waldheim
Sunday, February 29, 2004
 
Haiti, France, and the Monroe Doctrine. With Aristide's departure from Haiti, an "interim international force" will provide order. Right now, that force includes American, Canadian, and French troops. A quick question: what does the presence of French troops (or Canadian ones, for that matter) say about the Monroe Doctrine? By accepting French influence in Haiti, isn't Bush undermining the U.S.'s primary foreign policy doctrine?
 
Linkbacks. Thanks to Brett Marston and American Footprint for the links. I look forward to Brett's comments.
Saturday, February 28, 2004
 
French Jews, French Muslims, and Laicte. The Times Magazine on Sunday has a fascinating article about French Jews and they feel under seige from growing anti-semitism among French Arabs. It accords very much with what the Frenchwomen said that I reported last week. (I don't think I mentioned then that both of my sources were Jewish.)
 
Courts as historical truth-finders. I've been blogging a lot recently about reparations lawsuits, but somehow this Times article from February 21 escaped me (I found it this morning through HNN). Edward Kornan, the judge overseeing the Swiss Banks settlement, complained that the banks are still refusing to take responsibility for their actions and still arguing that they didn't do anything wrong. He accused them of behaving like Goebbels, repeating a lie for long enough that people begin to believe it to be the truth. What makes this fascinating is that the Swiss Banks got away with it for fifty years until through the mechanism of American courts the lie was stripped away. The Swiss Banks case is perhaps the most successful historical lawsuit because really did change people's attitudes and beliefs about the Swiss and their role in the Holocaust. It's very interesting to see the court still trying to cement that role.
 
Yet another post of quick links. The New York Times reports that the Treasury Department is threatening to prosectute anyone who edits, translates, or otherwise "provides services" to manuscripts produced in enemy countries. Right now they're going after Iran, but the logic holds, says the Times, for North Korea, Libya (at least for now), and Cuba. There are obvious first amendment issues here, and even more obvious foreign policy concerns. Shouldn't we be encouraging the translation and publication of things written in enemy countries? This is not unlike the movement for an academic boycott of Israel that got many people up in arms. I wonder whether the people who objected so strongly to those who refused to print manuscripts by Israelis will complain as vociferously about this?

While using Technorati to see who else had written about that article, I discovered American Footprint, which has this funny story about kids distrupting a Burger King drive-through window. It really belongs in the post below, but will stay here.

The Times this morning also has an editorial about the Forbes list of millionaires. It suggests that someone (though not anyone on the Times editorial board, apparently) try to figure out how many of the world's poorest people it would take to equal the $1.9 trillion held by the world's 587 richest people. Anyone here have a guess?

In this otherwise rather offensive article in the Seattle Catholic, Matthew Anger discusses the reaction of Protestants to The Passion. (This is a question Elder Steven raised too, briefly.) (Via the Guardian Weblog, which apparently doesn't have permalinks.) Anger argues that an interest in the crucifixion itself and in the suffering of Jesus is a particularly Catholic thing--note the way Protestants took Jesus off the cross when displaying it. Anger hopes that the Protestant reaction to The Passion will encourage a return to Catholic ideas about the mystery of the cross. (The Guardian also has a link to Christopher Hitchens' amusingly angry piece about the movie in the Mirror.)
 
In this week's Forward. (Registration required, unfortunately.) Alan Dershowitz was honored by the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, but in his speech ruffled feathers by warning of the dangers of alliances with the Christian Right. He also urged the JCPA to opposed the right wing's attempts to monitor and censor academic research on the middle east--something that until he spoke the JCPA was about to support.

Another article tells of the United Jewish Communities' new report criticising itself for a paucity of female leaders.
Friday, February 27, 2004
 
Funny stories--with video! Funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha. In a comment on Crooked Timber, Chris Marton linked to this story, about prosecutors who acted out a murder in front of the jury--a reenactment that required tying a colleague to a bed with neckties and then having a female coworker mount him. And on Haifisching, Evan links to this article about (in Evan's words): "Florida middle-schoolers facing expulsion from their school for an oral sex party in the bathroom during school hours." Seems to me to be a lot of hysteria over nothing. So some girls gave their friends blowjobs--there's no suggestion in this article that there was any coersion, and they weren't being disruptive. A suspention to show the kids that it's innappropriate to have orgies in school seems in line, but expulsion? That's going way too far.
 
