Thursday, December 22, 2005

Thoughts About "Deal or No Deal"

At Annie's request, I have been sucked into a very enjoyable TV show. The show is "Deal or No Deal," which purportedly gives you a chance to win $1,000,000 without offering any trivia questions, and no other problematic catches.

The game works sort of like Monty Hall problem, but without the problem that the host knows what's behind the doors. In "Deal or No Deal," there are 26 briefcases with various dollar amounts from One penny to One Million Dollars. There are thus two divisions of 13 cases: those of relatively large value, and those of relatively small.

Of course, watch the show for an hour, and you'll realize quite quickly (if you don't get caught up in the hype) that the game is not actually about winning $1 million. The game gets interesting because there are only 25 briefcases that you can choose to eliminate...one case is chosen by the player right away, and that case stays with the player throughout the game. After each round of elimination picks, to whittle down the cases to purportedly win $1 million, a "banker" calls host Howie Mandel, with a counter offer of money to lure the contestant away from winning $1 million...the offer goes up or down depending upon how many large values there are on the board.

Here's what I've figured out with my non-technical math skills:

1.) The Odds are never what the host says they are. If you've got 5 total cases (4 out on the floor, and 1 sitting next to you), and one has the $1 million dollars, the host will say "you only have a 20% chance of revealing the $1 million." This is to lure the contestant into playing further...I mean, if I want to figure out whether or not I have $1 million, the chance that 4 out of 5 times I will reveal something other than $1 million looks like very good odds...

In fact, the odds are worse. As Annie first pointed out to me...you either have the $1 million or you don't. So, if $1 million is still listed as a possible value to win, and 5 cases remain (1 next to you, 4 on the floor), your odds are not 1 in 5. Either...

(a) you have the $1 million. Your odds of revealing it in the 4 cases on the floor are zero.

or

(b) you don't have the $1 million next to you. That means that you have a 25% chance of revealing the $1 million, not 20%. The odds get worse as the cases disappear:

Chances of revealing $1 million when $1 million is an available value
4 cases total, 3 on the floor: Host says 25%; actual=zero or 33%
3 cases total, 2 on the floor: Host says 33%; actual=zero or 50%
2 cases total, 1 on the floor: Host says 50%; actual=zero or 100%

(2) Thus, the game leads down to a major assumption: (a) whether or not the $1 million is in your case. Given that only 1 in every 26 cases has $1 million, the odds are greatly against $1 million being in the case.

For the purpose of playing the game, one should not assume that one has the $1 million. If that assumption is made while playing, the player will have a very difficult time making a good deal.

Here's an interesting way to narrow the terms on which the game is played, in order to make a good deal:

(A) Divide the 26 cases into 2 categories: (x)=smaller values; (y)=larger values. The goal is to end up with a larger value, and if not a larger value, a really good deal.

Thus, every time the player gets into a situation with five or less cases remaining, this division is very helpful.

Take an instance from tonight's game...

Situation #1: 5 cases remain; 4 on the floor, 1 next to contestant.
VALUES: (y1) 1,000,000; (y2) 500,000; (x1) 300; (x2) 200; (x3) 50

The host says that there is a 60% chance that the contestant reveals something other than 500,000 or 1,000,000, or (y) values. This is not true....

The (x) division helps solve this puzzle....

Assuming (any y) is in your case, that means that the 4 cases contain (x1), (x2), (x3), and (other y). This is a favorable situation for the contestant.

But, if (any x) is in your case, that means that the 4 cases contain (other x(a)) , (other x(b)), (y1) and (y2). In this case, the odds jump from 60% chance of revealing an (x) value to 50%.

Thus, the entire game is based upon one major assumption: is your case and (x) value or a (y) value. It is advantageous to assume that your value is small, or an (x) value.

Why?

This gives you enormous leverage in handling the deals from the banker. Rather than worrying about what you lose from taking the deal (if your case has $1 million), you end up thinking about what you gain if the value in your case is small (an (x) value).

So, in conclusion, it seems that rather than winning $1 million, the object of the game is...

