Group Blogs

A myriad of posts

Crooked Timber - Sun, 2014-08-17 03:15

This is the ten-thousandth post we’ve published on Crooked Timber and we thought we ought to mark that moment. I’ve been looking for suitable music, but the best I’ve come up with is the incomparable, tragic and heroic Nic Jones singing “10,000 Miles”. Since the lyric includes “fare you well, I’m going away, but I’ll be back …” that probably sends the wrong message! In truth, I’d rather have used the Proclaimers (one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen), but they only walked 500 miles, which would have got them rather wet, even though they declared their willingness to walk 500 more.

Ten thousand is a lot of posts, a lot of words. Wikipedia tells me that there’s even a Greek word for it, μύριοι, the source of “myriad” in English. Henri Cartier-Bresson apparently said that “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worse”, and if Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule counts for anything, we probably ought to be quite good at this blogging business by now.

Here’s to a myriad more!

Categories: Group Blogs

The end of a glittering career ….

Crooked Timber - Sat, 2014-08-16 12:01

And so, as readers of my Twitter account might be aware, I’ve had a life event recently. As of today (I’m posting this from the WiFi at Geneva airport) and for the next year, I am doing less of the stockbroking, and more of the travelling round the world with my family.

It is often traditional for articles by downshifting investment bankers to do a big deal about how they have got tired of the iniquity of the industry, want to seek meaning in their lives and so on. Don’t go looking for that here. I’m not at all bitter about the industry (probably because I wasn’t sacked), and if I had thought it was an intrinsically immoral or destructive business I was in, I wouldn’t have done it for sixteen years. We bought and sold shares – if you wanted some shares we’d sell you some, and if you had some shares you didn’t want any more we’d make you an offer for them.

My job was what is called a “sell side equity analyst”. Which is to say, “a writer of a very specialist news service, covering somewhere between three and twelve companies, provided by a stock brokerage firm for the benefit of its clients”. Every day I used to be responsible for knowing anything that was going on in the world which might be relevant to the advisability or otherwise of an investment in banking sector stocks, and then either write it down for distribution to our full list of clients, or call up a couple of dozen of the most important ones if I knew they’d be specifically interested in it. Once a quarter, clients would file a “broker review”detailing how useful they had found our brokerage firm and if they had liked my research that quarter they would say so.

It was also my job to make sure that my own firm’s trading desk was as well-informed as we possibly manage, because as a brokerage firm, we provided firm quotes for clients to deal against. If you’ve just agreed a price for a block of shares, and then some negative news comes out before you’ve had a chance to move them on, you can lose a lot of money. And one reason why a client might be looking for a firm price om a block of shares is that he or she has a strong suspicion that something nasty might be about to happen to them. So it was always in the interests of my employers to ensure that we were better informed than the clients – basically an impossible task since there were dozens of them and some of them were bloody sharp cookies, but we tried.

That’s the nature of the business of being an analyst – protect your market-maker as much as you can, and try to produce material that will reflect well on your firm’s reputation as good people to deal with. From dot com bubble to high-frequency and beyond, it really didn’t change all that much as long as it was there. Lots of people thought that we didn’t add any value – an opinion to which they were entitled, although personally if I had been regulating the industry I’d have made more of an effort to find out what I was talking about. While I was there, average commission levels fell from 0.2% to around 0.008%, so I don’t think people can really claim to have been ripped off too badly by the agency brokers at least. From day one to day 5500, people constantly foretold the end of equity research – it was going to be done in by quant funds, index trackers, buy-side hiring their own analysts, hedge funds poaching all the talent, the Global Settlement regulations on capital markets business and finally by high frequency trading (ie, quant funds, again). But equity research is still here, although many of the people who forecast its demise are no longer. In the final analysis, I always took comfort from the fact that my own part of the industry, along with M&A advisory, had the distinction of being the only part where anyone had ever set up a new business using their own money – there are no boutique CDO traders, no startup derivatives structurers and no offices with two men and a dog originating subprime securitisations. But there are loads of small research firms and stockbrokers, and I was happy to work at a few of the best.

Some of my recommendations were great and some were awful, but on average I don’t think I can have been too bad because people kept giving me jobs and bonuses. Towards the end of my career, I was part of a research organisation that was voted best in Europe in two years’ industry surveys and that’s pretty much the level where I topped out; sports fans would probably recognise me as a John Toshack figure – a solid contributor to some great teams, the kind of guy who would always be promoted to Director (because of good specialist knowledge) but never to Managing Director (too weird, too disorganised). I’m happy with the results.

But it’s not such a great job that you’d keep doing it if you didn’t have to – none of them are, hence the name “job”. So I’ve taken my various bonuses, plus the profits from the London housing market and so on, and used them to move on to a new big adventure. Watch this space, but as far as investment banking is concerned, I am imagining a tinny loudspeaker ringing out above the screaming crowds with a calm voice saying “Davies has left the building”.

Categories: Group Blogs

A libertarian moment, after all ?

Crooked Timber - Sat, 2014-08-16 00:26

One of the really fun (?) things about blogging is that you get to make confident assertions that are permanently recorded and subject to immediate disproof. So, almost as soon as I suggested that (propertarian) libertarians were running out of issues on which they could distinguish themselves from Republicans in general, we saw the police occupation of Ferguson. The issue of police militarization is one that has been pushed for years by Radley Balko at Reason (and more recently at the Washington Post), and this (rather than the older left-liberal framing around “police brutality”) has informed much of the reaction both from the centre-left and the libertarian right[^1]. On the other hand, mainstream Republicans have either ducked the issue or backed the police.

There’s certainly some room for common ground here, and perhaps even some actual progress. But I still think there are some pretty big obstacles. Most obviously, there’s the militarization of the far-right, represented by “open carry” and the heavily armed mobs that have been seen backing Cliven Bundy and threatening immigrant children, with the enthusiastic support of Fox News.

To their credit, writers at Reason haven’t gone along with the presentation of these thugs as heroic defenders of the Second Amendment. On the other hand, they have been concerned to play down the threat they pose, as against that represented by warrior police. This piece, suggesting that licensing restrictions and teacher unioons are more racist than Bundy (described, fairly enough as a racist “federal lands moocher”), is fairly typical.

So, while it would be great to see libertarians of all stripes combining against the over-reach of the security state, the idea that weapons proliferation (and, for that matter, comprehensive surveillance) are only a problem when governments get involved is likely to impose some severe limits to progress.

[^1]: Politicians of all stripes were slow out of the gate, and cautious in their wording, understandably perhaps given the backlash against Obama last time he sided with a black man against a cop. But Justin Amash, Rand Paul and even Ted Cruz have issued statements questioning police militarization, as have Obama, Holder and (Missouri Dem Senator) Claire McAskill.

