Benson voted next Prez of CU

Well, it looks like oilman and Republican Party hack Bruce Benson will be the next President of the University of Colorado.  All six Republican members of the Board of Regents voted in support of Benson.  Congratulations!  What a distinguished choice.

Good thing too–all those crazy liberals up in Boulder need to be shown who’s in charge.  (Confidential to the Board of Regents:  haven’t you noticed that you’re the only deliberative body left in the state that’s not run by Democrats?  Confidential to the Democratic majority Colorado General Assembly:  you can just send all of that money you won’t be sending to Boulder up to Fort Collins instead.)

UPDATE Feb. 25:  See Stanley Fish’s strange analysis in the New York Times today.  He writes, “While it would be wrong to take into account the political affiliations or business connections or wealth of a candidate for a faculty position, it would be wrong not to take these things into account when choosing a president,” implying that Benson would therefore be a reasonable candidate.  This would only make sense if Benson were a Democratic hack instead of a Republican hack.  (Why is it only Historiann who seems to know that THE ENTIRE STATE IS RUN BY DEMOCRATS NOW, so therefore appointing a prominent Republican would seem NOT to be in CU’s interest?  Duh!)  This article also points to the parallel situation in West Virginia that RadReadr suggested in the comments below a few days ago.  Maybe appointing people with business or political values instead of academic values isn’t such a smart plan after all?  Gee whiz!  (H/t to ej who e-mailed me the link to the Fish article.)

Patty Limerick's Valentine to Bruce Benson

cowboy-heart.jpgWhat is up with Patricia Limerick these days?  Aside from being the Director of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado (CU), she writes occasional op-ed pieces as an advocate for Western issues like water and dirt.  This morning, I cracked open my hard copy of the Denver Post to find her endorsement for right-wing hack Bruce Benson to become the next president of her university.  With apologies to my out-of-state and international readership, I’ve already addressed this foolishness, if only for the realpolitik concept that the ENTIRE STATE IS NOW RUN BY DEMOCRATS.  But, Historiann just can’t let this one go.

So, back to Limerick:  she starts her op-ed with an unconvincing apologia for the fact that Benson is one of one finalists for the job.  She explains, “when news gets out that a top university administrator is a finalist for a job at another institution, that person is in jeopardy. At the very least, the people she works with will look at her with distrust. At the worst, she may end up, in short order, no longer holding that job.  Hence, the idea of announcing a list of several finalists is a dream that cannot find a home in the cutthroat world of our times.”  Really?  Let’s look at comparable searches elsewhere.  I wonder how Colorado State University ever got 2 people with distinguished academic careers to interview publicly just five years ago?  Who knew that the delicate flowers who compete for these jobs were taking such incredible risks?  Back in the reality-based community, they’re not:  it seems more typical than unusual that two to four finalists are named.

Next, she addresses his lack of academic qualifications:  “Others believe that Benson’s lack of a Ph.D. disqualifies him for the presidency.”  Call me an old stick-in-the-mud, but I think it’s only fair that people in the top jobs at universities have to match at least the minimum requirements that our beginning assistant professors must meet.  You know, the people that he’ll be asked either to tenure or fire in 6 years?  Finally, she suggests that his history of partisan hackery and lack of academic qualifications is a net bonus for CU:  “In fact, the very habits of expression that make some faculty and students wince when they listen to Benson are exactly the habits that could persuade a majority of Coloradans to appreciate CU and recognize its need for greater financial support.”  Whaaaaa?  I guess the literal translation of that is, “The majority of Coloradoans are dumb hicks like Benson, and he’ll be better able to pick their pockets on behalf of CU.”  Limerick evidently holds both her fellow Coloradoans and her academic colleagues in such low esteem that she thinks the latter can’t really talk to the former effectively about their pointy-headed schemes, let alone convince anyone that they’re worth supporting.  Pretty patronizing, Professor.