(a) Keep larger numbers on the board longer (random task, cannot be rationally controlled) in hopes of keeping banker's offers high
(b) Always assume a small value is in your case.
(c) Make a good deal based on the following two strategies (one random, one rational)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"Generating" democracy, Part II

The idea of "generating" democracy is the idea that when we associate, in the form of a community, our result is a full-fledged democracy that is not merely procedural, allowing us to vote every once and a while and allow representatives to sit in office passing policy for us; rather, the driving force of such democratic relations is literally "generation:" how can the community be reinforced daily? How can the community be sustained? The idea of "generation" is that each new day that is brought to the community finds the community in a position to govern.

The first area of importance is abolishing the ideals of representative government. All persons must be legislators. Thus, the idea of community requires individuals...it is not a "fascism," in which individual identity is lost in a mob; rather, it requires individuals thinking outside of themselves, and handing-over their selves to the community. In this case, community is not merely constituted by mere shared ideals or collective consciousness: the community is constituted by persons that are actually, materially together. This brand of community does not need procedural representative structures because all will need to be legislators; the idea of each person legislating creates a "nobility of the masses," if you will. Severe equality, radical participation, and true legislation over oneself...not merely "you make the laws," but, "you make the laws in tandem."

Such a community must be entirely inclusive; there cannot be a hierarchy of individuals or of various groups; in this sense, democracy is "homogeneous," but in a very broad sense of the word. Various in-groups will not need to exist because of the equality granted through each person giving their person to the whole. Again, as stressed above, this is not merely an idealistic "giving," but a material "handing over." Political action is hereby expressed by a radical ethical action by which (a) one gives oneself to the community and (b) one maintains severe and absolute rule over oneself.

The clue for this idea of democracy is found in Rousseau's Social Contract (I.6), in what is perhaps one of the most-(mis)quoted and most demanding passages in the history of political philosophy--and I'm not overstating (almost had it by heart, but had to quote it):

"Find a form of association which defends and protects with all common forces the person and goods of each associate, and by means of which each one, while uniting with all, nevertheless obeys only himself and remains as free as before" (emphasis added).


Further...(same section):

"These clauses, properly understood, are all reducible to a single one, namely the total alienation of each associate, together with all of his rights, to the entire community. (emphasis added).

Compare this with one of Rousseau's most overt (and probably richest) definitions of freedom (this passage is from Part One of the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, one of the most neglected metaphysics in the history of philosophy...look out, nearly the entirety of Rousseau's metaphysics is either contained within or derived from this potent paragraph):

"Every animal has ideas, since it has senses; up to a certain point it even combines its ideas, and in this regard man differs from an animal only in degree. Some philosophers have even suggested that there is a greater difference between two given men than between a given man and an animal. Therefore it is not so much understanding which causes the specific distinction of man from all other animals as it is his being a free agent. Nature commands every animal, and beats obey. Man feels the same impetus, but he knows he is free to go along or resist; and it is above all in the awareness of this freedom that the spirituality of his soul is made manifest. For physics explains in some way the mechanism of the senses and the formation of ideas; but in the power of willing, or rather of choosing, and in the feeling of this power, we find only purely spiritual acts, about which the laws of mechanics explain nothing." (emphasis added)

So, the idea of being "free as before," in reading Rousseau, can be drawn from this earlier metaphysical passage: freedom in the state of nature. Freedom in this state--which is a true state of nature unlike that of Hobbes and Locke (for civil society merely follows logically from Locke's state of nature)--is entirely negative--much like the individual freedom that most wish to protect with a liberal state...

The paradox of Rousseau is thus: we return to our state of freedom, when we were most free in nature, by giving our person to the common forces, by which we retain rule over ourselves in its truest possible form, which all share...and yet, all share in my "person" as well, for I have given my person to the community.

A misreading of this passage could easily lead one to paint Rousseau as a totaltiarian. But there is one catch: if one understands Rousseau to his fullest extent, and takes his metaphysics and politics to its fullest point, the point about this community is that it is not a state! There is no bureaucracy, no hierarchy, but only radical equality, by which each person is a legislator, and by which each person participates radically in the community.

