Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Typepad

I'm trying out a 30-day free stint with Typepad. Check out the page at http://scottpaeth.typepad.com/main/

Friday, February 25, 2005

Berube Pummels Horowitz

Berube lands a solid uppercut to Horowitz's ridiculousness in this post. Well, Horowitz deserves it:

Enough of this silly stuff, folks– yes, even I have my limits when it comes to silly stuff! The real issue is this. Some years ago, I referred to David Horowitz as a former member of the “far left.” By this I meant that he stayed with the Panthers for years after every sane leftist in America realized that they’d degenerated into a handful of paramilitary thugs, and now he goes around blaming the rest of the sixties left for his own hideous political judgment. This made him mad, understandably enough, and he insisted to me that he was never a member of the far left, by which he meant groups like the Weathermen. Fine, so be it. Let’s grant David the distinction, and let’s call him a former member of the “almost far left” instead of the “far left.” And yet his database– like so much of his work after the attacks of September 11– is designed not merely to blur the distinction between the far left and the far far far left, but between the far left and goddamn Barack Obama, Barbra Streisand, and Bill Moyers. “It should be obvious,” David writes, “that even the otherwise innocent Barbra Streisand shares negative views of the Bush Administration and its mission of liberating Iraq with anti-American jihadists like the aforementioned Zarqawi, even though we are sure that she deplores some of his methods.” So there it is– anyone with negative views of the Bush Administration, anyone who opposed this war, is in cahoots with Zarqawi. You don’t see what’s wrong with that, well, that’s your business, but don’t complain when sane leftists respond to this nonsense with squeals of outrage– or, here on this blog, howls of laughter (read the comments again, David! they’re really very funny. Ishtar of the Internets– damn, I wish I’d said that). Don’t complain when we don’t engage “arguments” that are patently ridiculous. And don’t complain– on your way from the Ohio state legislature to Fox News to the Colorado state legislature, eking out an existence on the very margins of American society– that you aren’t getting more speaking invitations from the very people you insult and slander.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Attack on Academia: Horowitz Rides Again

Bopping around the blogosphere, I came across yet more discussion on Horowitz's various schemes to ensure that no realm of American public life is free from enforced domination by the right wing. Of course, the keystone effort in all of this is the "Academic Bill of Rights" that he's been flogging for a while now.
What to make of the ABOR? Horowitz maintains that is an attempt to achieve balance in a university system overrun by radical leftists. And as such, why should any truly liberal-minded person reject it.
Now, I actually agree with the idea that universities should welcome first-rate scholars regardless of their political orientation. I'd have a lot more fun arguing with a smart guy that I disagree with then with a dumb guy I agree with. Obviously, arguments with smart people are generally of a better quality than arguments with dumb people, by and large. And arguments with people you disagree with seem to actually have a point.
But I don't think that most departments make their hiring decisions on the basis of politics. Here's Brian Leiter's perspective:

Here's a pertinent fact, based on 8 years on the Appointments Committee of the Law School here: of the three dozen candidates I actively supported and recruited during this time, I had no idea what the political views were of about half of them; in some cases, I still don't know! There are some fields, and law is often one of them, where candidates wear their politics on their sleeve; but in most fields, including many parts of law, they don't. I've certainly seen politically motivated voting for and against candidates for law teaching positions from the right and the left--both here and at my former institution, San Diego--but I've never seen it, for example, in Philosophy. And Philosophy is plainly more typical of most academic fields: you either have the requisite technical skills or you don't, and one's party registration is basically invisible. Given that the hard sciences, as well as fields like philosophy, have similar ratios of Democrats to Republicans, bias seems an increasingly unlikely explanation for the overall proportions (though it may be more pertinent in some particular areas than others).

Horowitz is either a) lying or b) stupid if he thinks that that ABOR will accomplish the goal of academic diversity. Furthermore, as several commentators have mentioned, is diversity really a genuine academic value? Do we really want a system that will allow anybody to make a claim that they have a "right" to teach in the university system, simply because their viewpoint isn't represented? Leiter again:

The real difficulty, of course, is that if you create rights, you also have to have remedies. And at some point even the genuinely dumb conservatives will notice that the Horowitz proposal will create causes of action for Marxist economists who can't be hired by economics departments, for postmodernists who can't get hired by philosophy departments, and on and on. And what is to stop Intelligent Design creationists from suing biology departments that won't hire them? Or alchemists from suing Chemistry departments? You get the idea.

