Sunday, April 21, 2013

Jihad Will Not Be Wished Away. By Andrew C. McCarthy.

Jihad Will Not Be Wished Away. By Andrew C. McCarthy. National Review Online, April 20, 2013.

Mr. President, these are Muslim terrorists. By Michael Goodwin. New York Post, April 21, 2013.

Yes, Of Course It Was Jihad. By Andrew Sullivan. The Dish, April 22, 2013.

Illusions About Why Muslim Brothers Kill. By Bruce Thornton. Real Clear Politics, April 22, 2013.

The Boston Bombing and its Aftermath. By Max Boot. Commentary, April 20, 2013.

GOP Congressman Peter King: “Increase Surveillance” of Muslim Community. By Katrina Trinko. National Review Online, April 19, 2013.

The insanity of blaming Islam. By Marc Ambinder. The Week, April 19, 2013.

The futility of blaming Islam. By Marc Ambinder. The Week, April 22, 2013.

Liberals in Denial Over Boston Terrorists. By Rush Limbaugh., April 22, 2013.

Professor: Too Much Force Used on Boston Perps. By Rush Limbaugh., April 22, 2013. Fox News.

Dead suspect broke angrily with Muslim speakers. Evidence mounts of radical turn. By Kevin Arsenault. The Boston Globe., April 21, 2013.

Killing from Qur’anic Piety: Tamerlane’s Living Legacy. By Andrew G. Bostom. American Thinker, October 1, 2005.

Resilience and Complacency. By Fareed Zakaria.

Resilience and Complacency. By Fareed Zakaria. Time, April 18, 2013.

The Horror. The Heroism. By Nancy Gibbs. Time, April 18, 2013.

Republicans Need to Get Over the Makers vs. Takers Mindset. By Scott Rasmussen.

Republicans Need to Get Over the Makers vs. Takers Mindset. By Scott Rasmussen. Real Clear Politics, April 21, 2013.


Mitt Romney’s secretly recorded comment that 47 percent of Americans are “dependent on the government” and “believe they are victims” isn’t the only reason he lost the presidential campaign. But the candidate himself acknowledged after the election that the comments were “very harmful.”

He added, “What I said is not what I believe.”

But many Republicans still believe it, and the “makers vs. takers” theme has a deep hold on the party. In private conversations, many in the GOP are whispering that Romney was right and that his only mistake was saying it out loud.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say something like, “Well, the half who favor government programs is the half who don’t pay any taxes.”

This is ridiculous — on many levels.

First, the overwhelming majority of those who don’t pay federal income taxes pay a whole variety of other taxes, including state and local taxes, payroll taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, sin taxes and more. They don’t feel excluded from sharing the tax burden just because they don’t pay one particular tax.

It’s also worth noting that these aren’t the people pushing for higher taxes. At Rasmussen Reports, our most recent polling shows that people who make $100,000 or more each year are more supportive of higher taxes than those who make less.

Second, the 47 percent who don’t pay federal income taxes include large chunks of the Republican base. Many senior citizens fall into this category because their primary income is from Social Security. They don’t consider themselves “takers.” They paid money into a Social Security system throughout their working lives and now simply expect the government to honor the promises it made.

Third, low-income Americans aren’t looking for a handout. Among those who are living in poverty, 81 percent agree that work is the best solution to poverty. Most would rather replace welfare programs with a guaranteed minimum-wage job. Sharing the mainstream view, 69 percent of the poor believe that too many Americans are dependent upon the government.

Sixty-five percent of low-income Americans consider it “very important” for an economy to provide everybody with an opportunity to succeed. Interestingly enough, low-income Americans consider that more important than those who earn more.

But if I had to pick just one number to highlight how bad the 47 percent remark was, it would be this. Just 11 percent of Americans today consider themselves dependent upon government. Sure, some receive a Social Security check or an unemployment check, but that’s not dependence upon government. That’s cash received in exchange for premiums paid.

If they want to seriously compete for middle-class votes, Republicans need to get over the makers vs. takers mentality. We live in a time when just 35 percent believe the economy is fair to the middle class. Only 41 percent believe it is fair to those who are willing to work hard. Those problems are not created by the poor.

GOP candidates would be well advised to shift their focus from attacking the poor to going after those who are really dependent upon government — the Political Class, the crony capitalists, the megabanks and other recipients of corporate welfare.

Two Cheers for Web U! By A.J. Jacobs.

Two Cheers for Web U! By A.J. Jacobs. New York Times, April 20, 2013.

Should You Get a Ph.D. By Daniel Drezner. NJBR, April 18, 2013.

Are MOOCs Really Destroying Higher Education. By Walter Russell Mead. NJBR, April 2, 2013.

