Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Master Shine

Master Shine
Originally uploaded by andrethegiant
I lieu of my comments re: The South elsewhere on the internet, I thought I would post this picture I took back in 2006. It's a rather sad commentary, I think.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Count of Monte Crisco

Student paper: "...Dantès was a character in and Alexandre Dumas story called the Count of Monte Crisco..."

Now that's a typo I can believe in.  It's tasty and has a long shelf life.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why They Hate the Great Depression:

I know, I know.  I don't know a damn thing about economics.  Luckily I blog so it doesn't matter.  Here is why rich people hate the Great Depression: 1) The Business Class screwed up royally and wrecked the economy and a lot of rich people got less rich and even went broke; 2) Interventionist state policy actually worked to fix it:

Of the various sins committed by Roosevelt, Keynes et al, it is the fact that their policies worked that is the scaries to the "conservatives."  Note how a return to more "orthodox" (read: non-interventionist return to 20's-style) slows the recovery.  
If you don't believe me, ask Brad Delong, he's the guy I stole this chart from.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Politics in the Classroom: Not such a bad thing?

Students in most of my literature and cultural courses have probably noted that I do not hide my political identity.  Of course, like most of my colleagues, I think I strive for evenhandedness, fairness and bringing a multiplicity of voices to the classroom.  And, certainly, when grading, I attempt to be extremely sensitive to recognizing my own possible bias.  Indeed, it is quite possible that, in an attempt to be fair when I grade, I allow students certain leaps of logic that I would not in the classroom setting where realtime dialogue is possible.

Unsurprisingly to me, it turns out that American students lack many of the basic skills required to "talk politics."  Anne Colby, at the Carnegie Foundation, exposes the problem at length in a recent AAC&U article:

Although preparing young people for intelligent democratic participation is undeniably important for them and for the country, this goal is not addressed in a direct and systematic way in American higher education. To be sure, higher education does improve political understanding and engagement. Virtually every study of political knowledge, interest, and participation shows a positive relationship of these variables with educational attainment. But, despite this positive effect, many college graduates are not very politically knowledgeable, sophisticated, skilled, or engaged.
Even though the proportion of the U.S. population attending college has increased dramatically in the past fifty years, according to some indicators, political knowledge and engagement have actually decreased. Delli Carpini and Keeter (1996), for example, found that from the 1940s to the 1990s, overall levels of political knowledge did not go up, while the percentage of Americans attending college more than doubled. As they put it, “Today’s college graduates are roughly equivalent [in political knowledge] to the high school graduates of the 1940s.” Likewise, Bennett and Bennett (2003) report that the statistical strength of the relationship between higher education and political knowledge and participation has weakened in recent years. They found, for example, that exposure to higher education had a weaker differential effect on news consumption in 2000 than in 1972. Research my colleagues and I have conducted suggests that this trend could be reversed if higher education would address students’ political learning more directly.
 What is unsurprising too is that Colby underlines the importance of active learning and engaging pedagogies.  Powerpoints on government structure are really courses about politics, but rather organization.  Students need to learn to engage in personal ways that make politics (its structures, its discourses, its history, media, etc.) contextualized and pertinent.  It is about global learning, and tolerance.  It is more about opening minds than "teaching" them things:

In practice, it is not easy to sort out exactly what it means to align efforts to support political development with these core academic values. It does not mean giving equal time to ideas that are without merit, for example. But it does require a real commitment to open-mindedness on the part of faculty and administrative leaders.
In the courses and programs in our study, we saw that it is possible to combine passionate concern and commitment with openness to views different from one’s own. Many of the students reported that they gained a gut-level understanding that those with opposing views are real people, not demonic caricatures. They learned how to find common ground with people whose interests are quite different from their own and saw that both can benefit when they cooperate around shared goals. We were continually impressed by the ways these courses and programs were able to work toward political clarity and conviction combined with human understanding, tolerance, open-mindedness, and a sense of community that transcends ideological difference. [My emphasis]

I am always pleased to read that a good classroom is not necessarily a "neutral" environment but a place to weigh, balance and discard "bad" ideas--without throwing the people who hold them.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Mind of the South

We were at a party last night and Adrian says "Look what I got: The Mind of the South," and say "Cool. Uh, what's that?" So he hands me the book and I flip immediately to page 53:

Such is the primary picture. But I must not leave the theme without calling your attention specifically to the stimulation of the tendency to violence... Nor must I leave it without pointing to two significant patterns which grew up in the closest association with this romanticism and hedonism and served it as channels of discharge.
The first of these is the Southern fondness for rhetoric. A gorgeous primitive art addressed to the autonomic system and not to the enchephalon, rhetoric is of course dear to the simple man everywhere...
Well, I read that and laughed and thought "What the hell is this?" and we all got a chuckle out of its ornate prose and "fondness for rhetoric."

I am no longer making fun of the book, though. I've been flipping through it and, while it is "primitive" in its approach to social sciences and says sweeping, generalizing things like "The Yankee" and "The Southerner" and "The Negro" all the time, W.J. Cash's book is truly interesting. Right now I'm reading p. 331 where he is listing a whole slew of incidents in which professors at various universities have been fired for saying things like "The North was generally in the right" or Booker T. Washington was a great man. Earlier, Cash goes into the whole idea of victimization in "The Southerner." I can only say that this foreshadows the current nativist trends in the Republican party, the militia movement and various right winger purveyors of hate. His writing is thus an ancestor to books I love like What's the Matter with Kansas?, Nixonland, and, obviously with Wendell Berry's stuff.

Cash's condemnation and deconstruction of lynching as a practice are great too. At one point he draws the obvious parallel that the KKK and the Nazi's are of a cloth: "In its essence the thing was an authentic folk movement--at least as fully such as the Nazi movement in Germany, to which it was not without kinship" (344). (Remember, this book appeared in 1941, so he doesn't need film reels of concentration camps to figure things out.) He goes on to relate the growth of the Klan in class terms: "Its body was made up of common whites, industrial and rural. But its blood, if I may continue the figure, came from the upper orders" (344). His point was, of course, that he saw through the upper class' self-interest. The KKK was being used in part to keep workers divided along racial lines.

Ok, I'm going to read now.

Thanks, Adrian. Much, much more interesting than I had thought.

Friday, November 14, 2008

No on Prop 8

Courage Campaign asks you to sign their petition. 180k have so far. Why not you?

Thursday, November 13, 2008


The Republican party is either full of ingrates, ashamed of its history, or some of both:
To understand Nixon’s pivotal role in American history, it is essential to see how he helped turn his personal anxieties into political arguments, remaking his own insecurities into right-wing populist messages. Rick Perlstein’s superb recent book Nixonland provides a fascinating account of Nixon’s rise that ties together his private story with the larger saga of American conservatism.
 Of course,  I teach at his alma mater, so it's a tribute to our college's long legacy of advocating for peace, social justice, and tenure that I say this.

Keynes, Our Economic Times and a Liberal Education

The world-traveling alum strikes again with this find in Asia Times.  The article begins with a quote by Keynes, which should be enough to lure you in...

The power to become habituated to his surroundings is a marked characteristic of mankind. Very few of us realize with conviction the intensely unusual, unstable, complicated, unreliable, temporary nature of the economic organization by which Western Europe has lived for the last half century. We assume some of the most peculiar and temporary of our late advantages as natural, permanent, and to be depended on, and we lay our plans accordingly. On this sandy and false foundation we scheme for social improvement and dress our political platforms, pursue our animosities and particular ambitions ... [John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace], 1920
Keynes was a genius. Read the article and see what kind of shape we're in and what kind of thinking it's going to take to get us out.  GCS students, you'll be reading some of this.