Categories: Group Blogs

Some notes on Ferguson, Missouri

Crooked Timber - Thu, 2014-08-14 11:12

Following the police shooting of Michael Brown, protesters have taken to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. Police deployed there wear uniforms and carry weapons that look more like the desert camouflage and armaments of US armed forces in recent Central Asian wars than like the traditional uniforms of American peace officers.

Indeed, military gear used by the US overseas has been finding its way to American streets. Police forces in the US receive surplus military gear from the Defense Department under a program whose motto is “From Warfighter to Crimefighter.”

Proper training in tactics does not always accompany the equipment, according to Rise of the Warrior Cop by Radley Balko.

Veterans on Ferguson” has become something of a social media phenomenon devoted to former soldiers’ (and other members of the armed forces) criticism of police tactics in Ferguson.

Last night, Ferguson police arrested reporters and a St. Louis alderman. Network news crews withdrew their satellite trucks, according to at least one account, on orders.

Major news outlets report the protesters threw Molotov cocktails at police.

Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has issued a statement of concern and will visit Ferguson this morning.

The governor may relieve the police of duty.

Ferguson’s police chief says “it’s a lot of outside agitators causing the violence.” He also says they police will shortly release 911 recording from the time of the Michael Brown shooting, following the release of what is supposed to be the dispatcher recordings.

US Attorney General Eric Holder has said the Department of Justice will investigate the shooting and is to talk with Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri today.

I don’t see any point in adding my comments, but you should add yours…

Categories: Group Blogs

Nearly 300 Scholars Declare They Will Not Engage With the University of Illinois

Crooked Timber - Wed, 2014-08-13 12:05

In the last week, the campaign for the University of Illinois to reinstate Steven Salaita has gained momentum. Over 14,000 men and women have signed a petition demanding his reinstatement. Many have sent emails and letters of protest to Chancellor Phyllis Wise.

And over the weekend, scholars began to organize discipline-specific campaigns of refusing to engage with the University of Illinois until Salaita is reinstated.

Philosophers have organized their own statement of refusing to come to the University of Illinois; political scientists have organized a similar statement. English Department faculty across the country have upped the ante, saying they will not “engage with the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign as speakers, as participants in conferences or other events, or as reviewers for the tenure and promotion of your faculty.” Finally, just this morning, historians, scholars of composition/rhetoric, and sociologists organized their own campaigns of refusal to engage.

All told, nearly 300 faculty—including Michael Bérubé, Jacob Levy, Paul Boghossian, Jeff Goodwin, Adolph Reed, Bruce Robbins, Judith Butler, Bonnie Honig, William Connolly, Jason Stanley—are refusing to engage with the University of Illinois until Salaita is reinstated.

If you are a historian, and wish to sign a historians’ statement, go here.

If you are a political scientist, and wish to sign a political scientists’ statement, go here.

If you are a sociologist, and wish to sign a sociologists’ statement, go here.

If you are an English professor, and wish to sign an English professors’ statement, go here.

If you are a philosopher, and wish to sign a philosophers’ statement, go here.

If you are a rhetoric/composition professor, and wish to sign a rhetoric/composition professors’ statement, go here.

Meanwhile, Cornell Law Professor Michael Dorf has an excellent analysis of the legal and constitutional aspects of Salaita’s dehiring.

Some ​ supporters of the university’s decision point to the often-important distinction between firing and not hiring. Academic freedom, they point out, is mostly a matter of contract law, and because Salaita had not yet been formally hired by the University of Illinois, he was not entitled to the same protection as someone who was already a member of the faculty.


But that view appears to be false as a matter of contract law. Like many other states, Illinois law offers protection to people who, in reasonable reliance on an offer that falls short of a fully enforceable contract, take actions to their detriment. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed this principle of “promissory estoppel” as recently as 2009, in the case of Newton Tractor Sales v. Kubota Tractor Corp.


Salaita has an almost-classic case of promissory estoppel.



Yet even in the unlikely event that Virginia rather than Illinois law governs the contractual issues, Salaita could still have a valid claim, under federal constitutional law.



Does that conclusion make sense? Putting aside the freestanding First Amendment issues, one might think that academic freedom should only extend to a faculty member’s speech in an academic capacity. After all, the point of academic freedom is to encourage free inquiry within the academic environment.


But in fact academic freedom has generally been seen to be much broader. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) 1940 Statement of Principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure sets out the general understanding of academic freedom. It proclaims that when professors “speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline.”



Thus, it is possible in an extreme case for a faculty member’s external statements to render him or her unfit to teach. Overtly insensitive and repeated racist, sexist, or homophobic statements might fall into this category. But in order for the concern for student sensitivities not to swallow up academic freedom, the threshold must be very high.


Did Salaita cross that threshold? In short, no.

Some ​ supporters of the university’s decision point to the often-important distinction between firing and not hiring. Academic freedom, they point out, is mostly a matter of contract law, and because Salaita had not yet been formally hired by the University of Illinois, he was not entitled to the same protection as someone who was already a member of the faculty.

But that view appears to be false as a matter of contract law. Like many other states, Illinois law offers protection to people who, in reasonable reliance on an offer that falls short of a fully enforceable contract, take actions to their detriment. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed this principle of “promissory estoppel” as recently as 2009, in the case of Newton Tractor Sales v. Kubota Tractor Corp.

Salaita has an almost-classic case of promissory estoppel.

– See more at: http://verdict.justia.com/2014/08/13/academic-freedom-salaita-case?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Verdict+%28Verdict+%7C+Legal+Analysis+and+Commentary+from+Justia%29#sthash.q7aR0FLF.NmoIoVOt.dpuf


Some ​ supporters of the university’s decision point to the often-important distinction between firing and not hiring. Academic freedom, they point out, is mostly a matter of contract law, and because Salaita had not yet been formally hired by the University of Illinois, he was not entitled to the same protection as someone who was already a member of the faculty.

But that view appears to be false as a matter of contract law. Like many other states, Illinois law offers protection to people who, in reasonable reliance on an offer that falls short of a fully enforceable contract, take actions to their detriment. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed this principle of “promissory estoppel” as recently as 2009, in the case of Newton Tractor Sales v. Kubota Tractor Corp.

Salaita has an almost-classic case of promissory estoppel.

– See more at: http://verdict.justia.com/2014/08/13/academic-freedom-salaita-case?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Verdict+%28Verdict+%7C+Legal+Analysis+and+Commentary+from+Justia%29#sthash.q7aR0FLF.NmoIoVOt.dpuf


Some ​ supporters of the university’s decision point to the often-important distinction between firing and not hiring. Academic freedom, they point out, is mostly a matter of contract law, and because Salaita had not yet been formally hired by the University of Illinois, he was not entitled to the same protection as someone who was already a member of the faculty.

But that view appears to be false as a matter of contract law. Like many other states, Illinois law offers protection to people who, in reasonable reliance on an offer that falls short of a fully enforceable contract, take actions to their detriment. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed this principle of “promissory estoppel” as recently as 2009, in the case of Newton Tractor Sales v. Kubota Tractor Corp.

