The Dartmouth Observer

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Saturday, January 31, 2004

Friday, January 30, 2004

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

American University in Kuwait

I had dinner last night at the Dickey Center with several foreign dignitaries, including Prince Hassan of Jordan, who spoke here on Monday, his son Prince Rashid, and the President of the American University of Kuwait, Shafeeq Ghabra. Dartmouth, as you may know, is working closely with the AUK to help it become the first private liberal arts university in Kuwait.

I was sitting next to President Ghabra, and found him to be a charming and eloquent man: precisely the sort of person the Arab world needs. This piece in the Weekly Standard on the AUK and President Ghabra only confirms my impressions.

Paul Berman

is in fine form in this piece. Quote:

My own eyes widened. "You haven't the foggiest idea what fascism is," I said. "I always figured that a keen awareness of extreme oppression was the deepest trait of a left-wing heart. Mass graves, three hundred thousand missing Iraqis, a population crushed by thirty-five years of Baathist boots stomping on their faces-that is what fascism means! And you think that a few corrupt insider contracts with Bush's cronies at Halliburton and a bit of retrograde Bible-thumping and Bush's ridiculous tax cuts and his bonanzas for the super-rich are indistinguishable from that?-indistinguishable from fascism? From a politics of slaughter? Leftism is supposed to be a reality principle. Leftism is supposed to embody an ability to take in the big picture. The traitor to the left is you, my friend..."


Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Return of the King

Fresh from sweeping all the four Golden Globes it was nominated for, Peter Jackson's Return of the King is now up for 11 Academy Awards (Master and Commander is second with ten). They are:

Art Direction
Costume Design
Film Editing
Original Score
Original Song
Sound Mixing
Visual Effects
Adapted Screenplay

It deserves to win all of them. Watch the making of the first two movies on DVD if you need more convincing.

Friday, January 23, 2004
Art criticism, D-style

While I agree with Barry Hashimoto '06 that the paintings in the Upper Jewett Corridor in the Hop shouldn't be removed simply because they offend some people, I'm more than a little perplexed by his attempt at art criticism.

He writes, "Art is a genuine expression of human perception, despite the ramifications it might incur." Erh, right on. What would be a non-genuine expression of human perception then? What is art? Then comes what must surely be the most bizarre line I've ever read in The D: "An indigenous American Indian may object to a window with a crucifix in it, just as a Cambodian once turned into an ox might object to socialist murals." Is this some reference to Buddhism? What does that have to do with a Cambodian's objection to socialism?? And finally, "Perceptions of common decency vary from culture to culture, and rest on collective experience. Art can project that perception, but it also can be singular, unique." The New Criterion should hire this guy immediately.

Sunday, January 18, 2004
Jim Wright = Stalin??

Some elements of the left like to make comparisons between the various members of the Bush administration and Hitler.

Some elements of the right like to make comparisons between university administrations and Stalin. The opening sentence of this Review piece on the Intercollegiate Studies Institute reads: "The Stalinist atmosphere that pervades today's American universities is a sickening fact."

Stalin was a monster, and Stalinist Russia was hell on earth. To state that a "Stalinist atmosphere" pervades university campuses today is absurd. Students are not being hauled from their dorms at night to be sent to the gulag; no one's being killed for not toeing the official line. Universities today are left-leaning, for reasons that I've mentioned before, but they are not Stalinist. If you don't know your history, don't make such sloppy historical analogies.

Friday, January 16, 2004
Political Underground: Because The Level Of Political Discourse Can Always Get Lower

Hey kids,

While I've been on extended sabbatical from the Jack-O-Lantern, working on my own projects and occasionally a large keg character, they've been damned busy without me. I'm pleased to use -- no, pleased to abuse -- my posting privileges on this blog to announce the Jacko's new political satire site,

  • Week in Review: John Kerry's Hair

  • Times I Have Considered Having Sex with Chelsea Clinton

  • Correspondence with General Wesley Clark

  • And more features that include absolutely NO Bush jokes you've already heard a million fucking times. (The Bush article will be up in a few days.)

  • Please send any comments or suggestions to Cal Newport or to the Jacko account.


    An op-ed on Bush's space program that's titled "Atrocities in Chechnya."

