NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL AN EXPERT

Posted in Quick Hits on October 29th, 2013 by Ed

In its "The Experts" feature, the now NewsCorp-owned Wall Street Journal collects the best and brightest minds in the public sphere to provide insight on the most important issues of the day. Which means that it featured, naturally, an anti-Obamacare rant from Suzanne Somers. You may know Suzanne Somers as that woman who was briefly famous like thirty years ago for making her tits bounce around behind John Ritter on Three's Company. Oh, and she has spent the last decade hawking an increasingly bullshit-laced string of "Holistic" alternatives to the evils of medicine. Did you know that mistletoe extract is more effective against cancer than chemotherapy? You didn't – because it isn't truebut Suzanne does.

I bring attention to Somers' column not because it is in any way useful, novel, or interesting – take the 60 seconds necessary to read it if you so choose – but because it manages the rather staggering feat of necessitating three corrections from the editor. Three, in a column that does not quite hit 600 words. She used two quotes and both of them are fake, a fact that five seconds of googling would have revealed. That the Journal made three corrections just hours after going to press with the story suggests that they had no intention of trying to slip one past their readers – it suggests that they simply didn't fact check it. The piece is so staggeringly wrong on so many levels (Retirees? They're on Medicare. Does Suzanne know that Medicare is a separate program?) that it's possible no one even read it let alone checked it.

"The Experts" indeed. You would think that a column from Suzanne Somers, Washed Up Actress and well-known Alternative Medicine Quack, would cry out for greater attention than usual from the fact checkers. Yet this scarcely seems to have been read. Why she is an "Expert" is an equally valid question, with Jonathan Chait suggesting that, "whatever she lacks in traditional analytic skills, she more than makes up for with a strong love of freedom. If your newspaper is going to publish a weekly column by Karl Rove, you have already crossed whatever conceptual boundary might stop you from publishing Suzanne Somers." Someone call the burn unit.

Look, I understand that modern journalism is an absolute disaster and there is no pretense of shame anymore, only the quest for hits, viewers, and advertising. What baffles me is that the WSJ could have run a hack anti-Obamacare column from any one of ten thousand writers, and this is the one they chose? They might as well start trolling the mommyblogger forums for some anti-vaccination experts if this is what they're going to print. The ideological hatchet job is something we expect; at least have the goddamn decency to find a writer who can produce something roughly similar actual journalism and who can be bothered to google the quotes they plucked from Uncle Larry's forwarded email before publishing them in the second-highest circulating newspaper in the Greatest Country in the World.

THE HAND OF FATE

Posted in Rants on October 28th, 2013 by Ed

Whether or not my senioritis-stricken students are getting anything out of it I can't be certain, but my seminar on political literature has given me a great opportunity to re-read some of The Classics. This week we're doing The Jungle. Everyone is assigned it at some point and I doubt many people read it. That's a shame.

The reason it's important goes beyond its rather ham-fisted message – Oliver Stone took most of his lessons in subtlety from Upton Sinclair – to accomplish things its author never intended. Sinclair lamented the fact that the message about socialism was largely lost on his audience. Not many people seemed concerned with the workers, whereas most readers were in an uproar about food safety. The author gave all of the characters flaws in order to make them more believable. As a consequence, many readers were more apt to moralize about personal responsibility than to sympathize with the extent to which the characters were brutally and systematically destroyed. Stop me if that sounds familiar.

Post-1980 America is a land in which it is impossible to engage in a discussion about a System with college-aged people without inevitably and almost immediately devolving into mini-soliloquies on Good and Bad choices. Why have so many kids? Why did he start drinking? And they signed a contract without reading the whole thing! Everyone knows not to do that.

This is what I mean when I describe college students, when I'm forced to generalize, as extremely conservative. They aren't necessarily hardcore political conservatives in the context of Washington politics, but they have thoroughly internalized the message that their parents and the media have been hammering them with since birth: everything that happens to you is your fault. There are no innocent victims of anything. This is a coping mechanism / cognitive bias called the Just World Phenomenon, wherein people victim-blame as a means of coping with the random cruelty of the world. Rather than accept that horrible things happen to good people – and, thus, that a horrible fate could befall them at any moment – people choose to retreat into the comforts of believing that everyone Had It Coming.

