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Archive for March, 2006

Rumors of My Death Have Been Greatly Made Up Out of Whole Cloth

[ 0 ] March 24, 2006 |

Erick at “And now those opposed to Ben have googled prior writings that on the surface appear suspicious, but only because permissions obtained and judgments made offline were not reflected online by an out dated and out of business campus newspaper. But that’s all the opponents want – just enough to sabotage a career, though in the process they will sabotage themselves. Facts have no meaning. Only impressions have any bearing on this. The charges of plagarism are false, meant to bring down a good and honest man. The presented facts to prove plagarism are specious — products of shoddy work. One could easily think the producers of 60 Minutes II were behind them.” (This really is a remarkable paragraph, which gets funnier with repeated readings. Yes, what an unusual technique–proving plagiarism by pointing out that what appeared under someone’s byline first appeared elsewhere! There’s somebody whose opinion about what constitutes “shoddy journalism” I’ll take seriously…)

William & Mary’s The Flat Hat: “Late Thursday evening, several widely-read internet weblogs reported that a former College student plagiarized at least two articles while he worked as a writer for The Flat Hat. According to the websites Daily Kos and Atrios, phrases and full sentances of these articles were similar, and in some cases identical, to those of other authors. Ben Domenech, a student who enrolled in the College in 1999, is currently a blogger with While Domenech deserves the benefit of the doubt until all of the facts are known, if true, his actions would be deeply offensive to us as journalists and as students…The College’s honor code, the oldest in the country, is one of our most cherished traditions. It ensures our community of trust, allowing us to enjoy un-proctored exams and the ability to leave our personal belongings without fear of theft.”

The paper has gone out of business in the last few hours? Wow–you’d think they’d at least finish out the semester…


Plagiarism (and Competence) Matters

[ 0 ] March 24, 2006 |

A terrific post by hilzoy, explaining why serial plagiarism is far from a trivial issue–make sure to read the comments too. And as Greg Saunders points out, there’s something particularly remarkable about somebody plagiarizing film reviews. As is often the case, the sheer laziness is some ways more damning than the utter lack of ethics.

What’s also remarkable about this Red State apologia–whose attempts to defend cases of plagiarism that couldn’t be more clear-cut with a bunch of nonsense about “permissions” did indeed make the post pure comedy gold even before Tacitus showed up–is its attempts to claim that every blogger should want any blogger to succeed. But why? This hire couldn’t have less merit, and it’s not just that he’s a lazy serial plagiarist. He’s an awful writer who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Take his famous argument that some judges are worse than the Klan. Even ignoring its offensiveness, it’s a remarkably clueless and illogical argument. Just to compound the silliness, let’s bring in Confederate Yankee, who attempts to defend this argument:

Domenech says that the worst judges, with the authority of the state behind them, are more dangerous than is a specific marginalized extremist group. Does anyone dare to argue the absolute truth of that statement?

Domenech then makes an allusion to the millions of children (of all races) aborted since Roe v. Wade was decided. No one can argue the fact that many more lives have been cut short by abortions than by lynchings.

Domenech is 100% factually correct.

For a second, let’s leave aside the quite remarkable claim that state action keeping in accordance with the rule of law is worse than stateless terrorism. Let’s explore the implications Domenech and CY’s contention that abortion is morally comparable to lynching, so the only relevant question is numbers. If this is true, it should be noted that the “worst judges” defense is irrelevant, because every judge in the federal courts is responsible for millions of “lynchings.” As you can see in his Casey dissent, Antonin Scalia himself “dismisses the value of all unborn lives”:

The States may, if they wish, permit abortion on demand, but the Constitution does not require them to do so. The permissibility of abortion, and the limitations upon it, are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting.

To state the obvious, if abortion is the equivalent of lynching, then Scalia is, in fact, worse than the Klan. He does not hold unborn lives to have inherent Constitutional value; he simply holds that the state may protect their lives, like they protect the lives of, say cats. Even if Roe v. Wade were overturned, there would be hundreds of thousands of acts morally equivalent to lynchings a year by their perverse logic. Domenech (and his lickspittle) are, of course, repeating the classic sub-freeper error of assuming that conservative judges believe the fetus to be a person, and liberal judges do not. But, of course, no judge does–whatever its status as an ethical position, as a legal position the idea that fetuses are “persons” under the Fourteenth Amendment is a beyond-crackpot position, about as viable as claiming that the 3rd Amendment requires single-payer healthcare. And, of course, it is therefore accurate to note that his analogy of he nation’s judges to the Klan is spectacularly offensive lunacy.

