The Dartmouth Observer
Monday, October 31, 2005
Folt's Reponse to Appleton
Thanks to Dartlog for this. Here's the response to Appleton.
>>Subject: Message from Dean Folt
>>To: Sergei A. Kan, Kathleen A. Corrigan, Edward M. Berger, John S. Winn, Jeremy B. Rutter, Prasad Jayanti, Dennis Washburn, Xiahong Feng, Jonathan S. Skinner, Laura-Ann Petitto, Eric W. Hansen, Peter W. Travis, Amy L. Lawrence, Mark J. Williams, Katharine Conley, Francis J. Magilligan, Bruce Duncan, M. Anne Saadah, P. David Lagomarsino, firstname.lastname@example.org (Thomas R. Shemanske), Theodore C. Levin, James H. Moor, email@example.com (John R. Thorstensen), George L. Wolford II, Susan Ackerman, Lev L. Loseff, Misagh Parsa, Lenore A. Grenoble, Colleen M. Randall, Timothy P. Hackett, J. Martin Favor, Steven J. Ericson, Graziella Parati, Andrew J. Friedland, Annelise Orleck, Israel Reyes, Lindsay J. Whaley, Donald E. Pease Jr, Colin G. Calloway, Judith A. Byfield
>I understand that a mass email titled, "The Decline of Academic Freedom at Dartmouth College" was sent to many members of the faculty last Thursday. While I do not know who received the email, I have heard about it from faculty in many departments. I am writing to you in your role as Chair to provide you with the correct information which you can discuss with your faculty if questions arise. The "Decline of Academic Freedom" email is filled with errors and unpleasant personal allusions, but rather than address all of them, I am going to focus on the errors that touch on fundamental issues for the faculty.
>The email concerned grading issues in Music 3 taught during the fall 2004 to 76 students (final enrollment). At the conclusion of the course, the Dean's Office received 42 student complaints -- an unprecedented number – from students who received grades from A- to D. As is standard procedure, the Associate Dean for the responsible division (in this case for Humanities) was in charge of the inquiry into complaints. The review was very thorough and took four months to complete. It included: interviews by the Assistant Dean with 28 complaining students who were on campus, review by the Associate Dean of grades on all assignments, review of course information distributed to students (including information about grading criteria) and a discussion between the Associate Dean and the Professor about grading practices. Our investigation concluded that unspecified extra credit had been given to students who came to speak with the instructor about the course and their compositions, regardless of whether they improved their work based on his feedback, and that students had never been told that they could raise their grades simply by meeting with the instructor.
>Under the circumstances, the Associate Dean and I both felt that some accommodation was necessary to ensure the student's right to understandable and fair grading. It was impractical to re-grade the musical compositions; it was weeks after the end of the term, students had dispersed and there were no faculty on campus available to undertake such a task. Instead, the students were given the option of receiving credit instead of a grade for the course. Please note that not a single student grade was raised and thus no GPA's were "inflated." However, because all students had passed the course, all students were given the option to receive credit for the course (this is like using Dartmouth's NRO option).
>I want to make it clear that an alleged concern that the grades were either too high or too low was never a consideration. Many other courses have mean and median grades similar to that of Music 3 in the fall of 2004.
>I also wish to emphasize that student complaints about grades are very rare at Dartmouth and only lead to administrative action in the most exceptional cases where there is clear evidence – after review by assistant and associate deans – of unfairness in the assignation of grades. I am aware of fewer than 5 grading complaints coming to the Dean's office about the more than 6000 courses taught by Arts & Science faculty in the last 4 years. However, if you or any of your faculty have questions about faculty independence in grading, please contact the Dean of Faculty or any of the Associate Deans.
>Finally, in the context of this case, a broad assertion has been made that Dartmouth has a lack of standards and is uninterested or even complicit in the perpetuation of grade inflation. This is simply not true. Dartmouth was one of the first institutions to address grade inflation when it began reporting the median grade on the transcripts. Last year, the Committee on Instruction began discussions about grading practices once again and they plan to examine this issue more closely in the coming year. I look forward to working with the faculty on this and trust we will explore this complex question with the careful reflection and consideration it deserves.
SCOTUSblog provides links to all the commentary on Alito that you would ever wish to read.
A biography of Judge Samuel Alito is online at Wikipedia. I'll be posting my thoughts of the nominations over the next few days.
That being said, Professor Bainbridge has been itching for a fight. Now we've got one.
The Nation has a great (long) essay about leftist support for humanitarian intereventionism. In acknowledging that the war divided the left, the Nation attempts to tease out the basis of pro-war liberalism. Long ago, in the lead up the Iraq war, ChienWen and others offered that to truly support human rights one also had support the "liberation" of Baghdad. I will find the archival evidence and post links to those later. The liberals that the Nation describes are those leftists for whom a commiment to humanitariasm drove them to support the neo-conservative liberation.
In writing about Paul Berman, the Nation observes that pro-war liberals made common cause with the pro-war right only to provide domestic political support for a declaration of war. However, the underlying ideological sources of that support were very different.
[T]he principal hero of Berman's story is Bernard Kouchner, the Nation writes, a founder of Doctors Without Borders and head of the United Nations administration in Kosovo from July 1999 to January 2001. For Berman "nobody in Europe was more heroic" than this "fearless humanitarian doctor" who always seemed to be "on a mission against injustice." The basic principle underlying Kouchner's political activism was that "the supremely oppressed had a right to be rescued, no matter what the theorists of anti-imperialism or the defenders of the inviolability of borders might say." Kouchner supported the war because he knew that Iraq was studded with Srebrenicas. If you hate genocide, place matters of conscience at the heart of your thinking and appreciate the larger grandeur of the interventionist idea (in Kouchner's terms, the droit d'ingérence, or right of interference), then you can only applaud the American invasion of Iraq. Never mind that most ex-'68ers, including Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Joschka Fischer, opposed the war as an expression of the Bush Administration's revolutionary hubris. Kouchner's example reassures Berman that an ex-'68er could join the war party and preserve his "left-wing soul."The Nation ultimately decides that the pro-war liberal won't survive the leftovers of the Iraq war.
The article also traces the evolution of the thought of David Reiff. Reiff, once committed to interventionism, has backpedaled. The Nation writes, "[a]lthough Rieff "began the decade in Sarajevo a convinced interventionist," today he is "no longer an interventionist," having returned from Iraq with grave "doubts about the entire project of humanitarian intervention." This is the same Reiff who loosed his pen against lefty non-interventionists calling them: "a left that would prefer to see genocide in Bosnia and the mass deportation of the Kosovars rather than strengthen, however marginally, the hegemony of the United States."
Where does Reiff stand on the issue today?
