rationalizations—whether it’s donating their hair to sick kids or the summer weather—are immaterial. The effect, and true reasons, are the same. 
I blame this lamentable trend on a few factors. The most powerful are the disingenuous lies—from both men and women—about how it looks. Women are quick to encourage other women to cut their hair by telling them how “cute” it is. While I’m no scientist, I’m convinced this is some deep, genetic programming at work, one that forces women—who compete with one another on a physical level on a daily basis—to encourage any behavior that might eliminate competitors in the dating pool. Men are no better. The cowardly and deluded among us perpetuate the myth that “some girls can pull it off.” Pulling something off, I often respond, is the equivalent of “passing” a class. Just because you have enough left-over attractiveness to remain bangable after cutting off your hair doesn’t mean you wouldn’t look better with it back on.
I hope you didn't get any of that on you.

(Just by way of illustration, not that I think this warrants it, I'm going to leave this right here (possibly NSFW on the page)... And this. This too. Well. This is stupid and unnecessary.)

But this is the best part:
The truth of the matter is that long hair’s almost universally attractive to men, when they’re actually speaking honestly (without trying to appease women in the room). Furthermore, it’s a symbol of youth, femininity, and health. Why can’t old women grow long hair? Because it’s an ephemeral trait of your fertile years. Women instinctively know this, which is why every American girl who cuts, and keeps, her hair short often does it for ulterior reasons. Short hair is a political statement. And, invariably, a girl who has gone through with a short cut—and is pleased with the changes in her reception—is damaged in some significant way. Short hair is a near-guarantee that a girl will be more abrasive, more masculine, and more deranged.
Dude. You just simply need to get out of the house more. Or your parent's basement. Seriously.

This kind of's just not healthy. I mean, aside from it being really, really stupid and embarrassing and all. It's also not healthy.

Are there really dudes like this out there? I honestly have never, ever encountered anybody like this in actual grown-up life. This guy sounds like he's combining the immature patheticness of a high school loser with the crotchety patheticness of an aging loser.

Why am I wasting time complaining about this nonsense?

I've got stuff to do.

In short: STFU dipshit.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Clemson Still 0-For-Ever in Chapel Hill

Carolina is now 57-0 vs. Clemson in Chapel Hill.

Many fans have been wondering for awhile now whether this might be the year Clemson snaps the streak...

But the good Heels showed up tonight, and, at least as importantly, it simply was not Clemson's night.

Congrats to both teams on a hard-fought game.

On to Tech...


PoMo Feminism: Lena Dunham's Nudity As the Key To the Universe

Part 1: The Real Post

This, by Soraya Chemaly, at Salon, is just terrible.

It's not that it never glances off the truth--it's hard not to get at least something approximately right in an essay like this. Even a stopped clock and all that... Occasionally bumping into the truth, however, isn't enough to make an essay worth writing, nor defending. This essay is simply a big mess of crap.

The thing begins by jumping on the bandwagon with respect to a reporter's apparently innocent and reasonable question of Lena Dunham--she's the person responsible for and starring in the tv show "Girls".

Let me make it clear--I'm not very familiar with the show. I've probably seen less than an hour of it in bits and pieces. It's either not very good, or not to my taste, or both. I'm no connoisseur of television. (sigh. What a concept...) I'm not a snob about television--I'm perfectly willing to watch it when there's something good on--I'm just not, in general, a fan, and not, in general, terribly sophisticated with respect to tv and movies. So maybe I didn't give the show a fair chance, or maybe I just didn't get it, or whatever. I don't know. But the salient point here is: I'm not very familiar with the show. That's important.

At any rate, a reporter asked Dunham why the character she plays in the show is “ frequently naked at random times for no reason." That seems like a perfectly reasonable question
Cue left-liberal/feminist shitstorm! Or...tempest in a teacup! Or...shitstorm in a teacup!  !!! oneoneone!

Via the magic of...well...ideological irrationality:

(a) Your character is frequently naked for no apparent reason; why is that?

Became, roughly:

(b) Your character is frequently naked, but seems to be naked for reasons other than the sexual titillation of males; how dare you?

This is stupid. This is really, really stupid.

No wait, back up: unless I'm really missing something, this is really, really stupid.

It's completely wrong. It's not an even vaguely plausible interpretation of the question. (Sidebar: it's amazing to me how people who claim to have some expertise in "reading" or interpretation, are so terrible at, y'know, interpreting...)

No, wait: back up. It's easy to be drawn into irrationality by irrationality.

Let's start with:

Is her character frequently naked at random times for no reason?

If it/she is, then that's a perfectly reasonable question. It it/she isn't, then, of course, it's a really weird question... If the character isn't frequently, puzzlingly naked, then it would make sense to wonder about the motives of the questioner. OTOH, if the character is frequently and apparently inexplicably naked--well, then that's the explanation for the question. It's a straightforward request for information, a request for an explanation of an unusual type of occurrence.

So, if anybody knows the answer to this question, I'd kinda like to know it.

Not like, a lot...but kinda...

Unless the answer to the above question is in the negative, the whole essay is predicated on an outlandish error. Even if the answer is in the affirmative, it's a bit of a stretch to try to get from (a) to (b)...

Part 2: The Other Post That's Really A Sidebar:

So really I ought to just stop there, but, without addressing the points in the essay specifically, I'll just note, generally, that: The Chemaly piece is awful, no matter what the answer is to the question above--it's filled with the kind of "reasoning" that, to quote Searle on Derrida, gives bullshit a bad name. The original question seems to have been radically misinterpreted, and then that event is used as a springboard for a bunch of what is largely lefty/left-liberal/feminist free association.

There's a point in it all--again, it would be hard for there not to be, by the stopped clock principle. But the simple and important point: that females are subject to a lot more aesthetic scrutiny of their bodies than are males--is never actually addressed. Instead we get a bunch of gibberish masquerading as reasoning for a bunch of unrelated left-liberal shibboleths about e.g. class and race... Because, of course, we can't just talk about one element of the lefty Holy Trinity without dragging in all the others, relevant or not. Of course everything becomes relevant if your standards of relevance are sufficiently lax...

This is one reason for the decline and fall of feminism--morally and intellectual speaking. The academic vanguard of feminism accepted a certain view of inquiry--a toxic stew of postmodernism, poststructuralism, critical theory, and French literary theory. It accepted people like Michel Foucault and Judith Butler as its intellectual heroes--instead, say, of someone like Susan Haack. The intellectual picture it accepted is one according to which politically fashionable, ideologically exciting conclusions are more important than good reasoning. Interpretations are allowed to roam free with no danger of refutation, nor even of serious scrutiny. Liberal use of trendy cant and buzzwords are more important than clarity and accuracy of expression. The point is to cobble together a technical-sounding, hence rhetorically effective, case for left-of-liberal feminist conclusions, logical soundness be damned.

Essays like this should be criticized because they're crap, regardless of their practical effects. If you let nonsense slide because you like its conclusions, or because you see its author as a political ally, then you're part of the problem, regardless of how convinced you are of the correctness of your political position.
But, if such moral/intellectual considerations don't matter to you, perhaps you'll be moved by practical considerations. Many people have been driven away from feminism for good reasons. And people like me have been driven away from it largely for the kinds of reasons articulated above. This sort of feminism is irrationalist and illiberal. The more feminism moves in that direction--and it has moved very strongly in that direction--the more reasonable people will move away from it.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Does It Matter How Effective/Successful NSA Metadata Collection Is?

Would the hit to civil liberties be worth it to prevent Manhattan from being blown up?  


A negative answer seems insane to me...but if we go down a consequentialist road like that, virtually any policy can be made to seem acceptable...

Perhaps the philosopher's error is to think in such terms, when the point really is: there's no plausible threat that is serious enough to warrant a program of this kind. But that's an empirical claim that might actually--for all I know--be false...

