Monday, December 30, 2002

We interrupt the blogging holiday for this special occasion...

Y'know, Randy Cohen's (The NYT Magazine's "Ethicist" columnist) obituary for Ann Landers almost had me liking him, for a minute.

Then he pulled this:
"By presenting her views in the form of an innocuous advice column, not as politics but as common sense, she operated as a sort of stealth progressive.
"This is not an easy thing to do. Shortly after my own column began, it was denounced in several right-wing periodicals, in once case under the headline "'The Ethicist' Better Termed 'The Marxist.'" I may have suggested,,, in passing, that 'corporations donate to charity to buff their images' or 'clean air-- why not?' Apparently ideology-detecting radar has become more acute since Ann Landers began or perhaps, with the country veering so far to the right, qualifications for Marxism have been lowered substantially, like some sort of ideological grade inflation."


This isn't the first time that Cohen has feigned astonishment that the mean right-wingers picked on him and claimed that it was because of views like support for clean air. He milked this story in the introduction to his book, and then ran the relevant exerpt as an article in The Nation. It read in part:

"Virtue, it turns out, is the exclusive property of the right. This was brought to my attention just a few months after I began writing "The Ethicist," a weekly column in The New York Times Magazine, when it was denounced by four periodicals, each more right-wing than the last--the weekend Wall Street Journal, the American Spectator, Reason (the presumably ironically named magazine of the Libertarians) and the online version of National Review, where it was named the Outrage Du Jour, under the headline: "'The Ethicist' Better Termed 'The Marxist.'" I may have earned this encomium by suggesting that public education was worthwhile, or perhaps by favoring breathable air. Or air. (Admissions requirements for Marxism have apparently been lowered precipitately, like some kind of ideological grade inflation.)"

Cute. And, like the comedy writer he used to be, he doesn't let a good punchline go. (Cohen has no training in ethics or any related field; the title "The Ethicist" has always struck me as making an unwarranted claim to be offering expertise rather than Landers-style common sense.) The problem is that this punchline is a crock.

I wrote one of those alleged right-wing hit-pieces, for Reason. (You can read it here.) The views for which I criticized him included that it was unethical to fire a temp worker whose shoddy performance was reflecting poorly on everyone ["if anyone's acting unethically here, it's your boss; it is ignoble to force people into soul-deadening, pointless, poorly paid jobs....Organizing work into tedious, repetitive tasks, (that is, the division of labor-- JTL) while profitable for the few, makes life miserable for the many; some political economists have called it a crime against humanity." ] and that giving to charity was morally wrong because the more charitable activity there is, the more easily the state abandons public projects. That's not warm fluffy clean-air stuff. The division-of-labor-as-crime-against-humanity line is probably what led NRO to call him a Marxist.

My beef with him then was that he kept telling people that their individual choices (to defraud or not, to fire or not, to give or not) were morally irrelevant, because of the radical injustice of the economic system. This, I argued, took him out of the realm of being an ethicist-cum-advice-columnist and into the realm of being an op-ed columnist. My beef with him now is that he feels sorry for himself that the right-wingers were so mean to him, but he lies (and keeps telling the same lie) about why that happened. He doesn't stand up for, or modify, or mention, the views that were criticized.

Cohen, of course, has a much wider readership than I do. But as long as he keeps bringing up that he was attacked, I'll keep reminding whoever I can what he was attacked for; clean air it wasn't.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Today at noon Central time, I'll be on Odyssey , on WBEZ 91.5 in Chicago (and simulcast at other NPR outlets? I'm not sure; but it can be listened to online.) discussing freedom of association, inclusion and exclusion, and the relationships between associational life and broader democratic communities. There's some call-in time available (1.888.859.1800). UPDATE: The show can be listened to at the Odyseey archives here

Thursday, December 19, 2002

SPOILERS HO.

Those who don't yet want to know about the Two Towers movie, skip on by.

My brother called me last night-- my brother who's been downloading all the making-of documentaries from the web as they were made, not waiting for them to appear on DVDs-- and was very, very dismayed. I'll bet he's not the only fan who is. But I'm not.

The first thing to remember is: Ten years ago, if I'd told you there would be a beautiful, live-action, convincing, big-budget movie of The Two Towers; that tens of millions of people were going to watch a movie that included correct Elvish and Entish; that the Battle of Helm's Deep was going to become one of the handful of best cinematic representations of a battle, ever; you'd've told me I was nuts. Don't lose sight of the forest for the ents.

Second: Gollum. This Gollum is not only an astonishing technical achievement, integrated seamlessly into a live-action movie and setting a new, very high bar for successful CGI. It's also an emotionally compelling performance, and sets a new standard in that way as well. (The froglike critter from the Rankin-Bass cartoons now seems shockingly inadequate.)

Third: the physical reality of Edoras and of Helm's Deep. Edoras is the equal of the first movie's Shire, and even better than the first movie's RIvindell or Lorien.

Fourth: Grima. Brr...

Fifth: Don't compare this version of the Two Towers with the version of Fellowship that you watched last week on DVD. Compare it with the version you watched in the theaters last December. There'll be an extended DVD release of this one, too; and Jackson now has enough of a record that we should trust and be excited about that longer movie.

All of that said...

Oh my God! They killed Haldir! You bastards!


The changes Jackson's made to the story of the second volume all seem to me to push in a common direction: characters who are not among the members of the Fellowship may not be heroic and important. They must be made either less brave and willing to face the war than they are in the books (Theoden, Treebeard, Elrond); more wimpy in an inchoate way (Eowyn); more morally dubious (Faramir-- this is the one that does the most damage); or less prominent (Eomer, whose friendship with Aragorn was sorely missed). This is largely so that our inspiring heroes-- Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, Gandalf, and Pippin-- can perform unnecessarily dramatic rallyings-of-the-troops. This, in turn, is in large part because of the changes Jackson has introduced into Aragrorn's plotline (in turn largely motivated by the desire to make the Aragorn-Arwen love story more central, and to make Arwen more prominent). Instead of striding forth from Rivindell with the reforged Narsil in his hand ready to face his destiny, Aragorn has to grow into his leadership, with important help along the way from Arwen and the elves.

This is a very big change, and it's cost us in some significant ways. (I think it has, as one spillover, the loss of the full version of Boromir's and Faramir's dream even in the extended version, and the loss of the dream altogether from the theatrical versions.) It also makes a lot of sense, as a matter of movie-making. The three wholly independent plots of Two Towers are pretty hard to tie into a movie; as a stand-alone book, its climaxes come in funny places and each of the plots ends in a kind of funny place. What Jackson tried to do was to run the three plotlines in parallel, giving each a martial-action climax at the same point. (This was way Frodo and Sam got dragged to Osgiliath. As I mentioned, the Faramir subplot is seriously problematic.) And this structure of changes gives him the opportunity to do this. The arrival of Celeborn and the elvish archers can signal both a rallying of the elves and a rallying of the Rohirrhim. (Note to anyone who, like me, was worried by repeated reference to "the Rohans" in television commentary and printed reviews: the correct "Rohirrhim" is used in the movie.) More or less simultaneously, Merry and Pippin can directly cause Treebeard to become "roused," instead of merely serving as the pebbles that start the avalanche. Later, Aragorn can reinspire the Eomer-less Theoden to greatness-- a reinspiration that wouldn't have been nearly as dramatic had Theoden emerged from his encounter with Gandalf as confident as he did in the book.

So in the service of getting dramatically-timed and Fellowship- (especially Aragorn-)led rallies Theoden is reduced, the Elves are reduced, and the ents are reduced. In the service of getting a martial climax to Frodo and Sam's plotline, and of making sure that our growing-into-office Aragorn doesn't suffer by comparison, Faramir is worse than reduced. He's really betrayed. Since we're supposed to care about love stories: are we now going to feel nearly as happy about Eowyn getting Faramir as her consolation prize? (Maybe so, since she's been reduced as well.)

I'll freely admit: I liked the arrival of the elves at Helm's Deep. I'm not sure that it entirely redeems the weaselification of Elrond over the previous movie and a half; but it was pretty nice, and I understand why it was cinematically called for.

I think Gimli got mocked a bit too much; and I was not happy to have drawrf-tossing mentioned again-- or to have had it mentioned once. But I was clearly in the minority; the opening-day audience roared. And, again, I understand the cinematic demands. Had Gimli not been played somewhat for laughs, there'd've been nothing to lighten the hour-plus of the Helm's Deep plotline. Fine in the book, not so fine in what is, in part, an action movie.

I really missed the full Aragorn-Eomer conversation when they first meet-- though, of course, that conversation depends on Aragorn being willing to claim hios full title and bearing the Sword, so it had to go. I'm not very happy with Treebeard's character.

But the only thing that seemed to me really, really wrong was Faramir; and I don't think the desire to put Frodo and Sam into a battle justifies it.

But, manoman... can you believe we have a cinematic Faramir about whose characterization we can argue?