Faced with the "appalling and degrading" conditions in postwar Iraq, where things were "worse than anything I was able to write about it," Rieff has felt compelled to reconsider his advocacy of US-led humanitarian intervention. What he discovered on his visits to Iraq was a collapsed state, not a liberated country. Those who fervently embrace American power, it turns out, are also condemning people to death. Rieff shifts his emphasis, therefore, from the complicity of noninterventionists to the complicity of interventionists. He begins to write persuasively about "the responsibility one has in advocating war when one will have little or no responsibility or say in how it is waged." Idealists who trumpeted a purely humanitarian case for invading Iraq should have known that their benevolent motives were not sufficient to trigger the war and were not going to govern the way the war and the occupation unfolded.
Read the article.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Ahmadinejad's rant: the full text
Courtesy of Martin Kramer, here's the full text of the Iranian President's anti-Israel rant.
Weekend News Roundup- Sunday Edition
Reset your clocks an hour back if you haven't yet!
(1) Bouncing back from these latest series of disaster will not be easy for the Bush administration. The Washington Post makes a convincing argument to that effect. See my argument here on the particular difficulties of Bush domestically after Miers.
(2) Tranisitioning war leaders, partisan groups, and terrorist parties into a nonviolent political process can be difficult. One the main tools the current regime has is the trial of Hussein as an attempt to demonize him and shore up its legitimacy. Each constituency brings a different agenda to the table. In Iraq the prize, at the moment, is leverage in the post-war state. The Sunnis have recently begun to prepare for elections; but why? Are they tactical democrats or truly reformed? Will they end the insurgency?
The other former terrorist group, that has been remarkably quiet since the democratic process began, is the Kurds whose anti-Hussien terrorism is well know. It seems like they've begun to carve up a section of Northern Iraq for their own state. The "Kurdish political leaders said the repatriations are designed to correct the policies of ousted President Saddam Hussein, who replaced thousands of Kurds in the region with Arabs from the south. The Kurdish parties have seized control of the process, they said, because the Iraqi government has failed to implement an agreement to return Kurdish residents to their homes." The fight over the city, Kirkuk, could be the next Bleeding Kansas. The Washington Post has the details.
(3) Bush makes the case for staying in Iraq in USA Today. Iraq is going to be a problem given logistical issues.
(4) In the face of a Security Council resolution, Syria launches an internal probe to investigate the murder of a Lebanese prime minister. The Boston Globe reports.
Condi in 2008
The Guardian provides an excerpt from a new book called Condi vs. Hillary. If you have some money, and you can spare it, buy it. It's a really fun read.
Lots of unofficial, run Condi, sites are popping up over the internet. See here, here, and here. My favorite pro-Condi site is the "Blogs for Condi." Check out their blog roll. When Condi took British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to visit Alabama, the rumors flew. See also this.
I wanted to be the first black president in 2024.
Seriously, though, what should we think of all the noise around Condi's possible run for the presidency?
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Reflection, Relationships, and Stupidity
There's a lot of bad writing and thinking about relationships.
The only thing we do worse than relationships, I think, is talk about philosophy and "intellectualism."
And it truly bothers me.
This rant inspired by an essay entitled: Ditching the Intellectuals: Why Am I Attracted To Men Who Overthink?
Let's start with first conditions: human existence is an existence where one lives in a world populated with other people who probably don't have your best interests in mind. They don't know you. They can't read your mind. The non-verbal signals you send as well as your fanciful, concocted emotional pleas for sympathy and attention are either unknowingly missed or willfully ignored. The extent to which you are loved varies directly with the extent to which you communicate. Get over yourself, open your mouth, and tell people what you want.
Point two, philosophy is not about live a live of reflection "distanced" from reality. Any one who tells you that has not studied philosophy. In what has become a cliche remark as the justification for disinterested contemplation, someone might retort "the unexamined life is not worth living." Foolish creature, think about what you are saying. You examine a life to live it. Philosophy is the act of gathering knowledge about the world to inform how one should live in the world. Thinking is not separate from doing; in fact, you think to do. If you believe that you know philosophy and think otherwise, I say read the texts and see for yourself that I speak the truth.
Point three, "intellectualism" is not hot. If your thinking about something is disconnected from your life-project and the substantive way you live, you are fool who looks in the mirror and forgets what he/she looks like. When one desires a thinker as a soul-mate, one desires not a jargon-laden empty suit, but rather a person who attempts to grasp the meaning of his/her performances, and the impact that his/her living has on others. The intellectual is one who understands that others exists, and attempts to negotiate that fact.
Let me sum up by being perfectly clear: if you act without thinking, you are an idiot. There is neither hope nor meaning in your actions. You are sound and fury signifying nothing. Lusting after a person who does not think about their actions means that you are supporting the project of fools. If you think without acting, or even valorize such a life, you are a dying person. Your thoughts and your life will come to nought. People won't know you; people won't care about you; and you'll die in the icy recesses of your own mind. Without others you are nothing.
Weekend News Roundup- Saturday Edition
There are not a lot of new news stories, but here are the highlights.
(1) Libby's indictment, and the continuing investigation, while not formally implicating the vice-president, does keep the matter close to his office. And since I heard from some people who have been working in Washington recently that the Office of the Vice President has been the most ardent about opposing the torture amendment, and the most vociferous in granting the CIA the right to torture, I'm hoping he goes down. The Seattle Times provides the details. The Washington Post writes about the Vice-President and torture here.
(2) Nelson Mandela produces a comic book about his life. The Scotsman reports.
(3) Japan is attempting the amend its pacifist constitution, which currently renounces the use of force as a means to settle disputes and forbids Japanese possession of land, sea, and air forces, to state that war is illegal but that Japan can have security forces for self-defense. Since they already have a military, it's basically amending the law to come to terms with current practice. MSN-Mainchi Daily News has the report.
(4) A moment of silence for Rosa Parks. And a statement we can all agree to: May all in America who lack civil rights be granted those rights with all deliberate speed. The Washington Post Op/ed pages offer a toast to judicial activism. If you believe in judicial restraint, see my post on gay rights here. If you believe in originalism or conservative readings of the Constitutional text, see my post on that here.
UnMiered: Bush's Next Move
SCOTUSblog offers that Bush cannot nominate Gonzales to the court, but will want to taunt the group he perceives as having brought down his nominee.
As Miers' nomination got into deeper trouble, some observers who are close to the President had said that it would come close to wrecking this presidency if he were forced to back down on Miers. That perhaps was an exaggeration, but the President, already newly vulnerable because of the hurricane disasters, the Iraq war, and the criminal investigation focused on figures high in his government, is perceived to have less political authority than he had even at the beginning of this month. He may not be in the mood, or have the "political capital," to wage another costly battle over the Supreme Court seat.
