Via Jacob Levy at the VC, is this very clear and informative work of background and analysis by Joshua Cherniss (who is awfully young to be so damn reasonable) about the relationship between Neo-cons, Straussians and the Bush Administration. Well done.
Kieran Healy denies the existence of penises! Ok, that's not precisely what he does, but he does give a damn good primer on what not to say and how not to say it when someone asks why there are so few women in certain fields.
And don't you think Kieran would be the perfect author of a column in Slate for this kind of academic demystification? If you don't stop me Kieran, I'm going to email Jacob Weisberg!
Great David Plotz article in Slate about his experience with the wakefulness drug Modafinil. One of the amazing things about our increasing knowledge of the biochemical basis of thought is how much our narratives and self-interpretation begin to look like gratuitous fables. ("I learned the value of hard work from my father...etc." is now "I can work 12 hours a day on five hours of sleep because I have low GABA levels.")
[Philosophical Interlude Approaching...]
And that takes us back to Nietzsche, who keeps reminding us that what we take to be our motivations are really stories we make up after the fact. But you can't come away from Nietzsche without also realizing that the biochemical explanation isn't any closer to "truth:" it's another description, but in the physical and potentially quantifiable terms we take to be more definite. That's not, as critics of "postmodernism" like to think, the same as claiming that all accounts are equally valid/invalid: it really is impossible to live in limbo. The point is to find what we are hiding from ourselves by preferring the terms that we do and to incorporate as many perspectives as we can so that the future isn't prisoner to our narrow historical situation.
My spies tell me it's a done deal: [White House Counsel] Al Gonzales will replace Rehnquist as Chief.
This isn't new, of course. (A fourth-hand "done deal" may be new, but perhaps we'll get to that some other time.) What's interesting is that many conservatives think a Gonzales nomination would be disastrous and alienate the Bush base, so if it really is a done deal, we may be in for some juicy infighting.
I'm always glad to see communities experimenting with alternatives to race-based affirmative action (for which I have lots of sympathy, but consider too pernicious to continue) so I was heartened by this story from Cambridge. But I have a question and a comment.
Am I missing something in thinking that it's a bad idea to send children to schools worse than they normally would have attended when one could just send different students to schools better than they would have attended? Wouldn't the program find much less resistance if poor students were sent to predominantly middle-class schools rather than vice-versa?
Then there's this exchange:
While there are a handful of exceptions, in general high-poverty schools don't work," said Richard D. Kahlenberg, an educational researcher at the Century Foundation who is a leading advocate for economic integration as the way to raise achievement among poor children.
But critics say that the way to help low-income students make educational gains has to be more effective teaching — not moving children around. "There's something wrong with the assumption that if you've got too many low-income kids in a classroom, you can't teach them," said Abigail Thernstrom, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute who has extensively researched race and education. "My response to that is: No excuses. Start to educate the kids.
Thernstrom's remark is the sort of disingenuous rhetoric that gives opposition to affirmative action a bad name. For a very funny and very thorough debunking of the claim that better teaching will solve the problems of impoverished students, please read, in a quick afternoon, Educating Esmé. You can read an excerpt here and listen to a couple of audio clips here (stick with them past the first minute or so).
And, of course, no blogospheric discussion of affirmative action is complete without links to the discussion started by Ted Barlow. You can read it by starting here and following the links.
Despite my aversion to clever site design and colored backgrounds, let me recommend (one strike to go) the Bandarlog.
If you're interested in the Strauss question, you can join me and Ted Hinchman (both of whom know next to nothing about Strauss) and a few other people in the comments to this post on Ted's blog. Straussians, this is your chance!
Al Jazeera's English-language site seems to have been taken down for now.
Salam Pax, Baghdad blogger, is back.
It's easy to think that the US is the only destination for immigrants, but Europe is where the issues of immigration and "post-modern" governance will be resolved. Will "tolerance" undermine itself by excessive deference to the "other?" What are the demands that we may make of immigrants while respecting their cultural identity? What, ultimately, does it mean to be a "Western" civilization and if that's worth preserving, how can that be reconciled with immigration?
Asking these questions in the US puts one on the fringe of political debate, but that's because the US, for many reasons—lower levels of aid to immigrants, a grand narrative of acceptance that is a very effective tool of assimilation, a self-selected pool of immigrants willing to assimilate, etc.—isn't as threatened by immigration as much smaller and historically more homogenous European nations.
I was thinking of doing a fairly long post on this topic after I heard this very good report (audio link) on the BBC about Dyab Abou Jahjah, a Lebanese immigrant in Belgium who is called the Arab Malcolm X. He is dynamic and inflammatory and it's not hard to see that his message will resonate. Lucky for me, Anne Applebaum has already written an excellent piece that makes the points I wanted to make and does so with more information and analysis than I could have mustered.
