Shadows of Memory
Suboptimal news from the world of tv-sf: first Star Trek: Enterprise gets cancelled (yeah, I’ve ragged on it before, but it was finally starting to improve), and now the projected Babylon 5 theatrical movie The Memory of Shadows has been shelved as well. (In related news, Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski was briefly peddling his own plan to save the Trek franchise, only to pull out a day later.)
On the bright side, though, the new improved Battlestar: Galactica, which continues to be fantastic (this past Friday’s episode, “Flesh and Bone,” absolutely blew me away), has been renewed for a second season.
Now I’ve seen a lot of fans online complaining that the new Galactica is too relentlessly bleak, and that the characters are all too thoroughly flawed to be likable. Well, as far as I can tell what these criticisms really amount to is – this is Galactica for grown-ups. And about time, too. Ignore the calumnies from Cylon spies.
Nothing to Sneeze At
Today I opened a new box of Kleenex – sorry, I mean KLEENEX® – and discovered a notice with some exciting news, which I shall now quote. As Dave Barry would say: I am not making this up.
Coming Soon ...Man, I am so psyched. I can’t wait for May!
15 more tissues!
Your KLEENEX® BRAND TISSUE upright package will soon have more tissues!
More tissues to last longer.
More is convenient!
More is better!
More is coming!
Beginning May 2005, each box of KLEENEX® Upright Tissue, KLEENEX® Expressions® Upright Tissue, and KLEENEX® Lotion and Ultra Soft Upright Tissue will be increased by 15 tissues. That means more tissues ... to last longer! For more convenience!
Look for 15 more tissues in every box!
The Strange Jurisprudence of Ward Churchill
[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]
Last night I watched the embattled Ward Churchill on C-span. I give his performance a mixed review. His speech was a rousing blend of insight and obfuscation; he made many points that desperately needed making, yet his tone often savoured overmuch of Richard Mitchell’s bewildered priest, justly condemning his opponents for selective outrage while engaging in complementary selective outrage of his own. Churchill also did a fair job of rebutting some of the more hysterical interpretations of his original article (though even on a charitable reading he’s still guilty of collectivist confusion), and I was pleased to hear Native American libertarian activist Russell Means get a name check. But Churchill quickly lost credibility during Q&A, thanks to his bullying attitude toward dissenting audience members.
The most interesting point in the evening, however, came when one audience member asked Churchill how he could reconcile his claim to First Amendment protection for his controversial views with his position that Columbus Day celebrations should be banned. Part of Churchill’s answer was that no one has a right to celebrate or downplay something as evil as the North American genocide that Columbus inaugurated.
The extent to which this response plays into the hands of Churchill’s own critics is ironic, but not my present concern; the fact that Churchill’s support for free speech is selective, while regrettable, isn’t especially surprising or unusual either. (As for his take on Columbus, he has a point – though, characteristically, an exaggerated one.)
What is unusual (or new to me, anyway) is the Constitutional argument Churchill offered for his position. He claimed that the First Amendment right to march in commemoration of Columbus Day is overridden by the Ninth Amendment right of Native Americans not to be subjected to celebrations of their ancestors’ subjugation.
Now I’m always happy to see the oft-neglected Ninth Amendment actually getting remembered. (Churchill asked the audience whether anyone could recall what the Ninth Amendment says. Nobody could. One audience member gave it a stab but ended up paraphrasing the Tenth Amendment instead. For the record, the Ninth Amendment reads: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” It was included to meet the concerns of those like Alexander Hamilton who worried, presciently in the event, that a Bill of Rights might encourage future interpreters to suppose that any rights not specifically listed as protected has been surrendered.) But Churchill’s invocation of the Ninth Amendment embodies a novel twist.