The Miers nomination, though, did give political tacticians like Rove--who, I assure you, memorized every major conservative blogger and politician to speak out against Miers--clear signals about which Republicans aren't interested in being a part of a Bush-dominated Republican party. Expect censure soon.
My analysis: Bush likes surprises, but his willingness to gamble is tempered by the mess he finds himself in. I predict that we will get a nominee by November 2. I have four reasons for this. My two posts on why Bush selecting Miers: for her pro-business leanings and his tactical situation should look differently for the next candidate.
First, the White House needs to let the rumor mill test the temperature of the conservative waters. Conservative bloggers and the illegentsia will offer the names up that they believe Bush should nominated. I don't think Bush will feel as restricted to pick a minority, a woman, or a non-judge this time. Though if there are any former Solicitor Generals that would merit scrutiny, Bush might go down that route. Whatever Bush decides to do, Slate offers that there won't be any more code speak about Roe.
Second, the rumor mill allows Reid and the Gang of 14 to signal their limits of toleration. Bush really doesn't have the patience to deal with a filibuster.
Third, the Administration will have more information about Rove's final political state. If Rove can still play a role in the White House, he and Miers will then go through an extremely through process to pick an all-star candidate. The White House desperately needs another successful candidate like Roberts for Chief and Ben S. Bernanke for Federal Reserve Chairman. Voxbaby provides some details. Even the TNR had something nice to say about Bernanke.
Fourth, Bush can't look likes he's directly pandering the extremist section of his party. While he's quite willing to govern from the Right, he wishes to do so through his political muscle, not from a position of weakness.
Friday, October 28, 2005
Dead on Arrival?
Thanks to Brad Plumer for this one. He writes: "No larger moral lurking here, but Dexter Filkins' New York Times Magazine story on Iraq from last weekend was a really good read. Since the topic of the hour seems to be whether the occupation was doomed from the start or could have succeeded with a more competent helmsman, these four paragraphs should do the trick..."
Plumer's absolutely correct. Check out his post and the orignal article.
I'm going to try and start a daily tradition of providing a brief news roundup everyday.
(1) Lewis Libby, a senior aide to Vice President Dick Cheney who was indicted in the CIA leak investigation, has resigned and left the White House. Libby was indicted on five criminal counts of obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements after a two-year investigation into the leak of a covert CIA operative's identity.
The Toronto Star provides the details. Also consider USA Today and Slate.
(2) The debate over Harriet Miers continues. Yesterday, White House Counsel Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination to the the Supreme Court. President Bush reluctantly accepted it. MSNBC provides the details.
(3) Libby and Rove are not the only Republicans under fire these days. A coin dealer and major GOP donor, Tom Noe, finds himself at the center of a scandal in Ohio. He was charged Thursday with illegally funneling $45,400 in contributions to President Bush's re-election bid. MSN Money provides the details.
(4) People in Deleware mistake a woman who hung herself for Halloween decorations.(Did the realism tip anyone off?) BBC News has the details.
(1) The details of the oil-for-food scandal keep emerging. The Post-Gazette explains.
(2) Iran's radical comments about Death to Israel and burying the Zionist enemy yesterday spurned widespread condemnation from many major political leaders in Europe and in America. News network Al Jazeera provides those details. With continuing pressure from the EU and the US toward Iran's nuclear programme, Xinhua reports that the Security Council is considered a British-drafted presidential statement to denounce the leader's comments. Given that Israel called for the ejection of Iran from the United Nations, Kofi Annan's comment that "Israel, a long-standing member of the United Nations, had the same rights and obligations as every other member" might be either a direct response to Israel or Iran.
(3) Al Jazeera provides the details on the Israeli bombings of the Islamic Jihad in Palestine.
(4) The International Herald Tribune reports that North Korea may be returning to the world again.
(5) ABC News: the Sunnis will take part in elections and are fielding candidates.
(6)The Security Council is truly busy with the Middle East as that body is consider a Franco-American resolution against Syria. Forbes provides the info. With Britain also sponsoring the bill, most of the opposition in the council is coming from countries like Algeria. At issue is "the paragraph containing an implicit threat of economic or diplomatic sanctions under article 41 of the UN Charter." The article continues: "The potential sanctions themselves have also been toned down, especially those dealing with travel restrictions and the freezing of funds and assets that UN members are called to comply with. Travel restrictions would not apply 'on grounds of humanitarian need, including religious obligation' or where the monitoring committee deems an exemption is justified, according to the new draft. Funds and other assets would be exempted from freezing when they are deemed 'necessary for basic expenses, including payments for foodstuffs, rent or mortgage, medicines and medical treatment, taxes, insurance premiums, and public utility charges' or for payment of some legal fees."
(7) France decides that its farms are more important the free trade and global justice. News Telegraph provides the details.
(8) Lastly, Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi, in the name of regional peace, is urged to stop his controversial visits as a head of state to the Yasukuni war shrine, which is host to many Japanese military dead including WWII war criminals.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
There goes another one
Dartmouth's English Department is losing the great Peter Saccio to retirement. Like John Stevenson, he was prone to wearing fancy dress while walking around Hanover. As for his reputation as a lecturer, I have nothing to add except that it was well deserved -- though not always because of his own abilities as a performer. I remember one of his lectures on King Lear being punctuated by a very loud rumbling noise akin to a thunderclap (it turned out to be construction work).
Academic Freedom, Appleton, and Folt
Dartlog today posted this letter which is theoretically from Jon Appleton.
Date: 20 Oct 2005 16:52:33 EDTAndrew Seal on the The Little Green Blog offers an analysis:
It is entirely possible that Appleton was actually targeted by Folt, as he published an op-ed in the D questioning Folt's qualifications as far back as November 10, 2004 (and again on March 9, 2005). In that op-ed, Appleton criticized the "small-minded" professors who drove Professor Gazzaniga out of the Dean of Faculty's position and partly led an effort to block Gazzaniga's removal. Not pulling any punches, he said, "People who are active and professionally involved in their own work don't have time to sit and bitch about the dean."On 3 October 2005, our very own Chien Wen wrote (see his post for links):
The loss of Michael Gazzaniga, Jon Appleton, and Jim Kuypers -- three of Dartmouth's most distinguished faculty members -- bodes unwell for the College. They will be missed as teachers and scholars; Gazzaniga, in particular, strikes me as being almost irreplaceable (something even his soon-to-be erstwhile colleagues admit). But of greater concern are the circumstances surrounding their departure, which are disturbingly similar. Each of the departing trio has been at odds, either implicitly or explicitly, with the Dean of the Faculty Carol Folt. Gazzaniga was Folt's predecessor and resigned as Dean because of "differences among faculty members" over his management style; most likely, the same faculty who voted him out voted Folt in. Appleton (a supporter of Gazzaniga) and Kuypers have both cited Folt as a reason for their departure. All three have chosen to leave despite their fondness for Dartmouth's students. As Joe writes, "These professors were not hired away. They jumped ship." This had better not become a trend. There are more discontented Dartmouth faculty at the moment than just these three.Thoughts?