If the program really is illegal, then we can circumvent these worries at least temporarily...though I worry that has all the advantages of theft over honest toil...

PCLOB: NSA Program Illegal and Should End

An independent federal privacy watchdog has concluded that the National Security Agency’s program to collect bulk phone call records has provided only “minimal” benefits in counterterrorism efforts, is illegal and should be shut down.
The findings are laid out in a 238-page report, scheduled for release by Thursday and obtained by The New York Times, that represent the first major public statement by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which Congress made an independent agency in 2007 and only recently became fully operational.

Friday, January 24, 2014

"Meritocracy": Politically Incorrect, I Guess...

The weird story of the GitHub rug.

Big sibling does not tolerate carpetcrime.

Is The Degree of Upward Mobility In the U.S. Unchanged?


Apparently we're also supposed to find this boring, because we're all supposed to have known this already.

But I, for one, had read many times in many different places that there was significantly less upward mobility than there used to be. (Er...upward movement? Whatever...)

So no, I didn't know this, so I don't find it boring. In fact, I find it really damn good news, given what I thought was true...


Ukraine Protests Spread; 2 Dead; Possible Progress in talks

Violent protests in Ukraine have spread beyond the capital, Kiev, as President Viktor Yanukovych held crisis talks with three key opposition leaders. 
Protesters stormed the governor's offices in Lviv, and there were rallies in at least five more western cities.
 One opposition leader was upbeat after the crisis talks, saying there was a "high chance" of a solution. 
Two people died in clashes in Kiev on Wednesday, the first deaths in two months of protests over EU links.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM): "The Wife Is To Voluntarily Submit To Her Husband"


Contrary to what Think Progress is emphasizing, the problem here is not that this dude is "offending" women...  The problem is that he's a bigoted freaking lunatic.
Washington Post reports that a chapter from Pearce’s new book emphasizes wives and husbands each have roles in the household, and the wife’s role is obedience. “The husband’s part is to show up during the times of deep stress, take the leadership role and be accountable for the outcome, blaming no one else,” Pearce writes. “The wife’s submission is not a matter of superior versus inferior; rather, it is self-imposed as a matter of obedience to the Lord and of love for her husband.”
Why emphasis people being offended in a story about a U.S. Congressman believing some insane sexist horseshit?

Anyway, quibbling with TP's emphasis aside...holy crap, what a nut.

(via Reddit)

Carolina Accepts Responsibility for Academic Fraud In African-American Studies Dept.

In the African and Afro-American Studies Department, there were 200 lecture-style classes dating back to the mid-1990s that showed little or no evidence of any instruction. Investigations also found that roughly 500 grade changes were suspected or confirmed to be unauthorized.
University officials have placed the blame on the former department chairman, Julius Nyang’oro, and a department secretary, both of whom left the university. Nyang’oro has been indicted on criminal charges of obtaining property by false pretenses.
She called the academic fraud “a betrayal” of students but said the university has already taken many steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The ABC crowd likes to pretend that the university should have known about this...  I suppose that's possible...but in my experience, universities usually don't have any reason to think that they have to keep an eye on departments. There's an extraordinary amount of autonomy because professors are presumed to be professionals that don't have to be monitored. 

NYT: Watchdog Report Says NSA Program Is Illegal And Should End

An independent federal privacy watchdog has concluded that the National Security Agency’s program to collect bulk phone call records has provided only “minimal” benefits in counterterrorism efforts, is illegal and should be shut down.
The findings are laid out in a 238-page report, scheduled for release by Thursday and obtained by The New York Times, that represent the first major public statement by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which Congress made an independent agency in 2007 and only recently became fully operational.

Old, Shitty, Racist, Hack Musician Insults President

Ted "my music sucked ass and now I'm batshit crazy" Nugent, famed idiot, apparently called Obama "a subhuman mongrel."

Now, I think that there's a lot of racism in the world/country. But I think the kinds of people I tend to be around tend to cry "racism!" rather too readily.

For example, as I've said many times, I think that they tend to attribute too much ODS to race. I think it's clear that some of it is racial...but, given the virulent nature of Clinton Derangement Syndrome, I think that the best hypothesis is that any contemporary Democratic president is going to face insane, frothy hatred from much of the right. (Obama, of course, is only half black...but that seems to just make it worse according to the I'll ignore that here.)


Given the relevant bits of history, I really do not see any plausible way to interpret either "subhuman" or "mongrel" in a way that is not primarily racial.

Of course there's no reason to address such a thing with arguments.

So I'll just say:  go fuck yourself Ted Nugent.

You are a loathesome, stupid piece of shit.

KyivPost: Live Updates from Ukraine

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Protesters Killed in Clash With Kiev Police

This is not going in a good direction.

Dems (In Effect) Take Control of the VA State Senate

Won Herring's seat again. Supposing they do win Northam's seat again, we'll still have a 20-20 split, and Northam will be the tie-breaker.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Second Law of Thermodynamics: A "Lie To Children"?

link to Reddit...see the top comment.

Does anybody have anything to say about this stuff? Readings to point to that might be accessible to a layperson? I've heard it said before that the second law isn't, strictly speaking, true...  Of course, sometimes that's said of all scientific laws...

This book, I'm guessing, is not accessible to the layperson...but I'll let you know...


Like totally problematic and offensive and rape culture and patriarchal and culturally appropriative and MANY OTHER RIDICULOUS BUZZWORDS AS WELL!!!1111


Is Replicating Certain Types of Medical Experiments Becoming More Difficult?

Some reasons to think yes:

Mina Bissell:
"Reproducibility: The Risks of the Replication Drive":

So why am I concerned? [About increased attention to reproducibility.] Isn't reproducibility the bedrock of the scientific process? Yes, up to a point. But it is sometimes much easier not to replicate than to replicate studies, because the techniques and reagents are sophisticated, time-consuming and difficult to master. In the past ten years, every paper published on which I have been senior author has taken between four and six years to complete, and at times much longer. People in my lab often need months — if not a year — to replicate some of the experiments we have done on the roles of the microenvironment and extracellular matrix in cancer, and that includes consulting with other lab members, as well as the original authors.
 Experiments, according to a very reasonable way of thinking, must be reproducible for their results to be valid...but that seems to mean: reproducible in principle...or eventually. Not necessarily immediately nore easily. Bissell seems to make a reasonable point: as experimental techniques become more complicated, they often become more difficult to reproduce. And if some of the techniques are a matter of esoteric know-how, then, well, if  you don't have the relevant know-how, you are much less likely to get the results.

Of course each hypothesis about why the attempt to reproduce the results failed should itself be testable, so we should be able to eventuallyfigure out in every case whether there is some relevant quirk of the lab or researchers that prevented replication. But if Bissell is right--and it sounds like it is--this can get harder and harder as the techniquest become more and more complex.

McDonnell and Wife Charged In Gifts Case

Barbara Bush: "I Love Bill Clinton"

This makes me happy.

FL GOP House Candidate Calls For Obama To Be Hanged for Treason

From the fetid depths of the fever swamps, I give you Joshua Black.

Favorite quote: "I guess they're going to call me a racist now."

Well, Josh, I'm going to be straight with you--the thought did cross my mind...  OTOH, I'll bet there's a pretty good chance you'd be calling for the execution of any Democratic maybe that's being unfair to you...

(h/t JQ)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Does Being Cold Make You Sick?

6-8" Of Snow On The Way

UVA Crushes Carolina 76-61, Heels' Tailspin Continues

And it wasn't even really that close.

1-4 in the ACC.

Carolina shot about 40% from the floor; UVA shot about 40% from 3.

That was a serious ass-beating. UVA played pretty well. Carolina played well for about 16 minutes of the first half.

