April 30, 2007

Obviously, but don't say it so loud or everyone will want in

Then comes my favorite time of year. I will be crossing campus and realize that everyone is gone. For three months the campus will be empty and silent, with people occasionally perambulating across the muggy, hot campus, from one air-conditioned building to another. It’s as if the whole university goes into suspended animation.

And it's fabulous. My friend Karen and I used to call it "The University Without Students."

If anyone ever asks why people go into college teaching there are many important things to say about the satisfactions this career can deliver. But there’s one thing we could all agree on, I think, regardless of our field, ideological bent, or temperament. To paraphrase Bill Clinton: “It’s the vacations, stupid.”

Link, via

April 26, 2007

Question for libertarians

Did you read much Ayn Rand in high school or college? What did you think at the time? What do you think of her now?

Ayn Rand is a favourite target of abuse amongst academic philosophers, at least in my experience. I'm wondering whether Rand-bashing is also a practice libertarian philosophers engage in and enjoy.

So much for the dignity and value of every individual life

Jill of Feministe posts an anti-choicer's rant. The whole thing is deeply misogynistic for exactly the reasons she points out, but it also shades towards a self-defeating position:

What’s more precious, an innocent life of a child who has their entire life ahead of them or a grown adult who has had a fair opportunity to live their life and have whatever experiences they have been blessed to have?

(If you haven't read it yet, go check out the post to which this is a response. It's an extremely powerful anecdote.)

This is a rhetorical question. He's making a claim here, or at least trying to. He might be trying to claim just that he (and his wife) value the life of their future child over their own lives. But he's not. He's trying to make the blanket claim that the life of any (healthy?) foetus is always more valuable than the life of any adult. Which isn't just highly implausible; it's radically at odds with pretty much every contemporary account of ethics I can think of. Most relevantly, it's completely at odds with the `consistent pro-life', anti-abortion/anti-suicide/anti-death penalty position which bases itself on the notion that every single human being's life is intrinsically valuable.

Of course, we have no way of telling whether or not Anonymous endorses this `consistent pro-life' position. But it seems to me that it is the only one that even comes close to giving a coherent argument against the permissibility of abortion. And if it isn't Anonymous' position, how else is he going to justify himself? Explicit misogyny?

April 25, 2007

McCain on the Daily Show

Frankly, he made an ass out of himself. Jon was a picture of logic and clarity, while McCain spent the entire time furiously obfuscating. Watch for yourself below the fold.

Part I:

Part II:

Am I wrong in thinking McCain is one of the smartest high-ranking Republicans in the country today? And not even he can a good faith defence the war in an informal debate with a comedian. I'm not sure which is worse: that this is the best one of our two political parties has to offer, or that, by contemporary standards, McCain really should be considered a fine statesman.

My favourite part:

Jon: [to McCain's `surrender' bullshit] But that assumes we're fighting one enemy. They're fighting each other. It's not, we're there keeping them from killing each other. Surrender is not, we're not surrendering to an enemy that has defeated us. We're saying, how do you quell a civil war when it's not your country?

McCain: [interrupted by audience applause]

Jon, it seems to me, has hit upon one of the most fundamental conceptual problems with this `war': it isn't even a war. At least, it's not a war in which we are on one definite side. Iraq is in the midst of a civil war which cuts across religious, geographical, and economic lines. One can make a case (though I'm not claiming it's a compelling case) that we have an important peacekeeping role to play in this conflict. But that's not what Bush is sending American soldiers off to die for. We are, according to conservative rhetoric, engaged in a life-or-death struggle with ... the Enemy. Al-Qaeda, generic terrorists, Muslims, or something like that. The problem isn't (just) that this Enemy is spectacularly nebulous and ill-defined. The problem is the notion that there are exactly two sides and we are on one of them. You don't keep the peace by taking sides, and that's what we're trying to do.

