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America’s Funnyman

[ 44 ] April 23, 2017 |


When he takes a break from dropping his ridiculously awesome sense of humor that mere mortals would call racism, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is continuing his reign of terror against undocumented people. Here’s some stories from scared people in Rhode Island.

The Haitian immigrant sits in a reporter’s car, parked on a side street, his eyes scanning for police or federal agents. Dreading potential arrest and deportation, “Joseph” says this is only the third time he’s ventured from his basement hideaway since before President Donald Trump took office.

A slender 35-year-old with wide cheekbones and close-cropped hair, Joseph remains secluded with his girlfriend and their infant in a two-room concrete basement. They’ve taped blackout cloth over the one tiny window. They speak in low tones. They watch television with the volume off and captions on. They hope the baby’s cries don’t attract attention. His aunt, who owns the house, attends to their needs.

Through an interpreter, Joseph says that “because of the problem with Donald Trump, they are putting everybody in the same boat,” lumping all undocumented immigrants with those who have committed crimes. He hopes that Trump “may change his mind, and allow [undocumented] people to stay if they have no criminal record.”

If he doesn’t, Joseph says, “Only God knows” what will happen to his family.

Joseph is one of several undocumented immigrants The Journal interviewed who are living under self-imposed home confinement because of the Trump administration’s executive orders that appear to put many of the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants at risk. The Journal has granted them anonymity because of their fears. Joseph is being interviewed in the car so the reporter will not know where he lives.

Just another hilarious joke by that comedic genius from Alabama!

Much of the response on the left to Trump has been heartening, with protests ranging from the Women’s March to the JFK protest to yesterday’s Science March. But I have to say that the lack of attention paid to the approximately 11 million people in this country who are being terrorized by Sessions and his fascist strikeforce that is ICE is upsetting. These are the single biggest targets of Trump and yet this doesn’t concern liberals and the left as much as other, less immediate issues. As I believe we can be mad about many things at once, I don’t think we have to sacrifice the anger at the administration anti-science policies in order to also be, say, setting up an underground railroad to get people to Canada or a network where local people can create flash protests whenever the fascists arrest an undocumented person. We can do a lot more on these issues than we are doing.


Really, Who Can Live Up to the Legacy of President Debs

[ 183 ] April 23, 2017 |


Above: A President Who Got Things Done

Before I note who said this foolishness about Obama’s legacy, let me just present it.

 Obama came into office at a very important historical moment. There was tremendous public support for him when he came in. The country was in a serious crisis—maybe not as serious as when Franklin Delano Roosevelt came in, but it was really serious. What did Obama do? He put the same guys back in that caused the problem in the first place. He passed a piddling little stimulus plan. He spent his whole first year fighting about health care and ended up with a plan that’s better than nothing, but considering what was possible with 60 votes in the Senate and a majority in the House…

My disappointment is that Obama didn’t seize the opportunity that was there. Now, maybe that’s just Obama. He’s a mainstream Democrat. We got the change that he wanted, which was minimal. But he campaigned on the promise of change with a capital C, with the backing of large numbers of people—whom he then demobilized. In November of 2008, he gave a press conference, and somebody asked where was the change? And he said something like, “I am the change.” Compare that with Eugene V. Debs, who said he wouldn’t lead his followers into the promised land even if he could, because if he could lead them in, someone else could lead them out.

So, yes, I am disappointed with Obama. It’s not the specific policies so much as his general approach to office, which I find too limited, given the circumstances in which he came in. After 2010, when the Republicans came into Congress, then his options became limited. But in the first two years he had a real opportunity, which he did not seize.

This is Grade C hackishness that completely ignores any context, such as that those 60 senators included people such as Max Baucus and Joe Lieberman. And then there’s the utterly bizarre comparison to Eugene Debs, who, you know, never sniffed the presidency. I mean, it is indeed shocking that someone who won the presidency twice does not have the same politics and tone as a long-time socialist who was jailed for opposing the American war effort in World War I and ran for president from prison. But hey, I guess if Obama had just used that BULLY PULPIT more, he would have cowed the opposition into submitting to the radical leftist change REAL AMERICANS are demanding. So who is this hack?

