Sunday, February 27, 2005
By Steven L. Taylor

Hiatusing Paul of WizBang! e-mails to note the following from MSNBC: Rating the Roadshow

When Bush confronted his Russian counterpart about the freedom of the press in Russia, Putin shot back with an attack of his own: “We didn’t criticize you when you fired those reporters at CBS.”

It reminds me of a story about a visiting delegation from Mexico during the PRI days (i.e., the authoritarian, non-competitive election period, i.i.e., pre-2000) in which it was assumed that criticism of the Mexican government in the Washington Post was orchestrated by the Reagan administration (I think it was Reagan…). At any rate, such pronouncements say much about the indigenous politics of a given state.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via Betsy Newmark, I found the following column by CU Professor of Law Paul Campos on the Churchill affair: Freedom unused is abused

One of the many ironies of this scandal that threatens to undermine academic freedom is that it couldn’t have happened if those who decided to hire, tenure and promote Churchill had taken advantage of academic freedom themselves.

The privileges created by tenure are supposed to insulate faculty from political pressures in general and censorship in particular. Yet those of us in the academy, if we were candid, would have to admit that few places are more riddled with the distorting effects of politics and censorship than university faculties.

There are, no doubt, pressures from peers and superiors (it was clearly the case here, given the Dean of Arts and Sciences fear of losing Churchill) that come to bear. Further, there are federal affirmative action guidelines in place that require paperwork when a minoritry candidate is turned down.

Campos continues:

The University of Colorado hired Churchill onto its faculty because he claimed to be an American Indian. Anyone who has the slightest familiarity with research universities can glance at his résumé and state this with something close to complete confidence.

This is undeniably the case. It is why my first post on Churchill was primarily about his credentials, and why Cal State Northridge, and at least two deparments at CU, didn’t want him. I teach at a primarily teaching-oriented university, rather than a Tier I research school like CU, and his lack of a terminal degree would’ve been a huge red flag for us which would have gotten him tossed from the stack of applicants. I have served on at least four search committee for three different departments during my time at Troy and in all four cases a doctorate (or someone who was an advanced ABD) was assumed to be a minimum requirement in all cases. We have faculty on campus with less than doctorates, but they are either older faculty from a bygone era, teach in a field in which a masters degree is terminal, or likely teach at the instructor level. There are a few exceptions for a variety of reasons (but we shan’t get into that). I do know that that idea of offering a tenured slot out of the gate to someone with a masters degree would be unheard of–ditto a Full Professorship.

It is clear that most significant lesson here is that sacrificing qualifications on the altar of diversity is a crime against the university, its students and, ultimately, to the cause of a diverse campus.

As Campos notes:

Churchill thus represents the reductio ad absurdum of the contemporary university’s willingness to subordinate all other values to affirmative action. When such a grotesque fraud – a white man pretending to be an Indian, an intellectual charlatan spewing polemical garbage festooned with phony footnotes, a shameless demagogue fabricating imaginary historical incidents to justify his pathological hatreds, an apparent plagiarist who steals and distorts the work of real scholars – manages to scam his way into a full professorship at what is still a serious research university, we know the practice of affirmative action has hit rock bottom. Or at least we can hope so.

As someone of generally liberal political inclinations, I support affirmative action in principle. (And I have surely benefited from it in practice: My parents came to this country from Mexico in the year of my birth, and I spoke no English when I started school.) In theory, the argument that aggressively seeking out persons of diverse backgrounds can enrich the intellectual life of the university has great force.

Affirmative action is based, in part, on the idea that it will help us understand the viewpoints of the conquered as well as those of the conqueror, of the weak as well as the strong, of those far from power as well as those who wield it.

Too often, these sentiments are abused by those who sacrifice intellectual integrity while engaging in the most extreme forms of preferential hiring. Ward Churchill’s career provides a lurid illustration of what can happen – indeed, of what we know will happen – when academic standards are prostituted in the name of increasing diversity.