I thought Fellowship should've gotten both Best Picture and Best Director. I'm less convinced of Best Picture this time... but even more convinced of Best Director.

UPDATE: Heh. Bruce Baugh has a funny take on the discrepancies, though I don't think it really works. (In fairness, it's not really supposed to.)
I'm happy to see that the mostly-silent Volokh Conspirator, Michelle Boardman (whom I know and admire from 'way back in our days together at Brown) is back.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

CalPundit has posted some thoughts in response to my post on groupblogs.
It's grammar day at How Appealing and at Mark Kleiman...

Monday, December 16, 2002

The Nation has mostly been unreadable since Hitchens left, but this is a pretty sharp, funny review of the new D'Souza book.
Here's a link to a paper I published a couple of years ago on free speech and the symbols of the Confederacy and of the American history of race-terrorism. (When Cato VP David Boaz wrote an open-ed quoting the piece, it came to the attention of the Confederatista pseudo-libertarians at places like LewRockwell.com-- Lew Rockwell being a prominent pseudo-libertarian who endorsed the Rodney King beatings. Unfriendly comments and e-mails ensued. Judging myself by the enemies I kept, I was pretty pleased...)
Kieran Healey has a marvelous post tweaking anayltic philosophy; and Chris Bertram has a nice pair of posts on European expansion. His point about France is one I've been batting around in my head for the last week. There are all sorts of ways in which Turkey doesn't yet live up to what I take to be the decent liberal minimum of respecting human rights, or at least hasn't yet shown that it has changed its ways. But almost all of these it imported directly or indirectly from France, with the suppression of both religion and linguistic minorities high on the list. If I trusted the EU more, I'd have some sympathies with their reasons for continuing to exclude Turkey; as it is, I'm sort of dubious. (That doesn't mean, btw, that American security interests-- even legitimate ones-- should provide sufficient reason for the EU to extend membership.)

Not all free trade agreements, however, claim to rest on such a thick ideological foundation as the EU. Let Turkey into NAFTA!

Meanwhile: I've got my Two Towers tickets. It didn't occur to me until fairly late in the game that the free ticket that came with the Fellowship DVD wasn't compatible with buying advance tickets online-- which is of course necessary for opening-day seats. Guess I'll just have to go again. Dang.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Juan non-Volokh posted what seemed to me an implausibly sanguine account of the advantages of student-edited law reviews over peer-reviewed journals... but before I could get around to pointing out the difficulties in the argument, his fellow Conspirators Orin Kerr and Sasha Volokh had already done it, thus confirming both a point I made a long time ago about the similarity between blogging and peer review and the possibility I mentioned last week that the future belongs to groupblogs....
via Baggage Carousel No. 4, a paper on the population dynamics of Sunnydale, CA.

Friday, December 13, 2002

I can't muster the energy for anything new on the substance of the Lott problem, while we're waiting for this afternoon's press conference. So instead I'll kvetch about language, a la Jay Nordlinger or William Safire.

The WSJ editorial about Lott has as its subhed:
He must ask if he's still the best leader for the GOP.

Did I miss the memo announcing the abolition of the if-whether distinction? In the past six months or so, even venues that I expect to know better-- TNR, the WSJ, the Economist, the NYT, NR-- seem to have given up on the distinction entirely. (When there's an implied "or not," the proper word is "whether." When there's an implied "then"-- "If Trent Lott steps down, the GOP may have trouble finding a willing successor"-- the proper word is "if.") Do in-house stylebooks no longer even mention this? Do copy-editors no longer read stylebooks? I find this as jarring as that-which mistakes, and only a notch or two less jarring than the misuse of "disinterest." I can't see any good reason for the change, and can't understand why even usually-dependable editors seem to have given up on the distinction.

UPDATE: As far as I can tell, "I wonder if" is never correct. That is to say, I can't think of a correct sentence that would begin that way. This is among the most common ways of making the if-whether mistake. If your sentence or thought begins with "I wonder," [implied "then"] it should take "whether," not "if." I wonder whether there are any exceptions [implied "or not"]...
Coming next week: a response to Nick Shulz's Tech Central Station column on Rawls and foreign policy.

The debate over Rawls' ideas rarely spilled over into the realm of foreign policy.
And whether Rawls had strong feelings about, say, the war on terror or toppling
Saddam Hussein, I do not know. But Rawls' concern for the least well-off can -
indeed, it should - extend far beyond domestic political economy to the realm
of foreign policy. After all, he was positing universal principles, principles in
many ways useful and suitable for an examination of foreign policy.


Rawls did indeed have strong views on the relationship between the principles of Theory of Justice and international politics-- published in The Law of Peoples. That relationship doesn't turn out at all the way Shulz suggests here-- for reasons that some of Rawls' leftist admirers and critics have disputed but with which I (in large part) agree.
Via AppellateBlog (which you should be reading every day anyways): Salon (which I used to read every day but no longer do) praises Andy Richter Controls the Universe, and in particular its opening episode of the season. You read about it here first...
Heh. Paul Krugman:

And without the indefatigable efforts of Mr. Marshall and a few other Internet writers,
Mr. Lott's recent celebration of segregation would probably have been buried as well.


And who might those others be, Paul?

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Bush is right on the substance, wrong on what to do next.
NO, NO NO... This time it's some Jewish groups trying to use France's free-speech-unfriendly laws to suppress a novel they don't like. (Some Muslim groups tried something similar earlier this fall.) I'm especially dismayed that Americans, working for an organization that is overwhelmingly funded by American Jewry, are considering the suppression of speech overseas, showing little commitment to the values of the First Amendment.* (Yes, I understand that the U.S. Constitution doesn't bind France; my point is that I kind of hope that Americans think the First Amendment is correct, and that they therefore wouldn't promote censorship in other places even in places where they might get away with it.)

*Shimon Samuels, director for international liaison for the
Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, said he and
other Jewish representatives were considering the possibility
of seeking a court order to ban the book, for which no sales
figures were yet available in France.
I quite like Kieran Healey's quip about the OxBloggers pinch-hitting for the Volokh Conspirators:

Even in the blogosphere, when the Prof is out of town, the grad students teach the class.

(I suspect that this is the harbinger of things to come. Given a) the time demands involved in blogging and b) the time demands involved in following multiple blogs, group-blogs-- Corner, Hit & Run, OxBlog, Conspiracy, etc-- seem to have a real advantage over individually-authored blogs: more content-per-effort for writers and readers alike. And now the group blogs are collaborating with each other to make sure that their posting frequency doesn't fall! Conspiracy, indeed... )
The window is closing. If no Republican Senator has broken ranks by Friday; if Republican Senators don't hear enough from angry constituents (especially Republican constituents!) by the end of the week; then we're going to be stuck with Confederatista Lott for two more years. Attention Republicans: even if you think that Lott's apology has been adequate, it is not in your party's interest to keep this wounded, tainted figure as one of its most prominent spokesmen, to create such an obvious (and IMO legitimate!) target for charges of GOP racism. See David Frum, Deroy Murdock, Robert George, Dan Drezner. (See also Josh Marshall on the lies Lott is telling at this point, or Michelle Cottle's sketch of Lott's history, in case you actually do think Lott is repentant and are tempted to accept his pseudo-apology at face value.)

Find your Republican Senator's e-mail address and let 'em know-- civilly but firmly and clearly!-- that Lott as Majority Leader is unacceptable.

I'm intrigued and persuaded by Andrew Sullivan's take on the generation gap here, on the degree of anger among young conservatives and libertarians at what some older Republicans still think is acceptable... though there's something, too, to Tapped's condescending observation:

In a way, this all makes Tapped feel bad for younger conservatives,
especially the cosmopolitan-intellectual types who talk a good game
about the virtues of Red America but live in places like Washington,
New York and Cape Cod. Guys like McCain
[not the Senator-- JTL]
and Lott are throwbacks, a dying breed, and clearly it legitimately
pains the younger guys that they have to play on the same team as
these jackasses. It's tough being the Blue-state intellectual arm of
an Old South-led political movement.


This is a big part of why I'm more skeptical of the GOP than are many other blue-state libertarians my age. (Of course, the constant betrayals on trade, taxes, and spending don't help either.) A show of Republican spine in getting rid of Lott would certainly help to allay my worries that the troglodytes have a stranglehold on the party's conscience.



Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Dan Drezner floods the zone on Lott.

Those of us who live in states with Republican Senators should start suggesting to them that they not re-elect Lott as Majority Leader. I'm writing to Peter Fitzgerald...

Update: Written, as follows.

Dear Senator Fitzgerald:

I'm writing to urge you in the strongest possible terms not to support Trent Lott's re-election as Majority Leader, and to ask you to urge him to step down as soon as possible. His deeply inappopriate comments last week about Strom Thurmond's Dixiecrat presidential campaign in 1948; his inability to grasp how seriously inappropriate those comments were; his repeated pattern of statements in support of the Confederate cause; and his apparently longstanding conviction that the country would have been better off with a Thurmond win (as evidenced by the news that he made an almost-identical statement in 1980) leave him hopelessly tainted. For the good of the Republican Party, for the good of the Senate, and for the good of race relations in the country, he ought to step down. His supposed apology was utterly inadequate, given the seriousness of what he said.

