OK, I'm just anticipating the blog headline from the usual blowhards--InstaIgnorance, the Volokh naifs like Zywicki, or William "thank God no one knows what the actual Cornell Law faculty thinks of me" Jacobson--who are beside themselves with paranoid pleasure that the IRS was examining the non-profit bona fides of the various Koch Brothers front organizations posing as "social welfare" organizations. As best I can tell--non-tax lawyer, but literate person that I am--there is a tax exemption for social welfare organizations that aren't primarily poliitcal front groups. But for reasons familiar to anyone awake the last couple of years, the political front groups most likely to be posing as "social welfare" organizations were on the lunatic right associated with the "Tea Party" and like organizations. Their tax-exempt status did indeed demand scrutiny, unless one thought front groups for billionaires (and others) merit special deference when they want to avoid taxes. This is the second decade of the 21st-century, in which, at least in the United States, most "spontaneous grass root" organizations on the right are neither spontaneous nor grass root, and so responsible tax authorities ought to scrutinize them.
Of course, there's a deeper, philosophcal issue here: namely, whether venal groups that shill for the plutocracy can, in any sense, be organizations committed to "social welfare." But the IRS needn't get to the philosophical issue to nonetheless be justified in looking closely.
Supporters and opponents of gun control have very different fundamental beliefs about the role of guns in American society. Overall, the poll finds that 29 percent of Americans think that an armed revolution in order to protect liberties might be necessary in the next few years, with another five percent unsure. However, these beliefs are conditional on party. Just 18 percent of Democrats think an armed revolution may be necessary, as opposed to 44 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of independents.
The next time someone refers to the alleged "independents," please remember that one-quarter of them are gearing up for armed revolution.
The people who run Edwin Mellen Press are pretty clearly nuts. (Calling these folks "nuts" isn't actionable in the United States, but, for the record, my lawyer is based in the same jurisdiction as Mellen Press, New York, though maybe my wife's law firm here in Chicago would enjoy assigning the case to a junior associate for practice.) This time they're pursuing the "Scholarly Kitchen" blog, for a blog post that is clearly not actionable, and for a comment on that post that is also probably not actionable. Here's the "offending" post by Mr. Anderson of the blog: nothing in it is libelous, even if Mellen Press and Mr. Richardson were private citizens, rather then public figures. The letter from the Press's lawyer says, obviously falsely, that the blog has a "legal obligation" to deal with possibly defamatory comments; the comment in question is probably not defamatory, but even if it were, the Scholarly Kitchen blog has no obligation to remove it. The law in the United States is as clear as can be on this point. As best I can tell, Ms. Amendola, the Press's lawyer, is a 2010 graduate of the law school at the State University of New York at Buffalo, who worked briefly for a Buffalo law firm, and is now a solo practitioner. If state bar associations were more aggressive, she should be disbarred for sending nonsense threats like the one she sent to the "Scholarly Kitchen" blog.
I predict that the Edwin Mellen Press will be out of business within the next few years. Good riddance, given this disgraceful pattern of harassment. May I suggest that any authors of serious monographs with the Mellen Press contact them now and urge them to reform their "public relations" practices?
...to North Carolina! The "PhD in philosophy" is singled out for derisive remarks by these know-nothings, appraently unaware that UNC has one of the best philosophy programs in the United States. (The irony is William Bennett has a PhD in philosophy, though it didn't do him any good!)
UPDATE: Since I posted this several hours ago, when House Republications were threatening to vote against the McConnell-Biden deal, they reversed course, proving once again the far-reaching influence of this blog!
So over the weekend I read All In, Paula Broadwell's slobberific biography of General David Petraeus. It was nothing special, just a typically crappy piece of fawning, noncritical journalism, full of passages like the following:
"At Petraeus's change of command in Baghdad in the summer of 2008, Secretary Gates claimed that 'history [would] regard Petraeus as one of the nation's great battle captains . . .' Petraeus's success on the battlefield, his status as a military intellectual and his will to succeed allowed him to shape not only doctrine but also organizational design, training, education and leadership development in the Army and, in many respects, the broader military . . .."
