One Year

stefanbc:

Thoughts from a friend of mine.

Originally posted on Runners Chai:

It’s hard to believe that it has been one year since the Boston Marathon bombing. I remember the afternoon in flashes. Reading the first few updates on the news about a bombing. Running down the stairs of my office building because Eric had come to visit me, but wanting to stay at my desk and keep reading the news. Sitting on the front steps of my office building, drinking bubble teas and wondering what was happening on the other side of the river. Spending the rest of the afternoon, eyes glued to Boston.com and constantly updating and refreshing for more information. Walking home towards Watertown when we were eventually told to go home early.

Then there were the days after – being unable to focus on anything for days, and continuing to just read the news while I sat at my desk, holding back tears, and wanting to grieve for…

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Hobby Lobby and the BuzzBomb of the Beltway

The Supreme Court is hearing the insanely ridiculous “Hobby Lobby” case this morning, so it’s not entirely surprising to see some hearty concern trolling from the smarmy side of the internets:

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 10.12.27 AM

I apologize for employing the cliched term “problematic” in describing this half-assed analysis of one of the most dangerous (and specious) legal arguments of our time. However this sort of remark is emblematic of the chronic issue within corporate journalism of political reporters attempting/failing to comment on legal issues. The Plaintiff’s argument in Hobby Lobby case is a ramshackle assortment of transparently idiotic right-wing policies, combined into a Frankenstein of a case that should never have been given cert. However BECAUSE of the nature of bad political journalism, this of dumbass idea made the jump from 1L con-law hypothetical to the point where it now could essentially nuke 60 years of well established public accommodations law. (The Clerks and Justices on SCOTUS pay attention to the same terrible news shows everyone else does).

Any of us who believe in a well-regulated workplace, sexual privacy, healthcare, and yes ACTUAL religious freedom (and not the legal recognition of Christian Sharia Law) should be horrified that this case wasn’t laughed out of court at the outset. The proponents of this mutant strand of fundamentalist christianity and anarcho-capitalism will never be satisfied with their unjustified inflated power in this country. Folks like Coppins who insist that we listen to these fever dreams and give them credence as a legitimate ideology are complicit in the creeping force of totalitarianism that the right wing is consciously attempting to instill.

And one last thing- the reason that Buzzfeed is (probably) so legitimately pissed at obvious right wing media like Breitbart is because the latter is much less effective than the former at convincing people of the tenants of their shared ideology.  Dumb normal people are more likely to embrace the Kocthtopus through the magical power of cat .gifs than braving the insanity of the comments on a Brietbart post. Media outlets like Buzzfeed and the Daily Caller are two sides of the same extremist coin, it’s just one of the parties has more or less mastered the art of subtlety.


The Inconvenient Truth About Paul Ryan

Shorter Paul Ryan: It’s never about race

“It was a long talk and he asked about the culture and I just went off of that,” Ryan told Burke. “This has nothing to do whatsoever with race. It never even occurred to me. This has nothing to do with race whatsoever.”

This was in reference to Ryan’s latest failed attempt to cast himself as a serious policy maker via repurposing old Atwater tag lines into tweetable red-meat for conservatives. And while Ryan is understandably upset that Barbra Lee called him on his racism, he and his defenders have to acknowledge that he might have finally flown too close to the sun on this one.

The entire mythology behind Paul Ryan, and the reason he rose to prominence via pundits like Ezra Klein and David Brooks, was the idea that he existed on the same technocratic neo-liberal plain as our President. He was “a numbers guy” who supposedly had actual concerns with creating policy that would erase inequities and “unleash opportunity” or some such meaningless bullshit.

