The Dartmouth Observer

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Friday, April 30, 2004
Bernard Lewis, interviewed

The Atlantic has an interview with Bernard Lewis, who always comes across as intelligent, erudite, and thought-provoking. Here's some advice he has for the Americans currently in Iraq:

I think the first thing is better linguistic training. For example, when I listen to the broadcasts from the media people who are in Iraq at the present time, they almost always mispronounce the names of Iraqi towns. One town which has been very much in the news is spelled in Latin letters N-a-j-a-f, and I hear one announcer or newsreader after another, even those who are calling from over there, say Na-jaf' (emphasis on the second syllable). Well it isn't Na-jaf', it's Na'jaf (emphasis on the first syllable). Anyone who's ever heard an Iraqi pronounce the name will know that. The fact that this sort of name is systematically mispronounced is really alarming. One wonders who they've been talking to.
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Harvard's new idea

Administrators at Harvard have made the shocking realization that spending time in foreign countries can be an educational experience.

Sunday, April 25, 2004
Out of the frying pan, into the fire

I wonder how the Japanese public would have reacted had these hostages been killed?

Tuesday, April 20, 2004
The blogosphere and research

In his review of Princeton professor Peter Singer's book, The President of Good and Evil: Taking George W. Bush Seriously, Michael Lind, after panning the book, says that "The sloppiness of such thinking is matched by the incoherence of the book, which appears to have been hastily spliced together rather than written. Singer seems to have read little of the voluminous material on the history of the modern American conservative movement and Republican Party. Apart from newspaper/magazine articles, many of his sources are anti-Bush blogs, including one with the scholarly name of Like a number of other recent books, The President of Good and Evil provides troubling evidence that the bad habits of the blogosphere are corrupting the world of print discourse. As in a blog, caches of documentary material are dumped between rambling riffs of opinion." Thoughts? I'm running off to class now.

Monday, April 19, 2004
Opinion Duel

Those of you who don't already know about it should check out, created by National Review and The New Republic, in order to foster debate across the political spectrum. This week features Jonathan Chait of TNR debating the question of pre-9/11 intelligence failures with Ramesh Ponnuru of NR. The entries are somewhat brief, but I suspect that's because each writer's keeping something in reserve for the next round.

Update: Josh Chafetz thinks that other publications, such as the American Prospect and Weekly Standard, should be brought on board as well. I agree.

Administrative Announcement

I'm contemplating some changes to this site within the next few months (Moveable Type, perhaps). In light of this, I'm going to ask all those of you who have posting access to this site to tell me whether or not you still want to have said access. If I don't hear from you a week from today, I'm going to assume that you're not interested, and will remove your name without holding anything against you. Now back to our regularly scheduled service.

Kimball on Political Correctness

Roger Kimball has a piece in the National Interest on PC. As you'd expect, it comes with some lovely quotations, including this one from Kimball's favorite Walter Bagehot (that's Badjet, by the way):

The most melancholy of human reflections, perhaps, is that, on the whole, it is a question whether the benevolence of mankind does most good or harm. Great good, no doubt, philanthropy does, but then it also does great evil. It augments so much vice, it multiplies so much suffering, it brings to life such great populations to suffer and to be vicious, that it is open to argument whether it be or be not an evil to the world, and this is entirely because excellent people fancy they can do much by rapid action--that they will most benefit the world when they most relieve their own feelings.
Read the whole thing.

Welcome readers of Priorities & Frivolities!

Do have a look around, although I warn you that this blog isn't updated quite as often as I'd like, due to reasons mostly having to do with college (read: thesis). Yes, I realize it's not the best excuse, but it'll have to do for now.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Ted Kennedy = Daniel Webster

Rob Tagorda catches the New Yorker's David Remnick comparing Ted Kennedy to Daniel Webster, and points out that this speech by Webster rather makes a mockery of that comparison.

Lucky Jim

Probably the funniest novel I've read is 50 years old. Roger Kimball has written a tribute to Kingsley Amis's comic masterpiece in the New York Sun.

My favorite quotation in the novel comes when Jim, a medieval history professor at some random British university, describes the title of his article, "The Economic Influence of the Developments in Shipbuilding Techniques, 1450 to 1485," as "a perfect title, in that it crystallised the article’s niggling mindlessness, its funeral parade of yawn-enforcing facts, the pseudo-light it threw upon nonproblems."

