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Member since: Wed Jan 18, 2012, 10:29 PM
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The Day the Purpose of College Changed

The governor had bad news: The state budget was in crisis, and everyone needed to tighten their belts.

High taxes threatened "economic ruin," said the newly elected Ronald Reagan. Welfare stood to be curbed, the highway patrol had fat to trim. Everything would be pared down; he’d start with his own office.

California still boasted a system of public higher education that was the envy of the world. And on February 28, 1967, a month into his term, the Republican governor assured people that he wouldn't do anything to harm it. "But," he added, "we do believe that there are certain intellectual luxuries that perhaps we could do without," for a little while at least.

Governor," a reporter asked, "what is an intellectual luxury?"

Reagan described a four-credit course at the University of California at Davis on organizing demonstrations. "I figure that carrying a picket sign is sort of like, oh, a lot of things you pick up naturally," he said, "like learning how to swim by falling off the end of a dock."

Whole academic programs in California and across the country he found similarly suspect. Taxpayers, he said, shouldn't be "subsidizing intellectual curiosity."

(Liberal education) wasn't always a punchline. Thomas Jefferson argued for increased access to liberal education—among white males. A broadly educated populace, he said, would strengthen democracy. People "with genius and virtue should be rendered by liberal education worthy to receive and able to guard the sacred deposit of the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens," he wrote in 1779. Such men wouldn't be easily swayed by tyrants.

Still, there were dissenters, Michael S. Roth notes in Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters. Benjamin Franklin mocked liberal education for focusing on the frivolous accouterments of privilege. Harvard College’s students "learn little more than how to carry themselves handsomely and enter a room genteelly," Franklin wrote. When they graduated, they remained "great blockheads as ever, only more proud and self-conceited."

Reagan rose to power by highlighting how colleges had veered dangerously away from mainstream values. He seized on campus unrest at Berkeley to connect with voters who hadn’t gone to college but wanted their kids to. But the buildings their tax dollars paid for were burning.

The new governor didn’t spend time talking about the tension between Jefferson’s and Franklin’s visions. There was little political payoff in nuance. Reagan, one of his campaign aides told The New York Times in 1970, doesn’t operate in shades of gray: "He lays it out there."

By the time Reagan won the presidency, in 1980, practical degrees had become the safe and popular choice.

That year students were most likely to major in business. The discipline’s rise seemed inexorable. In the 1930s, around the time Reagan went to college, about 8 percent of students studied in "business and commerce." When he was elected governor, that share was 12 percent. By the time he moved into the White House, more students majored in business than anything else. It’s held that top spot ever since. In the early 80s, most freshmen said they’d chosen their college because they thought it would help them get a better job. The previous top reason? Learning more about things that interested them.

It was a rational response to changing federal policy. Under the Reagan administration, the maximum Pell Grant decreased by about a quarter. Student loans became a more common way to pay for college, even as the president made their interest payments ineligible for tax deductions. As student debt rose, so did the urgency of earning a living after graduation.

Free-market ideas permeated higher education. "The curriculum has given way to a marketplace philosophy," wrote the authors of "Integrity in the College Curriculum: A Report to the Academic Community," commissioned by the AAC in 1985. "It is a supermarket where students are shoppers and professors are merchants of learning."

The word "liberal," the association acknowledges, has become a term of opprobrium. Recent research in economics found that top students from low-income backgrounds reacted to the term "liberal arts" with comments like "I am not liberal" and "I don’t like learning useless things."

When politicians mock particular disciplines, it doesn’t exactly bolster popular opinion of liberal education. "If you want to take gender studies, that’s fine, go to a private school," Pat McCrory, the Republican governor of North Carolina, said on a radio show a couple of years ago. "I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job." In other words, it’s an intellectual luxury.


Republicans in both houses of Congress introduce Orwellian "Working Families Flexibility Act"

The bill:

-Gives private-sector employers the ability to offer their employees the option of comp time or overtime pay, both accrued at 11Ž2
times the overtime hours worked. Federal, State & local governments are currently allowed to offer comp time to their employees, but private-sector employers are banned from doing so by federal law.

-Requires employers who decide to offer this option to their employees to establish a written agreement with the employee outlining the options and to allow each employee to voluntarily choose the option that best fits his needs.

-Requires that comp time agreements be included in the collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the union and the employer for any employee represented by a union.

-Allows employees who choose to accrue comp time to accrue up to 160 hours each year.'