Tenure and academic freedom are hard to defend if they don’t provide us who benefit from them with the minimal degree of courage necessary to say, when confronted by someone like Churchill, enough is enough.

While I have issues with formal affirmative action policies I am big believer in the idea that diversity should be encouraged in hiring, because it is good for the students to be exposed to a variety of points of view. Unlike some in the academy, I don’t see my job as one of indoctrination and therefore think it is a good thing for students to be exposed to a variety of ideas, personalities and approaches.

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By Steven L. Taylor

WaPo’s Dana Milbank runs down the potential presidential candidates amongst the current governors in the following piece: 2008 Presidential Race Gets Its First Cattle Call

Visitors in the Metro Center area this weekend might hear some mooing coming from the JW Marriott Hotel, site of the first cattle call of the 2008 presidential campaign.

Technically, this first ’08 campaign event is the bipartisan meeting of the National Governors Association. But as many as 15 of the nation’s 50 governors are considering a bid for the presidency, and both parties have learned the benefits of nominating a governor.

Certainly history seems to teach us that the governors’ mansions of the fifty states are the more likely sources of our presidents than the hallowed halls of Congress, thus meaning we should be paying some attention to this group of individuals.

Indeed, as such the cattle call analogy may not be the right one, but rather it seems that the more proper way to look at the governors is as two farm teams preparing to compete in the majors.

For the Reps, Milbank lists: Arnold Schwarzenegger (Calif), Mitt Romney (Mass.), George E. Pataki (N.Y.), Jeb Bush (Fla.), Haley Barbour (Miss.), Mike Huckabee (Ark.), Mark Sanford (S.C.), and Bill Owens (Colo.).

For the Dems: Tom Vilsack (Iowa), Mark R. Warner (Va.), Jennifer M. Granholm (D-Mich.), Phil Bredesen (Tenn.), Bill Richardson (N.M.), Jennifer M. Granholm (Mich.), Janet Napolitano (Ariz.), and Rod Blagojevich (Ill.).

In looking at the two lists, the alleged stars for the Republicans (Schwarzenegger, Pataki, Romney) all have abortion-related problems, not to mention Arnie’s whole constitutional problem, and the other star, Bush, has the whole family problem, i.e., exactly how comfortable would Americans be with three presidents from the same nuclear (or is that noocuelar?) family in the span of twenty-four years?

I don’t know enough about Huckabee, Sanford and Owens to intelligently comment and my gut reaction to Barbour is that his time at the RNC would come back to bite him.

Of the Democrats I think Mark Warner and Bill Richardson have to be considered front-runners of this group, even with Richardson’s Clinton Era problems (most notably his stint as Secretary if Energy). Both have had a great deal of positive press, and both come across as moderate Brederson has the southern-connection angle, but I don’t know that much about him. Granholm, of course, has the Schwarzenegger problem, and while Vilsack has a geo-political advantage, I am unclear on his electability in a general sense. I don’t know enough about Blagojevich to intelligently comment and what little I do know about Napolitano doesn’t exactly scream “presidency” to me.

Setting aside the whole rule about governors, 2008 may be the year where the best bets in both parties are, in fact, Senators: McCain for the Republicans (although he has the age problem) and Hillary. Certainly in fantasy-land Condaleeza Rice would be an intriguing candidate, but I still have a hard time seeing someone who has never held elected office winning the nomination. Granted, the current importance of national security would be to her advantage, but having been central to the Bush foreign policy she would get the blame for every failure (and credit for successes, granted). I have a very hard time seeing Senator Frist making it to the nomination, let alone the White House.

In other gubernatorial news, the following is hardly surprising:

In other gubernatorial news, a Field Poll in California shows that Schwarzenegger holds a lead of 15 to 19 percentage points over prospective Democratic challengers in advance of next year’s race.