It's really getting tough to watch a team for which the average sequence is turnover, turnover, missed layup, missed field goal, turnover, missed layup...

And we remain the second-worst 3-point shooting team in college basketball...which is just a little bonus.

Well, better luck next time, guys. There's still time to get it together.

(I will just mention that Carolina got called for 21 fouls, whereas UVA, known  for a much more physical style of play, got called for 12. That sure didn't help anything.)

"I Have A Dream" Day

Jeez, if you tune into the media on MLK day, you'd think this was "I Have a Dream" day...

I mean, don't get me wrong--I  love that speech. It's a bloody work of art. It never fails to grip me, no matter how many times I hear it.'s not the only thing the man ever wrote or said.

Take this, for example...hardly a deep cut from the oeuvre... Would it kill them to maybe broadcast some fragments of that? Not a huge deal. Not a federal case. Just a thing.

The Letter From A Birmingham jail had a powerful effect on me as a kid, and today is as good a time as any to read it again. Along with Thoreau, the Letter had a major influence on my views on civil disobedience.

Subsequently I've come to think that King's and Thoreau's Socratic views on civil disobedience might be a little too idealistic. But that's a failing I'll take every day over the obvious alternatives...

The Snowden case has also been bringing the Letter to my mind of late, in part because Snowden seems open to the charge that he didn't act optimally. I'm sympathetic to that charge, actually. (The same charge was, of course, leveled at King, and his response was, in effect, and taking a few liberties: there may be a better way theoretically, but this is, practically speaking, the best--or only--available option.) (Snowden, of course, can be criticized on the grounds that he didn't adhere to a King-like view of civil disobedience--e.g. he didn't willingly accept the penalty for the crime. (Of course King actually says "willingly accept the penalty of imprisonment...whereas Snowden could face death... So that could matter.))

On the bright side, it's not Lee-Jackson-King day anymore here in the OD...and, though it hasn't been for 14 years, it's still rather a relief every year when that day doesn't roll around... (We do still have Lee-Jackson day, incidentally, the Friday before MLK day. But that's a can of worms unto itself...)

Obama: Pot No Worse Than Alcohol, Tobacco

True, of course.

OxFam Inequality Report


There are two claims in the summary that seem clearly inconsistent...but if either one is anywhere near the truth, it's pretty damning:

"Almost half of the world's wealth is now owned by just 1% of the population."
"The bottom half of the world's population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world."

Not sure what's going on there, but either is bad.

(h/t S. rex)

Drum: The High Cost of Anti-Vaccine Hysteria


The idiots will kill us yet.

Heels vs. Hoos

I always look forward to this game, even though Virginia does tend to play pretty ugly...

Let's go Hoos...but let's go Heels a little bit more...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The "White Privilege" Confusion

Sadly, this confused concept is metastasizing. Not that Buzzfeed is worth paying attention to...but Tumblr is leaking, and this stuff is starting to infect the weaker regions of academia and the interwebs.

It's not that the idea that there is white "privilege" is completely off track--it just isn't really accurate. There's no reason to move to a less accurate concept when we're already using more accurate ones. It's just a terminological fad, and a misguided one.

I've argued before that the problem isn't white "privilege," it's discrimination against some non-white groups. A problem of unjust privilege is naturally solved by removing the unjust advantage--that is, roughly, treating the privileged group like everyone else is treated. So, if there's an aristocracy that is given unjust advantages, you solve the problem by taking those advantages away.

That's not the way to solve the relevant racial problems. for example, in the U.S. Blacks are, on average, hassled unjustly by cops more that whites. This problem is more accurate described as one of discrimination, not of "privilege." The problem cannot be solved by unjustly hassling whites at a higher rate. This particular problem can only be solved by the cops hassling blacks at a lower rate. (Of course, no one should be hassled unjustly by the there will still be a problem even if blacks start to be hassled at the lower, white rate...but that's a different point...)

But, in addition to being confused, this privilege nonsense is obnoxious--and intended to be. This cartoon is a pretty good representation of the problems that are associated with the relevant approach. Those who reject the "privilege" theory/locution are referred to as "ignorant," and told to "fucking educate" themselves. The cartoon simply insists that they "open their eyes" to the "privilege [they] have." The shrill little cartoon person complains:
I cannot believe that I now have to explain to you in cartoon form because no one on the internet seems to or even wants to understand this painfully simple concept.
This just seems like a toxic stew of confusion and dogmatism to me. It's probably best to start off by explicitly stating something obvious:

To the extent that what's afoot here is true, it's basically accepted by everyone but the most retrograde conservatives: in general, whites in the U.S. have significant advantages over blacks. If you're looking to win the game of life, and you get to build your own character and choose your stats, and you're born in the U.S., choose to be white rather than black (And: male rather than female, straight rather than gay, Christian rather than atheist...and, especially: rich rather than poor...). The number of places in the U.S. where you'll be worse off for that choice is pretty small. On average, you're significantly better off being white.

Almost no one denies that.

So the complaint seems to be not that people don't acknowledge this, but, rather, that they aren't flocking to the terminology.

People are resistant to the "privilege" nonsense for a couple of reasons. Sure, it's painfully just isn't really right, for reasons outlined above. They're resistant because we already have a better way to think about this stuff, and it's with the familiar old concepts of advantage and discrimination.

So why shift the emphasis away from disadvantaged groups and helping them--and shift it to the alleged "privilege" of whites (or males, or whatever)? Well, despite their protestations to the contrary, we know enough about the lefty-left to know that they enjoy criticizing whites (and males...etc.). They'd much rather talk about the advantages of being white than the disadvantages of being black--because they'd much rather focus on making whites feel guilty than on solving the problem. Solving actual problems is the province of liberals--the lefty-left isn't really that interested in that.

That is, of course, speculative--but it's not entirely ungrounded in what we know about the left. It could be wrong, of course...and I'm hardly objective. I don't like radicals on either end of the political spectrum. But we do need some kind of an explanation of why this terminological fad caught fire on the left, when we can say all the true things we need to say with the normal terminology: blacks are disadvantaged relative to whites, they are frequently discriminated against, and it is not uncommon for whites to benefit from these things. If the goal were not to throw an elbow at whites, then one would think that a term like "advantage" would have been chosen rather than the not-quite-accurate and condemnatory "privilege."

But, look, as annoying and confused as this fad is, there's still something worth thinking about there. It's too bad these people are so irritating, because the general idea could make for an enlightening little thought exercise: think about being white as if it were like being minor royalty. Imagine that blacks were treated normally, but we were generally treated a little better--that is, imagine that there literally were "white privilege." Thinking about that can give you some insight into the way things really are. That's not the world we live in--in the world we live in, whites are treated more like people ought to be treated, and blacks are discriminated against. But it's similar in certain interesting ways. Thinking about that might be interesting/informative/enlightening. Sadly, instead of offering up a helpful little thought experiment, they've just dogmatically pushed a flawed way of thinking that is likely to alienate the very people they seemed to be attempting to address.

But this again points us to the failure of the model. One thing that advocates of the "privilege" model like to say is that it corrects for the allegedly erroneous belief that "white experience" is "normative." The thing is, however, white experience is "normative" in the relevant respect--the problems can't be solved by discriminating more against whites. The problems can only be solved by discriminating less against blacks.

As always, this could all be wrong. Sadly, almost everyone I encounter who pushes the "privilege" locution is irritating as hell, and I'm easily annoyed by such things. Perhaps this terminology does bring with it some advantages I'm not seeing--but, if so...well, I'm not seeing them.

Drum: Obama's Surveillance Reform Plan is "Weak Tea"


I'm pretty baffled by what's going on, but it sounded, on the face of it, like a pretty good start to me. This is the kind of thing that really does require expert opinion. The guesses of non-experts about this stuff just aren't very valuable.