April 24, 2007

NHL Playoffs: Round 2

Posting from my two day trip to The Palm Springs of Washington, let's take a look at how I did predicting the first round of the NHL Post-Season. I got Buffalo, New Jersey, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Detroit right and New York, Anaheim, and San Jose wrong, so that's not bad. Truth be told, I just didn't expect Nashville to implode quite as quickly as they did, though I knew they would eventually. Anaheim really stepped it up against Minnesota, whose strong finish in the regular season disappeared awfully fast. And like I said, the New York/Atlanta series was completely irrelevant as neither team has what it takes to go far in the playoffs. Here are the matchups for Round 2:

Buffalo v. New York
New Jersey v. Ottawa
Anaheim v. Vancouver
Detroit v. San Jose

I'll stick with my previous prediction that New York will be eliminated in five games. Jersey will win if they can muster some offense and really lay the body on Heatley, Alfredsson and Spezza. The Ducks/Canucks series will be the most interesting and I think whoever wins there wins the West. Edge to the Ducks since they're rested. I like the way Detroit's playing so I'll give them the edge in their series, but I'll give even odds that Hasek's groin asplodes.


Too busy finishing up the semester to write a real post, so just go read about perfectionism . Favourite line:

perfectionism is the tribute that women with opportunities pay to sexism

April 23, 2007

Heroes finally returns

And ten minutes in, I'm astounded that apparently the best the creators of Long Halloween could come up with in six weeks is `Hey, I know, let's just blatantly rip off Watchmen. I'm sure our audience of comic book geeks will never ever notice.'

(Mild spoilers, so content moved below the fold.)

April 18, 2007

Boy, not filibustering Alito sure worked out well, huh?

Too busy for a real post. I'm just dropping by to share the bad news.

The Supreme Court narrowly upheld a federal law today banning a controversial abortion procedure, giving the anti-abortion movement one of its biggest legal victories in years.

The justices ruled, 5 to 4, that a law passed by Congress in 2003 and signed by President Bush does not violate the Constitution by imposing an undue burden on a woman’s right to end a pregnancy. The majority said its ruling reflects the government’s “legitimate, substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life.”

Feministing has a nice assortment of links commenting on the general fuckeduptitude of this decision, why it's completely not a surprise at all given that Alito replaced Day O'Connor, and so on.

April 15, 2007

Stephen Frug reminds me

that I need to reread Watchmen.

The central technique of Watchmen -- one that Moore and Gibbons use over and over, in a plethora of ways -- is the ironic juxtaposition. They will interweave two scenes so that each comments upon the other, so that the text of one is given new meaning by the images of the other. They will cut from one moment to another which entirely rewrites its significance. And so on. A lot of this is the sort of thing that only comics can do -- a switching back and forth that would be so quick as to be sea-sickening in film, say. This is particularly true when Moore and Gibbons will interweave two scenes, which we don't see here; but we do see the first usage of the technique of the ironic juxtaposition, which allows to elements -- in this case, the opening visuals and the unrelated (at least in any overt sense) text that are put over them -- to comment upon each other, adding and changing the meaning we see in both.

Those of you who are more comic-literate might enjoy the rest of his series.

April 11, 2007

First Guitar Hero 2 Downloads

The first song downloads for Guitar Hero 2 on the 360 have been announce and, as I expected, they're not sold individually, but in groups of three. As the article notes, while $2 per song isn't outrageous, if you wanted to buy all the songs from Guitar Hero 1 you'd end up spending nearly $100, which does seem pretty outrageous. Of course, I'm pretty sure that $100 figure is counting the unlockable songs, which weren't nearly as good in the first game as they are in the second. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if they released some mega pack with all the licensed songs from Guitar Hero 1 after they've all been released in the smaller bundles. I'll go ahead and bet the mega pack comes in somewhere between $35 and $45 when it's eventually offered. So Guitar Hero nerds, why not rank those song packs in the comments in the order that you'd buy them?

April 09, 2007

Thank God I Can't Hear You Now

Here's an interesting article on the "real" reasons why airlines have a ban on cell phone usage during flights. Assuming the article is right and the devices don't actually interfere with anything related to the flying of the plane, how do you guys think they should be handled? Should the ban be maintained to avoid all the things that come with having people packed like sardines as they hurtle across the sky, half of them speaking waaaay too loudly about how awesome the latest episode of One Tree Hill was? Should cell phone use be permitted but its use restrained through a conjunction of airline policy and socially reinforced rules of etiquette? Should there be designated areas of the plane for cell phone use? What impact, if any, will the soon to be integrated wi-fi on planes have on your answer?

Thanks Ezra!

Long Time, No See!

It's been quite a while since my last post. Well, the only recent political news that's really interested me much is the US Attorney scandal, and I really don't have much to add that hasn't already been said. Hmmm, well, I might try to cook something up on that if I run across anything new. There are a couple things I've been meaning to talk about on the geek front, with a few bits of video game and comics news that I could post. Honestly it's just that for whatever reason the habbit was interrupted and I ended up taking a break, but I'm back now!

