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February 28, 2005

Mansfield on Economists; The Summers-Harvard Controversy

Harvey Mansfield says in The Weekly Standard:

At the meeting many said that the issue was not academic freedom vs. political correctness, as portrayed by the media, but Summers's style of governing. The point has a bit of truth. Summers is an economist, and there is almost no such thing as a suave economist. The great Joseph Schumpeter, a Harvard economist of long ago, claimed to be the world's greatest lover as well as the world's greatest economist (it is said), but he was a singular marvel. The reason why economists are blunt is that words of honey seem to them mere diversion from reason and self-interest, which are the only sure guides in life.

That is well put. Economics is the Dismal Science because it makes tradeoffs, and makes them explicitly: "Do you want 10 more dead babies, or 20 more dead teenagers?" Perhaps because we are accustomed to switching back and forth between words and mathematical notation anyway, we are more indifferent than most people to labels. It is liberating: if you don't need to worry about whether somebody will find your language insensitive, you can get down to the business at hand undistracted.

Also, economists are used to piercing disguises to find reality, and so we find attempts by scholars to use transparent disguises insult our intelligence. When a businessman says, "I want high prices so the consumer will not have to suffer from low quality discounters," we hear "I want high prices so I will make a lot of money at the expense of consumers," and that's what we repeat, despite the pleas of the businessman that profit was the furthest thing from his mind and that we are slandering him.

As a result, there is more freedom of thought in economics than in most disciplines. We are used to discussing all possibilities, and we are scholarly enough to know that someone may be exploring an idea out of intellectual curiosity rather than because it fits his political objectives. Whether we agree with him or not, we think that Richard Posner's idea of auctioning off babies for adoption is worth discussing, and that it would be the height of anti-intellectualism to say he shouldn't even bring up such an idea.

This makes us, I think, more tolerant of non-economic ideas too. If Ward Churchill wants to argue that the 9-11 victims deserved his fate, by all means let him argue that. Maybe he is correct and maybe not, but the idea can't be ruled out until we hear his reasons-- though, of course, our willingness to listen will depend on our estimate of how likely it is that the speaker has something intelligent to say. It is not that we are closed-minded; just that we know we need to ration our time.

Mansfield's assessment of economics is wonderful because it is both correct and concisely yet poetically critical. Much could be extracted from that sentence.

Posted by erasmuse at 11:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 27, 2005

weblog troubles

I am getting fed up with Movable Type. Trackbacks don't work; the categories don't have reorganization capability; comments and trackbacks are unprotected from spam; and now for mysterious reasons the index template isn't working all of a sudden. I don't have time to deal with it now, though.

Posted by erasmuse at 06:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The 23rd Psalm: A Children's Book for Drawing:

Pastor Whitaker preached one of his best sermons ever today, on forgiveness. He gave three rules from marital forgiveness from Pastor Wangerin or some such person-- (1) Focus on the exact sin, not on deductions one makes ("He forgot my birthday" rather than "He doesn't love me, because he forgot my birthday."). (3) I forget this one, but it was good. (3) Realize that if you say "I never ..." or "He always..." it is almost always a lie. One of the readings was the 23rd psalm, and that inspired me to write up a drawing book for my 4- and 6-year-old daughters. It is in beta-testing, and I have posted the instructions in MS-Word and PDF.

Posted by erasmuse at 03:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Regional Dialect Quiz

I came across an interesting Dialect Quiz. I come in 45% Yankee, predictably Midwestern except for "grinder" instead of "sub", due to my Yale days when we'd go out at 10 p.m. or so to get some sustenance for studying from the Greek- owned shops. This quiz isn't really about being Southern, though that is the summary index. It tells you more about regional dialects. (Via Bob Hayes)

Posted by erasmuse at 03:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 26, 2005

Medellin v. Dretke: The Treaty Power and U.S. COurts

The WSJ yesterday had an op-ed on Medellin v. Dretke which Julian Ku comments on (via VC). A Mexican was convicted of murder in Texas. The police, contrary to a treat the US had signed, had not told him he could talk to his consul. The matter was brought to a foreign court, the ICJ, which said that the Mexican and about 40 others had to be retried. The question before the U.S. Supreme Court is whether this order should be carried out.

This is crazy stuff. Here are two reasons not mentioned in the WSJ op-ed. First. the U.S. violates this part of the treaty routinely. There are literally tens of thousands of foreigners in prison who were not informed they could see their consul, ordinarily because they wouldn't do it even if they were informed. Is the proper remedy to go to the expense of retrying them all? -- Only if you are a foreign court that cares more about politics than common sense. Second, this violates separation of powers in a big way. Treaties are ratified only by the Senate, not by the House of Representatives, and state criminal laws are made by state legislatures interpreted by state supreme courts, not the U.S. Supreme Court or some foreign court. If the Senate can ratify a treaty that regulates criminal procedure, then it can bypass getting 50% of the House to vote for the bill. Also, it can bypass the state governments (and federal courts) and give control to a foreign court. In fact, the Senate could arrange for a foreign court to be especially made for the occasion, composed of members of the Senate on holiday in Geneva.

Here's how it could work. 1. The President and Senate make a treaty with Haiti saying that any legal dispute involving corporations partly owned by Haitians will be tried in the new SuperFair Court of Universal Justice in Geneva. 2. A helpful Haitian citizen buys one share of each U.S. corporation. 3. The SCUJ is set up, with membership consisting of the members of the U.S. Senate, ex officio, plus one Haitian judge. Bingo! We've exempted corporations from U.S. law.

Here's some info on Meddelin from a pro-ICJ amicus brief:

The Vienna Convention provides that foreign nationals must be informed of their right to communicate with consular officials when they are arrested or detained in any manner. Vienna Convention, art. 36, para. 1. ...

Significantly, the United States has also signed and ratified the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention. By doing so, it recognized that the ICJ’s "interpretation or application of the Convention" is authoritative. Optional Protocol, Preamble; art. I.

Posted by erasmuse at 11:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 25, 2005

The Takings Clause and Private Use

Orin Kerr and Stuart Buck and Michael Rappaport have been noting that the Constitution's Taking Clause says

Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation,

but if read literally it does not prohibit private property to be taken for *private* use without just compensation. The blogs wonder whether any textualist does read it that way. As it happens, we were discussing that very point yesterday in the Indiana Law and Econ lunch and I, and Mike Alexeev I think, were indeed reading it that way. . . .

. . . Why would we do that? Well, why not? If courts read the clause literally, that would not necessarily result in governments or private people taking private property for their own use. States could still have laws against theft by individuals and by government. The Federal Constitution does not have to do all the work of government. Indeed, as far as the federal courts are concerned, burglary is not a crime. It is only a crime in state courts; there is no federal law against it.

Thus, the fact that the U.S. Constitution does not criminalize private takings for private use is not a problem. Nor is it outrageous that it does not prohibit public takings for private use. First, one might argue that such takings are beyond the scope of the police power, as not protecting (except in special cases) "health, safety, welfare and morals". Second, just because a state government *could* do it doesn't mean that it will. That is up to the political process, and except in unusual cases that process will prevent such takings.

Why, then, have a Takings Clause for takings for *public* use? Maybe it is not all that important, actually. But there actually is a reason why government takings for public use is a greater threat than takings for private use: the very fact that taking for private use is scandalous. Governments frequently have good reasons for takings for public use, so such a taking will not per se be viewed as suspicious by public opinion. In every such taking, however, the government has a temptation to underpay, to be able to spend the cash savings on other things. It is therefore useful to have the courts keep an eye on the executive and legislative branches.

In contrast, if the government takes property to give to a private person, voters will immediately be suspicious. With a spotlight on the transaction, the politicians have to do a lot of explaining, and this will not be a clever way to reward their friends or to solicit bribes.

In fact, the best thing might be to have a private takings clause like this:

"Nor shall private property be taken for private use, unless the property owner is given no compensation

Without this perverse clause in place, the politician may be able to get away with taking property from owner Smith to give to friend Jones, because he can bribe Smith with the compensation to keep quiet, and maybe other people will not notice. With the perverse clause in place, the politician will have to be extremely careful when he takes property from Smith and gives it to Jones. Smith will complain loudly and make whatever allegations of bribery, corruption, favoritism, and discrimination he can come up with. The politician will have to respond with why the transfer is good for public policy, and the resulting adversary process will protect the voters.

Posted by erasmuse at 11:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 24, 2005

University Misbehavior Archive

I've collected links to various posts on university misconduct, incompetence, and academic freedom here. I know I should combine some of the posts now, rather than stringing things out chronologically, but I probably won't get round to it for some years, if ever. . . . . . .
  1. Hans Hoppe 2005, Nevada libertarian economist, homosexuality and Feb. 17 link collection and three Feb. 8 links and the Feb. 6 story.

  2. Ward Churchill 2005, Colorado lefty activist,, Feb. 8 smallpox blankets lie , and consideration of possible reasons to fire him. good and bad, and my doubts about those claiming he is *not* an Indian, and Colorado College republicans, other complainers.

