December 29, 2006

All in the Gin that You Drink

James Panero, former editor of the Dartmouth Review, shilled out a tribute/profile of Review godfather Jeffrey Hart for the Jan/Feb issue of the Dartmouth Alumni magazine, and which he o so kindly reprints here along with a letter from Hart himself.

The article is highly illuminating, though not for the reasons Panero must have expected. It exposes the Review's conservatism for the meaningless posturing which somehow hoodwinks so many Dartmouth alums and students and which inexplicably gets a free pass from so many others. I will draw out a few points from the article and Hart's response to show what I mean:

Jeffrey Hart ’51 has the personality of a sportsman
Running throughout the article in a clumsy attempt either to give the whole thing a whimsical quality or just to tie a charmlessly ramshackle narrative together, Panero's tennis metaphor cuts to the bone of the Reviewer's attitude toward politics as a life's pursuit—it is, in the spirit of the worst of imperialists and the worst of capitalists, just a game. Insulated from the deleterious effects of their own strokes and errors, the players take a cavalier disinterest in stakes or results. Hart may truly be appalled at Bush's policies, but I can't help feeling that it's not from any true concern for the victims of those policies, but more from the notion that Bush has both betrayed his class, mingling with hick evangelicals, and rejected the common sense which Hart believes to be the province of proper conservatism. And even if Hart is realistic enough to understand that this isn't all just some gentlemen's parlor sport, Panero certainly isn't. Words like these—"Typing away at his computer, Hart is now engaged in the game of his life, and his opponent is an unexpected one: George W. Bush," "the most controversial political match of his career," "Hart relishes the sport of his latest engagement"—are, after all, his.

After two years at Dartmouth, Hart transferred to Columbia...
Wait, are you telling me that the founder of the organization which purports to be the protector of Dartmouth's proud tradition had such little pride in his school that he transferred... to Columbia?? He left the school which his neophytes uphold as the greatest undergraduate institution in the country to attend its virtual antithesis—big-town Columbia. Gee whiz.

Hart retired in 1993 as one of Dartmouth’s most admired professors of English—and one of its fiercest. In that year he taught his final course, on Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and T.S. Eliot, to a roomful of 600 students.
Note: The next time The Review complains about Dartmouth not offering enough small classes, throw this in their faces. 600 students? And I'll bet Hart had warm personal experiences with every single one of them.

Today Hart lives with his wife, Nancy, in a former schoolhouse in Lyme, New Hampshire, that was once owned by his father, Clifford (class of 1921). Nancy uses a corner of the house, by the stove, to keep the antique embroidery and quilts she sells at a stand in Quechee, Vermont. The other corners are filled with old paintings, mainly of ships.
What is wrong with this picture? Maybe the "keep the woman cornered in the kitchen" impression it gives. Being a conservative man's wife must be the hardest job in the world.

Hart wrote: “The Conservative Mind, most of the time, has shown a healthy resistance to utopianism and its various informed ideologies. Ideology is always wrong because it edits reality and paralyzes thought.”
I know conservatives of Hart's stripe don't like to hear this, but their dogged insistence on the universal uniformity of reason is itself an (almost pre-Kantian) ideology, is itself an unreformed utopianism. The "Great Books" worldview is just as ideological as multiculturalism, the Burkeian attitude a utopianism which rests on incredibly classist (and often racist) assumptions. And, ironically enough, blindness to one's own ideological moorings is exactly what Hart hates about Bush.

"My conservatism is aristocratic in spirit, anti-populist and rooted in the Northeast. It is Burke brought up to date. A ‘social conservative’ in my view is not a moral authoritarian Evangelical who wants to push people around, but an American gentleman, conservative in a social sense. He has gone to a good school, maybe shops at J. Press, maybe plays tennis or golf, and drinks either Bombay or Beefeater martinis, or maybe Dewar's on the rocks, or both."
Forgive me for being perhaps too literal, but is Jeffrey Hart really defining conservatism with equal regard given to his ideas on moral governance as to his drinking and shopping habits? Perhaps Hart is trying his hand at some drollery here, but I have no doubt that his acolytes, at least, sincerely believe bullshit like this. Anti-populism is the spirit of their conservatism, and it is sincerely buoyed up more by allegiances to brands of alcohol than to actual people or groups of people. This is a contentless political stance, an affectation of pretense, and not a legitimate political philosophy.

The irony is, from what I know, Hart and his merry band of egomaniacs are for the most part, nothing more than elevated haute-bourgeoisie trying desperately to stretch themselves just enough to make their grasping at aristocratic stature not look too stupid or juvenile. This posturing is merely another case of the House of Commons trying to act like the House of Lords, much like Burke did himself.

Yes, Mr. Hart, you have succeeded in instilling the spirit of Burke into a new generation. Reviewers are very good at learning to be snobs while appearing to be the genuine article.

Be sure to read the comments following Panero's post. Quite enlightening.

Hitchens on using the N-word

For some reason I missed this earlier this month although I try to read all of Christopher Hitchens's Slate columns, but I think it's still interesting enough to mention now.

Hitchens refers to the Michael Richards incident and the request by Jesse Jackson, Rep. Maxine Waters, and comedian Paul Moody (as well as ESPN columnist LZ Granderson, in a very cogent column) that the entertainment industry drop the use of the n-word. Hitchens goes on to talk about his own experiences with using it—on television once, when talking about reclaiming words; using the word 'niggardly' in a speech on the Elgin Marbles; and teaching the novel Huck Finn in a New School classroom.

Hitchens asserts that the n-word can be used academically without negative consequences and, furthermore, that "hatred will always outpace linguistic correctness"—new terms will always be invented to express enmity and prejudice. However, I think Hitchens is missing the point of efforts to eliminate the word from all discourse—rap lyrics and academic treatises alike.

The idea is not that suppressing the word will result in an automatic diminution of actual hatred. That is pure magical thinking, and it's a little arrogant to believe that those who wish to see the term totally perish believe in that kind of linguistic hocus pocus. What is, I believe, behind efforts to rid our active language of the word is the belief that not eliminating it will create and multiply future problems. I don't think anyone believes that seeing that term die will undo any of its history, but many do believe that there is no reason to keep it around only to cause new problems.

