Don Young, Alaska’s Finest, Continually Reminds Us…

… much more eloquently than ol’ UD can, on this blog devoted to the importance of higher education, that a reasonably serious college education might really help you be less stupid throughout your life. But Don Young also reminds us that democracy means people are free to choose the political leaders they feel best represent them; and in always returning this man to Washington, Alaska has made its sense of itself clear.

Back in 2011, in one of many similar embarrassments for the state of Alaska, Young called a congressional witness’s testimony “garbage,” and addressed him by the name of the university at which he teaches. Called him Mr Rice. The witness, Douglas Brinkley, professor of history at Rice, responded.

“It’s Dr. Brinkley, Rice is a university,” and “I know you went to Yuba [Community College in California] and couldn’t graduate — ”

Then it was Young’s turn to interrupt. “I’ll call you anything I want to call you when you sit in that chair,” he told the witness. “You just be quiet.”

Brinkley countered: “You don’t own me. I pay your salary. I work for the private sector and you work for the taxpayer.”

See, that’s democracy too. Stupid aggressive people run the risk of encountering smart aggressive people – people who know the difference between a king and a congressman.

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You know how during his presidential elections, Barack Obama’s opponents are always calling him a professor? Because you wouldn’t want an intellectual, a smart, non-representative, non-Don-Young sort of person running America? Another Alaskan, Sarah Palin, called Obama “professor” repeatedly. Remember what Michael Kinsley wrote at the time?

If an intellectual snob is someone who secretly thinks he’s smarter than the average Joe, we’ve probably never had a president — even Harry Truman — who wasn’t one. It’s true, I think, that Obama hides it worse than most. But having a president who thinks he’s smart, and shows it, is a small price to pay for having a president who really is smart. Or would people really rather have a stupid president?

Alaskans have every right to be represented a man so stupid that he has become a national laughingstock. That’s representative democracy at its best. This country’s proud anti-intellectual tradition was famously articulated by Senator Roman Hruska in defense of Nixon’s nomination of Harrold Carswell to the Supreme Court:

When Senator Hruska addressed the Senate in March 1970, speaking on Judge Carswell’s behalf, he asked why mediocrity should be a disqualification for high office.

“Even if he were mediocre,” Mr. Hruska declared, “there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they, and a little chance? We can’t have all Brandeises, Frankfurters and Cardozos.”

If Alaskans have dipped significantly below mediocrity in Don Young, that is entirely up to them. But whether it’s Young, or perennial presidential hopeful Donald Trump, the rest of us have an equal right, like Brinkley, to laugh at these buffoons. (And yes, I know Trump went to good schools. I said a good education “might” help you.)

Remembering. And keeping an eye on gender apartheid at British universities.

Towards the end of 2012, [in response to] the growing practice of gender segregation at public events in universities, Universities UK (UUK), the governing body of British universities, issued guidance which permitted gender segregation of women in university spaces in order to accommodate the religious beliefs of external speakers. The guidance presented in the form of a case study purported to provide advice in contexts in which the right to manifest religion clashes with gender equality.

Far from addressing the question of sex discrimination, the guidance merely legitimised gender apartheid. It took a campaign and threats of legal action by [Southall Black Sisters] before the UUK agreed to withdraw the guidance. We argued that the UUK’s guidance violated the equality and non-discrimination principles enshrined in the Public Sector Equality Duty under the Equality Act and other equalities and human rights legislation, themselves the product of long and hard campaigning by feminists, racial minorities and other marginalised groups in society. The withdrawal of the UUK guidance was followed by a formal investigation by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission which found the guidelines to be unlawful…

This blog will continue to keep an eye on attempts at gender segregation at universities.

Libretti, égalité…

The law is the law. More important than that, however, is the spontaneous refusal on the part of citizens of a democratic republic to behave as though it’s business as usual when the values of the republic are flouted.

When you wear the niqab in France, it’s no longer go on with the show.

Exciting News in Airline Codesharing!

Subject to government approval, EL AL plans to place its “LY” code on select JetBlue-operated flights to/from New York (JFK/Newark), expanding options throughout the United States for EL AL customers.

LY stands for Loathesome You, and refers to female El Al passengers, all of whom, on taking their seats, will be subject to the revulsion of the orthodox Jewish men on board, who will insist on being seated away from female loathesomeness.

Welcome to Jet Blue, ladies! Relax, take a seat, and then watch while the men on the plane treat you like a just-excreted piece of shit.

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You know what to do. Boycott Jet Blue.

It might be a famous statement, but UD hadn’t run across it.

Robert Maynard Hutchins, founder of the University of Chicago, … famously said: “The present primacy of public relations in the management of universities, the view that they must ingratiate themselves with the public, and in particular with the most wealthy and influential portions of it, the doctrine that a university may properly frame its policies in order to get money and that it may properly teach or study whatever it can get financed — these notions are ruinous to a university in any rational conception of it.”

