From the monthly archives:

January 2015

Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Trollbird

by John Holbo on January 31, 2015

The author is a genius but would prefer to remain mildly anonymous. I think it reads like Donald Barthelme. (I mean, the Stevens influence is also pretty definitely there.) [click to continue…]

Master Teachers?

by Harry on January 30, 2015

William Bowen and Eugene Tobin’s new book, Locus of Authority: The Evolution of Faculty Roles in the Governance of Higher Education, has just been published: anyone interested in the governance of universities and colleges should read it. The first part is a very terse but interesting account of how ‘shared governance’ emerged over time in the US; the second part is devoted to a detailed discussion of how governance works, the challenges that the current common governance structures face, and proposals about for changes in governance that would help us cope with these challenges. These proposals are grounded in the case studies that constitute the third part of the book; highly textured discussions of the way governance has developed at CUNY, the University of California, Princeton, and Macalester Colleges, and how various challenges have been met, or failed, as a result of those structures.
I’ll write more, later, about the book, and some of the proposals. Right now I thought I’d discuss a proposal they make (I do know of places where some version of it is present, in embryo form) which is not central to the discussion of governance, but which, I think, raises a serious conflict of interest issue (which, actually, they don’t discuss): the proposal to develop a distinct career track of “master teacher” for employees who would specialize in teaching, who would teach more than regular tenure-track faculty, who would not be expected to do research, and whose continuing professional development would focus on instruction and pedagogy.

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Vaccination Exemptions in California Kindergartens

by Kieran Healy on January 30, 2015

I came across a report yesterday, via Eric, about high rates of vaccination exemption in Sacramento schools. As you are surely aware, this is a serious political and public health problem at the moment. Like Eric, I was struck by just how high some of the rates were. So I went and got the data from the California Department of Public Health, just wanting to take a quick look at it. If you want to follow along, I put up a github repository with the data and R code for the plots.

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But Wait…There’s More!

by Belle Waring on January 30, 2015

Since the thread is long now and it’s hard to respond to everyone individually, I thought I would post instead.

Objection 1: Chait has real-world examples of PC madness–you don’t even address those!

Counterpoints: In the opening anecdote, a guy wrote a relatively mild, not funny at all anti-feminist satire for the more conservative college paper in which he laughed about majoring in womyn’s studies (LOL), laughed about trigger warnings, and laughed about intersectionality. As if that’s a thing, right!? In response, some college kids egged his door, and the other more left-leaning paper he also wrote for told him they didn’t need his submissions any longer. Also, a thing happened in 1992 with terrifying monster of anti-man towering evil MacKinnon involved tangentially! Look, I’m sorry Chait, nothing in your article should have happened in 1992. (Yes, analogies, I know.)

Then, some people paying $55,000 a year to attend a private college decided they didn’t want one of the architects of the Iraq war to pick up a $100K check to speak at their graduation. Students protested against Condoleeza Rice on these grounds, against the head of the IMF because of its importance as an means of imposing capitalist norms on weakened developing nations, against a man who was most prominently known among the students themselves for a physically brutal crackdown on Occupy protestors at UCBerkeley, and against Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whom many regard as actively anti-Muslim, not just pro-religious-freedom in currently Muslim nations. They may have been neither entirely right nor entirely wrong in all these judgments, but preventing your school from paying money to rich, powerful people is not a form of stifling political correctness.
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it’s a small world

by Eric on January 29, 2015

California’s measles outbreak has now reached more than 70 cases. 1

Populations especially at risk are those born after 1957 and vaccinated between 1963-1967 or not vaccinated. People born before 1957 would have been exposed to measles naturally and are ok; those not exposed to the virus in the wild will be vulnerable. People vaccinated 1963-1967 might have got the “killed virus” vaccine, which the Centers for Disease Control now say is ineffective, and they will be vulnerable.

Unvaccinated people will be vulnerable2 for what ought to be obvious reasons.

California permits unvaccinated students to enroll in public schools if their parents file a form saying their beliefs do not permit vaccination.

The percentage of unvaccinated students in Sacramento-area schools is over fifty percent in some cases.

As the historian Robert Johnston remarks, scholars used to treat anti-vaccination activists as “the deluded, the misguided, the ignorant, the irrationally fearful” but now they command ‘If not sympathy, at least a modicum of respect.”

I suppose we should respect those whom we can rationally fear.


1This is the outbreak that the press keep saying, correctly if punctiliously, began at “Disneyland Park and Disneyland California Adventure,” as if there were some important meaningful reason they couldn’t say “Disneyland”; Disneyland is offering a pretty good discount right now, by the way.

2Rich Puchalsky, I think correctly, points out in comments that all are potentially vulnerable once we drop below a percentage where we have “herd immunity.”