These are young adults who believe sincerely that since they have made Good Choices, nothing bad can happen to them for reasons beyond their control. The idea of being unemployed is literally incomprehensible to many of them – I'm in college and I even get decent grades, of course someone is going to hire me. This is where, as critics both liberal and conservative have often moaned, the constant self-esteem building of kids born in the 1990s shows its ugly side. Each student tends to believe that he or she is special and smart and the world, being a meritocracy, cannot fail to recognize this. Some of this simply is the normal naivety of youth that only life experience can erase. I honestly believe, strictly as a matter of opinion, that the hyper-individualism that dominates post-Carter politics is influential as well.

Sometimes I try to push back when this rears its head in the classroom, despite the obvious futility. What if your job gets outsourced to Asia? Well, I would never enter a field where that could happen, or I would Get More Education and change fields. Oh, I see. That should do it. It does not occur to them that their employers will be able to cornhole them with abandon, as they see themselves and unique, irreplaceable, and thus able to dictate their own terms. If they don't like it, they can quit and find another job. How hard could that be? They see the bleakness of the economy all around them, yet they see themselves as impervious to it.

This is the real value of reading The Jungle for kids of this generation – the message about unions and socialism may be lost on them, but it's hard to miss the message that shit happens. Bad things are going to happen to you. People are going to screw you and you won't be able to do anything about it. As you age, the market will do all that it can to purge you from the workforce. You will get sick. The fine print Terms & Conditions that no one, anywhere, ever reads will bite you in the ass at the worst possible times. There is much we can do to prepare ourselves to weather everything that life is going to throw at us, but we can't make ourselves invincible.

This is a generation that sees everything they do wrong as someone else's fault but everything that happens to other people as a matter of personal responsibility. Reading a tale of hard working, well intentioned people getting reamed by a corrupt system even as they work themselves to literal death might be an eye-opener. Sure, it will sail right over the heads of some of them. I feel, though, that the understanding that the world is not fair, life is hard, and getting by is often a tremendous struggle is a necessary precondition to having meaningful political attitudes. The idea that everything that happens to individuals in our society is their own fault poisons our entire culture, from our politics to our communities. People like Sinclair saw through this over a century ago, but somewhere along the way we chose to forget.

THOMAS SOWELL GETS A SPORTING FJM TREATMENT

Posted in No Politics Friday on October 25th, 2013 by Ed

Is this strictly "No Politics" for NPF? No. But since it is ostensibly about football and you were deprived of a real post on Thursday I feel it is appropriate to bring you the great philosopher of race Thomas Sowell, currently serving a lifetime appointment as the Token Black Guy of the C- and D-list right-wing columnists who populate Intellectual Chernobyl, as he takes on the hubbub over the name "Washington Redskins." Remember the key right wing rule: If we pay a black person to say it, it can't be racist! Without further delay…here we go.

Bob Costas is one of the premier sportscasters and a very smart guy, so it was somewhat surprising to see him join the chorus of those decrying the fact that the owner of the Washington Redskins is resisting the pressures to change the name of his football team.

If he is a very smart guy then it is the opposite of surprising that he would conclude that the name "Redskins" – you know, an actual explicit reference to labeling a group of people by skin color – is offensive. It fits in well with some of the other major sports franchises like the Arizona Wetbacks, New York Heebs, Chicago Darkies, and Boston Impotent Drunks, except that none of those are real and Washington Redskins is.

The argument is that American Indians are offended by the name, though there is no compelling evidence that most American Indians are worked up about it. Nor is there any evidence that anyone intended the name to be insulting, either by this team or any number of other sports teams that have called themselves some variation of the name "Indians."

You guys know Thomas Sowell, right? The coon who writes for Town Hall?

Oh come on, I had no intention of insulting anyone there. I was just using a neutral, descriptive adjective. There's no evidence that this was offensive.

