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Journalists always want rapid responses

January 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Dear Tunomukwathi Asino,

Journalists always want rapid responses.  The following answers to your questions have been posted at my blog, where I express views on a variety of similar issues.

How long have you lived in Centre County? (if not born here, then What caused you to move here?)
I moved to State College in 1992 to become a Full Professor of History at Penn State University.  This is, however, a peculiar question.  The chances of a university professor’s finding a job in the city where they were born is just about zero.   I don’t know any university professors who work in the city where they were born.   I was born in Detroit, and I tried once or twice to get positions at Wayne State University and University of Michigan, but nothing ever came of these efforts.

My first job was at the University of Iowa, and I liked it there, but I was uncertain about my future, so I took a step down and moved to Southern Methodist University in Dallas Texas, where I became the first black member of the history department of that “lily white” institution, and I believe the first black senior faculty member ever.  Shortly after arriving at SMU I received a post-doctoral fellowship from the Ford Foundation, which made it possible for me to escape and live in England with my family for two years.   I did not find Dallas a congenial social or intellectual environment for my children, and we were all much happier living in Cambridge, England.

From there, I was able to move to Brown University because I had produced two books.  Then I went to Boston University, where I continued to publish.    During the eighties, I also served as visiting Fulbright Professor at the University of Vienna and Fulbright guest professor at the Free University of Berlin.  I improved my German and read 100 books in that language, meanwhile publishing two more books of my own.

What is/was your job?
I am a history professor, with interests in American, African, and European literary history, intellectual history, the history of political thought, the history of art, the history of theology, the history of classical music, Africana Studies, and opera.  I decided on my career at the age of 14.  I never seriously considered any other career, not even high school teaching or junior college teaching.   I always knew I wanted to be a professor at a major research university.

Did you raise children here? (how many)
I raised no children here.  My youngest son was 18 when I arrived, and he graduated from State College High School in 1993.   He received earlier portions of his education in England, Germany, and Austria and in public and in the private schools of Rhode Island.    My older son, who graduated from Yale in 1987, has never lived in Pennsylvania.

In your experience, has life changed for blacks in Centre County over the course if your time here?
I have seen no changes whatever in the status of blacks in Centre County during the 17.5 years I have lived here, but my perspective is extremely limited, due to the fact that my only tie to the community is the University.  I have only once been called a “nigger.”

Can you point to key moments or events locally or nationally during your lifetime that had a significant impact on your life?
President Dwight D. Eisenhower had the courage to invoke the United Nations Charter and end de jure segregation in America.  President Lyndon Johnson enforced affirmative action.  Without their leadership, this country would still be a living hell, dominated by the likes of Senator Strom Thurmond, Republican from South Carolina, the great hypocrite, who seduced a young black girl and secretly had an illegitimate child by her, while preaching segregationist doctrines.   Senator Trent Lott was rightly condemned for praising the evil racism practiced by Senator Strom Thurmond.

What is the most surprising thing related to being black that ever happened to you here? (this might be a good thing or a bad thing but follow up if necessary by asking how that turned out or what impact it had on the person)
I have had no surprises.  Everything has gone exactly as I expected.  I arrived here extremely well-advantaged, and have enjoyed a privileged and atypical life, unknown to most black people anywhere on this planet.

Is there more work to be done in the area of race relations here? If so, in what would you propose specifically?
I do not see any race-specific solutions to the problems of working-class black families, who earn less than $60,000 per year.  I call for a national program of industrial revitalization, like the New Deal of the 1930s, which combined capitalism with socialism to improve the lives of white, black and other peoples in the United States.   The best possible immediate solution to the problems of the working poor is a rebirth of American industry, but such a development is impossible without firm government support, such as the support that industry receives in China.  Only with a rebirth of American industry will it be possible to raise interest rates, raise taxes, and to increase government spending in the public sector, as Franklin D. Roosevelt did.  Industrial revitalization would also make it possible to have socialized medicine, with a private option, such as I enjoyed when I lived in England.

A good first step to improving the lives of working people – black, white, and other – would be to fire the fat cat senior executives who have been destroying the private sector, and working the puppet strings of Congress.  They are obviously inadept, and have constantly demonstrated their lack of public spirit.  Yet they claim that they deserve to be paid higher salaries than a dedicated public servant.

