Lazy Saturday Reads

Students study for finals on "BU Beach," May 6, 2015

Students study for finals on “BU Beach,” May 6, 2015

Good Morning!!

Well, well, well. Boston University and a newly hired assistant professor of sociology are being attacked by right wing nuts who can’t handle free speech or academic freedom. And so far BU is telling them they’re just going to have to deal with it. I hope they stick to their guns, so to speak. In honor of the school administration doing the right thing, I’m illustrating this post with views of the beautiful BU campus.

Fox News is shocked! Naturally, they begin with a version of “some people say….”

Boston University prof flunks ‘white masculinity’ in controversial tweets.

Critics say a newly-hired Boston University professor has crossed the line with recent tweets bashing whites, but the school says it’s simply free speech.

“White masculinity isn’t a problem for america’s colleges, white masculinity is THE problem for america’s colleges,” Saida Grundy, an incoming assistant professor of sociology and African-American studies at Boston University, tweeted in March.

In another tweet from January, she wrote: “Every MLK week I commit myself to not spending a dime in white-owned businesses. and every year i find it nearly impossible.”

In another, she called white males a “problem population.”

“Why is white America so reluctant to identify white college males as a problem population?” she asked.

View of BU's Charles River Campus.

View of BU’s Charles River Campus.

Horrors! A black female sociologist who studies traditional masculinity had a few things to say on Twitter about white males. No one has to agree with her or even read her tweets (she has now made her account private). The KKK, the American Nazi Party, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Peggy Noonan, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, and every other right wing nut you can name have the same rights to say mean things about any groups of people they choose.

Here’s BU’s response to Fox’s request for comment:

“Professor Grundy is exercising her right to free speech and we respect her right to do so,” Boston University spokesman Colin Riley said.

Read more of Grundy’s “controversial” tweets at the Fox News link and at a Patriots fan site here. I don’t know why they’re all bent out of shape about this.

Grudy got her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, and her other credentials look pretty good to me.

So far there hasn’t been a lot of reaction to this except from right wing sites like American Thinker and American Spectator. I’ll be keeping an eye on the story and whether BU continues to defend Grundy. If they don’t I’ll be very disappointed. It’s not about agreeing with everything she said; it’s about not giving in to the predictable right wing attacks on anyone who says something they disagree with–even if it’s only on Twitter.

BU College of Arts and Sciences

BU College of Arts and Sciences

In other “diversity” news, a restaurant in Colorado is planning a “White Appreciation Day.” That should make the wingnuts happy. From MSNBC:

A Colorado barbecue joint has sparked national outrage with a racially-tinged promotion: “White Appreciation Day.”

“We have a whole month for Black History Month. We have a whole month for Hispanic heritage month,” Edgar Antillon told KUSA-TV. “So we figured all we could do – the least we can do – is offer one day to appreciate white Americans.”

Antillon told the NBC News affiliate that Rubbin’ Buttz, the restaurant he co-owns in Milliken, Colorado, would observe its “White Appreciation Day” on June 11. On this day, all white customers will receive a 10% discount.

It’s worth noting that Antillon is a first-generation American born to Mexican parents, and he acknowledged to KUSA-TV that he has personally experienced racism in his past.

“We’re all American, plain and simple,” he said to the NBC News affiliate.

Apparently the whole thing started as a joke, and then Antillon decided to actually do it. Who cares? It’s dumb and pointless, unless the goal is just to get national publicity. Why not just ignore it? According to The Root, non-white people could end up suing the restaurant for discrimination. The outrage industry in this country is completely out of control.

6/7/10 1:07:44 PM -- Boston, Massachusetts Campus Scenics of Kemore Square, Boston Skyline, BU Banners and Commonwealth Ave Photo by Vernon Doucette for Boston University

6/7/10 1:07:44 PM — Boston, Massachusetts
Campus Scenics of Kemore Square, Boston Skyline, BU Banners and Commonwealth Ave
Photo by Vernon Doucette for Boston University

Now for a little actual news.

The Illinois Supreme Court has struck down an effort by the state to cut public employee pensions. The Chicago Tribune reports:

The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday unanimously ruled unconstitutional a landmark state pension law that aimed to scale back government worker benefits to erase a massive $105 billion retirement system debt, sending lawmakers and the new governor back to the negotiating table to try to solve the pressing financial issue.

