Group Blogs

NEH Summer Stipends

The Blogora - Tue, 2014-05-20 21:36

Sponsor: National Endowment for the Humanities/Natl. Fndn. on the Arts &
Program Number: 40494
Title: Summer Stipends
Web Site:
Program URL:
SYNOPSIS: Summer Stipends support individuals pursuing advanced
research that is of value to humanities scholars, general audiences,
or both.
Deadline(s): 09/30/2014

Categories: Group Blogs

Free Faculty Development Teleconference

The Blogora - Tue, 2014-05-20 06:28


This is a unique FREE virtual teleconference, in which 11 experts will clarify what just doesn’t work in academia, and also give you action steps to help you accomplish what you came to do.

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Categories: Group Blogs

Stalinism on the Installment Plan

Crooked Timber - Tue, 2014-05-20 00:24

One of the most frequent motifs in the literature on Stalinism is that of the dissenter who confesses to a crime he never committed. What made Stalinism so depraved, in the eyes of intellectuals, was not that it jailed or slaughtered men and women by the millions; it was that it was that it got those men and women, who were plainly innocent, to affirm their guilt to a waiting world.

Here in the US, we don’t need to force people to confess to crimes they didn’t commit (though we certainly do that, too). No, to truly validate our system, we conscript the defendant’s soul in a different way.

A state-by-state survey conducted by NPR found that defendants are charged for many government services that were once free, including those that are constitutionally required. For example:

  • In at least 43 states and the District of Columbia, defendants can be billed for a public defender.

  • In at least 41 states, inmates can be charged room and board for jail and prison stays.

  • In at least 44 states, offenders can get billed for their own probation and parole supervision.

  • And in all states except Hawaii, and the District of Columbia, there’s a fee for the electronic monitoring devices defendants and offenders are ordered to wear.

These fees — which can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars — get charged at every step of the system, from the courtroom, to jail, to probation. Defendants and offenders pay for their own arrest warrants, their court-ordered drug and alcohol-abuse treatment and to have their DNA samples collected. They are billed when courts need to modernize their computers. In Washington state, for example, they even get charged a fee for a jury trial — with a 12-person jury costing $250, twice the fee for a six-person jury.

It would be short-sighted to see these policies as mere cost-saving measures. Their function seems as ideological as it is financial. As one court administrator in Michigan put it:

The only reason that the court is in operation and doing business at that point in time is because that defendant has come in and is a user of those services. They don’t necessarily see themselves as a customer because, obviously, they’re not choosing to be there. But in reality they are.

That these policies overwhelmingly target the poor only adds to their allure: What better way to reform capitalism’s losers than to force them to pay to play?

In the same way that the Stalinist show trial was meant to model the virtuous comrade—so dutiful to the ideals of communism that he would sacrifice his very life in order to validate the cause—so does the American criminal justice system model the virtuous capitalist: so committed to the ideals of the free market that he’s willing to pay the price, in both senses of the word, of his crime.

Categories: Group Blogs

The War on Workers’ Rights

Crooked Timber - Sun, 2014-05-18 22:05

I have an oped in the New York Times on the Republican war on workers’ rights at the state level. My conclusion:

The overall thrust of this state legislation is to create workers who are docile and employers who are empowered. That may be why Republican legislators in Idaho, Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine, Ohio, Minnesota, Utah and Missouri have been so eager to ease restrictions on when and how much children can work. High schoolers should learn workplace virtues, says the conservative commentator Ben Stein, like “not talking back.” Early exposure to employment will teach 12-year-olds, as the spokesman of an Idaho school district put it, that “you have to do what you’re asked, what your supervisor is telling you.”

And if workers don’t learn that lesson in junior high, recent Republican changes to state unemployment codes will ensure that they learn it as adults. In 2011, Florida stipulated that any employee fired for “deliberate violation or disregard of the reasonable standards of behavior which the employer expects” would be ineligible for unemployment benefits. Arkansas passed a similar amendment (“violation of any behavioral policies of the employer”). The following year so did South Carolina (“deliberate violations or disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect”) and Tennessee. The upshot of these changes is that any employee breaking the rules of her employer — be they posting comments about work on Facebook, dating a co-worker or an employee from a rival firm, going to the bathroom without permission — can be fired and denied unemployment. Faced with that double penalty, any worker might think twice about crossing her boss.

What might Adam Smith, often claimed as the intellectual godfather of the American right, have said about these legislative efforts? “Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between masters and their workmen,” wrote Smith in “The Wealth of Nations,” “its counsellors are always the masters. When the regulation, therefore, is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters.”