And that’s the problem with Domenech, and (more importantly) the fact that one of the nation’s most important newspapers hired him–he’s dumber than a bag of wet rocks. He’s a lazy, fifteenth-rate hack who traffics almost entirely in stale wingnut cliches and lacks an even rudimentary understanding of the basic issues he opines on. This hire was an utter embarrassment to the WaPo even before the plagiarism charges emerged, and it’s now far, far worse than that. And, as I said previously, I think it’s more offensive to conservatives than anyone else. It’s tokenism in its purest form–“we’ll hire somebody who knows nothing much about anything, isn’t very bright, is much more a political operative than journalist, can barely string 5 sentences together and is so lazy he has to plagiarize goddamned Counting Crows album reviews. And conservatives be happy, because we’re throwing them a bone! Yeah, there’s no meat on it, but they’ll eat anything!” It would be genuinely pathetic if they were right, and any “conservative” who goes down with this ship is someone really not worth paying the slightest mind in the future.

…also see Doughouse Riley on why his youthful red-baiting (in early 2006, those were the good old days!) of Coretta Scott King matters.

…a comprehensive list of his plagiarism from DKos. What’s amazing is the not only may have plagairized a top-1o-albums list–a top-ten albums list!–for the National Review, he didn’t even cut out the Creed one. (Or, even worse, may have picked it himself!) Obviously, this is by far his worst crime yet…

Movies I Use in the Classroom

[ 0 ] March 23, 2006 |

I love to use film as a teaching tool, and not just because it buys me a day of no lectures. Movies help to make clear certain concepts in a non-traditional way. Also, I think there’s positive value in exposing students to non-academic perspectives about particular questions. Finally, there are films that are just as important to cultural literacy as books. Lately, I’ve been assigning David Brin’s novella Thor Meets Captain America as a companion piece to Arnold Wolfers’ National Security as an Ambiguous Symbol, and I think it has worked quite well as a demonstration of how unimportant national security can be in some contexts. I also assign the occasional novel.

I know that a fair number of professors and teachers read LGM, and I’m interested in learning how many use movies in the classroom, and what they use them for. I’m also interested in the student side; what movies have worked well in the classroom, and which ones haven’t? Here is what I use, and why.

Dr. Strangelove: I’ve probably shown Dr. Strangelove half a dozen times, more than any film except perhaps Battle of Algiers. The discussion of deterrence theory is worth the price of admission, but I think it’s also useful for conveying a particular (and particularly male) culture of national security. I once showed it along with 13 Days, the Kevin Costner flick about the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it was fascinating to compare how gender relations were depicted in the two films. Dr. Strangelove is also a critical cultural document, one that anybody purporting to be an educated person needs to see.

Red Dawn: I showed Red Dawn one year in an American Foreign Policy class. I’m still not sure how it worked out. The point was to convey the fear that accompanied Reagan’s America, and remind students that, for the first half of the 1980s, Reagan and his lackeys relentless inflated the Soviet threat. Red Dawn is really an exercise in absurdity, and the first twenty minutes are truly a masterpiece of absurdist art. Milius has a talent for creating masculine-affective set pieces like this (see also the first thirty minutes of Conan the Barbarian). I love the idea of half a million Nicaraguans and half a million Cubans infiltrating across the border, and I love how the Cuban officer gets to order the Soviet soldiers around. For me, it’s Reagan’s America: Part I. I don’t know if the students got anything out of it, though.

The Manchurian Candidate: I’ve shown the first Manchurian Candidate three or four times. I saw the second on cable, but Manchurian Candidate is a film so deeply embedded within a particular time and worldview that it simply doesn’t translate as a remake. The point of Manchurian Candidate in the classroom is to evoke a historical period; not to convince the students that the Chinese were really infiltrating the US with mind-controlled zombies, but rather to show them the general atmosphere of paranoia that existed in America in the 1950s. Also, most students have only been exposed to Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher (and, recently, few even of those), and her portrayal of the Red Queen is a revelation.

The Battle of Algiers: I’ve shown this eight or nine times. It’s indispensible to any conversation about terrorism or insurgency. Longer discussion here.