The Vatican and the Jews
ABC News writes today that : "Pope Benedict XVI marked the 40th anniversary of a landmark Vatican document on relations with Jews by calling Thursday for a renewed commitment for Catholics and Jews to deepen their bonds and work for the good of all humanity. Benedict issued a message that was read out during a commemoration of the "Nostra Aetate" document of the Second Vatican Council, in which the Catholic Church deplored anti-Semitism and repudiated the "deicide" charge that blamed Jews as a people for Christ's death."
It is very good news that the more conservative pope will continue John Paul's legacy of strong interfaith relations with the Italian and worldwide Jewish community. The announcement ceremony was not without its problems, however. "Rome's chief rabbi, Riccardo di Segni, told The Associated Press that he had refused to attend the ceremony because of the presence of one of the keynote speakers, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, a Jewish convert to Catholicism." In unhelpful language, Rabbi Riccardo di Segni ranted: "What is dialogue? If it means losing one's identity and crossing over to the other side, then it's not dialogue."
The Rabbi's comment are particularly unhelpful during a commemoration of a growing interfaith alliance. Adopting a siege mentality, the Rabbi played to ideas of antisemitic encroachment on the Jewish people, namely to the miedeval idea that conversion is death for a Jew. Rabbi David Rosen adds his voice in expressing the necessity of a Catholic rejection of proselytizing as a precondition to Jewish elite religious acceptance in his remark that "Catholics and Jews still needed to fully comprehend its implications, and said there were still key theological issues that remain to be worked out including whether the Catholic Church will relinquish the "invitation to conversion" to Christianity of the Jews." In short, give up a historically and confessionally important central idea of your faith so that we may feel welcome. What an awful vision of pluralism.
This strategy to interfaith dialouge is particularly unproductive given that a central tenant of the proselytizing religions, like Catholicism and Islam, is that the door is always open to anyone who wishes to be included in their special community of believers. Were the religious community not special enough to merit conversion, then one its main reasons for being would cease to exist. In a sense for proselytizing religions, there are only two types of people in the wold: believers and pre-believers. However, this particular-universality is not dangerous unless the respective faith institutions attempt to impose a uniform set of beliefs (orthodoxy) and/or practices (orthopraxy) onto any given social community. As long as the religious beliefs do not have the force of law, in either a formal or an informal* sense, then we can imagine pluralistic interfaith arrangements.
*A religious belief attains the status of being informally legally enforced when individuals who do not follow the observable implication of the belief or doctrine cannot meaningful represent and reproduce themselves in the social and political spheres due to their deviance from the prevailing norms. For example, being not observing Shabbat (the Sabbath) in an Orthodox Jewish community, or, not participating in Protestant Christian social forms in some southern communities effectively ostracizes a person and their family from community life in those communities. In most cases these laws are not legally enforced.
Miers Nomination Withdrawn: Open Thread
The Dallas Baptist Standard offers its perspective on the Miers fiasco.
The Washington Post offers that we are going to see a Roberts-like nomination in the future. That, unfortunately, might mean some random male movement conservative who doesn't share the Bush's administrations softer approach to abortion and affirmative action.
Adam Spheen has an analysis at the Agenda Gap trying to find out who will unite conservatives. He also posts his inital reaction.
I am personally saddened. I wanted Miers to make to the nominations. I wanted her on the Court.
Confused about Plamegate?
Your answer is definitely yes if the word "Plamegate" doesn't mean anything for you.
Have you been wondering what the whole deal with Plamegate and the CIA leak is all about? Fear not, for MSNBC breaks down the CIA leak story for non-political junkies. Highly Recommended.
Oil-for-Food: A Scandal or a Policy?
The Christian Science Monitor today releases the names of the companies implicated in the oil-for-food scandal. Paul Vocker, former Federal Reserve chair, released the report to the public.In light of the massive humanitarian crisis of the Iraqi sanctions, and the ensuing responsibility for the deaths it caused, the Security Council introduced "the oil-for-food program [as] one of the largest humanitarian efforts of all time, in terms of its scope and finances." The article continues: "Launched as a means of softening the blow of UN sanctions on ordinary Iraqis, it allowed Iraq to sell quantities of oil, provided most of the money was used to buy goods for Iraq's hard-pressed citizens."
Dirk Salomons, director of the program for humanitarian affairs at Columbia University, correctly and importantly adds: "Whatever the program's faults, its successes should also be remembered. The UN kept large chunks of the Iraqi population alive for over a decade."
The Monitor reports: "The accused represent virtually every nation that took part. Companies and individuals from 66 countries sent illegal kickbacks to Hussein's government, according to the Volcker inquiry. Those who simply paid an illegally high price for their oil to begin with came from 40 countries.
Among the firms named by the report are Volvo Construction Equipment, which allegedly paid $317,000 in extra fees to the Iraqi government on a $6.4 million contract. DaimlerChrysler tacked an extra $7,000 onto a $70,000 contract, according to the Volcker inquiry."
The amount collected by Hussein totaled 1.8 billion tax on the $64 billion program, which ran from 1996 to 2003. Is it really a scandal if everyone was involved? Wouldn't that it more of a policy?
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
This blog is currently undergoing some renovations. Some of them are purely cosmetic (like the colour scheme), but a few others (Haloscan comments, etc. ) are pretty substantial and may need time to implement. Blogging will continue as per usual.
The Bankruptcy of Originalist Constitutional Jurisprudence
Among constitutional law junkies, legal scholars, and some justices on the Supreme Court there is this mistaken idea of following and applying an originalist meaning of the constitution. CATO, as usual, has much to say in defense of the wrong opinion (CATO can usually be counted on the have the wrong opinion):
At the founding, and for some 150 years thereafter, the limits on congressional power provided by the Constitution of 1789 -- as modified by the Fourteenth Amendment -- were enforced by the Supreme Court. According to the textual plan, Congress is, with few exceptions, confined to the express powers enumerated in Article One of the Constitution. While these express powers were understood as flexible, they were nonetheless limited. When the federal government was limited to its enumerated powers, the states were left to the exercise of their police powers, subject to the limitations imposed upon them after the Civil War by the Fourteenth Amendment.That's a pretty generous reading of post-civil war enforcement of state's rights. The Slaughterhouse Cases and other 19th century cases not only completely defanged the Civil Rights Act of 1866, but construed the 14th Amendment to create legal personality for corporations while blacks and natives languished and died under sharecropping, tribal cleansing, ghettoization, and exploitation. Given that we know, from the Congressional Record, that the Civil Rights Acts and the Fourteenth Amendment were designed, in part, to grant the Federal government power to protect and enable blacks, the Supreme Court's foot-dragging on this issue was more than a little disturbing. Many of the senators who wrote and defended these acts and that document were disgusted by how little the constitution at that time had to say about defending the weak against the uncaring trampling of titans. These senators only had contempt for the idea that the Constitution somehow limited them.
