Saturday, May 31, 2014


The act of taking a single (often minor) action or trait of a character within a work and exaggerating it more and more over time until it completely consumes the character. Most always, the trait/action becomes completely outlandish and it becomes their defining characteristic. Sitcoms and Sitcom characters are particularly susceptible to this, as are peripheral characters in shows with long runs.
I think it would be better to call this 'Homerization.'

Watch the first season Homer sometime. First season Homer is so much better a character. I think the same goes for at least many of the other characters as well, but I've long dwelt upon the phenomenon in Homer's case.

First season Homer is kind of a real person. He's complex. He's sympathetic. He tugs at your heartstrings because his flaws are part of a kind-of-real person who tries but can only overcome his disastrously flawed nature, when at all, due to heroic efforts and dumb luck. Or something.

Even the voice acting is better, more complex...richer or something.

Later Homer is...well...a cartoon. One or a few key characteristics distilled into a clear, simple, basically on-dimensional character.

Early Homer is just a lot better.

I think the same thing happened with most of the Buffy characters.

And I've wondered whether this is related to two other seemingly similar phenomena:

1. I'll put this as a question: of an arbitrarily-selected band, which of the following are you more likely to hear/think:
(a) Their older stuff is better
(b) Their newer stuff is better

2. Although I think I'm a better teacher than I used to be, I think my classes used to be better in certain hard-to-characterize ways. Something roughly like: when I understood the material less well and/or hadn't refined my methods of presenting it yet, what I was doing was more like feeling my way through the material along with my students. Or something. Now maybe I'm just giving them this highly-refined, highly-digested take on the material.

Maybe there's something here worth thinking about.

Obama Proposes National College Rankings


...obvious advantages...obvious risks...

Men are Evil Watch: "A Gentlemen's [sic] Guide To Rape Culture"*

"If you are a man, you are part of rape culture."

This is a great way to spin off into the outer space of craziness.

Start with a radically confused concept, intentionally kept vague enough to prevent claims about it from being disconfirmable--in this case, "rape culture."

Add some prejudice masquerading as cutting-edge "social justice" "thought":  all men are evil simply in virtue of being male.



The very left is crazy. The very left has always been crazy. The very left is every bit as crazy as the very right. And if liberals continue to kowtow to the very left, they will become crazy, too.

'Rape culture,' like so many of the loony concepts on the far-ish left, is a hopelessly unclear concept--and that unclarity is, to some extent, tactical unclarity. It is left unclear in order to make sure that claims containing it cannot be rationally evaluated.

If, however, we interpret:

(1) Culture C is a rape culture

to mean:

(2) Culture C is a culture in which rape is largely condoned

Then American culture is not a rape culture. Therefore it is false to say that all men are "part of" rape culture. We don't even have a "rape culture."

But, of course, "you are part of rape culture" isn't even really what the author means. You might be part of a culture while neither condoning nor contributing to it. What he really means is: you do it. You are responsible for it. It is your fault...

...even, apparently, if you are a small boy on a trajectory to becoming a gay man who works in a women's shelter, you are a rapist, Jack.

What we have here is a big, stupid mess. There's anti-male sexism in it. There's political and social opportunism in it. There's dogmatism in it, of course--a pervasive feature of such messes. There's shitty reasoning, sloppy terminology, and intellectual dishonesty in it. And there's cowardice, too, because liberals are afraid--scared to bloody death, actually--of standing up to these people Liberals absolutely cannot bear any disapprobation from the left, and cannot bear the thought of being called racist or sexist in any way, no matter how ludicrous the charge.

If you care about this sort of thing at all, then you should care about this. You should care about this because it's stupid. And you should care about it because it's sexist. But if you don't care about it for either of those reasons, you should care about it because it also hurts the cause of actually addressing the problems of misogyny, sexual harassment and rape that got all this stuff going. I mean...I have no respect for people who think that any putative problem is only a problem if it's a problem for women and/or non-whites... I'm one of those reactionary troglodytes who thinks that people are people... But, even if you are a more enlightened type who has transcended such nonsense, you should still care about this sort of thing. **

Sure this is a tempest in a teapot sub specie aeternitatis. But anyone interested enough in this stuff to be interested in our public discussions and deliberations at all should be interested in this wave of sexist insanity.

* And, of course, what you want there in that title is the singular, 'gentleman's', not 'gentlemen's'.

** All of which is consistent with recognizing that (i) if the members of group A have been discriminated against more than the members of group B have, then each act of discrimination against a member of group A might very well be more harmful, ergo more serious, ergo more worthy of concern than each act of discrimination against a member of group B. Maybe not...but maybe so. It's also consistent with recognizing that rape is a bigger problem than some half-wits spewing anti-male sexism on the internet. And, incidentally, I shouldn't have to point out that it's consistent.

Hawaii Man Gets Probation For Making Son Walk 1 Mile Home From School



Erm, that's insane. I call that punishment? Damn, that judge would spontaneously combust if she knew what when on in our house when we were kids... Jebus!

Presumably this is a stupid aberration, one loony judge. But I think this is the kind of insanity that conservatives worry about when they worry about liberalism being insane. As an aberration, it's just one really stupid decision. As an indicator of a trend it would be a serious matter indeed.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Male = Evil Watch: Tom Hawking, "Yes All Men"

Tom Hawking, "Yes All Men; Every Man Needs To Understand Internalized Misogyny And Male Violence"

1. This is largely crap.

2. It's not entirely crap. Not by a long shot. But the parts I'm interested in are crap. And I'm writing this thing, so there.

3. I'm going to churlishly suggest that "Yes All Men" basically constitutes the missing link between the "NotAllMen" hashtag/meme/whatever (i.e. the systematic attempt to deny that it is permissible to challenge false generalizations about males) and the "YesAllWomen" hashtag/meme/whatever.

Told ya so.

The link seemed clear to me from the get-go.

And it's the link to the jihad against saying "not all men" that's the most salient problem with the "YesAllWomen" thing. It's the tip of the iceberg, anyway.

4. Which is not to say that it isn't true that it might not be a good thing for men to understand misogyny, internalized or otherwise. Some of us already understand it pretty well, though...  So let's make sure that's on the table.

5. The problem is that "NotAllMen," "YesAllMen," and "YesAllWomen" are all sidling right up to: every man is a misogynist.

And as for that claim: speak for yourself, asshat.

In my book, that's as loathsome and patently false as "everyone is a Nazi" or "every woman is irrational" or "every Jew is greedy," or "every human is an arsonist."

6. I'm sore about this stuff right now. Well, I'm rather sore about this stuff in general. I think everybody should be sore about this stuff. And by 'this stuff' I don't mean misogyny, which is a different thing we should be sore about. More than sore, of course. What I'm sore about is false and/or bogus and/or irresponsible/unjustified claims to the effect that all men are misogynists.

