Mitchell Aboulafia is Professor of Philosophy at Manhattan College. He is a former member of the SPEP Advocacy Committee, who took his PhD at Boston College, a SPEP department, and then taught at the University of Colorado at Denver and Pennsylvania State University, the latter a longstanding SPEP bastion. He appears to have developed a bit of an obsession with the PGR lately, though readers should be aware of his bias and of the fact that many of his postings contain factual errors, indeed, easily correctable ones if he were at all intereseted in accuracy. But he is not. And, as I've noted before, it's not worth the time to engage with the lies, falsehoods, and silliness.
UPDATE: I suppose I should not be surprised that Aboulafia doesn't know what an ad hominem argument is. Of course, everything I said, above, is true, though we may now add that Aboulafia has another source of bias that would explain his misrepresentations and distortions, namely, his membership in SAAP. As I said originally: caveat emptor.
You decide, but Prof. Karzarian is certainly giving John Protevi a run for the money! I reprint this amusing display in whole below the fold, since, as several who sent it to me observed, it may not last:
...as he now threatens the University of Wisconsin (Madison) for cancelling classes during President Obama's visit to campus. How could such a malevolent neanderthal be elected in the formerly progressive state of Wisconsin?
(Thanks to David Lay Williams for the pointer.)
UPDATE: Larry Shapiro points out, correctly, that this is past michief from Representative Vos, not current.)
The Republican agenda for next year also includes several changes for the University of Wisconsin, according to Vos. He said that he wants to ensure that faculty spend more time teaching, and that research is geared toward helping the state's economy.
“Of course I want research, but I want to have research done in a way that focuses on growing our economy, not on ancient mating habits of whatever,” said Vos. “So we want to try to have priorities that are focused on growing our economy.”
Vos and Joint Finance Committee Chairman John Nygren were asked whether they were open to a budget request by the UW that would increase funding for the System by $95 million dollars. Nygren called that a “tough sell,” saying he didn't think the state should make up for funding the System lost as part of a mandatory tuition freeze.
...of unintentional amusement. (You have to wade into the comments--and read the "response" by Ed Kazarian of Rowan University--to get the full flavor of this bizarre display.) (It is a testament to the abysmally low level of the discourse at NewApps that Jon Cogburn (not exactly my favorite blogger there) comes off looking like the paragon of rational virtue--he even got a shout-out from the wild Meta blog, Apparently, this latest incident has led Cogburn to quit NewApps too!)
UPDATE: This is also apt, re: civility: "it’s perfectly clear to me, as these various links, particularly Ali’s, demonstrate, that the call for civility is little more than an effort to muzzle critics, to turn vibrant campuses into intellectual morgues." Some benighted philosophy bloggers would like to achieve the same it seems; perhaps they can join the University of Illinois Board of Trustees?
This is just astonishing in its ignorance and irrationality; regarding Salaita's constitutional rights, the editors opine:
He was and remains free to speak as he chooses. But there is no right to speak with impunity. Free speech comes with consequences — from reasoned debate to a punch in the nose. Journalists lose jobs for exercising free speech. Authors lose publishers. Entertainers lose audiences. All risk civil litigation. Salaita spoke, and others spoke back, persuasively, to express both fear and disdain.
But there is a right to speak with impunity from being denied state employment because of your constitutionally protected speech, with some narrow exceptions that do not apply here. Surely the editors of a newspaper ought to have a clue about the Constitution and the First Amendment? Surely they should know that a state employer is different than a publishing house. That an audience is not the same as the state university?
Set aside for the moment that this decision lacks any evidentiary basis. Another judge might have heard the same parade of witnesses and reached a different conclusion.
Bear in mind that the case will be appealed to a higher court, and will continue to be appealed until there is no higher court.
It is not unreasonable to believe that the California Teachers Association might negotiate a different tenure process with the Legislature, perhaps a requirement of three years probationary status instead of two.
The one thing that does seem certain is that, contrary to the victory claims of hedge fund managers and rightwing editorial writers, no student will gain anything as a result of this decision. Millions more dollars will be spent to litigate the issues in California and elsewhere, but what will students gain? Nothing. The poorest, neediest students will still be in schools that lack the resources to meet their needs. They will still be in schools where classes are too large. They will still be in buildings that need repairs. They will still be in schools where the arts program and nurses and counselors were eliminated by budget cuts.
