Bloggers 1, British tabloids 1

Good look here at how a blogger doing a deep dive into research helped sway the British election to be a lot closer than The Sun and the Daily Mail would’ve wanted: How Newspapers Lost Their Monopoly On Influencing Voters In The 2017 General Election

Sure, I’m a little wary — I don’t want people taking Joe Schmoe blogger at the same weight as The New York Times. But if they’re doing the research, they can have the same impact as, say, John Oliver. Which is good.

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The actual divide in this country, illustrated

Forget rural vs. urban. Forget left vs. right. Forget rich vs. poor (both of which have been convinced to vote against their self-interests, anyway).

Here’s the divide in this country:

Duke course catalog, Statistics 642:

Statistical models for modeling, monitoring, assessing and forecasting time series. Univariate and multivariate dynamic models; state space modeling approaches; Bayesian inference and prediction; computational methods for fast data analysis, learning and prediction; time series decomposition; dynamic model and time series structure assessment. Routine use of statistical software for time series applications. Applied studies motivated by problems and time series data from a range of applied fields including economics, finance, neuroscience, climatology, social networks, and others. Instructor consent required.

TV listing for third-rated cable show in 18-49 demographic for June 21:

Sonja’s love triangle gets more complicated as things heat up with “Frenchie.” Meanwhile, Tinsley goes apartment hunting. Carole and Adam bicker over items he left behind in her apartment. Fredrik and Bethenny look over her apartment as they plan to put it on the market. Carole and Dorinda go to Washington DC for the Women’s March. Ramona throws a party at her apartment with a surprising guest list.



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Duke majors today

Looked up a few things on colleges today and found an interesting stat — the number of degrees Duke conferred in 2015-16 by major. I’m not sure how it accounts for double majors, but either way, it’s an interesting stat.

My two majors are in bold.

First, by category:

325 Biological/Biomedical Sciences
312 Social Sciences
271 Engineering (+2 in “Engineering Technology and Engineering-Related Fields”)
158 Public Policy, etc.
139 Health Professions (all nursing)
109 Psychology
94 Computer and Information Sciences
63 Physical Sciences
61 Mathematics and Statistics
  43 Visual and Performing Arts
43 Education
41 History
40 Natural Resources and Conservation
37 Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics
34 English Language and Literature
20 Philosophy and Religious Studies
18 Area, Ethnic, Gender, Cultural and Group Studies

Now, by major:

180 Economics
176 Biology
158 Public Policy
139 Nursing (I *think* this is a separate school)
109 Psychology (this surprises me)
99 Bioengineering/Biomedical Engineering
93 Computer Science (+1 in “Computer and Information Science, Other”)
89 Electrical and Electronics Engineering
87 Neuroscience
71 Mechanical Engineering
69 Political Science
55 Anatomy
43 International and Comparative Education
40 Environmental Studies
39 History (+2 in “History, Other”)
38 Math
36 Chemistry
34 English
33 Sociology
30 Anthropology
23 Statistics
23 “Visual and Performing Arts, Other” (??? +2 in “Visual and Performing Arts, General”)
20 Physics
  13 Philosophy
12 Civil Engineering
10 Area Studies
9 French
8 Foreign Languages, General
7 Biophysics
7 Geological and … look, we’re just saying “Geology”
7 Religion
6 Art History
6 Spanish
5 Drama (and other words)
5 Linguistics
5 Classics
    5 Music
5 Women’s Studies
3 African Studies
2 Environmental Engineering
2 Romance Languages
2 Russian
2 Dance

So my majors aren’t very popular. And my master’s degree isn’t that much more popular — 26, just two more than East Asian Studies.

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For the latest medical poop, call Gwyneth Paltrow about her Goop

This Lifehacker story on Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Summit is a brilliant read on alternative-medicine b.s. that brings to mind a classic Saturday Night Live sketch: Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber.

Theodoric of York: Hello, Joan, Wife of Simkin the Miller. Well, how’s my little patient doing?

Joan: Not so well, I fear. We followed all your instructions – I mixed powder of staghorn, gum of arabic with sheep’s urine, and applied it in a poultice to her face.

Theodoric of York: And did you bury her up to her neck in the marsh and leave her overnight?

Joan: Oh, yes. But she still feels as listless as ever, if not more.