She found it in a solid presentation of the Steven Salaita debacle at the University of Illinois.

“If no agreement is reached, the Coastal Commission would acquire all or a part of Khosla’s property by eminent domain to ensure access.”

Well, China has Hong Kong… I guess this is what social unrest looks like in postmodern America

UD will admit she’d enjoy seeing a vast street demonstration made up of No Beach Access billionaires…

China Cracks the Whip!

[Recently, more] than 100 faculty members at the [University of Chicago] called for the [China-run] Confucius Institute at the [university] to be discontinued.

The institute had too much influence in determining “what’s worth teaching, what’s worth researching” and “what counts as knowledge,” Bruce Lincoln, a professor of the history of religions at the university’s Divinity School and an organizer of the petition, told The Chicago Maroon, the college newspaper, in early May.

A news article in a Chinese daily praised the swift and strong disciplining of the rebellious U of C by Xu Lin, the apparatchik who runs the institutes.

“Many people have felt Xu Lin’s toughness,” The Jiefang Daily wrote admiringly, citing a letter it said Ms. Xu wrote to the University of Chicago’s president in response to the petition.

“In just one sentence she said, ‘Should your college decide to withdraw, I’ll agree,’” the article said. In Chinese, that sentence carries connotations of a challenge. It continued: “Her attitude made the other side anxious. The school quickly responded that it will continue to properly manage the Confucius Institute.”

Uh, right away, party leader!

… But no. On reflection, the University of Chicago decided it didn’t want to attend the party at all.

Join the crowd.

“[My opponents are invoking the] cynical rhetoric of class warfare.”

For those of us impatiently awaiting Tom “Kristallnacht” Perkins’ successor, Vinod Khosla has arrived not a moment too soon. It’s his beach, and he’ll sue all the way to the Supreme Court if he has to.

There’s even a wonderful mine, mine, all mine cosmic convergence here: For years, Khosla worked for Tom Perkins’ venture firm.

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Khosla has progressive academia’s endorsement as a trustee of Berkeley’s Blum Center (and Mr. Blum... eh. Nuff said.)

Maybe Robert Reich, who has been eloquent on the corrosive social and moral effects of income inequality, can take Khosla aside for a chat. Reich too is on the Blum board.

The Cultural Revolution maneuver has also been tried at universities…

… and in some of our dumber states it can sometimes work. It was well on its way toward happening at the University of Virginia until people started noticing, and the state’s prison-bound governor got involved.

High schools are particularly vulnerable to boards of trustees stuffed with ideologues determined to turn the schools into propaganda venues.

In response to student protest in one Colorado district, the board president has responded with characteristic condescension:

“I would rather be able to do those things without conflict, but at the end of the day, it’s very important that we align with those goals,” he said.

We’d love it if the revolution could be bloodless, but one way or another, historical inevitability being what it is, these kids will learn what’s good for them.

A petition.

“The entire nation of France has a ban on the burka – I mean, is the entire nation of France a nation of racists?”

And other countries, other municipalities, around the world, are banning the woman-annihilating burqa.

In Australia, growing numbers of people and politicians – like Liberal MP George Christiansen, from whom I’ve taken this post’s headline – are calling for a burqa ban.

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UPDATE: And, as is usually the case, polls suggest a comfortable majority of Australians favor a ban.

UD’s blogpal, Timothy Burke…

writes a great letter to the chancellor of the university that withdrew its offer to Steven Salaita.

It’s important for faculty to be conversant with the entirety of our public culture and to be able to travel across different media and platforms. Not just for the cultivation of their scholarship but also for their ability to teach the current and future generations.

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UD
thanks Wendy.

“The only Zionism of any consequence today is xenophobic and exclusionary, a Jewish ethno-nationalism inspired by religious messianism.”

Antony Lerman, in today’s New York Times, notes “the disgraceful antics of the anti-democratic forces that are setting Israel’s political agenda,” and notes also (this blog is interested in education and women’s rights) its social agenda. He touches on Israel’s “strictly Orthodox,” and no doubt has in mind, among other influential and populous communities, the notoriously ignorant haredim. Again and again Israel attempts to get this increasingly demographically dominant group to adopt even a small portion of the country’s national education standards; again and again haredim schools refuse to teach their students mathematics, the use of computers, science, English. It was the same thing recently in Belgium, whose government also insisted that their haredim teach their children how to function and qualify for employment in the modern world. Amazingly, the haredim there responded by arguing

that the restrictions limit their freedom to educate their children according to their beliefs and asked the court to fine the government $6,780 per child for every day the limitations are in place, according to a report by Belga, the Belgian news agency.

You read that right. Make the government pay for every day that the education of one of their children is threatened. Understand? Make the government pay for every day that the government threatens to educate their children.

