February 17, 2012, 11:33 am
A dear college friend died yesterday while serving as a correspondent in Syria, reporting on the rebellion against the Syrian president. He was 43. The world knows Anthony as a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for International Reporting, whose stories painted a broader picture of the beauty and terror in war-torn countries in the Middle East. He reported on war and conflicts in lands that now hold vital interest for the world. Through Anthony’s reporting, we came to learn about the struggles of people—an on-the-ground view. His work involved risk and danger. He was successful, because he was a decent man; success in that line of work can only occur if trust is built, especially among people increasingly wary about journalists. It is reported that he died of an asthma attack—the second he suffered that week.
Anthony was one of my closest college friends. We attended…
February 12, 2012, 4:01 pm
Here’s my new goal: I want to write a tell-all book and be widely celebrated for how well I keep secrets.
That’s a trick I’d really love to a master, like sawing the last thin remnants of a reputation in half and having it appear whole.
Yes, of course, I’m talking about Screaming Mimi, the JFK intern who decided to wait until everybody was dead (guess daughters don’t count, huh, Mimi?) and write a book with information nobody can prove but that fascinates us all. It doesn’t say much for her, and, I suppose, it says even less about us.
Here’s an excerpt from The Daily Mail, one of the places to which she sold the rights.
Okay, okay, it says less about me—I’ve been watching the whole thing with open-mouthed horror and fascination, but not as open-mouthed as Mimi was when she was in D.C., apparently.
What’s getting to me is that otherwise sensible people are…
January 22, 2012, 12:11 am
This post responds to my reader, Chuck Kleinhans, who asked for a follow-up to my previous post: Too Disabled For An Organ Transplant, which ran last week. Chuck wanted to know a little more about the 1984 National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA).
The National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) was enacted in 1984. It is the first federal organ transplant law. Prior to that time, states organized their own organ transplant rules and they worked! The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) was enacted in all states, which means that states preserved their autonomy, but strove for consistency and uniformity with regard to organ transplant rules. The UAGA was first adopted in 1968 and was revised in 1987 in accordance with NOTA.
In short, NOTA limits all contributions to the U.S. organ supply pool to organs that are altruistically supplied. In other words, it prohibits any “valuable…
January 21, 2012, 9:01 am
According to the most recent polls in South Carolina, Newt has weathered the storm of his second wife’s bombshell that he asked her for an open marriage. And once again the importance of marriage in American political life has been brought into focus by the hypocrisy of those telling us about the importance of marriage in political life.
Let us start at the beginning. First, all national politicians at this point in American history project the ideal family and the ideal marriage in order to win office. This is because many Americans believe that marriage is a sign of a highly disciplined and hard-working individual who can control their bodily impulses. This is why Bill Clinton was impeached—he was chubby and unfaithful. This is why George W. Bush seemed like such a good idea—he controlled his eating and kept his sexual impulses confined to the conjugal bed. It is paradoxical…
January 8, 2012, 12:27 pm
If you haven’t seen Franchesca Ramsey’s “S#@t White Girls Say.. To Black Girls”* yet, take a look. It is a very funny and very powerful piece about the sort of accidental racism that happens. From “Can I touch your hair?” to “This is soooo ghetto,” it perfectly captures the painful banality of racism.
But with the GOP primaries coming to their seemingly inevitable conclusion of a Romney (perhaps Romney/Santorum) ticket, it is time to consider how not funny a video of “S#@t White Politicians Say… to Black People” would be.
Opening scene would be Newt Gingrich’s extremely bizarre and accidentally racist tirade against “poor” children not knowing the value of work. Calling child labor laws “stupid” and outlining his plan for the forced after-school labor of poor children as janitors in their schools in order to become productive citizens, Gingrich tentatively felt his way through …
January 4, 2012, 4:22 pm
Well sure, many would say. After all, in this election cycle and the last, a viable woman candidate emerged—one a Democrat and the other a Republican-to run for the presidency. But, it’s worth thinking about the question beyond whether a woman can raise money to campaign for the presidency of the United States or whether she can win a primary. Can she become a major party’s nominee? Unlike peer Western countries, like the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Israel (despite its location, Israel is counted as a Western economy), and Germany, or developing economies, such Brazil, Argentina, and India, we have no past and no foreseeable future with a woman as president or prime leader.
To be clear, there are at least 20 women currently serving as the prime leader of countries around the world—Switzerland, Germany, Finland, Argentina, Australia, Thailand, Liberia, Kosovo, and…
November 28, 2011, 9:49 am
“What do editors want?”
Adding to our discussion of real-life experience in the world of publishing, the fourth voice we’ll hear is from the Editor-at-Large of an internationally known and well-respected magazine, one with a professional as well as popular readership. A successful author in her own right as well as an experienced editor, “Hanna Errant” (her alias, as if you couldn’t tell) maps some unnerving changes in the publishing industry over the last twenty years:
“Young hopefuls stream into our offices wanting to write. A few are lucky to be selected as interns. They will write short pieces, help bloggers with their posts, open the many packages of books and perform other high-minded tasks for months, hoping a staff position opens up.