  3. Hans Muller, fellow traveller Nobel laureate biologist, 1940s

  4. FERPA, Buckley Amendment, stupid privacy rules

  5. ADA, test-taking special privileges for rich kids

  6. Nona Gerard Penn State Case, 2003, lesbian theatre professor, Primary Documents Scanned In and Neutral 1930's Germans and 21-Century Professors; Nona Gerard Penn State Case; Michael Berube; Donors of Theatres to Universities and Harvard's Lack of Used Bookstores; Norms; Procedural Protections; Michael Berube and Erin O'Connor on the Nona Gerard Case at Penn State. Penn newspaper articles from March 3, January 21, and some other day. ; Nona Gerard Stripped of Tenure and Fired at Penn State-Altoona for Criticizing Colleagues. 04.03.02a.htm ; Nona Gerard's Tenure Loss at Penn State; Tenure and Hurting Your College; Ole- Lena- PennState-Murderer on What to Disclose. 04.03.05a.htm . Nona Gerard Stripped of Tenure and Fired at Penn State- Altoona for Criticizing Colleagues. 04.03.02a.htm ; Brian Leiter on Penn State-- note dean's 5-0 claim March 3 on Penn State from Erin O'Connor

  7. An article by Professor Demingin which he mentions his favorable evaluation for praising President Boren.

  8. Classroom bias at Yale, Yale Free Press Survey 2004

  9. Arizona discrimination against white males 2004

  10. The Old UCLA Daily Bruin Rooster Campus Censorship Incident (1980s); James Taranto; Rasmusen Letter

  11. Gollin, 2003, Illinois physics prof, diploma mills. Affair Update: Legal Angle. and The Gollin Case of Weblog Suppression at Illinois. and Gollin Academic Freedom Affair: Facts and Gollin Academic Freedom Affair: Commentary

  12. Murderers As Professors.

  13. Controversy Over The Rasmusen Weblog (2003)
  14. The Affirmative Action Loyalty Oath at UCLA (2004) Medical School

  15. Penn Psych case about tenure denial.

  16. Professor Jack V. Matson, Environmental Engineering,Penn State's University Park campus, on Nona Gerard and other evidence of problems at Penn State.

  17. "Columbia U. Releases Edward Said Chair Donors: Names Arab Government, " Front Page on a chair funded by foreigners and given to a political activist to help administer U.S. federal funds.

  18. Martin Kramer on how a professorship donated by someone to counter anti_Israel sentiment was, predictably, given to an anti-Israel intellectual.

  19. Title VI; African Studies Boycott of Wisconsin; Anti- Americanism on Campuses. 04.04.02d.htm

  20. Organizational Incompetence: U. of Texas Can't Update Its Webpages, from Leiter

  21. The Dillon Law School Data Theft Affair (2003) and The Dillon Affirmative Action Story

  22. Georgetown Law School's Suppression of the Catholic Position on Homosexuality. 2003/03.12.23d.htm

  23. Does Yale Law School Discriminate by Religion in Condemning Discrimination by Religion? 2003/03.12.19a.htm

  24. Tom Smith on the Prejudices of Duke Faculty; Poli Sci Chairman Munger's Story. 04.02.16b.htm

  25. Indiana University Tops in Administration Response to Affirmative-Action Bake Sale. 2003/03.12.16d.htm

  26. Stanley Kurtz, Anti-Americanism, and Title VI. 04.04.11b.htm

  27. Naomi Wolf, Harold Bloom, Yale, and Accusations Against Professors. 04.02.28b.htm

  28. A Backdoor Hate Speech Code at IU? Faculty Governance; Voting Order; Sneaking New Clauses into Contracts or Legislation. 04.03.03a.htm

    Posted by erasmuse at 07:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    February 23, 2005

    Ward Churchill Admits He Is not an Indian

    UPDATE: Well, don't believe everything you read in the newspapers. Instapundit tells us that the Honolulu Star-Bulletin blatantly misquoted Ward Churchill. Probably some stupid reporter (a) misheard him, (b) omitted lots of words that he did hear, and (c) failed to check with Churchill on whether he had really said the surprising thing the reporter thought Churchill said. Here's the correction:

    "Let's cut to the chase, I'm not," the quote in yesterday's paper continued.

    But a review of video and audio tapes of the speech shows that Churchill actually said: "Is he an Indian? We really care. We're trying to protect the rights of Indians to divine for themselves, say this circle of flies in the form of white reporters circling a manure pile like it's of all consequential importance. Cut to the chase on that."

    Ward Churchill is shrewd. He has admitted that he is not an Indian, this Feb 23 newspaper article reports. With all the attention focussed on him, the truth was sure to come out anyway, so he is smart to have it come from his own mouth first, so he can spin it. (Via Instapundit)

    Posted by erasmuse at 08:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Regulation of Natural Monopolies;: P=MC or P=AC?

    I've been teaching the subject of public utility regulation this past week. There are two ways to regulate an industry which is a natural monopoly, with economies of scale (decreasing average cost):

    1. P=AC. Set the price to equal the average cost.

    2. P=MC, Subsidy. Set the price equal to the marginal cost. The firm will then have operating losses, so make up for that with a subsidy. . . .

    . . . Method 1 is what is most commonly used in the United States, and is the basis for "rate of return regulation".

    A third method, government ownership, is similar to method 2, with the disadvantage of government's usual operating inefficiency but the advantage that it is harder for someone to make money off it if the government is corrupt. So let us stick to methods 1 and 2.

    A problem for both methods of regulation is that it is hard to estimate what the company's costs should be. If the company can charge P=AC, or if it can get a subsidy to make up losses, it has no incentive to keep costs low, and it does have an incentive to make costs appear to be higher than they really are.

    Somehow it seems as if this should be a more severe problem for Method 2: that there would be a greater risk of government failure if the government is allowed to give a yearly subsidy than if it merely allows the firm to charge a high price. I have not been able to pin down the source of that feeling, though, and maybe it is wrong.

    A definite advantage of Method 1 is that it prevents the firm from operating at all if efficiency requires it to be shut down. Some natural monopolies could not survive as unregulated firms, because even the monopoly price yields negative profits. Those firms should certainly shut down, if value maximization is our goal. Under Method 1, such a firm would be allowed no more than the monopoly price, and so would shut down as it ought. Under Method 2, the government might mistakenly give the firm too large a subsidy, and keep it in operation. We see that frequently, as with "Essential Air Service".

    But even that argument has one chink in it. It can happen that a firm might not be able to survive as an unregulated monopoly even though it should for maximizing value. That would happen if the monopoly price yields a negative profit, but also yields a consumer surplus greater than that negative profit. Then, the problem is that the firm cannot extract all the surplus from its operation, as it would be able to if it could perfectly price discriminate.

    So I am left slightly uncomfortable with the standard prescription of P=AC.

    Posted by erasmuse at 07:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    February 22, 2005

    Interest Rates: Inflation-Indexed Bonds, Risk Premia

    These interest rates from today's WSJ may be useful for thinking about social security reform: Inflation-indexed US 2007 bond: .7%

    Inflation-indexed US 2032 bond: 1.8%

    Merck 2015 bonds spread over US bond: .7%

    GE Capital 2012 bond spread over US bond: .4%

    GM 2033 bond spread over US bond: 3.7%

    Metlife 2034 bond spread over US bond: .9%

    Posted by erasmuse at 10:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Church Corruption in Practice and Doctrine; Protecting Homosexual Priests

    The Catholic Church continues to amaze me with its tolerance of homosexual and pedophile priests. The latest I see is a report that convicted pedophiles in at least one diocese are not defrocked and continue to get paid and a report that in another diocese a priest has been removed from ministry (though not defrocked) for whistleblowing. The first story is from this New Hampshire article.

    . . . . . .

    Last week, the Archdiocese of Boston defrocked four more priests who'd been accused or convicted of child sexual assault. There's no harsher punishment because it eliminates a priest's financial support from the church and his right to minister to people.

    Here, the Catholic Church has retired or suspended accused and convicted priests, but it has not defrocked them. And some priests put on administrative leave or forced into retirement continue to receive pay and benefits from the diocese. Bishop John McCormack asked his staff in 2001 to increase the monthly allowances sent to incarcerated priests. As recently as 2003, the diocese was sending retirement pay for one suspended priest to New Mexico, where he lives with a woman who was his lover in Keene.

    The second story is in Virginia.

    Bishop Loverde has lodged several charges against the priest for sexual misconduct in a case that began in the fall of 2001. He ordered Father Haley silenced and removed him from parish ministry.

    The priest denied the sexual-misconduct charges, then revealed in a July 24, 2002, deposition filed in Arlington County Circuit Court a lengthy account of adultery and homosexual affairs among certain priests in the Northern Virginia diocese.

    Bishop Loverde then charged Father Haley with wrongfully revealing information to the press, and turned over the case to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    I recognize that it is not inconsistent to believe that the Church is infallible in doctrine even if it is corrupt in practice, but it does weaken the argument, doesn't it? Applying the usual economic analysis of organizations, I would conclude that an organization whose primary interest is to protect its management (i.e., the priests) would pervert doctrine to achieve the same end. Thus, I would predict that a corrupt church would teach the importance of hierarchy and the special status of priests--which, indeed, the Roman Catholic Church does. Papal infallibility fits the same pattern. To avoid the corrupt members of the Church from using their positions to pervert doctrine as well as practice would require continual supernatural intervention, something I think implausible, especially since nobody claims the supernatural extends to prevention of corrupt practice.

    Posted by erasmuse at 09:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    February 21, 2005

    Hoppe Academic Freedom Case: University Surrenders

    The President seems to have reversed the university's punishment of Professor Hans Hoppe, the economist who lost a year's pay for saying in class that homosexuals have higher time preference (see my page of links here). . . . . . . From February 19 UNLV: Case Closed, we read

    This matter has finally reached the level of presidential appeal, and I have completed my review. As a result, I have directed that the letter of instruction and related materials be withdrawn from Professor Hoppe’s personnel file and that no further action on this complaint be taken by the University. Attached below is a statement which further details my rationale for this decision.. . .

