Saturday, May 29, 2004
The future of the blog. For most of this blog's existance, now almost a year, I've been thinking about whether I should stop it. It's still inconclusive. But I'm about to start travels that will last about a month, during which time I'm extremely unlikely to post anything. After that, well, who knows. I think I'm probably going to give this up for good--at least this blog. I have an idea or two for a different, more focused blog; but again, I don't know if they'll go anywhere. Most likely blogging, as I said in my very first posts, was something to keep me intellectually occupied while not in school. Come August I'll start school again and hopefully won't need the blog.
So, right, we'll see. Maybe I'll see you in July, and maybe not.
What do you do with a drunken royal? Pretenders to thrones are a famously dissolute lot, but this dispatch in the Guardian is particularly amusing.
Leaving a dinner given by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia on the evening of their son's nuptials, the heir to the Italian throne, Prince Vittorio Emanuele, was said to have hit his cousin and rival, Duke Amedeo, on the steps of the Spanish royal residence.
One report said the Duke was twice punched in the mouth and would have fallen to the ground had he not been caught by deposed Queen Anne-Marie of Greece.
The daily, La Repubblica, said Duke Amedeo was then helped inside the Zarzuela palace, where an unidentified Arab potentate applied an ice pack to his bruised lips.
Frankly, I'm a bit surprised that real monarchs like Juan Carlos and family would hang out with the obviously lesser-status pretenders like Vittorio Emanuele, Amedeo, and Anne-Marie.
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Linkily delicious. I'm not always good about acknowledging links, but I will now thank Zach and Josh. Also, a while ago something called Blog Father copied Crooked Timber's blogroll into a post, which I guess counts.
David Dellinger dies. It is with great sadness that I note the death of David Dellinger, a noted peace and social justice activist. Dellinger is most famous for being the "adult" member of the Chicago 7, but he got his start as union activist at Yale in the 1930s. He was then a consciencious objector in World War II and continued his work in the anti-nuclear movement. His most recent fight was against the FTAA. When he was in jail for refusing to fight in World War II he also refused to eat in the whites only part of the prison cafeteria. AP (here via the Boston Herald) has an obituary. Ron Jacobs has an appreciation on the CounterPunch website. (More obits will be added here as I find them.)
I met Dellinger almost exactly three years ago, when he came to a Yale reunion (he was class of 1936). It was about the time I was (to quote a friend) "collecting old leftists." (Moe Foner, also now dead, was among my collection also. Surprisingly, the original member of my collection, my own grandfather, seems to be longest surviving. Note that the term is "old leftists" as in aged, not Old Left, although to some extent they go together.) As I just wrote to his wife, Dellinger was inspiring, approachable, and supportive of Alumni for a Better Yale, which I was then founding. Dellinger has inspired many generations of Yale activists, and I suspect his memory will inspire several more.
Dellinger was inspiring, and for the most part I agreed whole-hartedly with his politics. That said, one part of his story always sat ill with me. He described how he awoke politically during a trip to Nazi Germany after college. Not a bad place for a leftist to become radicalized. But I wondered how someone who became political after seeing the Nazis could make his first political stance a refusal to fight in World War II. That said, as someone who does not always reject violent struggle, it is inspiring to have known such a devoted pacifist.
The world is certainly a poorer place now that Dellinger is dead. It's not a phrase I usually use, but now it seems appropriate: may he rest in peace.
UPDATE: More obituaries in Thursday's papers. Washington Post; New York Times, which quotes Paul Berman: "Dellinger himself became the single most important leader of the national antiwar movement, at its height, from 1967 through the early 1970's. You could quarrel with some of his political judgments, but he was always sober, always resolute, always selfless and always brave." See also a nice little post at One Pot Meal.
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
Things to read. With more or less in the way of comments.
At Arab News, Khaled M. Batarfi writes a not-quite-convincing opinion piece calling for a one-state solution to Israel/Palestine, in which Israel would become a binational, secular, democratic state. Jewschool's Mobius, though whom I found it, posts his largely negative reactions.
Also through Jewschool, I find this post from Ampersand about how Cynthia McKinney got royally screwed by the "liberal media."
Meanwhile, the other Jewish blog I read, Protocols, has absolutely plummetted in quality since Steven I. Weiss left it. He's now posting at Fiddish, but it's unclear to me how he'll adapt to a "slightly-edited" blog. If you do go to Protocols, skip anything Luke Ford writes. But another guest blogger, Daniel Radosh, has been posting some interesting stuff. See his introductory post and his post on humanist Judaism. Of particular note are the comments posted to those posts. I haven't seen such rabid and offensive comments since, well, since anyone posted anything decent on Israel.
At Wonkette, I read Dana Milbank's pool reports during Yale Class Day on Sunday. Last time Bush was at a Yale graduation, Milbank got to write an article about how no one liked him. This time he was stuck across the street wondering where POTUS was. But one thing he was, at least part of the time, was with Yale president Richard Levin. Yeah, the same Yale president Richard Levin who is on the committee investigating the false causus belli that got us into Iraq. Does no one see the glaring problem with Bush hanging out with Levin?
At Crooked Timber, Belle Waring posts about how about the totally outrageous smearing of Brandon Mayfield.