Salaita has an almost-classic case of promissory estoppel.

– See more at: http://verdict.justia.com/2014/08/13/academic-freedom-salaita-case?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Verdict+%28Verdict+%7C+Legal+Analysis+and+Commentary+from+Justia%29#sthash.q7aR0FLF.NmoIoVOt.dpuf


Some ​ supporters of the university’s decision point to the often-important distinction between firing and not hiring. Academic freedom, they point out, is mostly a matter of contract law, and because Salaita had not yet been formally hired by the University of Illinois, he was not entitled to the same protection as someone who was already a member of the faculty.

But that view appears to be false as a matter of contract law. Like many other states, Illinois law offers protection to people who, in reasonable reliance on an offer that falls short of a fully enforceable contract, take actions to their detriment. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed this principle of “promissory estoppel” as recently as 2009, in the case of Newton Tractor Sales v. Kubota Tractor Corp.

Salaita has an almost-classic case of promissory estoppel.

– See more at: http://verdict.justia.com/2014/08/13/academic-freedom-salaita-case?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Verdict+%28Verdict+%7C+Legal+Analysis+and+Commentary+from+Justia%29#sthash.q7aR0FLF.NmoIoVOt.dpuf


Some ​ supporters of the university’s decision point to the often-important distinction between firing and not hiring. Academic freedom, they point out, is mostly a matter of contract law, and because Salaita had not yet been formally hired by the University of Illinois, he was not entitled to the same protection as someone who was already a member of the faculty.

But that view appears to be false as a matter of contract law. Like many other states, Illinois law offers protection to people who, in reasonable reliance on an offer that falls short of a fully enforceable contract, take actions to their detriment. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed this principle of “promissory estoppel” as recently as 2009, in the case of Newton Tractor Sales v. Kubota Tractor Corp.

Salaita has an almost-classic case of promissory estoppel.

– See more at: http://verdict.justia.com/2014/08/13/academic-freedom-salaita-case?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Verdict+%28Verdict+%7C+Legal+Analysis+and+Commentary+from+Justia%29#sthash.q7aR0FLF.NmoIoVOt.dpuf

Categories: Group Blogs

Origami

Crooked Timber - Wed, 2014-08-13 04:25

The NY Times is running a debate on whether (home) 3-D printers are the Next Big Thing. My guess is not, partly for reasons advanced in the debate (making plastic shapes is limited, handling other materials is messy and dangerous) and partly from the observation that home 2-D printers have proved pretty much transitory. I suppose most people have one or two sitting around, but I only use mine when someone makes a mistake: typically sending me a non-editable PDF that needs to be printed out, filled in, signed and scanned. This happens rarely enough that I usually need to download a new driver, which is a real pain (honestly, after 30 years, we still need drivers!?). My guess is that if 3D printing becomes a Big Thing, it will be on the basis of same-day delivery from a special-purpose facility to which we send our customised product requests.

But what really interested me was a piece bagging out the paperless office on the basis that it was first predicted in the 1970s, but that US businesses are using more paper now than they did then. This struck me as probably true but misleading for two reasons
(i) the population has grown, as has the proportion of workers who deal with text in one form or another
(ii) the two point comparison conceals a rise and fall.

Point (i) is obvious. A quick check reveals that (ii) is also correct. Paper consumption peaked in the late 1990s and has fallen sharply since 2005. I’m pleased with this because back in 2007, I noted that the much-mocked “paperless office” was become a reality, and predicted that the trend would accelerate (reprinted over the fold)>


The myth of “The Myth of the Paperless Office”
The “paperless office” is one of those catchphrases that gets bandied about for a while, only to disappoint and eventually be used in a purely derisive way. As Wikipedia says, it has become ‘a metaphor for the touting of new technology in terms of ‘modernity’ rather than its actual suitability to purpose’. The death of the phrase was cemented by a 2001 book, by Sellen and Harper “The Myth of the Paperless Office”. Here’s a good review from Kirk McElhearn.

This book wasn’t a snarky debunking but a fairly sophisticated analysis, pointing out that a sensible analysis of task requirements could allow a significant reduction in paper use. But it was the title that stuck. No one would ever again refer to the paperless office with a straight face.

Six years later, though, looking at my own work habits, I find that I have virtually ceased to use paper, in all but a couple of marginal applications.

The office is still full of paper, but a lot of it hasn’t been looked at for years. For example, I have filing cabinets full of photocopied journal articles, and a good indexing system for them, but I hardly ever use them. It’s easier to download PDFs for all the articles I want on a topic, and read them onscreen, rather than checking to see if I already have a file copy. And I’ve hardly added any in the last five years, so it’s only inertia that keeps them in place.

There are still a couple of exceptions. For example, I still use paper in intra-office editing, where it’s easier to handwrite suggested changes on a draft than to use digital markup (especially as I avoid Word wherever possible). But I could easily do without paper altogether, whereas without email I would be crippled.

So, I wonder if I’m an outlier, or just on the leading edge of a broader trend. A bit of digging produced the finding that (US) office paper consumption peaked in 1999, and has been in decline since then.

The annual rate of decline (-0.9 per cent) is unimpressive in itself, but striking when compared to the growth rate of 5.7 per cent observed from 1985 to 1999, at a time when talk of the paperless office was particularly prevalent. Compared to the ‘Business as Usual’ extrapolation of the previous growth rate, office paper consumption has declined by around 40 per cent. My guess is that the decline is accelerating. Academic journals have nearly abandoned paper submission procedures for example, and I assume that similar things are happening in other lines of work. The disappearance of faxes is another illustration.

Of course, the “paperless office” myth wasn’t just a prediction that digital communications would replace paper one day. It was a sales pitch for a top-down redesign of work processes, which, for the reasons given by Sellen and Harper, was never going to work. Some uses of paper became obsolete long before others. For example, it was a decade or so after the widespread adoption of email that it became generally feasible to use PDF attachments (still a problem of you’re on dialup and some fool sticks a 2Mb glossy ad into their FYI circular!).

I’m interested in this story in itself, but also because of its implications for energy use. Just as with paper, there’s a widespread assumption that energy-intensive methods of doing things are essential. This is assumption is reinforced by the long lag between the point at which things become technically feasible and the point at which the necessary infrastructure is in place for their widespread adoption. For example, videoconferencing has been a feasible alternative to business travel for decades, but as long as you need to book a special building and equipment at both ends, it’s not going to happen on any significant scale. When every office computer has a high-quality digital videocamera attached to a gigabit capacity network, things might be a bit different.

Categories: Group Blogs

New Spoon – Good!

