August 13, 2012, 4:31 pm
Like many people, I spent my summer vacation with my large and fiercely loyal extended family. Unlike many people, my family is mixed. No, I don’t mean mixed race or mixed class, although we are that too, but mixed politically. There are plenty of lefties among us; there are also plenty of conservatives. During the Bush years, I often found it incomprehensible that these people whom I love and respect could vote for a man who got this country into wars they didn’t believe in and cultural battles over gay rights that they actually opposed. Among the Essig Republicans, there are no homophobes or hawks, just people who genuinely believe that the fiscal policies of the GOP are better for this country than the Democratic ones.
Like many people in mixed-political families, I more or less ignore it and focus on what ties us together: eating, eating, and more eating. This month, as I sat…
August 8, 2012, 11:25 am
11. “Have you ever wondered about the stupidity of the term ‘o’clock’? Americans have happily incorporated into our everyday speech a term that makes us sound like leprechauns.” Gene Weingarten, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for The Washington Post, from The Hypochondriac’s Guide to Life. And Death.
12. Voice-mail prompt: “After the tone please leave your I.Q. or your blood pressure, whichever is higher.” Lewis Frumkes, author of How To Raise Your I.Q. by Eating Gifted Children.
13. On health foods: “To strengthen their argument [about eating unprocessed foods] they tell you that peasant boys in Cuba, those kids out in the fields, eat raw sugar cane and they have perfect teeth. What they don’t tell you is that they develop rickets. ‘Look at me, Ma! No cavities! But I can’t walk too straight.’…After you eat all this, you can wash it down with tiger’s milk. So help me…
August 3, 2012, 5:21 pm
More than 30 years ago, Elisabeth Landes and Richard Posner provocatively observed that a “glut” in black babies exists in the United States foster care system. Their controversially framed assessment attracted ardent criticism, including charges of racism. Nonetheless, Posner and his colleague touched on urgent and yet unresolved problems, including how to (a) provide more meaningful life opportunities for child wards of the state by transitioning them into permanent home placements, (b) reduce the prevalence of black children in foster care, and (c) decrease state expenditures on foster care, while not sacrificing quality of care. There were other questions of great importance that arose in response to their research. However, the use of economic terms as analytical tools to describe the collision of both a terrible racial phenomenon and family law crisis launched the type of…
August 1, 2012, 2:15 pm
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.
As you may well not have heard on your corporate nightly news, the Obama-era National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has been near-paralyzed by years of Republican dirty tricks leading to resignations and scandal that included frequent leaking of confidential board proceedings to former Republican board members advising the Romney camp. With the Department of Justice eyeballing the corporate hacks in question, however, the NLRB may finally be set to address academic labor issues.
Several of the regional NLRB panels have already decided core higher ed cases; just last month a federal judge spanked Chicago’s Columbia College for interfering with faculty union activities, ordering them to the bargaining table, posthaste.
Evidently the national NLRB plans to make up for lost time. Over the next few…
July 31, 2012, 4:46 pm
Houston gun show, 2007 (photo by Michael Glasgow via Flickr/CC)
Swimming with my family yesterday, we were shocked to learn that a man just down the beach had been attacked by a shark. The usual feelings of fear, shock, helplessness, and gratitude that it wasn’t us ensued. As this story mingled with the story of James Holmes in Colorado, it seemed easy enough to imagine that a shark attack and a mass shooting are similar events: tragedies floating through the summer air randomly attaching to certain bodies while swimming by others.
Of course shark attacks are not at all the same as mass killings. Mass killings are acts of madness that are cultural in nature, not blind animal instinct. More than 60 years ago, Ann Parsons, daughter of one of the mightiest of U.S. sociologists Talcott Parsons, wrote about…
July 30, 2012, 5:23 pm
Gail Johnson with a portrait of Nkosi
For the past three years, one stream of my work has involved extensive field research on the sexual trafficking of girls in the Philippines, South Africa, and India. For some years, my research has involved trafficking generally, including that of organs, children, and even body parts such as human tissues. However, this project examines trafficking beyond the exploitation and kidnapping women and girls taken against their will and under false consent to work in brothels or on street corners. This current project investigates girls forced into underage marriages or used as “cleaners” or “purifiers” to rid men of HIV in places like South Africa. These transactions violate laws, but not necessarily social norms and customs. Indeed, it has been very…
July 22, 2012, 12:14 pm
Over at The Baffler, Steve Almond writes that those of us who think The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are comedic genius are just not smart enough to understand that they’re not that funny. According to Almond, the fact that so many of us revere Stewart and Colbert is
not evidence of a world gone mad so much as an audience gone to lard morally, ignorant of the comic impulse’s more radical virtues. Over the past decade, political humor has proliferated not as a daring form of social commentary, but a reliable profit source. Our high-tech jesters serve as smirking adjuncts to the dysfunctional institutions of modern media and politics, from which all their routines derive. Their net effect is almost entirely therapeutic: they congratulate viewers for their fine habits of thought and feeling while remaining careful never to question the corrupt precepts of the status quo too…
July 8, 2012, 12:33 pm
On July 4th Chris Rock tweeted
Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren’t free but I’m sure they enjoyed fireworks.