UPDATE: At HNN is an article well worth reading by Irfan Khawaja called "How We--You and Me--Missed the Story of the Taliban in the Years Leading Up to 9-11". I actually think that Khawaja is slightly unfair. Speaking as someone who took part in the Yale rally he mentions, I know that lots of people knew about the Taliban. Indeed, I hated the Taliban before hating the Taliban was cool. I think the question is why it took so long for people who aren't feminists to come around to that conclusion.
Monday, May 24, 2004
Many thanks to Loring for lending her instructive discourse to waldheim last week. In retrospect, it perhaps was a bad week to do it, since I wasn't posting much or even spending much time in front of the computer, but nonetheless it was fun, and I especially enjoyed her post on sports doping and leading me to the book of prettiness.
Sunday, May 23, 2004
Third parties. Paul Martin finally called an election in Canada, which occasions an overview article from the CBC. Included is this:
Liberal support fell by seven points in Ontario, where 42 per cent of respondents said they would vote for the governing party. Much of that support in Ontario is going to the New Democrats, not the Conservatives, according to the poll, conducted for the Globe and Mail and CTV this week.
While the NDP isn't going to win the government, and in that way isn't a "viable" party, it's nice to imagine a country in which a vote for the left-wing third party isn't seen as "giving your vote" to the right-wing party.
Thursday, May 20, 2004
Pretty things. Courtesy of Bookslut, a link to a lovely little book entitled "Sela Ward is more attractive than Shannen Doherty".
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
About the only thing that has made me feel moderately patriotic in the last few months. Just when you think the Bush administration is actually going to succeed at strong-holding all three branches of government into going along with all its plans (re-election included), something like this happens and one can rest a bit easier, reminded that America is not an *entirely* totalitarian state. Phew.
US Doping Scandal. I just think all of this is wicked interesting. To me, the bottom line of this whole story is that American athletic culture is a mess. (Perhaps not a particularly profound or surprising pronouncement, but certainly proven true by this series of events.) Kelli White has been celebrated for winning a whole, whole lot of medals in the past, and we were all suuuuper excited for her to win 3-5 of those 100 we're supposed to win in Athens come August. And yet, because her coach encouraged her to take a drug *that the USADA can't even test for*, she has outed herself as a THG user and has been stripped of her medals since 2000.
Who's really to blame here? I'm not at all convinced that it's White herself. And it does seem that this time around (as opposed to, say, the Ben Johnson scandal in 1988--a scandal I don't really remember, given that I was 8, but which at the time seemed to center almost exclusively on Johnson himself), the sports world is doing a better job of holding both White's coaching staff and the lab that made the drug responsible. But I don't think it's a stretch to say that the scandal goes much, much deeper than the track star and the coach and the lab--all the way down into American culture's relationship to sports. We want athletes to be big and strong and do impressive things, and we implicitly encourage them to use all sorts of performance-enhancing substances to accomplish these things. But even though a whole, whole lot of substances are OK to use, some governing bodies somewhere have decided that others are not (mostly steroids, I think, but maybe other substances too). And so we celebrate the people who run real fast and hit real far and lift a whole lot as long as they 'just' use creatin, etc., but demonize them the second they use something that some organization has decided is not OK.
I'm certainly not arguing that using steroids should be OK--only that if Americans understood sports differently, steroids and creatin and EPO and _all this_ would be an entirely different issue.
If only the whole athletic world could exist in the same drug-less, passionate, down-to-earth way my Division III sports team did . . .
It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but... Through Jewschool, I learn of Miri Ben-Ari, an Israeli hip-hop violinist. I kid you not. And she's really good!
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Apple! Really!?! APPLE? Yes, folks. That is apparently what Gwyneth and Chris Martin named their baby girl.
I am a giant tool. After posting yesterday about Erin O'Connor not leaving her tenure track job, I got two fat reminders that I had NOOOOOO idea what I was talking about. EGJ pointed out to me yesterday that there is no reason to burn bridges when leaving any job, and that even if O'Connor had asked for a leave, that would be a highly reasonable request given the career gamble she's taking. And then this morning, I came to work to find an email from Prof. O'Connor herself in my inbox! It turns out that the comment I cited was not only unfair, but mostly untrue. It was totally, totally not OK for me to jump to conclusions about Prof. O'Connor's decisions based only on the comments of some random troll (as I now understand these commenters to be called). In order to avoid any type of further stress for anyone involved, I'm going to delete my old post right now. Sorry, Erin! Rest assured that the neophyte blogger has learned an important lesson.
Sea shanties. For a project I'm doing for my roommate that is somehow related to teaching English phonetics to French people, I had to make a list of sea shanties I'm able to sing. Where better to look than the website of ARRR!!! the "acapirate" group from Brown? And indeed, they have a very useful compendium of sea shanty lyrics. I'm excited.
Fat traitors. Apropos Savage Love this week, I just found this blog called Fat Traitors, with the tag line "Former activists reject fat acceptance and accept fat rejection." It's unlikely to become a regular read, but some of the posts are quite interesting. Check out, for instance, the post on Savage Love column in question (although I don't think I buy the argument) and a report back from Fat Pride Day.