You can pretty much guess the rest of the plot from there. Every environment Petraeus enters is instantly bettered by his majestic personage. We see him passing through destroyed hamlets in Afghanistan, the weight of the world on his rugged shoulders, scratching his figurative chin as he worries which strategies to choose "so that villagers could once again live in peace and prosperity"....
(The reason for the title of this post will become clear, below.)
Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education called my attention last week to this putative review by Steve Fuller of Nagel's Mind and Cosmos; the review was aptly described by another correspondent as "a largely content-free mix of self-promotion and derogation of his Enemies, in which you held the place of honour." (Michael Weisberg, co-author of the review in The Nation, is not on Fuller's "Enemies list" so was erased from Fuller's score-settling.) Just to give the flavor of Fuller's "review," a short excerpt:
UPDATE: Philosopher P.D. Magnus (SUNY-Albany) writes with several important points:
Your recent blog post rightly decries "The Not-so-High Standards at (at least some) "Open Access" Journals" and describes the case as "Not a great advertisement for the genre".
Importantly, the genre in question is not Open Access journals tout court. The real problem here is OA journals that use an author-pays model. Lots of them are straight forwardly scams to chisel money out of institutions that cover that kind of publishing and out of authors who need a line on their CV.
There are other models of OA. Quality OA journals don't charge author fees. I'm thinking here especially of Philosophers' Imprint, but also of less well-known and less prestigious ones like Logos&Episteme. We can argue about their stature in the field, but their being OA is not a demerit.
There is also the model which is sometimes called "green OA", in which authors' papers are systematically hosted in institutional or disciplinary archives. Although this does not result in OA journals as such, traditional journals can facilitate or thwart the practice depending on how they handle rights.
Qualifying your post with the caveat "at least some" is importantly not enough, because we can state precisely what's wrong here. For-profit publishers have an interest in suspicion being raised about OA in general, when really it's a specific business model that leads to egregious abuses like the one that you point to.
Even by their usual standards, this is remarkably feeble. I guess they're counting on their readers not reading the review or being sufficiently stupid that, if they did, they wouldn't understand the actual argument.
(For those new to these sordid debates, the Discovery [sic] Institute is the public relations arm of the new creationist movement.)
ADDENDUM: Since several readers asked: the title of our review was given by the editors, not us. It's not terrible, not ideal.
There is only one problem confronting urban public schools, and it has nothing to do with the schools or the teachers, contrary to all the blather by idle-rich busybodies and the intellectually feeble politicans who do their bidding. The primary problem with urban public schools is that they largely serve a population that lives under conditions of economic hardship, sometimes grotesque economic hardship, with all the attendant problems of poor nutrition, physical safety, availability of adult supervision after school, and suitable environments and incentives for school work. That, of course, is why suburban public schools in affluent communities--with unionized teachers who are no different than those in the urban schools--always do better on measures of academic performance and outcomes. If you don't have to worry whether there will be food for dinner, or whether you will be mugged, or if anyone will be available to take care of you, or whether you'll have a quiet place to work, it turns out to be easier to do well in school. It's got nothing to do with the teachers, and everything to do with the environment. (Here and there, fabulous teaching makes a difference, but you can't make policy around atypical cases.)
Of course, it would be hard to generate enthusiasm among hedge-fund billionaire busybodies for doing something about the economic environment in which the victims live, so instead we are presented with the absurd idea that if only the teachers were better, everything would be dandy, as well as the destructive idea that to make the teachers better, we need to measure their performance based on standardized test results. (That idea, by the way, started with George W. Bush when he was Governor of Texas, and it successfully destroyed the public schools, as the curriculum devolved into "teaching to the test," rather than teaching.)
Rahm Emanuel's kids attend the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where 99% of the kids go on to college (and about 50% go on to what would be generally considered highly selective or "elite" colleges and universities). There are some very good teachers at "Lab," and some not so good ones. But no one ever dreams of suggesting that to be even better, those teachers should be paid according to standardized test results. Lab School is successful for simple reasons: it has resources and it has good students, half of whom come from academic families and the other half from with families with family and monetary resources to support them. The school's financial resources support a good curriculum, a well-compensated teaching staff, arts, enrichment programs, after-school activities, and more. No one ever suggests we should "stop throwing money" at the school, that what "Lab" really needs is teachers whose students get higher test scores. But this bullshit and blather is standard fare when it comes to the public schools.
