Thursday, October 31, 2013

What Exactly Do Student Evaluations Measure?

Well, not the right things...:

According to two of the best studies we have on the matter:
Teaching effectiveness, as measured by subsequent performance and career success, is negatively associated with student teaching evaluations

Stupidity On Parade: Why Movember is Offensive

Quite possibly the stupidest article ever written:

Sarah Sahagian: Why I Think Movember is Offensive

This article really is off-the-scale stupid, even by the standards of the internet.

First sentence:
First, Movember is gender essentialist. What of men who have a hard time growing any facial hair at all? - See more at:
First, Movember is gender essentialist. What of men who have a hard time growing any facial hair at all? - See more at:
First, Movember is gender essentialist. What of men who have a hard time growing any facial hair at all?
No, I did not make that up. 

There are almost too many inanities there to refute.

First, that has nothing to do with essentialism. Unfortunately, the academic po-mo left cannot use terminology precisely to save its life. Furthermore, the folks over there understand approximately no philosophy whatsoever. They throw around the term 'essentialism' because they seem to like the way it sounds...but they have no idea what it means. Essentialism is the view that some things have some of their properties necessarily. There is absolutely nothing about Movember that has anything whatsoever to do with essentialism, gender or otherwise. There is absolutely no suggestion whatsoever that the ability to grow facial hair is an essential characteristic of males. None. Nada. Zip. You've got to be utterly clueless to suggest such an argument. We're talking 'F' on an introductory philosophy quiz clueless. The suggested argument above simply does not make any sense whatsoever.

Second, this has nothing to do with gender whatsoever; it has to do with sex. This is a distinction that was central to old-school feminism...contemporary feminists of Ms. Shagrian's sort, however, seem incapable of understanding even this simple, useful distinction. To the extent that Movember is about either sex or gender, it's about the former not the latter. Though...:

It's really not about either. It's all about a bunch of people who want to grow mustaches and who can do so growing mustaches. If some female out there wants to and can grow mustaches, then more power to her. But the fact that this is mostly going to be something that males do is no more "gender essentialist" than is breast cancer awareness month. Just because activity X is an activity that one sex is more likely to engage in in another does not mean that that activity involves any theory about the essential properties of sexes or genders.

And that's just part of what there is to say about the first two sentences of this ode to idiocy.

Look, I think mustaches invariably look terrible. I've occasionally grown a winter beard, but I'd never grow a mustache by itself (plus, it's one of the very few things JQ has we're on the same page there...). I have no interest whatsoever in defending Movember. But I do have an interest in attacking stupidity... 

This is, sadly, just one tiny example of the enormous tangle of confusion and stupidity that infects the Tumblr left (the "SJW"s, the radical parts of academic feminism, and so on). Fewer and fewer people take feminism seriously as nonsense like this becomes more and more prominent there. Personally, it's this kind of stuff that pushed me away from identifying myself as a feminist. It's not that I am any less committed to the equality of the sexes than I used to's rather that feminism seems to be. Instead of working from clear liberal principles toward real change in the world, feminism has become more and more of a postmodern circlejerk pervaded by nonsense like that in the Sahagian article. I get tired of hearing people suggest that the reason to oppose the sexism and stupidity that seems to have become so common on the extremes of feminism is that it hurts feminism generally. Nonsense. The reason to oppose sexism and stupidity is that sexism and stupidity are bad, no matter where they show up. However, it's also true that feminism is making a mockery of itself by going down this road--the farther it goes down it, the less it warrants respect.

Somebody really needs to make it clear to these people that you can't simply repeat mantras about "essentialism," "privilege," "objectification" and so on and deserve to be taken seriously.