To my California readers. In his latest budget proposal, Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing to eliminate funding completely for the Institutes for Labor and Employment at Berkeley and UCLA. There can be no question that his plans are politically motivated. As United Students Against Sweatshops writes: "It is outrageous that labor research is being singled out for elimination by the governor, while research for business and other concerns are left intact. The ILE has generated research for living wage policies, health care access, paid family leave, immigration policy, global outsourcing, and hundreds of other issues that affect working families. Its elimination is not only a direct attack on labor, but also a threat to academic freedom." The fact is, labor centers are to labor what MBA programs are to business--and you don't see Schwarzenegger trying to terminate MBA programs at UC schools. This isn't only a labor issue; it's an issue of academic freedom. The research that the ILE does is considered politically suspect to Schwarzenegger and his Republicans, so the institute's budget is being eliminated.
What's needed in California now is for the Democrats in the state legislature to stand up against the governor. And what's needed for that is for them to hear from Californians. Take a moment to write a letter.
Rethinking gay marriage. Back when the Goodrich decision first ordering gay marriage licenses in Massachusetts was handed down, I was pessimistic. I wrote that I was afraid that for a relatively small gain of legalizing gay marriage in one state, the people who spearheaded the decision were creating a wedge issue that would drive social conservatives into the arms of the Republicans, when their economic interests suggested that they should be Democrats. Given the importance of this election, I thought that was a mistake to do in an election year.
But you know, it's hard to keep that attitude in the face of articles like this, in today's Times, or the ones I linked to yesterday from the Globe. It's difficult to see what happened yesterday in Massachusetts as anything but an unmitigated vistory for civil rights, and it's hard to argue that such a victory for civil rights should be postponed for election strategy. It also happens (by coincidence, I presume) that the first gay marriages were on the fiftieth anniversary of Brown v. Board, which points out the problems and the successes of court-ordered civil rights. On one hand, because school desegregation was mandated by federal courts, and not by the political branches, it was never backed by a general change in attitudes and thus has remained unpopular and unsuccessful to this day. On the other hand, Brown I think has to be seen as a galvanizing moment for the then nascent civil rights movement. Given that my generation is increasingly supportive of gay rights, perhaps we'll look back at the one-two punch of Lawrence and Goodrich as the start of a massive, popular, gay rights movement.
In August, I wrote that the issue of gay marriage might be solvable by divorcing (so to say) the idea of religious marriage and civil marriage. That way, I argued, we would take away some of social baggage that comes with the debate over the word "marriage." Let marriage be a solely religious affair, and let religions do what they want. If they want to only have straight marriages, fine; if they want to allow plural marriages, that's fine too. Civil unions would be what would be needed for all the important civil benefits of marriage--immigration, taxes, children, whatnot. (See also this long post, where I defend the idea.) Living in France has made me change my mind somewhat. In France, the idea I proposed in August is sort of what already exists. Here, every couple gets married at the Marie (city hall) and then, if they chose, gets a religious marriage. Here's the thing, though: although there's a national civil union-type-deal (called Pacs) that gives gay couples many of the rights of marriage, gay marriage itself is still a major issue (one which the Socialists last week decided to support). Apparently, the divorce isn't the panecea I saw it as.
UPDATE: Via Josh, I see an op-ed in the Times by Michael Klarman. He (who is presumably much more qualified to comment than I) argues basically the opposite as me. First, that Brown wasn't that important in the civil rights movement, because there had been a gradual change in attitudes that set the stage for the decision (cf. Lawrence). But troublingly:
Perhaps most important, the decision crystallized Southern whites' resistance to racial change, radicalized Southern politics, and increased the likelihood that protest, once it erupted, would incite a violent response. It was the beating of peaceful black demonstrators by Southern white law enforcement officers — many of whom were carried into office by the wave of racial fanaticism that swept Southern politics after Brown — that repulsed national opinion and led to the passage of landmark civil rights legislation.
I'm not sure what this does to my analysis above.
John Kerry's penis. (That ought to increase google hits for a while.) The post to which Loring linked seemed to suggest that Wonkette somehow deserved credit for the "Kerry has a big schlong" meme. As long time readers of this blog will know, however, the credit goes to GoodForTheJews.com.
Monday, May 17, 2004
MoveOn's "Go Big" campaign. Wonkette really says all there is to say about this one. The only thing I want to add is that, as one who received said "Go Big" message, I can safely say that not only was its phallic wording highly unnecessary, the message itself was rather poorly written. I mean, I signed the petition and all (Kerry certainly needs some encouragement to go left instead of middle, and I was far too lazy to write my own damned letter), but really! Can we get some better writers on staff over there at MoveOn?
I'm really glad Jacob posted on gay marriage. In the Globe link he mentions at the bottom of his post, there's a link to an interview with the Goodridges, the couple from the Massachusetts lawsuit that gloriously began all this. The best part of the interview, which you can play using Flash, is when the interviewer asks the Goodridges' daughter whether her moms should be allowed to be married, and she says, "Of course! Not letting them get married is like saying that only people with yellow hair and blue eyes can go to the bathrooom!"
Gay marriage in Massachusetts. Says a gay marriage opponent: "If we just sit around with our hands in our pockets and don't say something, I don't think the world will think we think this is important. For people not to make a statement would almost be a crime." Couldn't have said it better myself. Monday night at midnight, Cambridge started giving out marriage licenses to gay couples, and the Boston Globe covers the ensuing party, with 10,000 people out on Mass Ave in front of City Hall:
What started in the afternoon as a sedate lawn party in front of City Hall, with running children, glow sticks, and panting dogs, had by midnight become a celebration so huge that it was hard to walk across the thin lawn without getting a face full of bubbles, knocking into someone with a sign reading “Mazel Tov,” or colliding with women singing “Going to the Chapel” accompanied by a brass band.
