by Henry Farrell on October 30, 2003

A quick addendum to my recent “post”: on bad academic writing; it turns out that “Steven Berlin Johnson”: was a student of Said. Which is quite an interesting intellectual trajectory. Johnson recalls that Said

bq. was largely responsible — some might say to blame — for importing French cultural theory into the American intellectual scene, particularly Foucault, who obviously had a huge influence on Orientalism. But he always resisted the inane wordplay and self-absorption that characterized so much of American theory in the eighties and early nineties. He absolutely despised “radical theorists” like Judith Butler, for instance. I remember him bristling anytime someone used the word “discourse” in one of our seminars — and I remember thinking at the time that I had first starting using the word myself after reading Orientalism during my freshman year. … on his best days, he was the most charismatic man I’ve ever met in my life — handsome, stylish, impossibly articulate, and surprisingly willing to take a joke at his own expense. (I used to tease him about his being indirectly responsible for unleashing Butler on the world).

The Thernstroms

by Jon Mandle on October 30, 2003

Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom have a new book called No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning. I haven’t read it, but their article in the Boston Globe summarizes their arguments. Here’s their concern:

On the first try, 82 percent of white 10th-graders passed [the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System – MCAS], and the figure for Asians was almost as high (77 percent). But the success rate for Hispanics was 42 percent and for blacks 47 percent. Across the nation, the glaring racial gap is between whites and Asians on the one hand, and blacks and Hispanics on the other.

This gap is an American tragedy and a national emergency for which there are no good excuses. It is the main source of ongoing racial inequality, and racial inequality is America’s great unfinished business, the wound that remains unhealed. Our failure to provide first-class education for black and Hispanic students is both an educational catastrophe and the central civil rights issue of our time.

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Mark Kleiman points out that Luskin’s threatened suit against Atrios is a blatant attempt at harrassing a critic by threatening to reveal his identity. However, we ought to be equally angry at the National Review if they allow Luskin to pursue the lawsuit while he’s on their payroll.

I agree with Mark. However, he’s got to keep in mind that the original vision that William F. Buckley had for the National Review explicitly addresses this eventuality:

* To stand athwart history yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so;
* To become the premier voice for self-reliance, small government, anti-communism, and the state-sponsored punishment of sodomites;
* To openly stand up for the cultural and intellectual superiority of White over Negro until, say, the 70s or so;
* To eventually hand the reins over to chuckle-headed hacks and legacies whose lack of journalistic principles, knowledge of economics, policy, or basic math, or motivating principle apart from loyalty to the GOP leadership will make this publication a bad joke;
* To one day publish a fantasy about the murder of the only child of a politician that we don’t like;
* To justify, by any means possible, revealing of the identity of CIA agents;
* And to have our writers threaten frivolous lawsuits against people who hurt our feelings

The National Review has brilliantly lived up to his dream.

UPDATE: There’s been a lot of talk about John “Eminem” Derbshire’s Chelsea Clinton column in the comments. I should mention that there was quite a controversy about the column at the time. Check out the classy way that he dealt with it.

Interview with the Moor

by Kieran Healy on October 30, 2003

Via MaxSpeak comes a link to an excellent interview with Karl Marx conducted sometime in the last month, apparently. Karl has lost none of his vitality, despite having been dead for some time. His analysis is as trenchant as his invective is unrelenting. Who is an “insipid, pedantic, leather-tongued oracle of the ordinary bourgeois intelligence” and who is “so easy to comprehend, so stupendously unoriginal, so devastatingly tautological”? Read it and see.

Send Lawyers, Guns and Money

by Brian on October 30, 2003

You’ve probably all seen the news that Donald Luskin is now legally stalking Atrios. Through his lawyer (who I’m sad to say is a Brown grad) Luskin wants Atrios to go through his comments board and delete all the posts that could be considered defamatory. I’m not sure it’s possible to defame Luskin, and I’m pretty sure being forced to trawl through Atrios’s comments section is not something anyone should be legally obliged to do. (Isn’t that a cruel, or at least unusual, punishment?)

This looks little better than a nuisance suit, and the most just outcome is that it turns out to be a costly one for Luskin. (Luskin conspiring to keep himself poor and stupid does have a certain artistic quality to it, so maybe the suit isn’t all bad.)

The original legal demand is here, Atrios’s response is here and there’s a list of well-wishers here. I’m pleased to see some conservatives living up to their oft-quoted line about disagreeing with what you say but agreeing with your right to say it. The best comment so far (unsurprisingly) is from Andrew Northrup, with Brad DeLong not far behind.

Stalkin’ Don Brings It On

by Ted on October 30, 2003

So I turned on my computer tonight to read the blogs. I’m afraid that I must have scared my poor fiancee half to death when the steam pouring out of my ears made a loud “toot” noise, as seen in Popeye cartoons.

Atrios posts under a pseudonym, although his real name is Ferdinand Strumpole. I have no business telling him how to run his life. Nonetheless, if I were king, I’d ask Atrios to write the following reply:

Dear Mr. Luskin,

I double-dog dare you to sue me. No, triple.



P.S. Can I still call you a striking failure as a mutual fund manager?

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