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Worth Fighting and Dying For

Although the war in Iraq has not been a great focus of EphBlog (examples to the contrary here and here), it is my favorite example of a topic in which the public conversation at Williams is ludicrously one-sided. As a partial corrective, EphBlog is pleased to provide this update from Joel Iams ’01, a Marine First Lieutenant fighting the good fight in Fallujah.

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Joel was responding to a note I sent him in November, along with a copy of our post about Myles Crosby Fox ’40. For those who have trouble making out the text, Joel finished by lauding “The willing sacrifice in the knowledge that there truly is something worth fighting and dying for.”

Now, if I were just a right-wing agitator, I would segue into a discussion of the Williams faculty. How many of our professors, post-modern products of the academy that they are, believe that there “truly is something worth fighting and dying for,” either in Iraq and Afghanistan (or in Kosovo and Darfur)?

But such hackery is not today’s topic. After all, reading Professors like Sam Crane and Marc Lynch there can be no doubt that they are men like Iams, filled with a love of life and devotion to those around them. Indeed, since blogging is a window on one’s soul, it is clear that Lynch and Crane live, by word and deed, the sort of scholarly and family life that we might all aspire to.

Instead, my argument today is with Williams, or rather the men and women who decide the Ephs that Williams chooses to honor, the winners each year of Bicententenial Medals. For the most part this Committe chooses wisely, although there are perhaps a preponderance of scribblers. To the extent that the Committee (and, by extension, Williams) thinks that there are things “worth fighting and dying for,” they should start honoring the Ephs doing the fighting.

I would like to see one Eph veteran of the current war honored each year. Who would disagree?

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Vote Drezner ’90

Like Dan Blatt ’85, Dan Drezner ’90 has been nominated for a 2005 Weblog Award. Go vote for him.

[T]hink of my lovely wife, who has green eyes, porcelain skin…. and dimples that disappear when she’s sad. Vote for me — don’t make my wife’s dimples go away.

Indeed.

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Christmas Trees

Marc Lynch buys a Christmas tree.

Is this a metaphor for Arab democracy? No, it’s just a christmas tree. Have a great weekend!

No quibbles from me on this charming post.

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Environmental Concerns

Matthew Simonson has a column in the Nov. 30 Record pointing out that the environment is something all of us should be concerned about.

Just because a majority of Williams students don’t go to Greensense meetings or e-mail College Council about paper towels doesn’t mean they think protecting their environment is unimportant. Likewise, in the country at large, environmentalists are not the only ones who care about the environment. From backyard astronomers who abhor smog and excessive lighting, to recreational hunters and fishermen who enjoy the outdoors, environmentalism is a concern of millions of Americans, even if they don’t call it that. In the end, environmentalism can’t be rightfully classified as a special interest. It affects all of us.

This is obviously true. Those of us who find some of the campus environmentalist groups a little too zealous for our tastes, however, do not argue that the environment does not matter. Instead, we recognize that environmental concerns have to be weighed against other concerns.

For example, environmental regulations limit economic freedom, which in turn stifles economic growth. So we should ask ourselves whether it is fair for first world countries to ask third world countries to act as oxygen sweatshops for the West by encouraging growth stifling regulations on their economies. Further, As Sen. Kennedy and Walter Cronkite have recently demonstrated by refusing to have windmills built in the Nantucket Sound visible from their Cape Cod homes, there is a tradeoff between “environmentally-friendly” sources of energy and the natural beauty we each enjoy.

Matt points out at one point that recently two dozen House Republicans got cold feet during reconciliation about opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling. Yet it’s worth also looking at why the Labor-HHS approps bill got sent back to committee. Namely, over the extent to which the federal government should be providing low-income heating assistance. It is probably not worthwhile to have a debate over ANWR on this message board, but there is a certain irony in simultaneously voting to limit supply while complaining that prices are too high.

So I agree with Matthew that the environment matters, but the more interesting questions are what tradeoffs are required when we become too religious in our desire to protect the environment and whether government regulation is really the best way to evaluate these tradeoffs.

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Eph Warriors

Fellow EphBlogger Stewart Menking ’79 reminds us to thinks of Ephs far from home over the holidays.

If you have an extra card or two left over, please consider sending a card to one or all of the 3 Ephmen who are serving in Iraq. It only takes a regular 37 cent stamp! Just put the undecipherable military address on the envelope and drop it in any mailbox.

