Monthly Archives: November 2009

November 18, 2009, 9:28 am

A perfect Laocoön.

Kevin Drum writes,

But look: isn’t secular holiday music something we can all agree on? I mean, it sucks. It really does.

No, we can’t agree on that, you big square Grinch. Top of the list of things I would rather hear than a moany Muzak version of “Adeste Fidelis” is going to include the following, but most of all Mitch Benn’s “True Meaning of Christmas” and other songs, here.

Not to mention

November 17, 2009, 1:46 pm


From the Public Policy Institute of California’s survey conducted October 20-November 3 on Californians and higher education:

Despite significant budget cuts in higher education, at least six in 10 Californians give good to excellent marks to the California Community College (13% excellent, 52% good), California State University (9% excellent, 52% good) and University of California (13% excellent, 49% good) systems. These grades are nearly as high as they were in 2007 and 2008, when about two in three Californians gave positive ratings to the three branches. Today, parents of California college students, current students, and alumni give the state’s higher education institutions similarly high grades.

But residents have little confidence in the state elected officials who have authority over California colleges and universities. Californians give Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger a 28…

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November 16, 2009, 8:59 pm

Sis, boom, bah. With an emphasis on the bah.

If de-emphasizing intercollegiate athletics is one of the ancillary effects of the economic crisis gripping college campuses around the country, my sense is that would very likely be a good thing. And I don’t just mean at the highest level, at those places like my first employer, the University of Oklahoma, where the athletic department provides de facto minor league teams for NFL and NBA franchises, but also at institutions like UC Davis, where the school’s move to Division I seems like an unmitigated disaster. And so, as we’re being asked to make budget cuts deep enough that we’re going to see the glint of bone now and again, we should insist that fielding teams capable of competing for national championships, at least in so-called revenue sports, shouldn’t be part of a university’s core mission.

For some reason I feel like I should note that I rowed crew — I stunk — at the…

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November 16, 2009, 11:39 am


The Council of UC Faculty Associations’ website runs this graph (click on it to see it full size).

The author explains that he uses Management and Senior Professionals and Senior Management Group FTE data from UCOP.

November 15, 2009, 9:44 am

Huge, young, brilliant, aggressive, progressive.

I was going to title this post “When it was good,” but there’s so much juicy Time-ese in here that I had to cut off a slice for the headline. Anyway, this is how the press used to talk about the California Master Plan. So many lines here read in retrospect like such knowing predictions it makes me want to cry.

November 15, 2009, 9:18 am

Mid-life crisis.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office has a report on the California Master Plan at fifty, or nearly fifty—guess they figured they’d better hurry, the MP might not outlast forty-nine, the way things are going. Some key conclusions:

Key higher education funding decisions have been made without the benefit of clear state policy guidance. For example, the state has no formal policy to guide the setting of student fees at the public colleges and universities. As a result, fee levels have been unpredictable and volatile, with little alignment to the cost of instruction or to students’ ability to pay. Similarly, the state lacks a policy for funding enrollment growth at the public universities. For the past several years, the state budget has not specified any particular enrollment level at the universities, instead allowing the universities’ governing boards to decide for themselves how…

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November 14, 2009, 10:11 am

Or we could pay our way.

Drastic times call for (at least talking about considering) drastic measures.

“I looked as hard as I could at how states could declare bankruptcy,” said Michael Genest, director of the California Department of Finance who is stepping down at the end of the year. “I literally looked at the federal constitution to see if there was a way for states to return to territory status.”

There were no bankruptcy options, and the legislature chose to cut back sharply on education and health care to fill the gap.

Perhaps California could secede, and then hope that as part of the inevitable defeat and reconstruction that the federal government would force us to write a proper constitution! Have we considered that?

Seriously, though, what does it mean—this is not a rhetorical question, I’d really like to know and don’t have an answer—when it seems more plausible to engage in constitutional…

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November 13, 2009, 12:30 pm

Who’s hot now?

