Comments

  1. SADIE says

    Mr. Stark (after trying to burn his own house down while his own children were still in it) flew a plane into the office bldg. that also houses offices of the IRS.
    Partial release of his 7-page manifesto/rant that alluded to bailouts, being fed up. While some portions were clear, other pages devolved according to Fox News.

  2. jj says

    The only interesting thing about this guy is how quick the media’s trying to connect him to the tea-party people, those who listen to “right-wing” radio, or some other form of right-wing disgruntlement.
     
    What makes this even more interesting, of course, is that to this point no media outlet anywhere has expressed any interest in the political leanings – real or imagined – of the professor who was denied tenure and proceeded to shoot up the room.

  3. suek says

    >>What makes this even more interesting, of course, is that to this point no media outlet anywhere has expressed any interest in the political leanings – real or imagined – of the professor who was denied tenure and proceeded to shoot up the room.>>
     
    I think you’re mistaken about this point.  Apparently, all three were  black, so there are quite a few who are saying that this proves that she was a “tea party racist”. (never mind that she was an Obama enthusiast, even to the point where acquaintances considered her devotion to him to be over the top.  But she’s undoubtedly a racist.  Egad.)
     
    My question is why all three – who were apparently on this board to determine tenure – were black.  I know nothing about the school – maybe this number reflects the population of the students and staff.  But if it doesn’t, then how is it that the staff of the biology dept which determines tenure is so predominantly black?  Sure makes me wonder – but I doubt I’ll find any answers.

  4. SADIE says

    The media’s silence on the professor is a conundrum for them –  a Ph.D with a pistol.
    They don’t know which way to lean.
    I am curious to know how someone who was having so much trouble with the IRS was able to afford to own his own plane.
     

  5. Zhombre says

    “I am curious to know how someone who was having so much trouble with the IRS was able to afford to own his own plane.”
    Yeah. Makes you wonder.  I doubt this guy had any insoluble tax problems.  And the ones he did have were probably at least in large part of his own making.  He was a lunatic.  What kind of man sets hire to his own house with his wife & child still inside? (Or so I heard Stack did.  Correct me if misinformed.) His suicide note was a rant that veered from left to right and back again in its political verbiage.
    “Take your pound of flesh and sleep well.”  OK, I can live with that.  That this guy is no longer among the living doesn’t bother me.

  6. Mike Devx says

    I heard Mrs. Psychopathic Tenure-Lady was just a participant at a usual large table in a conference room when she pulled out the gun, stood up, and shot the three people in chairs nearest to her in the head.  I think she was then able to wound others as confusion ensued, and before she was stopped.
     
    So I believe it just so happened that if the three shot dead were black, they were simply the unfortunate three people sitting closest to her, and happened to be black.  Unless she chose that seat specifically so she could take down black people.
     
    It’s becoming clear that she may have been “asocial”, or “eccentric” years ago, but the details of behavior over recent years make it clear that this woman was shifting ever more into psycopathic mode as each year passed.  A truly alien creature, devoid of all human empathies, by the time she put her murderous notions into practice.  This is one of those cases where I could pull the switch on The Chair and sleep quite well afterwards.
     

  7. expat says

    suek,
    I think this was just a normal faculty conference. Apparently Bishop brought up the tenure thing all the time, and her appeal about denial of tenure was turned down previously.
    A meeting to decide on tenure would not include her. Also, even if a faculty tenure committeee makes the final decision,  they would get outside reviews of her scientific work.  They would also consider her teaching and her ability to set up and carry out research projects. Since this would include managing grad students and postdocs, her limited to nonexistent social skills would be a factor.  I doubt that racism per se played a role with her. She thought she was better than everyone.
    BTW, one of the papers she listed on her CV gave her husband and three of her kids as co-authors. I’m sure that raised some eyebrows among outside reviewers.

  8. gpc31 says

    From that august exemplar of eminent mediocrity, the guy who, during the previous Carter Administration, wrecked Harvard’s general education requirement and legitimized affirmative action in the Holy Name of Diversity, I give you Derek Bok’s latest effluvia:
     
    A book on how government knows best.  It is so bad that not even Alan Wolfe, who put the ‘conventional’ in “conventional wisdom”, can give it a good review.
     
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/21/books/review/Wolfe-t.html?pagewanted=1&ref=books

    February 21, 2010
    Joy to the World
    The Politics of Happiness, by Derek Bok
    Reviewed by ALAN WOLFE

    Economists, especially those who cross the disciplinary boundary into psychology, have recently begun informing us about what makes people happy. The American political system, as Thomas Jefferson memorably declared, seeks among its three objectives the pursuit of that very thing. The conclusion seems self-evident: Apply what psychology teaches us to the way the system works and the achievement of a good society will be one step closer.

