Charles Travis (metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language) at Northwestern University has accepted a chair at King's College, London to start September 1 (though he will be a visiting professor at Harvard in the fall semester). Together with the recent loss of Tom Ricketts, this is a real setback for Northwestern's coverage in some of the central areas of contemporary philosophy.
UPDATE: Professor Travis wrote in to emphasize that his move had nothing to do with dissatisfaction with Northwestern, but rather with the substantial philosophical attractions of London and King's College, in particular. He did add, interestingly:
My decision [also] does have something to do with dissatisfaction with the U.S. After all George Bush did in his first term to prove that he was unfit to hold any public office--as much as you could expect in that regard from anyone--Americans voted for him anyway. I think that fact speaks more ill of America and its future than all the unspeakable, shameless things Bush has done since re-election. I shall be glad to be living elsewhere.
How many of the recent defections of U.S.-based philosophers to posts in Canada, England, and Australia, one wonders, reflect similar, and all-too-warranted, sentiments and concerns?
Robert Cummins, the distinguished philosopher of mind and cognitive science, at the University of California at Davis has accepted a senior offer from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. That's a big catch for Illinois, which, as we recently noted, has suffered a number of losses lately. Hiring Cummins is very likely to put the overall program back in to the U.S. top 50.
Meanwhile, Cummins marks the third loss for the small UC Davis Department this year (Connie Rosati [ethics] has accepted an offer from the University of Arizona, and George Wilson [philosophy of language, action, and film] has accepted an offer from the University of Southern California, as Jeff King [philosophy of language] did last year). On the other hand, Davis still has senior offers outstanding to Alan Nelson [early modern] at UC Irvine and Jonathan Vogel [epistemology] at Amherst.
...Hanoch Sheinman, a legal and political philosopher at Rice University, will be here tomorrow for one of our three-hour Law & Philosophy Program workshops, this one devoted to his paper, "Are Tradeoffs Between Justice and Welfare Possible? Calabresi and Dworkin on the Normative Foundations of Law and Economics."
This story suggests the possibility. I suppose since the new Pope has morally abhorrent views on a whole range of issues, it would be only fitting...
Details here; an excerpt:
David Horowitz and gang never cease to amaze. From their crackpot intellectualism, to their red baiting antics -- it's clear the folks over at FrontPageMagazine.com are nothing short of fascist. On April 25, Ann Coulter wannabe and FrontPage darling, Debbie Schlussel, had this to say about the death of peace activist Marla Ruzicka, who, as I am sure you know, was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq earlier this month:
... It's time to stop worshipping at the alter [sic] of this false heroine. There are plenty of young American men and women ... who've been brutalized or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But none of them got the ... coverage that Ruzicka got--unless they were anally raped or ... played pro football. That should tell you ... about the media's outlook ... : American soldiers fighting for freedom--bad; vociferous activist bimbette ... --very, very good. While it's a sad day when any American gets killed by Islamic terrorists, it's measurably less sad when that American aided and abetted them ... For Marla Ruzicka, some might call it, poetic justice."
Not kidding. Schlussel actually claims Ruzicka "aided and abetted" terrorists. She also has the impudence to whine that the mainstream media hasn't backed the US war, or lauded fallen US soldiers as heroes. Yeah right. The media Schlussel so vehemently attacks has yet to print the names of all those innocents who have been killed by the bullets and bombs of Bush's "democracy."
The 28 year-old Ruzicka was the founder of Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), an NGO that began as a one-person outfit and slowly grew into a vital operation that compiled statistics of Iraqi civilian casualties. Marla and her team (which included several Iraqis, one of whom, Faiz Ali Salim, died alongside Marla) pursued the casualty figures by going door to door in some of the most heavily bombarded areas of Iraq....
Unlike the US soldiers in the country who are there to kill, Marla was there to end the US-led occupation. She was attempting to raise awareness of the mounting civilian death toll by pressuring the US media to acknowledge the atrocities.
The Horowitz crew has no pity, let alone integrity. So we shouldn't be surprised at Schlussel's rant -- that's how the befuddled minds of the fanatical right work: you are either with us or against us. And if you are against us, you may as well die.
So I think it's about time we all said "no" to the iniquity of David Horowitz and the ghouls who write for FrontPageMag.com. Why not take a minute and drop the callous diva a line. Let her know what you think of her latest commentary: firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE: More on Ms. Ruzicka here. (Thanks to Larry Bailey for the pointer.)
Details here; an excerpt:
Several recent reports have documented the depth of the impending crisis, including a detailed analysis of troop strengths by Ann Tyson in the Washington Post. So far, over one million U.S. military personnel have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, with some 341,000 already doing the dreaded double-deployments (and many now entering triple-deployment territory). The military has moved troops into Iraq from all over the world, including previously untouchable Cold War detachments in Korea, Germany, and Alaska, and it's still "scrambling" to keep 17 battalions regularly in Iraq, many severely undermanned. These shortages have led to an increasing dependence on expensive private security contractors, who themselves add to the Pentagon's recruitment problems by hiring away otherwise re-upable military personnel for four times the wages paid in the Army.
To make matters worse, the Defense Department (to protect against a crisis elsewhere) has decided, with Congressional authorization, to increase the overall size of active-duty forces by 30,000, which can only amplify the retention/recruitment crunch.
Last fall the military embarked on a Herculean set of efforts to meet these daunting demands. It manufactured a 40% increase in the pool of candidates available for the Guard and Reserve by relaxing entry standards and raising the enlistment age to 40 years. It added thousands of new recruiters (1400 for the National Guard alone) and equipped them with an array of new inducements, including signing bonuses as high as $20,000 (for those with previous experience) and up to $70,000 in college credits for new enlistees. Re-enlistment bonuses, depending on specialty, can now reach $100,000. The Defense Department also launched a new $180 million recruitment campaign that includes "sponsorship of a rodeo cowboy, ads on ESPN, and a 24 hour Web site that allows users to chat with recruiters…24 hours a day." In a special effort to help the most stressed service, the military is offering six million dollars of recruitment money in exchange for the right to name the home of the new Washington Nationals baseball team National Guard Stadium.
The most dramatic of the new measures were aimed at inducing (or coercing) personnel to remain in the military beyond their enlistment contracts. Tom Reeves, author of The End of the Draft and longtime observer of draft policy, reports that 40,000 soldiers have already been retained by using the notorious "stop-loss" system, which allows the Army unilaterally to keep soldiers for up to 18 months beyond the date their enlistment is scheduled to terminate....
Such military efforts were augmented by what may be the ultimate sign of military desperation: the call-up of 5,500 members of the "Individual Ready Reserves." As Reeves notes, these are "older men and women whose regular reserve duty has ended -- including grandmothers and grandfathers edging toward retirement…who have no idea they would be recalled to duty." It is hardly surprising that nearly one-third of these superannuated reserves have refused to report....
[E]ven [the Pentagon's] most far-reaching and draconian efforts seem to be failing. Re-enlistment levels in both the Army and the Guard have now slipped below quota, and Reuters reports that this shortfall can be expected to get dramatically worse once larger numbers of soldiers reach that 18-month stop-loss limit. New recruitment appears to be entering freefall, with the most drastic declines among African Americans, who traditionally make up 25% of the volunteer army. January and February recorded the first Marine recruitment shortfalls in a decade; while the army is running 6% below targets for the year. Hardest hit have been the Reserves, with a 10% decline, and the Army National Guard at 26%. These units are in full crisis, with the Guard already announcing it will not reach full strength in 2005, and Reserve Commander General James Helmly stating that "overuse" is making his units into "a broken force." Reeves reports that even the military academies have suffered 15% to 25% declines in applications for admission....
Major General Michael D. Rochelle, the man in charge of army recruiting, told New York Times reporter Damien Cave that the recruitment crisis constituted the "toughest challenge to the all-volunteer army" since its inception in 1973.