I would expect Schwarzenegger to handily win re-election next year, and at this point one has to wonder whether any A-list California Democrats will even run against him.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Forget “Dowdification” (i.e., the use of selective quotations)–Maureen Dowd’s main problem is that she mistakes cleverness and snarky retorts for analysis. As such her method of “argumentation” really isn’t much different than Rush Limbaugh’s. As such, she doesn’t engage in analysis, but rather, Dowdysis (or, simply, snarkification).

She has increasingly been on Sunday chat shows for months now and she really doesn’t reply to questions, for the most part, with actual answers, but with lines.

Lines and jokes (even jokes founded in fact and/or opinion) are fine, but gee whiz, bask up your position with an argument once in a while. Her lack of serious argumentation was highlighted on MTP this morning with her sitting between Friedman and Safire.

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By Steven L. Taylor

On MTP this morning Senator Joe Biden said, in response to Russert’s question as to whether Biden will run for the presidency in 2008, “I might.”

Which, is pretty bold for politicians this far out from the event.

Not surprising, but interesting.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Saddam’s Half-Brother Captured in Iraq

Iraqi security forces captured Saddam Hussein’s half-brother and former adviser, government officials said Sunday, dealing a blow to an insurgency that some Iraqi officials claim the former fugitive was helping organize and fund, perhaps from Syria. The U.S. military also said two American soldiers were killed Sunday in an ambush in the capital.

Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan was No. 36 on the list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis released by U.S. authorities after American troops invaded Iraq in March 2003, and he also was named one of the 29 most-wanted supporters of insurgents in Iraq. The United States had a $1 million bounty on his head.

Good deal.

More info:

Saddam and al-Hassan had the same mother but different fathers.

Under Saddam, al-Hassan led the dreaded General Security Directorate, which was responsible for internal security, especially cracking down on political parties opposing Saddam. Al-Hassan was accused of torturing and killing political opponents while leading that body.

He later became a presidential adviser, the last post he held in the former regime.

The government statement said he had “killed and tortured Iraqi people” and “participated effectively in planning, supervising, and carrying out many terrorist acts in Iraq.”

In December, Allawi accused Syria of harboring senior officials from Saddam’s ousted regime, including al-Hassan. Qassem Dawoud, Iraq’s minister in charge of national security, claimed that al-Hassan was supporting insurgents in Iraq from Syria, according to remarks published last year in Kuwait’s Al-Rai Al-Aam daily.

Source: The AP

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Saturday, February 26, 2005
By Steven L. Taylor

Via Reuters: ‘Star Trek’ Fans Protest Cancellation of Series

Actually, the main reason I blogged this is because I found the following amusing for some reason:

None wore costumes, however, in a departure from many gatherings of “Trekkies.”

Does the lack of costumes mean they really don’t care? Or, if they had worn costumes would that have underscored the silliness of it all?

On a related note: the Klingon two-parter was quite good and the way they dealt with the TOS v. later Klingons was nifty and actually made sense. Having it fit in with the Augments storyline from earlier in the season was inspired.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: US trial for Colombia rebel woman

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has authorized the extradition to the US of a woman accused of managing finances for the leftist Farc rebel army.

Omaira Rojas, known by her nickname “Sonia”, has faced drug trafficking charges in the US since 2003.

She was briefly imprisoned aboard a ship after her capture last year, amid fears her former colleagues in Farc were trying to kill her.

President Uribe has extradited some 200 suspected drug traffickers to the US.

This is noteworthy because it further demonstrates that the United States no longer sees the guerrilla war as distinct from the drug war in Colombia. This is a shift in policy that took place in the post-911 context and is yet another example of how the US view of the world changed, security-wise, after the attacks on NY and Washington.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Overtaken by Events is three–which is a big number in blog years–congrats!

Matt also notes that cut on the bias turned three this week as well.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Yesterday was Jay Solo’s second blogiversary. Happy day to Jay, who has more than most to thank for blogging: he met his wife that way, and they now have a lovely daughter to boot!

(And why Spanish? Why not?)

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