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Blaming Obama May 31, 2010

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Two weeks ago, the  mainstream media meme was that the oil spill in the gulf was Obama’s Katrina. But that never made any sense. As Kevin Drum wrote:

Katrina was a case of a disaster that the federal government is specifically tasked with handling. And for most of the 90s, it was very good at handling them. But when George Bush became president and Joe Allbaugh became director of FEMA, everything changed. Allbaugh neither knew nor cared about disaster preparedness. FEMA was downsized and much of its work outsourced. When Allbaugh left after less than two years on the job, he was replaced by the hapless Michael Brown and the agency was downgraded and broken up yet again. By the time Katrina hit, the upper levels of FEMA were populated largely with political appointees with no disaster preparedness experience and the agency was simply not up to the job of dealing with a huge storm anymore.

The Deepwater Horizon explosion is almost the exact opposite. There is no federal expertise in capping oil blowouts. There is no federal agency tasked with repairing oil spills. There is no expectation that the federal government should be able to respond instantly to a disaster like this. There never has been. For better or worse, it’s simply not something that’s ever been considered the responsibility of the federal government.

In the case of Katrina, you have the kind of disaster that, contra Levin, can be addressed by the federal government. In the case of the BP spill, we’re faced with a technological challenge that can’t be. They could hardly be more different.

But there is one way in which they’re similar. Katrina was far worse than it had to be because a conservative administration, one that fundamentally disdained the mechanics of government for ideological reasons, decided that FEMA wasn’t very important. Likewise, the BP blowout was made more likely because that same administration decided that government regulation of private industry wasn’t very important and turned the relevant agency into a joke. If you believe that government is the problem, not the solution, and if you actually run the country that way for eight years, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But let’s not pretend it’s inevitable.

Last week, the mainstream media meme was that the oil spill in the gulf shows the incompetence of government. George Will opined that President Obama “is being unfairly blamed” for its oil spill response but “ it sort of serves him right”. Obama  promised that the government could solve problems but we now know that isn’t true since the government can’t plug an oil leak a mile beneath the surface of the ocean. I guess we should just leave our problems to private enterprises like British Petroleum to solve.

This week, apparently, the meme will be that there isn’t much anyone can do to plug the oil leak but Obama must do a better job of feeling our pain. Over the weekend, the intellectual giant Maureen Dowd took time away from her Sex in the City reruns to give Obama some advice:

For five weeks, it looked as though Obama considered the gushing that became the worst oil spill in U.S. history a distraction, like a fire alarm going off in the middle of a law seminar he was teaching. He’ll deal with it, but he’s annoyed because it’s not on his syllabus.

Even if Obama doesn’t watch “Treme” on HBO, it’s strange that he would not have a more spontaneous emotional response to another horrendous hit for Louisiana, with residents and lawmakers crying on the news and dead pelicans washing up on shore.

Steve Benen is not impressed with the discourse thus far:

At this point, the discourse seems to boil down to a) those who want to see the president don a wetsuit and head to the Gulf floor; b) those who want to see the president don a cape and fly around the planet really quickly in order to reverse time; and c) those who want to see the president pound on podiums and lose his cool, as if that would make a difference. (Thanks, Maureen Dowd, for comparing Obama to Spock again. That never gets old.)

Here’s an idea for assignment editors: publish a piece with specific steps federal officials should take but haven’t. Because at this point, unless we can fix the leak with useless media palaver, there’s not much point to the breathless speculation, nebulous criticism, and finger-pointing.

Indeed. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the one mistake Obama has made is to trust any American institution. Wall St., the health insurance lobby, the Pentagon, and big oil have all stuck him with monumental headaches because he wants to meet them halfway. But of course part of the President’s job is to work with American institutions. Trying to govern by making enemies of them would be unlikely to yield much success either.

But one thing the President could do is take this opportunity to condemn the way industry has succeeded in taking over our regulatory agencies  and attack the morons in the Republican Party who want to “drill, baby, drill”.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

The Terminator’s Budget May 27, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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Arnold Schwartzenegger has long argued that California’s budget deficit requires that we decimate public education and immiserate the millions of people who depend on government services. Making up the revenue shortfall by modestly increasing taxes has always been off the table because higher taxes would make it difficult for businesses to hire more workers, thus prolonging our historically high unemployment rate.

This argument never made much sense. How does laying off thousands of teachers and state employees improve our unemployment rate? We now have some empirical evidence that the argument is nonsense.