I can’t put it any better than a long-time worker in higher education I know, who says “the fact is that for the past 14 years, at least, Republicans have engaged in a slash-and-burn attack on public institutions of all kinds, including–and perhaps especially–higher education, and in particular colleges of liberal arts.  Now, suddenly, students, professors, staff, and other citizens are to believe that all is forgiven, forgotten, and recanted. . . . .Any clear-headed, clear-eyed historical analysis would suggest that right now, Benson and his ilk are as much captives of a hostile political environment that they created as much as they are victims of mindless, knee-jerk liberal reaction.”  [Historiann would argue moreso.]  “Conservatives–former conservatives?–are running for cover right now, and it appears that Benson has found a pretty good refuge in which to make himself over as a broad-minded, public-spirited citizen.”  What a scam!  You know what they say, though:  IOKIYAR (It’s O.K. if you’re a Republican)!

UPDATE:  Hot off the presses–the CU Boulder Faculty Assembly voted 40-4 tonight against a resolution in support of Benson’s candidacy.  (Warning:  the link is to a Rocky Mountain News story, so skip the comments unless you’ve got a strong stomach.  Those commenters seem to ratify Limerick’s dim view of Coloradoans, sad to say. . . but take a look:  do you think those people are going to open up their checkbooks and vote for tax increases to support CU?  I mean, once they wipe the Chee-to crumbs off of their sweatshirts?)  The vote tonight is only advisory, as the CU Board of Regents has the final say next Wednesday.  The faculty also passed a resolution to ask the Regents to re-open the search for a new president.

Do they kiss their daughters with those mouths?

I read this morning in the Denver Post that a State Representative here in Colorado, Larry Liston (R-Colorado Springs, natch!called unwed teenage mothers “sluts” in a Republican caucus meeting Wednesday morning.  The Colorado Springs Gazette reported his comments, and to his credit, he apologized for his remarks on the floor of the House today.

Then, I click on over to Talking Points Memo for a little news fix, and I see that MSNBC’s David Shuster is taking heat for asking Bill Press last night, “doesn’t it seem like Chelsea [Clinton is] sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?” in the service of her mother’s campaign for the presidency.  (Would he have made the same observation about the Romney campaign’s “Five Brothers,” who have each spent most of the entire last year on the campaign trail for their Dad?  Should I stop asking questions to which I already know the answer?)  Shuster is supposedly going to offer an on-air apology today, too.

Grow up, boys.  I know teh Lady Parts make you really nervous and giggly sometimes, but get a grip.  Do you want your daughter talked about like that? 

UPDATE:  Shuster is temporarily suspended from all NBC broadcasts.  Wow–that was fast.  I guess that’s the difference between talking about “pimping” the daughter of a President, and say, calling the Rutgers University women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos.”  It took CBS nearly a week to fire Don Imus, but don’t worry folks:  he’s back on the air

Senatorella for President

New campaign slogan:  She’s got the smarts and the lady parts!

heathers.jpgIt’s caucus day here in my square state.  While I’m out doing my civic duty, here’s an interesting review by Susan Faludi of a new book called Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary:  Reflections by Women Writers, edited by Susan Morrison.  (H/t to the lovely and talented Amanda Marcotte.)  It sounds like the book should be called Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary by a Bunch of Jealous Heathers, plus a sensible essay by Katha Pollitt, although she’s voting for Barack Obama today.  What is it with Baby Boomers and their pathological envy of the Clintons?  I’ve always assumed that there was no small amount of class bias in the embarassingly obvious ressentiment of Maureen Dowd and the Washington establishment crowd.  Who did those hicks from Arkansas think they were, anyway?  (Well, Little Rock via those hick schools Wellesley, Georgetown, and Yale.)  Faludi’s review is a brief but brilliant foray into the gendered nature of Clinton-obsession, the Hillary version.  (Not that my generation should be let off the hook–although it would be nice if someone other than the obtuse Katie Roiphe were invited to comment, she who dismisses rape and Hillary Clinton because no one she knows has been raped or likes Hillary Clinton.  Well, no one I know likes Katie Roiphe, so there.)

