Archive for December 2007

Assessing Speech Codes

December 12, 2007

Charles Lawrence provides this argument for the defense of speech codes: insults based on an individual’s membership to certain hereditary groups (race, sex, gender, etc.) emphasize his “otherness,” decrease his standing in the eyes of his peers, and jar his psychological well-being.  This damage to one’s ability to function violates Brown v. Board of Education, which gave minorities the right not to be humiliated or marginalized because such acts would violate the principle of equality under the law affirmed in the Fourteenth Amendment.  Lawrence supports the Stanford code, which attempts to precisely prohibit face-to-face insults, and argues that it and other policies are consistent with the prohibition of fighting words, permitted in Chaplinsky and characterized by their intrinsic harmfulness intent to incite another to violence.  Lawrence implies this policy will address the “market failure” which racism causes through its deleterious effects on university thought at large, a response to Holmes’s claim that the university is a “marketplace of ideas.”

Devlin’s argument that law is the arm of public morality can also be made here.  He was a skeptic of the “no harm” principle and may have argued that a speech code is an appropriate guide for university life.

Critics of speech codes often cite John Stuart Mill, who stated in “On Liberty” that society must allow the free expression of all viewpoints.  If a distasteful argument is prohibited, it will secretly become more attractive on the grounds that it’s something “‘They’ don’t want you to know.”  If a majority opinion goes unchallenged too long because its rebuttals are considered offensive, people will lose the ability to defend the argument, will lose their passion for it, and might be blown away the first time they meet someone who disagrees.  Most importantly, we are more likely to find the truth if we can see and discuss all the possibilities: at times a persecuted minority opinion eventually becomes common knowledge, as Christianity did.  While Mill is sympathetic to restricting speech for being vulgar and abusive, he does not see how this is possible to enforce such a thing.

I believe insults diminish the sense of fraternity that should prevail on campus.  Nevertheless, I agree with the Supreme Court’s assessment that the Michigan speech code was vague and overbroad.  The code prohibited speech that “stigmatizes,” “victimizes,” et al, but such words are subjective, and the university’s interpretative guide, as well as the use of the code against one student who voiced concerns of racism in the dentistry department and another who expressed an opinion on the medical nature of homosexuality, indicated that Michigan was using the code to strictly regulate even rational discussion of group differences.  This usage was far broader than the “fighting words” exception and clearly violated Mill’s philosophy.  Even Lawrence, who is sympathetic to some censorship on campus, acknowledges the Michigan code’s unconstitutionality (“If He Hollers” 83-84).

Regarding speech codes in general, I think that Lawrence’s proposed prohibition of “fighting words” is sound and is still consistent with Mill: such words express personal animosity rather than actual ideas so their restriction will not lower our discourse.  In this I agree with Feinberg, who pointed out the restriction of speech might be utilitarian itself.  As good as the rule sounds in theory, however, I am extremely suspicious of its application.  Merely taking offense is not a legitimate cause for grievance; indeed, principles which seem odious at first may educate and shape us in the long run.  However, the Larry Summers case at Harvard shows even scholarly arguments can prove unacceptable to some academics.  It is important to remember that the idea that there are no group differences is itself an assertion that requires proof.  A person also has the option of not listening to his assailant, thus rendering his words no more than noise.  I am not sympathetic to the argument constructed from Devlin because college students should be old enough to choose whatever life they want.

If I have to choose one guiding principle, I will take Mill because his positive, liberal view is most in keeping with the character of the university, but I would also allow the Stanford speech code (the Michigan code is too broad) provided the university strictly interpreted it.  In other words, I consider open discourse more essential to the identity of a university than the comfort of its students, and a university should take care of this freedom first.

Advertisements

Extractos de Andrés Bello y Esteban Echeverría

December 12, 2007

¡Oh jóvenes Naciones, que ceñida

alzáis sobre el atónito Occidente

de tempranos laureles la cabeza!

Honrad el campo, honrad la simple vida

del labrador, y su frugal llaneza.