The oped is based on Gordon Lafer’s eye-opening report last fall for the Economic Policy Institute, “The Legislative Attack on American Wages and Labor Standards, 2011-2012,” which you should also read.

Categories: Group Blogs

Piketty crossing the Delaware

Crooked Timber - Sun, 2014-05-18 17:34

Like lots of other readers of Thomas Piketty’s Capital, my big concern is not with the accuracy of the diagnosis and prognosis but with the feasibility of the prescription. Piketty’s proposal for a global wealth tax requires an end to the capacity of capital to escape taxation by exploiting the limitations of national taxations system, through tax havens, transfer pricing, artificial corporate structures and so on.

Given the limited record of success in past efforts to control global tax evasion and avoidance, Piketty is reasonably pessimistic about efforts in this direction. But the latest news from the OECD is remarkably positive. All members of the OECD (notably including evader-friendly jurisdictions like Austria, Luxembourg and Switzerland) have agreed to a system of automatic information exchange for tax purposes. Moreover, the “too big to jail” status of major banks engaged in facilitating tax evasion and money laundering, may finally be coming to an end.

On the face of it, the oft-repeated, but so far unjustified claim that “the days of tax havens are over“, may finally be coming true, at least for all but the wealthiest individuals. But the crackdown on individual tax evaders only points up the ease with which corporations (and individuals with the means to establish complex corporate structures) can avoid tax through a mixture of legal avoidance and unprovable evasion (for example, by illegal but unprovable internal transfers).

At the core of the problem is the ability to establish corporations in ways that make their true ownership impossible to trace. And, the jurisdiction most responsible for this is not a Caribbean island or European mini-state, but the “First State” of the US - Delaware, which has long been the preferred location for US incorporation by reason of its business friendly laws.

For a long while, most reference to Delaware as a tax haven came in the form of a tu quoque from the pro-haven side of the debate. Since any challenge to Delaware’s role in the corporate sector seemed unthinkable, it was argued, any US criticism of Switzerland or Luxembourg was mere hypocrisy. The same point was made about the UK and France, with reference to their various offshore dependencies (the Channel Islands, Caymans and so on). But now the argument has turned around. As the various tax havens have fallen into line with OECD agreements and US legislation like the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), they now have an incentive to turn attention on to Delaware. Having a corporation registered in Delaware is starting to look somewhat like possession of a Swiss bank account: not necessarily illegal or even improper, but certainly something that arouses suspicion. Here are a few straws in the wind

  • A New York Times story on corruption and money laundering in Europe gives a prominent mention to the role of “US states like Delaware and Wyoming”. There’s an internal link to an Op-Ed I’d missed, entitled “Delaware: Den of Thieves?
  • In the course of the recent election campaign in Quebec, a prominent supporter of the Parti Quebecois was attacked for apparently owning companies registered in Delaware
  • US Senator Carl Levin’s long-stalled attempts to bring in a “Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act” is restarting, including a focus on Delaware shell corporations. It’s unlikely that this will pass any time soon, but it’s still an encouraging development.

None of this would have much impact on the really big tax dodgers, like Apple and Google. But even here, things are moving. The era of untraceable and untaxable capital movements may come to an end sooner than we expect.

Categories: Group Blogs

Sunday photoblogging #5: cranes

Crooked Timber - Sun, 2014-05-18 03:00

Categories: Group Blogs

Big Love – Oh Brunhilda Edition

Crooked Timber - Sun, 2014-05-18 02:27

If you think there’s the slightest chance that you would enjoy a book about Maurice Noble, who designed the backgrounds for all your favorite Warner Brothers cartoons (and a bunch of other animated works you love), you should get The Noble Approach: Art and Designs of Maurice Noble [amazon].

Fun fact: “The design motifs for What’s Opera, Doc? were inspired in part by the Kimberly Crest mansion in Redlands, California. Maurice spent part of his childhood in Redlands and had admired the gardens as a boy. The Kimberly Crest motif found its way into a number of Maurice’s designs, including the “Dance of the Hours” sequence of Fantasia.”

Look at this photo. Total Chuck Jones, What’s Opera, Doc? scene, isn’t it? And this one? Total Witch Hazel house.

But what I’m really laughing about is that this Fleetwood Mac video for “Big Love” – which is, in my expert opinion, great! – is also partially filmed at the Kimberly Crest mansion. And the Fleetwood Mac song is basically about the same themes. Some sort of mash-up should be possible. “Big big love” while Bugs rides languidly on that horse. “House on a hill”, “only to fall”. It’s got it all. Now if we can only get Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks to sing in chorus: “Love like ours must be/Made for you and for me”.