You represent the Party of Lincoln from Lincoln's own state. Lott, by his own repeated statements, stands for the legacy of Jefferson Davis and Strom Thurmond circa 1948 (who was, after all, not the Republican candidate!), not for the legacy of Lincoln. Please do the right thing, and do your part to remove Lott as majority leader, by persuasion or with your vote.


Update again: Josh Chafetz has (independently) done the same. He made a specific recommendation for who should replace Lott, which I didn't do. YMMV.
See Josh Marshall on "safety-net entrepreneurs" in the Bush Administration.
Interesting tidbit: in today's article about conservative opposition to Stephen Friedman's selection as director of the NEC, the NYT says "White House officials lashed out at critics... including [NRO and Cato regular] Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth... They said Mr. Moore had no credibility with the administration." What's the story behind that?
Today's NYT subhed: "Conservatives Join Call [for Lott] to Quite Leadership." Later says that "Some calls [to step down] came from conservatives... Much of the criticism came from members of the Congressional Black Caucus." (Emphasis added.)

Umm... excuse me?

The good news, I suppose, is that if the CBC is angry then maybe the NYT will start giving this Augusta-level coverage... whereas if the Times believed that conservatives had been attacking Lott earliest and oftenest, then it might feel compelled to come to his defense.

[This is cranky and grumpy on my part, I know. But it's pretty annoying on the NYT's part as well.]
Another in the depressing string of stories about the Bush administration alienating those who want to be our genuine friends in the world. Avoiding European goo-goo multilateralism is one thing. An inability to conduct diplomacy is another. The administration spares almost no effort in sucking up to China, Saudi Arabia, and usually Russia. Australia, Canada, Mexico, India, and Israel get no such consideration-- to say nothing of Brazil, Argentina, Pakistan, democratic states and movements in Africa... I don't believe that the U.S.' power forces it into being an arrogant hyperpower, and I don't believe that a rejection of Kyoto makes it one. But an utter disdain for friends and allies does.
This Washington Post comparison (via Mark Kleiman) of DiIulio's retraction to show-trial self-denunciations is spot-on. Thought for the day: DiIulio said his father taught him to apologize "on your knees, or not at all. In other words, whether completely culpable or not, and whether there are complicated mitigating if not exonerating motivations and circumstances or not, you do not express honest, heartfelt remorse for wrong by quibbling over how the wronged person or persons characterize it." DiIulio's father was a wise man-- though I don't think that facially absurd over-the-top apologies are what he had in mind. (You do not express honest, heartfelt remorse by coming across as if you're mocking those demanding an apology. One of the British papers did something like this not long ago; they repeated, verbatim, the demand for an apology that some offended celeb had included in the settlement of a libel suit, and it came across as so absurd as to be obviously insincere. Was covered in The Economist.)

But let's read that over again:

In other words, whether completely culpable or not, and whether there are complicated mitigating if not exonerating motivations and circumstances or not, you do not express honest, heartfelt remorse for wrong by quibbling over how the wronged person or persons characterize it.

Are you listening, Trent?

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Mark Levin asks, in effect, why people are piling on poor Trent Lott who didn't give Bill Clinton a hard time for honoring William Fulbright.

Answer: People aren't piling on Lott for honoring Thurmond. We're not complaining about the fact that he appeared at the cryogenic old lecher's birthday party, or that he gave a speech lauding his accomplishments. We're complaining about the fact that he expressed regret that Thurmond didn't win the presidency in 1948 on a platform of explicit racism, and that he suggested that the fifty years that followed would have been better if Thurmond had won and been able to block anti-lynching legislation, civil rights legislation, and so on.

The analogous behavior for Clinton would have been endorsing the Southern Manifesto. This, he did not do.
Good for Emily Yoffe and OxBlog's David Adesnik for responding to the NYT's Rhodes story.
The flying monkeys are very good on Lott today. See Robert George (the journo, not the prof) and David Frum. As it happens, I think it's especially important that National Review-- the conservative magazine founded on the expulsion of the "troglodytes" from the conservative movement-- weigh in on this; it means more coming from them than it does coming from the libertarian blogosphere. See also continuing coverage by Instapundit, Virginia Postrel, Andrew Sullivan, Josh Marshall,and so on. The Weekly Standard has chimed in, too. But Tapped, bizarrely, says "Good for Lott for apologizing." [Update: Tapped later recognized that "maybe we let Lott off too easy." But then later still Tapped writes "It's amazing to Tapped that this story almost went away," without acknowledging that Tapped was almost alone in the blogosphere in being willing to let it go away. Tapped also seems to consider it a clever and surprising insight that Taki, who is backing the new Pat Buchanan magazine, has said anti-Semitic things in public. I thought that "Taki is an anti-Semite" long ago passed from being an open secret to being the conventional wisdom-- so much so that when the new magazine debuted, Kristol was quoted as saying, in effect, that even Pat Buchanan should be embarrassed to be associated with him.]
Where's Jack Kemp?

Lott's non-apology apology isn't even close to adequate for reasons already described by all of the above commentators. Get rid of him.
Sheesh! Dan Drezner's post on Krugman has hit the big-leagues: Kaus mentioned it, but made a minor mistake, prompting this bit of nastiness from Krugman and a response from Kaus. Hey, Dan: You might want to leave Paul off your list of possible reviewers come tenure-time...
Department of self-parody: This New York Times article says

Women Who Lead Colleges See Slower Growth in Ranks

"[T]he number of women tapped to become college presidents has leveled
off in recent years, after increasing steeply from the mid-1980's through the late 1990's,
according to a survey of more than 2,500 two- and four-year institutions.

"The survey, by the American Council on Education, found that from
1986 to 2001, the percentage of college presidents who were women
jumped to 21.1, from 9.5 percent. From 1998 to 2001, the increase
was only 1.8 percentage points.

"Similar shifts in hiring occurred among minorities, whose ranks among
college presidents increased to 12.8 percent in 2001 from 8.1 percent
in 1986. Since 1998, however, the share of minorities running institutions
of higher education rose by just 1.5 percentage points. If historically black
and Latino institutions are not counted, only one in 10 colleges or universities
is run by a minority."


Women first: From 1986 to 2001, there was an average increase of .733 percentage points per year in women's share of college and university presidencies. From 1998 until 2001, that racing growth screeched to a halt... of merely .6 percentage points per year.
To put the ACE's and the NYT's point more effectively, don't compare 1986-2001 with 1998-2001; compare instead 1986-1998 with 1998-2001. Then we get (21.5-9.5-1.8)/12, or an average increase of .85 percentage points per year over those twelve years, compared with the same average increase of .6 points per year over the final three years. A decline? Sure. A "levelling off after increasing steeply?" Seems like a heck of a stretch to me. (For a graphic representation, click here.)

It's worse for the story's treatment of minorities: An increase of .267 percentage points per year 1986-1998; an increase of .5 percentage points per year 1998-2001. In other words, the pace of minority hiring for presidencies has picked up over the last three years-- by nearly as much as the pace has decreased for women; not at all a "similar shift" to the purported levelling off among women presidents. And the analysis in the rest of the article, concerning the alleged increased conservatism among boards of trustees, proceeds as if for women and minorities alike there has been a dramatic slowdown (or even an outright reversal) in the assumption of college presidencies.

(Note: it has occured to me as a possibility that the numbers reported for 2001 were supposed to be attributed to 1998. That would have made for a genuine levelling off in both cases. But I can't find any sign in the ACE press release that there has been such a mistake.)

To reiterate: The levelling off in the hiring of women is tiny, and the pace of minority hiring has increased not decreased (though by a similarly tiny margin). If not for the fact that this appears to be an ACE problem rather than an NYT problem in the first instance, this article would perfectly fulfill the old "World Ends: Women, Minorities Hardest Hit" joke about the Times. On the other hand, the fact that the NYT ran this article at all (as opposed to articles based on the thousands of other press releases it receives each day), and that no one stopped to check the arithmetic, might qualify the piece as a fulfillment of the joke after all.

UPDATE: Readers Paul Cashman and Bob Perera object that I should have used compound growth rates. Mr. Cashman writes:

Typically when we deal in growth rates or percentages, the key figure is CAGR -- compound annual growth rate, or the constant percentage by which some amount grows over a period of time. For example, when the statement is made that the stock market has returned an average of 8% since 1929, or inflation averaged 3.2% between 1980-2000, it's the CAGR that's being referred to. When businesspeople do return on investment analysis, they're looking for the constant rate of growth of some investment over a period. Mathematically, we have:

ending_amount = starting_amount * (1 + CAGR) ** years

which becomes:

CAGR = ((ending_amount/starting_amount) ** (1/years)) -1

Applying this analysis to the Times story, we see:

CAGR for women presidents, 1986-1998 is 6.1%
CAGR for women presidents, 1998-2001 is 3.0%
CAGR for minority presidents, 1986 -1998 is 2.8%
CAGR for minority presidents, 1998-2001 is 4.2%

So the growth in women presidents in the recent period is half of what is was in the earlier period, while in the recent period minorities are being hired as college presidents at a rate 50% higher than they were in the earlier period.