The cheer that went up at about 10 minutes past midnight, when it became clear that the ﬁrst gay couple had ﬁled their application for a marriage license, was so long and so loud that it nearly drowned out the ﬁnal strains of Mendelssohn’s wedding march.
By 12:30 a.m. those cheers were erupting every minute or two, as each couple emerged from the building, marching down an impromptu aisle cleared by the crowd, one step closer to full-ﬂedged marriage.
Indeed, the Globe has pretty good coverage throughout, it being a local story of national significance.
Light (Jacob) posting ahead. Just a warning (to Loring, too): I've vistors for the next several days, so my posting will likely be light.
New blogger in town--and no, not the one currently gracing this page. The Ghost of Tom Joad has recently appeared, promising regular commentary on "usually American policy, both foreign and domestic, history, books, music, film, and anything else that I feel I am educated enough to comment on." And I particularly like it, because this blog is listed as an "(Almost) Daily Blog Read." Welcome, Tyler.
Sunday, May 16, 2004
Guest blogger Loring Ann Pfeiffer here, writing from Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, with an empty, crumb-y lunch plate in front of me and an SAT PREP class to teach later this afternoon.
By way of introduction, I'll say the following: until about 3 months ago I haaaaaated blogs. I refused to read them (except if google stalking revealed that someone I had a crush on kept one), and assumed that those of my acquaintances who kept them were true egomaniacs, convinced that their own thoughts were sooooo terribly interesting that the whole, wide world needed to be made aware of them.
But this all changed not too long ago. Being in Hong Kong has left me feeling pretty distant from the kind of intellectual camaraderie I enjoyed in college and during the year following. In this space, blogs have opened up a way for me to engage in some of the kinds of discussion I've been missing since leaving the US last September. Until now, my degree of engagement with these conversations has primarily been limited to eavesdropping (or lurking, I suppose), but with Jacob's invite, I have decided to throw myself into the blogosphere in a more direct way.
The types of blogs I like tend to be of two varieties: these and these (both of these examples come from folks affiliated with my undergraduate institution). The well-written, personal-life-y kind of the first variety satisfies my lust for gossip from people I used to know (however vaguely) and reminds me that it's good to view the world through a more romantic, sense-driven lens than I sometimes remember to utilize on my own; I like the second type because it points me to articles I'd like to read and has a spin on current events I appreciate. I enjoy both Nori's and Prof. Burke's writing styles a whole, whole lot, and find them both highly blog-appropriate, if pretty different, on the whole.
I spend a good bit of time thinking about grad school in the humanities these days, much like a lot of other bloggers and academic publications out there. Despite the e-pleadings of the aforementioned Prof. Burke and Erin O'Connor (via another blog I frequently read), grad school seems like something I'm going to try to do. Victorian Literature and Culture is just too interesting and relevant (although I recognize that some may contest this notion) for me not to at least try to devote my life to studying it.
I have recently noticed that frequently when I read stuff, I pick out the one (usually irrelevant) fact about Victorian England in whatever I'm reading, and remember that fact over whatever the story was actually about. Case in point, an article in the May 17th issue of the New Yorker about a silver thief. The article in itself was a real page-turner (who doesn't like a good heist story, after all?), but the one sentence I found most interesting was near the beginning of the article, describing this weird Victorian-era silver set that the dude stole. Apparently each piece of silver had a different zodiac sign on it--turns out Astrology was a big deal for the Victorians. I don't currently know why Astrology was such a big deal or what type of a role it played in Victorian era goings-on, but I'd like to know. In fact, I think I'd be pretty happy spending quite a bit of time and energy examining various aspects of the Victorian psyche--from astrological forks to George Eliot.
Many thanks to Jacob for inviting me to play around with this. More to come later in the week.
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Guest blogger. I'm really excited to announce a new thing on waldheim: guest blogging. My first guest blogger is one of my favorite people in the whole world: Loring Pfeiffer. You know that she'll be a good blogger because according to Webster's Revised Unabridge Dictionary, her very name means "instructive discourse." When she starts on Monday (for a run of a week), Loring will introduce herself, but just to give you a preview, I'll tell you that she's an American currently living in Hong Kong, and that she's not currently a blogger, although I believe she reads more blogs than I do.
Why a guest blogger? Well, it's an experiment (one that may or may not be repeated). I'm curious how a guest blogger works on a personal blog (as opposed to guest bloggers on groups sites). And I'm doing it vaguely as a test for an idea I have for future blogging, which I won't get into now. I encourage my regular readers to email me with comments about what they think of the idea of guest blogging on a site like this.
Blog question. I hope that tonight or tomorrow I'll have some exciting news to announce about waldheim, but in the meantime, I want to ask you, my valued readers, a question. What do you think of the layout of this blog? I don't usually see it as you do--I see it from my editing screen on Blogger--and it looks different. When recently I was reading it on the actual page you all read from, I was struck by how wide the columns were. Does this bother you, or should I leave well enough alone?
Also, while I'm doing an administrative post, I should note that I have now listed my Atom feed on the sidebar. If you don't know what this means, don't worry about it. If you want to read waldheim on a newsreader or whatnot, now it's easy.
This week's Savage Love is rather boring in content. But the online version at The Stranger (where it originates and where the online archives live) is notable for its illustration, featuring Bibendum--perhaps more known to Americans as the Michelin Man--in ill-fitting, low-rise jeans. While Bibendum advertises tires, he is perhaps better known as being the man who goes to all those restaurants and gives them stars.