Oh, and, haven't even gotten to the hilarious third sentence:
Movember is also gender essentialist because our social construction of femininity is in part embedded in the "masculine sign" of facial hair.
If it were possible to make less sense than the first two sentences did, this sentence would do it. First, "social construction" is a radically ambiguous, unclear, and defective concept. But let's just pretend we can make sense of it here...  Let's say it just means socially created. femininity  (per se) a social creation? No, it is not. Femininity is simply a property that some people have more than others. Society has in no way invented femininity. It's just a fact that some people tend to be more feminine and some tend to be more masculine--and females tend to be the former, while males tend to be the latter. Society does not create any of this--what it does do is exaggerate and normativize it. So, we have a kind of cultural lore or habit that pushes males to exaggerate their innate tendency to be more masculine, and females to exaggerate their natural tendency to be more feminine. Furthermore, we have a weird collective belief that males ought to be masculine and females ought to be feminine. That just seems like bullshit to me...but what society gets the blame for here is not somehow "inventing femininity" (whatever that could mean), but exaggerating a statistical regularity, and then turning women tend to be more feminine than men into women ought to be more feminine than men. You'd think that people who allegedly specialize in understanding this stuff would, y'know, understand this stuff...  But, furthermore, even if any of what we've seen so far were coherent or true, none of it has anything to do with "gender" "essentialism"... None of that says nor suggests that facial hair is a necessary condition for masculinity. But, oh God, this thing just keeps going...and, believe it or not, it actually gets worse...:
We pretend that facial hair is only something that happens to men (even though it does not happen to all men)...
Again, we're talking about 'F' material on an intro philosophy quiz here...  What she actually seems to mean is not 'we pretend that facial hair is only something that happens to men,' but, rather, 'we pretend that facial hair is something that happens only to men'--which is entirely different (though, incidentally, false: we don't pretend that, actually...). But "even though it does not happen to all men"????  For the love of God...that something does not happen to all men in no way indicates that we should not think that it happens only to men... I mean, we don't pretend that it happens only to men...but if we did think that, the fact that it does not happen to all men would not constitute a reason for us to change our view. Happening to all men and happening only to men are entirely different things. The fact that not all As are Bs casts no doubt whatsoever on only As are Bs. The two claims are perfectly consistent. (Note that the As can be a proper subset of the Bs.)... It's as if the author had said:

We pretend that cancer happens only to men, even though not all men get cancer...

For the love of Pete...that's just embarrassing...

But listen, I've already wasted a half an hour of my life, that I'll never get back, on this. 

You might think I'm being a little hard on the thing--not because the criticisms aren't justified, perhaps, but because the tone is harsh. But we need to put our collective foot down about the proliferation of these moronic attempts to manufacture sexism (not to mention fictional, incoherent charges like "gender essentialism") where they don't exist. It contributes to the moronification of the culture, it involves false accusations against people and organizations, and, finally, it drags down legitimate feminism. 

There's really just no excuse for this kind of crap.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bad News

"Sarah Palin is Not Going Away" (CNN)

Well, probably good news for purely utilitarian reasons...but bad for our collective blood pressure...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Light Posting

Not much posting of late, basically because my mother died.Weirdly and unfortunately this is just one chapter in a larger disaster ripping through the remnants of my family, and all because my so-called father is an evil, violent psychopath.

Anyway, the upshot for blog purposes is: posting will be light for awhile.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Supremes Reject Cuccinelli's Attempt to Revive VA Anti-Sodomy Law

More Viral BS from the Fever Swamps: $4,000 ACA Opt-Out Fine


(h/t S. rex)

Are Gay People Smarter Than Straight People?

Meh. Maybe. 

Just a sketchy overview...but you probably wouldn't find this kind of dispassionate discussion at places like Slate if the hypothesis were reversed, or if it concerned different groups. 

It's not that I don't understand people being touchy about such questions--I do, I do. But I suppose it does rather surprise me that everybody seems to lose their shit so profoundly about the matter.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Faux News's Loony New Newsroom

LOOOOL @ Fox "News"

The--and I want to stress that I am not making this up--"news deck" is, we are told, for viewers who like their news "nonlinear"...

Whelp. They're watching the right channel, I reckon...

(via Reddit)

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Possibly the Stupidest Video Game Article Ever: Zelda, OoT is "Sexist, Racist, Classist"...and...Animalist...or Whatever...

Link  (har har)

Wow. This is an incredibly stupid article.

Like, off-the-known-scale, this-dumbassery-goes-to-11, hyperbolically dipshit stupid.

Sadly, is publishing more and more heinous nonsense from the "SJW" left.

This is just a warmed-over rehash of some Anita Sarkeesian nonsense. A.S. has just about one true point, and that point is so obvious that it's hard to believe that anyone needed her to point it out: it's kinda sexist to have the dude save the chick...over and over and over...

Here's my favorite bit of nonsense from this piece of crap:
Some may interpret the fate of the wealthy family, who are transformed into spiderlike creatures, in the House of Skulltulla as a condemnation of an exploitive class system, but that would be a mistake.
“Folks around here tell of a fabulously rich family that once lived in one of the houses in this village,” an elderly character in Kakariko confides. “But they say that the entire family was cursed due to their greed! Who knows what might happen to those who are consumed by greed.”
By focusing on the greed of individuals, the game ignores how private property incentivizes and even mandates such behavior. And with this moralizing focus comes a belief that society’s economic ills are intractable because of humanity’s flawed nature.
Riiiight.... Z:OoT is all pro-greed and shit...buuut...the rich people get massacred because of their greed...but that's not exactly the right theoretical pitch that a certain brand of lefty wanted...sooo...doesn't count...  If you don't explicitly condemn capitalism in your video game, you are an oppressor, Jack. And if there is any hint that personal responsibility is a thing...well, you know we don't cotton to that shit....  JFC. The game is not explicitly Marxist, ergo it's "problematic" (the uber-lefty's favorite word of the moment...) What an unmitigated load of abject horseshit.

