Maiello: Where Your Tax Dollars Go
Doc Cleveland: Copyright vs. Truth
Gun-rights advocates love to quote Robert Heinlein's line that "An armed society is a polite society." Heinlein argued that in a culture where many are packing lethal weapons, people are more careful with their manners because they're afraid of being killed over a minor lapse of etiquette. Heinlein is wrong on his facts; history makes it very clear that real armed societies don't work that way. But what's really ghastly is that Heinlein and his fans imagine his fantasy as a good thing. The belief that "an armed society is a polite society" depends on a conviction that murder is better than bad manners.
Michael Sam's brave decision to come out as gay before the NFL draft has been exactly the story that the NFL desperately needs.
“I am a transsexual sportswriter. It has taken more than 40 years, a million tears and hundreds of hours of soul-wrenching therapy for me to work up the courage to type those words. … When you reach the point when one gender causes heartache and unbearable discomfort, and the other brings more joy and fulfillment than you ever imagined possible, it shouldn’t take two tons of bricks to fall in order to know what to do.”
It's January 1 again, the day when works enter the public domain because their copyright expired at last year's end. And yet again, because of repeated extensions to the length of copyright, nothing at all entered the public domain in the United States. Almost nothing has since January 1, 1979.
It's that time of year again, or actually one of the two times each year, when semesters end and bleary-eyed college professors scale mountains of ungraded papers and exams. One of my friends claims that he can track the academic calendar by the crescendo of professors griping on Facebook and Twitter about bad papers, worse excuses, and outrageous examples of student entitlement. Some of this is necessary foxhole camaraderie, some of it verges on the unprofessional, and some does a lot more than verge. Too many lame papers and excuses will put most people in an ugly mood. But I want to give two cheers to one group of students who never get any love at this time of year: the students whose papers are late because they take the assignments seriously.
My morning commute these days takes me through a shopping center; the train lets me off underneath it. It's been Christmas in the mall since the first day of November. That's no surprise. Christmas has become the crutch our retail economy leans on. Many stores run in the red for eleven months and see Christmas put them in the black for the year. A bad year calls for a big Christmas, and a string of bad years calls for bigger and bigger Christmases. If shoppers don't keep finding more and more money for Christmas presents, the whole economy shrinks. It doesn't sound sustainable, but I don't blame local merchants for wanting to start Christmas early and hoping to extend that sweet jolt of retail steroid. We are out of other ideas.
A few weeks ago, an NFL player named Jonathan Martin, offensive left tackle for the Miami Dolphins, walked off the team and sought counseling for emotional health issues. This has led to the suspension of his teammate, the incongruously-named Richie Incognito, on charges of outlandish workplace harassment; an official NFL investigation into the team, now reaching to behavior by the coaches; and the kind of publicity you just can't buy. Plenty of NFL players, sports pundits, and armchair tough guys have denounced the 6'5", 312-pound Martin as soft and weak and proclaimed that outsiders just can't understand what goes on in an NFL locker room. [Read more]
They’ve elected a new mayor in Detroit, which, in other circumstances, might be a big deal, but since Detroit is under the thumb of a state-appointed emergency manager (who promptly–and probably unconstitutionally–took away all authority from every elected city official), the new mayor, Mike Duggan, will likely be mayor in name only. He’ll be invited to be in the first car in Detroit’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and, as the city’s Goodwill Embassador, he’ll be entrusted with handing out city souvenirs [Read more]
When 19-year-old Andrew Anderson started working at the Goodwill store in East Naples, Florida, he thought his job was pretty cool. He was working in a place where poor and low-income people came to buy the things they couldn't afford anywhere else.
"It makes you feel amazing," he said, "makes you feel you can actually be the person to help them."
Education reform in America is always an attempt to get something for free. It has been that way for at least twenty-five years. No matter what the scheme of the hour is (charter schools, Teach for America, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top) or whether you're talking about K-12 or college, every reformer makes one of two promises. Either they promise to make education better without spending any more money, or they promise to make education better while spending less money. Education reformers basically say, "Four dollars is too much to pay for a hamburger. Bring me a three dollar steak."
I was back in my old neighborhood a couple of weekends ago, walking toward the farmer's market, when I passed a little knot of people who were looking up and gesturing toward the dignified brick apartment buildings that line one of the boulevards. They were all clearly from somewhere else, and one of them was explaining the handsome buildings, which apparently struck them as odd, to the others:
"I think they're pretty dumpy on the inside, but they look good from out here," he said.
So it turns out that New York University has bought its president a summer home on Fire Island (h/t Tenured Radical). Or rather, a special foundation associated with New York University has loaned the university president, John Sexton, around a million dollars to buy a beach house, and there seems a real possibility that much of that million-dollar mortgage will eventually be forgiven, so that Sexton won't have to pay it back. NYU has also made similar vacation-home loans to other top administrators and VIP faculty, at least some of them on the same forgive-over-time plan. This represents a brave new financial frontier in higher education. No other university buys its executives second houses. This seems like an obvious story of an out-of-control administration. But more importantly, it's the story of a board of trustees failing to do its job. [Read more]
I'm delighted about the Supreme Court's decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor. It's a triumph for human dignity, and also a triumph for federalism. The federal government should not be in the business of restricting the rights that individual states extend to citizens. If thirteen states see fit to recognize same-sex marriage, Washington should not interfere.
Public debates over affirmative action in college admissions, such as all the hubbub about Fisher v. Texas (in which a not-so-qualified white student named Abigail Fisher sued before the Supreme Court to end affirmative action at the University of Texas), usually run into basic confusion about how college admission works in the first place. Opponents of affirmative action often call, loudly, for American colleges to "go back" to an admissions system that has never existed.
If you ask anyone what colleges and universities are for, they'll give you more or less the same answer: to educate people. That's a good answer. It's the one I give myself. But it's only half the truth. Colleges and universities actually fulfill two separate roles. We all know about both of them. We only talk about one of them. And because of that, we misunderstand almost everything about how higher education works and how it might be improved.
In the 4 1/2 years I've been writing this blog I've never felt inclined to bring in a guest poster. Today I do, and I couldn't be happier that Briana Morganroth has agreed to let me reprint the essay she wrote about her thoughts on gun control.
She is the granddaughter of my friend, Ramona Moormann, the publisher of The Marcellus (MI) News (where my own pieces sometimes appear), and I first read this essay in her newspaper a couple of weeks ago.
But here--I'll let Ramona tell you about her granddaughter:  [Read more]
As if it wasn't enough this week that three young women held captive and terrorized by a madman were found alive after 10 long years, we now learn that in 2004, celebrated psychic Sylvia Browne made an appearance on celebrated sinceremeister Montel Williams' television show and told the mother of one of the captives that her daughter was dead.
It's been a tough week for elite gay-baiting. First Howie Kurtz, hack journalist extraordinaire, lost his job at the Daily Beast because he badly botched an attempt to smear NBA center Jason Collins. Part of what Kurtz botched was the facts, claiming that Collins had concealed the fact that he had once been engaged to a woman when Collins had "concealed" that fact by explicitly stating it in his Sports Illustrated coming-out article. ("When I was younger I dated women. I even got engaged," is pretty straightforward.) Kurtz, to his credit, has made a full apology.
Then, Harvard history professor Niall Ferguson (also a columnist for the Daily Beast) was also forced to apologize after publicly gay-baiting landmark economist John Maynard Keynes. Ferguson decided to tell an audience that Keynes wasn't interested in long-term policy effects (itself a gross distortion of Keynes's position) because Keynes was a homosexual in a childless marriage. Yes, really. That's the standard of logic and evidence to which Ferguson holds himself. [Read more]