The best part of the review is the introduction, where Faludi makes a counterfactual proposition that highlights the trivial issues the writers in this volume use to judge Hillary Clinton.  Faludi writes, “let’s imagine this book’s concept-30 well-known women writers talk about how they ‘feel’ about Hillary Clinton-applied to 30 male writers and a male presidential candidate. Adjusting for gender, the essay titles would now read: ‘Barack’s Underpants,’ ‘Elect Brother Frigidaire,’ ‘Mephistopheles for President,’ ‘The Road to Codpiece-Gate,’ and so on. Inside, we would find ruminations on the male candidate’s doggy looks and flabby pectorals; musings on such ‘revealing’ traits as the candidate’s lack of interest in backyard grilling, industrial arts and pets; and mocking remarks about his lack of popularity with the cool boys on the playground (i.e., the writers and their ‘friends’). We would hear a great deal of speculation about whether the candidate was really manly or just ‘faking it.’ We would hear a great deal about how the candidate made them feel about themselves as men and whether they could see their manhood reflected in the politician’s testosterone displays.” 

Seriously people, get over it:  it’s not about you–not about your unresolved conflict with your mother, not about your discomfort with ambitious middle-aged women (even if you are one too), and not about your need to pretend you know which superior choices the Senator supposedly should have made instead at any point in her well-documented life.  Cowboy up.  Git ‘er done. 

UPDATE:  Ruth Rosen, who will be appearing at the Berkshire Conference in June to speak on the topic of “Changes and Continuities in U.S. American Feminism, 1890-1990,” offers a different opinion in “Why Would a Feminist Vote for Obama?”

UPDATE II:  Perez Hilton endorses HRC!  (Hillary Rodham Clinton, not the Human Rights Campaign, although I assume he’s probably cool with both HRCs.)

UPDATE III:  Via Feminist Law Professors, here’s a great commentary on the mysterious, inscrutable origins of Hillary hating at Feminist Philosophers.  I think they’ve gotten to the bottom of it!

Resigning Women, or, should you tell them what you really think?

burning-bridge.jpgA great friend of Historiann’s in feminist studies has left academia for good.  While this was a huge loss to her students and her discipline, she was treated so poorly by her department and the institution she worked for that it’s been nothing but a tremendous relief to her.  In addition to resigning her academic position, she left the city that she has lived in for the past decade, moved 2,000 miles away, and has gone into a new line of work where she is succeeding admirably.  For the first time in nine years, she is respected, valued, and is getting positive feedback on her work.  She’s elated by the fact that her new colleagues are no longer abusing her, and she feels almost bewildered by the praise and generous reception she has received in her new position. 

Although (as Historiann says) living well is the best revenge, sometimes (in my friend’s words) “revenge is the best revenge.”  I resent the fact that when a department or institution succeeds in driving someone out, the institution then gets to tell the story about how the outcast really wasn’t fitting in, or wasn’t all that successful, or was really a very difficult person to work with, or was too big for her britches and who the hell did she think she was, or all of the above, and then some.  So, in the name of speaking truth to power, I’m supportive of my friend sending a letter to all of the people she worked with spelling out very clearly the circumstances she worked in for more than a year, and which ultimately forced her to resign.  It’s heavy on the facts, and rather light on the invective, all things considered.  Because she has left the profession and doesn’t need letters of recommendation from them, she is beyond their reach entirely (although because her major adversaries are not high-status people in academia, its unlikely that their opinion would be terribly meaningful anyway.)  This will embarass her former colleagues, although I’m sure they’ll just tout the letter as proof that she was just a crazy bee-yatch all along.  But, I also think that her story will ring true to many of its recipients.  And although I don’t think her former institution is going to snap-to and reform itself and its practices once it sees her letter, it’s the institution that wins if she doesn’t speak out.  Institutions count on untenured people to be poor, weak, driven by fear, and to remain silent when attacked.  (An observational aside:  why is it that most of the faculty I’ve known who were treated this way were single women, and therefore more economically vulnerable?  Is it just a coincidence?)

