who dares to question the mighty oz?
I saw an exchange between academics on Friday that I can't get out of my head. Eric Foner was speaking at UCLA on the idea of freedom in America, pre- and post-Sept. 11. Foner is an extraordinarily gifted and important historian whose view of contemporary politics struck me as reflexive and predictable, but never mind that: the really remarkable discussion centered around a topic that was closer to home.
Another grad student in the room asked Foner about the state of academic freedom after Sept. 11, and Foner said that it was generally good; at his own university, Columbia, professors are well-protected against some occasionally virulent political attacks. Foner added that he speaks at high schools all over the country, however, and has heard from teachers in that environment that parents sometimes call school administrators to express concerns about what their children are being taught. Some of these parents, he added (in what should be understood as an ominous reference), are known to watch Fox News
. Phone calls from parents, Foner fretted, may have a "chilling effect" in the classroom.
Later, another academic in the room (who I didn't recognize, but who I think was a professor) raised her hand to take issue with Foner. Academic freedom in the universities is
threatened, she argued, as (for example) professors in many Middle Eastern Studies programs are coming under political attack in the post-Sept. 11 environment. Some people, she noted, are even creating websites
to criticize professors who teach Middle Eastern Studies. General nodding and agreement around the room.
This baffles me, to put it kind of mildly. When people outside academia criticize academics, that criticism constitutes a diminution of freedom
Fall silent, peasant! Do you attack freedom by speaking of me in a critical fashion? How fascist! Shut up! (My god, and you even have a website expressing your disagreement? An assault on free speech!)
Your silence equals our freedom, oh ye vast unwashed.
Academic freedom is necessary and important; professors should clearly have protection against formal institutional retaliation, including firing or suspension, for expressing unpopular (or dumb, or wrong, or downright evil) ideas. But somewhere, somehow, the idea of academic freedom has been bent into something altogether different; we somehow now have a right to not be criticized by outsiders
. Parents who ask questions about what their own children are being taught are somehow waging an assault on freedom, creating a morally questionable "chilling effect."
I'm a teaching assistant in a 20th-century history class, and recently asked a roomful of new first-year college students what they knew about Populism. Blank faces all around the room. So I asked: how many of you have taken a history class before this one? They had all taken high school history. So what went wrong? One of my students explained:
"I took history last year, but my teacher mostly talked about, like, how Bush is a fascist and stuff."
If my (hypothetical) teenager came home and told me that his or her history teacher was talking about Bush all year long, I wouldn't have bothered with a phone call. I would have created a profound chilling effect in person. And I would not have been likely to regard it as an assault on academic freedom.
When did we become immune to questions and criticism? When did the classroom become our own little zero-accountability fiefdom? When did we become hothouse flowers, afraid of withering away if some tawdry little...little...little uneducated person
dared to speak in our direction with something less than awe and praise?
Who do we think we are?
Anatomy of Decisions
In the spirit of election season I’m going to express one of my deepest worries about the Bush administration. I want to do that with a disclaimer firmly implanted at the beginning; I don’t have enough information (and doubt anyone does) to prove my worries, which is why I state them precisely as worries rather than conclusions. My hope here is to convince my reader that a specific problem, sketchy though our evidence may be, is worth considering from either side of the political isle before going to the ballot box. My worry concerns the organization of the decision making process in the Bush administration. I am bothered by the possibility that the very way information is being analyzed and collected in the Bush Whitehouse precludes a thorough review of all the information concerning especially (but not necessarily only) foreign policy. My information is only coming from only a few sources, yet in my frequent though by no means exhaustive perusal of what passes for investigative journalism in this country, none of the information I have seen rebuts my concerns.
To understand my concern I’d like to go back in time a bit to Vietnam. The right and left can generally agree that LBJ bungled Vietnam, even though they tend to disagree whether the bungling was a failure to increase military pressure effectively, follow a more well planned military strategy, or exit the war entirely. Whichever conclusion you come to, the same president was sitting in the Whitehouse making those errors. Why did he make them?
There are no doubt numerous answers to this question, but one particularly compelling version is offered by George Herring in his LBJ and Vietnam
(1994). Johnson may have been one of the greatest politicians, in the Machiavellian sense of that term, in the 20th century. He was a master at brining people to the bargaining table despite themselves, at begging, yelling, hugging, and forcing politicians to vote his way. A better backroom politician is difficult to imagine than the gruff Texan.
Ironically precisely these skills served LBJ poorly in making decisions about the war. LBJ’s cabinet was—on paper at least—one of amazing daring and intellect. They should have been very good at managing to ask tough questions and come to new conclusions about the war. They should have been excellent in finding new strategies. But LBJ always regarded his cabinet warily. His years of convincing cagey politicians to vote his way taught him to value consensus over debate, comitment over evidence. When LBJ listened to his cabinet he wanted to here one basically similar positive story about the war; he didn’t want political enemies and rivalries to surface from inside his government.
All of this, Herring explains, helped lead Johnson to never fully understand the complexities of the war. Because he valued unanimous decisions, he didn’t spend enough time worrying about the right decision. Consequently the Johnson administration was always fighting with one hand behind its back.
