Excusing Murderers

by Brian on April 4, 2005

“Josh”:http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2005_04_03.php#005332 is entirely right that Sen John Conryn’s statements in the Senate today about violence against judges are utterly unacceptable. Saying that judges are somehow to blame for violence against judges and courtworkers should be enough to get you kicked out of any ethically responsible caucus. This being the contemporary GOP, I’m not holding my breath.

Berkeley’s Idealism

by Kieran Healy on April 4, 2005

“Brad DeLong”:http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2005/04/ben_bernanke_to.html gets a mild case of “pundit’s fallacy”:http://www.jargondatabase.com/Jargon.aspx?id=990 as he reacts to the news that “Ben Bernanke will head the CEA”:http://news.ft.com/cms/s/0de25c40-a304-11d9-b4e8-00000e2511c8,_i_rssPage=9d5b9ebe-c8bc-11d7-81c6-0820abe49a01.html:

bq. … the first thing that Ben should do is to make a stand on a technical-but-vital issue where the CEA should have made its stand: get the Bush administration to reduce the clawback real interest rate on its proposed private accounts from 3% plus inflation to a floating rate equal to the U.S. Treasury’s borrowing rate (or the borrowing rate minus a small margin). That would keep Bush’s private accounts from being a bad deal for the non-rich who opt for them.

He probably should. But one has to ask, how likely is it that _that’s_ going to happen? Bernanke certainly seems like a good guy, but the Bush Administration has a way of making sure that the good guys knuckle under. I see three ways this might happen. First, a pre-emptive effort to get him to publicly articulate the Apostolic Creed of the administration. (“I believe in one authority, the Executive almighty …”) Second, a straightforward smack on the wrist (or blow to the back of the head) as soon as Bernanke tries to assert a bit of intellectual independence. Third, a temptation on Bernanke’s part to make a Devil’s bargain: something like, “If I hold back for now, I’ll be in a _much_ stronger position to do the right thing when they appoint me Chairman of the Fed.” That way madness lies.

Blogging and academia, yet again

by Henry on April 4, 2005

Diana Rhoten writes in Inside Higher Ed about the brain drain from academia.

With the rise of the knowledge economy and the spread of decentralizing technology, the academy is ceding authority and attention to businesses, nonprofits, foundations, media outlets, and Internet communities. Even more significant, in my mind, the academy may be losing something else: its hold over many of its most promising young academics, who appear more and more willing to take their services elsewhere — and who may comprise an embryonic cohort of new “postacademic intellectuals” in the making.

Rhoten argues that these can’t serve as substitutes for traditional public intellectuals, but they share some of the same motivations:

On many levels, the new generation I’m describing shares little with Trilling, Wilson, and other old-school public intellectuals. Yet by choosing to leave the academy, they demonstrate at least one thing in common: They need, want, perhaps even crave a larger public.

Rhoten identifies blogging as one of the possible paths that intellectuals can take out of the academy; I’m not sure that she’s right. More precisely, blogging offers academics a means of connecting with that wider public without having to leave the academy. My personal motivation for taking up blogging was to get into arguments about all of the things that I can’t really write about as a political scientist – science fiction, modern literature, curious historical facts – and to express strong and non-scientific opinions on politics. I used to joke that I wanted to be Susan Sontag when I grew up; someone who wrote fiercely argued and dense essays for the New York Review of Books. Blogging isn’t that, but it does give license to write in a freewheeling way, to speculate, to polemicize and to give a bit of free rein to your hobby-horses. All of which is to say that blogging isn’t ever going to be a substitute for academia, but it is a valuable ancillary activity. It allows you to write pieces that may or may not connect to your scholarship, but that never could see the light of day in an academic journal. At the same time, this can feed back in valuable and unexpected ways into your academic work. I suspect that over the longer term blogging will become increasingly attractive to scholars who want to connect with that wider audience, but who don’t want to give up their scholarship. You can become a low-rent public intellectual, without having to give up your day job. I don’t know if there are any people who’ve been lured away from academics by blogging, but I do see quite a number of academics who use blogging as a means of blowing off steam, and of writing about things that they couldn’t otherwise write about. Not substitute, complement.