The ruling also reverberated at City Hall, imperiling a similar law Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed through to shore up two of the four city worker retirement funds and making it more difficult for him to find fixes for police, fire and teacher pension funds that are short billions of dollars.

At issue was a December 2013 state law signed by then-Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn that stopped automatic, compounded yearly cost-of-living increases for retirees, extended retirement ages for current state workers and limited the amount of salary used to calculate pension benefits.

Employee unions sued, arguing that the state constitution holds that pension benefits amount to a contractual agreement and once they’re bestowed, they cannot be “diminished or impaired.” A circuit court judge in Springfield agreed with that assessment in November. State government appealed that decision to the Illinois Supreme Court, arguing that economic necessity forced curbing retirement benefits.

Marsh Chapel at center of Charles River campus

Marsh Chapel at center of Charles River campus

The court disagreed with the state, and really slapped down the Illinois legislature in their decision.

“Our economy is and has always been subject to fluctuations, sometimes very extreme fluctuations,” Republican Justice Lloyd Karmeier wrote on behalf of all seven justices. “The law was clear that the promised benefits would therefore have to be paid and that the responsibility for providing the state’s share of the necessary funding fell squarely on the legislature’s shoulders.

“The General Assembly may find itself in crisis, but it is a crisis which other public pension systems managed to avoid and … it is a crisis for which the General Assembly itself is largely responsible,” Karmeier wrote.

“It is our obligation, however, just as it is theirs, to ensure that the law is followed. That is true at all times. It is especially important in times of crisis when, as this case demonstrates, even clear principles and long-standing precedent are threatened. Crisis is not an excuse to abandon the rule of law. It is a summons to defend it,” he wrote.

Nice win for workers for a change.

Shot of BU buildings on Commonwealth Avenue

Shot of BU buildings on Commonwealth Avenue

Also from the Trib, Chicago teachers are standing up for their rights too: Chicago Teachers Union files labor complaint against school board.

The Chicago Teachers Union has filed an unfair labor practice complaint accusing the city’s school board of bad-faith bargaining and refusing to engage in mediation toward a new contract.

Union officials said little progress has been made over eight formal bargaining sessions and numerous informal meetings since November. The complaint filed Wednesday with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board follows the union’s rejection earlier this week of the board’s proposal that teachers take on a greater share of pension payments….

As she did in the months before the 2012 teachers strike, CTU President Karen Lewis sought to make Mayor Rahm Emanuel the focus of the union’s displeasure with talks to replace a contract that expires June 30. The union again accused the city of using the talks to get back at the CTU for its support of Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in the mayoral election.

“We feel this is reactionary and retaliatory,” Lewis said at a news conference Wednesday. “I guess the fuzzy sweater’s gone,” she said, referring to Emanuel’s wearing a sweater in campaign commercials to indicate a softer personality.

The district, which says it is wrestling with a $1.1 billion deficit weighted with pension payments, wants to save millions of dollars by having teachers pay more into their pension fund. The district wants to end a long-standing agreement that limits teacher paycheck deductions for pensions, the union said.

I have a solution for Chicago’s and for the state of Illinois’s budget problems. Tax the rich. Blaming teachers and government workers isn’t going to solve your money problems. It’s just going to make everything worse. Tax the people who can afford to give something back to the government that constantly favors them.

View of Marsh Chapel with Charles River in foreground

View of Marsh Chapel with Charles River in foreground

We haven’t discussed it here yet, but there was a big election in Great Britain with surprising results.

From The Washington Post after the scope of the conservative victory became clear: British election results point to commanding lead for Conservatives.

Exit polls and partial results after a nationwide vote to pick Britain’s next Parliament showed the Conservative Party with a surprisingly commanding lead Friday, just short of a majority and in a strong position to return to power.

The projections defied virtually all pre-election polls, which forecast a virtual tie between the Tories and the opposition ­Labor Party in the popular vote. Both main parties had been expected to fall well short of the majority needed to claim power outright.

