Archive for the 'nepotism' Category

January 25th 2009
A tale of two Senators

Posted under American history & class & Gender & jobs & local news & nepotism & unhappy endings & women's history

“Senator G” was appointed to the Senate by hir state’s governor because the previous Senator was invited to join the Obama cabinet.  Ze is white, 42 years old, is the parent of two children, was twice elected to congress, and has a public record of hir votes on the issues of the day.  What kind of coverage does Senator G get in the mainstream press?  Ze is called “Tracy Flick,” “unpopular among peers,” and anonymous sources are sniping at hir, saying that ze is known for “aggressiveness and self-confidence,” which alienates peers and senior colleagues who believe ze is “trying to leap-frog up the seniority ladder.”

“Senator B” was appointed to the Senate by hir state’s governor because the previous Senator was invited to join the Obama cabinet.  Ze is white, 44 years old, the parent of three children, has never held elective office but has held several jobs won through family and old school connections, and is a complete cipher as to hir positions on the issues of the day.  What kind of coverage does Senator B get in the mainstream press?  When ze held an “open house” to “get to know” people–because ze has never, ever campaigned or won a single vote in hir lifetime–a local paper reported that “the senator was mobbed by well-wishers delivering congratulations as well as citizens with concerns they wanted [B] to hear. A table of brownies and cookies disappeared during the first hour of the three hour event.Continue Reading »


January 23rd 2009
New York is saved, but is Colorado ready for a Senator with Locust Valley Lockjaw?

Posted under class & Gender & jobs & local news & nepotism & race & unhappy endings

Kirsten Gillibrand will be New York’s next Senator–well done, Governor Patterson.  As for Colorado:  You be the judge.  (Scroll down to hear the interview of January 19, 2009, “Michael Bennet Gears Up for the U.S. Senate.”)

Bennet continues to be the beneficiary of awesome press.  Gee, I wonder if a Latino or Latina with his background would be given such a free pass?  Not really, I don’t–because of course, there are no Latin@s with his background–not until Latin@s are presidents of most prestigious colleges and universities, dominate the financial sector, are an overwhelming majority in all three branches of the federal government, and can steer their children successfully in following in their footsteps as the ruling elite.

Last night on 30 Rock, Tracy Morgan’s character had a funny line about “white myths,” such as the notion that diet is causally related to diabetes, “or Colorado.”  Well, Colorado’s ruling class is a white reality.  Governor Bill Ritter:  keeping Colorado safe for white male privilege!  With Dems like this, who needs Republicans?


January 21st 2009
CK nixes Senate bid to attend to ailing uncle

Posted under American history & jobs & nepotism & the body & women's history


Seriously?  Why not the “I need to spend these last few years at home with my teenaged children” excuse?  (Via Valhalla at Corrente.)  Here’s the key graph in the New York Times article:

On Wednesday she called Gov. David A. Paterson, who will choose a successor to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her concerns about Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s deteriorating health (he was hospitalized after suffering a seizure during President Obama’s inaugural lunch on Tuesday ) prompted her decision to withdraw, this person said. Coping with her uncle’s condition was her most important priority, a situation not conducive to starting a high profile public job.

Whatever.  Senator Kennedy has a wife, he lives in Virginia and Massachusetts, and he doesn’t have any minor children to look after, so I’m unclear about the services that Caroline Kennedy thinks she might might offer him.  What does “coping with her uncle’s condition” involve?  I suppose if that’s a deal breaker for you, then you really shouldn’t be in the Senate.  (Hey–Gerald Ford was President while his wife was seriously impaired, and John Edwards pursued his latest White House bid after wife Elizabeth’s cancer recurred.  What’s so rough about an ailing out-of-town uncle?)

UPDATE, 1/22/09:  Hey–don’t complain to me!  Senator Kennedy doesn’t like the fact that he’s being used as an excuse by his niece, either.  (Via The Daily Beast.)

UPDATE, 1/22/09, evening:  Aaaaannd, amateur hour just rolls on and on, doesn’t it?  I can’t believe this.  (And yes, I’m talking about Gov. Patterson as well as Kennedy!  Please, everyone:  tell “your people” to STFU already.)