This study by the UC Berkeley Labor Center shows what is wrong with the argument:

We estimate that the Governor’s proposed budget would result in a loss of 331,000 full-time equivalent jobs, increasing the unemployment rate by 1.8 percentage points. More than half of the jobs lost would be in the private sector. Because many of the jobs lost are part time, the actual number of Californians affected would be much greater. The number of jobs estimated to be lost is much greater than the entire employment growth for the state projected by the Legislative Analyst’s Office for 2011.

An alternative approach that mixed spending cuts with $5.4 billion in targeted revenue increases would save an estimated 244,000 jobs compared with the Governor’s proposal.

The greatest part of the job loss due to the Governor’s budget would result from cuts to major health and human service programs that bring in significant federal matching funds.

The argument that budget cuts and the lowest tax rates possible are the only way out of a recession has a degree of apriori plausibility.

But when the budget cuts entail significant job loss and restrain economic growth, the argument collapses. The proposed budget solutions from Democrats in the Assembly and Senate, including an end to corporate tax breaks, are a much better solution.

As Robert Cruickshank at Calitics argues:

The governor’s budget may have been designed to wedge the middle-class and the poor, but as this study indicates, the middle-class has every incentive to oppose these cuts as well. Any increase in unemployment will reverberate around the rest of the economy, leading to middle-class job losses and further cuts to schools and other things the middle class cares about.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

The Same Old Game May 26, 2010

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It has been said before but it is worth a reminder—if you want to know what is going on in politics follow the money.

The press has focused on the tea party crowd and portrays opposition to Obama as a grass roots phenomenon. But Obama haters are not limited to “ordinary folks”.

As Paul Krugman reports:   

Look, for example, at the campaign contributions of commercial banks – traditionally Republican-leaning, but only mildly so. So far this year, according to the Washington Post, 63 percent of spending by banks’ corporate PACs has gone to Republicans, up from 53 percent last year. Securities and investment firms, traditionally Democratic-leaning, are now giving more money to Republicans. And oil and gas companies, always Republican-leaning, have gone all out, bestowing 76 percent of their largess on the GOP.

These are extraordinary numbers given the normal tendency of corporate money to flow to the party in power. Corporate America, however, really, truly hates the current administration. Wall Street, for example, is in “a state of bitter, seething, hysterical fury” toward the president, writes John Heilemann of New York magazine. What’s going on? One answer is taxes – not so much on corporations themselves as on the people who run them. The Obama administration plans to raise tax rates on upper brackets back to Clinton-era levels.

Furthermore, health reform will in part be paid for with surtaxes on high-income individuals. All this will amount to a significant financial hit to CEOs, investment bankers and other masters of the universe.

Now, don’t cry for these people: They’ll still be doing extremely well, and by and large they’ll be paying little more as a percentage of their income than they did in the 1990s. Yet the fact that the tax increases they’re facing are reasonable doesn’t stop them from being very, very angry.

Nor are taxes the whole story.

Although many liberals are disappointed in Obama’s timid attempts to regulate Wall St. and the oil industry, corporate America is livid that the free ride they received from the Bush Administration is over.

From the outside, this rage against regulation seems bizarre. I mean, what did they expect? The financial industry, in particular, ran wild under deregulation, eventually bringing on a crisis that has left 15 million Americans unemployed, and required large-scale taxpayer-financed bailouts to avoid an even worse outcome. Did Wall Street expect to emerge from all that without facing some new restrictions? Apparently it did.

So what President Barack Obama and his party now face isn’t just, or even mainly, an opposition grounded in right-wing populism. For grass-roots anger is being channeled and exploited by corporate interests, which will be the big winners if the GOP does well in November.

If this sounds familiar, it should: It’s the same formula the right has been using for a generation. Use identity politics to whip up the base; then, when the election is over, give priority to the concerns of your corporate donors. Run as the candidate of “real Americans,” not those soft-on-terror East Coast liberals; then, once you’ve won, declare that you have a mandate to privatize Social Security. It comes as no surprise to learn that American Crossroads, a new organization whose goal is to deploy large amounts of corporate cash on behalf of Republican candidates, is the brainchild of none other than Karl Rove.

The tea party movement is nothing but the visible manifestation of this resurgence of corporate influence. And the corporations are quite of aware of how this game is played. FreedomWorks, the brainchild of former House Republican leader Dick Army, is funded primarily by corporations and is the main financial backer of the tea partiers. Instead of acting in their self-interest and working towards a federal government that has the resources to constrain corporations, the tea partiers are actively working against their own interests trying to insure that corporate America can operate with impunity.

