Tuesday, November 25, 2008

There is something very romantic about working on your thesis in the library while Shimon Peres chats with the president of Italy a few meters away.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Germans bearing Talks

Whether you agree with him or not, there is something nice when a prominent German writes that the defeat of anti-Israelism and terrorism "may only be achieved through dialogue". Nevertheless, whatever it is I fear Germans bearing talks.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Secretary Clinton

I know my opinion does not count for anything, but I am not a big fan of Sen. Clinton's appointment to the post of Secretary of State. As Jon Stuart pointed out on the Daily Show last week, Obama and Clinton agreed on many issues, but one of their few arenas of disagreement was foreign policy. To offer her the Secretary of State position, then, seems rather calculating.

Furthermore, Clinton campaigned on domestic policy, not foreign policy. Her spare attempt to demonstrate foreign policy experience badly backfired as it was shown that she had not in fact entered Bosnia under fire. I don't see that Sen. Clinton has any coherent vision of foreign policy. She really should have taken HHS, but such is life. I was rooting for Richardson. I wonder if Dennis Ross will get his old job back. I know he reeeeally wants it.

My only hope is that she will resign from the position in 2012 in order to be able to begin campaigning in 2014.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Some Notes on Teaching

I have again been persuaded that it is good policy to give very few A's. My standards are not harsh, but I stick to them (an A on a paper requires original analysis argued by a clear thesis). Students in my class have begun finding out who gets A's (I did not give one A on the second paper, and only 4/40 on the midterm). It is considered something of a feat. Following the midterm one of my students (a Cool Dude) began yelping in the halls, another immediately called her parents. The grade actually begins to mean something, my frugality has actually created value. It is a wonderful thing to see my students think about Rousseau, not the only for the grade, but for the affirmation of their work (it would be lovely to have them passionate about R too, but how much can one ask for?). That is to say they begin to take pride in their work.

The funny thing, which I have only begun to realize is that it is much harder to withhold A's than it is to give them. Everyone loves to give good grades to their students--you win, they win, the school wins. Except grade become inflated; they begin to be worthless as it corrupts the economy of education. I am of two minds on this also. It is terrible that students with a 3.7 can't get into law school (thank G-d PhD programs are not as demanding). I think what I have learned, though, is that this stinginess also has an educational upside.

I think part of that is due to the time I take on grading. It is a huge sink hole of time, and I loath it, but I have had only one contest of a grade I gave out of 120 graded assignments (and the protest was only informal). Giving thorough feedback seems to lend credibility to one's discretion and reinforces the grade's worth. And one more thing, always give stickers for A's, always.

I did break the cardinal rule of substitute teaching this week, though, I did a good job. I didn't expect to, really I didn't. I have been sick with a cold all week and I really didn't want to be teaching, but I gave it the old college try. A student yesterday begged me to give a repeat performance, another came to my office hours today, even though I am not his TA. I can't even get my own students to come to office hours. As the backhanded compliment we used to give at the UofC goes, I guess I would make a really good high school teacher.

Better get back to writing my paper, "A Suitable Philosophical Investigation" to avoid that fate.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Think I'm Getting Better at This

I was right. Joe Leiberman would continue to caucus with the Dems as long as he retained his chairmanship, which he will.

You heard it here first. All five of you. Well four, because one of the five is undoubtedly me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

1 for 2

Well, I'm 1 for 2 on elections this month. Better than I expected.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chingis Kahn

I asked Prof. Lindner today why there are so many ways of spelling Ghangis Khan (really what I was asking was what the best approximation was). He remarked that the best spelling he had found was Gangis Kahn, you know Sylvia and Gangis Kahn. They live in Flatbush and daven at the Young Israel there. The Kahns.

I happen to have a picture of them from the Young Israel dinner last year:
(In actual fact, Prof. Lindner spoke about Sylvia and Gangus Kahn of the Upper East Side who go to the 92nd St Y, but that's obviously not these two.)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

That's the UofC I know

An unassuming, but sharp, economist from the minyan at Michigan chanced to spend shabbes in Hyde Park recently. He told me that the students were all very nice to him, but that there was one thing that he found odd. Everyone made him say something smart before they would talk to him. I guess it's like our password, or something.

Completely obnoxious, but that is the UofC I know and, er, love.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Fox News has this picture on its website,

with the caption, "America elects its first black President"
That's accurate, except that they exclude the punctuation which reads, "America elects its first black President?!"
Much different.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Post Election Thoughts

In no particular order:

A. If his choice of Chief of Staff indicates anything, it looks like Obama is not anti-Israel. Emanuel davens at Anshe Sholom (or at least he is a member) and his father was a member of the Irgun.

B. I smell a rotten salmon in AK. Stevens is up there, but voting turnout is way down from 2004 by ~80,000 votes and currently down ~15,000 votes from 2006. Why would a year when Democrats are so energized and with two contested national races would Alaskan voters (D voters) stay away from the polls? To dampen my cynicism a bit though, exit polls seem to show the 48/46 split for Stevens. It's still really weird.

C. The youth vote matters. According to the NYT ~22m 18-29 year old voters turned out. Without their 2-1 split you're looking at about 49.9m votes from Obama and 49.5m for McCain. And that doesn't include those parents who were implored by their naive children to vote for Obama either.

D. Al Jazeera headlines: ترحيب دولي بانتخاب أوباما رئيسا للولايات المتحدة
Which I believe, though my Arabic sucks, means "World Welcomes Election of US President Obama" (please feel free to correct my translation if you know better than I).

E. Yay.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Will Lieberman Jump Ship After Elections?

I doubt it, but he might. The Dems are none-too-happy that he has been fraternizing with the enemy and no longer need his clinching majority vote. That being said, I don't know that CT is as likely to vote for a Republican leaning Independent. Then again, he might get better committees from the Republicans if the Dems decide to dump him and by the time the next election rolls around he'll be 70 and might not want to run again anyhow.

I think he will caucus D so long as the party lets him. If they take away some of his committees he might just jump though.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Go out and Vote!

Once again Victor Davis Hanson, a classics prof, says it all, i. e., all we know about Obama. Go out and vote, though. Hope for the best. If the polls are right, I'll spend the next four years hoping for change.