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Archive for September, 2005

Pull the Endorsement

[ 0 ] September 21, 2005 |

Um, I think that this ends any significant debate on the question of whether NARAL was right to endorse Lincoln Chafee. The guy rolls on the first Supreme Court vote after the endorsement–so why is he being endorsed over a pro-choice Democrat again? What’s the logic here?

It’s the same lesson as Pataki vetoing over-the-counter Plan B as the opening salvo in one of the most pathetically futile presidential campaigns in living memory–in the current context, there is functionally no such thing as a pro-choice Republican. There’s always some reason for them to roll over for the party leadership, and the pressure required seems to get less and less. This was not always true historically, but it’s the case now. I’m not saying pro-choice groups should be mere appendages of the Democratic Party either, but they really need to adapt to this reality.

Moral Complexity and Choice

[ 0 ] September 21, 2005 |

As Pseudo-Adrienne, Amanda, and Jessica all point out, this NYT article about the experience of women getting abortions is very good. However, there is one argument it contains that drives me crazy whenever I hear it:

While public conversation about abortion is dominated by advocates with all-or-nothing positions – treating the fetus as a complete person, with full rights, or as a nonentity, with none – most patients at the clinic, like most Americans, found themselves on rockier ground, weighing religious, ethical, practical, sentimental and financial imperatives that were often in conflict.

Now, it is true that the “pro-life” position pretty much empties decisions about abortion of moral complexity; criminalizing abortion does indeed deny the ability of women to make moral choices. But the reverse is most certainly not true. To advocate the legality of abortion is most certainly not to deny that the experience of getting an abortion is morally complex; moral reasoning is not limited to the universe of legal statutes. (It is true that pro-choicers do believe that the fetus has no legal rights, but this is quite different than saying that abortion therefore lacks any complex moral dimension.) The fact that I think the adultery should not be illegal doesn’t mean that I think that committing adultery doesn’t often raise grave moral questions, and similarly even when abortion is legal many women will struggle with various moral imperatives when deciding whether to get an abortion–and nobody denies this. The pro-choice position is not that abortion presents no difficult moral issues; it is that women should be taken seriously as moral agents. (This is a particularly strong contrast with pro-lifers who believe that abortion involves the murder of a human being but should not involve legal sanctions for a woman who procures one, a position which requires the belief that women have no moral agency at all.) Obviously, the fact that women are not compelled by the force of the state to carry pregnancies to term does not mean that the decision of an individual woman to get (or not get) an abortion is devoid of moral deliberation. It is those who wish to use the blunt instrument of state coercion to prevent all abortions who drain abortion of all of its moral and ethical complexities.

Prof. B reminds us of her earlier work on the topic.

Contrarianism Justified

[ 0 ] September 20, 2005 |

In light of the decision of the DOJ, discussed by various law-talkin’ people, to make prosecuting porn a “top priority”–apparently 9/11 “changed everything” by making counterterrorism less important–it’s hard not to see retrospective merit in Yglesias’ contrarian half-defense of John Ashcroft. Ashcroft was a bad AG because of his extremely reactionary views, but he was not a hack or an administration lickspittle. Gonzales, conversely, is a completely unqualified administration buttboy, and because he’s such a pandering hack he ends up having the same substantive problems as Ashcroft. The worst of all worlds.

This also seems like a good time to return to my own contrarian argument (see also here) that engaging in pandering about popular culture is not quite as harmless as people who see it as the Democrats’ road to victory would have you believe. Obviously, in any rational universe taking scarce resources away from fighting terrorism and other violent crime and putting it into suppressing porn would generate widespread derision and shred the administrations reputation for being “tough on terror” and “tough on crime.” The problem is that once you’re publicly committed to the position that Janet Jackson’s nipple is in fact an immense threat to the republic and that the federal government should be in the business of telling people what to watch (even if only through moral posturing and vague threats rather than censorship), it becomes rather difficult to make this case effectively.

For Those Who Find Mallard Fillmore Too Subtle And Well-Drawn…

[ 0 ] September 19, 2005 |

…We bring you Gaggle!