Archives and war crimes trials. From an article by Charles Sennott in the Boston Globe about Carla del Ponte's prediction that she won't get a conviction of genocide against Slobodan Milosovic: "Del Ponte said Belgrade authorities had jeopardized the case for genocide by failing to provide the prosecution access to documents from the state archives." (Via Crooked Timber, and David in the comments to that post, who pointed out that particular sentence.) One of the good things about judicial responses to war crimes is that they often force archives open. One of the original demands in the settlement of the Holocaust slave labor suits was that companies open their archives. (This demand was eventually put aside.) That the Serbian and Yugoslavian governments have refused to cooperate and kept their archives closed seems like a major failing of the ICTY.
 
Holocaust litigation heard by Supreme Court. Nina Totenberg, on Morning Edition of February 25, tells of the Supreme Court hearing a looted art case. This seems like a particularly nasty story in which the post-war Austrian state colluded with the Nazis to steal art from a Jewish family and is now continuing to refuse to give back the art in question. The question is whether a US citizen heir of a property owner can sue a European museum over art still in Europe in American courts. The legal question seems particularly interesting: how to interpret a 1976 law that generally gives immunity to foreign governments unless the conduct took place during gross human rights abuses. The question specifically is whether that law is retroactive, and thus whether it can apply to civil claims arising from the Holocaust. (Via How Appealing.)
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
 
Yeah, what he said. With the sole addition that Nader's run this time won't do anything to build a viable third party, since he's running as an independent.
 
Those nasty leftists. I'm a bit late in pointing this out, especially since I should have already in a prior post, but The Little Professor has a nice piece on all the persecution she hasn't suffered at the hands of leftists in academia. (This was my first visit to the Little Professor; apparently she linked to me--I got a hit that was referred from there--but I couldn't find the link just now. Thanks anyway.)
Monday, February 23, 2004
 
Liberal minority government in Canada? In the Guardian's Ottawa Dispatch, Anne McIlroy writes that should Paul Martin call an election this spring, as has been expected, the growing unpopularity of the Liberal Party may mean that Martin will win only a minority government. As a fan of the NDP (so much so that I seem to have magically found myself on its mailing list!), this can only be good news. The NDP has done much good for Canada when the Liberals had a minority government, and thus the NDP had increased power.
 
Solidarity forever! A somewhat dubious Chris Bertram is striking Tuesday and Wednesday as part of a job action of the Association of University Teachers. We at waldheim wish them success.
Sunday, February 22, 2004
 
Quick links, again. An ongoing visit by Patrick and Rachel will make any real blogging impossible for a few days, but here are some quick links from Sunday's papers.

The Boston Globe's Marcella Bombardieri reports that the proportion of junior faculty in Harvard's humanities departments who are women has dropped to an astounding 35%. (That's 21 women.) That's down from about 50% in the mid-90s, a rather astounding drop. One reason for this might be that women are getting promoted to senior positions, which would be a good thing; of the 88 tenured women in the FAS at Harvard, 33 were internal tenurings. But if they're not being replaced by new junior women, that could lead to a pipeline problem.

The Times reports on a trend I noticed when I returned to Washington this fall after being away for a while: DC is being turned into a police-city. Washington used to be known for its openness, but now more and more of the monumental core is being closed off. "'My daughter used to run up the steps of the Capitol, turn around, spread her arms and say, "This is my city,"' said Dan Tangherlini, director of the municipal Department of Transportation. Now, the steps are off-limits to the public while construction continues on an underground visitor center that will serve as the Capitol's sole public entry point."

Apropos of a conversation I had with Rachel and Patrick last night, the CBC reports on proposed US law that will hurt call centers in Canada, like the one in Cape Breton. Because of the new publicity about sending abroad call centers, some in the US are suggesting that American customers be offered immediagely the choice of being transfered to a domestic call center. This worries, unsurprisingly, Canadians employed by call centers. The Times also has an article about social changes created by call centers in India.