I don't see how using it academically actually improves the learning environment. Sure, books like Huck Finn or Joseph Conrad's "The N***** of the Narcissus" are tough to teach, but are they really tougher to teach when the word is not said, but rather substituted with the readily understood (and equally precise) term "n-word"? Sure, maybe reading aloud in class is suddenly not an option, but Huck Finn may not be the best reading material for classes which still depend heavily on reading aloud. Is it really, truly cowardly to avoid the word? Does just going ahead and saying it give one some special authenticity? If so, what kind of authenticity is it? What kind of courage?

I don't see why anyone ever needs to say that word, or would want to. I don't see what purpose it serves, and I don't see why it's problematic to ask people—rappers, academics, athletes to excise it voluntarily from their lexicon.

December 27, 2006

Hannah Arendt's Legacy

I studied Hannah Arendt for about half of last term, but this review/article in the London Review of Books really blew me away with its insight.

As Corey Robin, the writer, notes, Arendt is ascending to heretofore unthinkable heights of popularity and esteem among academics, but, as Robin goes on to say, for the wrong reasons, or rather, for misapplied reasons.

Arendt's work on totalitarianism is currently being used to talk a lot about so-called Islamofascism, and this review shows why that's a ridiculous idea. Islamism just isn't fascism unless "fascism" only means "worldview currently opposed by capitalist democracy." However, the two most important concepts for fascism—the state and race—have almost no role as distinguishing markers for in-group/out-group divisions in Islamism, and even less in Islam more generally, and Arendt likely would have recognized that.

What Robin suggests Arendt is useful for today is for her critiques of imperialism and the racism that is connected with it, of Zionism and the way it has affected global politics post-WWII, and of careerism and its relationship to the banality of evil. If you are a fan of Edmund Burke (and once again, Reviewers, I'm looking at you), please at least read what this article says about Arendt's critique of him. However, each section about Arendt's continued usefulness is important and enlightening.

December 25, 2006

December 23, 2006

"Politically Correct and Non-Legally Binding Holiday Wishes"

From Brian Leiter's Law Blog:
From me ("the wishor") to you ("the wishee"):

Please accept without obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, politically correct, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practised within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I wish you a financially successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2005, but with due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures or sects, and having regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform or sexual preference of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting you are bound by these terms that:-

This greeting is subject to further clarification or withdrawal.

This greeting is freely transferable provided that no alteration shall be made to the original greeting and that the proprietary rights of the wishor are acknowledged.

This greeting implies no promise by the wishor to actually implement any of the wishes.

This greeting may not be enforceable in certain jurisdictions and/or the restrictions herein may not be binding upon certain wishees in certain jurisdictions and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wishor.

This greeting is warranted to perform as reasonably may be expected within the usual application of good tidings, for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first.

The wishor warrants this greeting only for the limited replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wishor.

Any references in this greeting to "the Lord", "Father Christmas", "Our Saviour", "Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer" or any other festive figures, whether actual or fictitious, dead or alive, shall not imply any endorsement by or from them in respect of this greeting, and all proprietary rights in any referenced third party names and images are hereby acknowledged.

This greeting is made under Czech Law.
What is this about Czech law? I don't understand. Anyway, happy hols.

December 21, 2006

Top 5 Albums of 2006

Reading some of the year-end retrospectives (especially Pitchfork's) confirmed what I had been feeling all year—2006 offered up an unprecedented breadth of musical brilliance, with few real dominant trends or fads, but just a whole lot of really interesting people doing amazing things with music—some of it incredibly innovative, quite a bit of it blissfully and gloriously derivative.
A list of five albums can't begin to do this breadth justice, so I will be posting later on some other albums which I really enjoyed this past year, but here are my desert-island top 5 best of 2006.

5. Voxtrot - Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives
Were I able to count all Voxtrot eps together as one glorious lp, it would easily and undeniably be at the top of this list. However, the Raised by Wolves ep is a 2005 release, I believe, and the Your Biggest Fan ep has only one really mind-blowing song ("Trouble"), so I'll stick to this ep and slot it at #5.
I started listening to Ramesh Srivastava's Austin-based band shortly after I got back from the South by Southwest music festival this spring. Unfortunately, or fortunately I guess, SXSW introduced me to so many new bands that I didn't really listen to them much until this fall, when they quickly became my most-listened to band.
Some congenial criticism of Voxtrot focuses on how much they owe to bands like The Smiths and Belle & Sebastian, and I do have to say, listening to them is like listening to all my favorite records--at once. And that's why I like them.

4. The Thermals - The Body, The Blood, The Machine
Another discovery this year, The Thermals are the most sonic fun I've had in 2006, or longer, probably. Ten nuggets of pure brash energy, abusively enjoyable guitar riffs, and hilarious lyrical excursions into alternate exegeses of Christian history and spirituality, The Thermals have all the elements which make The Hold Steady so great, but somehow manage to outdo them on all counts. You really have to listen to this album.

3. Regina Spektor - Begin to Hope
You know, I used to think that indie rock kids, being really enthusiastic about the quality of music that they listen to, would be a little less obsessed with how their favorite female artists looked. Yet I find attractiveness to be almost more obsessed about by some bloggers and writers, though more quietly and more subtly than in the mainstream. The blogasm over Lily Allen is just one example, but the photo coverage online of almost any Cat Power or Jenny Lewis concert seems a bit excessive.
At any rate, yeah, Regina Spektor is hot. She also produced what I think are the two best singles of the year ('Fidelity' and 'Better') and an album's worth of songs which could all be singles, and fine ones at that.

2. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Broom
I'm not going to try to hide the fact that, much like Voxtrot, SSLYBY is basically an accumulation, digestion, and expert reconstitution of a group of bands that I already liked. Pitchfork's review is right on the money here. There is almost a studied attempt at not being different from anybody that goes on throughout Broom. But why is that really such a bad thing?
I can understand that a music reviewer who, through a messy entanglement of passion and paychecks, does nothing but listen to all these bands until they bleed together anyway, might thank the music gods for something different and original like Animal Collective or Liars or someone to break up the emerging monotony. But if you don't spend all your conscious hours chained to a music library, you might think this album is really fucking good. I do, at any rate.

1. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
I may actually like all four of the other albums on this list more, but I have to acknowledge that they don't touch The Crane Wife in terms of ambition, talent, execution, or even beauty. The Crane Wife is jaw-droppingly good. The first time I listened to it, I spent most of my time gaping at the stereo. While I knew The Decemberists were a good, even great band, nothing they had done prepared me for the consistent perfection of this album. I cannot say enough in its favor.

December 20, 2006

One (More) Reason to Subscribe to the London Review of Books

Salon has a great article up (you may have to click through an advert, but you don't have to register) about the personal ads in the LRB. Highly amusing--for example:

"My finger on the pulse of culture, my ear to the ground of philosophy, my hip in the medical waste bin of Glasgow Royal Infirmary. 14% plastic and counting -- geriatric brainiac and compulsive NHS malingering fool (M, 81), looking for richer, older sex-starved woman on the brink of death to exploit and ruin every replacement operation I've had since 1974. Box 7648 (quickly, the clock's ticking, and so is this pacemaker)."

Yay, Glasgow.

December 19, 2006

Looking Ahead to Next Year

I'll be posting best of lists for music and film sometime by the new year, but it's never too early to start thinking about next year.

It looks like I'll be spending a lot of money next year catching up with some of my favorite artists. New albums are solidly slated to come out by The Shins (1/23), Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (1/30), Bloc Party (2/6), Ted Leo (3/20), The Stooges (3/20), The Arcade Fire (Feb/Mar), The Cure (May), Idlewild (February), Rufus Wainwright (May), and Wilco (May).
More nebulous are: Art Brut, Andrew Bird, Built to Spill, Common, Dinosaur Jr., Jose Gonzalez, Interpol, the Magnetic Fields, the New Pornographers, Pinback, The Postal Service, Radiohead, Rilo Kiley, Spoon, Tegan & Sara, John Vanderslice, Wolf Parade, and The Wrens.
Very up in the air, but rumored are albums by The Fugees, The Pixies, and Smashing Pumpkins, as well as Guns 'n' Roses, which I definitely won't be buying.

A very credible source tells me that The Shins album (Wincing the Night Away) is great, and fortunately not very Garden State-ish. However, it's not such a departure that, if you like the band, you'll likely be in love with the new album. Bloc Party's newest effort, however, is mediocre.

Film: Some Oscar-bait films won't be getting wide release until January/February, but you'll know about those as soon as the Oscar nods come out.
Unfortunately, because the studios put out all the movies they think are good in the last few days of the year to qualify for Oscars, Jan/Feb is a dumping ground. However, The Lives of Others and Days of Glory are two foreign films which will be getting limited release and which should both be very good. The Number 23 could be ridiculous (Jim Carrey in a satanic-themed thriller), but the trailer looks oddly very good. Black Snake Moan pairs Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci, which is at least interesting. Breach has a very good cast (Chris Cooper and Ryan Philippe) and, if you're spy-ed out from The Good German and The Good Shepherd in the next few weeks, could be a good choice.

From March, things get a bit better: Zodiac has a great trailer, 300 looks... unique, Sunshine is a sci-fi film directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) and thus will be completely awesome, The Lookout stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt who has picked only amazing films for the past year and a half or so, Will Ferrell is back spoofing a new sport (ice skating) in Blades of Glory (and with Napoleon Dynamite--let's hope it's better than Talladega Nights), and Werner Herzog directs a non-documentary (Rescue Dawn) starring Christian Bale. I am so there.

December 17, 2006

Admissions and Diversity @ UT-Austin

A friend pointed me to this very good NYT article on admissions policies at the many branches of the University of Texas, and particularly at its main campus in Austin.
After a federal appeals court barred Texas from explicitly counting race in admissions to its colleges, the state struggled to find another way to diversify the student body. Nine years ago, it came up with an elegantly simple formula: all students whose grades ranked them in the top 10 percent of their high school classes would automatically be admitted to any campus, including the flagship here.
Sounds nice, but what this hides is that this policy works to diversify the student body because the schools around the state are so racially segregated.

In addition, the policy has some adverse effects of its own:
Seventy-one percent of the 6,864 Texans in the freshman class are top 10 percenters, compared with 41 percent in the first year the formula was used. That steady growth has frustrated college officials who have seen their flexibility to admit high school class presidents, high SAT scorers, science fair winners, immigrant strivers, artists and the like narrow.
You also get gamesmanship from students (who can blame them—UTA is a great campus and Austin's a fantastic city), enrolling in schools where they will be more likely to be in the top 10%, and taking fewer difficult classes. Because the quality of your transcript is insignificant next to your class rank, who cares how many APs you have or how good your school is?

UT wants to tinker with the formula, giving itself more latitude in selecting the incoming first-year classes, but there is opposition:
“I don’t want to see us do away with a system that is working, producing the greatest geographic and ethnic diversity in the history of the University of Texas without sacrificing academic quality,” said [Royce] West [a state senator].
This article doesn't even begin to cover how this policy affects out of state students, but I think it raises many interesting questions even apart from that.

Clearly, this type of policy would be ridiculous if implemented anywhere but at a state university. But I think there is something to it, especially in a state as big and populous as Texas (California and Florida also have similar policies), and in a state where one campus of the state university system (Austin) is much better than the others. Totally setting aside issues of race, the geographic diversity that can be assured through this policy is remarkable. Coming from a state where the divide between rural and city schools is pretty wide, I know that many students at the rural schools don't try as hard in school because they are less likely, even if they do well in school, to get into Indiana University-Bloomington, which, like Austin, far exceeds the other branches of the state university in terms of the worth of its diploma, if nothing else. I think this policy would affect many students positively, encouraging them to work harder in school and, a little more vaguely, I think it would also establish a greater sense of opportunity throughout the state, that diligence does provide rewards.