The Thin Red Line: I’ve shown the whole thing once, and parts of it once. Thin Red Line is a hard movie to show a class, because it’s very long and because I know that a large percentage of the class will absolutely loathe it. I like it as a pedagogical tool for its portrayal of military hierarchy, but especially for the assault on the hill, which is the best depiction of an infantry attack against a fortified position that I’ve ever seen.

Breaker Morant: Maybe five times? There’s just so much going on here; counter-insurgency, laws of war, personal responsibility, military hierarchy, nationalism, and the moral context of war. Indispensible. It’s too bad that my students are now getting too young to remember Edward Woodward in The Equalizer, a passable 1980s vigilante/detective show.

Triumph of the Will: I showed Triumph of the Will to an International Conflict class once. I don’t think they got it. It’s valuable in and of itself as a cultural document, but it also has important things to say about nationalism as a product of mass culture and modernity, a concept which is sometimes kind of hard to convey. Bonus points go to students who can pick out the parts of the film that George Lucas lifted for Star Wars.

Grand Illusion: Three or four times. Grand Illusion is really about multiple group affiliation and shared identity. Class, nationality, European, and the military profession are all important, to varying degrees, to the principals. I show it in my Europe in World Politics course, generally during the part of the course that I discuss state-building in Europe and the expansion of the European nation-state form to other parts of the world.

I’ve also used Elizabeth once (to depict the violent side of state building) and Thirteen Days once (both for the historical narrative and the for the contrast with Dr. Strangelove). If I taught other courses, I’d use other movies, probably including some from this list. Sadly, there are a dearth of decent movies about China, and Last Emperor is way too long to show in any class.

Are You Cat Worthy?

[ 0 ] March 23, 2006 |

I must admit that I was a little bit surprised at how extensive the application was to adopt Nelson and Starbuck. At no point in the process did I think I would be rejected, but I can certainly see how rescue organizations would be a lot more worried about dogs than cats:

Even as adopting a stray dog or cat — rather than buying one from a store or breeder — has become politically fashionable, a badge of pride for some because of the millions of animals that are euthanized each year, the hurdles that some humane societies and rescue groups make potential owners leap — including multipage applications, references, background checks, interviews and home visits — can make the process feel nearly as daunting as adopting a child.

The promise of a home visit probably surprised me the most, although thus far I have only received a phone call and a request for pictures, and I think that the latter was because the volunteer missed the two kittens. I was a bit worried about having to explain, the first couple of days, that Nelson was fine hiding behind the furnace, that he could live a rich and fulfilling life back there, and that we wouldn’t need to pry him out with a stick…

But really, it was reassuring that the volunteers had so much concern for the animals that they had in their care.

The Fourth Amendment and Third-Party Consent

[ 0 ] March 22, 2006 |

In some good news–get it while you still can (i.e. before the GOP gets another appointment)!–today the Supremes ruled in Georgia v. Randolph that in ordinary circumstances one party cannot give consent to a warrantless search of the quarters of another party when the other party is present and refuses to consent. As Julian Sanchez notes, this is actually a quite narrow right–it would seem that a warrantless search of your living space can be consented to by another party if you’re not there, for example. Which makes it all the more striking that the decision was only 5-3, and of course had Alito participated it would have been 5-4. In a highly unsurprising development, Chief Justice Roberts signed on to the current belief of far too many federal judges that the War on (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs should act as a sort of solvent that dissolves any Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights that might be inconvenient to the state’s power. Particularly specious is Roberts’ claim–echoed even more disingenuously pursued by noted supporter of women’s rights Antonin Scalia–that affording even this limited protection would interfere with the ability of the police to protect victims of domestic abuse. As Justice Souter points out, such circumstances would obviously permit the police to intervene irrespective of whether the abuser consents:

But this case has no bearing on the capacity of the police to protect domestic victims. The dissent’s argument rests on the failure to distinguish two different issues: when the police may enter without committing a trespass, and when the police may enter to search for evidence. No question has been raised, or reasonably could be, about the authority of the police to enter a dwelling to protect a resident from domestic violence; so long as they have good reason to believe such a threat exists, it would be silly to suggest that the police would commit a tort by entering, say, to give a complaining tenant the opportunity to collect belongings and get out safely, or to determine whether violence (or threat of violence) has just occurred or is about to (or soon will) occur, however much a spouse or other co-tenant objected. (And since the police would then be lawfully in the premises, there is no question that they could seize any evidence in plain view or take further action supported by any consequent probable cause Thus, the question whether the police might lawfully enter over objection in order to provide any protection that might be reasonable is easily answered yes. [cites omitted.]

