11/22/63, the Warren Commission, and the “torrid atmosphere of political rage in Dallas,” 1963

Via RealClearPolitics, Frank Rich has some interesting comparisons of the political climate of our time and the political climate of 1963 in his review of a recent spate of books on President John F. Kennedy and his assassination 48 years ago tomorrow:  “Caroline Kennedy’s belated release of her mother’s taped 1964 reminiscences with an obsequious Arthur Schlesinger Jr., of course, but also Chris Matthews’s man-crush of a biography, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, and Stephen King’s Moby-Dick-size novel 11/22/63,” and a preview of Alan Brinkley’s ” John F. Kennedy, his contribution to the American Presidents Series, due next spring.”

Rich appropriately spends most of his time on King’s novel, and specifically on the fact that King spends a great deal of time detailing the “torrid atmosphere of political rage in Dallas, where both Lady Bird Johnson and Adlai Stevenson had been spat upon by mobs of demonstrators in notorious incidents before Kennedy’s fateful 1963 trip.”  He continues:

As the time-traveling [protagonist of King’s novel Jake] Epping gets settled in that past, he describes an inferno of seething citizens, anti-Semitic graffiti on Jewish storefronts, and angry billboards demanding the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and equating racial integration with communism. That last one, King’s protagonist observes, “had been paid for by something called The Tea Party Society.”

That “Tea Party Society” is the novelist’s own mischievous invention, but the rest of his description is accurate. King’s touchstone is The Death of a President, by William Manchester, a meticulous biographer and historian who was chosen by Jacqueline Kennedy to write the authorized account of the assassination. Continue reading

The Ron Swanson Scholarship in Women’s Studies

The serious conversation about campus “police” brutality will continue below, but for those of you looking for a little Sunday morning light entertainment, see Amanda Krauss, the Worst Professor Ever, on the feminism of Parks and Recreation and the overall awesomeness of Ron Effing Swanson, man’s man and feminist icon.

I wish I could watch Parks and Recreation more often, but out here in the Mountain Time Zone it’s on at 7 p.m., and I’m ususally still feeding watering the horses.  Continue reading

Campus “police:” opportunistic thugs

Check it out:  UC Davis campus “police” pepper spray a cowering line of about a dozen students and drag them away.  Check out their SWAT-team gear.  I bet they’ve been waiting all year to play dressup and have some fun.

This video only confirms my already very low opinion of college and university campus “police.”  My personal experience on two different campuses is that they are thugs who hassle only people who are sure to pose no threat to them whatsoever, and that they leave the real miscreants alone.  I was working alone in my campus office one late Sunday afternoon at a former university when an amped up campus police officer with a billy club burst into my office without knocking and threatened me.  (He assumed that only a thief would have the light on on a Sunday night.  I assured him it was my own office and that I was working there legally, showing him my keys.)  At another former university, I was pulled over and ordered out of my car for mistakenly driving the wrong way an exit-only parking lot egress.  (There was no danger to anyone else–there were no other cars trolling around that parking lot anyway.)

But these are far from the worst stories I’ve heard.  Continue reading

Francis Fukyuama: learns nothing, forgets nothing

Hey, kids:  don’t be Whig historians!  And especially avoid being Francis “The End of History” Fukuyama. 

Via RealClearBooks, we learned recently that he’s got a new book called The Origins of Political Order, and unsurprisingly, he is completely wrong again.  But you have to admit that it’s pretty cute that he has more in common with Karl Marx and with the first generation of Soviet historians than his modern peers because of his unshaken, dumba$$ theory of history’s inevitable destination.  Reviewer John Gray asks,

[H]ow could laws of history underpin human progress when views about what constitutes progress are so ephemeral and so divergent? Some human values are universal and enduring, but ideas of progress come and go like fashions in hats. Theories of convergence reflect disparate and incompatible ideals of human betterment. What all such theories have in common is that they have come to nothing. None of the regimes that was believed to be the near-inevitable end point of modern development has emerged anywhere in the world. 

Fukuyama shows no sign of being discouraged by this record of failure. Continue reading

A few final thoughts on Penn State’s Empire of Rape

It’s gratifying to see so many sports writers and other male commentators decrying the culture of corruption that big-time men’s college sports breeds.  Really it is.  However, feminists have pointed out for decades that football teams are dangerous to women and that women get raped and their rapes covered up and denied by these same teams and their all-male, extraordinarily well-compensated leadership. 

But, I guess that’s what women are for:  rape.  Regardless, I’m truly grateful that so many people are eager to take a courageous stand against the rape of little boys.  I just wish they were equally vigilant about the rape of teenaged and adult women.

Once again, feminists will get zero credit for having raised these issues repeatedly about big-time college sports, but this is nothing new.  Continue reading

The “crisis” in higher ed? truffula sniffs out “administrative bloat.”

Associate Vice Provost of Incentivization

Of all of the contributions I’ve had to the “crisis” of higher education meme inspired by Tony Grafton’s recent review in the New York Review of Books, no one has yet called out administrators and/or administrative bloat.  Most of us humanist faculty types appear to see the liberal arts college administrators as tapdancing as fast as they can with the budgets handed down by the central administration.  (Or, perhaps the other problems just loom larger–who knows?) 

Well friends, that changes today with this guest post by commenter truffula, who is a department head in the natural sciences at an urban university.  She identifies the “growth toward a corporate organizational structure” as the burr under her saddle these days.  She asks, given the budgetary pressures in public higher ed, can we really afford all of those administrators, especially when the ones at her uni seem to be more dedicated to their own salaries and perks than to serving the students or the general public?  She portrays the administrative class at her uni as barbarian invaders of the groves of academe, “harvesting as much as they possibly can and . . . salting the fields.”

Take it away, truffula:

A colleague whom I love dearly has this crazy scheme to storm out of the castle, form guilds, and conduct our transactions directly with our customers. Unfortunately, his preferred alternative to the brick and mortal castle is the interwebs. I’ve argued with my colleague about the pedagogical problems and the risk of ghettoization associated with online classes but I can’t dismiss his idea entirely and here’s why: the maintenance costs associated with the modern university president, vice presidents, provost, vice provosts, and various assistant and associate deans are very high.

Here at Provincial State U, a large public university, our growth toward a corporate organizational structure has led to what some would call an administrative bloat problem. Some code of public relations suggests that it is bad to give one of the dozen or so vice presidents/provosts a raise in these times of furloughs and hiring freezes so instead the big bosses create new job titles and promote internally to fill those jobs–at higher pay, natch. The administrative class didn’t get where it is today by being stupid. But the costs of professional administrators are more than just their salaries. They’re harvesting as much as they possibly can and they are  salting the fields. Continue reading

Separated at Birth!

I’m old enough to remember the often juvenille but extremely entertaining Spy magazine from the 1980s, and its popular feature, “Separated at Birth.”  So here’s my revelation:  something about Jon Huntsman has been bugging me all along.  He’s a perfectly conventional-looking politician and he seems like a completely decent person.  So why do I keep thinking that he reminds me of someone I used to know, someone who gives me an uneasy feeling?

Continue reading