Archive | January 2015

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

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

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.

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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

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

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“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)

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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In Praise of “Mixed Feelings”

ACADEME BLOG

Daily Kos has run a post that includes samples of the work of Cabu, a long-time cartoonist with Charlie Hebdo who was gunned down at age 75.

The title of the post is “The Charlie Hebdo Cartoons No One is Showing You,” and it is available at: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/01/11/1357057/-The-Charlie-Hebdo-cartoons-no-one-is-showing-you?.

I find two of the cartoons to be of special interest.

The first criticizes the racial profiling of North African immigrants and the ways in which identity cards reinforce racist antipathies:

Cabu--No to Racial Profiling thru IDs

The second cartoon criticizes the anti-immigrant agenda of the National Front political party, which was founded and brought to prominence by Jean La Pen and is now being led by his daughter, Marine La Pen:

Cabu--No to La Pen and National Front Party

The other cartoons published in this post target rampant militarism, police brutality, abuse of animals, and other environmental concerns.

One can argue that these cartoons, which reflect positions that many progressives would embrace, do not…

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Basic Arithmetic Is Catching Up with Bobby Jindal

ACADEME BLOG

Bobby Jindal is seeking the 2016 GOP presidential nomination; so Louisiana’s public colleges and universities may have to absorb $380 million in cuts and as many as nine institutions might be closed.

In this last election cycle, much attention was paid to the disastrous effects of Sam Brownback’s “tax reforms” in Kansas. Everyone likes paying less in taxes, but it turns out that if you keep cutting taxes, there is literally no money for schools, for road maintenance, for public services, or for even the fairly basic operations of government. More than a hundred prominent Republicans were so fed up with Brownback’s single-minded pursuit of this radically anti-government ideology that they very publicly endorsed his Democratic opponent, but it was somehow not enough to prevent Brownback’s re-election.

What’s the matter with Kansas voters? Well, it turns out that career politicians who are so anti-government that they want to starve it…

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Why Sanctimony Is No Defense against Zealotry

ACADEME BLOG

To some extent, sanctimony is the “civilized” version of dogma enforced by social, religious, or political conformity and then, when that proves insufficient, the threat of force.

There is now a great deal of attention to the nature of the satire published in Charlie Hebdo, with some commentators finding it almost embarrassingly juvenile and others finding it relentlessly offensive and extremely and needlessly provocative.

But what is missing from most of those discussions is that this is a debate about taste, and as any freshman composition student knows, debates about taste are not fruitful topics for any sort of well-reasoned argument. Taste is always very personal, even if we happen to agree on some standards by which tastefulness might be judged.

Although the Internet has developed into an unprecedented source of information, it is also a cesspool of completely uncensored and often horribly offensive opinion. And nowhere is this…

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Baby, It’s Very Cold Outside! And Pseudo-Science Has a Ready Explanation

ACADEME BLOG

In response to the current spell of frigid weather, the new services have pulled out the usual graphics intended to make us shiver even when we are snug inside our warm homes:

Best Frigid Weather Graphic [2]

Best Frigid Weather Graphic [3]

But the most original and most chilling frigid-weather graphic that I have seen comes from the Takoma Park Patch in Maryland:

Best Frigid Weather Graphic [1]

To put the frigid weather in perspective, I was going to include some photos of the recent blizzard and subsequent flooding in Buffalo, but I came across these photos of the historic 1977 blizzard in Buffalo:

Buffalo Blizzard 1977 [1]

Buffalo Blizzard 1977 [3]

Buffalo Blizzard 1977 [4]

Buffalo Blizzard 1977 [5]

Buffalo Blizzard 1977 [6]

Photos such as these should help us to view the current frigid weather from some less immediate and more reasonable perspective.

But, at the other extreme, the Far-Right media source Newsmax is distributing the following item, which is clearly intended to be anything but reassuring:

“This winter with record-breaking, freezing weather hitting states like Ohio, you may be wondering what happened…

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The Defense of Satire Is the Defense of Free Expression

ACADEME BLOG

In response to the terrorist attacks on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Business Insider has run a selection of sixteen of the magazine’s most provocative covers [http://www.businessinsider.com/16-bold-covers-from-the-satirical-paris-magazine-that-was-attacked-today-2015-1?op=1].

The television coverage of the terrorist attack has been quite uniform in not showing the materials that led to the attack on the magazine’s offices, and that decision seems to me to be implicitly reinforcing the point that the gunmen were attempting to make, rather than asserting the opposite.

So I applaud Business Insider for reproducing a selection of the covers that have been most controversial not because I agree that all of the subjects necessarily warrant such treatment but because I don’t think that arguments about what might be offensive ought to be settled by gunfire. Indeed, although I am certain that the magazine has genuinely offended many groups, to some extent the effectiveness of satire…

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Forecasting the Race for the GOP Nomination in 2016

ACADEME BLOG

The Far Right media has pre-emptively declared that the field of candidates who will vie for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination is the strongest in history.

Writing for the Far Right news outlet Newsmax, Todd Beamon and Bill Hoffmann have offered a survey of those candidates with the catchy title “16 for ’16: The Most Talked-About GOP Presidential Contenders” [http://www.newsmax.com/Headline/16-for-16-GOP-Presidential-Contenders/2014/12/30/id/615641/]. Beamon and Hoffmann provide fairly insightful snapshot profiles of those candidates’ most salient strengths and weaknesses. Nevertheless, it should be clear to almost everyone, regardless of political affiliation or ideology, that there are not 16 truly viable candidates for the GOP nomination.

So, I am first going to break the candidates into two groups: those who appeal to the Tea Party wing of the party and those who appeal to the corporate and Neocon wings of the party and will almost surely style themselves as “moderates.”

The…

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