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Mar 30, 2005 9:12 pm


Noted Here and There ...



Nat Hentoff's"Terri Schiavo: Judicial Murder," Village Voice, 29 March, makes the most powerful case I've seen for restoring the feeding tube. Caleb McDaniel's"On Hypocrisy," at Mode for Caleb meditates thoughtfully on humility in a democratic conversation. See also: Brandon Watson's"Aphorisms on Hypocrisy" at Siris. I could be wrong. Meanwhile, Atlanta's 11th Appellate Court has agreed to grant a new hearing in the case.
Update: The full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the earlier ruling of its three member panel and denied the plea for a new hearing of the case. Writing for the Court majority, Judge Stanley F. Birch, Jr., was severely critical of President Bush and Congress for intervening in the case.
My colleague, Mark Grimsley, recommends E. Heroux's"Feeding Tube Frenzy: 6 Theses" which suggests that the Schiavo case tests the limits of our suspending the charge of hypocisy.

You may have read Howard Kurtz,"College Faculty a Most Liberal Lot, Study Finds," Washington Post, 29 March. It reports on a study in Forum, an on-line journal. The abstract for it is here. Scott Jaschik's"Leaning to the Left" at Inside Higher Ed takes another look at the study. Frankly, I'm skeptical of it. Its funding is from the conservative Randolph Foundation and Lichter has a history of publishing reports that find liberal bias in American institutions. Of course, if you think that the academy has a leftist bias and that bothers you, there's always Robert Welch University.

Juan Cole at Informed Comment has replied to the"GoogleSmear" by Steven Plaut, a professor of business administration at the University of Haifa, that David Horowitz published in FrontPageRag. Plaut continues the attack today.

I recommend:
Scott McLemee's"Travels in Weblogestan" at Inside Higher Ed, 29 March; and his review of Phil Gura's Jonathan Edwards: America's Evangelical, Newsday, 20 March; and Edward Champion's Return of the Reluctant, 29 March, on the joys of freelance writing. Thanks to McLemee for the tips.

Columbia is in its usual ferment. For the second year in a row, the Graduate Student Employees Union will vote to strike in the coming weeks. Some graduate students have launched a petition which asks for the resignation of President Lee Bollinger for failing"to defend our faculty, thereby nurturing an environment of fear and intimidation throughout the university." This comes amidst the review of charges that some professors in middle eastern studies lack academic balance in their approach and announcement that Columbia will seek to fill a newly endowed chair in Israeli and Jewish studies.

The next History Carnival goes up around 1 April (seriously!) at Clioweb. Don't forget to submit your nominations or self-nominations of posts since about 15 March to Jeremy or send him an e-mail at jboggs AT gmu DOT edu.

Congratulations to:
Our colleague, Miriam Elizabeth Burstein, whose tenure letter at SUNY, Brockport, is said to be on the way; and to
Our one-time colleague, David Lion Salmanson, whose wife gave birth to Becker Everett Salmanson on Friday. David tells me that the young man bears only a passing resemblance to Winston Churchill. It's the cigar, I think.

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Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

Good Point Chris! Those Israeli atrocities are so, so, very, very BAD, that the genocide in Sudan pales by comparison! Israel bad! Genocidal Arab fascists good!


David Timothy Beito - 3/31/2005

Perhaps. However, the poll also asks some specific questions, the answers to which indicate that faculty are much more likely to support the big-government form of liberalism (at least on economic issues) than they are small-government form classical liberalism (on economic issues).


chris l pettit - 3/31/2005

it really irks me to see this phrase manipulated and used in a way that is 180 degrees removed from what it actually means...it is why Orwell was so correct in so many of his observations about language. The courts in this case are upholding the rule of law...sorry if this does not match up with ones ideological stance. This case is a great example of what the rule of law is allabout. i am not a big Bentham fan (actually i despise most of utilitarian theory...for its institutions and theories...its goals were actually quite laudable), but his identification of the "fictions" in rights discourse is brilliantly displayed in the use of "rule of law" to support the case for keeping the feeding tube. Of course Bentham manipulated language as much as those who disgrace rights discourse trying to get it to fit their blind faith or ideological positions, but at least he recognised it.