I want to hear what you think.  What advice would you give my friend?  Should she send the letter? 


cu-527.JPGI didn’t start this blog to write about Hillary Clinton every day.  But this is really, really sad, people.  At the right is a logo for a group with a really clever acronym (thanks to the TPM Media Borg for the reportage.)  T-shirts with this logo are for sale at $25 each.   Something tells me that this tactic might not be so smart.  Is the “moustache rides 25 cents” t-shirt crowd even old enough to vote, let alone together enough to get registered and get out of the house on election day?

Keep it up, boys.  Your mom is on her way home, and man, is she pissed.

The He-Man Woman-Haters Club


Photo:  Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito issue a joint opinion. 

(This will also be cross-posted over at The Edge of the American West.  Many thanks to Ari and Eric for inviting me to post over there from the other edge of the American west!)

Legions of the holy will be marching today in Washington, D. C. to mourn the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy, and restricted the rights of states to regulate later-term abortions.  One of the claims of the forced pregnancy gang that Historiann has never understood is the claim that “there’s no such thing as a right to privacy in the Constitution.”  This dubious suggestion always seems to rest on an overly literal reading of “Constitution” (curiously, some people don’t include amendments and case law, but of course the Constitution is the sum total of the Constitution of 1789, its 27 amendments, and Supreme Court case law over the past 228 years), and on an overly literal reading of “privacy,” which (like “God” and “unitary executive”) is a word not found in the text of the Constitution or its amendments.

You don’t have to take my word for it.  From the 1965 ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut until last April in Gonzales v. Carhart, the Supreme Court affirmed and elaborated on its theory of the right to privacy in the Fourteenth, Fourth, and Ninth Amendments in signal cases like Roe, and again in Casey v. Planned Parenthood (1992), and again in Stenberg v. Carhart (2000).  Tips for toads:  the Fourth Amendment guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,” without probable cause and a warrant.  (Even a lay reader could infer that a uterus might be included in “persons” whose bodies are protected by said amendment.)  And let’s not forget the Ninth–which specifically states “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”  The Fourteenth Amendment, of course, has that little “equal protection of the laws” thingy. 

justice-kennedy.jpgBut in Gonzales in 2007, “Our Gang” on the Roberts court summarily overturned forty-two years of consensus on privacy and sexuality.  Justice Anthony Kennedy writing for the court majority decided that the certainty of women’s personhood and constitutional rights were nothing compared to the possibility that a woman who had a late-term abortion might regret it in the future.  Because apparently, late-term abortions are recreational fun for the ladies until Sex and the City:  The Movie comes out.  Does it sound to you like Kennedy doesn’t have any familiarity with women outside of bad nineteenth-century novels?  His ruling reads like the scene in The Forty Year Old Virgin when Steve Carell’s character says a women’s breast feels like a bag of sand.  At least the other men in the movie recognized that Steve Carell’s character had said something very weird.  In Kennedy’s opinion, four other male justices just nodded and “Our Gang” signed right on to an opinion as full of prejudice, bad history, and wishful thinking as Dred Scott v. Sandford.

I have every confidence that Kennedy’s Gonzales opinion will, within a generation, be a laughingstock.  But that won’t help the many girls and women whose health and lives will be threatened in the next several years by his capricious folly.  As Darla Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissenting opinion, “this way of thinking reflects ancient notions of women’s place in the family and under the Constitution – ideas that have long since been discredited.”  Ahh, Darla–you just might have to start your own club.

UPDATE:  Ann Bartow and the other hardworking contributors over at Feminist Law Professors remind us that it’s Blog for Choice Day–there are still a few hours left, so blog while you still can!  And Johnny Law can’t do nothing about it.