SGT Ben Kamilewicz ’99
A/1 – 172 ARBN
2 BCT 28 ID
APO AE 09362-9997

1st Lt J. M. Iams ’01
2d Bn, 7th Mar H&S
UIC 41545
FPO AP 96426-1545

Capt. Lee Kindlon ’98
2/6 H & S Company
Unit 73175 S-1 SJA
FPO AE 09509-3175

If you didn’t send these Ephs something the last time we asked, you ought to do so now. (Note that you probably don’t need their class years in the address.)

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Eph Blogroll and Eph Planet

Your highly skilled team at EphBlog [Eric? — ed. Yes, Eric.] is reworking our Eph Blogroll as well as Eph Planet. (For those who don’t know, the blogroll is a listing of all the blogs we know of that are by Ephs and actively maintained. Eph Planet is the collection of all the posts from all those blogs, with some technical exceptions involving group blogs without single author feeds.) How can you help?

1) Suggest other Eph blogs that we should include.

2) Provide the name and class for some of the “unknown” blogs listed at the bottom of the blog roll. These are blogs by, it seems, Ephs but without enough information to confirm a name and class. (We also have provide an “anonymous” category for those Ephs who want to, you know, remain anonymous. We don’t think that any of our unknowns are in that category, but, if they are, we would like to know that too.)

Reader comments are, as always, welcome.

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The Hour

I spent an hour listening to “The Hour” with Nathan Friend this afternoon with Dean Roseman as one of the guests. Very frustrating! Rant follows.

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Photo ID, #32

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We discussed this former frat house here a few months ago. Any guesses as to which room this picture was taken out of? (Other than the obvious “your room, Diana” — which is true.)

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Robbery on Campus

There was a robbery on campus this morning.

To the Williams Community,

A student came to the Campus Safety & Security Office this afternoon and reported being accosted at around ten o’clock this morning.

He said that he had been walking around campus delivering posters when he turned from Park Street onto Mission Park Drive and someone then grabbed him from behind and asked for his money, which he handed over, and threatened him not to tell anyone.

The student reported being poked in the side, his jacket and shirt were torn, and he had a superficial wound that did not warrant medical attention.

Campus Safety notified Williamstown Police, who are investigating the incident.

The student described the assailant as a scruffy Caucasian male in his late 30s or early 40s, around 5’9” or 5’10”, with medium-length light brownish white hair, wearing a blue waist-length cloth coat and faded blue jeans.

Anyone who may have relevant information should contact either Williamstown Police (458-5733) or Williams College Campus Safety (X4444).

Everyone is reminded to use caution when walking outdoors. Report suspicious persons or activity immediately by calling 9-9-1-1 from campus phones or 458-5646 from cell phones. Cell phone calls do not provide enhanced building information or campus address so you must provide all relevant information to the police dispatcher.

Thank you,

Jean Thorndike
Director of Campus Safety and Security

I don’t know of another robbery like this on campus, either in the distant past or more recently. Back in the day, the doors to all the dorms were open to anyone and a majority of students did not lock their rooms.

By the way, it would be cool if the new Willipedia project set up a system to archive every all-campus e-mail. Future historians will praise you!

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Vote Gay Patriot

Dan Blatt’s ’85 blog, Gay Patriot, has been nominated for a 2005 Weblog Award in the category of Best LGBT Blog. If you like Dan’s blog (and you should), you can vote for him here. Were any other Eph-associated blogs nominated? Not that I know of.

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Merry Christmas

Surely the goofiest of EphBlog ideas is our annual Eph Holiday Card Collection.

Happy Holidays from the Kanes

Basic idea is that there are many Ephs out there to whom I should send a Christmas card to but, alas, to whom I don’t. I suspect that this is true for many of our readers. Top of my particular list would be my fellow EphBloggers and windmill-tilters at Anchors Away, with a special nod to those elite few who worked on our plea to the trustees (Andrew Goldston ’08, Jonathan Landsman ’05, Daniel Rosensweig ’08 and Joseph Shoer ’06).

What to do? EphBlog is here to help! Send a Holiday card to us. We will scan it in and post it. Presto! Your good wishes for the holidays are magically transmitted to Ephs far and wide. Send cards to:

David Kane
30 Washington Street
Newton, MA 02458

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Kudos to CUL

Few have criticized the Committee on Undergraduate Life as much as I have. Yet allow me to give credit where credit is due. If we are stuck going to the land of anchor/cluster/neighborhood/whatever-this-week’s-name-is housing, it is nice to see the CUL lead us there in as transparent a manner as possible. See here for an overview of the CUL’s work.

Special praise to:

1) The Governance Subcommittee, led Professor Eiko Maruko Siniawer (who for some reason only merits two names on the main CUL page), for putting up meeting minutes. This is great stuff and allows all concerned to follow and provide feedback.

