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Pennsylvania Professor Strike, Day 3: Where is Tom Wolf?

[ 9 ] October 21, 2016 |


APSCUF is still on strike against the PASSHE schools in Pennsylvania, protesting the lack of a fair contract offer.

“While the two sides made significant progress in the talks that began Oct. 14, including reaching tentative agreements on more than a dozen issues, including distance education, recruitment and retention of high-quality faculty, and professional responsibilities of faculty outside the classroom, they were not able to reach overall agreement. The union rejected the System’s offer to provide raises to all permanent and temporary faculty and the identical healthcare package that other System employees have.”

Of course, people driving past the strikers, people on comment boards, and other ignorant people are saying this is about wages and greedy professors. But it is not about wages. The offer on salaries is basically terrible. But there are 3 core issues. First is the huge increases in employee healthcare costs. Second is that the schools want to vastly increase the contingent faculty they can hire, of course at very low wages and no benefits. Third, the schools want to destroy shared governance by greatly reducing the power of the Faculty Senate. So far student support has been very strong and very few professors have scabbed, less than 10 at my wife’s school, mostly right-wing Latin Americans and Asians in the business programs, as well as the president’s wife.

My question is where is Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf? APSCUF got on board the Wolf Train early. He hasn’t exactly paid them back here. There are rumors that Wolf is furious with the PASSHE chancellor for creating this strike. I can’t verify those rumors but if true, a public statement that this needs to end and the state system needs to accept the union’s call for binding arbitration would help a lot. Of course, PASSHE doesn’t want to accept that because they know they will get killed in the arbitration because the contract offer is so unfair.


Tattoo Politics

[ 231 ] October 20, 2016 |

This is shooting fish in a barrel, I know. But I could not let this insipid Vox essay by a young Jill Stein voter go unmentioned.

It’s hard to say why so many millennials are voting third party. Among my peers, most are in the bag for Clinton because they are so scared of a Trump presidency. But overall, I feel that our generation is much more progressive than the older generation. We grew up in the Obama years, under an administration that gave us the Affordable Care Act and passed laws to protect marriage equality. I think people my age are hungry to move even more toward the left. Hillary, with her moderate views and establishment attitude, is not going to be that champion.

That’s why I’m standing for Stein. I can cast my ballot without guilt, knowing that she represents who I am as a person. People tell me to compromise and vote for the lesser of two evils — but I cannot compromise when it comes to my beliefs, especially when they involve human rights and systemic oppression. If Stein didn’t happen to fall deeply in step with my views, I would abstain from voting entirely. I vote based on principle, not because of party loyalty.

It is a moral, not a pragmatic, act.

Personally, I think it is a moral act to not let a fascist who will destroy American democratic institutions into the Oval Office. But then Hillary Clinton doesn’t quite get intersectionality so both sides are the same, right?

This is the worst possible identity politics–what I call tattoo politics. What do I mean by this? It’s people who display their politics like their new arm tattoo, showing it for all the world to see and then saying that anyone not on board with their particular issue is a gigantic sellout who cannot be voted for. This is pure narcissism and total consumerism, which is of course ironic coming from the left. But the atomized individualistic consumer model of voting is something I have railed against for a long time. On top of it is a puritanical moralism that suggests that your vote is a strictly moral choice that implicates you in whatever that president does and, more importantly, that withholding your vote from a compromised candidate means that you are not implicated and that you above those sellouts who got their hands dirty. The former part of that construction may be true, but the last is certainly false. All Americans are responsible for their government. Voting is a time when you have no legitimate choice but to pick which of the two major candidates are going to be the best and then organize before the next election to get better candidates. Voting is not how change happens. Voting consolidates the change since the last election cycle. But I am screaming into a tornado to challenge the extreme consumerism of modern politics.