General David Howell Petraeus has a Ph. D. from Princeton, and he earns less than $250,000, although he is exceedingly more competent that most people in the private sector who earn 10 times his salary.  The executives in the private sector don’t know anything worhtwhile and they have nothing to offer.  They are the cause of our problems.  When will the American people understand that the emperor has no clothes?  The fat cats corrupt government, and manipulate media to elect officials who do not believe in medicare, social security, paying the national debt, or even supporting the military.  These are the same hypocrites who are currently destroying both the private and the public sectors of our economy.    The executives at Chase Manhattan and AIG ought to go out and get honest jobs, such as cleaning rooms at Holiday Inn.

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Categories: Current events

Prospects of a Revolution from the Right

Prospects of a Revolution from the Right
February 28, 2009

Ethelbert Miller, the Washington poet, is right in expressing fears of a revolution-from-the-right. According to Southern Poverty Law Center, hate groups are on the rise.  Meanwhile “respectable” conservatives are already blaming Obama for aggravating the economic crisis.

For a discussion of  typical conservative doublethink as to what caused the housing and banking crisis.
http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?aid=1011

Unfortunately I frequently have students informing me, that the banking crisis was caused by the Community Reinvestment act!    That’s as big a joke as blaming minimum wage laws for unemployment, or blaming the Great Depression on the New Deal.  But don’t laugh!

The above dogmas are currently being taught and accepted in most economics departments and MBA programs.  The sad thing is that good kids regardless of gender, race, or class, are susceptible to such notions and absorb them indiscriminately.  It is ironic to contemplate working class students rising up in anger and protesting that they can no longer afford to attend business schools that indoctrinate them with propaganda that is tailored to undermine their own class interests.

How can we win against this sort of thing?

We must continue to inform them that Roosevelt increased taxes and created government jobs, and that his only fault was not being aggressive enough until the war provided him an opportunity.  One stage  of his recovery plan was the Lend Lease Act, which kept the factories humming by building tanks and giving them to Stalin.   Another part was the banking reforms, which kept us out of a depression for almost seventy years.

For thirty years under Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Democrats and Republicans conspired to dismantle the New Deal.  Under Alan Greenspan, appointed Fed Chairman by Reagan, and renewed by Clinton, and both Bushes, the government followed a course of constant inflation, in the prices of health, education, and housing.  The Congressional Budget office, Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Council of Economic advisers, etc., conspired to fudge the statistics and lie to us about inflation, telling us it didn’t exist.

In reality, real wages dropped constantly, tempting middle-class households to take out adjustable rate mortgages, foolishly hoping to benefit from constant inflation of housing prices to compensate for inadequate purchasing power — in other words speculating against the dollar

Meanwhile, their children were graduating from college owing tens of thousands of dollars, and unable to find jobs.  It became increasingly difficult to afford the costs of health care for our grandparents, our parents, our children, or ourselves.

The housing bubble has popped, and I predict this is nothing compared to what may be coming if the credit card bubble busts.

When people start pushing wheelbarrows full of worthless money to the supermarket, they will blame Obama, and that should be enough to bring out the Nazi armbands.  As it was in Germany, 1923.

Categories: Current events

Bridges to Nowhere

August 10, 2008 Leave a comment

“War Erupts in Georgia,” was the headline on page A3 of the Centre Daily Times, August 9, 2008. Joseph Stalin flashes immediately into educated people’s minds as soon as Georgia, formerly a state of the Soviet Union is mentioned. Stalin, a native Georgian, was, as every school child ought to know, Communist dictator of the USSR from 1924 to 1953, during which time he murdered countless millions. Following the example of English prime minister Neville Chamberlain, Stalin signed a mutual non-aggression pact with Hitler, another nasty; then after Hitler betrayed him, formed an alliance with England and the United States. Thanks to Roosevelt’s Lend Lease Act, called military Keynesianism, and with the aid of Detroit’s assembly lines, and the United Auto Workers, Stalin crushed the German armies on the eastern front. The Lend Lease Act was the beginning of the military industrial complex, which pulled America and the rest of the world out of the Great Depression. Stalin and the Western Democracies then agreed to the partition of Europe into Eastern and Western blocks. Georgia remained part of the “evil empire,” until Gorbachev and Yeltsin dismantled the Soviet Union, after which the United States aggressively sought to bring formerly eastern block republics, including Georgia, into the North Atlantic Treaty organization, know as NATO.