2) Brian Hirshman ’06 for working so hard on the Transition Committee. You can read the committee’s report here as well as Record coverage here. See here for his work on eliciting student opinion. The reason that Hirshman deserves special praise is because he was a leader of the Anchor Away folks, fighting with every resource at his disposal to stop Anchor Housing. To word so hard, and then lose, and then come back to work hard again to make a fundamentally bad idea as least bad as it can be displays a level of committment and maturity that I, at least, have yet to achieve. If there is a more deserving candidate for the William Bradford Turner Citizenship Prize in the class of 2006, I don’t know who it would be.

3) Will Dudley for running the whole show. I have had many disagreements with Will over the course of this debate, but no honest observor can deny that the CUL is working in an open and scholarly manner this year. He deserves great credit.

But don’t worry, all our fans of snarky commentary and outrageous putdowns. There is much here to mock as well, and the mocking will commence soon enough.

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Sundrenched

Perhaps a single Eph’s real estate dealings are not worthy of note, but I was surprised to read:

Guggenheim director Thomas Krens — perhaps inspired by a flurry of less-than-glowing business interactions following a recent Vanity Fair article detailing the museum’s woes under his leadership — has put his 4,500-square-foot loft on the market for a wee $5.5 million.

$5.5 million?! My mother always said that I should have majored in Art History.

Turns out that the “loft” — is that the correct term for an apartment with 4,500 square feet of space? — is no longer available for sale. Damn it! Just when the blogging revenues were starting to role in. Best comment is:

How does a museum director live in a $5.5M loft? According to the Gugg’s IRS Form 990 tax filings, the Krens-directed Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation has carried a a $1.5 million interest-free housing loan to Krens on its books since at least FY 2001.

Nothing more fun than looking through 990s. The Vanity Fair article is must-reading for all Eph-obsessives. Excellent highlights below.

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Good at Marching

Marc Lynch’s post on recent Jordanian politics fairly drips with anti-military condensation.

Badran’s replacement? General Marouf al-Bakhit. This is, to say the least, deeply disturbing for anyone still holding out hopes for liberal progress in Jordan. He is a military man through and through



This will be good for relations with Israel, fine for Jordanian cooperation with the United States on Iraq and terrorism, and – I fear – terrible for those who actually care about democracy or liberal reform.



interesting other comments from Rex Brynen, in comments below (based on personal experience with the new PM-designate, suggesting he may be more open-minded and liberal than his military CV would suggest)



Me, I’m still very uneasy about the symbolism and the institutional reality of concentrating power in the hands of the military – color me cynical, but I just don’t see rigorous counter-terrorism laws and appointing a former General to be Prime Minister as clear signals of a more liberal direction – but I’m intrigued by the commentary on Bakhit’s character (including some I’ve received privately). As I said yesterday, I hope I’m wrong in my pessimism, and we’ll have to wait and see.

You know what they say: Freedom is on the march… and soldiers are SO good at marching.

Yes, we are.

Comments:

1) “Than his military CV would suggest” to whom? I have a military CV. Does Lynch assume that, ipso facto, I am not “open-minded and liberal”?

2) There are now over 200 faculty members at Williams. Does a single one of them have military experience? Not that I know of. My thoughts on this from a decade ago apply just as much today.

3) By the way, if you were a veteran offered a spot at Williams, how pleasant do you think it would be to have Lynch as a colleague? How neutral do you think he would be in voting when you came up for tenure? At least you could be sure that he would be impressed with your marching ability!

4) I have no opinion on the substance of Lynch’s views here. He obviously knows more about Jordanian politics than I or any other reader of EphBlog. But his instinctive anti-military sentiment sure is annoying.

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Modest and Immodest Ephs

There is a spectrum of opinion among female Ephs on the virtue of modesty. At one end, we have Wendy Shalit ’97 author of “A Room of One’s Own”, one of the most controversial articles about Williams in the last decade. (Note our previous discussion of Shalit’s work, especially the last comment by Eric Smith ’99. If anyone could send in a copy of that article, it would be fun to post some selections, consistent with Fair Use, of course.)

Shalit is also the founder of the Modesty Zone.

Modesty Zone is an informal community of young women who don’t have a voice in the mainstream media. It was founded in 2005 by Wendy Shalit.

Whether you’re a virgin waiting until marriage, or just against casual sex more generally, you can find a safe harbor here to share your ideals, interests, and goals for the future.

Join forces with other young women who are tired of power struggles between the sexes. Believe in the possibility of real intimacy.