After all, neither individuals nor teams give themselves names that they consider insulting, whether they are calling themselves Indians, Vikings or The Fighting Irish.

Well, Notre Dame was a bunch of Irish priests deciding to call themselves the Fighting Irish. "Vikings" is the actual name of a group of people. So as long as there is an Indian tribe called "Redskins" or the team is owned by Indians, this analogy makes sense.

Oh.

Nevertheless, Dartmouth, Stanford and other colleges that once called their teams Indians succumbed to the politically correct pressures and changed their names. But that is no reason why the Washington Redskins should succumb to those pressures.

Well colleges are a bit different, as many are full of people who like to think about things.

Among the reasons why they should not is the fact that being offended is one of the tactics of a race hustling industry that is doing more harm to Indians and other minorities than any name is likely to do. Some people are in the business of being offended, just as Campbell is in the business of making soup.

That kind of analogy is what separates the real Pro Writers from the rank amateurs. I will overlook the grammatical error and bask in the delicious irony of someone who makes a living writing right-wing opinion columns accusing someone else of making a career out of being offended. This is on Town Hall for chrissakes, the website that raised phony histrionics to an art form. Is there an example of any of these hack ass-clowns doing anything other than working themselves into a disingenuous lather over something that isn't even true?

No. No there is not. That's why Town Hall uses the overly-literal motto, "Hack Ass-Clowns Working Ourselves into a Lather Over Shit We Fabricate." Clunky, but it gets the point across.

Shelby Steele's best-selling book "White Guilt" provides sharp insights into the many counterproductive consequences of white guilt that can be exploited by race hustlers, to the detriment of blacks and whites alike. The sports team gambit is just one of many.

So…someone who writes a book called "White Guilt" and sells a million copies to angry white people is…not?…a "race hustler"?

So long as the race industry — the Al Sharptons, Jesse Jacksons, and their counterparts in various minorities — can get political or financial mileage out of being offended, they are going to be offended.

Don't forget the Shelby Steeles and Thomas Sowells! Unless I'm misunderstanding the definition of "race hustler", which would seem to encompass someone who writes a book for right-wing America about how "various minorities" are engaged in a devious plot to manufacture racism.

The only thing that will put a stop to this racket is refusing to be taken in by it or intimidated by it.

How brave! How noble!

I've got an idea, Thomas. Go up to an Indian and say "Hey, redskin!" To his face. Try it with several different people, or maybe even shout it at a group of people. Report back.

Looked at in isolation, Bob Costas' opinion about the names of sports teams is one that reasonable people might agree or disagree with.

And as soon as we can find some "reasonable people" in the Right Wing Media Daisy Chain for Satantm I bet we'll have one hell of a productive conversation. Until then it's just more THE COLORED PEOPLE ARE TAKING OVER AND THE WORLD YOU'VE KNOWN FOR 75 YEARS IS CHANGING!!!111!! nonsense. Same flimsy product, same audience.

But, unfortunately, this issue is not something that exists in isolation.

No, Thomas, it sure doesn't. Taken in isolation, this single sentence could be interpreted as evidence that you understand things. But let's take that sliver of hope out behind the barn and put a bullet in its brain, shall we?

It is part of a whole grievance-generating campaign that poisons race relations. That campaign is conducted not only by the race industry but also by all too many in the media and in the education system, from elementary schools to the universities.

Minorities poison race relations, not the Town Hall audience. Not Michelle Malkin. Not Trent Lott. Not Rush Limbaugh.

Got it. Makes perfect sense. Let's applaud the group of people who are upset that they can't paint their faces and dress like "indians" or shout "fag" and "nigger" in public anymore without getting dirty looks. They're the reasonable people here. Not those nasty minorities.

Young blacks are especially susceptible to the message that all their problems are caused by white people — and that white society is never going to give them a chance. In short, they are primed to resent and hate individuals they have never seen before and who have never done a thing to them.

Well let's go ahead and redact this since it has absolutely nothing to do with the topic at all. Thomas Sowell, professional journalist.

