Thursday, May 27, 2010

Where's My Boat?

Several weeks ago I booked a cabin on a lake in Central Texas so that I could spend Memorial Day Weekend being thrown from the towable while my wife drove the boat. That is now in question. My boat is still in the shop. And this is chafing my Important Parts.

I appreciate that a boat can be like a hole in the water into which you throw money. I accepted that when I bought it ten years ago this summer. I certainly know that Very Bad Things Can Happen, including blown cases and cracked hulls (yes to the former, no to the latter). But when a routine maintenance job goes over two weeks, I get steamed.

I took my boat in for its yearly checkup over two weeks ago. I specifically told my guy, "I need the boat ready for Memorial Day Weekend. I need you to call me if Something Expensive is about to happen. "
"Yes, Teacher [that's what he calls me], I can do it!"

Called last week for an update:
"We just started on it, should be ready soon."

Called two days ago: "We're just about done overhauling the carbs and are going to put in the new theromostats."
"What???"

Okay, they were both needed. But a bit of heads-up would've been nice. And certainly overhauling the carbs could've waited until AFTER the holiday --I can deal with a poor gas-usage situation for a bit longer. Now I'm facing a long weekend at a lake cabin without a boat.

I Am Unhappy.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I Recall My Legendary July 4th Fireworks Extravaganzas *


A Brief History of Nakedness by Philip Carr-Gomm is reviewed by the Times of London.

(*and Post-Midnight Nude Bathing Excursions --true stories, they were once something of a sordidly grand [or grandly sordid] tradition I inaugurated back in the Nineties in my circle. Hazards included mosquitoes, bottle rockets and ranging cattle.)


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Thursday, May 13, 2010

On The Corruption Of Academia


As my granddaddy once told me, "You dance to whatever tune that makes the cash register bell ring." Too true, even in my world.

Not that I'm a huge fan of The Nation (I gave a subscription one year to a friend as a joke), but even a broken clock is right twice a day, and this piece - Big Tobacco and the Historians - really hits hard. We academics like to think of ourselves as being "above" and "superior" to That Sort Of Thing. Buelle Chitte. Research grants are the mother's milk of academics. I can remember one of my seminar being taken out for beer by a very senior member of faculty, who proudly stated that at least part of this was being paid for by his new grant. (Not that unusual, but he made me present the final paper of the semester after I'd had about half a pitcher. Tricky b*st@rd! I showed him, though, and he admitted it to me later...) You show me an academic without a grant, I'll show you an adjunct (or someone with more years under tenure than I've had hot dinners).

I bring this up only because of this comment from
Jim Lindgren's piece on The Volokh Conspiracy regarding the nascent kerfluffle over Michael Bellesiles's new book (over which I posted yesterday myself):


After the Bellesiles affair was over, I asked a law professor who had in the past received funding from the NRA why the NRA was so savvy to stay out of it and let the academics handle it in the normal way. The answer I got is that the NRA wasn’t savvy so much as it is suspicious of academics, whom they neither understand nor trust. If the NRA pays for something, they want to control the message — and most academics won’t take money on that basis. [emphasis mine]


That's a bit of a howler! And it's sad that it has come to that. The Body Academic is has been injected by a dose of arsenic --or gold, in this case.

Or maybe it's just ideology. There is some suggestion that a few historians aren't entirely unhappy that Venona was only a brief glimpse into the Soviet archives. At the very least, there seems to be a certain amount of ostrichism, if not ostracism, regarding some of this, as
"A Hidden History of Evil" by Claire Berlinksi in City Journal suggests:


Stroilov says that he and Bukovsky approached Jonathan Brent of Yale University Press, which is leading a publishing project on the history of the Cold War. He claims that initially Brent was enthusiastic and asked him to write a book, based on the documents, about the first Gulf War. Stroilov says that he wrote the first six chapters, sent them off, and never heard from Brent again, despite sending him e-mail after e-mail. “I can only speculate what so much frightened him in that book,” Stroilov wrote to me... Stroilov sees in these events “a kind of a taboo, the vague common understanding in the Establishment that it is better to let sleeping dogs lie, not to throw stones in a house of glass, and not to mention a rope in the house of a hanged man.” I suspect it is something even more disturbing: no one much cares.


There have always been rumors among the John Birchers, for instance, that the Commies paid off professors during the Cold War --and a few ex-Soviet types have even vaguely hinted at that themselves. Right-wing paranoia? Surely yes, we know academics never get... wait, nevermind. [UPDATE: Ron Radosh responds to Berlinski here]

And don't even get me started on Professor Michael Mann. I may not agree with the
recent decision by the Virginia AG's office to begin a corruption investigation, but it never should even have come to that. But very few scientists are willing to disrupt the grant gravy train. It's not group-think with global warming advocates, it's rational self-interest! Quo vadis, Al Gore?