The problem with which no one wants to come to terms is this: not all ideologies have merit. That there are relatively few Republicans in the universities may simply be co-extensional with the fact that there are relatively few educated people who believe that Iraq attacked the World Trade Center, a belief, as we know, that is widely shared among Bush supporters. Surely this possibility has to be entertained, if one were really serious about the question of bias.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Jack Bauer, Sociopath

Kevin Drum reads my mind in this post from Washington Monthly, which asks the perennial question, "Seriously, what's going on with 24 and its bizarrely casual use of torture this season?"
Watching the show last night, I had wondered the exact same thing. It's been one bout of torture after another, and it is getting pretty stomach-turning. In previous seasons, there was plenty of torture, but it was almost never Jack performing it, and he was usually as likely to be the recipient as the applicant.
Perhaps this just confirms what my wife thinks, which is that the show is pointlessly brutal. It may be, but Kevin has a novel theory:

At first it looked as though the writers had decided to portray torture as a routine interrogation device for use with terrorists, but now it looks like there's more at work here. The real goal is to convince America that torture is (a) revolting and (b) doesn't work anyway. Clever guys, these writers. I wonder if they'll convince anyone?

I think this is a potentially fruitful theory, but I can't help moving from the question of what the writers are thinking to the question of what Jack, the character, is thinking. In the past, I have used Jack as an example of an ethics of responsibility in my class -- somebody who is willing to take on guilt for the sake of another. I thought of him as a kind of secular verson of Deitrich Bonhoeffer, but with a gun.

However, after several seasons of his exploits, I've begun to have my doubts. The more I watch him, the more it occurs to me that he's really a sociopath, who as a counter-terrorism agent has found a niche in society that will allow him to act out his sociopathic impulses with impunity, as long as he's effective. He's continually disregarding authority, violating the law, murdering, taking drugs, robbing convienience stores (!), all in the name of doing "that which is necessary."

At a certain point, I think we would be justified in asking whether what Jack thinks is necessary has any actual correspondence to what is really necessary.

American Idol

My wife and I caught American Idol last night. I have to admit it was a very talented crop of guys they had on. Every one of them was a solid singer, but I had to wonder: Don't these guys ever get bored of hearing the same voice coming out of different mouths over and over again? Almost every one of these guys sounded exactly alike.

Once, just once, I'd love to see them get somebody on there with a voice like Tom Waits, who sounds like his voice has been strained through a used coffee filter.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Evil

While reading my wife some passages from this Salon.com story about the Conservative Political Action Committee meeting this past week (key news-maker: We actually did find WMD in Iraq), she expressed a view that I've heard from a lot of people. "George Bush isn't evil," she said.

Now, to call anyone evil is inflammatory, and it's not even clear to me what it would mean to call a person evil in any sort of absolute sense. I'm with Reinhold Niebuhr in seeing evil mixed into even the highest of human aspirations and ideals, and good into even the basest of human depravity.

And yet, I couldn't help but wonder, what would be materially different about George Bush's policies if he were in fact evil? I don't have to use much imagination to begin thinking of real horrors, of course. But assume that Bush were just ordinarily evil, rather than being super-evil. Would somebody who's just run-of-the-mill evil govern differently than presumptively-good George Bush? And if not, then what would it mean to say that Bush is good but his policies are evil?

This is always a pro blem when it comes to the ugly matters of political expediency and governmental necessity. But does this mean that what we ought to prefer is ordinarily evil governors to genuinely good governors? As long as they're not super-evil, or as long as they extend their evil outward rather than inward, is that morally preferable? After all, nobody ever doubted Jimmy Carter's goodness (Althought according to the Simpsons, he was "history's greatest monster!"), but there are few that would name him among the most effective of presidents.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Discovering the Network

I have to admit, I've been enjoying reading David Horiwitz's new hysterical conspiricy website, Discover the Network. Really. If I had wanted to create a satire of right-wing crazy-style idenification of liberalism with communism with Islamic fundamentalism, I could not have come up with something better than this. And the funky Java program that allows you to literally follow the links between people and organizations is quite fun. It's like playinc "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," only instead of connecting Chris Farley with Kevin Bacon, you're trying to figure out the relationship between Tom Daschle and Mohammad Atta. Seriously.

