Monthly Archives: September 2010

September 29, 2010, 6:59 pm

Student government was never this interesting when I was in college

Assistant DA [oops] AG Andrew Shirvell takes to AC360 to defend his interest in UMichigan student government president Chris Armstrong. Shirvell’s not-at-all obsessive blog.

Shirvell has published blog posts that accuse Armstrong of…sexually seducing and influencing “a previously conservative [male] student” so much so that the student, according to Shirvell, “morphed into a proponent of the radical homosexual agenda;”

Is anyone else reminded of that scene in Rocky Horror where Frank shows up in Brad’s room?

September 29, 2010, 3:08 pm

On the trivia banks of atheists.

So you’ve seen the Pew survey, that shows that, among other things, atheists and agnostics tend to know a lot about religious doctrines and practices.  Of particular interest to me in the ensuing discussions was Larison’s distinction between academic religious knowledge and lived religious experience.  It’s simply not all that surprising that a religious believer who grew up with her faith culturally would not have high-level academic knowledge of the particulars of it.  High-level academic knowledge is for Jesuits and converts.  (Mutatis mutandis, natch.)

But it also speaks to a broader puzzle, especially regarding the recent games in the press and in blogs concerning Islam.  Any fool can Google up a copy of a religious text and pull out verses to prove almost anything; the connection between disinterested academic discourse about the interpretation of a passage, breezy bloggy…

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September 28, 2010, 8:37 pm


From Der Spiegel:

Germany will make its last reparations payment for World War I on Oct. 3, settling its outstanding debt from the 1919 Versailles Treaty and quietly closing the final chapter of the conflict that shaped the 20th century. Oct. 3, the 20th anniversary of German unification, will also mark the completion of the final chapter of World War I with the end of reparations payments 92 years after the country’s defeat.

I wonder if they’ll have a mortgage-burning party?

P.S. The original reparations, according to the article, were the equivalent of 96,000 tons of gold, which works out at today’s price (math NOT guaranteed) to be about $4 trillion. Ouch.

September 28, 2010, 11:18 am

Speaking of Christmas.

The National Research Council’s 2010 rankings of research-doctorate programs arrived today. (There is, or was, a webcast.) It is the first version of the rankings compiled since 1995 and relies on data collected in 2005-2006. already has the new data on their site, so you can punch up rankings—or rather, ranges of rankings; they won’t, or can’t, provide a singular rank—based on your own criteria. Here, for the sake of fun and games, is the ranking of history departments based on an overall quality measure.

September 27, 2010, 12:51 pm

Like Christmas, it comes but once a year.

I half-remember an anecdote about an English MP a philosopher (graciously identified by ben below) who, when asked if he read novels, replied, “Oh yes. All six of them, every year.” For me, in recent years, the equivalent has become the annual re-reading of Peter Novick’s That Noble Dream.


September 25, 2010, 3:33 pm

TR and the city of history.

Theodore Roosevelt wanted to get elected President of the United States in 1912, but he had to settle for serving as President of the American Historical Association. Two days after Christmas that year (and only two and a half months after getting shot) he delivered his presidential address on “History as Literature.” Here, in the use of a couple clever metaphors, Roosevelt goes beyond a mere defense of the idea that history ought to have a literary quality to an explanation of what the relation is between a more literary history and the normal work of the historical profession, and why a profession without room for literary history is failing itself and civilization.


September 25, 2010, 10:31 am

Farce becomes us.

As much as I like Colbert, I am pretty sure that this means we are probably about due for some Visigoths to sack Washington.!

But at least it’s funny.

September 23, 2010, 6:52 pm

A probably unfair post but some of us had to pay for college.