The legitimacy of Ryan’s economic model was the first part of his image to be destroyed. Once real economists like Paul Krugman/Dean Baker/et all took a look at the ideas that Ryan was proposing after 2009, it was entirely clear that Ryan was simply  the latest well-coifed snake oil salesman of Jack Kemp’s old & terrible ideas to bring back the 1870′s. Thanks to academics  asking Ryan to explain his magic asterisks and un-cited assertions, his image as a right-wing econ Superman entirely disintegrated. The reaction to his hilariously bad poverty white paper was best summed up in this quote:

“[T]oo often Ryan’s report reads like a class project cut-and-pasted together by a group of Google-happy sophomores in a 200-level class at Bob Jones University”

But even as the “serious” label more or less disappeared for Ryan in reference to his academic defense of modern feudalism, most mainstream political reporting still gave him the benefit of the doubt concerning his public persona as a new-age conservative. Ryan, we were told, was not a Jesse Helms or Strom Thurmond style Republican who simply hated poors and blacks because they were poor and black. Rather, like our President, Paul Ryan supposedly ascribed to an ideology that upheld the essential equality of human beings, and believed that circumstances and individual moral failures could explain any discrepancies in opportunity or success existed in society. Those driving the D.C. political consensus were very comfortable with conceptualizing Ryan as someone who genuinely believed that anyone could do well in life if they sought out and properly used available resources; especially if those resources were “responsibly” maintained by the government.

The reality of course, like everything else about Paul Ryan, is that his self-created image as a social policy wonk from the classical liberal persuasion was nothing but a complete fraud. If his voting record and financial backers didn’t already demonstrate this inconvenient truth, quotes like this might finally establish Ryan’s place in the pantheon of racist demagogues who somehow slithered into places of political power in this country. Then again the very fact that pathological liar like Paul Ryan is a household name- while a legitimately decent representative like Barbra Lee remains in relative obscurity (despite being in congress for a year longer than Ryan), should serve as a good example as to why a white Congressman in 2014 would feel comfortable paraphrasing George Wallace in public.


“Pampers Could Be A Big Sponsor”

Happy Times

Happy Times

Louisiana deserves an insanely right-wing adult baby as its governor. It’ll be an improvement over the exorcist guy, but not quite as good as whatever member of the entirely consistent corporate whore family runs against him.

 


🎶 Yapping ‘Bout My G-G-Generation 🎶

Donkey Sauce

Two interesting articles came out over the long weekend that at least tangentially touched on the never-ending question about the political future and present ideology of us- the beleaguered millennial generation. Kudos to both in avoiding merely slapping a still from “Girls” on the post and then listing a few cliched tropes about iPhones (looking at you David Brooks). However I think that even taking both posts together presents an incomplete picture about where folks like myself will be devoting our energy in the coming years.

First of all Salon needs to hire a better headline writer as this lengthy article has none of the juicy calls for generational warfare that I desire before my 2nd cup of coffee hits in the morning. Rather it’s a long, boring piece that eventually crescendos in a thesis of “man we should get organized or something”, instead of a perhaps more useful examination of what will be necessary to diminish and isolate the generational alliances that have lead to the unnecessary suffering of contemporary young adults (for example; STEP 1: SET FIRE TO WHEREVER THE BLUE DOG DEMOCRATS HANG OUT).

But why should we forsake the rule of our elders? Well Conor Kilpatrick has beaten this issue to death (in a good way). However it’s the New Republic essay on the Edward Snowden/Glenn Greenwald/Julian Assange triumvirate of derp that explicitly lays out what folks on the left like me have been saying for years about trusting the intentions of our white-boy techie saviors. These are folks with the self-righteous anger that attract leftists to their cause, which can be a good thing in the abstract. However they also either lack even the well-documented myopia of the hippies towards the impact of their actions (which is especially true with Snowden who was famously “not ready” to be the public figure he now is) OR they are entirely cognizant of what they are doing and have consciously chosen to guide leftists into embracing Gilded Age/Lochner Era ideas of privacy and “economic freedom” (COUGH COUGH GREENWALD AND CATO).

Call me cynical, but all I’m realizing in reading the tea leaves of either Gen-X or the Boomers is a continuation of the well-honed American tradition of pulling up the ladder as the proceed in life. I don’t really see much of a reason to placate to either of these groups more than is necessary to get them to show up on election day and vote with the Democrats we chose to represent the party.


Newtown Becomes An Anniversary Of An Uninteresting Event

bushmaster-man-card-reissued

We are now a year removed from Newtown, an act of mass murder that should have provoked enough disgust and terror to change this country for the better. However today it is obvious that brutal deaths of those children and teachers  will instead be just another chapter  into the expanding wikipedia page on gun violence in America. We should be ashamed.

