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Archive for December, 2009

Here’s the link to the guardian’s coverage of China’s stymieing of the Copenhagen summit.  We had all been focused on the oil petrosaurs in the Republican camp.  When George W was replaced by Obama, it was like the clouds parted, and suddenly… there was another big wall of clouds.  China and the American republicans, between them, then, are the single biggest threat to the planet – ensuring that there is a real danger that the average temperature of the earth will go above 2 degrees C (that is, over 4 degrees F) over the 1990s average (let alone the preindustrial average, which was .7 degrees C colder than the 1990s average).  But for a little while here, we have a window, when the republicans’ power is temporarily reduced, and there is a chance that we can get something serious done.  That is, were China not the enormous problem that it will undoubtedly continue to be.  Why is China such a problem?  Well… in some ways the answer is obvious:  it’s a totalitarian state.  But how, exactly does this work?  The analogy with Austria-Hungary, which together with the Czarist Russian empire was the main instigator of World War I, is striking…

Everyone knows something about World War II, or at least, we think we do, largely because it was the first major war in which the movie camera was developed to the extent that footage from it is widely available.  And, of course, the Nazis were so wondefully, resolutely evil, so as to make great bad guys; and, let us not forget, also so European, that portraying them as badguys does not set off any of our modern political correctness-o-meters (and while I agree with the ideas in principle, as a means to correct centuries-old bias vs. non-Europeans–it’s important to remember that the Germans are getting the rap for being the world’s worst badguys, when, in fact, many Asian and African regimes, and some South American ones, have been just as evil in terms of people killed per capita, or in the brutality of the murdering.  Why don’t we see extensive footage every week on how evil the Cambodians were under Pol Pot, or how brutal the Japanese were to the Chinese? (more…)

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During the surge of rightism which occurred in the wake of the Iraq invasion, when the opinions of the right-wing talking heads became, for a little while, mainstream opinion, you may remember that they began campaigns against ‘left wing professors’ who allegedly were pumping the country’s innocent college students full of all-but-marxist dogma, when all they really wanted was to go to class and get an education.

The right correctly realizes that the professoriate, and the sceintific establishment in general, tends to be more liberal than average.  For that matter, high school teachers are also left of center as as group, but tigher laws and curriculum restraints effectively censor them from putting political content into their classrooms, to a large degree.  Not so the professoriate–yet.  Though I admit that as a beginning professor sans tenure, I felt quite muzzled at the time – and had to make sure that I couched every possible criticism of Bush with some observations which would ensure a more ‘balanced’ classroom attitude.  I for one seldom out and out criticized the right wing policies of the Bush admin in class, even though the rest of the world thought they were radically off the charts, and even though I personally thought that, from an historical standpoint, what was going on was historically bad, in many ways (though I was careful not to lose sight of the right’s arguments for toppling Saddam – clearly, that per se was a good idea, in theory–whether it was worth several million dead, wounded, and displaced is another question).

At any rate, why are profesors and scientists so liberal?  (more…)

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/06/copenhagen-editorial

Well, here it is.   56 Newspapers from around the world committed to run this on their front page today, at the start of Copenhagen.

God help us:  as they state, the A bomb was born out of major conflict:  but carbon limiting technology will have to be born out of cooperation.  The american republicans might be the most singlehandedly to blame in the whole world for the future state that we find ourselves in:  if they weren’t still dragging their feet, even to the point of outright denying the huge weight of the science (no matter how you slice it:  if you put CO2 in the air, it will get hotter:  viz., the planet Venus), all becasue key members are in the pocket of fossil fuel companies; and there is an almost radical ability now in the party to deny reality, both on religious grounds, and if it happens to be against the interest of “american capitalism” (read:  their favourite, usually old-fashioned, sorts of companies, like fossil fuel and tobacc0). (more…)

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This is the first of what will eventually be a number of posts on this topic:  this is one of my central concerns.

Some liberal arts professors, in the deconstructionist school, notably Stanley Fish, have recently argued that the only purpose of gradschool in the arts is to produce arts professors.  He sees literary criticism as a craft, and his english department is supposed to teach that craft.

He also argues that the notion that the liberal arts can ‘improve people’ is pure hogwash.

Deconstructionism, however, isn’t exactly known for its idealism:  Fish is an anti-idealist.  And, arguably, he and his ilk are the principal problem with the arts in the US.  In their literary criticism, they argue that there is no purpose to anything.  Thus, they are purely of the 1950s nihilist school of artistic thought, which was following dadaism, which was following Nietzsche, in arguing that since Christianity was false, therefore God was dead.  With god dead, they reasoned, there was no real or ‘true’ idealism:  thus, no truth, beauty, etc.  Since there was no such thing as beauty, art did not have to be beautiful.  And, more to the point, there was no way to judge that art was beautiful. (more…)

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