Crooked Timber - Tue, 2014-08-12 09:35

The world is an awful mess but the new Spoon album, They Want My Soul, is amazing! Best Spoon album since … well, at least since Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. (Better than Transference, then.) They did a live, 9-song performance for KEXP, Seattle, including many of the new songs. You can watch that here. But I think the studio versions sound better.

So here’s the thing: they’ve always had a Beatle-y thing going on, Spoon, but “I Just Don’t Understand” is – after the first few seconds – such a Lennon/McCartney Please Please Me kind of 1963 tune. Right? Pleasant! [UPDATE: Aaaand it turns out actually to be a cover of a song the Beatles covered, which I never heard before, because I don’t own Live at the BBC.] But “Knock Knock Knock” – correct me if I’m wrong – sounds a bit like, I dunno, Pink Floyd mid-70’s. (After the first few seconds.) Kinda David Gilmour guitar, then swoopy anthem stuff. Sort of a different sound for Spoon. I like it.

Now everyone tell me it doesn’t sound like Pink Floyd at all.

Categories: Group Blogs

What’s left of libertarianism? (slightly updated)

Crooked Timber - Sat, 2014-08-09 05:20

The NY Times has a lengthy thumbsucker from Robert Draper, repackaging claims by Nick Gillespie of Reason that the “libertarian moment” has finally arrived. Jonathan Chait takes out the garbage on the dodgy opinion poll that is the primary factual basis for the story. Taking the implicit definition of libertarians as voters who take a hard-right line on economic issues (and are therefore Republicans or Republican-voting independents), but are liberal on drugs and sexual freedom issues, it seems to me that if anything, the chance of a libertarian moment is over. That’s because:

(i) the equal marriage fight has pretty much been won by Democrats, with libertarians mostly on the sidelines or, to the extent that they have been part of the Republican coalition, on the wrong side 1

(ii) the same will probably be true for marijuana legalisation, and broader drug law reform before long. The recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington follows a steady expansion of legal access under “medical marijuana” laws. Again, this has been done almost entirely by Democrats. Libertarians were more vocal on this issue than on equal marriage, but they stayed within the Republican coalition, and did nothing much to shift the position of that coalition.

Once the issues of drug law reform and equal marriage are off the table, there’s no obvious distinction between “libertarians” like Nick Gillespie and Republicans in general2. The possibility of a libertarian moment, if it ever existed, has passed.

Update Some libertarian commenters are upset that I didn’t give their side enough credit on drug law reform (no, AFAICT, has made such claims on equal marriage). But bragging rights aren’t really relevant. When equal marriage and legalisation are faits accomplis the fact that some Republicans supported them all along won’t be an important point of difference with those who are still unhappy about it.

Further update A reader on my Facebook post points to this technolibertarian event, in which Nick Gillespie, billed as a “conservatarian”, features, along with Rand Paul and racist homophobe Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Relevantly for this post, the article mentions the tactic of emphasising libertarian support for drug law reform and hiding links to the Republicans. As I’ve argued, this is a tactic which will become obsolete once drug law reform becomes a reality .

  1. There’s still a chance of a loss at the Supreme Court, in which case the issue will come down, for the medium term, to whether the Democrats win the 2016 Presidential election and the Senate, thereby getting to replace the inevitable retirements. In this context, anyone who votes Republican, whatever their views on social issues, is effectively opposing equal marriage. 

  2. On immigration, the libertarian line is much the same as that of big business. As regards scepticism about war, the same is true of the realist school associated with The National Interest (they publish me, and some libertarians as well as old-school realists). Moreover, as Iraq showed, the bulk of self-described libertarians turned out to be shmibertarians when the war drums started beating (see Glenn Reynolds). On gender issues, the libertarians are at best ambivalent (on abortion for example) but more often than not, on the wrong side. Notably, on issues like Hobby Lobby, property rights trump the personal freedom of employees

Categories: Group Blogs

Reagan and the Great Man in history

Crooked Timber - Thu, 2014-08-07 23:26

The latest controversy about Rick Perlstein’s new book is an opportunity to post a couple of thoughts I’ve had for a long while.

First, the outsize Republican idolatry of Reagan is explained in part by the fact that there’s no one else in their history of whom they can really approve. The Bushes are a bad memory for most, Ford was a non-entity and Nixon was Nixon. Eisenhower looks pretty good on most historical rankings, but he’s anathema to movement conservatives: Eisenhower Republicans were what are now called RINOs. Going back a century, and skipping some failures/nonentities, Theodore Roosevelt is problematic for related but different reasons. Going right back to the beginning,and skipping more nonentities and disappointments, some Repubs still try to claim the mantle of the “party of Lincoln” but that doesn’t pass the laugh test. As many others have observed, the “party of Jefferson Davis” is closer to the mark. So, they have little choice but to present Reagan as the savior of the nation.

Something of the opposite problem is found on the left. I haven’t read Perlstein yet, but a lot of the discussion is based on an implicit or explicit assumption that the shift to the right in the US since the 1970s can be explained by the successful organizing efforts of movement conservatism, culminating in Reagan’s 1980 election victory. That’s an explanation with a lot of contingency attached. Suppose, for example, that the attempted rescue of the Iranian embassy hostages in April 1980 had been a success. That, along with some fortuitous good economic news, might have been enough to propel Carter to victory. By 1984, Reagan would have been too old to run as a challenger, and Bush senior would probably have been nominated.

I don’t think, however, that this would have had a huge effect on economic-political developments in the US. Other English-speaking countries, with very different political histories followed much the same route, ending up, by the late 1990s, with a hard-line rightwing conservative party driving policy debate and a “Third Way” centre-left alternative trying to smooth off some of the rough edges. The election of Carter, a conservative by the standards of the times, was a step towards that outcome.

I don’t want to overstate the determinism here. Individuals matter, and national circumstances differ. Still, I think we are talking about variations on a common theme, driven by global economic events, rather than a US-specific story beginning with Reagan’s 1964 address in support of Goldwater.

Categories: Group Blogs

Shit and Curses, and Other Updates on the Steven Salaita Affair (Updated)

Crooked Timber - Thu, 2014-08-07 13:47

1. Yesterday, University of Nevada professor Gautam Premnath called the University of Illinois to protest the hirefire of Steven Salaita. A giggly employee in the Chancellor’s office told Premnath that Salaita was “dehired.”

2.Within 24 hours, nearly 8000 people have signed a petition calling on the University of Illinois to reinstate Salata. You should too. While you’re at it, please make sure to email the chancellor, Phyllis Wise, at at pmwise@illinois.edu. Please cc Robert Warrior of the American Indian Studies department (rwarrior@illinois.edu) and the department itself: ais@illinois.edu.

3. Personally, I disagree with the notion that anti-Semitism can be explained, justified, or understood in light of Israel’s actions. But if you think an academic should be hiredfired for saying something like that, you would have had to have been prepared, back in 2002, to fire Nathan Glazer for saying just that at a conference at NYU:

Nathan Glazer, the well-known Harvard University sociologist sometimes associated with neoconservatism, suggested that whereas historically antisemitism was rooted in “illusionary” beliefs about Jews, today’s antisemitism is often a reaction to Israeli actions. And he said that such “hostility can be reduced and moderated by [Israel’s] policies.”


