by John Quiggin on November 19, 2004

There’s a story I read somewhere of a judge interrupting an unsatisfactory witness and asking

Are you trying to flaunt your contempt for this court ?

to which the witness replies

Oh, no Your Honour! I’m trying to conceal it.

I was reminded of the story by this NYT editorial, which accuses a Rhode Island judge of abusing the contempt power to pursue a vindictive campaign against a reporter, Jim Taricani, but then fails to name the judge in question. A one-minute Google search reveals that the judge in question is Chief U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres Given that it was defending the right of reporters to publish the truth without fear or favor, what exactly did the NYT have in mind here?

Mickey Mouse Politics

by Henry on November 19, 2004

Duncan Black has it “about right”:

bq. The Dems should be going after the techno-lib vote by fighting against the Intellectual Property grab which is currently going on. Give people their porn, their Napster, and their unfettered Tivo. And, yes, I am respectful of genuine intellectual property rights but DMCA, the Mickey Mouse Preservation Act copyright extension and the inevitable progeny of both will soon make it impossible to say or do anything without handing over a license fee.

To which I can only add that the Democrats should be doing this anyway, because it’s the right thing to do. Just because the movie and music industry are ‘our’ plutocrats doesn’t mean that Democratic politicians should be supporting their attempted land grab. One of the few real rays of hope for the modern left is the public domain and Creative Commons movement. The left should be supporting what it’s doing – helping to create a free space for collective and individual endeavour. Handing the strangling cord to entrenched interests probably isn’t good politics; it’s certainly bad policy.

Enrich Your Word Power

by John Holbo on November 19, 2004

I’m writing about reading right now; a response to a (draft) essay Mark Bauerlein has written about the NEA’s Reading At Risk survey. I’ll quote a bit from Mark:

These findings [steep decline across the board, especially among the young] won’t surprise those who have spent any time in an average college classroom. Professors have always griped about the lassitude of students, but lately the complaints have reached an extreme. English teachers note that it’s getting harder to assign a work over 200 pages. Students don’t possess the habit of concentration necessary to plow through it. Teachers say that students don’t comprehend spelling requirements. Spelling is now the responsibility of spellcheck. Last October at an MLA regional meeting, a panelist who specializes in technical writing observed that while his students have extraordinary computing skills, they have a hard time following step-by-step instructions for an assignment.

I tend to be a sunny optimist in the face of this bad news. First, I assume profs have been grousing extremely about students since forever. (It is such fun I can’t believe any generation of pedagogues has had the will to forego this perk of the job.) Second, I tend to assume that somehow the rich, strange new cognitive shapes young minds assume are all right in their way. Yes, they can’t spell. (I had always assumed Matt used voice recognition software and was dictating his posts. How else to explain his homonym trouble? Matt has a brain like a planet. If he can’t spell, that means spelling can’t be that important.) But mostly I am just so bookish, and everyone I know is, and everyone I grew up with was, and my schools were crammed with bookish teachers and kids clawing after books … I guess I just can’t quite believe that it could be true that less than 50% of the population has read any literature in the last year. (The idea that you can’t assign a 200-page novel in a college class? Preposterous. Can’t be.)

In this vein, Matt Cheney has a fascinating post about teaching Neil Gaiman’s American Gods to high school students. (And Gaiman is duly fascinated.) Matt hits upon the same hard limit as Bauerlein: "I knew that few of my students would ever have read a book of more than 200 pages." But the really interesting and baffling hurdle actually came next.

[click to continue…]

Academic blogging survey

by Eszter Hargittai on November 19, 2004

As a follow-up to my recent post about academia and blogging, I have compiled a brief informal survey for academic bloggers, broadly defined to include all academics (any rank) who either read and/or write blogs. Please consider filling it out. It should take no more than five minutes. The material will not result in any scientific publications, it is merely meant as an informal exercise to inform some conversations. I am collecting all information anonymously. I will post a summary of the material on CT at a future date.

UPDATE (Saturday, Nov 27, 2004): I have now closed the survey, thanks to all those who participated.

Leiter report

by Chris Bertram on November 19, 2004

Brian Leiter’s “Philosophical Gourmet”: report is now out in its latest version.

[UPDATE: I hadn’t noticed that Kieran gets a credit for statistical advice on the front page!]

Otis Dudley Duncan

by Kieran Healy on November 19, 2004

I learned today that Otis Dudley Duncan, sociologist and anatomist of the “American Occupational Structure”:, has died at the age of 83. Duncan was a major figure in mid-20th century sociology, a pioneer in the theory and practice of social measurement, the analysis of stratification, “occupations and prestige”:, organizations and urbanism. He taught at the “University of Arizona”: for many years. Bloggers may know his name because — well into his retirement — he was one of the first people to notice and analyze “inconsistencies”:, “errors and omissions”: in John Lott’s claims about defensive gun use.