I want here to make a simple point; one can have the best experts and information in the world, but decision making still relies on hearing that evidence presented intelligently, and comprehensively
So, how does the Bush administration deal with evidence? Is the top priority keeping the ship sailing in one certain direction, in maintaining consensus, or is it on hearing as many sides as possible? Detailed information is hard to come by, but the reports aren’t hopefull.
I’ll relate two specific examples from one source. According to former marine captain Josh Rushing
the media center in Baghdad had two very interesting characteristics. The first was that Rushing himself; a complete novice in media relations was assigned the task of corresponding with Al Jazeera. Why would a wet behind the ears captain get the nod over a more qualified and experiences person who might do a better job of convincing a crucial audience that America really has the Islamic world’s best interests at heart? Because the more experienced personnel were off doing other things including reporting to a domestic audience. Where does this suggest the priorities are, the long-term objective of international policy or the more immediate problem of domestic politics?
Perhaps even more disturbingly, Rushing claims that the media operations at Centcom were under the command of a political insider sent in (and given the equivalent a 2 star ranking) by the Bush administration. This young man in his thirties was select not for his expertise on international affairs, Iraq, or the Islamic world, but for his impressive performance in spinning American mainstream news.
What we have here are central areas of policy being dictated by what appear to be the machinations of a thorough and excellent political machine.
Does Bush really demand that all information be presented in one page or less? Do the different sides of the administration engage in meaningful debate during meetings with the president present? Are decisions being made from the perspective of an effective and media savvy politician, or from the perspective of a thoughtful long-term international agenda?
I don’t have the information to answer these questions authoritatively. But the evidence in front of me is not encouraging.
ive decided im a wimp
Can I have seriously gone through my entire, very long and well-lived, life without a broken bone? Without a cavity? Without ever being bitten by a rabid animal? I think I've only ever used the most soft, quilted form of TP, and I've never had a proctologist exam gone awry. (I've never even had a proctologist exam.)
So do I win or do I lose?
Or no matter who wins, do we lose?
On a side note, I would like to say that today my TA section went splendedly and I singlehandedly conquered the wiles of Cuvier. There was debate -- there was discussion -- and there was me lecturing about Fourier decompositions.
a prediction and an invitation
For whatever it's worth, and without making a political argument for or against this outcome, I think Bush is going to win reelection by a comfortable margin. Put your own bold prediction in comments, and the losers buy the tasty alcohol.
Unfortunate word choices in historical narratives, example number one:
"From the Far West, California was pouring her golden stream into the national treasury..."
Charles and Mary Beard, The Rise of American Civilization
, one volume edition (1930: Macmillan Company, New York). Vol. 1, 631.
This is why I love my friends.
Halloween costumes they've come up with (quoted and paraphrased):
1. 'stem cell research gone bad': glue an ear to my face, fingers all over my shoulders and maybe a penis coming out of my neck for good measure.
2. Nutso: dress kind of dumpy (socks with sandles, sweater vest, etc.) and then have a sign that says John 4:20 or some'n. i could give out funny sayings (make xeroxes of funny stuff --maybe like "god hates you")
3. Proctologist: Wear hospital greens and a stethoscope, smear chocolate pudding all over the front of yourself and let dry. Wear a nametag that says Dr. Ben Dover, Proctologist. For added grossness, wear gloves with pudding on them and lick them in plain view. You can also bring brownies, shape them like a stool,
and eat them.
4. Sugar Baby: Dress like a baby and carry a bag of sugar.
5. Taco Belle: Wear a Southern Belle outfit complete with a hoop skirt. Top it off with a sombrero. Speak Spanish with a southern drawl!
6. White Trash: Take a kitchen-sized white plastic trashcan. Cut it so you can wear it around your torso, fill with white or clear garbage hanging out around the top. Tie the lid to your head. Wear over all-white clothes.
7. Chip-monk: Dress in a monk's robe, rope belt, etc., then hot-glue (empty) potato chip and/or tortilla chip bags all over
8. Web Server: Dress like a waitress/waiter, carry around a tray with food that has fake spider webs draped over it.
9. Soup-erman: Dress in a superhero costume, and attach empty soup cans and spoons all over your body.
10. Siegfried and Roy Orbinson: Wear black pants, white shirt and tie, sunglasses and "rock star" black wig. Carry a microphone. Then attach a stuffed white tiger to your neck as if it's attacking you.
11. Peeping Tom: Take a cardboard box that fits over your head. Cut the box in front of your face to form "windows." Paint it and add curtains. Wear a trenchcoat with a nametag that says "Tom."
12. Grim Rapper: Wear a grim reaper costume, but accessorize with baggy pants, gold teeth, thick gold chains and a radio on your shoulder.
13. Cereal Killer: Mini cereal boxes impaled with plastic utensils taped to body plus jam as blood dripping from the holes in the cardboard.
14. Cookie Cutter: dress up as a giant cookie and then have bare arms with cuts all over them.
loaves and fishes
For at least a year now, I've found myself losing respect for (and interest in) the New York Times
, while my respect for the Washington Post
has grown nearly by the day.
