"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Miscellany

A few cursory thoughts for lunchtime:

1. With respect to the port bruhaha, all of us should be ashamed of such as the ineffable Michelle Malkin and the hysterical Frank Gaffney, both supremely expert at shouting first and thinking only much later if ever. Will the newly purchased P&O be managing "security"? Well, no. Will it manage the entire port infrastructures, as opposed to certain terminals? Well, no. Is the UAE a terrorist-supporting sovereign? Well, no. Would this new management have weakened incentives to cooperate with the Coast Guard and Customs Service in terms of port and container security, respectively? Well, no. Is there any reason to predict diminished inspection regimes at any of the affected ports? Well, no. Is there a good reason to allow Hillary and Schumer and the rest look like toughies on terrorism? Well, no. And therein lies the main reson that the bureaucrats should have nixed this anyway: It cannot be defended in a sound-bite world. So let us be honest about that. And please tell Malkin and Gaffney and the others to shut up.

2. So: I guess now it is the left also that believes in the permanent (nonliving) constitution. I refer to the argument now common amongst our usual opponents that the 4th amendment proscribes the electronic surveillance of conversations in the U.S. regardless of what the law says or does not say and regardless of the new environment created by international terrorism. El Presidente W, as usual, also is trying to have it both ways, arguing that the authorization of force passed after 9/11 includes such powers, and that obtaining such authority explicitly is both unnecessary and futile because Congress would not pass it. Or something. Will George ever learn? Make the case, W, and force Congress to vote up or down on the record.

3. So the Harvard Arts and Letters faculty, each member of which is in line for a Nobel prize, now has forced Larry Summers to resign as president. (Disclosure: Larry and I served together on the senior staff of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Reagan Administration.) Blame the Harvard lefties all you want for their closemindedness and bigotry, but the fact remains that this outcome is largely Larry's fault for capitulating in the face of the absurd reaction from a few over the sex/mathematics musings. A firm stand then, combined with a figurative finger in the faces of the unwashed, would have worked wonders.

34 comments:

James Elliott said...

Not quite sure what you mean about #2, but I'm with you on #3 there. The resignation of Dr. Summers is unfortunate and unnecessary. Here's hoping he lands on his feet.

Hunter Baker said...

#3 is utterly ridiculous. I can't believe something as innocent as the sex/math thing could cause a president to resign. I really can't. Good heavens, we may have actual genetic evidence that he's right someday. The left DOES NOT believe in free speech unless it involves pornography or burning flags.

Hunter Baker said...

I have to add that Ben asks for Bush to make the case knowing full well that this president is perhaps the worst "casemaker" of modern times. Oh for that smooth-tongued devil, his father!

I really disliked Clinton, as all might expect, but at least he could communicate the issues. Believe me, GWB, articulate is not passe'. There should be a Pygmalion remake, except this time with a politician in need of fixing.

James Elliott said...

"The left DOES NOT believe in free speech unless it involves pornography or burning flags."

That's a rather sweeping overgeneralization, isn't it? Feel free to call us on our hyperbole, but you know what they say about turnabout...

Tlaloc said...

"Is the UAE a terrorist-supporting sovereign? Well, no."

How exactly did you reach that conclusion? That's like saying the Saudis aren't terror supporting...



"Would this new management have weakened incentives to cooperate with the Coast Guard and Customs Service in terms of port and container security, respectively? Well, no."

Well there is a possible conflict of interest given that they are a foreign owned company.



"Is there any reason to predict diminished inspection regimes at any of the affected ports? Well, no."

There is certainly reason to consider it possible.



"I refer to the argument now common amongst our usual opponents that the 4th amendment proscribes the electronic surveillance of conversations in the U.S. regardless of what the law says or does not say and regardless of the new environment created by international terrorism."

I personally have read nothing of the kind. In fact I'm not even sure why the argument would come up given that the law itself explicitly forbids what Bush has done.

Hunter Baker said...

It's definitely hyperbole' James, but it's also the truth that underlies every stereotype.

Just to clarify my intent with my earlier comment, I wasn't saying Ben is ridiculous for his remarks, but rather that the occasion for the remarks is ridiculous.

connie deady said...