Point of information: I am writing a thesis in medieval history, and will be presenting it to the public come Monday afternoon. L02 Carson Hall, 1.45 pm.

Intellectual diversity

I missed yesterday's D and thus this atrocious piece by History professor Craig Wilder, in which he all but calls Trustee candidate T. J. Rodgers a racist and a sexist for opposing affirmative action:

His anti-diversity rhetoric targets students of color on this campus, but his malice also threatens the gains of white women in the faculty and student body.

Affirmative action creates opportunity; bigots contribute scorn.

Perhaps, he seeks to profit from mischief without being accused of malfeasance. Perhaps, he realizes his need for moral cover.
Like most strident proponents of racial diversity, Professor Wilder (who, it has to be noted, teaches classes on the Black Radical Tradition in America, the Ghetto from Venice to Harlem, and the Marxist Theory of the Past) ends up only reinforcing the need for intellectual diversity here at Dartmouth. Ted Knudsen '04 deserves kudos for making that point in his response to the good Marxist.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Do we really need this?

Does Dartmouth need a Center for the Advancement of Learning? According to the news release, the center will "coordinate programs and fellowships enabling faculty to develop new pedagogies, especially in digital technology and new media. It will also orient new faculty to Dartmouth's teaching environment, which encourages close teacher-student relationships and a hands-on, discovery-based approach to exchanging knowledge." Gifts come by way of Gordon W. Russell '55 and R. Stephen Cheheyl '67. Professor Thomas Luxon, thanks chiefly, I suspect, to his (excellent) Milton Reading Room, will become the inaugural Cheheyl Professor in July.

In all my time here, most of the good classes I've had were those that did not rely on "new pedagogies" in "digital technology and new media." My favorite class here in fact featured a professor who didn't have Blitz or any other form of email, and who lamented having a mechanical pencil because he couldn't sharpen them using the wall sharpeners in Reed Hall.

Good choice

Andrew Samwick is the Rockefeller Center's new Director. I've not taken a class with him, but by all accounts he's a fantastic professor: both a great teacher and a great scholar. His website reveals him to have a sense of humor as well. As the chief economist on the staff of the President's Council of Economic Advisors, he also brings valuable real world experience to the job. This is the man, by the way, who assigned the class of 2006 Milton and Rose Friedman's Free to Choose as their summer reading. Conservatives who whine about liberal bias in academia (and I confess to doing that from time to time) ought to take heart from this appointment.

The New Criterion should hire this guy

When not dining on raw tuna, Iranian caviar, Danish bacon and fine wines or collecting nuclear weapons, Kim Jong-Il opines on the arts and culture. Yes, North Korea's Dear Leader has published books: On the Art of Cinema and On the Art of Opera. (He's also written something called Our Socialism Centered on the Masses Shall Not Perish, but that's political and boring.) Quoth the man:

The cinema is now one of the main objects on which efforts should be concentrated in order to conduct the revolution in art and literature. The cinema occupies an important place in the overall development of art and literature. As such it is a powerful ideological weapon for the revolution and construction. Therefore, concentrating efforts on the cinema, making breakthroughs and following up success in all areas of art and literature is the basic principle that we must adhere to in revolutionizing art and literature.
Impressive, if I may say so myself. As one Amazon reviewer puts it, "The Dear Leader blesses us with his lean prose, so joyous after decades of Western decadence. If the price of his criticism is to be counted in the millions of Korean dead, then so be it." (Thanks to Eugene Volokh for the link to Steve Sachs's piece.)

Tuesday, April 06, 2004
A Blueprint for Islam?

Here's a fascinating document published by the RAND Corporation entitled "Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies." Daniel Pipes has a favorable review of it here.

Monday, April 05, 2004
The D's new masthead: ugly

Not content with making its website less attractive (I blogged on this when the change occured some time ago), the The Dartmouth now features a new masthead in its print edition. I'll try to get a scan of it if I can. In the meantime, let me describe what's wrong about it. First of all, it employs a font that's too decorative. Worse, the graphic of Dartmouth Hall is completely obscured by the masthead's text. As a result, Dartmouth Hall's triangular pediment comes across like...a coathanger.

Any subscribers to Reason Magazine out there? If so, you might be in for a surprise when your next issue arrives.