However, there are more drawbacks even than those mentioned in the article. Does this kind of policy not undermine the desire to improve low-performing schools? This policy does nothing to spur the state government to take steps to ensure that you're getting a good education no matter where you're from, and it lightens the burden on local governments to take accountability for their own schools' performance. I have a feeling the top 10% in any community are going to be mostly composed of the kids from the richest or the most influential 10% of families in that community and therefore the 10% of families who are most likely to complain about the school system and try to improve it to ensure that their kids end up at Austin.

Since the Times puts its articles behind a wall after awhile, I'll post the article in a comment (below).

December 16, 2006

Huffington Post on the Review

I missed this earlier, but Huffington Post had a brief piece on the Review and its cover troubles.

I think we do have to give the Review credit for not using the "but some of my best friends are Native Americans" defense. Of course, everyone would know that isn't true, so we probably shouldn't give them that much credit.

December 12, 2006

Review Wannabe Tufts Primary Source Prints Racist Xmas Carol

News story

Primary Source, "Tufts' journal of conservative thought" printed this carol, sung to the tune of "O Come All Ye Faithful":

"O Come All Ye Black Folk
Boisterous yet Desirable
O come ye, O come ye to our University
Come and we will admit you,
Born in to oppression;
O come let us accept them,
O come let us accept them,
O come let us accept them,
Fifty-two black freshman.

O Sing, gospel choirs,
We will accept your children,
No matter what your grades are, F's, D's, or G's,
Give them all privileged status; We will welcome all.
O come let us accept them,
O come let us accept them,
O come let us accept them,
Fifty-two black freshman.

All come! Blacks, we need you,
Born into the ghetto.
O Jesus!We need you now to fill our racial quotas.
Descendants of Africa, with brown skin arriving:
O come let us accept them,
O come let us accept them,
O come let us accept them,
Fifty-two black freshman."

December 11, 2006

Janos for Trustee!

Ed. Note: Let me say first of all that this is not an endorsement of Janos; I'm just reporting on something I find interesting. I do, however, think having a young alum on the board is a good idea, and one I know the Nomination Committee rightfully thought about. Whether Janos is the man for the job or not, I'll let you decide.

Janos Marton, twice-former SA President, wants your support to put him on the ballot as a petition trustee. Here's why:
There are essentially three reasons why I am running, and why I believe I would be the best choice for the Board of Trustees.
1) I believe that Dartmouth needs to pro-actively move in a new direction if we are to remain competitive as one our country’s great institutions. The ever-increasing competitive nature of the job market means evaluating our academics, related programs, and career services planning to ensure that Dartmouth students have every opportunity possible available to them upon graduation. Integrating Dartmouth’s greatest resource, its alumni, deeper into the fabric of the college will be beneficial for everyone who wants to keep Dartmouth strong.
2) Moving in a new direction means keeping our traditions strong, not letting them fade. It is the strong personal relationships, the sense of camaraderie, and opportunities for leadership provided by the Greek system, athletic teams, and student organizations that are the cornerstones of the Dartmouth experience. They engender the deeper sense of community that many other institutions cannot provide for students once their four years are over.
3) The Board of Trustees, while very distinguished, would benefit from the addition of a young perspective, the perspective of someone who is in touch not only with what concerns current students and recent alumni, but also the specific challenges the next generation of Dartmouth students and graduates will face as they leave college. My own background in college governance, including my service as Student Body President, will help me serve this role.

Finally, in light of recent tension between what is seen as the traditional inner-circle of Dartmouth governance and its controversial reformers, I can only say that I will bring to the discussion a legacy of fighting for reform, without an ideological inflexibility that would prevent me from getting as much as possible done during my service to the College.
If you would like to support Janos, even just for a lark, you must submit a petition in writing (i.e. snail-mail), not via email or fax, but I honestly can't tell where to send it (which says something about how the difficulties of petitioning—the whole page about petitioners is pretty damn unclear). Any way, the petition can be found here.

I must say, though, the nominated slate is really strong.

The Dartmouth Displays Its Commitment to Diversity

"The 2007 Directorate of The Dartmouth (standing, from left): Publisher Dax Tejera '07, Finance Director Charlie Kettering '07, Circulation Director Eric Crawford '08, Hanover Bureau Chief Dan Durray '08, Advertising Director Jacques Hebert '07, Photography Editor Emma Haberman '08, Photography Editor Lauren Wool '08, Executive Editor Caroline McKenzie '07, Sports Editor Ben Reed '07, Editor-in-Chief Kevin Garland '07; front row sitting: Executive Editor Ben Taylor '07, Arts Editor Frances Cha '07, Dartmouth Mirror Editor Nova Robinson '08, Opinion Editor Julia Bernstein '07, Day Managing Editor Joanna Zimelis '07, Evening Managing Editor '07."

December 9, 2006

The Holiday

I was dragged to The Holiday last night. You know, the chick-flick marketed toward the "I never wanted to stop watching Love Actually" crowd.

It actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Kate Winslet is, as expected, brilliant, Cameron Diaz's terrible acting wasn't detrimental for most of the film as it was covered over by Jude Law's charm, and there were a few somewhat unexpected twists which almost made the plot interesting. The really interesting part (for me, at least) was its engagement with the culture of Hollywood, obviously not in the way The Player did, but in a manner that was pleasantly nostalgic, if nothing else.

At any rate, there are a lot of shitty movies out there. The Holiday is at least better than shitty, and possibly quite fun, depending on your taste, I suppose.

December 8, 2006

The Sioux Crew—The Whole Story of the University of North Dakota and the Fighting Sioux

I should have written about this weeks ago. I knew that there was more to the story than what the governor of North Dakota (a Dartmouth '79) and the president of the university said, but I didn't bother to actually look it up.