Today's endorsement of John Kerry in the Post
seems to me to confirm that judgement. It's pitch perfect, and moves past the partisan shrillness of the day to calmly note Bush's considerable successes. It also nails Bush's more considerable failures, takes keen measure of John Kerry as a less-than-impressive candidate, and comes down to a very careful balancing of the two. In an atmosphere of mindless shrillness, the Post
has performed a bit of a miracle.
I won't quote from the editorial, or excerpt it, since it's more impressive by far when taken as a whole. Take a minute and read it
; if you haven't already done so, you'll have to complete the Post's
mildly irritating free registration process.
You know what I don't get? Foucault has always seemed better, to make more sense, to be highly applicable, when you have gone just a little bit mad, a tad bit frustrated, a wee bit drunk. Well it is currently 1:21am, I'm tired, more than a little frustrated, and I decided to pick up "The Order of Things." (I am not drunk.)
He is no easier, and I still don't fully get the relationship between Cuvier's theory of the earth (with his revolutions), and the Great Chain of Being (GCB). How does Cuvier's theory of the earth work AGAINST the GCB?
You may please comment your answers, one at a time, and thanks will be accorded where thanks is due.
They Didn't all Agree!!!!
I got my students to disagree with each other today!!!!
It's like they just discovered some new element and are still a bit frightened of its possibilities.
American Conservative magazine has endorsed
Don't get excited: American Conservative is nutty as a Snickers bar. They tend toward exposes on how black people are all on welfare
and the dirty Mexicans are invading
the formerly all-white state of California. On foreign policy, they're strictly
a "seal the borders and let the world go to hell" crew, firmly determined to keep American purity uncontaminated by inappropriately degrading interactions with lesser peoples. This spring, they ran a story arguing
that it was entirely reasonable for the government to have thrown tens of thousands of Japanese-American citizens into camps during WWII. They have, in other words, a bug up their unmentionable on the topic of race. And they have a view of foreign policy that is, viewed historically, genuinely conservative
So what does that make George W. Bush's foreign policy?
What's amazingly bizarre about this Bush-vs-conservatives debate is that it's very much -- and I mean very
much -- a nineteenth century debate over empire. Conservative isolationism has always been the answer to a kind of global salvationist agenda, a.k.a. the "white man's burden." Whatever you think about Bush, you can't deny him this: he's
one of the most enlightened 19th-century policymakers we've ever seen.
The nation is once again split over the War of 1898. I ask you: is this
"conservative" foreign policy, or is this
I'm back - sort of
I told Chris I would post. So I am. Today, I bought tickets to return home for Christmas. This is my first trip home since coming out here, to the silicon capital of the world.
On a side note, I have tentatively picked a topic for my research paper. COLD FUSION.
Now you know what I'm pining to do? SLEEP. God save the sleep. Sheep, sheep, not sleep.
send forth the best ye breed
: Lewis Henry Morgan
, call your agent at once. Your stock is rising again
the last linguistic turn is forever
America's finest newspaper
Jacques Derrida 'Dies'
More on the Iliad
I'm having my students do a close reading of this passage. Priam is getting ready to pick up the body of his dead son Hector. I hope they find this as funny as I do:
“Come to me at once,” he cried, “worthless sons who do me shame; would that you had all been killed at the ships rather than Hector. Miserable man that I am. I have had the bravest sons in all Troy—noble Nestor, Troilus the dauntless charioteer, and hector who was a god among men, so that one would have thought he was son to an immortal—yet there is not one of them left. Mars has slain them and those of whom I am ashamed are alone left to me. Liars, and light of foot, heroes of the dance, robbers of lambs and kids from your own people, why do you not get a wagon ready for me at once, and put all these things upon it that I may set out on my way?”
love is a strong word
I'm teaching the Iliad to undergraduates. I just can't get over how strange that is (those readers who went to Reed will understand).
es ist immer die juden, nicht wahr?
Sadly, the letter to the editor I'm responding to isn't available online, and I'm not going to type the whole vile thing, but I think you'll be able to figure out what Professor Emeritus Barbara Aswad's
argument might have been:
In a letter published in the October 13 issue of the Courier, Dr. Barbara Aswad helpfully reveals that the U.S. officials who argued for war in Iraq are "right-wing Zionists dedicated to making Israel unassailable." The war, she explains, was secretly meant to serve the interests of an expansionist Jewish state: "A US-controlled Iraq could be used to help Israel penetrate the Arab world." In short, America and Israel have a "special relationship" that is "gradually being revealed."
It is remarkably grave to allege that U.S. officials are motivated by a desire to serve the interests of another nation, rather than the interests of the nation they officially serve, and I can only read Dr. Aswad's letter as an allegation of treason. I note that Dr. Aswad is not the first writer to detect this fifth column that secretly lives in the service of the greater Jewish nation while pretending to hold other allegiances. Another well-known writer put it this way:
"The Jewish state was never spatially limited in itself, but universally unlimited as to space, though restricted in the sense of embracing but one race. Consequently, this people has always formed a state within states."