That is bullshit.

7. There are exactly ZERO reasons to be having a conversation about that insane proposition.

The extremist web feminists in question keep insisting that those of us who refuse to give them carte blanche to tell us who we are somehow "derailing" "their" discussion--ostensibly about the Isla Vista murders.

But that discussion has nothing to do with the proposition:   (A) all men are misogynists.

That discussion has to do with the proposition:  (S) some men are misogynists.

If anybody is "derailing" the conversation here, it's not me/us...

Anyone really interested in the Isla Vista Murders and the problems surrounding it is not trying to talk about (A).

Anyone genuinely interested in those problems is going to be talking about (S).

If you think (A) is true, then you're a sexist. And, apparently, you are more interested in using the Isla Vista mass murder as a stalking horse to promote your pet prejudice than you are in actually talking about the real problem. If you were really interested in the problem, you wouldn't be side-tracking the conversation with this nonsense that is guaranteed to alienate every even vaguely reasonable male human being with any self-respect whatsoever.

What's crazy about this is there there was absolutely no reason for feminists to have picked this fight.

8. point about being sore was: since I'm sore about this, I'm not at my most rational. That has to be taken into account. In this case, I'm way more like a lawyer than I am like a judge--to my shame. But if you can't overcome your biases, you can at least cop to them. So there it is.

9. I plan to go through this more carefully when I'm too wiped out to do any real work. But not now.

Richard Clarke: Bush and Cheney "Authorized" War Crimes?


I agree.

And I think such things should almost invariably be punished.

But, honestly and inconsistently, I just don't think it can happen.

I think the GOP would burn the place down if we try to do what justice demands here. And I worry that the public would side with them, and that would mean: keeping the House and retaking the Senate and the Presidency in '16.

And, given that the GOP is currently kind of nuts, we simply cannot afford that.

The GOP can basically be in full-time impeachment mode against every Democratic president, and they will pay only a minimal price.

If Democrats, however, were to push war crimes charges against Bush and matter how plausible...well, I shudder to think about it.

Remember, the frothing nuttiness we've been seeing from the GOP for the last 20 years is basically them on something like their best behavior. This is the way they act when they are not even seriously provoked...

Look, I'm not committed to this. If there were a concerted effort to look into the record with a mind to bring charges against those who are plausibly guilty, I'd support it. Domestic political concerns, it seems, should not trump considerations of justice.

And the crazies we have to deal with in contemporary American politics are not even very crazy when compared to other crazies.

I'm merely speculating here, so nothing I say should be given any weight...  But my guess is that there is simply no possibility of anything like this really happening. I've simply never considered it within the realm of real and relevant possibility.

And, of course: Clarke could be wrong.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

I Will Follow You Into The Dark

Death Cab For Cutie

Rips my guts out every time.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

41 Republicans Voted Against February Veterans Bill

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Boozepocalypse! Will There Be a Whiskey Shortage?

The Peach on the Isla Vista Murderer

I think this is really good.

(Side effect warning: you'll start webcrushing on The Peach if you watch this)

(via /r/TiADiscussion comments)

What's Up With #YesAllWomen?

Well, here's an uninformative link

You didn't think that internet activism could get any sillier, did you?

And then along came Twitter...

Turns out blog posts were too long, thoughtful and we imposed a 140-character limit on lower-middlebrow discussions of current events.

But that was all so tedious...

So now we just go with the hashtags. Those are the real argument.

The Isla Vista shooter was a psycho. This we know, and no one denies it nor would think of denying it.

So it's weird to carp on the pettiness of this #YesAllWomen thing. But that's what I'm going to do.

It's apparently supposed to be in some way linked to the "Not All Men" nonsense. That is, web feminism's recent attempt to insist that we are ever entitled to point out, for example, that not all men are misogynists, not all men are rapists, etc., in response to false, derogatory universal generalizations about males.

It's bad enough that false generalizations about men are so popular on the hard web left. But this attempt to deflect all efforts to correct the false generalizations by just shrieking "NOT ALL MEN HA HA HA!" is truly nauseating.

One disgusting aspect of all this is the apparent attempt to leverage the Isla Vista mass murders in defense of the Not 'Not All Men' sophistry.

Jesus, that's just breathtakingly terrible...but, of course, liberals simply don't have the guts to call feminism on such things.

Anyway, you'll note that one person speaking in the Time video claims, roughly, the hashtag means: "O.k., not all men are misogynists..." Gee, thanks! "...but "...yes, all women have been victims of it."

O.k., personally, I don't know anyone who has denied that all women have been victims of misogyny of some kind or other. I mean, I'm a dude, and I've been the target of anti-male sexism before. And there's no doubt that women get a lot, lot more of this sort of thing than we do. So that conjunct is uncontroversial.

But...(a) I don't think that the message of that hashtag (Christ, look how far public discussion has fallen...) really does involve an admission of error with respect to the Not "Not All Men" fallacy, and (b) even if it does, note that no explicit admission of error has been made; instead, the fallacy is promoted, and then only tacitly rejected...

However, it's really a lot, lot worse than that.

What's really going on here seems to be:
This hashtag nonsense doesn't carry any determinate message at all. The suggested link promoting the Not 'Not All Men' fallacy is fairly clear. However, the message of the hashtag can be explicitly spun in exactly the opposite direction when it's rhetorically expedient.

That is to say:
The message is really more like:  You don't get to say 'not all men...'; Also: Yes all women!
But when it's expedient, they can say it is more like:  Ok, not all men; but all women

Indeterminacy and unclarity are the allies of unreason.

So much of the public discussion is such nonsense.

This is just a small bit of the nonsense. But it's an annoying bit.

I don't even know why I bother bitching about this stuff. It's a hopeless mass of crazy.

So far as I can tell, web feminism is just making it all worse by alienating people like me. There are sensible things that can be said about this stuff. But tweetifying the whole damn thing radically decreases the sanity and reasonableness of the discussion.

The thing is, what needs to be said here can be summarized easily and clearly:

All women suffer because some men are psychos and assholes. 

And that's a problem for all humanity.

The discussion of the problem gets complicated because some feminists are psychos and assholes (of a much lower order). They are very, very angry that they have to be limited to saying that only some men are psychos and assholes. And so a new layer of complication is added. One bit of the discussion--a bit that ought to be simple--gets unnecessarily complicated. And then we end up arguing about something that we don't need to argue about instead of talking about the real problem that we do need to be talking about.