Theodoric of York: Well, let’s give her another bloodletting. Broom Gilda.

(Yes, the headline here is a shoutout to The Simpsons and the Be Sharps.)


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Patton Oswalt on wokeness

As usual, he says it better than I ever could, so here he is, in all his NSFW glory from one of his specials on Netflix (I think it was “Talking for Clapping”):

I could not be a more committed progressive, pro-gay, pro-transgender person, but I cannot keep up with the fucking glossary of correct terms, goddammit. I’m trying! I want to help, but holy fuck! It’s like a secret club pass where they change it every week. And then you’re in trouble!

“That’s not the word we use.”

“It was LAST week!” …

I know I’m an old cis-white motherfucker, but don’t give me shit because I didn’t know the right term! RuPaul got into shit for saying ‘tranny.’ RU FUCKING PAUL! RuPaul, who laid down on the barbed wire of discrimination throughout the 70s and 80s so this generation could run across her back and yell at her for saying ‘tranny’! What the fuck?! I will always change. I will always try to learn the new terms. But you’ve gotta give me some wiggle room.

He goes on to point out that the world is full of slick, evil people who know the right words, while some of the uncouth folks who aren’t up with the latest academic trends are actually the tolerant ones.

It’s brilliant. Check it out.


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Duke Divinity, the NYT and bad words

When I was at Duke, we had a Divinity School professor named Stanley Hauerwas who was legendary for his iconoclastic theology and his profanity. (He only recently retired.)

One day, The Chronicle wrote something about his most recent controversy. I had nothing to do with it — didn’t write it, didn’t edit it — but I had the misfortune of answering the phone.

“Hello, Chronicle.”

“This is Stanley Hauerwas. Please tell (writer name) that he’s an irresponsible asshole.”

I responded with some pearl-clutching comment about speaking in a civil manner. The older, more worldly wise me would say, “right … asshole. How do you spell that?”

So Duke Divinity has always been a fairly lively place.

This is, of course, news to The New York Times, which has always viewed Duke as some sort of odd anthropology experiment intended to show what happens when you plant an academically ambitious school in the South and give it an athletics department that occasionally wins national championships in basketball, lacrosse and golf. A sample headline: “A New Battleground Over Political Correctness: Duke Divinity School.”

That’s not from 1990. That’s from this week. (And yes, it’s quite amusing that the NYT had to correct not just the name of Duke’s spokesman but also its photo caption, which identified a small Divinity School building as the towering Duke Chapel.)

You’d think we would’ve dropped “political correctness” from the lexicon by now. Certainly it should no longer be seen as the exclusive domain of the ill-defined “left” in this country. Over the past couple of decades, the right wing has attempted to bully anti-war speech (see Coulter, Ann, best-selling books written by), and its elected officials are actively trying to silence all manner of academia, from slashing the humanities to scrubbing the Web of climate-change research. Anyone who has voted GOP in the past 20 years has no business lecturing others about the free exchange of ideas.

And in this case, the aggrieved professor (Paul Griffiths) would meet most definitions of “left.” Gay rights? Check. Police reform and racial justice? Check.

No, this is simply a case in which “being woke” has overridden “being logical.”

Literally. “Ad hominem” is a concept we learn in logic class, and the Divinity School dean doesn’t seem to understand it — unless she’s referring to emails other than the one to which she responded.

Here’s the exchange: A Divinity faculty member sent an email urging colleagues to attend a two-day conference on racism. Griffiths was unimpressed:

I exhort you not to attend this training. Don’t lay waste your time by doing so. It’ll be, I predict with confidence, intellectually flaccid: there’ll be bromides, cliches and amen-corner rah-rahs in plenty. When (if) it gets beyond that, its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show.

(You know, that’s not bad writing. Aside from the colon, which the far-right Duke Review of my day would’ve noted with a (sic) because they wanted their harrumphing to come across on the printed page. Well, to be fair, the Duke Review surely would’ve agreed with the good professor here, so they would spare the sic. I’ve intentionally added some bad grammar in this paragraph in case the Duke Review still exists and wants to quote me. Hi guys! Hope you open your minds a little before you graduate!)