When students graduate with an interest and some understanding of the world I feel a sense of pride and a renewed belief in the liberal eduation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fast cars, clean bodies...

Kristin Ross is a good writer:

"And the primary victims and arbiters of social reproduction, as the subjects of everydayness and as those most subjected to it, as the class of people most responsible for consumption, and those responsible for the complex movement whereby the social existence of human beings is produced and reproduced, are the everyday: its managers, its embodiment." (Ross 77)
A student sent me this today....

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK - The largest island off west coast is emerging as another frontier for China's expanding plans to extract the rich oil and gas reserves of military-ruled Myanmar.

Initial explorations by a consortium, led by China National Offshore
Oil Company (CNOOC), has left a deep scar on Ramree Island, which is twice the size of Singapore and home to about 400,000 people. ''They have destroyed rice fields and plantations when conducting the seismic surveys and mining the island in search of oil,'' says Jockai Khaing, director of Arakan Oil Watch (AOW), an environmental group of Myanmar people living in exile.

''The local communities have been directly and indirectly affected,'' he said. ''Hundreds of people have been forced to relocate as a result of the drilling conducted near their communities. The locals hate the Chinese; their world has become crazy after the Chinese arrived.''

CNOOC has been pushing ahead with its work since early 2005 with no attempt to consult the local residents and showing little regard to such notions as corporate social responsibility, said Jockai. The Chinese company, which is listed on the New York and the Hong Kong stock exchanges, has ''not conducted the required environmental impact assessments and social impact assessments that are recognized internationally as a must before exploration work begins.''

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Resigning feels good

I resigned from a position I was filling on campus this week.  It was time for new blood and, frankly, I was getting tired.

That's why it feels so good to stop. 

Seriously, it was fun, I learned a lot, I made some new friends, I tried some new things, I worked with some great colleagues, I got really tired.  Now I'm done!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Reaction in France

France is reacting overwhelmingly positively to the American election, but the French political class is also doing some introspection.  The youth, children of immigrants, are saying things like "I'm going to put my picture on my CV now" [In France, one attaches a portrait to a CV].  Not all are optimistic, but, still they see the elections as a positive step.

Recent French elections have some strong parallels with Nixonian and post-Nixonian identity politics.  Sarkozy, for one, managed to send out clearly racist messages while sounding the alarm about "personal responsibility," "delinquance," etc.  It is/was classic dog-whistle politics.  Like some American administrations, though, he as been innovative in not always promoting the elite-school technocrats but rather universitaires and minorities.  His actions, like George Bush appointing Powell or Rice, show the cognitive dissonance of his public policies and personal ones.

The Enemies List: Operation Leper

At Red State (I can't believe I'm even typing the name of that hate-filled site), they're gettin' their Palin on and starting an enemies list:

RedState is pleased to announce it is engaging in a special project: Operation Leper.
We're tracking down all the people from the McCain campaign now whispering smears against Governor Palin to Carl Cameron and others. Michelle Malkin has the details.
We intend to constantly remind the base about these people, monitor who they are working for, and, when 2012 rolls around, see which candidates hire them. Naturally then, you'll see us go to war against those candidates.
It is our expressed intention to make these few people political lepers.
They'll just have to be stuck at CBS with Katie's failed ratings.
Initial list:
  1. Nichole Wallace
  2. Steve Schmidt
  3. Mark McKinnon

Who other than Fox commentator Michelle "Let's Intern the Japanese!" Malkin would be heading this up.  Really, folks, this seems awfully angry and spiteful.

In other news, textbook watchdogs say that most school texts still discriminate against non-Europeans and people of color.  I wonder what MM would say about that.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

In Paris this morning

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

New Photoset: Voting Portraits


Wow.  Cool.  Happy.  Great.  Scary.  Fun.  Enthralling.  Exciting.  New.  Radical.  Same.  Different. 

I voted

I voted in Whittier this morning.  There was hardly a crowd.  I wonder if people decided to vote later because of the rain we'd had.  (Rain tends to make people afraid in L.A. because of traffic issues.)

More later... I'm happy.  Really happy.  Picture project in the works.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Fred Barnes: Early Voting Was Crowded With

Those "poor old people" would be "better off voting when they should."

The garden

Originally uploaded by andrethegiant
With the election, school, hosting a conference... I've had a hard time getting out to the garden recently other than do grunt work. This weekend brought me some time to shoot a couple of pictures.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Neoliberalism according to Harvey

One of the more popular reasons people visit this site is to read about neoliberalism, in particular my "review"/study guide for David Harvey's A Brief History of Neoliberalism.

Instead of having it spread out over a large number of pages, here it is as a pdf.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Veni, Vidi, Vichy

The European Union will hold a meeting in Vichy

The world is a palimpseste.

I came, I saw, I tried to forget.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Monkey Bee, A short film by Jamie Hewlett - Wide Screen

I love this.

Lessons of The Immoralist

A student wrote me last night about L'Immoraliste by André Gide.   We're using it in our paired course on "Modern French History" and "Riots and Revolutions."  We chose it because it paralleled in a lot of ways turn of the century thought, and after reading Barrès' work and especially Jeunes gens d'aujourd'hui by Henri Massis and Alfred de Tarde, boy were we ever happy with our choice.

Now of course André Gide's politics had nothing in common with the proto-fascist, Catholic renaissance Youth of Today.  Yet, Michel's self-absorption, his movement away from the "sedentary," "intellectual," "unpatriotic," "defeatist," "universalist" generation of 1865 towards a "physical" "action-oriented" new generation overlaps Massis and de Tarde's (primitive and unscientific) poll of the youth born around 1890.

Massis and de Tarde is infinitely more obsessed with patriotism, war and Catholicism compared to Gide.  They write:

L'héroïsme et la guerre.
Et voici qui est plus significatif encore. Des
élèves de rhétorique supérieure à Paris, c'est-à-
dire l'élite la plus cultivée de la jeunesse, déclarent
trouver dans la guerre un idéal esthétique d'énergie
et de force. Ils pensent que « la France a besoin
d'héroïsme pour vivre ». «Telle est la foi, dit encore
M. Tourolle, qui consume la jeunesse moderne. »
Combien de fois, depuis deux ans, n'avons-nous
pas entendu répéter : « Plutôt la guerre que cette
perpétuelle attente ! » Dans ce vœu, nulle amer-
tume, mais un secret espoir. (31)
So the youth of the day (and by that they mean the youth of the Ecole Normale Supérieur and Henri IV--the important youth, the leaders of tomorrow...) say "[Let's have] War rather than this perpetual waiting," or "...the most cultivated elite says it finds in war an aesthetic ideal of energy and force."

On sport and travel, Massis and Tarde relate that

Le sport a exercé, lui aussi, sur l'optimisme
patriotique des jeunes gens une influence qu'on ne
saurait négliger. Le bénéfice moral du sport, j'en-
tends de ces sports collectifs, comme le foot-ball,
si répandu dans nos lycées, c'est qu'il développe
l'esprit de solidarité, ce sentiment d'une action
commune où chaque volonté particulière doit con-
sentir au sacrifice. D'autre part, les sports font
naître l'endurance, le sang-froid, ces vertus mili-
taires, et maintiennent la jeunesse dans une atmo-
sphère belliqueuse (1).
L'habitude des voyages, enfin, loin d'affaiblir
l'idée de patrie, l'a transformée et précisée. Ceux
qui voyagent sentent le mieux l'opposition des
étrangers à eux-mêmes : ils prennent conscience de
leurs différences : «Chaque fois que je me suis
trouvé à l'étranger, nous déclarait un jeune étu-
diant de lettres, j'ai éprouvé en moi la vérité et
la force du sentiment patriotique.»
Sport inspires discipline, "military virtues" and, to their delight, a "bellicose atmosphere." Unlike for Michel, though, travel is not linked to understanding otherness, to a quest for universal ideas, rather it is an opportunity to reaffirm the "truth and the force of patriotic sentiment."  Michel's need for the Other in his path of self discovery, as well as his more nuanced understanding of the world in general (with the exception of the lacunae regarding women and most practical matters), lead him away from the Nativist and Catholicized tract by Massis and de Tarde.  Yet, Michel's narrative abounds in words like "life," "energy," "force," etc.  His growing taste for self-realization and "action and thought" as Massis and de Tarde would say, clearly falls in line with the pre-war generation of the turn of the century.  [On a side note, it is truly incredible how much Young People of Today sounds like the republican party of the last 30 years.]

