You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2009.

The Dowd plagiarism thing is just too delicious. The cut-and-paste from Josh Marshall is eye-popping by itself, of course. JMM:

More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when we were looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Dowd on Sunday, via Delong:

More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when the Bush crowd was looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq.

I love that it’s Josh in particular, because TPM is serious business and because Josh has (rightly) busted on newspaper reporters for lifting from blogs without attribution. But Dowd’s excuse takes it to the next level:

josh is right. I didn’t read his blog last week, and didn’t have any idea he had made that point until you informed me just now.

i was talking to a friend of mine Friday about what I was writing who suggested I make this point, expressing it in a cogent — and I assumed spontaneous — way and I wanted to weave the idea into my column.

but, clearly, my friend must have read josh marshall without mentioning that to me.
we’re fixing it on the web, to give josh credit, and will include a note, as well as a formal correction tomorrow.

This sort of excuse really rings a familiar bell for academics, especially at this time of year. Just imagine things going down that way. What articulate friends you have! What amazing recall! This ranks with “there was a footnote, but my girlfriend accidentally deleted it.” (Seriously! Someone said this!). See also Dave Noon‘s flashback. I guess I expected that Dowd would have a better excuse than a lazy sophomore, but then again the big revelation of the last few years has been that the op-ed page is as bad as it seems.

(My current favorite excuse, as I think I’ve mentioned, is this email exchange: the student says “here’s the assignment” yet there’s no attachment; when I point this out, the student is mysteriously away from email for several days, then sends along a file created the day before. This semester I’ve got a novel twist: an attachment in some long-defunct format. All your other emailed files were .doc, my friend– you chose this moment to switch to wordperfect? And then you stayed away from the computer for days?)

From the street display in Århus of “100 places to remember before they disappear”, on the web in English here.

ciaseal.pngThe CIA has a kid’s page. So does the CIA, for that matter, but I find the former much more disturbing. The kids’ page of the Central Intelligence Agency includes a “Bird’s Eye View of CIA History,” narrated by “Aerial, the ace photography pigeon.” There are links to the CIA “Hall of Fame,” which–disappointingly–includes only non-classified information (I know about Harry Truman and George H.W. Bush! Tell me cool secret things).

Interested in a job at the CIA? For all those 6th-12 graders who might be eager to join, the agency says “Seriously, Just Say ‘No’“:

For those of you who can pledge to stay away from illegally and improperly using drugs and alcohol, there are student opportunities immediately available at the CIA for the best and brightest.

Finally, there are games. There are puzzles, word finds, and “break the code.” “Break the code” includes a challenge involving the “Enigma Code” which I’m pretty sure requires an invasion of Poland to solve. Additional games include the “Aerial Analysis Challenge,” and the “Photo Analysis Challenge,” which involve skills useful later for those interested in a career in Bomb Damage Assessment.

There are also resources for parents and teachers, including lesson plans. “Adaptable for students of any age,” these include “Examples of Problem Solving, Myths about the CIA vs. Reality, Intelligence’s Role in War, Code and Code Breaking, the Importance of Accurate Communications,” and my personal favorite “Gathering and Analyzing Information,” which includes the following:

To begin the lesson, the teacher will hand out the “Intelligence Cycle” print out and discuss its five steps: Planning & Direction, Collection, Processing, Analysis & Production, and Dissemination.

After the students understand the “Intelligence Cycle,” the teacher should write the following on the blackboard: “Back in my day….” Begin a discussion by asking students how many of them have heard their parents or grandparents use that phrase in conversation and what they learned about their family’s past from those reminiscences.

Next, the teacher should ask students to pick a parent or grandparent they can interview before the next class and write three paragraphs comparing the student’s current day-to-day life to their subject’s life at the same age. Discuss what kind of questions to ask to see the differences in the student’s life compared to their subject’s life at the same point.

Whether the child is allowed to use enhanced interview techniques on the chosen grandparent is not specified.