I think one of the key themes of the early 22nd century historiographers will be the examination of just how corrupt academics became in the mid-late twentieth century, extending well into the twenty-first. It will probably be at least that long before there's a sufficient revolutionary paradigm shift to the right that will allow for academic self-examination.


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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Spit-Take of the Day


History News Network reports that former Emory University scholar and former Bancroft Prize winner Michael Bellesiles is publishing a new book, this time on the year 1877. I use "former" for both descriptives because this clown --and that is a generous term-- was stripped of both his tenure (!) and his prize for his infamous book on colonial gun policy. It seems that someone may (or may not) have faked his research...



At any rate, that's not the spit-take part. That's here, from the publisher's blurb:


"Michael Bellesiles is perhaps most famous as the target of an infamous "swiftboating" campaign by the National Rifle Association, following the publication of his Bancroft Prize-winning book Arming America (Knopf, 2000)—"the best kind of non-fiction," according to the Chicago Tribune—which made daring claims about gun ownership in early America.  In what became the history profession's most talked-about and notorious case of the past generation, Arming America was eventually discredited after an unprecedented and controversial review called into question its sources, charges which Bellesiles and his many prominent supporters have always rejected."



News flash: the man lost his tenure! Now for the bien pensant world of academia to turn on one of its own, there has to be something so seriously wrong that it cannot be ignored without calling academia's own credentials into existence. (Note that this was before climate change and the controversy over Professor Mann, so maybe that's no longer 100% true.)


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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Why Does the NYT Use Idiots To Review Books?


Book Review - Winston’s War - Churchill, 1940-1945 - By Max Hastings - NYTimes.com: wherein we read, "For all Churchill’s exalted words about the “English-speaking peoples” fighting for freedom together, the fact is that Anglo-­American forces played a subsidiary role in the European war."



The point about Soviet vs. Anglo-American casualties is a just one; there's good reason why Stalin dubbed this "The Great Patriotic War" and why Soviet textbooks de-emphasized the role of the other Allies. But the above statement goes entirely beyond reason. Is he seriously (by implication) arguing that Stalin would have beaten Hitler without Anglo-American aid? That Lend-Lease meant nothing? That Allied air superiority --to which the Soviets contributed nothing until they managed to occupy the Yugoslavian refineries where jet fuel was being produced (and that long after air dominance had been lost) -- was of no help in hampering German production? That Hitler's divisions tied down in France and Italy would have made no difference to fighting in the East?


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Wish I Had Seen This Before Friday


On Friday, I co-sponsored a campus screening of Not Evil Just Wrong. It was well-attended. There were a few objections about the motives of the film-makers, and I thought those were good points.

But this would have been an absolutely devastating response:
Roger L. Simon » Has Al Gore given up on global warming?: "Al Gore’s purchase of a near nine million dollar Montecito mansion with an almost comical carbon footprint  (nine bathrooms!) probably means that he has given up on the global warming movement and decided to become a Hollywood producer (not that he ever made much of a distinction between two)."



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Saturday, May 1, 2010

The New Three Mile Island; or, Thank You BP!


[UPDATE: and right on cue, there goes the Governor of California]

With great sadness I watch the news about the huge oil spill in the Gulf. I'm old enough to remember the Bay of Campeche's Ixtoc I disaster in 1979 that had oil all over our beach for two summers. This could be worse.

Thank you, BP!

I'm also old enough to remember Three Mile Island. I remember the absolute hysteria, the sense of panic, the overarching and irrational fear that pervaded the media. And I full-well remember the aftermath: no new nuclear plants. And just how has that worked out for us? A power-generating system that today remains dependent on coal (which our current leader wants to phase out) and natural gas (which also comes from under the sea). And in the minds of the American public, the prospect of more drilling for offshore oil is about to be perma-welded to stricken shore birds and ruined wetlands. And there will be no more drilling, and no more new oil fields brought into production.

Thank you, BP!


(Does anyone seriously believe the Chinese, in international waters off Florida, are going to stop drilling?)


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The Volokh Conspiracy » Victims of Communism Day


The Volokh Conspiracy » Victims of Communism Day: lest we ever forget. Some of us are old enough to remember the Cold War. Whenever I see some someone wearing a Che shirt (particularly around my campus), I ask them if they are aware of how many innocent Cuban civilians he murdered. But the eradication of history is what Orwell warned us all about, and we have seen it come.


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