-Allows employees to “cash out” their accrued comp time at the traditional overtime pay rate at any time throughout the year.

-Maintains all existing employee protections, including the current 40-hour workweek and overtime accrual, and provides additional safeguards to ensure that the choice to use comp time is voluntary.

-Requires employers to pay employees at the traditional overtime rate for any unused comp time at the end of each calendar year.

-Ends the unfair discrimination against private-sector employees

-Enables parents to better balance work and family obligations

-Frees all workers to choose which commodity – time or money – is the more important resource at a given time

-Lessens the burden of unnecessary federal regulation


Doing some quick research, I found that this is not the first time that the Republicans in Congress have introduced this bill.

From April 2013:
The bill replaces the 40-hour work week with a “comp time” accrual system that would allow employers greater control over their hourly employee’s schedule.

What’s worse?The bill ends ”time-and-a-half” overtime pay for hourly and non-exempt workers as we know it, giving renewed incentive for businesses to work their employees as long as they want with near impunity.

In other words, the bill does the opposite of what House Republicans say it will.

“Comp time” undermines the 40-hour work week. Quick history review: in 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) became law. We say it “established” the 40-hour work week, but really it just “encouraged” it, by telling employers that for any hours worked past 40, workers had to be time-and-a-half and receive it in their next pay period. The idea was you get eight hours at work, eight hours to sleep, and eight hours to do whatever you want. Another goal of time-and-a -half pay was to give employers a financial incentive to hire more workers when they have more work, instead of forcing workers already on the job to work beyond their scheduled hours.

With “comp time,” employers are encouraged to do the opposite. Making overtime less expensive to employers means more workers being scheduled for 50 or 60-hour shifts. Which means less time with your family – not more.

“Comp time” encourages mandatory overtime – and ends overtime pay as we know it. Instead of time-and-a-half pay for hours worked past 40, workers would get “comp time,” hours of time off to be taken later. Employers benefit because they don’t have to pay overtime, plus, they can have you use your comp time in a way that won’t cost them extra (during less busy periods, etc.).

According to the bill, individual employees have the “choice” between comp time or overtime pay. Since comp time saves the employer money, what is stopping them from inducing workers, subtly or not, into choosing comp time? They could give the “comp time” workers better shifts and better treatment, and they could even train workers not to take the overtime options – in the same way that Target and other stores train workers not to join unions.

Don’t be fooled: this is a pay cut. Again, having hours off “at some point” sounds nice. But overall, workers’ take home pay will go down, because that supplemental income you would’ve had from working overtime will disappear. Besides, depending on your schedule, you could get to December 31 without having the chance to use your accrued comp time, at which point you are left with no time off and no extra pay.

More here: http://blog.workingamerica.org/2013/04/26/7-things-you-should-know-about-comp-time-and-the-working-families-flexibility-act/

Gotta hand it to the Republicans...they certainly know how to make draconian right-wing policies sound great! "Working Families Flexibility?" Who could object to a title like that? Well, if it sounds too good to be true....it probably is.

K&R. Powerful and poignant message.

And (white) people-and I admit upfront that I am white-still wonder why African-Americans are often deeply suspicious of police officers and the criminal justice system in general.

Well, imagine if it was your child who was always on the receiving end of suspicion, judgement, harassment, bullying, and other forms of abuse and dehumanization-all because of the color of his or her skin. Imagine if every encounter your child had with a police officer was potentially fatal to your child-again, all because of your child's appearance.

Now imagine that you and your children were still expected-not just that, but legally obligated-by the society and country you live in to fully, 100% comply with those same people at all times: the bullies, the abusers, and the suspicious racists.

"To protect and serve." That is the stated purpose of police in this country. Yet, African-Americans and other people of color often feel that the real purpose of the police is to "protect" white America from African-Americans and other people of color.

What does "run on the issues" mean, exactly?

Far as I can tell, most Democrats are progressive nowadays. Most elected Democrats vote for Democratic proposals and against Republican ones. Sure there are exceptions, but they are the exceptions, not the rule.

A lot of people on DU and elsewhere seem to assume that everyone deep-down agrees with them, or thinks like them. But the liberal/progressive left-wing blogosphere is far more issue-oriented and attentive to the finer details of politics than the vast majority of Americans are.