This is 31 flavors of stupid:

“There was a conscious effort on our part to counter some of the criticism of The Inquirer as being a knee-jerk liberal publication,” Mr. [Harold] Jackson [the Inquirer's editorial page editor] said. “We made a conscious effort to add some conservative voices to our mix.”

Asked if the release of the memos affected his view of hiring Mr. Yoo, Mr. Jackson said: “From a personal perspective, yes. We certainly know more now than we did [in 2008], but we didn’t go into that contract blindly. I’m not going to say the same decision wouldn’t have been made.”

But Mr. Tierney said the memos did not alter his opinion.

“What I liked about John Yoo is he’s a Philadelphian,” [the paper's publisher, Brian] Tierney said. “He went to Episcopal Academy, where I went to school. He’s a very, very bright guy. He’s on the faculty at Berkeley, one of the most liberal universities in the country.”

It would be hard to adequately describe the laziness at work in those two explanations. I certainly have no problem with the Inquirer highlighting, albeit unintentionally, the fact that most contemporary conservatives have no evident qualms about using the power of the state to break people in half; that defenders of waterboarding fail to grasp the difference between consent and force is, as my blogging colleague djw pointed out the other day, “easily on the seven or eight creepiest things about the contemporary right.” The more people come to understand this, the better the world will be. But if I were a different sort of conservative — one who, say, objected to tokenism or believed that presidential authority pulled up somewhere short of the right to crush a child’s testicles — I’d probably wonder why Jackson and Tierney couldn’t have found someone whose main function, it seems, will be to placate me while pissing off readers who believe (among other things) attorneys shouldn’t be rewarded for urging their clients to break the law. Beyond that, what exactly are Yoo’s merits as a public intellectual? His column the other day was bog-standard Republican crap about activist judges and affirmative action, thrown together with a few Amity Shlaes talking points about FDR and the New Deal.

Why, it’s almost enough to make one question the intellectual mien of the administration that took his other, even more repugnant ideas so seriously.

One may question the pedagogical value of final exams, especially when one is in the midst of grading them, but the plain truth is that in-class exams afford a somewhat unique opportunity for feverishly scrawled… artwork (reproduced via Paint here):

doooom

The problem of induction, illustrated.

Happy grading, everyone.

Brett Holman, whose series post-blogging the Sudeten Crisis inspired my Boxer Uprising Day to Day, is now starting to work his way through the “phantom airship wave” in 1909 Britain:

It’s 90 years since the phantom airship wave of 1909, when mysterious aerial visitors appeared in the night skies over Britain. Or at least, stories about mysterious aerial visitors filled the newspapers of Britain. It’s hard to tell from this distance: the only evidence we have about the scareships are the press reports, which could be a problem if you are interested in a possible underlying reality. But then again, since the number of (alleged) phantom airship witnesses is relatively small, the press was the only way most people would have learned that their sky was being invaded by Zeppelins every night. So for them as for us, the stories are the event itself.

If it lives up to his previous work, it’ll be well worth following.

. . . phlebotnum.”

That being what Bones would’ve said had he taken a look at the “red matter” in Spock’s ship.  Which is fine because, as Russell Arben Fox notes, the new Star Trek film manifestly works.  I don’t share the qualms Timothy Burke and his commenters are expressing over the continuity issues raised by the film, because I care more about quality than continuity.  Moreover, I think what Abrams did there was damn clever.

(If you ain’t yet seen the film but plan to this is where you should stop reading.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Sent in by a loyal reader who cares about the blog. And you? What have *you* done for the blog lately? Well? It’s not really a hard question, you know.

Did NPR ever not suck? That’s a serious question, by the way, as I’ve begun to doubt my memories of public radio’s glorious past. Anyway, I was trapped in my car yesterday and had no choice but to tune in to “Talk of the Nation”. Lucky me, I got to hear Neal Conan’s inane effort to be fair and balanced about torture (listen here — if you dare). I almost drove into incoming traffic to end the pain. I really miss Ray Suarez. (And yes, before you ask, I do still love “This American Life”.)