Glazer, as I recall, said considerably more than that. Among other things he said that since Israel claims to speak in the name of all Jews across the globe, its defenders should not be  surprised when its enemies apply that claim to all Jews and begin opposing them as Jews.

4. This morning, the Chronicle of Higher Ed has a fuller report on the Salaita affair. Among the new facts revealed: First, it was a tenured position that Salaita was offered. Second, the offer was made last October by the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Third, the national AAUP has distanced itself from Cary Nelson, saying he “does not speak for the association.” (In this statement, the AAUP distances itself even further.) And, last, in the faculty’s deliberations on hiring Salaita, his tweets did not come “up as a topic of concern or conversation” on the reasonable ground that they did not deem “social media as being somehow scholarly content.”

5. On December 27, 2013, Chancellor Wise had this to say about academic freedom:

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign opposes the boycott of Israeli academic institutions and endorses the statement made by the AAU. At Illinois, we value academic freedom as one of our core principles and cherish the critical importance of the ability of faculty to pursue learning, discovery and engagement without regard to political considerations.


And just in case anyone was confused about how important the principle was to her, she had this to say on January 30, 2014:

 

Of all places, a university should be home to diverse ideas and differing perspectives, where robust – and even intense – debate and disagreement are welcomed. How do we foster such an atmosphere? Only through an unwavering and unrelenting commitment to building truly diverse communities of students and scholars.


6. The Illinois AAUP Committee A has a very strong statement on the affair:

The AAUP 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure states in reference to extramural utterances: “When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline.” It affirms that “The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition.” While Professor’s Salaita’s tweets are construed as controversial, the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure affirms the virtue of controversial speech.



Professor Salaita’s words while strident and vulgar were an impassioned plea to end the violence currently taking place in the Middle East. Issues of life and death during bombardment educes significant emotions and expressions of concern that reflect the tragedy that armed conflict confers on its victims. Speech that is deemed controversial should be challenged with further speech that may abhor and challenge a statement. Yet the University of Illinois cannot cancel an appointment based upon Twitter statements that are protected speech in the United States of America.



Furthermore, there is nothing in the Salaita statements about Israel or Zionism that would raise questions about his fitness to teach. These statements were not made in front of students, are not related to a course that is being taught, and do not reflect in any manner his quality of teaching. What one says out of class rarely, in the absence of peer review of teaching, confirms how one teaches. Passion about a topic even if emotionally expressed through social network does not allow one to draw inferences about teaching that could possibly rise to the voiding or reversal of a job appointment.


One must not conjecture about a link between extramural statements and the quality of classroom teaching, absent an unmistakable link that would raise issues of competence. None exist here. Indeed, we affirm that fitness to teach can be enhanced with conviction, commitment and an engagement with the outside world.


7. Our very own Michael Bérubé also has a strong statement:

While I do not share Professor Salaita’s sentiments with regard to content, and find them to be often intemperate expressions of opinion on the Israel-Palestine conflict, I urge you to reconsider your decision. Indeed, I urge you to reconsider precisely because I do not share Professor Salaita’s sentiments. It is a truism that academic freedom is meaningless unless it covers unpopular (and even intemperate) speech; and that, finally, is what is at stake here– the question of whether academic freedom at the University of Illinois will be meaningless.


8. It occurs to me that if tweets are now going to be taken into consideration in academic hires, I want my entire social media presence included in all future considerations of my career. I want the number of tweets and FB posts I do per year to be included in my publication count. I want the number of retweets and “likes” that I get to be included in my citation count. And I want my friend Doug Henwood to be considered for an academic appointment. As he says, “With my Klout score, I’m on my way to an endowed chair.”

9. Glenn Greenwald tweets that there’s “lots more coming on this.” If I were Chancellor Wise, I’d be nervous. Very nervous. If Glenn’s on the story, I have little doubt what the ultimate outcome will be.

10. And last, this report,  from today’s Guardian, on the most moral army in the world:

When Ahmed Owedat returned to his home 18 days after Israeli soldiers took it over in the middle of the night, he was greeted with an overpowering stench.


He picked through the wreckage of his possessions thrown from upstairs windows to find that the departing troops had left a number of messages. One came from piles of faeces on his tiled floors and in wastepaper baskets, and a plastic water bottle filled with urine.


If that was not clear enough, the words “Fuck Hamas” had been carved into a concrete wall in the staircase. “Burn Gaza down” and “Good Arab = dead Arab” were engraved on a coffee table. The star of David was drawn in blue in a bedroom.


It’s a strange universe we live in, where high-minded professors fret more about the “foul-mouthed” tweets of a scholar than the shit and curses soldiers leave in the destroyed homes of civilians.

Update (3:30 pm)

Just received a copy of a very strongly worded letter from the Center for Constitutional Rights. In addition to making all the right arguments re academic freedom and the First Amendment, it contains three factual statements, which I had not read anywhere else

The first:

As you well know, in October 2013, the University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences made an offer to Professor Salaita for an appointment, with tenure, in the College’s American Indian Studies program; he soon after accepted your offer (which the University confirmed in writing) and resigned from his tenured position in the English Department at Virginia Tech University. Your offer letter expressly stressed the University’s adherence to the American Association of University Professors’ Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure….His views (which he has long aired passionately and openly in many forums, including social media) are no doubt considered highly controversial by many in this country, but Professor Salaita could rest assured that his tenured position and the foundational principles of academic freedom and expression would permit him to share his views without fear of censure or reprisal.


That express affirmation in the offer letter of the AAUP principles seems like it could pose a potential problem for the University.

The second:

Nevertheless, despite Professor Salaita’s obvious reliance on the terms of the University’s appointment – by resigning from his tenured position at Virginia Tech, renting his Virginia home and preparing his entire family to move – you summarily terminated his appointment to a tenured position, without notice or any opportunity to be heard or to object. Your August 1, 2014 letter references your Office’s failure to seek or obtain final authorization from the Board of Trustees as the reason for the termination of Professor Salaita; yet, leaving aside the procedural irregularities in your rationale,³…


And then, in the footnote, comes this:

 

Although Professor Salaita’s appointment was effective August 16th, your termination letter stated that his appointment would not be recommended for submission to the Board in September, after his start date.


In other words, even under the best of circumstances, Salaita’s appointment was scheduled to be effective before the Board was scheduled to vote to approve it.

Last, the CCR letter references a letter from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, expressly requesting that the University of Illinois rescind its offer. I wasn’t aware of this letter, but it’s discussed here. The letter states:

We strongly believe that a person… with such aberrational views cannot be trusted to confine his discussions to his area of study. We urge you to reconsider his appointment and look forward to immediately discussing this serious matter with you.