Sometime this fall, two of the five votes that made up the Lopez and Morrison majorities will have been replaced. Only Justice Clarence Thomas will be left from the three Raich dissenters. As the new chief justice (assuming he is confirmed), will John Roberts assume the role of his mentor William Rehnquist -- for whom he clerked -- and lead the Roberts Court to enforce the Constitution's original plan of limited federal power? Will President Bush now look for a nominee to replace Justice O'Connor who is as committed to the New Federalism as she was? Given that so many of the New Federalism cases were 5-4, if either of the new justices adopts the mantra of "judicial deference" to congressional power, then Chief Justice Rehnquist's death, along with Justice O'Connor's retirement, may presage the second death of federalism. A judicial withdrawal from enforcing the original limits on the powers of Congress would undo the New Federalist legacy of William Rehnquist.What exactly would this "first principles" jurisprudence entail? Who cares exactly what a bunch of men 'meant' when they penned a document in the wake of revolution? We now know that their historical imaginations were radical for their historical moment, and that the passage of time has given us the potential for an enlarged perspective. Why limit ourselves to necrocracy?
The Declaration of Independence provides an excellent case study to evaluate originalist jurisprudence. The Declaration says:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.This was a very radical idea at the time. In positing a set of "self-evident" divinely protected natural right, the writers of the Declaration of Independence turn against the pervasive legal positivist tradition of that day which maintained that the rights persons held were the rights given to them by the sovereign. Moreover, the securing of these rights of which Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were but just three, were the reasons why governments existed. In fact, the Declaration continues, the governments derived their "just powers"--that is those powers which a government can wield and hold morally--when those who governed consent in the manner, mode, and method of the governance. There is no divine right of kings; the kings and parliaments exist solely to protected the rights of the governed to pursue life, liberty, and happiness with the consent of the governed. Without this consent, or, if the sovereign choose to abridge these divine-backed rights, then they lose their just powers. This idea might have been the motivating factor for Madison's remark in Federalist No. 51 that "In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."
But exactly how many people was the "all" intended to encompass? There are two readings possible. If we remove this Declaration from its historical context then the all is an undifferentiated universal for all persons who were creating by the Creator. Since the source of the justification for this radical document was the divine endowment within each person, then all persons who were created would qualify as needing their consent to be governed. The second reading, in contrast, is historicist in its framing. The text did not use the word "person" it used the word "men." Men and man are universalizable only to the general, literate, propertied male population of that day. Being divinely created is not sufficient for rights for many of them believed that women, as well as men, were divinely created and chose to use the narrower language of men rather than persons. In fact, these inalienable rights were denied to women and slaves at the time.
Today we like the first reading because their limited universal of "man" has expanded into our universal "person." Thus, all persons need to consent to be governed for a government to have just powers to rule. We support the text of the Declaration without being bound by the meaning of the words as it was written.
CATO offers that future justices ought to be committed to Rehnquist's provision of protecting state's right as an end in itself and to . Fortunately Madison provides a warning against a Rehnquist-Scalia axis of state's rights as ends in themselves (a popular position for the "constitution-in-exile" camp).
James Madison belabors this point in the Federalist Papers:
Was, then, the American Revolution effected, was the American Confederacy formed, was the precious blood of thousands spilt, and the hard-earned substance of millions lavished, not that the people of America should enjoy peace, liberty, and safety, but that the government of the individual States, that particular municipal establishments, might enjoy a certain extent of power, and be arrayed with certain dignities and attributes of sovereignty? We have heard of the impious doctrine in the Old World, that the people were made for kings, not kings for the people. Is the same doctrine to be revived in the New, in another shape — that the solid happiness of the people is to be sacrificed to the views of political institutions of a different form? It is too early for politicians to presume on our forgetting that the public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued; and that no form of government whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the attainment of this object. . . . [A]s far as the sovereignty of the States cannot be reconciled to the happiness of the people, the voice of every good citizen must be, Let the former be sacrificed to the latter.Madison provides what he considers to be an easy rhetorical question for his readers: "...was the precious blood of thousands spilt, not that the people of America should enjoy peace, liberty, and safety, but that the government of the individual States, that particular municipal establishments, might enjoy a certain extent of power, and be arrayed with certain dignities and attributes of sovereignty?" I added to the emphasis to highlight that Madison juxtaposes state's rights as ends in themselves to state's rights for the purpose of guaranteeing rights. As I wrote earlier state's rights suffered a huge blow during Reconstruction and then again during the New Deal when it became plainly evident that the states were not protecting individual liberties. Madison's radicalism did not diminish once the Declaration was written; indeed he offered that the motivating principles behind the constitution were more important than the historical forms by which these principles manifested: "It is too early for politicians to presume on our forgetting that the public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued; and that no form of government whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the attainment of this object." The teleology of government is the protection of the people; its power the people's consent.
Madison would not endorse the ultimate thrust of late Chief Justice's quixotic and reactionary opening to United States v. Lopez (1995): "We start with first principles. The Constitution creates a Federal Government of enumerated powers" which he subsequently expanded on in United States v. Morrison (2000). "The Constitution requires a distinction between what is truly national and what is truly local. . . . Indeed, we can think of no better example of the police power, which the Founders denied the National Government and reposed in the States, than the suppression of violent crime and vindication of its victims." Rehnquist is incorrect; the framers of the various amendments of the Constitution distinguished between the national and the local only if the local was promoting the aims of the American government: individual rights. In fact, their fear was that when the states were protecting the inalienable rights of properties men, the Federal government's intervention into the matter would threaten rather than enhance the rights of the persons involved. However, Rehnquist's failing on this issue is not due to the fact that he missed the underlying principles of constitutional law--he was indeed a very bright man possessing both a curious mind and a voracious intellectual appetite--; rather his failing was that he didn't believe in alienable individual rights in the first place. In 1976 Rehnquist penned a classic statement of legal positivism when wrote in the Texas Law Review that: "If such a society adopts a constitution and incorporates in that constitution safeguards for individual liberty, these safeguards indeed do take on a generalized moral rightness or goodness . . . neither because of any intrinsic worth nor because of any unique origins in someone's idea of natural justice but instead simply because they have been incorporated in a constitution by the people." This clearly goes against the underlying principles of life in the constitution and underscores why Rehnquist believed the constitution was dead.