A seemingly slow month in China, at least as the New York Times reported it. Events from China were less compelling to the paper than events at which people spoke about China. The Boxers were still active, attacking Chinese Catholics southwest of Tianjin, and mounting an attack on both British and Russian units during the period. But the Times wasn’t really interested. The first news it related in a brief 71 word story on 23 April, only to retract it on 26 April as “quite erroneous.” Instead, the paper reported “Some Boxers attacked a village occupied bv a number of Catholics, but were driven off.” The lack of interest of “some boxers” is palpable. [1] The attack on the Russians and British were not seen as part of a larger uprising, but official conniving. “The disturbances are due to Chinese officials working on the credulity of the natives.” [2] The Times was curiously disconnected from this as well, giving it 87 words and barely any attention. They paid as much attention to the story of the jailed Chinese man who declared he was the Emperor:

SAYS HE IS CHINA’S EMPEROR.

A Chinaman In Prison Declares He Is
Ruler of the Nation.

VICTORIA, B. C, April 15.—The steamer Rio Jun Maru, which arrived here yesterday from the Orient, brings a strangre story of a Chinaman who was arrested at Wuchang. After lying in jail and being beaten he proclaimed himself to be the Emperor. He claimed he had escaped from the palace, where he had been imprisoned by the Empress Dowager, and had since been traveling incognito. He possesses documents purporting to bear the seal of the Court of Peking identifying him as the Emperor. [3]

Note that the story seemed simply to be the excited tale of someone coming off a steamer in Canada, drunk or sober, and yet the newspaper thought it worthy of publication.
Read the rest of this entry »

Stephen thinks this isn’t funny. He’s probably right. But I laughed anyway.

roy edroso is clearly an intelligent man, but in this case he couldn’t be more wrong.  He quotes one of the geniuses from Big Hollywood (who, incidentally, just learned what the word “satrap” meant):

In their neverending quest to wrest more power by creating what H. L. Mencken correctly characterized as an endless series of hobgoblins requiring a socialist elite’s powers to destroy, the socialists and their media satraps continually raise fears of everything conceivable . . .

Then argues that:

Naturally he doesn’t link; this is from Mencken’s In Defense of Women, and the passage from which it comes doesn’t mention socialists at all, and is explicitly about the starting and conduct of modern wars, which Mencken attributes to modern civilization “especially under democracy.” But I don’t think Karnick was purposely misleading his readers . . .

Because Mr. Word-of-the-Day wasn’t misleading his readers.  roy doesn’t seem to realize that conservatives only discovered Seth Graeme-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies earlier this week and that this Big Hollywood-style satrap is merely playing along.  Just like Graeme-Smith improved upon Austen by inserting zombies into scenes in which they clearly don’t belong, conservatives are now inserting socialists and communists into diatribes in which they clearly don’t belong.

For example, Donald Douglas complains that people find the idea of him being a professor beyond belief, but then he writes this:

I saved a classic example of the “I can’t believe you’re a professor” slur from a post last year,” Matt Yglesias, Jennifer Palmieri, and the Third Way.” As some readers know, Matthew Yglesias is an American communist. There is no position that’s too far to the left for that man.

Clearly, anyone who thinks that there “is no position too far to the left for [Yglesias]” deserves to have his credentials questioned.  Off the top of my head, I can list fifteen comments on every one of Yglesias’s posts going back seven years as evidence that lefter positions than those he’s staked exist.  Douglas duct-taped the evidentiary bar to his ankles, so he shouldn’t be surprised that people are incredulous when he claims that his day job involves teaching impressionable youths how to hurdle.

But it’s all a ruse.

Douglas is merely playing the zombifying game with socialists and communists.