The greatest possible conclusion here is that a person is at his or her fullest through community!

And so, we must generate this form of community; it is not merely procedural, by which I can vote, walk away from the polls, do nothing for any number of years, and believe that I am being represented adequately. The scam of liberal representative government is twofold, compared to full community:

(a) Representatives are merely reflections of our selves. By this I mean that when I vote, I am placing my self into politics, I am taking political action. The result is not my true self in politics (the political action is actually very brief), but rather, the result is that a mere reflection of my self---my expectations, my morality, my beliefs and values, my goods, my status---onto a "representative." In the metaphysical sense of this word, even representative is too strong; liberal representative government is actually (merely) "reflective" government.

(b) The worst part of liberal "reflective" government is also that because of its protections, it allows for persons to accumulate property without ever participating. This is a very difficult reality from which to draw meaning from: sure, i give tacit consent when I pay various taxes, but without any political action whatsoever, I am reinforcing that the state can function without my political action. So, even though I may have so-called protective rights, this form of individualist government is actually an exclusive form of government: perhaps as exclusive as totalitarian or authoritative regimes are; after all, liberal, totalitarian, and authoritarian regimes all have one important shared feature: bureaucratic hierarchical structure.

Thus, we need a more meaningful form of association.

***

Such a form of association is generative because it cannot merely function without my political action, for I am part of the community because I have given myself to the community: this association is total insofar as it is totally inclusive. In turn, every day that I am acting in community, I affirm my action in community, and the concrete relationships between myself and community. To "generate" democracy is to participate in total community; without state, without structure, entirely in truth, and as free as before.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Dandy Warhols on Australian Television

Since the Dandy Warhols have released their best record yet, Odditorium or Warlords of Mars, they have appeared on Australian television, Live at the Chapel. Check their 4-song set out...it's got brilliant versions of "Godless" and "Boys Better" alongside nice variations of "All the money or the simple life" and "Last High." Fantastic! Keep it up, Dandys!

Check out the
Live at the Chapel website and search for the Dandy Warhols set under "the shows"...they don't have a direct link...

Also, for those that haven't heard the new record, there is a full version of it on their official site, with some excellent and bizarre film compilations to go with the songs...very cool concept. Go to the "records" page, and click on the Odditorium album cover for a good time...

An Open Letter to Brock Banks and MUSG pertaining to MU Students' Bill of Rights and Censorship

Dear Brock, and MUSG,

I am addressing this personally to you, Brock, as a letter, because I know you personally, and trust that you will be able to report this letter, or the ideas expressed within it, to MUSG as a whole.

I am writing this letter regarding the impending Students' Bill of Rights, but with the hindsight of the recent so-called "censorship" issue plaguing campus. This is an important identity issue for our University, and it is my fear that a segment of students are mistaken in their treatment of this issue, and subsequently, their treatment of the impending Students' Bill of Rights.

Students inevitably see the issue of censorship on campus, in lieu of recent events, of their blogs, websites, etc., as an issue of "rights." I disagree. While students are probably understandably opposed to "authority" given the severity with which the contemporary political climate bends towards the absolute protection of "individual space," they are mistaken in their understanding of Marquette University's "authority" as a Catholic university.

I would like to argue that instead of worrying about a Students' Bill of Rights, MUSG ought to take the time allotted to such a project and devote it to developing a positive exposition of "Catholic Identity," within which Marquette University finds itself, first and foremost.

What I mean by "positive" can be more clearly understood if we consider the meaning of "negative." The conception of "rights" that most students have is a negative conception--rather than representing any concrete obligations of conduct or outlining the identity of Marquette as a community, such "rights" are merely defined by their defense of students' "individual space." The example is as follows: As a student I feel that I need "rights" in order to protect myself from the authority of the University.

This particular idea of "individuality" or "individual space" is understandable given the prevalence of such language and conceptions in our contemporary politics. But, this idea of individuality is unnecessary at a Catholic institution, because a Catholicism, at core, composes a community, and a very particular type of community...

