Fighting Words

by Henry Farrell on July 15, 2005

“Chris Muir”:, meet “Aristotle”: Aristotle, meet Chris Muir.

(via “PNH”: )

Young men in a hurry

by Henry Farrell on July 15, 2005

Scott McLemee has a good “article”: on Francis M. Cornford’s _Microcosmographia Academica_, a sort of Lifemanship for the young academic. Some of Cornford’s Edwardianisms have a faint odour of fustian, but in the main his skewering of academic politics is as sharp and relevant as ever. He’s especially fine on the combination of high sounding perorations, low self interest and relentless tedium that marks politics in the self-governing university, and on the ruthlessness of “young men in a hurry,” whose professed radicalism only imperfectly conceals their desire to accommodate their own bottoms comfortably to the seats of power. Cornford’s analysis of academic publishing rings true today (except for the bit about government subsidy):

bq. The Principle of Sound Learning is that the noise of vulgar fame should never trouble the cloistered calm of academic existence. Hence, learning is called sound when no one has ever heard of it; and ‘sound scholar’ is a term of praise applied to one another by learned men who have no reputation outside the University, and a rather queer one inside it. If you should write a book (you had better not), be sure that it is unreadable; otherwise you will be called ‘brilliant’ and forfeit all respect. University printing presses exist, and are subsidised by the Government for the purpose of producing books which no one can read; and they are true to their high calling.

Scott points to an “online version”: of _MA_ (slightly dodgy scan, but still perfectly readable), which inspired me to do a Google search on the first book by Cornford that I ever read, _Thucydides Mythistoricus_ , only to discover that it’s “online too”: It’s a quite brilliantly written Marxisant account of the Peloponnesian war, which blames the outbreak of hostilities on the desire of the Athenian commercial classes to maintain a stranglehold on trade. I’ve no idea how well Cornford’s analysis has held up among classical historians, but he’s still read by international relations scholars.

Addendum: I’ve been meaning to mention for a while that _Inside Higher Ed_ now has an “XML feed”: and that Scott’s columns are collected “here”:


by Eszter Hargittai on July 15, 2005

I wonder if they’ll start offering it in bondi blue. [thanks]

UPDATE: New link.

Friday Fun Thread

by Ted on July 15, 2005

“The world needs laughter.”

Leonard Nimoy

The Something Awful column “Your Band Sucks” is an unrelenting, over-the-top assault on every musician, genre and album that it touches. A recent column, “The Greatest Albums Ever Suck”, is just what it sounds like. For example:

On U2’s The Joshua Tree: This managed to weasel its way to number four on the Rolling Stone list, inexplicably. I wish I could write this review like The Edge plays the guitar. I’d just tap a few words into my delay pedal and let them echo and repeat for five minutes so I could leave and read Mad Magazine on the toilet.

A lot of people look at a few critically revered albums with incomprehension, don’t they? I know I do. My big one is Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted. I’ve given this rock milestone a lot of chances, and I just can’t pay attention for more than a few minutes. Fans listen to this album and hear “cryptic”, “primitive”, “disjointed”, “groundbreaking”. I hear a bunch of guys who forgot to write any songs. I’m not saying that my taste is any better than theirs; I just don’t get it.

Anyone else?

This is his defense, remember

by Ted on July 15, 2005

Let’s pretend to take the new story seriously.

You’re a senior advisor to the President of the United States. You get a call from Reporter X, who tells you that the wife of a critic of your boss is a [covert? maybe, maybe not; fair point from mdp] CIA agent who recommended him for a mission. (How does Reporter X know that she’s a CIA agent? How does she know, specifically, that she recommended him for the mission? That’s not your responsibility.)

What do you do?

(a) Check with the CIA to see if it’s true, and if she’s covert. If she is, fight back against the critic without confirming or denying the story.

(b) Don’t ding your plausible deniability by checking to see if it’s actually true, or if it’s a secret. Even though you don’t actually know, confirm that the critic’s wife is a CIA agent to anyone who asks. Spread the word that his wife is “fair game.”

If you chose (b), congratulations on your moral clarity. Spend the rest of the day making up funny names for the New York Times.

UPDATE: Oh, that’s bad.

Dumb enough for you?

by Ted on July 15, 2005

Would you believe that Karl Rove has been keeping quiet this long to protect journalists? That’s so him, isn’t it? Greater love hath no man, and all that. But it doesn’t stand up.