Polish Intellectual

by Kieran Healy on April 4, 2005

An eye-rolling moment at “Instapundit”:http://instapundit.com/archives/022180.php:

From the comments at Tim Blair’s:
Final score for the 20th century:
Ordinary Poles, 2.
German intellectuals, 0.


Right. Some scenes from a life:

1938. Moves to Kracow, enrolls in the Faculty of Philosophy at “Jagellonian University”:http://www.uj.edu.pl/index.en.html.

1939. Joins ‘Studio 38’ experimental theatre group. He would eventually write six plays.

1946. Ordained a priest. Studies at the “Angelicum University.”:http://www.pnac.org/Universities/PUSTAAngelicum.htm.

1947. Receives his doctorate in philosophy. Thesis on “The Problems of Faith in the Works of St John of the Cross.” Returns to Poland to lecture in Philosophy and Social Ethics at Jagellonian University.

1953. Defends second doctorate, titled “Evaluation of the possibility of founding a Catholic ethic on the ethical system of Max Scheler” at the “Catholic University of Lublin”:http://www.kul.lublin.pl/uk/. (Max Scheler was one of those German Intellectuals, by the way.) During this period, publishes poetry in various Polish journals under the pseudonym, “Andrzej Jawien.”

1954. Untenured Professor of Philosophy at Lublin.

1956. Appointed to a the Chair of Moral Theology and Ethics at Lublin.

And so on. Always nice to see Professor Reynolds standing up for the value of the life of the mind.

60 years ago today

by Eszter Hargittai on April 4, 2005

Since you can’t find this anywhere online and I think it’s worth a mention, I thought I’d do the honors. April 4, 1945 was the end of World War II in Hungary. When I was growing up, it was referred to as the day the country had been liberated and big celebrations ensued with one of my favorite Soviet-era songs (“Április négyrõl szóljon az ének..”). Not surprisingly that approach didn’t survive the political changes of the 1990s. Nonetheless, the fact that the significance of this day in the country’s history has been completely obliterated saddens me and leaves me frustrated. Talk about the social construction of holidays and historical dates. I would be much less bitter about all of this if the country had decided to commemorate the end of World War II on some other day, for example, the end of the war in Europe or across the world. But no such luck. Ignoring this issue is completely consistent with Hungary’s inability to face up to its horrific role in that war. Celebrating the war’s end would mean acknowledging that the country had anything to do with it and that’s clearly asking too much.

Disorganizing Labour

by Henry on April 4, 2005

A shoe that I (and others) have been waiting to drop since November. The FT reports (sub required) that the US administration is planning to “toughen its regulation of organised labour, in what critics see as the latest in a series of pro-business policies sweeping Washington.” It’s invoking powers that haven’t been used in decades to force unions to file detailed financial statements and increase “accountability and transparency.” This isn’t an effort to further the interests of union members; it’s the beginning of a quite deliberate attempt to cripple unions as political actors. As the FT reports:

Privately, one senior figure in the administration said it was concerned about the power of unions, arguing that some campaigns against big business were not always in the interests of members. There is also concern about moves to scrap secret ballots for some union votes, which the administration fears would further entrench the power of union leaders.

Needless to say, no similar efforts are contemplated to check the ability of the leadership of the American Chamber of Commerce to engage in partisan attacks on Democrats without extensive processes of consultation. This is, simply put, a battle that the left can’t afford to lose. Trade unions are one of the most vital constituencies of the Democratic party. These purported reforms have the sole purpose and intent of making it more difficult for trade unions to take political positions that don’t reflect the most narrow possible definition of the interests of their members. If blogs can organize a boycott against Sinclair Communications, and can play an important role in pushing back against efforts to destroy Social Security, then they can certainly do something to help fight against this. It’s an important battle; perhaps, in the long run, the most important battle of the next two years.


by Henry on April 4, 2005

Noted in passing. Russell Jacoby, Marxist cultural critic and bane of the lit-studies left, claims on his faculty webpage to be a member of the “American Pessimist Society.” Where do you sign up?