“What is notable about these would-be writers is how crest-fallen they are when their first writing efforts emerge from the editors’ hands….
November 20, 2011, 3:25 pm
With “Why I Feel Bad For the Pepper-Spraying Policeman, Lt. John Pike,” Atlantic magazine senior editor Alexis Madrigal provides a useful discussion of the criminalization of protest and related militarization of police response. Madrigal is quite right that we’re missing the point if we pretend that Pike is an “independent bad actor” and “vilify” him as an individual without analyzing the flawed system of protest policing in which Pike operates. However, Madrigal makes a serious blunder in framing the piece.
Madrigal’s intention for the frame was to offer a provocative meditation on the way that the management of disorder dehumanizes police officers as well as the police—the sort of thing any reasonably well-read grad student should be able to churn out (cf Foucault, Fanon, etc):
I am sure that he is a man like me, and he didn’t become a cop to shoot history majors with pepper…
November 19, 2011, 11:08 pm
By now, you’ve seen the video of UC-Davis police lieutenant John Pike pepper-spraying a peaceful sit-in. You’ve seen his strutting little-man-in-a-big-body sadism, giving his beefy little canister a nonchalant waggle before strolling down the line of nonviolent protesters, aiming the toxic stream into their faces from a few feet away. You might even have signed the petition urging the resignation of the thugs who authorized this performance. Now, courtesy of the always trenchant Vijay Prashad, you can learn what California taxpayers pay for this level of police professionalism: $110,000 a year. Yep. You heard me. Nearly twice what they pay a new assistant professor in the humanities, and three times what they pay many full-time nontenurable lecturers.
Since The Chronicle is a family paper, I’m biting my tongue so hard it’s bleeding but, honestly, only profanity really does…
November 13, 2011, 2:08 pm
I’m not terribly team-oriented, but when Michele Goodwin, Laurie Fendrich, Laurie Essig, and Jacques Berlinerblau all huddle into a scrum to toss a few ideas outside the inside lines–or however athletic types put it–you can count me in.
Let’s think about the connection between sports and rape, shall we?
Let’s take a look, for example, at the “Yahoo!” sport’s section from late this week; this is from a post on Friday, November 11, 2011: “Earlier this week, former UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin tweeted, ‘Rape is the new missionary.’ After coming under fire for that tweet, UFC president Dana White said that Griffin was upset and that the tweet was misunderstood.”
According to the story, Griffin later made a donation to the Rape Crisis Center in Las Vegas saying “I feel bad, I want to apologize, I feel like I should be punished a little bit,” Griffin said [to…
November 7, 2011, 9:44 am
That “thing” between high school students with poor skills and a college education is not an abyss, Ms. Riley: It is a trench dug by the moneyed to keep the offspring of the underclass in their place.
Don’t think “abyss” or “gorge” or any other landscape feature created by natural causes when you think of the failure of large public schools in poor urban areas.
Don’t think “gap.” Think “moat.”
I’m lucky: My students from UConn are teaching in small and large schools across the country and they keep me posted; I feel as if I hear about what’s going in our nation’s classrooms from those who are doing the real work of teaching. Several of them are part of Teach for America, while others have found their positions through the more traditional routes: getting their M.A.’s in either Education or English, getting certified to teach through other programs, or being hired by…
November 1, 2011, 6:32 pm
More frequently, words considered offensive to common sensibilities are captured by euphemisms, acronyms, and abbreviations. The “F” word is no different. Only in this context, the shroud that blankets the word (and anxiety over its use) is undeniably political and ultimately fatal for the tens of thousands in Somalia that will die this year because of starvation. The civil war and terrorism in Somalia has taken a toll and displaced civilians throughout the country and into neighboring lands. But the famine is what is killing them.
Undeniably, this famine is rooted in civil conflict, transitional political governance preceded by pitiful governance, soldiers stealing food, and terrorists blocking food delivery (and then stealing food).
After months of hunger-related deaths, the United Nations finally declared Somalia to be in a state of famine this past summer….
October 27, 2011, 10:40 am
The art of the apology need an update or a polish; or perhaps, like the art of medicine, it needs constant reassessment and renewal.
What I fear is that, like learning how to write in elegant—or even legible—longhand, we are forgetting this crucial skill and convincing ourselves it is no longer necessary.
But here is what I know: A person just said to me, “Oh! Sorry, that was my mistake. Thanks for reminding me. I’ll take care of it right away,” and my heart, heavy as a battleship 15 minutes ago, is now light. My sense of the future, as well as my hope for our species, is renewed.
I’d gone into the phone conversation ready for conflict. I was emotionally armed and intellectually prepared for a fight. Confident of my position, I’d nevertheless rehearsed my arguments and anticipated what I imagined might be my opponent’s retorts.
Next to me at the computer were a full cup…
September 21, 2011, 5:20 pm
I’m no genius, but some of you reading this probably are (I imagine you’re scrolling through the blogs looking for something from the riff-raff that might amuse you) and maybe you’ve already won your MacArthur “genius award.”
