Thursday, June 28, 2012

For shame.

Seventeen Democrats joined Republicans in voting to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal contempt of Congress. They are: Jason Altmire (Pa.) John Barrow (Ga.) Dan Boren (Okla.) Leonard Boswell (Iowa) Ben Chandler (Ky.) Mark Critz (Pa.) Joe Donnelly (Ind.) Kathy Hochul (N.Y.) Ron Kind (Wis.) Larry Kissell (N.C.) Jim Matheson (Utah) Mike McIntyre (N.C.) Bill Owens (N.Y.) Collin Peterson (Minn.) Nick Rahall (W. Va.) Mike Ross (Ark.) Tim Walz (Minn.) Eleven of these are in extremely tough reelection campaigns. Their votes are still shameful. The other seven have no excuses at all.

Another great day

How great?  This great.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Historic day at UVa: Sullivan reinstated!

My profound congratulations to the steadfast community at the University of Virginia. Make no mistake, this is a very important development. The Daily Progress reports on it here.
President Sullivan addresses UVa Comunity

Money = Speech?

On Monday, the Supreme Court struck down a 100-year-old Montana law barring corporate money in elections--extending the Citizens United decision, in other words, to the states.

The underlying legal theory here is that money is a form of speech, and that limits on money constitute an infringement of the First Amendment.

Here's a better analogy.
Pittsburgh Police sound cannon Weapons Tear Gas At G20 Summit

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Southern Baptist Convention breaks from racist past

This is a remarkable step. The Southern Baptist Convention, formed in 1845 as an explicitly pro-slavery denomination, is poised to elect the Rev. Fred Luter, Jr., an African American pastor, as its president.

"Given the history of the convention, this is absolutely stunning," said Michael O. Emerson, an expert on race and religion at Rice University.

Read more:

Happy birthday Daw Aung San Suu Kyi!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Still edible!

I'm noticing that a lot of claims on packaging seem to be nudging us toward an era of lowered expectations. No, I'm not talking about all the products that superfluously label themselves as "gluten-free!" or "0 grams cholesterol," although that's somewhat irritating. Instead, I'm thinking about the frozen pizza with the notice, "100% Real Cheese!", as if that was something to brag about. The cover of the Chock Full of Nuts coffee can reads "100% Coffee! No Nuts!", which I guess is the result of focus-grouping with stupid people. But what are we to make of the Ben & Jerry's container that proudly informs us "Still a pint!" This should not be necessary, but is, because Haagen Dasz has reduced its "pint" from 16 to 14 ounces. All this stuff reminds me of the spontaneous demonstrations of thanks for increasing the chocolate ration in Orwell's 1984, which take place a day after the chocolate ration has been reduced.

The Ousting of a President

The Charlottesville free paper The Hook has been doing some great reporting on the developing scandal of the removal of President Teresa Sullivan at the University of Virginia. Read all about it here.

Governor Bob McDonnell is claiming ignorance about the ouster--athough the chair of the board of the Business School, Greenwich venture capitalist Peter Kieran, stated in an email that "no major decision of this kind can be made at Virginia without the support and assent of the Governor." (Kieran evidently clicked "reply all" on this cataclysmically embarrassing email, and is now the former chair of the board.)  
"As the Hook reported, financier and UVA alum Paul Tudor Jones II appears to have had a key role in removing Sullivan, as her ouster may have been a condition of a major donation from the Greenwich, Connecticut billionaire. However, Jones also had a key role in McDonnell's 2009 election campaign as a major donor, giving the candidate $100,000."

So what's behind the coup at UVA?  ""The theory I have is that Goldman Sachs’s Education Management Corporation, a for-profit education provider, wanted to make or made a bid to offer online education through UVA," writes Anne-Marie Angelo on a blog that's been turning heads."  

There's no question that the UVA president-removal fiasco will be a staple of B-School cases on catastrophic decision-making. More importantly, it's a window into the arrogance and corruption at the heart of modern corporate efforts to commercialize the academy. To quote The Hook:
"In the 21st century," writes UVA-based media scholar Siva Vaidhyanathan in Slate following Sullivan's ouster, "robber barons try to usurp control of established public universities to impose their will via comical management jargon and massive application of ego and hubris."

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Furor at UVA

If you haven't been paying attention to what's going on at the University of Virginia, you should be.  What's happening there is nothing less than the struggle for the soul of the academy. You can catch up by going to the Faculty Senate homepage. (An informed speculation on the backstory is here.)  I'm waiting for the Governor to dissolve the Senate and for them to reconvene in some tavern.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Human Rights and Environmental Crisis in Uzbekistan

My post on the catastrophe in Uzbekistan caused by government production of cotton, which the Uzbek government took down, is back up.  Go to it here.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Take that, new wave posers!