    "I have reviewed the report of the Executive Vice President and Provost regarding the discrimination complaint filed by a student against Dr. Hoppe. Professor Hoppe is represented by the ACLU and counsel. I have written to his counsel today regarding my review.

    Professor Hoppe has consistently held the opinion that his classroom materials consist of scholarly and relevant theories that have support in the academic economics community. I believe professors are entitled the freedom to teach theories and to espouse opinions that are out of the mainstream or are controversial.

    It is my understanding that Professor Hoppe does not assert that materials he presents are the opinions of UNLV, nor has he ever purported to speak for UNLV. Whether anyone in the University agrees or disagrees with Professor Hoppe’s theories or his opinions is not ultimately relevant. . . ."

    I found the letter above because EconomicsDaily.com has a February 15 page of links.

    The Feb 19 Review Journal reports on this, and says

    But Hoppe and his attorneys weren't satisfied with the proposed resolution. They said they also want an apology and a year-long sabbatical for the professor.

    Attorney Al Marquis said the sabbatical is appropriate compensation for the year of persecution Hoppe suffered at the hands of UNLV administrators. "He just wants the time to pursue his research," Marquis said. . . .

    Marquis praised interim Chancellor Jim Rogers, who met with Harter on Thursday, for negotiating the removal of the letter and supporting freedom of speech. He said he plans to meet with Rogers, system Chief Counsel Dan Klaich and hopefully Harter on Tuesday to discuss the matter further.

    "We're trying to resolve the matter without the need of going to court," Marquis said.

    Hoppe seems to be a good bargainer-- when the other side makes a concession, press for more. I doubt he'll get it, though. It will be interesting to see if he suffers unofficial punishment. If you recall from my first post on this, the official punishment was going to be a year without a salary increase. It would be pretty easy to retain that punishment, even after removing the official letter from his file. At some point, maybe I'll blog on my own history of salary increase-- substantial every year for ten years till the year of my weblog controversy, when it fell, without comment, to 1%.

    Posted by erasmuse at 02:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Death Penalty for Drug Dealing

    In 1995, 50% of the population supported the death penalty for drug smuggling. See this Harvard study which cites data from Gallup.

    Posted by erasmuse at 11:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    February 20, 2005

    Thinking, Feeling, and Doing Churches

    There are a number of ways into which churches may be divided into three categories. Here they are.

    1. God the Father. Ectomorphic/Cerebrotonic. Thinking. Right Belief. Theology. Fatalist. Deterministic. Calvinist. Preaching.

    2. God the Son. Mesomorphic/Somatotonic. Doing. Right Actions. Legalist. Free Will. Methodist or Roman Catholic. Song and Ritual.

    3. God the Holy Ghost. Endomorphic. Feeling. Right Sentiments. Antinomian. Unconcerned about Free Will. Baptist or Pentecostal. Praying.

    . . .

    . . . The Thinking church emphasizes having the correct beliefs about God, which involves both correct reasoning and God's grace in helping us come to the correct beliefs. Correct behavior would flow naturally from correct belief, except that we are Fallen and do not behave as we ought. Instead, we must rely completely on God's mercy. It is hopeless to expect a Christian to behave perfectly, and our actions cannot satisfy God in any case, so ceremony is unimportant. The gap between the Saved and the Fallen is important, but it is a gap due entirely to God.

    The Doing church emphasizes correct behavior in daily life and correct behavior in religious service to God. These are distinct behaviors, so this kind of church may emphasize morality (as the Methodists traditionally did) or ceremony (as the Jews and the Roman Catholics did). Belief is de-emphasizes, as being too abstract and, in the extreme, ultimately unimportant. Free will is emphasized, and it creates the gap between the Saved, who choose to behave well, and the Fallen, who choose to behave badly. There are gradations in this, however, since behavior itself has gradations. Thus, the Roman Catholics include in the Saved both the Saints, who have an excess of good works, and the ordinary members of the church, who do enough but who must go through Purgatory before they are fit for Heaven.

    The Feeling church emphasizes correct feelings towards God. Belief is too abstract to matter, and behavior is less important than motive and general attitude. Correct feelings are a gift of the Holy Spirit, which is given to some people and not given to others. A person can tell if his feelings are correct or not, and others are able to observe them in a Saved person also, but this kind of church, by its nature, is less specific as to what is good and what is bad.

    The ideal church balances the three attitudes, as does the ideal Christian. Each of us is naturally attracted to the church type that matches his individual type. I, for example, am at ECC, which is a mix of the Doing and the Thinking, and I often wish the church were more Thinking. This kind of matching might be good, because it does match strengths. On the other hand, balance might (or might not) be more important. Perhaps I should be attending a Feeling church. But I think not-- in my imperfection, I would be more alienated than taught.

    Posted by erasmuse at 10:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    February 19, 2005

    Law Schools at GMU, Michigan State, UMass: Why Acquire Rather than Build?

    I read in the Chronicle of Higher Ed that U. Mass is planning to add a law school by merging with the Southern New England School of Law, as this December 2004 press release says. This is like the strategy of George Mason University, which successfully bought a fifth-rate law school, and Michigan State, which is doing the same thing. George Mason was successful because it fired lots (most?) of the faculty, which makes buying the fifth-rate law school seem pointless. The Southern New England School of Law isn't even accredited-- it has twice failed to gain accreditation.
    "This is a win-win situation for the University of Massachusetts and the law school,’’ said Southern New England School of Law Chairperson Margaret Xifaras. "We are proud to have built a first-rate facility, a strong library, a talented faculty and an academic program that has already been endorsed by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. We have made measurable and documented progress toward attaining our next goal: national accreditation by the American Bar Association.
    Why, I wonder in all three cases, did a university of moderately good reputation choose to acquire a bad law school rather than start from scratch? I suppose the buildings are worth something. But why acquire tenured faculty who are worse than useless, and a history and reputation of low quality?

    Posted by erasmuse at 07:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    February 18, 2005

    Ecclesiates on Lockean Property, Darwinian Fitness, Modern America, and Wisdom

    I went to a grad student Bible study today and had 4 insights into Ecclesiastes that I had never had before: (1) It supports the Lockean/free-market theory of private property; (2) It attacks the Darwinian fitness idea of the summum bonum; (3) It attacks the modern American idea of the summum bonum as living a long time and satisfying appetite; (4) It starts from the premise that wisdom is good, rather than saying wisdom is vanity. Here are the passages: . . .

    . . .

    Ecclesiastes 5 says

    18 Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.

    19 Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.

    Thus, it seems that if a man acquires riches by his labor, they are his to enjoy. To be sure, some duty of charity is required too, but that is a separate issue from ownership.

    Ecclesiastes 6 says:

    3 If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he.

    4 For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness.

    Darwinian fitness has two components: (1) having lots of offspring, and (2) having a long lifespan. Happiness and virtue are irrelevant. Ecclesiastes 6:3-4 says that fitness is a foolish goal.

    Ecclesiastes 6 also says:
    7 All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.

    8 For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living?

    9 Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.

    This passage attacks the goal of satisfaction of the appetite-- which is uncomfortably close to the economist's goal of value maximization. Modern America emphasizes two somewhat contradictory goals as the summum bonum: long life, and satisfaction of the appetites (though perhaps the appetite for life, distinct from any happiness, is part of that).

    Note, however, the interpolation of verse 8, comparing the wise and the foolish. In isolation, this would seem to say that wisdom is useless. Since the verses before and after it are about appetite and desire, however, there is a different, opposite interpretation. Suppose we take as a premise that wisdom is essential for the good life. We then can construct this syllogism:

    1. Wisdom is essential for the good life.

    2. The fool can satisfy his appetites just as much as the wise man can.

    3. Therefore, satisfaction of the appetites is not part of the good life.

    Similarly, the wise and the fool both die, so living forever (or even longer, perhaps) is not part of the good life.

    What, then, is part of the good life? Virtue, piety, and satisfaction, all of which are inaccessible to the fool.

    Posted by erasmuse at 09:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    February 17, 2005

    Hoppe Academic Freedom Case at Nevada

    I've blogged before on the case of Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe at Nevada who was punished for casual classroom remarks on homosexuals and time preference, on February 6 and February 8. I haven't had time to develop the story, but I've accumulated some links. . . . . . .
    1. His own website, Hanshoppe.com
    2. The UNLV punishment letter of February 9 (pdf)
    3. UNLV press release of February 10 with the standard bureaucratic plea that "even though all the evidence makes us look like disgraces to academia, we won't defend ourselves, even though we have secret evidence that we won't release that would make us look like angels":
      UNLV was following established procedures in this review process, which included a thorough investigation of all facts in the matter, as well as faculty and student review. In this particular case, the faculty member chose to release his name and interpretation of certain selected events to the public. In order to protect the rights of the faculty member and the complainant, as well as the integrity of the process, the university simply cannot disclose the facts surrounding this incident.
    4. Articles laying out the situation: The February 5 Review-Journal article, February 8 Nevada Sun article, Feb. 12 Nevada Appeal
    5. A February 10 editorial in the campus newspaper defending Hoppe
    6. My September 2004, pre-controversy, post on Hoppe's book, Democracy-- The God that Failed
    7. Weblogs:Mises Economics, History News Network, Bryan Caplan, Precinct 333
    8. Karen De Coster links page of February 6
    9. here and here on February 6
    10. A Frontpagemag.com article
    11. Some sites which did NOT mention the case when I checked them on February 15:
      1. ACLU (even though they are defending him, and have press releases on most of their cases, I couldn't find this one listed)
      2. UNLV Faculty Senate and its Academic Freedom and Ethics Committee (which has no website; members are Joel Wisner BUS 2 EDU 2 To be elected. ENGR 2 To be elected. Cathie Kelly FA 1 Joan MacDonald HS 2 William Werner HOA 1 LAW 2 To be elected. Jennifer Ramsey LA 2 Cory Tucker LIB 2 Joe Nesbitt PROSTAFF 1 Donna Weistrop SCI 1 UC 2 To be elected. Dick McCorkle UA 2 Peter Bayer (SR)* (C))
      3. National AAUP and the NFA (Nevada AAUP affiliate)
      4. The National Association of Scholars (Nevada affiliate has no website. President is David Fott, Poli Sci UNLV, [email protected])
      5. The American Economic Association
      6. The Torch (FIRE weblog)

        Posted by erasmuse at 09:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

        Monroe County Property Maps

        Professor Kreft pointed me to a site which replaces the Monroe County platbook, great maps showing who owns which plots of property. You can move around the entire city and county, and see who owns which beautiful house, as well as who lives in your neighborhood.