Here's part of what I wrote back:

I'll note your dissent online; but I had considered the issue you raise before
writing my post. (I carefully wrote in terms of percentage point increases,
not percentage increases, for just that reason.)

What the cases you refer to have in common with each other, and not with this
case, is compounding. That is, next year I'll earn interest on the interest I
earned this year. Next year inflation will increase even this year's inflated
prices. I just can't see the relevance of compounding to the case at hand.

To put it a different way: The NYT made it sound like the first derivative of
women-presidents-over-time had dramatically fallen. It hasn't. You correctly
argue that the second derivative has fallen dramatically. But I can't make out
the substantive interest of that fact. The number of women presidents, their
share of the total, has continued to rise at a nearly-steady rate. The
rate
of increase in the number of women presidents has slowed, as you say. But,
well, so what?


The way Mr. Perera puts it:
Dr. Levy's conclusions still more or less hold but using linear (as he does)
instead of compound growth puts most of the percentage gains into early years,
which could be valid (I have no data) but is probably wrong.




It seems to me that compounding can't be relevant in the same way when the underlying variable is has an upper boundary-- which both number of presidencies and share of presidencies do. In a variable with that characteristic, the compounded growth rate must eventually fall over time. And in this particular variable it seems perfectly plausible and uninteresting to me that the year-on-year percentage gains weremuch higher in earlier years (Mr. Perera's point). Wouldn't they have to be? When initial values are tiny, but increases can only happen in whole numbers (i.e. from 1 woman president we can't go to 1.05 but must go to 2), then the percentage gains early on are huge. But if we keep hiring one net new woman president per year, then the number of women presidents and women's share of presidencies both rise steadily over time (hiring doesn't "level off") even though the compound annual growth rate falls dramatically (from 100% in the first year to 50% in the second year to 33% in the third year...)

But I might be wrong about this. If I am, then the substantive interpretation changes as follows: there still hasn't been a "similar shift" in the hiring of minority presidents; indeed, the dissimilarity becomes even more dramatic. A shift from a CAGR of 6.1% to 3% in the hiring of women presidents still seems to me pretty different from the image created by "leveled off" vs. "increasing steeply" (for a graphic representation using those figures click here) but it's admittedly closer to that than is .85 percentage points per year vs. .6 percentage points per year. If CAGR is the correct measurement then I have some egg on my face; but the NYT's substantive interpretation still looks like nonsense. With a CAGR of 3%, it's not the case that Boards of Trustees are increasingly conservative (even assuming an equation between "conservative" and "not hiring women presidents during times of uncertainty.") It's just the case that the rate at which they are becoming less conservative has slowed.

One more point: if I was wrong in my initial post, the blame lies on me; please don't harass Andrew Sullivan for linking to my post...

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Saturday, December 07, 2002

It's always been unclear at best whether Trent Lott had fully come to terms with the results of the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement. Turns out that the answer is: no. This is vile. Get rid of him.

UPDATE: If you're here, you've almost certainly already seen InstaPundit's coverage, which I won't try to top. But let me second Virginia Postrel's call to the press not to let this go. All sorts of silly things have prompted saturation of some public person or would-be-public-person (Cabinet nominees, for example) until he or she was driven from the scene. We know the press knows how to do this sort of thing. Now's the time.

Friday, December 06, 2002

University of Chicago e-mail crashed days ago and still isn't back up. If you've tried to contact me (or Dan Drezner), please forgive the delay in responding; and it couldn't hurt to send your message again, in case the server has lost some of the incoming messages altogether.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

I had been doing all right on the whole waiting-for-Two-Towers-to-come-out thing. But the Flying Monkeys have now seen it, and that makes it much less okay. Two weeks and counting...

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Glenn Reynolds and Stephen Chapman are quite right to take on the charge that Lord of the Rings is some sort of racist allegory. But, as I've blogged before, the movie adaptations (which, so far, I adore) are shifting the plot and themes of the book in a disturbingly racialized direction-- having to do with Middle Earth races, not our-earth races.

Monday, December 02, 2002

Huh? Emily Bazelon says that the flurry of state supreme court decisions finding that state constitutions require government funding abortions aren't getting much attention, because conservatives and pro-lifers aren't making a big deal out of them. She then closes with:

There's a nice irony here: Conservatives, who usually argue
for state-based solutions, and liberals, who usually argue for
federal ones, find themselves switching sides. It's an odd swap
of strategy (and principle) that's at least somewhat reminiscent
of the upside-down notions of federalism that pervaded the arguments
in Bush v. Gore. It takes some sleight of hand on the part of conservatives
to go from lauding the states as incubators of democratic innovation to
blasting them for daring to disagree with their federal betters—although
it's no more astonishing than hearing liberals importuning state courts to
save them from the mistakes of the federal Constitution. Maybe consistency
is too much to ask for here. But the lurking question in these abortion cases
is whether, all the yammering about federalism notwithstanding, "states' rights"
is anything more than a label of convenience to be grabbed by whomever the
grabbing is good for.


But she's just finished telling us that, with very few exceptions, conservatives aren't making a big deal out of these cases. And she hasn't quoted any conservatives who are doing anything like complaining that the state judges are "disagreeing with their federal betters." No one, for example, has appealed one of these decisions to the Supreme Court. (There would be no legal grounds to do so; but that's part of the point.) State supreme courts may interpret even state constitutional clauses identical to ones in the federal constitution very differently from how the federal courts interpret the latter, and state constitutions differ from the federal one in all sorts of interesting ways. I'm willing to bet that no legal scholar who has an even remotely federalist bent (i.e. no fair using Hadley Arkes as the counterexample) has disputed any of this, even in the context of decisions he or she thinks were a) wrong as a matter of state law or b) morally repugnant. If I'm right about that, then the quoted paragraph is a cheap shot, and a gratuitous Bush v Gore invocation where it doesn't actually make any sense.

Now some conservatives (who mostly aren't libertarians) have a majoritarian bent, and a preference for judicial minimalism. They're skeptics about amy judiciary overriding any legislature on other-than-very-compelling grounds. And those democratic-conservatives are often federalists because they think that democratic self-government is best served by governments smaller in scale than the central one. Those conservatives can, with perfect consistency, prefer state legislative outcomes to Congressional outcomes, and prefer state legislative outcomes to state judicial outcomes. Seeing the states as "incubators of democratic innovation" is entirely compatible with thinking that state legislatures (the, y'know, democratically elected branch) should have priority over state judiciaries. And so those conservatives who are much exercised by "judicial activism" can critique it at the state as well as the federal level, at no cost to their federalist principles.

(Note: The Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas opinion in Bush v Gore-- the one not joined by O'Connor and Kennedy-- depended in large part on an argument related to this, haing to do with the relative priority of the Florida legislature and the Florida Supreme Court. It's the other opinion, the equal protection one that either O'Connor or Kennedy or both wanted instead, that justifies accusations of federalism-hypocrisy.)
Virginia's back!
Dan Simonthinks that Eugene Volokh, InstaPundit, and I are missing something important in our various commentaries regarding free speech on campus. I think he's mistaken.

"In fact, too much free expression has sometimes threatened the academic health of universities as seriously as too little of it. Thuggish behavior on campus--shouting down of speakers, destruction of leaflets or newspapers, even physically threatening behavior--often masquerades as "protest", with its perpetrators demanding absolute protection from punishment in the name of "free speech"."

In case I've ever been remotely unclear on this: I do not consider the suppression of the speech of others to be protected expression. But I'm pretty sure that I haven't been unclear on this, and neither have Eugene or Glenn. This is a red herring.


' "[T]he regulation of merely offensive speech in classroom settings is an utterly noxious idea," writes Levy,
and the rest resoundingly agree. I admit to being a trifle confused; my understanding was that the whole point
of universities is that a student whose speech--in classroom presentations, on exam papers, in course
assignments--is not even offensive but merely insufficiently scholarly can face penalties as severe as
expulsion. Have things changed that much since I went to school?'


Here Simon supposes that speech that "offensive" is further in the same direction as "insufficiently scholarly." It's not. I wrote "merely offensive" quite advisedly. In-class speech that fails to advance an argument or to contribute to the academic enterprise is, of course, discouraged. But whether speech is "offensive" or not is a question nearly orthogonal to the question of whether it is sufficiently scholarly.