Optimistic reports that our local military allies will soon begin to replace American troops follow a familiar pattern of miraculous overstatement (first established in Vietnam decades ago), as reporter Timothy Phelps documented in a March 21 article in Newsday that reviewed the history of American attempts to build Iraqi military forces. In the spring of 2004, official (and unofficial) Bush administration reports claimed the existence of 206,000 fully trained Iraqi troops. To the surprise of those who had accepted these claims, none of them fought successfully in the major battles that April (in Falluja, Najaf, or Sadr City). Most deserted beforehand, refused to fight, or fled under fire. A measurable minority, however, did fight ferociously -- for the resistance, using American-supplied weapons and equipment.
By fall 2004, though the U.S. was publicly claiming 135,000 "combat ready" Iraqi troops, one military official told New York Times reporter John Burns that as few as 1,500 Iraqi troops were actually fully trained....
Then came Rear Admiral William Sullivan's report to Congress in Spring 2005 which spoke of 145,000 "combat capable," "new" Iraqi armed forces. This claim was disputed -- by of all people -- Sabah Hadhum, a spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. He told the British Telegraph reporter Anton La Guardia, "We are paying about 135,000 (members of the security services) but that does not necessarily mean that 135,000 are actually working." As many as 50,000 of these may actually be what he termed "ghost soldiers"-- men not on duty but whose paychecks were being pocketed either by their officers or themselves....
According to Rear Admiral Sullivan, only a meager 14,000 troops were fully trained units in the "new Iraqi army," the first beneficiaries of what Burns of the Times called a "$5 billion American-financed effort." These troops had not, however, yet endured a major battle, and some of the American troops who worked with them evidently considered them worthless. As one trooper told London Times reporter Anthony Loyd, "I'm more scared of going out with these guys than clashing with the insurgents." According to Los Angeles Times reporter David Zuccino, even the 205th Iraqi Army Brigade, "considered the country's best unit by many U.S. trainers," had been infiltrated by insurgents....
Does Anyone Feel a Draft Coming In?
As the strain on the U.S. military continues to build, so does the pressure on policy. The only option that does not imply the sacrifice of many more American lives and magnitudes more Iraqi lives may be the withdrawal of American troops, but this option is "unthinkable" to the Bush administration -- and to its loyal Democratic opposition, not to speak of the bulk of the mainstream media. Only the American people (according to the most recent Marist Poll) -- and the rest of the world -- consider it "thinkable."
According to former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, avoiding this unthinkable option would require "500,000 troops, $500 billion and the resumption of the military draft." The need for a draft has been seconded by a wide range of military experts, including then-presidential candidate General Wesley Clark, who, in 2004, said the U.S. needed to start "thinking about the draft"; frequent Pentagon advisor Colonel David Hackworth, who called the draft a "no-brainer in '05 and '06"; and Charles Moskos, adviser to four presidents on military manpower, who declared that "we cannot achieve the number of troops we need in Iraq without a draft." Washington Monthly editor Paul Glastris and national security analyst Philip Carter articulated what might be the most comprehensive argument, calling for what a "21st Century draft," that would "create a cascading series of benefits," including turning the tide in Iraq....
For many Americans, the de-escalation of American imperial ambition is an attractive alternative to further war and a conscripted army. But for the Bush Administration, this alternative is just as unthinkable as the draft. They are stuck, therefore, between Iraq and a hard place.
The solution thus far has involved a contradictory and unstable set of pronouncements and policies. Rhetorically, the administration has continued to reaffirm its commitment to a no-draft military and its promise to pursue "preventive wars" of all sorts. At the same time, its officials have taken specific steps meant to give them added flexibility. As Reeves has documented, they have been quietly erecting the Selective Service System (SSS) needed for a future draft. In March, the SSS issued a report assuring the president that "it would be ready to implement a draft within 75 days" after Congressional authorization. Richard Flahavan, a spokesman for the Selective Service System, told reporter Eric Rosenberg of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the SSS already has in place "a special system to register and draft health care personnel" and that they were undertaking active planning for "a special skills draft" aimed at computer programmers and language specialists. These programs would be ready for implementation any time the need arose.
News of this high level of preparedness has added to already widespread rumors of a renewed draft, and has fed speculation that the government was perhaps waiting for a dramatic event which would justify the draft without jeopardizing support for the war -- perhaps an internal terrorist attack, or an authentic (or U.S. precipitated) crisis elsewhere.
Stanford University has made a senior offer to the distinguished political philosopher Joshua Cohen at MIT, which would have him jointly appointed in the Departments of Philosophy and Political Science and in the Law School (which has, historically, been a rather philosophy-unfriendly place, so this is a striking development). In addition, the Philosophy Department at Stanford has offered a long-term (ten-year) part-time appointment to Brian Skyrms (decision and game theory, philosophy of science, metaphysics and epistemology) at the University of California at Irvine who, among his many other accomplishments and distinctions, is one of only two philosophers elected to the National Academy of Sciences (the other is Patrick Suppes, now emeritus at Stanford).
...the U.S. Consider:
[T]he two-party Electoral College duopoly [in the U.S.] with its "wealth elections", exclusive control of debates, and ballot access barriers, have effectively stifled competition by third party or independent candidates. Our country is dominated by a two-party elected dictatorship that carves up most districts into one-party monopolies - re-districted either by Republicans or Democrats who control the state governments. About 95 percent of House of Representatives' Districts are monopolized by one party and where elections are really coronations. Bush-Cheney and Representative Tom DeLay have worsened this downward trend.
No other country in the western world is down to a two-party duopoly. Many countries have four, six, eight, ten viable parties, instant runoff voting and often proportional representation so that more votes matter.
Bush-Cheney have set records for secret arrests and jailings without charges and without allowing defendants to have attorneys. Dragnet roundups have proved to be wasteful and harmful to thousands of innocent prisoners who were never tried, including people suspected just of being material witnesses. Bush and John Ashcroft have yet to catch and convict a terrorist, though they have arrested over 5,000 people suspected of terrorism. The two convictions they secured were overturned by courts in Michigan.
The violation of due process, probable cause and the rule of law has damaged America's standing in the world where billions of people believe, given the illegal invasion of Iraq under false pretenses, that the Bush's government stands for "might is right." Former General Wesley Clark has called the Bush Administration "a threat to domestic liberty." While the respected columnist and editor, Michael Kinsley, writing in the Washington Post, said "in terms of the power he now claims, George W. Bush is now the closest thing in a long time to dictator of the world."
In Cicero's words, "freedom is participation in power." Bush-Cheney have made sure fewer people are participating, while poverty, hunger, consumer debt, non-living wages, the uninsured, environmental damage, electoral shenanigans, tax cuts for large corporations and the wealthy, militarization of both foreign policy and federal budgets keep worsening.
Recently, spokesmen for foreign countries - including Russia and China - have begun to mock Bush-Cheney, urging them to look at their own backyards. It is easy to dismiss such charges from more authoritarian nations, including the communist dictatorship in China. But remember, these officials, coming off the iron rule of Stalin and Mao and their predecessors, think they are making progress by comparison. What are the excuses of Bush-Cheney? They are coming off the traditions of Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Bush-Cheney, instead of standing on their and others' shoulders, are driving America backwards into the future.
Gary Ebbs (philosophy of language, history of analytic philosophy, epistemology) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has accepted a senior offer from Indiana University, Bloomington (to start in fall 2006); he is the fourth Illinois professor in recent years to make the move to Bloomington (others are Kate Abramson [early modern], Marcia Baron [ethics, Kant], and Frederick Schmitt [epistemology]). Illinois, which slipped out of the PGR top 50 last year, is now in rather desperate shape.
...by the fascist theocrats. Details here about the rally in your area (including Austin!).