One related point. Whatever his faults and excesses, it's really very unfortunate that Pim Fortuyn was killed, as he was someone willing to have this debate and respond directly to people like Abou Jahjah. People in favor of immigration make a mistake if they think that silencing voices such as Fortuyn's benefits their cause: as long as there is immigration, there will be people threatened by it and not giving voice to their fears makes them more likely to turn to violence.
Just added the Invisible Adjunct, whose blog I've been reading more often and grown to like and dropped om.malik (trying to keep the blogroll manageable), which is a fine site, but which I wasn't reading much anymore.
I have to admit, this is pretty funny.
I just have to apologize to the people who come here after searching for "Sarah Kozer Playboy." You'll note that even our ambitious mission statement doesn't promise titillation. Titillation, incidentally, from the Latin for "tickle," and not, unfortunately, from the Old English "titt" for, well, tit.
As for the continued light posting, if someone would pony up with instructions for writing a SQL trigger to track changes to individual values in several tables, I could get back to blogging...
I'll try to keep this short (I will fail). In reply to Unf...
The rancorous and petty schisms of academic philosophy have been cracked into the open by this issue of Straussians in public life. It's probably hard to understand why Mr. Leiter's tone is so intemperate unless one knows that there are many people in philosophy departments in the Anglosphere who think that many other people in philosophy departments aren't really doing philosophy. Mr. Leiter is one of these people. In his eyes, the fact that Straussians occupy a liminal space between philosophy and political science doesn't spare them from the charge of mumbo-jumbo-izing (in fact, to him it's evidence that they've been banished from "real" philosophy departments). And while it's certainly true that by the rules by which Mr. Leiter judges philosophy, he can say that Straussians and Postmodernists produce "relatively little competent scholarship," he neglects to say that by the rules of the Straussians and Postmodernists, despite Mr. Leiter's competence in a certain philosophical jargon, he remains oblivious to the guiding assumptions of his own work, making him a tool of forces he doesn't understand.
So, yes, Leiter's is an idiotic rant, almost entirely free of argument. For more on his rankings of graduate schools (which deal only with schools on one side of the philosophical divide), you can check out this site dedicated to counteracting them.
As for the Straussians, I just erased my post trying to explain them because I'm not a Straussian and if you really want to understand a thinker, well, you'll just have to read him. That said, as with all "schools," there are plenty of mediocre Straussians and also some brilliant ones. Nothing in Strauss' teachings prevents those who generally agree with him from doing good work in political theory and philosophy.
For more on these issues, there is a detailed corrective to the NY Times article here and this space has promised a rebuttal to Leiter. (UPDATE: That discussion has moved to the comments of the post.) If you're really interested in the issues raised by this debate, you can also read this book for an examination of American philosophy vis-à-vis politics.
Much to do lately about this whole Bill Bennett thing. Far be it from me to criticize someone for gambling, Vegas-o-phile that I am. However, here's what I think the big scandal really is. This guy dropped like $8 million on video poker and the slots? Frankly, the only thing I can think of more boring than dropping that much money at video poker and slots is...check that, that is in fact the most boring thing in the world. Did he just run out of people to scold?
I defer to Ogged on all things philosophical, but I'm curious to hear what he thinks about this "ill tempered rant." Personally, I found it hilarious in its idiocy.
Leiter's criticism of the Straussians (about whom I have no particular feelings, other than a certain maroon-tinged tribal loyalty) seems to boil down to, "the Straussians are not serious political philosophers because they are not considered as such by philosophers." This, he says, should have been pointed out in a recent NYT article about how Straussians more or less dominate the current Administration. I'm sure Leiter's is one good way to judge the worth of a school of philosophy. But this is the only valid way? It seems to me that one way to judge the importance of a school of political philosophy might be to judge (and you'll just have to pardon my inherent pragmatism here) how successful said school has been in getting its ideas heard in government. And by that measure, the Straussians seem not at all like mere ideological hacks.
I heard the following on a conference call I was on today:
"You know, I just have the best doggy nanny."
This, I think, captures all that is wrong with modern life here in these United States.
I was going to spare everyone a link to James Frey's juvenile chest-thumping (Frey is the youngish author of bookofthemoment A Million Little Pieces, his memoir of addiction and recovery; he is also the guy who made waves in hip-lit by dissing Dave Eggers). Now I've linked it. But only because you need to read the first few paragraphs and skim the rest in order to fully appreciate Neal Pollack administering the greatest literary bitch-slap you will ever read.