I realize that tweets in and of themselves are not that important, but the backlash against this particular one is overburdened with significance. Over at Huffington Post, they have a poll and you can vote whether you find the tweet “funny” or “unpatriotic.” About as many people found it unpatriotic as found it amusing (15.56% to 18.42%). Needless to say, if 15% of readers of the left-leaning Huff Post found Rock’s tweet unpatriotic, the red, white and blue vitriol was ramped up in the right-wing blogosphere. At briebart.com, John Solte wrote about Rock:
Still carrying a grudge against a country that has made Chris Rock wealthy and famous way beyond where his waning talents should’ve taken him… To divisive racialists like Rock, nothing will ever be…
July 5, 2012, 10:56 am
1. “I have never allowed my schooling to interfere with my education.” Mark Twain
2. “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Mark Twain
3. “I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.” Gilda Radner
4. . “Why are they called illegal immigrants? They’re undocumented workers. If someone broke into my house and vacuumed my rug, I might be puzzled. But mad?” Wanda Sykes
5. “Laughter rises out of tragedy, when you need it the most, and rewards you for your courage.” Erma Bombeck
6. “’Deep’ is a word like ‘theory’ or ‘semantic’ — it implies all sorts of marvelous things. It’s one thing to be able to say ‘I’ve got theory’ quite another to say ‘I’ve got a semantic theory,’ but, ah, those who can claim ‘I’ve got a deep semantic theory,’ they are truly blessed.” Randy Davis
7. “The nice thing about being a celebrity…
July 3, 2012, 10:02 am
For years, those of us who worry about the way pharmaceutical industry money perverts medical practice have been told there is a simple solution to our concerns: disclosure. “Sunshine is the best disinfectant,” the advocates say in unison, like elementary school students reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The Physician Payment Sunshine Act, the Pro Publica “Dollars for Docs” database, stricter disclosure rules for medical journals and continuing medical education events: Everyone believes the solution to conflicts of interest is transparency, and the more of it, the better. Even the pharmaceutical industry has jumped on board, posting their payments to physicians and medical groups on publicly accessible Web sites.
Wait. The pharmaceutical industry supports disclosure? If anything should have tipped us off that sunshine is not quite the disinfectant it is advertised to…
June 28, 2012, 12:53 pm
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the individual mandate, the anchor of the law, which drew the most scrutiny. Writing for the majority, in NATIONAL FEDERATION OF INDEPENDENT BUSINESS v. SEBELIUS, Justice Roberts opined that the law is constitutional under Congress’ taxing authority. In a 5-4 decision, Roberts upheld Barack Obama’s signature achievement. The full text of the decision is here.
The decision is a victory for Barack Obama and members of Congress who enacted the law. However, this decision is also a victory for Roberts, who vindicates the court as a place where deeply partisan issues can be carefully evaluated and decided on legal principles. Commentators who were convinced that Justice Kennedy would be the swing vote miscalculated Roberts–at least on this issue.
This decision comes two years after…
June 28, 2012, 10:38 am
Recently, I posted a column about the decidedly pernicious vitriol against the Obama family, targeting not only the President, but even his children with racialized death threats (to kill his “monkey” children). Some responses to the column offered provocative, insightful comments. Yet, others succumbed to the reductive, which underscored the message behind the post. As one law professor told me, “It becomes clear from reading the comments that some Americans become very defensive about the frequency and entrenchment of racial biases without understanding what racism means.”
Beyond the racial polemic, we should all be concerned about becoming a nation that is so adrift from bipartisanship that recently even Jeb Bush came under attack for pointing it out.