Aberrational views. They used to be the pride and joy of the Jewish people, from Abraham to Kafka and Freud. Now we fire people for having them.

Categories: Group Blogs

Reagan and plagiarism

Crooked Timber - Thu, 2014-08-07 05:30

So I’ve been in the West of Ireland without proper Internet access for several days, and am catching up with umpteen posts in my RSS reader. I was going to write a post about plagiarism anyway, focusing on this weird Gawker story accusing True Detective of plagiarizing Thomas Ligotti. If unacknowledged quotes or references, intended as Easter eggs for people who spot the reference constitute plagiarism, then there are a lot of plagiarizers out there, me included (e.g. I ostentatiously plagiarize Matthew Arnold in this piece, with no acknowledgment whatsoever). But then, a little further down the feed, because a few hours farther back in the past, I saw this New York Times piece doing a class of a ‘he says, she says’ on whether Rick Perlstein’s new book is rife with plagiarism (I should say before writing that Rick is a friend, and that I read an early version of the last book and provided not especially useful comments on it; I didn’t do so for the new one, and indeed don’t yet have a copy (see above under location: West of Ireland and Internet: dearth of access to)).

Dave Weigel has copies of the letters back and forth between Perlstein and the conservative author and “political strategist” who is accusing Perlstein of plagiarizing. Not surprisingly, there doesn’t look to be anything worth talking about in the actual accusation (the bit where the lawyer representing the accuser claims that Perlstein’s willingness to talk with the author about sources is evidence against him, because it resembles how a “hit-and-run driver might return to the scene of his crime or lurk in his victim’s hospital lobby,” is especially remarkable). But the claims provide an interesting example of how the term plagiarism, as it has spread beyond its academic context has become a kind of catch-all accusation for a variety of phenomena (much of the accuser’s ire appears to have been motivated by Perlstein’s decision – which not only seems to me to be defensible, but in accordance with emerging academic practice – to put his footnotes and information about primary sources online rather than including them in the book itself).

The second interesting, but in-retrospect-not-very-surprising aspect of this imbroglio is the sharp rise in the level of conservative hysteria surrounding Perlstein’s books. Perlstein’s first book, Before the Storm received some very favorable reviews from conservatives. Perlstein was writing about a group of conservative activists who had received very little attention, rescuing them from the enormous condescension of posterity. It probably helped that Perlstein was then less well known, and the book looked unlikely to get a lot of popular attention. Nixonland was larger in impact (it sold a lot better, and Obama reportedly read it), and correspondingly received much more hostile attention from conservative reviewers. I expect that the new book, which takes on Reagan, who is obviously far more central to the internal mythology of American conservatism, will provoke reactions verging on gibbering lunacy. The Times article reports that conservative intellectual Sam Tanenhaus (who, as editor of the New York Times Book Review assigned the review of Nixonland to George Will, with entirely predictable results) has a forthcoming attack piece for the Atlantic. As Weigel says “there is great interest in stopping Perlstein’s history from becoming the official look at Reagan’s rise.” Very possibly, some of the negative reviews will score useful points. But given how profoundly conservatives are invested in the mythology of Reagan’s saintliness and wisdom, any good points will likely be embedded in a matrix of deep crazy. These are topics that many conservatives simply can’t think straight about. How they’re going to react to book number four when it comes out … I don’t even want to think about it.

Categories: Group Blogs

The Persistence of the Old Regime

Crooked Timber - Wed, 2014-08-06 18:15

This afternoon I ended up reading this Vox story about an effort to rank US Universities and Colleges carried out in 1911 by a man named Kendric Charles Babcock. On Twitter, Robert Kelchen remarks that the report was “squashed by Taft” (an unpleasant fate), and he links to the report itself, which is terrific. Babcock divided schools into four Classes, beginning with Class I:

And descending all the way to Class IV:

Babcock’s discussion of his methods is admirably brief (the snippet above hints at the one sampling problem that possibly troubled him), so I recommend you read the report yourself.

University reputations are extremely sticky, the conventional wisdom goes. I was interested to see whether Babcock’s report bore that out. I grabbed the US News and World Report National University Rankings and National Liberal Arts College Rankings and made a quick pass through them, coding their 1911 Babcock Class. The question is whether Mr Babcock, should he return to us from the grave, would be satisfied with how his rankings had held up—more than a century of massive educational expansion and alleged disruption notwithstanding.

It turns out that he would be quite pleased with himself.

Here is a dotplot of the 2014 USNWR National University Ranking, where the dots are color-coded for Babcock Class. There are two panels, one on the left for Private Universities, and one on the right for Public Universities. USNWR’s highest-ranked school at the moment is Princeton, and it is at the top of the dotplot. You read down the ranking from there.

You can get a larger image or a PDF version of the figure if you want a closer look at it.

As you can see, for private universities, especially, the 1911 Babcock Classification tracks prestige in 2014 very well indeed. The top fifteen or so USNWR Universities that were around in 1911 were regarded as Class 1 by Babcock. Class 2 Privates and a few Class 1 stragglers make up the next chunk of the list. The only serious outliers are the Stevens Institute of Technology and the Catholic University of America.

The situation for public universities is also interesting. The Babcock Class 1 Public Schools have not done as well as their private peers. Berkeley (or “The University of California” as was) is the highest-ranked Class I public in 2014, with UVa and Michigan close behind. Babcock sniffily rated UNC a Class II school. I have no comment about that, other than to say he was obviously right. Other great state flagships like Madison, Urbana, Washington, Ohio State, Austin, Minnesota, Purdue, Indiana, Kansas, and Iowa are much lower-ranked today than their Class I designation by Babcock in 1911 would have led you to believe. Conversely, one or two Class 4 publics—notably Georgia Tech—are much higher ranked today than Babcock would have guessed. So rankings are sticky, but only as long as you’re not public.

I also did the same figure for Liberal Arts Colleges, almost all of which are private, so this time there’s just the one panel:

You can get a larger image or a PDF version of the figure if you want a closer look at it.

Again, there is a substantial degree of stability over the course of the century. Here we see a bit more evidence of some movement up by colleges that Babcock put in Class II—Swarthmore, for example, as well as Middlebury and Pomona. The Class I schools that seem to have fallen from favor most are Knox, Lake Forest, and Goucher colleges.

Now, some caveats. First, because I was more or less coding this stuff while eating my lunch, I have not attempted to connect schools which Babcock did rate with their current institutional descendants. So, for example, some technical, liberal arts, or agricultural schools that he classified grew into or were absorbed by major state universities in the 20th century. These are not on the charts above. We are only looking at schools that existed under their current name (more or less—there are one or two exceptions) in 1911 and now. Second, higher Education in the U.S. really has changed a lot since 1911. In particular the postwar expansion of public education introduced many new and excellent public universities, and over the course of the twentieth century even some decent private ones emerged and came to prominence (such as my own, which competes with a nearby Class II school). This biases things in favor of the seeming stability of the rankings, because in his own data Babcock had the luxury of not having to classify schools that did not yet exist.