“We do have to remind ourselves what this is all about,” said the announcer on National Public Radio one morning. Indeed we do, I had already resorted to Wikipedia, where I was reminded that “On August 7, 2008, Georgian forces heavily shelled the city of Tskhinvali and entered South Ossetia, which is situated on the border with Russia, in an attempt to bring the region under government control” Tskhinvali is an ethnically Russian city and it is not surprising that, as Wikipedia reports, “Russian military forces retaliated by entering South Ossetia and allegedly launching a series of airstrikes against Georgian forces.” The Wall Street Journal, August 9, 2008, provided the following statement, useful for its succinctness, as well as its rhetoric: “Georgia, a staunch U.S. ally, launched a major offensive Friday to retake control of breakaway South Ossetia. Russia, which has close ties to the province and posts peacekeepers there, responded by sending in armed convoys and military combat aircraft.”

Some professors tell their students never to use Wikipedia; others tell them to ignore the New York Times. I always cite the Rupert Murdock-controlled Wall Street Journal, as my authority of record, anticipating and seeking to avoid accusations of liberal bias.

The Wall Street Journal of August 8, featured an article reporting on China’s relationship to the disputed state of Taiwan, which “continues to await Washington’s approval for the purchase of some $11 billion of U.S. military equipment that the island’s government is seeking. Some political observers in Washington believe an apparent freeze on the deal will be lifted after the Olympics, when such sales will be less politically sensitive. Others say President George W. Bush may prefer to defer decisions on the matter to the next administration.”

But, of course, Tskhinvali and Taiwan were not at the top of the weekend’s TV news. The right wing media, along with the more moderately conservative conglomerates such as CNN and the three NBC manifestations focused on the Olympics, or the personal problems of former Senator and erstwhile Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, whose sexual affair of earlier this year reportedly disqualifies him from any future in American politics.

Americans ask their politicians to embody virtues that we do not practice ourselves, whether that relates to household economics or sexual chastity. We run up debt while demanding the government to balance its budget and stop “building bridges to nowhere.” Congressman Barney Frank is apparently the only American politician who sees any connection between the inflated prices of our real estate and our $53 trillion national debt. Hypocrisy is not confined to economic values; Americans run freely through a chain of sexual partners but expect politicians to be like Caesar’s wife, above suspicion.

In sexual politics, just as in geopolitics, “we have to remind ourselves what this is all about. ” There are troublesome differences in the interpretation of territorial rights and responsibilities when it comes to sex. Americans like to think of themselves as monogamous, but really subscribe to serial polygamy, which means that people are allowed to have sex with as many people as they wish, although, ideally, one should only have sex with one partner within the same time-frame. Thus, reactionary Mormon sects are persecuted, while divorced and remarried people are considered perfectly respectable. Reagan and Ford are respectable; Elliot Spitzer is not. Gays and straights alike, expect public rewards, including tax breaks, for being in “committed relationships.”

“Serial polygamy” is what we practice, but that sounds nasty, so most people prefer the term “serial monogamy.” Pragmatically, both amount to the same thing. You can have as many sexual partners as you wish, but once you are “in a relationship,” you are expected to practice fidelity, at least for the duration of the relationship. The once useful sociological term “significant other,” has come to mean whomever I happen to be sleeping with in this season of my life. “Marriage” and “family values” have become relativistic terms. “Whose marriage,” asks the unbigoted person, “whose family values?”

Modern Americans seem to believe that everyone is entitled to at least three or four sexual partners in a lifetime, and most people conceal sundry aspects of their sexual histories from their sundry partners. Who wants to reveal to a lover that they have been dumped? Who wants to admit that they are someone else’s hand-me-down? That someone has abused their love or once used them as a sex toy or a convenient receptacle for their nocturnal emissions? We don’t like to see ourself or our beloved in that way.

Nobody passes through life without experiencing the humiliation of another’s infidelity or rejection. Sooner or later most people experience the pain of an inconstant lover or inflict that pain on someone else. The struggle over break-away provinces is an unavoidable part of the human condition. In love and in war, in politics and in economics, it is our nature and our destiny that we sometimes erect “bridges to nowhere.”

Categories: Current events