Jeb’s advise on immigration: “Don’t just talk about Hispanics and say immediately we must have controlled…
June 25, 2012, 6:39 pm
I shouted out “Who killed the Kennedys?”
When after all it was you and me.
UVa’s board of trustees (“Visitors”) are widely rumored to be considering reinstalling not-quite-ousted President Teresa A. Sullivan after a three-week public-relations debacle that has Sullivan staggering under all the white hats and halos, and the Visitors themselves painted in shades of black (their chair, Helen Dragas, playing Mistress of the Dark Arts). As soon as the Visitors announced the vote of reconsideration, the normally critical Siva Vaidhyanathan cheered “We Won!” to his Facebook friends.
But if Sullivan remains, what has been won, by whom? Sure, defeating a fast-restructuring board is unquestionably a win. Getting press coverage of the laughable charade that is “shared governance” is a win. But if UVa’s faculty, alumni, students and staff end with reinstalling Sullivan, they’ve chalked up a…
June 25, 2012, 6:20 pm
By now everyone and their mother is discussing Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article for the Atlantic claiming that women can’t really have it all: a high-powered career and a happy home life. Slaughter would know. A law professor and then dean at Princeton who got a great gig being the director of policy planning at the State Department, she also had a husband willing to keep the home fires burning. In other words, by Slaughter’s own admission, she had all the privileges in the world and still couldn’t find a way to balance career with being what she assumed would be “good parenting.” Slaughter admits that
such a statement, coming from a high-profile career woman—a role model—would be a terrible signal to younger generations of women. By the end of the evening, she had talked me out of it, but for the remainder of my stint in Washington, I was increasingly aware that the feminist…
June 20, 2012, 10:14 am
Gans (photo at talkinnewyork.com--click on image to get to hosting page)
My dear former professor, Herb Gans, has written a piece in Identities that is causing quite a stir among sociologists, especially cultural sociologists such as myself. The piece, which Gans himself admits is a “polemic” and therefore often unfair, is a rant against cultural sociology for separating itself from what he calls structural sociology. Although this might seem like a purely academic argument, I think it has much broader implications as we look around at the mess this country is in and ask “what is to be done?”
The problem with dividing culture from structure stems from Karl Marx’s base and superstructure. Because not just academics, but many activists, accept this distinction, it continues to haunt how we respond to…
June 11, 2012, 1:49 pm
A tantalizing article in The Guardian by Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia, offers us a theory about why the Dems are losing. It’s not the economy, but moral vision that is bringing them down.
According to Haidt,
politics at the national level is more like religion than it is like shopping. It’s more about a moral vision that unifies a nation and calls it to greatness than it is about self-interest or specific policies. In most countries, the right tends to see that more clearly than the left. In America the Republicans did the hard work of drafting their moral vision in the 1970s, and Ronald Reagan was their eloquent spokesman. Patriotism, social order, strong families, personal responsibility (not government safety nets) and free enterprise. Those are values, not government programs.
This “morality” of the GOP contrasts with Democrats/liberals in …
June 6, 2012, 11:07 am
(JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images via Flickr/CC/ProgressOhio)
In each administration, there emerges something to mock, caricaturize, and stereotype. With Bill Clinton, it was his sex addiction and bulbous nose—both issues he has written about or commented on in the press. With Jimmy Carter, it was peanut farming, and with George W. Bush the list is long: reading children’s books turned upside down, political stunts on aircraft carriers, and the misguided invasion of Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction. So, caricaturizing Obama’s wide-extending ears or even how his administration rolled out health care reform fits with prior discourse. These are the shots politicians take as presidents.
Yet, noticeably, this administration has been the subject of more pronounced and pernicious…
June 5, 2012, 4:37 pm
(Flickr/CC photo by Ricardo Liberato)
Today I am angry about everything. I started off the day by getting mad at myself. I forgot to put gas in the car yesterday, which meant that I need to go to the service station, which meant I’d be late for my first meeting.
I’m mad at the foolish woman I was yesterday who didn’t plan for the efficient and considerate woman that I woke up as today. I’d like to go back and yell at me. (When this wish to tell myself off in different voices becomes too frequent, I’m going to book into the Sybil School of Behavioral and Chemical Therapy).
I’m mad at my husband. I come home after getting a $50 haircut that, I was assured, makes me look glamorous, thin, sophisticated and adorable. My husband greets me not with adoration, but with the less than glamorous and…