In contrast to all the bad jurisprudence of Rehnquist and CATO, Jack Balkin affirms the living constitution on Slate. You should read the entirety of this piece. He begins by writing "The framers expected that their language, not their intentions, would control future generations. They created, in John Marshall's words, a "constitution, intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs" and continues his argument eloquently from there to prove the following statement:
The living Constitution is central to the American constitutional tradition, so central that even its loudest critics actually believe in it. Many Americans fail to realize how much of our current law and institutions are inconsistent with the original expectations of the founding generation. A host of federal laws securing the environment, protecting workers and consumers—even central aspects of Social Security—go beyond the original understanding of federal power, not to mention most federal civil rights laws that protect women, racial and religious minorities, and the disabled from private discrimination. Independent federal agencies like the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Federal Communications Commission would all be unconstitutional under the original understanding of the Constitution. Presidential authority would be vastly curtailed—including all the powers that the Bush administration regularly touts. Indeed, most of the Bush administration's policy goals—from No Child Left Behind to national tort reform—would be beyond federal power.All of the things Balkin enumerates here are goals to which we are committed as Americans in the 21st century. A dead constitution is insufficient as a governing tool given modern needs and subsequent historical experiences. The Constitution, then, like the Declaration of Independence, is not a source text from which we derive original meaning. It is like, rather, a philosophical work, whose construction, reconstruction, and interpretation is meant to tell us as much about ourselves as about the meaning of the authors. The Constitution is inspirational as guiding force, not as a legalistic commandment. By causing us to think about claims of justice and representation in a structured manner, the Constitution aids democratic life by grounding us in common principles, not first ones.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Not Acceptable Bush
From the ACLU on detainees who were killed during interrogation. I really wish right now that we weren't fighting a war. I wanted Bush to sign an executive order immediately authorizing the arrest of any American civilians or military officers/ personnel involved in torture. I then want him to authorize the Solicitor General and the US Attorney-General's office to immediately begin prosecuting them in civilian courts. All persons convicted are to be sentenced to life in prison without parole. In some cases, they should be turned over to the governments' whose nationals were murdered for justice. That's what should be done. If I were president right now, everyone involved from the Seals to the OGAs would be done for. (OGA, an acronym for Other Government Agency" refers to the CIA)
The Changing Dimensions of Warfare
News24 had an interesting article triumphantly entitled: "World a Safer Place." While it would be wrong for me to compare this proclamation to Neville Chamberlain's ill-fated proclamation that the would of the 1930s would have "peace in [their] time" as he showcased the infamous Munich peace agreement with the German government, I believe that the conclusions of the news article may be unwarranted.
The article begins by stating "a study issued on Monday paints a surprising picture of war and peace in the 21st century: Armed conflicts have declined by more than 40% since 1992, and genocide and human rights abuses have plummeted around the world. The only form of political violence that appears to be getting worse is international terrorism - a serious threat that nonetheless kills extraordinarily few people per year compared to wars, it said." Naturally, this is good news because "there has been a shift away from the huge wars of the 1950s, '60s and '70s where million-strong armies faced each other with conventional weapons. "The average war today tends to be a very small, low intensity conflict, fought with ill-trained troops, small arms and light weapons, often very brutal, with lots of civilians killed - but the absolute numbers of people being killed are ... much, much smaller than they were before," he said."
The article continued: "The number of international crises, often harbingers of war, fell by more than 70% between 1981 and 2001, the report said. Notwithstanding the genocides in Rwanda in 1994 and the Bosnian city of Srebrenica in 1995, mass killings because of religion, ethnicity or political beliefs plummeted by 80% between the 1988 high point and 2001, it said." (emphasis mine)
This article, in summarizing the report, gets a few key details absolutely correct. First, major power war--where two or more major powers fight each other on the battle field--has decreased by 100% since 1945. For various reasons debated by scholars, no one expects any of the European states to start a major, nor, do any other states seem particlarly inclined to militarily threaten any European, former Soviet, or American state with annihilation. War between democracies and major industrialized countries (with the possible execption of India and Pakistan) today seems so improbable as to be impossible. Second, convential war between most of the non-great power states also seems to be relatively decline. I can agree with that: very few states seem posed to attack each other with convential national forces. Third, international crises between states also seems to have decreased.
The report, however, obscures the major sources of instability in the international system today.
One, most the factors that cause wars are not viewed as international, but rather as either regional or domestic. For instance, if an underdeveloped state moves into a period of economic insolvency, civil war, or violent political conflict, the factors that cause these conflicts are seen as endongeous to the state or region and not as international. International organizations, sometimes at the behest of their most powerful sponsors and sometimes on their intiatives, use their leverage and limited means of pressure to force internal change within these emerging states. Since the relative coercive power of non-state international actors are highest due times of crises in these states, these actors attach strings to their aid and assistance. Two examples will help toward illustrating my point. The first example is of the tatics available to international financial institutions. The second involves the corrosive effects of changing prices on the international market for countries that have one main export.
There have been many examples of postcolonial states weakening due to economic "shock therapy" as a part of the structural adjustment programs as applied by international financial organizations such as the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank. John Rapley, in Understanding Development: Theory and Practice in the Third World, denotes that the idea of structural adjustment, a theory of economic development, “embodies the goals of neoclassical [capitalism]: it places the market at the center stage, assigns the state a secondary role in development, and puts it faith in the potential of unfettered individual initiative, creativity, and ingenuity.” Structural adjustment programs, he continues, attempt to remove obstacles to efficient markets and include as remedial policies: “fiscal austerity and disinflationary policies, the privatization of state-owned enterprises, trade liberalization, currency devaluation, and the general deregulation of the economy, including financial and labor-market deregulation.” (66)
The structural adjustment programs often have four features. The first concerns currency devaluation. The second aspect is economic and coroparate privatization. Oftentimes the government owns many of the companies in these countries, especially the companies that deal with natural resources. The aspect of structural adjustment programes usually involve the removal of industry subsidies and a trimming of the workforce, creating more unemployments. Finally, the last aspect of these programme are the international withholding of monies granted to the regime from more developed country until some sort of political instutional change occurs under the banner of democratization
International financial institutions, like the IMF and the World Bank, only offer their assistance when a state is finacially bankrupt. A bankrupt state, in not being able to pay back its loans, demostrates its fundamental weakness: it does not have sufficent instutitonal strenght to extract resources from its territory and pay its bills. The neoclassist insistence on further weakening the state- to its influence from the market- with the often correlated policy of forcing institutional redesign puts developing states in a fragile position in two ways. The first is that when insitutionally weak governments who have a difficult time paying their bills retreat from the economy, the government has less ability to raise money to continue to function, even if the businesses and privatized sectors of the economy become more liberal. The second source of fragility is that oppositonal political groups attempt to capitalize on the sitting governments bad situation and make a bid for power. (This bid needn't necessarily be violent.) The sitting regime, in watching its opposition make a bid for power and by having its national markets removed from its purview, begins more and more to calculate strategies for holding onto political power, even if that involves an extralegal attempt to snuff out the opposition through poltical and military crackdowns on the opposition and their civilian sources of support. This changing calcus and deteriorating political-economic situation, given that it did not result from an invasion or some great power international crises, does not factor into the report's description of warfare, or, is classified, mistakenly, as a civil war when in fact the conditions for the war stem from the international system.
