These are all the Blogs posted on Tuesday, 14, 2006.
Tuesday, 14 March 2006
I suggested in an earlier post that the internet is a good servant but a bad master. This story in The Telegraph about plagiarism at Oxford confirmed my view. I was actually quite shocked to read it:
Plagiarism at Oxford appears to be rife among both undergraduate and postgraduate students, with most of it passing unnoticed by examiners and tutors, the university admitted for the first time yesterday.
Prof Alan Grafen, the senior proctor, who is the university's chief disciplinary officer, said the number of students copying other people's work without acknowledgment threatened to undermine the worth of an Oxford degree...
Prof Grafen laid much of the blame on schools for encouraging a practice of "submitting work in class that is more or less cobbled together from the internet". He went on: "Rising generations thus arrive at university with an ingrained habit acquired through earlier encouragement and approval."
The Telegraph also features an interview with a student, which, even allowing for undergraduate bravado, is quite disturbing:
In a high-pressure university atmosphere where writing two essays a week is common for arts undergraduates, the recycling of essays, the copying of entire paragraphs from books and the popularity of wholesale "lifts" from online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia cannot be overestimated.
Within the past couple of years, students have been given 24-hour internet access by colleges, "primarily for academic purposes". In reality, it's less for academic than for blagging purposes.
Friends of mine have used websites such as www.academicdb.com or www.coursework.info for Oxford-standard essays. The £10 registration fee is a low price to pay when you have two hours in which to write, no reading done and have a hangover...
I remember naively asking a friend running for the Oxford Union in our first year how he made time to get to the library. "Library? Google," was his pithy reply.
The Telegraph's leader is unruffled by this:
Students have been copying out other people's work, and claiming the credit for it, since man first learnt how to write.
But the proctor is on to something when he says that the internet has made it very much easier for lazy students to cheat. Many don't even bother to read the work that they cut and paste from the net.
In the old days, before "coursework" counted towards exam results, at least plagiarists had to memorise the material that they were copying. Prof Grafen says that one part of the answer is to make all students sign affidavits, swearing that the work they submit is theirs.
A better answer would be for all dons to familiarise themselves with Google, and learn how to spot a cheat.
Perhaps. An even better answer would be to minimise the coursework element of a degree course - I would also extend this to schools - so that cheats would get their comeuppance when it came to the final exams. The combination of plagiarism and coursework means that the student may get a degree having learnt nothing at all.
Posted on 03/14/2006 5:01 AM by Mary Jackson
Tuesday, 14 March 2006
Big Love and other horrors
I watched the pilot program of HBO's "Big Love" yesterday. I'm happy to report that at least in my mind, it fails on all counts.
1) It purports to show a polygamy in an understanding light while completely failing to grasp the religious motivation behind such aberrant behavior. In fact it attempts to ridicule religiosity in general. The thick hick accents were saved for the "real polygamists" Paxton was supposed to have broken away from.
2) It seems to be a blatant pitch by homosexual men to the adolescent fantasies of heterosexual men, but it misses the mark, because there is no hint of romance, nothing of the imagination. They don't seem to understand what romantic love is between men and women. Polygamous marriage just ain't marriage.
3) Every woman watching couldn't help thinking "What if he didn't have to divorce her before he married me?" or "What if he didn't have to divorce me before he married her?" Show killing thoughts right there.
Prediction: Big Love will be canceled due to poor ratings even though it follows HBOs most successful offering, "The Sopranos" and will end the careers of Paxton and Tripplehorn. (My husband wanted to see Tripplehorn naked, but what we saw was Paxton. Another priority problem: you don't pander to hetero-male sexual fantasy by showing naked males.)
I really wonder about the minds of men who want to see women degraded in such a manner. However they try to spin it, polygamy is disgusting business. Who could help thinking, what if that was my sister? What if that was my mother? Beware false prophets - and profits too.
Posted on 03/14/2006 5:59 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Tuesday, 14 March 2006
Veil of tears?
Naked capitalism comes to China. From The Telegraph (where else?):
Chinese brides traditionally married in red, the colour of happiness. Then white weddings were introduced from the West, with women posing in ivory silk, supported by grooms in black tie.
The latest fad, though, is simpler - the naked wedding photo - and it has not gone down well with brides' parents.
Oooh, matron! To avoid upstaging the bride, presumably the bridesmaids merely go topless.
"Some photo studios are going too far," said one angry mother. "They allow young women to have their photos taken in bikinis or with nothing on at all. I hope the authorities will do something." ...