It’s Eric Foner, arguably the most important U.S. historian of the last thirty years.

I guess this might be surprising, but it really shouldn’t be. Just because someone is the world’s greatest expert on the past doesn’t mean said person can actually translate that into insightful commentary on the present. Of course, Foner often does have insightful commentary on the present, but as anyone who follows the left knows, there can be a massive disconnect between that and understanding or accepting the complexities and limitations of American politics.

I also have to wonder if some of the problem here isn’t also that Foner is so steeped in the Civil War as the nation’s greatest moment of liberation (which it is and it isn’t given that the very same soldiers who were ending slavery were committing mass genocide against Native Americans at the same time) that he sees such transformative moments as possible. And maybe they are, but of course the Civil War was also an incredibly horrible event for the country, with 750,000 dead people and millions more wounded, opium addicted, and displaced. And sure, this was all worth it to end the horror of slavery, but if that kind of changes is your expectation, you aren’t going to get it and therefore be reduced to ridiculous comparisons like this.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 80

[ 28 ] April 23, 2017 |

This is the memorial stone of Glenn Miller.

2016-05-07 11.53.20

Born in Clarinda, Iowa in 1904, Glenn Miller moved around the Great Plains in his early years, eventually settling in Fort Morgan, Colorado where he became a prominent high school football player. He picked up the trombone at an early age and became especially interested in the dance band music of the early 1920s adapted from jazz. He attended the University of Colorado, playing music more than attending classes. He dropped out and joined a series of bands. By 1928, he realized that he had a greater future as a band leader than a trombonist. He started writing and publishing his own music while playing in bands with Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman to keep himself fed. He struggled to make his name as a bandleader He finally managed to have success in 1938 when he developed a new band around clarinets and saxophones that made his music standout compared to the other white jazz bands. By 1939 he was a national star. He got his own radio show sponsored by Chesterfield cigarettes, appearing three times a week until Miller joined the military in 1942. His biggest hit was his recording of “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” in 1942, which went gold. Despite making up to $20,000 a week in 1942, he wanted desperately to volunteer for the war. He was too old for a volunteer soldier, but he convinced the army to bring him on to develop military bands. He was very successful at this, bringing the military’s music into a post-Sousa era and creating another popular radio show around this music. He based his military band first in New Haven, but then in New York and London, where they performed over 800 times. After the Allies retook Paris, Miller planned to move his band there to continue supporting the fight against fascism. However, flying there on December 15, 1944, his plane went down over the English Channel, probably for mechanical reasons. His body was never found.

Miller appeared in a couple of films, Sun Valley Serenade in 1941 and Orchestra Wives in 1942. He was also a band member in the 1935 film The Big Broadcast of 1936. Of course, he was also famously portrayed by Jimmy Stewart in Anthony Mann’s 1954 film The Glenn Miller Story. Ray Daley also played him in the 1959 Melville Shavelson film The Five Pennies.

I suppose I should say something about Miller’s music. I personally don’t think it holds up real well and it’s hard for me to hear it, or that of the Dorseys and Goodman, that it’s a black cultural form completely bleached so white that even mid-twentieth century white Americans don’t feel threatened by it. Of course, he had a great sense of melody and the band was successful for a reason, but listening to Miller and then listening to Ellington or Armstrong, well, it’s hard to think so much of Miller.

Glenn Miller’s memorial stone is in Grove Street Cemetery, New Haven, Connecticut.

The People’s Front of Judea

[ 171 ] April 23, 2017 |


Today’s example of why the left can’t have nice things.

Around the same time the central march in Washington, DC started coming together, people all over the country started planning their own local events, so-called satellite marches. As of now, more than 600 are scheduled all over the world, including in Memphis, Tennessee.