But not talking about it is worse, because then the loony vanguard of feminism leads the rank-and-file down crazy lane yet again, and the one movement that is supposed to be on the front lines against the real, original problem alienates the sane people and becomes, itself, a kind of ally to misogynists by alienating sane people and driving them away from the movement.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Great Duke Flops: Strickland/Singler 2011

Obama Wants Guantanamo Closed, But The GOP Thwarts His Efforts


Is Misogyny An Ideology?

It's a weird disagreement, but I think this is pretty good, though it gets less good in the last several paragraphs:

Laurie Penny: "Let's Call The Isla Vista Killings What They Were: Misogynist Extremism"

I don't see a whole lot of reason to think of sexism in general nor misogyny in particular as being all that different than racism. So, if racism is sometimes an ideology, misogyny can be an ideology.

So it seems that it can be...but is it?

I'm inclined to think that misogyny is largely misunderstood by feminists. If we take paradigm examples of misogyny, it's not really hatred of women, it's a lack of respect for women. But that's a bigger topic for a different time. (Hatred can be in the mix, of course...but you can be a misogynist without, strictly speaking, hating people because they are female.)

The Isla Vista mass murderer, however, was motivated by hate. Hate that resulted from being a miserable failure at life...but hate nevertheless.

I think feminism also goes wrong also by trying to construe the more common instances of misogyny as motivated by something like a coherent ideology. I don't have much recent experience with misogyny. It's not a part of the world I now inhabit. However, what I've seen in my own life has been more of the nature of guys being dicks than it has been of the nature of an ideology. Guys I've known who were misogynists were almost always dicks anyway, in other respects, and willing to pick on other people who were weaker and different than them whatever their sex. Their misogyny was not a theory, implicit or explicit, it was not a political stance, it was straight-up, straightforward dickishness.

The extreme left, however, likes to construe almost everything ideologically. The personal is political, blah blah blah...

However...  There do seem to be pockets of misogyny that do resemble ideologies. E.g. in certain sectors of the Men's Rights Movement--MRAs, as they're known. Not all of them. Not all of it. But some.

Simple dickishness, when organized and theorized--as seems to happen to all sorts of dickishness on the internet--can start to resemble a so-called "ideology." (The term 'ideology' is annoyingly misused...but I suppose that use has taken over, and I'll have to get used to it...)

Also: we shouldn't expect bright, clear lines here. Such distinctions are vague ones. We should expect degrees of resemblance and so forth.

So, my own current hunch is that misogyny is mostly not an ideological or political thing, but it's been concentrated into one in certain sectors of the web.

Was the Isla Vista murderer an "ideological" misogynist?

You'll have to figure that out for yourself. I couldn't stomach more than a few minutes of his pathetic video.

He seemed to me to be a pathetic loser who had tried to generalize his resentments. Consequently, he may have had a pathetic little weltanschauung that qualifies as ideological. He seems to have taken to the web to seek other like-minded losers...but he seems to have been rebuked by other web denizens at least a fair bit of the time. But we'll know more in the coming weeks.

Causes are often complex, and we are often in the habit of pointing to one causal factor as "the" cause. In the case at hand, the guy was a pathetic ass. He also seems to have had mental problems. These seem like the most salient causes...but that doesn't mean that something like "ideological" misogyny wasn't also at work.

To the extend that I can understand the largely inchoate internet disagreement about this, I think that it's about the role of something like theoretical or ideological misogyny as a motive or causal factor.

Feminists typically err in this vicinity by treating misogyny as more political/theoretical/ideological than it really is, by trying to suggest that Western culture is more misogynistic than it really is, and by suggesting that more men are misogynistic than really are. However, and despite these things, it may still be worth thinking of misogyny as significantly ideology-like.

I don't have an answer to the most salient questions, but I really do wish we could get clear on what thesis is under discussion. Unfortunately, even blogs have turned out to be too thoughtful for us, and this dispute seems to exist largely on Twitter. Since Twitter is almost inherently stupid (whereas blogs are just contingently so), I expect discussions of this issue to be dumb and vitriolic even by internet standards.

The Penny link, above, however, really is pretty good I think, and worth a look.


The first sentence of his "manifesto" is:

"Humanity...All my suffering on this world has been at the hands of humanity. Particularly women."

So it's worth nothing that, if we count his misogyny as "ideological," we might have to count his misanthropy as ideological as well. there such a thing as political misanthropy? This might constitute some kind of reductio...


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hashtag Activism

Don't even get me started.

The Not "Not All Men" Sophistry: TerribleMinds Edition

Egad, here's some total crap from one Chuck Wendig at the apparently aptly-titled "TerribleMinds."

Boy, these people are really, really, really committed to the proposition that it's not ok to challenge false generalizations. About men, anyway.

tl;dr: you must always challenge any sexist male, but you are never permitted to point out that not all males are sexist.'re half right, Chuck...

One of the more annoying aspects of this fad is: in a year, all these same people will deny that anyone, anywhere ever claimed that it was impermissible to challenge false generalizations about men. We'll seamlessly transition from:



(2) Nobody ever said that you can't say 'not all men''re attacking a straw feminist!!!!!!111

As soon as this stupid fad fails to catch on with normal people, all the crazies will deny that they ever said it.

And so, as you know, it goes

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Metafilter In Trouble


MeFi is long as you stay away from the social/political discussions.

Sadly, with respect to those issues, MeFi is a cesspool of crazy--and always, always, always lefty crazy. If you ever have the urge to look at any threads there that have any even vaguely social or political content...don't. You can, instead, just say to yourself "that's racist," "that's misogynistic," "that's 'trans*phobic'," "late capitalism," "patriarchy," "rape culture," "objectification," "white privilege," "male privilege," "thin privilege," "Western privilege," "privilege privilege," etc. etc.

MeFi has, sadly, become Tumblr for grownups.

The orthodoxy is the kind of mishmash of leftist pseudointellectual rubbish you'd expect at, say, a coffee klatch filled with people who failed out of MFA programs. MeFi apparently has a reputation for intelligent discussions...but whenever half-baked literary theory can be in any way deployed in the service of goofy left-wing politics...well, it is.

With respect to social and political matters, MeFi has not exactly become a left-wing reflection of hasn't exactly not become a left-wing reflection of FreeRepublic... Deviate from the local orthodoxy, and you will be barraged with absolutely terrible arguments, all delivered in a tone that says you are obviously evil and an idiot.

It's an echo chamber in which any deviation from the pretty-damn-far-left orthodoxy receives a flood of largely irrational responses--about half of which will be accusations of some kind of '-ism.' MeFi hates Reddit, but Reddit is approximately half as irrational about politics as MeFi is. You can not, for example, have an intelligent discussion about firearms on MeFi. It simply cannot be done. Do not try.

I really do think it's the echo-chamber effect that's most detrimental. As another MeFite once said to me in MeMail: MefFi has become a lot of lefty academic wannabes virtually fist-bumping each other over how liberal they are.