This is, of course, obviously correct; one person being in potential physical danger obviously provides the exigent circumstances necessary for police to enter a domicile and conduct a plain view search, and the attempt of the dissenters to bootstrap police powers that do not involve such circumstances from a spurious invocation of domestic violence should be rejected out of hand.

In addition, there’s an interesting concurrence by Stevens, noting the flaws in particular forms of “originalism” that purport to fix the Fourth Amendment’s meaning as it was understood in 1791, pointing out that changes in the common law conception of marriage would have a large impact on questions of 3rd party consent. It’s always useful to be reminded that the claim of “originalism” to produce determinate results is quite clearly bogus, which would be true even if the methodology was applied rigorously and consistently, which of course Scalia does not.

…MORE PERSPECTIVES: Orin Kerr explains the competing positions in terms of his four-part typology of Fourth Amendment interpretation; SCOTUSblog, as most interested parties will know, has detailed analysis; and Fantasy Life explores some broader implications of the doctrinal fight.

Defining Spiritual Intelligence Down

[ 0 ] March 22, 2006 |

Increasingly frequently is the question asked: what is the most unintentionally hilarious piece of unreconstructed dumbass wingnuttery to emerge from the less-than-robust mind of the Washington Post‘s new star blogger, Ben Domenech? Sure, his creationist wankery provides some real gems. Still, I’ve got to vote for this:

Antonin Scalia openly questioned the Catholic Church’s opposition to the death penalty today, proving once again that he is a man of deep spiritual intelligence, a modern St. Augustine of jurisprudence.

Yes, if there’s any one characteristic I would look for in a latter-day Augustine, is that he would believe that the teachings of his church should be revised to be in perfect accordance with the platform of the Republican Party in 2004. (I guess that’s why Scalia can have a clear conscience about subverting every legal principle he’s ever espoused when dealing with the most important decisions of his judicial career. After all, not having the correct religious leader in power would probably constitute “irreparable harm…”)

it gets worse. Wow. It’s an amazing body of work. Hollywood made Lord of the Rings for church audiences! Morning-after pills are an “abortifacient” !

In a sense, this proves that some right-wing whines about the post are true–if the Post sees this moron as a representative of “Red America”, they really are condescending…

Reproductive Freedom Roundup 1: Brilliance

[ 0 ] March 21, 2006 |

I was planning an omnibus post commenting on some of the great stuff that has been written over the past few days. This chart by ampersand, however–which neatly summarizes one of my longtime hobbyhorses in chart form–deserves its own post:

All the pieces of the puzzle are now in place!

John Mearsheimer=Ward Churchill?

[ 0 ] March 21, 2006 |

Blarg. I was planning to get important work done…

I wish that Reynolds, Hewitt, the boys at Powerline, the lovely Alexandra, or really anyone on the right side of the blogosphere would at least take a moment to note that Mearsheimer and Walt are not raving leftists, but rather, respectively, a genuine conservative and a political moderate. Mearsheimer is a Republican, views the first George Bush as a great foreign policy President, graduated from West Point, served in the US Air Force, and hates the United Nations. In short, he’s exactly the kind of guy that David Horowitz would like to see more of in the academy. He cannot be relied upon to parrot the Republican Party line at any given time, and that’s partially why he’s working at the University of Chicago, rather than the Heritage Foundation.

Reynolds, Hewitt, et al carefully avoid discussing any of this, because they’d prefer their readers to think that all academics are crazy, America loathing, anti-semitic leftists with Ward Churchill tatoos.