CP


chris l pettit - 3/31/2005

I was surprised at Hentoff...I really respect him as a writer. This sort of screed sounds more like a Safire or Friedman than his usual quality stuff.

As was noted, the judiciousness of the whole process has been rather admirable. i was rather suspecting to see the whole process hijacked by ideological hacks on either side...which tends to be the result of the pathetic process of appointing federal judges that is used in the US (yes you can name exceptions, but what is the rule). It is a good example of how law can (and should) be used to overcome ideological biases in favor of an objective and logical conclusion. If one wants to wade through the transcripts (zzzzzzz...even if you are paid to do it) and get beyond the legalese (why can't they speak in English) one finds that, for the most part, the judges involved took the evidence available and the advice of the authorities (experts dont exist in life) they tapped and applied it in making their decision. It was a good example of being able to overcome the complaint that judges do not have the capacity to make decisions on things that are outside their scholarship (the law) that is so often made by strict constructionists and those seeking to limit the authority of a judiciary in favor of the power politics and self interest of the power of the executive and the legislature (as if they have the scholarship?). Judges are able to bring in authorities and take into consideration their opinions. It is a shame that the courts in the US have not taken the same tack as the courts in South Africa, which have ruled that they are at liberty to examine the federal budget and other legislative as well as executive decisions to ensure that they comply with the dictates of the Constitution.

It was nice to see objectivity and rationality rule over those religious and ideological positions based in blind faith and, at times, a manipulation of the factual evidence (as Hentoff does in his article). State sponsored execution? no, that would be the cutting of welfare, the witholding of AIDS aid unless a country teaches abstinence, tax cuts that starve the poor, the ending of school lunches, and many other things that the Bush admin is doing that have yet to be struck down by the courts...and probably never will be. THis is about the right not to be a vegetable, the right to die with dignity, and the acknowledgement that life is just a process that started millions of years ago and just keeps going...that we are not individuals, but just interconnected parts in a huge interwoven landscape. Imposition of an ideology based in blind faith (religion) or a fundamentally flawed premise (economic libertarian theory for example) should not be allowed into debate concerning the rights and duties of a society. in ones private life...great...just keep your religion or ideology off the rest of us and let us live our lives as we see fit.

As an aside...this is a good promotion for the need for living wills...so that, assuming that Schiavo did want the right to die, politicians and self interested parties (including her husband) can't use this for their gain...whatever it might be.

By the way...I think that they should be able to harvest her organs to save the lives of others if she did not opt out of organ transplant. THe opt in system we have in the states is a travesty...and actually goes against most of the religious positions even if one wants to take a blind faith ideological viewpoint on the matter.

CP


Caleb McDaniel - 3/31/2005

Right, and the other important point is that two of these five doctors were selected by the Schindlers. They and the doctors who have supported them have not been shut out of the courts, which is what Hentoff and others make it sound like by citing the dozens of affidavits they have in hand. At some point, the court has to hear the evidence and make its decision: we expect it to make a decision precisely because there will always be more second opinions that one can procure from somewhere. It seems clear that of the five doctors on the panel, only the two selected by Schiavo's husband and the one appointed by the court offered credible diagnoses. And I'm sure that for every thirty affidavits the Schindlers produce, Schiavo's team could offer countless more. To me, the five-doctor panel was an extremely judicious move.


Caleb McDaniel - 3/31/2005

... to Professor Burstein!


David Lion Salmanson - 3/30/2005

Dr. Beito,
Seeing as most academics know what liberal acutally means, and many in academia are probably using ther term properly as in "classical liberal" or at least to mean within the liberal tradition, I'm not surprised that so many identified as liberal (actually, I thought a few more would say Marxist). What is shocking is that so many in America would call themselves Conservative when they have no notion of what it means. How many Burkeans (and I don't mean Tim) do you know? I can't help it that the electorate doesn't speak English properly, but that won't stop me from using terms correctly. Or pointing out to my World History classes that in the US, we are all liberals.



Sherman Jay Dorn - 3/30/2005

Let's assume for the moment that the survey's sampling was accurate for its universe (4-year universities), and so the 50%-11%-39% profile is reasonably accurate. The question then is, what does that mean for the teaching and intellectual discussion at institutions? The allegation by David Horowitz et al. is that we have a one-party system of higher education, and I don't think you can make that claim that 50% Democratic is one-party dominance.