An activist named Nour Hantouli, part of the Memphis Feminist Collective, got involved early—along with a dozen people who had long worked in Memphis on movements like Black Lives Matter. Memphis has a storied history in political activism; it’s the place where Ida B. Wells documented and protested lynching in the US. Local activists wanted to teach the organizing scientists about their work’s logistics and philosophy.

In late March, one of the activists, Sydney Bryant, did an interview with The Scientist. “There have been scientists from different areas in Memphis that really want to help, but they don’t know anything about activism,” she said. “So we are trying to teach them . . . in a way that will benefit us both.”

It didn’t go over well. Several scientists wrote in to The Scientist expressing their indignation. “It is unfortunate,” one wrote, “that the interviewee is not someone who actually represents the scientific community of Memphis or the spirit with which the March for Science Memphis was originally conceived.” At the same time, the organizers were having internal difficulties with the leadership of their group, with the scientists wanting to assume all leadership positions, Hantouli says.

The tension in Memphis parallels debates in the larger scientific community over the March for Science, and the relationship between science and politics. After many revisions of its mission statement, the national March for Science now explicitly describes itself as a political movement—and more than that, that it’s officially about diversity in science. But some scientists in Memphis, along with many others nationwide, want to keep the movement’s focus on improving public understanding of science and underlining the importance of funding for research. They wanted to avoid associations with a political movement—and even more emphatically, partisan politics.

On one side are scientists who value their work for its purity, its separation from politics—illusory though that may seem under an administration that seeks to downsize the EPA, cut the NIH budget, and deny climate change. On the other side are scientists who’ve felt the impact of the field’s politics for years. People of color, women, the disabled, immigrants, gay people—they’re all clamoring for scientists to confront science’s biases and improve instead of celebrating its successes on the Washington Mall.

In Memphis, things fell apart. On Saturday, the city will host two official events: a march organized primarily by activists and a rally led primarily by scientists.

But hey, maybe this is actually science!

The 2017 Award for Worst Self-Awareness Goes To……Glenn Greenwald!

[ 103 ] April 23, 2017 |

You kids have fun with this one.

How Republicans Became the Anti-Environmental Party

[ 88 ] April 22, 2017 |


The environmental historian Chris Sellers explores this issue for Earth Day. In the 1950s, many Republicans were among the founding environmentalists in Congress. And of course, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Congress was passing groundbreaking environmental laws by nearly unanimous votes (which is why it drives me crazy when Richard Nixon gets called a “liberal” for signing these laws). To say the least, things changed.

One strand of coalition-building emerged in the 1970s in the western states, where a so-called Sagebrush rebellion erupted among ranchers, miners, and other larger property owners upset over new environmental restrictions. Aspiring Republican politicians rode these issues into legislative takeovers in states like Colorado in 1976, by drawing support not just from rural but also from suburban voters.

Among the victors was a 34-old Republican lawyer named Anne Gorsuch representing Jefferson County, on Denver’s edge, who railed against regional planning as well as federal regulatory “overreach.” When reelected, Gorsuch attracted sufficient attention for former California governor Reagan to bring her in as advisor to his own conservative campaign for the presidency.

The other strand of early anti-environmentalism ran through the South, where traditional Democratic dominance was in flux. Democrats like then-Georgia governor Jimmy Carter embraced environmental causes. Some Republicans did as well. When college professor Newt Gingrich ran for Congress starting in 1972 in a West Georgia district extending into Atlanta’s suburbs, it made sense that he did so both as a Republican and an environmentalist.

But Gingrich kept losing until he noticed that rural lifelong Democrats rejecting his candidacy turned out repeatedly for a John Bircher Democrat running in a neighboring district who publicly questioned the constitutionality of both the EPA and national parks. Taking the cue, Gingrich won his first of many Congressional races in 1978 by dialing down his environmental rhetoric and cozying up to local industries that had run afoul of the new agencies and laws.

Riding these political tides to the White House, the early Reagan administration undertook a frontal assault on environmental agencies and regulation much like what we are now seeing. Gorsuch stepped into the EPA’s helm, hatching plans to cut its budget and personnel by half. Her Colorado colleague over at the Interior Department, James Watt, sought a similar devolution of control over federal lands; OSHA and FDA were also targeted.

