Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving to y'all.

I have a cool experience to relate, but as I am spending the holiday with my family, I'll wait until after the holiday to relate it.

Enjoy your Turkey day!!!!!!

Saturday, November 20, 2004

One of the wonderful perks I get from being a grad student occurs when I get to overhear conversations in the grad student ghetto.

The ghetto is the basement room where 60 or so grad students share 15 or so cubicles - even when teaching several classes, we don't get offices - we get cubicles we share with 3 -4 other grad students.

So - the nature of the ghetto is such that you hear pretty much every conversation that goes on in the room,

One conversation that took place a few days ago:

"Yeah - committed Christians just can't appreciate Milton. They are too wrapped up in their preconceptions of the Bible to be able to read it."

"Absolutely. To truly enjoy literature, people need to stop reading the Bible."

(It went on like this for awhile - mostly just restatement of the above two lines for about 15 minutes).

It must feel good to feel so superior to the ignorant, Bible-believing losers who go to church and actually believe Christ died for their sins and God created the Heavens and the Earth.

Yep, superior to such losers as -- I dunno - MILTON HIMSELF?

Apparently, Milton can't even appreciate his own work.

(And as a Christian myself, I find the idea reprehensible. I believe the Bible and I enjoy/appreciate/etc. Milton).

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Some have asked why I am suddenly blogging more than I have previously.


Basically, I got a nice donation (see link on your top right).

Figuring I should earn my keep, I decided that I had better blog so the anonymous donor(s?) gets his/her/their money worth.


(By the way, I find it funny that when I do the built in spell-checker for blogger, the spell-checker does not recognize the word "blog.")

Friday, November 12, 2004

RE: My earlier logic post.

I really messed up. I had the forms correct. But, for some dumb reason I didn't actually dig out my old logic textbook, so I used the wrong name for the forms.

The forms were valid. But "affirming the antecedent" is valid. The invalid form I discussed is called "affirming the consequent."

A shout out to the half-dozen people who let me know I had gotten the name wrong.

I will edit the original post, but this post will stand as acknowledgement that I did make a small mistake initially.

I love the net because of this - a zillion fact checkers!!!! And, unlike CBS, I acknowledge my mistakes as soon as they are brought to my attention.

I should likely allow comments on this site for even more immediate feedback. I'll look into that. (Winston has actually suggested that I allow comments. He's a smart guy, so expect them soon - but maybe not too soon. It's getting near finals).

Thursday, November 11, 2004


From the Chronicle of Higher Education website:
Liberal Groupthink Is Anti-Intellectual By MARK BAUERLEIN

Brief excerpt: (but go read the whole thing!)
Yet while the lack of conservative minds on college campuses is increasingly indisputable, the question remains: Why?

The obvious answer, at least in the humanities and social sciences, is that academics shun conservative values and traditions, so their curricula and hiring practices discourage non-leftists from pursuing academic careers. What allows them to do that, while at the same time they deny it, is that the bias takes a subtle form. Although I've met several conservative intellectuals in the last year who would love an academic post but have given up after years of trying, outright blackballing is rare. The disparate outcome emerges through an indirect filtering process that runs from graduate school to tenure and beyond.

Some fields' very constitutions rest on progressive politics and make it clear from the start that conservative outlooks will not do. Schools of education, for instance, take constructivist theories of learning as definitive, excluding realists (in matters of knowledge) on principle, while the quasi-Marxist outlook of cultural studies rules out those who espouse capitalism. If you disapprove of affirmative action, forget pursuing a degree in African-American studies. If you think that the nuclear family proves the best unit of social well-being, stay away from women's studies.

Other fields allow the possibility of studying conservative authors and ideas, but narrow the avenues of advancement. Mentors are disinclined to support your topic, conference announcements rarely appeal to your work, and few job descriptions match your profile. A fledgling literary scholar who studies anti-communist writing and concludes that its worth surpasses that of counterculture discourse in terms of the cogency of its ideas and morality of its implications won't go far in the application process.

Via The Corner

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Here is an interesting email I received just before the election. I figure my readers might enjoy it. Here it is with no commentary from me:

This [is an] e-mail that I received as part of the grad-student e-mail distribution list.....

Okay, everyone (except for the 1 or 2 Republicans in the Dept),

Moveon is organizing a huge push this Wed to have volunteers talk to registered, but unlikely, voters. Motivating Kerry voters who tend not to show up at the polls could make all the difference for Pennsylvania.

Come to the church at the corner of Murray and Forbes this Wed at 5:30 to get involved.

This is a good cause and it is important. Republicans are doing everything they can to suppress the vote, including organizing Jim Crow-era intimidation tactics in Ohio -- see articles in NYT.

I put together the following reply, but wimped out and decided not to send it -- I'm not quite ready to come out of the closet as a Republican yet:

I assume you're alluding either to the GOP's challenge to about 35,000 newly registered voters in Ohio, or to the fact that the GOP has been recruiting so-called "vote challengers" to monitor polling-places. In either case, the comparison to "Jim Crow-era intimidation tactics" is unfair.

