But they have a wonderful social justice tradition

In the last semester (Spring, 2011) I attended at California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), I enjoyed a class taught by Richard Shapiro entitled “Secular/Post-Secular? Emancipatory Jewish Thought.”

Shapiro, that class, and indeed, that department at CIIS are heavily into post-modernism; the reading is heavy and dense. But something I gained an appreciation for is a real Jewish social justice tradition. It is a tradition, as taught by Shapiro, from which I learn a concept of justice as something never finally achieved, but a goal never to be abandoned, that justice comes in the striving for justice, not in any confidence that it has been realized, and that any illusion that one has “done justice” is a conclusion that the goal has been missed.

This fine, fine—and I say it again, Jewish—tradition continues at Tikkun magazine and the Network of Spiritual Progressives, led by Rabbi Michael Lerner of the Beyt Tikkun synagogue. They’re not alone; I have encountered other rabbis who clearly share in this tradition, and they all criticize Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. Read more

Learning from Bundy’s racism

Cliven Bundy reflects a resentment that helped propel Ronald Reagan to office in 1980. It was called the “Sagebrush Rebellion” then and it was all about the Bureau of Land Management seeking to impose environmental protections and limiting grazing rights. This is what propels claims of federal government overreach and a wistful notion of posse comitatus, in which it is a local sheriff that has jurisdiction, not the federal government, not the Bureau of Land Management, not the federal courts.[1] Read more

  1. [1]Travis Gettys, “Cliven Bundy threatens violence against federal agents as Sean Hannity eggs him on,” Raw Story, April 16, 2014, http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/04/16/cliven-bundy-threatens-violence-against-federal-agents-as-sean-hannity-eggs-him-on/

It’s back: The Cold War

See updates through March 6, 2022, at end of post.

Figure 1 (added August 22, 2014, recovered from original, March 2, 2022). Russian President Vladimir Putin referred to ‘New Russia’, an apparent reference to territory historically encompassed in the Russian Empire. New York Times. Fair Use.

Figure 2 (added August 22, 2014, recovered from original, March 2, 2022). Historic extent of the Russian Empire. New York Times. Fair Use.

I was critical of Stephen Cohen in a Democracy Now! interview for excusing Russia’s imperialism while criticizing that of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).[1] He has reappeared on the program, continuing to view Ukraine through the old—very old—lens of the Grand Game, a contest between empires for geostrategic position, saying explicity, Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Democracy Now!’s not-so-good interview with Stephen Cohen on the Ukraine,” Not Housebroken, February 20, 2014, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=6170

Taken-for-granted violence

I’m thinking a lot about violence lately. Specifically, that violence of the taken-for-granted kind. I’ve been aware, at a theoretical level, of pieces of this for a while.

I first encountered the term vegetarian ecofeminism when writing an essay for my ethics class. In short, vegetarian ecofeminism recognizes that the violence that we human beings do to each other in our hierarchical political and economic relationships is the same as the violence we do to the environment and to non-human animals.[1] All of it is based on a notion, to put it in Kantian terms, that the environment and other sentient beings may be means to an end, and each form of violence inures us to the others with the consequence that we cannot imagine living in any other way than the way we do. Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “The inevitability of speciesism,” December 7, 2012, https://parts-unknown.org/wp/2012/12/07/the-inevitability-of-speciesism/

Binaries, Bullying, and the Boston Bombing

Jonathan Turley is unhappy with the sentence handed down by a judge:

These shaming punishments degrade our legal system and turn judges into little Caesars meting out their own justice to the thrill of the public. We have seen judges force people to cut their hair in their courtroom or clean their court bench with a toothbrush. These sentences make justice a form of public entertainment and allow judges to turn their courtrooms into their own macabre productions.[1]

Read more

  1. [1]Jonathan Turley, “Ohio Judge Sentences “Bully” To Wear Demeaning Sign In Public,” April 15, 2014, http://jonathanturley.org/2014/04/15/ohio-judge-sentences-bully-to-wear-demeaning-sign-in-public/

Starving students and very, very well-paid head coaches

Yesterday (Monday), I called bullshit on an attempt to excuse spending increases on college athletics while spending on the principle mission of an educational institution, academics, remained flat or decreased. I warned against a false equivalence between the athletic endeavors and scholarly missions of colleges and universities.[1] Since then, Jordan Weissman, at Slate, posted a chart (figure 1), possibly from the American Association of University Professors report itself, that graphically illustrates the issue. Unfortunately, his article makes the very mistake I warned against in suggesting that the coaches receiving outrageous raises might be “stars” and should be compared only against “exceptional” academics.[2] First, the data is unlikely to make the comparison he claims. Not all, as any NCAA fan will surely attest, head coaches are “stars.” It’s much more likely to compare aggregates for all men’s football head coaches against all men’s basketball head coaches against all men’s golf head coaches, etc., against all professors than it is to pick out “stars.” Second, it doesn’t matter: The primary mission is education, not academics. It’s the coaches and the athletic programs that should be living—well, maybe not on scraps, but you get the idea, regardless of “star” quality, not the professors.

Fig. 1. Percentage change in median compensation for men's head coaches and full professors, 2005-06 to 2011-12.
Fig. 1. Percentage change in median compensation for men’s head coaches and full professors, 2005-06 to 2011-12.
Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Your football or your life,” Not Housebroken, April 7, 2014, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=6234
  2. [2]Jordan Weissmann, “A Chart About College Coach Salaries That Will Make Academics Weep,” Slate, April 7, 2014, http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/04/07/college_coach_pay_a_chart_that_will_make_academics_weep.html

Your football or your life

Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, which represents the leaders of colleges and universities, said that the numbers in the report, viewed in context, may not be alarming.

“This comes from the American Association of University Professors, which has a vested interest in finding that too little money is going to faculty and too much to sports and administration,” Mr. Hartle said. “If you just look at the percentage increases, without the base they’re working from, it’s hard to tell what it means.”[1]

Read more

  1. [1]Tamar Lewin, “Colleges Increasing Spending on Sports Faster Than on Academics, Report Finds,” New York Times, April 7, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/07/education/colleges-increasing-spending-on-sports-faster-than-on-academics-report-finds.html

Torture and manhood

In the news this morning, it seems that

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday” about a Senate Intelligence Committee report which criticizes the CIA [torture] program as excessive and ineffective at fighting terrorism, [former CIA Director Michael] Hayden said [Senator Dianne] Feinstein “wanted a report so scathing that it would ensure that an un-American brutal program of detention interrogation would never again be considered or permitted.”

“That motivation for the report may show deep emotional feeling on the part of the senator, but I don’t think it leads you to an objective report,” Hayden said.[1]

Read more

  1. [1]Emily Swanson, “Michael Hayden Says Dianne Feinstein Too ‘Emotional’ To Be Objective On Intelligence Report,” Huffington Post, April 6, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/06/feinstein-cia-report_n_5100652.html

Those dirty Democrats and Supreme Court Justices

In a column for the National Review, Victor Davis Hanson lambasts “Golden State Hypocrisy.” He opens with several paragraphs devoted to scandals that,[1] by the way, have cost Democrats their supermajority in the California state legislature[2]: Read more

  1. [1]Victor Davis Hanson, “Golden State Hypocrisy,” National Review, April 3, 2014, http://www.nationalreview.com/article/374856/golden-state-hypocrisy-victor-davis-hanson
  2. [2]Jessica Calefati, “Scandals cost California Democrats supermajority in Senate,” San Jose Mercury News, March 4, 2014, http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_25267973/corruption-scandals-cost-california-democrats-supermajority-control-senate