January 18th 2009
Daughters and political dynasties

Posted under American history & childhood & nepotism & women's history


Like his two immediate predecessors in the U.S. Presidency, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Barack Obama is the father of daughters and only of daughters.  In fact, there are now (at least as of Tuesday) six U.S. Presidents since World War II who were the fathers of daughters only:  Harry S Truman (Margaret), Lyndon Johnson (Lynda and Luci), Richard Nixon (Tricia and Julie), Bill Clinton (Chelsea), George W. Bush (Barbara and Jenna), and Barack Obama (Sasha and Malia).  The other six postwar presidents–Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush–all had children of both sexes.  None had Only Eisenhower had boys only, and only one (Bush) has sons with prominent careers in electoral politics.  (I suppose radio talk show host Michael Reagan is in politics, loosely speaking, but I’m talking here about involvement in electoral politics.)  Am I missing anyone in this list? 

We’ve only had two presidents whose sons also became president.  (And look how that worked out for us, with Mr. Worst and Mr. Second Worst President ever!)  Longtime readers know that I am opposed to nepotism and the creation of American aristocracies, but I recognize that wealth and a famous name are highly useful in launching a career in politics.  I wonder who the first daughter will be to follow her father into the White House?  (Or her mother?  Nah.  Not in my lifetime!)  A few of the women listed above have been active in politics because they married into political families–Julie Nixon Eisenhower is married to David Eisenhower, the grandson of the President after whom Camp David was named.  One married a politician:  Lynda Bird Johnson Robb is married to Chuck Robb, a former Virginia Governor and U.S. Senator.  But no daughters have chosen to become pols.  Most seem to cherish private life after their parents leave the White House.

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January 5th 2009
Kennedy and aristocracy, Palin and motherhood, and the “trashing” of Hillary Clinton

Posted under American history & class & Gender & Intersectionality & nepotism & race & women's history

Speaking of American aristocracy and connections, go read Tina Brown on Caroline Kennedy.  “Why now?” seems to be the question everyone is asking, and Kennedy has been utterly ineffectual in answering that question with her Upper East Side-inflected, dispassionate Locust Valley Lockjaw.  It’s all about class, baby:

I  have my own theory of why Caroline wants it—or, at least, why she suddenly emerged from her Upper East Side walk-in closet after 51 years.

Her default state of mind is captured by that affectless voice we hear on the AP tape and its self-defeating y’knows—dozens of them in less than two and a half minutes. To a British ear, it’s the same low-energy stance of the younger generation of the Royal Family or the grander British aristocracy—which, in American terms, is exactly what she is.

Take a tour of a British stately home with the laid-back heir or heiress to all the Gainsboroughs and Reynoldses on the satin walls (“This is the Red Room, yah, where, y’know, the Duke of Marlborough was, I dunno, like arrested, we just roller skate here now”) and you will experience the same gusts of disinterest that Caroline [has displayed recently.]

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January 4th 2009
Senate appointments: Well now, isn’t that “spayshul?”

Posted under American history & class & Gender & jobs & local news & nepotism & race

Well now, isn't that spayshul?


Now that the Democrats have proved to be infected with cronyism and cowed by celebrity, what do we need Republicans for?  How I long for those days of 2002-2006, when Dems could pretend that all of the problems in our political system were the fault of Republicans….good times, good times, indeed. 

Well, I hate to be the one to break it to those of you outside of Colorado, but our dear Governor Bill Ritter has decided to bestow his gift of a spayshul U.S. Senate appointment on Denver Public Schools chief Michael Bennet!

((crickets chirping))

What do you mean, you’ve never heard of him?  Well, he was briefly listed as a supposed finalist for Secretary of Education in the Obama administration, although he’s been head of DPS for only three years, and those three years constitute the sum total of his experience in education. 

He’s very well-connected, especially outside of Colorado.  He’s the son of Douglas Bennet, a former president of Wesleyan University and president of National Public Radio–funnily enough, Bennet is a graduate of Wesleyan University!  After graduating from Yale Law School in 1993, he found a job in the Bill Clinton administration–the same administration that appointed his father an assistant Secretary of State!  He worked for a just a few years in the Clinton Justice Department before moving to Colorado–where without any experience at all, and although “he couldn’t find his way through an income statement,” he was hired by Right-wing billionaire Phil Anschutz in 1997 to work for his “investment team,” which made Bennet a multi-millionaire himself.  That appears to be Bennet’s longest-held job, as he worked for Anschutz for six years before becoming (fellow Wesleyan-grad!) Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s Chief of Staff in 2003.  He worked for Hick for 2 years, before talking the mayor into appointing him the head of Denver Public Schools in 2005–despite never having had a lick of experience in education!  But, Bennet has learned well that career educrats rarely stick around more than three or four years–sticking around means being accountable for your decisions and “reforms,” whereas there’s a lot more flash and a lot more cash in delivering the appearance of a reformer, making a big media splash, and moving on before the chips fall.  It goes without saying that Bennet’s actual political views and positions on the issues are a mystery to everyone but the Governor. 