…and the Editors bring you funnier Mallard Fillmore. If he can make Day-to-Day funnier he would be the best blogger in world history, but that’s a tall order.

Ivan the Terrible Wanker

[ 1 ] September 19, 2005 |

I was hoping to never think again about “Ivan Tribble,” but his apologia somehow manages to be even more pompous (“If she’s embarrassed by your bad taste or potty mouth, who is to blame for that?”) and petulant (“A lot can happen when you try to help some people land tenure-track jobs”) than his awful original article. In addition, he uses a variety of disreputable rhetorical techniques to evade all of the relevant issues, and I think it’s worth explaining why, particularly given that his arguments are likely to be shared with grad students second-hand.

The most obvious problem is that he pulls a nice bait-and-switch, making a completely different argument in the second article than he does in the first. As the Little Professor notes, he now claims to merely be making the banal argument that blogs (like any other means of expression) can be used to say things that will work against your interests. Obviously, nobody could disagree with that. But, of course, this was not the argument he was making; he was arguing that blogging counted as a negative irrespective of the content of your blog. Remember the most specious of his many bad arguments–that where blogs are concerned “[p]ast good behavior is no guarantee against future lapses of professional decorum.” (As many people have pointed out, this is an argument against tenure, not blogging.)

And then he engages in the rare Level 5–or “Christopher Hitchens”–category of strawman demolition. Needless to say, he doesn’t cite any actual criticism, but makes up some criticism he can easily respond to instead. “Among the more outraged responses to my column,” he claims, “the biggest issue seemed to be freedom of speech.” This is simply dishonest. Perhaps somebody made this argument, although I certainly missed it in my extensive reading about the controversy, but to claim that it was the “biggest issue” is just a flat-out lie. Of course Tribble’s search committee did not violate anybody’s constitutional rights; that’s not why most people found his arguments objectionable. The issue was his irrational Babbitry, the fact that he seemed to regard a search committee not as a serious job vested with the responsibility of finding the best candidate but as a vehicle he could use to assert his petty and conformist aesthetic prejudices. Rebecca Goetz said this well at the time:

The overall impression I got from reading Tribble’s drivel is that job candidates should be very, very afraid of seeming at all different from the herd at all stages of the job-seeking process. Those that have already have jobs wield power over those who don’t by spreading fear—hence Tribble’s subtitle: “Job seekers need to eliminate as many negatives as possible.” After reading Tribble’s column the only conclusion I could come to is that those “negatives” include anything that remotely resembles an interest outside of one’s dissertation. Even though Tribble practices a profession that supposedly espouses academic freedom, intellectual curiosity, and creative inquiry, it seems to me that he wishes to beat all these admirable qualities out of job candidates. The Tribbles of the world wish their future colleagues to be bland, boring clones who respond predictably to every question and ask predictable questions of their own.

Tribble’s nicknames for the job candidates he discusses—“Professor Turbo Geek, Professor Shrill, and Professor Bagged Cat”—were tasteless and needlessly cruel. Turbo Geek’s only sin was to have a blog that expressed an interest and expertise in technology that was separate, oh shock and horror, from his academic interests. Good grief. Job seekers, according to Tribble, regardless of whether or not they are bloggers, should be quiet and completely predictable so that they may break into the same hallowed halls he treads daily. (As an aside to the Chronicle: having pseudonymous columns can allow forthright discussion of problems in higher education—from the vagaries of the job market to the struggles of adjunct faculty. But it should never, ever be used to poke fun at people, even anonymously. This Tribble column was beyond the pale in that respect and the Chronicle editors should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this to pass muster.)

Yes–this is the issue. What was remarkable about his original admonition is that he found completely ordinary things about candidates on blogs–that they liked Star Trek, or liked computer programming, or discussed body modifications–and considered these to to be significant negative factors! (Needless to say, unless everybody in his department shares his particular turn-offs, this is a grossly irresponsible way for a search committe to act.) That he also didn’t care for these kids today with their blogging isn’t incidental, but is only part of a much larger problem. Obviously, everybody has certain trivial things they don’t care for, but the point of a formal job search is to create a rational process that will focus as much as possible on relevant qualifications, not to provide an outlet for a department’s resident Abe Simpson to vent his frustration about people who have personal interests he doesn’t like.