I suspect that much of the American electorate is more religious/Christian (and socially/culturally conservative), less educated, more blue-collar working-class (or broadly middle class), more rural/suburban, less attentive to the issues, and generally much more suspicious of the left wing of the Democratic Party. Those are among the voters we have been hemorrhaging in recent years. Consequently, we need to do better with these demographics (among others) if we are to expand our party. This fantasy of a vast left-wing majority is just that-a fantasy.

The Secret History of the GOP's New Abortion Ban

Fascinating article from Mother Jones. Some excerpts below:

THE FIGHT OVER BANNING ABORTIONS after 20 weeks is as old as Roe v. Wade. (Older, actually—more on that below.) In Roe, the Supreme Court established the right to abortion by forbidding states from banning the procedure anytime before viability, when fetuses can be expected to survive outside the womb. Experts maintain that viability truly begins at 24 weeks after a pregnant woman's last period, or about 22 weeks after fertilization. (The most rigorous and widely accepted way to date a pregnancy is by counting the weeks since a pregnant woman's last period. The House bill and the majority of state 20-week bans, however, measure pregnancy from the fertilization of the egg; in medical terms, a 20-week ban is actually a 22-week ban.)

Yet proponents of banning abortion at 20 weeks insist that there are cases of infants born that early who survive. It's true that since Roe, medical advances have enabled a tiny, yet unknown, number of preterm infants to be born in the middle of the second trimester. But almost none survive. One study found that 85 percent of infants born 20 weeks after fertilization die within 12 hours. Another study found that 98 percent are born with major health issues such as brain hemorrhaging; 93 percent die within a year. The University of California-San Francisco Medical Center states that no infants born earlier than 21 weeks have survived.

Anti-abortion rights groups such as Americans United for Life, which authored several states' 20-week bans, deny that they are targeting Roe's viability rule. Instead, they focus on 20 weeks postfertilization because, they claim, it's the point at which fetuses experience pain. "Many of them cry and scream as they die," Franks says. But the scientific consensus roundly rejects this idea: For one, the relay path between the thalamus and the cerebral cortex—the connection that allows the brain to recognize pain—is not fully developed for another six weeks. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that the developmental milestones at 20 weeks—namely, the appearance of hair—are no more significant than those coming before or after.

The importance of 20 weeks also has its roots in medical beliefs that date back to colonial times. For centuries, it was commonly believed that a woman wasn't actually pregnant until she could feel the fetus moving inside her. Most states permitted a woman to use potions or instruments to terminate her pregnancy up to the moment of "quickening," which usually takes place between the 15th and 20th week of pregnancy. By the mid-1800s, most states banned all abortions, but the significance of quickening stuck in the popular imagination. When states began to liberalize their abortion statutes in the 1960s, the typical cutoff was the 20th week of gestation, as in the 1967 California law permitting some abortions signed by Gov. Ronald Reagan.

The deluge of 20-week restrictions culminated in Congress' first abortion showdown since Roe: the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. Bill Clinton vetoed it in 1995 and 1997, but President George W. Bush signed it in 2003, outlawing a procedure, commonly used 20 weeks after a woman's pregnancy, that had been used in about 2,200 out of the 1.3 million abortions performed at the time. The bill was heralded as protecting viable infants by pro-life advocates who conflated 20-week old fetuses with 20-week old pregnancies. Twenty-week old fetuses "look like babies," observed Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee. "We're talking about individual premature infants, is essentially what we are talking about," he said. By this point, the fetal-pain argument had also taken hold, thanks to the 1984 film The Silent Scream, which purported to show a fetus contorted with pain.

"All of these different tactics, all of these different theoretical persuasions, they're all linked," says Adams. "The original 20-week bans, or efforts to pass those bans, were predicated not on the notion that a fetus was pain-capable but the desire to make abortions as difficult to procure—and ultimately impossible to procure—as possible." The ultimate goal wasn't to simply erode Roe but to explode it.

Women who end their pregnancies after 20 weeks' gestation account for less than 2 percent of all abortions performed in the United States—a figure that has been static since the early 1970s. About 13,000 women sought these later abortions in 2011, the most recent year for which there is reliable data. Solid data on why women seek abortions after 20 weeks is scarce. What is known is that majority of women who terminate their pregnancies because of fetal anomalies, like Elizabeth, do so after the 20-week mark. Researchers say that most women who have abortions after 20 weeks do so because they didn't have the money for an earlier abortion; they experienced a disruptive life event such as divorce, abuse, or the death of a partner; or they didn't realize they were pregnant. That last category includes teens who don't have a regular period or who don't recognize the signs of pregnancy.