Such exhibitionism is a surprisingly common feature of modern Chinese life, seen by many as a result of an abrupt and confusing exposure to American culture after two millennia of Confucian conformity and three decades of Maoist puritanism.
Confuse us, he say....
The internet has been an attractive venue for the young's competing desires for privacy and celebrity. "Naked chatting" - where people chat online while posing naked for a web-camera is a related and popular past-time, while women have become famous by posing provocatively for their "blogs", and in one celebrated case posting online a recording of herself having sex with a stranger.
How unlike the weblife of our own dear Iconoclast.
Angel, a bride wearing nothing but a veil, stockings and a strategically placed bunch of pink roses...l said: "If we can record how nice we look when we are young by taking photos, why shouldn't we? People grow older, fatter and uglier."
You don't say. I thought people grew younger, slimmer and more beautiful.
Posted on 03/14/2006 6:47 AM by Mary Jackson
Tuesday, 14 March 2006
DERB ON NADLER
My apologies: I have been occupied with other stuff & had no time to respond to Richard Nadler's NRO piece yesterday, as I ought to have, and as several readers urged me to.
Richard's starting point was my column of last week titled "You Don't Know Jack," about (a) the difficulty of understanding another country, and (b) how surprisingly little that understanding is aided by actually being there. Richard wrote about an upbeat report on Iraq delivered last week by a group of Iraq War vets at the National Press Club. With a friendly nod to my piece, he noted that the vets, in making their case, did not rely solely on their own impressions, but drew on "metrics that are impersonal" to show that our current Iraq policy is working--by which he means, defeating the insurgents and improving the lives of Iraqis.
My main problem with Richard's piece is that it didn't leave me feeling any wiser. I am glad that there are vets who are confident of our success in Iraq; however, I have no doubt you could assemble an equal number with the contrary view. Here is a British vet recently out of Iraq, after a brilliant career in one of the most strenuous and dangerous units in H.M. armed forces, with a distinctly opposite view.
And some of those "metrics" have a way of going fuzzy when you look hard at them. "The increase in electrical supply, and the doubling of oil revenues in the post-Saddam era," for instance. Here is a resident of Baghdad, reported in Time magazine : "We have state-supplied electricity six or seven hours a day. … Before the war, we had 20 hours of electricity a day in Baghdad." The "doubling of oil revenues" looks like spin: if indeed oil revenues have doubled, this is solely a fact of per-barrel price increases: Iraqi oil production in quantity has not yet recovered to Saddam-era levels. As for casualty counts, here is a tally for the war so far. The last month reported is Feb. 2006, with 56 U.S. dead. In Feb. 2005 the number was 62; in Feb. 2004, 19. Uh-huh.
Look: We are getting observations and "metrics" thrown at us from both sides. The intelligent citizen has to try to figure out what is going on over there, and it isn't easy, even if you're actually there. I am not much impressed by people who tell me that all the negative stuff is put out by lefties determined to bring down the Bush administration, or at least to soil its reputation. I'm sure that some is; but now & then I read a thoughtful, well-researched piece—James Fallows' Atlantic article "Why Iraq Has No Army" comes to mind--that leaves me thinking: Yeah, that sounds right. By which I mean that it (a) does not contradict any of the few facts I'm pretty sure I know, and (b) sounds like human nature in action, and (c) agrees with background stuff I've read by folk like David Pryce-Jones and S.D. Goitein about how things go in the Arab world.
Further, as a "To Hell With Them Hawk" (I think I can claim to be a founder member), the stuff about improving Iraqi lives bounces right off me. What business is it of mine, to improve Iraqi lives? Would Iraqis improve my life, if they could? "The enormous increase in cell phones, cars, and satellite TVs…" Leaving aside the fact that these improvements would have occurred anyway with the end of the Saddam embargo and the collapse of the command economy, was it really necessary to spend tens of billions of dollars and sacrifice two thousand American lives so that Iraqis could have more cell phones? If the good people of Chad, or Libya, or North Korea, suffer from an insufficiency of cell phones, shall we invade their countries?
I have more to say on this, and am in fact working up a column in response to Rich Lowry's cover piece on the To Hell With Them hawks in the current NRODT. The main thing I wanted to say is that Richard's piece left me no wiser about the situation over there, nor any more inclined to think that our current Iraq policy has any real relevance to our national interests.
