Can Television Personalities—Media Personas–Even Have Personal Histories?

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

When 24/7 cable news channels were introduced, it seemed as if the great promise of television as a tool to educate the citizenry was about to be realized. Some optimistic prognosticators envisioned day-long series of reports like those presented on Edward R. Murrow’s See It Now or CBS’s 60 Minutes. Perhaps those prognosticators should have looked more closely at what else was on television. Perhaps they should simply have known better.

Put aside that the news channels don’t provide news 24/7: that is, put aside the non-news programming that now appears on all of the cable news channels—from Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown that is broadcast on CNN during primetime to the endless prison documentaries that air after primetime on weekend nights on MSNBC. Still, the most astonishing and paradoxical thing about the cable news channels is how little of the air time is devoted to actually reporting news and…

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In Praise of Scott Walker—An Annotated Response to a Wall Street Journal News Story

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Colleges are usually at the forefront of radical politics [The word “radical” suggests extreme and abrupt change driven by ideological rather than practical concerns. These days there is much more political radicalism on the Far Right than anywhere on the Left], but when it comes to their own privileges they become feudal empires [Loaded language that is especially hypocritical coming from the Right, which has advanced policies based on the premise that income inequality is not a problem and wealth is a birthright for the select few.]. Behold the revolt in the Wisconsin state university system over Governor Scott Walker ’s appeal for modest accountability. [Mixed metaphors—How does a feudal empire revolt? It cannot both represent the entrenched status quo and be revolting against it? “Modest accountability” is a facile euphemism for “putting the screws to” higher education in the state.]

In Mr…

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Legislating History, Legislating Science, Legislating Reality

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Much of what is coming from the Far Right these days could come straight out of George Orwell or Jonathan Swift.

An Oklahoma legislative committee has just voted to forward to the legislature a bill eliminating the funding for Advanced Placement history courses. In fact, the overwhelming demonstration of support for that bill both within the committee and in the broader legislature has prodded legislators to introduce a bill eliminating funding for all Advanced Placement courses.


The following explanation is offered by Think Progress []:

“An Oklahoma legislative committee overwhelmingly voted to ban Advanced Placement U.S. History class, persuaded by the argument that it only teaches students ‘what is bad about America.’ Other lawmakers are seeking a court ruling that would effectively prohibit the teaching of all AP courses in public schools.

“Oklahoma Rep. Dan Fisher (R) has introduced ‘emergency’ legislation ‘prohibiting the expenditure…

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More Budgetary Hijinks from Bobby Jindal

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

I have been chronicling the ever-increasing state budget deficit in Louisiana, Bobby Jindal’s ideologically doctrinaire and ineffectual attempts to find a solution to that deficit that does not involve raising any taxes, and the catastrophic impact that this situation will almost certainly have on Lousiana’s public colleges and universities.

This past week Jindal floated another proposal that confirms that he is not only never going to be the GOP nominee for the presidency but also never ought to have been elected governor of a state.

On February 11, an article by Juan Sanchez was published on the website of WDSL in New Orleans []. The article contains the following capsule summary of the budget deficit’s potential impact on public higher education in Louisiana:

“Last week, the state announced that up to $400 million is being considered for higher education next year to help cope with a $1.6 billion budget shortfall.

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The Triple-Murders in Chapel Hill

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

The terrible murder of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, seemed, initially and superficially, an all-too mundanely tragic event: a long-festering dispute over parking spaces led a guy to kill his neighbors with a gun. On the surface, the only unusual detail seemed to be that the guy had killed three people. Usually these kinds of very personalized rage killings do not escalate into mass killings.

But as soon as it was widely known that all three victims were Muslims, there was rampant speculation that the murders may have been hate crimes motivated by Islamophobia. This speculation was reinforced when the father of two of the victims asserted that the murderer had repeatedly expressed a hatred of the victims’ religion and when it was reported that the victims were killed “execution style” with close-range gunshots to their heads.

All of this will, of course, be addressed in the…

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If They Keep Repeating It, Then It Must Be True

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Why are the Far Right criticisms of Progressives almost always retreads? (Much like their “new” proposals for promoting broadly shared prosperity and political inclusion, which have never seem to have been implemented quite purely or thoroughly enough to produce results even remotely close to those that have been promised—or so the repeated rationalization of their failure goes.)

For how long will those critical of Progressives continue to employ the very timeworn tactic of countering criticisms from Progressives by turning them into criticisms of Progressives?

If you assert that they are war-mongers or even that defense spending is consuming too much of the national treasure, they will charge you with being unpatriotic, with being feckless pacifists bent on destroying America—with being the unwitting accomplices of our enemies, real and imagined.

If you assert that they are economically exploiting or militarily wrecking another nation, they will charge you with being an internationalist…

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Congress Has Progressed from Bringing Nothing to a Vote to Taking Meaningless Votes

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

This item was distributed by The Hill several days ago, on January 21:


NOT A LOAD OF A BALONEY: Senators voted 98-1 that “climate change is real and not a hoax.”

I repeat “not a hoax!” The bipartisan vote caught Democrats off guard as many thought a majority of Republicans would vote against the amendment, which will now be attached to underlying legislation that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline. 

It was even more stunning when the Senate’s loudest skeptic of climate change, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said he wanted to co-sponsor the bill with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I) — the measure’s lead author.  

In response to the vote Whitehouse said in a statement: “This resolution marks a historic shift for many of my Republican colleagues. While a number of Republicans have long acknowledged that climatechange is real, including Senator Graham who spoke once again today, many others either denied the science or refused to discuss it. I was glad…

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On This Fifth Anniversary of the “Citizens United” SCOTUS Decision

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

What follows is the transcript of a speech given by Senator Bernie Sanders on the economic and political implications of widening wealth inequality and the “Citizens United” decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. The speech was given in late March 2014 on the floor of the U.S. Senate.


Thank you very much. As the longest serving independent in the history of the U.S. Congress, I want to address an issue that I think does not get the kind of discussion that it should from either political party but certainly not from our Republican colleagues, and that is the moral, economic, and political dimensions of the kind of income and wealth inequality which we have in our country today. In my view, this is the most important issue facing the United States because it impacts on virtually every aspect of our lives. It is an issue that we must be…

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Laying Claim to Dr. King’s Political Legacy

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

“Today we remember and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Even today, on movie screens, his message still resonates and on the streets of our communities his example still leads us. I am proud that the Democratic Party carries on Dr. King’s fights: to encourage equality of opportunity for all Americans, to guarantee that each voice is heard at the ballot box and to fight threats to the franchise, to combat poverty by supporting a living wage, and to ensure equal treatment under the law. This holiday is an opportunity to keep marching forward, committing ourselves to a Day of Service, and bringing us closer to realizing Dr. King’s dream.” Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC Chair, DNC website


“Today we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His vision, his leadership, and his determination helped America overcome the injustices of segregation, and because…

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When Legos Become Part of Our Public Discourse (Never Mind When They Become Art)

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Sometimes a small news item encapsulates the rhetorical excess in the reporting and commentary on more profound issues.

Over this past year, no topic has received more attention than the deaths of young men of color at the hands of the police and then the subsequent, retaliatory but random murders of policemen after one grand jury after another has failed to indict the police officers involved in the killings for use of excessive force, never mind for murder.

The rhetoric on both sides has become very politically and culturally charged—and sometimes astonishingly hyperbolic, even given that these are literally life-and-death issues.

Indeed, even the editorial cartoons on these issues have been somber—provoking not even the laughter of shock that, for instance, many of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons have provoked in many readers.

So it was almost inevitable that these issues would result in something that would serve as a pointed…

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