Ésta es una selección de versos de la conclusión de la silva “La agricultura de la zona tórrida” por Andrés Bello.  Fue escrito a los principios del siglo XIX.  Una silva es un soneto, muchas veces sobre la belleza natural, con 7 o 11 sílabas en cada verso.  Cada verso de esta selección tiene 11 sílabas.  Nótese también las rimas: versos 1 y 4 y versos 3 y 5 son pares.  El ritmo es más yámbico que trocaico.  El poeta usa el técnico de apostrofe: dirige sus estrofas no solamente a un solo lector sino a todas las jóvenes naciones de Latinoamérica.  Claramente él cree que su mensaje es tan importante que todos sus paisanos deben leerlo.  Me interesa también que él capitaliza la palabra “nación.”  La capitalización de “occidente” es sencillo de entender: significa Europa, que siempre se llama “occidente” aunque los latinoamericanos necesitarían viajar hacia el este para llegar a este continente.  La Europa se considera tan inmovible que no necesita ajustarse a las verdades cambiantes de la geografía.

El tema de esta selección tiene muchísima interés porque se toca uno de los temas comunes de la literatura latinoamericana: la relación entre las ciudades y el campo.  En su obra “Facundo,” Sarmiento dijo que el campo es del barbarie, y las ciudades salvarán Argentina.  Según Sarmiento, porque es tan difícil sobrevivir en las pampas, crían hombres independientes, físicamente fuertes, y iletrados.  Un dictador es el gobernador apropiado para estos.  Por contrario, los ciudadanos son más educados, más europeos, más dispuestos a la libertad y la democracia.

Sarmiento, quien resistió la dictadura de Rosas y liberalizó Argentina cuando él mismo fue presidente, parecía ser una autoridad de este tema, pero Andrés Bello está en desacuerdo total, a menos en esta obra.  Bello, quién vivió en el norte de Suramérica, también tiene autoridad: es considerado un padre de Latinoamérica.  Fue maestro de Simón Bolívar y sus ideas fueron muy influyentes.  Bello aquí alaba al labrador y el campo.  Dice que ellos son simples y puros, y los ciudadanos son corrompidos.  Él no odia a Europa: uno de sus obras más famosas es un tratado sobre las semejanzas entre el español de Latinoamérica y lo de España.  Es probable que él piense que los labradores, por su proximidad al campo, sean afectados más por la sublime belleza que Bello catalogó en este poema.  Él también tenía interés en las diversas especies de plantas y animales de Suramérica que lo hacen muy distinta de Europa.  Además, la alabanza de la naturaleza es un rasgo de romanticismo, en cuya época vivía Bello.  Quizás las ideas de Friedrich hayan afectadas los pensamientos políticos de Bello.  A menos es claro que Bello y Sarmiento deben cuidar de tener una vista tan binaria del mundo.

Inmediatamente quedó atado en cruz y empezaron la obra de desnudarlo. Entonces un torrente de sangre brotó borbolloneando de la boca y las narices del joven, y extendiéndose empezó a caer a chorros por entrambos lados de la mesa. Los sayones quedaron inmóviles y los espectadores estupefactos.

Esta selección viene de “El matadero,” un cuento de Esteban Echeverría.  Algunos matones están torturando un joven quien identifica con la política de los unitarios.  La historia es una sátira de la dictadura de Rosas en Argentina durante la primera mitad del siglo XIX.  La obra no fue publicada hasta después de la muerte del autor por su polémica.

Los federales fueron el partido de Rosas.  Querían devolver más poder a las regiones de Argentina para que los oligarcas pudieran tener más poder sobre el proletario.  Los unitarios querían devolver el país a su constitución original, en que el gobierno fue más centralizado en Buenos Aires, y se consideraron liberales y rebeldes contra Rosas.  El autor se identifica con el joven unitario quien está sacrificado aquí.

La violencia increíble de este extracto es típica del cuento.  Echeverría escribe con dicción vívida sobre la matanza de muchas vacas para prepararnos para esta escena.  El ganado es una industria clave en Argentina: hay muchísimas vacas, quizás más vacas que gente.  Echeverría toma ventaja de este dato para hacer un paralelo entre los animales y las personas del país.  Como estos pobres se mueren en el matadero, las personas se mueren por los esfuerzos de Rosas.

Echeverría especialmente hace un paralelo entre este joven unitario y un toro quien fue matado, después de luchar apasionadamente, por los mismos matones.  El toro es un símbolo para la valentía, el temperamento fuerte, y la masculinidad.  Echeverría asigna las mismas cualidades a su protagonista y por extensión a su movimiento.  Este joven unitario, él dice, es un toro entre las vacas.