The Times business section also has a piece about how civil and criminal court cases are exposing executive perks that are upsetting shareholders and workers.


Saturday, February 21, 2004
 
Businesses and human rights. While looking for more information on Desmond Tutu's letter supporting the apartheid reparations suit, I happened across the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, which has information about hundreds of companies and human rights, including a bunch of articles about lawsuits related to human rights and business. It also has a section on my favorite topic, historical human rights abuses and politics. Very interesting stuff.
Friday, February 20, 2004
 
Snazzy indeed. Via Protocols, I learn of the Forward's rather nice new website. It is very nice. It, however, registration only. The registration's free, but if you object on principle, the Elders suggest you use Protocols as the username and password.
 
Ideology and scholarship. Belle Waring wrote a fascinating discussion of "C.," a conservative she knew in classics grad school, on Examined Life. The short version of the story (but don't take my word for it, read it yourself), is that C. was politically conservative and, like many political conservatives, believed in traditional intellectual methods, in this case, for instance, rejecting Theory. He was made to feel uncomfortable in school, mostly by his colleagues (as opposed to his teachers) and eventually dropped out. (Via Crooked Timber.) It's an interesting theory, and if one believes Waring (as I am inclined to do), his dropping out was a lost for the discipline. But there seems to be a conflation of conservative politics and conservative research. It would be terrible thing if indeed political conservatives were run out of academia. I'm no conservative (obviously), and it would probably make me happier and more comfortable if the only people in the academy were as radical as I am, but I can't countenance discrimination based on political viewpoints. It's bad in and of itself, but if that's not good enough for you, remember that most of the time it's not going to hurt conservatives, but rather radicals (more on that later). Defending academic freedom for Communists means defending it for Fascists, too (and even Republicans), and if I'm going to demand it for those on the left I've got to defend it for those on the right, too.

On the other hand, from Waring's story, it doesn't seem like C. was driven out of academe because of his politics. It appears from her story that he was judged (perhaps too harshly) based on his academic work. That seems completely appropriate. Maybe, as she argues, we need people to do the unsexy work (like military history), but if people are interested in an unpopular subdiscipline, of course they're going to have a harder time at it. There are a limited number of jobs in academia, and they're going to go to the people who are doing what's considered cutting-edge research. If that's Theory, then only theorists are going to get jobs. That's not political discrimination. That's just the way things are. More than that, it's the way it should be. If (and I'm not saying this is the case) conservatives tended to be researchers and boring writers, and they tend to be uninterested in Theory, it wouldn't seem bad that they were underrepresented in the academy, because they're failure to get jobs would be based on their professional work. Of course, picking an unsexy topic or going about it unsexily isn't the same thing as doing bad work. But people who judge students, colleagues, or applicants based on the content of their work are making the same sort of decisions as those who judge based on the quality of their work--and not making the same sort of decisions as those who judge based on the politics of the person being judged.

The tendency to conflate real politics and perceived politics in research works in many ways. I admit that I get fed up with people who do research they consider to be political and politically informed but then fail to support on-campus fights for social justice. ("Ten degrees to the left of center in good times, ten degrees to the right of center when it affects them personally," as Phil Ochs would say.) Such tenured radicals often forget that their scholarship doesn't really do much in the real world unless they're willing to stand behind it. On the other hand, I get frustrated with people who are willing to judge academics only on their external political record, rather than on their scholarship.

This interplay of "real world" politics and perceived politics in research hides, I think, the real danger in academia, which isn't about keeping out conservatives, but rather about keeping out real progressives. As C.'s story suggests, I don't think it's conservatives' politics that keeps them out of academia; it's they're choice of what to study. (That and, as others have suggested, that they apparently prefer to go into other academia-like fields.) Similarly, people who pursue apparently radical research aren't kept out. But as the treatment of graduate student unions and their members show, people who pursue real change in the university are potentially blacklisted. This is to me a much greater concern than the perception that they're aren't enough conservatives.
Thursday, February 19, 2004
 
Is this possible? In French class today, we read a piece to practice our reading comprehension. The thing we read said that between 1939 and "today" (whenever that was), the average height of a Frenchman has gone up from 1.60m to 1.72m. This seems plausible, although I think ten centimeters in sixty years is stretching it. (No pun intended.) But then it offered this as an explanation: the bicycle was invented in at the turn of the century, and it allowed French people to travel around more, thus decreasing the number of inbred children.