This is, of course, yet another example of the right-wing tactic of long standing, which is simply to lump everything left-of-center in with the most stridently radical of perspectives. Of course, the left plays its own version of this game on the right, associating it constantly to fascism and/or nazism. Thus, if I wanted to, I could make up a "visual map" connecting George W. Bush with Adolf Hitler pretty easily. Would that make Bush a nazi? Of course not, though it would convince a few in the wingnut camp that it was so. Horowitz's project has just as much validity.

But then again, I still find it amusing to read the utterly distorted and dishonest biographies of so many of the figures that are cited. And I have to admit that the piece on Jim Wallis is a real howler. It's a great example of how "Antiwar Activist" = Liberal = Democrat = Communist = Islamofascist. My favorite part is when he accuses Wallis of "moral relativism." Har!

But here's my question: How can I get David Horowitz to put me on the network? I've got a website with a dashing picture and my own blog, and I'm obviously simply a knee-jerk member of the elitist academic left. Is there a way to submit my resume? I couldn't find a link on the site.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Alan Keyes' Daughter

There was a bit of a stir about this last fall, when her website and blog suddenly disappeared from the internet. But it seems that Alan Keyes' daughter, Maya Marcel-Keyes, has come out of the closet publicly as a "liberal queer" (her words). Here's what the article at MSNBC has to say:

The daughter of conservative Republican Alan Keyes referred to herself Monday as a “liberal queer” and urged support for gay and lesbian young people who have been deserted by their families.

Maya Marcel-Keyes, 19, addressed a rally sponsored by the gay-rights group Equality Maryland, saying she was motivated to speak out because of her rocky relationship with her parents and the recent death of a friend who had fallen ill after being thrown out of the house by his family.

Marcel-Keyes told several hundred supporters that her sexuality had created a rift in her relationship with her parents.“Things just came to a head. Liberal queer plus conservative Republican just doesn’t mesh well,” she said. “That was making my life a little bit turbulent.”

Later, Marcel-Keyes told CNN her parents “were not too pleased” when they learned she was a lesbian, but she said she loves them “very much, and they love me. They can’t support my activities.”

Her father, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Illinois last year, created a stir in August when he said during an interview that homosexuality was “selfish hedonism” and that Vice President Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter was a sinner.

In a statement issued Monday night, Keyes said: “My daughter is an adult, and she is responsible for her own actions. What she chooses to do has nothing to do with my work or political activities.”

Marcel-Keyes said she received an outpouring of support when disclosing her sexual orientation, but her friend did not.“Like me, he grew up queer in a conservative household,” she said. But where she got hundreds of e-mails, offers of a place to stay and a college scholarship, “he’d been out there two years and had gotten nothing.”

“And the worst part is, he isn’t the only one,” Marcel-Keyes said.

In the grand scheme of things, this isn't really all that important, although if I wanted to be psychoanalytic about it, I might suggest that it helps explain the vehemence of Keyes' reaction to Mary Cheney at last year's Republican Convention.

But you know, I've got to tell you, as the father of a daughter, I just don't get how a guy can stand up publicly and attack his daughter's sexuality, even if he doesn't approve of it. Keyes made a choice to focus (somewhat obsessively) on homosexuality as an issue. He didn't need to. There were plenty of other culture war issues he could have focused on. Yet he chose to place his emphasis precisely on that area where he would be garaunteed to cause the maximum pain to his daughter. This doesn't suggest fatherly love to me. It suggest's that the man is a bastard of the highest order.

And his statement about his daughter's coming out seems to confirm that: No expression of love. No expression of support. Just a self-serving distancing of himself from her. Well, I said it with my vote in November, and I'll say it again here: Fuck Alan Keyes.
UPDATE: Oy! It's even worse than I thought. From the Washington Post:
Her parents have known that Maya is a lesbian since they found a copy of the Washington Blade, the gay weekly, in her room and confronted her at the end of high school (she went to Oakcrest School for Girls, a Catholic school in McLean run by the church's highly devout Opus Dei movement.) Ever since, Maya says, her parents have told her that her sexuality is wrong and sinful.

"As long as I was quiet about being gay or my politics, we got along," she says. "Then I went to the Counterinaugural," last month's protests in Washington against President Bush. "My father didn't like that."

Maya returned from the demonstration to find that she had been let go from her job at her father's political organization.

She says she was told to leave her father's apartment and not to expect any money toward attending Brown University, where she was admitted but deferred matriculation to spend a year teaching in southern India. "In my father's view, financing my college would be financing my politics, in a sense," Maya says, "because I plan to be an activist after college."
Vile, vile man!