Anyhow, why not break back into it by posting about something completely different: sports! With the regular season over, and my hopes of winning the fantasy league championship dashed like so much whatever, we can all begin speculating on who's going to end up with the best trophy in pro sports. Here are the first round matchups:

The East
Buffalo v. Long Island
Tampa Bay v. New Jersey
New York v. Atlanta
Pittsburg v. Ottawa

The West
Calgary v. Detroit
Minnesota v. Anaheim
San Jose v. Nashville
Vancouver v. Dallas

As per usual the West is packed with contenders and the East has a few great teams and the teams that could lace up their skates well enough to roll over Philly and Boston. Here are my picks for the first round: Buffalo, New Jersey, Atlanta, Ottawa, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, Vancouver. Tampa Bay would be more of a contender if their entire team couldn't be reduced to three really good guys, none of whom was a goalie. The New York/Atlanta matchup is almost completely unimportant as neither team will last five games in the second round. The same goes for Pittsburg/Ottawa, except that those teams are much better. The trouble is that as good as Crosby and Heatley are, all their strength is up front and anyone with a good goalie and a decent shooter will stop them.

Out West things are a bit more interesting. Calgary and Detroit have both been a bit flakey all year, but Detroit put on an amazing post-All Star push to tie Buffalo for a lead in points at the end of the season. Calgary also suffers from a bit of a lack in depth, so I'll bet on Detroit. I would have picked Anaheim to win the Cup during the first half of the season, but after their injury troubles they just haven't had the unstoppable drive they had early on. Minnesota, on the other hand, has been a completely different team after Marion Gaborik came back from the injury that kept him out of the first half of the season, and in these last few weeks they've been completely indominable. Nashville/San Jose could go either way, but I don't expect either team to go all the way. Nashville bought up some players to make a run at the Cup, but they still look like a patchwork team to me that will buckle under pressure. I think Vancouver is the dark horse team that will do much better than anyone expects. I'm not sure they'll win the Cup, but I wouldn't be surprised if they made it to the Conference Finals.

My early pick for a Stanley Cup matchup is New Jersey v. Vancouver, with Jersey taking home another Cup. Ok, so I'm biased. Buffalo might have a shot too.

One last thing, there's a distinction between good teams and teams that are good this year that I think is worth addressing. Just as the two teams from last year's Finals (Carolina and Edmonton) won't be playing in the playoffs this year, a few of these teams have put a good run together but won't be much of a factor next year, some because they got lucky this year and some because they put a temporary fix on some holes in their team that are coming right back in the Fall. In particular, Long Island, New York, and Minnesota got lucky this year. Atlanta, Anaheim, and Nashville made some pickups before and during the season that might not be back in the Fall which means they better have some good guys coming up through the system if they don't want this season to be a fluke.

April 07, 2007

It's called the Principle of Charity. Look it up.

PZ Meyers, while normally a fantastic public intellectual, has a bad habit of taking cheap shots at theistic scientists. This time his target is Francis Collins. More below the fold.

Now, Collins' piece is short and more than a little hand-wavy, and even the bits that can be fairly construed as arguments aren't very good arguments. But PZ is just being disingenuous when he does things like this (emphasized text Collins'; ellipses PZ'):

... I see DNA, the information molecule of all living things, as God's language, and the elegance and complexity of our own bodies and the rest of nature as a reflection of God's plan.

This is an empty tautology. He sees something as a product of a god, therefore he believes in a god…but he offers no reason to see it as a god-product in the first place. If the reason for that is "elegance and complexity", then he is making the intelligent design argument. We know, however, that complexity is a consequence of accumulating randomness, and that elegance is honed out of the noise by selection. No gods are required for either, this is not a reason to believe.

Yes, if this is an argument, it's a crappy version of IDers already crappy arguments. But it's not meant to be an argument. Let's fill in those ellipses.

As a believer, I see DNA, the information molecule of all living things, as God's language, and the elegance and complexity of our own bodies and the rest of nature as a reflection of God's plan.

He's just explaining how he personally reconiciles his faith with something that's supposedly incompatible with faith. PZ is right that no gods are required, but Collins is just claiming consistency.