Throughout his post Simon endorses what, in another context, would be referred to as "time, place, and manner" restrictions-- no shouting outside dorms late at night, no shouting down speakers, and so on. Such restrictions are very different from content-based restrictions, which are necessary for the regulation of merely offensive speech. In my own classes I certainly try not to give offense gratuitously. But it is difficult to fully unpack Hobbes' thought without saying some things that might well be offensive to Catholics, or ot any Christians. It's difficult to explore the tension between respecting religious pluralism and protecting the rights of women without saying something potentially offensive to Muslims or Orthodox Jews or Mormons. It's impossible to conduct an academic discussion of multiculturalism and ethnic politics if everyone is worried about triggering "hate speech" codes. Civility is of course a virtue, and it's one that I think most people try to uphold in scholarly settings. But the content of what is said might well be offensive. It could harldy be otherwise, since many people much of the time are offended when their received ideas are challenged.

To single out a student for abuse, to throw racial epithets at a particular person, to threaten with violence-- these are over the line. They're violations of professional ethics and may well warrant university intervention. But mere offensiveness isn't sufficient; and to regulate speech for being merely offensive is deeply dangerous to intellectual pursuits. Simon supposes that Eugene, Glenn, and I might be worried about the abuse of an offensive-speech policy by those with a particular agenda. Speaking for myself, I am; but that worry isn't the primary reason for my opposition to such policies. Content regulation of speech in intellectual settings (by which I mean not only classrooms but also scholarly publications, student newspapers, public lectures and debates, and the whole panoply of ways in which ideas are expressed at a university) is necessarily at odds with the mission of a university.

UPDATE: Dan Simon has posted a reply. More on it later, but please note that I didn't write the University of Chicago policy from which he quotes; it long precedes my arrival here.
Science fiction fans have an ambivalent relationship with the SciFi network that started way 'back when they decided to name the thing "SciFi" (an abbreviation little-beloved by fandom). The network has broadcast some programs that are important (The Twilight Zone, ST:TOS, the X-Files), some that have significant nostalgia value (Battlestar Galactica), some that are underappreciated (Alien Nation), and some that are enjoyable straight-to-syndication types (Highlander, Forever Knight). It's produced, among other things, a quite good adaptation of Dune, something that can outweigh a lot of demerits. On the other hand, fo rthe past few years it's been riding the despicable "Crossing Over," a show in which a fraudulent psychic purports to put people in touch with their dead relatives. Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein would not have been amused. And now the network has turned itself over for ten nights to a man who has done massive damage to the name and concept of science fiction: Steven Spielberg. After the brilliant "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," Spielberg has done nothing but harm to the genre. His movies demonstrate an unconcealed hatred for science; they have ever since the nasty, scary scientists showed up in "E.T." Spielberg's imagination works in entirely magical terms... which would be fine for the creator of fantasy movies. But, because his movies have aliens and robots and genetically-recreated dinosaurs, people mistake them for science fiction, much to the latter's detriment. Now SciFi and Spielberg are indulging and exploiting the alien-abduction superstition, and Spielberg talks about it in pseudo-religious terms (higher powers, etc) in today's NYT. Bah, humbug.

Yes, I know that that ran through the X-FIles; but when that show was at its best, that streak was kept in a very careful balance with skepticism and respect for science. That's part of what made the show work so well for so long.
Last night's episode of Andy Richter Controls the Universe was one of the funniest, bravest commentaries on 90's-style American race-and-diversity talk that I've ever seen. Richter seems much too innocent and inoffensive to be a really biting satirist, and the truth is that the episode doesn't finally take a stand (it laughs at everybody) in the way that really biting and important satire does. But this episode was I-can't-believe-they're-saying-that-on-television surprising in addition to being laugh-out-loud hilarious. The expedient of making the black characters also be Irish, then conducting the discussion about race exclusively in terms of Irishness-- never again mentioning their blackness in the dialogue while leaving it fully in view, so that the audience was always aware of the contrast-- sounds like a recipe for a wimp-out, but it turned out to be inspired.
The NYT reports that John DiIulio says that "the religious right and libertarians trust Mr. Rove 'to keep Bush 43 from behaving too much like Bush 41 and moving too far to the center or inching at all to the center-left.'"

A show of hands, please? Are there any libertarians who trust Karl "steel tariffs and farm bill" Rove to push the administration in a desirable direction, on more or less anything?

Now DiIulio is a very smart man, and this would be an awfully dumb thing to say. So it wouldn't shock me to find that this is a problem in the NYT reporter's paraphrase ['the religious right and libertarians trust Mr.Rove' are the NYT's words, not attributed to DiIulio], not something he said himself. It could also be the Esquire reporter. We won't know until the Esquire article comes out. But whoever said it, this is the silliest statement I've seen in the paper in... oh, days now, since 'way back when the Times claimed that Nozick considered Rawls' view "nonsense."

UPDATE: Look at that: Dan had already blogged telling me to "take it away" on precisely that comment. Dan's got a burst of new stuff today; take a look.

UPDATE AGAIN: DiIulio says that the article misquotes him and makes stuff up (via InstaPundit).

FINAL UPDATE: He said it.
The Republican base constituencies, including beltway libertarian policy elites and religious right leaders, trust him to keep Bush "43" from behaving like Bush "41" and moving too far to the center or inching at all center-left. Their shared fiction, supported by zero empirical electoral studies, is that "41" lost in '92 because he lost these right-wing fans. There are not ten House districts in America where either the libertarian litany or the right-wing religious policy creed would draw majority popular approval, and, most studies suggest, Bush "43" could have done better versus Gore had he stayed more centrist, but, anyway, the fiction is enshrined as fact.

Saturday, November 30, 2002

Via Chris Bertram: An excellent article on Bernard Williams from the Guardian. (This week I'm much envying Britain its newspapers' coverage of philosophy.)

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

I've been continuing to update my Rawls post below rather than adding new little posts.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Oh, boy-- here we go again. A new website, http://www.noindoctrination.org, has decided to emulate all the worst aspects of Campus Watch, and none of the mitigating ones: anonymous student comments on in-classroom bias of any sort. No links to research or public statements, no... oh, never mind.

UPDATE:
Stanley Kurtz is unsurprisingly a supporter of the site, though he's surprisingly moderate in his article. (Kurtz's enthusiasm for Campus Watch has been embarrassingly uncritical.) Erin O'Connor, whose judgement I trust more than I trust Kurtz's on these questions, has written extensively on NoIndoctrination, most recently here. But I'm not remotely persuaded. This is a bad, bad idea. Students: if your professors are crossing the line, write about it in your own university's evaluations. Alert your fellow students, and your professors' departments. Don't encourage the online slanderhouses.

Monday, November 25, 2002

John Rawls died yesterday at age 81. One of the twentieth century's most important philosophers of any sort, and the thinker who revitalized political philosophy as an academic study in the English speaking world, Rawls' intellectual contributions to the study of justice were all but unmatched.

By setting the agenda for a discipline to an almost-unheardof degree, Rawls of course invited inevitable backlash after backlash, and these have followe din due course. So has much very serious and thoughtful criticism, some of which I agree with. But the sheer accomplishment of Rawls' work is-- as one of his sharpest critics, the late Robert Nozick, said quite forcefully-- tremendous. Within Anglo-American philosophy it renewed the sense that it was possible to engage in rigorous, serious, meaningful debate about moral and political questions. And it serves to this day as the most influential, most important critique of both aggregative-utilitarian substitutes for a theory of justice and radically-egalitarian versions of such a theory. He was, in addition, a famously effective teacher who shaped two generations of Harvard philosophers, and a gracious gentleman who sought conversation and shared intellectual progress.

Rawls spent a semester at Princeton, while I was there at grad school; he was developing his Amnesty Lecture on The Law of Peoples into the (I think underappreciated) book-length version of that project. He presented it in several parts at University Center for Human Values seminars, and-- shy though he was-- also spent some time socializing with graduate students afterward. (At Princeton's Nassau Inn, where pictures of the school's athletic teams over the years are hung, he showed us a picture of himself with his crew teammates from the 40s.) I certainly can't claim to have known him well, but I was much impressed by his eagerness to reach an understanding with those who criticized him. Sometimes, I think, this was a weakness; he spent a disproportionate amount of time in his written work responding to mild criticisms from immediate friends and colleagues. But it made watching him act as a presenter and seminar leader a real pleasure.

A few words about the traditional-but-contested claim that Rawls recreated and revitalized a field that had been moribund since Mill. I think that this is much overtstaed-- and that the overstating obscures what is true about it. The mid-20th century saw a great deal of fruitful and important work done in political theory. The (roughly) two generations of theorists before Rawls-- Berlin, Oakeshott, Popper, Hayek, Arendt, Strauss -- had done work of towering importance. Some of Rawls' contemporaries-- Shklar, Kateb, Wolin, Buchanan-- had also done work of great import in the decades before 1971.

But none of these was a practicing Anglo-American analytic philosopher (Berlin had been trained as one but had given it up for the history of ideas), and few of them were read in English-language philosophy departments. Economics, political theory-not-philosophy, philosophy of science, and history of political thought were their idioms. Within analytic philosphy, normative work was considered more-or-less dead, because merely emotive and non-rigorous.