One of Obama's best points, I thought, was that phone companies already keep the same kind of "metadata" that has generated this controversy. That doesn't mean that it's ok for the government to do so, of course, but it does help but the program in perspective, I think.

I continue to think the argument from potential for abuse is important here--roughly, that the problem with allowing the government to collect and retrieve such "metadata" is that, even assuming that the current government is not abusing it, the potential for abuse by a future unjust government is too great.

One perhaps interesting thing about the potential for abuse argument however, is that it seems to cut at least as deeply against maintaining a large, powerful military as it does against collecting communications metadata. I mean, the most powerful weapon that a theoretical unjust future government would have is our massive military. Right?

I'm actually sympathetic to both versions of the argument, and that's one reason I tend to favor a military that's no bigger than necessary. Though, of course, it's not clear what necessity amounts to here...  I think it's very clear that, say, China is a bigger threat than some theoretically unjust future U.S. government. At any rate, it seems a little odd to be extremely angry about the NSA program on the basis of the potential for abuse argument, but entirely unconcerned about our enormous military. (And newly paramilitarized police forces...)

Anyway, that's all pretty fast and loose, and just thinking out loud, really.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Heels 82, BC 71

Nice to get the W...and to not drop to 0-4 in the ACC...

Not a pretty game, but no sense in being churlish about it. BC is good at penetrating and kicking the ball out (though jacking up 3s for 40 minutes is basically the most boring type of basketball there is, IMO...possibly next to the "run and gun"...)

I think Tokoto is going to be great next year, incidentally.

Go Tar Heels

I still have faith they're going to get it together.

Major Extinction Events: Graphics

Handy for all your looking-up-when-major-extinctions-happened needs.

Friday, January 17, 2014

UNC BoG Releases Report on Academics and Athletics

The UNC-system Board of Governors has joined members of UNC-CH’s administration in stating that problems with student-athlete’s academics are not as severe as they seem.
The board issued its annual intercollegiate athletics report at its meeting last week, which provided statistics that included the graduation rates and Academic Progress Rates for student-athletes at 15 UNC-system institutions during 2012-13.
According to the report, the UNC-system averages for the high school GPAs of all incoming football and men’s and women’s basketball players were at or above 3.0.
Board member Roger Aiken said the report is a sign of progress and said the board might use it to make future decisions regarding athletics.
“I did not think this report shed as bad a light as we have seen in other reports,” Aiken said.
University of South Carolina sports administration professor Richard Southall said he does not think the numbers in the board report tell the whole story because they do not separate revenue athletes from non-revenue athletes. 
“A third string player who never sees the field is not a profit athlete,” Southall said. “What many reports do is lump all college athletes together.”
Southall said the report needs to go farther in analyzing which majors revenue athletes are clustered in. 
“The questions of selected majors needs to be broken down right away, by sport and by starters and non-starters,” he said. 
Gurney said he thinks the board and UNC administration have followed the example of several other institutions in providing details that maintain their image but ultimately cover up the underlying issues. 
“Predictably, your administration is releasing public information that is at best misleading, and at worst is a deliberate lie.”
My own view about this stuff is that Carolina is being unfairly singled out. The probability that Carolina is particularly bad in this respect is approximately 0. Being unfairly singled out, however, doesn't mean that you aren't doing something wrong. The whole system needs reform, IMO. I'm happy to have it start with Carolina, and I'm happy to have any problems there exposed. I'm not particularly happy with people pretending that there's some special problem there.

What really matters about the Carolina story is really only this question: were basketball athletes being directed by people in the athletic program to take the fictional classes (being run in the African-American Studies program)?  If yes, then the shit needs to hit the fan. If no, then it's time to move on. "Moving on," however, means: addressing the bigger questions about college athletics generally. If Carolina didn't violate the rules, then that's basically the end of that part of the story. I'd very much like to see us question the rules, and think hard about whether we want to maintain the inherently corrupting system of college athletics in place... But those questions have nothing to do with UNC in particular.

Obama's NSA Speech

Is it just me, or was that pretty damn great?

I know I'm not objective about that guy...but he's just so damn reasonable...  That speech was damn near one long, clear, sensible argument. I think I might just make my CT students this semester diagram the thing. It was so clear that I was, with virtually no effort, mapping the thing out in my head as he went along.

This struck me as a huge stride forward with respect to these issues.

The Mein Kampf Sales Surge: A Self-Fulfilling Not-Exactly-Prophecy

So, as David Gaughran notes here, and as you've probably heard, recently there were lots of stories about a surge in sales of e-copies of Mein Kampf. Lots of the usual bottom feeders got in on the action--Huffpo, Gawker, Fox news, the Daily Mail etc. But so did some of the less-bottom-feederish sites like Salon, Slate...even the LA Times...

Half-baked hypotheses followed--people were reading Mein Kampf more because they could do so privately! (Huh? You they always could?) The e- version provided people who'd been longing to get their Nazi on with some extra anonymity that was...what? Absent from ordering it online and having it delivered to their houses in an Amazon box? Who knows? Even, allegedly, at least one prediction that a new Holocaust was in the offing...

But, as Gaughran shows, more-or-less conclusively in one graph, sales of Mein Kampf went up twice. First, when the price dropped to 99 cents, on 10/20/13, and then again--a huge jump in sales--after stories began to circulate about, well, a huge jump in sales

If you want a picture of the future of the internet, imagine a hand palming a human face forever.

UNC IRB Rescinds Approval of Willingham's Research


Does anybody have any idea WTF is going on?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Chancellor Folt Responds to Recent Criticism of UNC Athletics/Academics

I don't know what to think about all this.

Willingham doesn't strike me as the most credible accuser... But of course I'm biased in the matter.

Time, I suppose, will tell us what we need to know.

NOAA: Giants of Science: C. S. Peirce

The bulk of Peirce's scientific work was accomplished during his years with the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey between the years 1859 and 1891 although he remained active in the philosophical and scientific realm right up until his death in 1914. To give an idea of Peirce's scope of inquiry during his lifetime, he listed the following as his principal areas of research for Cattell's American Men of Science for 1906: "Logic, especially logic of relations, probabilities, theory of inductive and abductive validity; epistemology; metrology; history of science; multiple algebra; doctrine of multitudes; gravity; wavelengths; phonetics of Elizabethan English; great men; ethics; phaneroscopy; cosmology; experimental psychology; physical geometry. -- Foundations of mathematics; classification of science; code of terminology; topical geometry.">
It's really baffling that Peirce is not acknowledged as the towering intellectual force he actually was. Even American/analytic philosophers, who typically hyperventilate over any philosopher with actual mathematical or scientific bona fides, typically ignore (and, in fact, remain largely ignorant of) Peirce's accomplishments.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

More 787 Battery Problems

Monday, January 13, 2014

Random Michelle K on the Elk River Chemical Spill

16% of the population of West By God Virginia affected.

Just heard today that folks in the Valley are starting to collect water to take over the county [state, derp]  line, but also heard that it's starting to clear up.

Damn that must have been a helluva spill.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

McAuliffe Winning Over Skeptics?

With his sober, centrist approach thus far?

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Carolina Sleepwalks to a 45-57 Loss

Wow. For the third game in a row, it was almost like watching a team that wasn't there.

Got some bad breaks, got some bad calls, but basically couldn't seem to do anything today. Couldn't shoot--of course. Couldn't rebound. Couldn't defend. Couldn't even hold onto the ball. Really, really painful to watch. Must be just unbelievably painful to be out there on the court when absolutely nothing is working.

I like these kids, but absolutely nothing seems to be coming together.

Syracuse didn't actually look very good--certainly not like the #2 team in the nation...but we were much, much worse.