Collins actually does have a philosophical argument: `science alone' can't answer questions like `What is the meaning of life?' and `If the universe had a beginning, who created it?' Again, not a great argument. But the way to address it is not to play logical postivist. (And a very sloppy logical positivist at that.)

Some of those questions are nonsense ("What is the meaning of life?" There is no meaning beyond what you give to it), some are more tautologies ("Who created the universe?" Why assume it was a who?), and some have been answered or can be answered by science ("Why do humans have a moral sense?" Look up the word "altruism" in an evolution text, buddy.)

Most damning of all, though, why would an inability to answer a question cause one to turn from science to an alternative, religion, that is spectacularly unqualified to answer any of the questions posed? Religion cannot tell you what happens after you die in any meaningful way. The religious have no answers, nothing that someone trained to think scientifically can trace back to the evidence — they have assertions, and every one seems to make a different claim.

Verificationism -- the idea that every claim ought to or can be traced back to empirical evidence -- doesn't work. Consider statistical mechanics. Statistical mechanics models the thermodynamic properties of a gas by representing the gas as a collection of tiny, billiard ball-like objects bouncing off each other in some closed, finite space. It's an extremely well-accepted theory. And of course no-one has ever been able to look and see that ordinary gases have this composition. We can't see individual molecules, at least molecules of that size. The best we can do is take the assumptions of the theory, draw out inferences about what will happen when we perform a given experiment, and check and see that those conclusions actually do occur. Other theories would be just as good at predicting the outcomes of experiments, leaving us with several different and incompatible assertions about the microstructure of gases. What the other theories lack are the other so-called epistemic virtues, including simplicity, explanatory power, and unity with other branches of science (in this case, the dynamics of macroscopic solid objects).

Arguably, religion still doesn't make any experimental predictions, and still falls short. But once we allow the other epistemic virtues to play some role in guiding scientific theory choice, it's begging the question to claim the theist cannot use them to argue for theism. Presumably theists think they have a very elegant explanation for all of Collins' questions.

I don't think the theist's account is ultimately successful -- in particular, the combination of natural disasters and divine foreknowledge is going to wreck its purported elegance and simplicity -- but, in any case, evaluating this is more a job for philosophy than science, and also not something to be done in a couple of paragraphs in a blog post.

The problem I have with atheists of the stripe PZ/Dawkins stripe is, I think, the same one John Wilkins has:

I think rational people can hold a range of views so long as they are self-consistent, and I think a theist can be self-consistent (and can also accept science). That is not compelling to a nonbeliever because to find theism compelling you need to be inside that particular hermeneutic bubble, but all I argue is that we can, as nonbelievers, allow that theists can be rational in their own way. It's a simple plea for tolerance and respect. Why this is problematic eludes me.

PZ, Dawkins, et al, seem to think, not just that theism is theoretically unacceptable compared to atheism or strict deism, but that theism is morally or politically dangerous. The only way this last makes any sense to me is if you think theism is, or is generally, or is popularly, the same thing as theocracy. And that's just silly. I'll grant that there's a lot of religious discrimination tied into popular theism, but I think that will fade over the next few decades, and we're seeing a Renaissance of progressive theism in American politics right now which is decidedly anti-theocratic.

April 05, 2007

Nussbaum on Butler

Nussbaum's critique of Judith Butler is available here. Nussbaum's a fantastic writer, and I'd recommend taking the time to read the whole thing.

The opening paragraphs of section V offer the most cogent presentation of the critique. I'll quote at length.

What precisely does Butler offer when she counsels subversion? She tells us to engage in parodic performances, but she warns us that the dream of escaping altogether from the oppressive structures is just a dream: it is within the oppressive structures that we must find little spaces for resistance, and this resistance cannot hope to change the overall situation. And here lies a dangerous quietism.

If Butler means only to warn us against the dangers of fantasizing an idyllic world in which sex raises no serious problems, she is wise to do so. Yet frequently she goes much further. She suggests that the institutional structures that ensure the marginalization of lesbians and gay men in our society, and the continued inequality of women, will never be changed in a deep way; and so our best hope is to thumb our noses at them, and to find pockets of personal freedom within them. "Called by an injurious name, I come into social being, and because I have a certain inevitable attachment to my existence, because a certain narcissism takes hold of any term that confers existence, I am led to embrace the terms that injure me because they constitute me socially." In other words: I cannot escape the humiliating structures without ceasing to be, so the best I can do is mock, and use the language of subordination stingingly. In Butler, resistance is always imagined as personal, more or less private, involving no unironic, organized public action for legal or institutional change.