Here's the story:

There is a 3,00010,000-seat, $104-115 million ice hockey arena sitting on UND's campus that was paid for by one Ralph Engelstad with the express intention (I would call it actual coercion) that UND would keep the Sioux name for its teams. To make this virtually permanent, "Fighting Sioux logos are carved in [all or nearly all] cherry wood-framed seats, etched in glass doors and inlaid on marble walkways" and "in gold script at the arena's entrance, displayed next to a life-size statue of the school's late benefactor [are the words]: 'The Fighting Sioux logo, the Fighting Sioux uniforms, the aura of the Fighting Sioux tradition and the spirit of being a Fighting Sioux are of lasting value and immeasurable significance to our past, present and future.'" (From the WaPo)

Imagine, for a second, how 1) embarrassing, 2) expensive and 3) contract-breaking a switch of mascot would be for the University of North Dakota.

Now imagine this:
[T]he Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA/CAS) has issued an evaluation report regarding UND that strongly urges the school to change its mascot. However, the NCA can only issue recommendations and has no enforcement powers.

The NCA/CAS is an accreditation and evaluation organization based in Chicago, Ill. that promotes a system of higher education that enhances student learning, fosters healthy students, prepares youth to live in a diverse world, and protects the public trust.

In 2000, the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education ignored protests from college alumni and decided to keep the Fighting Sioux as the team name. This decision was made despite complaints from tribal governments, the National Indian Education Association, the National Congress of American Indians, and many other organizations determined to change the name.

The NCA report states that the evaluation team which visited the UND campus was aware of the long history behind the conflict and was informed that the president of the university, Charles Kupchella, was working to ensure that the use of the logo was respectful to all concerned. After this, the team believed the issue did not matter to their evaluation and expected to consider it closed in respect to the 2000 board decision.

But by the end of the visit, the team discovered that the issue was definitely not closed.

The report states, "The issue was clearly not at rest. It continues to be raised by those who consider it a moral issue as well as by those who do not object to the symbols but who deplore what is happening to the campus. It is clear that it will simmer on until it boils over again openly, while in the meantime diminishing collegiality and learning for many in the campus community. It will not go away."

The NCA report goes on to state that the team believes the Fighting Sioux logo creates such disharmony among students and the university community that a name-change is the only solution in "moving the campus forward." [...]

The NCA report contained a section that listed the team's comments regarding the use of the Fighting Sioux name and logo. These comments are as follows:

I. This persistent controversy has a negative impact on the learning environment at the University of North Dakota. It adversely affects student participation in the classroom and the laboratory. It adversely affects student relationships in residence halls and in sports and other recreational activities. It encourages disrespectful treatment of some students by other students and by some faculty and staff. Team members also hear that it adversely affects student recruitment and retention. It is an issue which distracts students, faculty, staff, and administration from the very important business of higher education.

II. Continued use of the logo is manifestly inconsistent with the university's goal of being the foremost university in the nation in the programs it offers for and about American Indians, a goal as important to the state and university as it is to those served by it.

III. It is particularly awkward for an American university, which endeavors to teach and model respect for others and sensitivity to their perspectives, to widely and prominently employ a logo and nickname that a substantial number of American Indians and their organizations have said and continue to say is offensive and demeaning.

IV. Times change. Values and practices change. As the nation has moved over the last century to de-legitimize and reduce discrimination against minorities, it has become less tolerant of the use of stereotypes and language regarded as offensive by minorities and many others. There was a reason to change the nickname from Flickertails in 1930. There is reason to change the nickname from Fighting Sioux today. If UND continues on course, it will be increasingly out of step with the times.

V. In the short run, there is no win-win resolution to this controversy. In the long run, if use of the logo and nickname were discontinued, everyone would win. In the long run, if use of the logo and nickname are not discontinued, everyone loses.

VI. Ultimately, the University of North Dakota is too good an institution, and its leadership is too important to the State of North Dakota, to let this issue continue to weaken its performance and impede its full development. The state board should revisit its earlier decision and direct the campus to develop and implement an orderly plan for discontinuing use of the Indianhead logo and the Fighting Sioux nickname.

VII. But these comments are nothing UND President Kupchella hasn't heard before. The arguments against the Fighting Sioux team name have been consistent throughout the 30 years of conflict, but none have succeeded in bringing an end to the offensive logo.
The whole article is long, and you may get the point. Kupchella is being at least disingenuous when he implies that the issues have been resolved satisfactorily, if not outright misleading. Not only that, but there is good reason to believe the UND administration has been disingenuous in the past in regards to this issue.

I am only reporting on all of this because I think many alums and many students actually believe that Josie Harper's letter was ill-informed, rash, and wrong. What do I think? It was principled, factually sound, and on target. UND is wrong in its position and it is covering that up because of Engelstad's donation. Its policies are being dictated by one [now dead] alum, and that is institutionally wrong.

December 7, 2006

Handy Tool for Bibliographies

Otto Bib is quite simple, but really useful—type in the ISBN numbers (to be found on the back of your book or the copyright page) for all the books you're citing and, presto change-o, you get a full bibliography for all of them in perfect MLA style. Journal articles or websites, however, not so much.

Covering Conservatives Pt. II

Two of the editors, including my favorite literary/philosophical critic, Emily Ghods-Esfahani (that's sarcasm for you conservatives out there), of the Review have released their own statement about the cover:
Dear Dartmouth,

The recent Dartmouth Review cover depicting a warrior with a scalp was a mistake. It distracted attention from the serious journalism The Dartmouth Review has been publishing, not least in the articles that came after the cover [like this or this or Emily's own "article," which is basically an example of Nancy Grace trying to channel Maureen Dowd. Very serious.]. The result was that people are discussing the cover, the scalp, and the offense felt by descendants of the original Americans. In the discussions on the staff prior to publishing this issue, there were reservations about the cover. We certainly agree with the statement of President James Wright that all students at Dartmouth whatever their background, should feel welcome here [except those people we wish weren't here].