By now you’ve probably heard that Jonathan Chait has written an article for New York magazine decrying modern liberalism for becoming little more than a series of Twitter-based convulsions of outrage. You may have heard that he has a point there. Or maybe you heard it was an argument against Political Correctness–a dragon from 1991 who has reared up wearing a crop top, ’70s jeans and 14-hole Doc Marten’s, and is taking the pain of her infected belly-button piercing out on others in inappropriate ways–and the reign of terror this dread P.C. has engendered in liberal academia. Or maybe you heard that a previously moderately well-regarded author has gone to the #slatepitch side of the Force. Or, perhaps, that Jonathan Chait has a skin so thin that he cries when someone gets the butter knife out of the drawer anywhere within six blocks of his apartment, and is also so allergic to his own tears that he then needs to use his EpiPen and ARE YOU HAPPY NOW BLACK FEMINISTS!?!1/1//! Unfortunately for Jonathan Chait, modern liberalism, the state of the publishing industry, feminism, concerns about racial equality, the extent to which previously marginalized voices can now pipe up and be heard in critical discourse, and all of us, it’s actually that last thing.

But what about his maybe having a point? The thing is, Chait has about 75% of perhaps two points, but the wheat/arsenic-laced chaff ratio is bad. Very bad. How so? The article is actually about how his feelings got hurt by people who say mean things on the internet–in the sense that this is the actual motive for writing it. ‘They claim to be too sensitive to take criticism or even hear discussion of sensitive topics, and that shuts down debate!’ whines sensitive man whose feelings have been hurt by criticism from the internet. ‘They are destroying our political project and they won’t even listen to my concern trolling crucial critique because I am…a white man!‘ [Faints on couch.] How did New York Magazine tease this article? “Can a white, liberal man critique a culture of political correctness?” Spoiler alert: YES.
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The Corrupted

by Harry on January 28, 2015

The second series of The Corrupted has started. The first series, last year, was amazing — an immersive, 450 minute saga of criminality in the East End in the 1950’s: I think it’s the longest serious drama series Radio 4 has done for decades (I’m not counting soapy plays like the wonderful Brief Lives, or the episodic genre pieces like Baldi and the sublime Pilgrim). I wasn’t going to bother bringing it to your notice, because I didn’t realise that the first series was available, but, apparently, GF Newman posted it all to youtube soon after it was broadcast (and nobody else has noticed judging by the numbers). Series 2 covers the 1960’s. It is riveting. First series here; second here.

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day

by Corey Robin on January 28, 2015

I highly recommend that everyone read Eszter’s moving, almost unbearable post, in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, about her father’s experience as a three-year-old in the camps. The day, which marks the liberation of Auschwitz, makes me think of that scene in Shoah where Lanzmann is moving through a Polish village, as his guide, a local, points out the different homes where Jewish families once lived. If memory serves (it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it), the guide recites the names of the families and then, with some prodding from Lanzmann, gives the names of the Polish families who live there now. Or maybe it’s the reverse: the guide recites the names of the Polish families, and Lanzmann prods him about the Jews who used to live there. Regardless, you get this terrible feeling of dread as you think about the generations of Jews who once lived in these homes, sometimes peacefully, sometimes not, but often uneasily. You think about their gentile neighbors who for centuries longed to see them gone. And then they were.

Opinions May Vary

by Corey Robin on January 27, 2015

On Hugo Chavez…

John Kerry: “Throughout his time in office, President Chavez has repeatedly undermined democratic institutions by using extra-legal means, including politically motivated incarcerations, to consolidate power.”

New York Times: “A Polarizing Figure Who Led a Movement” “strutting like the strongman in a caudillo novel”

Human Rights Watch: “Venezuela: Hugo Chávez’s Authoritarian Legacy”

On King Abdullah…

John Kerry: “King Abdullah was a man of wisdom & vision.”

New York Times: “Nudged Saudi Arabia Forward” “earned a reputation as a cautious reformer” “a force of moderation”

Human Rights Watch: “Saudi Arabia: King’s Reform Agenda Unfulfilled”

Crying Babies

by Eszter Hargittai on January 27, 2015

    I seem to remember more events from our deportation in 1944-45 than from many of the subsequent years. But these memories are like still pictures to me rather than a continuous movie. It is probable that some things that I seem to remember are merely a reflection of what others have told me. I vaguely remember that between our triple-decker beds at the camp there was a little space that mother converted into a “home” consisting of a small stand with some belongings. There was a small container, which I now imagine to be of the size of a very small glass. Once my mother got hold of some butter, which filled this container. She asked us to decide whether to eat it all at once or make it last for a while. I was for saving it, and this made quite a story in our camp, the lager, because everybody knew that I was hungry all the time.

    In the camp, I cried day and night, especially night, and my crying kept everybody awake. This I do not remember, but I had to listen to comments about this for many years by survivors from the lager. If they recognized me, they would tell me immediately about their predicaments due to my crying. Mother must have gone through additional suffering because of my crying. She must have felt sorry for me and for her fellow inmates, too. When I hear a child crying in a bus, on board an airplane during a long flight, or similar situations, I have great understanding for the child and its mother.