Much of what some people dislike about Rawls-- the aridness, the detachment from history and psychology, the characteristic Americanness of his uninterest in plumbing the depths of the soul-- is precisely what made his work a success in the way that it was. Leo Strauss and F.A. Hayek (both, in different ways, understanding themselves to be restating old truths) were already there for the reading, if that's what one wanted. They were not what analytic philosophers wanted-- not because of their politics but because of their method. To this day they are not what many philosophers want; a philosopher is much more likely to read Nozick than to read Hayek, Finnis than Strauss, late-Habermas than Arendt. This is in part because Rawls created a common disciplinary discourse within which arguments could be had-- so unlike the sense that one had to be an initiate into the mysteries in order to engage in the argument, and that disagreeing with the normative conclusions was proof that one wasn't an initiate. (Rawls, Nozick, and Sandel understood one another and argued with one another. Berlin, Strauss, Arendt, and Hayek scarcely acknowledged one another's existence-- despite the fact that the latter three were all on the same faculty (at the University of Chicago) and that two of them had been students together.) And it was in part because Rawls' discipline was analytic philosophy.

For my own part, despite the tremendous importance that Hayek, Berlin, and Shklar have had on my thought, the subdiscipline that Rawls created has been, more-or-less, my intellectual home since freshman year of college (though perhaps less so lately, as I turn increasingly toward the history of political thought). The Rawls-Nozick argument, the communitarian critique and Kymlicka's Rawlsian rejoinder to it, and the field of liberal normative studies of multiculturalism begun by Kymlicka are what have excited me, what have motivated me to become a political theorist. Without the publication of Theory of Justice, and the intellectual energy it infused into liberal normative political thought, I wouldn't be doing what I am now doing.

See Thomas Nagel's review essay in TNR ; Martha Nussbaum's appreciation in The Chronicle of Higher Education; and Richard Epstein's on NRO. (Charles Larmore's excellent TNR review of the Lectures in the History of Moral Philosophy doesn't seem to be online.) See Kieran Healey's remembrance, Matthew Yglesias', and Chris Bertram's. See also The Harvard Crimson's obituary, The Washington Post's , The New York Times', [which both calls Nozick a conservative and claims that Nozick saw Rawls' work as "egalitarian nonsense," patently untrue statements], The Boston Globe's. Via Chris Bertram: and this one by the political philosopher Phillipe van Parjis in Le Monde, the Times' (UK) (by far the best of the bunch), The Daily Telegraph's, The Guardian's.

The Crimson's has the most wonderful quotation from Michael Sandel: ' "In my first year as a young assistant professor at Harvard, the phone in my office rang,” Sandel wrote in an e-mail. “The voice on the other end said, ‘This is John Rawls, R-A-W-L-S.’ It was as if God himself had phoned to invite me to lunch, and spelled his name just in case I didn’t know who he was.” '


On the NYT's claim that Nozick viewed Theory of Justice as nonsense, I quote from Anarchy, State, and Utopia, p. 183:
"A Theory of Justice is a powerful, deep, subtle, wide-ranging, systematic work in political and moral philosophy which has not seen its like since the writings of John Stuart Mill, if then. It is a fountain of illuminating ideas, integrated together into a lovely whole. Political philosophers now must either work within Rawls' theory or explain why not... Even those who remain unconvinced after wrestling with Rawls' systematic vision will learn much from closely studying it. I do not speak only of the Millian sharpening of one's views in combating (what one takes to be) error. It is impossible to read Rawls' book without incorporating much, perhaps transmuted, into one's own deepened view. And it is impossible to finish his book without a new and inspiring vision of what amoral theory may attempt to do and unite; of how beautiful a whole theory can be. I permit myself to concentrate here on disagreements with Rawls only because I am confident that my readers will have discovered for themselves its many virtues."

UPDATE: The 11-27 NYT carries the following notice:

"RAWLS - John Bordley, James Bryant Conant University Professor Emeritus, Harvard,
died at his home November 24 in Lexington MA. Survived by wife Margaret Fox Rawls,
children Anne Warfield Rawls of Beverly Hills, MI, Robert Lee Rawls of Woodinville, WA,
Alexander Emory Rawls of Palo Alto, CA and Elizabeth Fox Rawls of Cambridge, MA and
grandchildren Tyhib, Martin, Nadia and Desmond. A memorial service will be held Tuesday,
December 3, at 9:30am in the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, Harrington Rd, on
the Battlegreen, Lexington. Interment at Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge. There will be a
memorial celebration at Harvard University of John Rawls' life and work to be arranged and
announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in John Rawls' name
to Amnesty International, attn: Memorial Gifts, 322 8th Ave, New York, NY 10001; or to the
John Rawls Memorial Fund at the Cary Memorial Library Foundation, 1605 Mass Ave, Lexington, MA. 02420.


Also new: Alan Ryan's piece in The Independent, Brian Barry's in the FT. Joshua Cohen's in the Boston Globe. The LA Times. Matthew Miller. A really quite poor piece in the NYT Week in Review.

Update, 12-2: The NYT finally ran a piece about which I have no complaints, by my colleague Martha Nussbaum.

Update, 12-7:From the NPR show Odyssey (based at Chicago's WBEZ), a special on the legacy of John Rawls.

Update, 1-31: From the Princeton Alumni Weekly, an essay by Amy Gutmann (disclaimer: my graduate advisor).
Maybe it's just me, and maybe it's the translation, but... the Osama letter doesn't smell right to me. Now we're supposed to believe that the Michael Moores had it right all along, and bin Laden's mad about Kyoto? Kyoto? Maybe he'd decided to deploy some Euro-lefty rhetoric in order to gain sympathy from that segment, but... has there ever before been any indication that he wanted European support? Cared about it in the least?

To accuse the United States of hypocrisy, betraying its principles, and so on, to say that it has violated the human rights principles it is supposed to stand for, is to give moral credence to human rights and American principles to begin with. (Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, which implies that the principle being betrayed is really a virtuous one.) Even the moral vocabulary of human rights is alien to bin Laden's conceptual system; the complaints about Guantanamo just don't ring true to my ear.

The "tragedy of Andalusia" speech last year was filled with deluded grandeur and lies of breathtaking historical scope. This statement is filled with... jabbering about Monica Lewinsky. This seems like a bad internet joke-- either a dimwitted lefty trying to tar "Clinton-haters" and "the Taliban wing of the Repblican Party" with the bin Laden brush, or a dimwitted righty trying to embarrass the left by saying, "see? You have to choose between loving Arabs and loving Clinton."

The Benjamin Franklin myth is one circulated online, and not one we have any reason to think bin laden would have a) come into contact with or b) cared about.

Or take this paragraph:

The freedom and democracy that you call to is for yourselves
and for white race only; as for the rest of the world, you impose
upon them your monstrous, destructive policies and Governments,
which you call the 'American friends'. Yet you prevent them from
establishing democracies. When the Islamic party in Algeria wanted
to practice democracy and they won the election, you unleashed your
agents in the Algerian army onto them, and to attack them with tanks
and guns, to imprison them and torture them - a new lesson from the
'American book of democracy'!!!


In other words, winning elections and practicing democracy are good things. Any sign that bin Laden has ever thought this?

And--- "white race???" Saudi Islamists have no conspicuous history of claiming to be non-white. Nelson Mandela said that Israel is white and Iraq is black; but this is not a view widely accepted among Arabs, to the best of my knowledge...
Much of the document is vintage bin Laden... and I do mean "vintage." The jurisprudential arguments about the legitimacy or targeting American civilians are from his fatwa of the mid-90s. Much of the rest of this sounds like someone who is much more familiar with European or American-leftist complaints about the U.S. government than bin Laden is-- albeit not someone so familiar as to speak that language without an accent. I think this pastiche is the product of a British Islamist surrounded by conventional European anti-Americanism and trying (none too successfully) to blend it with al Qaeda's ideology. [NB: I am not comparing European leftism to Islamism; just the opposite. I'm saying that the presence of so much Euro-leftism in the document should lead us to doubt that it's really bin Laden's.]

As I said, maybe it doesn't matter. The core ideology is unchanged, and as vicious as always. But the tone of the historical indictment is much, much different from bin Laden's past statements, and deploys arguments that I would think are alien to that ideology.

Or am I missing something?

UPDATE: The Weekly Standard online has a piece saying much the same.
Rachel DiCarlo, at the Weekly Standard's website, repeats the claim that Libertarian Kurt Evans cost Republican John Thune the South Dakota Senate race. As I've blogged before, this claim is almost certainly not true. While Evans did indeed get more votes than separated Thune from Johnson, that was weeks after Evans had dropped out of the race and endorsed Thune. This means that the Libertarian-Republican swing voters are very likely to have swung to Thune. (The 3,000 votes represents a much smaller share of the vote than Evans was picking up in polls before he dropped out.) The remaining 3,000 probably wouldn't have voted for Thune in any event; and on net Evans helped Thune (first, by swinging his way those voters who could be swung; second, by keeping 3,000 of the other voters from voting for Johnson).