Social dynamite can accumulate among whites as well as among blacks. White extremist hate groups already exist, though they are a fringe, as the Nazis were once a disdained fringe in Germany. It was the people's loss of confidence in the respectable institutions of society that gave the Nazis their chance for power.

We're back. He's about to compare "political correctness" to Nazism. As all good writers know, nothing shouts CREDIBLE quite like comparing people to the Nazis. Especially when comparing racial minorities to Nazis.

The blind and dishonest political correctness of our media and educational institutions on racial issues today can eventually forfeit the confidence of Americans and give similar extremist groups their chance to ignite a race war in the United States. And once a race war starts, it can be virtually impossible to stop.

Shorter Thomas Sowell: If we change the name of the Washington Redskins, it will start a race war. Because there's this race hustler industry of minorities so I guess they would be the ones starting it? Not the spitting-mad, elderly white shut-ins that form the Other Side of this issue?

Well, I sure don't like race wars, so…we'd better continue to allow white football fans and NFL owners to call themselves "Redskins." The logic is pretty flawless. Will that be enough to avert the race war, or do I also have to lobby Liberal Academia to let students go on White Power rants in class and claim academic freedom?

I wish there were an easier way. But so be it, Thomas. So be it.

Tags:

USE OF TIME

Posted in Quick Hits on October 24th, 2013 by Ed

Let me see if I have conservatives' views straight here: It's a disaster of epic proportions if someone has to wait 20 minutes for a government website to load but no big deal if people have to wait in line for 8 hours to vote.

Makes sense to me.

And for the record, I went through the whole process of getting estimate from the insurance exchanges on healthcare.gov and it took, from clicking on the first link to getting a list of options, a little over seven minutes. That's not to say that the website works that quickly and efficiently for everyone who has ever tried to use it, but let's just say I did not consider the experience to be taxing. I pulled through.

WHAT A DUMP

Posted in Rants on October 23rd, 2013 by Ed

My current city is essentially a company town. There is a bit more here than simply Caterpillar, but everything else lags far behind one of the fifty largest corporations on Earth with $100 billion in assets and operations in something like 100 countries. It is not an overstatement to say that Cat runs the show around here; all local governing is done with the company's blessing and most of the very small number of things to do here are funded directly or indirectly by the company coffers. As is the case with all company towns, the city has risen and fallen with the fortunes of its great patron.

At least it used to, that is. Now the company continues to rise and the city continues to fall, as it has followed the trend of closing up facilities here in its Midwestern home and shifting them to developing countries or, if they really feel like slumming it, the deep South. In fact, on the day I moved from Athens to Peoria, Cat announced the closure of a Peoria manufacturing facility to be replaced by a new facility in Athens complete with the usual Southern governments' buffet of free money, tax abatements, infrastructure investments, and promises of a docile $10/hr workforce. I can say without exaggeration that I was traded to Peoria for a major industry to be named later.

So while the city lives and dies by the company, there is less of the company here with each passing year. Part of the reason is the quest for cheaper labor and more obsequious state and local governments. Another part of the reason is that Peoria is a world-class dump. Think Flint, MI or Youngstown, OH with the headquarters of a major global corporation plopped in the center. I've said enough about it to fill volumes; suffice it to say here that Caterpillar does not relish bringing leaders in the business world to Peoria. It's pretty embarrassing.

This isn't idle speculation; I know a handful of white-collar Caterpillar folks, and they complain regularly about the condition of the city. They have berated the city government for lacking suitable hotels (now being built or remodeled downtown with plenty of "incentives"), restaurants, entertainment, or airport. The downtown looks neat from a distance but up close is an abandoned Scooby-Doo ghost town. They have legitimate complaints.

However, they also seem ignorant of their own role – arguably the leading role – in the city's decline from the post-War boom years to its present sorry state. Whenever Cat people, be they acquaintances or the top executives on TV and at city council meetings, complain about what a dump they inhabit I have to suppress the urge to say, "That's funny, because it looked a lot less like a dump when you had 30,000 factory workers here compared to the few hundred here now." And by "suppress the urge to say" I mean that is what I say.