But for these Republican anti-environmentalists, the power of the Presidency was not enough. A Democratic Congress, still bolstered by the party’s Southern bloc, stood in the way. Democratic committee chairs geared up for Congressional hearings that spotlighted the ensuing consequences and corruption at agencies under fire. The hue and cry then raised, and courtroom battles the Administration then lost, turned out to be much more than it had bargained for. Within two years, Gorsuch and Watt had resigned and restoration of federal environmental agencies was underway. A seminal Supreme Court decision in 1984, Chevron, Inc. vs NRDC, required judicial deference to environmental and other agencies’ interpretation of statutes, confirming their authority to regulate.

As moderate Republicans took over, federal environmental budgets and operations were restored, but the grounds were also being laid for a next war on the environmental state. The Heritage Foundation, established in the 1970s, enjoyed a heyday as an idea factory for tugging the administration to the right, and new think tanks established in the mid-1980s like the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy came to nourish a special hostility toward the climate issue. In the South, as well, enterprising Republicans such as Gingrich successfully moved to convert white Democratic voters to their party.

Newt and Neil “My first act as Supreme Court justice is killing a disabled black man” Gorsuch’s mom. What a gallery of rogues.

The Stadium Scam: Milwaukee Edition

[ 39 ] April 22, 2017 |
UNDATED:  Robin Yount of the Millwaukee Brewers poses during an MLB game.  Robin Yount played for the TEAM from 1974-1993.  (Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

UNDATED: Robin Yount of the Millwaukee Brewers poses during an MLB game. Robin Yount played for the TEAM from 1974-1993. (Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Publicly funded sports stadiums, the grift that keeps on giving.

Oh, what a lovely investment the Milwaukee Brewers team is. Mark Attanasio paid $223 million for the Brewers in 2005 and the team is now worth $925 million, according to the latest analysis by Forbes magazine.

Pro sports owners almost never lose money. They may have a net loss in a given year or years, but that is far offset by the way sports franchise values rise. The resell value of the franchise is always rising and always guarantees a huge return.

One reason is that a team like the Brewers is basically a monopoly, the only such sports franchise in the metro area. But perhaps a bigger reason is that the company’s major cost of operation, the stadium in which the team plays, is largely paid for by taxpayers. The cost of Miller Park, which could ultimately run anywhere from $524 million to more than a billion in taxes, depending on what costs and subsidies you choose to include, is far more than Bud Selig and his partners invested in the team (including the original purchase price) during the years they owned the Brewers.

And the fact that the taxpayers continue to pay for the stadium, its maintenance and new additions, makes the Brewers a sweet deal for Attanasio. Moreover, he doesn’t just get to a heavily subsidized baseball stadium, but an ever-growing concert venue as well.

As Forbes notes, the Brewers “poor play dinged ballpark attendance 9% last season, but their concert business is picking up. Country superstar Kenny Chesney’s June 2016 concert at Miller Park ranked as the top-grossing concert in that period with gross sales of $4.8 million, according to figures reported in Venues Today. The Brewers signed a deal with Ballpark Music to stage concerts at Miller Park next season. The agreement provides a financial boost to the Brewers because any money earned at the non-baseball events goes directly to the team under the Brewers lease. The Brewers keep the revenue from parking, food and merchandise.”

Yep, yet another gift from the taxpayers of this five-county metro area (which includes Racine county, much to the continuing anger of its residents), who get no cut of the concert revenues in the stadium they built.

But hey, at least ownership is investing those profits in making the team competitive!

In 2000, the year before Miller Park opened, the team had the eighth-lowest payroll at $36.5 million, well below the median payroll of about $56 million and far below the top payroll of $92.5 million for the New York Yankees.