My question is: Is that really possible? Surely it was made up, no?
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
 
Quick links. (Not that my past few posts haven't been quick links themselves.) The Guardian reports on a petition signed by 20,000 French intellectuals complaining of systematic anti-intellecualism by the French government.

The NYT's Jodi Wilgoren in a audio-visual web-thingy about the end of the Dean campaign and where his grassroots supporters will go now.

Congressional Quarterly's Craig Crawford (via the Times) speculates about possible Kerry running-mates and lists Virginia Govenor Mark Warner, former Georgia Senator Max Cleland, and Hilary Clinton. I think they're listed in roughly the order of plausibility. Although I still like Bill Richardson, the calculus changes with Kerry in the top spot, since the concern about a lack of foreign policy experience is lessened. I still think it would be great to have a racial minority or a woman, but I'll have to think about what woman can deliver needed states in the south or southwest.
 
Academics' briefs on the Pledge of Allegiance. SCOTUSblog has a list of amicus briefs for Elk Grove USD v. Newdon, the upcoming Supreme Court Pledge of Allegiance case. One is from a group of nineteen scholars of religion and theologians, who argue that the history of the Pledge show that the insertion of the words "under God" cannot be read as anything but an explicit attempt to inject monotheism into a patriotic ritual. Another is from 22 historians and law scholars, who argue against "under God" based on "the Framers' disdain for all types of religious tests, oaths and pledges."
 
Tutu supports apartheid reparations lawsuit in US courts. Saying that the South African government was moving too slowly to give promised reparations to victims of apartheid, the former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee sent an eight-page letter to the John Sprizo, the US judge who will decide whether to let the lawsuit go forward. The suit charges various multinational firms--including DaimlerChrysler, UBS, JP Morgan Chase, IBM, Credit Lyonais, IndoSuez, and others--of being complicit in and profiting from apartheid. You will not be surprised to know that the South African government rejected Tutu's statement. (See also Business Day, via AllAfrica, and AP.)
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
 
Tulsa race riot lawsuit. Scott Gold reports in Saturday's L.A. Times on a hearing about the reparations lawsuit over the 1921 race riot. Notably, Gold writes, "The lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages and other provisions, including forcing the government to expunge records of official inquiries at the time — one that blamed a 'Negro uprising' and another that exonerated all whites." (Via HNN.)

VERY QUICK UPDATE: See also this L.A. Times article the day before on the lawsuit.
Monday, February 16, 2004
 
Dead presidents. Forbes (via CNBC) lists who they estimate to be the richest presidents ever. It's a bit unclear how they rate wealth over such a broad chronological period. The only clue they give is "our own calculations and extensive interviews with presidential historians." The list they offer is Washington, Kennedy, Jackson, Lyndon Johnson, and Hoover. Bush fils is described as on the list of the richest presidents but is apparently not in the top five. Kerry, should he be elected, with be tied for second with Kennedy based on his wife's money. I wish the article had been somewhat more clear about its methodology.
Sunday, February 15, 2004
 
Allofit. There's an interesting article in the CBC this morning about upcoming territorial elections in Nunavit.
 
