Freeman Dyson, NPR, TSA X-rays, Northwestern University’s Bachelor Party

The Lady Tasting Tea continues tomorrow.

Freeman Dyson Speaks

From our man-on-the-spot WS comes this link to an interview with Freeman Dyson regarding his work “In Praise of Heretics.” That word no longer has religious connotations, a milieu where the meaning is almost the opposite of what it is now. Warning: bad music alert (the intro to the program). Fun fact: Dyson was a statistician for the RAF in World War II! And he doesn’t have a PhD! (Therefore, how can he be smart?)

If you haven’t read his Infinite in All Dimensions, do so. There is also The Scientist as Rebel (which I have not yet read).

NPR Unbiased?

NPR’s interim CEO, Joyce Slocum, told the Associated Press, “I think if anyone believes that NPR’s coverage is biased in one direction or another, all they need to do to correct that misperception is turn on their radio or log onto their computer and listen or read for an hour or two. What they will find is balanced journalism that brings all relevant points of view to an issue and covers it in depth so that people understand the subtlety and the nuance.”

Slocum is statistically right: many NPR programs have nothing to do with politics and are not in danger of bias, except towards simplicity, our national curse. On the other hand, NPR member stations are often the only place that one can listen to free “classical” music on the radio (the word is a euphemism for “good” or “serious”). But of the shows, like news programs, that are politically tinged, it is absurd to claim NPR does not have a leftist bias. So the question, Mr Slocum, is this: why should I continue to give you money?

Quote from an unfortunately titled Cal Thomas piece.

TSA Body X-rays

From chief crank John Dvorak come a link to a TSA press release:

The Transportation Security Administration announced Friday that it would retest every full-body X-ray scanner that emits ionizing radiation — 247 machines at 38 airports — after maintenance records on some of the devices showed radiation levels 10 times higher than expected.

What a, uh, surprise.

Marxist, Feminist, Structuralist, Post-structuralist…

From an article by Alan Bekhor on scholasticism:

Consider, to take one example from many, the book Beginning Theory — an Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory by Peter Barry, which has virtually become a set text for any humanities or literature undergraduate course in a British university today. Five rules, Barry affirms, are to be borne in mind for critical thinking about literature: “politics is pervasive, language is constitutive, truth is provisional, meaning is contingent, human nature is a myth.”

Each of those five rules are false (or have trivially true interpretations). Given these gross, even scurrilous, falsities as a base, is it therefore any wonder that our humanities departments are in the shape they are in?

They Are Too In Bad Shape

Via A&LD, comes Uncle Joseph Epstein’s “Lower Education: Sex toys and academic freedom at Northwestern.” After lamenting that Northwestern could do no better than invite commencement speakers like Stephen Colbert, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, or Dianne Sawyer, he writes of the Michael Bailey Dildo Scandal:

Because a subject exists in the world doesn’t mean that universities have to take it up, no matter how edgy it may seem. Let books be written about it, let research be done upon it, if the money to support it can be found, but the nature and quality and even the sociology of sexual conduct—all material available elsewhere in more than plentitude for the truly interested—does not cry out for classroom study. Students don’t need universities to learn about varying tastes in sex, or about the mechanics of human sexuality. They don’t need it because, first, epistemologically, human sexuality isn’t a body of knowledge upon which there is sufficient agreement to constitute reliable conclusions, for nearly everything on the subject is still in the flux of theorizing and speculation; and because, second, given the nature of the subject, it tends to be, as the Bailey case shows, exploitative, coarsening, demeaning, and squalid.


  1. DAV

    Can’t wait for out Wednesday Tea time.

    I wonder if Prof. Bailey’s course offers lab time.

    NPR biased? What a surprise! Right up there with the TSA surprise. Is there an organization which isn’t biased? “Siegfried’s Funeral March” is “serious”. Not all “classical” music is as serious.

  2. Briggs


    I agree, and I take it back; I used that word reflexively. Substitute beautiful.

  3. Adam H

    I dunno, serious seems appropriate… like calling Briggs a serious statistician (rather than stoic or humorless).

  4. Ray

    Way back when I was a callow youth, I worked one summer for a radio station that played the top forty. After being forced to listen to the top 40 all day all summer, I hated popular music. Thats why I became a classical music fan and I even like opera. I do enjoy opera on NPR, but most of the music is the same pop music I had to listen to at the radio station and I loathe it. NPR seems seriously stuck in the 1960s hotenanny era.

  5. Doug M

    As much as people complain about the bias at NPR, it has never seemed particularly skewed to me. Then again, I am part of NPR’s target demographic — white, educated, “elite.” The government doesn’t need to subsidise progamming to this demographic. but, I like much of what they air.

  6. Speed

    Neither NPR nor PBS know how to go out on top. The Tappet Brothers, A Prairie Home Companion, Nature, This Old House and Victory Garden were once entertaining and unique on Radio/TV but have been duplicated and bettered on cable and internet. If they went back to supplying that which is unavailable elsewhere they would be doing a real service.

    How many times do we need to watch Rich Trethewey install a furnace?

  7. j ferguson

    Doug M,
    I suppose bias is in the eye of the beholder. i associate political bias with discussions of the failure of government to completely protect us from defective baby cribs, cars with minds of their own, unsafe bridges, planes falling out of the air, tired bus drivers etc, things which I consider conditions of life.

    There’s a lot of this on NPR, less on PBS. I identify the people who clamor for such protections with one side of the political spectrum; don’t you?

  8. Far be for me to criticize anyone’s musical preferences, but I must point out that there are music stores where you can go buy whatever you wish to listen to WITHOUT ME PAYING FOR IT.

    Try to get by without digging your sticky fingers into my wallet, okay? And I will afford you the same courtesy.

  9. But hey, according to Andrea Mitchell, we hicks out here in Bucktooth Flats, Flopear Mule County and out on the Rez wouldn’t get no news ‘cept for NPR. Like Indians don’t have IPods. Like we listen to NPR while sloppin’ the hogs. And yall need to pony up yall’s tax dollars so we-uns won’t have to listen to static all day on our radiers. He-yuk. And you call us flatearthers!!!!

    Pardon me, Cultural Elites, but go stuff yerselfs.


    Fun interview with Dyson, remarkable guy. Econtalk happens to be my favorite podcase. Been listening every week for a couple of years and look forward to it. As for the intro, the host, Russ Roberts, did it himself. Hey, he’s an economist!
    Dyson’s main point about global warmimg: why are we rushing to do something when we don’t know the consequenses. He advocates waiting until we actually know what’s happening.
    Best line? Dyson says the only hate mail he gets is from people wanting to know what the hell is wrong with their vacuums.

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