Of course, that writer was eventually forced to shoot himself before the Russians reached his bunker, but we can hope that things turn out better for Dr. Aswad.
slow national suicide
I saw one of these
on Sunset Boulevard tonight. Difficult to know what to say, short of noting that murder is still illegal.
the manufacturer's site.
Or You Just Might Get It
If this quote from the nytimes on the Bush administration is true it’s one of the most frightening things I’ve ever heard:
In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.
The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
Whether this quote is accurate or not, I think the logic within it requires a good hard look. I’ve maintained for some time that a brand of unsophisticated postmodernism is ultimately not what its practitioners suppose it to be. It isn’t just a “safe” leftist defense of “non western” people through an epistemological relativism. It doesn’t just liberate the oppressed. It isn't just an excercise in exposing hegemonic pretension.
I say this thinking as well that a number of so-called “postmodernist” or “poststructuralist” scholars have produced valuable and thoughtful works that ask important and troubling questions. I come to this conclusion with a great deal of respect for what I’m criticizing. But I worry that eager readers don’t realize that they are playing with fire. It’s fun to tear down all the walls and strictures of reason, to watch the whole edifice of enlightenment scholarship burn to the ground.
Skepticism taken to extremes is just as easily a defense of anything and everything, a frightening vindication of reflexive action over thoughtful reflection.
Be careful what you wish for…
A while back, I mentioned that I had won a lawsuit, and promised that I would provide details later. Well, okay, so maybe I should have said much
later, because I forgot. But here's a story
from the Pasadena Star-News
Police chiefs in legal setback
Judge rules police chiefs' narcotics task force is violating Brown Act
By Gary Scott
Thursday, October 07, 2004 - LOS ANGELES -- The police chiefs of Los Angeles County have been violating the state's open-meeting law for the last 13 years by holding policy meetings for a countywide narcotics task force behind closed doors, a Superior Court judge ruled Thursday.
Judge Dzintra Janavs ordered the governing board of L.A. Impact to open its meetings and its books to the public, saying the agency must operate according to the same rules as cities and counties throughout the state.
First Amendment activist Richard McKee, who filed the lawsuit, hailed the ruling as a "substantial' victory for those who believe the public has the right to know how and why public funds are being spent.
"I don't want to say anything bad about L.A. Impact, but at the same time there is always the possibility for the misuse of public funds,' said McKee, a professor at Pasadena City College. "There has got to be oversight.'
Since L.A. Impact was founded in 1991, it has taken in about $78 million in asset-forfeiture money. Most of the money is distributed back to the member cities, but a portion is kept to pay for operating expenses.
Thursday's ruling could have repercussions throughout the state by forcing more than 40 similarly constituted crime task force agencies to begin holding public meetings.
Last week, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer weighed in on L.A. Impact's behalf, arguing the task force was not subject to the Ralph M. Brown Act, which governs public meetings.
Lockyer's office partners with 42 task forces, including L.A. Impact.
Richard Kreisler, attorney for L.A. Impact, argued vehemently that existing California law gives police chiefs authority to utilize department resources to combat crime as they see fit, and the task force was formed under that authority.
McKee claimed the task force was a public agency because it was created under the authority of the various city councils in the county.
Kreisler disagreed, saying L.A. Impact was established by the L.A. County Police Chiefs Association, a private organization.
L.A. Impact is governed by a 10-member executive council. Member police chiefs serve on the council on a rotating basis.
"This entire ruling was a very close call, a very unique situation,' Kreisler said, adding, "Day to day operations will go on as effectively as they always have' at L.A. Impact.
Before handing down her ruling, Janavs said the issues in the case were complex and opined that the state Legislature needed to better clarify how public meeting law applies to agencies that deal with such sensitive issues as law enforcement.
The ruling does not take effect for 60 days, during which time the L.A. Impact board will decide whether to appeal.
McKee said he would welcome that decision since it could set a precedent that would open the books of dozens of similar task forces that collect millions in asset forfeiture money every year.
Asset-forfeiture laws played a key role in the formation of task force groups like L.A. Impact, which was established in 1991 by the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Association.
Kreisler said the task force allowed police departments to pool resources to conduct major investigations, and avoid working at cross-purposes.
"The police chiefs decided to build a better mouse-trap,' Kreisler said.
Since L.A. Impact was founded, the group has made more than 3,700 arrests, seized more than 70,000 pounds of cocaine and taken 387 illegal guns off the streets.
L.A. Impact first came into McKee's cross-hairs after Claremont reporter Christopher Bray discovered the group was expanding its mission to investigate domestic terrorism complaints.
While task force officials say the group has not pursued the initiative, McKee and Bray, who joined the lawsuit, said the mere possibility that such investigations would take place demanded public oversight.
"When all of a sudden you have these local agencies involved in terrorism investigations there has to be some oversight there,' McKee said. "How many John Ashcrofts do you want?"
So, there. Yep.
can't wait until we get rid of bush, so there won't be any more hate directed at america from overseas
Here's an interesting list of attacks believed to have involved al Qaeda. Note how the list starts right as George W. Bush took office in 1993:
* 1993 (Feb.): Bombing of World Trade Center (WTC); six killed.