(And, of course, it wasn't really a 12-point game. More like 20, if not for a little run at the end when Boeheim called 'em off.)

Go Tar Heels

That is all.

update: Wow. I had to stop watching the game or I was going to start complaining about the refs. It's really hard to tell when your own team is playing, but to me it seemed like one of the most asymmetrically-called games I could ever remember. Syracuse seemed to be hacking the shit out of Carolina with very few calls, whereas Carolina seemed to be getting called for some amazingly ticky-tack nonsense. We're going to get killed anyway given our almost completely inability to score. Or pass. or defend...  We don't need lopsided officiating on top of that... Probably just bias on my part, but it sure looks non-evenhanded to me.

300,000 Now Without Clean Water In Elk River Chemical Spill



Friday, January 10, 2014

Hayseed Dixie

UNC System Report Details Athletes' Academic Qualifications

This is a report for the whole 16-campus system, which includes, e.g., State.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

15-Year-Old Aitzaz Hasan Gives His Life To Save Classmates From Suicide Bomber


Respect, my brother.

P. J. Hairston Just Glad Media Hasn't Found Out About Murder Charge

NASA's NEO Risk Table

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Carolina Collapses Again

This time against Miami, 57-63, Carolina's lowest score of the season...thus far...and have now lost to five unranked teams. 0-2 start to the ACC season.

The Heels shot a blistering 31% from the floor. Boy, there's nothing more frustrating in all of basketball fandom than watching a team that can't shoot. I simply don't know what's up with them.

This was even worse than the Wake Forest loss. At least in that loss, there were a few periods of excitement when they got something going. Granted,  in this game J. P. Tokoto had one hellacious, unbelievable dunk...but, other than that, the Heels might as well have not even shown up tonight.

Watching Carolina play this year--much like last year--is rather like listening to someone trying to start a car that simply will not start. It grinds and grinds, but simply won't turn over.

It's a painful, painful thing to watch. And I'm sure it's much more painful to live through. I feel for those guys.

Well, Syracuse on the road on Saturday...  If the Heels somehow manage to win that game...though it's virtually impossible to believe that they will...this really will be the weirdest W-L tally I've ever seen...

Hang in there, guys.

Gates Bashes Obama

Not good.

I mean, Gates is a Republican, and his account is somewhat thrown into doubt (in my mind, anyway) by the fact that he's willing to go into business with Rice and Hadley...  And by the fact that he hasn't complained as bitterly about Bush...

Still...not great news. Some evidence against Obama, I'd say.

Tenured Professors Are To the Job Market What Whites Are To Racism!!!! Now with TENURED PRIVILEGE!!!!111


If you want a reason to be pessimistic about academia, look no farther than the quality of many academicians. Adjunctification, as bad as it is, comes farther down the list...but anyway:

First: there's actually a lot of unintended truth in the post. Just as whites in general are currently blamed by the far-ish left for racism, tenured faculty in general are now being blamed for adjunctification, the bad job market, etc. But being white is not the cause of racism. That some people are racists is the cause of racism. Blaming whites generally for racism is insane. Some whites are racist. Some are not. (For that matter, some non-whites are racist, too...) It is false to pretend that all whites are racist. It is also counterproductive, but I care less about that. The current far-ish left hates the fact that not all whites are evil racists, and so tries to gerrymander new definitions to confuse the issue. But they're just plain wrong.

So, yeah, there's a similarity: tenured faculty generally, like whites generally, cannot rationally be blamed for the relevant problem.

Second, the analogy sucks. Just technically, even ignoring the above point, it's a badly-constructed analogy. The idea seems to be: white people are responsible for racism and tenured faculty are responsible for the job market. But tenured faculty aren't responsible for the job market. At worst, they might be responsible for the bad state of the job market, i.e. the fact that it's hard to get jobs. Which is a different thing. Perhaps she means: tenured faculty are to adjunctification as white people are to racism? I dunno. Anyway...what IS responsible for the bad stare of the job market? I dunno. Shitty economy? Decreased state funding? Administrators spending more and more money on bells and whistles and student amusements? Adjunctification? Jeez...academicians are supposed to at least be able to get the form of basic analogies right...  It looked like the author was going to comment on this in a subsequent post titled something like "why my analogy is bad"...but it turns out she wanted to apologize for the fact that it allegedly trivializes racism...  How could I not have seen that coming?

Well, anyway. I'm sick of the far left trying to assign group guilt. Many of us have worked to help solve the adjunctification problem. My university is radically underfunded, and yet it's made good progress on the problem in the last ten years or so. My department has tried to push the university to do more, and we've done some things on our own. And I've personally pushed for reforms at various times. The fact is that our power is fairly limited, and we tenured profs ourselves are hardly rolling in puppies. By the prevailing standards, we're radically underpaid, and somewhat overworked. It is illegal for us to unionize. Trying to fix the adjunct problem is just one problem among many others that we're all dealing with, even if we limit our attention only to professional problems. It's not that the adjunct problem isn't important--I think it's really important. But we are juggling a lot of important problems. You simply don't understand what's going on if you don't understand those things. We care about people on the job market--but people on the job market really need to keep their plight in perspective...

Look, the job market sucks. I really feel for people who have to go through it. But do note that we all did it. It sucked when I did it. Maybe it sucks a little bit more now, maybe not. But, one way or another, it's a marginal difference in degree, not a difference in kind.

And also: it's simply not rational to construe every disadvantage one encounters as oppression.

I could go on about this, but I won't.

Just a few additional points:

Honestly, let me note, ad hominem, that it's been notable to me that some of the leftiest members of our department have been least willing to give anything up to help out our adjuncts. And I've heard vaguely similar anecdotes from others. (Yes: anecdotes. That's all.) I once suggested that, since we literally did not have the authority to raise adjunct salaries in our department, we should consider giving adjuncts first choice of schedules. Scheduling is a big factor in academia. The difference between a good schedule and a bad one can mean the difference between a productive semester and an unproductive one, and between a pleasant one and a dreadful one. I absolutely do not want to give up my early choice of schedules. It can make my job a lot less desirable.  But adjuncts often get the crappiest schedules, and often have to drive to several different universities in any given week. And scheduling is something that we do have control over. At any rate, it's funny how quickly some of our department's biggest lefties suddenly began talking about the free market, and how the adjuncts had made their decisions, and could quit and any time, and it was a contractual transaction between free people...and so on... I mean, our conservatives made similar arguments...but at least they're consistent...

It might also be worth noting--though maybe not--that most tenured professors out there are in some sense--some sense--rather like eternal adjuncts ourselves. Most of us teach at unremarkable institutions. We don't have prestigious positions, we don't get to put as much effort into research as we'd like--and that's why we got into this business in the first place--we teach too much, we don't make much money, and we have, in general, slowly learned to try to live with all that. Of course it's not like getting stuck adjuncting. But it's not as if we're all bathing in luxury and yelling "let them eat cake!" It's a big, disappointing mess that has evolved over time. Most--or at least many--of us are trying to figure out how to make it better, but nobody is sure how to do so. And we've got more than enough other problems on our plates as well...

Really finally, let me address this passage:
However, today’s tenured professors indeed accrued privilege by virtue of birth: they were  born early enough to enter the job market and rise through its ranks before the total implosion of the university hiring economy.  Yes, the academic job market was tight in the 1980s and 1990s.  Sure it was; I was there!  But tight is not the same thing as decimated.  The tenured may have struggled mightily to find work, but there was still work to find, when universities had not yet begun the aggressive process of downsizing, shrinking the faculty, and eradicating lines.
In this sense, their “birth order” engenders the blindnesses that are the hallmark of privilege everywhere. The tenured indeed consider their way of life normal, unremarkable and normative.   They believe their gains are the result of their own effort and merit, not systematic structural advantage. They hold the power to exclude and limit outsiders’ participation in its processes.  They cast moral judgments on those who do not share their status based on their presumed individual failings rather than systemic disadvantage.  They literally cannot see those who do not occupy equivalent status. They enjoy, in McIntosh’s words, an invisible package of unearned assets that they can count on cashing in each day—access to the library and travel resources, an office in which to work, health insurance, the security of knowing that their employment will continue next term and next year, the right to participate in departmental, program, and campus-wide decision-making, and so on.
God what a mess.