Getting back to the book – it’s chock full of fascinating animation history, as well as practical art instruction. Example:

Mary [Blair] and I [were] what you call “a thing” at one time, but Lee Blair had a car and he beat me out. It was the Depression, and she and I were the poor church mice of the school. Mary and I had painting and design classes together. After painting class, children who had a lot of money would often throw away leftover tubes of paint. Then Mary and I would pick the stuff out of the trash bin. She also used to take the paper towels out of the washroom and paint on them. Mary and I used to do a lot of sketching together, meeting at different places, drawing each other, and painting with watercolors.

Incredible. The two greatest background painters/designers in the history of animation – these two masters of color – dumpster-diving together for half-empty tubes of paint.

Categories: Group Blogs

From The Mouths of Babes

Crooked Timber - Fri, 2014-05-16 08:36

The 10-year old, upon seeing part of the trailer for Godzilla. “What if it has … Godzuki in it!” (Looks at me with dum-dum-DUM! expression, wide-eyed!)

Later she tells me she and her friend are writing another storybook. What is her book called? “It’s called ‘And Then!’”

I think “And Then!” is the best title for a story ever. And I tell her so. She’s like: “What? What’s so great about it?”

Categories: Group Blogs

Changes in Journal Subscriptions with Membership in NCA

The Blogora - Thu, 2014-05-15 11:44

Alas, I did not receive the email, but...

I understand that the benefits of membership in NCA (National Communication Association) has been reorganized such that paper copies of journals are no longer mailed to subscribers?

I would love to hear more about this, especially as someone who has long been a member of both NCTE and NCA. NCTE journals and membership have always been cheaper, I think.

But NCA is more tightly circumscribed in the mission and emphases of the journals, and more essential in the P&T process for a Comm person than NCTE journals might be for a rhet person.

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Categories: Group Blogs

Makessense Stop!

Crooked Timber - Tue, 2014-05-13 01:43

When I wasn’t MOOC’ing my heart out this semester, I was trying to help my students improve their writing. In my classes that means: writing fairly short essays that are supposed to contain arguments. The real challenge is getting through to the students who are very bad at this, despite really trying. Good, hardworking students are easy to teach. You point out what’s wrong and they don’t do it anymore, most days. But the hardworking student who persists in submitting terrible stuff can be a real puzzle. You pin and label individual errors. But they just do it again. Teaching ‘informal reasoning’ doesn’t help, mostly. Students who have trouble seeing that there are major problems with their arguments – up to and including: you have no argument – are not assisted by lists of fallacies.

Teaching fallacies is mostly helpful for good students, even though it seems very basic. You are giving names to things they already get, thereby sharpening existing perception. The bad students, by contrast, have more of an ‘if it were a bear, it would have bitten you’ problem. Providing labels – brown, black, grizzly – is not going to help with ‘why did you completely miss it?’

To those of us with the practiced knack for making (and breaking!) arguments (we can’t stop ourselves, except by going to sleep! or watching TV!) it is hard to know what to say to someone who seems to miss the obvious. What more obvious thing can be pointed out, to make the obvious obvious? How can you think you have made an argument, in a short paper, when you haven’t even made a bad one? Isn’t that the sort of mistake that you would have to notice yourself making, while you were in the process of making it? (We all make stupid mistakes in our writing and thinking, of course. This is an important clue. But it still isn’t an answer.)

I took a very bad course in college. It was kind of an ‘intro music appreciation’ something-or-other. I was slumming, as I had been playing French horn for years, and the course didn’t even list ‘ability to read music’ as a prereq. The instructor really wanted us to listen to Mozart and appreciate sonata form. Fair enough. He clearly felt he couldn’t talk about Mozart, in any minimally substantive way, if we didn’t ‘get’ sonata, on some baby-ish level. Again, fair enough. But then the maniac assigned us to write these little sub-sonata sonata compositions. He got around that whole ‘not able to read music’ problem by teaching where middle-C is. From there you just count up or down, right? You can ‘hear’ whether it’s sonata form, right? How hard could it be, if you’ve got ears? Well, everyone failed. I think I got a B-. He yelled at us, blamed us for failing at this simplest of all possible things. His problem was that, for him, ‘creature that can listen to Mozart and sort of hear that it’s a sonata yet can’t analyze sonata form, let alone write the world’s simplest sonata’ was a real ‘what is it like to be a bat?’ problem. He couldn’t imagine what it was like to be us, and he blamed us for it. (Asshole!)

[UPDATE: Now that I think about it, that class was sort of like this.]