It's true that, most of the time in most states, Libertarians drain more Republican votes than they do Democratic ones (though not by nearly the same margin as Greens drain more Democratic votes than Republican ones). But in this race it wasn't. Kurt Evans did something that was most unusual for a political candidate. He genuinely tried to help one of his opponents to win. For the Republican commentariat to keep criticizing him for costing their guy the race is deeply unfair.

Pointing out the idiosyncratic facts about this race of course seems like a distraction from the big argument about whether voting for Libertarians hurts freedom by hurting freedom-minded Republicans, or helps it by focusing the minds and energy of Republicans on protecting their libertarian flank, the argument over third parties and strategies and tactics. But I want to insist on the details of the particular case, before "Evans cost the Republicans a seat" becomes too entrenched in people's memories.

After my first post on this topic, I recieved an e-mail from Evans himself. He said that he's been "trying to lay low and be quiet," but he's clearly irked by the unfair attacks on him. (Some of those attacks have been from Libertarians calling him a traitor, others from Republicans who believe the story that he cost Thune the race.)

"First of all, my actual support of roughly 3
percent was acquired mostly by positioning myself
as a protest against attack ads. My opponents both
said I was drawing from them about equally.

"But let's assume that *every vote* finally cast
for me (91/100ths of 1 percent) would otherwise been
cast for Congressman Thune.

"When I gave him my endorsement, I drew attention
to the voter fraud controversy and said it was a
reminder that our entire political system depends
on truth and honesty.

"I went on to say that it had become apparent
to me that Congressman Thune shared my commitment
to being a man of integrity and character.

"The announcement got tremendous media play
on television and radio and in the newspapers.

"If my endorsement shifted 46/100ths of 1
percent of the vote away from Johnson and toward
Thune, the net effect of my candidacy was to narrow
the margin of victory."


Republicans: Send this gentleman an apology, and a thank-you note, not continued flak.
Have a look at Andrew Sullivan's Bradley Lecture on the political thought of Michael Oakeshott. A nice analysis of the ways in which Oakeshottian skepticism sits oddly with a variety fo ways of understanding conservatism.

A poltical theory dissertation ripe for the writing, it seems to me, concerns the turn to skepticism in the mid-twentieth-century liberals. The connections between Oakeshott and Hayek, and between Hayek and Popper, are fairly well-known. But Popper's skepticism has some fascinating echoes in Isaiah Berlin's; indeed, Berlin like Popper threw skeptical water onto claims of historical determinism. Shklar and Oakeshott each had Montaigne as a major point of reference. Shklar and Hayek shared Montesquieu in a similar way. (Note that, excpet for Oakeshott, each of these came from one of the European lands that spent the middle part of the century under totalitarian rule-- Berlin and Shklar from Lithuania/ Russia, Hayek and Popper from Austria.)

Now, Berlin didn't much like Hayek, and Shklar seems to have really disliked him. Berlin and Shklar were on the social-democratic side of Cold War liberalism, not on Hayek's and Oakeshott's free-market side. (Popper is a complicated case on that question.) But in all sorts of ways it seems to me that these thinkers shared insights that are more interesting than are the political questions that divided them. Yet-- except for the peculiar case of John Gray-- very few students of Hayek have also been students of Berlin. Those who know their Oakeshott don't often also know their Shklar. I have a suspicion that the study of each of these thinkers could be much enriched by the study of the others, and skepticism as part of the defense of freedom would be a major unifying theme.

Not, mind you, that the skeptical defense of freedom is clearly right. I'm inclined to think that skepticism leads us down John Gray's relativist and nihilist pathways pretty quickly. Skepticism, to be an ally of liberalism, must be something more like a temperment than like a comphrehensive theory of knowledge. Of the five philosophers, Oakeshott's skepticism ran deepest; and I can never shake the sense that Oakeshott is a philosopher of and for England only, for a country in which freedom feels organic and evolved and in little need of deliberate promotion. Each of the other four struggled with the question of how to reconcile skepticism with reform, with deliberate planned political and social change-- since one could hardly look at the world of 1935 or 1945 or 1955 and think that freedom was to be had by just leaving things alone. And I'm not sure that any of the four was fully successful in reconciling a skeptical account of the limits of knowledge and certainty and rational planning with the spirit of radical reform that liberalism required in the face of totalitatianism. Indeed-- but now I'm starting to sound like the book that I'm writing-- I think that that tension is a terribly difficult one to overcome at all points in liberalism's history. There's something importantly true in both of those liberal impulses-- the skeptical and the reformist-- but those truths sit exceedingly uneasily with each other.

But the heart of my book is in 1740-1850, not in 1930-1960; that work is for someone else to do...
How odd is it that this article about a butchering of Animal Farm in China and this one about a butchering of it in an English-language "parody," independently reported, appeared within a day of each other?

And no, it's not because of the Orwell moment we're currently living through; it's not because of the ways in which Mr. Blair is part of the current zeitgeist. The Chinese director-adaptor in the first article shows no signs of being part of, or having the least interest in, the current Western fascination with Orwell and his legacy. At least Reed's attack on Orwell is on-topic; he understands what Orwell was for, understands the relevance of Orwell to the current climate in the west, and he's against all of it. Shang has created a play that is so utterly orthogonal to Orwell's concerns, so irrelevant to the Sullivan-Hitchens-Cockburn-Amis-etc debates, as to be jaw-droppingly bizarre. That he's created it right now is simple, but disturbing, coincidence.

The Reed parody sounds utterly vile to me; and the Orwell estate is right to be outraged. But it does seem to me clearly and rightly protected under U.S. law; I would not want to see the satire-and-parody exceptions to IP law narrowed.

Friday, November 22, 2002

GOOD RIDDANCE: Neal McCaleb, Undersecretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, will retire at the end of this year. He seems to think that too much attention has been paid to the Interior Department's mismanagement and simple loss of billions of dollars in royalties owed to Indian landowners. Being held in contempt of court for his role in this ongoing scandal proved a distraction from his understanding of his job.

It's hard to understand what could be more important for someone in this office than cleaning up the accounting of the trust fund (and then, as I've argued before, getting the manifestly-unsuitable-as-trustee U.S. government out of the paternalistic "trust fund" business altogether). The creation of more programs of government dependency for Indians is surely less important than is the return of vast sume of money that already and rightfully belongs to them. There's no special reason to think that the next occupant of the position will do better, but no special reason to think that he'll do worse, either.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Most fascinating, compelling read of the day: this Atlantic article about the life and times of now-America-hating-and-Jew-hating (they always seem to go together) Bobby Fischer.
Via Kieran Healey,CalPundit's comment on the fact that Harvard English has never tenured a woman from within. (CalPundit also refers to the tenure process as taking "about five years," which is too short. If I get tenure, it won't be until the middle of my seventh year, and I think Harvard takes a little longer than that.) But the thing is that Harvard (like Yale) almost never tenures from within; its junior faculty have to stop off elsewhere, get tenure, get famous, and then be hired back again. This is less true of early-peaking and early-productivity fields such as math, econ, and some technical areas of philosophy. It's almost always true in the social sciences, and asymptotically approaches always being true in most of the humanities (and the more humanistic social sciences, i.e. political theory). Harvard History is notorious for having refused tenure to many of the finest minds in the discipline.

And then there's the fact that faculty openings don't come along all the time. In the couple of decades since Harvard ceased actively discriminating against women in hiring, Harvard English might have had fewer than a dozen assistant professors come up for tenure at all. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that no assistant professor of English had been tenured from within at Harvard in 30 years or so.

I don't mean to deny that some Harvard departments-- and for all I know these include English-- have a gender problem. Many of the very senior faculty are still holdovers from the bad old days. As Kieran and CalPundit should both know, an ideological commitment to gender theory, feminist postmodernism, queer theory, and all the rest is perfectly compatible with plain old-fashioned sexism (or homophobia) as a personal trait. Academia is filled with the type (and they're thick on the ground in David Lodge novels to boot). But the evidence for sexism in a Harvard department isn't that they don't tenure women from within. It's got to come from evidence about hiring from outside (either junior or senior faculty), about the treatment of grad students, and about the treatment of women faculty while they're there.

Someone I know was hired at Harvard for what s/he took to be a long-term adjunct position, because the ad said "three-year contract renewable" rather than "tenure track." When told that the job was a regular assistant professorship, my acquaintance inquired as to why the ad was written that way. "We don't like to even use the phrase tenure-track, since it's basically misleading at Harvard," was the answer.