Professors Grade MOOCs. By Walter Russell Mead. NJBR, March 19, 2013.

MOOCs and Historical Research. By John McNeill. NJBR, March 15, 2013.

The Professors’ Big Stage. By Thomas L. Friedman. NJBR, March 6, 2013.

Ph.D. Problems: Wannabe Professors Need Not Apply. By Walter Russell Mead. NJBR, February 23, 2013.

The End of the University as We Know It. By Nathan Harden. NJBR, January 1, 2013.

Did Tamerlan Tsarnaev Meet With Gadzhimurad Dolgatov, a Known Jihadist Terrorist?

Did Boston bomber meet with known jihadist terrorist? Speculation grows as it emerges Russia asked FBI to investigate Boston bomber just six months ago after his trip to Dagestan. By Leslie Larson and Lydia Warren. Daily Mail, April 21, 2013.

Dead Boston bomb suspect posted video of jihadist, analysis shows. By Tim Lister and Paul Cruickshank. CNN, April 21, 2013. Video.

Tatyana McFadden: I’m Racing for Boston.

Tatyana McFadden

I’m racing for Boston: McFadden dedicates London bid to victims of bombing. By Mick Collins. Daily Mail, April 20, 2013.

Tatyana McFadden website.

Boston wheelchair champ racing in London. Video. CNN, April 20, 2013.

Boston Massacre Reenactment Video.

Boston Massacre Reenactment 2007. Video. Northern Platoon, March 19, 2007. YouTube. Also at Boston Massacre Historical Society.

Reenactment of the Boston Massacre in the HBO series John Adams. YouTube.

John Adams at the Boston Massacre Trial from the HBO miniseries. YouTube. Also find another clip here.

Why Grad Schools Should Require Students to Blog. By Maria Konnikova.

Why grad schools should require students to blog. By Maria Konnikova. Literally Psyched. Scientific American, April 12, 2013.


Whether I’m trying to come up with a new blog post for “Literally Psyched” or a pitch for a magazine or a section in a longer piece of writing, I have to read widely, in multiple areas and multiple sub-disciplines. In popular writing (I don’t love the term, but I’m going to use it here for the sake of clarity, to contrast with academic writing—even though I realize that the two can overlap), there are no rules about what is and is not relevant. I don’t care if something is in “my” area, if it’s truly academic or applied or whatnot. I don’t care about its politics. The only thing I care about when I consider a source is its credibility and the quality of its arguments.
I have to distill multiple sources from multiple areas into a compelling, clear narrative. I have to build a case quickly and persuasively and learn to incorporate disparate voices into a coherent argument or conversation. I have to learn to get the gist of an argument quickly and be able to distill papers in a way that will be understandable even to someone who is totally unfamiliar with a topic. Most importantly, I need to create a quality end product: a piece of writing that someone will want to read. Otherwise, not only do I not get paid, but I will have failed at my job. And I have to do this over and over and over again, week after week and piece after piece.
What am I doing but honing my ability to think, research, analyze, and write—the core skills required to complete a dissertation? And I’m doing so, I would argue, in a far more effective fashion than I would ever be able to do were I to keep to a more traditional academia-only route.
If I just stay in a narrowly-defined academic niche, my writing will be confined to papers for scholarly publication and grants. Those take time and, at least in areas like psychology, research results. You can’t just run one off every few days. Absent those specific outlets, there’s no regular mechanism for developing your thoughts, working out new ideas, thinking about interesting questions that may not be directly related to your field of research, taking the time to wonder about other areas, or having the flexibility to pursue other interests just because they stimulate your imagination. It’s papers for publication, grants for submission, or bust.
If, on the other hand, I turn to blogging or other forms of popular writing, not only must I write quickly, coherently, and—and this is really the kicker—consistently, but the way in which I do it forces me to learn to work faster, come up with new ideas more frequently, be less afraid of “foreign” fields, and be comfortable asking constant questions about everything I read. I’m more aware of other disciplines and other literatures than I ever have been. I’m able to digest the academia-speak of disciplines that are not my own far more effectively. Over and over, I use these skills to help me tell a better story—the end game of both a piece of popular writing and an academic one. And because I am forced to write (and think) often, I improve. Constantly.
. . . .