The pathological liars of the right are out in full force to smear the striking teachers. Typical are the headlines on the site of "Matt Drudge," one of the ringleaders of the Right-Wing Blob, a man whose crimes against truth and moral decency are well-known. One headline reads that the teachers "Turn Down $400 Million Deal, 16% Pay Raise..." Of course, you have to go to the article and read till the end to learn that that was a 16% pay raise over four years, and that it was in response to an even greater increase in the workload of the teachers. Another headline then reports, falsely, that Chicago public school teachers "have highest average salary in Nation," linking to a blog post at The National Review (!), which cites no sources, since in fact it's not true. Corey Robin has more relevant details. And here's a good takedown of the disgusting Mayor. Jim Nichols has a good round-up of links and information.
UPDATE: A colleague elsewhere correctly observes that if "there is really high teacher turnover and/or burned out teachers who are dramatically overworked and under-resourced, then teachers really do become problematically bad," and that's, of course, part of what the teachers' union is trying to prevent. The key point is that the problems confronting urban public schools are not primarily problems about the quality of teaching, let alone problems that will be solved by gimmicks like standardized testing and merit pay, which will produce, among other things, precisely high teacher turnover.
ANOTHER: A profile of the head of the teachers union.
MORE: A terrific speech by a Chicago lawyer, Matt Farmer, about what parents want from education.
ANOTHER RESOURCE: Diana Ravitch, who was actually in the Bush Education Department, though has subsequently recanted on the right-wing myths about public education, charter schools, and teachers' unions, has a good and on-going set of posts about the Chicago situation. (Those right-wing myths continue to be championed by the Obama Administration in large part.)
A LATE ADDENDUM: This post raises an important point about how we are taught to think about compensation in the capitalist utopia.
SEPTEMBER 12 UPDATE: Leave it to the "liberal" New York Times to come down squarely on the side of the idle-rich billionaire busybodies!
Another day, another tedious tirade from the pompous Leon Wieseltier. This one is a long take-down of Paul Ryan and his idolatry of Ayn Rand. Such high-minded seriousness! I am reminded of Dick Cheney, attired in military fatigues, hunting quail with his assault weapons.
What caught my eye amid all the fulmination and folk wisdom--there are few arguments or supporting evidence of any kind to be found--is how Wieseltier casually pronounces Atlas Shrugged and Also Sprach Zarathustra to be in the same category of adolescent sins and chides Rand and Marx for advancing economic theories towards moral ends, albeit antithetical ones.
This is embarrassing even by Wieseltier's low standards. Granted a lot of adolescents are excited by Nietzsche when they encounter him (even if for all the wrong reasons), and the inscrutable Zarathustra is plainly not his best work (or perhaps the clearest exposition of his views). But to draw any kind of equivalence between the works of these 2 thinkers (if you can charitably call Rand one) is so buffoonish that one is left wondering who the adolescent in this discussion is.
UPDATE: As Catarina Dutilh Novaes continues to dig, the best line in response is due to Dan Kervick: "I can't think of a time in my life when I thought, 'Damn, I wish my penis were more sensitive!'"
ANOTHER: 24 hours later, and there's still no apology for the ludicrous comparison of circumcision to female genital mutilation, but a link to a video has been added. The video is remarkable for being almost totaly irrelevant to the comparison at issue, but perhaps Dutilh Novaes is counting on no one really watching it. Still, the comments are worth reading to get a sense of how utterly nuts some people are.
UPDATE: Michael Weisberg (Penn) points out to me that these survey responses about evolution are strongly affected by how the question is presented; for discussion, see this paper. When the questions are asked differently, the belief in evolution goes up.