I am an agnostic but someone who desperately wants to believe in an afterlife. Why? Well one reason is that I want some justice to be visited upon the purely evil sons-of-bitches in the NRA leadership. These folks disguise their role in designing a public policy platform to subsidize the weapons industry under the kevlar reinforced flag of white resentment and fear (then have the gall to call their celebration of wrath “patriotism”).

If we accept “the way things are” and are not revolted that a business group can profit off the deaths of first graders by defaming legitimate attempts to maintain a peaceful society, there is simply no hope for us. If we accept this batshit insane interpretation of the 2nd Amendment where the right to life is secondary to the right for insecure white men to carry larger and more powerful steel penis extenders, we are on a clear path towards societal disintegration. If we accept the idea that the only solution to complex problems of policy is  individual deterrence through universal possession of these sadistic instruments of death, we have learned nothing from the last century of war.

God help us, and fuck the NRA in perpetuity.

 


Jehuda Reinharz: The Jackass In The Living Room

Ex-Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz

Ex-Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz

Almost ten years ago I received a thick blue envelope from Brandeis University signifying that my underachieving high school ass had by some miracle (cough cough LEGACY) been admitted to the Class of 2008. Brandeis was my first choice, and I would be the third member of my family to go to the school. To say that I throughly enjoy my four years there would be an understatement. Between meeting my best friends,  having my entire social consciousness overhauled, and trolling Alan Dershowitz, it is fair to say that I received my money’s worth.

My pride for the school persisted beyond Waltham as well. During my term abroad in Dakar, Senegal, people stopped me when I wore my Brandeis t-shirt to tell me about the great programs that they had for international students. After I graduated four more members of my family enrolled in the school, including two current juniors. My wedding in 2010 was almost entirely made up of Brandeis grads (which made for an awkward scene at communion in the Episcopal church).

But while I love my alma mater, there was something amiss in the institution, or more precisely someone. Then President Jehuda Reinharz was a persistently awful manager and human being during my tenure at Brandeis, so much so that I vowed never to give any money to the school until he was fired. His sins included (to name a few)

  • Snubbing Jimmy Carter (he panicked when I confronted him about it)
  • Removing artwork by Palestinian Children depicting their experiences with the occupation
  • Hiring Tom fucking Friedman to teach a course about how awesome Tom Friedman is
  • Being the worst customer in all of Brandeis dining services. His favorite thing to do was order all the food on the menu on his corporate card, eat nothing, and then bring it all home. AND HE NEVER FUCKING TIPPED.

When he stepped down in 2010 I conceivably could have resumed donating, if not for my rather glaring lack of money. Today I’m glad I didn’t. As it turns out ye olde Jehuda is still collecting checks so big that would make Jimmy Swaggart feel guilty;

When Brandeis University president Jehuda Reinharz stepped down three years ago, he moved back into his old faculty office.

But unlike most history professors, Reinharz does not teach any classes, supervise graduate students, or attend departmental meetings. He did not bother posing for the department photo. The chairwoman for Near Eastern and Judaic Studies said she did not even know whether he was officially a member of her department.

Yet Reinharz remains one of the highest paid people on campus.

He received more than $600,000 in salary and benefits in 2011, second only to the new Brandeis president, according to the school’s most recent public tax returns. And that’s on top of the $800,000 Reinharz earned in his new job as president of the Mandel Foundation, a longtime Brandeis benefactor.

“There is puzzlement from faculty about why he gets paid at all” by Brandeis, said Gordon Fellman, a sociology professor at Brandeis. “His term as president ended.”

Good fucking question Gordy.

For some context Reinharz first got into some trouble NOT for his persistent disregard for student life and blatant hatred for the faculty. Rather Jehuda’s fall from grace began in 2009 when  his “prolific fundraising” career of “asking the same two Bernie Maddoff victims for money” turned out to be terribly misguided. That then led to Reinharz’s brilliant idea of raising money by disposing the contents of the University’s Art Museum at the pawn shop, something that a) exposed Brandeis to massive civil liability from the art donors who gave the pieces in good faith, and b) made us a fucking laughingstock across the country. So needless to say that it was less then surprising when Reinharz decided it was time to end his career as President the next year.