Back in 2003, Novak said that his sources had come to him with the information. “I didn’t dig it out, it was given to me,” he said. “They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it.” That’s inconsistent with the new story.

The lawyer said Novak had telephoned Rove to discuss another column, about Frances Fragos Townsend, who had been named deputy national security adviser for terrorism in May 2003. That column ran in Novak’s home paper, the Chicago Sun-Times, on July 10, 2003, under the headline “Bush sets himself up for another embarrassment.”

At the end of that 15- or 20-minute call, according to the lawyer, Novak said he had learned that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA.

“I heard that, too,” Rove replied, according to the lawyer, confirming the Times account.

If Novak is lying, it turns out that he’s smeared Karl Rove to protect himself. We’re supposed to believe that Rove has just been taking it until now. My heart bleeds for the poor man.

Here’s the Newsweek story about Cooper and Rove:

Cooper wrote that Rove offered him a “big warning” not to “get too far out on Wilson.” Rove told Cooper that Wilson’s trip had not been authorized by “DCIA”—CIA Director George Tenet—or Vice President Dick Cheney. Rather, “it was, KR said, wilson’s wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip.”

Is that consistent with the new story? I don’t see how. The piece is clear about Rove’s position as the source; I don’t see the wiggle room.

If this was true, why didn’t they mention this until now? Rove’s denials to date have been criticized as absurd exercises in word parsing. “I didn’t know her name. I didn’t leak her name.” Until yesterday’s leak, his lawyer has tried out any number of spins. He also tried the “he didn’t mention her name” defense. He tried the argument that Rove “was sharing what he knew but with the specific understanding it would not be disclosed.” He tried arguing that Cooper was the bad guy here for breaking the Dean Wormer code: “Look at the Cooper e-mail. Karl speaks to him on double super secret background.” He tried arguing that the disclosure was simply incidental; Rove was just trying to correct a reporter’s story.

If Rove didn’t tell any reporters, why all the humiliating mumbo-jumbo? Rove wouldn’t have promised confidentiality to a reporter. Was it to protect Miller? To protect Novak? Because Rove just plum forgot? (The leaker’s story [I’m not kidding] is that Rove has forgotten which journalist told him.) As a brilliant double-cross to embarass the press, at the expense of Bush’s likability and trustworthiness poll numbers? Come on.

In short, this theory is inconsistent with the facts that we know, and with the past statements of the involved parties. I will be sincerely shocked if these statements are operative a week from now.

How does the right react?
[click to continue…]

Responsibility redux

by Chris Bertram on July 15, 2005

It is always a mistake to pick fights with people when you are about to be away from a computer and so will be unable to take part in further iterations of the argument. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the position I find myself in with respect to “a post from Norman Geras and Eve Garrard”: responding to “my attribution to them”: of the view that only the immediate perpetrators of bad deeds can be blamed for those deeds. They deny that they hold the view I pinned on them, and say that I should have seen that if I’d read more carefully. I’m happy to receive the correction.

Now comes the “but” bit ….

Nevertheless, my belief that they hold a view like that was not based only on that single post but on many others, especially concerning Iraq. In particular, Norman has often argued against the view that Bush and Blair should be held responsible for the continuing carnage in Iraq, stressing, rather, that the immediate perpetrators of (most of) that carnage, the Iraqi “resistance” should be blamed and that Bush and Blair should not be. Norman and Eve’s latest post quotes an interesting earlier paragraph in this respect, which counts — as they insist — against my attribution.

bq. The fact that something someone else does contributes causally to a crime or atrocity, doesn’t show that they, as well as the direct agent(s), are morally responsible for that crime or atrocity, if what they have contributed causally is not itself wrong and doesn’t serve to justify it.

There is, I think, doublethink going on here. Norman wants to tell us that the Iraq war was justified because of the many bad things Saddam did and would continue to do to his people if he remained in power. Critics of the war (like me) want to say that we should also take account of the bad consequences of overthrowing Saddam, including the carnage caused by the “resistance”, the many many thousands of excess dead (see the Lancet report …), etc. Norman and Eve’s restrictive clause enables them to argue that, even if things are actually worse, their worseness can’t be blamed on the initiators of the war, because their actions were not in themselves wrong (because justified by stopping Saddam) and don’t serve to justify the Iraqi “resistance” (agreed, they don’t). In other words, Norman helps himself to an essentially consequentialist justification for the Iraq war, but, faced with bad consequences, uses a non-consequentialist discourse of responsibility to filter them out of the consequentialist calculus. At least, that’s what seems to me to be going on.