So: I guess now it is the left also that believes in the permanent (nonliving) constitution. I refer to the argument now common amongst our usual opponents that the 4th amendment proscribes the electronic surveillance of conversations in the U.S. regardless of what the law says or does not say and regardless of the new environment created by international terrorism.

I don't understand this point. The Constitution says that we are to be free from unreasonable searches and seiures. How would you interpret that? Listening in on phone conversations via wiretaps would be akin to having an agent of the government hide in your house and eavesdrop on your conversations. Do you think the founding father's supported that.

Hunter, I don't know what truth there is to your hyperbolic stereotype. The ACLU is considered leftist and they support free speech of Nazi's and KKK members among others. They believe that to be truly free, we must allow offensive free speech.

I can assure you that if people tried to trample the free speech rights of Catholics regarding expression of their religion I would stand up for their rights.

But the truth is, that people don't try to restrict free speech rights of those we agree with. So if the left seems most concerned with pornography or flat burning, that's because those are the free speech rights being threatened.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, I think you understand the point just fine, Connie. Give yourself some credit. The question is whether we're pursuing abstractions or real concerns.

Not a question of truth, but of prudence, I might, and have, put it.

If blacks and Jews were being actively lynched in Skokie, Ill. at the time the freakhead Nazis wanted to march, no, I would not defend their right to march. No sane person would, I think.

"Slippery slopes" are best debated and defended when reality does not intrude.

It is often said that our constitution should not be a suicide pact. I'm down with that.

Tlaloc said...

"If blacks and Jews were being actively lynched in Skokie, Ill. at the time the freakhead Nazis wanted to march, no, I would not defend their right to march. No sane person would, I think."

Why not? If they want to march they can. The marches aren't the problem in your scenario- the lynchings are. If a person wants to say "kill da Joos!" I won't try to stop him. But if he tries to actually do it then that's a totally different situation.



"It is often said that our constitution should not be a suicide pact. I'm down with that. "

Funny, it's also said that the noblest things is to die for your principles. In fact, I rather thought Christians were sort of down with that. You know... Martyrs? Christ?

James Elliott said...

"It's definitely hyperbole' James, but it's also the truth that underlies every stereotype."

I'm sorry, but that's nonsense, particularly in the matter we're discussing here. As Peter Beinart points out today in The New Republic, the ousting of Summers came courtesy of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, not the professoriat of Harvard as a whole. Summers' chief "crimes" were to insist that FAS tenured professors teach undergraduate survey courses and do actual research that benefitted academia. That he began this by asking Cornel West exactly what it was he was doing for academia... well, an impolitic but apt choice, and I think he deserves kudos for broaching the subject at Harvard.

Lesser concerns arose from incidents of cronyism during Summers' tenure (such as a $25 million lawsuit settlement paid by the university on behalf of one of his friends). However, he was much beloved by the undergrads, graduate students, and faculty of the other colleges.

The least of the concerns in this matter was his un-PC comment taken way far out of whack. The bottom line is that he threatened a large group's comfortable lifestyle.

All of which is a long, factual way, of arguing against your point. I have seen the posters and commenters here decry the Left as enemies of free speech for failing to support Jylands-Posten in the cartoon brouhaha and for undeservedly lambasting Dr. Summers. Tom worried that people lost a substantive point by Rush Limbaugh on race just because he was Rush Limbaugh. Where was your impassioned defense of Ward Churchill who made a substantive point that was obscured by unfortunate and inflammatory rhetoric? Where was your defense of his right to not be silenced?

What about David Irving? I don't see Dr. London hopping on a plane to Austria to protest that country's locking him away for three years? True, the man's a disgusting Holocaust denier, but he's been locked away for voicing his opinion!

The bottom line is that very few people have the gumption to be entirely for free speech. Most people, Right or Left, whatever culture or religion, prefer encourage what they agree with and silence the contrary. It all boils down to substance and subjectivity, which makes most people flaming hypocrites.

tbmbuzz said...

Where was your impassioned defense of Ward Churchill who made a substantive point that was obscured by unfortunate and inflammatory rhetoric? Where was your defense of his right to not be silenced?