Churchill evidently reads the Ninth Amendment as acknowledging not merely rights in addition to those enumerated, but rights contradicting and overriding those enumerated. This is the looniest interpretation of the Bill of Rights since the Clinton administration’s claim that the Second Amendment protects only the Federal government’s right to bear arms (an interpretation so ludicrous that even the most extreme gun-control advocates were seemingly embarrassed to embrace it). It would appear that for Churchill the Ninth Amendment means: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed as actually endorsing any of the rights enumerated.”
Does Churchill really find his bizarre interpretation plausible, or is he simply employing a cynical stratagem of power politics? Either way, it doesn’t speak much in his favour. Still, given the mass-murderers who currently run our country I can’t get too excited about Ward Churchill’s sins. Plus he was more entertaining than Bill O’Reilly, and probably uttered a higher percentage of true statements; if he had a regular show I reckon I’d watch it. No danger of that in Bush’s America though.
A Curse On Evil In All Its Forms
Too Hot for Vegas
To those who are accustomed to thinking of threats to academic freedom as coming mainly from the statist left, the current witch-hunt against Ward Churchill should serve as a salutary reminder that the statist right is no better – particularly in these days of triumphalist Bushism. (And no, that doesn’t mean that I have no quarrels with what Churchill said. But that’s an issue for another day. )
Still, it’s not as though the statist left isn’t willing to keep its hand in. Their latest target is Rothbardian economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe, who apparently offended one of his students by theorising in class that homosexuals tend to have higher time-preference than heterosexuals; in response the administration at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is threatening to reprimand him and dock his pay. (For the story see here; for commentary see here, here, here, and here.)
Whatever one thinks of such hypotheses (I don’t put much stock in them myself, and I can understand why students might have been offended – but that too is an issue for another day), they’re pretty commonly broached in the social sciences, and in any case certainly fall well within the boundaries of academic freedom. It’s not the inoffensive, uncontroversial opinions that need protecting.
Accordingly, I sent UNLV President Carol C. Harter the following note:
Dear President Harter,For anyone wishing to send President Harter a similar note, here’s her contact info:
I am appalled to learn that one of your professors, internationally renowned economist Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, is being threatened with disciplinary action for the exercise of his academic freedom – freedom which your own university by-laws oblige you to uphold. I recall your attention to the following provisions:Academic freedom is essential to these purposes and is applicable to both teaching and research. Freedom in teaching is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the teacher in teaching and of the student in learning. Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth and knowledge. A member of the faculty has freedom and an obligation, in the classroom or in research, to discuss and pursue the faculty member's subject with candor and integrity, even when the subject requires consideration of topics which may be politically, socially or scientifically controversial. In order to insure the freedom to seek and profess truth and knowledge, as stated in Section 2.3 of the University and Community College System of Nevada Code, the faculty member, as defined in Section 2.2 of this chapter, shall not be subjected to censorship or discipline by the University and Community College System of Nevada on grounds that the faculty member has expressed opinions or views which are controversial, unpopular or contrary to the attitudes of the University and Community College System of Nevada or the community.Please assure me and the global scholarly community that UNLV’s contractual obligations to Dr. Hoppe will be respected, and that he will be issued a formal apology for the shocking threats that have already been made to his academic freedom.
President Carol C. Harter
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org [but I hear that she is dropping this email address]
Office of the President
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
4505 Maryland Parkway
Las Vegas, Nevada 89154-1001
18.4 + 41
[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]
The newest issue of the Journal of Libertarian Studies – vol. 18, no. 4 – is devoted to the interconnections between militarism abroad and plutocracy at home, and ranges from the Treaty of Westphalia to the sociology of William Graham Sumner; I summarise the contents here.
In other news, I turn 41 today.
Who Put the A in Austro-Athenian?
Ayn Rand was born 100 years ago today. I’ve written a centenary notice, Ayn Rand’s Contribution to the Cause of Freedom, for the Mises Institute website.
Here are some links to other centenary notices I’ve come across online, by Chris Sciabarra, Sheldon Richman, David Boaz, Ed Hudgins, Jim Peron, Robert Bidinotto, Cathy Young, Onkar Ghate, and various authors in the Free Radical.