The Rundown

August 8, 2007
  • Here is a pretty good, reasonable, level-headed analysis of the entire Scott Beauchamp controversy over at Slate.
  • Speaking of level-headed analysis, here is Mark Kleiman on No Child Left Behind.
  • Ruben Navarrette of the San Diego Union-Tribune defends Obama’s much-maligned foreign policy prescriptions. TPM’s Reed Hundt has more.
  • Paul Sonne argues for Foreign Policy that the IOC should do a better job of selecting Olympic sites.
  • Things continue to heat up between Russia and Georgia.

The Rundown

July 31, 2007
  • Princeton’s Anne-Marie Slaughter urges a new approach to promoting democracy.
  • Eugene Robinson finally gets around to pointing out the 800-lb gorilla in the room in an article entitled “Will White America Elect Obama?”
  • Lilly Ledbetter, she of the recent controversial Supreme Court case Ledbetter v. Goodyear Rubber & Tire Co., calls for Congress to take a stronger stance against gender-based pay discrimination.
  • Matthew Yglesias, responding to Stanley Kurtz, basically agrees with the position I took yesterday regarding academic tenure.
  • Tom Ridge and Gen Barry McCaffrey argue for a renewed commitment to improving American soft power and diplomacy.

Whose Derangement Syndrome?

July 30, 2007

Conservatives have been attempting to spread the “Bush Derangement Syndrome” meme for years now to slander those of us who have simply had enough of this presidency botching… almost everything. I find this term incredibly distasteful, largely because the fringe voices of the right, the Coulters and Malkins, which actually manage to receive coverage on the “news” networks, are just as deranged as those on the far left.

Matthew Yglesias points to one particularly egregious example from CNN pundit Glenn Beck here. Quote:

Al Gore’s not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however. The goal is different. The goal is globalization. The goal is global carbon tax. The goal is the United Nations running the world. That is the goal. Back in the 1930s, the goal was get rid of all of the Jews and have one global government.” He continued: “You got to have an enemy to fight. And when you have an enemy to fight, then you can unite the entire world behind you, and you seize power. That was Hitler’s plan. His enemy: the Jew. Al Gore’s enemy, the U.N.’s enemy: global warming.” Beck added: “Then you get the scientists — eugenics. You get the scientists — global warming. Then you have to discredit the scientists who say, ‘That’s not right.’ And you must silence all dissenting voices. That’s what Hitler did.

No, that doesn’t sound the least bit crazy.

Another favorite topic for fringe nuttery is the obsession with left-wing academics. Do universities tend to lean left? Clearly, they do. Despite what the right is fond of implying, this has never appeared to me to indicate any sort of systemic bias; rather it seems to be a function of the personalities and priorities that lead a person to choose a career in the academy over other alternatives.

David French of the New York Post, that bastion of reason, is not content with this explanation. He prefers to operate from the conspiracy zone, where disgraced professor Ward Churchill, who was just fired, in case you haven’t been following along, should have been fired… faster… I guess?

French cites two polls indicating that the public is on his side. He misses a few caveats, though, in his zeal, as is apparent upon a cursory glance at this article. First, the Zogby poll is an internet poll. These polls have proven less than reliable in, for example, presidential and Congressional elections. The second poll, by the American Association of University Professors, does find institutional bias to be a problem, but not as much of a problem as a host of other issues in higher education. So perhaps French’s rage is misplaced.

One instance of where I think it is clearly misplaced is toward academic tenure. While it is undeniably true that the public at large does not support tenure, to imply that tenure only helps the left is absurd, since it applies to all professors regardless of political persuasion. Myself, I tend to think that institutions in free societies develop for good reasons. Tenure is one institution that has done so in this country. Perhaps we should reform it, loosen firing restrictions to an extent, but to do away with it altogether seems unwise.