He doesn’t believe Yglesias is a communist anymore than Graeme-Smith thinks Austen really wrote about zombies.  He’s not hilariously obtuse—he’s just playing the communitizing game.  It’s like zombies, only with communists and socialists.  I’m surprised (and frankly disappointed) roy didn’t pick up on this.  Does he seriously believe conservatives have been so traumatized by three months of a painfully centrist presidency that they’re spying pinkos in the hedgerows?

As if.

(x-posted.)

Stanley Fish informs me that Terry Eagleton is pissed about atheists. In particular, he’s frosted over “Ditchens” (Eagleton’s composite– you know, like New York magazine used to do– of Dawkins and Hitchens) because D&H don’t understand religion right.

The fact that science, liberal rationalism and economic calculation can not ask — never mind answer — such questions should not be held against them, for that is not what they do.

Read the rest of this entry »

Our loyal readers who also surf political blogs have probably noticed the flap over Dijongate, wherein reality descends madly into satire as the blogsphere ponders the political meaning of Obama’s decision to order Dijon mustard on a hamburger (and whether the media hushed it up to make him seem like a regular Joe!)  Anxious to do our part, we at EoTAW have discovered the real reason Obama ordered spicy Dijon rather than regular yellow mustard:

Read the rest of this entry »

As kind of a sequel to Vance’s post on Balmy Alley (which I can’t link to, being on the phone, but maybe a co-blogger could do it please), here’s “Thinking of Balmy Alley”, mosaic by Rigo at SFO’s gate 96:

This work, of a solitary boy totally absorbed in the act of painting, is inspired by a mural (since destroyed) painted in 1993 by the artist and local youth in Balmy Alley, located in San Francisco’s Mission District.

The mosaic dates from 1999.

[Editor's note: Seth Masket, a good friend from my days at the University of Denver, has a new book out. He also has this post, about California's budget politics, for us. Thanks, Seth, for doing this.]

During a difficult economic year in which the state faced a severe budget shortfall, California’s Republican governor worked with Democratic leaders in the state legislature to craft a budget that contained a mixture of tax increases and service cuts. The Republican party stood together on the vote, with the exception of one holdout in the Senate.

Sound familiar? Actually, the year was 1967. Many of the story’s details are familiar because they recur from time to time in California. The real difference, though is the fate of the Republican state senator who refused to vote with his party. Instead of being driven out of politics, John Schmitz was renominated by the Republicans and reelected by his Orange County district the following year. Also, all the other Republicans in the state Senate voted for the budget. Schmitz refused go along with the tax increases that the rest of the Republicans in the senate, and Governor Ronald Reagan, found acceptable.

The situation in California is notably different today. The state legislature still requires a two-thirds vote in both houses to pass budgets, but that rubicon has proven steadily more difficult to cross. Virtually all Republicans will oppose any tax increase; any Republican willing to cross party lines and vote for a Democratic tax will find himself out of work before the next election. This happened after the 2003 budget stalemate; four Republican Assemblymen were dispatched to private life because of their votes in favor of Governor Gray Davis’ tax hike. Notably, none were dispatched in the next general election. None made it that far. Most faced difficult primary challenges from their own party and either lost or decided to retire.

The same thing happened earlier this year when Democratic legislative leaders worked with Gov. Schwarzenegger to produce a compromise package of service cuts and tax increases. The Democrats once again found a few Republicans to cross party lines, and once again those Republicans are being purged from the party. The state party has cut off funds for the six apostates, each of whom now faces a recall petition.

The treatment of these lawmakers sends an unmistakable signal to future lawmakers who would consider crossing party lines: the wrong vote will be your last.

One could blame any of California’s political peculiarities — the two-thirds budget rule, initiatives that have placed much of the budget off limits, term limits, etc. — for the budget stalemates, but the fact is that they wouldn’t occur if the parties were less disciplined. Note what has happened in the parties over the past sixty years. The figure below charts the mean DW-NOMINATE score, which is a measure of roll call liberalism/conservatism, for Democrats and Republicans in the state Assembly:

The parties have moved farther apart, with the Republicans becoming more conservative and the Democrats steadily more liberal. Compromise, which is usually necessary when passing a budget by a two-thirds margin, becomes almost impossible in this environment.