The claims of Catholic community are quite radical for our culture to grasp, and Marquette University reflects these radical statements: (1) God exists; (2) We are persons; (3) We are persons in community with God. These are all "positive" statements in that they "affirm" the coordinates of a very particular sort of community. Whether or not a student believes in God, Marquette University reflects the belief that God exists anyhow; even if a student considers him- or her-self an "individual" with the right to be protected from the University, the University reflects the belief that we are persons in community with God.

These two notions, "individual rights" and "persons in community with God," need not co-exist. In fact, the latter renders the former superfluous. We, as students, do not need rights as a protection from the University because we are, as a part of a Catholic University, enrolled in a community, as persons; and ultimately, in a community with God.

Thus, I propose that you abandon the plan of developing a Students' Bill of Rights, in favor of developing this positive affirmation of community. This is one of the severe advantages that a Catholic education provides above other institutions--for instance, if we were studying at UW-Madison or UW-Milwaukee, we would not be attending a university which affirms the existence of God, and it would be doubtful that we'd be granted the status of "personhood," and the status of being persons in community with God. In such an environment, we would need protection in the form of "rights."

I find this idea of community to be stronger than any notion that I have secured rights. It is clearly reflected in the University curriculum, especially in the College of Arts and Sciences. I am especially pleased that I understand this because I do not clearly know whether or not I believe in God, or whether or not I am clearly Catholic (although I was raised to be).

What we need to understand as students is that We Are Marquette means that we are persons in a strong community. We don't need rights! We need to understand our disposition in this University; I for one am quite pleased to be attending such a radical University, a University that can affirm an existence for its students that no other institution can match.

I trust that MUSG has the resources to help enhance our community. I sincerely hope that we do not relegate our status as students to that of merely having "rights" or "individual space." We need to embrace our community, and understand our place within it, as persons.

I thank you for your time, and for reading this lengthy argument. I also hope that you are able to share this letter, in some form, with MUSG. (I will personally, and probably ironically, circulate this letter on my own blog, and to others as well). Hopefully we will come to understand what it means to be a part of a community, rather than allow ourselves to retreat into our own individuality.

I hope all is well.

Sincerely,
Nick

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Brewers Trade Overbay; Obermueller

Fox Sports first reported this story officially.
Milwaukee Brewers Official Site is now reporting.
Tom Haurdicourt recaps the entire day, with Poll:Brewers fans: Not enough obtained for Overbay

The Milwaukee Brewers traded Lyle Overbay to the Toronto Blue Jays for RHP Dave Bush (26), LHP Zach Jackson (20), and OF Gabe Gross (26).

Information:

Dave Bush (26): Syracuse Sky Chiefs, 5/29-7/22: 2-2, 9 GS, 4.42 ERA, 55 IP, 65 H, 40 K/9 BB; Toronto Blue Jays, 4/4-10/2: 5-11, 24 GS/25 G, 4.49 ERA, 136.1 IP, 142 H, 75 K/29 BB

2005 report:

2004 Season
Drafted as a reliever, Dave Bush arrived in the major leagues in only his second full season as a starter and showed a maturity that belied his experience, flirting with a no-hitter on July 20 against Oakland. He held up well while pitching farther into a season than he had ever been asked to do before, and finished off the campaign on October 1 with a complete-game, two-hit shutout in a 7-0 win over a depleted New York Yankees lineup.

Pitching
Bush is a stylish pitcher who has a low-90s fastball and a good curveball. But lefthanded batters roasted him in his rookie season, and the Blue Jays will spend much of spring training helping him refine an already quality changeup. While he is eager and willing to throw the change to righthanders even when he is behind in the count, against lefties he was essentially a two-pitch pitcher. The Blue Jays were pleased with the fact that Bush was able to self-correct some mechanical difficulties during games, yet another sign of his poise.

Defense
Bush is a smart player and good athlete who does everything well, and that includes fielding his position. He has a slide-step delivery that he can use with men on base, but the Blue Jays didn't force the issue last season. They can be expected to ask more of him this season.

