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The Fake Disillusionment Con

[ 78 ] August 25, 2014 |

Shorter Thomas Frank and Cornel West: I’m going to pretend to be deeply disillusioned that Obama didn’t turn out to be the Scandinavian social democrat there was absolutely no evidence he was.

There’s not much point in dwelling in the individual arguments, which are the same lazy ones Frank has been making repeatedly in his profit-taking Salon column whether they’re being made by Frank or West. I did enjoy this question, though:

What on earth ails the man? Why can’t he fight the Republicans? Why does he need to seek a grand bargain?

Let’s leave aside the notable lack of any meaningful grand bargain pursuit in his second term, despite Republican control of the House. The idea that he “won’t fight the Republicans”…what can you say? Yes, who can forget the overwhelming Republican support for the ARRA, AVA, the consumer protection bureau, Dodd-Frank, the repeal of DADT, putting a Democratic majority on the D.C. Circuit, etc. etc. Why does Obama insist only on seeking longstanding neoliberal Republican priorities like huge expansions of Medicaid? WHY WON’T OBAMA FIGHT THE REPUBLICANS EVER?

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The Real Power of the University

[ 32 ] August 25, 2014 |

In the corporate university, money is what counts. Without public support, universities have become captured by the wealthy donors and corporations who fund them. This is a major contributor to the shunning of majors like German and Philosophy (and to a slightly lesser but still significant extent, History) that means advisers receiving word from high to encourage students not to sign up for those majors, cutting positions, even retrenching departments. To replace them, Supply Chain Management* and other majors that train people to be functionaries of 21st century capitalism without providing them any sort of broad-based liberal arts education or critical thinking.

As the corporations capture the universities, it’s hardly surprising then that the university would begin following the free speech patterns of the corporation, i.e., none for employees. See the case of one Salaita, Stephen:

While many of the emails are fairly similar, some stand out. For instance, there is an email from Travis Smith, senior director of development for the University of Illinois Foundation, to Wise, with copies to Molly Tracy, who is in charge of fund-raising for engineering programs, and Dan C. Peterson, vice chancellor for institutional advancement. The email forwards a letter complaining about the Salaita hire. The email from Smith says: “Dan, Molly, and I have just discussed this and believe you need to [redacted].” (The blacked out portion suggests a phrase is missing, not just a word or two.)

Later emails show Wise and her development team trying to set up a time to discuss the matter, although there is no indication of what was decided.

At least one email the chancellor received was from someone who identified himself as a major donor who said that he would stop giving if Salaita were hired. “Having been a multiple 6 figure donor to Illinois over the years I know our support is ending as we vehemently disagree with the approach this individual espouses. This is doubly unfortunate for the school as we have been blessed in our careers and have accumulated quite a balance sheet over my 35 year career,” the email says.

There is no indication that Wise based her decision on the fund-raising issues, only that these topics were raised in communications to her. A spokeswoman for Illinois said via email that the chancellor receives many suggestions about many issues. She said that she didn’t know if the chancellor met with foundation officials about Salaita but said that the rationale behind the chancellor’s decision was the one she discussed in the email to the campus.

This is the future. If you threaten the beliefs of the fundraisers, you are fired. If you shine a bad light on the university administrators seeking to move up the food chain to ever more lucrative positions, bye-bye. If you dissent from the left, I hope you enjoy the Daniel Payne method of survival on the street. Right now, Stephen Salaita has no job and no money. It’s a dark world out there right now for academics, as free speech and academic freedom decline to their lowest levels in at least 60 years.

* Or as I like to call it, How to Exploit Bangladeshis.

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The Worst Person in the World

[ 67 ] August 25, 2014 |

Daniel Payne longs to shame the poor while capitalizing “The Left” as often as possible:

Here’s What Happens Without Stigma

That’s easier said than done. The Left wishes to make it a no-big-deal kind of thing because the Left wants the citizenry as dependent upon government as possible. “Once Stigmatized,” the New York Times reported a few years ago, “Food Stamps Find New Acceptance.” One food bank employee told a gainfully-employed young man to sign up for the program because “there was enough aid to go around and that use would demonstrate continuing need.” Eight years into Mike Bloomberg’s mayoral tenure, the number of residents on food stamps had hit over one-and-a-half million people; a stunning 20 percent of households nationwide were enrolled in SNAP. Over half of illegal and legal immigrants from Central America are on some form of welfare; both the Mexican and United States governments encourage illegal aliens to sign up for food stamps. In the mid-90s, Republicans passed and President Clinton signed a “workfare” reform law, which established significant work standards for welfare recipients and reduced welfare rolls significantly—which is presumably why the Obama administration moved to gut these requirements a couple of years ago: if there’s one thing at which the Left truly bristles, it’s an independent citizenry that can provide for itself without the Left’s benevolent help.