Abortion opponents have used this information to suggest that women who have late abortions are irresponsible. "It's important to keep in mind that the vast majority of late-term abortions are performed on healthy mothers, on healthy babies," says Maureen Ferguson, a senior policy adviser for the conservative Catholic Association. Her group has called these abortions "inhumane.""People don't like the idea of late abortions," Pollitt says. "It's hard to mobilize sympathy for that." The proposed ban, she continues, will appeal to "people who don't know anything about what women go through to get an abortion."

Yet the women who have been most vocal in opposing these bans are those who ended wanted pregnancies for health reasons or because of fetal anomalies. That's one reason why the current House bill could rekindle the idea that Republicans are waging a "war on women." Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist who works out of California, notes that the GOP's anti-abortion antics have fired up younger female voters about an issue that was once an afterthought for many. Perhaps anticipating this, the Republicans are planning to dispatch mostly female lawmakers to debate the bill on the House floor, Politico reports.


Well said. The role of the President in the American system is conservative (small "c") by design

Expecting that to change any time soon is fantasy. At best, reforms that emanate from the President and/or from Congress are piecemeal and incremental, designed to head off social unrest and dramatic change rather than promote it.

And it's always been that way.

Passing domestic policy through Congress is always very contigent....

....on the political environment/context facing the President.

Obama draws massive crowds at home and abroad because a lot of people believe in what his Presidency stands for-what the historic election of 2008 meant as a symbol and rallying point for people of color in the United States, and changing (or beginning to change, anyway) the perception of our country as America the Arrogant (brought to you by 8 years of Bush and Cheney) that damn near everyone around the world was sick and tired.

But, as we've seen time and time again, that strength doesn't necessarily translate to legislative success in Washington, D.C. If anything, Obama's election as the first black President angered and scared a lot of people-a lot of white people, that is-who, for whatever reason of prejudice or fear or bigotry or resentment, have dreaded the possibility of a black man becoming the President of the United States. Hence, the sheer spite and hatred thrown this President's way-which, to be fair, overlaps a lot with the generalized hatred of other Democrats and liberals/progressives, and even right-wing Republicans who are insufficiently dogmatic to the Tea Party and other neo-Birchers.

On domestic policy....Obama learned on the way to his Inauguration in January of 2009 that the ENTIRE Republican House Caucus had agreed to vote against the stimulus bill-and this was after the Democrats had agreed to the Republicans' demands for the stimulus to be heavily weighted toward tax cuts! That set the pattern for this Presidency's dealings with the GOP. And the corporate mainstream media-who gave an inordinate amount of attention to the astroturfin' assholes in the Tea Party-has hardly helped at all.

I don't know what the solution is. It's a fucked up political situation all around. But I do think that President Obama has done a hell of a lot better than most would in the same situation and under similar circumstances.

Seeing as how the Right constantly stokes up resentment and bigotry....

...against our side, against "Washington" and "liberal elites who are (they claim) taking hard-earned tax dollars ("YOUR money, NOT the government's!) from "ordinary, hard-working Americans" and giving it to "special interests" or spending on "socialist programs" that (they claim) bankrupt the country;

and seeing as how, by adopting the Libertarian economic philosophy that government can never work for anything (except the military, curiously-insert rambling about "'the Constitution" here!), so therefore, it is pointless to leave anything to "Washington bureaucrats" or in Reagan's words: "a narrow intellectual elite...that think they know better than the rest of us hard-working American citizens, that we can't govern ourselves!"-by adopting this philosophy, the Right has successfully turned its ideology into a virulent populism, particularly among segments of the white middle and working classes;

and seeing as how they think in Manichean terms of Absolute Good (the Right) vs Absolute Evil (the Left), then by definition, everything that is good in American governance is due to the influence of the Right, and everything that is bad is due to the influence of the Left;

...it's really not a huge surprise that in the world of the populist Right, right-wing conservative Republicans are never to blame for anything-it's always the fault of the Democrats (and the Republicans who were "foolish enough to compromise with them", so sayeth the Right), and if anything, the GOP's problem is always that they weren't conservative enough (As they have said about every Republican presidential candidate and President since their Patron Saint Ronald Reagan-including both Bushes, Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney.