How has Miller Park changed this? Actually the disparity has gotten far worse. The current payroll of the team is $62 million, which is dead last in the league, far below the median payroll of $138.2 million and light years below the top payroll of $244.6 million for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

True, the Brewers have been in a rebuilding mode, but the team’s payroll rank since Miller Park opened has averaged between the 20th and 21st in the league — about the same rank it had in the years before the new stadium was built.

In short, while Miller Park assured Major League Baseball remained in Milwaukee, and has greatly increased the wealth of Selig and Attanasio, it didn’t exactly make the Brewers a powerhouse. The team’s last (and only) World Series appearance was back in 1982, and 16 years after Miller Park opened, it hasn’t gotten the team much closer to another pennant.

Why, it’s almost as if the rich lie to the public about their investment priorities!

Should You Go to Graduate School?

[ 185 ] April 22, 2017 |


Let’s talk about graduate school.

I’ve spent this year as the Interim Director of Graduate Studies in my department as the usual director is on sabbatical. Speaking of which, I have one more week of teaching until I start my sabbatical. Yes, I am going to enjoy the next 16 months of not teaching, while researching, writing, and hiking as much as possible. Anyway, graduate school. The question of whether to go to graduate school and how to survive graduate school is one I have thought about a great deal. As someone with a PhD from the University of New Mexico, I had to. Not only was nothing ever guaranteed for us Lobos who weren’t ever thought to be able to compete with the Yale and Harvard graduates of the world, but I hit the job market right as the economy collapsed in 2008. The first full year I was on the market, 1/2 of the jobs I applied for were shut down before interviews took place. It was grim. I had a visiting position but it took me 4 years to find a tenure-track job. And I am damned lucky.

It turned out in the end that my fellow UNM people almost all survived the collapse of the job market and either got tenure-track jobs or else good work in professions they wanted, ranging from museums and university presses to federal jobs and permanent positions at community colleges in places they wanted to live. Meanwhile, I heard tales of Big 10 universities having their history programs go 5 years and place 1 person in a U.S. history tenure track job. Why the discrepancy, which was exactly the opposite of what one would expect?

Fundamentally, I think the reason for this is that because we had second-rate funding packages (only 3 years of guaranteed funding as opposed to the 5 or 6 years at supposedly better programs) and because no one believed in us anyway, we had to hustle. So we ended up on the market having done a whole variety of different things that the Yale students never had to do, making us more versatile and allowing us to stand out. I put myself through the last couple of years of graduate school doing work at Los Alamos National Laboratory, making sure it complied with the National Historic Preservation Act. I also put together a climate change report for New Mexico environmental organizations that gave me some early consulting experience. That, plus the blogging, made me different than other candidates. I never quite realized how important that was until I was on a search committee for a job last year for the first time. What became instantly clear to me is that every Ivy League applicant is basically the same–the projects are very similar, the letters are all from the same people, none of them have meaningful teaching experience. You could barely tell them apart. We ended up bringing in 4 candidates from public institutions and hiring two amazing historians.

I say all of this because there are a couple of interesting posts from the last couple of days about graduate school and I think these stories help frame a discussion not only of whether to go to graduate school but also how to do graduate school. There is one basic rule about graduate school: don’t go into debt for it. If someone doesn’t want you or you can’t pay for it in some way yourself that makes sense, then don’t do it.

Now, you might say that it is immoral to send students to graduate school for jobs they won’t get. Possible, but this gets to how to do graduate school and why to do graduate school. The biggest problem right now with Ph.D. programs is that professors don’t know how to get a job as a historian today because they all got extremely lucky to get a job in academia or they did so a long time ago. So when I advise a student on going to graduate school, the first thing I tell them is that they have to assume they will never get an academic job and therefore must prepare for that as well as doing the academic work necessary to get a dissertation and compete for whatever jobs are out there. As part of that, I tell them to keep this in mind even if their advisor doesn’t agree because their advisor may be the absolutely worst person for a student to listen about career preparation.