* 1993 (Oct.): Killing of U.S. soldiers in Somalia.
* 1996 (June): Truck bombing at Khobar Towers barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killed 19 Americans.
* 1998 (Aug.): Bombing of U.S. embassies in East Africa; 224 killed, including 12 Americans.
* 1999 (Dec.): Plot to bomb millennium celebrations in Seattle foiled when customs agents arrest an Algerian smuggling explosives into the U.S.
* 2000 (Oct.): Bombing of the USS Cole in port in Yemen; 17 U.S. sailors killed.
* 2001 (Sept.): Destruction of WTC; attack on Pentagon. Total dead 2,992.
* 2001 (Dec.): Man tried to denote shoe bomb on flight from Paris to Miami.
* 2002 (April): Explosion at historic synagogue in Tunisia left 21 dead, including 14 German tourists.
* 2002 (May): Car exploded outside hotel in Karachi, Pakistan, killing 14, including 11 French citizens.
* 2002 (June): Bomb exploded outside American consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, killing 12.
* 2002 (Oct.): Boat crashed into oil tanker off Yemen coast, killing one.
* 2002 (Oct.): Nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia, killed 202, mostly Australian citizens.
* 2002 (Nov.): Suicide attack on a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, killed 16.
* 2003 (May): Suicide bombers killed 34, including 8 Americans, at housing compounds for Westerners in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
* 2003 (May): Four bombs killed 33 people targeting Jewish, Spanish, and Belgian sites in Casablanca, Morocco.
* 2003 (Aug.): Suicide car-bomb killed 12, injured 150 at Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia.
* 2003 (Nov.): Explosions rocked a Riyadh, Saudi Arabia housing compound, killing 17.
* 2003 (Nov.): Suicide car-bombers simultaneously attacked two synagogues in Istanbul, Turkey, killing 25 and injuring hundreds.
* 2003 (Nov.): Truck bombs detonated at London bank and British consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, killing 26.
* 2004 (March): Ten terrorists bombs exploded almost simultaneously during the morning rush hour in Madrid, Spain, killing 202 and injuring more than 1,400.
* 2004 (May): Terrorists attacked Saudi oil company offices in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, killing 22.
* 2004 (June): Terrorists kidnapped and executed American Paul Johnson, Jr., in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
* 2004 (Sept.): Car bomb outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, killed nine.
Let's be sure to elect John Kerry, so we can have peace again. I'm glad we've been able to figure out that Bush is solely to blame for all the hostility directed at the U.S. Clearly we can see that getting rid of Bush will bring immediate peace -- especially after Kerry makes a speech to the United Nations.
It's a relief to discover that the world is such a simple place.
UPDATE: I am, of course, being a little assholish in this post. But I'm increasingly amazed, as the election nears, at the depth of Bush's failure (as revealed in daily conversation in Los Angeles, on-campus and off-campus). The salad dressing isn't tasty and delicious! Damn you, George W. Bush!
Anything and everything is the direct fault of a single administration. Itchy feet? Small blister? Yep, he did it.
Meanwhile, John Edwards helpfully reveals that Bush killed Christopher Reeve, and that people like Reeve will walk again -- the Blood of the Lamb!!!
-- when Kerry is elected. (Which will, I think, be "never.")
I didn't vote for Bush. I'm not going to vote for him this time. But I doubt very much that the world would change all that much if he were to lose the election. The Bush administration has been reckless and hubristic in foreign policy, reckless and shitty in domestic policy. And I'm still not convinced that John "Terrorism is a Nuisance" Kerry would be much of an improvement.
that Bush can't carry all the weight the left has tried to put in his basket. Most of the things he's blamed for have roots that stretch back well before his presidency, or that result to some degree from structural shifts in the post-Cold War, post-dot com world. If he'd broken half as much furniture as the DNC says he has, god himself would come down from the sky and strike him down. Is it really necessary to resort to Bush killed Christopher Reeve
in order to beat him?
There is a clip
currently circulating where John Stewart takes apart CNN’s “debate” program “crossfire.” Stewart in my view exposes the show as a sham on the air. The most amazing part is that the hosts help him do it.
Stewart leans left, as do I, but I don’t want this to be mistaken as a left or right issue. I think the most telling moment is when Tucker Carlson unwittingly exposes himself, but I don’t want to argue that Carlson is doing that because he’s a conservative. Left or right, the tenor of “news” in our society often degenerates to a series of sound bites and quoted accusations. Journalism is often taken to mean simply quoting both irresponsible allegations at once, or quoting both the accusation and the response. It matters little whether it’s a conservative or a liberal doing this on the air, it’s simply the modus operandi for tv journalism in general.
Crossfire itself is often little more than two or more people screaming at each other. They come into the show with their talking points pre-decided (and based on similarities one wonders if not pre-directed from the party machinery). They then repeat, over and over again their talking points at each other. Often they have guests who generally come on the show with their own talking points. They then scream their talking points at the guest, who angrily replies with their talking points. The point is we hear a lot of talking points, we hear them loudly, and we hear them often.
That is not a debate.