At the same time we find there exists some paranoia, no little hysteria really [I can't believe I predicted this type of accusation!], on the part of the official Dartmouth on the matter of the now abandoned “Indian symbol.” As an example we cite the recent gratuitous insult offered by athletic director Josie Harper to the University of South Dakota because its hockey team uses the university’s Indian logo. She was properly rebuked by the president of that university [i.e. the president boldfacedly lied about the situation and conservatives bought it hook, line, and sinker. Sorry UND, everything's not just fine and dandy there]. There is such a thing as minding your own business [which includes the assholes at the Review—you could leave well enough alone yourselves]. There is also such a thing as achieving a bit of perspective [which the Review has never tried], even developing a sense of humor [which the Review has tried, but failed]. There are no “racists” or people who “hate” at The Dartmouth Review [just good old-fashioned intolerance and unwarranted elitism]. Such terms are the clich├ęs of unearned, but desperately desired, moral superiority [it's not about being superior, actually, just about not being a bunch of hard-headed bigots].

The best course for those of a conservative disposition is to employ evidence, learning, logic, and wit to combat what Orwell called “the smelly little orthodoxies now contending for our minds” [like pluralism and diversity]. Because much about Dartmouth is liberal, this intellectual combat must necessarily seem conservative, though, occasionally, the orthodoxies will not be creatures of leftism, and the arguments we employ must be merely true [go ahead and make it so vague that we assume you're saying something non-partisan and generous]. If persuasiveness is desirable, then boorishness must be rejected [remember that, Emily. That would mean no more articles like your last]. Offense as such should not be sought out [ditto]. We believe that offense and truth reside on two independent axes: the Review must measure its success on the axis of truth, not of offense [still fond of those hamfisted metaphors, aren't we?].

In campus debates, there are bound to be topics that cause people to react viscerally, because they offend their particular suspensions of reason [those deluded liberals! They made us so frustrated, we had to do it!]. The solution, however, is not usually a swift punch in the gut [not usually, but there are some liberals out there who...]. Instead, the staff must produce a thought-provoking, funny, [because funny goes along so well with our "serious journalism"] and persuasive newspaper. We have before and will continue to do so. [We're going to keep doing what we're doing and pick covers that are less likely to cause our few supporters to feel squeamish.]


Nicholas Desai, Managing Editor, and Emily Ghods-Esfahani, Associate Editor

Special thanks to Professor Jeffrey Hart for helping us to draft this letter. [i.e. telling us what we had to write.]

Covering Conservatives Pt. I

From a new Dartmouth-related blog, "Dartmouth Traditions," by a Dartmouth '60, George W. Potts (what a fine name—sounds like an extra from a Frank Capra film or something):
When I was a freshman (in the late 1950’s) and lived in Wheeler Hall facing the green [sic]. I greatly enjoyed, through an opened window, the fraternities rehearsing for “Hums” on the steps of Dartmouth Hall on those ever-warming spring evenings. And finally, during Green Key weekend, would come the full-blown Hums competition with every available member of each fraternity dressed in black shoes, black chinos and white shirts singing their hearts out just for the honor of winning this age-old competition. And there were some spine-tingling performances as well-harmonized groups sang a capella many of the old-time pop classics, Dartmouth favorites, and an occasional new composition. As I remember it, the judging was based on percentage participation, song selection, group appearance, and quality of performance.
Because College is really only about having a hot pair of black chinos and singing a capella. I don't believe everyone that used to attend Dartmouth attaches as much faux gravitas to overly sentimentalized tripe like this, but if this is Old Dartmouth, I'm glad it's dead.

Also new in the Dartmouth blogosphere is, New Hampshire Green, which, if you enjoy reading knee-jerk conservative rants like this:
What is it about a Monday morning quarterback that wants to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? I would have loved it more if he [Victor Davis Hanson, author of a mediocre book about the Peloponnesian War] had expounded about how truly democratic states have a hard time fighting wars because they get the politicians meddling around in battlefield affairs. Effortlessly this topic transcends to our country with our own wars and history where FDR’s government operated more like an oligarchy and today we operate more like a true democracy where everyone – and I mean everyone – has their opinion about military affairs.

I hate to say it, but in the context of history, how is the War on Terror not similar to Arginusae? I would say the wars to overthrow the Taliban and Saddam were conducted with historically low casualties and challenging objectives. The Soviets couldn’t take Afghanistan. The Iraqi army was the 4th largest in the world before the gulf war and many were battle-hardened veterans from the Iraq-Iran war. The overthrow of the Taliban and Saddam have been military victories on an epic scale, but our society somehow feels that we’ve been defeated. Athens also felt as though it had been defeated (even though Arginusae was a much needed victory) and kept on believing in defeat until they really did lose everything. I can just see the NY Times in Athens after their walls were being torn down with headlines proclaiming: “We told you so: Athens’ military really does suck, and Rumsfeld should have been executed.”
Everyone has their opinion about military affairs, including you, NH Green, even when they disagree with the folks running the war, as you now do with Robert Gates. That's why we have this thing called democracy, which you apparently disdain. What a great conservative.

December 4, 2006

John Bolton Resigns

Knowing that he won't get officially confirmed by a majority-Democrat Senate, the least suave man-in-a-mustache ever (and that's a lot of competition) resigned.

Can Bush actually bring himself to nominate a real diplomat this time? Stay tuned to find out...

December 3, 2006

Indian Post, in which Comments are Given Redress

First off, this would be so much less confusing if we all just signed our names or initials to these, just like the homey '00 did a few posts back. Nobody's going to shank you in Food Court. Reg. Anon., I was under the impression you graduated already and are gone. So what are you so afraid of? Getting Googled? Misspell your name, or use a blitz handle, or something. It's not like if I learn your name it'll mean anything to me.

Also, let's not talk about the Yasukuni thing when it doesn't reeeeaaallly apply all the way. I realize you read your CNN or whatever, and your understanding of events seems pretty solid, but it's kind of incongruous for a bunch of reasons, most of them having to do with the general fucked-upedness of the Japanese political system. To say nothing of the disproportionate/bizarre influence of those right-wing dudes who ride around all day in big trucks with loudspeakers, flying the Imperial flag, putting Akasaka on blast from 9a to 7p ON THE DOT.

Third, it totally doesn't matter whether people are embracing the Indian symbol with racist intent or not. The issue is that the nebulous Warm+Fuzzies they get out of remembering the Dartmouth Indian don't really outweigh the hurt feelings and alienation experienced by a single actual Indian kid.