Another example of the international system incentivizing and creating a climate of war and violent political conflict is the changing price of certain goods on the international markets that form the majority of a particular country's exports. For instance, if a state in Asia or Africa heavily relies on one export, like say sugar or coffee, and the international market drives the price of coffee way down, then the country may find itself in dire financial straights. This may fundamentally deprive the regime of its main source of funding, effectively crippling the power of the state to continue to admininister control over its territory. The financial crisis and political crisis that the state may later find itself in is likely to be viewed as a factor internal to that state and not as emmanating from the international market sytem.
Two, the lack of convential warfare means that civilians, and not soldiers, are more likely to be the target of military and political action. The article noted: "The average war today tends to be a very small, low intensity conflict, fought with ill-trained troops, small arms and light weapons, often very brutal, with lots of civilians killed - but the absolute numbers of people being killed are ... much, much smaller than they were before," he said." When larger states, regional actors, and local governments attempt to end low-intensity conflicts, like terrorism and insurgencies, these powers often find themselves targeting civilians in an effort to deter civilians from supporting and harboring the irregulars who fight these assymetric wars by making contined civilain support of these belligerents costly. Sometimes these wars have a welfare component of winning hearts and minds, but oftentimes the more powerful side targets the civilian base of support to "drain the sea" of support for the insurgents and terrorists. American military strategy in Vietnam and the Phillipines are excellent historical examples of this. Since the article predicts that more wars in the future will have this assymetric componet, we are going to see more wars where civilians are targeted as part of the war aims.
Political actions, like economic sanctions, also are a form of politics that chooses civilians as its principle aim, but do not count as warfare or international conflict. Sanctions are often seen as low-cost, easy methods of coercion. However, the cost of civilian life is often high. Jay Gordon, in an article entitled "When Intent Makes All the Difference in the World: Economic Sanctions on Iraq and the Accusation of Genocide" in the Yale Journal of Human Rights and Development, wrote of the high civilian death rate under the sanctions in Iraq.
Prior to the Persian Gulf War, Iraq had one of the highest standards of living in the Arab world. The Iraqi government had invested heavily in social and economic development, both before and during the Iran-Iraq war. Prior to the Gulf War, Iraq had made impressive strides in health, education, and development of the infrastructure. In 1980, the Iraqi government initiated a program to reduce infant and child mortality rates by more than half within ten years. The result was a rapid and steady decline in childhood mortality. Prior to the Gulf War, there was good vaccination coverage; the majority of women received some assistance from trained health professionals during delivery; the majority of the adult population was literate; there was nearly universal access to primary school education; the vast majority of households had access to safe water and electricity; and there was a marked decline in infant mortality rate, and in the under-five mortality rate. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), ninety percent of the population had access to safe water.Jay Gordon then offers that the Defense Intelligence Agency, tasked with denoting the likely effects of a given policy, predicted the catastrophic effect of the sanctions regimes.
In the fall of 1999, a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) memorandum entitled, “Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities” was declassified. The January 18, 1991 document focused on how the impending air war would undermine Iraq’s infrastructure:What we saw, Gordon concludes, is the DIA willingly supported a policy designed to kill massive numbers of civilians as a direct cosequence, rather than an incidental effect of, said policy. We are going to see more policies similar to sanctions and counterinsurgency tactics become the main methods of detering states and containing threats as the 21st century unfolds. Though we are unlikely to see great power conflict, that doesn't mean there won't be wars against enemy populations going on without our knowledge in places like Colombia, Iraq, the Phillipines, and Afghanistan.
Three, and finally, even though the study would not report them as such, "regional" and "internal" conflicts are still international. The increasing incentives that international organizations have to coerce and weaken states, and the increasing incentives of international actors--from large states to international terrorist organizations like Al Qaida-- to target civilians means that our triumphalist tone concerning conflict in the international system is premature and should be more discreet.
Rosa Parks Dead
As you undoubtedly know, Rosa Parks has passed away. The symbolic effects of courageous actions quietly sparked a revolution; her backbone buttressed the faith of many. Until the day of her death she emphasized that she was just one of many.
Excellent words found at the Christian Science Monitor and in the comments of the Guardian.
Monday, October 24, 2005
How the Door Hit the Conservatives (and Libertarians) on the Way Out
Andrew Seal has some great commentary on two posts by Ann Althouse and Bainbridge covering an article by "John Tierney talking about what--or who--keeps conservatives out of academia." That's right. I am an academician hopefully about to comment on a comment concerning comments about a new article article discussing conservatives in academia. This should be right up there with Habermas writing an article in an edited book on a comment by a German theologian on Max Horkheimer. At best, we are going to be thrice observed.
There all ready seems to be a problem in attempting to infer characteristics about an undefined population, named "conservatives" for rhetorical power. Thus, my cheeky title of "how the door hit conservatives on the way out"--in the the vein of all the recent "How X Did Y" or "How X Succeeds and When Y Fails" titles now ubiquitous in bookstores--is amusing precisely because we don't know who the conservatives are, where they are leaving from, and why they are leaving (i.e. whether its voluntary or involuntary).
They're subject to the law of group polarization, derived from studies of juries and other groups.