France and headscarves. Last week, the French National Assembly overwhelming passed Jacques Chirac's bill to ban headscarves and other overtly religions symbols from schools. The Senat is expected to follow suit shortly, and the bill will be in place by the time school starts next year. Various other blogs have been wondering why this isn't considered terrible by right-thinking (read left-thinking) French, who should be outraged over the abridgement of Liberte. I agreed with them, and still do for the most part. When my French cousin complained on Wednesday about how far right the current government is--her particular complaint that day was a proposal to abridge criminal rights, a proposal which brought out thousands of berobed lawyers to protest that day--I mentioned the scarf law as another example. She objected. "But that isn't a rightist thing at all!," she said. Talking to her and to a young woman I met this week also about the issue has finally made me understand French thinking on this somewhat, although I still can't say I agree with it. Basically they said four things:

1. This isn't about religion, or the freedom to choose ones clothing. It's about politics. A small group of people are trying to force their politics into schools, and it's the politics of Islamic fundamentalism, which is fundamentally dangerous to the French state. The French state failed in integrating this generation of immigrants and now it's coming back in the form of political extremism. I think that secular, otherwise liberal French people see the scarves not as a religious act but rather as a political one, one which is rejecting French (secular) society.

2. Unlike in the US, secularism in the public sphere is integral to what it means to be French. We don't have "In God We Trust" plastered everywhere, and our legislative sessions don't start with a prayer. That's not just chance, they say, nor just a choice that individuals should be free to make or not make. It's a integral part of French society that should be protected from those who want to change it.

3. Unlike what they describe as the "Anglo-Saxon" way (by which they want to include Canada and the UK) the French way is to say that everyone is the same. Elsewhere people revel in difference, but in France, they say, they pretend that everyone is the same. To allow people to have headscarves (or yarmulkes or large crosses, or turbans) forces us to see that people are different.

4. It's for their own protection. This seems to come in two flavors, one as, It's for the protection of Muslim girls, who need to be protected from the fundamentalist men who want to force them behind a veil. The second is, there are a lot of anti-Muslim French people out there and we don't want Muslims to stand out because it could be dangerous for them.

I find reason four to be so disturbing and paternalistic that I can't quite figure out how to respond to it. It's bizarrely wrong-headed. Number three I think is interesting, but dangerous, because people aren't all the same, and with difference comes power differences. If you pretend that everyone's the same, what you're really doing is allowing the majority to dominate and to perpetuate potentially dangerous or unfair situations. That's why we tried to move into a form of multi-culturalism in the US, because we realized that people are different. Said another way, if you don't let people with turbans into your police force, you aren't going to get Sikhs to take off your turbans, you're only going to perpetuate a system in which no Sikhs are allowed in the police. I am both secular and a secularist, so I agree totally with the second reason, which is why I don't wear religious symbols and wouldn't want my children to. Of course, there I'm saying it as a matter of personal (or familial) choice. I do understand, though, how it can be seen as a matter of protecting society, worrying that this could be the first step towards an increase in public religion. But it's the first one that seems to really be the truth of the matter, the real reason that right-thinking (meaning left-thinking) French seem to favor it. They really seem to read wearing scarves as a political act, as a rejection of France, as a rejection of Republicanism, and as a way of saying "my true home is in Algeria" (or wherever), not in France. I'm sure some of this is liberal guilt for the way poor immigrants have lived in France, but I think a lot of it is fear for the future of the Republic. When I suggested that the law could make things worse, because it would drive observant Muslims to Muslim schools, they seem to admit that while this wasn't good, and they'd be sad if it happened, it was a necessary way to keep religion out of the public sphere.

I feel a bit funny casitgating France for wanting to forcibly integrate Muslim immigrants into the majority society, because the US did a similar thing 100 years ago. A big part of the Progressive project was to take the unwashed (and not Protestestant) masses of immigrants who arrived from Southern and Eastern Europe in the 1880s-1910s and "Americanize" them. Some people describe this as trying (often succeeding) into turning all minority religions into essentially Protestant denominations. Catholics who rejected this, of course, went to Catholic school, and there is still largely a dual system of education in the US. Jews, who largely arrived in the US Orthodox, dressed as they had in the old country and keeping to themselves,with their odd dietary laws and the wrong sabbath day, became Reform (in the case of German Jews) or Conservative (in the case of Russian/Polish Jews). Around the turn of the century, lots of Reform congregations installed organs, built rather church-like synagogues, and experimented with holding services on Sundays. Not all of those "innovations" stuck (they often couldn't hold services on Sundays because the hired members of their choirs had to go to their own churches on Sundays) but some did (lots still have organs). Was the process of "Americanizing" (read Protestantizing) Jews and others of the new immigrants really different from wanting to force French Muslims to take off their headscarves?