Speaking of intimacy, at the other end of the modesty spectrum we have the female Eph (a current undergraduate) who appears in a porn video. A clip from the full video is available free of charge on the web and has been viewed, I believe, by a majority of male undergraduates at Williams (and, no doubt, many female undergraduates as well). Comments:

1) We will not be posting a link to the video (although one of my fellow EphBloggers has kindly volunteered to provide a link to the video to any interested readers . . . for, uh, research purposes, of course). Long time readers will fondly recall our discussion about what sorts of sites EphBlog should link to. Since the site in question is not really an Eph site — more a site on which one Eph appears — there isn’t much of an issue here.

2) We will not be posting the name of the Eph here. She does not use her real name and so we may assume that she has no interest in publicizing her participation.

3) I would still be curious to hear arguments against these decisions, should anyone choose to make them. If the young Eph in question wanted us to post a link (or her name) we would probably comply — Grrrl Power and all that — but my guess is that she regrets the whole experience. Then again, perhaps I am just another voice from the patriarchy. That’s what all my feminists friends said 20 years ago.

4) I wonder if the Record will cover this story, with or without the same sort of discretion exhibited by EphBlog. On the one hand, it is clearly news on campus. On the other hand, the current Editor-in-Chief, Ainsley O’Connell ’06, is a woman. I think female Ephs have a different take on this situation than male Ephs, at least on average. Perhaps her predecessors Bart Clareman ’05 or Mike Needham ’04 would have handled it differently.

5) There is a great senior thesis to be written about pornography and Williams. No, really! Students today, I am sure, think about and interact with pornography in a different way than students in my era — although a special shout-out to my avant-garde theatre roommates for being on the cutting edge of this topic in 1986-1987 — much less in my father’s era. [Do you really want some stories about pornography in the DKE House 50 years ago? — ed. Probably not. But Frank Uible is unlikely to be silent on this topic.] Tracing that social evolution would make for interesting reading.

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Morgan Renovations

Major renovations are coming to Morgan Hall this summer.

Williams College officials are planning a major renovation project at the centrally located Morgan Hall next summer, but say that townspeople will barely notice the extensive and quick work at the top of Spring Street.

Williams Project Manager Jason Moran said the project “will be fairly intense,” and include a complete upgrade of the building’s mechanical systems and the reconfiguration of the layout to encourage more “horizontal” traffic, rather than the “vertical” layout current in place.

Morgan Hall is used for housing first-year students. It was built in 1882, and was the first college dorm to have indoor plumbing. It underwent major renovations in 1972 and 1992.

Spoiled kids today with their new fangled indoor plumbing! Why, back in my day . . .

Not sure I understand the reference to “horizontal” traffic in above. What does that mean? Are entries in Morgan not going to be vertically organized anymore?

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Hart’s ’02 Big Talk

Sarah Hart ’02 promises that she is:

going to get back into what was once a really nice habit of spilling my triumphs and sorrows into the public domain of the internet. i miss this blog.

As do we all. How is the wedding planning going?

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Artists’ Books

WSO call campus e-mail reports:

ART SHOW by the Artists’ Books Tutorial!

WHEN: Monday, December 5th @ 8 pm

WHERE: Spencer Art Building

WHAT: Books that are beautiful, provocative, hilarious, and just plain odd. Plus FOOD and rather traditional beverages. What is an “artist’s book”, anyway? Come find out!

Great stuff. Does the class have a website? There are hundreds of alums and others who would love to have a look. If anyone goes to the show, please post some photos . . .

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Yim ’09 on Globalization

Kenny Yim ’09 has a commentary on globalization in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The whole piece is a bit of a mess. The best that I can come up with for a thesis paragraph is this:

As Americans get lost in “Lost” and personal esoteric interests such as military history, Chinese and Indians are working the abandoned service and manufacturing jobs. We’re reducing global poverty — in China, the 9.9 percent GDP growth from 1992-98 has brought poverty down 8.4 percent — but it hasn’t happened out of some moral righteousness or direct inclination to. It happened because we’re too lazy to stop it and passed it off as U.S. good will.

This is so confused it is is hard to know where to start. Which “abandoned service and manufacturing jobs” is Yim talking about? Industries rise and fall. Companies start and fail. Jobs are created and destroyed. Many jobs that used to be done in the US are now done elsewhere, but no one really “abandoned” those jobs.

Yim claims that “we’re reducing global poverty,” but just who is this “we” that he is referring to? “We” are not making China and India wealthier. The people in China and India are, overwhelmingly, doing that for themselves. Our main contribution has been to demonstrate that free markets lead to wealth and to encourage the growth of free trade. Moreover, the proponents of free markets and free trade do believe in the “moral righteousness” of their cause. Freedom is good both for both moral reasons and because it generates wealth.