The plutocrats with the money know that there are enough people for whom tribalism trumps self-interest, confident that they can kick up enough racism, fear, and resentment to sustain sufficient anti-government fervor to return us to the good old days when Wall St. whiz kids  and Saudi sheiks set the political agenda for the rest of the world.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

 

Blaming Bush May 25, 2010

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The mainstream media is at it again, publicizing Republican talking points like good foot soldiers in the tea party revolution.

Politico ran this headline yesterday:  “Obama campaigns against Bush — again.”

President Barack Obama is trying to ride the wave of anti-incumbency by taking on an unpopular politician steeped in the partisan ways of Washington.

It doesn’t matter that George W. Bush left office 16 months ago.

The White House’s mid-term election strategy is becoming clear — pit the Democrats of 2010 against the Republicans circa 2006, 2008 and 2009, including Bush.

It’s a lot to ask an angry, finicky electorate to sort out. And even if Obama can rightfully make the case that the economy took a turn for the worse under Bush’s watch, he’s already made it — in 2008 and repeatedly in 2009.

It’s not clear that voters still want to hear it.

In fact, Obama has largely refrained from directly criticizing Bush, and that reticence has helped the public forget about that singularly mendacious and incompetent Administration.

But more importantly, the Bush Administration really is responsible for the financial collapse, excessive debt, and the lack of regulation that produced the Gulf Oil spill. The conservative American public dislikes being reminded of these facts but that doesn’t make them any less facts.

None of the problems we face have their origins in the Obama Administration. But apparently the press is more interested in stoking the public’s anti-government mood than in telling the truth.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

Humanities Under Fire May 24, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Education, Philosophy.
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The Humanities—literature, the arts, history, and philosophy—are in deep trouble. As budget cuts percolate through our educational system, these disciplines will be the first to be down-sized because they seem to produce little tangible benefit.

And Stephen Mexal takes literature professor Stanley Fish to task for encouraging this trend.

Over the past year or so, Stanley Fish has occasionally devoted his New York Times blog to the notion that, as he put it recently, higher education is “distinguished by the absence” of a relationship between its activities and any “measurable effects in the world.” He has singled out the humanities for lacking what he called “instrumental value,” writing that “the value of the humanities cannot be validated by some measure external” to the peculiar obsessions of scholars. The humanities, Fish claimed, do not have an extrinsic utility—an instrumental value—and therefore cannot increase economic productivity, fashion an informed citizenry, sharpen moral perceptions, or reduce prejudice and discrimination. […]

This sentiment reached its logical apex last year in an article in The New York Times titled, “In Tough Times, the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth.” […]

So when Fish claimed that the benefits of humanities research were limited to the researcher or the classroom, and that the public should therefore not have to “subsidize my moments of aesthetic wonderment,” he was drill-baby-drilling into the zeitgeist quite nicely.

As Mexal points out, the issue is not whether the arts, history, or literature (or philosophy) are useful—they obviously are. The issue is whether academic research into these areas is useful. What is the utility or academic analyses of art, philosophy, literature, or history?

Mexal’s answer is that the value of research in the humanities is neither immediate nor predictable. But he cites a variety of examples in which literary, historical, and philosophical works led directly to new developments in fields such as computer programming, national intelligence, and counter-intelligence.

What unites those stories is not that they exemplify times when humanities research has had instrumental value, but rather times when it has had unintended instrumental value. Those scholars did not intend, nor could they have anticipated, the applied value of their work. Yet that’s not to say the application of their work was the point of their work. After all, scholars weren’t studying Shakespeare with an eye toward establishing the CIA. Instead, research in the humanities, like research in all disciplines, is valuable precisely because we never know where new knowledge will lead us.

(more…)

Never Listen to Conservatives May 23, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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David Leonhardt’s column in the NY Times  has an important reminder for those who think Obama’s mantra of change during his campaign was an empty slogan.

With the Senate’s passage of financial regulation, Congress and the White House have completed 16 months of activity that rival any other since the New Deal in scope or ambition. Like the Reagan Revolution or Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the new progressive period has the makings of a generational shift in how Washington operates.