Why are the parties moving apart? (Self-promotion coming.) This is something I explore in my new book. Part of it can be explained by national ideological trends. But part of it is a function of who is running the parties.

California’s political parties are run at the most local level by informal networks of activists, donors, and a few key officeholders. These people work together to pick candidates they like and provide those candidates with endorsements, money, and expertise that can put them over the top in the next primary election, and they deny other candidates these same resources. Because these actors are relatively ideologically extreme, so are the candidates they select. If a politician they put in office strays too far from the principles they hold dear, they can deprive that politician of her job by withholding funding, by running a more principled challenger in the next primary, or, in the most extreme cases, by organizing a recall.

This informal style of organizing parties is not unique to California but fits particularly well there because of state rules limiting the formal parties’ participation in politics. As the informal parties have grown more organized, largely since the 1960s, the legislative parties have moved further apart. While there are still plenty of moderate legislative districts in the state, there are almost no state legislators who could accurately be described as moderate; the penalty for moderation is too high.

Should Californians reject Proposition 1A on May 19th, we’ll no doubt see another round of budget negotiations in the legislature. These will be made difficult by the party operatives on the right (who will punish any Republican who votes for a tax increase) and the party operatives on the left (who will punish any Democrat who votes to eviscerate key social programs). Partisanship makes legislative progress much more challenging, particularly during times of divided government. This is the reason the state keeps coming up with short term methods of financing its deficits and kicking them down the field for a few more years rather than actually addressing its budget shortfalls — given the political climate, it has no other choice.

This is certainly not to suggest that parties are the cause of California’s problems. The state more or less tried bipartisanship in the early 20th century. The result? Corruption. But while strong parties can keep a tab on corruption, they carry their own burdens. They aren’t necessarily the problem, but they can make other problems worse.

x-posted.

An angry mother takes to the pages of National Review: my daugher is living in a coed room! Scandal of the liberal academy!

The NYT picks it up. The daughter writes in: mom, it was not like that.

Mom: uh…we were so mad at Stanford that we had to make you pay the tuition!

These arguments are excruciating when I overhear them at graduation, but this one is just delicious.

Beyerstein and Benen rightly point out that Jeff Session’s magnanimous decision not to automatically disqualify a gay nominee is an intellectually dishonest ruse designed to preserve the intellectual dishonesty of his fellow Republicans.  “We could imagine seating a gay judge, but their position on gay issues would align them with the far left and we think a moderate justice would better serve the needs of the American people.”  Not that they’d ever say that—but of course they would.  I yield the floor to the gentlemen from Georgia: “It’s something I’d have to think through with respect to whatever issues might be forthcoming that the court may have to consider.”  More interesting than the predictable hypocrisy of bigots are the reponses from Session’s compatriots:

“It’s not been part of the calculus for me,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

“I have never, frankly, thought about that situation,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the GOP standard-bearer in the 2008 presidential election.

“I’ve never thought about it,” said Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.).

Why did it never cross their minds that a gay person might aspire to a position on the highest court of the land?  Most would say it has something to do with them being incapable of sympathizing with a good chunk of their constituency.  They wouldn’t be wrong.  But I like to think this befuddlement a sign that the rainbow cloaks and resplendent daggers of the great homosexual conspiracy learned how to hide in plain sight.  Instead of months of comminuted innuendo that amount to the fear that someone might someday marry his dog, conservatives will stroll blithely down the corridors of power completely unaware that a certain piece of legislation might be good for the gays until it’s too late to do anything about it.

[Editor's note: Michael Elliot returns! Thanks, Michael, doing this.]