    Update: no longer.

    Thursday, January 15, 2004

    John and I have letters to the editor in the latest Dartmouth Free Press. You can read them here. (Note the correction to be made.)

    Ronald Edsforth

    Ron Edsforth, a visiting professor in the History Department, and a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq (see here or here), will no longer be teaching here come this July. He's taught here for 11 years.

    The reasons for this are unclear. I suspect it has nothing to do with his political beliefs, which are actually far less radical-left than most would think. I say this having attended several panel discussions on the war featuring Edsforth, and having spoken to a colleague of his who supported the war and who knows Edsforth well. It can't be his scholarship either, given that he's a full professor elsewhere and has published a couple of books. And by most accounts - John will testify, having taken a class with him - Edsforth is a very good teacher. So why then the dismissal? Does the College have something against visiting professors? Fiscal issues?

    Update: Matt Singleton '04 wrote an op-ed to The D on Prof. Edsforth's dismissal, but they haven't published it yet and probably won't. Matt decided to print out copies of his article himself and distribute them around campus (I found one in Homeplate last night). With his permission, I'm reproducing it below:

    As of July 1st, 2004, Dartmouth College plans to make redundant one of the most well-known, and well-respected professors on Campus. Professor Ronald Edsforth of the History department will not be returning to Dartmouth to teach for the Fall of 2004 after 11 years of dedication to the education, both in an out of the classroom, of his students. Upon being informed he would no longer be invited to teach his ever-popular War and Peace Studies class by the college, the History department also made the decision it would not be offering Edsforth the opportunity to teach as well.

    Although the rationale behind these decisions is debatable, one thing that is for certain is that in no way, shape, or form were student opinions and evaluations considered in the college’s ultimate decision. Ironically, I cannot think of one student I know who has taken a class with Professor Edsforth that would concur with Dartmouth’s ultimate decision not to renew his contract. In the classroom, he is a passionate and interesting speaker who is truly invested in what he teaches, is committed to after-class hours, and has been responsible for bringing a number of renowned guest speakers and lecturers from all over the world to campus. Always available both during and outside of office hours, Professor Edsforth is truly dedicated to each and every student in the classes he taught.

    Having taken my first History class with Professor Edsforth, I can undoubtedly claim his American Business History class was the single most important factor in my decision to become a History major. His extraordinary pedagogy transcended the specific curriculum; he taught us to embrace history as discipline in and of itself. Although a year or more has passed since I was last in his class, whether I meet him on campus or in Carson Hall, Professor Edsforth still greets me with as much warmth and energy as he did when I was his student.

    One can speculate endlessly regarding the issues that led to the termination of one of the College’s best and most dedicated professors. The process leading to Professor Edsforth’s departure, reeking of purely administrative interests, belies Dartmouth’s claim of a commitment to giving students a voice in college affairs and runs counter to the popular opinion of the student body. If we accept this unfortunate decision without expressing our dissent, we may risk losing more professors of high quality in a similar fashion, but even more importantly, we will forfeit our expectation that the voice of the student body will be heard, particularly in matters that affect us as directly as classroom instruction.

    Sadly, Professor Edsforth has been unable to find a job elsewhere given such short notice. However, all hope is not yet gone, for I would like to believe the students should have the last say in this matter. Dartmouth would be foolish to let such a valuable resource go, and it is our responsibility to ensure the continued excellence of education at Dartmouth College. Our legitimate voice in such matters is being eroded by a myopic and exclusive process. I strongly urge each and every student that has taken a class with Professor Edsforth and recognizes his extraordinary value to the Dartmouth community to express their support for Dr. Edsforth to the Dean of Faculty and contact me if you would be interested in organizing an effort to help retain one of the most prized faculty members Dartmouth has and to set a precedent for student influence in the future.

    Hitchens on Proust

    One of the finest writers of our time on one of the finest writers ever. I've read the first volume (Swann's Way) of Search (and in English, of course); reading Hitchens's criticism makes me crave the second even more. Sample:

    If I were asked to "summarize: the achievement of Proust, I should reply as dauntlessly as I dared that his is the work par excellence that exposes and clarifies the springs of human motivation. Through his eyes we see what actuates the dandy and the lover and the grandee and the hypocrite and the poseur, with a transparency unexampled except in Shakespeare or George Eliot. And this ability, so piercing and at times even alarming, is not mere knowingness. It is not, in other words, the product of cynicism. To be so perceptive and yet so innocent—that, in a phrase, is the achievement of Proust.