In order to debate one has to listen. One has to assimilate the opponent’s argument, and respond to it faithfully. One has to allow one’s opponent time and space to express themselves fully. One has to be respectful. In short, one has to be interested
in advancing the argument, reaching agreement and finding the truth, not in repeating the same thing over and over again. Argument is the search for truth not victory.
So John Stewart comes on the show, and accuses them of being “part of their [the politicians] strategies.” He accuses them of just yelling at each other and doing harm to American democracy. And he does this in a calm voice with sympathy and humor. And what happens? Tucker Carlson proves him right:
Here are three of the questions you asked John Kerry.
CARLSON: You have a chance to interview the Democratic nominee. You asked him questions such as -- quote -- "How are you holding up? Is it hard not to take the attacks personally?"
CARLSON: "Have you ever flip-flopped?" et cetera, et cetera.
CARLSON: Didn't you feel like -- you got the chance to interview the guy. Why not ask him a real question, instead of just suck up to him?
I’ll deal with the substance of Carlson’s attack in a moment, but let’s look at the strategy he is using for the moment. Rather than address Stewart’s point he simply counterattacks. That’s a microcosm of the entire problem of the show. Carlson could have asked him for more specifics on what he doesn’t like about the show. He could have tried to understand
Stewart’s point and then respond to it. But Carlson is used to the sewer. He responds by flinging shit back at Stewart rather than by actually bothering to explore criticism of his own show; he yells rather than debates. This isn’t an isolated incident, it’s essentially what happens throughout the interview.
It’s true of course that Stewart’s questions were softballs. But let’s note two things about how Stewart normally interviews, only one of which Stewart himself brought up explicitly in his appearance. First Stewart’s show is a comedy show. It’s not intended to raise the level of public discourse, or serve the community by providing a valuable space for political commentary. It’s intended to make people laugh. Carlson ought to hold himself to a different standard.
But maybe Carlson is missing a deeper point. Stewart’s interviews are cordial. He sometimes asks difficult questions, though usually only a few and with plenty of jokes to warm up the interview. But he gives his guest adequate time to respond, without cutting them off by yelling or with counter attacks. This is important because it’s impossible to have a debate in 4 second sound bites. Stewart provides a forum for people to express themselves.
That Stewart manages to attack the show he is appearing on, while at the same time seeming like the nicer and more generous of the three is impressive. That a comedy host has outflanked what is supposed to be a real news program is not.
fingernails on a blackboard
Always an amazing experience to sit at the back of a lecture hall and watch the UCLA undergraduate during a lecture. One question: if you're going to nap, or work on your engineering homework, or play games on your nifty cellphone, or (this was today's example) tape together a collage of sorority photos
, why bother dragging yourself all the way to the classroom?
In the alternative universe where I'm the king of the U.C. system, we're culling undergraduates like a vigorous reaper in a field of ripe wheat. At least ten percent of the undergrads here are gaining nothing, and contributing nothing, and could be sent home without a loss to anyone.
if you're interested in the war(s) in iraq and afghanistan...
Phil Carter, who blogs at Intel Dump
, is a UCLA law school graduate and former U.S. Army captain. He blogs on military affairs, and his posts are invariably insightful and informative. Click on the link, and just keep scrolling down.
Can someone attempt to explain the thinking behind this
Vote for me or Satan Will Burn Your House!!!
It’s truly sad when somethingawful has a meaningful
political point to make:
Whenever I ask somebody these days who they are voting for, they seem to invariably respond with something along the lines of, "I'm voting for Kerry because I hate Bush" or "I'm voting for Bush because I hate Kerry." Well here's a revolutionary idea: instead of voting AGAINST somebody, why don't we actually vote FOR somebody? Has America grown into such a tremendous shithole that the only way a candidate can garner votes from the public is by hoping people hate him slightly less than his rival? Has democracy mutated into some blackened, disgusting entity that requires us to vote for the sole purpose of preventing the other candidate from winning? I don't think so, and this is why I'm voting Carnosaur in 2004.
Extremely partisan political contests are nothing new in this country. A level of public discourse that fails to rise far above the gutter is far from unprecedented. But, I think the extent to which people this year are casting their votes to stave off what they perceive to be the coming of the antichrist is new. The near apocalyptic rhetoric—and more importantly belief
I’m not writing this become I’m entirely above it. I have my political loathings just like everyone else. I am, however, a bit confused as to the current state of affairs.
(in a bold blogographic move, I’m thinking about talking about Iraq next, and maybe even finishing my stimulating “how to go to college” series)
I won a lawsuit today, along with my co-plaintiff Rich McKee (who did all the hard work). A multijurisdictional police agency that has been governed in secret for 13 years will now have to make budgets and set policy in public, in accordance with the Brown Act.
I'll post more details later, when I'm less tired and more patient, but it's a good news day.
As I was glancing through my father’s pictures, I realized at least one
of them had been in fact taken by me. Needless to say I was shocked and amazed at the betrayal. I felt like one of those child stars whose parents hop them up on dangerous drugs, and then steal the money they earn from their acting career.