It has been mentioned by our favorite Anonymous that claims of offense don’t necessarily entitle an individual to an administration response. However, a claim of offense should entitle an individual to at least the consideration of a response, in which we weigh harms and benefits. In this case, I just don’t see the benefits as being worth very much.

There are really only two things that make Dartmouth Dartmouth; the physical place in which we are located, and us (which includes faculty, admins, alums, etc.). These traditions (the Indian, or the bonfire, or Carnival, or rushing the field, or whatever) may “mean” something to some people in a vague sense; they may allow some individuals to construct a simulated “Dartmouth” that’s a few degrees separated from what Dartmouth actually is; and they may generate some alumni dollars; but fundamentally, they don’t do or mean anything. They are just repetition for the sake of repetition, allowing students to stake some nebulous claim to historical relevance-by-association.

I think it was Larry Morse ’56 who said that Dartmouth traditions transcended time, “binding the generations together,” but if you think about it the “generations” aren’t really bound together at all. I’ve never met anybody who went to Dartmouth before 1976. I don’t have anything in common with them. We have, at certain points in our lifetimes, stood around in the same frat basements/dining halls/classrooms etc., but that is the extent of our interaction. If the shit that they constantly generate in the D and the Review is any indication, I would hate most of them within about 5 minutes of conversation (I guess I would give them more time if I thought for sure that they were senile; I’m not made of stone).

Anyway in this case the benefits of the Indian don’t outweigh the costs. It is not worth having Native kids try to transfer out because they feel so alienated so that some alums and students can paint themselves into some semi-historical shared hallucination.

Speaking of senility: please do not support Jay-Z's shitty rap album with your holiday spending dollars. If you are going to buy a major-label rap album this Christmas season, for the love of God (or Jesus) give some shine to the Clipse. If that's not your thing, the Game's new one is more than listenable.

Homophobia and Bored at Baker—It's Frat-astic!

So, even though Bored at Baker has been down for the past half-day or so (must be killing all of your attempts at procrastination), if you read Bored at Baker even somewhat occasionally while it was up, you probably noticed that a whole lot of posts are about 'gays'--how many brothers at a specific frat are gay, or how filled with closeted gays Dartmouth is (I think I saw the word 'fudge-packer' thrown around one time--what is this, British prep school?). And particularly popular is the combination of those two topics—how many closeted brothers there are in any given frat. This all leads me to wonder not whether any of this is true (I honestly don't care either way), but

Why is secret man-on-man frat action such a hot topic? Who is writing all these posts about it?

My guess is not too elaborate: it's other fratheads talking about the frats they don't like or didn't get into. It seems like the most common insult from one frat to another is to insinuate its gayness.

Here's my theory about frats and homophobia:

Being in a frat makes you more insecure about your "manhood" (and not just your heterosexuality) than being unaffiliated.

I have met very few unaffiliated guys who are vehemently homophobic or who call men a "pussy" or other emasculating words to insult them. On the other hand, you hear it a lot from the frats, and particularly, I think, from the "frattiest" frats—i.e. those with the most athletes, which doubles the following effects.

If you live or spend significant time in an environment where there are a lot of men who spend a lot of their time trying to be "manlier" than you, or "frattier" or "harder," there's a good chance that you'll come to the conclusion that some of them legitimately are manlier than you, maybe a lot of them. You could very well become insecure about your manliness. You could try to compensate for this by asserting the presence of closeted gays in another frat. The thinking there, I guess, is if you make other frats seem less manly, your frat will rise in manliness somewhat, and you'll be manlier too by virtue of your frat.

If you're unaffiliated, for the most part you're not always competing with a bunch of other guys to see who rages the hardest, and if you do, it's probably not regularly enough for a real anxiety to form if you don't hold your alcohol as well as your friends or you don't hook up with as many women or whatever.

Basically what I'm saying is, frat brothers are more confused about their gender than unaffiliated men. Probably not a shocking insight, but one worth making.

"...And Marx Argues It Was Off-Sides"

Dartmouth Review "Explains" Cover Story

Linsalata says:
In light of reactions to the cover of the most recent issue of The Dartmouth Review, I feel a word of explanation is in order. The cover was intended to be a hyperbolic, tongue-in-cheek commentary upon the reactions to events this term by the self-styled leadership of Dartmouth’s Native American community. Placed in the context of the articles within the issue itself, the commentary made sense. But placed in the context of the reaction it elicited, the extent of the reaction was wholly unanticipated. However, I regret that the cover may have precipitated further feelings of offense within Dartmouth and overshadowed more thoughtful discussions of these matters presented in the articles within the issue itself.

I emphasize that I still stand fully behind the editorial content of the issue—which I encourage everyone to read and consider, quite apart from the cover. I also restate The Dartmouth Review’s position that our criticisms are leveled entirely at the actions of the NAD organization, particularly its leadership, and not Native American students at large. The NAD leadership is not beyond reproach simply because it claims to speak for all Dartmouth’s Native Americans, any more than the leadership of any other group should receive immunity from scrutiny. Unanimity of sentiment is an impossibility within any such group; thus, it is only reasonable to criticize the leadership who claimed to act as spokespeople, and not Dartmouth’s Native Americans as a whole. The accusation, then, that this cover was maliciously designed as a wantonly racist attack on upon [sic] Native Americans is patently false. All the same, I regret that it could have been construed as such, to the detriment of discussion of the content of the issue.
I only have one thing to say because you can probably guess how I feel about the cover's surprisingly benevolent intentions:

If Linsalata can say that the NAD leadership has no right to presume to speak for all Native Americans at Dartmouth, how can he have the right to speak for those silent Native Americans who agree with him or at least disagree with the Native American Council? If he's really committed to starting a dialogue about this issue, it's imperative that he doesn't simply suggest the existence of some Native Americans who are more or less in agreement with him, but that he facilitates a real exposition of these opinions—either in The Review or in some other manner.