But if anything about the lives of the rich, powerful, and stupid have taught us in the new millennium, it is that the 1% can only fail upwards:

Some Brandeis officials defend the deal with Reinharz, saying it was crucial to retain his expertise to help with the transition to a new president who had not previously worked at Brandeis. They also wanted his help to maintain relations with major donors.

“He knows how to raise money,” said Jack Connors, who was vice chairman of the board when it signed an agreement to keep paying Reinharz after he stepped down….

“I am compensated according to my accomplishments,” said Reinharz in an interview at his Brandeis office. “It’s the way America usually works.”

Goddamn right it is Jeuhda, man of the people. So what is it that you do exactly?

“I don’t punch a clock,” said Reinharz, adding that his main job is to help the 92-year-old chairman, Morton Mandel. “I work when my work is needed.”

Reinharz was equally noncommittal about how much time he devotes to Brandeis, where he mainly works as an adviser to president Frederick Lawrence and other staffers. “I’ve never worked at Brandeis by the hour,” he said. Lawrence “asks for advice. I give it. And I don’t look at my watch.”

However, Reinharz confirmed that he spent the entire first year of Lawrence’s presidency on sabbatical, when presumably his advice would have been needed the most.

Must be nice. How much are you making exactly through this “unprecedented” deal where you are  “half time professor” and head of this Mandel Center thing where to talk with an old ass man all day?

He received more than $600,000 in salary and benefits in 2011, second only to the new Brandeis president, according to the school’s most recent public tax returns. And that’s on top of the $800,000 Reinharz earned in his new job as president of the Mandel Foundation, a longtime Brandeis benefactor….

The foundation, which pays for half of Reinharz’s office expenses, did not make it easy for the public to discover Reinharz’s pay, listing him as an unpaid board member on forms filed with the IRS, while staff said his compensation was confidential.But reports filed by three related Mandel family foundations suggest he earned a total of $800,000 in consulting fees in 2011, more than double what chief executives of similar-sized grantmaking organizations normally earn.

HOLY FUCK MAN. Well I guess living in Taxachusettes is pretty expensive all with the Romneycare and all. Your mortgage alone must be unbelievable right Jehuda?

The university also let him remain in the Brandeis president’s spacious home in Newton for six months after he stepped down.

And Reinharz could have earned even more if Brandeis had not clarified the agreement in 2012 to limit him to half time as president emeritus after 2011. Otherwise, Reinharz could have reported working full time in the position and collected $575,000 a year.

Well going to law school to balance my unpaid internships with $15 per hour jobs was obviously a big mistake on my part. I guess I should have followed the path of Reinharz and just followed my passion of grifting money from suckers and writing books about donkeys:

The one area where Reinharz was specific about how he spends his time was his own research, including a book he is co-writing on the history of the donkey in literature, arguing that the animal is often used as a substitute for people.

“There are smart donkeys, stupid donkeys, evil donkeys, etc., and no one has ever contemplated this on a large scale,” said Reinharz, who commissioned an artist to make a wood carving of a donkey that stands proudly on his desk. “It’s probably the most ambitious topic I have ever contemplated.”

That last sentence is entirely accurate.

In all seriousness this is downright disgusting. The official explanation that the school has issued since the release of this article is incomplete at best, if not deliberately obtuse. To say that Reinharz’s compensation package was justified due to the insanity of other institutions in granting these golden parachutes makes no sense. A tenured faculty member does have some leverage when they are asked to leave by the board- in that they can’t be entirely forced out of the institution. However nothing prevents the board from fulfilling their main fiduciary duty of care to the school when negotiating the salary and role of an ex-adminstrator who is returning to the faculty. To  literally write a a blank check to the man who torpedoed the endowment of the school so he can satisfy his late in life donkey fetish demonstrates an amazing disregard for the faculty, staff, students, and alumni of the university I love.

The alumni I know are beyond pissed off right now. If Jehuda was a lawyer who was provided this amount of money with only “services rendered” on the invoice he would be disbarred, and the board that hired him would be dismissed. Unless a full and detailed accounting of Reinharz’s duties, schedule, and expenses is released, this controversy should serve as sign to all future applicants to Brandeis that the institution is not to be trusted with their tuition.