More Adventures with America’s Last Real Liberal President (TM)

[ 33 ] October 20, 2016 |


That Richard Nixon. What leadership he showed signing environmental legislation that passed the House 421-4 or whatever. That’s the sign of a true liberal. America’s great environmentalist president! And when he wasn’t doing that or finding other ways to advance liberalism like burglarizing the office of his opponent or rewarding the worst elements of the labor movement for beating up hippies by raising them to be Secretary of Labor or invading Cambodia or rooting on the crushing of the Attica strike, America’s Last Real Liberal Unlike That Neoliberal Sellout Barack Obama was vetoing universal child care legislation.

Back in 1971, though, the United States came as close as it has ever been — unbelievably close — to ensuring universal child care. And if you are a women who did not live through this era (or a woman who did not read Collins’ book and then lament its history lesson with all your girlfriends), you may not know that this ever happened. The sudden realization of which somehow makes the disappointment all the more biting.

That year, Congress passed a bill, the Comprehensive Child Development Act (which now merits all of three paragraphs in Wikipedia), that would have created a national network of federally funded child care centers, with tuition subsidized depending on a family’s income. It was budgeted at $2 billion for the first two years (the equivalent of about $10 billion today). That money was supposed to be a serious first step toward alleviating the challenges of a labor force increasingly full of working mothers. The government was to fund meals, medical checkups and staff training. No family would have been required to participate, but every one would have had the option.

“It was an entitlement,” Collins wrote in a New York Times column last year, “and, if it had become law, it would have been one entitlement for little children in a world where most of the money goes to the elderly.”

Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike supported the bill. The Senate passed it 63-17. Supporters expected President Richard Nixon to sign it. Then Nixon (with the urging of Pat Buchanan, then working in the White House) vetoed it with scathing language denouncing the “radical” idea that government should help rear children in the place of their parents. The veto rested on cultural grounds more than financial constraints. Here is the passage from Collins’ book that lingers:

The goal was not just to kill the bill but also to bury the idea of a national child-care entitlement forever. “I insisted we not just say we can’t afford it right now, in which case you get pilot programs or whatever,” Buchanan said. The veto message was actually a toned-down version of what Buchanan had suggested — he wanted to accuse the bill’s drafters of “the Sovietization of American children.” But it did the job Buchanan… had hoped it would do. It delivered the message that it was much more politically dangerous to work in favor of expanded child care than to oppose it.

There was little public attention surrounding the bill at the time Congress was debating it. After the veto, though, the very idea of government-funded child care spawned a fantastic misinformation campaign, complete with rumors that any such efforts would inevitably lead to government indoctrination of small children, and child labor unions empowered to fight their parents.

I was reminded of this earlier this week when I brought Caroline Fredrickson to campus and she talked about it, noting not only Pat Buchanan’s crazy words, but also those of Phyllis Schlafly, who also led the fight against universal child care.

This all makes me disgusted, not only because the Nixon’s actions have made the lives of millions of parents, especially single parents but almost all parents ultimately, far more difficult, but because it feels like universal child care is something completely off the progressive demand list today. And that’s ridiculous because it should be right at the top. I mean, let’s say Hillary wins and Dems even with the House along with the Senate. What are the priorities? Fixing the ACA, raising the minimum wage, an immigration bill, reinstating preclearance under the Voting Rights Act, campaign finance reform, etc., etc. And that’s all good. But my god, shouldn’t universal childcare be right at the top of that list? Maybe it’s because we don’t think it’s possible, maybe it’s because we have limited goals these days. But it’s not that long ago before it came within a smidgen of significantly moving forward.

Pennsylvania Faculty on Strike

[ 70 ] October 19, 2016 |


Early this morning, 5500 faculty members on the 14 campuses of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, including my wife, went on strike because of PASSHE’s refusal to offer a fair contract. The university system has sought to effectively destroy these schools. They want to commit to even more adjunct teaching while also lowering adjunct pay up to 20 percent. The schools are offering pathetic pay rates and seeking major health care givebacks. 477 days after the last contract expired, the union (APSCUF) was willing to continue meeting, but as the hours wound down, PASSHE refused to come back to the table. APSCUF is trying to argue for binding arbitration. But the schools, with a weak hand because of the absurdity of the offer, refuses to agree to that. The strike will end if PASSHE agrees to that binding arbitration. Until then, the corporate war on higher education has forced 105,000 students to not get an education.

