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New Sunday Series?

[ 56 ] September 19, 2010 |

I receive more than a few e-mails that run roughly as follows:

Sundays are a little less special without your Sunday focused posts, but the twins (and time spent on paid gigs) are more deserving of your attention, and your priorities are well in order.

Sunday Battleship Blogging and Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging ended because of the above reasons, but also because I felt that the point of diminishing returns had been reached; there were fewer and fewer interesting battleships, and the monarchs became increasingly obscure. Continuing to write on those subjects became less and less of a learning experience, and more of a chore. I had intended to replace those series with a Sunday Book Review, but haven’t done a good job maintaining that, in part because I feel a greater responsibility to the material. If I mess up a post on SMS Nassau, I may get a chiding comment or two, while if I seriously misrepresent a book the author will send me angry e-mail. This means that while the book reviews are valuable, they’re less fun and more time consuming than the battleship or monarch posts.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed running those weekly series. The correspondent above is correct about the other demands on my time; obviously the twins, but also a book on abolishing the Air Force that I’m trying to write, and a weekly column at World Politics Review that I’ll be starting on October 6. However, I’d still like to try to make time for a Sunday feature. So here’s my question; anybody have any good ideas on the subject for a weekly Sunday LGM blog feature? Has to be enough material to spend at least a year on it, and has to be something that I would be kind of interested in. E-mail, or leave idea in comments…


Creeping Reasonableness

[ 19 ] September 18, 2010 |

I’ve been wondering when the Locke/Demosthenes effect would manifest itself through the faux political rivalry of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Could this be their moment?

Stewart on the need to return to a deliberative ethic in American democracy – best if viewed starting @ 2:10 below:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Rally to Restore Sanity
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Colbert’s response @ 3:54 below:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
March to Keep Fear Alive
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

A modest prediction regarding this twin set of rallies: Stewart’s will draw a significant number of moderates, for precisely the reasons he hopes, but Colbert’s will also draw Americans on both the far left and far right. If so, that will be an interesting pot in which deliberative democracy can, momentarily, stew – and I wonder what exactly they’re planning to stir it with come the day.

Hope to see you there on October 30th at 8:00 a.m.!

Learning and E-Learning

[ 22 ] September 18, 2010 |

With the academic semester upon us, a rash of news articles about classroom learning have hit the press. First, the NY Times reviews recent reviews of research to remind us that some of what we know about how we learn is wrong. For example, it seems that students retain information better if they alternate rapidly between different subjects while studying and study in differently places.

Bill Petti has more. These studies remind of Nicholas Carr’s thesis on the effects of new media on memory, detailed in his book >The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. Either he is wrong that our brains ever learned more by “reading deeply” during the era of the single printed text, or it proves his point that our multi-tasking, hyper-linked information economy has radically changed the way we read, absorb and retain information.

Which brings me to another interesting observation: seems like a quiet IPAD revolution is happening in some college classrooms:

Traditional textbooks have prevailed — until now. The game changer, according to Matt MacInnis, may be a little thing called the iPad.

MacInnis is the founder and CEO of Inkling, a company that designs textbook software for the iPad. He says the iPad has allowed for the reinvention of the textbook.

“We give guided tours through complex concepts,” he says. “So rather than seeing a picture of a cell dividing and then having a big, long caption, you can now tap … through all the different phases of cell division and see those things unfurl in front of you.”

He says that changes things because, until now, e-textbooks have basically just been bad imitations of their paper counterparts.

“When you just copy the stuff that’s on a page and slap it onto a computer screen, you really don’t get the same effect that was intended for what you have on paper,” he says.

Alex Montgomery-Amo, a professor of political science at Reed College in Portland, Ore., couldn’t agree more. Reed College is one of a number of universities around the country that have been experimenting with the iPad, turning Montgomery-Amo’s nuclear politics course into something of a laboratory for electronic readers.

Last year they tried out the Kindle and this year they’ve been given free iPads to test. Montgomery-Amo says they’re hoping to have better luck with the iPad than they had with the Kindle.

Of course, I’m not sure the privileged students at Reed really need free IPADs (how about running these “experiments” in some community colleges or low-income high-schools)? Still, it’s useful to think through the implications and opportunities of each emerging technology as it proliferates from the consumer market to traditional learning environments.

Friday Nugget Blogging

[ 13 ] September 17, 2010 |

Mom, do animals menstruate?

