The right to be fired

by Henry Farrell on May 18, 2005

“Savage Minds”: posts on the decision of Yale’s Department of Anthropology not to renew David Graeber’s contract, and suggests that the “real tipping point was his involvement with campus politics” and more specifically his support for “one of the organizers of a graduate student unionizing drive.” The source for this appears to be “Graeber himself”: Now I’ve no way of knowing whether Graeber’s own account tells the whole story, and the other side don’t seem to be talking. But either which way, the decision to let Graeber go is illustrative of a wider problem; as Jennet Kirkpatrick and Ian Robinson “put it”:, non-tenure track faculty are fighting for the right “to be fired, but only with just cause.” It’s demonstrably risky for non-tenure track faculty to make waves, even when there’s strong justification for so doing; their reappointment (or lack of same) is at the pleasure of the Department, and they’ve no recourse (or right to know why) if they’re let go.

Update: See also this story at “Inside Higher Ed”: where Marshall Sahlins says that Graeber’s “scholarship was at the level he would have had tenure at any normal university.” See also this “petition”: in support of Graeber.

Bristol AUT votes

by Chris Bertram on May 18, 2005

The AUT boycott was put before our local association today (for the motion I co-sponsored see “here”: — and scroll down). The debate was passionate but respectful. Everyone on both sides agreed that the AUT had botched things procedurally. The pro-boycott lobby didn’t address the details of the Haifa or Bar-Ilan cases at all but made a generic anti-Israel case centred around an analogy with apartheid. In the end the vote was decisive, a pro-boycott amendment was defeated by 41 votes to 18 and my anti-boycott motion passed by 40 votes to 16. Somewhat disappointingly, a number of people then left and a vote was taken that effectively commits the Bristol delegation to splitting their vote to reflect the proportions of opinion (rather than swinging all our votes at Council against the boycott). This adds Bristol to the list of associations that opposed the boycott.

Ted Nugent’s custody arrangements

by Harry on May 18, 2005

I’ve done some fairly elaborate googling on this, and have found out much more than I want to know about Ted Nugent, but haven’t found what I want. I remember many years ago reading a story about the custody arrangements after one of his divorces; he and his ex-spouse agreed that instead of the kids moving back and forth between them, they would move in and out of the house in which their children were permanent residents. This is the nicest thing I’ve ever heard about Ted Nugent, including his music. Unfortunately, whatever references there are on the internet are hard to find because they are obscured by disputes over Ted’s tendency to produce further children (as well as sawing his leg off). I found one reference to it in a comment on a blog, but would rather cite something more authoritative when I write about this. Can anyone point me to an authoritative account fo Ted Nugent’s innovative custody arrangements.

Extracting an Apology

by Kieran Healy on May 18, 2005

Eric Muller “reports”: that Peter Irons and Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga have “extracted a retraction and apology”: from Michelle Malkin, after she smeared them in her book and on her blog last year. At least in some of its parts, the self-correcting blogosphere still needs the threat of legal action to kick it into gear.

Health info-seeking online

by Eszter Hargittai on May 18, 2005

Yesterday, the Pew Internet and American Life Project released its latest research report, this one on health information-seeking online. The study finds that 80% of users have searched for some type of health information online (it’s worth noting here that “health information” is defined broadly by including searches for diet and exercise or fitness in this category). Regarding material pertaining to a specific disease or medical problem, the survey of 537 users found that two-thirds have used the Internet as a resource.

One of the topics of interest to me in my research is seeing how different types of Internet access may result in different types of Web uses. The report shows that while 87% of those with a broadband connection at home sought some health information online, only 72% of those with a home dial-up connection did so as well. Also, Internet veterans (in this case people who’ve been online for six or more years) are considerably more likely to have engaged in such activity (86%) than those who have 2-3 years of online experience (66%).

Of course, we would need more information about all these users to draw any conclusions regarding the independent effects of certain factors. People who went online later and who don’t have high-speed connections at home may differ from others in various ways (e.g. lower income, lower education), which may then be related to their propensity to search for health information in the first place. Nonetheless, these relationships are interesting to observe. They support my arguments about the potential implications of connectivity quality and experience for types of uses.

The author of the report is Susannah Fox, Pew’s resident expert on the topic. She has been working in this area for several years and has put out other related reports in the past, e.g. one dealing with prescription drugs online and another looking at how users decide whether to trust online information when it comes to health matters.

Torture in Australia

by John Q on May 18, 2005

A couple of Australian legal academics have caused a stir by publicising an article they’ve written (so far unpublished), advocating the legalisation of torture (details and links here). Mirko Bagaric and Julie Clarke present a rehash of arguments put forward by Alan Dershowitz, centred on our old and much-refuted friend, the ticking bomb scenario. Their main contribution is to bite the bullet where Dershowitz was not, advocating the torture of innocent people who are suspected of having useful information.

The really startling thing about all this is that, until a few months ago, Bagaric, the senior author, was a member of the Refugee Review Tribunal, part of the apparatus used by the Howard government to implement its highly restrictive policies on refugees. In this context, he had to judge numerous cases in which refugees claimed to be fleeing torture, but never thought it relevant to recuse himself on the basis that he was on the side of the torturers.

The blogospheric reaction has been predictable (at least if you share my priors). Although Bagaric was previously regarded as a mild lefty (he’s advocated higher taxes, for example), anti-war bloggers were uniformly horrified by his and Clarke’s views. By contrast, with less than a handful of exceptions, the pro-war side of the sphere either supported Bagaric and Clarke, defended their right to speak while avoiding the substantive issues, or kept on blogging about Newsweek.

This is a bit disappointing, but it provides a useful lesson. Next time you read one of these guys talking about Saddam and his crimes, remember it’s just a factional brawl within the pro-torture party. If Saddam had stuck to fighting wars against Iran, and torturing Iraqis, instead of invading Kuwait, he’d still be “an SOB, but our SOB”, just like Karimov in Uzbekistan.