...the horror, the horror. In some ways, this is even worse than McCain's choice of the narcissistic moron Sarah Palin in 2008. First, Ryan has a clear ideology, and it's a mixture of the vicious and the insane. Second, Ryan does not seem to be as inept and self-destructive as Palin, so he may really be the future even if Romney loses this year. In other words, the Republican Party is now officially the party committed to destroying Medicare and destroying Social Security. Unless they are crushed in the election, this battle is going to continue for a generation or more.
Consider, in perspective, what's happened: an ideology (partly inspired by Rand--remember dopey Alan Greenspan?) of deregulation and unbridled capitalism brought the world to the brink of economic collapse in 2008. Four years later, the Republican Party has now openly embraced a full-throated Randian ideology. This country has learned nothing. If Obama does not rise to this occasion, and launch a full-throttled attack on this ideology, he will go down in history as the most craven coward in American politics.
Meanwhile, the decision of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy to host a puff piece on Ayn Rand that gives no sense of the overwhelmingly critical and dismissive reception of her work by the vast majority of philosophers worldwide now begins to look inexcusable.
Rand's selection as VP candidate is probably a sign of weakness. The most likely explanation is that the Romney campaign is worried about turnout of hard right Republican voters. Given the Obama campaign's lead in electoral college votes, Romney has to do very well in swing states and he has no chance in many of those states without a good Republican turnout. Picking Ryan is probably aimed at placating the hard right and carries with it the considerable risk of conceding a significant fraction of so-called independent voters to Obama. In one respect, Ryan is a curious choice. Ryan is a nominal Catholic (being a commited Randite and a commited Catholic is incompatible, something the hierarchy will never point out) and while the Evangelical prejudice against Catholics has moderated considerably in the last couple of decades, many continue to be very suspicious of Mormons. Its unlikely the Evangelicals will have the same enthusiasm for a Mormon-Catholic ticket as one involving a Protestant.
Of course, Ryan's prominence is yet another sign of the complete intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the Republican Party.
George Mason University economics professor, Dr.Don Bourdreaux believes that professional economists have done a poor jobexplaining basic economic truths to the general public. His passion is to better explain those truths to broad audiences and in his newest book, Hypocrites & Half-Wits: A Daily Dose of Sanity from Café Hayek, he tries to do so with short, pithy letters-to-the-editor, mostly aimed at correcting common misunderstandings of economics.
I would love to put you in touch with Dr. Boudreaux. He can provide non-partisan insight and commentary on any economic or political stories you may be working on, in a way that is easily accessible and understandable to the general public. Review copies of his newest book, Hypocrites & Half-Wits are available and I’d be happy to send you a copy. He would also be available to provide an article for publication if interested.
I have provided some further info on Dr. Boudreaux as well as some potential story ideas below. Thanks for taking a look and I hope to hear from you soon.
As I pointed out to Ms. MacDonald-Birnbaum, someone living on Planet Hayek is not a "non-partisan" expert, indeed, not even an expert, let alone a purveyor of "economic truth[s]." I can understand sending out hack solicitations like this to journalists and other gullible types, but to send this crap to scholars (I assume I'm not the only academic blogger who got it) is unbelievable. SmithPublicity is now in my spam filter. Nice job!
...at least for anyone interested in the quality of the faculty in philosophy. They are based on a hard-to-decipher methodology, though as Jo Wolff (UCL) pointed out previously, it seems to give decisive weight to "employer" opinions. The law rankings are also very bad, though not as bad, partly because elite research universities do tend to have the best law faculties, and about the only thing that seems to explain these otherwise inexplicable rankings is that they largely track the halo effect of university name--as one would expect employes would do. (As we noted previously, that would also explain why they rank schools in fields where they don't actually have programs!)
One of my philosopher friends on Facebook gave me permission to repost this funny item he wrote on his FB page:
Saw Carlin Romano talk about his book, America the Philosophical, with Simon Critchley tonight in a bookstore downtown. Critchley was surprisingly down to earth, informed, and engaging. Romano was probably the worst example of bullshittery I've seen from an adult. Half the time was spent name-checking semi-important people he's met. The other half was spent bad-mouthing the interesting and important work of people at prestigious institutions, despite the fact that he clearly understood none of it.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)