I hate to air my dirty laundry online, but I feel you should know that the historiblogography legal team
has been contacted and is serving papers to my father. I intend to sue for sixty billion lira.
You know what's great?
You know what I need?
You know what I still have to do?
READ and PREPARE.
SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO TIRED and caffeine is so not working. DANG.
(And don't try to bribe me with donuts. )
Evidence for my Theory
I have now TA’ed two sections of students. Overall it’s been an enjoyable experience so far. Warping young minds is so much fun.
One thing has been disturbing. I asked both sections to tell me why they are going to college. Why of all the things one can do with one’s youth are they spending it in a dusty classroom talking about old books? They could travel around the country, take a job they never thought of having, try their hand at becoming poets, do anything. All of these pursuits could be useful and valuable in their own way. We only have a certain amount of time, and we darned well had better use it wisely. But they have decided to devote these crucial years to scholarship. And why have they done that?
Silence. Nothing. Sheer shock that I would even dare to ask the question. Why go to college? Because we have
That’s right, they just have to take advantage of the most complicated and expensive higher educational system in world history. They just have to take classes from world-renowned experts in the field. They just have to read the classic texts of Western Civilization. They must be “educated,” something that they think is done to them not by them, no matter what they might want.
The problems with this mentality aren’t their fault. I went to public school in this state, and I understand how they got this impression. I even fell prey to it myself for a time. It’s merely distressing.
We will see if I can change that view.
My Dad the Photographer
For as long as I can remember my father has been into photography. I remember as a very young child going to a local arts and crafts sale to sell his prints. His digital photo album
was recently one of webshot’s “featured” albums. I thought I’d plug his work a little, by shipping my tens of thousands of readers over there.
I didn't realize he had these on webshots, but this
is about 5 or 6 miles from my childhood home. (yes, I grew up in the sticks)
suspicion is evidence enough: the search for a journalist's politico-philosophical roots
"The government should not hesitate to bring charges against Muslims it suspects of disloyalty, even if those charges sometimes have to be dropped for lack of unclassified evidence, as in the highly publicized case of U.S. Army Muslim chaplain Captain James Yee." -- Michelle Malkin, In Defense of Internment
"Only one Nisei
that we know of, Kenji Ito, was charged with an espionage-related crime. The jury, not privy to smoking-gun classified evidence against Ito, found him not guilty of failure to register as a foreign agent (see Appendix D). Had it not been for evacuation and relocation, Ito and untold numbers of other suspected subversive ethnic Japanese would have been allowed to remain in vulnerable, militarily sensitive areas while we were at war." -- Ibid
"On May 26, 1937, Marshal Tukhachevsky and Commanders Yakir, Uborevich, Eideman, Kork, Putna, Feldman and Primakov were arrested and tried in front of a military tribunal. Their execution was announced on July 12. They had been under suspicion since the beginning of May...Since many soldiers came from the countryside, kulak influence was substantial. Unshlikht, a superior officer, claimed in 1928 and 1929 that the danger of Right deviation was greater in the Army than in the Party's civil organizations...In 1930, ten per cent of the officer corps, i.e. 4500 military, were former Tsarist officers...These factors all show that bourgeois influence was still strong during the twenties and the thirties in the army, making it one of the least reliable parts of the socialist system." -- "The Tukhachevsky trial and the anti-Communist conspiracy within the army,"
Ludo Martens, Another view of Stalin.
And the Japanese intelligence service rears its perfidious head in the Pyatakov trial of 1937...
"This theme was strongly put in the new indictment. The accused intended to renounce industrialization and collectivization, and they relied for support in particular on the German and Japanese Governments...Espionage contact had been established with the Germans and Japanese. And, as in the Zinoviev Trial, a number of terrorist groups had been organized, 'in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Rostov, Sochi, Novosibirsk, and other towns...' For example, Knyazev was quoted as having confessed that 'the Japanese intelligence service strongly stressed the necessity of using bateriological means in time of war with the object of contaminating troop trains, canteens, and army sanitary centres with highly virulent bacilli...' The new accusations were highly unbelievable on any view." -- Robert Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment
Goodness! How did the Soviets discover all of this sabotage and subversion?
"Stalin was a very distrustful man, sickly suspicious; we knew this from our work with him. He could look at a man and say: 'Why are your eyes so shifty today?' or 'Why are you turning so much today and avoiding looking me directly in the eyes?' The sickly suspicion created in him a general distrust even toward eminent Party workers whom he had known for years. Everywhere and in everything he saw 'enemies,' 'double-dealers' and 'spies.'" -- Nikita Khrushchev, Secret Speech of 1956. Quoted in Robert Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment
And so we can see...
That Michelle Malkin was born in the wrong time and place. Where is the government that is not afraid to bring charges against people it suspects of disloyalty
, even if there are problems with the evidence? Ahh, my friends. Where is the government that is unafraid to make sure that a trial only turns on the correct
evidence, without any sniveling, oversensitive fears for the so-called rights of the accused? Where is the muscular central government that is ready to make a strong application of wholesale power against entire classes of suspected spies and saboteurs?