Thus couched, Michel's self-absorbed reality, though clearly a pathway to figuring out his marginal status, can also be seen as a symptom of larger societal ills and contradictions.

So my student writes:

Another work that I have read that really contrasts with those traditional views of The Odyssey is The Immoralist by Andre Gide. It is basically about a young man who gets married, contracts TB, decides the only way he can get better is to focus completely on himself, gets better, discovers he's attracted to men, creates a doctrine that despises morals as social conventions and stifling to individuality, and ulitmately is responsible for the death of his wife when she contracts TB from him and he drags her around the world wearing her out to satisfy his wander lust. Obviously, this is not a good guy (I could have guessed by the title). One thing that I found particularly infuriating about this book was the main character's (Michel) view on honesty.

"I detest these honest folk. I may have nothing to fear from them, but I have nothing to learn from them either. And they have nothing to say...Oh, these honest Swiss. Where do their good manners get them?...They have no crime, no history, no literature, no art...They are like a sturdy rosebush without thorns or flowers."

Here, Michel equates honesty with good manners, and makes incredibly broad generalizations about a people he honestly has very little contact with. First of all, good manners often leaves little room for honesty, so right away his hypothesis that honesty is a social convention is thrown out the window. If he actually paid attention when he was in society he would realize a lot is left unsaid or twisted, and that honesty is not so much an actual convention of society but just a front used to make people think we are all getting along and being adults. Isn't honesty supposed to be a particularly adult quality? All kids lie about brushing their teeth and how old they are and whether or not they snuck out. Adults are supposed to grow beyond that, yet I feel that most just grow more skillful in their facade. They have the seeming of honesty to allow them to function respectably in society and this is what Michel detests though does not articulate well and causes him to confuse honesty with social convention. After all, his attraction to evil and bad dealings is partly because he believes criminals have more sincerity than those that follow rules, those people he believes are just cookie-cutters from society's mold. However, you can say the same generalizing prejudices against criminals. In a criminal society, lieing, cheating, and stealing become the conventions. And how is one murderer different from another? If it is actions that define the person (like praying in church, stealing a pair of scissors) then aren't we all from one mold or the other? Can we ever be surprised at what someone does? No, especially in this day when we have witnessed countless wars, watched film of the atom bomb dropping, or studied the holocaust. Unlike Michel, I believe that what breaks molds are not actions that can be labeled as anti-social or the anti-citizen, but actually thinking and developping beliefs that do not autimatically reject morals because "everyone" seems to have them. I feel like this is what Michel does: he rejects what is perceived as "moral" because he wants to be an individual. However, the author prefaces the story by saying that "I don't pretend to have invented this "problem"--it existed before my book came along. Whether Michel prevails or not, the "problem" continues to exist, and does not in the author's view terminate in triumph or defeat." (8). Therefore Michel is coming from a mold whether he likes it or not. He is a part of the tradiotn of a "problem" of society and therefore cannot reject society completely or live comfortably outside of it. His philosophy, his doctrine and dogma, are pointless, because by trying to break his idea of the mold he is merely fitting himself to another: that of the marginal character. I think the title of the book says it all: The Immoralist, not Michel. He has become an archetype and is no longer a person, but an example of what is "bad." Is this not like Jesus, the Christian archetype of what is "good"? Marceline's death may be seen as Michel's final effort to kill that "good" inside him.

Okay, so to wrap things up: Michel's modern quest for individuality versus Odysseus's traditional values of goodness. Neither is a relativist. While Odysseus is a part of a large and predominant faith, Michel scorns faith. His quest for individuality is modern, but it is not relativist because he most certainly judges those who do not feel like him. He does not allow other people to have the comfort of their own beliefs but ridicules them for their blindness and "comfortable happiness." In this way, both characters judge, Odysseus with the bow, and Michel with scorn. So, at this late date I can barely remember what my point was, just that I was thinking about Whitney's contemplation of goodness and thought I would throw in my own contemplations. I can honestly say that I mostly despise Michel (I have some pity for him, though it is very little), and I admire Odysseus. However, I also despise the cookie-cutter and molds as Michel does, I just choose to see rebellion in a different light. For me, rebellion does not mean falling in with criminals and despising people for their goodness. Rebellion means adapting those old and powerful traditions to modern times. How can I be hospitable, or pious, or just plain good in 2008? Now I've gotten myself all tangled up because I wrote "For me" which is a very relativist beginning to a sentence! Oh well, I'm done for tonight. I've spent way too long on this and need to get to homework. I will be surprised if anybody reads this through.
 I have to say I was thrilled that she was processing a lot of the various issues surrounding Michel's development.  He is frustrating.  So I replied the following:

This book is indeed infuriating, and I think you strike the right note when you touch on the book's title.  He's not amoral, which would imply someone who is simply contrary to a certain moral framework, a binary framework.  Rather, he chooses "immoral," which is somehow slightly different and perhaps "less moral" because it posits the idea that perhaps there exist no morals at all, only conventions, politeness, social graces--all of which in his eyes become increasingly empty.  Ménalque (and perhaps Moktir, though we can only guess at what his philosophy of life may be), are iconic in the novel, but are they solutions to the problem?  I guess the questions this raises for me are the following: does Michel become Ménalque, or is something stopping him--a wariness perhaps that by trying to break out of the mold, he is, as you point out, "merely fitting himself to another: that of the marginal character"?  Is this why, in spite of his self-centered outlook, he still has a need to at least tell himself that he is dedicated to his wife?  Is this why he is stuck in Biskra and can't leave? I don't know the answer, but, again, I think you are on the right track when you say "he rejects what is perceived as 'moral' because he wants to be an individual."

His problem is a problem of becoming.  To become who he really is he cannot follow the typical pathways offered by society.  He is marginalized by definition, so then, how can he become a full-fledged person when rules and conventions already define and constrain him? (Of course, his striving for a total accomplishment of self is really that of all of us, but it is all the more pronounced given his "extreme" difference from others.)  Sloughing off the shackles of convention does not necessarily mean a total rejection of everything, though, and, on some level it is an immature and childish dream to think that one can accomplish such a feat.   But Michel, so focused on himself, on figuring out who he is, is not unlike a child. 

Can one totally reject language and still communicate?  Can one reject all morals and still be human since humanity is in part defined by the artifices of culture and relationships?  No, this is the price we pay to be social beings.  As a novelist and a homosexual, I think Gide was acutely aware of this.  He knew that "originality" was an impossible pipedream, that original novels like original individuals were, at best, only occasionally so, not intrinsically so.  As the author references the Bible, ancient history, etc., his is entering into a dialectic with them--defining himself, but with seeds planted long ago by others.  I think he recognizes himself as a torch-carrier rather than a "pure" creator.