But as the counting continued into dawn Friday, all signs pointed to an emphatic margin in favor of the Conservatives and their leader, Prime Minister ­David Cameron, and to a major disappointment for ­Labor as well as the Liberal Democrats, who paid a steep price for having entered into a coalition with the Conservatives for the past five years.

At dawn Friday, Labor leader Ed Miliband delivered what amounted to a concession speech, saying it had been “a very disappointing and difficult night” for his party.

Meanwhile, in the election’s other stunning development, though one that had been predicted, the Scottish National Party (SNP) was redrawing the map of Scotland with what looked like a historic rout in what has long been one of Labor’s most reliable strongholds.

Another aerial view

Another aerial view

The results in Scotland could have long-term significance for the “United Kingdom.” if the trend toward Scottish independence continues.

From the WaPo again: In U.K. election’s wake, questions on E.U., Scotland.

Newly empowered British Prime Minister David Cameron moved swiftly to establish the terms and priorities for his new government on Friday after a stunning national election that delivered his Conservative Party an unexpected majority, devastated three other parties and redrew the political map of Scotland.

Following predictions that the post-election maneuvering to form a government might take days if not weeks, the Conservative Party’s big victory produced a quick end to speculation about what or who would be in charge.

But if the election produced an unexpectedly clear outcome, it may only have heightened the degree to which the country faces a period of internal debate, ­inward-looking politics and potential instability, with questions about the durability of the United Kingdom and its place in both Europe and the world still to be answered.

Cameron will have to find a way to manage resurgent Scottish nationalists who are demanding more powers and possibly another referendum on independence. Further, his pledge to hold a referendum to determine Britain’s future in the European Union will continue to raise uncertainty about the country’s commitments and reliability there.

From BBC News: World media fear UK EU exit, looser US ties.

A day after the surprise result in the UK elections, world media outlets have been taking a look at the ramifications.

European papers are concerned about the effect on the EU in the light of Prime Minister David Cameron’s promise to hold a referendum on leaving. And there is speculation that the Scottish nationalists’ spectacular gains may herald the break-up of the United Kingdom.

A US daily fears the result may be the harbinger of the end of the US-UK “special relationship”, but one Spanish daily is enthralled by a photo of Mr Cameron using cutlery to eat a hot dog.

See examples of media reactions at the link. International Business Times also collected world media reactions, and the stats freaks at FiveThirtyEight had to do some serious soul-searching about why they were completely wrong.

So . . . . what else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread and have a great spring weekend!!


Saturday Reads: Mitt the Twit, The Churchill Bust, And Much More

President Barack Obama shows Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom a bust of Sir Winston Churchill in the private residence of the White House, July 20, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Good Morning!

Mitt Romney’s gaffetastic journey began before he even arrived in London when the Telegraph published this now-infamous article based on interviews with some Romney “advisers” who indicated that Mitt would Mitt would “restore ‘Anglo-Saxon’ relations between Britain and America.” The advisers also said that Romney would

seek to reinstate the Churchill bust displayed in the Oval Office by George W. Bush but returned to British diplomats by Mr Obama when he took office in 2009. One said Mr Romney viewed the move as “symbolically important” while the other said it was “just for starters”, adding: “He is naturally more Atlanticist”.

Romney claims he “does not know who these advisers are,” but he apparently agrees with them about the Churchill bust because last night

he told a group of more than 200 supporters in [a] hotel in the heart of London…[that] he is “looking forward” to returning the bust of Winston Churchill to the White House after it was sent back to Great Britain by President Obama.

Mitt the Twit told these supporters [actually wealthy banksters involved in the LIBOR scandal] that he was deeply impressed by the statue of Churchill in London.

The GOP candidate, who suffered a brutal day of press after he suggested that he wasn’t sure the London Olympics would go off without a hitch, spoke highly of the British monuments — singling out the Churchill statue — that he said he got a firsthand look at while stuck in traffic — likely caused by the Olympic Games.

“You live here, you see the sites day in and day out, but for me as I drive past the sculpture of Winston Churchill and see that great sculpture next to Westminster Abbey and Parliament and with him larger than life, enormous heft of that sculpture suggesting the scale of the the grandeur and the greatness of the man, it tugs at the heart strings to remember the kind fo [sic] example that was led by Winston Churchill,” said Romney, speaking in a ballroom at the Mandarin Oriental hotel on the edge of Hyde Park.