This is what happens when you adopt the currently-fashionable, but hopelessly confused, conceptual apparatus of the lefty-left. If you start out confused about how to think about things, you'll end up being confused about what to think about things. Let's take it a bit at a time:
However, today’s tenured professors indeed accrued privilege by virtue of birth: they were  born early enough to enter the job market and rise through its ranks before the total implosion of the university hiring economy. Yes, the academic job market was tight in the 1980s and 1990s.  Sure it was; I was there!  But tight is not the same thing as decimated.  The tenured may have struggled mightily to find work, but there was still work to find, when universities had not yet begun the aggressive process of downsizing, shrinking the faculty, and eradicating lines.  
There's no "privilege" there, there's just luck. The job market stank to high heaven when I went through it. It did not "totally implode." It just--maybe--got a bit worse. Which is what happens in recessions... Those who came before me had it easier than I did, and it'll get easier again some day. The assertions here just aren't supported by the facts.
In this sense, their “birth order” engenders the blindnesses that are the hallmark of privilege everywhere. The tenured indeed consider their way of life normal, unremarkable and normative. 
Absurd, but that's the deal with "privilege"-speak. Faculty aren't "blind" to their situation, we don't consider our "way of life" normal, nor in any way "normative." Rather, almost all of us have a pretty sober view of the matter. I, for example, know that I got lucky to get where I am given where I started. A lot of people a lot smarter than me never make it out of rural Missouri. I know also that a whole lot of people have lots of advantages over me--compared to me, they were born with silver spoons in their mouths. I made it out of grad school and snagged a tenured position when lots of others didn't. I got luckier, there, too, than some who are smarter than me. I got less lucky than some who aren't as smart. I could have done a lot better. I could have done a lot worse. There was a lot of luck involved. There was a lot of skill. And a lot of work. It's just flat-out nuts to think that that most of us are blind to the fact of our advantages and disadvantages, or that we consider our way of life "normative," or any other such nonsense.
They believe their gains are the result of their own effort and merit, not systematic structural advantage.
Speaking for myself, I didn't actually have any notable "systematic structural advantage," unless it's true that the job market has gotten dramatically worse since I was on it. And that seems, unsupported assertions above to the contrary, not true. I got where I am mostly by a combination of my strengths and weaknesses and good and bad luck. I'm sure that there were some systematic advantages thrown in, and some systematic disadvantages, but mostly, once I was already in grad school, it was basically strengths and weaknesses, and luck, good and bad. The left hates that, of course--mostly they hate that individual virtue and vice matter so much. They want it to all be structural stuff beyond anyone's control. They are nutty in that way. But wanting it doesn't make it true. The luck is beyond your control, of course...but that's different than "systematic structural advantage." Next:
They cast moral judgments on those who do not share their status based on their presumed individual failings rather than systemic disadvantage.  

Well, I mean, some do, but not many that I know of. Few faculty think that the average adjunct is morally inferior to the average tenure-track professor. I mean, professors are a pretty nutty lot...but not generally that nutty...  As for the rest...see above.

I mean, it is probably worth noting, however, that, if you assess the abilities of the average tenured faculty-member, and the average adjunct, you will find that the former are generally superior to the latter. (Note the abilities, in case you're tempted to read that uncharitably...) Contrary to what the lefty-left would like to argue, there are some meritocratic elements in the world. Academia is hardly a perfect meritocracy--not by a long shot. But success is also not just randomly distributed with no regard for skill. To deny this would be absurd.
They literally cannot see those who do not occupy equivalent status

Ok, moving on...

No, wait...let's not move on...

This is literally false. Also: 'literally' does not mean figuratively. Also: facepalm again.

There certainly are a lot of asshole academicians that look down on anyone with less status than they have...but it's not the norm. And we mostly see just fine. Ok, now moving on:
They enjoy, in McIntosh’s words, an invisible package of unearned assets that they can count on cashing in each day—access to the library and travel resources, an office in which to work, health insurance, the security of knowing that their employment will continue next term and next year, the right to participate in departmental, program, and campus-wide decision-making, and so on.
Behold, the question has been begged...

These things aren't unearned.  Like everything else in life, a complex of skill and luck is what got these for someone like me. How much skill and how much luck? Well, hard to say with any precision... But we earned them as much as anyone ever earns anything. The lefty-left can't make claims like this unless they want to commit themselves to the claim that no one ever earns anything. Which they kinda do... But they'd rather not. They'd rather use the argument selectively, to bring into doubt only the things that they want to criticize. Because if, as their arguments would show if they really did show anything, there is no such thing as ever earning anything, then there is no objection to us having allegedly not earned our positions. Nobody ever earns anything--it's all just a result of "structural advantage." So no individual thing can be criticized on those grounds.


Psychologists tell us that those who succeed at some endeavor, e, tend to view success at e as a result of skill and hard work. Those who do not succeed at e tend to view success as a matter of luck (e.g., "structural advantage.")  I'll just leave that for you to reflect on.


IMO, the author's suggested solutions are not great, either. Viz:
Slash or halt graduate admissions.
Well, ok I guess if you want e.g. the APA to become a cartel, restricting the supply of Ph.D.s...  I'll admit, I used to think this. And I still do sometimes. But what this means is that fewer people who want to study e.g. philosophy at the graduate level will be able to. That is not clearly superior to a system in which you can study if you want, but you're told that your odds of getting a job are not good. I was warned. I knew what I was getting into. Back then--when times were really bad--grad schools had to send out a letter from the APA with every application saying, basically: you will probably not get a job...
Make job market training (both academic and non-academic) central to the curriculum
Do not do that. That is an absolutely horrible idea. It may be the worst idea I've ever heard with respect to this topic. And I say this as someone who was utterly clueless about the market, and who paid a high price for it, crashing and burning basically because I'd spent not a minute learning about the mechanics of the market. See, I thought I was just supposed to learn about philosophy...silly me...  By all means, make resources available to students; prepare them for the market. But to make this "central" to the bloody curriculum...that's to send graduate education even further (farther? The road is metaphorical...) down the road to perdition. And as for training for getting non-academic the graduate curriculum? No way.
Reduce time-to-degree of graduate programs.
I dunno. Maybe. Seems like a bad idea to me. I could barely learn what I needed to in time, and I hung around a lot longer than I had to...

O.k., that's it.

Perhaps after I calm down a bit, I'll be more sympathetic to some of the author's points...but, in general, I think this post misses the mark pretty badly in a lot of ways.

And this crap about "privilege," and the tendency to see all problems as, that shit's got to go...

More Bad News For Carolina Hoops


Many people are skeptical of Willingham, and she's certainly provided no names or records...but the absolute best thing you can say about this is that it's deeply troubling.

She's been making these allegations for a long time, but the NCAA seemed unconcerned.

Everybody at Carolina basically has faith that the hoops program is still run like it was in Dean's time. The football program is hoped to be clean, but it's not revered in the same way, so the recent scandal was bad, but not horrific. Even those who might be concerned tend to think that nobody would be stupid enough to risk Carolina's reputation in hoops by even flirting with the line on stuff like this...

There was a huge sigh of relief that the NCAA seemed satisfied, at least with respect to hoops, and moved on.