New Caledonia and French imperialism. One of these days (years), I'm going to have to devote some serious time to comparative colonial history, especially non-British settlement colonies. Randy McDonald writes about New Caledonia, a French South Pacific settlement colony in light of its recent election (via the Head Heeb).
Good news from India. The Hindu fundamentalist BJP lost the national elections today. Vajpayee has resigned (but will stay on as a caretaker), and Sonia Gandhi, of Congress, is likely to take his place. It has consistantly surprised me how little American media remember to point out that the Indian government has been led by a (Hindu) fundamentalist and nationalist party, one that has made the world less safe.
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
No surprise here. From Sunday's Observer (via the Young Fogey): Oral sex lessons to cut rates of teenage pregnancy. Ok, it's not lessons on how to give (or receive) oral sex--although I believe those too would decrease teenage pregnancy. Rather, in a case of actual science confirming what should be blindingly obvious: "Encouraging schoolchildren to experiment with oral sex could prove the most effective way of curbing teenage pregnancy rates, a government study has found. Pupils under 16 who were taught to consider other forms of 'intimacy' such as oral sex were significantly less likely to engage in full intercourse, it was revealed."
Oklahoma watch. Those bastards at the New York Times put Oklahoma in the "not in play" section. Ok, ok, perhaps they (and both campaigns, and pretty much everyone else) know a little more than I do, but this article does completely fail to mention other state-wide races that are being run concurrently with the presidential election and could very well play a role in it.
Battle of Algiers and Abu Ghraib. Via Brett Marston, I see a post in which Mark A.R. Kleiman writes:
When I read that the Pentagon had arranged for screenings of The Battle of Algiers, I assumed that the intention was to warn our commanders about the moral and operational dangers of fighting a counter-insurgency campaign.
Mickey Kaus suggests that the film can be read another way: as endorsing the view that torture is a necessity in counterinsurgency operations.
No doubt that wasn't the intention of the filmmaker. Perhaps it wasn't the intention of whoever arranged the screenings. But it might have been the lesson taken home by some of the viewers.
Actually, I think that's a perfectly acceptable reading, and it may very well be what Gillo Pontecorvo meant. To me, the strongest message of the movie is that terrorism sucks, but sometime's it's all we've got and it's got to be used. The scenes in which the Arab women go to plant three bombs in French civilian hangouts are the post powerful in the film, I think, exactly because they show, in haunting detail, the carefree play of children the bombs are about to interrupt. You can't look at the milk bar and the children who are killed there without thinking that what the woman bomb-planter does is horrible. But at the same time, our sympathies are firmly planted with that woman. It's not much of a stretch to make the same argument about the French in the movie. Torture is a nasty, ugly thing, as the reporters and the off-screen Paris bureaucrats and intellectuals point out. Just as we're moved by the murdered children, we're moved by the broken man whom we see at the start (and near the end) of the film. But let's face it: the torture worked. Not forever (obviously, given the very last scene of the film) but Col. Mathieu is able to destroy the insurgency by means of information gathered by torture where other means (like planting a bomb in the Casbah) fail.
Emmitt Till. Given my running interest in the use of courts to do history, I feel the need to make some comment about the reopening of the Emmitt Till case. I think that memory is important, largely--although by no means entirely--because it tells us something about today. For instance, understanding how big business was intertwined with the Nazi death machinery (as exposed by the Holocaust slave labor and bank cases) helps us consider our relationship with big business today. In a backwards way, this article by Andrew Jacobs in the Times today about how Money, Miss., doesn't much want the trial, I think proves the point. The argument seems to be that having a new trial will be divisive and stir up bad memories. But the very fact that it will be divisive suggest that the claim that Mississippi Delta racism is just "bad memories" is false. Says a black state senator: "As long as you go with the status quo, things are all right. But when we push for change, the polarization comes again." Perhaps what is needed is some more polarization
As an aside, that same article makes the claim that the criminal investigation (and presumably the trial) will finally "uncover" "the full truth of what happened that steamy August night in 1955." The idea of the court as historical truth-finder is dubious at best; I tend to think they work better as historical story-tellers, cementing or changing the narratives of what people think about history, not discovering new facts. But beside that, most of the work of historical (as opposed to legal) fact-finding seems to have been done by the documentarians whose work prompted the reopened inquiry in the first place.
On other weblogs. The last several posts at Crooked Timber have been at top form. See Ted on Rumsfeld and why you can be against both Saddam Hussein and George Bush (with the help of Matt Welch); John Quiggan on the "ticking bomb question"; and Daniel on a novel question about the Abu Ghraib pictures.
Responding to the ticking-time-bomb post, Scott Martens explains why--contrary to the platitudes usually spouted by antiwar people (including myself)--he's is both against the war and against the troops.
I found through the quicklinks of A Fistful of Euros (which found it through the Young Fogey, which I often forget to read, to my own detriment; he found it through Nicholas Whyte) a clever little page that grades national flags. It's funny and you should read it. My favorite is the Falkland Islands.