This is not new; General Motors has been doing it to Detroit for years, as have General Electric, Kodak, Dow, and other companies that make up the crumbling cities of upstate New York. They openly pine for the neatly manicured office buildings, suburbs, and downtown chain restaurants of a Phoenix, Dallas, or anywhere-in-Florida. And they criticize their cities – cities and people that have bent over backwards to make them the enormous successes that they have been for a century or more – as though some exogenous force (alien invasions, perhaps) have destroyed everything. It never occurs to them that if they would like the city to be full of the kinds of things that sprout up wherever sizable populations with disposable income exist then perhaps they should stop cutting the workforce and perhaps even consider expanding it. Of course, that suggestion inevitably leads into the race to the bottom that is modern competitive federalism – why stay here when Alabama's politicians are willing to write blank checks and its people are willing to work for half as much because Freedom?

For people and institutions who hold the principles of capitalism so dear, they sure do seem to struggle with "You get what you pay for."

I'LL READ IT LATER

Posted in Quick Hits on October 21st, 2013 by Ed

The late, anything but great Jesse Helms was one of the nation's foremost crusaders against pornography, which he called "poe-nah-gra-fuh". This prompted Bill Hicks to make the accurate observation, "I don't think you should be against something until you can pronounce it."

An enterprising Slate writer tracked down six guests who recently appeared on Sean Hannity's Fox News program to explain how Obamacare was causing them grievous harm. Showing that no lessons have been learned since 2008, when the McCain campaign decided to make a mascot out of an unemployed, unlicensed plumber who couldn't tell the same story twice, it appears that Hannity thought it best to choose a group of people who were either flat-out lying or just completely ignorant of the new law and its requirements. My favorites:

First I spoke with Paul Cox of Leicester, N.C. He and his wife Michelle had lamented to Hannity that because of Obamacare, they can't grow their construction business and they have kept their employees below a certain number of hours, so that they are part-timers. Obamacare has no effect on businesses with 49 employees or less. But in our brief conversation on the phone, Paul revealed that he has only four employees. Why the cutback on his workforce? "Well," he said, "I haven't been forced to do so, it's just that I've chosen to do so. I have to deal with increased costs." What costs? And how, I asked him, is any of it due to Obamacare? There was a long pause, after which he said he'd call me back. He never did.

For someone with four employees (JOB CREATOR! HURR!) the sole requirement is that the employer inform them of the government website for exchanges. That could be done in an email in 10 seconds. And then there's:

When I spoke to Robbie, he said he and Tina have been paying a little over $800 a month for their plan, about $10,000 a year. And the ACA-compliant policy that will cost 50-75 percent more? They said this information was related to them by their insurance agent. Had they shopped on the exchange yet, I asked? No, Tina said, nor would they. They oppose Obamacare and want nothing to do with it. Fair enough, but they should know that I found a plan for them for, at most, $3,700 a year, 63 percent less than their current bill.

It's not amazing that people are horribly misinformed about the law given how easy it is to be horribly misinformed – more accurately, how it is impossible not to – when living inside the Beck – Fox News – Limbaugh conservative media bubble. It is amazing that there are people who refuse to even look at the website. To refuse to buy On Principle is silly, in my opinion, but one's choice. To form those principles based on fourth-hand information that was incorrect when it was first-hand is a symptom of two things. First, it shows how willingly the Teabagging rubes allow themselves to be screwed by their masters. Second, it emphasizes that for all their talk of freedom and demands to know The Truth, what these people really appear to want is to be force-fed information by their chosen mouthpieces like geese being fattened up for foie gras.

NPF: THIS CAT HAS CLAWS

Posted in No Politics Friday on October 18th, 2013 by Ed

You know how much I love a sharp, pithy, and even rude negative review of something that really deserves it. Back in 2010 I did an NPF of a few of my favorite sick burns over the years: Matt Taibbi's review of Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat, Mencken's obituary of William Jennings Bryan, and the New York Times obituary of John C. Breckenridge during the Civil War. Recently I've come upon another.