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December 15th 2008
Caroline Kennedy? Really?

Posted under American history & local news & nepotism & women's history

Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft makes the case for Caroline Kennedy (whatever happened to “Schlossberg”?)  to be the next U.S. Senator from the state of New York:

Caroline Kennedy is a Columbia Law graduate and co-author of two books: In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action and The Right to Privacy . In addition,

Kennedy serves as a member of the national board of directors for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the vice-chair for the Fund for Public Schools in New York City, and chief executive for the New York City Department of Education Office of Strategic Partnerships.

She co-chaired Obama’s Veep Selection Committee, she’s a director of the Commission on Presidential Debates and an adviser to the Harvard Institute of Politics.

I think she’s more than qualified to be a U.S. Senator and I hope she gets the position. We need more Senators who are cognizant and respectful of our constitutional rights. She’ll be great for education and funding for the arts. 

I agree with Merritt that CKS is qualified to run for the senate, but I don’t think that she has earned a special appointment without a background in politics and a proven record as a campaigner and winner.  (This blog has a healthy suspicion of politicians who on a whim think it would be great fun to become the President of a major research university, for example.  Our inclination is to recognize and respect professional expertise.)  Elizabeth Wurtzel speaks for me on this one in her column published Sunday at The Daily Beast.  While I think that Wurtzel doesn’t give Kennedy enough credit for her education and her books on privacy rights (and pushes the “mommy” card a little too far for my taste), I think she is correct to note that she has never developed a professional identity, let alone a political one, outside of her worthy and dignified work on behalf of her family’s legacy:

Kennedy has mostly spent her life as a wife, a mother, and most ceremoniously, a daughter. Nothing wrong with that—who wouldn’t like to raise kids and go to parent-teacher meetings and occasionally pick a Profile in Courage award recipient? It’s not a bad life, and she’s not a bad person. Unlike a couple of her first cousins, she’s has never been accused of rape or caught driving while intoxicated—not that even these indiscretions are preclusions to public office. She has shown good judgment, and it’s no wonder you might want her to serve on your board of directors or help vet the vice president-to-be.

But being a senator—drafting bills, serving and servicing constituents, organizing an office—is the kind of job that involves more than soliciting donations from your wealthy friends and neighbors. It’s filthy and consuming work. If we really want a Kennedy to fill this empty seat, it would make far more sense to choose Robert Jr., who has accomplished a lot as an attorney and activist, though he has taken his name out of the running. Caroline Bouvier Kennedy is glamorous woman with a top-notch pedigree: Her place is not in the Senate.

I would add one caveat:  unless she actually runs for the office in 2010 or 2012.  This is the key difference between Caroline and her cousins Kathleen, Joe, and Patrick, who actually ran for the offices they won (and in Kathleen’s case, lost), and I think it’s critical.  (Even her uncle Ted had to run for his brother’s senate seat in 1962, although that may have been due more to the fact that he wasn’t yet thirty in January of 1961 when his brother was sworn in as President.)  If you want to get into politics, win an election.  She has a fine background for a Senate candidate, but as someone who has never won a single vote from a single New Yorker, she doesn’t deserve a special appointment to the office.

Oh, and by the way:  it would be unseemly for all of of those Sarah Palin haterz to morph into big Caroline Kennedy supporters.  Love her or hate her, Palin won a primary against a sitting governor of her own party, and then she won in the general election.  She put herself out there and gave the citizens of her state the opportunity to say yea or nay, and it seems to me that there are ample numbers of New York politicians–I’m thinking Nita Lowy or Kirsten Gillibrand myself–who have won thousands (and in Lowy’s case, millions) of votes from their fellow citizens.

