by Henry Farrell on April 26, 2005

There’s a very disturbing report in the Nation, about a memo in which Alan Brinkley, the provost of Columbia University, suggested that the university consider punishing graduate TAs who went on strike. The key paras:

In addition, the University should consider taking other measures to discourage teaching fellows from abandoning their instructional responsibilities. These will vary depending on whether the teaching fellows are still on the five-year funding plan or teaching in a later year of study. Students in their first five years of study could

1) Be required to teach an extra semester or year within the five-year period in order to meet the teaching requirements for their degree;
2) Lose their eligibility for summer stipends; and
3) Lose their eligibility for special awards, such as the Whitings.

Students beyond their fifth year of study could be told that

1) They are jeopardizing their chances of receiving further instructional assignments;
2) Those teaching in the Core will not receive the summer stipends normally given to preceptors who are reappointed to teach in the subsequent year.

It’s not at all clear that these threats were either made to the students or acted upon, but Brinkley should still be ashamed of himself. Punitive action against students exercising their right to strike would be flat-out illegal, had the administration-stacked NLRB not reversed its decision that graduate students had the right to organize. It’s certainly quite repugnant to the ideals of the university. This is a sorry day for Columbia.

(via Inside Higher Ed).

Green Day

by Jon Mandle on April 26, 2005

Last week, Michael Bérubé wrote that “Nick Lowe’s ‘Cruel to Be Kind’ is the most perfect pop song ever written.” A fine choice, I must say. Bérubé heroically rejects a distinction between ‘rock’ and ‘pop’: “We do not think that the former category is inhabited by edgy artists and assorted Culture Heroes whereas the latter is inhabited by Tommy James and the Shondells.” But, he continues: “Still, it remains true that if a song has too much fire and/or grit and/or passion in it, it exceeds the “Cruel to Be Kind” standard in obvious ways.”

Now certainly they often exceed “Cruel to Be Kind” by a considerable margin along the dimensions of fire and grit and passion, but I was still surprised that in some 193 comments – many bringing up excellent contenders – nobody mentioned the premier “hard pop” band of the last decade: Green Day. A few random notes on the concert I saw last night follow below.
[click to continue…]

Union dues

by Henry Farrell on April 26, 2005

Joseph Braude suggests (free registration or bugmenot required) that the Bush administration should support trade unions in the Arab world, as an intermediate step towards democratization.

In light of the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers on September 11 were Saudis, it’s hard to fathom why the United States would even consider ignoring a secular movement in the Gulf with reasonable goals and thousands of members. … The Gulf unions, by contrast, according to the American labor official, desire logistical support and training from the United States–a sentiment you don’t hear very often from the traditional Arab labor headquarters in Damascus. To be sure, the Bahraini unions are–and the Kuwaiti unions are about to become–members of the Damascus-based establishment. All the same, their eagerness for American partnership is an opportunity to plant the seeds of meaningful political change. … What can the United States do for these unions in practical terms? In countries where there are no unions, the U.S. government should demand to know why–well before a free trade agreement is signed. Laws restricting public assembly–which exist in many Gulf states–ought to be eased in any country wishing to sign a free-trade agreement with the United States. But the right to assemble is only the first step in a long road that should lead to the rights to strike and collectively bargain–which either don’t exist or are severely constrained in all Gulf states. And it’s not just the U.S. government that has a role to play. In countries where unions are already active and feisty, like Bahrain and Kuwait, American labor unions should lend support to their counterparts by offering advice and tactical training.

Sounds like a good idea – but one which I suspect this administration won’t pursue (I’d be very happy to be proved wrong on this).

And this 2002 article by Richard Freeman and Joel Rogers fits very nicely with the Nathan Newman post on minority union representation that I blogged about last week.

Dent on Rousseau

by Chris Bertram on April 26, 2005

I was very pleased to get a copy of Nicholas Dent’s new “Rousseau“: in the post today. It appears in the Routledge Philosophers series edited by Brian Leiter. There’s an endorsement from yours truly on the cover, saying that is is “The best general introduction to Rousseau’s life and thought in English…” I think that’s true. Highly recommended.

(BTW this is a completely different book from his earlier Rousseau: An Introduction to his Psychological, Social and Political Theory, which was published by Blackwell and is also excellent.)

Exit, voice, loyalty II

by Maria on April 26, 2005

Just by the by, commenters on last week’s Exit, voice, loyalty thread who wanted to be deleted from the baptismal register of their churches may be interested in a 2003 ruling by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner. A man contacted the parish priest asking to have his name removed from the baptismal register, saying he had been enrolled in the church against his will and did not want the church to keep any of his personal data.

The priest found no record of the baptism – the man was living in Holland and seems to have had bad information – but suggested that a reasonable solution would in any case be to add a note to the record saying the man no longer wished to be associated with the Catholic church. The Data Protection Commissioner agreed, finding the priest’s suggestion both appropriate and considerate, and noting that the register was a factual statement of an event. Which seems fair enough from the data protection point of view, but probably no consolation to people baptised as Catholics who do not wish to be counted as such.

As to myself, I figure I’m better off inside the tent, pissing in. I did perform an act of protest, though. The day after Benedict XVI’s election as pope, I took out my shortest skirt, pulled on my highest heeled FMBs, and flounced the mile and half to work. It was one just as (in)effective as anything else I could think of and made road-crossing surprisingly easy.

Blair’s reasons for war

by Chris Bertram on April 26, 2005

I see that “George” in the comments to Daniel’s post immediately below is contending, in a manner similar to that of various pro-war British bloggers, that Blair’s decision to go to war with Iraq was overdetermined. The claim is that, although WMD provided a sufficient reason to go to war, there were other “planks” to the case, also sufficient reasons, that were advanced at the time and which provided an independent case for the decision. We need to be careful here. There’s no doubt that the blogospheric supporters of the decision to go to war believed then and believe still that the nature of Saddam’s regime was such that it should have been removed. There are certainly Parliamentarians, such as Anne Clwyd, who took such a line. Indeed, there’s some merit in such a view though it needs to be balanced against a realistic assessment of the costs and risks of war. But it was not Blair’s view at the time. Blair stated clearly that the horrible nature of the Baathist regime would not be sufficient to justify the war and that Saddam’s regime could continue if he satisfied the UN on the WMD question. The money quotes:

bq. I detest his regime. But even now he can save it by complying with the UN’s demand. Even now, we are prepared to go the extra step to achieve disarmament peacefully.


bq. it takes no time at all for Saddam to co-operate. It just takes a fundamental change of heart and mind. Today the path to peace is clear. Saddam can co-operate fully with the inspectors. He can voluntarily disarm. He can even leave the country peacefully. But he cannot avoid disarmament. One further point. The purpose in our acting is disarmament. But the nature of Saddam’s regime is relevant in two ways. First, WMD in the hands of a regime of this brutality is especially dangerous because Saddam has shown he will use them. Secondly, I know the innocent as well as the guilty die in a war. But do not let us forget the 4 million Iraqi exiles, the thousands of children who die needlessly every year due to Saddam’s impoverishment of his country – a country which in 1978 was wealthier than Portugal or Malaysia but now is in ruins, 60 per cent of its people on food aid. Let us not forget the tens of thousands imprisoned, tortured or executed by his barbarity every year. The innocent die every day in Iraq victims of Saddam, and their plight too should be heard. [Emphases added]

Clearly, in the passage above, Blair is offering the ghastly nature of the Saddam regime not as an independent justification for war but as a reason to given additional weight and urgency to the WMD case. People should not retrospectively pretend otherwise.