Archive for 2009

November 26th 2009
Privatization: what could possibly go wrong?

Posted under American history & jobs & unhappy endings

Gee–let me guess:  unscrupulous people will be more interested in profits than in serving the public?  And, the jobs that private corporations create will be vastly inferior to their government job counterparts?  Here’s what happens at a lot of private, for-profit universities (via Susie at Suburban Guerrilla), which amazingly enough are much more interested in talking the students into huge loans than they are in actually educating them:

In the end, [Martine ] Leveque decided to enroll. The day she came in to fill out her paperwork, she says, the recruiters rushed her through the process and discouraged her from taking the forms home to look over. They told her that she would be taking out private loans in addition to federal loans that are traditionally used to pay educational expenses, but did not explain what the terms of those [$29,000 worth of] loans would be. “They just kept telling me that ‘we’re with you,’ and that they would try to get me the maximum amount of federal loans allowed,” she says. Only later did she learn that those private loans—which made up two-thirds of her “financial aid” package—carried double-digit interest rates and other onerous terms.

To make matters worse, the program did not come close to delivering on the promises that had been made. The instructors had little recent medical experience. Instead of really teaching, she says, they usually just read textbooks aloud in class and sometimes offered students the answers on tests ahead of time. On the rare occasions when Leveque and her class were given time in the lab, she found that the equipment was broken down and shoddy—except for the expensive new mannequin, which no one knew how to use. Instead of the promised rotations at UCLA Medical Center, her clinical training consisted of helping pass out pills at a nursing home. . . . Continue Reading »


November 24th 2009
Up from Jacksonianism?

Posted under American history & Gender & GLBTQ & race

Jackson 1857

Portrait of Andrew Jackson by Thomas Sully (1857)

Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Michael Lind is one of the most interesting political writers around.  Of course, this may be my opinion because he has a good command of the last 200 years of American history and he isn’t afraid to use it in making his political arguments.  I’ve been a fan of his work ever since Up From Conservativism (1996), in which he argued that the Republican party’s marriage of convenience between Wall Street bankers and right-wing cultural warriors would guarantee its marginalization and its ultimate defeat. 

This is why Dems would do well to listen to what Lind has to say in “Can Populism Be Liberal?” in which he wonders, “[i]s a Jackson revival under way? . . Jacksonian populism spells producerism. For generations, Jacksonian populists have believed that the hardworking majority of small producers is threatened from above and below by two classes of drones: unproductive capitalists and unproductive paupers.”  He notes further that “[r]eform movements have succeeded in the United States only when their programs resonated with populist and producerist values. Lincoln’s antislavery Republicans succeeded where the earlier Whigs had failed because the Republicans persuaded Jacksonian farmers that snobbish, parasitic Southern Democratic slave owners were a greater threat to white farmers and white workers in the Midwest than rich Republican bankers and industrialists in the Northeast.”  Are any Democrats paying attention, in these years of economic uncertainty, rising populist anger, and anti-incumbency in the electorate?

Here, one might think, would be an opening for the center-left. And yet the Obama Democrats, unlike the Roosevelt Democrats, cannot take advantage of the popular backlash against Wall Street. Why?

One reason is that the attempt of the “New Democrats” like Clinton, Al Gore and Obama to win Wall Street campaign donations has been all too successful. As Clinton’s Treasury secretary, Robert Rubin helped complete the conversion of the Democrats from a party of unions and populists into a party of financial elites and college-educated professionals. Subsequently Obama raised more money from Wall Street than his Democratic primary rivals and John McCain. On becoming president, he turned over economic policymaking to Rubin’s protégé Larry Summers and others like Timothy Geithner from the Wall Street Democratic network.