Back when I was in grad school, lots of people were buzzing about Foucault.* But the really hip kids were deep into Walter Benjamin. And being hip**, I hopped on the bandwagon and never jumped off. Benjamin’s work has become especially important for me recently, as I’ve tried to finish my book on the politics of memory surrounding the Sand Creek massacre. Which is all just a long way of pointing out that Terry Eagleton’s study of Benjamin has been re-released (though maybe not in the States). Regardless, it’s worth a read. And now, having said all of that, I find myself wondering: which theorists are the kewl kidz*** reading these days?

* Yes, I’m that old. And also washed-up, but that’s a story for another day.

** Well, not really. But some of my best friends were Europeanists.

*** I know, I know, historians can never really be kewl kidz. Except for Marc Bloch, bitchez…

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November 12, 2009, 9:22 am

Ari Fleischer U, Vol. II

Michael Bérubé says if you don’t watch this video, he “will come to your house—and you don’t want that.”

Now, in my experience Michael is a perfectly delightful guest, so I don’t know how much of a threat this is. At most I expect he might give you a special JoePa-chair head-slap, and urge you to roll up your pant legs.

But you get the point.


November 11, 2009, 12:58 pm

The cranky, it’s been broughten.

I enjoyed this outburst.

I just don’t get it. I give up. I’m, like, off the bus.

However, a confession: It struck me as I was writing this that Tye simply couldn’t be saying what I was taking him to say… It struck me that nobody could believe that. So I went and tried it out on a couple of philosophy friends … and they agreed that nobody could believe what I was writing that Tye believes. Fair enough, but then, what is one to make of such a passage as this: “An object’s looking F . . . [isn’t] a matter of an object’s causing an experience which represents simply that something is F [sic]. The experience one has of the seen object is one into whose content the seen object itself enters” (my emphasis)….

Now, I’m kind of a Tarskian about meaning. I don’t do “radical interpretation”. So, when someone writes “the experience one has of the seen object is one…

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November 11, 2009, 5:34 am

Bawl Allegiance

wilfred_owen_family.jpgOn this day in 1918, Susan Owen (center in picture) received word that her son, Wilfred, had been killed the previous week while fighting with his unit in the Battle of the Sambre. She thus might have read the words of his death while listening to the bells of the town church peal the news of the Armistice that ended World War I. Peace had come for Britain, if not perhaps for her.

She likely feared such a telegram. Wilfred’s letters to her rarely tried to conceal the situation at the front. One, from 1917, said that:

I can see no excuse for deceiving you about these last 4 days. I have suffered seventh hell. I have not been at the front.

I have been in front of it.

I held an advanced post, that is, a ‘dug-out’ in the middle of No Man’s Land.

Those fifty hours were the agony of my happy life.

Every ten minutes on Sunday afternoon seemed an hour.

I nearly broke down and let…

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November 10, 2009, 7:56 pm

40 is the new 20.

Happy Birthday Sesame Street! And many more! For a wonderful series of posts marking the occasion, see here, here, here, and here. Also, if you’d like to share your favorite Sesame Street moment(s) in the comments, with or without links, that would be lovely. And finally, yes, I know the above clip isn’t exactly celebratory (and that we’ve talked about it here before), but for me it represents the essence of the show. Put another way: it’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.

November 10, 2009, 4:10 pm

The cost of freedom.

On this day in 1989, once everyone stopped patting themselves on the back for bringing down the Berlin Wall, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney lamented what East German freedom would do to defense contractors in the pages of the Wall Street Journal:


November 10, 2009, 3:52 pm


Come hear Leo Chavez talk about The Latino Threat.

It’ll be good value.

November 9, 2009, 5:11 pm

What FDR wanted

Steve Benen, in the course of making an argument that most of his commenters don’t want to hear, overstates FDR’s intentions with the Social Security Act.

Roosevelt, the towering political figure of the 20th century, with an electoral mandate, a Democratic Congress, and the stench of a failed Republican president fresh on the nation’s mind, had to take what he could get on Social Security, which was far less than what he wanted.

Now, in a perfect world, a unicorn or magic pony of some kind would have written a history of the Great Depression and the New Deal that corrected this gentle myth in a short, introductory fash–OMIGOD! LOOKEE HERE!

The report [Committee on Economic Security] sent to Roosevelt called for universal coverage of the American elderly by pensions paid for partly by their own contributions and increasingly, over time, out of the general revenues of the U.S. Treasury….

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