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A blogger's perogative?

Five Things I Have Been Persuaded to Change My Mind about Since College:

Note: These are not things that I have changed my mind about due to exposure (such as a newfound fondness for Early Music or the realization that there is a reason to drink decaffeinated tea). These are issues, mostly minor ones, where somebody expressed a view that I hadn’t held before, and I subsequently Changed My Mind based on that expression. I also include the presentation of new evidence as part of persuasion, if the evidence was (in my memory) arranged as a persuasive tactic, rather than being sort of independently uncovered. For instance, the revelation that the Ba’athists in Iraq did not, in fact, have a stockpile of chemical and biological weapons was not presented (to me) as part of an effort to persuade me that the invasion was misguided, although it would have been a useful part of such persuasion.

  • Batting Average is inferior to On Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage as either a measure of past performance or a measure of future performance. Although in my teens I did more or less adopt the idea that a .300 hitter might be a “soft” .300 hitter, I generally took HR and RBI as a sufficient way to complement BA. It wasn’t until I started reading Baseball Prospectus and Baseball Primer (now part of the Baseball Think Factory) that I really Changed My Mind about BA.
  • It’s OK to use literally as an intensifier, singular they, and hopefully to describe the speaker. By the end of my college days, I was becoming more of a descriptivist and less of a prescriptivist, understanding that much of prescriptivism was William Safire getting to decide who was in the Semi-colon Club. Still, there were some things that just bugged me. The boys over at Language Log have used a variety of means to persuade me to give some of those up, mostly historical examples. For instance, it’s clear that literally has been used as an intensifier at least as long as really, and that as they essentially mean the same thing, there is no reason to allow one and disallow the other. Words mean what people say they mean.
  • Even if personal property is a fiction, it is both a useful and a necessary fiction. Don’t be alarmed, I still call myself a socialist. But even though I still have been unable to persuade myself that personal property exists in any philosophically meaningful sense, I have been persuaded (by Gentle Readers, among others) that any social system with a reasonable chance at either justice or stability needs to include some version of property rights (albeit not necessarily placing them at a high priority or considering them sacrosanct). To some extent, I must admit that this change of view is related to the aging process and the accumulation of Stuff that has gone along with it, but mostly I think it has been actual suasion.
  • Damn, that’s only three. Hm. Steroids are bad for baseball. Mostly, I don’t much care, one way or another, but my previous feeling was that on the whole people wanted bigger, better athletes, and therefore it was in baseball’s interest to provide them. After the recent revelations, I think that a large amount of baseball’s fan base does, whether I agree with them or not, draw the line at performance-enhancing chemicals that are not widely available over-the-counter, and therefore baseball would risk alienating that fan base by encouraging or even allowing widespread use. And since baseball does, I think I perceive, rely more on its fan base than other major league American sports do, and less on casual ticket-buyers and television-watchers, they oughtn’t alienate their fan base. I’m not sure this really should count as persuasion rather than exposure, since mostly it was exposure (in conversation and on the Baseball Primer) to people who persuaded me that (a) they were fans, and (2) they did draw the line at steroids, and enjoyed the game less because of them. A combination, you understand.
  • There really was an organized attempt by people within the Republican Party, using the Republican Party resources and structure, to subvert the will of the people in the Ohio Presidential Election in 2004, resulting in an essentially fraudulent choice of electors, and therefore a misfire in who holds the office of President. This is not, by the way, the Black Box theory, that holds that the machines made by Diebold did not count votes correctly, although that may also have happened. This is about closed polling places and otherwise suppressed turnout in predominantly Democratic areas, in a deliberate attempt to deny people their franchise. I know some Gentle Readers thought that was obvious from the beginning, and others still think it’s crazy talk. My own initial reaction was that such accusations stemmed from the frustrations of the Democrats at losing another election that they felt they ought to have won, together with the sort of wildcat voter-suppression activities that have always been part of the system. Since then, though, I have been persuaded that there really was an organized effort to suppress the vote, and that the effort was effectively organized within and by a profoundly corrupt State Party.

That’s five. I’m not sure I could come up with very many more. It would be easy to come up with Five Things I’ve Changed My Mind About Since College, which would include things such as my willingness to change the Hebrew in the prayerbook for greater inclusiveness, or that I actually do want to raise at least one child, but the fact that this is much harder to do makes it more interesting. I don’t think it’s coincidence that four of the five don’t particularly require me to change my actions, and the other just requires that I refrain from some complaining that I used to do. The things that involve actually doing something (like changing my diet, say, or my reading habits, or my purchasing patterns, or exercising, or like that) are more likely to change only after prolonged exposure, rather than through conversation. That doesn’t mean that rhetoric, as one aspect of the exposure, didn’t play a large part in that exposure, but it wasn’t sufficient. Of course, that’s all going by my own interpretations of my memories; it’s likely that others would have perceived different causes and effects.

chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,