It would be really nice if this topic were discussed by someone who had paid for her degree. Sorry, this talk of cutting funding for BAs because some people wind up with lots of loans burns me up.  They ain’t in better shape with *more* loans, pretend economist, and whatever merits the critique of mindless credentialism has it doesn’t go away by paying only for engineers.  (And to think that engineers don’t benefit from social signaling of degree-granting institutions is unbelievably  naive. )

September 21, 2010, 4:02 pm

You have no halal

James Fallows posts about a minor UK scandal over restaurants serving halal meat to unsuspecting customers. Since halal meat is basically kosher meat, here’s a time where substituting another religion’s parallel term is a useful heuristic.

(I once read that a lot more meat is slaughtered kosher than is sold as kosher; if so, then if you eat meat regularly you’ve eaten a bunch of kosher-slaughtered meat. Sneaky Jews!)

Of course, this is just another example of picking out some commonplace activity, calling it by its Arabic name, and holding up the result as an example of the inscrutable Muslim form of life. Another nice example is the fuss over taqiyya, which certainly is utterly alien to Christian thought and also to ordinary moral reasoning.

September 21, 2010, 1:14 pm


“Air hair lair.”
“Sir, good news! One of our men has discovered that semen is an excellent invisible ink.”
“Who the devil is responsible for this?”
“Cumming, sir. Mansfield Cumming.”

September 21, 2010, 11:56 am

Whose incriminating n00dz are on Kaus's hard drive?

Seriously, Newsweek picked up Kausfiles?

September 20, 2010, 5:39 pm

Historians love archives.

Todd Henderson, the University of Chicago professor who inspired the mild-mannered James Fallows to mockery (at least by quotation) by whining about the pain of poverty at six figures, who inspired Brad DeLong to patient and sympathetic vivisection, has now apparently done the one thing that is more obviously ill-advised than writing his post in the first place: deleted it.

But Google has it cached.

If you really need a historian’s homiletic here, well: if you commit a bad idea to paper, it’s even worse if you show a guilty conscience about it. Just ask James G. Blaine, who had the bad judgment to write “burn this letter” across the bottom of one of his missives.

UPDATED to add, in the time I’ve taken to write this post, Brad has also discovered the Google cache. Oh well.


September 20, 2010, 5:19 am

Worst undergraduate utterance of the week?

Ole Miss senior Levi West on his school’s unofficial mascot:

“There’s no more of a noble cause than continuing the tradition of Colonel Reb,” said Mr. West, standing in the baking Mississippi heat in a giant stuffed mask and foam shoes. “Everyone loves the guy.”

It’s only Monday but Mr West has set the bar high.

September 19, 2010, 12:01 pm

Bell on Taylor's Crisis on Campus

David Bell reviews Mark Taylor’s new book in TNR.

Mark C. Taylor’s unbelievably misguided book provides an almost textbook example. In April, 2009, he published an incendiary New York Times op-ed entitled “End the University as We Know It,” which denounced graduate education as the “Detroit of higher learning,” demanded the abolition of tenure, and called for the replacement of traditional academic departments by flexible, short-lived “problem-focused programs.” Widely criticized (by me, too, in this magazine), the piece stayed at the top of the Times’s “most e-mailed” list for a cyber-eternity of four days. Enter Alfred A. Knopf.

It gets worse. Via Leiter.

September 18, 2010, 11:40 am

"I just saw a black woman on television, and she ain't no maid!"

Whoopi Goldberg’s reaction on first seeing Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols. Apparently Nichols almost left the show because she had a Broadway offer, until a chance encounter with a fan changed her mind.

That fan was Martin Luther King Jr. Nichols recalls their conversation:

One of the organizers came up to me and said that there was someone who wants to meet you; and he says that he’s you’re best, biggest fan and I’m thinking it’s a Trekkie! [laughs] and so I said certainly and I got up and turned around and maybe 10 or 15 feet coming towards me I see Dr. Martin Luther King and I remember thinking whoever that little fan is, he’s going to have to wait, because here’s Dr. King, who walks straight up to me with this big, magnificent smile on his face and says, “I’m the fan!” because I’m sort of looking around for someone else, and he says, “I am…

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