Posted by Brian Leiter on April 26, 2005 at 07:24 PM in Authoritarianism and Fascism Alerts, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
Having already tacked on an amendment to one bill to prevent gays from being foster parents (an amendment, which if enacted, would immediately deprive a couple of thousand children of their current caregivers [that's what it means to be "pro-family" in Texas]), the anxiety-ridden repressed homosexuals, as well as the random hate-mongers, in the House of the state legislature have now approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, sponsored by Representative Warren Chisum, who, as we know, regularly carries water for the Texas Taliban. Kudos to State Representative Thompson from Houston for calling Chisum on his disgusting bigotry and moral depravity:
"This amendment is blowing smoke to fuel the hell-fire flames of bigotry," said Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston.
Thompson, 66, an African-American who grew up with segregation, said the legislation reminded her of the time when interracial marriages were illegal.
"When people of my color used to marry someone of Mr. Chisum's color (white), you'd often find people of my color hanging from a tree. That's what white people back then did to protect marriage," Thompson said.
Posted by Brian Leiter on April 26, 2005 at 01:23 PM in Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
I'm on the run, but here, briefly, are the results:
Newly elected philosophers are Robert Fogelin (emeritus, Dartmouth), Gilbert Harman (Princeton), Charles Larmore (Chicago), Keith Lehrer (emeritus [though still teaching], Arizona), and Peter van Inwagen (Notre Dame). In addition, philosopher Rebecca Goldstein (Trinity College) was elected in recognition of her literary works.
Newly elected legal scholars are Jack Balkin (Yale), Elena Kagan (Dean of Harvard Law School), Duncan Kennedy (Harvard), Sylvia Law (NYU), and Catharine MacKinnon (Michigan). This was clearly the year for "the left" (in some suitably loose sense) at the American Academy! For good measure, among the practitioners elected was Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
UPDATE: Of local interest, Allan MacDonald (Physics) at UT Austin was elected, as was Eric Nestler from the UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas (there is no medical school at the Austin campus).
The latest dissembling technique from the creationist conmen involving "the practice of focusing on irrelevant trivia and dancing dishonestly around the issues with unbelievable circumlocutions while maintaining a facade of snooty hauteur." Details here.
Posted by Brian Leiter on April 26, 2005 at 07:17 AM in "The less they know, the less they know it", Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
Details here; an excerpt:
Enter L.A. tabloid editor David Horowitz, liar extraordinaire and author of the incomparable bullshitting manual The Art of Political War and Other Radical Pursuits (Spence Publishing, 2000). This book, much applauded by Karl Rove, promulgates a political endgame in which brute force triumphs over any notions of intelligence, truth or fair play. The author contends that “[y]ou cannot cripple an opponent by outwitting him in a political debate. You can only do it by following Lenin’s injunction: ‘In political conflicts, the goal is not to refute your opponent’s argument, but to wipe him from the face of the earth.’”
What, exactly, is he getting at in this passage? Since, on the home front, it would be illegal to actually liquidate the enemy, Horowitz does not want us to take Lenin’s apocalyptic injunction too literally. Instead, he believes you should drown your political opponents in a steady stream of bullshit, emanating every day from newspapers, TV and radio programs, as well as lavishly funded smear sites and blogs. He also thinks you should go on college lecture circuits where you can use incendiary rhetoric to turn civilized venues into the Jerry Springer show, and then descend into fits of indignant self-pity when someone responds with a pie to your face.
The only honorable way to combat Horowitz’s bullshit is by fully repudiating his modus operandi, and depending instead on the very wits, arguments and refutations that the Leninists repudiate. Indeed, these methods prove optimal for exposing any number of Horowitzian techniques, ranging from cooked statistics, race-baiting and guilt by association to editorial foul play and baffling logorrhea. But refuting Horowitz is not simply a matter of observing the tide and eddies in an unending stream of bullshit. It also means trawling through that same discharge in order to extract any number of dangerous lies.
The university press release is here. She comes to Pittsburgh from Florida State University, which had recruited her away just a few years ago from a tenured post at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
May this response put this dishonest nonsense to rest.
Posted by Brian Leiter on April 25, 2005 at 06:09 AM in Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
...and he appears to be as much of an empty vessel as the other ones. Why, oh why, would any newspaper think the opinions of journalists are of special interest, as against the opinions of people with actual knowledge, expertise, competence? "No ideas and the ability to express them: that's a journalist," said Karl Kraus.
Unbelievable! When I started the blog two years ago, we were in the midst of a battle (which the good guys won!) over the treatment of evolution in textbooks for the public schools. Now those who carry water for the Texas Taliban in the state legislature are back trying to change the standards governing textbook adoption to make it easier for the ignorant and the parochial to destroy public education. This from the Texas Freedom Network today:
The House Public Education Committee will hear testimony at 2 p.m., Tuesday, April 26, on two bills that would swing open the door to widespread censorship of our children's textbooks. These bills would effectively repeal legislation passed in 1995 to prevent the State Board of Education (SBOE) from censoring content in Texas textbooks. By permitting SBOE members to insert or delete content based on their own political and religious ideology, the bills would give far-right censors free rein to target textbooks discussions on such topics as the theory of evolution, slavery, the civil rights struggle, women's rights and the separation of church and state.
H.B. 2534 by Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, allows the SBOE to determine content requirements and limitations for facts and discussions about theories (such as the theory of evolution), citizenship, patriotism and free enterprise, and divergent individuals and groups ("may not encourage lifestyles that deviate from generally accepted standards of society"). This bill would set into law the kind of textbook censorship TFN has fought before the SBOE for the last 10 years.
H.B. 220 by Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, would give the SBOE the authority to reject a textbook or require its revision simply because the book did not conform to the political or religious beliefs of SBOE members. The bill author tried to attach this bill as an amendment to H.B. 4 on technology and instructional materials for schools earlier this week. Rep. Howard said far-right SBOE members Terri Leo and David Bradley asked him for this bill. Both Leo and Bradley have led efforts to censor school textbooks for years and have frequently called on the Legislature to restore the state board's authority over textbook content.
TAKE ACTION - TESTIMONY NEEDED!
Give the House Public Education Committee and the media first-hand accounts of how far-right censors on the SBOE have put responsible science, history and health education on trial during battles over the adoption of new textbooks.
Please contact Heather Alden, heather at tfn dot org or 512-322-0545, to get more details about testifying Tuesday. e can try to accommodate your schedule with a cell phone call before testimony is starting.
Remember: because Texas is a huge buyer of textbooks, changes to textbooks that the Texas Board of Education mandates will be felt across the country. That means a change in the law here--which will permit outright politically and religiously motivated editing of textbooks--will affect innocent children not only in this state, but across the country. Texas residents who can make it Tuesday to the hearings should contact Ms. Alden.
Posted by Brian Leiter on April 22, 2005 at 03:56 PM in Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
...the fascist theocrats are cooking up new schemes; an excerpt:
An audio recording obtained by the Los Angeles Times features two of the nation's most influential evangelical leaders, at a private conference with supporters, laying out strategies to rein in judges, such as stripping funding from their courts in an effort to hinder their work.
The discussion took place during a Washington conference last month that included addresses by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who discussed efforts to bring a more conservative cast to the courts.
Frist and DeLay have not publicly endorsed the evangelical groups' proposed actions. But the taped discussion among evangelical leaders provides a glimpse of the road map they are drafting as they work with congressional Republicans to achieve a judiciary that sides with them on abortion, same-sex marriage and other elements of their agenda.
"There's more than one way to skin a cat, and there's more than one way to take a black robe off the bench," said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, according to an audiotape of a March 17 session....
DeLay has spoken generally about one of the ideas the leaders discussed in greater detail: using legislative tactics to withhold money from courts.
"We set up the courts. We can unset the courts. We have the power of the purse," DeLay said at an April 13 question-and-answer session with reporters.