First, mail sent to those new registrants (including "Jive Turkey, Sr.," "Dick Tracy," and "Mary Poppins") was returned as undeliverable -- not conclusive proof that the registrations themselves were fraudulent, but disconcerting enough that no one concerned with the integrity of the electoral process ought to oppose the proposition that Mr. (or Ms. -- who knows with a first name like "Jive") Turkey, Mr. Tracy, and Ms. Poppins should at least present some form of identification as a prerequisite to casting a vote.

Second, Ohio law (O.R.C. ยง 3505.21) expressly permits political parties to appoint one challenger to serve at each polling-place. Far from being illegal, this practice is obviously designed to help prevent voter fraud -- something that, presumably, members of neither party would support.

Believe it or not, I'm not spoiling for a fight here. I just think your e-mail crossed the line between calling for civic engagement (which is great) and purely partisan advocacy (which is arguably an inappropriate use of the e-mail distribution list, just as it's arguably rude of me to send this kind of e-mail to someone that I have yet to meet in person!).

I liked it well enough that I didn't want to waste it, and, while wandering disheartened through my bookmarks, decided that you might possibly get a kick out of it.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

A couple of people have attempted to fault the logic in my previous post.

Basically, I have been accused of the logical failing of "affirming the consequent."

For those unfamiliar with logic (and who aren't scared away or bored to tears by discussions of it) here is a brief explanation:

If A than B.
Therefore A

If you know anything about logic, this is an invalid logical construction.

Let me put it into the terms of my argument:

The critics have said my reasoning goes like this:
If something is a Conspiracy theory, than it is both fungible and irrefutable.
Hegemony, Patriarchy, other critical/literary theories are fungible and irrefutable.
Therefore, they are conspiracy theories.

However, that is NOT my reasoning.

(side note: most people fall into the problem of "affirming the antecedent because it seems similar to the following logical construction, which is valid:
If A, then B.
Not B.
Therefore, Not A.
I don't want to get into why this is valid and the other form is not. If you're curious, go take a logic class).

My reasoning goes:
If it is fungible and irrefutable, then it is a conspiracy theory.
The theories I have discussed are fungible and irrefutable
Therefore they are conspiracy theories.
(If A than B. A, therefore B - an argument which is valid).

You can argue that my reasoning is oversimplified and untrue (and therefore unsound) - but my logic is valid.

Okay, this is the end of your logic lesson. Normal political and literary commentary will resume shortly.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Expanding on my post yesterday, one reason I think many of my professors and fellow graduate students are prone to accepting liberal conspiracy theories comes from current literary theory.

Nearly all current literary theory is based on terms such as "hegemony" (from Marxist and post-Marxist theories) to "patriarchy" (from feminist theories) to "eurocentrism" (from post-colonial and other "multi-cultural" theories) to "heterocentrism" (From queer theory). There are other terms besides those I just listed, but they all have the same features of a conspiracy theory. They are fungible: everyone is complicit in hegemony making, all men are part of the patriarchy, etc.; and irrefutable: when I dispute the idea of hegemony, for example, I am informed that I am part of the process whether I believe it exists or not - that in fact, hegemony can't be proven or refuted (it just is) because it both conceals and discloses itself at all times and at no times (that's a near exact quote from a recent theory class I took).

Obviously, I have simplified these theories somewhat - but at their core, I believe that basically the theories many of my colleagues subscribe to are, at their core, conspiracy theories.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

A conspiracy theory (as popularly understood) generally has two features: It is fungible and irrefutable. Fungible, because it applies to all members of the "Conspiracy group" equally (the "Jews," the right-wingers of the "vast right-wing conspiracy" or even the ultimate fungible pronoun "they") and irrefutable because all evidence to the contrary is taken as evidence FOR the conspiracy ("that's what they want you to think!" or "They planted that evidence!").

Most of my professors and fellow graduate students pooh-pooh (nice technical term there) right wing conspiracy theories. I will often here in lecture the dismissal of such quaint conspiracy theories as "the commies are behind it all." They will even claim that the idea of "liberal media bias" is merely another conservative conspiracy theory.

But, of course, the liberal, left-wing conspiracy theories are often treated as undeniable facts about reality. Generally unnamed "big, rich corporations" are the evil groups responsible.

Today, after Bush has been declared the winner of the election, the conspiracy theories (oops - I mean "reasonable ways of viewing the outcome") are flying thick and fast.

Generally, they all boil down to this: Bush stole the election. He did not win an majority or a plurality of the votes. Instead, he and Karl Rove (a bogeyman for the liberals if there ever was one) worked some right-wing magical mojo and used computer hackers, faked absentee ballots and bribes to give himself more votes than he actually received.

I expect that the idea "Bush stole the election and is an illegitimate President" will be the status quo claim on campus for the next four years.

But any claim that CBS and Dan Rather lean left in their reporting is "beyond the pale" and an irresponsible argument.

I think I might just enjoy the next four years.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Yeah, yeah. Everyone else is saying this as well. I'm giving another reason:


And vote for Bush so we can all annoy my professors. Some of them have actually threatened to leave the country if the "Shrub" (as many liberals refer to him) wins.

But then, so did Alec Baldwin.

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