Dead on target. So much for the 80s. 

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Our Man in Moscow

Very interesting profile of US Ambassador to the Russian Federation Mike McFaul in this month's issue of Foreign Policy (but originally appearing in GQ Russia).  Readers of Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, about the experiences of our ambassador to Germany in the early 1930s, will find a few unnerving parallels. 

Big Yellow Taxi

I love this song, but I think we've got it all wrong. Joni laments paving over the trees for a parking lot, but glosses over the hotel, the boutique, and the "swinging hot spot." Is it heresy to consider this appropriate land use? (Particularly if the hot spot is genuinely swinging.) And anyway, her real complaint is that her "old man" has walked out on her. The rest is just misdirection.
(As a footnote, the Counting Crows cover is the worst thing they've ever done.)

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

On this day in 1849, Denmark became a constitutional monarchy.Says Wikipedia: "Denmark ranks as having the world's highest level of income equality.[9] The country has the world's seventh highest per capita income. It has frequently ranked as the happiest[10][11] and least corrupt country in the world.[12]"

Monday, June 04, 2012

Which came first--the First Party System or the Second?

Professor Joyce Appleby, in her presidential address to the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic, provocatively suggested that the American Revolution was the second great democratic revolution; the French Revolution was the first.

What she meant by this, she explained, was that the French Revolution forced a reevaluation and reinterpretation of the American Revolution, a process led by Thomas Jefferson, giving a meaning to the experience unknown and unanticipated before.

I would like to suggest that something similar occurred in the late 1820s with regard to parties. A number of the papers at the recent Princeton conference, "Jeffersonian Democracy: From Theory t o Practice" (May 17-19) suggested a far greater sectionalism and lack of coherent party discipline and purpose to the Jeffersonians than has typically been assumed. By the end of the conference, I was beginning to question whether one could legitimately call it a "party system" at all. Certainly, the anti-party animus of Washington's Farewell Address stands as a beacon for the period, and Ralph Ketcham's Presidents Above Party and other works demonstrate the persistence of this outlook. My own work on the Missouri crisis argues that President Monroe sincerely believed in a non-partisan (or "uni-partisan" republic and tried to implement it during his administration--only to be thwarted by the professional politicians who came of age well after the Revolution.

Did the First Party System come into existence after, and as a consequence of, the Second? Did Martin Van Buren play the role of reinterpreter that Jefferson did of the Revolution? If so, does this not require us to reevaluate the period from 1791 to 1828 in the light of the Democracy's myth-making?

Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Wren Song

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze,
Although he was little his honour was great,
Jump up me lads and give him a treat.

Up with the kettle and down with the pan,
And give us a penny to bury the wren.

2. As I was going to Killenaule,
I met a wren upon the wall.
I took me stick and knocked him down,
And brought him in to Carrick Town.
3. Droolin, Droolin, where’s your nest?
Tis in the bush that I love best
In the tree the holly tree,
Where all the boys do follow me.

4. We followed the wren three miles or more,
Three mile or more three miles or more.
We followed the wren three miles or more,
At six o’clock in the morning.

5. I have a little box under me arm,
Under me arm under me arm.
I have a little box under me arm,
A penny or tuppence would do it no harm.

Anyone know why the wren is the king of all birds?

Friday, June 01, 2012

Modern-Day Predestinarianism

Why do so many middle-class Americans give their support to the fabulously wealthy so completely? The usual explanation is that Americans hope to become fabulously rich themselves, and want to benefit from favorable tax policies and other benefits when they get there. But this view truly underestimates the intelligence of the American people; they are not so deluded as to think that they will ever benefit personally from such policies.

So what is it then?

No, not Hopkins--George Whitefield.
I posit that it is the modern version of the New Divinity, whose greatest exponent was the Rev. Samuel Hopkins, that over-enthusiastic follower of the great Calvinist preacher Jonathan Edwards. Edwards clearly explained that the overwhelming majority of humanity were predestined for hell, that only a tiny fraction were among the Elect. But that was perfectly okay, since human beings were such insignificant, loathsome insects in comparison with God that they merited damnation, and should be eternally grateful just to be part of God's plan. 

Hopkins reduced Edwards'system of theology to a simple, terrifying question:

 "Are you willing to be damned  for the greater glory of God?"

The gulf between the modern Elect and the rest of us is nearly as unfathomable as the distance between the sinner and his angry God. We'll never achieve Mitt's status, and we know it.  "I don't care about the very poor"--and why should he? We should be grateful to have the opportunity simply to glorify him and his fellow heavenly beings.

So the basic principle of the New New divinity:

"Are you willing to be damned for the greater glory of the One Percent?"