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On September 1, 1967, Siegfried Sassoon died, aged 80. He had a long and productive career as poet, novelist and memoirist, but he is remembered chiefly as one of the fine group of English poets of the First World War (along with Rupert Brooke, Israel Isaac Rosenberg, Wilfred Owen, and above all Edward Thomas). For a sample of his wartime work, take “Remorse”:

Lost in the swamp and welter of the pit,
He flounders off the duck-boards; only he knows
Each flash and spouting crash,–each instant lit
When gloom reveals the streaming rain. He goes
Heavily, blindly on. And, while he blunders,
‘Could anything be worse than this?’–he wonders,
Remembering how he saw those Germans run,
Screaming for mercy among the stumps of trees:
Green-faced, they dodged and darted: there was one
Livid with terror, clutching at his knees…
Our chaps were sticking ’em like pigs … ‘O hell!’
He thought–‘there’s things in war one dare not tell
Poor father sitting safe at home, who reads
Of dying heroes and their deathless deeds.’

(Written at Craiglockhart Hydropathic, familiar to readers of Pat Barker.)

A few days ago, Ari noted that William Calley had offered a surprising apology for the massacre at My Lai. Gary Farber digs deeper in a recent, probing post — just in case you thought the massacre might have been a matter of a few bad apples, or might not have had bearing on questions in the air today.

(Also on Sept. 1, 1967,  Ilse Koch, “die Hexe von Buchenwald”, hanged herself in prison, whether with remorse or not I do not know.)


After I linked to his post about Ted Kennedy’s funeral, Patrick asked what I’d think were the grandchild of a hypothetical conservative to say this at the funeral:

Dear God, for what my grandpa called the causes of his life, the privatization of social security and the construction a robust missile defense shield, we pray to the Lord.

My response, as indicated by the title, is that funerals are about the lives of the deceased, and if the deceased was a Senator who devoted his life to privatizing social security and constructing a robust missile defense shield, I’d have no problem with those issues being raised at his funeral. But it would sound tacky, not because I disagree with those policy initiatives, but because this hypothetical conservative dedicated his life to wonky policy initiatives. Were those initiatives less wonky, the prayer would sound less tacky. Consider:

Dear God, for what my grandpa called the cause of his life, the eradication of hunger in Africa, we pray to the Lord.

When prayed for, big and noble causes sound big and noble. So, too, do some specific issues concerning otherwise wonky initiatives. Consider:

Dear God, for what my grandpa called the cause of his life, the preservation of the Santa Ana sucker fish habitat, we pray to the Lord.

Praying for the preservation of a land and species to which the deceased felt great affinity sounds respectable, if a bit silly, because of our reverence for outdoorsmen like Henry David Thoreau and John Muir, who are themselves respectable, if a bit silly. The more wonkish the issue to which the deceased committed his life, the more likely it is that intercessionary prayers on his or her behalf will sound tacky. But as it was the deceased who chose to devote his or her life to an issue that will make for some tacky intercessionary prayers, the living can do precious little if they wish to remain respectable.

If I spent my life rewriting the tax code, and if, on my deathbed, the rewriting of the tax code was imminent, I would hope that my relatives thought enough of me to say a prayer on my behalf that represented my fondest desire at my funeral. It would sound tacky, but so what? My funeral should be about me, my life, my accomplishments, and my dreams, and if I wore a grey flannel suit, amended the tax code around the edges, and dreamt of a complete overhaul, I would hope that my friends and family would mention it, what with it having been so important to me.

Finally, to those who claim that no Republican would ever use someone’s funeral as a platform to forward their own agenda, I remind them of the law and order politicking of Nixon at J. Edgar Hoover’s funeral:

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Does this mean that we’ll finally get to see Wolverine gut Mickey Mouse?

Update: I just went to Yglesias’s blog, and now I feel like an idiot.

Jack Cashill, who received a Ph.D. in American Studies in 1982 then promptly forget everything he learned earning it, has returned with more evidence that my assessment of him (“an idiot of long-standing“) was correct.  He accuses Michiko Kakutani of plagiarizing his 2008 blockbuster, “The Improvised Odyssey of Barack Obama,” and begins his defense of this claim as one does: by demonstrating that William Ayers is familiar with Homer’s Odyssey.

Ayers knows his Homer. In his 2001 memoir, Fugitive Days, for instance, he specifically identified the Odyssey’s “Cyclops” as a metaphor for the “doomed and helpless” United States. “Picture an oversized, somewhat dim-witted monster, greedy and capricious,” Ayers wrote in his uniquely patriotic way, “its eyes put out by fiery stakes and now flailing in a blind rage, smashing its way through villages and over mountains.”