Then there's the bit about how Z:OoT is horrible on account of not mentioning animal rights when farms come into the picture...

Seriously...this is approximately the stupidest damn shit I have seen on the internet. And that, my friends, is saying something.

(For more--and more detailed--ridicule of this bullshit, see Reddit/r/TumblrinAction's comments on this crap...)

I'm An Outlaw/First-World Anarcy: Gubmint Shutdown Edition: Hiking SNP

I am bad to the bone...

I went running up the Madison Run fire road in the Shenandoah National Park yesterday. Oh yes I did.

Did I see the small laminated sign nailed to a tree saying that the park was closed? I did. But your "rules" have no authority over me, man. I make my own rules, see?

I did run into a cute, off-duty rangergirl in her SUV, and she tried to convince me to give up my life of crime.

Cute Off-Duty Ranger Girl: Park's closed, buddy.
Me: [Thinking: 'buddy'? That's the most confrontational thing a ranger in the SNP has ever said to me...]
Me: [Saying]: Yeah, I know, but I figured it wasn't a big deal.
CODRG: [pause] They're giving out tickets.
Me: Yeah...but is it a hassle for the rangers? I mean, I'm willing to pay the fine, but I don't want to seem disrespectful or anything.
CODRG: Well... [obviously not wanting to say "I know this is all bullshit"] There's one guy being a real hard-ass about all this. He's, like, giving tickets for rolling stops on Skyline Drive...
Me: I'll be careful...
CODRG: Don't go up past the chain at the gap...just stay on the fire road.
Me: Will do. Thanks for the warning.
CODRG: [Drives off]

Obviously she was drunk on authority.

But seriously, I love the rangers.

Anyway, despite the great beauty of the day, I wasn't having a great run, and ended up turning back sooner than normal. I ran into another scofflaw who was hiking up.

Me: Greetings, fellow outlaw.
Him: Hey, this off-duty ranger just told me that they were giving out tickets up to "several hundred dollars"...
Me: Dang, she left out that detail when I talked to her.
Him: Yeah, I'm just going to hide in the woods if I hear another vehicle.
Me: [Looking down at my florescent orange shorts] Damn. Incorrect fashion choice.

Hundreds of dollars seems excessive to me... But I realize they've got to do their jobs.

Ran into a group of Germans who were hiking up. They didn't realize the park was closed.

Me: Hey, you guys realize the park is closed?
Them: Gott im Himmel!
Me: Seriously.
Them: But...zey tell us in der Harrisonburg dat zis is hokay?
Me: Well, word on the fire road is that they might be giving out tickets of several hundred dollars. That's least five Euros...
Them: [disappointed, indecisively wondering what to do]
Me: If I were you I'd probably just hike and then pretend I didn't speak English. I'd be pretty surprised if they'd ticket you.

Also ran into some folks getting their horses ready to ride up, and told them what the what was.

"Call your Congressman" seemed to be the consensus...

Too bad my Representative is this fellow...

Obamacare: At Least It's Not Obamacare...

Johnny Quest is interested in the Obamacare debate--way more interested than I am, I have to admit. So when she was at the mall the other day, she--as she puts it--was blatantly eavesdropping on a conversation at a kiosk giving out information on Virginia's new Health Insurance Marketplace--our instantiation of the ACA.

A middle-aged couple got a bunch of information, then the following exchanges occurred:

Middle-aged couple: [roughly, to the kiosk person, and while walking away] This sounds pretty good--better than Obamacare, that's for sure!
Kiosk person: [smiles and waves]: 'bye!
JQ: [walking over to the kiosk]: Um...just to be completely sure...this is Virginia's Obamacare exchange, right?
Kiosk person: [smilling]: Yup

Well...what they don't know...will still get 'em cheaper health insurance...

Friday, October 04, 2013

They Hate Obama. They Really, Really Hate Him.

A word cloud derived from conversations among Republican voters: here.

The crazy, it is strong in these ones...

GOP Gets More Blame for Shutdown


A quarter of Americans would blame the Republicans for a government shutdown, 5% would blame the Democrats and 44% would blame everyone, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll. A total of 14% of people put blame on President Barack Obama, Reuters reported.
People are not entirely immune to truth.

How Do We Reduce Gun Violence?

Sullivan summarizes a new book of summaries...

Drum: The Shutdown In Ten Infuriating Sentences

God bless Kevin Drum.


Thursday, October 03, 2013

WWII European Theater Day-By-Day Map/Video

This is freaking cool.

(via Reddit)

The Republican Temper-Tantrum

Wow, these people are going to hold their breath until those poopy-head Democrats give up on that poopy-head Obamacare...  They really have fetishized that law. Their hatred for it is out of all proportion to the hatred that any reasonable conservative could possibly have for it. Of course their hatred of Obamacare is not independent of their hatred of and contempt for Obama. Some of this, it seems, really is personal with them. (Though, on the other hand, they have frothing-at-the-mouth hated the last 2-3 Democratic presidents...)