Read more…

Your Moment Of Bobo

[ 6 ] September 17, 2010 |

It sure is lucky that David Brooks’s apocryphal nameless liberal friends make their otherwise sound points with such specific, problematic details! The strawman-burning would be a lot harder otherwise. It’s also a shame that he seemed to file the thing before the results of the Delaware primary were announced…

Lickspittles, Start Your Word Processors!

[ 52 ] September 17, 2010 |

During the upcoming NFL labor negotiations, I’m either going to have to avoid reading much about it or be careful to watch my blood pressure.   The journalists who cover all sports (with a few honorable exceptions) seem to seem their role during labor negotiations as pretending that the interests of the owners and the interests of the fans are one and the same no matter how absurd or self-serving the arguments the owners put forward, but as Pierce says given the career and life expectancies of NFL players the inevitable sucking up to NFL owners is especially grotesque.

I’ve written this before, but as I public service I would like to note the following, which seems to escape both a majority of fans and a majority of sports reporters.

Distribution of money that comes from reductions or artificial limitations on player salaries:

  • Teachers, cancer researchers, Haitian orphans, and other comparative groups often cited as more deserving of money paid to athletes in order to justify owners screwing players:   0%
  • Extremely wealthy, usually lavishly taxpayer-subsidized owners: 100%

…And, as NonyNony reminds us in comments, “Amount that ticket prices would be reduced by if players were payed less: 0%.”

Paul is dead?

[ 18 ] September 17, 2010 |

The SSA has a nice site that lets you look up all sorts of statistical info on naming patterns. Among other things it allows one to predict that 70 years from now very few baby girls will be named Isabella, Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Ava, or Emily (people who study this kind of thing have noted that girls’ names associated with the generation of women who are now grandmothers tend to be very unpopular, apparently because they’re now strongly associated with old age. Hence the current scarcity of Doris, Ruth, Shirley, Jean, Betty, Dorothy etc.).

But what about Paul? Paul was a remarkably consistent name for the first seven decades of the 20th century, always coming at between 12th and 20th in popularity. Then in 1969 it began a steady decline, to the point where it’s now outside the top 150.

My theory as to why:

Abbey Road

Nobody wants to associate their newborn with a dead guy.

On Mass Murder…

[ 19 ] September 17, 2010 |

The only modification that I’d make to this argument is that the responsibility does not wholly lie with Mao Zedong.  The Great Leap Forward had the early support of a depressing number of CCP elites who  really should have known better (Deng Xiaoping, Liu Shaoqi).  To be fair, both Deng and Liu used the failure of the Great Leap Forward to push economic policy towards decollectivization, but when the policy was conceived they were largely on board.  Much later Deng tried to pin responsibility for the Great Leap Forward entirely on Mao, exculpating the rest of the CCP leadership.  However, while the Cultural Revolution can be profitably interpreted as the outgrowth of intra-CCP conflict, the failure of the Great Leap Forward had many fathers.

Deficit Hawkery Defined

[ 9 ] September 17, 2010 |

Evan Bayh: “[t]here’s no bigger deficit hawk in Congress than I am.”

So, of course, he must favor letting Bush’s unpopular upper-class tax cuts expire, right? Ha ha, just kidding.

In fairness, there’s not necessarily a contradiction here; Bayh didn’t, after all, define his terms.  If we define “deficit hawk” by inference, I think Bayh fits the bill:

Def·i·cit Hawk (adj.) 1. A political figure who favors deeply regressive tax cuts, unlimited defense spending irrespective of efficacy, and high deficits that can be used an excuse to cut (or, better yet, to oppose the enactment of) any program that might possibly help a poor person. 2. A loathsomely pompous fluffer of plutocrats.

I think we can all agree that there are indeed few bigger deficit hawks in Washington than Evan Bayh.

see also.

fairness can wait!

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Lazy Blogging

[ 9 ] September 16, 2010 |

Eventually, you just have to cut your losses. Stories I wanted to blog about this week but ran out of time, what with school, sick children, cats on the lam, and business travel:

1) Some great blogs I recently discovered on humanitarian aid: here, here and especially, especially here.

2) Regarding that last, latest story is about a new study demonstrating that withdrawing aid from developing countries can cause armed conflicts. More at the Monkey Cage.

3) Court case to watch: lawsuit against the USG filed by two civil liberties groups on behalf of Anwar al-Awlaki’s father to obtain an injunction to prevent the USG from summarily executing his son. White House is weighing its response.