Exactly who is saying that Ward Churchill should be "silenced"? He said some idiotic things, which he has a right to do, but as a result has been exposed as an academic fraud whose scholarship at best is lacking and at worse is fraudulent. This brouhaha of his own making comes down to whether he has the qualifications to be a member of the faculty at a major university, not to mention chairing a department. Frankly, I don't think he is even qualified to teach my daughter's 4th grade class.

Tlaloc said...

"This brouhaha of his own making comes down to whether he has the qualifications to be a member of the faculty at a major university,"

Um... isn't that EXACTLY what's happened at Harvard? A guy has been fired because some thought he was unsuitable (regardless of whether you agree with their criteria of suitability)?

So on the one hand people argue that firing Summers is silencing him but when JE points out that the same people were for firing Chirchill that's somehow not silencing him...

I'm confused by this argument pretzel you've twisted.

James Elliott said...

And Tlaloc gets the gold star.

Buzz, you get the dunce cap. The two situations are PRECISELY analogous.

In "PC" terms, I found both Churchill's and Summers' points offensively phrased to the point of reproach. However, in both cases - especially Summers' - I would have liked to see the respective establishments refute them (if they could be) like proper thinking people: Test the hypothesis; don't shout down the question.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

Bzzzzt.

One got fired for pretending to be someone he was not, the other for saying something.

Not analogous in the least.

One said something and as a result was exposed as a fraud, the other said something and was, well, NEVER exposed to be a fraud.

Completely different.

Since we live in a society that rewards mediocrity, I'll let Tlaloc keep his gold star.

Tlaloc said...

"One got fired for pretending to be someone he was not, the other for saying something."

Well technically unless I missed something Ward Chirchill hasn't gotten fired at all much less for "pretending to be something he was not."

The analogy is in that in both cases people have called on them to be fired based on what they have said. I'm not sure I can make the exact parallel any clearer if you still aren't seeing it.

here, try this:

Firing WC:silencing him::Firing summers:silencing him

(it should be "calling for ___ to be fired" but that's too long and the simile format gets too hard to follow)

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

I misspoke re: the firing of Churchill.

My point still stands, however.

His stupid statements were the initial push of the snowball down the hill. There is so much snow on him now that his only possible defense is a rather weak claim a 1st amendment violation.

Maybe I should say something really stupid and offensive(*), that way I can lie/cheat/steal/be incompetent with impunity.

(*) I'm sure I already have ...

James Elliott said...

"His stupid statements were the initial push of the snowball down the hill. There is so much snow on him now that his only possible defense is a rather weak claim a 1st amendment violation."

I still don't see how. Try speaking slowly, as though to a stupid person. Because, you know, it's entirely possible I am.

What defense? For his statements? Or for his right to make them? It's a pretty simple analogy.

Churchill says something that a lot of people take offense to. They say, "Oh, he shouldn't have said that! He should apologize/be fired/be gutted like a fish."

Summers says something that a lot of people take offense to. They say, "Oh, he shouldn't have said that! He should apologize/be fired/be gutted like a fish."

C'est le meme chose, n'est-ce pas?

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

Perhaps I am the stupid one ... it would not be the first time.

If there are hoards of people asking for Churchill's head because of what he said, then you are correct and your (obvious) analogy stands.

You are correct in that sense.

If, however, people want him gone because he is a liar and a cheat, then that is a different story.

Personally, I do not want him fired for what he says. However, when the investigation into him has been completed and if he is found to have lied (and/or plagarized) he ought to be fired.

It is a black eye on academia (of which I am a part of) if "we" do not cleanse ourselves of frauds.

James Elliott said...

If, however, people want him gone because he is a liar and a cheat, then that is a different story.

I'm quite sure there are both. Personally, I find the man's "scholarship" questionable at the minimum and his rhetoric odious.

If the man's a plagiarist and a liar, fire him, absolutely.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

Well whaddaya know ... I think James and I each have an oar in the water today (I usually have at least one) ... AND ... we're rowin' in the same direction!

tbmbuzz said...

If, however, people want him gone because he is a liar and a cheat, then that is a different story.

I'm quite sure there are both. Personally, I find the man's "scholarship" questionable at the minimum and his rhetoric odious.