The leaders present at the March conference, including Perkins and James C. Dobson, founder of the influential group Focus on the Family, have been working with Frist to eliminate the filibuster for judicial nominations, a legislative tool that has allowed Senate Democrats to stall 10 of President Bush's nominations....
The March conference featuring Dobson and Perkins showed that the evangelical leaders, in addition to working to place conservative nominees on the bench, have been trying to find ways to remove certain judges.
Perkins said that he had attended a meeting with congressional leaders a week earlier where the strategy of stripping funding from certain courts was "prominently" discussed. "What they're thinking of is not only the fact of just making these courts go away and re-creating them the next day but also defunding them," Perkins said.
He said that instead of undertaking the long process of trying to impeach judges, Congress could use its appropriations authority to "just take away the bench, all of his staff, and he's just sitting out there with nothing to do."
These curbs on courts are "on the radar screen, especially of conservatives here in Congress," he said....
"Very few people know this, that the Congress can simply disenfranchise a court," Dobson said. "They don't have to fire anybody or impeach them or go through that battle. All they have to do is say the 9th Circuit doesn't exist anymore, and it's gone...."
I am struck that the more items I post regarding the assault on the judiciary by the far right theocrats, the more readers drop me notes saying, in effect, "Gee, I used to think 'fascist theocrat' was hyperbole, but now...."
(Thanks to David McGowan [Law, San Diego] for the pointer.)
Posted by Brian Leiter on April 22, 2005 at 11:50 AM in Authoritarianism and Fascism Alerts, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
A faculty member at Washington University just wrote to confirm that Kent Syverud, the very successful outgoing Dean of Vanderbilt's law school, has accepted the Deanship at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. More details later today. Kudos to Wash U on having secured a very talented administrator and academic leader.
UPDATE: Wash U's press release is here. Syverud starts January 1, 2006 at Wash U.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Syverud is moving from a solidly top 20 law school to one that aspires, and ought to be able, to achieve that status. One big advantage will be that Washington University is such a significantly stronger research university than Vanderbilt--though still one that, oddly, underperforms its great wealth (Wash U is significantly wealthier, on a per capita basis, than places like Cornell and Brown, for example). (The undergraduate program ranks well, but the graduate programs generally do not.) The standout unit at the university is clearly the Medical School, which is by every pertinent measure one of the handful of top medical faculties in the United States and the world. As typically happens, outstanding strengths in medicine have spillover effects in the biological sciences, where Wash U again ranks in the top 10, and always the top 20, in essentially all the various sub-fields of biology. Outside biology, the hard sciences are relatively weak (almost none are in the top 20 nationally); and in the humanities and social sciences, only a handful of departments rank in the top 20 or higher nationally (e.g., Anthropology, German, Political Science). (Philosophy, which disappeared from the top 50 for awhile, has now been rejuvenated with fresh talent [it ranked 36th in 2004], and is poised, with additional hires, to move towards the top 20.) One of Joel Seligman’s astute moves during his Deanship—or, I should say, one of his astute moves visible to an outsider—was to bring Lee Epstein, one of the stars of Political Science at Wash U and one of the nation's preeminent political scientists studying the courts, on to the law faculty, and help establish an intellectual niche for the Law School as a leading center of empirical studies of the legal system, with not only Epstein, but also Pauline Kim, Margo Schlanger, and others. Seligman had a few notable lateral recruitments during his tenure—e.g., John Haley (Japanese law) from Washington/Seattle, Schlanger and her husband Samuel Bagenstos (leading authority on disability law) from Harvard—as well as some strong junior hiring, but overall, he didn’t accomplish as much on the faculty recruitment front as Syverud did during his tenure at Vanderbilt. If Syverud can duplicate his Vanderbilt success in St. Louis, Wash U could easily be one of the up-and-comers among top law schools in the next decade.
Thomas Ricketts, one of the leading writers on the history of analytic philosophy, who moved from Penn to Northwestern just a few years ago, has now accepted a senior offer from the University of Pittsburgh, where he will join a number of other philosophers working on major figures in the analytic tradition (from Frege to Wittgenstein), including Bob Brandom, John McDowell, and Mark Wilson, among others.
Philosopher Peter Millican at the University of Leeds, who is perhaps best-known for his work on Hume, has accepted a University Lectureship at Oxford University. Together with other recent appointments of scholars in early modern philosophy (Peter Kail from Edinburgh, Paul Lodge from Tulane, and Bob Adams, who retired at Yale and is doing some teaching at Oxford), this does much to replenish Oxford's coverage in this historical period.
The effort is organized by Norman Swartz (Philosophy, Simon Fraser); the petition and other pertinent information is here.
Philosopher of science Niall Shanks, best-known for his (justifiably) scathing critique of intelligent design creationism, will be leaving the Philosophy Department at East Tennessee State University to take up a newly endowed chair in history and philosophy of science at Wichita State University. (Details here.)
Since Kansas is on the verge, again, of undermining biology education in the public schools, Professor Shanks's special expertise will likely come in handy, assuming anyone on the State Board of Education is interested in arguments and evidence.
Posted by Brian Leiter on April 21, 2005 at 04:41 PM in Philosophy Updates, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
Utilizing the data that Larry Solum has compiled for two years on where newly hired law teachers earned their first degree (here and here), I've compiled a list of all schools that sent at least three graduates in to law teaching during this time period. Next to the name of each school appears the number of graduates who took tenure-track jobs in the last two years; and following that number is the number of students in a typical class (rounded to the nearest 50) based on the 2000 ABA Guide to U.S. Law Schools. (Some schools have shrunk their class sizes since, but the 2000 Guide is probably more indicative of class size for those currently entering law teaching, since most of them earned their law degrees 3-8 years ago.) Where there were ties in total number of graduates in teaching, I used class size to break the tie, ranking the smaller school higher. Because the numbers that enter law teaching are so small, and because the sample size here (just two years), is also small, it's hard to know whether per capita measures would be informative, or just confusing. (The reality of hiring, too, is that it helps to have a lot of graduates of your school in law teaching: institutional loyalty and all that.) Yet surely it is relevant when comparing, e.g., Harvard and Yale, that Harvard is two-and-a-half-times the size of Yale, yet Yale places almost as many graduates in teaching as Harvard. So the figures on student body size in parentheses permit modestly useful comparisons for schools with roughly similar numbers of graduates in law teaching during this time period. (Remember: because the totals for most schools are small, another year's data could change the results significantly.)
The results are not significantly different from the results of earlier data I compiled. Note, however, that Solum's data, and my aggregation of it here, do not control for quality of the school at which graduates are hired, or for the number of graduates who earned other degrees from other institutions prior to securing a post in law teaching. (This is important, e.g., in the case of Kansas, perhaps the most surprising performer on the list.)
1. Harvard University (51) (550)
2. Yale University (41) (200)
3. Stanford University (15) (200)
4. Columbia University (15) (350)
5. University of Chicago (13) (200)
6. New York University (10) (450)
7. University of California, Berkeley (9) (250)
8. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (9) (350)
8. University of Virginia (9) (350)
10. University of Pennsylvania (7) (250)
11. Georgetown University (7) (600)
12. University of Texas, Austin (6) (450)
13. University of California, Los Angeles (5) (250)
14. University of Kansas (4) (150)
15. Duke University (4) (200)
16. Howard University (3) (100)
17. Cornell University (3) (200)
17. Northwestern University (3) (200)
UPDATE: Law professor Chris Drahozal from the University of Kansas writes:
I'm happy that Kansas is finally getting some positive recognition (after our fall to 100 in U.S. News!). I do take some issue with the following remark from your post, however, which I think is a little unfair to KU: "Note, however, that Solum's data, and my aggregation of it here, do not control for quality of the school at which graduates are hired, or for the number of graduates who earned other degrees from other institutions prior to securing a post in law teaching. (This is important, e.g., in the case of Kansas, perhaps the most surprising performer on the list.)"