The other part of the equation, of course, is not whether Michel has a problem, but whether in fact society does.  Are Michel and Marcelline not both victims of an "arbitrary" sickness as they are of "arbitrary" social conventions that put them in this relationship without really knowing why?  (I'm not trying to excuse Michel, but one does have to recognize his difficulty of becoming fully human in a society which defines him as grotesque and therefore, to some degree, forces his hand in pushing him away.)  Here, to me, is where colonialism offers some possible insights.  Outside of France, Michel can just "be" without restraints, but he can't just "be" because he is cut off, seperated, without the social ties that make him fully who he is.  He is caught.  Likewise, these colonial subjects are caught in a power trap as well, as they find themselves marginalized, objectified and imprisoned by a dominant system (culturally, in the French eyes, and militarily).  One can try to avoid the system, to live outside of it, or, more poetically, beyond it, yet it always comes back to define the potential escapee.  The "desert" is mere refuge, a mirage, not a permanent home, and I'm sure you get my reference here.

So it seems that Gide is exposing a problem where all the solutions are imperfect.  On the one hand, these problems are very real and regard the oppression of minorities and the very deep repression that those minorities develop.  On the other is the problem of the social individual, especially the Westerner, the Artist, who is locked in a battle to fulfill his/her true Self, to be unlike any other before.  The latter is futile, vain in both senses of the word, which is why the constant act of becoming and reinventing of the self and the retelling of stories become so important to us, why the process can eventually surpass the product.

Anyway, those are a few of my thoughts.  I really appreciate the time you spent thinking about this difficult novel and I think you have some really important insights....
And so ended my email.  Isn't it exciting when students are engaged!

Anyway, I have now written far too much and must, like my student, "go do my homework."

Recommended reading: The Immoralist and The Counterfeiters (Les Faux-Monnayeurs).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Just watched the Obama-mercial

It was good.  Very good.  It did what it was supposed to do.  He was more hawkish than I thought he needed to be, but such is life.  In a world of soundbites (and, yes, there were soundbites in the presentation), it still took the time to explain things, to back up arguments.  It made sense.  I appreciate that.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Diversity Makes You Smarter

Just came to my email box:

Do Faculty Interactions Among Diverse Students Enhance Intellectual Development?

A fundamental assumption that underscores the position of those who support incorporating diversity into the dynamics of the college classroom is that positive intellectual and social outcomes will occur. A growing number of studies support this finding (Astin, 1993; Chang, 1999; Goon, 1999); however, most did not use a strong research design. While surveys, focus groups, self-reported data, correlational designs, and ethnographic studies yield important information, what is needed are the results generated by an experimental design. A recent study that appeared in Psychological Science not only provides such an experimental framework but also reports results in an extremely valuable area - cognitive development.

Antonio et al. (2004) used a research design that permits examination of the effects of diversity on integrative complexity (IC), which refers to the degree to which students' cognitive style involves differentiation and integration of multiple perspectives. Low IC students take a simple, less complicated approach to reasoning, decision making, and evaluating information. High IC students evaluate, in a reflective way, various perspectives, solutions, and discussion. The researchers used small-group discussions and varied group racial composition and group opinion about a target social issue. Among the significant findings was that the presence of minority students in a group of White students leads to a greater level of cognitive complexity. In addition, the racial diversity of a student's close friends and classmates has a greater impact on IC than does the diversity of the discussion group. This latter finding implies that prolonged contact may have a stronger effect on cognitive complexity than does singular or intermittent contact.

The interaction among diverse student groups within a formal classroom setting forms the basis of mandatory diversity requirements that generally range from 3 to 12 credit hours on many campuses. For example, the University of California, Berkeley has an American cultures (AC) requirement for its undergraduates. Faculty thread comparative analyses of their teaching and research across complex discussions, and the AC requirement is treated as a living, evolving effort that expands in scope as the need arises. Unfortunately, on many campuses, the learning outcomes associated with such requirements are not always evident, nor are they linked to effective teaching strategies.

Concrete Success Strategies and Programs

While many institutions exhibit both symbolic and verbal support for the academic success of diverse student populations, a smaller percentage of colleges and universities have committed to long-term support of concrete programs with proven records of success. Such programs emphasize various aspects of the teaching/learning paradigm and are especially important for science, math, engineering, and technical courses-areas that historically have been problematic for diverse students. The consistency of such programs results from a merger of proven techniques and identification of the students' needs, weaknesses, goals, values, and expectations of diverse populations.

The programs share certain characteristics that establish the framework for the more specific approaches, including:

* They move students from individual levels of academic self-esteem to a sense of collective identity.
* They front-load their activities so that diverse students develop a firm foundation and are better prepared for the more difficult upper-level courses.
* They align entering students with upper-level students, graduate students, and faculty members, in many cases establishing formal mentoring efforts.
* They sustain program excellence by maintaining high standards, rigor, and scholarly nurturing.
* They use a developmental or phase-development process that moves students from lower to higher levels of analytical thinking, problem solving, reasoning, and active learning.

The University of Washington has supported a long-running successful program in physics and biology for students of color; Table 4.3 identifies the classroom strategies that are aligned with successful program outcomes.

This program recognizes that even students with good academic profiles can vary significantly in their conceptual and analytical abilities, critical thinking skills, and general level of academic preparation.
To commit to a model of diversity and inclusive teaching, faculty must accept the roles and responsibilities associated with transforming a classroom. The shift from a traditional classroom to one that is transformed is no easy task. Many factors can influence such a shift and they may not all converge at the same time. Table 4.4 compares how characteristics change in the transformative shift.

The move from a traditional to a transformed curriculum connects curricular and pedagogical change. Because such a shift engenders political ambiguity in many, it is important to keep the relationship between diversity and excellence front and center in all discussions.
You can read more here...

Nothing here would shock me, that is, it confirms what I've thought for a long time. I suppose this is just preaching to the choir since those who spout off about diversity-enhancing programs such as Affirmative Action are not looking at the research much anyway, or they are possibly looking at partial research..

Update and other thoughts...

As a prof at the most diverse private liberal arts school in the country (Whittier College), I can only agree that diversity is good. I see it every day on an anecdotal level. Yes, it has its challenges--diversity is the opposite of factory schooling, uniformity--but that is also why it is so effective.

Alternate Solar System Just In Case I Need it.

It looks like there is a solar system 10.5 light years away that may very well have the right ingredients for life.

You might need this just in case John McCain wins--he keeps saying he will--and even the press says the race is tightening.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Racism at John McCain Rally--Denver, CO

Still more racist Republicans at a McCain Rally.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Do your own x-rays.

If your one of the unlucky millions who has no health insurance, well, at least you can make your own x-ray machine, now.  According to an article published in Nature, peeling scotch tape in a vacuum create enough x-rays to actually create an x-ray image.  This is really cool.

Here's the video.

The End of Libertarianism

If there is anything we rail against around here, it's the childish libertarianism of our times.  We thus fully support this takedown of all the stupid ideas and their singulary idealistic purveyors:

A source of mild entertainment amid the financial carnage has been watching libertarians scurrying to explain how the global financial crisis is the result of too much government intervention rather than too little. One line of argument casts as villain the Community Reinvestment Act, which prevents banks from "redlining" minority neighborhoods as not creditworthy. Another theory blames Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for causing the trouble by subsidizing and securitizing mortgages with an implicit government guarantee. An alternative thesis is that past bailouts encouraged investors to behave recklessly in anticipation of a taxpayer rescue.