And then even if you do get a job, be prepared to not live with your partner (mine teaches 500 miles away), have absolutely no control over where you live, not be able to buy a house or have children because of the constant instability, etc. This is a good overview of these issues by someone who has chosen to leave academia, as part of a longer post on what kind of characteristics help someone succeed in academia.

4. You don’t care where you live.

Here, briefly, is how the academic job market works. Suppose you’re writing your dissertation, and the fall of 2018 rolls around and it looks like you’ll be able to successfully defend in the spring of 2019. Because tenure-track academic jobs — I’ll get to non-tenure track jobs below — work on a year-long lead, you need to start applying now, so that you can defend your dissertation in spring 2019 and begin your new job the following fall.

Each academic position will have many, many applicants. Via friends who have served on committees, the number is routinely several hundred. The odds, then, of being offered an interview at any one place are very low (unconditionally, say less than 5%), and to reach a reasonably high probability of receiving an offer you will need to apply everywhere there is a job listing you might reasonably fill.

I have heard early career graduate students or undergraduates considering academia say things like “I wouldn’t mind starting out at a place like the University of Kansas,” or some other institution they perceive to be of similarly low prestige. Let me be clear: you probably won’t get a job at Kansas. Getting a job at Kansas would be fantastic and is therefore exceedingly difficult. For nearly all students outside of the very top graduate programs, a job at Kansas (or similar institution) is almost certainly your best-case scenario. If you have family ties that prevent you from living outside a certain area, or a partner with an inflexible job, you will be very unlikely to find an academic job.

5. You don’t mind moving frequently, or being very mobile in general.

Because finding a tenure track position is very difficult, new PhDs often move from graduate school to a series of short-term positions, either postdoctoral fellowships or, more frequently, visiting or adjunct professor positions. These positions differ from tenure track positions in that they do not offer the promise of long-term employment: generally one would only stay at one of these positions for one or two years. Many times they also do not offer benefits like health insurance. If you can publish enough during this time period, it is sometimes possible to move into a tenure-track position. However, publishing is doubly difficult in visiting and adjunct positions, because you will be teaching a large number of courses.

So while the ideal path leads from graduate school to a tenure track position, more likely is one leading from graduate school to one or more short term positions that will require you to move — often across the country or the world — each year.

A related point here is that academics’ lives are often hilariously peripatetic. I know multiple people who live hours away from their home institutions and commute in to work for 2-3 days each week. If you arrive to graduate school single, you may soon acquire what is known as the “two body problem,” the name given to the deeply unfortunate situation in which one academic is married to another. This either complicates the problem of finding a job dramatically, provides an opportunity for the aforementioned several hour commute, or sets you up for a permanent long-distance relationship.

Again, none of these things are bad. But tolerance for them varies from person to person, and so they are worth pointing out to someone before this person invests six years of their life into a relatively infungible degree.

On a personal note, the last two of these played the biggest role in pushing me out: I didn’t want to give up control over where I lived, and I didn’t want to move frequently. This meant I needed to apply very selectively to jobs, which in turn meant that I didn’t get one. If those sound like dimensions you’re unwilling to compromise on, understand that academia will almost certainly be six to eight years of training for a field you will not find employment in.

Building these alternative skills during a graduate program helps address precisely these issues. If you are from Seattle or New York, do you really want to live in rural Arkansas, just to teach indifferent 19 year olds intro U.S. history? The same goes for the self-exploitation of long-term adjuncting. Reimagining what a graduate program can be opens up opportunities to make your degree useful while also allowing you greater control over your life choices. A couple of years ago, I was talking to some people just finishing up their PhDs in U.S. history at Brown. There was one late job at a decent school in one of Alabama’s less terrible cities. They said they weren’t even going to bother applying for it because they didn’t want to live in Alabama. A reasonable choice, but nothing in their degree program had prepared them to do anything else but get a job as a professor and that wasn’t happening, in part because of the terrible market and in part because their advisors had not prepared them for the real live job market or anything else except getting a job at a school like Brown.