Posted on 03/14/2006 3:41 PM by John Derbyshire
Tuesday, 14 March 2006
The Islamic Concept of Freedom
“Hurriyya”, Arabic for freedom, and the uniquely Western concept of freedom are completely at odds. Hurriyya “freedom”, as Ibn Arabi (d. 1240) the lionized “Greatest Sufi Master”, expressed it, “being perfect slavery”. And this conception is not merely confined to the Sufis perhaps metaphorical understanding of the relationship between Allah the “master” and his human “slaves.” The late American scholar of Islam, Franz Rosenthal (d. 2003) analyzed the larger context of hurriyya in Muslim society. He notes the historical absence of hurriyya as “a fundamental political concept that could have served as a rallying cry for great causes.” An individual Muslim“was expected to consider subordination of his own freedom to the beliefs, morality and customs of the group as the only proper course of behavior…” Thus politically, Rosenthal concludes, “…the individual was not expected to exercise any free choice as to how he wished to be governed…In general, …governmental authority admitted of no participation of the individual as such, who therefore did not possess any real freedom vis-à-vis it.”
Bernard Lewis, in his analysis of hurriyya for the venerated Encyclopedia of Islam, discusses this concept in the latter phases of the Ottoman Empire, through the contemporary era. After highlighting a few “cautious” or “conservative” (Lewis’ characterization) reformers and their writings, Lewis maintains,
…there is still no idea that the subjects have any right to share in the formation or conduct of government—to political freedom, or citizenship, in the sense which underlies the development of political thought in the West. While conservative reformers talked of freedom under law, and some Muslim rulers even experimented with councils and assemblies government was in fact becoming more and not less arbitrary…
Lewis also makes the important point that Western colonialismamelioratedthis chronic situation:
During the period of British and French domination, individual freedom was never much of an issue. Though often limited and sometimes suspended, it was on the whole more extensive and better protected than either before or after.
In the final revulsion against the West, Western democracy too was rejected as a fraud and a delusion, of no value to Muslims.
Posted on 03/14/2006 4:07 PM by Andy Bostom
Tuesday, 14 March 2006
"Your 'smack' dollars at work!"
From AP, via Yahoo! News: " Afghans to Drug Lords: Keep Profits Home."
Afghanistan will encourage its powerful drug lords to invest their illegally earned profits in the war-shattered country, according to the governor of the nation's top opium-growing region.
"We as a government will provide them the opportunity to use their money for the national benefit," Helmand Gov. Mohammed Daud said during a trip to the region this week by U.S. Ambassador Ronald Neumann.
"They must invest in industries. They must invest in construction companies," he said.
No problem. Drug dealers are always out for the good of their country and fellow man.
The drug trade employs about one in 10 Afghans and brought in $2.8 billion last year, Afghan and U.S. officials say. The vast majority of that goes to traffickers and only a small fraction to farmers.
Drug agents in recent years have considered using airplanes to spray herbicides on the poppies, but strong opposition from Karzai halted the idea, the diplomat said.
The ground eradication campaign has also met with resistance.
Taliban rebels have vowed to defend the opium farmers. In some small towns in southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces, posters purportedly by the insurgents have been pasted on walls, promising to prevent widespread destruction of the poppies.
So... give up on stopping opium production, and ask the producers, allied with the Taliban, to invest in public works projects. Bad idea, especially with the lingering memory of Bamiyan as the Taliban's idea of civic beautification.
Posted on 03/14/2006 8:14 PM by Marisol Seibold
Tuesday, 14 March 2006
It's Pat... making himself useful?
I'm not a fan of Pat Robertson. I also am more inclined to think of the "cartoon rage" in psychological rather than "demonic" terms, but I'm glad he's making use of his virtually untouchable position as a senior preacher/pundit to say something that needed to be said.
The problem is, he's stuck his foot in his mouth so many times, he invites himself to be written off, or worse yet, discredits himself for those occasions that he actually says something useful. So it's a mixed blessing; no pun intended. The cause of Western civilization needs more stable spokespersons.
From the Seattle Times:
He remarked that the outpouring of rage elicited by cartoons "just shows the kind of people we're dealing with. These people are crazed fanatics, and I want to say it now: I believe it's motivated by demonic power. It is satanic, and it's time we recognize what we're dealing with."
Robertson also said that "the goal of Islam, ladies and gentlemen, whether you like it or not, is world domination."
In a statement later Monday, Robertson said he was referring specifically to terrorists who want to bomb innocent people as being motivated by Satan.
Fair enough. Being in driving distance at the moment, I can say with some certainty that Hell will freeze over tonight, whether or not it has anything to do with my agreeing with Pat Robertson. The good news is, as a result, the Browns could win a Superbowl any time now.
Posted on 03/14/2006 9:02 PM by Marisol Seibold