At Jewschool is an early link to Mobius' Jewsweek interview with Jilian Redford. Should be good for getting your blood boiling once again, if it's gone down to simmering. The most outrageous new information is that Redford's (JCC-appointed) supervisor told her: "Because you're a convert, maybe you don't understand the Jewish tie with Israel. You just don't understand why it's so important to the Jewish people." 'Scuse me? Even putting aside the extreme offensiveness of the anti-convert sentiment here, this nonsense about an inborn (literally) "Jewish tie with Israel" is exactly the problem with Hillel and the rest of mainstream organized community. (Also on Jewschool is this story--personal for Mobius--about how even tech writers manage to screw up tech stories.)
Via Patrick, I see this brief notice in the Times that Brazil is expelling the reporter who wrote Sunday's article about fears that Lula is an alcoholic. Both Patrick and Bill Keller express fear that this signals, shall we say, a lack of commitment to press freedom. I find that very sad, given my deep respect for Lula. This seems to rank roughly with Germany's Schroeder suing a newspaper for saying he dyed his hair.
Josh Eidelson points me to a USA Today article that says that members of the scientific advisory board that was roundly ignored in the political decision to refuse the morning after pill over-the-counter status are thinking about resigning.
Monday, May 10, 2004
Arts and government (and war). I spent the afternoon at the Louvre, where there's an excellent exhibit called Paris 1400: Les arts sous Charles IV. In addition to featuring some truly remarkable and beautiful illustrated manuscripts, the exhibit makes a pretty compelling argument about the importance of governmental arts patronage. Briefly all those beautiful illuminated manuscripts--and the "flaming gothic" style of architecture and a blossoming of figurative sculpture and technical advances in enamel-work (all of which were also pretty cool, but aren't as much my thing as illuminated manuscripts)--came because the new king and his princes were busy spending lots of money on the arts. They brought in artists from other countries--Italy, Flanders, Bohemia, even--and encouraged them to create and learn from each other. (I gather that's why the new gothic architecture they built is called "international gothic.) And it isn't all religious art--although there are a lot of Virgins and Babies and Descents from Crosses. There's secular art, too--illuminated manuscripts of early novels. It's all quite amazing.
But it didn't happen because the market valued art. It happened because the princely state valued art. It's a reminder that art doesn't thrive unless it's subsidized by the state; that is, markets don't create flourishing arts.
The final room of the exhibit is also a sobering lesson. This golden age of art came to and end, basically, when the French were defeated at the Battle of Agincourt, the Dauphin died, and the country sank into civil war. Some artists continued in Paris, but many when elsewhere. It's a lot easier for the state to focus on the arts when there isn't a war on its doorstep.
The triumph of social democracy? John Quiggan sees evidence for it, in Australia. Can't speak of it myself. After all, in the country I come from, in the notoriously liberal state of Massachusetts, 45% of the people voted to abolish the state income tax entirely a year and a half ago.
UPDATE: Zach responds with other skepticism: "high taxes do not social democracy make."
What's important at Abu Ghraib. From today's New York Times: "But Senator McCain indicated that focusing on the images missed larger, more important questions, including whether the military police unit at Abu Ghraib, a notorious prison during the Hussein era, was acting on the specific orders of military intelligence to soften up detainees in advance of interrogation." He's right, you know. The photographs make us look (and feel) bad, and they offer proof the the mistreatment, but they're basically just incidental. The issue isn't the photographs, it's the torture.
And the basic issue with the torture is this: why did it happen? Did it happen because--as the administration says--because there were just a "few bad apples?" Were these badly trained sadists given power? (Or people turned into sadists by being put into a position of power?) Or, as I suspect, is this the policy of the United States Army? Were these in fact well trained soldiers who followed orders as given? In other words, is the result of rogue soldiers, or was this official terrorism?
That's what matters. Not the pictures. Not the order in which new pictures of videos are released. Not when George Bush or Donald Rumsfeld or Tony Blair saw the pictures. What matters is the truth about why it happened.
UPDATE: Roger Ailes shows how everything the administration is saying about Abu Ghraib is a lie. (Via Patrick Neilsen Hayden.)
Sunday, May 09, 2004
The increasingly common "Things To Read" post. Via the Head Heeb, Brian Mangwende looks at internal divisions within the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe.
The Times Magazine has three interesting articles. One is about Mary Bonauto and the legal strategy for gay marriage. My favorite vice-presidential candidate, Bill Richardson, has a flattering profile that makes me worry about his politics but revel in his political skill. And Ira Glass (of my favorite radio show) describes why we should all care about Howard Stern. (Ira--yes, I feel like I'm on a first name basis with him--discusses two episodes of TAL. One, which he calls "recent" is actually from last August, although it was rebroadcast last week, and can be found here; the other is actually recent and is here.)
In the Times proper: A long article by Stephanie Strom about Theresa Heinz's vast philanthropic empire; a dispatch about German universities; and the beautifully headlined "Europeans Like Bush Even Less Than Before".
Also, be sure to read the article in Saturday's Times about mistreatment of American inmates in American prisons.
Citizenship for Israeli guestworkers. The Head Heeb has a post reporting on a proposal to give Israeli citizenship to the children of foreign (non-Jewish) guestworkers, and even the workers themselves. The proposal is to give children over age nine who have grown up in Israel citizenship, and their parents permanent residence, which could then lead to citizenship. The Head Heeb writes: "Where Jews are the majority, assimilation runs toward Judaism rather than away. The immigrants will become 'Ashkenazim' (as Israelized Druze sardonically refer to themselves), and twenty years from now, there might be thousands of Hebrew-speaking, shakshuka-eating Ghanaian-Israelis who serve in the IDF and party hard on Yom ha'Atzmaut. If these new citizens are extended all the rights and obligations of Israeli nationality - including compulsory military service - then the character of the state may even be reinforced."