        Posted by erasmuse at 01:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

        February 16, 2005

        Breach of Contract Against Employees Who Like Their Work

        Suppose Smith agrees to work for BigTV at a salary of $100,000 per year. The exposure is worth $300,000 to Smith, and Smith's talent is worth $500,000 to the company, so the deal splits the value equally between them. But then BigTV gets angry at Smith, whose talent value drops to 0, and takes him off the air while continuing to pay him. Should Smith win a lawsuit against BigTV? Via Drudge, the New York Observer we find a case that is a little like this, in connection with Rathergate: . . .

        . . .

        Mr. Howard, those sources said, has hired a lawyer to develop a breach-of- contract suit against the network. Ms. Murphy and Ms. West have likewise hired litigators, according to associates of theirs, and all three remain CBS employees and collect weekly salaries from the company that asked them to tender their resignations.

        None would agree to participate in this article.

        Legally, CBS and the ousted staffers are in an unusual stalemate: The network cannot be sued for breach of contract unless it actually fires them. Theoretically, the network could refuse to offer an apology or correct statements and simply drag its feet, continuing to write paychecks to the trio until their contracts expire. (Neither side would discuss how long the contracts are scheduled to last.)

        The news report is probably correct that the common law would not award Smith the $300,000 in my hypothetical. Nonetheless, it is actually true that Smith has not gotten the benefit he expected from the contract. On the other hand, neither has BigTV, though not from any fault of Smith's. I'd have to think about this to come up with an answer.

        Posted by erasmuse at 07:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

        February 15, 2005

        Reasons for Social Security Refuted

        The two common justifications given for social security are that (a) without social security, old people would be poor, and (b) we need to force people to save for the future lest in their old age they starve or go on public charity. Neither of these reasons justifies a program like the one we have, where all income-earners are taxed in their youth and paid pensions in their old age. . . .

        . . . Reason (a) is a reason to have public charity include old people who cannot work as well as young people who cannot work. As far as I know, that is currently the case. Thus, we don't need social security for it.

        Reason (b) is, at most, a reason to make sure that everybody who can save does save for their old age. I would say, myself, that if someone could have saved for their old age and didn't, then we simply should not put them on public charity.

        But suppose we don't want to make people pay the penalty for their improvidence. Even then, reason (b) doesn't apply to most people, because most people *do* save, even in addition the forced saving of Social Security, and they would save even more if Social Security. Most people save, if only in the form of owning a house (which they could sell in their old age) or by means of an employee pension plan. At a minimum, Social Security should exempt all of those people from paying tax or getting benefits. We do not need to force Bill Gates to provide for his old age. Going a step further, another common way to provide for old age is to have children. Someone with eight children should not have to worry about starving in their old age. If we do not already, we should require that children maintain their old parents, just as we require parents to maintain their young children. And we should exempt someone with children from being in the Social Security system. They have invested for their old age in raising children. And in their old age, their own children should pay taxes for their pensions, not other people's children.

        Going two steps further, for the few eligible people left, why require them to do their forced savings via a low-yield government program? All that is necessary is to force them to contribute to a pension plan, much as in the private-account plans. Going three steps further: how many of the improvident who would not save for their old age actually would reach old age? If someone is reckless enough not to save, maybe he will die early in one of numerous ways (shootings, accidents, drink, drugs, AIDS) that affect reckless people. In fact, if you plan to burn yourself out by age 40 it is irrational to invest in a pension plan.

        Little mentioned is the corrupting moral effect of Social Security. For one thing, it encourages improvidence, because a person can count on a government pension even if he saves nothing himself. For another, it encourages filial impiety. Instead of caring for my parents myself, I can shrug them off as the government's responsibility.

        Posted by erasmuse at 01:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

        Ward Churchill Update

        Not much is happening in the Ward Churchill case, I think, except for a growing amount of commentary. Here are some links I collected.

        A Horowitz Rocky Mountain News op-ed in favor of not firing Churchill

        Inside Higher Ed has more details on Ward Churchill's made-up Mandan story on Feb. 9

        Ralph Luker has a set of links up to Feb. 9.

        Clayton Cramer has good info on whether being an Indian was an essential part of Ward Churchill's job. This Feb. 8 left article says that DNA testing supports Indian ancestry.

        David Kopel talks about the newspaper response

        Posted by erasmuse at 12:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

        Anti-Homosexual Swedish Pastor Wins on Appeal

        Via VC , I see that the Swedish pastor arrested for speaking against homosexuality has been successful on appeal, though, it appears, on the narrow grounds that the pastor was expositing the Bible, rather than just giving his own opinions.

        Posted by erasmuse at 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

        February 14, 2005

        Academic Freedom; Hiring Anti-Americans; Herman Muller

        Much to my consternation, I've been coming across people who should know better who don't seem to understand the value of academic freedom. I'd like to explain why a university might want to hire someone who is anti-American and offensive. I won't say "someone like Ward Churchill at Colorado," because that is a case with special features, such as his already having a job, and with tenure, and the strong likelihood of academic fraud on his part. Instead, I would like to make the case that a university should be willing to hire (not just refrain from firing) a professor who repeatedly attacks America in print, and cheers the death of American soldiers in combat. . . . . . . I am opposing the position of those who might argue,

        "Freedom of speech is fine, but you shouldn't be anti-American if you are on the state payroll. Any state employee who says anti-American things should be fired."

        We must clear up one possible misunderstanding before proceeding. Remember that we are talking about speech, not criminal acts. If a professor kills someone, that is different from his saying that he hopes someone else commits the murder. So let's stipulate that the professor has done nothing that if proved beyond a reasonable doubt would put him in jail. It is legal to advocate violent revolution; it is not legal to actually blow up a building.

        (1) That cleared away, let's start with the easiest case: a professor whose scholarship is unconnected to his politics. Suppose Indiana University is considering hiring, for a $140,000 salary, a Nobel-prize winning doctor whose research shows promise of curing thousands of diabetics. He is, however, a Trotyskite, who writes about his advocacy of violent revolution in left-wing magazines and is openly happy when bad things happen to America.

        This doctor would be the most prominent scholar at Indiana University, at an amazingly low salary ($140,000 is low for such a doctor, much less a Nobel laureate), and would clearly improve its teaching and research, as well as helping sick people. We should hire him.

        Indiana University has already had a case something like this-- in the 1940's, with Herman Muller. Professor Muller was not a Trotskyite, but he was a Stalinist:

        In the 1920s, Muller performed his Nobel prize-winning research showing that X- rays could induce mutations and he became instantly famous. Muller used his fame to caution against the indiscriminate use of X-rays in medicine, but despite his warnings, some physicians even prescribed X-rays to stimulate ovulation in sterile women. His warnings angered many doctors and were largely ignored.

        Muller's outspoken views on socialism also got him in trouble with the Texas administration. He helped publish a Communist newspaper at the school, and the FBI tracked his activities. Feeling that U.S. society was regressing during the Depression, Muller left for Europe in 1932.

        A move to the Soviet Union in 1934 seemed to have cured Muller of his Communist sympathies, although he always remained a socialist. Initially happy with the progressive society, he wrote popular articles praising the friendly people and the initiative of collective farm workers. But he grew unhappy as Stalin's police state attacked genetics by pushing Lamarkian ideas of evolution. The state dictated who could work in his lab and questioned him for referring to the work of Germans or Russian emigrés. By the time he left in 1937, several of his students and colleagues had "disappeared" or been shipped to Siberia.

        Muller spent eight weeks in Spain helping the International Brigade develop a way to get blood for transfusions from recently killed soldiers, and then worked at the University of Edinburgh where he continued to work on X-rays and other mutagens like UV and mustard gas.

        World War II forced Muller to leave Scotland in 1940 and he eventually found a permanent position at Indiana University in 1945. A year later, Muller won the Nobel Prize for his work on mutation-inducing X-rays and he used the opportunity to continue pressing for more public knowledge about the hazards of X-ray radiation.

        Cases like Muller's are one reason I think loyalty oath requirements such as the University of California had back in the 1950's are a bad idea. We're hiring professors, not soldiers.

        (2) My doctor in case (1) had research and teaching unrelated to his political views. What if politics and employment mix? Suppose Indiana University is considering hiring a historian of the Arab World who is an outspoken supporter of Al Qaeda and admits that he hopes the United States becomes an Islamic state and that its Jews will be expelled. Yet this historian is, everybody agrees, a very good scholar, and presents Al Qaeda's side as well as anyone possibly good. Everyone also agrees that although both his writing and his teaching clearly display his Islamist views, he is scrupulously fair, and accurate, in presenting other points of view, including the Zionist one. In his classes, in fact, he often will present the argument for Zionism in a way that is utterly persuasive-- but then follow that with a critique which is also so persuasive that his students are left not knowing what to think.