So why go to graduate school? Well, if you aren’t going into debt and you don’t want to work for a corporation, then why not? It’s not like there are tons of great options out there for humanities and social science-minded 22 year olds. At the very least, you will get to meet some interesting people, have your mind blown, see the country some, get a lot smarter, and figure out your life. There really isn’t anything wrong with that if your eyes are open going into it.

But at the same time, it’s critical to reorient the graduate program to these new realities. Because of New Mexico’s unusual placement record, it was selected as one of four schools to participate in a pilot project through the Mellon Foundation and the American Historical Association that seeks to redirect graduate education. I have played a small role in this, coming back to Albuquerque for a couple of events, talking about what I do outside the academy, and eating a lot of green chile. A current student at UNM has a post up at the AHA blog about career diversity and graduate school and it’s worth your time.

The conversation was geared toward PhD students but I wondered, quite selfishly, how it could apply to master’s students. Between my undergraduate and graduate program, I worked in several different industries that appeared to have no relation to my own historical training and background. Whether it was performing administrative duties at a law firm, selling computers, or tending to children at a daycare, I was unsure how these jobs corresponded with the skills I had learned as part of my BA in history and government. In my last position, however, I worked as a legislative analyst for a lobbying firm in Austin, Texas. There I dug through archival materials, read other scholars’ and professionals’ analyses of legislation, and tried to frame my findings in terms relevant to the fast-paced debates occurring in the domed building across the street. Such tasks were fundamental in sharpening my talents as a researcher at the graduate level. Even in the jobs seemingly unrelated to history, I realize now that I learned important skills such as communicating and collaborating with others that are essential to succeeding within and beyond the professoriate. Transferable skills, therefore, are not unidirectional. The training historians receive in the academy prepares them for a surprisingly large array of career paths, but those careers also feed back into how historians work and how they think about their own research, particularly, in terms of how it relates to a wider audience.

Professors attending the session at the annual meeting expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of helping their students pursue other professional possibilities and using them to mold their academic work. Faculty, however, complained that a cultural shift was necessary among those still pursuing their graduate degrees. Participants noted that most graduate students failed to attend career diversity events because of busy schedules and, more jarringly, due to the fear of being tainted as a student considering a path beyond the professoriate. Even considering the possibility of a career beyond the tenure track was viewed as “depressing.”

If master’s students wish to continue on to the PhD, as I do, we need to think of our connections to the nonacademic world in a way that is invigorating instead of threatening. We should seek out opportunities for career diversity workshops, internships, and other programs because they provide real benefits in terms of how we relate to others’ scholarship and how we produce our own. Students should display the same kind of fearlessness when taking opportunities for training beyond the university as we did when we applied ourselves to the rigors of graduate education. To get the career that best suits us we may need to move beyond our comfort zones.

I think this is right and I also think that even at participating schools there are a lot of professors who still see the only legitimate path as one that ends in a tenure-track job. That is a recipe for irrelevance and the death of programs. Graduate school can be a wonderful thing if you are so inclined, but its also the duty of professors to train you to get an actual real job after it is over, not just throw you overboard to be devoured by the sharks of unemployment, depression, and disillusionment.

Turns Out that Voting Your White Identity over Your Class Identity Has Consequences

[ 89 ] April 20, 2017 |


Another day, another story of white coal mining Trump voters shocked that a billionaire con artist won’t protect their health care.

Today In Research for Answers We Already Knew

[ 22 ] April 20, 2017 |

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 18: Eric Reid #35 and Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sideline, during the anthem, prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Panthers defeated the 49ers 46-27. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

I know I am shocked that the white response to black athletes protesting is framed by white racism.

But all those white people love the conservative values espoused by Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali so they aren’t racist at all just because they’d like to see Colin Kaepernick lynched for not standing for the flag.

All the Winning

[ 35 ] April 20, 2017 |


There is so much winning going on in our foreign policy that I for one am getting sick of it.

Compounding their anger over the Carl Vinson episode, many South Koreans were also riled at Mr. Trump for his assertion in a Wall Street Journal interview last week that the Korean Peninsula “used to be a part of China.” Although Korea was often invaded by China and forced to pay tributes to its giant neighbor, many Koreans say the notion that they were once Chinese subjects is egregiously insulting.