Too bad they have the power to hold the whole country's breath, too...

What's the cost of all of this, other than to our national pride? Apparently something on the order of $2-3 billion per day.

(Oh Douglas there any sophistry too sophistical for you? He seems pleased with the claim that a shutdown might cost, per day, about what it costs to keep the government open anyway... one of those cases we get something for that money, no? Or am I missing something here?)

And what's the cost of ending the shutdown? John Boehner's job, maybe.

My fellow Americans...that is a price I'm willing to pay...

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Mark Boardman: Why Both Sides Are Wrong In the Race Debate


This starts off pretty good, but crashes and burns in the end. Boardman tries to spin things too hard for racial antirealism. He also doesn't quite get the question right. Still, a decent sketch of some of the arguments early on.

The right way to ask the question is: are racial distinctions biologically significant? The answer is: sometimes yes, sometimes no. Race is a weird and sketchy concept, but it isn't pure fiction from a biological perspective. It's fashionable on the left to assert that race is "socially constructed"...but since "socially constructed" is a term too laughably confused to be a part of any serious discussion, we won't countenance it around these parts...

Race is obviously not just made up--many racial divisions are grounded in biological realities. It's just not a terribly important concept; racial differences aren't very important as biological differences go. Look, even the blond/brunette distinction is a real distinction. It isn't fictive, it isn't "socially constructed" nor any such nonsense. It just isn't important. Many racial distinctions are more important than the blond/brunette distinction...but none are anywhere near as scientifically important as, say, the male/female distinction. We know that (some current lefty madness to the contrary) the male/female distinction is a real one...and we don't think that acknowledging this is fatal to the egalitarian we shouldn't freak out about the reality of certain racial differences.

It's tempting to try to deny that race is real as a tactical move against racists--but it's a bad move. It might be rhetorically effective, but it isn't true. There's simply no need to hang the fate of the egalitarian project, even in part, on such a shaky hook.

UW-Madison TA Rebels At Leftist Indoctrination Sessions


Wow, good for this guy.

Of course, his academic career is over...

But good for him...

My current academic institution is far enough down the academic ladder to be largely immune to this kind of madness...  True, students are basically brainwashed with mantras about diversity and global warming...but we usually get a watered-down version of the cutting-edge craziness from ten years ago or so, not raw, uncut, up-to-the-minute crazy...

(Incidentally, in responding to a recent series of thought-experiments, my freshman students revealed that more--many more--of them thought that they had an obligation to protect the environment than thought that they had an obligation to save a person dying in front of them. When I pointed out to them that this didn't seem to make much sense, they quickly became extremely defensive, and blurted out a bunch of terrible arguments. So I let them calm down, and then brought up the subject again, whereupon they admitted--in so many words, though after I suggested it--that they had basically been brainwashed about the environment. We had a nice talk about that, and I allowed as how I thought that protecting the environment was, indeed, a good thing...but that brainwashing is a bad one... It actually turned out to be a really good discussion.)

It really is unacceptable that universities have become loci of liberal and leftist indoctrination. Even though I think that liberals are right about most things, that doesn't mean that we get to brainwash our students about them. I think that conservatives overestimate the severity of this problem, but liberals underestimate it. The tale from Madison in the link seems to confirm my concerns...

I mean, the very fact that you have to worry about ending your academic career by objecting when someone calls you a racist means that something has gone very, very, very wrong...

Fallows: The Two Basic Facts That Should Be In Every Shutdown Story


1. If the House of Representatives voted on a "clean" budget bill--one that opened up the closed federal offices but did not attempt to defund the Obama health care program--that bill would pass, and the shutdown would be over. Nearly all Democrats would vote for it, as would enough Republicans to end the shutdown and its related damage. (and of course it...already passed the Senate, repeatedly,...and would be signed by the president.)...
2. So far House Speaker John Boehner has refused to let this vote occur. His Tea Party contingent knows how the vote would go and therefore does not want it to happen; and such is Boehner's fear of them, and fear for his job as Speaker, that he will not let it take place.

(h/t S. rex)

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Republicans Shut Down The Government

In case anyone, anywhere doubted that the GOP is the crazy party...

And they may even actually, finally pay a political price for their cynical, dogmatic, partisan insanity...I mean, when even Jennifer Rubin stops cheering and starts worrying...well, my friends, you may finally have gone too far. (Of course Rubin isn't really worried that this is insane...just that the GOP might pay for it politically...)

A party that is willing to bring about a shut-down as part of their extended temper-tantrum against affordable health insurance...well, there is simply no sense in which they deserve to be anywhere near the levers of power.