This reminds me a lot of the post-1867 policy of Magyarization of Hungarian Jews. In 1867, the Hapsburg Empire was divided into the dual monarchy--that is, the Austro-Hungarian Empire--in which the Hapsburgs were emperors of Austria and the kings of Hungary. While this was a way of placating the Hungarians, who got their own country-within-an-empire, it also served as a way of giving all of Austria's ethnic problems to the Hungarians. The increasingly restless Slavic minorities in the empire were given to Hungary to deal with (with the exception of the Czechs and, I think, the Slovenians). The Hungarians thus found themselves the rulers of a large "Hungarian Empire" in which they were at best a bare majority. Constantly threatened by Slavs to the north and south, Hungarians looked for ways to increase their demographic advantange. One of the ways they tried was "Magyarizing" Jews. Jews--who like Romani were neither Slavs nor Magyar (Hungarian)--were encouraged to join the Magyar elite and assimilate into Magyar culture, thus augmenting the number of Hungarians as compared to Slavs.
The parallels to the Israeli situation here are fairly obvious. Israeli Jews are clinging precariously to a majority within the land that Israel now controls (that is, Israel and the Occupied Territories). This new population of non-Arab, non-Jewish guest workers, of they can be convinced to become closer to Israeli Jews than Arabs, augment the Jewish population in Israel, just as Jews once augmented the Magyar population in Hungary.
UPDATE: The Head Heeb has updated his post to refer to my comments. (Thanks!) I'm pretty convinced by his counterargument (to the extent that I intended my post to be an argument about Poraz' intent at all). Without knowing much about internal Israeli politics, I wonder though whether if this proposal is successful it will be because of an alliance between people like Poraz (who favor withdrawl from the Territories) and people on the right who recognize the increasing demographic problem in Israel.
Thursday, May 06, 2004
Dialects. Among the people at my language school with whom I have made friends are two young women, a German from some small city between Cologne and Hamburg, and a Swiss girl from outside Zurich. They have several times commented about how different Swiss German is from High German--the Germans at my school claim not to be able to understand the Swiss when the Swiss talk among themselves. Apparently, when Swiss German television shows are played on German television, they're subtitled.
What's interesting, though, is the psychology of these different dialects. The Swiss Germans I know all speak Swiss German to each other when they're the only ones there. It's what they speak in their families and to their friends. But in school, they have to speak High German. Politicians speak High German (at least in formal occasions--I don't know what they do on the campaign trail). Reporters on TV speak High German. Standard written German is High German, even in Switzerland. Clearly, Swiss German is seen as lower, less appropriate, and less acceptable. How does this play out at school? My Swiss German friend (who calls the two dialects "Swiss German" and "real German") prefers to speak English to German friends because she's made so nervous by trying to speak "correctly." Another Swiss German at my school says that she's made exhausted when she has to spend all day speaking "real German." I'm fascinated by the fact that an entire country is made to feel bad about their dialect.
From the Department of Just Not Getting It. Because outrage is good for the soul, read this article by Nathaniel Popper in this week's Forward. Jilian Redford, the student leader of Hillel at the University of Richmond sent an email had the audacity to write to the Israeli Embassy telling them that the role of Hillel was not to distribute Israeli propaganda or organize pro-Israel actions, but rather to create a religious community. As a result, she was removed from her post--not by the students with whom she worked, but by the Richmond JCC, which is otherwise unaffiliated with the university. It's hard to know which is more outrageous: that the Israeli Embassy send the girl's email to the Richmond JCC; that the girl was removed from her post at all; that the adults at the JCC butted into a student organization's leadership; or that the JCC, when challenged, says that it didn't have to do with the email, but rather that Redford called (in private conversation)a professor who called Arabs "inherently evil" (in private conversation) "racist."
At Jewschool, Mobius points to a Jewish Week article and urges the outraged to email Lisa Looney, the JCC "staff advisor" for the Hillel, and the buffoon responsible for this debacle. Her email address is email@example.com.
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
American colonialism. In an excellent essay in the Washington Post about Abu Ghraib, Philip Kennicott quotes Aime Cesaire: "First we must study how colonization works to decivilize the colonizer, to brutalize him in the true sense of the word, to degrade him, to awaken him to buried instincts, to covetousness, violence, race hatred, and moral relativism." Read Kennicott's essay, in which he argues that because the United States is a democracy, and the war in Iraq and its attendant attrocities are carried out in our names, we are collectively responsibe for those crimes: "Great national crimes begin with the acts of misguided individuals; and no matter how many people are held directly accountable for these crimes, we are, collectively, responsible for what these individuals have done. We live in a democracy. Every errant smart bomb, every dead civilian, every sodomized prisoner, is ours." (Via Mamamusings, via Jill's Kinja digest.)
Controversies in history. This week's HNN has two interesting articles. One is a continuation of the public disapproval of Alan Brinkley, the usually pro-union historian who as Columbia provost is currently anti-union. In it, Rick Perlstein sympathizes with his friend Brinkley but also excoriates him. He writes: "I’ve enjoyed your company so much in the few times we’ve met that it pains me to say that I would have a hard time enjoying your company now. But you are now on the other side from me in a struggle over what kind of society America should become." (I should also take this opportunity to thank Josh for the link to my previous post on the matter.)