UPDATE: Via Crooked Timber, I found this post by Scott Martens at A Fistfull of Euros. Of particular interest is this comment.
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
 
Good news from universities in today's Times. Drake University was vindicated in its brave stance to protect the privacy and free speech rights of its students when the US Attorney's office announced it would drop a subpeona for membership information for a student group. Also, Berkeley grad students are breathing a sigh of relief that they can be considered for Fulbrights even though FedEx screwed up and failed to get their applications in on time
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
 
Labor news, mostly via LabourStart. As has become common, a collection of links without much comment. (This was, however, much how I first envisioned proper blogging.)

The Boston Herald's Andrew Miga on AFSCME's abandonment of Howard Dean. (Meanwhile, the SEIU sticks with Dean, AFT goes for Kerry, and UNITE endorses Edwards.) Says the Detroit Free Press, all the candidates support mandatory card checks.

British Rail Union is expelled from the Labour Party after an affiliate allies with the Scottish Socialist Party. The BBC reports.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has a helpful rundown of all the things that have been happening in the California supermarket strike since the AFL's Ron Judd was called in to help. I've lost count of the number of emails I've gotten asking me to pledge to boycott Safeway--more than one a piece from the AFL, Jobs with Justice, DC Streetheat, and USAS--so at least we know that they're getting the word out to union activists. The fight at Safeway (and the othe California supermarkets) isn't just about supermarkets, and isn't just about California. It's about holding the line against the Walmartization of all jobs in the United States, particularly in retail and other service industries. If Safeway succeeds in dismantling health benefits, they won't be the last employer to do it.
Monday, February 09, 2004
 
And on other, better blogs. Harry Brighouse on Crooked Timber asks for help compiling a list of books written since 1970 that every educated person ought to have read. Comments are just beginning, but it should be an interesting party game. My suggestions, posted in Harry's comments, are Jim Scott's Seeing Like a Sate and either or both of Natalie Zemon Davis's The Return of Martin Guerre or Carlo Ginzburg's The Cheese and the Worms.

And (via Crooked Timber's Ted Barlow), Kevin Drum's damn fine post on George Bush's record in the National Guard. I have my doubts about Kerry, as I've made clear, but I do look forward to the debate in which Kerry's Vietnam record (fighting, being a hero, and then coming back and fighting against the war) is constrasted with Bush's (supporting the war, but then signing on to defend the skies of Texas from the Viet Cong--and not even showing up to do that--while poorer kids did the actual fighting). (Another reason I like Drum's post is that Bob Fertik is a member of Alumni for a Better Yale.)
Sunday, February 08, 2004
 
Are you looking to get me a present? How nice of you! Reading this article about the new Scandinavian group Trio Mediaeval in the Times reminded me of an amazing Hearts of Space program I heard around new year's of music by Aarvo Part, an Estonian composer. I'd love a copy of Part's Kanon Pokajanen.
 
More on Kerry and Edwards. This article, by the Atlantic's Jack Beatty, explains why I like Edwards and am afraid of what will happen with a Kerry nomination. (Via the Decembrist.)

Presidential politics turns on personality. Kerry—haggard, a knight of the woeful countenance—lacks vitality, the aura of promise. Edwards's campaign pitch is all about optimism—"We can do better, you and I. We can change America!"—and he exudes life. Message and messenger fit. By a gift of grace, Edwards's capacity for hope survived the death of his sixteen-year-old son. John Edwards's suffering, like his rearing as the son of a Carolina mill-worker, connects him to the trials of most Americans. He gets it. Kerry has read about it. Bush hasn't a clue. "You give me a shot at George W. Bush," Edwards declared at the end of his Dartmouth speech, "and I'll give you the presidency." I believe him. He's the real deal.