Josef Stalin was no civil-rights absolutist, my friends. If only he were still alive to speak at Restoration Weekend
. A great conservative, that man, constructed without apology on the Malkin model.
In Defense of Internment
. A powerful formulation. What politically correct moron
could object to such clear-eyed, refreshing language?
in defense of self-endangerment
in a Filipino newspaper about racial profiling by U.S. officials:
One wonders what good can come out of George W. Bush's habit of lumping the Philippines with Iraq and Afghanistan whenever he refers to the global war on terror. In the first presidential debate in Miami this week, he again made terrorism wear a Filipino face: "But the front on this war is more than just one place. The Philippines... we've got help... we're helping them there to bring al-Qaida affiliates to justice there." Manila is certainly not Baghdad or Kabul, and Mindanao is not Fallujah. Why do we rejoice when the US president refers to our country in this light?
In May this year, a Filipino professor, Abhoud Syed Lingga was stopped at the Los Angeles airport after disembarking from a plane. He was on his way to participate in a series of meetings and fora on Mindanao organized by the United Nations and the US Institute of Peace. He had all the official letters of invitation and a visa from the US Embassy in Manila. But he was from Mindanao and the authorities did not like the sound of his name. His sponsors could not help him; he was sent back on the same plane to Manila.
Nobody Likes 8:00 AM Like Undergraduates
I found out what sections I teach today. One of them is Tuesday at 8:00 AM. That totally sucks. I have no idea how I’m going to get undergraduates interested in Western Civilization at 8:00 AM. I'm a morning person, but I'm pretty sure none of them will be. Hell, I’d consider it a major coup if I could get them not to fall asleep or at least not snore. I’m thinking of bringing in a giant pot of coffee.
the most tolerant country on earth, not counting my house
Michelle Malkin's blog, October 3
Oh, and still no apology from CAIR and its ilk for continuing to perpetuate the myth of "growing Islamophobic prejudice" and for smearing the most tolerant nation of [sic] earth.
Michelle Malkin's book, August:
It was prudent, while fighting a war against Japan, to apply heightened scrutiny to ethnic Japanese in the military. It is also prudent, while fighting a war against Muslim extremists, to apply special scrutiny to Muslims working in sensitive areas, including law enforcement, the prison system, and the armed forces." (152)
A Former Life
In a former life in a strange and far away land I attended Reed College. Every year Reed has a celebration called Renn Fayre, dedicated to the completion of the senior thesis--the culmination of every Reedie's intellectual gang beating. It's a 3 day drunken bruhaha to which the whole campus (students, faculty and staff) is invited. One of the more recent invented traditions in this celebration is picting. Picts strip naked, paint themselves blue, and run arround campus on the saturday of inebriation. Sometimes there are enough of them to form a braveheart like line, and storm the softball field. Anyway, this picture
brought the memories flooding back. Ahhh, thank god I'm never going into politics.
Kerry's "Inconsistent" Position
I’m not about to insist that either President Bush or Senator Kerry presented strong cohesive arguments during the debate. That’s not what debates are for. Debates are about presenting an “image” and a basic sketch of a policy position. Any real world War on Terror would need to be far more complex than what either Bush or Kerry presented. But, before we pick the positions apart I think it best to understand them. Jim Lindgren posted a third party summary of Kerry’s inadequacies that I find a little over simplistic at Volokh:
I thought that this comment from one of Geraghty's readers summed some problems with Kerry's arguments:
"To summarize his [Kerry's] comments: It's the wrong war at the wrong time, but I'm committed to winning it; We're spending too much on Iraq ($200 billion), but I'd send more troops and equipment; I'll bring in more nations to help Iraq, but the other nations currently in Iraq were coerced and do not provide much assistance; Saddam and Iraq were a grave threat, but Osama is the only terrorist worth pursuing; Terrorists are pouring into Iraq, but Iraq is a distraction to the war on terror. I still have no idea what he would do as President to fight this war on terrorism."
Only one of these actually seems like a contradiction in Kerry’s position, “We're spending too much on Iraq ($200 billion), but I'd send more troops and equipment” the rest don’t seem accurate. Let me try to sketch what I take to be his position:
Saddam Hussein was a terrible man and a real threat that should have been on America’s radar. Osama Bin Laden was clearly more important. America should only have wasted the resources to invade if there was no other alternative. There were still other alternatives so invasion was a bad decision. However, now that the decision has been made we can’t just leave Iraq, and I’ll find a way to bring a decisive victory and move the focus back to Osama.
As to the idea that “I'll bring in more nations to help Iraq, but the other nations currently in Iraq were coerced and do not provide much assistance” is a contradiction, I simply don’t see why. He’s saying that international support is weak, citing the very small international forces in Iraq as evidence. He’s claiming, as I understand it, that if elected he would be able to secure greater international good will and thus a real (as opposed to half-hearted) commitment of resources by the international community.
The conclusion that “I still have no idea what he would do as President to fight this war on terrorism” is valid, though neither candidate really gave a clear picture of what it was they are going to do exactly. This flip-flop position is all fine and dandy, but I don’t think it’s effective to jump to these kinds of conclusions before understanding the position as Kerry expressed it.