Archive for March, 2006

Is This Racist?

Posted on March 31st, 2006 in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

An Alabama TV station has aired a segment detailing how members of an African-American community in Mobile have become convinced that they’ve seen a leprechaun hiding in a tree.

The website has it posted, but apparently a lot of bloggers aren’t touching it because either they think it’s racist, or they think that blogging about it will make them look racist.

What do you think?

For Shots in the Dark, A New Look

Posted on March 31st, 2006 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

You’ll notice that suddenly everything looks kinda different here. That’s because I’ve been trying to fix some of the issues with the way posts have been presented on the site, and at the same time trying to give SITD a little bit of a new look.

See what you think….

At Duke, Denials

Posted on March 31st, 2006 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

The Duke Chronicle reports that attorneys representing the lacrosse players says that their clients categorically deny that “any sexual act occurred with the dancer.”

Interesting—you would think that if something had happened, they would have argued that it was consensual.

Local DA Mike Nifong is unconvinced. “The statements that [the team] makes are inconsistent with the physical evidence in this case,” he said Wednesday.

This is only getting to be more complicated…and meanwhile, there’s more student protest, and the Duke campus has turned into a media zoo.

I don’t mean to be flip, but all this negative attention at another campus is actually good news for Harvard, which has finally gotten some good press—which it deserves—for its plan to exempt families with incomes of less than $60,000 from paying tuition.

And by the way, a little media aside: Last week, when the University of Pennsylvania announced that it was going tuition-free for families with incomes up to 50k (at that point, a higher exemption than any other university), the New York Times said not a word. But Harvard makes an announcement, and predictably, a major story (see the link above). If I were Amy Gutmann, I’d be deeply irritated.

Harvard and the Taliban

Posted on March 31st, 2006 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

In the New York Post, columnist Deborah Orin tries to track down the rumor that Harvard has enrolled a former member of the Taliban, a man, even as it has allegedly denied entrance to female Afghanis.

Orin writes:

It took Harvard four days to come up with its weasel words. Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesman Bob Mitchell finally returned a call – at the direction of university spokesman Joe Wrinn. But Mitchell adamantly refused to answer, claiming it would violate university policy to say if Harvard had admitted a Taliban-type applicant.

“I can’t say anything. We do not discuss applicants,” Mitchell said, sounding peeved that he’d even had to return the call.

Yup, that sounds like Bob Mitchell, all right. The press secretary who never met a question, no matter how innocuous, that he didn’t try to stonewall.

Here’s what Mitchell should have said: “I’m sorry, but for privacy reasons I can’t discuss individual applicants to Harvard. We have to make sure that people who apply here know that the process is confidential—after all, Harvard’s a pretty high-profile place, and lots of reporters want to know who’s trying to come here, who gets in and who doesn’t. I’m sure you can respect that.

“But more generally, Harvard is an international institution which believes that education has the power to make the world a better place. And if there was a former member of the Taliban whose presence in this country was approved by the US government, who qualified for entrance, why shouldn’t Harvard accept him? What better way is there to introduce the benefits of free speech and democracy to those who don’t understand Western values?”

This is yet another example where Harvard’s dogged reliance on press secretaries makes the university look arrogant, defensive and obstructionist, when it should look confident and engaged…. Bill Kirby should have just taken the phone call and answered Orin’s questions. What’s the worst that could happen—he could lose his job?

George Clooney V. Gawker

Posted on March 31st, 2006 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

George Clooney continues to prove himself perhaps the most thoughtful celebrity on the planet: He’s proposing a clever idea to beat Gawker’s vile “Celebrity Stalker” site, in which Gawker readers text in the location of celebrities they spot and, using Google Earth, Gawker instantly maps their locations.

Gawker Stalker is not only creepy, it’s dangerous, a perfect tool for some wanna-be Mark David Chapman.

Clooney’s solution, e-mailed to celebrity handlers: “Flood their Web site with bogus sightings. Get your clients to get 10 friends to text in fake sightings of any number of stars. A couple hundred conflicting sightings and this Web site is worthless. No need to try to create new laws to restrict free speech. Just make them useless.”

Gawker continues to defend Stalker, but the site has really done something quite remarkable: It’s pushed the envelope of celebrity coverage to a point where even people who read Star and Us Weekly think it’s too much…..

Marty Peretz Takes on Stephen Walt

Posted on March 31st, 2006 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Writing in The New Republic, Marty Peretz blasts away at Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. His thesis, primarily, is this: That while Walt and Mearsheimer posit that the “Israel lobby” is an undemocratic conspiracy, bending US foreign policy to the will of a clandestine minority, US support for Israel is, in fact, not only good for the United States, but an expression of the American democratic process.

Peretz’s article is strengthened, in my opinion, by the fact that he largely shies away from name-calling, and avoids the term “anti-Semitism” altogether. Instead, he criticizes the methodology and the conclusions generally of the Walt/Mearsheimer paper.

Here’s his concluding paragraph:

Professor Walt is vacating his position as academic dean of the Kennedy School in June. Even though he decided to leave the job of his own volition some time ago, Harvard should be grateful for his departure from this seat. An academic dean is supposed to be the shepherd of his faculty’s (and his students’) respect for evidence and scholarship. Having traduced the rules of evidence and the spirit of scholarly inquiry, he can no longer perform this function. Regrettably, Walt will not likely suffer any crueler fate than this. He has tenure, and tenure insulates one from all kinds of infractions against truth and honor.