First came a stimulus bill that, while aimed mainly at ending a deep recession, also set out to remake the nation’s educational system and vastly expand scientific research. Then President Obama signed a health care bill that was the biggest expansion of the safety net in 40 years. And now Congress is in the final stages of a bill that would tighten Wall Street’s rules and probably shrink its profit margins. […]

[T]he turnabout since Jan. 20 — the first anniversary of Mr. Obama’s inauguration and the day after Scott Brown, a Republican, won a Senate seat in liberal Massachusetts — has been remarkable. Then, commentators pronounced the Obama presidency nearly dead. Today, he looks more like a liberal answer to Ronald Reagan.

 

Financial reform, health care reform, student loan overhaul, withdrawal from Iraq, restoring the stature and reputation of the U.S. throughout the world, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, expanded stem-cell research, new regulation of the credit card industry, new regulation of the tobacco industry, a national service bill, new mileage standards for automobiles, the beginning of the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, etc. These are all progressive goals that Obama has achieved and any progressive who is disappointed is simply not paying attention.

What is most remarkable about this is the change in the media’s narrative over the past few months.

Steve Benen reminds us of what the political discourse looked like a few months ago:

I’m occasionally reminded of a David Brooks column from early February. Scott Brown had just been sworn in to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, and there was a real and pervasive sense that the Obama presidency was not just moving in the wrong direction, but would fail to achieve anything else of consequence.

“If, a year ago, you had been asked to describe the administration’s goals in one sentence it would have been this: Barack Obama will usher in the third great wave of Democratic reform,” Brooks wrote at the time. “Franklin Roosevelt had the New Deal. Lyndon Johnson had the Great Society. Obama would take the third step, transforming health care, energy, education, financial regulation and many other sectors of American life…. It was not to be…. [T]he original Obama project, the third Democratic wave, is dead.”

As Leonhardt’s column makes clear, Obama’s agenda is anything but dead. Whether it succeeds as mightily as FDR’s accomplishments only time will tell. But this story once again is a healthy reminder that the mainstream media narrative is not worth paying much attention to.

But despite these accomplishments, the moribund economy inherited from the Bush Administration remains Obama’s Achilles heel. Paul Krugman continues to be pessimistic.

For the past few months, much commentary on the economy — some of it posing as reporting — has had one central theme: policy makers are doing too much. Governments need to stop spending, we’re told. Greece is held up as a cautionary tale, and every uptick in the interest rate on U.S. government bonds is treated as an indication that markets are turning on America over its deficits. Meanwhile, there are continual warnings that inflation is just around the corner, and that the Fed needs to pull back from its efforts to support the economy and get started on its “exit strategy,” tightening credit by selling off assets and raising interest rates. […]

But the truth is that policy makers aren’t doing too much; they’re doing too little. Recent data don’t suggest that America is heading for a Greece-style collapse of investor confidence. Instead, they suggest that we may be heading for a Japan-style lost decade, trapped in a prolonged era of high unemployment and slow growth.

As Krugman notes, interest rates are still low, inflation is nowhere to be seen, and in fact the danger is now deflation.

So what we should really be asking right now isn’t whether we’re about to turn into Greece. We should, instead, be asking what we’re doing to avoid turning Japanese. And the answer is, nothing.

It’s not that nobody understands the risk. I strongly suspect that some officials at the Fed see the Japan parallels all too clearly and wish they could do more to support the economy. But in practice it’s all they can do to contain the tightening impulses of their colleagues, who (like central bankers in the 1930s) remain desperately afraid of inflation despite the absence of any evidence of rising prices. I also suspect that Obama administration economists would very much like to see another stimulus plan. But they know that such a plan would have no chance of getting through a Congress that has been spooked by the deficit hawks.

In short, fear of imaginary threats has prevented any effective response to the real danger facing our economy.

It will be one of the great ironies of the Obama Administration that his laudable attempt to rise above partisanship in Washington led him to listen to conservatives who insisted on limiting the economic stimulus.

One should never listen to conservatives. Never.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

Do We Really Want To Go There Again? May 20, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in politics.
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The Civil Rights Act of 1964 that forbids discrimination based on race, sex, nationality, or religion is arguably one of our greatest achievements as a nation. It signaled the end of Jim Crow laws and other formal impediments to minority group participation in American pubic life. But apparently many Americans disagree.

Kentucky’s Republican Senate candidate  Rand Paul has a long history of opposition to the Civil Rights Act  because he claims it infringes on private enterprise. In fact he recently told Rachel Maddow that businesses have a right to refuse to serve black people. (See also this letter to a Kentucky paper in 2002.)

