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.