If we take the intellectual life of universities seriously, then we should demand pretty high standards for the description of our own job environment. If you're claiming that there is an effect of party affiliation on discourse, Professor Beito, then we need some more sophisticated description than the "one-party" label. I'm not saying that there isn't a relationship, but I'll be far more persuaded by some serious study than by anecdotal evidence.


Jonathan Dresner - 3/30/2005

Wolfson's report should have been printed alongside Hentoff's screed, so readers could actually decide for themselves. Actually, the report includes something which seems to be missing from the timeline, which is that the 5-doctor panel did observe, test and draw conclusions: there is a recent, scientific, and dispositive set of examinations to guide decisions in this matter, something that the pro-tube rhetoric entirely dismisses.


David Timothy Beito - 3/30/2005

As I said, this impression was personal. Still, it was quite interesting how everyone in the room just assumed that we all agreed on that the tax increase would have been a good thing. It was like it never entered their minds that any rational person might actually feel otherwise. Again, I do not claiming that any generalizations beyond that room can be made.

My more substantial point, however, is shown above e.g the importance of the finding of a 50 percent (Democratic) to 11 percent (Republican) disparity as well as the even greater imbalance in liberal/conservative identification..


Ralph E. Luker - 3/30/2005

I agree with you, Caleb, that Jay Wolfson's report is impressive. His public accountings of the case were both deeply compassionate and, to my mind at least, legally and scientifically persuasive.


Ralph E. Luker - 3/30/2005

David, I'll just quote you: "... the 69% of Alabama voters who recently rejected a tax increase _were_ wrong." You don't want to make statistical returns on public opinion the standard by which academic opinion should be measured.


David Timothy Beito - 3/30/2005

I caught some typoes in my previous post:

Sherman Jay Dorn shows an admirable willingness to seriously consider the issues raised by the study, he is much too quick to dismiss the serious evidence of one party domination. He simply moves on after declaring that "close to half" (actually it was 50 percent) were Democrats and "about half" were in other categories. He does not mention, however, that the total Republican percentage was nowhere near "about half." It was a measly 11 percent! This is a remarkable disparity (50 percent to 11 percent), which was probably even higher in the liberal arts.

Even more telling is the percentage of self-described liberals (three quarters) among the faculy compared to only 18 percent for the public. I can't think of a single large institution in American society that comes so close to ideological uniformity.

For what it is worth (and it isn't much), the study is entirely consistent with my personal experiences with my left-leaning colleagues at the University of Alabama. At a recent Ph.D. defense, all of my colleagues around the table seemed to take it as a given that the 69 percent of Alabama voters who recently rejected a tax increase were wrong. They appear to be living in a totally different world than the anti high tax average voter in this state.


David Timothy Beito - 3/30/2005

While Sherman Jay Dorn shows an admirable willingness to seriously consider the issues raised by the study, he is much too quick to dismiss the serious evidence of one party domination. He moves on after declaring that "close to half" (actually it was 50 percent) were Democrats and "about half" were in other categories. He does not mention, however, that the total Republican percentage was nowhere nearly "about half." It was a measly 11 percent! This is a remarkable disparity (50 percent to 11 percent), which was probably even higher in the liberal arts.

Even more telling is the percentage of self-described liberals (three quarters) among the faculy compared to only 18 percent for the public. I can't think of a single large institution in American society that comes so close to ideological uniformity.

For what it is worth (and it isn't much), the study is entirely consistent with my personal experiences with my left-leaning colleagues at the University of Alabama. At a recent Ph.D. defense, all of my colleagues around the table seemed to take it for granted and as a given that the 69 percent of Alabama voters who rejected a tax increaes were wrong. They seemed to be in totally different world than the average voter.


Louis N Proyect - 3/30/2005

I would be cautious about taking Robert Lichter too seriously. As director of The Center for Media and Public Affairs, he decided that the mustachioed rightwing hustler John Stossel deserved a $10,000 prize for his news reporting in 2003. The year before Stossel had to confess to his ABC audience that he lied when he said that organic produce is more dangerous than regular produce. Lichter is also a media analyst with Fox-TV, which is a little bit like being a nutrition adviser to McDonald's restaurants.