2005 Outlook
It will be a disappointment if Bush does not solidify his place in the Jays' rotation this spring. While he doesn't have the stuff to be a front-of-the-rotation pitcher, he certainly is a No. 3 or No. 4 starter and seems to have enough moxie to ensure a long major league career. Mastering the changeup will go a long way toward setting the tone for this season and beyond.

Zach Jackson (20): Dunedin Blue Jays, 4/7-5/28: 8-1, 10 GS, 2.88 ERA, 59.1 IP, 56 H, 48 K/6 BB; New Hampshire Fisher Cats, 5/28-7/26: 4-3, 9 GS, 4.00 ERA, 54 IP, 57 H, 43 K/12 BB; Syracuse Sky Chiefs, 7/26-9/5: 4-4, 8 GS, 5.13 ERA, 47.1 IP, 33 K/21 BB

No report found.Here's an interview instead.

Gabe Gross (26): Syracuse Sky Chiefs, 4/11-8/31: 102 G, 390 AB, .297 AVG., .390 OBP, .438 SLG, 116 H, 29 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 14 SB/2 CS; Toronto Blue Jays, 4/4-10/2: 40 G, 92 AB, .250 AVG., .324 OBP, .348 SLG., 23 H, 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 1 SB/1 CS

2005 scouting report:

2004 Season
Rushed up to the major leagues from Triple-A Syracuse, Gabe Gross saw limited duty against lefthanded pitching and struggled against most righthanded pitching, too. Formerly a starting quarterback for Auburn and the 15th player chosen in the 2001 draft, Gross hit a grand slam off the Oakland A's Justin Duchsherer on September 5 and had five outfield assists. The latter figure removed any concern the team had about lingering effects from a strained elbow that threatened to cut into Gross' playing time in the minors.

Hitting
Gross has a chance to hit his share of home runs once he establishes himself in the major leagues. He has a sound knowledge of the strike zone, making significant strides in that area since deciding to focus on baseball in 2001. If there was a concern noted by the Blue Jays, it was a tendency to break down slightly on his back leg, which gave him a noticeable upper-cut swing. That tendency prevented him from taking full advantage of his strength and instead of driving the ball into the gap he often was hitting weak, flyball outs.

Baserunning & Defense
Gross is a gifted athlete with good agility for a player of his size, and he has become a better judge of flyballs simply through an accumulation of playing time. He pleasantly surprised the Blue Jays with both the accuracy and strength of his throws, and showed good awareness in developing situations. He is a sound fundamental player, capable of playing both corner outfield positions.

***
The Crew also traded Wes Obermueller for Dan Kolb. There will be some contract restructuring for Kolb. A great slap in the face to Atlanta if Kolb works out this year (even half a year!), and Capellan is starting to show that he's figuring some things out(check out September stats)...

Our pitching staff is looking kind of loading now. Jackson ought to be ready in about a year or so.

The best part? Fielder is just about guaranteed the starting 1B job. The future is now!

For some fond memories...2005 opening day starters:
C: Miller
1B: Overbay
2B: Spivey
3B: Cirillo
SS: Hardy
LF: Lee
CF: Clark
RF: Jenkins

Things are changing a lot with the Crew. Kudos to Melvin, I am sure he has more up his sleeve...

Monday, December 05, 2005

How do we "generate" democracy? PART ONE

I have been thinking about the issue of democracy for the entire semester; most notably, I am interested in the communitarian and Marxist answers to liberalism, which remains a valuable source for criticism and formulating responses to liberalism if only because liberalism remains the reigning cultural, political, and religious norm...

By liberalism I mean the form of government that follows specifically from Hobbes' notion of freedom and introduction to the modern social contract theory, which Locke then moves beyond and thus formulates arguably one of the most effective formats of liberal government. To this day, Hobbes' formulation of freedom as the absence of external impediments remains the dominant idea of the masses about what freedom is--most people wouldn't say it in such precise terms, but we are indeed ruled by the idea that freedom is in fact outlined by the "ability to do what I want to do." Moral and physical impediments become very serious problems for this type of liberalism, and as such it is not surprising that vague and generally meaningless concepts such as "individual rights" emerge (in order to preserve this notion that I have a "space," a space which is defined by the absence of your impeding my "freedom"--next time you're in a debate with someone that uses the word "right," ask them to define it, and I almost guarantee that that person will have no idea about how to define a "right"--it really is ingrained that deeply in our social psyches).