        The standard arguments for academic freedom-- that it promoted free inquiry, and advances knowledge-- say that we should hire this scholar, and I agree. He is a good scholar and teacher, even though his logical talents will result in some students abandoning their preconceived ideas and believing something that I think is wrong. I trust, however, that in the marketplace of ideas his effect will be on net good rather than bad, and I will be much happier having him at my university than many of my present colleagues, who, though less talented, hold in my opinion equally erroneous. I would welcome the diversity such a person would add, and the fact that currently his views are so far out of Indiana University's mainstream is good, not bad. For one thing, it adds intellectual diversity, and will force us to examine our prejudices. For another, since his views are so rare, I don't worry that they will have a bad effect. It would be worse, in my opinion, to hire a conventional liberal of the kind that would not add diversity and instead would reinforce our prejudices and who would add to a group that already has significant and bad influence. (I would actually hire a liberal too, if he was a good scholar, but the case is less strong.)

        I thought this was the conventional wisdom at universities, but let me relate an incident that suggests it is not. I was on Indiana's faculty senate last year, and the issue of federal oversight of Title VI area studies centers came up. Congressmen have noticed that these federally-funded centers, designed to help American diplomacy, often end up actually hurting, because the people funded are opposed to American foreign policy. I was speaking in agreement with Congress, and referred, I think, to anti-American professors. The head of one area studies center (I forget which one), responded by denying strongly that any professors were anti-American, with the implication that no area studies center would hire such a person. I was so surprised, I forget how I responded. I took it for granted that any politically neutral scholarly center for area studies would end up hiring some professors who were anti-American--- it would be implausible that all of the best scholars were pro-American. In fact, I thought the only question was whether it was okay for a majority of a center's scholars to be anti-American, or okay for them to discriminate against someone who wasn't anti-American. But this center's head wasn't about to argue that anti-Americans can be good scholars too.

        Do recall my initial caveat that we should not let professors get away with illegal activity. I would be quite comfortable with jailing the Islamist professor if he blows up a building. I would even be comfortable with having the FBI tapping his phone and monitoring his classes. If he is just talking, then having the FBI watch him is no great burden for him; if he is conspiring, the FBI catching him would be a good thing. But I wouldn't punish him until he acts.

        To conclude, I will grant one strong argument against hiring good scholars with bad beliefs: that they corrupt students. There is a tradeoff between having advances in knowledge and a better education for the students who are not taken in by the bad beliefs, and a worse education for those who end up being persuaded by the bad beliefs. Indiana University is a research university, so I think it should definitely make the tradeoff in favor of good scholarship. It isn't clear our students would be corrupted anyway; few or no undergraduates will take a class with our hypothetical evil professors. But if I were answering the question for a small liberal arts college, my answer would be different. Indeed, I think there is a place for religious colleges that do not even hire professors who are outside of a particular Christian denomination. Even so, however, when thinking about where I might send my own children to college, Islamists, Nazis, and Communists are the least of my worries. I am much more worried about the influence of hedonists and atheists than of professors with false politics. I expect all research universities have more bad than good influence on students' moral characters already, and that consideration would swamp the presence of a few oddballs on the faculty.

        Posted by erasmuse at 10:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

        Firing CNN's Jordan for His Davos Statement

        Today's WSJ editorializes that CNN news executive Jordan should not have been fired for publicly saying that American troops shot journalists and then confusedly trying to back down from his statement. The Journal is right that this is not a serious ethical offense, but wrong that he should not have been fired. . . . . . . Here is what the Journal says:

        It is true that Mr. Jordan has a knack for indefensible remarks, including a 2003 New York Times op-ed in which he admitted that CNN had remained silent about Saddam's atrocities in order to maintain its access in Baghdad. That really was a firing offense. But CNN stood by Mr. Jordan back then--in part, one suspects, because his confession implicated the whole news organization. Now CNN is throwing Mr. Jordan overboard for this much slighter transgression, despite faithful service through his entire adult career.
        The question for CNN here is not whether Mr. Jordan is unethical, but whether CNN wants (a) to be, and (b) to have a reputation as, a news organization run by anti-American people who are out of touch with reality. This is a business decision. Just because a business has let an incompetent rise within its ranks does not mean it has to keep him there for his entire life.

        Posted by erasmuse at 08:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

        February 13, 2005

        Bayly's Recommendations for Books on Religion

        Pastor Tim Bayly's list of recommended Bible translations and references is worth reading. He gives a detailed list (recommending the New American Standard Version of the Bible) and then says,
        Finally, if I were to spend around $250 for a basic library to help with the study of Scripture, I would narrow the above recommendations down to the following:

        New Bible Dictionary (around $30)
        Francis Turretin's Institutes of Elenctic Theology or Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion ($50-$75) Calvin's commentaries on the Bible (around $125) Matthew Henry's unabridged Commentary on the Bible ($25-$50) Spurgeon's Treasury of David ($30)

        The list tempts me to buy Turretin, the classic Calvinist theology summa, and Spurgeon's Treasury of David. I have Calvin's commentaries already, though, and have been disappointed in them. The only one I've read through is his commentary on Jonah, which is pretty good but inferior to Luther's. I've dipped into others, but Calvin tends to be boringly correct rather than insightful and interesting (something true of the Institutes too). But I will restrain myself, I think, because I ought to read, or, better yet, re-read the books I already have rather than buy new ones.

        Posted by erasmuse at 05:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

        February 12, 2005

        CIA Bin Laden Unit Head Believes in Conspiracy Theories

        The WSJ's Best of the Web reports on a public forum in which Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA's Bid Laden who wrote the anonymous book called "Imperial Hubris", says that Israel is carrying on a massive, covert operation that has suppressed open discussion of Israel in the United States. But he doesn't actually have any evidence, except that the U.S. is pro-Israel, a policy he's happy enough with ("I've tried to be very clear in saying we have an alliance with the Israelis. We have a moral obligation to try to work through this issue, if we can.") He says:

        I always have thought that there's nothing too dangerous to talk about in America, that there shouldn't be anything. And it happens that Israel is the one thing that seems to be too dangerous to talk about. And I wrote in my book that I congratulate them. It's probably the most successful covert action program in the history of man to control--the important political debate in a country of 270 million people is an extraordinary accomplishment. I wish our clandestine service could do as well.

        . . .

        Questioner: I'm curious--Gary Rosen from Commentary magazine. If you could just elaborate a little bit on the clandestine ways in which Israel and presumably Jews have managed to so control debate over this fundamental foreign policy question.

        . . .

        Scheuer: Well, the clandestine aspect is that, clearly, the ability to influence the Congress--that's a clandestine activity, a covert activity. . . .

        It is not unreasonable to say that America is very pro- Israel and that any politician, at least, who says we should be anti-Israel will get heavy criticism and lose votes. But it is a big step further to conclude that this is due to covert action by a foreign government, especially for someone, like Scheuer, who can't think of any actual examples. The pro-Israel atmosphere is easily explained by the pro-Israel position of American Jews, Evangelicals, neoconservatives, and assorted people who like democracy and Western civilization but dislike corruption, poverty, and blowing up children. Even if you're prefer conspiracy theories, that leaves you with 3 that are more realistic than the Israeli government theory--- pin it on the Jews, the Evangelicals, or the neoconservatives instead.

        What is shocking is that it is the former head of the CIA's Bin Laden unit that is saying these things. Another sign that Mr. Goss needs to fire a lot of people in the CIA!

        P.S. Scheuer has also been criticized for saying last November that Osama bin Laden is "in many ways . . . an admirable man." I don't mind it when people say true things, and that is a true thing. Someone doesn't rise to be a prominent figure without having some admirable qualities. Hitler, Stalin, Clinton, and Michael Jackson all are in some ways admirable. The problem is the whole package is despicable. Bin Laden, in fact, seems to have more integrity than any of the four other figures I mentioned, even if he is wrong in his beliefs and methods, and deserves to die for them.

        Posted by erasmuse at 08:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

        February 11, 2005


        I learned a good word today, circumjacent , sûrkm-jsnt, which means "Lying around; surrounding". Jack Meyer told me he wanted to use it in a term to define risk a certain way (which may be what I call "extremal risk" in my own paper on risk, but someone induced him to use the less interesting "strong" instead.

        I wanted to find an example of circumjacent in use. Googling, I found a striking article title, "Methods of improving the circumjacent blood supply in resections of arterial trunks and obliterating endarteritis". That has a nice ring to it, though it would be even more poetic, if perhaps less descriptive, if it were "Improving circumjacent blood and obliterating endarteritis." I do like the thought of obliterating endarteritis-- it sounds like it's well worth doing.

        Posted by erasmuse at 08:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

        February 10, 2005

        Winston Churchill Was Not an Indian, It Seems

        Like so many people, I find Winston Churchill fascinating. Like Margaret Thatcher, he was a Tory leader whose individualism, bravery, and high principle puzzled his timid Wet fellow party leaders, made them suspicious and treacherous, and made him stand out among them. He liked to flaunt, and they liked to whisper, his half-American and part-Indian ancestry ("What else can you expect from a Wild Indian like Winston?"). I googled this, thinking it would be a nice connection to the Ward Churchill affair, but it turns out that actually, despite family tradition, Churchill did not have Indian ancestors.

        The fact remains true, however, that many people who look mainly white or black, are part-Indian, despite having no official records and not having the privileges of being an official member of a tribe. This is one of the good things about America. Just as I can be Scottish when I want, pointing to great-great-grandpa Andrew Brodie, or Welsh if that is more convenient, pointing to great-great-grandma Margaret Jones, or a descendant of one of the first settlers of New Haven, Connecticut, pointing to great-great... great-grandpa Thomas Monson, so many people can legitimately lay claim to a few drops of Indian blood.