I know this isn’t Yale, Harvard, Columbia, or any of the New York schools that the lefties who went to those schools teach at since many couldn’t imagine lighting out for the territories. So this strike probably won’t get the kind of attention that we saw at Long Island University. But it’s equally important. More will be forthcoming.

…Since there seems to be some confusion, this has nothing to do with Penn State University. These are the affected schools.

A Wall of Taco Trucks

[ 33 ] October 18, 2016 |


You have love the Culinary Union.

A wall is going up outside the Trump International Las Vegas hotel Wednesday morning.

The Culinary Union, long a Donald Trump antagonist in Las Vegas, is going to “build” a wall of taco trucks outside Trump’s hotel, just a couple miles from UNLV, site of the final presidential debate.

The groups aim to have at least five taco trucks outside the hotel, in addition to a banner in the style of a wall that participants will be able to sign.

“We’re reminding Mr. Trump that immigrant workers here and across the country will be watching the debate and voting in November,” said Yvanna Cancela, the political director for the majority Latino and predominantly immigrant union.

The Culinary Union has held nearly 10 rallies outside Trump’s hotel since workers voted to unionize and won last December. They argue that Trump is illegally refusing to bargain with them.

A wall of taco trucks is going to be far more effective than a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. More realistic too.

Schilling for Senate!

[ 95 ] October 18, 2016 |


As a Democrat, let me say how very, very scared I am of Curt Schilling running against Elizabeth Warren in 2018.

In a wide-ranging, three-hour interview, Schilling took questions from callers and said he’ll run against Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, in 2018, but must clear the decision with his wife.

“I’ve made my decision, I’m going to run,” he said. “But I have to talk to Shonda, my wife, and ultimately it’s going to come down to how her and I feel this would affect our marriage and our kids.”

Schilling took issue with Warren opposing a November ballot question aimed at dramatically expanding the number of charter schools in Massachusetts. He said he’s not scared to debate her, noting that the Red Sox defeated the Cleveland Indians when he was a player.

“I’ve beaten the real ones before so I’m not worried about that,” the self-described conservative and Donald Trump supporter said, an apparent reference to Warren’s claims of Native American heritage.

Earlier this year Schilling was fired from his job as an ESPN baseball analyst after comments on Facebook critical of transgender rights. He now has an online radio show.

Of course he would probably beat Martha Coakley in a race where she starts out leading by 25 points.

Now That’s a Conspiracy Theory!

[ 110 ] October 17, 2016 |

If you are going to go conspiracy theory, this is the way to go:

In past years, a Presidential nominee calling women he’s accused of groping ugly liars or a major foreign power allegedly hacking into huge swathes of campaign emails would be Internet-breaking ammo. In this election cycle, that’s a slow news day. As America’s collective bad karma continues to manifest in this strange surreality, we’ve become increasingly un-shockable. It’s been a few weeks since a non-Trump headline has hit this new, higher bar for astonishment. And then Pamela Anderson allegedly poisoned Julian Assange with a vegan Pret a Manger sandwich.

Talk about the start of a great novel!

Republicans and the Court

[ 122 ] October 17, 2016 |

McCain tells Pennsylvania crowd that Republicans will unite against any Supreme Court justice Hillary Clinton nominates. No one should be surprised.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 53

[ 45 ] October 16, 2016 |

This is the grave of Tip O’Neill.


