Letters, I Get Letters

Here are a few interesting items I got this week and didn’t get a chance to post:

  • Reader JK sent in this bit about Ken Langone, founder of Home Depot:

    Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.

    I believe it’s well-accepted that Hitler was saying, with different words, that Facebook shouldn’t have bought Instagram, that Jar-Jar Binks is the worst character in Star Wars, and that the best looking muscle car was the ’72 RoadRunner. Langone did apologize.

  • Another reader sent this piece about a hidden aspect of the Hobby Lobby “religious freedom to deny employees contraception coverage” case. Hobby Lobby’s precious religious fee-fees are offended not only by the idea of sluts getting birth control, but also by doctors counseling sluts about birth control. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to find all the places in the bible where Jesus preached the virtues of ignorance. The ultimate end to this scam is for every US corporation to declare their allegiance to the original teachings of Mary Baker Eddy and the Church of Christ, Scientist. Insurance for that could probably be confined to a prepaid Amazon Prime subscription with a restricted order list. Related to that, here’s a good fact sheet on contraception from the Guttmacher institute.
  • Reader RT send this transcription of a Chomsky speech about higher ed, along with an older Tom Frank piece about higher ed. I’m not the world’s biggest Chomsky fan, but I thought he nailed a lot of the issues facing modern universities, including the growth of administration and the shitty treatment of adjuncts.
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49 replies
  1. 1
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    The ultimate end to this scam is for every US corporation to declare their allegiance to the original teachings of Mary Baker Eddy and the Church of Christ, Scientist. Insurance for that could probably be confined to a prepaid Amazon Prime subscription with a restricted order list.

    Sounds like a good plan. The sooner we get to this, the sooner we drop this ridiculous legacy from WWII of getting health insurance from your employer and go to single-payer.

    Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

  2. 2
    MikeJ says:

    Read Fred Clark’s post this week about contraception. He’s betting that in ten years not only will everybody know that evangelicals are against contraception, everybody will know that evangelicals were always against contraception. It will be ridiculous to think of a time, like today, when evangelicals viewed birth control as a good thing.

  3. 3
    Chyron HR says:

    You know who else talked about what his country had to do to survive as a society?

  4. 4
    c u n d gulag says:

    Conservative Evangelical Christian POV:
    Jesus would heartily approve of men getting free “quicker-pecker-uppers” like V*agra!

    Jesus would frown on slu… skan… whor… ho… beyotc… women, getting free contraception!!!

    And Jesus would be for “Forced Labor” for women too, if they get pregnant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. 5

    Senator Claire McCaskill (D) held a series of six open town halls across Missouri this past week. She didn’t get very many Obamacare questions from those in attendance. This, from a media availability after the Columbia, Missouri town hall:

    “…So, we have now said if you want to keep these policies, and frankly that market churns so much it’s very unusual for someone to keep one of those policies longer than a year anyway, because it is the, it is the minimal, minimal type of coverage that get because they can’t get anything else or don’t want anything else. Most of the people that have that kind of coverage, if they’ll shop on the exchange they’re gonna get better insurance for less money. So I think the problem’s gonna take care of itself, ’cause I don’t think very many smart people are gonna want to hold on to a policy that doesn’t give them very good benefits for a higher premium than they can buy on the exchange. So, it, it is, but we’ve now extended, people can keep it now for two years, which is much longer than the average length of time that anybody keeps those kinds of policies…”

  6. 6
    dirge says:

    Langone didn’t actually apologize.
    He didn’t quite even reach the typical non-apology of “I’m sorry if you were offended.”

  7. 7
    cleek says:

    I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to find all the places in the bible where Jesus preached the virtues of ignorance.

    well, speaking as an atheist, i can’t help but think that’s exactly what the whole ‘faith’ thing is about. “Because I said so” isn’t exactly rigorous science.

  8. 8
    bemused says:

    Bill Maher drives me crazy sometimes. Last night he had on Errol Morris who made a documentary, Understanding Donald Rumsfeld. I got the impression that Rumsfeld freely participated, talking, talking a lot and Morris letting Rumsfeld display his smugness. Maher doesn’t think Rumsfeld is so bad, not the worst one in Bush years, and just didn’t seem to catch on to Rumsfeld’s sociopathic obfuscations. Anyone else see that segment?