Victor Davis Hanson has his own website, which he updates regularly. Be sure to check out his latest post on "The Mirror of Fallujah."

Sunday, April 04, 2004
Amusing anecdote

I was hanging out in the History Department the other day when Marysa Navarro and Gene Garthwaite both came into the room. (I like both the professors mentioned as people -- although in different ways, they are not the best teachers.) Prof. Navarro complained cheerily that her senior counterpart was blaming her for the Madrid bomb attacks (she's a Basque, and at that point ETA was still thought to be involved). Whereupon I responded something along the lines of, 'no, Prof. Garthwaite, it was al-Qaeda that did it, and so you're really the one to blame.' We all laughed in the knowledge that the response was not quite up to the level of the initial accusation. And of course, I meant it in jest.

But after re-reading this old piece by Ibn Warraq on Edward Said (whom Prof. Garthwaite is a devoted disciple of), I began to wonder if maybe there was more truth in my response than I had initially thought.


Christopher Hitchens writes:

I debate with the opponents of the Iraq intervention almost every day. I always have the same questions for them, which never seem to get answered. Do you believe that a confrontation with Saddam Hussein's regime was inevitable or not? Do you believe that a confrontation with an Uday/Qusay regime would have been better? Do you know that Saddam's envoys were trying to buy a weapons production line off the shelf from North Korea (vide the Kay report) as late as last March? Why do you think Saddam offered "succor" (Mr. Clarke's word) to the man most wanted in the 1993 bombings in New York? Would you have been in favor of lifting the "no fly zones" over northern and southern Iraq; a 10-year prolongation of the original "Gulf War"? Were you content to have Kurdish and Shiite resistance fighters do all the fighting for us? Do you think that the timing of a confrontation should have been left, as it was in the past, for Baghdad to choose?
And concludes:

Fallujah is a reminder, not just of what Saddamism looks like, or of what the future might look like if we fail, but of what the future held before the Coalition took a hand.
Further comments on the killings come by way of Zeyad at Healing Iraq.

Update: another Hitchens article not to be missed is this one in Slate. Thanks to Ryan Samuels for the link.

Saturday, April 03, 2004
Christian Totalitarianism

It's not a contradiction in terms: check out Liberty University's Reprimands and Consequences page. Students at LU can get punished for "Immorality," "Deception," "Improper personal conduct (anything beyond hand-holding)," and "Improper social behavior." And you thought "offensiveness" was ambiguous.

There are actually some serious points to be made about these ridiculous laws. Why are they needed at all if the students who apply there are already so pious and well-behaved? And, as a learned friend of mine pointed out, Martin Luther (LU is a Lutheran college) in fact stated that God's kingdom on earth would not require such rules. I'll find the exact quotation if I can.

Update: Larry Scholer informs me that LU is Southern Baptist - Jerry Falwell's university - not Lutheran. My bad.

Friday, April 02, 2004
The Death of Intelligence and Common Sense

Tammy Bruce, author of (yet-another-book-not-worth-your-time-and-money) The Death of Right and Wrong, has decided that the most appropriate response to the Fallujah murders would be to...raze the city. That's right. She advocates a "complete and total destruction" of the city, ala Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki during WW2. Her article also contains a great deal of unsubstantiated generalizations about the "malignant narcissists" of the Democratic Party and the "nihilistic American leftists" that "control our culture." Shades of Ann Coulter, anyone?

Thursday, April 01, 2004
Bush = Bin Laden

Woye Soyinka, by all accounts a brave and courageous man and a brilliant writer, appears to have gone awry. The Nigerian Nobel Laureate will shortly deliver the prestigious BBC Reith Lectures, in which he will characterize George Bush and Osama bin Laden as a "twin strain of the same fanatic spore that threatens to consume the world in its messianic fires." Proof, I suppose, that standing up to dictators in one's earlier years does not inoculate you from egregious moral relativism later on in life.

Sex Week at Yale

Attend lectures on "Sex in the Age of Terrorism: How to Create Peace Without and Peace Within" and "The History of the Vibrator"! Better still, have a "private event" (girls only) with a real porn star!

Beat that, Dartmouth!

(Thanks to Stefan Beck and the Collegiate Network for the link.)

Update: NRO's Meghan Clyne comments on the event here.