Finalmente, hay que darse cuenta al simbolismo de Cristo de esta sección.  Rosas se aliaba con la iglesia católica para aumentar su poder.  La iglesia es culpable para la hambruna terrible que inicia esta matanza porque ordenó una abstinencia de carne por toda la gente antes de una lluvia que destrozó las otras fuentes de comida.  El autor es claramente escéptico de los sacerdotes: su obra está chorreando de sarcasmo cada vez que menciona un sacerdote.  A pesar de este ambiente anticlerical, asocia su protagonista con Jesucristo cuando el joven está atado en cruz y desnudado.  Es posible que Echeverría tenga una fe personal pero desconfía en la organización romana.  Es verdad que la imagen de Cristo, un inocente sacrificado para salvar todo el mundo, es increíblemente poderoso a pesar del credo del autor y el lector.  Seguramente tendría sentido para su audiencia: los argentinos son casi todos católicos, y la literatura está llena con referencias bíblicas.  Este paralelo socava la posición de la dictadura y expresa la creencia del autor en la victoria final.  Esta escena no sólo los espectadores del matadero estupefactos sino también los lectores de la obra.

Latin Dance Final: “El Tango de Roxanne”

December 6, 2007

Halley Hu and James Smyth

Style: Tango

Performed with Halley Hu

Intro: Walk around in circles, man stands behind woman

0:27 (orchestra begins)

  1. Woman turns and dips to the man’s left side, learning back on his left hand, rises, turns in a circle in three steps to get to his right side
  2. Woman dips into a kneeling position at man’s right side, rises
  3. Woman: one fan to man’s right, pause, three quick fans L-R-L
  4. Man fans right leg backward; three-step 360 degree turn clockwise
  5. Quickly dip left side hands, rise
  6. Feint right, mini-dip left, turn, corte
  7. Woman sweeps right leg as both turn 180 degrees to rise from corte
  8. Slow turns as man’s right foot leads and pushes woman’s left foot forward
  9. Woman fans, lifts right leg, taps floor, then steps and fans, wraps left leg around right, steps and fans
  10. Deep dip to man’s right side which snaps up when the last note of Jacek Koman’s elongated “Roxanne”

1:04 (Jacek Koman singing)

  1. Basic
  2. Right side fan
  3. Basic with turn on quick steps ends in promenade position
  4. Open fan with underarm turn into open position rather than wrist pull.  In second half of figure, one-and-one half turn rather than quick step finish, end in cuddle position
  5. In cuddle position, three quick steps turning 180 degrees clockwise, pause, four quick steps clockwise followed by spinning woman out for a couple measures

1:39 (Ewan McGregor singing)

  1. Double corte
  2. Valentino for one measure
  3. Double fan

2:01 (Both singing descending lines)

  1. Woman: quick vertical dip, slow rise
  2. Back rock, three-step clockwise turn, two-step basic finish
  3. Three quick forward steps led by L, pause, three quick forward steps led by R
  4. Back rock, three-step clockwise turn, two-step basic finish
  5. Two quick steps, J-dip (stretch left hand high and fan left leg; body looks like J).  Repeat, then three-step basic finish.
  6. Natural turn, hand change (man’s L to man’s R)
  7. Inside spin, dip to man’s L side
  8. Outside spin, same tempo, arm styling
  9. Finale: Inside spin, woman drapes R leg over male’s L leg and leans on him

2:35 – Music Stops.  Cue: volume of the music falls

Latin Dance Final: Choreography for “Oye Como Va” as recorded by Santana

December 6, 2007

Performed with Kathryn Wooten

Style: Cha-cha

Start music at the top (0:00)

  1. Basic
  2. Underarm turn
  3. Crossover breaks with walk-around
  4. Basic
  5. Cuddle
  6. Progressive with chase turn
  7. Basic with quarter turn
  8. Extended (2-step) cross-over breaks with walk-around
  9. Progressive changing to 2-hand hold
  10. Progressive triple steps
  11. Basic
  12. Underarm turn with hand change (handshake) leading to swing-style underarm turn
  13. 2 basics with side breaks rather than rock steps
  14. Basic with walk-arounds rather than rock steps
  15. Basic
  16. On right side, half-walk around so male and female are back to back on next triple step, then half-walk around so they are facing each other again
  17. Basic
  18. Cuddle turn.  Rather than unwinding, go into progressive step
  19. On the second progressive step, unwind, then triple step to the left side followed by walk-around
  20. 3 consecutive triple steps, turning clockwise in a circle, then a rock step
  21. Repeat, turning clockwise again but with reversed footing and arm styling
  22. Triple step right followed by a dip for the finale

Stop music exactly at 2:08.  Cue: Eighth notes building in a crescendo, then a triplet followed by an accented note.  Stop the music after that.