In other news, if any of you readers started a blog recently (about three days ago) called "The Granite of New Hampshire," which purports to "offer a response to the liberal bullshit found in campus publications and blogs. Primarily I will be focusing on the Dartmouth Free Press and the Little Green Blog [I get the feeling s/he doesn't like me] as I feel that recently their bullshit has reached new heights, but really anything is fair game. Also if not much has happened recently [where have you been?] then I reserve the right to discuss older issues from the archives of such publications. If I do I will try to limit myself to general issues and stay away from anything that is specifically out of date..."--why did you take it down? Or did you move to a new address? I can't find it, and I'm really interested in seeing you call my bullshit.

NYT 10 Best Books of the Year

ABSURDISTAN By Gary Shteyngart.
THE LAY OF THE LAND By Richard Ford.
FALLING THROUGH THE EARTH A Memoir. By Danielle Trussoni.
THE LOOMING TOWER Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. By Lawrence Wright.
MAYFLOWER A Story of Courage, Community, and War. By Nathaniel Philbrick.
THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA A Natural History of Four Meals. By Michael Pollan.

Seems like a fairly good list. I don't know much about the non-fiction (and really couldn't care, although The Places in Between actually looks like something I might enjoy), but the fiction section is pretty good.

Absurdistan and The Lay of the Land are both books I've championed this year (here and here) and The Emperor's Children is a book I'm really eager to read at some point. I don't know anything about Hempel, unfortunately, and Specialty Topics is, well, it's the New York Times throwing a better-than-mediocre populist novel onto their list like they did with Prep last year.

However, they might have wanted to take a look at The Road, Against the Day, or (how could they possibly overlook this??) Suite Francaise, not to mention one or more of the Booker nominees—Black Swan Green especially, or that Edward St. Aubyn novel (though his earlier novel Some Hope is better, I hear). St. Aubyn may be too snooty even for the Times, though.

Anyway, just some ideas for winter break reading.

December 1, 2006


I'm finally going to have to buckle down on my work--no more blogging/answering comments--until tomorrow evening.

Give me hell until then.

Linsalata's Editorial

I've heard from quite a few people (some of whom I hold in considerable respect) that Dan Linsalata's editorial in the Restless Natives issue of the Review was actually very good. I have to agree in some measure—Dan did present a reasoned argument which is certainly undermined by the sensationalism of the cover and the senselessly provocative title (NADs on the Warpath).

However, in order to accept Dan's argument, you have to basically ignore the fact that Native Americans here might have a different "Dartmouth experience" from the one(s) that whites typically have. You have to basically deny the fact that most minorities can't act white enough for differences like race not to matter here—and they shouldn't have to. Ever.

Dan starts out from the premise that the NADs chose this term to "start being angry again."

Guess what, on a campus where people use your race as a code for their defiance toward the liberal politics of diversity, pluralism, and multiculturalism, you don't really get to choose when to start being angry. When over-entitled assholes repeatedly tell you that you should be honored for being represented as a caricature of your heritage, a caricature whose attributes—fierceness and bellicosity—were the same tropes used to justify mass slaughters of your race, you might not feel like you have a choice whether to be angry or not.

What you can choose is whether to suffer in silence or to act against this kind of behavior, and how you can act against it. Of course, Dan not only asserts that the NADs have a choice in when to start being angry, he also maintains that the way they acted on their anger was wrong.

First, to the charge that the NADs have been deficient in attempting to dialogue with The Review about this issue—seriously, it's no secret that many NADs on campus are not fans of the Indian symbol and that they do not feel honored by it in the slightest. It's not their job to come begging you to stop it until you graciously relent. You say the NADs have ducked discourse; I say you make discourse impossible.

Second, to the charge that the NADs have gotten the administrators tucked away in their pockets, you must be kidding me. The Review has been complaining for years how the administration is too sensitive to minority issues, and now you pull this out as if it's a shocking new development? OMG, administrators agree with the NADs that they shouldn't be commodified and humiliated! Quelle surprise! as Malchow might say. To assert that because the administration is overwhelmingly in sympathy with the NADs means that administrators are in fact being manipulated by them is ludicrous. Swap "NADs" with "Jews" and you have a custom-built anti-semitic diatribe—the minority that secretly pulls all the strings.

Third, to the charge that the NADs' statement which asserted their exclusive right to determine what offends them is a demand for the power to control people's actions and words, what the hell are you thinking? They are merely saying, you cannot tell me when and when not to be offended. They are not saying, we have the right to make you stop doing something whenever we decide we're offended. That is a ludicrous and entirely agenda-driven interpretation.

Fourth, to the charge (the most important one) that the NADs haven't even gotten their own ideas straight and shouldn't complain until they do, I have news for you. Despite what you may think, the NADs aren't a bunch of lockstep drones of political correctness. There is no reason for them to have a unified political platform or ideology. They are a community, not a political party. The fact that many of them feel extremely offended by the Indian symbol and some of them don't as much is not proof positive that the symbol shouldn't offend them, but evidence that the experiences of individuals are not going to be the same in every way.

But we are no less responsible for our actions toward Native Americans or blacks or Latinos or women or gay men or anyone else just because there is more than one opinion within that group about what constitutes appropriate behavior toward or against that group. Some women feel spousal abuse is just a part of traditional gender roles. That doesn't mean that all women the world over have to come to a consensus about spousal abuse before we can tell a wife-beater that he is the lowest scum of the earth and he should stop. Diversity of opinion doesn't absolve us of responsibility for our actions.

So, you asked for a proper refutation of The Review's arguments, and here it is. I'll be interested to see if The Review picks up its side of the debate.

Problems Even a Mascot Couldn't Fix

83-32--Dartmouth men's basketball gets historically wallopped.
"They missed shots and we're a lot bigger than they are," said Kansas coach Bill Self. "So we should have had a huge advantage from a rebounding standpoint, because they weren't very big."
Dartmouth's 32 points was the lowest tally for any team in the history of Kansas's fieldhouse.

Maybe that school pride issue isn't about mascots at all. Maybe it's about the fact that Ivy League sports are seriously as much fun to watch as high school sports, sometimes not even that. And if you came to the Ivy League expecting anything else, you're an idiot.