Our four alums who entered teaching the past two years have gotten jobs at Cornell, Minnesota, St. Louis, and Akron - a better group of schools than the Duke alums are teaching at, for example. And only one of the four has a degree from somewhere other than Kansas (one other has an MBA from Kansas as well). [Ed.-one grad earned an SJD at Yale, and is now at Cornell.] As I'm sure you know teaching at a state school, we get some really good students who don't want to pay out-of-state or private school tuition. As a result, our top graduates are really good, and, as this data suggests, competive with law graduates from anywhere. We just don't have as many students like that as some other schools do.
Of course, the same is presumably true at the University of Georgia and the University of Minnesota and the University of Iowa and so on, yet these schools didn't perform as well as Kansas in the last two years. While I wouldn't suggest that students now head off to Kansas in order to enter law teaching, it's clear that they're doing something right in Lawrence to help their students fare well in this most competitive of job markets. (And the U.S. News ranking of the school is obviously silly, needless to say.)
Jon Kvanvig (Philosophy, Missouri) writes: "Below is something philosophers don't seem to have thought about very much, especially those who get offers to move from one institution to another. The Pacific debacle made me think more about the conditions of those not as lucky as those who actually get offers from other institutions (though they are clearly not in as dire circumstances as the hotel workers, who's situation prompted my recent thinking about this), and that is what the following is about." Here is Professor Kvanvig's parable:
There was once a lush tropical island whose economy was tourism-based. The natives worked in fancy resorts at different jobs: some busboys, some cooks, some waiters, some low-level managers. All made at least a living wage, so discontent was muted.
Competition between resorts grew. Since the pool of qualified workers was limited by the island population, workers would sometimes move their employment from one resort to another. Management began to look for workers who would give a competitive advantage. So some privileged workers were constantly receiving offers that would raise their salaries.
This practice left each resort with a management decision, whether to raise the salaries of valued employees preemptively, or whether to wait and counter offers when they arose. Since the top managers went to prestigious MBA programs, they universally favored the latter. The workers never objected to the practice, and those receiving offers would simply decide between staying and going based on what seemed to them the best given their overall situation.
Then one day, the workers received two books each from a wealthy philanthropist interested in political theory. One was John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice and the other was Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia. They organized study groups, and though there was some dissent, the majority seemed to favor something along the lines of Rawls’ theory.
As discussions progressed, the principles of the books came to be applied to specific institutional structures on the island. The workers considered the political system in place, the unemployment safety net, the old age benefits package, and many other institutions as well. Running out of applications, one of them suggested thinking about the institutional practice governing competition between resorts for employees. When they started thinking about freedom and uncoerced contractual arrangements as opposed to practices arranged to the benefit of the least advantaged, they came to the conclusion that their practice fit a Nozickian model much better than a Rawlsian model. For, they reasoned, if workers who received better offers from other resorts never allowed their present employer to raise their wages in response to a new offer, choosing only between their present conditions and the new offer, employers would have to raise salaries of any good employee in order to make it too costly for competitor resorts to offer them a higher salary. Moreover, it was obvious to the workers that the practice of never considering a counteroffer would be likely to produce higher salaries for all workers. They reasoned that management wouldn’t be able to wait to raise the salaries of only those who actually received offers, but would have to intervene preemptively on behalf of any employee they wished to retain, thereby benefitting even the least advantaged workers.
Several reactions ensued. Some felt duped and silly, for they had never considered the idea that management practices had the effect of keeping wages lower. Others felt ashamed, for the point was so obvious that they knew in their hearts that they had been deceiving themselves so as to benefit from the existing system. And some were proud, immensely pleased with the fit between their Nozickian leanings and the practices of the institution in which they spent their lives.
Then the realists spoke. "Yes, the system works to the disadvantage of the least advantaged, and the answer is collective action on our part. But short of true collective action, we have no alternative but to do the best we can for ourselves."
The prophet rose. "You can do something. You can tell your home resort that you’ll only take their counteroffer if they also help other workers at the resort. You can act symbolically by refusing to accept a counteroffer, even though it doesn’t maximize your own self-interest. You can do something." To which the jaded replied, "It won’t help. It won’t make the island a better place. The disadvantaged won’t be helped. Management will just call our bluff, and then where will we be? Short of true collective action, there is no stopgap measure." Saddened, the prophet quietly replied, "This is the inertial principle for injustice. It is how injustice is propagated from one moment of time to another. You can’t show a proper concern for justice if you will do nothing that costs you anything."
The Nozickians howled.
Comments are open; no anonymous postings.
Fred Tung, a specialist in both domestic and international corporate law and securities regulation, bankruptcy, and commercial law, at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles has accepted a tenured offer from the law school at Emory University, where he will start in the fall.
Interesting article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed; an excerpt:
David M. Levy, a computer scientist who loves technology and gets more than 100 e-mail messages a day, makes a point of unplugging from the Internet one day each week to clear his head. Even so, with all the e-mail messages flooding in, with academic blogs bursting with continuous debate, and with the hectic pace set by an increasingly wired world, Mr. Levy says he cannot help but feel an occasional sense of information overload.
And that, he says, is something to stop and think about.
Mr. Levy, a professor at the University of Washington's Information School, is one of many scholars trying to raise awareness of the negative impact of communication technologies on people's lives and work. They say the quality of research and teaching at colleges is at risk unless scholars develop strategies for better managing information, and for making time for extensive reading and contemplation.
"We're losing touch with the contemplative roots of scholarship, the reflective dimension," says Mr. Levy. "When you think that universities are meant to be in effect the think tanks for the culture, or at least one of the major forms of thinking, that strikes me as a very serious concern."
Indeed it is. Accordingly, I'm not posting anything more today (among other things, I need to deal with all those e-mails in my inbox...).
When putatively "liberal" publications start publishing arguments in favor of restoring a military draft, you know that mischief is going mainstream.
Basically sensible, if somewhat unworldly, colleagues occasionally chide me on the subject of a return to the draft: "It would be the end of the Republicans," they say, "The country would never tolerate it." In fact, of course, we had a military draft for decades, and it enjoyed bipartisan (or what passes in America for bipartisan) support, as the new draft likely will too. The same country that, in best Ionescoesque fashion, was sold an immoral and criminal war just two years ago can surely be sold a draft, if it is packaged and timed properly.
It would be pleasant, indeed, to be wrong in this assessment. The fact that otherwise intelligent and educated people think it can't happen of course raises the odds that it will.
A trip down memory lane here; an excerpt:
The New York Times has never been a very courageous newspaper in times of political hysteria and threats to civil liberties. When Bertrand Russell was denied the right to fill his appointment at CCNY in 1940, following an ugly campaign by a rightwing Catholic faction opposed to his positions on divorce and marriage, the paper not only failed to defend him, its belated editorial called the appointment "impolitic and unwise" and criticized him for not withdrawing when the going got hot ("The Russell Case," April 20, 1940)....
During the McCarthy era also the Times failed to stand by its ex-Communist employees who were willing to tell all to the Times officials, but not turn informers. They were fired, and in its news and editorials the paper failed to oppose the witchhunt with vigor and on the basis of principle. Publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger himself wrote an editorial assailing the use of the Fifth Amendment in appearances before the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities (August 6, 1948).
We are in another period of escalating attacks on civil liberties, with the Patriot Act, a lawless rightwing administration, open threats to retaliate against judicial failures to follow rightwing dictates, and perpetual aggression to create the justification for repressive policies at home. An important additional factor is the steadily increasing aggressiveness of pro-Zionist forces, both in the United States and elsewhere, who have fought to contain criticism of Israeli policies by any means, including harassment, intimidation, threats, boycotts, claims of "anti-semitism," occasional resort to violence, and other forms of pressure....