It really is an ugly sight.

Personally, I try to stay away because I feared that it was pushing me to the right. Given my own intellectual vices, being around too much crazy of one particular type tends to drive me in the other direction. Sometimes too far in the other direction...

BUT...if you want to find cool links to, say, H. P. Lovecraft stuff or...well...other cool weird interesting stuff, MeFi is a good resource.

Just be judicious about which threads you poke your nose into, otherwise you'll end up arguing for hours with idiots.

Are Personal Judgments Swayed By Group Opinion For Only Three Days? You Can't Tell From This Study

Yu and colleagues Yi Huang and Keith Kendrick decided to investigate this question in the lab. They recruited Chinese college students to participate in a study exploring how "people perceive facial attractiveness." The students looked at 280 digital photographs of young adult Chinese women and were asked to rate the attractiveness of each face on an 8-point scale. 
After rating a face, they saw the purported average of 200 other students' ratings for that face. Importantly, the group average matched the participant's rating only 25% of the time. The rest of the time, the group average fell 1, 2, or 3 points above or below the participant's rating.
 The students were brought back to the lab to rate the faces again after either 1 day, 3 days, 7 days, or 3 months has passed. The data showed that the group norm seemed to sway participant's own judgments when they re-rated the photos 1 and 3 days after the initial session. 
There was, however, no evidence for a social-conformity effect when the intervening period was longer (either 7 days or 3 months after the first session).
This is more like a hypothesis than it is like an inductive conclusion. I mean, the conclusion is plausible. It wouldn't be at all surprising if it were true. But you can't tell from this study. The inference from this one, clearly unrepresentative case to all cases is preposterously weak. And that point holds even if we ignore the overall questionable reliability of this field... all means, do some studies on this.

But all this gives us is a reason to do some actual research here. It doesn't establish anything.

And, hey, there's nothing wrong with that. Research programs have to get going somehow.

The error is to think that studies like this provide appreciable evidence of anything interesting rather than just ideas for research.

Friday, May 23, 2014

SEP: Transcendental Arguments

You're probably familiar with the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and know that it's a great resource...

I'll just mention that I read this today, and thought it pretty damn good:

Robert Stern, Transcendental Arguments.

"Hazards Ahead: The Problem With Trigger Warnings, According To The Research"

By God, this actually makes sense...and from Pacific Standard, no less...

Left-Web Craziness Infecting Science? (Or, Well, Semi-Science Anyway...)

Apparently, attempting to replicate studies is "replication bullying."

link (Science, behind paywall)

The article concerns the new effort to, y'know, actually replicate results in social psych. What some of us might think of as "doing science"...:
But rather than a renaissance, some researchers on the receiving end of this organized replication effort see an inquisition. “I feel like a criminal suspect who has no right to a defense and there is no way to win,” says psychologist Simone Schnall of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who studies embodied cognition, the idea that the mind is unconsciously shaped by bodily movement and the surrounding environment. Schnall's 2008 study finding that hand-washing reduced the severity of moral judgment was one of those Donnellan could not replicate.
So...does this come as a surprise to anyone? Did anyone actually believe that crackpot hand-washing study?  Honestly, my view is that there's a little cottage industry of cranking out counter-intuitive studies purely as (as a friend of mine puts it) a "VBM" (vitae-building maneuver). When I see crap like this I have a moment of annoyance, maybe I grouse about it here, then I move on. I'm shocked that anybody is shocked that this nonsense is non-replicable...
The output of the new batch of replications, published alongside the previous 13 this week in an issue of Social Psychologyguest-edited by Nosek and Lakens, is less reassuring. All told, the researchers failed to confirm the results of 10 well-known studies, such as the social psychological effects of washing one's hands, holding cups of warm or cold liquid, or writing down flattering things about oneself. In another five cases, the replications found a smaller effect than the original study did or encountered statistical complications it did not report. For embodied cognition and also for behavior priming—the study of how exposure to one stimulus, such as the word “dog,” changes one's reaction to another, such as a photo of a cat—the results are particularly grim. Seven of the replications focused on experiments in these areas, and all but one failed.
Same deal.
Schnall, however, says that her work was “defamed.” She believes she was denied a large grant in part because of suspicions about her work and says that a reviewer of one of her recently submitted papers “raised the issue about a ‘failed’ replication.” She adds that her graduate students “are worried about publishing their work out of fear that data detectives might come after them and try to find something wrong.”
Translation: my pseudo-scientific "work" was defamed when someone did some science on it. Now my students are worried that someone might do more science on our other pseudoscience, and they won't get jobs.

Gosh. If only there were some way to figure out who is at fault here...

Other researchers whose work was targeted and failed to replicate told Science that they have had experiences similar to Schnall's. They all requested anonymity, for fear of what some in the field are calling “replication bullying.”

And there it is.

"Replication bullying."

General styles of thought come and go. They are like logical fads. This fad is in the air in the weaker reaches of the humanities and social sciences, it infects middlebrow (and lower-than-middlebrow) discussions on the web...and here it is, metastasizing into more quantitative sciences...or, well...semi-sciences, anyway...

I'm well aware of the fact that I harp on things that can just be ignored...  But this kind of nonsense, once tolerated, has a tendency to grow. Stupidity is stupidity, and it's worth addressing before it starts getting out of hand.

Presumably this nonsense will be slapped down as it encroaches farther into more respectable sciences.

Why Did We Fail In Afghanistan and Iraq?

One answer

I'd say:

Why did we fail in Afghanistan?


Why did we fail in Iraq?

It was an idiotic, misconceived, pointless mission from the get-go.

These, of course, don't pretend to be complete answers.

We'll be paying the price for the goddamned butterfly ballot in Florida 2000 for decades.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Internet Left Derangement Watch: "Trolls Don't Just Want To Be Rude; They Want Power Over Us"


I know it's hard to be overweight. I've seen its effects up close. I saw it destroy my mother's life. And that damage was done long before the most recent ratcheting-up of our obsession with physical beauty.

But damn, the Tumblr left is just as loony with respect to the weight issue as anything else.

Here's just the first bit of this truly terrible post:
It’s easy to roll your eyes at trolling—to say “don’t read the comments” and dismiss trolls as just a bunch of haters. But let’s talk about trolling for what it really is: disruptive behavior that seeks reinforce power over marginalized communities. [sic]
Nope. That isn't right at all.

These people see everything through the crude lens of their own political obsessions. It's currently fashionable on the left to construe everything as a political battle. But not everything is, and that's as obvious as anything could be.  

Trolling is not "disruptive behavior that seeks to reinforce power over marginalized communities." That is a complete misunderstanding of trolling. It really is amazing how bad these people are at something that they claim special expertise in...