  9. 9
    scav says:

    @cleek:But, as an Atheist, I’m also not so sure what the proportion of the bible (cobbled together later from convenient bits of a larger corpus of odd bits floating about), let alone the doctrinal emphasis on ‘faith’ that has grown up on top of it (handy for administrators), has to do with the teachings of Jesus.

  10. 10
    Anton Sirius says:

    @bemused: The movie’s called The Unknown Known, and I thought it did a fantastic job of humanizing Rumsfeld, just as Morris’ The Fog of War did a fantastic job of humanizing McNamara.

  11. 11
    bemused says:

    @Anton Sirius:

    My annoyance with Maher is that he dismisses Rumsfeld never actually answering a question with a “you figure it out” grin on his face as a nothing burger.

  12. 12
    Fuzzy says:

    @Anton Sirius: Absolutely. Those two barbaric bloodthirsty warmongers never shed a drop of blood for their country. I wonder if any of their families did either? Actually, who among the talking heads,apart from McCain, ever did?

  13. 13
    Mnemosyne says:

    @cleek:

    well, speaking as an atheist, i can’t help but think that’s exactly what the whole ‘faith’ thing is about. “Because I said so” isn’t exactly rigorous science.

    The problem is more that certain people are looking to a book of philosophy and metaphorical stories (aka “parables”) for scientific answers. It makes about as much sense as expecting that reading The Merry Wives of Windsor will help you calculate the exact distance from the earth to the moon.

    Of course, the issue goes back to the initial confusion between science and philosophy way back in ancient Greece, and probably earlier, but that’s really what the problem is — people conflating science with philosophy.

  14. 14
    Cervantes says:

    @Fuzzy: McNamara served in the Air Force (AAF, actually), and Rumsfeld was a Navy pilot.

  15. 15
    Mandalay says:

    @dirge:

    Langone didn’t actually apologize. He didn’t quite even reach the typical non-apology of “I’m sorry if you were offended.”

    Huh? From the OP link:

    “My remarks were intended to discourage pitting one group against another group in a society. If my choice of words was inappropriate — and they well may have been that — I extend my profound apologies to anyone and everyone who I may have offended,” Langone said in the statement.

    Hardly an abject plea for forgiveness, but he certainly met your “non-apology” threshold.

  16. 16
    Anton Sirius says:

    @bemused: Maher is just smart and arrogant enough to get himself in trouble when matched against an actual smart person like Morris. Just like Rumsfeld. It’s no wonder he felt some sympathy.

  17. 17
    scav says:

    Public Service Announcement: Apparently there’s a bad lot of Gin-soaked raisins out on the street. Use this anecdotal relief from arthritis with caution. Driver buses kids back to school in PA, blames those demon raisins

  18. 18
    dmsilev says:

    @Mandalay:

    If my choice of words was inappropriate

    God, I hate that phrase. Any “apology” that starts that way isn’t worth the pixels it was rendered with.

  19. 19
    Mandalay says:

    @Anton Sirius:

    Maher is just smart and arrogant enough to get himself in trouble when matched against an actual smart person like Morris.

    Maher is dumb and arrogant enough to regularly get himself in trouble just by running his mouth (though he is rarely called on it). He certainly doesn’t need a smart person as a catalyst. I throw Maher in the same basket as Rand Paul: he has some rock solid beliefs and great ideas on a few important issues, but that does not mean that he isn’t batshit insane and dangerous on other issues.

  20. 20
    Elly says:

    “…but I thought he nailed a lot of the issues facing modern universities, including the growth of administration and the shitty treatment of adjuncts.”

    There’s also this: http://freethoughtblogs.com/ph.....t-you-pay/

    The current “business model” of abusing adjuncts strikes me as unsustainable. There may be a glut of qualified applicants for adjunct positions now, but that pool will dry up as incoming students do the math and realize that academia is a career dead end. This can only lead to a lowering of the standards for filling adjunct positions.