There are rebuttals to these claims and rejoinders to the rebuttals. But to summarize, the libertarian apologetics fall wildly short of providing any convincing explanation for what went wrong. The argument as a whole is reminiscent of wearying dorm-room debates that took place circa 1989 about whether the fall of the Soviet bloc demonstrated the failure of communism. Academic Marxists were never going to be convinced that anything that happened in the real world could invalidate their belief system. Utopians of the right, libertarians are just as convinced that their ideas have yet to be tried, and that they would work beautifully if we could only just have a do-over of human history. Like all true ideologues, they find a way to interpret mounting evidence of error as proof that they were right all along.
To which the rest of us can only respond, Haven't you people done enough harm already? We have narrowly avoided a global depression and are mercifully pointed toward merely the worst recession in a long while. This is thanks to a global economic meltdown made possible by libertarian ideas. I don't have much patience with the notion that trying to figure out how we got into this mess is somehow unacceptably vicious and pointless—Sarah Palin's view of global warming. As with any failure, inquest is central to improvement. And any competent forensic work has to put the libertarian theory of self-regulating financial markets at the scene of the crime.
There's enough blame to go around, but this wasn't just a collective failure. Three officials, more than any others, have been responsible for preventing effective regulatory action over a period of years: Alan Greenspan, the oracular former Fed chairman; Phil Gramm, the heartless former chairman of the Senate banking committee; and Christopher Cox, the unapologetic chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Blame Greenspan for making the case that the exploding trade in derivatives was a benign way of hedging against risk. Blame Gramm for making sure derivatives weren't covered by the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, a bill he shepherded through Congress in 2000. Blame Cox for championing Bush's policy of "voluntary" regulation of investment banks at the SEC.  [There's more...]
 I've often found Slate to be a haven for those pseudo-centrist NPR types who are actually quite right-wing, so Jacob Weisberg's piece is a welcome change.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Oops, We Forgot the Missiles

French Soldiers came under fire in Afghanistan and left without taking their anti-tank missiles.   They are reassuring themselves that the missiles are hard to use and require training.

Une unité française a été "cernée par des tireurs [et] il fallait faire reculer ce groupe", "un poste de tir et deux missiles n'ont pas pu être récupérés" lors du désengagement des militaires français, a indiqué le capitaine de vaisseau Christophe Prazuck, porte-parole de l'état-major des armées à Paris, interrogé par ces chaînes. Le porte-parole a reconnu que de tels missiles pouvaient "être efficaces contre des postes avancés" tout en assurant que "pour autant ce n'est pas une arme très facile d'emploi, elle nécessite une formation, elle nécessite un entretien".

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fortune Cookie

A colleague game a fortune cookie. "You naturally accumulate knowledge and look at its broader implications."

Food for thought.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Reporters Without Borders: U.S. Ties with Bosnia for Press Freedoms

Ah, capitalism, freedom...uh, not always.

Reporters Sans Frontières has their list of countries who have the most and least free presses.   The U.S.  does fairly poorly, though better than last year.  I'm so glad we're now in a tie for 36th with Bosnia.

"The United States rose twelve places to 36th position. The release of Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami Al-Haj after six years in the Guantanamo Bay military base contributed to this improvement. Although the absence of a federal “shield law” means the confidentiality of sources is still threatened by federal courts, the number of journalists being subpoenaed or forced to reveal their sources has declined in recent months and none has been sent to prison. But the August 2007 murder of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey in Oakland, California, is still unpunished a year later. The way the investigation into his murder has become enmeshed in local conflicts of interest and the lack of federal judicial intervention also help to explain why the United States did not get a higher ranking. Account was also taken of the many arrests of journalists during the Democratic and Republican conventions."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Saskatoon Fifth Avenue

I know Saskatoon is not in Alaska, but it's in Canada and that near Alaska, so also... [/palinspeak]

Looks like the RNC is paying for Palin petticoats.

Where does your candidate shop?

The Sky is Falling...

or something like that.

Robert Reich offers one of the most comprehensible explanations out there.

The Meltdown (Part IV)

The Dow is see-sawing but the reality is that the Bailout of All Bailouts isn't working. Credit markets are largely still frozen. Despite all the money going directly to the big banks, despite all the government guarantees and loans and special tax breaks, despite the shot-gun weddings and bank mergers, despite the willingness of the Treasury and the Fed to do almost whatever the banks have asked, the reality is that credit is not flowing. It's not flowing to distressed homeowners. It's not flowing to small businesses. It's not flowing to would-be homeowners with good credit ratings. Students are having a harder time borrowing for their tuition. Auto loans are drying up.

Why? Because the underlying problem isn't a liquidity problem. As I've noted elsewhere, the problem is that lenders and investors don't trust they'll get their money back because no one trusts that the numbers that purport to value securities are anything but wishful thinking. The trouble, in a nutshell, is that the financial entrepreneurship of recent years -- the derivatives, credit default swaps, collateralized debt instruments, and so on -- has undermined all notion of true value.

Many of these fancy instruments became popular over recent years precisely because they circumvented financial regulations, especially rules on banks' capital adequacy. Big banks created all these off-balance-sheet vehicles because they allowed the big banks to carry less capital.

Paulson is recapitalizing the banks -- giving them money directly rather than relying on reverse auctions -- largely because he's come to understand that the banks have taken on so much debt that the reverse auction system he told Congress he would use(designed to place a market value on these fancy-dance instruments) will leave too many banks insolvent.

But pouring money into these banks, expecting they'll turn around and lend to small businesses and Main Streets, is like pouring water into a dry sponge. Nothing will come out of it because Wall Street is so deep in debt that the banks are using the extra money to improve their balance sheets. They're hoarding it because their true balance sheets -- considering the off-balance sheet vehicles they created over the past several years -- are in such rotten shape.

In other words, taxpayers are financing a massive effort to save Wall Street's balance sheets from Wall Street's previous off-balance-sheet excesses. It won't work. It can't work. The entire effort is merely saving the asses of lots of executives and traders who got us into this mess in the first place, and whose asses should not be saved at taxpayer risk and expense.

What to do? Immediately require the Treasury to stop the broad Wall Street recapitalization, and require Wall Street to lend the money directly to Main Street. At the same time, force Wall Street to write down its true balance sheets: Let the executives and traders take the hit. Let their shareholders and even their creditors take the hit for Wall Street's collosal irresponsibility. This is the only true way to restore trust. It's also the only way to save Main Street's small businesses, homeowners, students, and everyone else.

The Dope on Popes

It appears that the current pope is about to beatify/canonize Pius XII. Pius XII, pope during World War II, was conveniently located in Rome where he could see first hand the workings of an anti-Semitic fascist regime of Il Duce.

Despite his close proximity, he remained strangely silent and, therefore, seemingly complicit in the doings of the Axis.

It's good to know, if you're a pope, that what you do (or don't do) probably won't affect your prospects for canonization.

Meanwhile in Haiti

If you've seen Life and Debt, a great documentary about IMF and World Bank monetary policy and its implications for small economies, you'll recognize what's happening in Haiti:

"37 % de la récolte de riz a été perdue dans la plaine de l'Artibonite, la principale région productrice du pays", souligne Maurepas Jeudy, le directeur d'Oxfam Intermon en Haïti. "Les désastres climatiques se sont ajoutés à la crise alimentaire qui sévissait dans le pays. Depuis les années 1980, les gouvernements successifs ont appliqué des politiques néolibérales qui ont fait des dégâts considérables, dit-il. Avant 1986, la production rizicole couvrait 80 % des besoins. Aujourd'hui, plus de 80 % de la demande est importée. C'est la même chose pour le maïs, les haricots ou les oeufs."  [Le Monde]

In summary, the climate crisis has combined with neoliberal policy which means that a country that produced 80% of its own rice in 1986 now produces about 20%.

Globalizing forces, as I've noted in this blog many a time, have the power to bring positive transformation.  Unfortunately it is all to often the case that free market ideology is pushed with religious zeal upon weak entities like Haiti or Jamaica.  The "details" of local markets, local demands, environment and, most importantly, social justice are left in the dust as the "free market" takes over to "work its magic." 