If the man's a plagiarist and a liar, fire him, absolutely.



And this is basically what I said, Mr. Missile Expert. Sorry that my language: ...exposed as an academic fraud whose scholarship at best is lacking and at worse is fraudulent... isn't clear enough.

tbmbuzz said...

Um... isn't that EXACTLY what's happened at Harvard? A guy has been fired because some thought he was unsuitable (regardless of whether you agree with their criteria of suitability)?


No it isn't. Summers has impeccable academic credentials and furthermore his comments are in the nature of academic inquiry. Churchill is an academically unqualified con artist who spews propaganda. It is not my problem if you are unable to tell the difference.

But let me give you an analagous situation to help you out. If Noam Chomsky, well known Far Leftist, anti-American, anti-capitalist professor at MIT were fired for his comments, it would be an outrageous situation just as with Summers. Chomsky is a scholar, Churchill is not. Summers is a scholar, Churchill is not.

If Churchill had kept his mouth shut, he'd still be in a cushy position (well, actually he still is) like the hundreds (if not thousands) of other academically-challenged professors
scattered throughout the university universe. But he didn't, and now he has to take the consequences of exposure.

James Elliott said...

Buzz,

1.) That statement has nothing to do with the topic at hand: free speech. You were using one set of facts to argue another.

2.) Don't be a rude putz. It makes you look stupid. Don't be mad - you do it, I just hold up the mirror.

James Elliott said...

But let me give you an analagous situation to help you out. If Noam Chomsky, well known Far Leftist, anti-American, anti-capitalist professor at MIT were fired for his comments, it would be an outrageous situation just as with Summers. Chomsky is a scholar, Churchill is not. Summers is a scholar, Churchill is not.

So your argument devolves to accepting speech only by who says it: You must meet certain criteria in order to have the freedom to say something. That's, well, totalitarian. Fascist, even.

Kathy Hutchins said...

So your argument devolves to accepting speech only by who says it: You must meet certain criteria in order to have the freedom to say something. That's, well, totalitarian. Fascist, even.

I think you misconstrue his argument, James. The point was that if Chomsky were fired, it would have to have been because of the content of his statements, because the quality of his scholarship is not in question. That defense is not available to Churchill, because he is not a scholar, is not qualified to occupy his position, and is a fraud.

It would have been really nice if Churchill's lying and stealing had been exposed in the absence of, or previous to, the public furor over his Eichmann statements, but I guess it's too much to expect academic hiring committees to do their jobs, huh.

Tlaloc said...

"That defense is not available to Churchill, because he is not a scholar, is not qualified to occupy his position, and is a fraud."

Nice except not historically accurate. The outrage about Churchill started LONG before anybody knew who he was. In other words it could only be due to what he said not what he is (which still isn't a settled matter).

The two situations are exactly the same. Both instances of people being hounded because others don't like what they had to say.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

The outrage about Churchill started LONG before anybody knew who he was. In other words it could only be due to what he said not what he is (which still isn't a settled matter).


Nice logic!

- wanted murderer gets pulled over for speeding;
- outstanding warrant gets him arrested;
- jury finds him guilty;
- judge orders execution;

Now ... assuming that someone can find a compassionate doctor, he gets executed.

You're basically saying that he was killed because he was speeding.

Nice.

James Elliott said...

"I think you misconstrue his argument, James. The point was that if Chomsky were fired, it would have to have been because of the content of his statements, because the quality of his scholarship is not in question. That defense is not available to Churchill, because he is not a scholar, is not qualified to occupy his position, and is a fraud."

Again, the point is immaterial to the question at hand. Whether he (or Summers, or anyone) gets fired is immaterial. We're talking about the call for silencing speech in whatever form. Churchill's personal or academic failings and the ultimate fate of his employment aren't the point. At this point, continuing the debate is to invite a continuation of Buzz's endless parsing. Lying and plagiarism are at best tangential to the meat of the topic.

James Elliott said...

"Nice logic!"

That's not what he's saying at all. That Churchill's speech led to scrutiny of his academics is IMMATERIAL. The discussion began because Hunter and Dr. Zycher claimed that the Left hates free speech (certain elements, absolutely; same as the Right) and that Dr. Summers’ firing was a direct result of…his speech. Whether that’s true or not, the implied assertion that the Right was somehow a bastion of free speech was challenged with the Churchill matter.