The Huckabeast with Two (or more) Backs

Over at Washington Monthly, and with the assistance of the L.A. Times, Kevin Drum looks behind the aggregate numbers of the drop in abortion rates reported recently by the Guttmacher institute.  He writes, “here are the basic numbers: excluding miscarriages, the pregnancy rate among women aged 15-44 has dropped by 13 per thousand since 1990. At the same time, the abortion rate has dropped by 8 per thousand. By itself this isn’t conclusive, but it strongly suggests that the reduced abortion rate is mostly due to fewer unwanted pregnancies in the first place. If increased regulation were the prime driver, you’d be more likely to see the pregancy rate staying about the same while abortions drop, and you’d be more likely to see bigger drops in states with more regulation. But that hasn’t been the case. So yes: better access to contraception, better education, and better access to the morning after pill seem to have made a difference over time. For anyone who’s pro-life but not anti-sex, that ought to be good news.” 

Well, good news for all of those pro-life, pro-sex, non-misogynists out there.  Yeah, that’s a big constituency.  (Wait–I think I know that guy.  Hello, Bill!)  And, like, duh, the feminist answer to unwanted pregnancies turns out to be the correct one.

Meanwhile, in pro-life, anti-sex news, Mike Huckabee says that homosexuality is the same as polygamy, child molestation, and bestiality (hat tip to Greg Sargent at the the Talking Points Memo Media Borg for that pickup.)  But he’s not judging–God is.   (Why does God have such a dirty mind?)

Nice Work if You Can Get It

wonka_gold_ticket1.jpg Despite about fifteen minutes of anti-aristocratic rhetoric in the 1770s and 1780s, American politics, letters, and the arts have always been characterized by nepotism. This of course has almost always meant fathers and sons, rather than mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, or fathers and daughters, and thus has served not just to perpetuate class privilege but also masculine hegemony as well. And predictably, American families that have dominated politics, letters, and the arts usually don’t get better across the generations moving forward-sometimes the second generation sees an improvement (as in the case of the Winthrops), but by the third generation, the grandsons are for the most part living off of their grandfathers’ and fathers’ names. (Think of the Mathers, or the Adamses, or the Kennedys. Or the Bushes-and consider that Senator Prescott Bush was no John Adams.)

While in the twentieth-century nepotism fell out of fashion for a while, and mechanisms like the S.A.T. and the G.I. Bill served to open up even elite colleges to the masses, it appears that the twenty-first century in America is awash in primitive blood-tie fetishism. The children of famous mid-twentieth century writers were first on the bandwagon of necrotic memoir typing (yes, I’m talking to you Christopher Dickey and Susan Cheever. Martin Amis gets a pass, not because he’s English but because he’s an even better novelist than his father was, and arguably the best novelist of the late twentieth century in the English language.) Sofia Coppola is a good director, but is she really that much better than film school grads whose last name isn’t Coppola? And what else can explain Rufus Wainwright? Don’t look now, but there are new and almost certainly unimproved Bushes, Gores, Kennedys, and Romneys sure to run for national office in the next couple decades, and what an edge on fundraising and media attention that will be over their plain Jane and common Jonathan opponents.

Historiann thinks Perry Miller got it mostly right back in 1939 and 1953 with his discussion of declension-the founding generation has the zeal (or in the cases I’m talking about, the talent, such as it is) and succeeding generations try to replicate their successes but only engage in ancestor worship. These pampered sons are not living a man’s life, but that of a boy playing dress up. The perversity of rewarding this kind of behavior can only be explained by primitive blood-worship.

Of Patriots and Pantloads

This week in ad hominem attacks on American university faculty and students:

Former Republican administration Press Secretary Tony Snow boldly declares that “the average Iranian is more pro-American than virtually any college faculty in this country.”

A Princeton University junior and conservative activist sends himself fake hate-mail and then beats himself up to claim (falsely) that he was beaten up because of his conservative views.  The usual suspects leap to his defense before his fakery is quickly unmasked.

A book jacket by a Republican Goucher College graduate claims that women elementary school teachers with degrees from Brown and Swarthmore are the face of modern American fascism.

And some people wonder why it’s sometimes difficult to find registered Republicans on some humanities faculties.  (Via Tenured Radical.)