First, of course, not all trolling "seeks [to] reinforce power over marginalized communities." Anybody can be trolled, and trolls have various motivations. Mostly, they're just dicks. Some of them are bored and stupid. Some are mentally ill. Probably some of them are doing something roughly political in a way...but there's no doubt that it's a minority. In short: no. The theory of trolling above is false. Explicit or implicit political ends are in no way essential to trolling.

Then we get:

In April, Lindsey Averill and Veridiana Lieberman launched fattitude-a-body-positive-documentaryKickstarter campaign for their documentaryFattitude, a feature-length film that will seek to “expose how popular culture fosters fat prejudice” and offer an alternative approach to thinking about fatness. When the campaign began, Averill and Veridiana were instantly attacked online. People wrote vitriolic messages to them on Twitter and on the project’s social media sites, saying that the film shouldn’t exist. The online abuse spread into their home lives—people called Averill to harass her, so she changed her number. Then someone anonymously ordered her a pizza. an interview with a local TV station, Averill says she knows that this isn’t just about trying to make a fat woman feel bad by sending her a pizza. “They are telling me they know where I live,” she says.
No they aren't.

They are exactly "trying to make a fat woman feel bad by sending her a pizza."

If they wanted to tell you that they know where you live, they'd e-mail you or tweet you or something. They wouldn't spend $15 on a pizza.

They were making fun of you.

They are assholes.

That's what trolling is about.

Why, incidentally, do I bother with this nonsense? This article is completely unimportant. But the styles of reasoning (if we can dignify it by calling it 'reasoning'...) on display here have pervaded the left, including many sectors of liberalism. This crap is the left's analog of religious fundamentalism. It's a rot that threatens to make liberalism absurd.

Look. I imagine there is some comfort to be had in trying to turn this pizza incident into something that it isn't. It sucks to be made fun of. And perhaps it stings a bit less to reconstrue ridicule as hatred. If someone threatens you, at least they are taking you seriously. They are, in some sense, elevating you to their level. There's something, perhaps, a bit more noble and less embarrassing about that.

And, of course, the internet left is nothing if not dramatic. Shrill and dramatic. But mostly dramatic. No...also pretty shrill. Anyway: definitely dramatic. One of their favorite pastimes involves reconstruing minor annoyances as oppression. And threats...oh, lord, how they love to pretend they are fearful and endangered...  "I'm afraid" is actually a kind of Tumblr trump card. It's all so sad, so pathetic...

Look, here's the sad fact: no one is trying to "silence" you. Your whole system of categories is confused. These people do not see you as political opponents. They do not respect you enough to see you as political opponents. They despise you. You nauseate them. Because they don't like the way you look. You are an object of ridicule to them. They are, at heart, no different than, say, racists. They are nauseated by the appearance of certain people, and they're bad enough human beings that they're willing to act on their dislike.

Except for the pizza dude. He's probably just a smart-ass. Maybe a prick, maybe just insufficiently empathetic. Maybe he's just 18...but I repeat myself... Whatever. But he's definitely not "telling you he knows where you live" nor any such thing.

This is all worse, of course. And I understand if people would rather tell themselves the political myth about hatred and battle than face the crappy reality of the situation, the contempt and ridicule. I really do understand.

But this whole orientation of the the internet left threatens to infect seriously liberalism. This myth-spinning masquerading as political analysis needs to be exposed for what it is.

Stop Saying "Socially Constructed": "The Social Construction Of Grades" Edition


Here's the simple rule:

Never, ever use the term 'socially constructed' or its cognates.

It's a phrase that's worse than meaningless. It typically decreases the clarity of what you are saying--and thinking. If you have a thought at all, then it can be expressed much more clearly in different, clearer language. And sometimes the attempt to say what you actually mean will reveal to you that weren't sure what you meant, or that you had no real thought at all...

The article on the other end of the link is a frivolous thing. There's no reason to get cranky about it...  Behold, a summary:

Grades. Amirite?

Or, less snarkily:

Students want high grades even when their work isn't good.

And that's true. I'm not sure why we need another post on this...but, hell, I guess you can see this sort of thing as part of a discussion, and the same thing can be discussed many times. So it's all good.

Thing is, "social construction" has absolutely nothing to do with anything in the paper.

This is, actually, one of the common uses of 'socially constructed'--it's a kind of verbal tic. It doesn't mean anything, people just throw it into their writing. It's almost a stylistic element or somesuch.

Though the title of this piece is "The Social Construction of Grades," the only reference to "social construction" comes here:
I can't be that off the mark. But apparently, average work on my watch is another educator's version of excellent work. And the subjectivity is confusing to the students (and sometimes to their parents). 
The real issue for me around grades is that students have no other intrinsic motivation that some socially constructed meaningless label assigned at the end of the semester.
And 'socially constructed' can be dropped out with basically no loss of meaning:
I can't be that off the mark. But apparently, average work on my watch is another educator's version of excellent work. And the subjectivity is confusing to the students (and sometimes to their parents). 
The real issue for me around grades is that students have no other intrinsic motivation that some meaningless label assigned at the end of the semester.
OTOH, the author seems to mean that standards for grades are somewhat (note: somewhat) vague and variable. That's true, but has nothing to do with anything that can accurately be described by the words 'socially constructed.' If you mean that standards for grades are vague and variable, then say that they are vague and variable. If you mean that they are largely arbitrary, then say that they are largely arbitrary. In short, whatever you mean, say it. But none of the actual ideas you might want to express will be expressed by phrases like 'grades are socially constructed.'

Look, it's not a federal case, but it's really frustrating to see this kind of mind virus floating around. This silly phrase is always either (a) eliminable without loss of content or (b) a positive source of confusion.  So there's never any good reason to use the ridiculous phrase.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Long, Slow Death of Feminism: "Taking The White Man-Boy Seriously"


..."Taking the White Man-Boy Seriously," by one Kyle Kusz... the stupidest thing you'll read today. 

Heck, it's the stupidest thing you'll read this week. 

And, given the profusion of stupidity on the interwebs, that's saying something.  

I mean...I actually think that there's a significant chance that this is satire...but it's so similar to a kind of standard-issue web-feminist nonsense that I'm going to guess that it's for real. 

I'm going to point and laugh, but I'm not going to waste any time refuting such dreck. 

Somebody on the internet is wrong.

In fact, somebody on the internet is an idiot.

Not my problem.

Anyone who can write with a straight face of "creating situated knowledges" is not somebody I'm going to waste any of my finite, precious livespan on. But here's a goddamn tip: if you don't know any epistemology, don't pretend that you do. 

This is simply another incarnation of one of the few different types of screed that contemporary lefty web feminism spits out every day. 