InstaMcCarthy: Yet Another Smear

[ 0 ] March 21, 2006 |

Well, that didn’t take long. As predictably as the tides, via Greenwald I see that Glenn Reynolds has flat-out compared Mearsheimer and Walt to David Duke. Obviously, comparing scholars to a Grand Wizard of the Klan solely for publishing a paper whose conclusions you disagree with–with absolutely no evidence that either of them remotely share Duke’s fascist worldview–is beneath contempt, but par for the course where Reynolds is concerned. I can’t put it better than Dan Drezner, although I admittedly in this case I would put it in nastier form:

I didn’t say this explicitly in my last post, but let me do so here: Walt and Mearsheimer should not be criticized as anti-Semites, because that’s patently false. They should be criticized for doing piss-poor, monocausal social science.*

To repeat, the main empirical problems with the article are that :

A) They fail to demonstrate that Israel is a net strategic liability;

B) They ascribe U.S. foreign policy behavior almost exclusively to the activities of the “Israel Lobby”; and

C) They omit consideration of contradictory policies and countervailing foreign policy lobbies.

The paper is in many respects shoddy and tendentious, and should be criticized on its merits as vigorously one pleases. But to compare two distinguished scholars to a vicious racist and anti-Semite with no supporting evidence whatsoever is utterly reprehensible.

To further underscore Reynolds’ mendacity, let’s compare his reaction when Harvard’s President made, if anything, more ill-informed and tautological assertions about female inferiority to justify his awful record in the hiring and retention of female faculty. If you can put someone in the Klan for disagreeing with you about American foreign policy toward Israel, surely vigorous (but far less severe) criticism of Summers’ views by people who know far more about the subject than he does is acceptable, right? Nope: his reaction, of course, was to “indeed” a post whining about how unfairly poor Larry was being treated.

So to summarize Glenn Reynolds’ views on academic inquiry: if you agree with Glenn Reynolds, you should be insulated from any but the mildest criticism. If you disagree with Glenn Reynolds, you can be baselessly compared to David Duke. The usefulness of this standard I leave to your judgment.

I’m Not Sure We’ve Ever Pitched a Perfect Post, But…

[ 0 ] March 21, 2006 |

L, G & M has made it to the finals the Koufax awards! Please consider voting for us for
Best Series
for my Supreme Court coverage. Voting instructions can be found here.

Also consider voting for some friends of the blog! A not-close-to-exhaustive list would include

Please take the time to vote!

Dream Sequences Suck: A Follow-Up

[ 0 ] March 21, 2006 |

Thanks to James Wolcott, my cranky complaints about dream sequences on TV are stated in considerably better prose:

Dream sequences are a curse on series TV, equal in their artsy-kitschy intrusiveness to ghostly visitations from deleted characters, and perhaps even worse than dream sequences are dream-sequence interpretations, which compels talented critics to smack at every symbol that pops up from the watery unconscious with wooden paddles.

The implication that L&O: CI is superior is, on the other hand, quite spectacularly wrong, but at least he’s right to attack The Sopranos at its weakest point…

It’s the Media, Damnit!!!

[ 0 ] March 21, 2006 |

From Fox News’ Soldier’s Diary correspondant Capt. Dan Sukman:

Most of the coverage seems to focus on the bad things that happen here — car bombs, murders, etc. — but that’s what news is. Footage of a car blowing up will always make for more readers or viewers than all the cars that do not explode. The analogy I will use here is this: If a triple homicide occurs in your hometown, everyone is tuned in to see what happened, but you will never see a news report about some guy going to work like he does every day.

My question is this: How is a reporter supposed to make an event like this look good?

Insurgents stormed a jail around dawn Tuesday in the Sunni Muslim heartland north of Baghdad, killing 19 police and a courthouse guard in a prison break that freed dozens of prisoners and left 10 attackers dead, authorities said.

As many as 100 insurgents armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades stormed the judicial compound in Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles northeast of the capital. The assault began after the attackers fired a mortar round into the police and court complex, said police Brig. Ali al-Jabouri.

Is the media supposed to focus on all the days that the jail wasn’t the scene of a massacre of police officers and a mass freeing of prisoners? No attack on the jail happened yesterday, after all, or the day before that, or even the day before that. Postive news!!!! Is it supposed to point out that many other jails in the country haven’t suffered from an attack by 100 armed men? The media concentrates on cars that explode, bridges that get blown up, and jails that get attacked because, in the normal course of business, cars aren’t supposed to explode, bridges aren’t supposed to be blown up, and hundreds of armed men aren’t supposed to attack jails. If these events take place with some regularity, it’s evidence that something is wrong. That they happen so often in Iraq actually works to reduce the cumulative effect of the violence rather than enhance it; we actually don’t hear about, and don’t pay attention to, most of the massacres, explosion, and suicide bombings in Iraq because they’re so common.

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