In 1959, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev visited the U.S. with his family on a whirlwind 10-day tour ably chronicled in the excellent K Blows Top, which is rumored to be turned into a miniseries with Paul Giamatti as Nikita. While I can't summarize the entire crazy tale here, suffice it to say that President Eisenhower and much of the American establishment were eager to extend a polite welcome to the first Soviet or Russian leader to visit the U.S. since…ever. Given Khrushchev's thin skin and short temper, the trip planners went out of their way to discourage elected officials and ordinary Americans from attacking or insulting the quasi-dictator. Most people respected the wishes of the State Department and, while critical of Soviet policy, were welcoming to "K" and his family.

Dorothy Kilgallen, a celebrity gossip columnist syndicated throughout the Hearst newspaper empire, decided to critique the fashion choices of Khrushchev's wife Nina at length and with no concept of restraint. Part of Soviet ideology was that lavish clothes, cosmetics, jewelry, and the like were decadent symbols of capitalist imperialism, hence Soviet women tended to appear rather plain. Being older as well as the wife of a national figurehead, style was not #1 on Mrs. Khrushchev's list of priorities. Kilgallen took offense to the oversight, as her editorial showed. An excerpt:

Admittedly, (Mrs. Khrushchev) has shown, so far, no chinks in the armor of blatant Communist dowdiness. But she is female. It is hard to believe, deep beneath that facade, there is not a female yearning that would respond to a couple of hours in a sumptuous Gotham beauty salon. And lord knows how (stylists) must be yearning to get their hands on her. Her figure is hopeless but she has a sweet, sympathetic face with an attractive if not aristocratic turned-up nose when viewed in profile.

Wonders might be achieved if she would consent to experiment with eyebrow pencil, some powder to contradict the impression that she has just turned away from a session over a hot stove, and the modern miracle known as lipstick…(but) any woman who would travel thousands of miles to wear the same old dress two days in a row is not here to pick up pointers on fashion.

And then, the kill shot: "It would be difficult to find clothes comparable to hers in the waiting room of a New York agency for domestic help."

There is no note of which burn unit Mrs. Khrushchev was rushed to, but apparently she survived this third-degree scalding. In fact she survived much better than Dorothy Kilgallen. While Kilgallen was half of a celebrity power couple with actor and radio star Richard Kollmar, unfortunately they were both raging alcoholics, pill poppers, and serial philanderers. Kilgallen died at age 52 of the classic booze-barbiturate overdose in 1965. Dumpy old Nina Khrushchev died 19 years later, aged 84.

"I spit on your grave, capitalist shrew" were not her last words, but I like to pretend they were.

KEEPING UP APPEARANCES

Posted in Rants on October 17th, 2013 by Ed

Recently we had a campus visit day, the highlight of which is watching high school students try to act cool while walking around campus with their parents. As this is scientifically proven to be impossible, hilarity ensues.

As I walked to my car I saw a group being led around by a student tour guide who I recognized from class. I said hello and made some sort of PG joke like, "You didn't show them the dorms with the mold problem, did you?" Oh, Ed. You card. She explained to the group that I was one of her professors last year.

Side note: I have a pretty swell car. It was not terribly expensive (more on that in a minute) but I take exceptional care of it. Having just spent the Labor Day weekend working it over with an orbital buffer, it currently looks like it just rolled out of the factory. Eyeing the car, one of the parents said "Well I guess that's why tuition is so high!" Ha ha ha. Good one. Laughs all around. Here's the thing. Two, actually.

First, it's ridiculous to assume that I bought the car new. I bought it used after stalking it on eBay for six goddamn months and getting the dealer to agree to a ridiculous deal. I paid less for a used BMW than, for example, a new compact car like a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. If I was getting into a 2013 Honda Civic, would anyone be making jokes about my extravagant Professor Lifestyle?