    (Thanks to Mike Potemra at The Corner.)

    Tuesday, January 13, 2004
    Every liberal's favorite conservative

    David Brooks will be speaking here at Dartmouth tomorrow for the second time in the last few years.

    My favorite game

    As some of you may know, I'm a huge soccer fan: it comes with not being an American, I guess. Long have I maintained that the game is the secret to world peace. A Swedish MP in fact nominated the game for the Nobel Peace Prize. No doubt he had heard the famous WWI story about how on Christmas Day, British and German forces stopped fighting each other and played soccer instead.

    Well, according to the New Republic's Franklin Foer, writing in that excellent publication Foreign Policy, maybe a Nobel Prize for Economics is more appropriate. I've just skimmed it, but will report back shortly with more thoughts. For now, I will comment on this statement: "Teams like...Manchester United only fall from their thrones for brief and historically insignificant spells." Wrong. Man Utd have only been a dominant force in the English game for the past 10 years or so. Thank god for that. Damn Mancs.

    Monday, January 12, 2004
    Abu Dhabi TV's new guest commentator

    is none other than the former Iraqi Information Minister, Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf!

    (If you haven't seen his unofficial website yet, you should check it out.)

    Now here's a view you don't see too often [via Instapundit]

    A French libertarian who supported the war in Iraq. Here's what she says about America:

    I think the United States is a country of freedom. Our two countries have very strong historical ties. I don't approve of the fact that so many French people are anti-American, because we have the same culture. I like that America is a country of freedom, and a country where you can create and make yourself what you want to be.

    I wouldn't say that America is a perfect country, but it's a country where you can at least try.

    Sunday, January 11, 2004

    John and I both have letters of response to this article in the latest Dartmouth Free Press (not yet available online). I end my letter by quoting Margaret Thatcher, but the editors got the quotation wrong. They write "Yes, but there's not much to react to." It should be, "Yes, but there's so much to react to." It's not only their fault, since the original that I submitted had "no" instead of "so." Apologies for being careless on my part. But surely the editors would have realized that Maggie could not possibly have said "there's not much to react to." It doesn't even make sense in context.

    Thursday, January 08, 2004
    It's that time of the year again!

    Yes, the Modern Language Association has just held its annual conference. Founded in 1883, the MLA's stated aim is to "strengthen the study and teaching of language and literature." An aim that appears to, er, have been compromised in recent years. This time around...well, you'll just have to read for yourself. This paragraph is particularly telling:

    Just a few years ago, he noted, the Taliban was regularly attacked at MLA meetings for their treatment of women and likened to the American religious right. Now, there is only talk of how the United States has taken away the rights of the Afghan people.

    Monday, January 05, 2004
    Kramer on Khalidi

    Rashidi Khalidi, the Edward Said Chair in Arab Studies at Columbia, said in Arabic on al-Jazeera recently:

    By God, I say that the participation of the sons or daughters of the Arabs in the plans and affairs of this institute is a huge error, this Israeli institute in Washington, an institute founded by AIPAC, the Zionist lobby, and that hosts tens of Israelis every year. The presence of an Arab or two each year can't disguise the nature of this institute as the most important center of Zionist interests in Washington for at least a decade. I very much regret the participation of Arab officials and non-officials and academics in the activities of this institute, because in fact if you look at the output of this institute, it's directed against the Palestinians, against the Arabs, and against the Muslims in general. Its products describe the Palestinians as terrorists, and in fact its basic function is to spread lies and falsehoods about the Arab world, of course under an academic, scholarly veneer. Basically, this is the most important Zionist propaganda tool in the United States.

    To which Martin Kramer has (as usual) a cogent, intelligent response. He even writes "I have never called him an apologist for terrorism, and I respect some of his historical scholarship." You won't find such moderation from Khalidi and his ilk.

    A Belated Happy New Year to everyone...