This is what you get when you “remove stigmas.” At one time, public assistance was looked upon as a moderate failure—not an irredeemable sin or uncorrectable wrong, but something you wanted to avoid if possible. European socialists realized a long time ago that such well-intentioned opprobrium served to weaken the dependent bond between citizen and state, which is why you can find single mothers on 20 years of welfare across the pond: continental leftists figured this game out a long time ago, well before the sad sacks at Richmond Public Schools. If you want to see the future of American welfare in the hands of people like Superintendent Bedden, look to Europe, where many countries have de-stigmatized their way into astronomical debt levels and widespread, chronic citizen helplessness.

Look to Europe indeed. The horror, the horror.

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Burn!

[ 87 ] August 24, 2014 |

It’s the 200th anniversary of the burning of Washington! Tea Party types must feel very conflicted…

…And shit like this is why the British Empire fell.


You do not EVER apologize for burning down somebody’s capitol. Ever.

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Honig on Salaita

[ 30 ] August 24, 2014 |

As is so often the case, Bonnie Honig’s letter to the UIUC chancellor regarding the firing of Steven Salaita is illuminating and provocative; she asks what it would mean to read Salaita’s tweets not with an eye on the alleged boundaries of acceptable discourse, but with empathy:

This is what I thought at the time this story first broke: Here is a man of Palestinian descent watching people he may know, perhaps friends, colleagues, or relatives, bombed to bits while a seemingly uncaring or powerless world watched. He was touched by violence and responded in a way that showed it. In one of the tweets that was most objected to (Netanyahu, necklace, children’s teeth), Salaita commented on a public figure who is fair game and who was promoting acts of terrible violence against a mostly civilian population. I found that tweet painful and painfully funny. It struck home with me, a Jew raised as a Zionist. Too many of us are too committed to being uncritical of Israel. Perhaps tweets like Prof. Salaita’s, along with images of violence from Gaza and our innate sense of fair play, could wake us from our uncritical slumbers. It certainly provoked ME, and I say “provoked” in the best way – awakened to thinking.

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King MVP?

[ 88 ] August 24, 2014 |

There is of course no serious controversy over the Al Cy Young award this year, although since our blog is the home of some commenters who are slightly bigger (although far, far less annoying) White Sox homers than Hawk Harrelson, I guess I have to briefly explain why. (While we’re here, said homers have been repeatedly offended that I called the White Sox team that has been outscored by 70 runs despite a rookie slugging .600 “horrible.” For the record, with the emergence of Abreu I hereby upgrade the White Sox from “horrible” to “very bad.”) The question of whether King Felix or Sale has been better on an inning-by-inning basis is an interesting one; Hernandez has a significantly better xFIP, Sale has a better K rate. But for the Cy Young award that’s not the question. The question is whether you’d rather have (so far) 191 innings of Felix or 136 innings of Sale and 45 innings of the pitching-like stylings of Andre Rienzo. This question is only difficult if you use the same kind of logic that causes you to not see a dime’s worth of difference between Ted Cruz and Barack Obama.

The really interesting question is whether Hernandez has been the most valuable player in the league. I was prepared to scoff at the idea when a commenter brought it up, but in fact it’s a strong case. He’s the leader and fWAR and 3rd in bWAR. Interestingly, neither Fangraphs or Baseball Reference have Trout as the 31 position player; fWAR likes Alex Gordon and bWAR likes Donaldson. Keri does a good job of explaining why, but essentially the best measurements suggest that Trout has been a below-average CF while Gordon and Donaldson are exceptional defensive players. (The Dewan +/- reaches the same conclusion; Gordon and Donaldson have been exceptional, Trout below average.) I’d still be inclined to vote for Trout, clearly the best hitter, because we can’t be as precise about defensive numbers. (If Gordon was the CF and Trout the LF, I might change my mind.) But Gordon could be the best; he’s a fantastic defensive LF on a team winning its division on defense and a solid hitter. On the philosophical question, I might vote against a pitcher in a too-close-to-call case because of the CY Young, but otherwise think they should be fully considered (as the rules require). The “only every fifth day” argument is dumb; value is value.