        Posted by erasmuse at 10:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

        February 09, 2005

        Ian Blair: Britain's Top Policeman is PC to the Core

        Melanie Phillips posts on the British police:

        I have been rubbing my eyes in astonishment at the blizzard of pronouncements over the past few days by the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair. He has long been referred to as the 'PC pc' on account of his relentless, on-message polyversity-speak. But now he has become Britain's most senior policeman, some of the things he has been saying and doing are, to put it mildly, alarming....

        In an interview in Saturday's Telegraph, appositely headlined 'Offbeat ideas of the nation's top policeman', he was asked whether the Met was still 'institutionally racist'. He replied:

        'Yes it's institutionally racist because all organisations are at the moment, but we've moved on hugely'.


        ' "I'm relaxed about cannabis," he says. "My job is to deploy the resources I have in the best way, and I don't think [arresting people who smoke cannabis] is the best way." '

        So it's zero intolerance of cannabis; in other words, business as usual in stoking the tinder of the rising drugs conflagration.

        But maybe the most alarming observation of all was published in another interview in the Sunday Times, in which Sir Ian said:

        'There is nothing wrong with being an Islamic fundamentalist. The question is how we help the vulnerable young who are attracted to violence.'

        Ye gods. Even the normally cool interviewer, Jasper Gerard, was astonished by this....

        Posted by erasmuse at 11:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

        February 08, 2005

        The Latest on Professor Hoppe at U. Nevada

        Three sets of comments on the Hoppe homosexuality case at the University of Nevada: a Feb. 8 editorial by the Las Vegas Review-Journal; an opponent of Hoppe on other matters, Tom Palmer, defends Hoppe; a post in the History News Network.

        Posted by erasmuse at 01:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

        Ward Churchill: Credible Claims of Academic Fraud

        Via Instapundit and Paul Campos at The Rocky Mountain News comes a new development in the Ward Churchill academic freedom case. It seems he has indeed done something that should cost him his job, if Professor Thomas Brown's convincing exposition of Ward Churchill's fraudulent writings on Indian history is to be believed. The problem here is not insensitivity or lack of patriotism, but academic lying:... ...
        This article analyzes Churchill’s fabrication of a genocide. Churchill invented a story about the US Army deliberately creating a smallpox epidemic among the Mandan people in 1837 by distributing infected blankets. While there was a smallpox epidemic on the Plains in 1837, it was entirely accidental, the Army wasn’t involved, and nearly every element of Churchill’s story is a total invention. My goal here was to show how and why Churchill engaged in such blatant fraud, and why no one has challenged him on it until now.
        As Instapundit says,
        At my institution, we don't hire people without reading their publications. We don't tenure people without reading them and sending them for outside review by leading scholars in the field. Yet Churchill was both hired and tenured -- and made department chair -- in the ethnic studies program at Colorado. I'm not sure what's more damning: If they didn't perform these checks first, or if they did, and if people on that faculty, and in that field , thought Churchill's work was just fine. As with the Bellesiles scandal, this suggests some serious problems with peer review in the discipline.
        This suggests a need to check out all the faculty at Colorado's Ethnic Studies Department, and to inquire into who hired Ward Churchill, who promoted him, and who made him chairman of the department. In particular, which administrators at the level of dean and higher are implicated in this?

        It remains true, of course, that Ward Churchill should not be fired for his writings on 9-11. As I have said before, we must be careful to separate out different issues. In particular, the hue and cry over his 9-11 writings may be his chief legal defense to being fired over other things. He can truthfully claim that nobody would have noticed the fraud claims if he didn't have unpopular political views. But the fact that the outside world didn't notice the fraud and force it upon the attention of the University until his 9-11 writings came to light should not exonerate him. If the University had been doing its job, it would have investigated the fraud claims earlier, without the glare of the public eye.

        Posted by erasmuse at 12:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

        February 07, 2005

        The Ward Churchill Affair: A Poll of My Students

        I started my bus econ class (seniors) today with a poll. I asked the students to write Yes or No to the following question, and not to write their names. I told them I wouldn't give them more details, or my opinion (except after class), or give them more than a couple of minutes to think of an answer:
        QUESTION: Professor Churchill of the U. of Colorado said in print that the 9-11 victims deserved to die. Should he be fired?
        The responses:

        Yes: 3

        No: 19 (updated the next day from 17-- two votes slipped onto my office floor)

        That contrasts with the unanimous (with one exception) YES of the Colorado state legislature. UPDATE: As Doug Sundseth points out in a comment below, I'm wrong on this last point. The GOvernor called for firing Churchill, but the legislature merely said Churchill's views were deplorable, a reasonable thing to say. See http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/legislature/article/0,1299,DRMN_37_3517054,00.html

        Posted by erasmuse at 05:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

        Social Security and Filial Piety; NYTimes Letter

        The Conservative Philosopher quotes this letter from the January 31 NYTimes:
        To the Editor:

        I don't know the intricate details of President Bush's Social Security plan, but I do know this: My mother depends on every cent of her Social Security every month. Without her full benefits, she would not be able to pay for rent, utilities and food.

        My mother has survived numerous tragic family losses, worked like a slave for more years than I dare ask and never asked for anything more than what she's earned.

        What has my mother ever done to you, Mr. Bush? Why do you want to destroy her future and the future of her children and grandchildren?

        Robert Notrica
        White Plains, Jan. 27, 2005

        Among her problems seems to be her son's willingness to let her be evicted and starved rather than part with any of his own money.

        I don't know why The Conservative Philosopher ran this-- the commenters seem rather confused-- but an even bigger question is why the New York Times ran it. I guess they didn't see the irony in the letter. That's significant.

        Posted by erasmuse at 07:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

        February 06, 2005

        Four Types of Prayer; God as Friend

        Pastor Whitaker's sermon today was good, if too long. He shouted a bit, which I think is good, if inelegant, because we really do need to be woken up. The subject was prayer and the Problem of Evil, as the "Thy Kingdom Come" part of a series on the Lord's Prayer. Here is one quote, verbatim:
        "We've reduced Him to our friend,who does whatever we ask."
        Quite so. And we feel wronged when our pal doesn't put Himself out for us. The sermon made me think of four types of prayers:
        1. "God, why are You thwarting my plan?" 2. "God, can You help me with my plan?" 3. "God what is Your plan for me?" 4. "God, how can I be part of Your plan?"
        The last is the attitude we should take. My prayer is most commonly (2), and I often lapse into (1). I suppose I should cut this list out and paste it over my bedstead.

        Posted by erasmuse at 07:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

        U. of Nevada Economist Hoppe Punished; Homosexuality

        Via Jim Lindgren at VC, we find that a University of Nevada economist is being punished for saying in class that homosexuals have a higher discount rate. From newspaper account...

        ...Hoppe, 55, a world-renowned economist, author and speaker, said he was giving a lecture to his money and banking class in March when the incident occurred. The subject of the lecture was economic planning for the future. Hoppe said he gave several examples to the class of about 30 upper-level undergraduate students on groups who tend to plan for the future and groups who do not.

        Very young and very old people, for example, tend not to plan for the future, he said. Couples with children tend to plan more than couples without.

        As in all social sciences, he said, he was speaking in generalities.

        Another example he gave the class was that homosexuals tend to plan less for the future than heterosexuals.

        Reasons for the phenomenon include the fact that homosexuals tend not to have children, he said. They also tend to live riskier lifestyles than heterosexuals, Hoppe said.

        He said there is a belief among some economists that one of the 20th century's most influential economists, John Maynard Keynes, was influenced in his beliefs by his homosexuality. Keynes espoused a "spend it now" philosophy to keep an economy strong, much as President Bush did after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

        Hoppe said the portion of the lecture on homosexuals lasted perhaps 90 seconds, while the entire lecture took up his 75-minute class.

        There were no questions or any discussion from the students about the homosexual comments, he said.

        "I have given lectures like this for 18 years," said Hoppe, a native of Germany who joined UNLV's faculty in 1986. "I have given this lecture all over the world and never had any complaints about it." ...

        What Hoppe said was, of course, quite reasonable, and he is correct that a standard classroom quip is for a professor quote Keynes that "In the long run we are all dead," and then to follow that with "Of course, Keynes was a homosexual and had no children" or "Of course, Keynes had no children".

        He said university officials first said they would issue him a letter of reprimand and dock him a week's pay.

        That option was rejected by Hoppe's dean and by the university provost, Hoppe said.

        More hearings ensued, he said. In the end, the university gave him until Friday to accept its latest offer of punishment: It would issue him a letter of reprimand and he would give up his next pay increase.

        Hoppe, a tenured full professor, contacted the ACLU on the recommendation of an attorney friend of his. Hoppe is now their client. ...

        Hoppe protested that university officials declined to speak to other students in the class to find out what actually happened and even rejected letters he solicited from a half-dozen students.

        UNLV's general counsel, Richard Linstrom, would not talk about Hoppe's case, but said the university values free speech.

        "The administration of UNLV is fully committed to academic freedom in all respects," he said. Linstrom said he was in a Board of Regents meeting most of Friday and had not seen the ACLU's letter.

        If his pay increase would have been 3% of a salary of $100,000 and it would not be undone in the future, that comes to $3,000. Multiply by 10 to get a rough lifetime cost, and the University is fining him 1/3 of a year's salary for that unconventional remark.

        It will be interesting to see if other faculty at his University have the guts to protest his punishment. My betting is that they won't, but I hope to be surprised.