Remember global citizens and students folks:
  • Vibrant democracy is not necessary for vibrant capitalism (China).
  • Free market for industry is not necessarily a free market for local producers (Haiti, Jamaica, etc.).
  • Freedom to trade often means subjugation to the effects of that trade, or to put it another way: we always need to weigh "freedom to" and "freedom from."
Keynes is making a comeback thanks to the fantabulous flubs of financiers, but sensible trade will only work if we citizens have a coherent and persistent argument to influence our so-called leaders.

Racist Ohioan Mike Lunsford Hangs Obama Effigy from Noose in Tree

Another real American reacts to Obama. Klassy! Kreative! Krazee!

Misconceptions of Obama fuel Republican campaign - 13 Oct 08

More racism...

Terrorist! N****r! Black! Muslim!

Monday, October 20, 2008

California Propositions

From Calitics

Here we go again, another round of endorsements.  The bulk of these will be fairly uncontroversial here.  On Prop 7, Brian Leubitz did not vote due to the fact that he works for the campaign. See the flip for more information on our positions.


The Calitics Position

Calitics Tag

1A (High Speed Rail)


Prop 1A

2 (Farm Animal Conditions)


Prop 2

3 (Children's Hospital Bonds)


Prop 3

4 (Parental Notification Again)

No, NO, and NO AGAIN

Prop 4

5 (Drug Rehab Programs)


Prop 5

6 (Runner Anti-Gang)


Prop 6

7 (Renewable Power Standard)


Prop 7

8 (Anti-Marriage)


Prop 8

9 (Runner Victim's Rights)


Prop 9

10 (Pickens Natural Gas)


Prop 10

11 (Redistricting)


Prop 11

12 (Veterans Bonds)


Prop 12

See the flip for more information on the props...
Calitics Editorial Board :: Our Positions on the Statewide Propositions
Prop 1A: High Speed Rail: YES!

Prop 1A, recently revised on the ballot by legislative action, will allow the state to purchase $10 Billion in Bonds for the purpose of creating a high speed rail system.  The money will also be leveraged to get federal dollars as well as attract private investments.  This is a no brainer, but if you need more information, check out Robert's HSR Blog.

Prop 2: Farm Animal Conditions: Yes

This is a simple law that requires farm animals to be able to stand up and turn around in their cages. While there are lots of protests from factory farming interests, this measure could level the playing field for small farmers.  Polls show this one strongly leading. The campaign has also produced a cute video with a singing pig.

Prop 3: Children's Hospital Bonds: Yes

While some of us are conflicted about the purchase of more bonds for another narrowly defined interest, this seems to be a net plus.  Simply put, this would allow the state to sell bonds to provide additional funds for our children's hospitals, hopefully for capital improvements.  Our hospitals in general need a lot of work, but it would be even better if this money would go instead to ensure all county and other public hospitals remain viable. Not sure about that cheesy commercial though.

Prop 4: Parental Notification: No, NO, and NO AGAIN!

We've done this twice before, in the special election of 2005 and again in the general of 2006.  Enough already. We've said that we want to make sure that our teenage girls are safe, not use them as political pawns.  Prop 4 requires parental notification, which is fine if the teen has a functional family, but can be dangerous in an abusive home.  The proposition allows for a judicial bypass, but how many scared, pregnant teens have the wherewithal to go through that? This one is running close, so get the word out! As a sidenote, this is a good case for initiative reform to include a limit on how many times you can bring something to the ballot.

Prop 5: Drug Rehab: Yes

A sound policy reform to decrease the number of nonviolent offenders in our jails by placing them in rehabilitation facilities instead.  Prop 5 also reduces sentences for these nonviolent offenders based upon their successful completion of the rehab program. While not "ToughOnCrime", it is SmartOnCrime.  This is a follow-up to the wildly successful Prop 36 of a few years back. Prop 36 saved us millions of dollars, this likely will as well. Unfortunately, today Senator Feinstein has come out against Prop 5 in a wildly speculative press release that merely rehashes the No on 5 campaign talking points. Let's be smart, not pseudo-tough. Yes on 5.

Prop 6: Runner Gang Measure: NO

Another wasteful ToughOnCrime measure from the legislators Runner.  This is just plain bad policy that won't actually reduce gang violence.  The measure increases prison sentences for young gang offenders (really, now?) and would likely cost about a billon dollars per year.  The Mercury News breaks it down:

It would require spending $965 million next year - and more every year
thereafter - on law enforcement, probation and police programs, with a
focus on gangs. That's $365 million - 50 percent more - than last year.
And the amount will grow, because the initiative guarantees annual
increases for inflation, and higher prison expenses as a result of the
new or longer sentences it would impose for 30-plus crimes. Add in $500
million for jails that the initiative requires for more prisoners, and
it's a daunting number, at a time that the overall crime rate has been

Far too expensive for far too few results.

Prop 7: Renewable Power Standard: No

There already is a renewable power standard in California as part of recent anti-global warming legislation.  This bill would expand those requirements from 20% to 50% by by 2025 - but several small wind and solar power companies are opposed because the measure would essentially toss them out of the market by excluding plants smaller than 30 megawatts from even counting toward the standard.  That appears to cripple innovation and tilt the playing field away from sound renewable power development.  This is a noble goal which is poorly written to create winners and losers.  It's a close call, but we're voting no.

Prop 8: Anti-Marriage Amendment: NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!

Not much to explain here. Prop 8 would eliminate marriage rights for same gender couples. It is time for Californians to stand up for equality. No on 8.

Prop 9: Runner Victim's Rights: No

Another "ToughOnCrime" measure by the legislators Runner, this time funded by Henry T. Nicholas III, co-founder and former CEO of Broadcom. Why is that relevant? Well, Mr. Nicholas has himself been indicted for white collar fraud as well as drug charges including accusing "Nicholas of using ecstasy to spike the
drinks of industry executives and employees of Broadcom customers." Classy.

The measure itself reduces frequency of parole hearings and allows victims and their survivors to be present. I'll let the OC Register, which suggested a No vote, explain the prop:

Prop. 9 would place those rights into the state constitution rather
than into statutory law, the distinction being that the constitution is
much more difficult to change if problems develop. It would also give
crime victims and their families the constitutional right to prevent
the release of certain documents to criminal defendants or their
attorneys, and the right to refuse to be interviewed or provide
pretrial testimony or other evidence to a defendant. The constitution
would be changed to require judges to take the safety of victims into
consideration when granting bail. It would make restitution the first
priority when spending any money collected from defendants in the form
of fines. It would also extend the time between parole hearings from
the current one to five years to three to 15 years.

I'm fine with victim's rights, but that shouldn't extend to creating bad policy and increasing our already ridiculously high prison population. We already have a crisis, we don't need to exacerbate it. Vote No on "Marsy's Law."

Prop 10: Natural Gas Giveaway: No

Prop 10 would sell $5 billion worth of bonds to help Californians buy cleaner cars.  The problem of course is that clean is defined as to mean natural gas, and not hybrids. Huh? Furthermore, it wouldn't require that the commercial trucks purchased with the overwhelming majority of these funds stay in the state.  This is simply a boondoggle for Swift Boat Veterans Funder T. Boone Pickens to get his natural gas company a ton of new purchasers and to get the state to build his natural gas highway. Natural gas is slightly cleaner than gasoline, but it's still a technology of yesteryear.  We need real renewable energy, not more fossil fuels. Prop 10 is a waste of money at a time when we can't afford to fully fund our educational system. No on 10!

Prop 11: Redistricting: NO!

Another waste of time redistricting measure that accomplishes little other than guaranteeing Republicans additional power over the redistricting process.  Prop 11 would give equal power to Democrats and Republicans to draw the maps, and would exclude from the commission anybody who has had any experience relevant to the process.  It's a flawed process that gives Republicans too much.  It's opposed by leading minority organizations and the Democratic Party. 

