Phonies and frauds

What kinds of people want impose their will on academia? Mainly it seems to be bozos who know nothing at all about it. Take a look at the guy who wants to impose political quotas on faculty hires.

An Iowa lawmaker who is pushing a controversial bill that caps the number of Democrats that state universities can hire as professors claimed on a government web site that he got a “business degree” from the “Forbco Management school.”

But State Sen. Mark Chelgren’s alleged alma mater is actually a company that operated a Sizzler steak house franchise in southern California and he doesn’t have a “degree,” Ed Failor, a spokesman for the Iowa State Republicans, told NBC News.

“This was a management course he took when he worked for Sizzler, kind of like Hamburger University at McDonald’s,” Failor said. “He got a certificate.”


Clearly, this genius is outraged at the injustice of not being able to get a faculty appointment at the Harvard neurology department because he’s Republican, and was forced to take his second choice position, learning how to flip steaks for Sizzler.

I’m going to suggest that instead of wrecking Iowa state colleges, he instead use his prestigious qualifications to work for one of Donald Trump’s restaurants.

We had a nice century

That run is over, though. Read this article in the Atlantic about the wreckage of the State Department. It’s rather depressing.

“They really want to blow this place up,” said the mid-level State Department officer. “I don’t think this administration thinks the State Department needs to exist. They think Jared [Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law] can do everything. It’s reminiscent of the developing countries where I’ve served. The family rules everything, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs knows nothing.”

Kleptocracy and nepotism. It is very banana republic.

Goodbye, United States of America.

“This is probably what it felt like to be a British foreign service officer after World War II, when you realize, no, the sun actually does set on your empire,” said the mid-level officer. “America is over. And being part of that, when it’s happening for no reason, is traumatic.”

And to think, all this is at the hands of the uber-patriotic Republicans and their flag-waving electorate.

Minnesota has neo-Nazis!

I’ve known that for a long time — the first year I moved here, I had to deal with a chicken farmer (my source for fertilized eggs) who was proudly Nazi, served in WWII on the American side but was impressed with how clean and orderly Germany was, named his German Shepherd “Eva” after you-know-who, and presented me with a copy of Henry Ford’s The International Jew. Sweet guy.

Now, emboldened by the election of a fascist, other neo-Nazis are stepping up their game. Some of them marched into the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to guard the artworks from the socialist IWW members who were counterprotesting outside.

The Star Tribune reports a “trio” of guys “said to look like neo-Nazis” entered the museum on Saturday afternoon and headed for the third floor. According to a witness, they were there to “guard” classical European (read: white) art that happened to be placed near a protest-themed exhibit with photos of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. (The horror.)

Turns out the alleged neo-Nazis were the ones who could’ve used guards: Quoting the same witness, the Star Tribune says some protesters had followed the three fellows in and confronted them. Words were exchanged, and a “shoving match” ensued, with at least a few “punches thrown.” A museum spokeswoman says one among the right-wingers was “attacked,” but declined to press charges.

There was also some bozo outside throwing Nazi salutes and shouting “Heil Trump”.

Some advice: the art in the museum doesn’t need protection from socialists. Socialists tend not to be on the side of anti-cultural thuggery. That would be the Nazis. Nazis only defend art when they see an opportunity to appropriate it.

That said, however, the IWW committed a grievous faux pas. We do not punch Nazis in places where it endangers valuable works of art. Punch nazis outside. Remember that.

Obviously, Republicans have no understanding of academia at all

You’ve probably heard already that several Republican legislatures want to dictate the ideology of their universities. The American Association of University Professors has sent out this email:

Shortly after the 2016 election, the AAUP warned that we could be facing the greatest threat to academic freedom since the McCarthy period. It now appears that such a warning was not misplaced. Extremists in the administration, Congress, and several state houses have created an atmosphere in which “alternative facts” reign supreme, and which encourages the introduction of legislation that threatens the core principles of our democracy.

The latest examples of extreme legislation come from Iowa and North Carolina. In Iowa, a bill has been introduced that would prohibit the hiring of a professor or instructor at a public university or college if his or her most recent party affiliation would “cause the percentage of the faculty belonging to one political party to exceed by 10 percent” the percentage of the faculty belonging to the other dominant party.

In North Carolina, legislation (since tabled) was introduced that would require tenure-track and tenured faculty members to “reflect the ideological balance of the citizens of the state,” so that no campus “shall have a faculty ideological balance of greater or less than 2 percent of the ideological balance” of North Carolinians.

Many may rightly believe that initiatives like these cannot pass and that if passed they would be overturned immediately by the courts. However, the introduction of such legislation has a chilling effect. Moreover, implicit in these proposals is the demand that prospective and current faculty members disclose their political affiliations and personal political views as a condition of employment, which is precisely what happened during the McCarthy period.

The AAUP opposes in the strongest terms any legislation that would create an ideological or political litmus test as a qualification for employment as a faculty member at a university or college. Our commitment to academic freedom is rooted in a vision of democracy that thrives on dissent, critical inquiry, free speech, and free research. We will continue to join with other organizations to resist threats to academic freedom, legislative intrusions into higher education, and harassment of faculty.

These are stupid initiatives, and normally I’d laugh them off and suggest that no way could they actually come to pass, but then I thought there was no way our stupid candidate could come to the highest office in the country.