        Posted by erasmuse at 01:27 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

        February 05, 2005

        Leftwing Blogs and the Ward Churchill Affair

        As I noted on Feb 4 , Eugene Volokh, Steven Bainbridge, and Instapundit all weighed in on Feb. 4 on whether the University of Colorado should fire Professor Ward Churchill, and all agree with my position: No, of course not; all he's doing is stating an unattractive political position.

        What of the Left? Brian Leiter clearly supports Churchill, though only by implication. Crooked Timber agrees with Bainbridge. My searches of other leftish blogs have either revealed no mention, or offense taken at rightish blogs saying Ward Churchill shows what leftists are like. I find lots of boring posts on details of social security, but nothing on freedom of speech. Have I missed something? (quite possible-- I'm serious, because I was curious what the Left would say about this) Are the leftish blogs scared, unconcerned, or just slow? UPDATE, FEBRUARY 9: I see more commentary by now; I think they're just slow or don't think academic freedom is an interesting topic.

        Posted by erasmuse at 02:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

        Ward Churchill Affair: Various Possible Reasons to Fire Him

        I posted on Feb 4 and Feb. 2 on the Churchill affair. A couple of people have commented to me in emails that although the University of Colorado should not fire Ward Churchill maybe for his politcal views per se, he should be fired for other reasons, which may come up in the tenure-stripping investigation the University has started. This is what an editorial today in Colorado's main paper is saying, too. This follows strong political pressure. Gov. Bill Owens called for his firing. The Legislature more moderately condemned his views (they didn't call for him to be fired, as I said in my first version of this post)....


        Earlier Thursday, the state Senate passed a resolution denouncing Churchill's comments as "evil and inflammatory." The nonbinding resolution was identical to one passed Wednesday by the House.

        Democratic state Sen. Peter Groff cast the lone "no" vote, saying he disagreed with Churchill but that the resolution provides him with undeserved attention and attacks free speech.

        The fact that the politicians are calling for Churchill's firing for bad reasons is in itself a good reason *not* to fire him now. It is, of course, perfectly possible, though, that (a) he ought not to be a full professor at Colorado, and (b) there exist grounds for stripping him of tenure. Items (a) and (b) are two different things, as I will explain below-- essentially, the difference between (a) not hiring somebody, and (b) the person having done something bad enough to be fired for.

        Let's look at possible reasons for firing Churchill. The facts are described or linked to in my previous two posts.

        (1) Churchill incited a mob to shut down a Columbus Day parade, escaping criminal conviction but not guilt.

        This does sound like grounds to strip him of tenure. The University need not use "beyond a reasonable doubt", and this crime is particularly disturbing in a professor, more than tax evasion or burglary. But the University should have started the process back then, not now.

        (2) Churchill falsely claimed to be an Indian, maybe.

        In itself, race should not be the grounds for either hiring or firing, though we know that in fact there is tremendous racial discrimination by universities. (I discuss the facts in my Feb. 4 post.) If the lying is in academic writings, and crucial to those writings, then this would be grounds for firing. How it would be crucial is not clear but he might written something like the fraudulent book that got Rigoberta Menchu the Nobel Peace Prize.

        (3) Churchill got tenure under false pretences.

        If Churchill's publications did not really exist, or something like that, he should be fired. But I highly doubt that.

        (4) Churchill should not have gotten tenure, because he is not a good enough scholar.

        This is almost certainly true, from what I've seen on his website, but it must have been obvious to the tenure committee too. This goes back my distinction between (a) and (b). He should not have been given tenure, but it is too late for Colorado to back out of its contract now. It's very common for universities to have professors who got tenure 20 years ago but would not get it today. In fact, that is a sign of a successful university: that it has improved enough that it doesn't have to tenure the mediocrities it did 20 years before, and since those mediocrities have tenure, they are happy to see their departments improve. If I can hire new profs for my department that are better than me, I will, since we aren't in competition for the same job.

        Churchill's case is different-- he looks unqualified even by laxer standards than today's. But it still is not grounds for stripping him of tenure. It is, on the other hand, a good reason to buy out his contract. I would not be surprised if that happens-- he negotiates a $500,000 secret golden parachute and leaves everybody happy.

        (5) Churchill has improperly brought his politics into his classroom.

        I would not be surprised by this, though I haven't seen any evidence of it yet except for a claim by an activist that he gave her a bad grade for a political reason. Even if it turns out that he has been too political in his classroom, that doesn't rise to the level of being something for which the university immediately strips a professor of tenure. Instead, he should be given a warning and punished only later. Giving a student a bad grade for political reasons is a more severe offense, and perhaps justified firing, but I'd want very good proof.

        There are many, many, politically active, academically mediocre professors out there. Some departments are prone to hiring them, and some are not. The place to start dealing with this is not in firing, but in hiring, unless it is entire departments that are eliminated, which is a valid reason for firing people with tenure. That might be what should happen at Colorado-- disbanding the entire Ethnic Studies Department. But don't pick on just Churchill.

        Posted by erasmuse at 02:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

        February 04, 2005

        Ward Churchill--Is He an Indian?

        As I hoped in my long post of February 2, the blogosphere has taken up the cause of academic freedom in the Ward Churchill case (even though I neglected to email VC, IP, and Bainbridge, as I ought to have!). Instapundit has a mention with links, Bainbridge notes that rightwingers, especially, ought to stand by Churchill, and Eugene Volokh has a detailed post stating the obvious-- that he should not be fired for his political views-- and the less obvious-- whether he should be fired if it turned out he lied about being an Indian....

        ... I'm not sure if I agree with Volokh that he should be fired for such lying if it turns out to really be lying. His academic credentials seem very slight-- not even a doctorate, just "B.A., M.A., Sangaman State University Communication" and from the little I've seen of of his publications, they aren't profound, though he also seems to be a smart guy. Wouldn't that be discriminating against someone on the basis of race-- hiring him only because you thought he was an Indian, and then firing him when it turned out he was white? I can't imagine a purer case. I've wondered, though, what happens to students who fraudulently check off "Indian" or "Black" or "Hispanic" on university applications.

        Volokh links to this indiancountry.com article:

        At various times, according to press reports, Churchill has described himself as Cherokee, Keetoowah Cherokee, Muskogee, Creek and most recently Meti. In a note in the online magazine Socialism and Democracy he wrote, ''Although I'm best known by my colonial name, Ward Churchill, the name I prefer is Kenis, an Ojibwe name bestowed by my wife's uncle.'' In biographical blurbs, he is identified as an enrolled member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees. But a senior member of the band with access to tribal enrollment records told Indian Country Today that Churchill is not listed. George Mauldin, tribal clerk in Tahlequah, Okla., told the Rocky Mountain News, ''He's not in the data base at all.''...

        According to Jodi Rave, a well-known Native journalist and member of the Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Three Affiliated Tribes, Churchill was enrolled as an ''associate member'' of the Keetoowah by a former chairman who was later impeached. The one other known member of the same program, since discontinued, was President Bill Clinton. Rave said that she made this discovery as a student in a journalism class at the University of Colorado. She was also in a class taught by Churchill. When her article came out, she said, he dropped her grade from an A to a C minus.

        "Meti" caught my eye because my wife is from Winnipeg, a Meti center. They are the descendants of the centuries-old mixture of French traders and Indians in Canada.

        That last sentence is important. If true, that is more serious than the other stuff. But it would need substantiation. These attacks on Churchill all need careful examination, because he is an active member of the little world of squabbling leftwing revolutionary groups. When a Trotskyite says a Stalinist beats his wife, you have to take it with a grain of salt. Similarly, when the American Indian Movement's "Ministry of Information" issues something like this 1999 press release attacking Ward Churchill and insinuating that he is part of an FBI war against their organization, it is not to be believed. The outsider's view of the American Indian Movement is perhaps like a Moslem's view of Christianity in 1580; he thinks about "Christians", but there are actually different people competing for the name. See this partisan website of "the International Confederation of Autonomous Chapters of the American Indian Movement and their supporters. Not affiliated in any way with National AIM aka Grand Governing Council of AIM or the Bellecourts." Jodi Raves is part of this tangle, so don't take her statements at face value; further checking is needed.

        But all this distracts. The fact is that (a) Churchill has a job contract with the state of Colorado, and the state can't back out just because it doesn't like what it signed on to earlier; and (b) academic freedom is about cases just like this, where a professor has unpopular political views and a lot of voters want to fire him. The Colorado legislature, governor, and newspapers seem to be barely aware of these two ideas-- binding contracts, and academic freedom-- which depresses me. The contract is treated as a mere roadblock, not an obligation to be honored, and academic freedom is not even addressed-- only freedom of speech.

        Posted by erasmuse at 08:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

        February 03, 2005

        Tort and Insurance; Skating Example

        We had a very good discussion at the law-and-econ lunch today of tort liability. We went over old ground, but I think I understand it better now.

        Suppose we have a skating rink that has a cost of $30 per person who skates and competes with other rinks that have identical costs. In addition, there is an average probability of 1/1000 that a skater will be injured and suffer hurt worth $25,000. Here are two possible legal rules:...


        1. NO LIABILITY. If the person gets hurt, the rink pays nothing. The result will be a ticket price of $30.

        2. LIABILITY. If the person gets hurt, the rink pays the $25,000. The result will be a ticket price of $55 (=30+ 25000/1000). In effect, each skater is required to purchase a bundle of two goods from the rink: skating, and insurance.

        In either case, the rink continues in operation and people continue to go to it. So if nothing else is brought in, either system is efficient.