Boy, he really laid it on thick, didn’t he? But Mitt the Twit was misinformed, as were the “advisers” that he says he doesn’t know. It turns out that the Churchill bust never left the White House! The White House put up a “fact check” post to clear up the misinformation, although they studiously avoided mentioning Romney.

Lately, there’s been a rumor swirling around about the current location of the bust of Winston Churchill. Some have claimed that President Obama removed the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office and sent it back to the British Embassy.

Now, normally we wouldn’t address a rumor that’s so patently false, but just this morning the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer repeated this ridiculous claim in his column. He said President Obama “started his Presidency by returning to the British Embassy the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office.”

This is 100% false. The bust still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room.

So where did that story about a bust being removed from the Oval Office come from?

The White House has had a bust of Winston Churchill since the 1960’s. At the start of the Bush administration Prime Minister Blair lent President Bush a bust that matched the one in the White House, which was being worked on at the time and was later returned to the residence. The version lent by Prime Minister Blair was displayed by President Bush until the end of his Presidency. On January 20, 2009 — Inauguration Day — all of the art lent specifically for President Bush’s Oval Office was removed by the curator’s office, as is common practice at the end of every presidency. The original Churchill bust remained on display in the residence. The idea put forward by Charles Krauthammer and others that President Obama returned the Churchill bust or refused to display the bust because of antipathy towards the British is completely false and an urban legend that continues to circulate to this day.

I’m sure this won’t stop Nowhere Man from claiming otherwise, since he appears to delight in lying about just about everything.

Here’s a brief video of some of the reactions to Romney in the London tabloids

I won’t bore you with many more tales of Romney’s European vacation, but I really liked this piece in the Guardian by Jonathan Freedland: Britain is an easy date. So how did Mitt Romney mess up so badly?

For an American politician, Britain is an easy date: just praise the country as a steadfast ally, mention Churchill a couple of times and we’ll roll over. Yet somehow Romney managed to provoke both the prime minister and the capital’s mayor – both fellow conservatives who should regard a Republican nominee as a kindred spirit – into public rebukes. That takes some doing. So what explains how an accomplished politician, with the resilience to have prevailed in a bruising primary campaign, could mess up so badly? The answer says a lot about Romney – and a fair bit about the dire state of today’s Republican party.

In the first category comes the observation that, despite having sought the presidency twice and served as a state governor, Romney is not really a politician at all – not in the Bill Clinton sense of someone who thinks, talks and breathes politically, constantly calculating the likely impact of both words and deeds. Instead Romney speaks and acts like the chief executive he was for so long, whether of private equity firm Bain Capital or the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics of 2002.

As we’ve learned in recent weeks, thanks to the likes of Barclays’ Bob Diamond or G4S’s Nick Buckles, corporate titans, so used to the nodding appreciation of yes men, can lack elementary tact and diplomacy, failing to weigh their words for tone, timing and likely reception. Technically, nothing in what Romney said about London 2012 was especially contentious – if, that is, he were merely the former CEO of the 2002 Games speaking privately to Coe a month ago. But for a man who seeks to be the lead partner in the US-UK alliance, speaking on the day before the Olympic flame was lit, it was a diplomatic disaster.

It’s surely CEO thinking too which has led Romney to refuse to release all his past tax returns, even though President Obama has published his in full. CEOs recoil from such personal transparency, while politicians know they will have to succumb eventually and so had better get it over with. Above all, their exorbitant pay means the elite chief executive class is habitually and unavoidably out of touch with everyone else. It is the Romney of the 1% who could smilingly tell an audience in hard-pressed Detroit that his wife has “a couple of Cadillacs”, beaming again today as his wife referred to the “horses”, plural, she owns (including one competing in the Olympic dressage event, providing a picture-perfect image of elitism for his opponents to feast on).

I thought that was a very insightful assessment.

In other news, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota “being evaluated for depression, ‘gastrointestinal issues'”

This one is for Pat: Katherine Jackson Returns Home, Paris Jackson Tweets About It.