Isn't this like saying to a slave that the institution of slavery will never change, but you can find ways of mocking it and subverting it, finding your personal freedom within those acts of carefully limited defiance? Yet it is a fact that the institution of slavery can be changed, and was changed--but not by people who took a Butler-like view of the possibilities. It was changed because people did not rest content with parodic performance: they demanded, and to some extent they got, social upheaval. It is also a fact that the institutional structures that shape women's lives have changed. The law of rape, still defective, has at least improved; the law of sexual harassment exists, where it did not exist before; marriage is no longer regarded as giving men monarchical control over women's bodies. These things were changed by feminists who would not take parodic performance as their answer, who thought that power, where bad, should, and would, yield before justice.

Butler not only eschews such a hope, she takes pleasure in its impossibility. She finds it exciting to contemplate the alleged immovability of power, and to envisage the ritual subversions of the slave who is convinced that she must remain such. She tells us--this is the central thesis of The Psychic Life of Power--that we all eroticize the power structures that oppress us, and can thus find sexual pleasure only within their confines. It seems to be for that reason that she prefers the sexy acts of parodic subversion to any lasting material or institutional change. Real change would so uproot our psyches that it would make sexual satisfaction impossible. Our libidos are the creation of the bad enslaving forces, and thus necessarily sadomasochistic in structure.

Well, parodic performance is not so bad when you are a powerful tenured academic in a liberal university. But here is where Butler's focus on the symbolic, her proud neglect of the material side of life, becomes a fatal blindness. For women who are hungry, illiterate, disenfranchised, beaten, raped, it is not sexy or liberating to reenact, however parodically, the conditions of hunger, illiteracy, disenfranchisement, beating, and rape. Such women prefer food, schools, votes, and the integrity of their bodies. I see no reason to believe that they long sadomasochistically for a return to the bad state. If some individuals cannot live without the sexiness of domination, that seems sad, but it is not really our business. But when a major theorist tells women in desperate conditions that life offers them only bondage, she purveys a cruel lie, and a lie that flatters evil by giving it much more power than it actually has.

Towards the very end of the piece, Nussbaum refers to Butler's as `self-involved feminism' and `hip quietism'. It's a sophisticated, trendy veneer for solipsism. And, still worse, Butler actually seems to celebrate, eroticise, and eventually defend oppression. Now, for all I know, Nussbaum has Butler completely wrong. But if Nussbaum's right, then Butler's feminism ought to be rightfully seen as utterly antithetical to genuine feminism.

A taxonomy of normative theories

Over the past eight months or so, I've become extremely intrigued by a number of parallels between normative epistemology and normative ethics, both in terms of the content of particular theories and in terms of philosophical methodology. (In some cases, such as Alasdair MacIntyre and pragmatist philosophers of science, there is no sharp line between these two modes, but never mind that for now.) One way to start studying these parallels is taxonomically: group theories into classes which cut across the epistemic/ethical division, and compare and contrast the classes. I hit upon one such scheme of classification the other day, and I'd like to take a few moments to outline it.

The proposal is to examine theories with respect to the way they treat etiology, that is, the causes -- in this case, either the causes of some particular doxastic state, or the causes of some particular action. Call a judgement that either (a) some doxastic state is warranted or (b) some action is ethically permissible a normative judgement (or normative judgement simpliciter). My particular proposal is that we classify theories in terms of what role etiology plays in the account of normative judgement.

In the first category we have theories which emphasise etiology pretty much exclusively, and have a very narrow understanding of what counts as `the right kind' of etiology. Hence, these are theories in which, for example, an action is permissible if and only if it is actually caused by the right sort of motivations, where this latter is a very narrowly defined class. This includes both classical internalism and Kantian ethical theories which emphasise the deontological and `pure practical reason alone' aspects of Kant's ethics.

In the second category are theories where etiology is irrelevant. That is, according to these theories, it doesn't matter at all why you actually did what you did, so long as what you did had the right sort of end result. Consequentialist and utilitarian theories of ethics obviously fall under this heading. I think externalism in general also often falls under this heading. Goldman's reliablism, in particular, seems to be very, very similar to rule-based consequentialism: in both cases, an action/belief receives a positive normative judgement if and only if it is consistent with a good rule, where a rule is good if and only if it yields more goodness (a real, numerically measurable quantity) than not over a sufficiently large class of cases.

