Cascading boycotts

by Henry on June 2, 2006

Siva Vaidhyanathan “takes inspiration”: from the recent “NAFTHE decision”:,,1785634,00.html to boycott Israeli academics who don’t disassociate themselves from their country’s policies.

bq. Please boycott me. While you are at it, boycott all other American professors. Do not invite us to conferences. Do not publish our work. Do not read our blogs (after this post, of course). We have a lot to answer for. I am an American academic who has not done enough to prevent my government from launching an illegal and counterproductive invasion of a sovereign country. On my watch, my country has also imprisoned thousands of innocent people without charge and without instigating a process for demonstrating their harmlessness. It has engaged in massive surveillance of communication both overseas and domestic without regard for domestic laws or the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. Many of my fellow American academics have failed to prevent our government from doing these and many other bad things. So we deserve to be punished. Clearly, we are craven collaborators.

This is a far better response to the silliness of the motion than Larry Summer’s over-the-top claim that the boycott was “motivated by anti-Semitism”:, which grants the authors of the motion a level of world historical significance than they sorely lack. Their self-importance smacks less of Julius Streicher than the “Skibbereen Eagle”: Steven Poole’s “post”: on the sorry affair is also worth reading.

Update: as this is degenerating into the usual pro/anti Israel fight, I’m not allowing any further comments.

Academic pay and justice

by Chris Bertram on June 2, 2006

The main union representing academics in the UK is “in dispute with university employers at the moment”:, a dispute that is getting nastier all the time. Academics are refusing to assess students’ work, leading to the worry that many of them will be unable to get classified degrees this summer, and universities are now threatening to withhold a proportion of salaries (30 per cent in my institutions, up to 100 per cent in some other) as a penalty for partial breach of contract. I’m supporting the action as a loyal union member, but also because there is something right about the union case. However, as an egalitarian liberal, I can’t feel other that unhappy about some of the arguments put for higher academic salaries.

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Elsewhere on the WWW

by Henry on June 2, 2006

“Miriam Burstein”: on academics in the movies.

bq. The $1,000,000 office. All faculty offices have built-in, glass-fronted, mahogany bookcases, as well as executive desks and leather chairs. Moreover, all professors keep their antique books _in_ their offices. Where _are_ these offices, and, more importantly, when can I have one?

“P. O’Neill”: on Flack Central Station and supersized astroturf.

bq. McDonald’s] is also funding TCS Daily, an arm of the Washington lobbying and public-relations firm DCI Group, that is making more pointed attacks against Mr. Schlosser and his work. Last week, TCS Daily launched a Web site called Fast Talk Nation that called his theories “rhetoric” and argued that he wants to decriminalize marijuana … Last Friday, TCS Daily abruptly closed the Fast Talk Nation site two days after its launch. James Glassman, who says he “hosts” the TCS Daily site, says he closed the Fast Talk Nation site because he wanted to pool his resources with the broader industry’s Best Food Nation site. … Are we really expected to believe that anything TCS now publishes about the film is not influenced by the food industry even with the more blatant lobbying now hived off to a separate — industry funded — website?

“Nick Antosca”: interviews John Crowley.

Klein on Murray on Health Insurance

by Harry on June 2, 2006

Ezra Klein has a nice explanation of the problems with the health insurance proposal in Murray’s In Our Hands. (Read also numerous comments in the comment section which pretty much do for it anyway). He also expresses puzzlement at the laudatory nature of my review; because topnotch CT commenter bob mcmanus joins in, I explain my reasons there. Ezra says:

Give me a plan that’s $10,000, plus universal health care, funded through transparent means, and ratchets back in a more intelligent way, and we’ll talk.

I’ll follow up next week (there’s a promise) with references to left-wing versions of the idea that everyone should already know about but apparently doesn’t, in the hope of prompting Ezra into talking.

What have you done?

by Harry on June 2, 2006

Laura asks:

Please tell the blogosphere one cool thing that you’ve done that you suspect that nobody else has done. And I don’t want to hear about athletic sexual events, because it’s impossible to shock me. I told one story in the comments section yesterday. Your turn.

Jane Galt dressed as the Pope for Halloween. Go there to add you 2 cents (and do it non-anonymously if you dare)!

Sofri pardon

by Henry on June 2, 2006

It seems “nearly certain”: that the Italian government is going to pardon Adriano Sofri. This has been a continuing sore on the Italian legal system – to all appearances, Sofri was stitched up for a murder he didn’t commit. It’s a slightly involved story (Carlo Ginzburg’s book, “The Judge and the Historians”:, gives a good account). Sofri was one of the founders of _Lotta Continua_, an autonomist Marxist group which bitterly denounced an Italian policeman, Luigi Calabresi, as a symbol of all that was rotten and corrupt in the Italian state (an anarchist railway worker, Pino Pinelli, had mysteriously taken it upon himself to jump to his death from Calabresi’s office window while under interrogation – the subject of Dario Fo’s play _The Accidental Death of an Anarchist_). Some years after Calabresi himself was murdered, presumably by leftists, a former _Lotta Continua_ supporter came to the police and claimed that Sofri and others had ordered the killing. Despite the weakness of this evidence (the witness appears to have been highly unreliable), Sofri and two others were convicted of murder. This has been a _cause celebre_ for the Italian left ever since. There’s no real evidence that Sofri was guilty of anything more than overheated and rather unpleasant rhetoric, for which he has since apologized – it’s good to see that this miscarriage of justice is about to be righted.

Berkeley Webcasts

by Jon Mandle on June 2, 2006

The University of California Berkeley has run a trial program this past semester that makes webcasts available from around 30 courses. (MIT also has had some course videos and other material available for some time.) They also have special lectures and events available here. The courses range from Art 32, “Foundations of American Cyberculture”, to EE 240, “Advanced Analog Integrated Circuits”, to Psych 130, “Clinical Psychology”. There is one philosophy course – Phil 7, “Existentialism in Literature and Film” by Hubert Dreyfus. His course has 27 lectures; each appears to be a little over one hour. Video is available for many of courses, but not Dreyfus’s.