Attacks on critics of Israel are of long standing--individuals like Edward Said and Noam Chomsky have been vilified and threatened for years, and both frequently needed police protection at speech venues, at work or at home. The situation has worsened in the Bush-2 era, in good part because of the cultivated hysteria of the "war on terror" and congenial environment provided by Bush, the strengthening of the rightwing media, and the demands imposed by Israeli policies....
The Bush-Sharon era has witnessed the emergence of McCarthyite institutions like Campus Watch and the David Project, designed to police academic Middle East studies for un-Israeli-patriotic thoughts, putting pressure on academics and administrators to intellectually cleanse, and providing targets for vigilantism.
There are even current proposals to legislate for "balance" and "fairness" in Middle East studies both at the state and federal level. These vigilante efforts and attempts to politicize the university pose serious threats to free speech, academic freedom, and the independence of the university. They are also threats to integrity and truth, with the main target criticism of Israeli policy and with the aim of making the official Israeli version of history the sole legitimate narrative.
It is in this context that we must evaluate the Joseph Massad case, Columbia University's handling of that case, and the New York Times' editorial on "Intimidation at Columbia" (April 7, 2005). Massad, who teaches courses in Middle Eastern studies at Columbia, and is critical of Israeli policies in Palestine, has been under assault from pro-Zionist forces, in class and outside, for years, although running an open class, tolerating hostile and often irrelevant questions, many times by outsiders and "auditors," and with a record of having never thrown anybody out of class for harassment....
[I]n the indecent and post-Orwellian world in which we live, Massad is the intimidator, several students he allegedly treated harshly are the true victims, and justice demands an inquiry on this alleged intimidation and a possible disciplining or firing of this intimidator. Thus, Columbia University's administration, responding to the hegemony campaign in the Daily News, New York Post, Wall Street Journal, and by other organized groups and individuals, appointed a grievance committee to look into the allegations of intimidation of students by Massad and a colleague who have failed to follow the official narrative.
But this committee had no instruction to consider the intimidation of Massad et al., although both the committee and New York Times acknowledge that he and others have had their classes "infiltrated by hecklers and surreptitious monitors, and they received hate mail and death threats" ("Intimidation at Columbia"). Put otherwise, the admitted systematic intimidation of the faculty, clearly a threat to academic freedom and the possibility of honest teaching and research, is off the agenda for an inquiry into intimidation; claims by several students that are disputed and clearly part of a larger campaign of intimidation involving Campus Watch, David Horowitz and other nationally-based intimidators, must be taken seriously....
Turning to the New York Times editorial, although noting in the penultimate paragraph that the accused faculty members had had their classes infiltrated, disrupted, and monitored by outsiders, and had been recipients of hate mail and death threats, the editors do not criticize Columbia for failing to act to prevent these numerous abuses threatening academic freedom, nor do they even hint that any remedy was called for....
In its last paragraph the Times editors contend that the grievance committee's mandate should have extended to the question of "anti-Israel bias" and that Columbia should hire and fire "with more determination and care." In short, the Newspaper of Record tells its readers that universities should police thought to keep out unwarranted bias, which seems to pose a threat in only one direction--the editors have never mentioned the possibility of unwarranted pro-Israeli bias, which for the editors may be inconceivable.
Joseph Massad is in good company. The editors of the New York Times found Bertrand Russell unworthy of an appointment to CCNY based on his politics and a bandwagon of hostile attacks. Sixty four years later they implicitly call for the removal of Joseph Massad based on his politics and an organized campaign of derogation. As Russell pointed out to the editors back in 1940, it is contrary to the fundamental principles of a free society to drive out of their position "individuals whose opinions, race or nationality they find repugnant."
Eric Muller (Law, North Carolina) has the details on the books published by this company which proseltyze children under the cover of being academic books. He also has contact details for Renaissance Learning (what a name! a branch of the Discovery [sic] Institute perhaps?), and is collecting information on public schools that purchase these books.
Posted by Brian Leiter on April 18, 2005 at 07:08 AM in Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
Another journal devoted to moral, political, and legal philosophy!
Well, in fact, this one is importantly different: it's an on-line journal, modelled, it appears, on the apparently successful Philosophers' Imprint (which mostly, but not exclusivley, publishes work in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind), and it has all the requisites for success going out the door, namely, a highly competent and distinguished group of editors (including two colleagues, one [I hope] future colleague, and the veterans of BEARS), and institutional backing from USC.
The real test for any of these on-line journals will be the extent to which the articles they publish show up in references in the other journal literature. The verdict there is still out, I fear, though Philosophers' Imprint seems to have fared decently on that count, but this is based on anecdotal, not systematic, evidence. And perhaps the better test will be whether articles by very junior or heretofore "unknown" philosophers make it in to the literature after appearing in these on-line journals.
It looks like Keith DeRose (epistemology, philosophy of language, early modern philosophy, philosophy of religion) will be at Yale for the foreseeable future, as he has now officially declined the offer from the University of Notre Dame--a big break for Yale, needless to say. This comes on the heels of offers declined by DeRose over the last couple of years also from Cornell, Arizona, and Rutgers. Whether the Yale program will move back in to the top ranks will now turn on whether the efforts to recruit George Bealer (metaphysics, philosophy of language, epistemology) from Texas and Don Garrett (early modern) from NYU are successful.
Details here; an excerpt (footnotes omitted):
In a recent talk at York University in Toronto, Canada,..in the course of arguing that Israeli authorities no longer torture Palestinians, [Alan] Dershowitz claimed he had a long conversation with the Israeli human rights organization, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), in which PCATI not only conceded that there was no longer any torture for them to investigate, but that they refused to change their name because it helped them attract media attention....
First, I visited PCATI's website (www.stoptorture.org.il) and immediately found its July 2003 report containing 48 affidavits testifying to the continued use of torture against Palestinians by Israeli authorities. More than three years after Professor Dershowitz claims torture had stopped, PCATI reported: “Each month, the ill-treatment reaching the level of torture as defined in international law is inflicted in dozens of cases, and possibly more. In other words – torture in Israel has once more become routine.” And after Professor Dershowitz claims PCATI conceded torture had ended, PCATI was still reporting that “Instances of torture, abuse, prisoners held incommunicado and excessive violence against [Palestinian] detainees continue to grow in both numbers and severity”, while “interrogators and perpetrators of torture, their commanders and superiors enjoy impunity.”
These reports didn’t exactly corroborate Professor Dershowitz’s story so, next, I contacted PCATI to confirm his allegation. “Dershowitz’s claim that he had long conversations with PCATI and that we reported that there is no longer any torture in Israel,” I was told by PCATI’s Orah Maggen, “is totally false. We never met with him or spoke with him directly. I did meet him at the Knesset [Israel’s parliament] when he spoke at the Law and Constitution Committee [but] I, and representatives of other human rights NGOs challenged most of what he said about torture, the role of human rights NGOs and other issues.”
When I reported PCATI's denial to Professor Dershowitz, he replied: “During my conversation at the Knesset I asked the representative of the committee [Orah Maggen] why they kept their name, despite their acknowledgement that torture was no longer a significant issue? She responded – I remember clear as day – as follows: 'You have no idea how difficult it is to get attention to any human rights issues in this country. Maintaining our organizational name, with the word torture, is essential to getting needed attention.' I had an extensive argument with her about that tactic, focusing especially on the international implications and the misleading nature of the name outside of the country. I am certain she remembers the conversation because it was quite heated. It also took place in front of numerous witnesses.”
When I emailed PCATI Dershowitz's “clear as day” recollection, Ms. Maggen replied that it is true that there was a heated exchange with others present, but “All other statements made by Professor Dershowitz are blatantly false and utterly preposterous… Neither I nor any other representative of PCATI acknowledged, claimed or in any way stated that torture is no longer a significant issue. On the contrary, it is our claim that the systematic and large-scale torture and ill treatment of Palestinian detainees and prisoners continues to this day.” She further stated that, “Neither I nor any other representative of PCATI ever stated that we kept our name to ‘get attention’ for any reason whatsoever. Considering the fact that torture is still widespread and that PCATI has its hands full struggling against the torture and ill treatment of Palestinian detainees (and others) by Israeli authorities, the claim regarding statements we supposedly made about our organization's name is totally absurd.” Finally, she concluded that Dershowitz's claim was “shocking in its audacity.”