But now that he has become a Senate candidate he has chosen to lie about his beliefs. Via Steve Benen:

This afternoon, a spokesman for the Paul campaign told Greg Sargent, “Civil Rights legislation that has been affirmed by our courts gives the Federal government the right to insure that private businesses don’t discriminate based on race. Dr. Paul supports those powers.”

Of course, The Civil Rights Law also prohibits discrimination in employment so apparently Paul would be perfectly happy if businesses refused to hire women, or Italians, or heaven forbid Christians.

It makes you wonder what else Paul opposes. As Steve Benen writes:

If we follow the logic he’s already articulated, Paul must necessarily oppose the minimum wage, for example. The Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, in light of their burdens on private companies, would be equally problematic. Social Security must be out of the question. Child-labor laws would obviously be a problem, as would workplace safety regulations and OSHA.

I would be willing to bet he doesn’t favor those nasty regulations designed to prevent oil rigs from dumping millions of barrels of oil into the ocean either.

It is not at all obvious that, in Kentucky, Paul will be punished at the polls for his extreme views. But the rest of the country is not Kentucky.

Republicans have been pushing the envelope on racial politics for many  years. Will Rand Paul now become the poster boy for the Republican Party?

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

Bad News, But Will Anybody Listen? May 18, 2010

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NASA-GISS data show that the past 12 months were the hottest 12-month period on record. In the chart below, Paul Krugman plots the difference over the past 25 years from the average temperatures over the period from 1951-80 (measured in in hundredths of a degree centigrade):

DESCRIPTION

Climate-change deniers have been, for years, arguing that the data shows the earth is in fact cooling. But the upward trend in this chart shows something quite different.

As Krugman says:

So much for the “global cooling” talking point. What I’m wondering is what excuse the deniers will come up with.

They could argue that temperatures fluctuate, that one shouldn’t make too much of a particular peak — which is actually true. But that would get them in trouble, since the whole global cooling thing has been about taking the 1998 peak — visible in the chart — plus a bit of bad data to claim, literally, that up is down. Any statistical fix, like looking at multi-year averages, would just confirm that the temperature trend is up.

Now, I’m sure that the climate deniers will find a way to ignore the latest facts. But I’m not sure what that way will be.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

More on Facebook and Privacy May 17, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Culture, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Ethics, Technology.
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Nina’s post about privacy on Facebook thoroughly covered the issue.

But Facebook’s habit of thumbing their nose at privacy concerns provoked a couple of interesting posts on Crooked Timber as well.

Apparently, Mark Zuckerberg, founder and owner of Facebook, is quoted in a forthcoming book making some dismissive remarks about privacy concerns:

“You have one identity,” he emphasized three times in a single interview with David Kirkpatrick in his book, “The Facebook Effect.” “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly.” He adds: “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

As Henry at Crooked Timber points out:

Facebook appears to be deliberately and systematically making it harder and harder for people to vary their self-presentations according to audience. I think that this broad tendency (if it continues and spreads) impoverishes public life.

Kirkpatrick explains what is wrong with this:

Individuals are constantly managing and restricting flows of information based on the context they are in, switching between identities and persona. I present myself differently when I’m lecturing in the classroom compared to when I’m have a beer with friends. I might present a slightly different identity when I’m at a church meeting compared to when I’m at a football game. This is how we navigate the multiple and increasingly complex spheres of our lives.

And Kieren Healy argues that having integrity is not about having a consistent self-presentation:

Having an identity and having a secret are in fact quite closely related, and not just for superheroes. Here’s a piece from the Times from the pre-FB era that makes the point:

“In a very deep sense, you don’t have a self unless you have a secret, and we all have moments throughout our lives when we feel we’re losing ourselves in our social group, or work or marriage, and it feels good to grab for a secret, or some subterfuge, to reassert our identity as somebody apart,” said Dr. Daniel M. Wegner, a professor of psychology at Harvard. … Psychologists have long considered the ability to keep secrets as central to healthy development. Children as young as 6 or 7 learn to stay quiet about their mother’s birthday present. In adolescence and adulthood, a fluency with small social lies is associated with good mental health. … The urge to act out an entirely different persona is widely shared across cultures as well, social scientists say, and may be motivated by curiosity, mischief or earnest soul-searching. Certainly, it is a familiar tug in the breast of almost anyone who has stepped out of his or her daily life for a time, whether for vacation, for business or to live in another country. “It used to be you’d go away for the summer and be someone else, go away to camp and be someone else, or maybe to Europe and be someone else” in a spirit of healthy experimentation, said Dr. Sherry Turkle, a sociologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Now, she said, people regularly assume several aliases on the Internet, without ever leaving their armchair …”

This idea that it is dishonest or insincere to withhold information about oneself is fundamentally mistaken. Social life isn’t enhanced by brutal honesty and integrity is not about having a single self-presentation.