UPDATE: A correspondent from Harvard social sciences writes:
I don't have university wide statistics, but I think the situation is
changing fairly rapidly. In my department, [...], and in my subfield,
[...], there are basically 6 tenured professors (not counting two very,very
senior faculty about to be emeritus). Of these 6, 4 were promoted from
within the department's untenured ranks. Only 1 person coming up through the
ranks in IR in the last 9-10 years that I have been here has been denied
tenure. 3 left the department before their tenure processes began, 2 of whom
left well before there could have been any signals one way or the other from
the senior faculty about tenure chances. So over all, I think our department
is doing pretty well with internal promotions, certainly compared to English
or History. I think under the new president internal promotion will be more
common. [NB: THe Wall Street Journal reported last year that Summers plans
to push hard on this issue. JTL] Harvard still doesn't refer to 'tenure-track' but we are
now hiring junior faculty pretty much on the assumption that if all goes well they will
be seriously considered for tenure. In our department, at least, the bad old
days of hiring and spitting out junior faculty are disappearing.


As far as the old system goes, CalPundit had already blogged his recognition of it, which I ahdn't noticed when I wrote this post.
NRO has an interesting piece this morning arguing that Granholm beat the unfortunately-named Posthumus in Michigan because she was willing and able to twist traditional gender politics. She "fought back like a man." She showed the voters that the necessary toughness to be a chief executive.

What's primarily interesting about this piece is that it never mentioned this pre-election article from the New Republic. It would be all well and good to do a post-election recap and say, yes, Jonathan Cohn's analysis was fully borne out in the closing weeks of the campaign and in the results. But as it is, with nary a nod to Cohn? Tacky, tacky. I expect better from the flying monkey crowd over at NRO.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Geekdom moment: I'm actually disappointed that Birds of Prey (the TV series)
won't get a chance to find its footing. OK, so the dialogue is bad. I mean, it's really, really bad. But that can be fixed, can't it? The Dawson's Creekiness of Smallville seems to be permanent, and the genuine superheroics of BoP are a pretty cool contrast to that. And seeing the Black Canary, Batgirl/ Oracle, and a version of the pre-Crisis Huntress on live-action TV has been worth enduring some bad (awful, really) dialogue.

My biggest complaint with the show has actually been the willingness to have flashback-Batman and flashback-Joker be so prominent. I think that the opening segment would be much more effective if neither was seen full on, or even named-- a bat-shaped shadow, a fleeting shot of a maniacal grin. Batman's status should be like it was in issue 1 of Dark Knight Returns. If this was a war that nobody knew about, why do we have to see it for two full minutes every week? And the Alfred-Barbara conversations make talking about Batman and Bruce Wayne seem, well, ordinary. That sets the wrong tone.

Ah, well. None of the rest of you care, since I appear to be the last person still watching the show...
/geekdom moment...
I must admit: I never thought I'd see this happen. There aren't many chances to say this, but for this one moment: thank goodness for the EU.
I missed the New Gore rollout on Letterman. But I saw the Al & Tipper show on Charlie Rose, and it sure seemed like the worst of Old Al to me-- hectoring, condescending, smarter-and-more-righteous-than-thou. Maybe Dave's basic good-spiritedness brought out some of the same in Gore, while ROse's basic insufferability brought that out instead.
Of some interest to libertarians and to those who follow American Indian politics (I'm both): Russell Means-- actor, former AIM leader, former seeker of the Libertarian nomination for the presidency-- has lost his race to lead the Ogala Sioux nation.
Australia and U.S. begin free-trade negotiations, ina story unlikely to be covered in the American press. I have the usual ambivalence about bilateral free trade pacts vs. progress in the Doha round or other multilateral trade-freeing agreements. And I'm not sure I can even conceive of what the agriculture negotiations are going to look like if we're trying to move on FTAA, Australia, and Doha simultaneously. (Tariffs can be lowered for one country's goods at a time, but U.S. farm subsidies can't be.)

But if we're going to be in the bilateral deal business, this would be a good one to get done.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Small worldism: Instapundit blogs (quite rightly), of course) against the idea of Harvard Law adopting a speech code governing in-class discussions, and approvingly refers to my own University of Chicago's policy on such matters, which I've quoted several times in Campus Watch discussions. A longer segment of the policy is as follows:

"At the University of Chicago, freedom of expression is vital to our shared goal of the pursuit of knowledge, as is the right of all members of the community to explore new ideas and learn from one another. To preserve an environment of spirited and open debate, we should all have the opportunity to contribute to intellectual exchanges and participate fully in the life of the University.

"The ideas of different members of the University community will frequently conflict and we do not attempt to shield people from ideas that they may find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even offensive. Nor, as a general rule, does the University intervene to enforce social standards of civility."

(For some internal administrative reasons I now know these words almost by heart; we talk about them, and about the principles behind them, a lot around here.)

This story came to light thanks to the efforts of the Boston Globe's crack higher-education correspondent, Patrick Healey, whom I've known personally if casually for many years. (Patrick also broke the Harvard grade-inflation story last year.) I knew him through mutual friends at Brown, my alma mater; and Brown's in the blog-news today, too as Tapped and Instapundit rightly praise President Ruth Simmons for her understanding and defense of free debate on campus. (Note that the they're praising took place more than a year ago-- not that that makes it less praiseworthy, but sometimes the seamlessness of blog-linking makes old stories appear new.)

I'll say for the record that the regulation of merely offensive speech in classroom settings is an utterly noxious idea. I shan't blog about it at length at the moment, though; I'm just disappointed that this isn't as obvious at Harvard as it is to me...
COME BACK TO US, DAN! Dan Drezner's self-imposed two-week penance for miscalling the elections should be over; it's been two weeks since votes were cast. E-mail him and ask him to come back from blogxile...

Monday, November 18, 2002

Y'know, the funny thing about John Miller's NYT op-ed (see full commentary and links at Instapundit) on Libertarians swinging Senate races to Democrats (a topic I've blogged several times below) is that this year's exhibit, South Dakota Libertarian Kurt Evans, dropped out of the race and endorsed John Thune. He dropped out too late to be removed from the ballot, and the 3,000 votes he got nonetheless were more than the Thune-Johnson gap.

First, that means that it's possible that Evans actually swung some votes Thune's way, and Thune lost anyways.

Second, [political scientist's hat on:] the fact that Evans had dropped out and endorsed Thune almost certainly means that those 3,000 voters were disproportionately not Libertarian-Republican swing voters. All those voters probably swung to Thune. The remaining 3,000 were either hardcore libertarians, who would have stayed home or left the Senate race blank rather than vote for either major-party candidate; or Libertarian-Democrat swing voters who didn't find Johnson sufficiently pro-civil-liberties but who wouldn't have voted Republican in any event. Under usual circumstances I think that Libertarian candidates draw more otherwise-Republican votes than otherwise-Democratic votes (though not by nearly the margin that Greens draw otherwise-Democratic over otherwise-Republican votes). But these weren't usual circumstances; Evans had already endorsed Thune. It's therefore actually more likely that Evans' absence from the ballot would have increased Johnson's lead than that it would have decreased it.


See more from Radley Balko, Eugene Volokh, Clayton Cramer.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

HARVARD ENGLISH RELENTS. An announcement posted on the department's web page:

Announcement: By mutual consent of the poet and the English Department, the Morris Gray poetry reading by Tom Paulin, originally scheduled for Thursday, November 14th, will not take place. The English Department sincerely regret the widespread consternation that has arisen as a result of this invitation, which had been originally decided on last winter solely on the basis of Mr. Paulin's lifetime accomplishments as a poet.

Monday, November 11, 2002

With the election over but the new Congress not yet in office; with the UN vote over but the inspectors not yet back on the ground; now seems like a good time to step back and take a longer view, look at the bigger picture. Perhaps that's why Josh Chafetz and Matthew Yglesias both have new reading lists up: recommended works in political theory and political philosophy. I'll recommend 'em both without further comment-- after all, the point is to start reading books, not to keep reading commentary about commentary about lists of books! On that note, I'm turning my computer off for the rest of the day.

No, really.

UPDATE: See the follow-ups, amendments, and additions from Kieran Healey, Chris Bertram, Armed Liberal, Pejman Pundit, and ther irrepressible Chris Sciabarra. (For what it's worth, my opinion is that Josh's list should precede Matthew's and Kieran's, and that the others include a number of excellent and interesting books which aren't nearly so fundamental as the ones on these three lists.)

This is a nice exchange among scholar-bloggers. Chris Sciabarra is a maverick professor of philosophy. Kieran-- whom I know, just a little, from our shared time in the Woodrow Wilson Society of Fellows at Princeton-- is a professor of sociology. Chris Bertram is a professor of philosophy. Matthew is a Harvard undergrad philosophy major; Josh is an Oxford political theory grad student. Pejman is, I think, a practicing lawyer (?) but his autobio is filled with enough paeans to the University of Chicago (where he got two degrees) as to show a scholar's temperment. (Armed Liberal doesn't, as far as I can tell, have an online autobio, presumably for privacy reasons.)

Why don't I join in further? Two reasons. 1) I just don't have that much to add to Josh's, Matthew's, and Kieran's lists. 2) It seems too much like work! Between syllabus construction and helping to put together the U of C's epic political theory general exam reading list, I do this sort of thing too often as it is...