I assumed that they must have concluded that Willingham was not credible. But now she says that the NCAA did not interview her. That seems crazy.

That this stuff happens anywhere is scandalous. If it happens in the Carolina hoops program, it's utterly inexcusable If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere. That would, for me, be the final, undeniable proof that big-time college sports simply can't be run in an honorable way.

(And that's of even greater interest to me given that my current institution is greedily eyeing a move to division I-A football...)

It's been nothing but bad luck and bad news for Carolina hoops since their awesome performance in the 2009 NCAA tournament. But this stuff is, obviously and by far--if true--the worst thing that could happen. And it would be entirely self-inflicted.

Let's hope this sounds worse than it actually is.

Update: Carolina's statement on the CNN piece here.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Cooking An Omelette With Wittgenstein

NSFW for some crudity and naughty language, but pretty funny, according to me: link.

Not merely funny, either...but actually insightful, in a way, about Wittgenstein...though I'm largely unsympathetic to the guy's later stuff, so I may just be enjoying the ridicule too much. (I should say: I think the later LW is extremely interesting, I just don't think it's generally right, especially the metaphilosophy...which is, weirdly, the most interesting part...)

Anyway. Cartoon.

(h/t TRVA)

Monday, January 06, 2014

GOP's *Destroy Obama* Strategy: Lest We Forget... was hatched even before he was inaugurated.

NYT: Still Refusing to Acknowledge that the UNC Football Scandal Was an Academic Scandal...

...and not an athletic one.


It's much worse, and much more embarrassing, that it is an academic scandal. But that's what it is.

However, to acknowledge that, places like the NYT would have to acknowledge that all the responsibility lies with the African-American Studies department.

And that, let's face it, they are not going to do...

Pat Buchanan, Professional Lunatic: In Praise of Putin

"Is Putin One Of Us?" (i.e.: a (paleo(conservative)))

Wow. Conservatives do love them a strongman, as we've long known...  Back in the day, when they were frolicking with the likes of Pinochet, they always claimed that they didn't like it, but had to side with the lesser evil against the Soviets...but it was always seemed clear to me that they actually really did like those guys. Their support of dictators was always rather to quick and enthusiastic for it to be something that they'd been driven to as a last resort...

Well, here we have Pat Buchanan's paean to Vladimir Putin, his newest crush object. Over to you, Pat:
With America clearly in mind, Putin declared, “In many countries today, moral and ethical norms are being reconsidered. 
“They’re now requiring not only the proper acknowledgment of freedom of conscience, political views and private life, but also the mandatory acknowledgment of the equality of good and evil.” 
Translation: While privacy and freedom of thought, religion and speech are cherished rights, to equate traditional marriage and same-sex marriage is to equate good with evil. 
No moral confusion here, this is moral clarity, agree or disagree.
ETHICAL NORMS BEING RECONSIDERED???? ZOMFG!  And "equating" same-sex marriage with different-sex marriage is evil? Evil? Seriously?  And: why do morons like this think that moral clarity per se is a good thing? Moral clarity per se is neither good nor bad. Stalin had moral clarity. Hitler did. Moral clarity, when conjoined with correct moral beliefs, is good. When conjoined with bad ones, it's bad. Jesus, the mind, it reels...
Peoples all over the world, claims Putin, are supporting Russia’s “defense of traditional values” against a “so-called tolerance” that is “genderless and infertile.”
WTF does this even mean? Tolerance has a fucking gender? Tolerance, you see, is simply not the kind of thing that is either fertile or infertile, you lackwits. And here's the part where Buchanan calls for worldwide conservative revolution:
As the decisive struggle in the second half of the 20th century was vertical, East vs. West, the 21st century struggle may be horizontal, with conservatives and traditionalists in every country arrayed against the militant secularism of a multicultural and transnational elite.
Jesus, is crazy Pat channeling the spirit of Marx or something? Isn't he a nationalist nutbag? I would have thought that it would take more than same-sex marriage to get guys like him to jump ship... But, OTOH, I'm sure he's been eyeing the hunky, murderous authoritarian for awhile now, with visions of Pinochet dancing in his head...

Behold, The Koch's Right-Wing Money Machine

Jesus these people.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Carolina 67, Wake Forest 73

Wow, Carolina absolutely did not show up to to play tonight. That was some of the most painful basketball I have ever seen.

Still, they got fired up late, and were on a roll, when Cavanaugh basically assaulted Leslie McDonald going for a loose ball. First he flopped hard on top of him, then he grabbed his arms and basically started wrestling him instead of going for the ball. Instead of assessing a foul to Wake, however, the officials called a questionable elbow against L-Mac. A terrible, terrible, terrible call. Completely inexcusable. Broke the momentum of the run, and gave Wake two shots and the ball. Carolina then promptly went to sleep again. They woke up, however, with about three minutes left, and, if not for some bad bounces, would have tied it. But they didn't, and that was that. First loss to Wake in four years. Neither team played well, but Carolina played worse, and that's that.

So now we have, as you know, beaten the top three teams in the preseason poll, but lost to four unranked teams.

It's a young team, and, of course, we lost our best scorer forever...  And they really did show flashes of awesomeness... But mostly, they just played really badly tonight. Some bad officiating didn't help, but, aside from the infuriating no-call against Cavanaugh, which was huge, probably didn't matter all that much.

Ah well. On to Miami...

Call For Papers: Trasgender Studies Quarterly: Theme: Tranimalities!!!!!!!

Wow, this is embarrassing.

I was tempted to title the post "the death of academia," or "the death of the humanities," but, fortunately, neither is accurate. This nonsense is limited to certain sectors of the humanities and social sciences, and certain "interdisciplinary" disciplines.

It's important to realize that this isn't something that's actually interesting, but sounds like gibberish to outsiders--like, e.g., contemporary physics or chemistry. Rather, it's actually just gibberish. Some highlights:
Tranimalities..seeks to attend to the trans-dimensions of recent critical moves beyond the human. With works like Queering the Non/Human (Nora Giffney and Myra Hird, eds., 2008), Animal Others (special issue of Hypatia, 2012; Lori Gruen and Kari Weil, eds.), the Queer Inhumanisms (special issue of GLQ, forthcoming, Mel Y. Chen and Dana Luciano, eds.), and Tranimacies: Intimate Links Between Affect, Animals, and Trans* Studies; forthcoming, Eliza Steinbock, Marianna Szczygielska, and Anthony Wagner, eds.) providing some of the groundwork, TSQ’s special issue Tranimalities aims to contribute a specifically trans intervention into the discussion of the anti-, non-, in-, and posthuman.

But wait, there's more!  By all means, if you like to feel superior to stupid people, read the whole thing...but here are just a few of the suggested paper topics, for your amusement and irritation:

Bestiality/zoophilia/ “furries” as tranimal erotic formations? 
Transgendered posthumous life– what becomes of trans not only in the death of Man but also in the death of life? 
Could the move to transgenre and away from transgender provide a productive opening to theorize posthuman or posthumous transgender Transgenics/transplantations—How does the social aesthetic of transness shape and reshape biopolitical life?

Jesus, this nonsense. It's a crime that university positions are taken up by people to do this kind of crap. Sometimes I think that academia deserves the derision that ordinary people so often heap on it.

Go Tar Heels, Beat the Deacs

That is all.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

"Corrective Rape" in South Africa

Corrective rape is a hate crime wielded to convert lesbians to heterosexuality – an attempt to 'cure' them of being gay. The term was coined in South Africa in the early 2000s when charity workers first noticed an influx of such attacks. But despite recognition and international coverage, corrective rape in the region is escalating in severity, according to Clare Carter, the photographer behind these images [see link]. This is amid a backdrop of parts of the country "becoming more homophobic", as one recent victim asserts.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Five Books Of American Political History That We Allegedly Must Read


Richard White, The Middle Ground

Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution

W. E. B. DuBois, Black Reconstruction in America

Theda Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers

Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

The only one of these currently on my to-read list is Hofstadter. The Bailyn book sounds interesting...anybody know about the other three?