If their principals fire all or most or some of their teachers, who will take their places? There is no long line of superb teachers waiting for a chance to teach in inner-city schools. Chetty and Kane blithely assume that those who are fired will be replaced by better teachers. How do they know that?
Let’s be clear. No “grossly ineffective” teacher should ever get tenure. Only a “grossly ineffective” principal would give tenure to a “grossly ineffective” teacher. Teachers do not give tenure to themselves.
Unfortunately, the Vergara decision is the latest example of the blame-shifting strategy of the privatization movement. Instead of acknowledging that test scores are highly correlated with family income, they prefer to blame teachers and the very idea of public education. If they were truly interested in supporting the needs of the children, the backers of this case would be advocating for smaller classes, for arts programs, for well-equipped and up-to-date schools, for after-school programs, for health clinics, for librarians and counselors, and for inducements to attract and retain a stable corps of experienced teachers in the schools attended by Beatriz Vergara and her co-plaintiffs.
Her whole blog has quite a lot on this latest salvo by billionaire busybodies out to destroy public schools.
God Bless America! The possible good news here is that the Tea Partification of the Repugs will consign them to the dustbin of history. The possible bad news here is that this signals the move of the Repugs even further to the right without any loss of political influence.
I get asked periodically about how it could be that a major British newspaper purportedly recommended (several years ago) as "one of the best 100 blogs" a rather bad philosophy-related blog by a former academic with a PhD in philosophy and a truckload of ressentiment against liberals, competent philosophers, leftists, atheists, successful scholars, and basically everything he is not. (I will refrain from mentioning the philosopher or the blog, though I do hope this post will forestall further e-mail inquiries on the subject from readers familiar with the blog in question.)
The blog in question prominently advertises this 'distinction'--about the only distinction on offer, it appears--even though, as correspondents point out, the ratio of mistakes about philosophical matters to passable content is not very favorable on this site. The explanation is simple, and would not surprise Karl Kraus: an obscure (and right-wing) British journalist with no knowledge of philosophy was asked to recommend 100 blogs in different areas, two of which he identified as philosophy blogs. The other "philosophy" blog the journalist picked out was by an English professor, who probably was even less philosophically adept than our fellow with the PhD. The journalist published his silly list in the London publication. So it goes. In any case, that's the story.
UPDATE: A reader has alerted me to some interesting circumstances surrounding our noxious mediocrity's departure from the University of Dayton as an "associate professor" after 13 years. More on all that later.
JUNE 2 UPDATE: The sick viciousness of Vallicella's "reply" is par for the course--he is not satisfied with calling me an idiot and a philosophical incompetent, instead, he has to fish unrelated libel out of the bowels of cyberspace and mock my appearance! It's hard to believe this pathetic person is 64 years old. (Once, ten years ago, I commented on one of his right-wing stupidities, without even naming him; since then, over the last decade, he has posted dozens of times to insult, mock, and abuse me by name. Nothing like a sense of proportion.)
ANOTHER (JUNE 5): I've gotten a number of interesting and amusing e-mails about our noxious mediocrity du jour, but this one is especially funny and worth sharing:
I don’t know if you’ve been following the Maverick Man’s meltdown in the wake of your 100-word post on May 30. By my estimate, he’s now written a half-dozen different posts and a couple thousand words all in response to a post that didn’t even mention him by name! It’s quite a display. You would think someone (maybe his wife?) would let him in on the secret that such an excessive response, as well as the middle school insults about unflattering photos of you, do not make him look mentally stable (and they also make it obvious how vulnerable and wounded he is). One can imagine the reaction at the dinner party with his wife’s colleagues at ASU when he boasts: “Oh, yes, I trashed some philosopher at the University of Chicago by posting rude photos of him and making fun of his weight”! And what is it with his obsession that you’re a “careerist”? As you remarked, he’s not a very good philosopher, but surely he is not a complete idiot and can see perfectly well that attacking philosophers like Nagel, as well as producing the PGR, has done no good for your career at all, as I think even you've acknowledged. As with his fixation on Alinsky, it all seems to be a delusional mix of resentment and projection. My guess is if you were to write an actual post with his name in it, he'd spend the rest of his life ranting and raving in reply!
MORE AMUSING CORRESPONDENCE from another reader:
[A] friend would occasionally link to [Maverick Man's] blog in our online discussions, and so I became a casual reader of his. I chose to dismiss Vallicella's unhinged politics as the ramblings of an eccentric shut-in. I know that people of his extreme mindset have usually been hurt or disappointed in life; hence the resentment. They perceive themselves as having been overlooked by humanity.