So the dean, Elaine Heath, responded as such:

It is inappropriate and unprofessional to use mass emails to make disparaging statements – including arguments ad hominem – in order to humiliate or undermine individual colleagues or groups of colleagues with whom we disagree. The use of mass emails to express racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry is offensive and unacceptable, especially in a Christian institution.

Wait a minute. Ad hominem? Racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry? Where? Not in the excerpt the NYT printed.

How about the whole exchange? The American Conservative, which is several levels more reasonable than the old Duke Review ever was, has what appears to be all the relevant emails.

The only reasonable email of the bunch is from Thomas Pfau, an English professor with an apparent connection to the Divinity faculty. He concedes that Griffiths expressed himself in “harsh terms,” but he properly parses the language therein:

As I read Paul Griffiths’ note, I took him to demur not at the goal that the proposed training is meant to advance, viz., to ensure practices free of bias and mindful of equity. Rather, he challenges the assumption that, merely for the asking, faculty ought be to give up significant chunks of time for the purposes of undergoing “training” in these areas.

Unfortunately, Griffiths concedes the high ground with a follow-up email that rants about his colleagues by name. Now that is ad hominem.

But he also raises an objection that calls the dean’s behavior into serious question. He alleges that they had agreed to meet about the email exchange with two other people present — Pfau and a “Dean of Faculty.” Seems reasonable. Then Heath canceled the meeting and revised the terms to exclude Pfau, which does not seem reasonable. Why exclude the only grown-up from the room?

And “grown-up” is the operative word here. You can say this is about “political correctness” or “left” or whatever. But it’s really about people refusing to take real responsibility for their actions.

Put more simply: It’s stubbornness. It’s the same stubbornness that makes people double down on climate-change ignorance or being the full-time Woke Police. (The opposite of Cheap Trick’s Dream Police?)

It wouldn’t have killed Griffiths to go to that training, as a Facebook friend points out. Nor would it have affected him if he had simply skipped it and then had civil but honest discussions with people after the fact. He didn’t cover himself with glory here, and it’s a pity that he has wound up the victim, retiring/resigning after the next academic year.

And Heath has no business saying Griffiths has “refused” to meet with her without a grown-up in the room. Handing down Commandments is Old Testament. Good Divinity faculty may be aware that there’s this New Testament with someone named Jesus who called all sinners to draw near. I can’t recall Jesus going to heal the sick but first demanding that someone who wasn’t sufficiently woke must leave the room.

Is Duke Divinity riddled with racists? I doubt it. A Duke Divinity grad’s piece at Patheos says hostility toward diversity training “does not seem to be the prevailing opinion within Duke Divinity School.”

Indeed, the prevailing opinion seems to be that each faculty member thinks so highly of himself or herself that he/she has the exclusive right to lecture the others on his/her own terms.

And that is indeed illiberal, un-Christian and whatever else you want to call it.

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On being woke

I need to come up with a new name or new tag for this series. Maybe “grad-school bullshit”?

In any case, I coincidentally followed up some reading on the philosophy / transracial / transgender / dogpile-on-someone-not-perceived-as-woke story that has gone viral now that it has reached New York magazine with a piece that offers up this gem:

Reflecting on what he called “the woke identity,” Freddie DeBoer observed a tendency among some leftists to forcefully reject the work of persuasion with excuses like, “It’s not my job to educate you.” The not-yet-woke are to be chided, not engaged.

“The problem with making your political program the assembly of a moral aristocracy is that hierarchy always requires exclusivity,” DeBoer argues. “A fundamental, structural impediment to liberal political victory is that their preferred kind of moral engagement necessarily limits the number of adherents they can win. It’s just math: you can’t grow a mass party when the daily operation of your movement involves finding more and more heretics to ostracize from the community.”

Source: Seven Reasons the Left Is Losing – The Atlantic

This is exactly what I’ve experienced several times in the past six months, all from people who generally share the same concerns I do but are so busy looking for a wrong-doer (pardon the pun on my last name — and yes, that’s how you pronounce it) to flog that they’ve piled on me for raising the simplest questions or trying to look at the big picture.

I don’t have much to add … yet. I’m thinking of pitching a piece about how the academic left is suffocating the political left.

But I’d like some input. I’m planning to seek it out, but you’re welcome to leave some here, too. Or email me. Or reach me on social media. Or just yell at me. Whichever. I’m listening. (To most of you, anyway.)

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