If I had to vote today, I’d have it:

1. Trout
2. King Felix
3. Gordon
4. Cano
5. Donaldson

But this isn’t a year with a runaway winner like last year; unless someone really pulls away in September, it’s close enough and the defensive metrics aren’t quite precise enough to answer the question definitively. You can make a decent case for several players. (Also, the Mariners have two MVP candidates and another top-10 player, which explains how they’ve compiled the second-best run differential in the league despite playing several players who dream of being replacement level for much of the year.)

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Sunday beer thread: 50 states by beer

[ 248 ] August 24, 2014 |

Thrillist ranks the states by beer. A few assorted thoughts:

1) This is a pretty good list, all things considered.

2) I’m not quite enough of a Washington homer to seriously dispute the top 3. (I think CO/WA is a close call, but the case for CO at #3 is pretty solid). I’ve also had enough MI beers at this point to feel at least a little confident that its placement in the top 5 is pretty much indisputable. But I can’t accept MI over WA. It’s just not conceivable. I can see how the mistake would be made–if you compare the top breweries in terms of visibility and distribution, MI might appear to be stronger (Bells and Founders a great deal better than Redhook and Pyramid). And there are some impressive and innovative breweries coming out of Michigan these days, including Jolly Pumpkin and North Coast. But my sampling of smaller regional MI beers, while quite strong, doesn’t stand up to Washington’s offerings. Here, working from memory only so I’m sure I’m forgetting something important and deserving, is a first draft at a no particular order top 10 for Washington: Old Schoolhouse; Black Raven; Maritime Pacific; Reuben’s Brews; Boundary Bay; Two Beers; Airways; Bale Breaker; Big Time; Valholl; Elysian. Of the smaller MI breweries I’ve sampled multiple beers from, only one or two (Kuhnhenn, obviously) would I seriously consider placing on this list. WA beer is much closer in quality to the big three states than a midwest or east coast beer drinker might realize because the other big three export some of their best beers widely; in Washington it’s really only Elysian, among the stronger breweries, that has any notable distributional reach. I suppose I should go be a proper beer tourist in Traverse City, Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor before I’m express too much certainty here, but I’m not seeing it.

3) I haven’t had enough beer from WI or VT to have a strong opinion here–I’ve had virtually nothing from Wisconsin, as New Glarus is hard to find around Dayton. Vermont beers I’ve actually had haven’t really impressed (and no, I’ve never managed to get my hands on Heady Topper). But by all accounts these are states much like WA, so I’ll withhold judgment.

4) I am very skeptical about PA ahead of NY. And the growth in OH, thanks in part to some minor changes in the law, is really impressive these last few years. The greater Dayton area had zero breweries in 2010, and we’re months away from double digits now. (I’m writing from the tasting room for Warped Wing, the best but by no means the only strong contender of the new Dayton breweries.) Several new Cincinnati Breweries, in particular Rhinegeist, are excellent.  If we’re not ahead of PA today, we probably will be soon.

5) We now have an additional reason to feel sorry for esteemed LGM commenter Anderson.

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“With very best wishes. I look forward to seeing you in London! Yours ever Tony Blair.”

[ 25 ] August 24, 2014 |

Jimmy Carter may have been well to the right of the Democratic majority in Congress and tried to create policy from such an untenable position.

Bill Clinton may have signed NAFTA, created Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and ushered in welfare “reform.”

Barack Obama may not have lived up to the dreams of those naive enough to believe any president could bring in hope and change.

But at least the Democratic Party has never elected someone as antithetical to its core principles as the British Labour Party and Tony Blair, who is a terrible human being.

Tony Blair gave Kazakhstan’s autocratic president advice on how to manage his image after the slaughter of unarmed civilians protesting against his regime.

In a letter to Nursultan Nazarbayev, obtained by The Telegraph, Mr Blair told the Kazakh president that the deaths of 14 protesters “tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress” his country had made.

Mr Blair, who is paid millions of pounds a year to give advice to Mr Nazarbayev, goes on to suggest key passages to insert into a speech the president was giving at the University of Cambridge, to defend the action.

Mr Blair is paid through his private consultancy, Tony Blair Associates (TBA), which he set up after leaving Downing Street in 2007. TBA is understood to deploy a number of consultants in key ministries in Kazakhstan.

Human rights activists accuse Mr Blair of acting “disgracefully” in bolstering Mr Nazarbayev’s credibility on the world stage in return for millions of pounds.