I’m not sure I understand everything that happened, but Katherine Jackson says she needed a rest and so she went to Arizona, getting rid of her cell phone so she wouldn’t be bothered. But there’s something else going on:

While Michael’s will gave Katherine custody of his children and a 20 percent stake in his massive estate, her husband, Joe Jackson, and the eight surviving Jackson siblings were completely cut out. Some of the siblings have reportedly been exploring a move to have the will invalidated by arguing that Michael was in New York on the day that the document was notarized in Los Angeles.

In a video that surfaced earlier this week, Janet Jackson is seen trying to take a cell phone away from Paris, 14, and berating her niece for using her phone to tweet about family business. That video leaked after Janet, Jermaine and Randy Jackson reportedly attempted to persuade Paris and Prince, 15, to leave Katherine’s home on Monday. Both resisted and a short time later, sheriff’s deputies arrived to break up a scuffle between Randy, Jermaine Jackson and TJ.

MTV has more detail on the family fracas via TMZ:

Sources tell TMZ that Randy, Jermaine and Janet Jackson entered the home uninvited and then tried to coerce Michael’s children, Paris, Prince and Blanket, into coming with them to Arizona where their grandmother Katherine has been staying.

Sources say that Paris resisted the intervention and apparently things got violent. Allegedly, Janet slapped Paris and yelled, “You’re a spoiled little bitch!” to which Paris responded with a slap and told Janet, “This is our house. Not the Jackson family house. Get the f–k out!”

TMZ shares that Trent Jackson (Joe Jackson’s nephew who deals with Katherine’s daily affairs) put Randy in a headlock and punched Jermaine in the mouth. Tito Jackson was reportedly trying to get temporary guardianship of Michael’s kids.

And I thought my family was dysfunctional!

There may be a breakthrough in the Eurozone crisis. Reuters:

Stocks rallied on Friday on expectations the European Central Bank will tackle high borrowing costs hitting Spain and Italy, but the euro pared gains on market uncertainty about the specific action to be taken.

The benchmark S&P 500 closed at its highest since early May, climbing further after Bloomberg News said ECB President Mario Draghi will meet with Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann to discuss several measures, including bond purchases, to help the euro zone.

The French and German governments said they are “determined to do everything to protect the euro zone” and its single currency. The joint statement echoed similar remarks by Draghi on Thursday, but in comments on Friday, Germany’s Bundesbank pushed back against Draghi’s pledge.

Tim Geithner will also meet with Schaeuble and Draghi next week in Germany.

The meeting with Schaeuble will take place on the German island of Sylt in the afternoon of July 30, and the session with Draghi will be held that evening in Frankfurt, the Treasury Department said in a statement today.

The Treasury said the meetings will be closed to the press, with a photo opportunity before the Schaeuble meeting. A Treasury official with knowledge of the matter said that Geithner and Schaeuble won’t hold a news conference after the meeting.

The Guardian has a live blog with updates on the ongoing crisis.

Bobby Knight hit the Google top stories list last night, because Neil Reed, the former IU basketball player who was choked by Knight during practice, has died at age 36.

In March 2000, Reed accused Knight of choking him during a practice in 1997. When video of the practice surfaced backing Reed’s claim, Knight, a Hall of Fame coach who was known for his angry outbursts as well as his success, was put on zero-tolerance notice by Dr. Myles Brand, then the university president. That September, Knight was fired after a student said he had grabbed his arm.

Reed transferred to Southern Mississippi shortly after the choking incident and played there in the 1998-99 season.

He is survived by his wife, Kelly, and two daughters.

So sad that he was known for that horrible incident and then died so young. When I first saw Knight’s name on the list, I thought maybe he had died.

Finally, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to hold a fundraiser for Scott Brown in August. Get this:

A spokesman for Bloomberg, Stu Loeser, says the mayor’s top reason for supporting Brown is the senator’s opposition to a proposal backed by the National Rifle Association that would allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines.

Loeser said Warren’s tough stance on Wall Street regulation was not the basis for the endorsement.

Hahahahahaha!! Somehow I doubt that Warren is a big NRA supporter….

Now what are you reading and blogging about today?