Integrity is a matter of consistently acting on the basis of one’s system of values and sustaining the value of the variety of things we care about. Not only is that consistent with having different self-presentations in different contexts—integrity requires a variety of self-presentations.

If I value my students and their education some facets of my private life will be irrelevant or inimical to their development. And if I value my family relationships, my self-presentation as a teacher must at times be suppressed.

But Zuckerberg does provide us with an example of the lack of integrity. As one commentator on Crooked Timber puts it:

Hey, you know what really is a lack of integrity is trying to conceal very obvious monetary motives behind a veneer of moralizing. How much more honest would it be if Zuckerberg just came out and said, yeah, we don’t give a damn about your privacy, this is how we’re going to make money. Then we could all know where we stand. The worst aspect of all of this is the pretense that anyone on Facebook’s corporate end cares about this and their projection of their own moral deficiencies onto people with legitimate privacy concerns. Not that I’m, like, surprised or anything.

It is easy for a straight, privileged man like Zuckerbeg to extol the virtues of a single identity while hiding behind his body guards and wealth. Women and anyone from marginalized social groups cannot afford to be so sanguine about privacy. But of course straight, privileged men tend to think they are the only people who matter.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

  

Be Careful Who You Listen To May 16, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Education.
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Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer, gave words of wisdom to University of Syracuse graduates this week-end:

“Throughout my life, throughout this crisis, I’ve seen many people bury themselves by failing to stand up, being mealy mouthed and simply going along with the pack,” said Dimon at the university’s Carrier Dome, where more than 5,000 students received diplomas.

He told students to “do the right thing, not the easy thing” and not to become someone else’s “lap dog.”

Dimon, 54, who was the subject of student protests before the ceremony, was met at the end of his speech with loud applause by the audience of more than 17,000.

“Have the courage to speak the truth, even if it’s unpopular,” said Dimon. “Have the courage to put yourself on the line, strive for something meaningful, even to risk the embarrassment of failure.”

Although this speech by one of the “captains” of Wall St.  who got us into this financial mess provoked some protest, the demonstrations were tame. Perhaps they should have protested more vigorously when they had the opportunity.

As Digby wrote:

That’s the truly sickening thing about Dimon’s speech. Due to his cohort’s hideous professional malpractice, these kids are going into a workforce in which the worker is at a huge disadvantage. It’s not just that 10% workforce is out of a job ( a number which is undoubtedly understated.) The problem of high unemployment hits everyone who’s working as well.

These young college graduates are going to find that they are competing for jobs with people who have years of experience and are willing to take cuts in pay and benefits because they have a nut to crack every month or kids to support and they need a job very badly. But older people are at a disadvantage as well. They tend to require higher pay and expect their experience to count for more (plus employers just don’t like ‘e

Those in between are working in a world in which the competition is so stiff that they can’t afford to “put themselves on the line” or rock the boat in any way. They are doing the work that used to be done by three people (hence “productivity growth”) and they are stuck in whatever dead end job they found themselves in before the recession began because everyone knows you are daft to quit with 10% unemployment. Workers are at the mercy of their bosses, working as wage slaves, getting no raises, feeling trapped and at their mercy. Refusing to be a “lap dog” isn’t on the menu in an environment like this.

When there is 10% unemployment, the whole workforce is under stress. And the longer it goes on, the more frustrated, angry and depressed the average working stiff feels. Masters of the Universe can drone on about being brave and finding meaning and telling the truth even if it’s unpopular, but he might as well be speaking in tongues for how relevant it is to workers right now.

Those kids may not know it, but they soon will. And I hope they find it in themselves to look back on this day and wish they’d turned their backs on that bastard when they had the chance. It was probably their last opportunity for a good long while to follow his advice.

 

Why anyone still listens to these clowns is beyond me. Their claim to be some sort of paragon of independence and virtue is as delusional as their economic models that predicted endless wealth production based on perpetual ponzi schemes.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com