That Churchill’s record has been demolished because of investigations that resulted from a backlash against his speech isn’t the point. The point is that he was called to task for what he said by the Right. CLA, your “logic” is twisting the frame of the debate. Tlaloc never stated or implied that Churchill didn’t deserve anything that happened due to prior bad acts; how those acts were exposed is immaterial to the point that people attempted to silence his speech (long before his record was exposed). The underlying facts of the person and their scholarship have no bearing on whether or not someone tried to silence speech they found offensive. The same thing happened to Summers. The situations are identical, and remain so despite the difference in actors.

Both situations are precisely analogous to what happened to David Irving.

If A=B and B=C then A=C.

tbmbuzz said...

That statement has nothing to do with the topic at hand: free speech. You were using one set of facts to argue another.


No, I wasn't. Here - AGAIN - is what I wrote: He said some idiotic things, which he has a right to do, but as a result has been exposed as an academic fraud whose scholarship at best is lacking and at worse is fraudulent.

Note the emphasis this time. CLA and Kathy grasp what I said, why can't you and Tlaloc?


Don't be a rude putz. It makes you look stupid. Don't be mad - you do it, I just hold up the mirror.

Who is the one who brought up "dunce cap"?

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

If A=B and B=C then A=C.

If only the ACLU would think that way ...

Tlaloc said...

"No, I wasn't. Here - AGAIN - is what I wrote: He said some idiotic things, which he has a right to do, but as a result has been exposed as an academic fraud whose scholarship at best is lacking and at worse is fraudulent."

You aren't going back far enough.

Here's the order:

People complained about the treatment of Summers.

JE asked why these same people didn't complain about the IDENTICAL treatment of Ward Churchill.

Then you claimed that the situation was entirely different, a claim repeatedly refuted now. WHile charged have been brought against Churchill of fraud and plagarism those were not around when the initial brouhaha came up. At that point the situation was IDENTICAL with Summers.

When you get to edit the conversation you appear to be right but when we include the whole thing it becomes clear you aren't.

tbmbuzz said...

It is not identical for two reasons:

1. From the point of view of an objective observer from Mars,
Churchill's comments were the ranting of a madman, whereas Summers'
comments were reasoned.

2. No one is calling for Churchill to be fired for his comments (which
is what my original question to James was); Summers WAS fired for his
comments. But now that Churchill has been exposed as an academic fraud, the call is to fire him FOR THIS REASON.

Actually, let’s make it three reasons.

3. A handful of extremists were offended by Summers’ comments, whereas the overwhelming majority of Americans on all sides of the spectrum is offended by Churchill’s comments.


You and James are actually using #3 as the basis for your assertion that the two situations are the same, and even here you are demonstrably off base.

This is yet another classic case of an inability by certain people to place things in perspective.

We’re going around in circles here. I have not convinced you of the logic of my position, which is quite obvious to me and others on this board, nor have you convinced anyone (or refuted anything, for that matter), while your constantly offended brother-in-arms is reduced to calling me a dunce.

This is my last word on this topic. Feel free to add yours. Excelsior!

Tlaloc said...

"1. From the point of view of an objective observer from Mars,
Churchill's comments were the ranting of a madman, whereas Summers'
comments were reasoned."

That is absurd. From the point of view of an objective observer both stated their opinions.



"2. No one is calling for Churchill to be fired for his comments (which
is what my original question to James was);"

You are completely revising history. A lot of people called for Churchill to be fired as soon as his comments came to light. In fact a lot of the more reactionary called for him to be arrested for sedition.



"3. A handful of extremists were offended by Summers’ comments, whereas the overwhelming majority of Americans on all sides of the spectrum is offended by Churchill’s comments."

Which is entirely irrelevent to the matter. Free speech does not become less free when it offends the majority. You are either free to state your opinions or you are not. Saying that only the accepted opinions are free to be said is tacitly admitting that there is no free speech.

So your three reasons boil down to a misunderstanding of what "subjective" means, a misunderstanding of what historically happened, and a misunderstanding of what "free speech" means.