  21. 21
    Mandalay says:

    @dmsilev:

    God, I hate that phrase. Any “apology” that starts that way isn’t worth the pixels it was rendered with.

    Well TBF, your quote is a bit misleading because of the truncation. What he actually said was ” If my choice of words was inappropriate — and they well may have been that“.

    Still mealy mouthed for sure, but better than nothing, and better than what you generally get when a wingnut is called on their ranting.

  22. 22
    Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader says:

    Hitler is History’s Greatest Teacher.

  23. 23
    bemused says:

    @Anton Sirius:

    Exactly.

  24. 24
    AnonPhenom says:

    and that the best looking muscle car was the ’72 RoadRunner

    Ah, hell no! That nazi mofo don’t know from sh!t.

  25. 25
    🍀 Martin says:

    The Chomsky piece is pretty good. I don’t know that it captures the breadth of issues particularly well, but it sets a good tone for how we should approach them.

    Since he’s addressing adjuncts, the adjunct problem in STEM schools, at least, is pretty straightforward at most universities. They’re faculty that are supported entirely by grants, and have a minimum teaching requirement (in order to be called faculty as opposed to researchers). Some universities dump them in large classes, but I actually know more that don’t, and instead put them in classes closely related to their research which tend to be fairly small advanced undergraduate or graduate courses. He has it right that they don’t get paid well, they don’t have job security, they don’t have any part of the shared governance from which most other faculty rights come from. So their existence in most STEM programs is entirely a byproduct of the research grant system in this country. If you can build up a large center that can reliably bring in money or you land some huge multiyear grant, you can tip up a lot of positions and give them reasonably good career stretches, and sometime even get promoted into a tenure position (though that is so rare as to be almost shocking when it happens).

    The bigger underlying problem here is the unpredictability in funding in higher end. Research money is extremely unpredictable in the local sense, but pretty predictable in the broader sense. It doesn’t vary a huge amount from year to year, but where that money comes from and what areas it can be used can move a LOT, and you can’t take some guy doing research in robotics and have him work on research in organic chemistry. And because of that, there’s a massive disincentive to doing anything with long term cost implications for the institution. So money goes into capital projects but not recurring expenses.

    And the same is often true for state and student dollars as well, mainly because the institution usually takes a large share of those dollars and then parcels them out to the end groups that actually decide on hiring. Do you hire a faculty member that you will probably still need to be paying 35 years from now when you don’t know if you will even have that money next year because the higher administration shifted priorities? So again everyone understaffs and instead invests in things that don’t have recurring costs. So you get fancy buildings and conference rooms and classroom technology and lab equipment and shiny brochures and all that because they are things with no long-term financial commitment. And the very last thing you invest in (even though everyone agrees its the most important thing) is faculty. Staff are easier to invest in because they aren’t tenured. They are much more fungible – if you find yourself over budget on staff, you will always have some attrition to rely on, and you can then shift people around – move this contracts person over to payroll or purchasing, etc. Again, you can’t move your chemist over to anthropology. Supporting faculty requires extremely reliable funding sources, and they just don’t exist any longer, at least in public universities. They don’t have Harvard’s $30B endowment that can smooth over all of the rough budget edges.

  26. 26
    bemused says:

    @scav:

    Ha, bus driver must have eaten a bucket of the raisins and swigged from the bottle in between hands full.

  27. 27
    Mandalay says:

    @Fuzzy:

    Those two barbaric bloodthirsty warmongers never shed a drop of blood for their country.

    At least McNamara seemed to learn from his awful mistakes. It’s a shame Dubya didn’t read his book before deciding to invade Iraq:

    From Robert McNamara’s 1995 book “In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam”.[9]
    We misjudged then — and we have since — the geopolitical intentions of our adversaries … and we exaggerated the dangers to the United States of their actions.
    We viewed the people and leaders of South Vietnam in terms of our own experience … We totally misjudged the political forces within the country.
    We underestimated the power of nationalism to motivate a people to fight and die for their beliefs and values.
    Our misjudgments of friend and foe, alike, reflected our profound ignorance of the history, culture, and politics of the people in the area, and the personalities and habits of their leaders.
    We failed then — and have since — to recognize the limitations of modern, high-technology military equipment, forces, and doctrine. We failed, as well, to adapt our military tactics to the task of winning the hearts and minds of people from a totally different culture.
    We failed to draw Congress and the American people into a full and frank discussion and debate of the pros and cons of a large-scale military involvement … before we initiated the action.
    After the action got under way, and unanticipated events forced us off our planned course … we did not fully explain what was happening, and why we were doing what we did.
    We did not recognize that neither our people nor our leaders are omniscient. Our judgment of what is in another people’s or country’s best interest should be put to the test of open discussion in international forums. We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our image or as we choose.
    We did not hold to the principle that U.S. military action … should be carried out only in conjunction with multinational forces supported fully (and not merely cosmetically) by the international community.
    We failed to recognize that in international affairs, as in other aspects of life, there may be problems for which there are no immediate solutions … At times, we may have to live with an imperfect, untidy world.
    Underlying many of these errors lay our failure to organize the top echelons of the executive branch to deal effectively with the extraordinarily complex range of political and military issues.

    That said, I have seen no sign that Rumsfeld has learned anything from all the evil he did.

  28. 28
    Bart says:

    @bemused: Saw that and even without having seen Morris’ documentary I knew Maher was dead wrong. An infuriating discussion with Maher unwilling to back down from his painfully idiotic opinions. So what if Rumsfeld wasn’t as bad as the likes of Cheney — Cheney’s so goddamn evil that he stood out amongst that cabal of assholes, doesn’t mean the rest of them weren’t vile human beings.

  29. 29
    Tokyokie says:

    People like Langone need to experience some of the insecurity they have imposed on their employees and society at large, and if it’s merely fearing that the have-nots will cut their throats as they sleep, so be it.

  30. 30
    The Other Chuck says:

    You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.

    How about spite? Because we’ve got at least 27% of this country who wants to burn it all down to spite liberals.

  31. 31
    Jay C says:

    Actually, Ken Langone’s stupid “Hitler” remarks weren’t even (IMO) the stupidest thing he’s said lately: he has apparently been griping to New York’s Cardinal Dolan that Pope Francis doesn’t appreciate rich people enough. SRSLY. Coupled with veiled threats that too much of old Frankie’s dumping on “capitalist benefactors” might have negative repercussions in the collection plate. I can’t imagine this is going to get very far with either Dolan or the Pope: maybe Ken Langone can order up a cross from Home Depot to accentuate his martyrdom. Maroon.

  32. 32
    Jennifer says:

    @Jay C: maybe Ken Langone can order up a cross from Home Depot to accentuate his martyrdom.

    He’ll have to pry Sarah Palin off of it first.

  33. 33
    Chris says:

    Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.

    Yet another attempt to reinvent an iconic far right figure as a leftist. At least when the Repubs say “did you know the Ku Klux Klan were Democrats?” it’s technically true.

  34. 34
    Anton Sirius says:

    @Jay C:

    maybe Ken Langone can order up a cross from Home Depot to accentuate his martyrdom.

    Or a needle with an eye big enough for him to squeeze through…

  35. 35
    Heliopause says:

    I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to find all the places in the bible where Jesus preached the virtues of ignorance.

    “People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’” Luke 18: 15-17.

  36. 36
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Heliopause: That’s a bit of a stretch.

  37. 37
    Heliopause says:

    These aren’t Jesus but here are a couple of good ones from his dad and one from Paul.

    “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’” God in Genesis 2: 16-17

    “The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’” God in Genesis 11: 6-7.

    “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” Paul in Hebrews 11: 1-2.

  38. 38
    Another Holocene Human says:

    I’ve discovered MURDOCH MYSTERIES on Netflix. OMG. It’s my love of forensics without all the nasty reality bits, the lead character is so cute I want to Elmyra the life out of him, the Canadian accents, and it is sooooo freaking steampunk! Slap some gears induction coils on that!

    I think the first episode is the best episode. TESLAAAAAAAAAA. I’m on the second season, so don’t spoil me if THEY BRING HIM BACK PLEASE JESUS.