To me, as a blogger, cross-citation is standard practice. I have to do it every day when I research a new blog topic or look at the background for a new piece. It’s natural to include anything that may potentially be helpful—and to put areas in dialogue even if they don’t normally cross over. I don’t feel compelled to stay within any arbitrary academic boundaries; I just use what seems most, well, useful.
I’ve been lucky in my academic career. I have a graduate adviser who fully supports my non-academic pursuits—indeed, who encourages them and has, for the last five years, consistently and enthusiastically encouraged me to cultivate outside interests and maintain my intellectual curiosity, wherever it may lead. I had an undergraduate adviser who felt the same way, and encouraged me to continue my studies—and continue my writing, whether or not it had anything to do with academia or psychology.
But that sort of attitude is increasingly rare. My advisers are among the select few who maintain that line of thinking (one of the reasons I chose to work with them to begin with). On the whole, academia is quite anti-popular writing—or anything that is not, strictly speaking, in the academic job description. And though I’ve been quite fortunate personally, I’ve experienced this attitude indirectly in multiple ways.
I’ve always been open about my external pursuits and interests—and over the last few years, six fellow graduate students have, at various points, reached out to me for advice. They have mostly said the same thing: I’m unhappy. I think I may not want to stay in academia. What can I do? How did you decide that you could work on non-academic writing—and get away with it? Is it something you think I might be able to try, too?
Each one had the same story. Each one asked me in advance to maintain his anonymity, to promise that I wouldn’t mention this to any advisers or anyone in the department, or, really, anyone at all. Each one looked frightened lest someone less receptive find them spouting such sacrilege. The whole thing made me incredibly sad. These were exceptional students, and they didn’t have anyone with whom to discuss important life decisions. They felt trapped, like they couldn’t say what they really wanted or express how they really felt. And because of that, they had lost their appetite for research that had before been stimulating. They had gone from incredibly excited to ready-to-quit.
It made me sad—but believe me, I know exactly why they did it. It’s the same reason why we have so many anonymous bloggers, who would rather publish under a pseudonym than risk the wrath of the establishment – or make even more tenuous the already tenuous possibility of ever getting considered for a tenure-track job.
Academia as a whole is still quite skeptical of popular writing and anything that takes time from serious academic pursuits. These include reading articles in your discipline, reading publications and books by your field leaders and co-workers, working on writing up your own studies for publication (the more and the faster, the better), and networking and presenting your work at academic conferences. Having a blog? Freelancing on the side? Working on pieces for the non-academic, a.k.a, popular, press? Not very high on the list. In fact, in direct opposition to the list, as each of these pursuits takes time away from what you should be doing.
It’s a shame—and it’s counterproductive. Instead of frowning upon blogging, popular writing, any intellectual pursuits that don’t seem immediately and narrowly academic, wouldn’t it make sense for academia to embrace it all – and embrace it enthusiastically?
I would argue that the best thing academia can do for its students is to encourage such pursuits to the greatest extent possible. In fact, I’d go a step further: incentivize students to blog and to write for a popular audience on topics that go beyond their immediate area of interest. At Columbia, for instance, we can write a grant for one of our comprehensive exams. Why not let a series of published blog posts count as well? It gets the student thinking and writing–and gets him a byline in the process.
In following this strategy, you will be teaching your students skills that will make the process of dissertation writing—the point where many students drop out of their programs (according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of students will quit their doctoral programs; Chris Golde, the research director of the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate at the Carnegie Foundation, estimates that 1/3 of that attrition will happen at the dissertation-writing stage—although the numbers vary by discipline, demographics, and other factors)—seem far less daunting and stressful, far more manageable and approachable, than it otherwise would. What’s more, it will make not only that dissertation but any piece of academic writing that much better, clearer, and more solid. Clear writing is the product of clear thought. When you write for the purpose of explaining, when clarity is your goal, you learn to hone your thinking and work through the complexities of arguments in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise be forced to do. When you write every day, you improve, and you keep improving.
People with good writing and research skills are rare. People who cross disciplines and read widely are rare. But don’t we need these people for academia to thrive? After all, many times, the greatest innovators are those who bring in fresh eyes and the perspectives of fresh disciplines: they are less likely to be myopic and be constrained by lines of thinking that are area-specific—and more likely to see patterns and connections that are invisible to the insiders.
The single best training and preparation I could have possibly had for writing my dissertation was the exact training and preparation I received in my career as a blogger and a writer. I just hope that others can have that same experience, and that in the future, my path will be the rule rather than the exception.

Humanities aren’t a science. Stop treating them like one. By Maria Konnikova. Literally Psyched. Scientific American, August 10, 2012.

The Humanities and Common Sense. By Roger Berkowitz. NJBR, February 20, 2013.

Maria Konnikova

Blue Civil War Goes National. By Walter Russell Mead.

Blue Civil War Goes National. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, April 20, 2013.

Fault Lines Loom for “Dominant” Dem Majority. By Sean Trende. Real Clear Politics, April 19, 2013.