Occupational Hazards

by Kieran Healy on April 11, 2005

‘But pray, sir, why must I not teach the young gentlemen?’

‘Because, sir, teaching young gentlemen has a dismal effect upon the soul. It exemplifies the badness of established, artificial authority. The pedagogue has almost absolute authority over his pupils: he often beats them and insensibly loses the sense of respect due to them as fellow human beings. He does them harm, but the harm they do him is far greater. He may easily become the all-knowing tyrant, always right, always virtuous; in any event he perpetually associates with his inferiors, the king of his company; and in a surprisingly short time alas this brands him with the mark of Cain. Have you ever known a schoolmaster fit to associate with grown men? The Dear knows I never have. They are most horribly warped indeed.

— Patrick O’Brian, “The Ionian Mission”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393308219/kieranhealysw-20/ref=nosim/, p84.

On the other hand, I wish I had the absolute authority to make my students do the reading. At least some of it.


by Ted on April 11, 2005

I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for this Reason party. Matt Welch:

What I still can’t understand, is how anyone — seriously, anyone — can think a system where it is extremely difficult for a perfectly healthy young person untethered to an insurance-providing job to obtain health insurance without lying, or without giving up the possibility of having childbirth covered, is a good system…

What I understand even less is how some of these same people will tell you with a straight face how terrible French health care is. Last Thursday-thru-Saturday, we spent a really wonderful time at “Reason Weekend,” which is what my employer does in lieu of a celebrity booze cruise. It’s a great event, filled with smart donors to the Reason Foundation, various trustees, and a few people from the magazine. Great speakers, panels, walks on the beach, etc. Anyway, we had some small discussion group about De Tocqueville, and someone (naturally) brought up France’s high taxes and thick welfare state. “Well, the thing is,” Emmanuelle said (quotes are inexact), “some of the things the French state provides are pretty good. For instance health care.”

“Wait a minute wait a minute,” one guy said. “If you were sick — I mean, really sick — where would you rather be? France or the U.S.?”

“Um, France,” we both said.

Various sputtering ensued. What about the terrible waiting lists? (There really aren’t any.) The shoddy quality? (It’s actually quite good.) Finally, to deflect the conversation away, I said “Look, if we made twice as much money, we’d probably prefer American health care for a severe crisis. But we don’t, so we don’t.”

Letter from a town hall

by Ted on April 11, 2005

This weekend, I attended a townhall meeting with my Congressional representative, John Culberson. Culberson is a conservative Republican and a DeLay protegy. I’m trying to be as honest and accurate as possible, but there’s no pretending that I can be objective about the guy. There’s also no pretending that I had a recording device; I’m going from notes and memory.

My most serious concern with this Republican-controlled Congress is its apparent fiscal nihilism, and Culberson didn’t do much to relieve my concerns. In his prepared remarks, Culberson spoke with concern about the budget deficit. He said that every man, woman and child in America would have to buy $144,000 worth of Treasury bills in order to close out the national debt1.

I was glad to hear a Republican address the deficit. I was also pleased that he didn’t pretend that the deficit could be closed simply by reducing waste. Culberson said that cutting off notorious pork barrel projects, such as the rainforest in Iowa, was a good idea on its own merits, but would not produce nearly enough savings to eliminate the deficit.

So how does this very conservative Republican intend to actually deal with the deficit? Beats me. During his remarks, he proposed more money for medical research, more money for the space program, more money for veterans, and more money for Houston’s transportation. He opposed a local military base closing. Most significantly, he repeatedly pitched Social Security privatization, which even Dick Cheney acknowledges will create at least $2.8 trillion in transaction costs. In two hours, with the exception of the Iowa rainforest, I don’t believe that Culberson identified a dollar that he would actually cut from the budget2. Of course, he had voted for every tax cut put before him.

Sam Rosenfeld described this as:

a complete inability to acknowledge the costs of permanent tax-cutting and a related unwillingness to make a serious case for actual smaller government.

Rosenfeld was talking about moderate Republicans like Mike DeWine and Arlen Specter, but this rock-ribbed rightie didn’t do any better.

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Radical Literary Theorists

by Henry Farrell on April 11, 2005

An interesting counterblast to The Valve, which our co-blogger John Holbo helped set up, from Cultural Revolution.

Anyway, what’s kind of interesting about this new site is that it seems to be sponsored by the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics, which was devised as a kind of anti-MLA devoted to ridding lit departments of their classracegenderism and deconstructive tendencies. The mottos and manifestos on the website demonstrate the same Frank Luntz-ish spin that you’d find on the sites of, say, the such organizations as the Independent Women’s Forum…

Cultural Revolution then goes on to attack the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics for using such retrograde notions as “imagination,” “shared literary culture,” “serious,” and “classicists and modernists” in its statement of purpose, and to note how it received its initial start-up money from the conservative Bradley Foundation. So far, so pedestrian. What’s interesting about the post is not what it says, but what it assumes: that an interest in literature for literature’s sake is innately conservative. And, by extension, the question it doesn’t ask: why is it that an organization which is interested in studying literature and imagination is perceived as a conservative bulwark, and has no choice but to go to conservatives for funding and support?

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The Frontier is not Out There

by Kieran Healy on April 11, 2005

Via “Slashdot”:http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/04/11/1358202&from=rss, a commentary by Michael Huang on “The Top Three Reasons for Humans in Space”:http://www.thespacereview.com/article/352/1:

Humans are in space:
3. To work
2. To live
1. To survive

The idea is that we should be out there exploring and colonizing because people are better than robots at doing a lot of things, because more life is better than less and so we should “establish habitats beyond Earth,” and because life on earth is increasingly under threat and so “If we were [living] throughout the solar system, at multiple locations, a disaster at one location would not end everything.”

These all seem like pretty weak reasons to me.

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Radical Reconstructionists

by Ted on April 11, 2005

If you were away from your computer this weekend, God bless you. But you missed this Kevin Drum post on the new look at Iraqi reconstruction:

When Jay Garner tried to hire well-regarded experts who had real experience with reconstruction plans, he was turned down because they were too “liberal.” When Garner was abruptly replaced by Paul Bremer, Bremer staffed the CPA with inexperienced ideologues recruited from the Heritage Foundation. Foreign contractors were banned from Iraq out of pique, regardless of whether they were the best qualified. Unions were trampled and ignored because they didn’t fit the privatization agenda. Naomi Klein, who traveled to Iraq last year to report on the reconstruction for Harper’s, found Bremer pursuing plans for Iraq that were so outlandish they tested even her well-known skills for hyperbole…