Saturday, February 07, 2004
 
Plus ça change... A new report says that there's crippling out-migration from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, primarily because of the terrible economy there. Cape Breton politicians say the province and the federal government need to help by providing job or other economic stimulii. Cape Bretoners bemoan the loss of culture that happens when all the young people leave. Sound familiar? Well, it probably doesn't for you, since you probably don't know much about Cape Breton history. But to those of us who have studied Cape Breton, it does, because for at least the past hundred years, Cape Bretoners have been scared about out-migration. Cape Breton leaders have called on the provincial and federal goverment to help with the local economy since at least 1909. While things certainly got worse in Cape Breton after the last coal mine closed in 2001, the economy has always been pretty desperate there. Novelist Ann-Marie MacDonald calls Cape Breton in the 1920s a practice run for the rest of North America for the 1930s. And all that time, Cape Bretoners have fretted about out-migration. They were right do so so. In the early part of the 20th century, there was a massive trend of Cape Bretoners to leave, either for the "Boston states" or for Toronto or further west. In short, there's nothing new about out-migration being a problem for Cape Breton. What's strange about this CBC article is that it's presented as a new thing; there's no historical context saying that people have been worried about exactly the same thing for a century.

And in other news from Nova Scotia, deputy education minister Dennis Cochrane wants Nova Scotia universities to join forces and combine some responsibilities in return for a new three-year funding agreement. This too is nothing new: in the 1920s, there was tremendous controversy over a plan to federate all the small colleges in the maritimes, but especially Nova Scotia, to save money. Of course then, the bishop of Antigonish scuttled the whole thing for religious and political reasons; now, the president of St. Francis Xavier (the Antigonish diocesan university) embraces the idea of combining resources.
Thursday, February 05, 2004
 
More on the election. I'm going to the Democrats Abroad caucus in Paris tomorrow (Friday) night, and a friend of mine in Oxford (who is going to the Monday caucus in London) asked me who I was voting for. What I ended up writing was very much like the blog entry I've been meaning to write since the New Hampshire primary but never got around to. So here it is, with apologies for typos (thought I've gone thought and added some relevant links):

I was really excited about Dean, as you know. I really thought that he was offering a new type of politics, one based on organizing, on telling the truth, on convincing people--through organization, not through ads and such--to vote on their economic interests rather than their perceived social interests--that is, to undo the damage of Nixon's Southern Strategy and especially Reagan. I saw the massive number of Dean Meet-up participants and saw legions of organizers. I saw the tremendous number of small contributors and thought that was evidence of a real movement. I saw Marshal Gantz training Dean workers in New Hamsphire and thought Dean got it. I saw the AFSCME and SEIU endorsements--especially 1199NY--as evidence that he was reaching beyond latte-drinking internet users and to the working class, and I thought Andy Stern's stamp of approval was proof that the strongest voice for union organizing agreed about Dean's ability to organize. I thought that in DC Dean would sweep away the competition, proving that he had a real 50-state strategy, proving that local affinity groups could win an election (it was campaigned by a local group independent of the election). But instead Dean didn't even get 50% of the vote, and he lost to Sharpton in all the black wards. I thought that in Iowa we'd see evidence of organizing, since caucuses favor that. We know what happened there. I thought that in New Hampshire the 2000 or whatever house meetings would pay off. They didn't, of course. Then he fired Joe Trippi, and he announced that he'd squandered $40m. How does someone spend 40 million dollars and still do so badly? I feel like a dope, I feel like this dream of a new politics has been smashed, and I feel since I thought that organizing was what was going to win the election, now we're going to lose it, since organizing apparently doesn't work. I supported Dean because I thought he was the most electable. Now that he's proven that he can't get elected, I won't support him anymore. It's not like he has particularly good politics.

So the choices seem to be Kerry or Edwards. I don't like Kerry for two reasons. First, I think he's an opportunist. No one is Massachusetts who is involved with politics likes him. He spent 20 years running as a peace candidate--he even ran for leiutenant governor on an anti-nukes platform. Then as soon as he plans on running for president, he votes for the Iraq war. Just a vote for the war is (barely) forgivable. A vote after such a strong peace record makes him look like he'll do anything he thinks will get him elected, which was the problem with Clinton and the problem with Gore. He's even more like Gore in that he's unable to act like a normal person. Andy Stern talks about the "hang test"--whether a candidate can hang out with SEIU members and be a normal guy. Kerry can't. If the experience at the 2001 commencement shows us anything, it's that George Bush can. Kerry's going to end up like Al Gore: rich career politician who can't understand real people. Everyone will forget that Bush is also rich and just see how affable he is.