We can add these in a final, rather large, chart for the National University data.

You can get a larger image or a PDF version of the figure if you want a closer look at it.

Now the coding includes the pink “None” category, which adds universities that appear in the USNWR rankings but which are not in Babcock, either because they did not exist at all in 1911, or had not yet taken their present names. In fairness to him, the new additions still leave Babcock’s classification looking pretty good. On the private side, Duke, Caltech, and Rice are added to the upper end of the list, and a number of new private schools further down.

Meanwhile on the public side you can see the appearance of the 20th century schools, most notably the whole California system. The UC System is an astonishing achievement, when you look at it, as it propelled five of its campuses into the upper third of the table to join Berkeley. But the status ordering that was—take your pick; these data can’t settle the question—observed, intuited, or invented by Babcock a century ago remains remarkably resilient. The old regime persists.

Note: Updated August 8th to correct some coding errors.

Categories: Group Blogs

Another Anti-Zionist Professor Punished for His Views (Updated)

Crooked Timber - Wed, 2014-08-06 10:01

Until two weeks ago, Steven Salaita was heading to a job at the University of Illinois as a professor of American Indian Studies. He had already resigned from his position at Virginia Tech; everything seemed sewn up. Now the chancellor of the University of Illinois has overturned Salaita’s appointment and rescinded the offer. Because of Israel.

The sources familiar with the university’s decision say that concern grew over the tone of his comments on Twitter about Israel’s policies in Gaza….


For instance, there is this tweet: “At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised? #Gaza.” Or this one: “By eagerly conflating Jewishness and Israel, Zionists are partly responsible when people say antisemitic shit in response to Israeli terror.” Or this one: “Zionists, take responsibility: if your dream of an ethnocratic Israel is worth the murder of children, just fucking own it already.”


In recent weeks, bloggers and others have started to draw attention to Salaita’s comments on Twitter. But as recently as July 22 (before the job offer was revoked), a university spokeswoman defended Salaita’s comments on Twitter and elsewhere. A spokeswoman told The News-Gazette for an article about Salaita that “faculty have a wide range of scholarly and political views, and we recognize the freedom-of-speech rights of all of our employees.”


I’ve written about a number of these types of cases over the past few years, but few have touched me the way this one has. For three reasons.

First, Steven is a friend on Facebook, and we follow each other on Twitter. I don’t know him personally but I’ve valued his unapologetic defense of the rights of Palestinians. Often he posts articles and information from which I’ve learned quite a bit.

Second, I have no doubt that an easily rattled administrator would find some of my public writings on Israel and Palestine to have crossed a line. If you’re in favor of Salaita being punished, you should be in favor of me being punished. And not just me. On Twitter, many of us—not just on this issue but a variety of issues, and not just on the left, but also on the right—speak in a way that can jar or shock a tender sensibility. We swear, we accuse, we say no, in thunder. That’s the medium. Though I’ve never really thought twice about it, it’s fairly chilling to think that a university official might now be combing through my tweets to see if I had said anything that would warrant me being deemed ineligible for a job. Or worse, since I have tenure, that an administrator might be doing that to any and every potential job candidate.

Third, Cary Nelson, who was once the president of the American Association of University Professors, has weighed in in defense of this decision by the University of Illinois Chancellor.

“I think the chancellor made the right decision,” he said via email. “I know of no other senior faculty member tweeting such venomous statements—and certainly not in such an obsessively driven way. There are scores of over-the-top Salaita tweets. I also do not know of another search committee that had to confront a case where the subject matter of academic publications overlaps with a loathsome and foul-mouthed presence in social media. I doubt if the search committee felt equipped to deal with the implications for the campus and its students. I’m glad the chancellor did what had to be done.”


Asked if he feared that the withdrawal of the job offer could represent a scholar being punished for his unpopular political views, Nelson said he did not think that was the case. “If Salaita had limited himself to expressing his hostility to Israel in academic publications subjected to peer review, I believe the appointment would have gone through without difficulty,” he said. Nelson added that harsh criticism of Israel is widespread among faculty members. “Salaita’s extremist and uncivil views stand alone. There is nothing ‘unpopular’ on this campus about hostility to Israel.”


Once upon a time I wrote an essay for an anthology Nelson edited on unions in academia. When I was the leader of the grad union drive at Yale, he came to campus and spoke out on our behalf. I thought of him as not only a champion of academic freedom but as an especially acerbic—some might even say uncivil—commentator willing to throw a few elbows at his fellow academics. One time, he even compared a fellow English professor to a vampire bat, and proceeded to make fun of his bodily movements and facial gestures. In an academic publication subject to peer review.

But in recent years Nelson has become an outspoken defender of the State of Israel and a critic of the BDS movement. A man who once called for the boycott of a university now thinks boycotts of universities are a grave threat to academic freedom. A man who serially violates the norms of academic civility—urging fellow academics to “give key administrators no peace. Place chanting pickets outside their homes. Disrupt every meeting they attend with sardonic or inspiring public theater”—now invokes those same norms against a critic of Israel. A man who once wrote that “claims about collegiality are being used to stifle campus debate, to punish faculty, and to silence the free exchange of opinion by the imposition of corporate-style conformity,” now complains about an anti-Zionist professor’s “foul-mouthed presence in social media.” A man who once called the movement against hostile environments and in favor of sensitive speech on campus “Orwellian,” now frets over a student of Salaita’s fearing she “would be academically at risk in expressing pro-Israeli views in class.”

I bring this up not to pick on Nelson, but to ask him, and all of you, a simple question: Should Nelson be deemed ineligible for another job at a university simply because of these statements he has written? Should l be deemed ineligible for another job at a university simply because of some “foul-mouthed,” perhaps even intemperate, tweets that I’m sure I have written?

But I bring up Nelson’s case for another reason. And that is that his hypocrisy is not merely his own. It is a symptom of the effects of Zionism on academic freedom, how pro-Israel forces have consistently attempted to shut down debate on this issue, how they “distort all that is right.” Nelson’s U-Turn demonstrates that we’re heading down a very dangerous road. I strongly urge all of you to put on the brakes.

In the meantime, do something for Steven Salaita. Write a note to University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise (best to email her at pmwise@illinois.edu and pmischo@illinois.edu), urging her to rescind her rescission. Also, when you write your email, please cc Robert Warrior of the American Indian Studies department at the University of Illinois. His email is rwarrior@illinois.edu. Also cc the department: ais@illinois.edu. As always, be polite, but be firm. Don’t assume this is a done deal; in my experience, it often is not. We’ve managed through our efforts, on multiple occasions, to get nervous administrators to walk away from the ledge.