Thus, by the time we are contracted out of Locke's state of nature (which suspiciously looks a lot like civil society) into civil society (it is a relationship that logically follows because we are granted, in nature, the law of nature (reason), which is a gift of God if we so choose to use it; this same gift is used to consent to liberal government--thus it is entirely "reasonable" that persons should form a liberal government)...the liberal state acquires a very specific function: to preserve and protect private property, which is defined as "life, liberty, and estate."

What is interesting about Locke is that he initially appears to be a philosopher that is concerned with his fellow man, who may be starving, or who may be slighted by my grand accumulation of private property...this is present in the idea of spoilage, which holds that I cannot accumulate more than I can use without the goods spoiling---it is convenient to think of "apples" in this sense...I can only pick as many apples off the tree for my own use, provided that I don't take so many that they spoil. This is a waste of the land that God has provided. But, Locke saves himself with the idea of money: money is developed because of the demands of spoilage, and mainly as an answer to spoilage: after all, money keeps for as long as it is a valid form of currency, without "spoiling," as apples tend towards. What's more interesting, is that Locke posits that through money, man consents to his own inequality...

This is the fullest definition of private property, and it is the task of the liberal state to preserve this.

What's this got to do with democracy? Well, somewhere along the line, this formulation of state, albeit with a little bit of tweaking (see J.S. Mill, specifically), became friendly to the notion of representative government, and although most philosophers throughout the history of philosophy were anti-democratic (including the Founding Fathers in the Federalist Papers!), representative government eventually became equal to "democracy," which is where our use of the term stands today...thus, when your average American (or your average American president) uses the term "democracy," he or she really means "liberal representative government."

What's wrong with that?, you ask...After all, isn't it convenient that you have things called rights protecting you, civil liberties that are created and defended, and not only do you have individual space, but you also have the legitimate title to accumulate as much money as you please!

***

Prelude to Part II

The bulk of my criticism of "democracy" will start at the point of "individual space." I will argue that our notion of freedom that follows from "individual space" is ultimately flawwed, because it creates an idea of "freedom apart from one another," rather than "freedom towards one another." Essentially, this criticism will be communitarian and "organic." What do I mean by that?

True democracy will be found in the strength of truthful communities. As we find ourselves today, we have fairly weak communities. There are "instances" of community that come and go, but ultimately it is our idea of "individual space" that keeps us from giving ourself to the community, which ultimately provides for a more meaningful form of freedom and democracy (and I mean "meaningful" in the truest sense of the word, that of "having meaning;" for with our conceptions of individual space, our freedom and rights are actually meaning-less, or entirely void of meaning, because there is nothing positive for which they can be defined against---our definition of rights and freedoms are entirely negative in this sense.

Through "organic" I mean to introduce a somewhat tricky concept: I mean to imply that democracy is more than a procedural theory of state, which liberalism is (liberalism and representative government generally outline nothing more than protective measures, which are nothing more than structural and procedural, and involve very little participation on the part of persons/citizens). Rather, alongside the idea of truly communitarian democracy, the notion is that structures such as 'representative government' can be abolished because a more meaningful and absolutely/totally direct "form of association" (I stole this term from Rousseau) will take its place...instead of electing a legislator, you yourself are legislator...but (and this is where the true community, the idea of the general will, comes in) you are legislator of what is common, which includes yourself, because you have given yourself entirely over to the community...which is ultimately the most ironic paradox of communitarianism: you become the ultimate ruler and legislator of yourself (you write the laws), but only through giving yourself to everyone else (you write the laws, but only in tandem). This form of association cannot be "procedural," it cannot be "bureaucratic," and it cannot be "totalitarian" (although it is "total"...more on that coming later)...

