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Disgusting return of McCarthy
by Jake Highton
May 01, 2011 | 486 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Joe McCarthy’s ghost is haunting Wisconsin these days: the state Republican Party is demanding access to the emails and documents of William Cronon, a University of Wisconsin professor.

Why? Cronon had the nerve to sketch online the history of union-busting and complaints about today’s union-busting by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Cronon, who has just been elected president of the American Historical Association, said that he had nothing to hide but declared: “I find it simply outrageous that the Wisconsin Republican Party would seek to employ the state’s open records law for the nakedly political purpose of trying to embarrass, harass or silence a university professor.”

The New York Times in an editorial chimed in with outrage of its own: “These demands not only abuse academic freedom but make the instigators look like petty and medieval inquisitors.”

And Times columnist Paul Krugman noted: “The Cronon affair is one more indicator of just how reflexively vindictive, how un-American, one of our two major political parties has become.”

34 states to go

Illinois recently became the 16th state to abolish the death penalty. The brave governor: Pat Quinn.

Governor Quinn, in signing the abolition legislation, said he “found no credible evidence that the death penalty has a deterrent effect on murder.”

Quinn also noted that since 1977 the Illinois criminal justice system has wrongly put 20 people to death.

Civilized nations have long since abolished capital punishment. But in backward America it takes courage for a politician to oppose the death penalty.

Blame the professors

Grade inflation has been a long-time given on university campuses. So it is hardly surprising when a new book notes that the average grade-point is 3.16, the plus side of a B.

The book is “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses.” The authors are Professors Richard Arum of New York University and Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia.

The burden of their indictment is deeper than grade inflation: far too many students are terribly weak in critical thinking and writing.

The authors rightly blame the professors for debasing college standards with their far-too-generous grading. But they also blame undemanding university systems, allowing students to graduate without taking tough courses.

The result: so many graduates are ill-prepared for the “real world.”

Right’s new assault

The assault from the Right is unending: anti-unionism, slashes in salaries, pensions and benefits and reduction in number of weeks getting jobless benefits.

Now comes a new attack: gutting state environmental regulations.

Gov. Paul LePage of Maine has announced a 63-point plan to cut environmental rules. (Jesus Christ had just 10 commandments and President Wilson only 14 points but they were obviously pikers.)

Among the governer’s points are opening of three million acres of Maine’s North Woods to development. Also: to suspend a law monitoring toxic chemicals in children’s products.

Meanwhile in Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants to eliminate millions of dollars in annual outlays for land conservation. He would reduce from $50 million, the amount allocated last year, to $17 million for the restoration of the magnificent Everglades.

Old food-packing news

The New York Times reported recently that food packages and containers are getting tinier and tinier and prices higher and higher.

Nothing new in that. I recall as a boy 70 years ago that candy bars got smaller and prices higher.

Prison rape

The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.

Dostoevsky in “The House of the Dead”

U.S. prisons and jails fail the Dostoevsky test. Rape is rampant.

According to the latest federal estimate in 2008, 200,000 adult prisoners, jail inmates and juveniles suffered rape or other sexual abuses.

The abusers: fellow inmates and corrections officers.

We ain’t broke


This country is hardly broke. The nation “is awash in wealth,” as Michael Moore says

The problem, Moore notes, is that this enormous wealth has been transferred “from the workers and consumers to the banks and über-rich.”

Minds of actors

Great actors are not gifted with great minds.

Derek Jacobi, one of Britain’s finest actors, believes that the Earl of Oxford wrote the plays of Shakespeare. Never mind that the earl died in 1604 before such great plays as “Macbeth,” “King Lear,”  “Othello” and “Antony and Cleopatra” were written.

Judi Dench, another marvelous British actor, dislikes “The Merchant of Venice” because all the characters are terrible people.

Actually, “Merchant” is a good play with a matchless plea for humanity, the fine quality of mercy soliloquy, “music of the spheres” and the lovely litany of “in such a night.”

Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.
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