My sympathy ran dry, however, when Vallicella exposed himself as an unbridled racist. You may remember when John Derbyshire was fired from the National Review some months back for pulling off the remarkable feat of publishing, in a separate online forum, something that was too racist even for the National Review. (I don't care to search for it, but basically it was a sort of open letter to his children informing them that black people are violent and intellectually inferior and warning them to avoid groups of African Americans at all costs.) Well, when this happened Vallicella wrote up an indignant defense of Derbyshire, basically admitting that Derbyshire's racist worldview was his own....
[H]appily I hadn't thought about him until you posted about him last week. Well, I went back to his website, and guess what. Right at the top of the page was another defense of racism! Go figure...
By the way, I'm sure others have informed you of this, but your mention of Vallicella has awakened an obsession in him. He has devoted no less than eight posts to you in the past week, and now he promises at least a week's more. This is perhaps not surprising, as angry shut-ins have a tendency to develop weird and unhealthy preoccupations. I wouldn't be surprised if he were fashioning busts of you out of mashed potatoes.
I have to confess I haven't looked since June 2, but I have no reason to doubt my correspondents. I know from past experience with right-wing crazies who don't have real lives that they can go on and on and on and on...they usually stop when their readers say "enough already." By the way, several readers asked about the circumstances surrounding his departure from his only academic job, mentioned above. The original report did not pan out. What appears to have happened is this: after teaching at the University of Dayton from 1978-1991, he took a leave of absence because his wife, who teaches art education, got a job at Arizona State University. Unsurprisingly, he could not get another job, and so he simply left academia to follow his wife. The only amusing irony here is that our raving right-wing, racist lunatic appears to be basically a "house husband"!
AND FINALLY: One final note, from yet another reader:
Just a heads up that Vallicella is now soliciting anonymous attacks on you. (In keeping with the middle school level of all this, he also called you a “pussy”!) This is all starting to remind me of another one of your insane cyber-stalkers from the past (I think they are cyber-pals actually). Their motto isn’t an “eye for an eye” it’s “two eyes (and a tongue and a nose and all major bodily organs and all four limbs) for an eye.”
That motto is amusingly apt, but if he is really soliciting libel, then he apparently doesn't realize that this will waive his CDA 230 immunity. In any case, I’ve referred this nonsense to my lawyer, who will decide whether it’s worth doing anything about this latest orgy of defamation and cyber-harassment.
UPDATE: Reader Raphael Magarik writes to point out that Dr. Oppenheimer's PhD is in "religious studies." Wissenschaften these days are not what they used to be.
ADDENDUM: Reader Josh Blanchard points out that even Oppenheimer knows his PhD is a fraud; from his little smear on Dr. Angelou:
[T]hese titles are often pretty meaningless. It’s true that I got a Ph.D. in religion over 10 years ago, but I am hardly a scholar. I haven’t kept up with the latest scholarly writing and have never held a tenure-track academic post. Unlike physicians, I can’t actually do anything to help people. What’s more, there are plenty of people in the field of religion with only master’s degrees, or less—clergy, laypeople, enthusiastic amateurs—who know plenty more about my subject than I do. My doctorate just signals that I went through a program of exams and paper-writing, including a thesis-length paper at the end. But so what? Graduate school is not even that hard. I am a good cocktail-party bullshit artist, but I was that before grad school, and some of the best BS’ers I know have only a B.A.
Too bad he didn't get a PhD in an actual discipline.
One wonders why 'Dr.' Oppenheimer finds it so galling---20 years on---that 'Operator Jones' is 'aping' a 'certain level of expertise'. He 'always' thinks of Operator Jones when he 'encounters a case of title inflation'. Is it because he can't stand to concede that even a blue-collar public transportation worker can rightfully claim a particular level of expertise regarding the operation of a goddamn interstate bus? Or is it because he regards the conductor of said mode of transport as an 'ape'?
Here's a vid of Maya Angelou reciting her poem 'The Mask'. I think she exhibits a 'certain level of expertise' in something--call it human wisdom---which the pseudo-doctor Oppenheimer has no inkling of.
AND ONE MORE: I've been asked, fairly, not to dismiss the entire field of "religious studies" because Mark Oppenheimer is a hack. I do doubt that the field itself is a Wissenschaft, since it is an amalgamation of historians, anthropologists, sociologists, classicists and so on--and to that extent, serious scholarly work is done under the rubric "religious studies," and I should not imply otherwise.
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)