This type should be titled: 

"For All X Such That Men Do X, X Is Wrong."  

The tl;dr on this sad attempt at typing is: if men don't get married and raise kids immediately: patriarchy!  

You know...the very thing that sane feminism informed both men and women that they didn't have to do? And the very thing that still apparently counts as fighting the "patriarchy" if women do it? Well...

One of the best indicators you are dealing with a dogmatic zealot is their passion for the double-standard...

Sane feminists should be shooting this moron down with extreme prejudice...  But I won't be holding my breath for that to happen.

Something this stupid really must just be clickbait. Nobody in their right mind is going to take such nonsense seriously.

(via /r/TumblrInAction)

Scandalmania! Jennifer Rubin Edition


Thank you, oh great powers of the universe, that I was not born Jennifer Rubin... It's a strange world that woman lives in

At least the VA scandal is an actual clusterfuck that really actually no kidding does need to be addressed big time. So in that sense, it's not exactly Solyndra...

And remember, folks: Bush kept us safe

Tom DeLay: God Wrote The Constitution

Quoth the Hammer

There really is nothing in this ol' worl' I like more than anti-democratic, irrationalist criminal asshats preaching to me about the immorality of secular government

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tumblr Is Leaking: "Trigger Warnings" in College?


A few things:

First: I've never seen/heard anyone who was a non-idiot seriously use the term 'trigger warning.'

Now, simply because this is an idea generated by idiots doesn't mean it's idiotic. But I have to admit, it's hard for me to take it seriously given that first point... This is not an's a warning that I'm not objective about this question...

I actually often teach J. J. Thomson's "A Defense Of Abortion" in my critical thinking class. At one point she notes that one of her examples is only relevant in a case of rape. Even that brief mention of rape always freaks me out, I have to admit. I hate the thought that someone--a rape victim, paradigmatically--would just be happily going off to class and then, out of the blue, here's this damn thing they've got to be reminded of again...

So, despite the first point, I do sympathize. And there's a way in which I could understand tipping students off when they're signing up for classes, that there might be something upsetting to them in the course content.

However, it's hard not to think about this point in its actual context. The proposal is embedded in a view on the utterly crazy left, according to which a certain set of leftist shibboleths must be treated with something approaching all-encompassing reverence. This is conjoined with a (typically leftist) view of humans as frail and weepy beyond the telling of it. In this imaginary world, the mere suggestion that, say, most people are heterosexual can elicit a panic attack in those with sufficiently politically correct sensibilities...

And, as is so often the case on the left, the point of this policy suggestion is not entirely to protect special snowflakes from harm--it is also an attempt to gain the kind of control that the extreme left loves: a kind of control over vocabulary and quasi-moral rules of etiquette--a kind of control that they hope will also give them a way to control thought. They relish the opportunity to remind people of their agenda, and that they are lurking in the background, like the secret police...

Right...but, again, it might still be a fine idea...

I admit that I have an unusually low tolerance for nuttiness on either end of the political spectrum. And I have admitted that bad people can have good ideas. And those points should be kept firmly in mind. My idiosyncratic crankiness in this regard makes me a bad judge of such cases...

But...speaking of cases...  Should devout theists be warned that we criticize arguments for the existence of God in my 101 class? Should they be warned that theism typically doesn't come out of those discussions looking very good? Should everyone be warned that we'll be discussing arguments for moral nihilism? Surely the suggestion that, e.g., the Holocaust was not a (good nor) bad thing should be upsetting to any sensible person...

Well, maybe the answer is yeah...maybe there should be such warnings...

I have to admit, that if the suggestion were coming from a saner bunch, I'd be more amenable to it. If, say, veterans or actual sexual assault survivors were saying "hey, could you kinda let us know before you start talking about the kinds of things that really upset us?" Yep, I definitely would take it more seriously in that case...

One response here goes like this: life is hard, and you need to be prepared to hear about things that upset you. I agree...but I don't see that that means that we can't also be understanding and tip people off about such things when reasonable and possible.

Perhaps concerns about the nutty left aren't really completely out of line here... They are constantly angling for ways to drag university culture farther and farther in their direction. Perhaps we have to be prepared to refuse in some cases, even when the specific idea isn't bad, simply to prevent the whole institution from moving any farther in a crazy direction. There is, already, an overwhelming push from the left to make the university a place entirely free from any non-PC conflict and unpleasantness. Though campus lefties are willing to shriek at people, they want everything that they themselves might disagree with to be eliminated or modified so that there is no possibility that they might encounter something objectionable. So, perhaps, there is some point at which we have to say something like: nope, sorry. That's not a terrible idea considered in isolation, but we can't afford to take another step down the twisted road of mollycoddling and specialsnowflakeism... We're going to be considering the Universe at the university...and you're not going to like some of it...

But maybe not.

I really don't know.

Monday, May 19, 2014

"Black Mass" At Harvard Canceled

I have no opinion whatsoever about this.

NH Police Commissioner Uses Racial Slur to Refer to Obama; Romney Calls for Apology, Resignation

1. This dude is an asshole.

2. Good for Mitt. 

Life Expectancy By Health Spending Per Capita


(via Reddit)

The Tea Party Goes After Eric Cantor

Godspeed, Teatards


NOT NOT ALL MEN; Penises/Communist Spy/Miso Soup Edition


When you find yourself embedding one kind of crazy in another kind of crazy, it's time to reassess...

(via the incomparable /r/TumblrInAction)

"Virtually No Republican In Washington" Accepts Climate-Change Science

Holy's true.

In fact, the only reason Politifact rates Brown's claim 'Mostly True' rather than 'True' is that they suspect that a fair number of Republicans are simply lying to secure election; they know better, but can't admit it without political consequences.

The GOP is running its own insanity emulator.

Imagine that there were economic arguments for the conclusion that the welfare state causes laziness and dependency that were as strong as the climatological arguments for anthropogenic climate change...  Imagine what the GOP's position on that would be...  What are the odds that they'd be insisting on epistemic caution bordering on skepticism in that case?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Renaming The Asian Carp?

Huge New Species of Titanosaur Discovered?

Whiskey Now Trendy



And a shortage may be afoot...

As if we needed another reason to be annoyed at hipsters. Go back to yer PBR ya scrawny, potbellied, bearded...etc. etc...

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Not "Not All Men:" The Sophistry Gains Popularity


Wow. Those are some of the shittiest arguments I've ever seen...even on the internet...

Maybe I'll shred this nonsense later. But there's really no need to write more than the author has already written. It's a screed that basically constitutes its own refutation...thus saving more reasonable people the time and effort.