In the next entry, let's "generate" some democracy...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Furcal agrees on terms with Dodgers

This is a surprising story in some respects...the Cubs seemed to be the forerunners for signing Furcal (5 years, $50 million), but the Dodgers swept in and offered a shorter contract with stronger money (3 years, $39.5 million).

The big deal? It's not necessarily the Dodgers signing Furcal that is important here (although, their infield, once Izturis returns, could be pretty strong depending upon how their youngster at 3B plays); rather, it's the fact that the Cubs didn't get Furcal that's important.

A quick look at the Cubs infield situation shows that they are not in bad shape by any means: to have Lee and Ramirez at the corners is one of the better situations in MLB, and getting rid of Garciaparra (to the free agent market!) is more of a blessing than a curse. But, how do the Cubs improve upon last year's middle infield? Neifi Perez is sticking around, as are Todd Walker and Jerry Hairston; but, Hairston may have to do double duty in the outfield given the Cubs' depletion out there (no more Burnitz, Patterson might be gone, and no depth on the bench in the outfield--the situation in RF is so bad that Ben Grieve is listed as starting right fielder on the Cubs depth chart).

The other factor: Juan Pierre. If the Cubs were to trade for Pierre, and had successfully signed Furcal from the market, the Cubs would arguably have improved their team, and become much more potent on the top of their line up...but alas, now a Pierre trade is a lot less of a big deal, and doesn't improve the team nearly as much as he would if he were to be coupled with Furcal.

So, the Cubs have their work cut out for them. Soon enough, I will work an analysis of the NL Central rosters to see how things are shaking up...

Friday, December 02, 2005

Thoughts on University professors and teaching biases

Well, I just completed the final mailing group for my graduate school applications, and I couldn't be happier to be finished, and more excited at the prospect of more school, more research, more writing, and hopefully teaching--4 years at MU certainly hasn't worn me down; if anything, these years have fired me up.

But, all morning--and for most of the week--I have been thinking about a debate that is ongoing about university professors and teaching biases. This is a debate that was addressed in some part in an article in this semester's first Warrior publication, in the Tribune last year , as a College Republicans display last spring, and also, of course, on blogs.

The popular opinion is that the University is a "liberal" place--but not in the good sense of the word. There is a great aspect to universities that are "liberal"--challenging to tradition, forging new territory in research and writing, challenging to students' opinions, knowledge, and biases, fostering an "open-minded" atmopshere in general. In this sense, a "liberal" university is very much something that ought to be obtained, whether it be on the part of staunch Natural Rights conservatives, or radical Maoists on the other end of the spectrum.

Of course, the problem in America is those other "liberals"--the perceived trouble with the University is that there are too many professors that vote for Democrats, contribute to liberal or left-leaning causes--having too many professors of one orientation is a bad thing, and in some cases leads to increased intimidation of students that disagree, as well as indoctrination for those students that are wide-eyed and bushy tailed upon entering the University.

There is one very important presupposition to all of this; or rather, a series of related presuppositions: (1) that political orientation matters, (2) that political orientation is important in the classroom, and (3) that personal biases inevitably accompany professors into the classroom...

I agree with the first premise; political orientation does indeed matter. I disagree, however, with the second and third premises. First off, political orientation does not matter in the classroom, especially if a teacher is not teaching political subjects. Secondly, I don't agree that personal biases are "inevitable" (and thus, appropriate) in the classroom.

Why do I disagree with these two presuppositions? Precisely because both fall on the wrong side of a division between "good" and "bad" teachers...a good teacher can overcome his or her own biases in the classroom, and in this sense conform to the first definition of "liberal" I offer above, equating "liberality" with challenging questions, cutting edge research, and "open-mindedness." It is imperative that good teachers push aside their biases for one great reason: in education (and this is a presupposition on my part, I suppose), a professor ought to be interested in the pursuits of knowledge and truth over anything else--if a student is not accumulating knowledge, and rather accumulates an agenda, that student has not been educated.

Because truth and knowledge compose the greatest educational agenda possible, any teacher that merely pushes an agenda in the classroom is merely a bad teacher. This goes for liberal as well as conservative professors (in the American political senses of the words).