Excerpted from my father István Hargittai’s book Our Lives: Encounters of a Scientist posted here in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. My father was three years old when he was in the camp described above.

A one-horse troika

by John Quiggin on January 27, 2015

I’m a lot further from the action than DD, but I’m still surprised his confidence in the judgement and resolve of the Eurocracy in the coming confrontation with Syriza. Whatever you think about Greece, the failure of austerity in the Eurozone generally is patently obvious. It has already been admitted by the IMF (at least in its research, if not by its political leadership) and just last week by the ECB, with the shift to massive quantitative easing and the abandonment of the (supposedly unbreachable) ban on financing government deficits. That leaves the European Commission as the only horse still pulling the troika hard in the direction of austerity.

But the European Commission is almost as discredited as austerity. Apart from the appalling Olli Rehn, there’s the problem of Jean-Claude Juncker, who faced unprecedented resistance before getting elected, only to be exposed as complicit in tax avoidance/evasion on a scale that makes the dodges of Greek doctors look trivial. I just can’t see the IMF and ECB risking utter disaster in support of a policy they no longer believe in, at the behest of a shambles like the Commission.

That leaves the possibility that the German government will exert its (assumed) veto power more directly [I don’t understand the nature of this power, and would be happy to be enlightened]. My guess is that Merkel won’t be willing to take the risk of lumbering Germany with the responsibility of destroying Europe (again).

Greek games and scenarios

by Daniel on January 25, 2015

Early news reports seem to be pretty clear that Syriza has won the Greek elections, so I thought CT readers might be interested in the following note, which I sent to my professionals’ mailing list a few weeks ago. Since I wrote it, there has been a lot of rather contradictory comment on what the party’s negotiation strategy might actually be, but nevertheless, it certainly seems that the “ultimatum” approach to debt reduction is very much on the table, and in any case, a dogmatic refusal to continue with past agreements on structural measures would end up having the same effect.

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Sunday photoblogging: bike

by Chris Bertram on January 25, 2015

My Fair Lady: A Series of Text Messages

by Belle Waring on January 25, 2015

Prof. Henry Higgins: I could totlly teach you to talk good lol.
Eliza Doolittle: no way! I talk too bad!
HH: you would even be hot then haha.
ED: but I have a smudge on my face.
HH: inorite?
ED: it’s small but it like hides my whole face. it is a magic smudge.
HH: if you didn’t have a magic smudge you could be hot. jk you will prolly never get that smudge off. you will never be hotlol.
ED: please teach me to talk good even though I suck and stuff plz!
HH: I guess, god whatever

ED: some dudes think I’m hot!
HH: as if. they are just saying whatever to get into your pants. they can tell u still talk stupid.
ED: OMG u r so mean I am seriously crying now for real!
HH: you are way too emoshe. that’s why I can’t even deal with chicks sometimes. this is all about a bet I made with my bro. a brotimes bet. brotimes.
ED: I hate you! I am running away!

HH: you ran away to my mom’s house because you love me.
ED: no one ever said I was hot before until you said I looked barely tolerable. will u PLEASE GO OUT WITH ME PLEADE!
HH: OK I am like 70 u know.
ED: and I am like 25 and no one ever said that they had gotten used to seeing my face among other objects they saw during the day, like cabs and umbrellas! u r the 1! you saw thru the magic smudge! IT WAS MAGIC!
HH: yeah I’m pretty amazing. OK fine.
ED: I love u so much!
HH: I love me too.

finis

UPDATE: If I had been making fun of Shaw it would have said “Pygmalion: a Series of Text Messages,” wouldn’t it? What am I likeliest to have seen recently? The original London production with Julie Andrews? Possibly, just conceivably, the Audrey Hepburn/Rex Harrison movie? Let your imaginations run wild. Secondly, it has been brought to my attention that Mallory Ortberg thought of this first, which is too bad insofar as she is way funnier than me, but good insofar as she is both way funnier than me and a more dedicated, prolific writer, and I get to read the things she writes on the internet. So, it’s win-win! The only thing for me to do is keep training harder, like that montage in Rocky IV when Rocky is training in Siberia while Ivan Drago is being put through his paces in a futuristic Soviet lab, so it turns out Rocky is training in a more authentically Russian way than Drago, because he is in the snow carrying wood and buckets. IRONIC! The music for this is awesome, although it annoys John when it comes up on shuffle in iTunes. “What the f%*k? Oh this is one of your montages isn’t it. You know, the Thundercats theme song came on while I was with Violet at drum lessons yesterday.” Forget the haters!

The Peripheral

by Henry on January 22, 2015

Attention conservation notice: A blogpost on the William Gibson book of the same name, with copious spoilers. At the very best, it presents a crudely simplified reading of one skein of the book, without any of the ambiguity and negative capability stuff that makes the novel fun. At worst, it’s both boring and completely wrong.

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