This isn’t a perfect analogy. Everyone can make an argument, even though everyone can’t write a sonata. If you’ve misplaced your keys and tried to figure out where you must have left them – congratulations! you’ve made an argument! (We all tell our nervous students this stuff, to give them courage in making arguments.) Even so, the moral applies: don’t get annoyed if students can’t do something that is very intuitive to you. It’s your job to go to them, if they can’t come to you. (Just because someone can look for his keys, doesn’t mean he can write 3-pages on Kant, even though the transcendental deduction really is an argument to the best explanation, and that’s what looking for your keys is!)

What are students doing, when they aren’t making arguments? Here’s one helpful diagnosis, via Jonathan Haidt. (I happened to be teaching Haidt this semester, and when I told students that the following passage amounted to excellent advice about how not to write, some of them found it quite helpful.)

When people are given difficult questions to think about — for example, whether the minimum wage should be raised — they generally lean one way or the other right away, and then put a call in to reasoning to see whether support for that position is forthcoming. For example, a person whose first instinct is that the minimum wage should be raised looks around for supporting evidence. If she thinks of her Aunt Flo who is working for the minimum wage and can’t support her family on it then yes, that means the minimum wage should be raised. All done. Deanna Kuhn, a cognitive psychologist who has studied such everyday reasoning, found that most people readily offered “pseudoevidence” like the anecdote about Aunt Flo. Most people gave no real evidence for their positions, and most made no effort to look for evidence opposing their initial positions. David Perkins, a Harvard psychologist who has devoted his career to improving reasoning, found the same thing. He says that thinking generally uses the “makessense” stopping rule. We take a position, look for evidence that supports it, and if we find some evidence — enough so that our position “makes sense” — we stop thinking.

Haidt, Jonathan (2006-12-26). The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (pp. 64-65). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

This isn’t rocket science, but it’s better than teaching fallacies because it’s closer to how the actual wheels turn. Students confront a topic. A question you have set them. Point out to your students that, psychologically, they often don’t investigate what they should say, in answer to your question, prior to starting to write. Often, they just pick an answer (maybe one that you have told them is one of several possible, reasonable positions.) Then they write in defense of whatever they picked. This isn’t necessarily a bad method. Just picking a side and seeing how much can be said for it is one way to tackle a many-sided issue. This approach may be the beginning of something systematic. But if you do this without a sense of how basically arbitrary your ‘pick’ was, you distort your own thinking in predictable ways. Specifically, this produces an endowment effect, which can be surprisingly strong. Picking your thesis is kind of like being given a coffee mug. Suddenly, you like your thesis. You are a bit biased towards it. Even though that’s crazy. Five minutes ago you had no opinion about Descartes’ dream argument. Now you ‘know’ you want to defend radical skepticism. Or attack it. Which is kind of nuts.

What does this endowment effect do to your writing? It turns you into a kind of public relations officer for your thesis statement. It’s easy to start spinning and story-telling. You do a little ‘makessense stop’ number, per the passage. The thing that’s important to get across to students is how and why ‘makessense stop’ feels like making an argument. It feels like premises, then conclusion. But it’s not. You have to get the students to see how they mentally baited-and-switched themselves from one form of sense-making to a different kind, usually of a more ‘narrative’ sort. (Not that there’s anything wrong with being a flack, certainly not with being a storyteller.)

One way to fight this, which is very traditional, is to tell students that they have to counter-argue against their own argument, whatever it is. This is good advice. But it often fails. What you get, instead of solid counter-argument, which really ought to shape up the argument, is a kind of low or no-contact ‘combat’. A kind of Rashomon fu, with dueling ‘makesense stop’ narratives circling around each other, trying to sound impressive and convincing (as Dale Carnegie says). You get pseudoevidence on both sides. Then the student rather arbitrarily declares a winner. To the student it really looks like, formally, they did what was asked. They made an argument. They argued against their argument. They drew a conclusion.

Here’s something that I tried with a couple students who really were having a great deal of trouble getting past this sort of Rashomon effect problem. Ask them what their thesis is. Then assign them to compose the most attractive-distractorish sort of bad, ‘makessense stop’ argument for their thesis they can think of. Assign them to do the thing they always do anyway – only this time on purpose. Then assign them to explain how and why what they did isn’t a proper argument. You don’t need to make them do this on paper (although that would work, too). This is a good thing to do in office hours, or as a general group exercise in discussion. Just ask the class: ‘give me a really bad, ‘makesense stop’ argument for utilitarianism. Why is it bad? Now another. Why is it bad? Now another. Why is it bad? Now give me a GOOD argument for utilitarianism.’ In addition to making it likely that you will get a good argument, in the end, this is a good way to get discussion going. Telling people to offer a bad argument is more likely to get shy students to talk than asking for good arguments. You aren’t at risk of sounding like a real idiot if you’ve been assigned to pretend to be an idiot.