    Going to have to read the books, too. Never thought I’d get into something so Ca-na-dian. I’ve heard Stephen bloody Harper cameos in season 5… btw, great schadenfreude re: Harper this week, nasty little blighter. He got slapped duuuuuown.

  39. 39
    Another Holocene Human says:

    Suck it, Harper: http://www.thestar.com/news/ca.....nadon.html

  40. 40
    Just One More Canuck says:

    @Another Holocene Human: We don’t have accents – you do

  41. 41
    Just One More Canuck says:

    @Another Holocene Human: We don’t have accents – you do

  42. 42
    Just One More Canuck says:

    @Another Holocene Human: We don’t have accents – you do

  43. 43
    Just One More Canuck says:

    FYWP

  44. 44
    RSA says:

    Chomsky:

    The other model [of education] was described as laying out a string along which the student progresses in his or her own way under his or her own initiative, maybe moving the string, maybe deciding to go somewhere else, maybe raising questions… You have gain[ed] the capacity and the self-confidence for that matter to challenge and create and innovate, and that way you learn; that way you’ve internalized the material and you can go on. It’s not a matter of accumulating some fixed array of facts which then you can write down on a test and forget about tomorrow.

    This is great, and I try to do this in the classes I teach. I always get the standard question from students, “Is this going to be on the test?” which is a bit disheartening. Worse, though, is what I see as the general public perception that the main goal of going to college is to get a job.

  45. 45

    Ricky Gervais came out with this rather brilliant tweet this week. “If White Christian Males were the ones that got pregnant there would be abortion kits in every pub toilet” He is so right.

  46. 46
    🍀 Martin says:

    @RSA:

    I always get the standard question from students, “Is this going to be on the test?” which is a bit disheartening.

    This attitude doesn’t just lie with students. It lies with everyone, including faculty. Most faculty aren’t interested in knowing how the institution actually works, they just want to know the minimum they need to do except in the area or two that they really care about. Faculty know where they’re really graded when it comes time for a merit – be it in teaching or research – and they do the minimum everywhere else. Students are no different.

    If universities cannot clearly tie the courses students take to things that will happen later in life, then you’re entirely dependent on students to be motivated in that subject. Nobody is immune from this. If you ask the physicists to take an anthropology class solely to make them ‘well rounded’, then you can probably count on every one of those students not giving a shit about what you’re teaching. They only want the ‘B’ because they were forced to be there. And then if the course is obviously a fluff course, one that the majors in the discipline don’t take, then expect it even more broadly because here the faculty are broadcasting ‘this information is so useless, even the anthropology students don’t need to know it’.

    So, a lot of these problems are self-imposed.

  47. 47
    HL_guy says:

    Re: the Chomsky piece- yes, he lays out some of the problems very well. He goes overboard with the indoctrination piece, but whatever. But the part that ticks me off, is this:

    You know better than I do what has to be done, the kind of problems you face. Just got ahead and do what has to be done. Don’t be intimidated, don’t be frightened, and recognize that the future can be in our hands if we’re willing to grasp it.

    Really Noam? That’s an inspirational Nike poster, not actual helpful advice.
    The problem is, as academics, they (we, really, I’m not an adjunct but facing these challenges with them) actually don’t know what to do… how to form a union, how to establish workplace conditions, etc. As an academic myself, I know that the rules have changed so fast that the implicit promises of the last generation to members of our profession are being stripped away so fast it is breathtaking, and we were never taught/trained/socialized to think about how to deal with these sorts of issues what are coming at us all so rapidly.
    Also, the adjunct-folk can’t do it on their own, adjuncts and tenure-line folk must work together, because while they have slightly different interests but are all gonna be de-professionalized together if State governments and full-time administration get their way.

  48. 48
    RSA says:

    @🍀 Martin:

    So, a lot of these problems are self-imposed.

    True. It needs shifts of culture to change things, and those come very slowly.

  49. 49
    Fred says:

    @Mnemosyne: Philosophy is the art of critical thinking and is the basis of scientific inquiry. The confusion is thinking mysticism is philosophy. Certainly philosophy is used in examining the Bible but at it’s root is mysticism.

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