While I was a graduate student, I went to a meeting during which the Director of Graduate Studies was asked about the department’s “placement rate.” The DGS wanted to emphasize the positive, and so he stated that it was nearly one hundred percent: Everyone who had kept looking for a tenure-track position and not given up, he said, eventually found one.

Even I could see the fallacy of the argument: after two or three or four tries at landing a tenure-track professorship, most PhDs will find other kinds of paying work because, well, they need to be paid. (I didn’t bother to ask how such a badly managed department was actually keeping records to document this miraculous job placement.) I thought about this exchange when, in response to Mark Taylor’s antiestablishment polemic, Sunday’s New York Times published this letter:

Doctoral programs that fail to place their graduates in research positions should not respond by attempting to become M.B.A. or M.P.A. programs. Instead, they would better serve their prospective students by setting the right expectations through full disclosure of their recent graduate placement history. With this information, applicants could make informed decisions when choosing a graduate school.

I share the desire for transparency, and I probably would have said the same thing when I was a graduate student. But I am increasingly wary of focusing too much on “the placement rate” as the magic number that will make comparison shopping possible.

To start, “placement” turns out to be harder to measure than you might think. Most people, when talking about humanities, mean it to be the percentage of people who seek tenure-track jobs and find them. But what exactly does that mean? What about those people who seek tenure-track employment but limit their search to a handful of cities — do they get included? What about the people who land a job, but only after traveling the country for years on one-year temporary contracts? Is it the number of people who get a job in any given year? Or, as my old DGS claimed, the percentage of people who eventually get them?

At a pragmatic level, until there’s some shared definition of what “placement history” means, prospective doctoral students should be wary of putting too much stock in the information that they receive. The fact is that a substantial number of PhD’s will never conduct a national search for a tenure-track position. In my program, I often see graduating classes in which the majority are pursuing other options, including other forms of academic work, temporary teaching positions (that allow them to choose their geographic location), and jobs outside the academy. Our current DGS calculated recently that just over 60 percent of our graduates in the last five years are in tenure-track jobs. That is actually higher than I expected — and much higher than was true of my own graduate program when I was there — but it is hardly a “placement rate.”

This is not to say that we shouldn’t keep pressing for disclosure about employment. And I think everyone who teaches in a PhD program should be forced to consider carefully the employment of its graduates. But we should be careful about what we are asking for. First, forget the term “placement.” No one gets placed any more. (Maybe they never did.) PhDs get hired for jobs that they have earned. Second, it’s crucial to ask what percentage of graduates end up teaching in the academy, what percentage of those are on the tenure-track, and what other kinds of positions graduates hold.

Finally, graduate programs should calculate the average time that it takes those who seek tenure-track positions to secure them. (The national average is that it takes just over ten years from the time that a student enters graduate study.) Programs should then ask what kind of financial resources — including temporary teaching employment — their universities can provide to cover that whole duration, including the period that extends beyond when the students actually receive their degrees. Those programs that cannot identify adequate resources to cover that full spread of time should take a hard look at themselves.

In a post on American Daily Review, Tony Magana urges embittered conservatives to buck up and use the Force:

I am reminded of the classic battle in the movie “Star Wars” where the small force of the Rebel Alliance is attacking the much larger and stronger fleet of the Empire. They know that to win there is only one strategy, they must focus their attack on a specific area of vulnerability on the otherwise impenetrable Death Star. In the end, victory was achieved by “staying on target.”

My advice to the Republican party is simple, believe in the “force” (your conservative principles). Identify the “target” (the economy and the war). Win by “staying on target.”

I agree.  Republicans will win if they “stay on target”:

Did I say Republicans?  I meant to say “America.”

Recent comments

This is officially an award-winning blog

Best group blog: "Witty and insightful, the Edge of the American West puts the group in group blog, with frequent contributions from an irreverent band.... Always entertaining, often enlightening, the blog features snazzy visuals—graphs, photos, videos—and zippy writing...."
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 180 other followers