For more information, see this diary here at Calitics. Our diary is actually recommend over the "official" No site, which is so hideous as to be nearly useless.  Anyway, Vote No on Republican Voters First!

Prop 12: Veterans Bond: Yes

These things always pass, and are always pretty small. This bond funds a program to help veterans purchase farms and homes.  It's a decent program, and the bond has passed something like 20 times over the last 100 years.  It likely will again. Despite our concerns over ballot box budgeting, helping out our veterans is a worthwhile cause.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Clichy Sous Bois

Very cool.  You can see a fictionalized account of the riots in France a couple of years ago which started with the electrocution of Bouna and Ziad.

Casino Unroyal


"When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done"

Peggy Noonan Watch: Fractured Right

Sign #7,650,432 that the Republicans will probably loose this election: Peggy Noonan splits from the party line.

There has never been a second's debate among liberals, to use an old-fashioned word that may yet return to vogue, over Mrs. Palin: She was a dope and unqualified from the start. Conservatives and Republicans, on the other hand, continue to battle it out: Was her choice a success or a disaster? And if one holds negative views, should one say so? For conservatives in general, but certainly for writers, the answer is a variation on Edmund Burke: You owe your readers not your industry only but your judgment, and you betray instead of serve them if you sacrifice it to what may or may not be their opinion.
Here is a fact of life that is also a fact of politics: You have to hold open the possibility of magic. People can come from nowhere, with modest backgrounds and short résumés, and yet be individuals of real gifts, gifts that had previously been unseen, that had been gleaming quietly under a bushel, and are suddenly revealed. Mrs. Palin came, essentially, from nowhere. But there was a man who came from nowhere, the seeming tool of a political machine, a tidy, narrow, unsophisticated senator appointed to high office and then thrust into power by a careless Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose vanity told him he would live forever. And yet that limited little man was Harry S. Truman. Of the Marshall Plan, of containment. Little Harry was big. He had magic. You have to give people time to show what they have. Because maybe they have magic too.

But we have seen Mrs. Palin on the national stage for seven weeks now, and there is little sign that she has the tools, the equipment, the knowledge or the philosophical grounding one hopes for, and expects, in a holder of high office. She is a person of great ambition, but the question remains: What is the purpose of the ambition? She wants to rise, but what for? For seven weeks I've listened to her, trying to understand if she is Bushian or Reaganite—a spender, to speak briefly, whose political decisions seem untethered to a political philosophy, and whose foreign policy is shaped by a certain emotionalism, or a conservative whose principles are rooted in philosophy, and whose foreign policy leans more toward what might be called romantic realism, and that is speak truth, know America, be America, move diplomatically, respect public opinion, and move within an awareness and appreciation of reality.
But it's unclear whether she is Bushian or Reaganite. She doesn't think aloud. She just . . . says things.
Her supporters accuse her critics of snobbery: Maybe she's not a big "egghead" but she has brilliant instincts and inner toughness. But what instincts? "I'm Joe Six-Pack"? She does not speak seriously but attempts to excite sensation—"palling around with terrorists." If the Ayers case is a serious issue, treat it seriously. She is not as thoughtful or persuasive as Joe the Plumber, who in an extended cable interview Thursday made a better case for the Republican ticket than the Republican ticket has made. In the past two weeks she has spent her time throwing out tinny lines to crowds she doesn't, really, understand. This is not a leader, this is a follower, and she follows what she imagines is the base, which is in fact a vast and broken-hearted thing whose pain she cannot, actually, imagine. She could reinspire and reinspirit; she chooses merely to excite. She doesn't seem to understand the implications of her own thoughts.
No news conferences? Interviews now only with friendly journalists? You can't be president or vice president and govern in that style, as a sequestered figure. This has been Mr. Bush's style the past few years, and see where it got us. You must address America in its entirety, not as a sliver or a series of slivers but as a full and whole entity, a great nation trying to hold together. When you don't, when you play only to your little piece, you contribute to its fracturing.
In the end the Palin candidacy is a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics. It's no good, not for conservatism and not for the country. And yes, it is a mark against John McCain, against his judgment and idealism.
I gather this week from conservative publications that those whose thoughts lead them to criticism in this area are to be shunned, and accused of the lowest motives. In one now-famous case, Christopher Buckley was shooed from the great magazine his father invented. In all this, the conservative intelligentsia are doing what they have done for five years. They bitterly attacked those who came to stand against the Bush administration. This was destructive. If they had stood for conservative principle and the full expression of views, instead of attempting to silence those who opposed mere party, their movement, and the party, would be in a better, and healthier, position.
At any rate, come and get me, copper.

Of course, she is overly concerned with the "vulgarisation" of politics and seems to apply that brush to the Democrats as if they practice this stuff in equivalent measures, but I'll forgive her for that here.  A little honesty does a person good.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

100K Strong

Does anybody have a comparison graph of crowd sizes at campaign rallies?  Obama is bringing people in.  100k in St-Louis:

No papers? Burn yourself.

This is a tragic case.  A woman set herself on fire in order to protest her partners imminent explusion from the country.  No need to explain what I think.  There should not be such a thing as "illegals" or "non-documented."  These are constructs to appease nativists, not solve problems.

Une femme dont le compagnon sans-papiers est menacé d'expulsion vers l'Arménie a été grièvement blessée, samedi 18 octobre, après s'être immolée devant la maison d'arrêt du Mans, dans la Sarthe. Vers 8 h 50, la femme qui avait donné rendez-vous à des journalistes de la presse locale s'est aspergée le corps d'essence avant d'y mettre le feu.

Selon un correspondant de l'AFP, elle aurait voulu protester contre l'incarcération et l'expulsion de son compagnon. Le compagnon de la victime purge une peine de deux ans à la maison d'arrêt du Mans pour avoir refusé à 18 reprises de monter dans l'avion qui devait le reconduire en Arménie.  Read more at Le Monde...
Things Republicans Hate, from Natasha Chart at MyDD.

Republicans don't like people who are Arab.

Republicans don't like people who drink wine.

Republicans don't like people who eat lettuce.

Republicans don't like people who live in cities or suburbs.

Republicans don't like people who now think that the Iraq war was a mistake.

Republicans don't like people who are Hispanic or speak Spanish, unless they are pro-torture.

Republicans don't like people who are gay, unless they STFU about wanting to marry the people they love.

Republicans don't like people who organize unions or want better treatment and more protection from their employers at work.

Republicans don't like people who are professionals or college educated, unless those people pretend to be 'folksy' latte-haters.

Republicans don't like people who take the extreme position that people who are women are just as good as people who are men.

Republicans don't like people who are offended by the use of racist threats and stereotypes targeted towards people who are Black.

Who's left over after all that? Republicans, I guess. Real Americans, some Republicans might say. Other people might call them 27-37% of American adults, depending on whether you count the leaners.

Now probably a good few of the leaners don't pass the full 'real American' screen, but let's be generous, and say that Republicans like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann would consider about 30 percent of American citizens to be real, pro-American types.

Once again, with feeling, this is "inherently ridiculous."

Friday, October 17, 2008

ACORN: Register voters, follow the law, become a target

Crooks and Liars:

Just as surely as night follows day, violence is being directed at ACORN offices and officials in the wake of the flood of right-wing demagoguery about its vote-gathering efforts:

An ACORN community organizer received a death threat and the liberal activist group's Boston and Seattle offices were vandalized Thursday, reflecting mounting tensions over its role in registering 1.3 million mostly poor and minority Americans to vote next month.

Attorneys for the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now were notifying the FBI and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division of the incidents, said Brian Kettenring, a Florida-based spokesman for the group.