Edwards, on the other hand, is good looking, he's from the south, and he has a perfect biography. By all accounts he's a brilliant speaker. But most of all, he sounds like Franklin Roosevelt! His 'Two Americas' schtick is brilliant. It's about time that someone ran on the platform of having a moral responsibility to the poor. Remember when we marched in Philadelphia saying that the poor were invisible in America, that they had disappeared from the rhetoric of the 2000 campaign? Well, with John Edwards, they won't be invisible. They'll be front and center. If we have a president for four years--never mind eight--whose focus is on the poor, imagine what the country could be like! It's exciting just thinking about it.

And, of course, it's just too creepy to have a presidential election between two Bonesmen.

So tomorrow night I'll stand for Edwards, and if Edwards isn't viable I'll move to Dean, and if neither of them are viable, I'll go to Sharpton as a protest vote. If none of the three are viable, I'll reluctantly go to Kerry. It's not like any of it matters anyway.
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
 
More on the Benny Morris interview. Some of you may remember a rather shocking interview Benny Morris gave Haaretz. Baruch Kimmerling has a long article in HNN about the interview. I haven't finished reading it, but it looks very interesting.
 
Why would a Republican stop a bill that creates a commission to study the treatment of Germans, Italians, and Jews in the US during World War II? Good question. Russ Feingold has twice (last congress and this congress) introduced legislation that would create two commissions, one to study the treatment of Americans who descended from Axis countries, and another to study the treatment of Jewish refugees. "Approximately 11,000 ethnic Germans, 3,200 ethnic Italians, and scores of Bulgarians, Hungarians, Romanians or other European Americans living in America were taken from their homes and placed in internment camps. Some even remained interned for up to 3 years after the war ended. Unknown numbers of German Americans, Italian Americans, and other Europeans Americans had their property confiscated or their travel restricted, or lived under curfews." Feingold stresses that this is about study only--no reparations are involved. But an anonymous Republican has placed a hold on the legislation, keeping secret both his name and his objection. Feingold tried to move the bill forward on January 28 but was blocked again; read about it in the Congressional Record. (Via HNN.)

Tuesday, February 03, 2004
 
A new definition for "googlebomb," or, Google slashdots. Paul Bourke at the Swinbourne University of Technology had some nice pictures of quaternion fractals on his webpage, but when Google put up a logo that linked to an image search for "julia+fractal". The second result of that search was Bourke's page. Then Bourke's server crashed. He asks: does Google have a responsibility to ask for permission before doing such a thing? I think not: it's not like Google decided to send all this traffic to Bourke's website--they offered the search and his happened to be second result. It's not like when a site is slashdotted--that is, when there's an intentional link to a site that can't handle the traffic.
Sunday, February 01, 2004
 
Some quick links to articles without much comment. (The first three are via HNN.)

The LA Times' Henry Weinstein on a settlement by New York Life to pay $20m to settle a lawsuit by descendants of victims of the Armenian genocide. Part of the settlement money will go to Armenian cultural institutions.

The Telegraph reports that Die Bild is questioning why the allies didn't bomb Auschwitz, or at least the railroad tracks leading to it, based on newly digitized photographs.

The AP's Larry Neumeister reports (here in the Miami Herald) that the process of giving reparations to victims of Nazi medical experiments has brought to light a greater number of such victims that previously thought.

Reuters (via MSNBC): Fox plans a reality show with dwarfs: a dwarf man picks among a group of dwarf and non-dwarf women. It's like something out of a Mad Magazine spoof.
 
Congratulations to the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which won LabourStart's coveted Labor Website of the Year award. I'd voted for South Africa's National Labour and Economic Development Institute, a COSATU-affiliated labor thinktank, both because it had a good website and because I have a softspot for COSATU. Alas, Naledi didn't even place.

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