The financial industry is now to the Obama Democrats what the AFL-CIO was to the Roosevelt-to-Johnson Democrats. Continue Reading »


November 23rd 2009
Thanksgiving blogging, redux: How Not to Cook a Wolf

Posted under American history & book reviews & weirdness & women's history

plimouthplantationdinnerIt’s Thanksgiving week, so I thought I would reprise my Thanksgiving foods posts from last year.  Just in case you haven’t finalized your menu, here’s a retrospective of Thanksgivings past (and in the far distant past):

howtocookawolfAll this semester, I’ve been meaning to do some food blogging based on my re-reading of M.F.K. Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf (1942), as a response to our current Great Depression, but frankly, I’ve been a little flummoxed.  (How to Cook a Wolf was written as a guide to surviving rationing and fuel shortages in the U.S. during World War II, but I thought it might contain some useful tips for economizing more generally.)  I must report reluctantly Continue Reading »


November 22nd 2009
Sunday moo-orning run

Posted under fluff & local news

cattlerunAs I was running this morning, I thought to myself:  how strange and unlikely that I now live and work in a location where I am in proximity to more large animals than to small animals.  (I have two small animals myself, but cattle really are a big part of my life these days.  This seems strange, since I work in a Liberal Arts college and not Animal Sciences–strange but not unwelcome.  The big animals I run into (and next to) are penned or fenced, and well under control.  The animals I encounter aren’t part of big agribusiness, but are clearly free-range herds under the care of a small farm.

cattlerun2(Sorry for the craptastic photos–they were taken literally on the run with a cell-phone camera.  I wanted to get one that showed the mountains in the background, but the light and the cattle weren’t cooperating.  Besides the fact of my craptastic cell-phone camera!  But those of you who know me probably know me well enough to know that a new phone or digital camera is not going to be a priority on my Christmas list.) Continue Reading »


November 21st 2009
“Vogue” profile of Hillary Clinton

Posted under American history & Gender & jobs & women's history

HRCSoSVia RealClearPolitics, check out “Her Brilliant Career,” a flattering profile of Hillary Clinton, by Vogue writer Jonathan Van Meter, who accompanied the Secretary of State on her trip to Africa this past summer and met with her several times over the past few months.  (The on-line version is apparently shorter than the one that appears in the December 2009 issue of the magazine.)  It’s a little breathless and celebrity-lite, like most Vogue profiles, but it contains some interesting news.  For example:

  • Hillary Clinton watches Mad Men, and says, “That’s how it was! . . . [t]hat’s why the women’s-liberation movement was so shocking. It was like news from outer space.”
  • The Secretary of State comes to The Building without makeup, and then puts on her own face. Continue Reading »


November 20th 2009
Excellence without Money!, part III: Knowledge without Books!

Posted under American history & jobs & students

knowledgewithoutbooksAnother in our occasional series on the Great Recession and the crisis in funding public institutions of higher education, with thanks to Moose at Roxie’s World for coining the phrase “Excellence without Money!”

Johann Neem, an Associate Professor of History at Western Washington University, has an article over at Inside Higher Ed called “Reviving the Academic Library.”  In his brief comments, he defends the traditional library, something that many librarians are reluctant to do these days.  Just read some of the angry comments–most of them from librarians, and some of them well-earned, by the way.  Neem writes rather condescendingly about librarians, who are at most universities tenure-track and tenured scholars themselves, and he claims that education can only take place inside university classrooms.  That was unfortunate hyperbole, in my view, because in the main I agree with Neem.  (Can’t we all just get along?)

In case we’ve forgotten, amidst all those i-Pod downloads and football games and keg parties, Neem explains that “[t]he core purposes of the academy are to teach and to produce new knowledge. Continue Reading »


November 19th 2009
Guerrilla theater: talk to the hand, Romeo

Posted under art & captivity & students & weirdness

gorillatheaterCheck this out, from Flavia at Ferule and FescueOur intrepid young Shakespearean was teaching Trolius and Cressida one day last week, when

I heard the door open, slightly behind me, I didn’t look over. I was mid-sentence, and figured it was a student slipping in late.

Instead, a young man and young woman walked right into the center of the room and started performing part of the banquet scene from Romeo and Juliet.