“The 50 million South Koreans, as well as many common-sensical people around the world, cannot help but feel embarrassed and shocked,” said Youn Kwan-suk, spokesman of the main opposition Democratic Party, which is leading in voter surveys before the May 9 presidential election.

American aircraft carriers regularly visit areas near the Korean Peninsula as part of annual military exercises with South Korea and Japan. But when the United States Pacific Command said on April 9 that the Carl Vinson had been ordered to leave Singapore and return to the Western Pacific, the decision was considered highly unusual, as the carrier had been in exercises off the Korean Peninsula just last month.

“We’re sending an armada,” President Trump said at the time.

You have to go pretty far to alienate South Korea. I mean, what do our allies in east Asia have to offer us anyway?

Retail vs Coal

[ 118 ] April 20, 2017 |


There’s been a number of comments and posts around the internet such as what Bouie offers here and they is worth a brief discussion.

The retail industry’s recent decline may have reached a “tipping point.” That was the conclusion of a recent report from the New York Times with potentially far-reaching consequences. Once-bustling shopping malls and department stores are now empty as millions of Americans do their shopping online through businesses that have warehouses but don’t operate storefronts. “This transformation is hollowing out suburban shopping malls, bankrupting longtime brands and leading to staggering job losses,” the Times reports. “More workers in general merchandise stores have been laid off since October, about 89,000 Americans. That is more than all the people employed in the coal industry.”

Retail jobs aren’t good jobs, per se; on average, they pay little, provide few benefits, and are notoriously unstable. But roughly 1 in every 10 Americans works in retail, which means millions rely on the industry for their livelihoods. As the Times notes, “The job losses in retail could have unexpected social and political consequences, as huge numbers of low-wage retail employees become economically unhinged, just as manufacturing workers did in recent decades.”

Despite this ongoing challenge and threat to millions of ordinary Americans, Washington is silent. What makes this even more striking is it comes at a time when politicians—and a multitude of voices in national media—are preoccupied with the prospects of blue-collar whites and the future of the Rust Belt. That contrast exists for several reasons, not the least of which is a simple one: Who does retail work in this country versus who does manufacturing work.

There is of course a lot of truth to this. Retail workers tend to be younger, women, people of color. Manufacturing work tends to be whiter, male, older. And yes, this absolutely frames the discussion of these issues. People don’t freak out about retail losses and you don’t see a million New York Times articles about these workers and you also don’t voices from the self-proclaimed left hold these workers up as why the Democratic Party has sold out the working class. Sexism and racism absolutely frames all of this.

It is however worth noting that the decline of manufacturing jobs is also the decline of generations of work that was once horrible, deadly, and destructive turned into well-paid, union jobs. And that is part of the story here too. Retail jobs are not worse than manufacturing jobs except for the fact that retail jobs have always been low paid and fights to turn manufacturing jobs into “good jobs” were successful. Of course, that process was racialized and gendered too because society valued the jobs of white males more than those of people of color and women. But part of the story is the decline of good paying jobs for the working class.

There’s also the issues that entire regional identities have been developed around these hard industrial jobs. That’s not just in West Virginia. Go to Butte and talk to people about copper or go to Michigan and talk about auto or go to Johnstown and Youngstown to talk about steel. The decline of these industries is the decline of a regional identity that retail never has created. And that regional identity is held by more than just the white men who the media are slobbering over to get their perspectives on Trump. It’s held by the white women working in those retail jobs and it’s held by the African-Americans who are very much not responding to this by voting for a white supremacists, but nonetheless experience the economic dislocation the loss of those steel jobs causes.

So, yes, absolutely the focus on industrial over retail is about race and gender. But it’s about more than that too, not in terms of issues that can somehow be separated from racism and sexism, but rather about how long histories of work that are infused with racism and sexism shape regional identity and thus affect voting patterns.

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