I disagree with that last crack about tenure, but in general, I think Peretz makes a reasonable, if angry, case.

It’s time for Walt and Mearsheimer to respond. Having put this paper out there, and sparked this debate, it looks odd and irresponsible for them now to shun it.

Unexpected Thursday Zen

Posted on March 30th, 2006 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

From the Boston Globe:
Schoolchildren in Accra, Ghana, a film-toting man in Kiev, Ukraine, a young shepherd in Bqosta, Lebanon, and countless others from West Africa to Central Asia covered their eyes and watched the moon completely obscure the sun yesterday. It was the first total solar eclipse since 2003. (Photos: Aris Messinis/ AFP/ Getty Images (top), Olivier Asselin/ Associated Press (Accra), Efrem Lukatsky/ Associated Press (Kiev), Mohammed Zaatari/ Associated Press (Lebanon)) Story

Duke Men and their Stix

Posted on March 30th, 2006 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

While a poster below chastises either me or Richard Brodhead (I’m not quite sure which) for “NPR-type language,” the situation at Duke gets uglier. Now there is evidence that a woman who happened to pass by the house where the alleged rape allegedly took place also experienced racial abuse, in the form of shouted racial epithets; she was so upset, she called 911 to report it.

There seems to be an awful lot of outrage on campus about what may have happened, including a Take Back the Night March, a flier calling on people involved to “come forward,” and a group called the Concerned Citizens at Duke University, which distributed a statement saying that “the university is cultivating and sustaining a culture of privilege and silence that allows inappropriate behavior to plague the campus.”

An interesting charge; I wonder what the foundation of it is. Duke is certainly a privileged place, a university that sometimes feels more like a country club. But that statement makes it sound as if the cultivation of silence began after the alleged rape…

Meanwhile, Brodhead is clearly trying to walk a line between expressing outrage and prejudging the players. “If you were at a university where the president meted out punishment based on what he reads in the newspaper, it would be a pretty dangerous place,” the Times quotes him as saying.

According to the Duke Chronicle, Brodhead was accosted by a group of students who felt that the university was not taking a hard enough line. “I promise you, you will see this University respond with great and appropriate seriousness once the truth is established,” Brodhead said to the group. “I want this to be resolved as quickly as you do.”

That, too, is interesting: Brodhead is at least trying to turn this sad and tawdry business into a teachable moment. Let’s hope it works.

Following a press conference Tuesday, President Richard Brodhead is confronted by student protesters on West Campus.

Media Credit: Anthony Cross
Following a press conference Tuesday, President
Richard Brodhead is confronted by student
protesters on West Campus.

Bad Craziness at Duke

Posted on March 29th, 2006 in Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

I’ve long been an admirer of Duke president Dick Brodhead, whom I first met about 20 years ago when I was an undergraduate at Yale. A friend of mine had had an unfortunate experience with the Yale disciplinary committe, on which Brodhead sat, which resulted in his suspension from college for a year. I thought the process had been poorly handled, and said so in the Yale Daily News. This made for a few uncomfortable moments with Brodhead, then an English professor who was affiliated with my residential college, Branford.

But only a few. Brodhead initiated a conversation with me about everything that had happened, and though we agreed to disagree, I appreciated the gesture and thought that he listened respectfully to my perspective.

In later years, Brodhead became the dean of Yale College, and subsequently the president of Duke. Throughout, he’s handled himself with a similar sense of decency and respect for the values of a university.

So my heart goes out to Brodhead now that he’s enmeshed in a hideous controversy at Duke; an African-American woman says that she was raped by three white players of the Duke lacrosse team. (Charlotte Simmons was a terrible book, but perhaps Tom Wolfe did get some things right.)

Brodhead has cancelled the rest of the team’s season, which seems appropriate given the ugly circumstances of what may or may not have happened.

But you have to love the eloquence and fair-mindedness of his statement on the matter.

“In this painful period of uncertainty, it is clear to me, as it was to the players, that it would be inappropriate to resume the normal schedule of play,” Brodhead said, according to “Sports have their time and place, but when an issue of this gravity is in question, it is not the time to be playing games.”

And in a statement quoted by the Times, Brodhead said: “While we await the results of the investigation, I remind everyone that under our system of law, people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. One deep value the university is committed to is protecting us all from coercion and assault. An equally central value is that we must not judge each other on the basis of opinion or strong feeling rather than evidence of actual conduct.”

Responding to a question about outraged reactions to the alleged incident, Brodhead said, “How can I be surprised at the outrage? If the things alleged are verified, they’re outrageous.”

It is refreshing to hear simple, honest and direct speech that educates without inflaming. We should expect that from university presidents, but it doesn’t always happen.

The Conservative Assault on Campus

Posted on March 29th, 2006 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Writing in the American Prospect, Jim Sleeper has a nice piece about how conservatives insist on concocting liberal conspiracy theories to explain Larry Summers’ resignation, among other things….

The way conservatives insist that university campuses are filled with out-of-control radicals fascinates me. There’s much more to be said on the subject, and if I get the chance, I hope to do some writing about it….