sphagnum moss, dark water, and politics
Wednesday, April 02, 2003
Small daily victories
Good news from Tulia! I don't know how coverage of this issue has been elsewhere; I think the NY Times' Bob Herbert may be at least partially to thank for this long-delayed but welcome arrival of sanity . . .
posted by Dan S. on 12:54 AM | | link
Ask a stupid question . . .
Kevin Drum discusses a Century Foundation report stating that socioeconomic preferences are a good functional alternative to race-based affirmative action in college admissions. Not only do they work fairly well, but according to polling data, the public likes the idea!
Here's a stupid question: Why? Why would the public prefer socioec. AA over racial AA?
Dismiss Obvious Answers #1, #2, and #3. I think there's an important point hiding here.
posted by Dan S. on 12:48 AM | | link
Tuesday, April 01, 2003
Score one for personal virtue
Remember Cheney going on about how "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy"? Well, according to a New York Times editorial, part of the solution to the California energy crisis was "a vigorous, if largely underreported, program of energy conservation."
Maybe not sufficient - the Times does mention new capacity as another important factor - but definitely necessary. Oh, and then there's the cause of said crisis . . but you probably know that already.
posted by Dan S. on 1:02 AM | | link
"Just one word: 'plastics'"
A study suggests that a common ingredient in plastic may cause birth defects in people. Crazy eco-drivel? Well, the study was funded in part by the "industry-supported American Chemical Council" . . .
posted by Dan S. on 12:16 AM | | link
Monday, March 31, 2003
Kent State and Mogadishu
The admirably moderate Calpundit has been posting about feeling equally alienated by the extremes of left and right. But the difference between the two is illustrated perfectly here. On the left, an untenured professor at a "teach-in" who calls for a "million Mogadishus." On the right, the New York Post, circulation 600,000.That's 600,000 who read an op-ed wondering "Where's the Ohio National Guard when you really need it?" Now, to be fair - we are weeny liberals, after all - we should at least point out the context of that juicy quote:
Hey, if a campus crank can wish for personal calamity to befall U.S. forces in Iraq, why not fantasize about a volley of Kent State-style militia musketry rattled off in his general direction?There's a sick call-and-response going here, but at least the Kent State nostalgia has more to do with outrage at the abhorrent "million Mogadishus" crack than bubbling facistic hatred. I hope. In a sense it doesn't matter. On one hand we have extremists feeding off each other, and on the other, as both Patrick and Kevin point out, their crazies are crazier, better organized, and have big microphones. Take the counterprotest-organizing radio show host who opined (either on stage or to a reporter; it's unclear) "Despite [their right to protest] I think these son-of-a-buggers deserve a bullet in the head." Another fellow who wants to enlist in the 1970 Ohio National Guard. Need another example of that difference Patrick's talking about? Well, the Advocate article continues:
There was little confrontation at the theater, mostly each side yelling to its own, until Condon worked out a plan to drown out the anti-war speakers. Some of his group rode motorcycles, and they dropped the machines into neutral and blasted their engines at deafening volumeWell, that about sums it up for me.
Patrick ends the piece by saying
But I'm starting to get the sense that it doesn't matter. They want us silenced. They'll wear away at the left and the antiwar movement, using every Professor DeGenova example they can find. Then when they've disposed of us, they'll come for Kevin Drum.A view that's echoed in the comments - Erik Olson despairingly utters "And this is how they win. Liberals call for candlelit vigils. Conservatives call for your death. Every year, they crank up the pressure a little more." Sure, it sounds over the top; we just have to try harder to isolate the movement-damaging cranks . . . but remember in the wake of 9/11 when Lyne Cheney's ACTA put out its "Defending Civilization" blacklist? Ok, so it wasn't really a blacklist after they took the names off, except it was, because the the target was dissent itself. Sure, among the pages of quotes were a few of the "million Mogadishus" variety, a couple examples of college administration stupidity, and of course a good dose of New York radical rhetoric, but the overwhelming majority were reasonably moderate. Didn't matter. That sort of stuff really helped determine the parameters of debate, and it just keeps going . . .
Remember the idea that we had to consider the root causes of terrorism, including the repressive Middle Eastern regimes which we unwisely had a role in supporting ("BLAME AMERICA FIRST-ER! AMERICA-HATER! TRAITOR!")? Apparently - I think I read this in the New Yorker, [correction: it was Joshua Marshall in the Washington Monthly] - this very concept is supposedly part of the neoconservative domino-effect rationale for invading Iraq - and beyond. You see, supposedly they believe that in order to stamp out terrorism you have to deal with . . . well, the root causes. I'm not quite sure how this makes me feel.
posted by Dan S. on 11:39 PM | | link
Go read Is Diversity Overrated? in Saturday's New York Times. [UPDATE: two good letters on this now in the Times - a NAACP Board Chairman pulls in tipping-point arguments, and Andrew Milne serves it straight: "So universities with more diverse student bodies have more reports of racial discrimination. What a surprise! I would have thought those all-white schools would have much greater problems with racial tension between their students."] Assuming the author's study is not fundamentally flawed he appears to misunderstand the basic diversity-good-for-education argument (no, it's not intended to raise organic chem grades - a confusion that arguably superbly reveals the underlying assumptions), and goes on to assume that attitudes always correctly reflect reality (he says "college diversity programs fail to raise standards," but the only evidence seems to be surveys of students, profs and administrators; not nothing, but attitudes none the less, and again, diversity does not mean better calculus grades.). He set out to measure "views of the educational benefit of diversity:
If diversity works as advertised, we surmised, then those at institutions with higher proportions of black enrollment should rate their educational and racial milieus more favorably than their peers at institutions with lower proportions.This manages to ignore everything that makes this the real world - ie, race relations are still troubled, we don't live in a colorblind society, the affirmative action debate is not unknown to college students and will often influence responses. Nobody said affirmative action was pretty - just that it was necessary. Also missing - any awareness of other special groups, like athletes, legacy students, geographic-diversity kids, etc. plus. "'relaxing academic standards' to increase minority representation" - no, that's not a phrase that will guarantee the results you want, no . . And if educational dissatisfaction increases with diversity even after you control for race, SES, and suchlike - well, who are the folks dragging it down? Presumably they would be happier about "relaxed standards," yet they don't seem to show up. Logically Rothman would have to argue that either 1) profs are pointlessly dumbing down the educational experience based on faulty assumptions, or 2) we are looking at correlations here.
Instead he ends up claiming that diversity (at least AA-mediated diversity) is bad. Actually, he insists the results prove that having more black students is bad - Hispanics are ok, Asians great. Hmm, where do we go from there?
posted by Dan S. on 2:51 AM | | link
Sunday, March 30, 2003
Today, affirmative action; tomorrow . . .
Waiting for the Supreme Court to get going on affirmative action in admissions is tiringly suspenseful, so much so that two anti-affirmative action groups, wittily called the Center for Equal Opportunities and the American Civil Rights Institute, just couldn't stand it any longer. They've gone and threatened to file federal complaints against 30 universities. The target? "[S]cholarships and summer programs intended to ease minority students into college life."
The challenge to minority scholarships and summer programs, often intended to encourage students who might otherwise not go to college, represents the widening of a separate but no less ideologically charged front in the fight over affirmative action.
posted by Dan S. on 11:32 AM | | link
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