There are, of course, pragmatic problems with this template for education. One such problem is the esoteric nature of the American Research University, which has trickled down into the liberal arts college--the creation of very specific research fields inevtiably creates some fields that are of an overtly "politicized" nature--this specialization in itself can be considered a bad thing insofar as it is a great culprit for some of the "Liberal" problems in the university...

A few examples...

-A teaching/research post for Feminism, Race Studies, Cultural Studies will probably fall on the side of supporting Feminism, multiculturalism, etc.

-A post for Marxism will probably sympathize with Marxists

-A post for Capitalist and anglican-liberal philosophy very well may be a fiscal conservative

There are many more possible examples.

Which brings me to my final point: there are more important "biases" that universities and departments need to address when they are hiring professors and creating programs; these biases transcend the "Liberal"/conservative divide...I am going to use political and philosophical examples because of my familiarity with the issues in such departments...

-for Ancient philosophy, the Aristotelian/Platonist divide is much more meaningful than a liberal/conservative divide...

-for ethics, I am more worried about whether or not my prof. is a utilitarian or a deontologist...

-is your professor of German philosophy a Right-Hegelian or a Left-Hegelian? This greatly affects the whole interpretation of Hegel's geist

-of contemporary philosophers, how many analytic philosophers of language does a department have? What about poststructuralists?

-in an epistemology course, I am more concerned about the divide between idealism and realism/materialism than I am with left/right

-in an international politics course, is your prof. a nationalist or a cosmopolitan?

-in your comparative politics course, how is your prof. aligned on the quantitative methods question?

-for political theory, does your prof. define democracy in procedural or normative terms?

And so on...these questions get at the root of the issues, and it is much more important to provide balance on these questions than on the left/right scale...for, if a student is given a diverse education in these types of divides that get at the heart of a topic, and departments are committed to hiring on multiple sides of these sorts of issues, a student will be much closer to the truth than if everyone is worried about political bias rearing its ugly head in the classroom.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Brewers sign lefty Jason Kershner

Doug Melvin has given Brewers fans more reason to hope that he spotted another "gem-in-waiting" (cf. Doug Davis, Turnbow, Podsednik, Kolb, Wise, Clark, etc...); that "gem-n-waiting" very well may be Jason Kershner (MLB.com bio and stats).

While other general mangers are greatly over-paying for middle relief (and closers) (cf.
B.J. Ryan, Bobby Howry, maybe Billy Wagner, Tim Worrell, and soon-to-be Kyle Farnsworth), Melvin is doing it the way it should be done for middle relief: minor league contracts for some, and larger contracts for other where needed (I suspect Melvin will keep up this good work because he has noted that the bullpen is his biggest concern right now; cf. Brewers article link above). So, while some pitchers will be offered larger contracts by the Crew, chances are the Crew's bullpen in its entirety will cost less than what any of those relievers listed above will make alone.

As for Kershner, he's a lefty without a whole lot of success in the bigs, but he had a good season in the minors last year, and is tough on lefties because of various pitches: a screwball, change up, and yet another breaking ball, which he uses to break-in on lefties. According to ESPN.com, Kershner held lefties to a .229 clip in 2003...

His scouting report (a bit outdated, but you get the picture...)

Scouting Report
Kershner uses a fastball, change, screwball and a breaking ball that moves in on lefthanded hitters and successfully induces grounders. While his stuff is average, his repertoire makes him extraordinarily tough against lefthanded hitters. Kershner held them to .229 on-base percentage and four extra-base hits in 90 at-bats last season. Plus, the Jays learned he could be used effectively against righthanded hitters. Kershner also holds runners extremely well.

So, we'll see where Kershner ends up when he gets to spring training in the spring. If the past is any indication, Kershner will most likely return a lot more than his past stats have indicated is possible...which will be yet another tribute to Melvin and staff's rigorous and unorthodox scouting approach...

Hello all...

Hello!

I am a Marquette University student, and I just got interested in blogging after being introduced to blogging my a friend of mine, Zach Corey.

Hopefully this will be fun...