Five Minute Guide to the Presidential Primaries

December 5, 2007

This is my attempt to explain the current presidential race to a politically ignorant friend.

In the last fifty years or so, the major parties have chosen their candidates through primaries. That is, the members of the parties in each state vote from a slate of candidates, and the state’s delegates go to the winner – it’s like the electoral college. Unlike national Election Day, primary elections are spread out over three or four months. Once in a while, we have to go the distance to get the winner (Ford v. Reagan in 1976, for instance), but usually matters are settled in the first month, after which voters from the later states jump on the leader’s bandwagon. For this reason, the states that traditionally hold the first primaries (Iowa, then New Hampshire, then South Carolina) get a lot more attention than bigger ones like California.

The voting begins in January.

DEMOCRATS – As far as I can tell, they agree on all issues but diverge on how passionate they are about each one. I think this race is going to come down to personal differences, not policy.

1. Hillary Clinton – The current front-runner because she’s receiving support from people who want her husband to be president again. Senator of New York and former First Lady. Running as a centrist. Voted for the Iraq War before turning against it. Currently the national front-runner but trailing in Iowa. She was considered the inevitable Democratic candidate, but lately she has slipped.

2. Barack Obama – Great personality, light record. More liberal than HRC. Running as a uniter, not a divider. Senator of Illinois. Young people are very excited about this man, and so are others like Oprah Winfrey. Trailing Hillary nationally but leading in Iowa. Always opposed the Iraq War.

3. John Edwards – John Kerry’s former partner on the ticket is running as a populist. He says there are “Two Americas,” one for the rich and one for the poor, and he wants to bring them closer to each other. He’s basically only campaigning in Iowa, so if he doesn’t win there, he’s out. Voted for the Iraq War before turning against it.

Those are the people with a viable shot. Then there are…
-Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, respected Senators who haven’t excited many people
-Bill Richardson, respected governor of New Mexico and former ambassador to the UN who would like to be Clinton’s running mate
-Dennis Kucinich, hero of the peace-and-love crowd
-Mike Gravel: this advertisement is his biggest contribution to the campaign so far, but to be fair, it’s pretty awesome.

REPUBLICANS – They have some nerve to be running anybody for President next year, but I suppose they have to do it, and they could still win this.

1. Rudy Giuliani – Leading nationally, trailing in the early states. His plan is to sweep the big, centrist states like New York and California. Former mayor of New York who is often credited with saving the city. Smashed the NY mafia. Not drawing the social conservative vote because he is personally pro-choice.

1. Mitt Romney – Leading in the early states, trailing nationally. Founder of Bain Capital, credited with saving the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, and former governor of Massachusetts. Appealing to the conservative vote, but some people doubt his sincerity because he ran to the center, not the right, in MA. Also, he’s a Mormon, and some people think this is a problem, but it’s not certain how many.

3. Mike Huckabee – Sweeping up the social conservative vote right now because he’s a conservative Christian and also a friendly and compelling speaker. Former governor of Arkansas. Financial conservatives (ie pro-free market) are terrified of him, however, because he’s a populist. I think of him as George Bush, Part 2.

4. John McCain – Senator of Arizona who finished 2nd to George Bush in the 2000 presidential primary. He is respected by both parties but doesn’t appeal to conservatives due to his “maverick” reputation. He is also 72 years old. He is now the authoritative voice on the Iraq War, having done a much better job of defending and critiquing it than the sitting President.

4. Fred Thompson – Former senator of Tennessee and actor on “Law and Order.” Once upon a time, conservatives were very excited about his candidacy because he shares their beliefs on all subjects. However, people have doubted his energy (his campaign is more low-key than the rest) and his qualifications (he hasn’t accomplished as much as his peers.)

6. Ron Paul – Representative of Texas. Pure Libertarian. He is appealing to people who want to abolish the federal government and think the Republicans have abandoned their small-government principles. He is also appealing to anti-war liberals because he wants the US to be non-interventionist, ie not have troops in other countries. These two groups are extremely devoted and are raising him lots of money though he is still trailing in polls, and pundits do not take him seriously. He also wants to return our monetary system to the gold standard. I must admit his campaign has been fun, though, and it’s good to have libertarians around.

The other Republicans technically running are Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo, who are campaigning against illegal immigration, but they just don’t have any support. Alan Keyes is running, naturally. Campaigning for public office is his hobby.