        One thing that matters is negligence by the ice rink. If it is negligent, then that makes LIABILITY more efficient. Negligence by the skater also matters, and makes NO LIABILITY more efficient.

        PROBLEM 1. If a skater already has his own insurance, then under current U.S. law, he collects double under LIABILITY. He will get $25,000 from the insurance company and another $25,000 from the skating rink. As a result, he will have too great a tendency to skate even when he knows he is more accident prone than average, and will not be as careful as he should be on the ice. Under NO LIABILITY, on the other hand, he is still insured, and the moral hazard problem is less, though still present (and, actually, coinsurance and deductibles will help out).

        PROBLEM 2. Under LIABILITY, 1/3 of the $25,000 payment goes to pay the skater's lawyer, and a similar sum must be paid to the rink's lawyer. Thus, this form of insurance-via-litigation is much more costly than ordinary insurance.

        PROBLEM 3. As with any insurance, the insurance-by-litigation gives rise to adverse selection and moral hazard. These are the two things I mentioned in (1) (perhaps the same problem, but it arises even if the skater does not have separate medical insurance). High-risk skaters will skate more, and all skaters will take less care. Moreover, if high-risk skaters are more likely to accept the $55 package, low-risk skaters will drop out, rinks will be forced to increase the price to above $55, more low-risk skaters will drop out, and there will be a lot of inefficiency.

        As an example of this, there might be a skater with a very low probability of accident, so the insurance is only worth $1 to him, not $25. If his benefit from the skating is $40, then under NO LIABILITY he will skate, at a price of $30 and a net benefit of $40-1=39, which is efficient-- there is $9 in gains from trade. Under LIABILITY he will not skate, because the price is $55 and the net benefit is still $40+1 = 41. The gains from trade are lost.

        Posted by erasmuse at 12:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

        February 02, 2005

        Prof. Ward Churchill--Academic Freedom at Colorado

        I hope the blogosphere and organizations such as the NAS and AAUP pick up on the case of Professor Ward Churchill of the University of Colorado quickly. There are serious calls for firing him from his tenured position there because of his political views as he expresses them outside of his teaching and administrative duties. He is anti-American and blames America and the victims for 9-11. Instapundit has a post on how kooky he is, as does Professor Bainbridge. Prominent people are calling for his firing because of this, saying that he has a right to freedom of speech, but not to employment by the state government. I've heard this on TV from conservatives, and I haven't heard opposition from liberals....


        Churchill does, of course, have a clear right not to be fired for his political views. It's part of the normal contract of a tenured professor, and I'm sure any court will back him on that. And that is a good thing. We want professors to be able to vigorously voice unpopular views. If they bring such views into the classroom when they are irrelevant to the course, or punish students for disagreeing, or make political views important to administrative decisions such as whether to tenure a colleague, then a professor should be punished, but I have not seen anybody claim that here.

        Professor Churchill has been chairman of the ethnic studies department, and I wouldn't object to relieving him of that position. Being chairman is as often a burden as a privilege, anyway, so this is not really a punishment, just a re-allocation. And, indeed, he has resigned on his own, the proper thing to do, as the Rocky Mountain News of February 1 tells us:

        CU officials late Monday acknowledged Churchill's resignation as department chairman. Interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano issued a statement endorsing Churchill's decision to step down.

        "While Professor Churchill has the constitutional right to express his political views, his essay on 9/11 has outraged and appalled us and the general public," DiStefano said.

        The CU Board of Regents has called a special meeting to discuss Churchill on Thursday.

        "If they're meeting to talk about what to do in terms of institutional damage control, and to define the institution's position on this, then I have no objection," Churchill said. "They're doing their job."

        Chancellor DeStefano should not criticize a member of his faculty for taking an unpopular political stance, however. That, indeed, is the kind of abuse I was talking about earlier.

        I've thought about this subject, as those readers who remember my weblog controversy know (I said that homosexuals should not be hired as schoolteachers, and got criticized by my chancellor and editorialized against by the local newspaper) . I was never in serious danger of punishment. My pay raise last year was about 1%, by far the smallest in my dozen years here, but I never investigated it, and that might well be unrelated. But it was curious how although I was overwhelmed by supportive and critical emails from townspeople, students, and low-level university staff (sorry: I didn't answer most before I lost most of them in a computer glitch), there was very little public comment by the faculty, either in support or against me. My sense was that everybody wanted to keep their heads down on a controversial issue, especially since it was all talk rather than official action.

        Although the Churchill case seems to be straightforward as a matter of the question of the University of Colorado punishing him for his views, it does have lots of interesting angles.

        (1) I looked for supportive statements. The Boulder Faculty Assembly has a moderate but correct statement.

        Today, the University of Colorado has been challenged again to defend the principles of academic freedom to a public that may not appreciate fully the essential requirements and benefits of debate and differing views in an institution of higher education. Professor Ward Churchill’s writings contravene accepted thinking and community sentiment. Reasonable people may consider them controversial, offensive, and odious in some of the examples used; indeed, many faculty are themselves offended. The widespread release of these writings through the media has brought calls for censure and punishment of Professor Churchill.

        The University, through its Regents and administration, must resist these pressures. If we stand for the dissemination of knowledge, of the freedom to question, and of freedom of expression, then we must protect all, including Professor Churchill and others, expressing the most unpopular sentiments. Anything less than an affirmation of academic freedom for all the University’s faculty is an admission that we are not truly committed to the University’s mission and philosophy.

        I couldn't find out if the faculty assembly actually voted on this, or whether its leaders just issued it.

        (2) The campus newspaper says that the College Republicans are sharply divided, and may have a schism:
        The College Republicans were at the UMC to collect signatures from students for a petition requesting CU President Elizabeth Hoffman fire Churchill outright.

        Courtney Bekter, the College Republicans' program director, chimed in: "He shouldn't be spreading rhetoric on taxpayer money."

        The College Republicans said an unidentified man stole sheets of signatures the group had collected.

        "He ripped it out of my hand, pushed me back and ran," Bekter said. ...

        Meanwhile, a smaller group of Republican protesters disagreed with the College Republicans' anti-Churchill stance.

        "This is whiny liberal tactics," CU political science student Aron Smith, a self-described conservative. "I don't even want my grandma to see me out here next to these signs."

        He pointed to a College Republican supporter who was holding a sign with Churchill's name crossed out.

        Smith said he supports Churchill because of the First Amendment - the freedom of speech and expression.

        He said he does not agree with Churchill's remarks.

        "I think his comments were a little insensitive, maybe a lot insensitive," Smith said.

        Smith and a few acquaintances were at the rally to collect signatures for support of a new Republican organization that might someday compete with the College Republicans.

        (3) Professor Churchill, who is an Indian, appears to be an ethnic studies academic "operator". He has an agent representing him and advertising him for speaking engagements. Hamilton College invited him to speak, for a hefty fee, and then cravenly disinvited him. A Wall Street Journal op-ed said Hamilton College should not have invited him, which is correct, by my thinking. That is a quite separate question from hiring and retaining him as a member of the faculty, though. My guess is that his scholarship is rubbish, but if I found it was not, and it was good enough, I'd hire him at Indiana University. It would even be fine to invite him to give an unpaid research workshop (paying for his plane ticket and hotel, as is customary). What is different is hiring him to give a public lecture. I wouldn't invite the head of Planned Parenthood either, as Hamilton College is doing. The public lecture is a sign that Hamilton College wanted to hear him give a public platform to express his views to its students, and was willing to pay a lot to do so.

        (4) It is interesting, but irrelevant to the question of whether he should be punished, that Professor Churchill favors the general principle of suppressing free speech. Via Professor Bainbridge and the ">Rocky Mountain News we discover that Professor Churchill believes that people have no right to hold Columbus Day parades because they offend his opinions:
        Fellow protester and CU-Boulder professor Ward Churchill told the gathering that the First Amendment doesn't protect hate speech, citing a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows states to ban cross burnings. But burning a cross with the intent to intimidate or instill fear is a far cry from Italian-Americans marching and dancing the tarantella to honor an explorer they consider a hero.

        We don't allow someone free speech as some kind of reward, as something to make him happy. We allow it because we think it's good for the rest of us to hear diverse views. Those views include the view that America should be destroyed, that conservative views should be punished by imprisonment, that homosexual marriage should be legal, and so forth.

        But enough for now. I hope someone picks up on this. I wouldn't have gone on at such length except that Churchill's situation is being neglected by bloggers.

        Posted by erasmuse at 10:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

        February 01, 2005

        Al Qaeda Rule 18 on Torture; Noninformative Actions and Bayesian Updating

        Via some blogger who I forgot to note, see The Telegraph on Rule 18 of the Al Qaeda handbook -- claim you were tortured. The U.S. government has posted therulebook.

        Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga, Moazzam Begg and Richard Belmar finally arrived back in Britain last week after their three-year imprisonment in Guantanamo, to near-universal acclaim and sympathy. Their lawyers insist that they are totally innocent of any involvement in terrorism. The men themselves say that they have been tortured,...

        ...the al-Qa'eda training manual discovered during a raid in Manchester a couple of years ago. Lesson 18 of that manual, whose authenticity has not been questioned, emphatically states, under the heading "Prison and Detention Centres", that, when arrested, members of al-Qa'eda "must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by state security investigators. [They must] complain to the court of mistreatment while in prison".

        This is a good example of a principle I frequently apply: if people will do X in either state A or state B, then we you see them do X, don't change your beliefs as to which is more likely, A or B. You have not gotten any information from observing them do X.

        The Al Qaeda book looks like it might have other interesting cloak and dagger stuff too-- how to do surveillance, and so forth.

        Posted by erasmuse at 02:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack