Friday, September 20, 2002
ANTI-GLOBALIZATION AND ANTI-SEMITISM: Larry Summers
ANTI-GLOBALIZATION AND ANTI-SEMITISM: Larry Summers has noticed the connection (link courtesy of Jacob T. Levy). As a fellow "identified but hardly devout" Jew, he pretty much nails how I feel about the current state of affairs.
To be fair, I don't think this is the norm, even among street protestors. For a fair assessment of the lay of the anti-globalization land, click here.
GRAND STRATEGY FOOTNOTE -- AFRICA
GRAND STRATEGY FOOTNOTE -- AFRICA NOW MATTERS: I just read through the new "National Security Strategy." Having worked in government last year, it's all too easy to spot the cutting and pasting that goes on in cobbling together a document like this. The natural focus is going to be on the articulation of the pre-emption doctrine. But what I found interesting was that the strategy suggests that Africa is now a higher priority than Latin America. The latter region gets a total of four paragraphs, whereas the former gets more play, including "three interlocking strategies." Of the four places listed as prime candidates for future bilateral free trade agreements, two of them (Morocco and Southern Africa) are in Africa.
Does this make sense? Sort of. The introduction astutely notes, "The events of September 11, 2001, taught us that weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states. Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders." This would explain the focus on Africa. But some countries in Latin America have these problems too -- I hope the administration is not taking their stability for granted.
One mad economist
When I was a graduate student in the early nineties, I was lucky enough to have Joe Stiglitz teach me macroeconomics. He was an energetic, inquisitive teacher, but what always struck me was how gentle he could be -- it was a stark contrast to some my other economics instructors.
I think eight years in Washington has purged the gentleness out of Stiglitz. There's his latest book, Globalization and Its Discontents, in which he excoriated the IMF and the U.S. Treasury Department for their response to the 1998 crisis in East Asia. Now, check out this article in the November Atlantic Monthly. There's simply no way to read this but as a rant against Robert Rubin, who as Treasury Secretary steamrolled Stiglitz in many a bureaucratic tussle.
Stiglitz is right about a lot of what he says, but the essay reads like a drink of sour milk. And he distorts/exaggerates the section on East Asia. For a sober critique of Stiglitz's obsession of "market fundamentalism," click here.
Stiglitz is now at Columbia. I hope the gentleness returns soon.
MORE ON CAMPUS FREEDOM: Dahlia
MORE ON CAMPUS FREEDOM: Dahlia Lithwick has a Slate article on campuses stifling freedom. The cases she cites are abhorrent, but the tendency to sensationalize a trend from a few outlying cases is so.... old media.
Jacob T. Levy has a long post on conservative hysteria on this topic and why it doesn't apply to the University of Chicago. He makes a trenchant point: "the literary and artistic humanities often seem to be much more hostile to political-moral disagreement than are political science, philosophy, or law, where such debate is central to our study." Could this be because over the past few decades research in the humanities has adopted the tropes of social science without any of the proper training?
Thursday, September 19, 2002
GERMAN IRONY... NO, REALLY!!: Germany's
GERMAN IRONY... NO, REALLY!!: Germany's Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin recently compared President Bush's threats against Iraq to Hitler's tactics against the rest of Europe (link via InstaPundit). The exact quote, according to Reuters: "Bush wants to divert attention from his domestic problems. It's a classic tactic. It's one that Hitler used."
Outrageous? Yes, but also ironic in the extreme. This is exactly what Gerhard Schroeder is doing in the current German election. Trailing against his conservative challenger, Schroeder has repeatedly stated that he opposed military action against Iraq, even if the UN supports it, as an effort to tap into anti-war support. According to the BBC, "Poking America in the eye has given Mr Schroeder new hope of winning the election." This despite domestic economic travails.
Obviously, Schroeder is no Hitler. But his Justice Minister is clueless.
UPDATE: The New York Times story has some follow-up. Steven Erlanger notes, "Pollsters now say Iraq — not the weak German economy — has become the most important issue for those still deciding how they will vote."
THE PERILS OF PUBLISHING: As
THE PERILS OF PUBLISHING: As ideology becomes a determining factor in the nomination and confirmation of federal judges, Michael McConnell -- a distinguished former University of Chicago law professor nominated by Bush -- is Exhibit A on why academic publishing and federal service are like oil and water. According to this story, Chuck Schumer -- Schumer's staff, really -- tried to paint McConnell as someone who values opposition to abortion above the law, when in fact McConnell explicitly states the reverse in the article in question. McConnell corrected Schumer in his testimony, but this is a small example ofd a larger problem. McConnell's sin here is that he is prolific, provocative, and pungent with his prose [Enough with the p's--ed.]. Democrats will troll his publications to find anything controversial enough to deep-six the nomination, even if they are stripped of context.
Pundits love to crow about how academics are so far removed from politics. However, if academics are going to be raked over the coals for being good at their job -- publishing articles that provoke new ways of thinking -- what's the incentive to enter the political maelstrom?
P.S.: Here's the article in dispute -- check it out for yourself.
Wednesday, September 18, 2002
A TRUE "AXIS OF EVIL":
On another note, in the wake of the 9/11 anniversary, tribute should again be paid to The Onion's first post-9/11 issue, a stunningly tasteful (for them) collection of articles that still brought the funny. For an excellent example of humor that can provoke laughs and tears at the same time, click here.
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
TIRED OLD SCHTICK: John Leo
TIRED OLD SCHTICK: John Leo argues that political correctness has overwhelmed our cherished universities. He cites an American Enterprise study revealing the overwhelming pro-left bias of most professors at elite institutions. So far, a reasonably accurate depiction. Then Leo goes overboard with the following:
"Graduate students who want to become academics know they can't rise within the system unless they display liberal views. Professors know they are unlikely to get hired or promoted unless they embrace the expected package of campus isms–radical feminism, multiculturalism, postmodernism, identity politics, gender politics, and deconstruction. Remaining conservatives and moderates can survive if they keep their heads down and their mouths shut. Dissent from campus orthodoxy is risky. A single expressed doubt about affirmative action or a kind word about school vouchers may be enough to derail a career."
Look, I'm a Republican academic, and I previously taught at the University of Colorado at Boulder, which Leo claims is one of the most ideologically skewed campuses in America. I should be sympathetic to Leo's sort of posturing. But give me a break. Yes, there's some silliness in the ivory tower, but it's hardly the Stalinist world Leo depicts. Citing the extreme cases and then labeling them as typical is a favorite tactic of the very P.C. crowd Leo despises, but he's doing the same thing. I've spent a disturbing number of years on a variety of college campuses. Are academics generally a liberal bunch? God, yes. Have I ever seen a situation when those politics actually led to the kind of discrimination Leo alleges? Never. Personally, I have never felt the sort of coercive pressure Leo claims exists for academics to conform to politically correct views.
A more interesting question is whether what academics say really matters anymore. The proliferation of DC think tanks has made it possible for Ph.D.'s interested in public affairs to bypass the academy altogether. Given the large number of conservative think tanks, my suspicion is that conservative scholars, like good conservatives, are simply following market incentives rather than fleeing leftist persecution.
P.S.: I'm not saying that there aren't examples of conservative or outspoken academics that have been persecuted by P.C. groups (Click here for InstaPundit's take). I am saying that the sort of systematic conspiracy that Leo and American Enterprise are peddling simply doesn't exist. Trust me -- academics just aren't that organized.
Monday, September 16, 2002
THE NEW YORK TIMES AND
THE NEW YORK TIMES AND ATONEMENT FOR PAST SINS: At sunset Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, ended. In the previous ten days, a good Jew is supposed to apologize for sins committed against others. Now, for the past two years I have generally ranted against the Saturday Arts & Ideas page of the New York Times because of their praise of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's Empire. So, in the spirit of good will, check out Jacob Levy's praise of some recent articles in that section.
Sunday, September 15, 2002
"THE GUYS": The Goodman Threater
"THE GUYS": The Goodman Threater arranged for a week of free productions of "The Guys," Anne Nelson's 9/11 two person play about a firehouse captain and a writer fashioning eulogies. I was fortunate enough to snag tickets, and went to see it last night.
Was it a great play? No. The structure is repetitive, and there are moments when you can feel the stitchwork of the playwright. However, it effectively captured the raw wound that the attacks created. At one point a character is told, “We’ll be normal again. But it won’t be the same kind of normal. This will be the new normal.” A year later, we're at the new normal, but the play was written during a time when normal seemed too distant to contemplate. Sitting in the audience, I found myself flashing back to how I felt in the first few months after the attacks. As a tool to resurrect that swirl of anger, resentment, sadness, fear, dread, and confusion, the play works better than any TV retrospective.