This isn't a controversial issue. This isn't a close call. This isn't a point about which intelligent people can disagree. False generalizations are false, and it's permissible to point this out. If someone--including...gasp...a woman!--is making a false generalization about men, it's permissible to point this out. In fact, it's probably more than permissible. There are good reasons to do so.

We don't need any reasons beyond those.

However...  Old-school feminism was right when it encouraged men (and women) to be wary of generalizations about the sexes. New-school, internet feminism has slipped off the edge into sexism an irrationality in part by abandoning that insight--well, with respect to men, anyway...  The contemporary version of feminism looks more and more like the parody of old-school feminism propagated by actual male sexists--irrationalist, man-hating, and out to gain special advantage for women.

When someone can write lines like "A man is someone who pays his female employees less" with a straight face, they've just lost the argument.

Were this sophistry reasonable, it would be permissible to say "women are more emotional than men," and it would be impermissible for women--in fact, for anyone--to respond that not all women are more emotional than all men. But it would be stupid for me to say something like that, and stupid to say that it would be impermissible to correct me about it.

The internet lefty-left is going full-on batshit crazy. When you find yourself writing long, fallacy-filled screeds about your alleged right to make false generalizations about people on the basis of their sex, it's long past time to pack it in.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Tea Party In Trouble Tuesday?

At the Post

(via Reddit)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Facepalm Du Jour: Peanut Butter And Jelly Sandwiches: Are They Racist?

I think you know the answer...

So Karl Rove Still Exists...

And he is totally not suggesting that Hillary Clinton is brain-damaged...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

RIP Antarctic Ice Sheet

Well that's just great.

Kennedy School Institutes Leftist Re-Education Class During Orientation

If you're not concerned about the new forms of insanity cropping up on the extreme left,  you should be...
“The substance of the training, while still under discussion, is to prepare students to understand the broad impact of identity on their decision-making and to engage them in constructive tools for dialogue,” Mody says. She’s reluctant even to name a text she’d put on the syllabus, though she’d like to mandate faculty training in privilege and power too. She likens it to the math classes masters candidates are sent to so they can apply economic theories.“If you don’t have an understanding of sociology, political science, critical race theory, feminist critique, and revisionist history,” Mody warns, “it’s going to be very difficult to talk about certain groups’ experiences, and why these other groups continually have this advantage in society.”
This sounds dangerously like political brainwashing. It's not that it wouldn't be good for students--at the Kennedy school or anywhere else--to think about race, sex and class. But does anyone seriously think that those opportunities do not exist in the contemporary academy? Students have to work hard to avoid such classes...they're everywhere in the university...

But the suggestions above--that "training in privilege and power" (and presumably, all sorts of other leftist buzzwords...)--do not involve merely getting students to think more about those things. To insist that students study critical race theory, "feminist critique" and revisionist history is to insist that they study pseudo-disciplines that come with political orientations already built into them. It is tantamount to demanding that students attend re-education camp.

And to analogize these disreputable pseudo-disciplines--which are widely recognized as intellectually bankrupt fronts for political activism--to mathematics is utterly absurd.

(Note the absurdity of suggesting that students entering the Kennedy school might not learn any political science while there...  Political science and sociology are simply thrown in to distract from the objectionable nature of the other areas listed.)

Note the desire to brainwash the faculty as well...though I reckon most of them don't need it... If they're putting up with this crackpot idea to brainwash students, they've probably already gone over to the Dark Side... Presumably, however, there are enough relative centrists and conservatives that they'd face a revolt if they actually tried to force the faculty to do such a thing. It would certainly never fly at my university, and we, the faculty here, have nothing like the status, stature, and power of the heavy-hitters the the Kennedy School...

But if the faculty wouldn't put up with being sent to re-education camp themselves, then they should be even more opposed to subjecting students to such a thing...

I expect liberals will stand idly by while this happens. Liberals are afraid to fight the left, and, in fact, do not even seem to understand the illiberal nature of the left. They'd never stand for this sort of thing if they didn't agree with its political ends. Any analogous initiative by conservatives would be fought tooth and nail. And that fact alone is a good indicator that a violation of liberal principles is afoot.

Worf-Sapir: Still Nonsense

More Evidence That Lectures Are Ineffective


My own view, because I know everybody cares, is that lectures are way over-used, but in no way totally ineffective. (Of course I don't think that anybody thinks that they're totally ineffective...but that's a low bar...)

My hypothesis: the more interested a given listener is, the more effective a lecture will be with respect to that listener.

Really I guess I should say: I guess that there will be less of a difference between the effectiveness of lectures and the effectiveness of other, more participatory methods of teaching the more interested the audience is.

Just a guess, of course.

Monday, May 12, 2014

20-Day Stranger

Could be cool...but it's an empirical question...

(Via the sometimes-not-batshit-crazy Metafilter)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Stuart Cooper: JiuJitsu: A Way Of Life

JiuJitsu: A Way Of Life

A fantastic short on jiujitsu, featuring the great Dean Lister.

(via the Grumpy Grappler)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

That "God's Not Dead" Movie: A Philosophical Shredding

Whoa...that thing sounds even worse than it sounded when I knew less about it...

The Fog Of Policy: The Truth (and Doubts) About Gun Control

This is good.

The World's Deepest (Man-Made) Hole

Thursday, May 08, 2014

The Grumpy Grappler

Daily Facepalm: "Why Are White Men Trying To Save The Planet Without The Rest of Us?"

Whelp, on a scale of one to moronic, this is an eleven.

A kind of mental illness is rampant on the lefty-left.

Those are some genuinely loony people over there.

Drum on the GOP's Latest Benghazi Freak-Out

Wow. If the GOP spent half the effort it spends trying to bring down Obama on real problems, we might actually get something done...

Well...actually...given the general kinds of things the contemporary GOP is trying to do, I guess their fruitless Benghazi obsession/derangement is actually a good thing.  They're obviously wrong, and the most it can ever do is unfairly tarnish Obama's reputation. That sucks for Obama, of course, but if that's what it takes to keep these dipshits occupied so that they don't do any more substantial harm...well, it's worth it.

Too bad we don't have two sane, adult political parties...but that's the hand we've been dealt.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Pinocchio Rex

A new type of Tyrannosaur with a very long nose has been nicknamed "Pinocchio rex". The ferocious carnivore, nine metres long with a distinctive horny snout, was a cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex

Crapwatch: "I Had an Affair With My Hero, A Professor Who's Famous for Being 'Moral'"


This is the stupidest thing you'll read this week.

Maybe I'll complain about it in detail at some point. But for now:

1. This is a tale of private sexual douchebaggery. The professor in question has consensual sex with a lot of young women (many of them grad students). He lies about being married, and about his sexual history. He's obviously a shit.