Heather Gert (medical ethics, philosophy of language), currently Associate Professor of Philosophy at Texas A&M University, has accepted a tenured offer from the Department of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The Greensboro Department, as I understand it, may be starting an M.A. program; given the quality of the faculty, they ought to be able to have a strong one.
The basic story is here, and Orin Kerr (Law, George Washington) recounts other facts surrounding the recent incident at NYU here; and this site prints a letter from the student who asked the question in which he explains, rather plausibly, the grounds for his intentionally, but hardly gratuitously, rude question.
UPDATE: Professor Kerr's posting has actually elicited a couple of interesting comments: for example, here and here. (Be forewarned, however, that the pathetically dumb Clayton Cramer is, alas, all over the comments section here.)
ANOTHER UPDATE: Timothy Sandfeur has interesting comments here.
AND ANOTHER: An NYU faculty member confirms that this is Dean Revesz's letter (and thanks also to NYU students who forwarded it). The key part, commenting on the student question, is this:
First, during the student question-and-answer session, one student posed an extraordinarily rude, immature, and inappropriate question. Such a show of incivility to any individual invited to be a guest of the Law School, let alone to a Supreme Court Justice, has no place in our intellectual community. It is insulting not only to our guest but also to the law school community as a whole, and impedes the robust debate that events such as these are designed to promote. Questions can be asked--and should be asked--that are challenging, critical, and demanding. But part of becoming a professional and an adult is learning to ask these questions, even of those we disagree with strongly on certain issues, in a serious and mature way that does not involve offensive and insulting language.
Deans are, of course, in impossible situations in cases like this, since they have institutional duties that must override their moral and political judgment and opinions. Still, it strikes me as unfortunate to have made this an issue of "maturity," when it is plainly not. (This reminds me, in an odd way, of the furor after 9/11 when Susan Sontag pointed out, of course correctly, that of the many things one might say about the hijackers, calling them "cowards" made the least sense.) The question was clearly very rude, but asking it did not reflect "immaturity," rather the opposite: namely, a maturity of conviction and purpose sufficient to empower the student to dramatically violate expected norms in a room full of his peers and teachers in order to make a political statement. One may have different views about the appropriateness of such a political statement in this context, but it does not reflect poorly on the maturity of the student. (If the student had asked the rude question gratuitously, or simply for titillation, then the charge of immaturity would make sense; but he obviously did not.)
On a more minor point, I am struck by the suggestion that "a show of incivility to any individual invited to be a guest of the Law School, let alone to a Supreme Court Justice, has no place in our intellectual community." Why special status for Supreme Court Justices? They are obviously political appointees, chosen for their ideology and expectations about their behavior on the Court, not for their skill or competence or moral rectitude. Why is incivility, for purposes of making a political statement, especially inapposite in this case as against any other guest of the Law School? Curious.
AND ANOTHER UPDATE: More thoughts in support of the student from Clayton Littlejohn here. And there are also notable comments from "Steven" at the same site:
I think the format in which he was speaking plays a big part in the reaction he has been getting. The President and, I imagine, Justice Scalia, appear in only tightly controlled affairs where their points are stressed and the views of anyone else are suppressed. There are tight screens for both the questions and questioners. So, both Eric or any critic can not expect the time or space to say completely what they would like, as Eric did in his long letter, to make his point "politely."
Given what's at stake, not just the bigotry, but the murders and thievery going on in Iraq, the intimidating attacks on the poor domestically, and the general lawlessness perpetrated by this adminitration, we all have cause to emulate Eric.
With the issues that face us in mind, put these questions to them. There is a point to civility in that reasonable people who desire a resolution to conflicts require it. However, I am persuaded Justice Scalia, among others, believes morality is more important, and civility for them is a useful ruse.
AND YET ONE MORE: Stephen Bainbridge (Law, UCLA), in comments here, confuses, I think, the value of an independent judiciary (i.e., a judiciary whose decisions are independent of coercion from the other branches of government) with the fact that judges--especially appellate judges, and most especially Supreme Court Justices--are called on to make political and moral judgments with great frequency, and are increasingly appointed on the basis of expectations about the judgments they will make in that regard. One may think, as I and many others do, that an independent judiciary is crucial to the values we associate with the "rule of law," and also believe that appellate judges are political actors in significant ways. That they are political actors makes it unsurprising that they attract protests like that of the NYU student; that a judiciary independent of the other political branches is important to the rule of law makes it alarming when members of the legislative and executive branches threaten to coerce judges to do their bidding.
Philosopher Kirk Ludwig at the University of Florida at Gainesville writes in regarding the particularly pernicious version of the "Academic Bill of Rights" making its way through the Florida legislature, and raises some issues on which we have remarked previously:
This is a link to the text of HB 837, titled 'Student and Faculty Academic Freedom in Postsecondary Education', filed by Dennis Baxley in the Florida House of Representatives:
The parent page has a link to the staff analysis:
I'd be curious to hear the opinion of people more knowledgeable about the law than I am about the potential ramifications of this bill.
There are three central themes which look problematic. Here are some relevant sections:
(a) Section 1002.21 reads:
As detailed in s. 1004.09, students have rights to a learning environment in which they have access to a broad range of serious scholarly opinion, to be graded without discrimination on the basis of their political or religious beliefs, and to a viewpoint-neutral distribution of student funds.
(b) Section 1004.09 (1) reads:
Students have a right to expect a learning environment in which they will have access to a broad range of serious scholarly opinion pertaining to the subject they study. In the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts, the fostering of a plurality of serious scholarly methodologies and perspectives should be a significant institutional purpose.
(c) Section 1004.09 (3) reads:
Students have a right to expect that their academic freedom and the quality of their education will not be infringed upon by instructors who persistently introduce controversial matter into the classroom or coursework that has no relation to the subject of study and serves no legitimate purpose.
(d) Section 1004.09 (5) reads:
Students have a right to expect that their academic institutions will distribute student fee funds on a viewpoint-neutral basis and will maintain a posture of neutrality with respect to substantive political and religious disagreements, difference, and opinions.
The three themes are:
 (i) Students should have access to a broad range of serious scholarly opinion and (ii) institutions should promote a plurality of serious scholarly methodologies and perspectives in the humanities and social sciences and arts.
 (i) Student funds should be distributed on a viewpoint neutral basis and (ii) the institution should maintain a posture of neutrality on substantive political and religious disagreements, etc.
 Instructors should not (i) persistently introduce (ii) controversial material that has (iii) no relation to the subject of study and (iv) serves no legitimate purpose.
(i) appears to threaten to shift a matter internal to the various academic disciplines, what counts as serious scholarly opinion, into the courts. Further, it is unclear what is to count as access (is a good library enough?), and on one way of reading it it might require universities to have representatives of every position in a discipline, potentially on any topic in a discipline, on the faculty. (ii), the requirement that institutions promote a plurality of serious scholarly methodologies and perspectives, is oddly limited to the humanities, social sciences and arts. Further, it is unclear what is to count as a difference in perspective or methodology. If this is taken to refer to different views about the foundations of the field, then this injunction is likely to have a false presupposition for many fields. If it is taken to be something more like, say, different views on de re modality, then it would not be workable if promoting different perspectives meant hiring people with different views.
(i) appears problematic because it looks to have the potential to protect morally reprehensible student organizations, those that, for example, promote hate speech, terrorism, violence against minorities and women, etc. (ii) looks problematic, depending on how 'maintain a posture of neutrality' is understood, because views involved in substantive political and religious disagreements are not immune to being both poorly founded and in conflict with all serious scholarly opinion.