We stopped abruptly. F()cking theatre kids, I thought. They must be advertising a production. A$$holes. But since I knew the scene, and they’d already started, I figured I’d let them finish–surely they were just going to do the shared sonnet, and would be done in another dozen lines.

But they got to the end, kissed, and kept going.  Continue Reading »


November 18th 2009
Wednesday Round-up: “Gaywads” unite edition, yee-haw!

Posted under American history & bad language & GLBTQ & local news & students

cowgirlgalwhotookBusy day here at the ranch!  I thought I’d throw you  few curves to help keep your day interesting:

  • Roxie’s World brings us the heartwarming story of a non-gay pro-gay little boy in Arkansas named Will Phillips who refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance at school until there truly is “liberty and justice for all” in these United States.  (Some of you may also want to weigh in on the pressing question raised by the insult this little boy hears now at school:  what is the proper spelling of “gaywad?”  Is it “gaywad,” “gay wad,” or “gay-wad?”)
  • There’s a fun new gay blog I’ve found called Down and Out in Denver.  Actually, the blog proprietors Alastair and Blake hate Denver, which is why they started a blog to complain about the lack of urbane gay funky goodness there.  Continue Reading »


November 17th 2009
“Better dead than co-ed”

Posted under Gender & students & unhappy endings & women's history

FratGuyThat’s what we used to say back at my “Seven Sisters” college in the 1980s!  Every twenty years or so, it seems like even the most elite and well-established women’s colleges have a conversation about going co-ed.  Let’s face it–coeducational or historically all-male colleges have much bigger endowments.  My sense is that male alumns support their colleges much more generously, because they can.  (That is, they can give more because of the wage gap that persists between men and women, plus the fact that few male college graduates drop out of the workforce even temporarily because they married and/or had children.)  So, I understand the appeal of admitting male students.  (I also understand the value to the endowment of invoking the spectre of co-education for women’s college alumnae.  That sure opens up a few moth-eaten old wallets and revs up the donorcycles, eh?) 

Well, there’s reason for us old broads to fear co-education at our alma maters, because a women’s college may be “better dead than co-ed.”  Susan O’Doherty over at Mama Ph.D. tells the fascinating tale of what happened when her women’s college went co-ed while she was an undergraduate.  (This was a follow-up to a post she wrote last week about the idea of applying lower admissions standards to men who apply to competitive colleges, because of the fact that a number of selective colleges have a noticeably skewed sex ratio in favor of women.) 

By the time I graduated, there were about thirty men among a student body of 2500. Some of these guys were stellar — bright, committed, enlightened, and fun to be around. Most were not. A number were unprepared for the academic and social challenges of college; a few bragged that they had transferred because “with all these chicks around it should be a piece of cake to get laid.” It was clear to us that there was a double admissions standard. We joked that the entrance exam for men consisted of the ability to sign one’s name, but we didn’t find it funny, really.

There was one men’s dormitory. It was a beautiful old house — one of several on campus; most were reserved for honors students or those with special interests. I lived in one that was dedicated to French-speaking students. It was a privilege to live there, among well cared for antique furnishings, and we were constantly reminded that the privilege could be revoked for bad grades or bad behavior. The men, however, lived under no such strictures. Continue Reading »


November 16th 2009
Walkin’ in an autumn wonderland

Posted under fluff & local news

autumnwonderland2I didn’t even bother posting photos or commenting on our pre-Halloween freak snowstorm of October 28-29 that left 8-10 inches of snow on the ground in my neighborhood.  Well, here’s evidence of our second “freak” snowstorm this past weekend, another 8 inches or so.  Wild!

I always have to reassure people who hear that I live in Colorado that we don’t wear boots, polarfleece, and parkas all year ’round in the Denver metro area, and that the vast, vast majority of the snow falls in the mountains.  Maybe I should live here longer before I am so quick to contradict these ideas.  (We moved here in the middle of some serious drought years, which meant that summers were unusually warm and the winters relatively dry and snow-free.) Continue Reading »


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