Forced ‘makessense stop’ is kind of like cognitive therapy for people who don’t argue, but have a hard time seeing this about themselves.

There are lots of interesting, related issues about storytelling vs. argument, which can be profitably discussed at this point. It isn’t clear where the line is between story and argument – or even that there is one. But, before getting on to that more advanced issue, keep it simple. Mostly students don’t write bad arguments because they are superadvanced students of Richard Rorty.

Categories: Group Blogs

The Gender Gap in Political Theory

Crooked Timber - Mon, 2014-05-12 22:23

I just wanted to give a quick shout-out to an important new blog—Ms. Perestroika—that’s keeping track of the gender gap in academic political theory. It just started, but already it’s got informative posts on recent job searches and hires, the publication record of Political Theory, whose books are getting reviewed and by whom, and the composition of panels at the Western Political Science Association. This seems like an important initiative, so I wanted to make sure folks knew about it.

Categories: Group Blogs

New Book Announcement On (Writing) Families: Autoethnographies of Presence and Absence, Love and Loss

The Blogora - Mon, 2014-05-12 13:59

Tony Adams,

New Book Announcement

On (Writing) Families: Autoethnographies of Presence and Absence, Love and Loss

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Categories: Group Blogs

Step away from that white background

Crooked Timber - Sat, 2014-05-10 08:51

As you probably know, several of us at CT are big photography enthusiasts. While we seem to be more interested in taking photos of nature and architecture, next time we want to shoot a family portrait or an item, we’ll have to be careful with our approach. The US Patent Office recently granted Amazon a patent for taking photos against a white background. For real. So is their plan to start trolling portrait studios and Ebay/Etsy sellers to see whom they can sue?

I am no lawyer, but the language seems rather vague. For example, “a top surface of the elevated platform reflects light emanating from the background such that the elevated platform appears white”. So what level of off-white should a photographer strive for to avoid litigation?

Categories: Group Blogs

TOC: Comp Studies

The Blogora - Sat, 2014-05-10 06:43

Spring 2014, 42.1
From the Editor
Composing With
Adam Frelin Bridging the Gap -- Watch Frelin's video, Terranauts

Marsha Lee Baker, Eric Dieter, and Zachary Dobbins The Art of Being Persuaded: Wayne Booth’s Mutual Inquiry and the Trust to Listen
Matthew A. Vetter Archive 2.0: What Composition Students and Academic Libraries Can Gain from Digital-Collaborative Pedagogies

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Categories: Group Blogs

RSA Announces New Editor and Executive Director

The Blogora - Fri, 2014-05-09 22:10

RSA Announces New Editor and Executive Director
RSA is pleased to announce the appointment of a new Editor for the Rhetoric Society Quarterly and a new Executive Director for the Association.

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Categories: Group Blogs

This call for this years Burke awards has been posted at the KBJ website:

The Blogora - Fri, 2014-05-09 15:06

This call for this years Burke awards has been posted at the KBJ website:

I'm also including the text in this email (see below).

Please send your nominations to Ann George by June 13.

Paul and Nathaniel

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Categories: Group Blogs

CFP: Book Manuscripts on Rhetoric in the Modern Era

The Blogora - Fri, 2014-05-09 11:53

CFP: Book Manuscripts on Rhetoric in the Modern Era

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Categories: Group Blogs

RSA 2014 Awards

The Blogora - Thu, 2014-05-08 10:43

2014 Gerard A. Hauser Awards
“A Play in Two Dimensions: Swahili Youth Magazines and Hadithi za Picha” Jenna Hanchey, University of Texas at Austin

“From Mob Violence to Violence against Women: Lynching Appropriation and the Case of PUMA”
Katie Irwin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“Disabling Counterpublics: Examining Competing Discourses of Autism Advocacy in the Public Sphere”
Pamela Saunders, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

2013 Kneupper Award

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Categories: Group Blogs

RSA 2014 Awards

The Blogora - Thu, 2014-05-08 10:42

2014 Gerard A. Hauser Awards
“A Play in Two Dimensions: Swahili Youth Magazines and Hadithi za Picha” Jenna Hanchey, University of Texas at Austin

“From Mob Violence to Violence against Women: Lynching Appropriation and the Case of PUMA”
Katie Irwin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“Disabling Counterpublics: Examining Competing Discourses of Autism Advocacy in the Public Sphere”
Pamela Saunders, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

2013 Kneupper Award

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