Slate is really hurting for content I reckon...

This is mostly pretty funny...

One sad thing, though, is that theses like the one summarized as:

Rocks that are next to each other in Massachusetts now were also next to each other 400 million years ago.
                     - Geology, Amherst College
Once there were some lost lobsters who were maybe a tiny bit different from some other lobsters, so I killed lots of their larvae to find out if they were actually a tiny bit different. Turns out I don’t know, so I have to do it again.
                      - Earth Systems, Stanford University 
Are probably actually pretty interesting. That's a significant aspect of the joke. Theses like these, however:

Look at this zombie. Isn’t it racist and sexist? Yes, it is.
                       - English Literature, DePaul University
FML: All my feelings are constructed
                       - Religion & Women and Gender Studies, Harvard

Not so much. Is the zombie racist and sexist?, it almost certainly isn't. (For one thing, zombies have no thoughts...) But nobody writes a thesis like that in English Lit. The question "is x racist and/or sexist?" is not one that is ever given a negative answer. You know the answer before you begin in ever case: everything is racist and sexist. That's an axiom of a certain absurd approach. It's bad enough that allegedly scholarly work is discussing zombies...but add the de rigueur accusations of prejudice, and you inevitably get something that's almost guaranteed to be both frivolous and morally bankrupt. And no, our feelings are not "constructed," of course...though they are to some extent influenced by social forces, if that's the sort of thing you're thinking of... But that rather weak proposition isn't going to cut it in either Religion or Women and Gender Studies. With respect to the latter two theses, the humorous summary is probably the best thing about them. And that's a sad testament to the state of the weaker reaches of the humanities today...

Drum Agrees With Krugman's Tribalism Hypothesis With Respect to Conservatives and Evolution

The Big Book Of Online Outrage

At the awesome LiartownUSA

Krugman on the Pew Poll, Evolution, and Conservative Tribalism

The big takeaway is that a plurality of self-identified Republicans now believe that no evolution whatsoever has taken place since the day of creation — let alone that evolution is driven by natural selection. The move is big: an 11-point decline since 2009.
Wait — is the theory of evolution somehow related to Obama administration policy? Not that I’m aware of, but that’s not the point. The point, instead, is that Republicans are being driven to identify in all ways with their tribe — and the tribal belief system is dominated by anti-science fundamentalists. For some time now it has been impossible to be a good Republicans while believing in the reality of climate change; now it’s impossible to be a good Republican while believing in evolution.
I say that the tribalism hypothesis is a pretty good one.

Hypotheses are virtually useless without testing...but testing will never be done here. Still, it's not a dumb guess.


Veronica Mars Movie Trailer

Pew: 1 in 3 Americans Reject Evolulution


Don't look at me.

I got nothin'.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

More On the UNC African-American Studies Scandal


Not a very good piece, unfortunately. Lots of people still want this to be an athletic scandal. But it isn't. It's far worse, as I've noted: it's an academic scandal. But I reckon that won't generate the hits like an athletic scandal...

We probably know everything we need to know about this, and further attempts to fan the flames are probably driven by sensationalism. That could be wrong, but that's my guess.

Dinner Guide To Saving The Ocean

Well, this sucks...

(I mean the information sucks, not the piece that conveys the information...)

Cathy Young: The Gender Battlefield 2013

Hey, this is pretty good.

Kinda weird, because I tend to not like RealClearPolitics.

This sort of suggestion seems to be gaining a certain amount of steam:

Top wish for 2014: a “true equality” movement.  In 2013, there was a fair amount of attention to men’s rights groups—which often raise legitimate issues but have a regrettable tendency to mirror the gender antagonism, hyperbole, and victim mentality of radical feminism.  But, with men’s issues on the table, perhaps the next year will see more calls for a balanced approach that promotes fairness and goodwill toward both sexes.  That would make a good, if optimistic, New Year’s resolution.

Congratulations Colorado!

Happy happy, joy joy.

But will Colorado survive legalization of the Demon Weed????

(via Metafilter)

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

John Scalzi Gets It Wrong In "Lowest Difficulty Setting"

This isn't very good.

For one thing, the reasons that people deride "privilege" as used by the SJW lackwits is that (a) they use it like a bloody mantra, spewing it out in almost every sentence, and (b) it isn't the right concept to use in order to understand the relevant problems. Contra Sclazi, nobody cares that it's not "our" word, for chrissake. New terminology is great when it's more accurate. When it's less accurate, not so much. And when, like "privilege," it is part of a tissue of confusions, then no sensible person is going to want to use it.

That having been said: Scalzi's game metaphor isn't new. I've used it myself for a long time. But Scalzi just doesn't get it right. Straight white male s not the "lowest difficulty setting." Rich is the lowest difficulty setting. If you want the best odds in the game of life, take rich anything over poor anything. If you think that a poor white male is going to have a better shot at happiness and success than a rich, non-white, non-straight female, then you're living in a fantasy world.

The thing about these people is that they are more concerned about whining about the hated straight white males than they are about accurately describing--let alone solving--the relevant problems. It seems to be true that, on average, you are likely to encounter a smaller number of hassles in your life if you are a straight white male--as opposed to a straight white female, a gay white male, a straight black male, etc. etc. Yep. What sensible person denies this? That's just another way of putting the point that there is still discrimination against females, blacks, homosexuals, etc. But Scalzi gets it wrong when he writes:
This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. Your leveling-up thresholds come more quickly. You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by default it’s easier to get.
No, no, no. For the love of God, put a little thought into it if you're going to write stuff like this. Rather, it means something more like:
Reaction rolls from many--but not all, nor the vast majority of, nor even most--NPCs in the game are more favorable to you than they would be if you weren't a straight, white male. All characters will have certain fairly uniform barriers thrown up in front of them, and they will also have idiosyncratic ones thrown up. The distribution of these barriers won't be fair. Not at all. If you're male, you'll have to fight many battles that you wouldn't have to fight if you'r female, and if you're female you'll have to fight many battles that you wouldn't have to fight if you were male. On average, though, you're going to have to fight more battles if you're female. And so on. If you are  non-straight, non-white, non-male, non-rich, non-attractive, non-cool, and any number of other non-s, you are likely to have more unfair barriers thrown up in front of you than if you are straight and/or white and/or male and/or...etc. Your leveling-up thresholds absolutely won't come more quickly just because you're straight etc., but you will, on average but my no means always, level up rather quicker because you will, on average, encounter fewer barriers, get better reaction rolls, etc. (see above). You absolutely will not "gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for," but, again, you'll on average have things a bit less bad than you might have, so you might expect, on average, for those advantages to translate into some advantage with respect to accessing map areas. The game is by no means easier to play "automatically," but you can, on average, expect it to be less hard than it might have been if you had to not only face all the shit you do have to face, but also had to face extra barriers and battles as well. In short, if you want, on average, the best shot at the game of life, choose to be a rich, white, male, straight, attractive, cool person. And if you get to choose only one of those, choose rich.
That's way more accurate than Scalzi's thin gruel, and it's just off the top of my head.

Whining about how easy straight white males allegedly have it isn't reasonable, it's predicated on an error, and it's not advancing the discussion. Admitting--as every sensible person has for well over half a century now--that there is still bias against females, non-whites, and homosexuals gets at everything Scalzi and the lackwit SJWs want to get at, but without the false suggestion that life is easy as pie for straights, whites, and males.

Seriously. All these people are doing is annoying people like me--people who, in general, share their substantive social and political goals, but who have a low tolerance for bullshit.