4) Harvard’s latest webseminar on humanitarian law took place today: theme was “Criminalizing Humanitarian Engagement” and discussion centered on Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project. Interested readers can access a number of supporting documents here.

5) Turtle Bay speculates on former head of state Michele Bachelet’s appointment to head the new UN Women’s Agency, and her possible future in the UN.

6) A great end of summer read.

7) No sign of my cat yet, but I did catch a possum in the trap this week. Read more…

Believe it or not, I’m with D’Souza on this one.

[ 30 ] September 16, 2010 |

I have nothing to say about Dinesh D’Souza’s highly praised article in Forbes because it’s predicated on the claim that

Colonialism today is a dead issue. No one cares about it except the man in the White House. He is the last anticolonial.

If you make the above claims after debating the relative merits of the “neocolonial” and “anticolonial” positions, you need to re-read your own article to see that the only thing “dead” about colonialism is your capacity to understand that it is logically implicit and historically complicit in its own legacy. Go figure. But as long as I’m on the subject of being stupendously wrong, I should note that the previous is not the central objection to D’Souza’s argument at the American Thinker:

As much as I admire D’Souza, however, I must take issue with his argument. Yes, Obama does seem to espouse a certain inchoate anticolonialism, but the “dreams” do not come so much from his father as from his mother, and they have been given voice by Obama’s muse, terrorist emeritus Bill Ayers.

What Cashill has done to that poor horse is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, but not entirely unexpected. He’s banked his career on the possibility that his claims are true and has no choice now but to continue to compile “evidence” to support them, such as:

D’Souza cites “Frantz Fanon” as one of “Obama’s acknowledged intellectual influences.” What he overlooks is that in Fugitive Days, Ayers misspells Fanon’s first name as “Franz,” exactly as Obama does in Dreams. Also on the anticolonial front, both Ayers and Obama misspell in the same fashion the site of the South African massacre, Sharpeville.

Wait a minute! I remember addressing this argument when it concerned prepositions:

[B]oth Ayers and Obama misquote the opening line of Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago,” substituting “hog butcher to the world” for “hog butcher for the world.” This mutual error would be significant (an “A-level match”) if Ayers and Obama were the only two people who ever made it, but according to Google Book Search—a secret search engine to which only I have access—the same mistake has been made by Nelson Algren, Alan Lomax, Andrei Codrescu, H.L. Mencken, Paul Krugman, Perry Miller, Donald Hall, Ed McBain, Saul Bellow, S.J. Perelman, Nathanaël West, Ezra Pound, Wright Morris, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, and the 1967 Illinois Commission on Automation and Technological Progress. (To name but a few.) According to Cashill, I have now proven that Dreams From My Father was written by many a dead man of American letters, a living mystery writer, a New York Times columnist and the 1967 Illinois Commission on Automation and Technological Progress.

That said, since unique misspellings represent an entirely new line of argument for Cashill, I should give him the benefit of the doubt and fact-check this too. Let’s see:

Google results for “Franz Fanon”: ~70,000
Google results for “Frantz Fanon”: ~416,000

Google results for “Sharpville”: ~94,200
Google results for “Sharpeville”: ~510,000

For most people, the fact that the correct spellings vastly outnumber the incorrect ones wouldn’t constitute evidence that only Ayers and Obama have ever misspelled those names that way, but Jack Cashill isn’t most people. Like the Donalde, Cashill’s acquired the reputation of a man who will do anything to acquire a reputation. Admittedly, he hasn’t demonstrated the “tactical elan” of an “unmatched competitor” by closing down the comments on posts where he might be challenged to back up his fightin’ words with their arguin’ kin—but remember that the Donalde is a special sort of stupid, the likes of which we almost don’t deserve.

Mad Men: Picking up “The [wrong] Suitcase”

[ 5 ] September 16, 2010 |

[I know I’m a week behind, but I had to take an emergency vacation when I realized the quarter starts next week.  Expect one more post on this episode before I get to the most recent.]

In the first post about “The Suitcase,” I concerned myself with the way Getzinger’s camera conspired with blocking to frame the characters oppressively, and I want to build on that at the beginning of this one, but need to backtrack a bit first.  In that post I noted that Getzinger switches to a medium shot and opens up an abyss beneath Draper that terminates in his office.  I was spectacularly wrong.  At the beginning of the episode, Draper’s office sits atop an abyss, as the shot after the aforelinked one clearly demonstrates:

Read more…