    Such, in brief, runs the argument of “The Politics of Happiness,” Derek Bok’s new book. Eighty years old this March, Bok, since retiring from the presidency of Harvard University in 1991, has become a prolific author and commentator, addressing vital issues like affirmative action, nuclear weapons and problems of governance. In all his books, he writes out of a commitment to social improvement, with a realistic ability to separate the possible from the utopian. We have, alas, all too few wise people in our media-saturated and celebrity-driven public life. Derek Bok is one of them.
    Wise Bok may be, but persuasive, at least in this book, he is not. For Bok’s argument to work, two conditions have to be met. One, empirical in nature, is that the findings of the economic psychologists must be shown to be trustworthy. The other, a normative issue, requires a demonstration that happiness is indeed something government ought to maximize. “The Politics of Happiness” satisfies neither one.
    “Happiness research,” Bok writes, “is most interesting when its results challenge conventional wisdom about what people want,” citing as an example the finding that societies experiencing higher incomes are not necessarily happier. It is certainly true that unexpected findings are interesting. But this does not make them reliable. On the contrary, the path to academic fame lies in challenging conventional wisdom, which means that researchers have an incentive to come up with attention-grabbing results. The entire field of behavioral economics — the term used to describe the intersection of economics and psychology — has about it a maverick temperament, as if its practitioners are determined to disprove the silly notion that people know what is best for them. We ought to be skeptical of any findings trumpeted so insistently as counterintuitive.
    Such skepticism is especially warranted when matters of public policy are at stake. It is one thing for a social scientist to be wrong, for other studies will most likely discover what is right eventually. Basing a public policy on an incorrect finding, by contrast, sets it in concrete. Because it is difficult to pass laws under our political system — and next to impossible to repeal them — we need real certainty before we allow experiments in the lab to become experiments in governance.
    To be sure, Bok is aware of this difficulty and urges appropriate caution; he is neither an unreconstructed utilitarian seeking to maximize pleasure whatever the consequences nor a brave new worlder in search of nirvana. But his very care raises the question of why we need behavioral economics to begin with. Bok’s actual policy recommendations — promoting greater equality, helping to stabilize marriage and the family, improving public health — require no presumably paradigm-shattering science to back them up. They are the stuff of moderate liberalism and have been with us since the Victorians. Even Bok’s most radical recommendation — abandoning our fetish with economic growth — has its roots, as he himself recognizes, in 19th-century thinkers like John Stuart Mill.
    Libertarians would argue that even if we can establish what makes individuals happy, we should leave its pursuit to them. Bok is no libertarian; government in his view is generally a force for good. Although the danger of paternalism always accompanies that point of view, Bok faces it squarely: lawmakers using the findings of happiness research “are relying on persuasive evidence of what will make constituents happy instead of accepting what people mistakenly think will promote their well-being.” In principle, I find nothing wrong here: democracy is not government by public opinion poll, and legislators have an obligation to do what is right.
    At the very least, however, those who appreciate the need for democratic law makers to do unpopular things ought to distinguish carefully between policies that are vital to the public good and those that are discretionary. Laws and court decisions that promote racial equality or immigrant rights are not always popular but are justifiable because they require us to live up to the ideals enshrined in our history and founding documents. But should government help those who suffer from restless leg syndrome? Bok is genuinely dismayed that so many Americans are forced to live with sleep disorders and believes that helping relieve their pain ought to be one of those things government should take on. Libertarians would see in such a recommendation a nanny state out of control, and they would not be wrong.
    Government has the potential to produce happiness, but Americans dislike government. Ever logical, Bok concludes that the state should therefore do more to encourage trust in it. Believing that the public’s attitude toward government is too “extreme” and its judgments of politicians too “harsh,” he also calls for the news media to balance their frequent stories of corruption and inefficiency “with accounts of success and accomplishment in order to give an accurate picture of the government’s performance.” It may be true that Americans are too skeptical of government for their own good. Yet something tells me that such Mugwumpish ways of trying to overcome the problem will only make matters worse. Americans are most certainly misinformed. Dumb they are not.
    One final policy recommendation Bok makes struck me as particularly inappropriate. I am not sure any behavioral economist has studied the issue, but my guess is that reading “Othello” or “Crime and Punishment” does not make one happy. Bok wonders whether our colleges and universities ought to do more than just assign such materials, no matter how great their literary merit. We need to teach students to appreciate more fully what makes them happy. So let’s teach them . . . happiness research. “A number of colleges are doing just that,” he notes, without any apparent dismay. “Indeed, if interest in Great Books courses has declined, the opposite is true of offerings by behavioral scientists on happiness.” I’d rather have sleepless nights.
    The flaws in “The Politics of Happiness” do not flow from any designs on the part of its author to put one over on us. Bok is always straightforward, honest and well intentioned. It is to his credit that he follows his arguments to their conclusions even if those conclusions expose the flaws in his arguments. He is right to search for a more positive view of the American purpose. To achieve that, however, we need far more than behavioral economics. Maybe we could start by reading more Plato.

    Alan Wolfe teaches political science at Boston College and is writing a book on political evil.

     

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