2. Nothing that he has done warrants a post anywhere beyond, say Facebook...

3. But..."Thought" Catalog LOL.  Facebook is probably a more serious venue, actually...

4. This tale of private dochebaggery is, via the magic of mere assertion, supposed to show that "philosophy is a white boy's club" and something something patriarchy. How 'white' got in there at all, I don't know. What it actually shows is nothing. But if it did show anything, it would be that academia is a famous person's club. And fame in academia, like everywhere else, has its benefits. Especially if you're a douchebag.

5. There is kinda one lesson here, actually. There's no reason to think that the douchebag in question is even supposed to be particularly moral. He apparently writes on "global justice issues." This has nothing whatsoever to do with being a good person. In fact, it's a joke among some philosophers that some of the scummiest people in philosophy are moral theorists. (Also some really stellar people, of course...) Philosophy is a theoretical discipline. Studying theories of rationality doesn't make you more rational than anyone else. Studying moral theory doesn't make you more moral than anyone else. Studying the ancient Greeks doesn't make you more ancient Greek than anyone else.

Actually, the people who caterwaul the most about "global justice" actually strike me as a fairly sketchy lot. Consider this hilarious passage:
I falsely assumed that the man who calls affluent westerners human rights violators would treat women with dignity. I was naïve to believe that he’d be different. [emphasis in original]
 If you survived the flying facepalm you just gave yourself, congratulations. So...since this fellow makes absurdly hyperbolic/patently false criticisms of a group the academic left loves to hate, the author thought he'd be a good person. That is: since he is intellectually dishonest, he should be otherwise good. That is, since he is a bad person in one respect, she thought he'd be a good person in a different respect. The mind, it reels...and reels...and reels...

This guy sound like an ass. And the author sounds like an ass. And they both sound like they are part of a peripheral part of philosophy known to be fairly asinine. And people who try to make private douchebaggery out to be a general indictment of a discipline are asses. And anyplace that would post this private screed masquerading as something more than that is an ass. It's asses's asses all around...

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Aging Research and the Population Crisis

One of these days, aging research is likely to have some kind of breakthrough. A real breakthrough.

And, perhaps even more importantly: there are likely to be a lot of incremental improvements in medical care that extend lifespans.

This is good news in many ways, obviously...


If this happens before we have begun to solve the population problem, it is going to be a disaster.  

There are elements of both the right and left that are ideologically committed to denying that we need to address the population problem. From the right, we are told that we have to crank up the population so that the terrible scary Muslims don't "outbreed" us--and so that the economy can continue to grow forever and ever and ever...  From the left we are told that any concern with the population is racist since it inevitably means (to the lefty mind) that we are eugenicists who want fewer brown people and immigrants.  

These people are the population equivalent of global warming denialists. They're not only wrong, but they're passionately, politically committed to being wrong. They're passionately committed to a course of action that there is simply no reason to be committed to. As in the case of climate change, the potential cost of inaction is massive...and, even if we act, and we're wrong, we still end up with a better world. (Albeit at some cost...)  Less pollution and fewer people would be good ends even without the threat of a looming crisis.  

We have to throttle back on population growth--before it's a crisis. There's still time for us to take reasonable, modest steps to change the trajectory of population growth. Every year we wait, however, makes it more likely that we will face an unmanageable crisis rather than a manageable problem.

Nobody's going to listen to this, of course.  

But I'm saying it anyway.

Monday, May 05, 2014






BEN GHA ZI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ONEONEONEONE

Laura Logan and Benghazi Derangement Syndrome


Sunday, May 04, 2014

Evidence of Sex and Race Bias In Faculty Response Rates to Email Inquiries From Prospective Graduate Students

Wow, this is interesting, surprising, and alarming: link
The study measured responses, of 6,500 professors across 250 of the U.S.’s top schools, to email messages sent by “students,” impersonated by the researchers. The messages expressed admiration for the professor’s research, and requested a meeting. All messages had the same content and were well written, but varied in that they were sent from a variety of “people” with names typically associated with specific racial categories. For example, names like Brad Anderson and Meredith Roberts would typically be assumed to belong to white people, whereas names like Lamar Washinton and LaToya Brown would be assumed to belong to black students. Other names included those associated with Latino/a, Indian, and Chinese students.
Vedantam additionally reported that the study found that Asian students experienced the most bias, that gender and racial diversity amongst faculty does not reduce discrimination, and that there are big differences between academic departments and types of schools. The researchers found greater discrimination at private schools, and amongst the natural sciences and business schools, and overwhelmingly found that as faculty pay rises, so too does the occurrence of discrimination. Not included in Vedantam’s report are some important details about the findings, and the design of the study that make the results even more disturbing and significant. At business schools, women and minorities were ignored more than twice as frequently as were white males, and even within the humanities, which Vedantam reported had “little discrimination,” women and racial minorities were ignored 1.3 more times than white males.
Normally, I'm extremely skeptical of studies claiming to identify bias in academia. There's a huge number of people who are religiously dedicated to "finding" bias in academia...and many of them routinely see (i.e. "see") it where it doesn't exist. No one is more skeptical than about the biasmongers than me...


This study is so simple, so seemingly straightforward, that it's rather hard to see where it could have gone wrong. Needless to say, some absurdly extravagant claims have been made about what it shows. But ignore those. Imagine that the real effect is, say, 1/2 or 1/3 what they think they found...  That's still astonishing--and unconscionable.

Since I rarely encounter this sort of thing, I suppose I tend to think that things are better than they really are. (And, of course, I see lunatics crying "wolf!" about bias all too often...) But damn, this is shocking.

And lets not forget about the even more baffling and alarming Moss-Racusin study that showed sex bias in biology

Friday, May 02, 2014

Antibiotic Resistance Rife Across the Globe

At SciAm

Time to develop some new antibiotics against these superbugs so that we can feed small doses of them to millions of cattle in order to breed superDUPER bugs...

Atlas Obscura

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Rush Limbaugh Is A Fucking Idiot Episode MCLXVII

President Obama is lazy for not working 24/7.

It's not exactly esoteric knowledge that the American right is deranged. Fortunately, I rarely have to put up with this shit IRL...  But I do frequent a few discussion boards (e.g. sports boards) where I run into morons who will actually start spewing spittle every time Obama plays a golf game. Of course such types typically have no regard for the truth whatsoever. And they absolutely, positively cannot be reasoned with...but it's a lot of fun to watch them sputter over the fact that Bush took about four times as many vacation days as Obama at comparable points in their presidencies.

I'm not complaining about the numbers, though...the more time Bush was vacationing, the less time he was governing--if we can call it that...

But, as for the double standard...people like Limbaugh are so blinded by hatred, and so thoroughly irrational, that their words are probably better seen as part of a kind of contentless temper-tantrum than any kind of actual attempt to represent reality.