The second tells a story with which I have been familiar for about a year, although this is, to my knowledge, the first it has been actually published. Joseph A. McCartin describes why the entire editorial board of Labor History resigned to start a new journal called Labor--and why it matters to academic journal publishing everywhere. I for one am really looking forward to reading the first issue.
And as an aside, let me say how much I like it when HNN writes about the profession, rather than politics. Here's to more of that.
More things to read. Via Josh, an AP article (here off the LA Times website): "The head of a U.S.-funded Iraqi newspaper quit and said Monday that he was taking almost his entire staff with him because of American interference in the publication."
At jill/txt, news that the guy who sold his ex-wife's wedding dress [on eBay] was really just looking for a venue for storytelling. While I'm at it, I figure I'll plug jill/txt, which is a just beautifully designed blog (and it's beautiful not only because Jill has a really attractive new picture of herself up).
In yesterday's Guardian, a positive article about Starbucks fair trade coffee.
Via HNN, I see a New York Observer article reporting that the Times is killing the Arts and Ideas section. Does it make me uncool in intellectual circles to say I'm sad? After the death of Lingua Franca, it was really the only place one could go for good, written-for-the-public coverage of intellectual debates. Sometimes bad? Sure. Did Edward Rothstein piss me off? Abso-fucking-lutely. But still, every Saturday I could go and read an interesting article about some intellectual debate. Here's hoping they really do incorporate "ideas" coverage into the daily paper.
More later, maybe.
ALMOST IMMEDIATE UPDATE: (Or, actually adding something of value to my links.) Jill's response to the wedding dress guy story--about what media people use to get their stories across--reminded me of this This American Life episode. Although, to be honest, I'm not sure why.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: I should have mentioned, while talking about eBay auctions, about the Erdos number auction, which is over, with a (to me) unexpected finale. Read it here.
Tuesday, May 04, 2004
Things to read. In no particular order. And one thing not to read.
Michael Bérubé on his blog (where he also posted the Internationale on Saturday) points to an essay by him published Sunday in the Times Magazine about grade inflation. (Speaking of the Internationale, yes, it was actually blared through speakers at the Paris May Day march. Yes, I sang along. In English.)
In the Times of various days: Cello prodigy Matt Haimovitz brings modern music to the masses. (Via SS.) Even military lawyers think military tribunals for accused terrorists are unfair. Bush administration rules mean that housing subsidy recipients around the country may be evicted. News flash: even the rich, corporate, and powerful aren't allowed to lie, destroy evidence, and otherwise obstruct justice. And American science is falling behind that of other countries. One reason is that draconian immigration rules make it hard for foreign scientists to study, teach, or come to conferences here. (Sign a visa reform petition here.) [UPDATE: See also YaleInsider on science and immigration.]
And what not to read? I for one am not reading the article in the Village Voice written by my classmate about why not to go to graduate school. I'm not even linking to it.
Academe, teaching, morality. LAP emails to let me know of a post by Erin O'Connor about her decision to leave higher education and instead become a private school teacher. (Actually, she says independent school teacher, which, she says, leaves open the possibility that she'll end up in a charter school. But most independent schools are private schools, and in my remarks I'll treat them as synonymous.) She puts it as a matter of ethics: there are too many PhDs being created and too few jobs into which to put them. One solution is to open up other legitimate fields into which PhDs can go, rather than just higher education. One of these is independent school teaching. Those people who feel like they can teach high school (or younger?) students have the obligation, O'Connor seems to imply, to at least consider moving out in order to make room for those who can't teach school.
Seems a bit strange to me. First, I often have ethical concerns about my decision to enter academia, but they don't have to do with the state of academia. Yeah, I worry about the job market and adjunct-hood, and whatnot. But I don't worry that entering that system is immoral or unethical because I'm going to further worsen the market by my presence; no, I worry that I'm being foolhardy by thinking that I can get a job when other qualified people can't. My ethical quandry is about whether I could do something more useful in society than researching and teaching about the British Empire. In my worries, this usually takes the form of thinking I should do "movement work," but others who have different political inclinations could easily think of other things that are more "of use" than being a professor. Among those things that could easily be seen as more useful is primary and secondary school teaching.
Which gets to my second comment about the Critical Mass posting: why claim that working at an private school is any moral high road? (And I say all this as a graduate of a private school--indeed, including undergraduate and the grad school I will soon enter, someone who has never experienced public education first hand.) Suggesting that private high schools are a good place for humanities PhDs to work (and implying by omission that public schools are not) just perpetuates the inequalities of education in the United States. Indeed, the very existance of private schools, by skimming the cream off the top of the educational milk, weakens schooling for those unable to afford private school. Much better is to encourage teachers into public schools--that's the moral choice, if one is to be made. That's not to say that it's immoral to teach at a private school, only that it's not obviously the specicially moral choice. If that's what makes you happy, if that's where you feel like you can do the best good while keeping yourself sane, by all means do it.
(Another concern is raised by O'Connor reader Loring in the comments--right now, it's the bottom comment--who suggests that school-teaching--like law, medicine, or the like--is a profession that requires professional credentials, and thus teaching degrees shouldn't be scoffed at. In other words, humanies PhDs are trained (maybe) to be professors, and that's a different training than to be a high school teacher.)