The letter was sent in July 2012, ahead of a speech being given later that month by Mr Nazarbayev at the University of Cambridge.

A few months earlier, on December 16 and 17 2011, at least 14 protesters were shot and killed and another 64 wounded by Kazakhstan’s security services in the oil town of Zhanaozen. Other protesters, mainly striking oil workers, were rounded up and allegedly tortured.

Tony Blair is like the love child of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Lanny Davis. Combine neoliberal economic policies, warmongering, and profiting off of advising dictators and you have quite the individual.

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Sack

[ 26 ] August 24, 2014 |

I figure there is more than 0 interest in watching Michael Sam sack professional “bro” Johnny Manizel on loop.

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Reverse Busing

[ 22 ] August 24, 2014 |

457px-Jerry_Falwell_portrait

We all know how much white conservatives opposed school busing. The most famous case was in Boston, when Louise Day Hicks became famous saving south Boston from the horrors of white kids going to school with black kids. So it was a strong principle for them, right? Busing is bad.

Well, L.D. Burnett shows us the answer is, predictably, no. The right was all about busing when it meant getting white people out of black neighborhoods to white religious institutions. Despite Jerry Falwell rising to prominence on opposing busing, he was all over it when it benefited himself.

A key leader in the 1970s church growth movement was Elmer Towns, a member of Falwell’s church and a co-founder of Liberty University. In 1973, Towns co-authored a book with Falwell describing the ministries of Thomas Road as models that other churches could follow to see similar growth. “The Sunday-school bus ministry has the greatest potential for evangelism in today’s church,” Towns wrote in Capturing a Town for Christ (Fleming H. Revell Co., 1973). “More souls are won to Jesus Christ and identified with local churches through Sunday-school busing than any other medium of evangelism” (34). This is a broad statement about the evangelistic potential of bus ministries in general. Towns follows up this general endorsement of church bus programs with an explanation of what makes the bus ministry at Falwell’s church stand out:

Many bus workers only work in the housing projects, ghetto areas, and among the poor in the slums. All people within a community must be reached, the poor as well as the affluent. Thomas Road Baptist Church has sixteen buses that operate in middle-class neighborhoods of twenty-five-thousand-dollar homes and above. One bus brings in thirty-five riders from the status Boonsboro district, while the next bus that unloads on Sunday morning is from the Greenfield Housing Project, and the bare feet and dirty clothes indicate a poverty level.

Lynchburg has only fifty-four thousand people and some feel the Sunday-school bus ministry has reached its saturation point. Now twenty-one buses leave the city limits and bring children in from rural areas and distant towns such as Bedford, Alta Vista, Appomattox, Amherst, and Thaxton. One reaches fifty miles to Roanoke (35).

There’s a lot going on in these two paragraphs, and a lot going on around them. Housing projects, ghettos, and slums – in 1973 (and today as well, I guess) these words could be used to introduce race into a discourse without ever naming the issue. So I think Towns isn’t just talking about “the poor as well as the affluent” here – he’s also talking about black urban poverty and contrasting it with white suburban affluence. The assertion that “all people within a community must be reached” is not offered here as an argument that more churches should use busing to bring the black urban poor into their midst, but rather as a justification for churches to consider providing free bus service to white affluent suburbanites who might wish to become members. Busing can bring people of “status” into the church. And busing over long distances – well, that’s not a problem. What’s wrong with busing new members into a church located fifty miles away from where they live, if that’s where they want to be on a Sunday morning?

People picked up on the irony at the time, but Falwell certainly didn’t care about that.

Hope waking up to Falwell didn’t make anyone expurgate their breakfast.

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Adjustments

[ 40 ] August 24, 2014 |

Gentle reader,

In order to enhance your user experience, I’ve been fiddling with the social media buttons all morning. I’ve finally settled on Sociable, with the result at the bottom of the post. This includes both a Facebook “like” button and a Facebook “share” button, which apparently are not the same thing.

Let me know if any further additions would be helpful, or if you have any difficulties with page loads, etc.

Best,

Management

…we’re having some trouble with the mobile site, so I’m deactivating until we can get it sorted. The normal site is available from mobile devices.

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Co-Opting Soviet Monuments

[ 89 ] August 24, 2014 |

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I love that everyday Bulgarian citizens are painting over remaining Soviet-era monuments to reflect their own feelings at the time and I equally love that the Russians are really getting upset about it.

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