Born in 1912 in Cambridge, O’Neill became involved in politics at a young age, campaigning for Al Smith in 1928. He ran for City Council while a senior at Boston College and suffered his only electoral defeat. In 1936, he was elected the Massachusetts House, starting a long career as a supporter of New Deal-style government programs. He ran for Congress in 1952 and served there until 1987. He was elected Speaker in 1977 after rising through the leadership through the preceding decade. That he called for Richard Nixon’s impeachment at an early point helped raise his profile in the nation. He did not have particularly good relations with Jimmy Carter, but when Reagan took over in 1981, pledged to work with the new president up to an extent, even while often opposing him publicly, which turned out often unfortunately for the people relying on Democratic opposition to the new president’s budget-slashing policies for the environment and working-class. He retired in 1987 and died in 1993.

As part of my mission to make this series even more trivial, I am also starting a new section to document whether an individual has been portrayed in a movie or TV show. O’Neill himself loved the limelight. He starred in an episode of Cheers in 1983 and also appeared as himself in the 1993 film Dave. It does not however seem that anyone has ever played him as a fictional character.

Today, Tip O’Neill working with Ronald Reagan is the wet dream of Broderites everywhere.

Tip O’Neill is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Harwich Port, Massachusetts.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Locker Room Talk

[ 107 ] October 13, 2016 |


Gabriel N. Rosenberg is assistant professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Duke University and the author of The 4-H Harvest: Sexuality and the State in Rural America. His proudest achievement from four years of high school football is that as the starting center he never fumbled a snap.

You already know that Donald Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women. And you know that both he and his apologists have responded to this leaked tape by calling it “locker room talk.” In the last few days, jocks, journalists, coaches, and ex-jocks have been rising in defense of locker rooms everywhere to boldly proclaim #NotAllLockerRooms! Many folks seem excited about this response, but it leaves me completely cold.

At the most basic level, this response literalizes “locker room” in a painfully obtuse way. It’s obvious that Trump wasn’t literally engaging in “locker room talk” since he was on a bus. So what is “locker room” a metaphor for? Some research from folks who actually study gender and sexuality could be useful.

“Locker room” is short for male homosocial spaces, particularly those spaces where men are encouraged to exhibit aggression, dominance, and emotional invulnerability. As sociologist C. J. Pascoe notes in her ethnography of a California high school, ritualized bragging about sexual violence is a common way for many adolescent boys to perform masculinity. Pascoe also found that this bragging was consistently validated, countenanced, and sometimes reproduced by authority figures in the school—teachers, coaches, and administrators. Her response to the recent controversy is worth reading in its entirety but I want to foreground this:

“Locker room talk is not ‘just words.’ It is not funny. It is not harmless. And it is certainly not limited to the locker room. This kind of sex talk is a central part of normative masculinity in the global West. It is a way in which some men simultaneously endorse and dodge such endorsement of sexual assault. It is a way in which violence against women and women’s bodies are rendered ‘just jokes’ or ‘guy talk.’ In fact, the girls in my study were often used by young men as props in their competition for status and recognition from one another.”

Parsing whether actual bragging among men in homosocial spaces is identical to or “just as bad” as what Trump said badly misses the point. Bragging need not precisely fit a confession to sexual assault to reproduce the pernicious idea that real men dominate and real women wish to be dominated. Indeed, this is another critical finding of Pascoe and other scholars of American masculinity: talk among boys and men in homosocial spaces contributes to a view of masculinity that makes later sexual harassment and abuse of both girls and other boys more probable.

It’s not surprising, then, that even if one does focus on literal locker rooms, we probably shouldn’t be rushing to defend them. Many locker rooms are awful places! Not only are they where some men brag about sexualized domination in ways that leads to actual sexual violence outside of the locker room; they also happen to be the site of actual sexual violence and harassment in high schools, colleges, and even among professional sports.