Republicans, including presidential candidate John McCain, have verbally attacked the group repeatedly in recent days, alleging a widespread vote-fraud scheme, although they've provided little proof. It was disclosed Thursday that the FBI is examining whether thousands of fraudulent voter-registration applications submitted by some ACORN workers were part of a systematic effort or isolated incidents.

Kettenring said that a senior ACORN staffer in Cleveland, after appearing on television this week, got an e-mail that said she "is going to have her life ended."

A female staffer in Providence, R.I., got a threatening call from someone who said words to the effect of "We know you get off work at 9," then uttered racial epithets, he said.

John McCain has played a leading role in whipping up this frenzy of hatred. In Wednesday's debate, he charged:

We need to know the full extent of Sen. Obama's relationship with ACORN, who is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.

This is consistent with the hateful language being spewed from the right by the likes of Lou Dobbs, who has taken to routinely characterizing ACORN as a "radical left-wing activist group" as well as "a Democratic Party adjunct".

In fact, the hysteria's being generated across a broad spectrum of the Right, from Outer Malkinite Wingnuttia to Inside Beltway Villagers, from McCain and Palin to the frothiest freepers.

And we can see what's coming, too: We're being set up for a running yammer from the right after Obama wins questioning his legitimacy because of a supposedly "tainted" vote. Conspiracy theories and talking points from the right will circulate, driving up the temperature and feeding the right-wing populist frenzy.

And they're not even waiting until Election Day to begin.

How to do things with words: repeat lies, encourage hatred and mistrust, wait.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The End of Anomie

I just posted over at Open Left:

Then End of Anomie

Between roughly 1968 and 2004, United States (and its politics) has been dominated by a form of social relations that is defined, paradoxically, by a lack of social relations: Anomie. It is that feeling that comes about when one feels that the anchors of one's life have been cut, when traditional values such as family, friends, community, church and work seems to be evaporating. In anomie, family, neighborhood, community and church become, as often as not, institutions in transition that subsequently raise as many questions as they answer.

This has been as true for our urban areas as for our rural ones. The exodus to the suburbs brought on increased feelings of separation from our friends and neighbors and family. Our suburbs, while offering some benefits like front yards to play in and spacious living quarters for our smaller families, conversely brought us increased busing and commutes, and fewer family dinners. Our countryside was nearly fully transformed into a large factory that produced for the our cities. Our rural areas became not autonomous regions of self-sustenance but places where people worked for low wages to produce materials for the city based the economics of the city. Diversity of crops and of labor was sacrificed to the predictable (but meager) world of monocrop production where local supermarkets imported carrots, salads, beets, and sweet corn so that the surrounding acreage can produce soybeans or cattle feed. Like their urban counterparts, the rural folk no longer felt in control of their own destiny. They were strangers in the small towns... [click here to keep reading]

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Confessions of a(n) (In)Secure User

Ok. I'll admit it, I don't use anti-virus protection. Also, with the exception of a Microsoft Outlook infection that overtook our campus 7-8 years ago and that reached the address book on my pc, I've NEVER had a virus.

Is that smug? Probably, and now that I'm writing this post, I'm expecting a massive attack and crash. But you need to understand that I'm very careful and I've just been doing a couple of simple things and I've never had a problem. Besides, the folks at Wired agree with me:

The gospel is familiar: An antivirus program paired with anti-spyware/malware measures will shield your PC from just about anything. In fact, the marketing of those products is so good that security apps are about the only software people still expect to pay for. But the best stuff doesn't cost a dime. Programs like AVG and Ad-Aware are free, and they won't hit you up for upgrades like the big security suites.
Those guardians are fine for Grandma's Gateway, but the truly savvy eschew them altogether. Even the most well-meaning program bogs down your box. And it's not hard to dodge infection; just abide by the basic tenets of Internet common sense: Don't click on mysterious email attachments, don't bother with the free pr0n, Ch3@p Vi@gr@, and Nigerian millions, and never open .exe files. Email is still one of the biggest infection vectors, so be cautious and use a good webmail service like Gmail, which automatically scans your messages. Don't leave your computer online when you're not on it. Beware of anything that immediately asks for personal information. Don't reuse passwords.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A vision of the future

If you don't read, you should. I can't say it with enough emphasis: Chris, Matt, Dave, et al--they get it.

Here's Chris Bowers:

So, what happens if this rout holds up, and Democrats score a trifecta that includes a 100 seat House majority and 60 seats in the Senate? In the extended entry, I take a look at the macro political ramifications of such a massive Democratic rout.
In my crystal ball I see:

* Republican Party moves to the right: Yes, that's correct--I am pretty sure the Republican Party will become even more conservative if they are entirely blown out in this election. The reason is simple: all remaining mechanisms for pushing left will have been either removed or discredited, while all mechanisms that push them to the right will remain intact. The Club for Growth will still play successfully in Republican primaries. Conservative media will become even more important to the conservatie rank and file, as a loss of this magnitude is heavily blamed on the dreaded "MSM." The party will still be owned by the same large and corporate donors who control it now. However, Republican "moderates" will have been pushed to the very edge of extinction, and borne the brunt of congressional losses / retirements. Moderating figures like John McCain will have been discredited. Self-identified moderates and liberals will have abandoned the Republican Party in droves, many now both identifying and registered as Democrats. The only thing left in the Republican Party will be the true winguts, and they will lurch the party even further to the right.

* Aimless, confused center-right punditry. With neoliberalism destroyed by nationalization, socially conservatives whites clearly losing their power as the center of the swing voting universe, and with the Republican Party pushed out of Congressional control for a long time, the center-right pundits that dominate cable nets, Sunday talk shows, and many large newspapers will be downright confused and aimless. The changes in David Brooks over the last two weeks are a good example of this. Mind you, they won't embrace progressivism, as their formative experiences in the 70's and 80's will still be too powerful to them. Also, most of them will hold onto their jobs and prominence, even if we score a couple more Olberman's and Maddow's. But their world will have been shattered, and they just won't know where to go for a while.

* The Democratic Party will lack a clear center of power and become more factional: Obama edged out the Clinton power center, but he didn't destroy it. They will now operate side by side. Same with the reviving progressive advocacy infrastructure, which Obama relented on a few weeks ago. The House will be a mess, with Hoyer, Blue Dogs, Speaker Pelosi, Emanuel / New Dems, and the emerging Progressives all holding a share of power. The Senate will continue to be the Senate, with most major legislation passing with 75 votes, not 60. Grassroots progressive infrastructure will be at it's peak, but also might lose steam under Democratic trifecta rule. While the party could never possibly be as factional as it was during the New Deal coalition, it will be more factional than it is now.

* Demographics cement Democratic congressional majority for at least six, and possibly sixteen, years: Since voting habits set in after a person reaches 30, a new generation that grew up and began voting under Bush will be used to voting for Democrats after this election. The country will continue to become less white and less Christian at rapid rates, providing Democrats with a natural edge in elections. While the country has given Republicans and conservatives roughly a 51%-48% base advantage in elections from 1986 forward, that 3% base edge will now flip toward Democrats. It isn't a guarantee, but it is a nice head start. With majorities approaching 100 and 20 seats in the House and Senate respectively, it will be enough to hold onto Congressional power for at least six years, and possibly sixteen.

* The country will still be in a world of hurt. This is perhaps the most important marco trend of all, and could cancel out all of the other trends listed here. The country will still face disasters on multiple fronts (militarily, economically, diplomatically, environmentally, etc), and it won't be easy to fix. The degree to which the Democratic trifecta is able to make the lives of Americans better will be the largest factor in determining future Democratic electoral prospects. The specific policies and factions that succeed, or fail, in making American lives better will go a long way toward deciding the upcoming factional fight in the Democratic Party, as well as the destination of the aging center-right punditry.

If we pull off the rout, that is how I see the future. What do you see following a huge Democratic landslide?