November 04, 2006
by Geoffrey Nunberg For linguists of mature age, it's hard to read the exchanges between Steven Pinker and George Lakoff over Pinker's review of Lakoff's new book without a sense of déjà vu all over again--they recall the heated confrontations of the "Grammar Wars" of the 1970s, when Lakoff and other linguists of the Generative Semantics school were going to the mattresses with Chomsky and his followers over the nature of language structure. True, Pinker hardly shares Chomsky's politics, but like Chomsky he's a take-no-prisoners polemicist.
October 26, 2006
Horrors! Deep in the proposal given to Russia and China by the United States for the sanctions resolution against Iran in the UN Security Council lies one controversial provision. It would restrict Iranian students at universities abroad from studying nuclear physics. And maybe it would extend to physics, generally, and to mathematics. But maybe not. The argument is so predictable. The Chinese and Russians don't really want to press Iran too hard. But here's a point I heard from an intelligent American today at lunch.
The Concept Of Palestine
October 25, 2006
Some of us remember filling those old Jewish National Fund boxes with nickels and dimes (plus a few quarters) with which "we" helped reforest the land of Israel and also buy land from perfectly willing--indeed, very eager--Arab sellers. It is a luminous and true memory, and it also taught us our responsibility for others.
New York Postcard
October 23, 2006
The DiTomasso brothers may not have much in common with George W. Bush, but there's one thing the president and the mob-linked contractors share: Both have reason to rue the day they met Bernard B. Kerik. In 2004, Bush nominated Mayor Rudy Giuliani's former police commissioner to head the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Within days, allegations surfaced that Kerik had faced arrest for unpaid bills, had close ties to some federal contractors, and had failed to pay taxes on his nanny. The nomination collapsed, calling the White House's judgment into question.
Universities V. The Internet
October 20, 2006
by Eric Rauchway Early in my career I started giving lectures using laptops and presentation software. Others at my university were doing likewise. Still others were lecturing in a form of academic dress. Some were doing both. I am therefore fully prepared to believe that Universities are strange and discordant places because they are palimpsests of the ancient and the modern.
October 18, 2006
Maybe there's no purpose in calling attention to an editorial in the New York Times. Either you get the hard copy of the paper every day ... or you can't get an editorial on the day it's printed, since it gets caught behind the maddening (but quite understandable) Times Select fence for 24 hours. On the other hand, sometimes when there's a link from one web site to another, you can jump the fence. I don't really know what'll happen here. But "The Odor From Capitol Hill" is what the Times lede is called, and you can almost smell the reek simply by reading.
They Shoot Talking Points, Don't They?
October 11, 2006
by Eric Rauchway I'd like to root for Steven Pinker in the Pinker/Lakoff quarrel, if only because Steve's a fellow Open U faculty member. (Go, Virtual Dons!) But then he trotted out this point: Whose Freedom? shows no trace of the empirical lessons of the past three decades, such as the economic and humanitarian disaster of massively planned economies, or the impending failure of social insurance programs that ignore demographic arithmetic.
The Downsides Of Academic Moneyball
October 10, 2006
by Daniel Drezner In celebrating the Oakland A's sweep of the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS, the Volokh Conspiracy's Ilya Somin explains why he is rooting for the A's--it's because he's a member of George Mason University's law school faculty: As described in Michael Lewis' book Moneyball, A's General Manager Billy Beane pioneered the use of statistical analysis to guide personnel decisions in major league baseball.... I am a big fan of Beane and his methods, all the more so because George Mason University has used a similar approach in hiring faculty for our law school and economics departme
Kofi Annan: Not Camera Shy
October 10, 2006
In a Spine of October 2, titled "Opera Buffa," I pointed out that Kofi Annan had been a featured photographed personage in last week's Sunday Times society section. Well, what do you know? He was a featured photographed personage in this Sunday's Times, too. God, it makes you yearn for Mrs. Astor. Kofi looked a bit grimmer in the latest Times, in fact, no grins at all, unlike a week before.
War And The Historical Profession
October 09, 2006
by Jeffrey Herf I agree with David Bell's observations about the conceptual grounds in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century social theory for the lack of interest in and knowledge of international relations among many historians. Yet on the margins of the domestic, internal mainstream neglecting international politics, there was a minority current in social theory that sought to integrate the study of society with that of war between states. Clausewitz's On War, and Raymond Aron's Peace and War are two key classics of this tradition.