I agree with Mano and Nina

I have not been happy with the DNC, and haven’t been for years. It’s been a captive of the neo-liberal wing of the party, and is too corporatist and too conservative to win elections any more. And now there’s argument over who should run the show, either Tom Perez, the choice of the Obama/Clinton faction, or Keith Ellison, favored by the more progressive Sanders wing. They had a debate this week, but I did not pay attention — I know who I’d like to see in charge.

Ellison is black and Muslim, and as Mano points out, he’s been getting some rather bigoted push-back. Personally, I don’t care that he’s Muslim — if he weren’t, they’d be promoting a Christian, and I really don’t see a difference between the two. What matters to me is who is backing the candidates, and I’m a bit tired of billionaires dictating policy. So I’m with Mano, I’d rather see that connection broken with Ellison.

So when we say, correctly, that the Republican party is beholden to the wealthy, we should remember that the current ruling segment of the Democratic party is equally beholden. They just have different billionaires to please.

This is why the control of the Democratic party has to be wrested away from the Obama-Clinton neoliberal faction that has run the party into the ground by making it Republican-lite, and put in the hands of the Sanders faction.

I also like what Nina Turner has to say.

I am supporting Congressman Ellison. If the DNC doesn’t elect him, I’m not so sure the party is serious about changing. Because the party structure itself has to regain its integrity. That is what’s so biting about what happened in 2016. Not just that Senator Sanders was not treated fairly, but that the structure that is the Democratic Party lost integrity.

We have to acknowledge that. Berniecrats deserve an apology. The sins must be confessed and whoever is the next leader must say very clearly that what happened to Senator Sanders in the primary will never happen to anybody again, whether they’re running for Dog Catcher or President of the United States. That the DNC, by its own bylaws, will be neutral in a primary. That no bodies, no fingers, no thumbs will be placed on the scale. There needs to be a healing within the Democratic Party.

We have to go and get the people who were not necessarily diehard Democrats but who started to believe because of the candidacy of Senator Sanders. But in order to get them, the Party must show it learned its lesson. And that the leadership will change and that every person who works for the DNC understands very clearly what their role is. The D should matter. It shouldn’t just be some letter or symbol that automatically gets you elected.

We lost our way in 2016 and we lost the election because of it. Let’s face it: we’ve been losing statewide and legislative elections since 2009. It’s not just about the President but the State Senators and State Reps and Governors and Secretaries of State and auditors and Attorneys General. And we have to stop talking about off-year elections. There’s no such thing. Every single year there is an important election and we need people to come out and vote, and to run and to care. And we need elected officials to do what is necessary to change the lives of the people who elected them. They need to stop whispering sweet nothings into voters’ ears every time it’s time to run, but then are nowhere to be found when it’s time to put up.

The pattern established with Bill Clinton has to be broken. It’s not working, especially not when people are finding little to distinguish between generic Democrats and generic Republicans (the current crop of R’s are anything but generic, though — they are exceptionally Republican).

And of course, Tom Perez is now chair of the DNC.

Where did these people go to college?

These remarks by Betsy DeVos at CPAC are revealing. It sounds like she, and the cheering crowds, have no idea what college is actually like.

The fight against the education establishment extends to you too. The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think. They say that if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a threat to the university community. But the real threat is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.

Those are lies. What we want, at real universities, is for our students to question everything intelligently. I just gave my class an assignment to critically analyze a paper — to read it specifically with a mind to finding flaws and developing arguments and tests to evaluate its validity. That’s standard practice.

DeVos attended Calvin College. I’d really like to know what classes she took that failed to give her an education.

Welcome to the American Police State

This is bad. This is really bad. American customs is now taking it upon themselves to make moral judgments on visitors to this country.

André says he was planning to visit his boyfriend, who was working in New Orleans. But when he was going through Customs preclearance at Vancouver airport last October, he was selected for secondary inspection, where an officer took his phone, computer and other possessions, and demanded the passwords for his devices.

“I didn’t know what to do. I was scared, so I gave them the password and then I sat there for at least an hour or two. I missed my flight,” André says. “He came back and just started grilling me. ‘Is this your email?’ and it was an email attached to a Craigslist account for sex ads. He asked me, ‘Is this your account on Scruff? Is this you on BBRT?’ I was like, ‘Yes, this is me.’”

Holy crap. They’re demanding passwords and browsing through the contents of your phone now? What ever happened to any right to privacy? I’m flying to DC in a few weeks. I think. I’m not giving them access to anything, so maybe I won’t be.

André made it through on that flight, after being humiliated and grilled and missing one connection, but on a second trip, he thought he’d be clever and delete those ‘incriminating’ apps from his phone. Two lessons here: they had recorded his passwords and had them ready to use next time he showed up, and nope, deleting stuff from your phone doesn’t work.

“They went through my computer. They were looking through Word documents,” André says. “I had nude photos of myself on my phone, and they were questioning who this person was. It was really humiliating and embarrassing.”

“They said, ‘Next time you come through, don’t have a cleared phone,’ and that was it. I wasn’t let through. He said I’m a suspected escort. You can’t really argue with them because you’re trapped,” he says.

“Don’t have a cleared phone.” Jesus fucking christ. I despised the TSA already, but this is criminal, fascist, and simply vile.