Now, I guess my official advice may still be aligned with Rob’s; if you’re risk-averse, you should probably blog anonymously, although I agree with Brian and Henry that blogging can be an asset in some circumstances. But I have to admit that I’ve never been terribly worried about being “out”, and this controversy has helped me understand why. I don’t actually think I’m making a sacrifice; I’m confident that my tenure will be judged on its actual merits. And, obviously, there are some things I won’t blog about (none of which would, I think, be of interest to most readers anyway.) But, basically, while this may be irrational or stubborn or whatever one of the reasons I went into academia in the first place was pecisely to avoid having to answer to the Ivan Tribbles of the world. Like most people. I’ve had Ivan Tribbles for bosses. I’ve worked in jobs where a single mother would get fired without warning for wearing a skirt an eighth on an inch too short, where assistant managers would punish people for violating aribitrary rules not because these rules had any rational connection to the job but because they just liked to assert power. Even though being a clean-cut articulate white guy I was able to avoid the wrath of these people for the most part, I still can’t stand dealing with them. Academia, whatever its demerits, had much less of that. I don’t want to romanticize my profession; there are obviously a lot of Tribbles out there, and I’m sure as well there are many non-academic managers who don’t care about your hobbies or what’s on your Tivo or tattooed on your arm as long as you do your job well. But if I’m going to have to work for an Ivan Tribble, there are a lot more reumerative ways to do it. Moreover, there is a certain futility to trying to please a Tribble. One can be reasonably certain that his list of things he’s cranky about contained in the first article isn’t exhaustive; there’s no way of knowing what perfectly normal interest you have that will suddenly disqualify you for a job. And then, of course, trying to come off as a bland, cowering kiss-ass may be the way to impress Tribble and his colleagues but may hurt you with another search committee. The most salient characteristic of both grad school admissions and academic job searches is idiosyncrasy; the strategies that work for one group of people will fail with another, and there’s no reliable way of predicting what will work in advance. So it’s important to be aware of the risks of blogging (as you should with anything else), but I would say don’t sacrifice things that are really important to you either.

Goetz has more, with a useful roundup, as does Dan Drezner (whose advice you probably want to weigh more heavily than mine.)

The Hatted Hack Goes Snipe Hunting

[ 0 ] September 18, 2005 |

Lawyers, Guns and Money has received a tip explaining a great unsolved mystery. Apparently, the ill-fated plane carrying Roberto Clemente which tragically crashed while trying to deliver relief supplies to Nicaragua was shot down by a SAM launched by Roger L. Simon. Studio head Apo Cryphal told Simon he would never work in Hollywood again if he didn’t carry out the plot. “I have five large on the Dodgers winning the pennant next year, and they’ll never be able to beat the Pirates in the playoffs with that damn Clemente in right field.” Now that bloggers have looked into this extraordinary and, if true, hugely important story, it will be interesting to see how and if the mainstream media follow up. NOTE: These rumors remain unconfirmed. We are also looking into tips that Simon was involved in the crash of the plane carrying Ronnie Van Zant.

Really, in light of this latest bout of paranoid kookdom–was the missile have supposed to have been fired from an American-hating crescent?–is there anything you can say about the standards and pretention -to-achievement ratio of the Pajamas Media crowd that wasn’t captured by the late, great Very, Very Happy years ago?

HERE’S AN INTERESTING POST by a guy named Steve from Des Moines. He highlights the direct connection between the modern Democratic Party and the National Socialist German Workers Party. Some incriminating stuff here. Of course, you wouldn’t know this if you only watched CNN…

posted at 05:43 PM by Glenn Reynolds

THE NEW YORK TIMES IS FULL OF SHIT because they quote unreliable sources and make things up.

posted at 05:17 PM by Glenn Reynolds

[Context: Reynolds really did think a blogger reporting an Al-Qaeda/Democratic Party connection was worth linking to.]

(Via Ailes.)