Update (12:30 pm)

In response to the article that first reported this story, Cary Nelson defended the University of Illinois decision thus:

When Salaita tweets “If you’re defending Israel right now you’re an awful human being” he issues a judgment about his future students that would justify them believing they would be academically at risk in expressing pro-Israeli views in class. When he gives us this definition–“Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948″ he crosses a line into hate speech. When he retweets a suggestion that a well-known American reporter should be met with “the point of a shiv” he crosses a line into inciting violence.


In accordance with Nelson’s dicta, I presume the following individuals would be not hireable at the University of Illinois.

1. Denis Diderot: “Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” (Professor Diderot has crossed a line into inciting violence.)

2. Friedrich von Schlegel:  “Religion and morals are symmetrically opposed, just like poetry and philosophy.” (Professor Schlegel has issued a judgment about his future students that would justify them believing they would be academically at risk in expressing pro-religion views in class.)

3. George Orwell:  “As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents.” (Professor Orwell has issued a judgment about his future students that would justify them believing they would be academically at risk in expressing pro-socialist or pro-Christian views in class.)

4. Mary McCarthy: “The average Catholic perceives no connection between religion and morality, unless it is a question of someone else’s morality.” (Professor McCarthy has issued a judgment about her future students that would justify them believing they would be academically at risk in expressing pro-Catholic views in class.)

5. Samuel Butler:  “The seven deadly sins: Want of money, bad health, bad temper, chastity, family ties, knowing that you know things, and believing in the Christian religion.” (See #3)

6. The Prophet Micah:

Hear this, you leaders of Jacob,
you rulers of Israel,
who despise justice
and distort all that is right;
who build Zion with bloodshed,
and Jerusalem with wickedness….
Because of you,
Zion will be plowed like a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,
the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.


(See #1. Also, maybe, hate speech.)

Categories: Group Blogs

Notes from Roland Barthes

The Blogora - Wed, 2014-08-06 00:33

"The resistance of the wood varies depending on the place where we drive in the nail: wood is not isotropic. Nor am I; I have my 'exquisite points.' The map of these points is known to me alone, and it is according to them that I make my way, avoiding or seeking this or that, depending on externally enigmatic counsel; I should like this map of moral acupuncture to be distributed preventively to my new acquaintances (who, moreover, could also utilize it to make me suffer more)." --Roland Barthes, "A Lover's Discourse"

Categories: Group Blogs

Reclaiming Queer: Activist and Academic Rhetorics of Resistance

The Blogora - Tue, 2014-08-05 16:40

BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT
8/4/2014

For Immediate Release
Contact: Courtney Blanchard
Marketing Coordinator
ceblanchard@uapress.ua.edu

Tel.: 205-348-5181

read more

Categories: Group Blogs

HIV & Media

The Blogora - Tue, 2014-08-05 07:04

In Media Res – HIV/AIDS and Television

This week’s In Media Res theme focus is HIV/AIDS and Television (August 4 - August 8, 2014).

Here's the line-up:

Monday, August 4, 2014 - Melanie E.S. Kohnen (New York University) presents: Gay Sexuality and AIDS in An Early Frost

Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - Andre J. Owens (Northwestern University) presents: The Blood is the Life/Death: Queer Contagion and Viral Vampirism in the Age of HIV/AIDS

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - Jeffrey A. Bennett (University of Iowa) presents: AIDS Narratives and Televisual Prophecy

read more

Categories: Group Blogs

The Unsung Romance of Incompetence

Crooked Timber - Tue, 2014-08-05 01:42

So I’m reading this post on The Guardians of the Galaxy (which I shouldn’t be doing, since I haven’t seen it, but I’ll bet the raccoon lives.)

And I misread this sentence:

In fact, these space misfits offer something rarely seen in superhero films: the Guardians show emotional, neurological, developmental and communication deficits that 1) are not expected to be resolved or cured at the end of the film and 2) do not make them ineffective as heroes.

Because surely we need to lose that last ‘not’. DO make then ineffective as heroes. That better be it, otherwise obviously this film is just like all the other stories about heroes who are kind of damaged but awesomely effective.

Obviously (I can tell this without seeing it), Guardians IS like all the rest, not different as this author so wrongly suggests. (But I’m sure it’s going to be awesome.)

Let’s back up so I can explain. A couple weeks ago I was reading horror-stories in the New York Times (can’t find the link) about malfeasance in forensic labs stretching back decades. Not important to find that article. Anything about prosecutors refusing to cooperate with the Innocence Project will do as well. Same tune. I thought: someone should really make a gritty, thrilling cop show about cops who probably think about themselves as being good cops but are basically, unknowingly, incompetent and corrupt. They don’t always get the wrong guy. But they often frame the wrong guy, just because they need to goose their numbers. But they always tell themselves a story about how they are good cops. CSI! The ‘I’ stands for ‘incompetent’! But the characters really think it stands for ‘investigation’.

I’m not talking about comedy. This isn’t Parks and Recreation. I’m talking about The Wire, minus the competence. Instead of the characters being high-functioning alcoholics, or guys with hair-trigger tempers that really only result in them beating up assholes, have a low-functioning alcoholic, partnered with a guy who just has anger-management problems that, as you might expect, keep him from getting the job done. Another example, True Detective. Rust is a hallucinating, trauma-repressing alcoholic. Marty is an immature womanizer. But they are both supremely functional when they are actually on the case. I just think it would be interesting to play it differently, just for once. Have the detectives/forensic lab boys be psychological damaged goods, and have that cause them to be regularly incompetent. Tell exciting stories about absent-mindedly framing some poor black kid, because the interesting detective characters screw up, and don’t even really realize it themselves. And sometimes they get it right. And we get to know them, so we get that they aren’t positively evil. This isn’t Bad Lieutenant, just the banality of semi-competence careerists. The whole system is just a giant moral hazard waiting to happen in every average officer’s life. It would be a great way to tell a story, if you could get it right, so the viewers wouldn’t just find it frustrating to watch a procedural about people who can’t follow procedure, or work out good procedures to follow.

Meanwhile, I look forward to watching The Guardians of the Galaxy be absurdly competent, despite all their psychological damage. Hilariously, all their crazinesses will be complementary! I’m sure it’s great.

Categories: Group Blogs

Sunday photoblogging: war memorial

Crooked Timber - Sun, 2014-08-03 02:41

This is a picture I took in 2007 of the Arlington West memorial at Santa Monica beach, California. The crosses represent American dead (with red crosses representing 10 dead). A placard near the crosses reads “”At 3000 crosses, the Arlington West Memorial is 141 feet wide and 310 feet long. A memorial for the Iraqi dead would be 141 feet wide and 12.8 miles long.”

From the material in my photo collection, it seems the right thing to post in this week leading up to the outbreak of war in 1914, but also because of the daily tolls in Syria, Gaza and elsewhere.

Categories: Group Blogs
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