I understand the underlying strategic sensibility—I won’t call it wisdom—that parallels the Clinton campaign’s election strategy until recently. Clinton repeatedly claimed that Donald Trump was singularly and historically awful among Republican politicians, such that his campaign represented a departure from the historical appeal of the GOP rather than its natural progression. The strategy gave wavering Republican voters emotional “permission” to dump Trump without feeling like they’d betrayed their party. Similarly, #NotAllLockerRooms offers men an exit ramp from Trump’s violent chauvinism and a way to square masculine identity with a vote for Clinton.

But as many have already noted, this triangulation comes at a serious cost. In the election context, it makes it harder in down-ballot races to tie other Republican candidates to Trump. More broadly, it also makes it harder for people on the left to (correctly) argue that Trump is an expression of the modern Republican party, not a deviation from it. In terms of the politics of sexual assault and Trump’s remarks, this triangulation makes it all the harder to talk about the vile reality of what happens in too many literal and metaphoric locker rooms.

To put it more bluntly, at a moment when Donald Trump is normalizing sexual assault, we are witnessing the obscene spectacle of people rising up to defend the honor of professional athletes. This priority seems, to say the least, misplaced.

Declining Clean Energy Investments

[ 47 ] October 12, 2016 |

Cattle graze near wind turbines that are part of Babcock & Brown Infrastructure Group's Gulf Wind Project on Kenedy Ranch south of Kingsville, Texas, U.S., on Monday, Feb. 23, 2009. The $787 billion stimulus legislation signed by President Barack Obama includes at least $14 billion in tax breaks for wind and solar electricity and establishes a grant program to help finance projects. When completed, this wind farm will have 118 turbines with a total output of 283 megawatts (MW). Photographer: Eddie Seal/Bloomberg News

Climate change, only the greatest problem facing the world, has received nearly zero attention in the presidential campaign. So it’s easy to forget about it! But the fact that investment in renewables is seriously down worldwide is a very bad thing.

Investment in renewable energy and smart energy technologies totaled $42.2 billion in the third quarter, down 31 percent from the previous quarter and down 43 percent from the third quarter of 2015, a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance said.

Asset finance of utility-scale renewable energy projects fell 49 percent year-on-year to $28.8 billion in the third quarter.

“These numbers are worryingly low even compared to the subdued trend we saw in Q1 and Q2,” Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said in a statement.

Chinese investment fell by 51 percent compared with the third quarter last year to $14.4 billion and Japan’s investment was 56 percent lower at $3.5 billion.

In many countries, electricity demand growth is also lower than government forecasts.

“My view is that the Q3 figures are somewhere between a ‘flash crash’ blip and a ‘new normal’,” Liebreich said.

If more transactions emerge, Q3 figures could be revised upwards, but with Q1 and Q2 data down an average 23 percent from the equivalent quarters last year, clean energy investment this year could end up well below last year’s record of $348.5 billion.

Of course, markets change and you can’t take a quarter or two and assume this is a permanent change. But we need not just growing electricity demand to come through renewables, but also the replacement of fossil fuel energy structures with new investments in wind and solar. If that’s not happening and declined investment is something like a new normal as the analyst states, that’s a very bad thing for the planet and all the species who live on it. Including us.

Monetize that Scam!

[ 79 ] October 12, 2016 |


Trump is going to cash in either way.

Facing a tough uphill battle in the last weeks before the election, Donald Trump, newly “unshackled” from his party’s leadership, is offering his voters a fresh way to help him get elected: A “limited edition” Trump Black Card, which does absolutely nothing but remind you that you contributed to his campaign.

For a candidate who loves to hate on elites, this latest fundraising gimmick, promoted in a campaign email to supporters, exudes exclusivity. It’s “non-transferable and “invitation only.” If you contribute a special discounted price of $35, you “activate your Elite Membership.”

The card itself can’t quite make up its mind whether it’s a “Trump card,” which would be a somewhat clever play on words, or a “black card,” connoting a high-end rewards credit card.

And while, yes, the card itself means nothing, the entire right is based upon bilking suckers out of their money. How many would sign up for a Trump card or some kind that was an open grift? Millions. Expect that to happen.

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