There seems to be another immediate problem here (besides the small factor of not knowing really who were are talking about). Liberals apparently, a priori, decide that a fellow faculty member's research sucks because of political affiliation? That's a big charge from the conservative wing who could usually be counted on to say that hiring ought to be based on the merits of a candidate and not any particular group characteristic. There seems to be four factors wrong in asserting that conservatives are being discriminated against per se. One, there does not seem to be a large pool of "conservative" applicants who are denied tenure whom can point out discrimination in the hiring process, or that the reasonably informed observer can identify. Systematic discrimination is by definition very observable. Segregation was not a contested claim, it was an easily observable fact of life. We could see actual discrimination there. Two, the argument seems to lack specificity about which universities are discriminating against conservatives. Are we talking about a correlation between faculty denied tenure at Princeton and voting affiliation? This is important to specify because some institutions, like Princeton, traditionally don't grant tenure to that many people, conservative or not. In fact, many of the top political scientists in the field now, somewhere between 20 and 40 percent, were denied tenure at their first university. Three, there is no specification about which fields these decisions are being made in. The honest to goodness truth is that in some academic fields the job market sucks. Four, this doesn't include how cordial and chummy the supposed conservative is with his or her colleagues. Did the person make meager ideological difference an uncomfortable issue with some of the faculty? That seems to be relevant if one is being given a job for life.
Steven Bainbridge, actually being a law professor, has something intelligent to add. Bainbridge writes:
In my experience, it thus is a lot harder to get somebody hired than it is to block them from being hired. The process isn't as explicit as the blackballing scene in Animal House, but the law school hiring process is just as weighted against hiring. (And I mean hiring anybody, regardless of political affiliation.) Any opposition (for whatever reason) therefore is usually enough, absent a very strongly committed pro-hiring faction. In most cases, a candidate's best chance of surviving the winnowing process is for someone on the committee to become the candidate's champion. The champion will pull the candidate's resume out of the slush pile and make sure it gets flagged for close review. Because most law schools lack a critical mass of libertarian and conservative faculty members, however, there is nobody predisposed to pulling conservative candidates' AALS forms out of the slush pile (and a fair number of folks inclined, whether consciously or subconsciously, to bury them) Applicants with conservative lines on their resume -- an Olin fellowship, Federalist Society membership, or, heaven help you, a Scalia clerkship -- thus tend to be passed over no matter how sterling the rest of their credentials may be. In contrast, the latest left-leaning prodigy from Harvard or Yale has a mentor at one of those schools who makes calls to his/her buddies and ideological soulmates at other law schools. The recipients of those calls then flag the prodigy's file, giving them a critical leg-up in the process. Law school hiring tends to be driven by the self-perpetuating network of left-leaning senior faculty.
Bainbridge offers a new hypothesis: libertarians and conservatives often lack the faculty sponsors necessary to secure highly competitive job slots. The fact that academia is a professional association, whose tenured members get to determine the rules and practices of the trade and its reproduction, limits the number of jobs available, Bainbridge argues, and thus has the effect of accidentally discriminating against libertarians and conservatives. Bainbridge's distinction are certainly much better than Althouse's by creating a slightly less concrete mechanism, the machine, rather than the liberal [who for Ann is waiting to ding every conservative.] Bainbridge's issue is that his argument doesn't sufficiently distinguish between conservatives, libertarians, and "liberal" rejected faculty given the small number of persons actually hired. The lack of a direct casual mechanism to select conservatives and libertarians as such means that our only response is "tough" or "deal." Don't let the door hit you on your way out either; trust me its nothing personal.
Andrew Seal gets past all the question-begging and goes directly to the heart of the matter: "But the question they all skip around is, why were the liberals there in the first place? Why is academia a magnet for liberals? They may be entrenched now, but it's not like the university just now took a turn to the left. Well, if you're Steven Levitt (the freakonomist), the place you look is to incentives. Holding all things equal, what incentives do liberals have for adopting the academic life?" His observation that liberals didn't just start to dominate the university is apt; in fact, we have historical evidence that conservatives may have dominated the university at the turn of the 19th/20th century. It would be interesting to note what changed.
Well, why do people choose a career? Andrew continues, I'm going to be reductive and say it's for one of three reasons--to gratify a passion for one's work, to achieve renown/influence or to make money.
Now, just hang on a second, this isn't going where you're thinking. I don't think (not making) money is the principal factor in turning liberals to academia and conservatives away. And, like passion for one's work, it is not limited to liberals. What I do think is a factor--the factor--is influence.
Seal then goes on to distinguish between the fact that, for him, conservatives target conditions (direct influence) and liberals offer ideas that shape conditions (indirect influence). That seems to me to be too clever by half for a reason why we find more "liberals" than "conservatives" in academia.
The idea that no one wants to discuss is: why is it an issue about the ideological preferences of a faculty member or a faculty body? Moreover, how do we go about measuring any given person's preference?
One answer is that the scholarship suffers from too much ideological agreement. We know that's not true. The preponderance of "liberal" academics at an institution seem irrelevant because the academic peer-reviewed journals largely shape the profession of academia. (Law reviews, I believe, are the exception for they are not peer reviewed.) The editors who run the journals are distinct from the faculty who grant tenure in the sense that they don't perfectly overlap. Not every tenured faculty member will head a journal. Moreover, most journals have anonymous readers for articles who aren't selected for their partisanship but for their methodological diversity.
Another answer concerns the brainwashing of the students. No person who has been to college or university recently will tell that they and their peers were blank slates waiting for liberal professors to remake. We need a more complex account than that. Oftentimes students take classes with their own agendas in mind to challenge professors or to mock them. Students argue about their politics, the professor's politics, and the class readings outside the classroom. Critical thinking is not partisan-bound. Students, Republican and Democrat alike, have benefited from taking classes and from talking to one another. In fact, four years of college seems to produce more political apathy and dissatisfaction than anything else.
In short, the debate over professors political affiliations as either a proxy for hiring diversity or regarding concerns over brainwashing undergrads is a load of crap is ever heard of one. The debate is not only pointless, but it's obnoxious too.
I went to Church Sunday morning at the University Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. The service was excellent and I think I shall go back. It is ecumenical, which the Chapel defines as "specifically Christian, and designed to be welcoming to people of Christian denominations." Since my particular mode of worship is non-denominational Christian I felt very at home there. What was very interesting and disturbing this morning, for those of you who could care less about my church life, was the corporate prayer of confession which I shall replicate, in full, here. It is usually the sermon where the reality of sin and shame are made manifest for me. Here, a corporate prayer serves as an argument against the violence of disunity. As usual, I shall offer what I think the meaning of the prayer is.
Violence is a perversion of all, to our most essential mental capacities, as well as the destruction of a primal unity of the world and the Church. In the words of Heidegger, this prayer stipulates "Only a God can save us" and leaves us at the moment where we pray for forgiveness to remove us from a cycle of violence, decay, death, destruction, and despair. This salvation doesn't immediately right the balance of wrong we have created. No, instead it liberates us from the cycle of pain whose reincarnations are simply an eternal recurrence of the same--shattered unity, broken homes, dismantled nations, devastated environments, dead mothers, missing fathers, murdered sisters, and butchered brothers--and frees us to serve "[God] in the world as agents of [God's] reconciling love in Jesus Christ."