The paranoid, illogical worldview of the populist Right is hard to understand or comprehend from our perspective as liberals and Democrats... but maybe by beginning to comprehend it, we can defeat it.

"It's not race, it's class!": Some thoughts on derailment tactics, and what they symbolize...

Just some observations...

From what I've seen, there are-and have been-an awful lot of examples of people derailing conversations about racism (on DU and elsewhere) with the "It's About Class!" version of whataboutery. What makes this derailment tactic particularly insidious is its rhetorical appeal to populist left-wing themes regarding economic inequality, poverty, and concentrated wealth; thus, casual observers can be forgiven if they come away with the impression that the derailer actually cares about economic inequality, or poverty, or indeed, concentrated wealth.

However, let's not fool ourselves here. Riddle me this: Why would African-Americans and other people of color EVER need a lecture from white people about economic inequality, poverty, and other injustices? You don't have to answer that; it's rhetorical.

No, I don't believe that those people (whom are almost inevitably white) who derail conversations about racism with the focus on "class" (as if white Americans' perspectives on class were the only ones worth considering! ) are arguing in good faith. They want us to believe that it's all "the 1 percent's" fault-refusing to consider their own role in perpetuating racialized power inequities, refusing to consider their own ignorance of the unique issues of African-Americans and other people of color, refusing to consider that the dominant institutions of American society have rewarded them, relative to most other people in America and around the world.

Pardon me, if I find that disingenuous, hypocritical, and self-serving in the extreme!

Racialized Mass Incarceration: Poverty, Prejudice, and Imprisonment (Harvard, 2010)

Found this article by Harvard scholars Lawrence D. Bobo and Victor Thompson from 2010, thought that this group would appreciate it. Some excerpts:

This essay maintains that the United States has developed a new, decidedly punitive law and order regime that at its core features racialized mass incarceration. We will show that over the past thirty years the United States has gone on an incarceration binge, a binge that has fallen with radically disproportionate severity on the African American community. The rise of the racialized mass incarceration society is attributable to the simultaneous processes of urban socioeconomic restructuring that produced intensified ghetto poverty and severe social disadvantage and dislocations through the 1980s to the present, on the one hand, and a series of social policy actions (and non-actions) that made jail or prison among the primary responses to urban social stress, on the other hand. During this time, social policy took this deeply punitive turn in substantial measure as a result of the effects of anti-black racism in American culture and public opinion. One result of these circumstances is a serious problem of legitimacy for the criminal justice system in the eyes of many Americans, especially but not exclusively African Americans.


It is beyond the scope of this essay to develop a full sociological account of what may be differential levels of black involvement in crime, but it is important to put this common perception in some perspective. At a minimum it is essential to recognize that any evidence of differential black involvement with crime reflects the interplay of key economic, political, and cultural factors. From our perspective, such outcomes stem from the joint effects of what the eminent sociologist William Julius Wilson (1987, 1996) has called the new or intensified ghetto poverty and the patterns of social adaptation it has spawned, on the one hand, and what social policy changes did to foster patterns of social disorganization, on the other hand. The latter includes sharp reductions in federal aid to cities and the panoply of policing and legal changes that made up the War on Drugs. That is, differential black involvement with criminal behavior is primarily traceable to differential black exposure to structural conditions of extreme poverty, extreme racial segregation, changed law enforcement priorities, and the modern legacy of racial oppression (Massey 1995; Wilson 1987; Sampson and Wilson 1995).

Wilson (1987) shows that massive economic restructuring, in the form of the de-industrialization of the American economy (i.e., shift from heavy goods manufacturing to a service-oriented and information processing economy) and he de-concentration of industry (i.e., a shift of goods manufacturing from cities to suburban or ex-urban rings), combined to create new, persistent, and intensely high rates of poverty and unemployment for inner-city African Americans, particularly those of low education and skill levels. As Massey (1995) has shown, when the class segregation of neighborhoods combines with extreme racial segregation of neighborhoods, the result is areas of intensive social disorganization and dislocation when severe economic contractions or downturns occur. In particular, the persistent weak attachment to the labor force among many prime working-age adults and a common experience of poverty and economic hardship in urban black communities create social spaces where bonds of family and community begin to fray and fall apart (Wilson 1996). Such an environment is ripe for higher levels of juvenile delinquency, drug use, and even violent crime (Massey 1995).

Full article: http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/bobo/files/2010_racialized_mass_incarceration_doing_race.pdf

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