[ 0 ] September 18, 2005 |

Mike Francesa just played the tapes from the Yankee radio broadcast from Friday, when Randy Johnson was ejected in the second inning. I hadn’t heard it because I was watching the TV broadcast, which was just as bad (and Kay–who unlike Sterling is a third-rate hack even when not egregiously shilling for the Yankees–continued to whine about it throughout the game) but according to Sterling and Waldman it was a “disgrace,” “it didn’t matter what Johnson said,” and on and on, without any suggestion that Johnson bore the slightest responsibility. Now, perhaps the umpire should have let it go, but when you walk toward the plate screaming at the umpire about balls and strikes–especially after having been warned in the first inning–you run the risk of being ejected, and anybody who’s pitched in the major leagues for 17 years is perfectly well aware of this. And in particular the TV guys kept emphasizing that “people came to the park to watch Randy Johnson,” “it’s a pennant race,” etc, suggesting that therefore the umpire has to take whatever the player throws at him, which is silly. To the extent that these things are relevant, they mean that when the umpire takes of his mask you shut up so you don’t force your team to use its gassed bullpen for seven innings. You hear the same kind of argument in hockey and basketball–when in a key game when the referees stop calling anything, announcers will inevitably praise them for “letting the players decide the game,” and rarely hear anybody point out what transparent nonsense this is. You let “the players decide the game” by enforcing the rules, not by making an ad hoc decision to ignore them because the game is close.

Anyway, this reminds me of my favorite Al-Yankeezera moment this year. Kay and his color guys were having a discussion about the fastest players in baseball. Singleton (a very fine color guy, I should add) mentioned some obvious names–Crawford, Podsednik, Pierre, like that. Kay mentioned two names: Bubba Crosby. And Mariano Rivera. Say this for Kay; if the Yankees ever decide to hire a decent play-by-guy instead of him, he’ll have a job waiting for him at Tech Central Station…

Last Day

[ 0 ] September 18, 2005 |

Get your Frank Rich while it’s still hot. . .

But Brooks dispels any feeling of mild regret with this, which forces us to ask, again, whether David Brooks is a liar, a moron, or both. I’m leaning toward moron. Today’s installment is full of praise to Dear Leader, who is apparently due for such tribute because he has created a government that is both inadequate and expensive at the same time. Vision, no doubt.


[ 0 ] September 18, 2005 |

Oregon Ducks move to 3-0 after beating Fresno State. Next week, USC.

Here’s to hoping they can hold the Trojans to 60.

Oh, and congratulations to the Washington Huskies, who beat Idaho 34-6 for their first win since last October. Good work, guys!! Keep it up, and maybe someday you’ll be able to win two games in the same season. . .

New Frontiers In Stupidity: Stalinist Aesthetics Division

[ 0 ] September 18, 2005 |

Shorter Jason Appuzo: The fact that Hollywood studios have made a number of fictional disaster movies in the past means that individual actors and filmmakers (most of whom had nothing to do with these movies) are hypocrites when they attempt to raise money for and criticize the President’s inept handling of a real disaster.

No, seriously, that’s the argument.

Needless to say, his film blog also remains a constant source of amusement. Take, for example, the contrast between his claim that Libertas is focused on “aesthetics, values and ideas” and the preceding substantive post –about, er, Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore, because where else are you going to find wingnut blogs discussing these crucial topics?–which like most of what Libertas publishes has absolutely nothing to do with any of these three things.

(Via World O’ Crap.)

Firefox Problems

[ 0 ] September 17, 2005 |

Is anyone having trouble viewing this page on Firefox? I’m only getting 1.5 posts and no sidebar when I view in Firefox, but I get the entire page when I view in Explorer.

UPDATE: Everything working fine now. Thanks very much.

A Point For the Opposition

[ 0 ] September 17, 2005 |

Gee, I spend two posts setting up the British system as a model for a country that respects individual rights with no judicial review at all, and they start with this crap. I don’t really think it affects the overall argument much, but I will concede that 1)there wouldn’t be a vote on the SCOTUS to uphold this, 2)they would be right, and 3)this does provide evidence that going forward (as opposed to historically) countries with judicial review will probably have better records on free speech ceteris parabus.

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