The third category is between the first two. These are theories according to which the right etiology is needed, but not sufficient, for a positive normative judgement. Hence, consider Plantinga's proper functionalism: for a belief to be warranted, it needs to actually be caused in the right sort of way (by a properly functioning truth-oriented cognitive faculty), but also needs to be formed in the right sort of environment. On the ethical side, certain species of virtue ethics work in a similar way (those these often reject the permissible/impermissible dichotomy and prefer to focus on whole lives rather than individual acts).

One problem here is that `etiology' is extremely vague, if not downright meaningless. If I pursue this project, the first thing I need to do is sharpen the principles of division. Using teleology instead of etiology might help, since at least the notion of the right sort of end (ethical goodness/truth) is easier to define than the right sort of cause.

At the other end of the project is spelling out the implications of this scheme. Consider the standard divisions between neo-Aristoteleans and consequentialists. Do these divisions also appear between proper functionalism and reliablism? Could a proper functionalist say, for example, that a reliablist has far too narrow and quantitative an understanding of (epistemic) goodness? And do ethical theories have to go along with their epistemic contaxonics? Or could one be a deontologist when it comes to epistemology and a virtue theorist when it comes to ethics, say?

Finally, I'm not sure whether pragmatist and socialist theories fit well into any of these three categories. (Here I have in mind a large group including Quine, Dewey, MacIntyre, Helen Longino, and Bernard Williams.) Perhaps we'd need a fourth and fifth category. Or maybe just a fourth?

April 04, 2007

Why I watch the News Hour with Jim Lehrer

The policy debate segments are actual debates. Just like cable news, they're utterly and completely predictable 95% of the time, with one liberal (more or less) and one conservative (more or less), but the two interlocutors actually talk with each other. There are serious, thoughtful objections and serious, thoughtful responses. It's not just brandishing talking points. And there's absolutely no yelling.

I also think the gender ratio of the talking heads is much less skewed than cable news. Women show up quite regularly, and not just when the subject is a `women's issue'. The other night, the pundits talking about the Supreme Court rulings concerning the EPA were both women.

Perfect? No. A head above cable news? Yes.

April 03, 2007

Who knew Alanis Morissette was such a brilliant satirist?

It's both funny and disturbing.

I haven't listened to Morissette since high school (and Ironic was everywhere then, so don't pretend you don't remember it), though I did like her portrayal of God in Dogma. I wonder whether her more recent recordings have this kind of feminist content?

April 01, 2007

Darfuri in Indiana

Fellow residents of the SB might be interested to know that we have a burgeoning refugee community:

As many as 300 people originally from Darfur are living in Fort Wayne, with others scattered across smaller Indiana cities like Elkhart, South Bend and Goshen. Together, they form one of the largest concentrations of Darfuri in the United States.

Frankly, I'm surprised, and for almost exactly the reasons the article suggests.

Despite Indiana’s reputation among Americans as a monolithic slice of the country, in parts of Africa it is known — mostly by word of mouth — as diverse, welcoming and affordable.

`Monolithic' isn't the term I would use; `homogeneous' is more appropriate. Northern Indiana is populated primarily working-class practicing Catholics of Polish and Irish descent. Deviation from that norm is much more often denominational than racial. What racial diversity we do have is, unsurprisingly, tied closely into class and geographical divisions. Near where a few of my friends live, for example, the difference between the `good' (upper middle class professionals and students, mostly white) and `bad' (much poorer, mostly black) neighbourhoods is a single street.

The politics here are right-of-centre, with the working class background checking the nasty side of American Christianity. But while there's not much support in the air for welfare or affirmative action programs, I can imagine that there's also little conscious racism. And perhaps Fort Wayne -- about two hours away, according to Google -- actually does diversity better than the SB:

Fort Wayne, for instance, has one of the largest populations of Burmese in the United States, and for a city its size — approximately 250,000 residents — it has a considerable international flair, with many families from Vietnam, Congo and Somalia. Seventy-seven languages are spoken in the Fort Wayne public school system.

I seriously doubt any immigrants will read this post. But I hope they do genuinely feel welcome here. If they're coming from a rural lifestyle in their native country, I think Northern Indiana makes a lot more sense than Chicago or New York. As one of my professors put it last week, compared to rural Iowa, the SB is `high civilization'.