Lerman writes that in Israel as in all countries “[t]he indivisibility of human, civil and political rights has to take precedence over the dictates of religion,” but he perceives that – as in the example of the Israeli state’s inability to do anything about the growth of an ignorant, illiberal, anti-modern, sexist, and messianic group within it – the understanding of and commitment to this indivisibility is vanishing.

Turkish…

Delight.

“[M]ainstream Muslims should be at the forefront of the campaign for a ban, not least because the burka so badly undermines the credibility and reputation of our faith.”

A prominent British imam, in the wake of the European Court upholding the French burqa ban, launches a campaign “led by Muslims, speaking for the moderate majority whose voice has been unheeded up to now,” to ban the burqa from that country’s public spaces.

Read all of UD‘s commentary on the burqa by clicking on the category democracy at the bottom of this post.

July Fourth Instablogging.

I do this every year.

I am instablogging the Garrett Park Maryland July Fourth parade, which goes right by my house, and how could it not, given the Lake Wobegone size of Garrett Park. It is now ten in the morning; the parade leaves the Garrett Park Elementary School grounds at 10:30. Wee UD graduated from the school, but back then GPES was a dull low-ceilinged brick dealie with cinderblock rooms… Two years ago they tore it down (the population in madly sought-after ‘thesda has grown insanely) and an actual architect vastly enlarged and rebuilt it, so now it’s all way-high skylights and winsome curving hallways and rainscaped gardens.

I have swept my storm-tossed front steps and driveway, I have swept even the street in front of my house (don’t want the floats wobbling on the branches that came down last night), and I have placed one of my deck chairs at the end of my driveway. From this very chair I will blog the event (assuming internet connection’s okay – after the storm we lost it for a few hours).

After a typically grim July morning, things have picked up out there sun-wise, and it’s not even stifling. There’s even a breeze.

UD is hoping her elderly Latvian neighbors will also be out watching the parade, because Les UDs recently got a rather elaborate letter from, er, Latgales Regionala Nodala (stick a bunch of diacritical marks on some of those letters) about their Latvian snail farm. (Longtime readers know that Les UDs own a Latvian snail farm. Another way of looking at it is that Mr UD inherited property, post-communism, from Latvia, because it had been owned by his family. And it isn’t an active snail farm; it is simply full of snails that someone imported onto the property long ago in the thought that the family might want to farm snails. Something like that.) Said letter includes photographs of their property plus official-looking language and stampings… Is the paltry tax they pay on the thing about to climb to fifty million dollars a year? UD is hoping her neighbors are willing to translate this document for her.

Okay, I’m moving my operations to my driveway.

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Internet connection so far fantastic. Cannot believe this is July and I am not sweating my guts out. A cool, breezy, sunny, morning.

Distant patriotic music!

And now, to my left, my down the street neighbor Peggy (I’ve known her for fifty years) puts out white folding chairs; and to my right – a big crowd of neighbors comes barreling down Rokeby Avenue… Looking for a prime viewing spot? Plenty of those, plenty of those… Like Lake Wobegone, we’re so small most of the townspeople are in the parade.

Hi Jack, says UD to her neighbor Jack.

I like the way you’re… [Jack mimics typing]

Someone’s got to blog the parade, says UD.

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Sounds of sirens!

Many dogs, mainly poodles.

Wind instrument: bugle?

Very loud siren – must be coming from the fire engine that heads the parade.

Bigger crowd than usual this year – good weather?

Flashing lights stage right. Here comes the fire engine.

Way loud sirens as the fire engine comes down Rokeby Avenue.

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Hokay. Much later. I managed to miss a good deal of the parade because a bunch of neighbors gathered around my chair and we all got to talking. So no real instablogging possible as UD learned of her neighbors’ new jobs, visits to Mexico, etc. UD also learned that the song she wrote for Garrett Park’s spring concert (a fund-raiser for a music scholarship) was – or so the event’s organizer claims – “a hit.” The musicale’s theme was Recycling, and UD put Garrett Park-related lyrics to Second Hand Rose. But she was at the beach when the concert took place. She had wondered how the lyrics went over…

Anyway. A good year for my town’s parade. Lots of kids, lots of clever takes on the parade’s theme: Garrett Park Through the Ages. UD‘s favorite thing: A bright red VW beetle convertible full of hippies. On the sides of the car were big white flowing letters that read LOVE PEACE HAPPINESS LOVE PEACE etc.

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Here’s what it’s like at 9:30 on the evening of the Fourth.

UD is lying down on the grassy hill halfway up her half acre. She is gazing high into the branches of her high old trees at three thrushes who are all very loudly singing their eerie thrush song.

Imagine the sharp harsh sound of the first high notes; imagine the strange low-throttle trill after that; and, after that, the famous ee-oh-lay. You lie there listening to them cycle through the three parts again and again, with variations…

The air is thick with fireflies.

From every direction, little local fireworks displays are popping and booming in your ears.

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