Meanwhile, Stanley Rothman is co-author of "The IQ Controversy: The Media and Public Policy," which has as one of its goals the correction of the false perception that IQ tests are biased against minorities, primarily blacks and Hispanics, as well as against the poor--according to a review of the book by Linda S. Gottfredson in the March-April 1994 Society. Above all, the book appears to be a sophisticated attempt to salvage the reputation of the racist Arthur Jensen by painting his critics as liberal panty-waists.


Sherman Jay Dorn - 3/30/2005

Ai! My browser just swallowed my last response (clear evidence of a conspiracy to eliminate dissenting views in academe, given what I wrote), but I'll try again (more briefly, this time!). Please ignore the funding source of the article on professor's political ideologies. That's ad hominem reasoning, and you don't want to go down that path. It's flawed, but I'd rather have its more serious research contributing to the literature than the screeds we've seen before, and I intend to treat it as I do most areas of research, as a foray into territory that others will shortly trod upon.

The IHE article pointed out the sampling problem (it focused on 4-year institutions), and other readers may poke holes in the survey methods. But let's focus on a few things in the article, assuming that the method was otherwise rigorous:

1) There's no evidence of a one-party campus. Close to half of surveyed faculty were Democratic, which leaves about half with either Republican, independent, or minor-party affiliations.

2) The explanatory power in the multivariate analyses was fairly minimal -- only about 20% of the variance in the institutional prestige index was accounted for with all of the independent variables, including faculty productivity, race, sex, religion, political inclinations, party affiliation, etc. That means around 80% appears to be unexplained statistical noise. (There's the other question about why institutional prestige is evidence of discrimination, but I'll leave the full debate on that to others.)

3) Within the multivariate analyses, there are two individual variables with large raw coefficients: sex and political affiliation/inclinations. I expect those to be linked in future debates (i.e., if you believe that the institutional positions of women in academe are related to discrimination, people are going to ask you why you won't believe the same is true of political inclinations/affiliation based on the same evidence).

4) Adjusting for the standard deviation in each variable (using beta coefficients), faculty productivity had a stronger association with institutional prestige than the political variables. I'm cautious about using betas, and I'm curious whether there's a restricted range for productivity in the same that may create that as an artifice.

All of this also presupposes that a statistical association between political affiliation/inclination and institutional positions is evidence of discrimination. There's the literature on occupational segregation to provide alternative hypotheses, and maybe free-market conservatives are more likely to want to make money than spend time in grad school for the off chance of being hired on the tenure track? At the risk of appearing to be Michael Bérubé's solemn doppelganger, I'll hazard a serious prediction: if you conducted the same survey of doctoral students finishing up their degrees, you'd find that the doc students have either a similar political profile as faculty more generally or an even more liberal one.


Caleb McDaniel - 3/30/2005

I agree: while I always respect Hentoff, he plays very fast and loose with the facts here. In particular, you definitely cannot read the Miami timeline and conclude that upper courts "robotically" upheld the decisions of lower courts. I especially recommend the report of Jay Wolfson, a guardian ad litem appointed by the court (whose service also contradicts Hentoff's claim that the court never considered this case from the perspective of Terri Schiavo herself).


Jonathan Dresner - 3/30/2005

I'm having trouble reconciling the facts as presented by Hentoff with the facts as presented by the Miami Ethics folks (via Caleb), including the issues of neurological testing and independent legal representation in which the contradiction is stark.

Hentoff also cites "every major disability rights organization" without noting that groups like this do not "speak for" all members of the community whose rights they advocate, any more than the Democratic and Republican parties speak for "all Americans."


chris l pettit - 3/30/2005

I especially like the Sudan example...having travelled to and worked in the area...as well as observed the conflict, the US hypocrisy and blatant propagandizing of the situation for its own self interest is especially galling...particularly in light of the atrocities being perpetrated in Iraq and elsewhere as well as the Israeli atrocities being tolerated. It gets back to having absolutely no foundation outside ones own Machiavellian ideology.

Sad really that human beings who presumably have the ability to reason and know right from wrong place themselves below the rest of nature on the evolutionary chain...

CP

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