All in all, a disappointing effort.

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Photo ID, #31

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In the winter, all fields look the same, even from one winter to another (I took this one last winter). But maybe you can figure out which one this is, and where I was standing to take the picture. (I was going sledding on a dining hall tray.)

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Middlebury Stalker

One semester while I was at Williams, a person who would sneak into women’s rooms at night and watch them sleep. Very creepy. I believe the perp was eventually caught (and was a non-student resident of Williamstown — but my memory could be faulty).

It appears that last year Middlebury experienced a similar problem.

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Anchors Update

Someone should intervene before I start writing more about Anchor Housing. This is a cry for help.

In the mean time, I received an anonymous letter that has also been posted at WSO. Here it is, along with my comments.

President Schapiro, Dean Roseman, members of the CUL,

You ought to write to the Trustees as well. They are the only ones who are even remotely likely to do anything or change their minds about anchor housing. Not that they ever responded to our letter or anything . . .

I am the person who put up the posters around campus quoting members of the administration and of the CUL. I desire to remain anonymous because I am not sure that it is safe to speak up against anchors anymore. (In the interest of protecting the innocent, I should point out that I am not prominently involved in the anchor housing debate.)

Where are these posters? What do they say? EphBlog lives to preserve these tidbits of Williams history.

The posters are not really about anchor housing, however, but about the way you “grown-ups in Hopkins Hall” think of the student body. You don’t think that we are competent to choose what kind of housing plan Williams will have in the future.

You don’t feel that we are socially skilled enough to form into diverse, close-knit social groups without outside help.

No. The Administration knows that given free reign the students will self-segregate themselves to an unacceptable (to some) extent. Perhaps you don’t remember the days when all the Jamaicans lived in Prospect, or the African-Americans in Brooks or the hockey players in Tyler. The driving force behind anchor housing is a desire to prevent this sort of segregation. I think that there are much better ways of doing so, but it is important to have a clue about what the real motivations of the administration are.

You don’t worry yourselves much about the possibility of a student dying of alcohol poisoning, even though Williams obviously has a serious problem.

Of course they worry about this. What evidence do you have that they don’t? Also, the notion that Williams has a “serious” problem is also overblown. In fact, there is no evidence that alcohol is more of a problem today at Williams than it was 20 years ago, or at any other “similar” school.

Moreover, if you want to worry about students dying, then you ought to worry about bikes. A Williams student is much more likely to die on his bike than from alcohol poisoning. Perhaps we should ban bikes on campus.

The CUL has, however, worried enough about the name of the new system to change it twice.

EphBlog claims credit for this one! You’re welcome, Will Dudley! By the way, what is the new name?

It doesn’t matter what the plan calls for anymore. Do you remember when student involvement was considered essential for its success?

By whom? The Administration has never really considered student involvement and/or approval “essential” for success, although they may have told you a little white lie along those lines. Students come and students go. In a few years, there won’t be anyone around who even remembers what free agency was.

The plan is now so contaminated with disrespect for the student body that nothing can save it from its unpopularity. Hopefully, student discontent will tear it apart from the inside quickly, rather than allow it to die a slow, painful, death of apathy and cynicism.

Professor Dudley says, “We don’t plan to revisit the big picture issues.” In other words, it’s too late in the game to change the plan. We students can help work out the little issues. (Not coincidentally, we’re with the CUL on the little issues. Increasing the pick size, renovating the dorms that need it, picking our clusters. Having been allowed to participate, the students support these decisions.)

But there never was a right time for us to discuss the big picture issues. It was too late from the beginning. If student participation is so vital to success, why weren’t we given a chance to weigh in on the big picture at all?

Because the powers-that-be never really cared about your opinion. D’uh! The College was going to ensure that self-segregation ended. Period. The black students (and hockey players and Jamaicans and . . . ) are going to be nicely sprinkled all around our lovely campus.

I can only speculate, but my guess is that you were afraid that we wouldn’t like it. Well, you were right.

You (any of you) are invited to respond to this email address. The resulting dialog will be published on the WSO wiki.

-Anonymous Eph

Good luck getting a response. Unless College Council is recalled, anchor housing in inevitable. But I still hold out a bit of hope. Half a dozen committed students could do a lot in just a week or two . . .

By the way, where are the cool WSO forums? We need an Eph Living Room. Neither the WSO blogs or EphBlog are good forums for a discussion of these important topics. After all the pizza money I donated, you would think some progress has been made . . .

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