In the case of , everyone can agree that persistently introducing material that has no relation to the subject of study and serves no legitimate purpose is bad pedagogy, whether it is controversial or not.
The inclusion of (ii) appears to be purely rhetorical. It is unclear that this clause, though it has received some attention in discussions of the bill, would have much affect at all. But perhaps there is a potential harm just in the suggestion that bad pedagogy is a matter about which students might potentially sue, and perhaps there is also here a invitation to frivolous or malicious or politically motivated lawsuits.
Meanwhile, a graduate student at a state university in Florida writes with similar concerns:
As a grad student and instructor of philosophy in Florida, I am obviously terrified (not to mention dumb-founded!) by what is going on with our own version of the orwellian "academic bill of rights." I also get the feeling that TA's, instructors, adjuncts, and other non-tenure track teachers will be particularly vulnerable to the law suits which would likely ensue if this disgraceful bill is passed. On the one hand, we are much more likely to lack the financial resources--both university-wide and personal--to properly defend ourselves from "frivolous lawsuits" (to borrow a phrase from the right!). On the other hand, I think that students are often more likely to take offense when TA's and instructors challenge their views since we are often close to the same age. In any event, I am thinking of making the following announcement on the first day of class--indeed, I even debated having the students sign it! And while I may likely get in trouble by my higher-ups (both in the department as well as in the College of Arts and Sciences) I am unsure how else to ensure that a disgruntled student does not (try to) ruin my life. I thought that perhaps you might be willing to start a dialogue on your blog concerning the appropriateness of my approach (not to mention its legal standing--can I even ask students to waive their "right" to sue in this manner?) I want to make sure I don't end up being some guinea pig for the religious right's attempt to de-intellectualize the universities of this great nation--but at the same time, I don't want to make too many waves either since I am currently on the job market! Any advice from you (and your readers) would be greatly appreciated:
As some of you may already know, the Florida legislature is currently considering an "academic freedom" bill (HB 837). The bill’s sponsor (R) Rep. Dennis Baxley claims that the bill is intended to provide what he perceives to be a much-needed counterweight to the "bastions of liberal thought" that purportedly plague Florida universities where professors allegedly misuse their "platform to indoctrinate the next generation with their views." If the bill is passed it would among other things give students who do not feel that their beliefs have been properly respected the legal standing to sue their professors.
Now is not the appropriate time to discuss what I take to be the general merits (or lack thereof) of either the bill or Rep. Baxley’s views. I nevertheless believe that it is especially important for me in light of this bill to discuss my own personal views about my expectations for this class. As a philosophy class, all students will be strongly encouraged to express their views about the topics we will be examining during the course of the semester (e.g., the existence of God, free will, the limits of human knowledge, and moral responsibility). Indeed, going back at least to Socrates, open dialogue has been an essential element of doing philosophy--an element that I will try to foster during the course of this semester. However, discussion often goes hand-in-hand with critical evaluation. So, while everyone--regardless of race, gender, religion, nationality, sexual preference, political affiliation, or ideological orientation—is welcome to express their personal opinions about the topics we examine, these opinions will be open to criticism.
Just as we will be reading and critically evaluating philosophical theories, so we will occasionally end up critically evaluating one another’s views about these theories. Hence, you should not say things in class that you do not want to be subjected to critical evaluation either by me or your fellow students. And while I will try to the best of my abilities to insure at all times that class discussions are civil, I refuse to be held legally responsible for the critical evaluation of beliefs you choose to share with the class. The classroom is a public forum a forum I hope each of you will use to test the limits of your own beliefs and ideologies. I am not interested in changing any of your minds about the topics we discuss but I am nevertheless interested in opening your minds to alternative ways of thinking about some of the perennial problems in philosophy. On both exams and papers, you will never be held responsible for the beliefs you happen to hold rather you will be graded solely based on whether or not you have mastered the course material (e.g., I don’t care whether you believe in free will, but you will be required to explain the various theories of free will we discuss). The goal of this course is never to ridicule or persecute any particular beliefs or theories rather, it is to carefully consider arguments for and against the beliefs and theories we discuss. During the course of this semester, we will be discussing matters that will personally resonate with a number of you. If you are either unwilling or unable to listen to or participate in discussions concerning these issues (which are spelled out on the syllabus), then you are in the wrong class. Consequently, I will assume that by choosing to remain in this class, you thereby forfeit your right to sue me so long as I live up to my end of the bargain i.e., so long as I provide a forum where all of the ideas and opinions expressed in class are given fair treatment.
Some of the things I say here are also contained in the syllabus--but I thought that perhaps something more explicit was in order. And while I don't want to be overly paranoid, given the recent climate in this country--it would perhaps be irrational not to harbor serious doubts about what might happen if this bill is passed.
I have opened comments here, and invite thoughts and responses, especially from those conversant with the legal issues. No anonymous postings, of course.
Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley has made two tenured appointments: David Sklansky (criminal procedure, evidence) from UCLA and Leti Volpp (immigration law, law & culture, Asian-Americans and the law) from American University.
In addition, Boalt has made tenured offers to a couple, Gillian Lester, who is a well-known expert in employment law, at UCLA and Eric Talley, who many consider to be one of the very top scholars in the country in his age cohort in corporate law and law & economics, at the University of Southern California; they will be visiting professors at Boalt next year. (Earlier this year, Boalt lost Stephen Choi, in corporate law and law & economics, to New York University.) A number of top schools, including Texas, were in the "hunt" for this scholarly couple this past year! (A propos our earlier discussion of "look-see" visits, it is interesting to note that this is the second case I know of this year where top lateral prospects receive permanent offers, and then elect to visit to "look-see" the school, as it were, rather than the other way around.)
More details on some of the preceding, as well as information on a junior hire, is here.
UPDATE: And a third case of the reverse "look-see": Cynthia Estlund (employment law) at Columbia Law School has a permanent offer from New York University, and will visit before deciding.
A few weeks ago former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh and Louis Boccardi, former head of the Associated Press, released their report on Dan Rather's use of allegedly forged Texas Air National Guard (ANG) documents covering President George W. Bush's military service. The report, as is well known, excoriated CBS for the use of these documents on its 60 Minutes Wednesday program on September 8, 2004. It is, however, a flawed report. It should not be uncritically accepted, as it has been by the press and by television commentators.
The report concluded that CBS failed to hire appropriate experts to clearly verify its statements and did not establish a "chain of custody" for the documents. CBS, according to the report, rushed to judgment on the basis of inadequate evidence, did not promptly acknowledge flaws in its program, and broadcast a false and misleading report.
CBS did rush to make inadequately verified allegations public and it was slow in responding to criticism. The report's conclusions on the other points are not, however, persuasive. Surprisingly, the panel was unable to conclude whether the documents are forgeries or not. If the documents are not forgeries, what is the reason for the report? The answer is: to criticize the newsgathering practices of CBS, whether the documents are authentic or not. As such, the report is less than fully credible.
Lost in the commotion over the authenticity of the documents is that the underlying facts of Rather's 60 Minutes report are substantially true. Bush did not take the physical exam required of all pilots; his superiors gave him the benefit of any doubt; he did receive special treatment and Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian, Bush's commanding officer, was unhappy with the loss of ANG's investment in him when Bush informed Killian he was leaving for Alabama. Before the broadcast, Mary Mapes, the CBS producer of the program, confirmed the facts in the documents with retired Major General Bobby Hodges, who had been Killian's superior in the ANG. Later Hodges told the panel he did not think the documents were authentic, but did not disagree that the facts were substantially correct.
It's worth reading the whole analysis, and then comparing it with what passed as "analysis" of the same report on any of the familiar right-wing blog sites, from Volokh to InstaIgnorance.