This is going to be a big issue this year, with President-elect Barack Obama potentially raiding the Senate for many appointees.  For example, it looks like it’s an issue here in Colorado, with local news reporting that our Senator Ken Salazar has agreed to become Obama’s Secretary of the InteriorMerritt reports that “the speculation now turns to who Gov. [Bill] Ritter will name to replace him. Top names mentioned: Rep. Ed Perlmutter , Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and former (Colorado) House speaker Andrew Romanoff.”  What about Denver Congresswoman Diana DeGette?  She’s in a safe seat for Dems, although the concern about her might probably be that she’s too liberal to win a statewide election in 2010 (although the same could be said for the aforementioned three men.)  But, hey, we just elected “Boulder liberal Mark Udall” to the Senate–so anything could happen, right?


June 6th 2008
Bye, Mike!

Posted under jobs & nepotism & wankers

On May 19, Historiann asked about unscrupulous pol and President of West Virginia University Mike Garrison:  “How long will this guy be permitted to circle the drain at WVU?

Well, the answer is about 17 days.  This morning, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says that Garrison has announced his resignation, effective September 1.  Why September 1, instead of June 6?  (6/6 is a nice, round date.  It’s the anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, after all.)  Those long, drawn-out good-byes have never made sense to me.  Usually, the Provost steps in as the Acting President.  But–oops!  The Provost resigned in April over scandalous revelation that the university had awarded an unearned M.B.A. to the Governor’s daughter.  So did the Dean of the business school!  So did the university’s general counsel!  So did Garrison’s communications chief!  If anyone is left in the administration at WVU at the end of August, please turn the lights out on your way out the door.

Congratulations to the faculty and alumni at WVU, who really hung together in recognizing that Garrison had to go.  West Virginia is a small state, and they don’t need to buy this kind of trouble.  From the Post-Gazette story:

Since the panel’s report, the faculty has voted twice for his resignation by landslide margins, alumni have called for his ouster, and donors have said their checkbooks are closed until Mr. Garrison leaves. Yesterday, a majority of the tenured faculty of WVU’s law school, where Mr. Garrison earned his law degree, asked him to step down.

Here’s some free advice from Historiann for all of my readers who are administrators, or aspire to university administration:  you really should lead the parade of resignations, not be fifth in line.  Now you’re just prolonging your jerkitude.  Nice job, Mike.


May 27th 2008
What to think about spousal/partner hires?

Posted under Berkshire Conference & GLBTQ & jobs & nepotism


That is the question for today, children.  What do we think?  Are we pro-spousal/partner hires?  Do we resent them, or merely envy them?  (Who other than superstars can bargain for a spousal accommodation now, anyway?  A friend of mine commented recently, “we talk about them all the time, but I don’t know anyone who got one.”)  Are they an urban legend, like the story about the peculiar-looking ravenous stray dog who turned out to be an enormous rat eating a family out of house and home?  (You know the one–you heard that story in college, too, didn’t you?)

Reasons to embrace partner/spousal hires:

  1. How the heck else can you lure decent faculty to Waco, Texas, Kearny, Nebraska, Oxford, Ohio, or (for that matter) Fort Collins, Colorado, and keep them there?  If job candidates are married to other academics, institutions should see spousal hires as part of their strategic plan to recruit and retain quality faculty.  And considering that much of the top talent comes either from the two coasts or Chicago, or a few top-notch university towns elsewhere, for universities located in (shall we say?) charmingly pastoral and quiet out-of-the-way towns, you have to figure that you’d dramatically lower your chances of doing a given search over again in 3 years if you can help the successful candidate avoid a lifetime of commuting in-between Bloomington and Philadelphia (for example).
  2. It’s an opportunity to increase the number of tenure lines in your department.  If the Dean is offering you a tenure line, take the money and run.  Unless you find the prospective new colleague truly unprepared, incapable of the job, or profoundly objectionable, how does it hurt your department to play ball with the Dean’s office? 
  3. If you play ball with the Dean, it might be a favor that is returned to your department.  You never know!
  4. It helps with recruiting women faculty especially, since there are still (unfortunately) many more wives who follow their husbands’ careers than husbands who will relocate for their wives’ job opportunities.
  5. (Your turn!)