Second, although it was clearly intended as a harmless joke, parents (and students) are constantly telling us we make too much money. To our faces. Students will flat-out tell us, "Tuition keeps going up because of professor salaries." This is not only beyond inaccurate – tuition increases are happening because of the money schools spend on 1) administrators and administrative salaries, which have increased five-fold since 1990, and 2) infrastructure. The money essentially goes to people the students never see and to their fancy new gyms and dorms and classrooms and all the other stuff they demand to turn college into the four-year middle class kids' vacation that it is becoming.

The implication is that I don't look poor enough. As a professor, if they see me in anything other than a Carter-era sportcoat as I load my dilapidated briefcase into a 1983 Volvo station wagon, then clearly they're being ripped off. If I can afford anything other than tuna and ramen, then obviously the school needs to pay me less. Professors shouldn't have anything new or fancy-looking; those are our tuition dollars!

This is a mild version of something I see and hear constantly – complaints that The Poor don't look sufficiently poor. God help you if you're within earshot of a Hard Working American when they see a poor person with an iPhone or a fresh hairdo. WHY ARE YOU SPENDING MY HARD EARNED TAX DOLLARS ON BLAH BLAH BLAH. Maybe her friend did her hair for her, or maybe she bought the iPhone second-hand or received it as a gift. But the point is, this poor person does not look sufficiently poor. If you're on food stamps or Medicaid or anything that even tangentially involves a tax dollar, Americans want to see you wearing rags, smeared with dirt, and eating gruel. How dare anyone who's poor try to have some self-respect and look decent.

Certainly I have things a lot easier than the poor people everyone loves to judge as a spectator sport. But the principle at the heart of this kind of self-important behavior is the same: that people should look a certain way based on their perceived status. How dare poor people wear, eat, or own anything nice. We don't just want people to be poor, we want them to look poor so we can feel better about our own status. Everybody just loves a good bitch-and-moan about what the undeserving Others are doing with their Hard Earned Money.

It never occurs to them that I also have to work hard to earn money (conservatives in particular believe that they personally invented the concept of hard work and nobody except them has ever done a day of hard work worthy of the compensation received) or that I might not be as well-off as something superficial like the brand of car I drive suggests. It never occurs to them that maybe my income is pretty modest but I happen to have no dependents, a low cost of living, and a fondness for ludicrously fast German sports cars. No, it must be that my nonexistent Professor Union guarantees me a six-figure salary that necessitates annual tuition increases.

But that's where we're at after thirty years of lurching to the right as a nation. We see public employees attacked for having pensions and insurance, as anything other than a subsistence wage for people who take Our Hard Earned Money is too extravagant. How it must please our financial elite to see us shrieking at our peers for earning too much money like crabs pulling one another back down into the bucket.

SO, SO CLOSE

Posted in Uncategorized on October 16th, 2013 by Ed

Tuesday night I began writing the all-planned-out piece from yesterday and one of my academic pals started chatting at me on Facebook about the direction of our respective careers. He is quite successful and works at a large research university in a wonderful location. I am a complete failure at this and I do not. If you want to have the feeling of being a cork in the ocean or the ball in a pinball machine, become an academic. Because whenever people give me this talk, the only thing that becomes apparent is that I have no control whatsoever over my career. It all hinges on totally subjective decisions made by strangers. Sure, I can send out lots of papers, apply for a lot of jobs, and so on, but then it's up to others to make the decision, often in startlingly random ways. So instead of thinking, "I need to publish X papers" we end up having to think, "If I can somehow get X papers accepted" or "I hope there are some job openings this year."

The action verb is always referring to someone else in this field. Nothing to do but try and hope for the best, knowing full well that the odds against The Best happening are 99% and growing. If having no control over where you live or the conditions of your employment sounds appealing, contact me to learn more about how to get started in the exciting world of higher education.

FAILURE TO LAUNCH

Posted in Uncategorized on October 15th, 2013 by Ed

I laid down four hours ago to write this post and I ended up writing nothing. This is happening a lot lately. I know what to write about and I know, in some cases, exactly what I'm going to say but I end up doing nothing. Is there a word for losing the ability to do anything except stare aimlessly at the internet or TV?

Sorry to disappoint the, like, fifty readers I have after doing this daily for a decade.