Personally, I have a better chance of being named Miss Teen Sweden than I have of winning a MacArthur and I’ll just let you, high-achiever that you are, figure out those odds yourself.
The fact that I keep misspelling “genius” is an indication of my lack of it, I suppose. (It’s one of those words I’ve spelled incorrectly my entire life; others include “thesaurus,” “camouflage” and “parallel”—and it has taken me 15 minutes to write this one line.)
But the recipients of the most coveted award in the intellectual and cultural world—c’mon, you know it is—are a wildly diverse crowd.
Sure, there are Harvard scientists in the bunch (you know who you are) …
August 10, 2011, 1:11 pm
You know how people say there’s no such thing as a stupid question?
Those people are wrong.
I know this for a fact because not only have I heard of a lot of marvelously, fabulously, almost unbelievably dimwitted questions, I’ve asked a good number of them myself.
My immediate family members never tire of repeating one of my outright dumbest questions, for example, which concerned wondering—in an idle comment during a long car trip—how they got the water out of the Lincoln tunnel.
There was a moment of silence. Then my husband and stepsons starting laughing so hard, snorting and slapping their knees, that I thought Michael, who was driving, would harm himself. “She wants to know”—here they would pause to catch their breath—“how…they…get…the…oh…god…” and then they would have to stop again because they weren’t getting enough oxygen. “You’re …
July 19, 2011, 1:09 pm
There's more to civility than good manners, but good manners aren't a bad place to start. (Photo by superhua at Flickr)
Yes, Chautauqua was terrific. The audience was lovely, and “lovely” isn’t a word I use about every audience: They were responsive, cheerful, eager, and engaged.
You could tell they were engaged by the fact that they showed up on a gorgeous summer afternoon to hear a lecture at the Hall of Philosophy. Mind you, The Hall of Philosophy is this extravagant outdoor structure, cool and breezy–and besides, many of the audience members brought their own reclining chairs and sat in the sun while they listened.
Nevertheless, the 600 or so souls who showed up are evidence of just how keen many of us are to be part of a conversation about civility and changes in American culture.
The fact that they…
July 16, 2011, 11:44 am
I’m on the third floor porch of the Hagen Wensley guesthouse at the Chautauqua Institution. I’m sitting at a white wicker desk, on a white wicker chair (and on two brightly colored pillows, because the chair is old-fashioned and low-slung), and overlooking the lake. The guest house is where the invited speakers have the pleasure of staying while we’re on the property.
Conversations on the porch at 5 p.m. are famous for their range and depth; last night we had wine and cheese with men who used to run the CIA, a person who had just lectured on torture, and a woman who explained why artists no longer think of nature as something to worshipped. Joining the conversation was somebody who taught history at Johns Hopkin and two sisters, one from Connecticut and one from Pennsylvania, who meet up in Chautauqua every year. We also talked about the fact that the guys who ran the CIA thought Gene…
July 10, 2011, 4:43 pm
Grover, Is That You? (image: Wikimedia)
As most readers may know by now, the State of Minnesota has been shut down since July 1 due to a failure to agree on a new budget. The GOP has been infected by a faction of “no new taxers.” These folks propose a budget in which the deficit will be made up by cuts, rather than taxes or new revenues. They object to their position being described as “all cuts,” despite the fact that it is.
Why this stubbornness? I discovered, and then tweeted furiously, that 37 of our legislators had signed the infamous Grover Norquist pledge—they absolutely, positively, will not agree to tax-revenue increases under any circumstances. Recall that Grover is the drown-the-baby-in-the-bathtub dude.
In today’s Star-Tribune, Brian Rosenberg, Macalester College’s president, had the …
June 28, 2011, 12:47 pm
"And might we interest you in the matching Ayn Rand classic pumps?"
The other day, when doing a piece with Conservative columnist Larry Cohen for The Hartford Courant, I came across “The Leadership Institute” for the first time.
Larry, you see, had received a fund-raising letter written by U.S. Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana saying that at most colleges, “liberals control the textbooks, the course selection, the ‘official’ student newspaper, the student government and, of course, what’s taught in the classes.” Larry thought we should both send checks to “The Leadership Institute” because, as he put it, they’ve “been fighting the good fight for some time now.”
Hahhahahhaha. Whew. He’s funny, Larry.
Naturally, I looked them up on the Web. I discovered a group of individual so nerdy they make the American…
June 24, 2011, 12:51 pm
Not everybody who’s smart went to college and not everybody who went to college is smart.
But that doesn’t mean Glenn Beck is right: it doesn’t mean that what’s taught in American universities is “garbage.”
One of my former students, Sean Easter (you can learn something about him here) sent me this link to a piece of Beck’s radio show recorded yesterday.
A poor woman calls in to ask for Beck’s help in getting her son to see the value of an education.
A few aspects of the clip are particularly striking:
1. Beck is a bully who won’t let the caller speak, even when she pleads to be heard.
2. Beck believes that because he, as well as the guys in the studio all “made it” without having a college education—as if being a lackey to Beck is “making it”—then nobody needs one unless actual rocket science is involved.
3. Beck believes that if a kid knows what he or …