Reasonable reasons to resent or resist partner/spousal hires:

  1. They’re just another kind of favoritism that heterosexuals enjoy and gay faculty don’t.  While there are some institutions that offer partner hires, anecdotally I hear that if you’re gay, you have to be a super-duper-superstar to get one (as opposed to the mere superstars that heteros must be.)
  2. They’re just another kind of favoritism that partnered people enjoy that single faculty don’t.  (Since the widespread assumption is that unmarried/unpartnered faculty have no personal lives or any need whatsoever for time away from their wonderful colleagues or beloved students, they already get saddled with more than their share of after-hours service, like running the Trivial Pursuit marathon for the History Club.  Hiring more married or partnered people by design will only exacerbate this injustice!)
  3. Departments should decide their hiring priorities, not other departments or the Dean’s office.  A common objection raised against spousal hires is that they will “take up” a tenure-track line that a department would otherwise have been able to define as they choose.
  4. (Your turn!)

Unreasonable reasons (according to Historiann only) to object to partner/spousal hires:

  1. No one ever did anything for your partner/spouse, so you don’t feel inclined to stick your neck out for anyone else.
  2. People are responsible for their own personal lives.  Why should a workplace have to come up with two jobs for one family, when there are so many deserving job candidates desperate for just ONE job offer?  Either take the job, or don’t.  Suck it up, or move on. 
  3. The reputation of our department will suffer if we hire someone who didn’t survive the rigors of a national or international open search.
  4. (Your turn–to agree, disagree, or add to this list.)

UPDATE, later this morning:  Uncharacteristically, I forgot to mention that we’ve got a session that will I’m sure discuss partner and spousal hires at the upcoming Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, which meets this June 12-15 at the University of Minnesota.  (Details here, and program here.)  The roundtable is called “DUAL CAREERS IN ACADEMIA: CHALLENGES, EXPERIENCES, AND STRATEGIES,” and features Laura L. Lovett, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, on “A Campus of One’s Own: The Costs and Benefits of Dual Careers;” Natasha Zaretsky, Southern Illinois University, on “Two Historians in the Family;” Eve Weinbaum, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, on “Union Responses to Work and Family Issues;” and Andrea Davies Henderson, Stanford University, on “Dual-Career Academic Couples.”  Come on down and join the party in Minneapolis, if you can!


January 27th 2008
Barack and Roll

Posted under American history & nepotism

Barack Obama is a happy, happy man today.  He trounced his rivals for the Democratic nomination yesterday in South Carolina, and has the wind at his back as the rest of us all trudge toward Super Tuesday.

wonka_gold_ticket3.jpgTenured Radical has a post up that notes Caroline Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama this morning in the New York Times.  The Radical one writes, “If the Kennedy family hits the campaign trail for Obama, it’s all over but the shouting, friends.”  If the whole family–Senator Edward M., Congressman Patrick, and Lieutenant Governor Kathleen–you know, the Kennedys who are actually in politics–hits the trail for one candidate, that would make a statement.  But, seriously:  does anyone really care who Caroline Kennedy thinks should be the next President?  (I suppose the title of CK’s op-ed piece should clue us in as to why her opinion should matter:  “A President Like My Father.”)  But, is being (tragically) the only survivor of your birth family something that should make your opinion matter?  (It may matter to baby boomers and older people, but I don’t think she matter to my generation, or certainly to anyone under 30.)

Obama’s campaign benefits from the notion that he represents a break with the past, and from the tedious royalism of Bush-Clinton, Bush-Clinton that looms with the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency.  Hauling out the genealogical blessing of Caroline Kennedy is trying to have it both ways (although it may be a canny maneuver because Clinton’s support tends to come from those who are 45 and older).  But I thought that the Republican party was the party that celebrated and naturalized unearned privilege.  Shouldn’t Democrats get over this worship of blood and family?  Allons, enfants de la patrie…

UPDATE:  Tenured Radical has a new post up noting that Senator Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama is confirmed, and she comments on Paul Krugman’s column this morning in which he comments on the lessons of 1992 for any Democrat elected president this year.  Personally, I’ve never believed that Obama actually believes that he is a uniquely non-divisive person who can “unite the country.”  This has always seemed like a shrewd way to differentiate himself from Senator Clinton, but I think (I hope?) he’s too smart to fall for his own rhetoric.  Bill and Hillary Clinton were not divisive, their “sin” was that they won–in 1992, and again in 1996, and again in the failed impeachment of 1999.  If he is elected, he and Michelle will be Public Enemies #1 and #2 in the right-wing playbook anyway, and Krugman’s column reminds us all that any new Democratic president had better understand that and be ready to swing for the fences on progressive policy.


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