If, as Cashill hopes to establish, “Ayers knows his Homer,” it would behoove him not to quote Ayers saying that Odysseus put out the eyes of the famously one-eyed monster Polyphemus.  That Ayers speaks of a stereoscopic cyclops speaks ill of him; that Cashill attempts to establish both his own and Ayers’s classicist credibility via a quotation about a two-eyed cyclops only proves that neither should be trusted with Homeric parallels.  (Leave that to the experts.)  Then, as if he anticipated the complaint of the previous sentences, he politely offers evidence of their validity:

In Dreams, Obama confronts his own menacing one-eyed bald man, a Savak-loving Iranian.

Obama once spoke with a one-eyed man, Cashill argues, therefore this reference to a one-eyed cyclops in Dreams From My Father corresponds with Ayers’s reference to a two-eyed one in Fugitive Days.  Granted, my summary of his point may be uncharitably literal, even though Obama’s one-eyed man had, to all appearances, two eyes (“an older balding man with a glass eye,” the “drift of [which] gave the Iranian a menacing look”); and even though the point of Obama telling this story is that, despite one of the man’s two eyes giving him “a menacing look,” he “was a friendly and curious” person; and even though, unlike the Odyssey, in which the curse of the one-eyed cyclops Polyphemus results in his father, Poseidon, to unleash contrary winds and furious storms, thereby extending the travels and travails of Odysseus, all that resulted from this conversation was that someone else quoted Malcolm X; even though all those parallels break down, maybe I am being uncharitably literal.  Once the sentence I quoted above is inserted back into its context, the parallels between Homer’s epic and Obama’s memoir become clear:

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I ignore those who insist that there’s something untoward about discussing the life’s work of a man at his own funeral—they can begin with his 1970 Health Security Act and work their way forward to the Kennedy-Dodd bill of 2009 on their own. I decline, that is, to say that had I insisted on codifying my ideological commitments in a Senate bill a month before my passing, I would have done so because those commitments were so important to me in life that I wanted them to define my death. Because, in the end, giving one’s natural death to a cherished cause differs from dying for it only by dint of circumstance and timing: to accomplish with one’s death what one fought for in life is the wish of the true believer, and there is nothing untoward in that.  But, as I said, there will be none of that.

Instead, I will marvel at the stentorian stupidity of George H. Nash, who received a degree in History from Harvard in 1973 then promptly forgot everything he learned earning it.  To Nash, the death of Edward Kennedy represents an opportunity to bemoan “a disconcerting historical trend: the royalization of American politics.” Strangely, he does not begin his investigations with the many powerful branches of the Adams or Walker family trees (despite the former being the most prominent and the latter being the most recent). Instead, he claims that from

Theodore Roosevelt to Franklin Roosevelt to the Kennedys and Camelot, American liberalism has repeatedly succumbed to this phenomenon. It begins in a cult of personality, extends to the leader’s wife and children, and then to a “court” of retainers and apologists.

The royalists, then, are not the ones descended from the state representative of Massachusetts’s 7th district—they are the descendants of the impoverished Irish immigrant that man represented from 1849 to 1851. That bears repeating: the son-in-law of William Walker, Julius Rockwell, represented Patrick Kennedy in the U.S. House of Representatives from the moment Kennedy disembarked in 1849 until Rockwell resigned 1851 and the only worrisome political royalty Nash can locate here are the Kennedys?

Granted, the family to whom he extends this cultish devotion is direct, “the leader’s wife and children,” so emphasis on the children of the Joseph Kennedy, Sr. is warranted: Joseph Jr., John, Robert and Edward are all direct descendants of a single powerful personage, as are the relatives in his other example, the pair of fifth cousins connected by a great-great-great-great-grandfather, Nicholas Van Rosenvelt, upon whose death in 1742 the family splintered into the Republican Oyster Bay and the Democratic Hyde Park Roosevelts.

Wait—now I’m confused.

Not only are the Roosevelts distant cousins instead of sons or brothers, they also belong to opposing factions of a family that’s been at political odds since before the Revolutionary War. How exactly are Republicans who voted for Theodore and Democrats who voted Franklin Delano symptomatic of American liberalism? Moreover, since Nash wants to talk about cults of personality extending to wives and children and courtiers, how could he not mention the two-term Connecticut Senator, Prescott Bush, whose son, George Herbert Walker Bush, and grandson, George Walker Bush, were both President? Does he believe the royalist inclinations of American liberalism are responsible for the Bushes?

Probably not, because this insidious royalism “starts in hero-worship and ends in nostalgia,” and beloved as both Bushes are, neither are afforded the “disturbing” and “disconcerting” treatment “that for nearly a century has afflicted American liberalism.” Anything that “starts in hero-worship and ends in nostalgia” threatens the body politic with an idiot malignance . . . as Nash himself proves when he starts the first paragraph of his essay with some hero-worship and ends it with nostalgia:

On March 30, 1981, Pres. Ronald Reagan was nearly assassinated. What if he had died that day, before he had persuaded Congress to enact his signature program of tax cuts? Would his liberal opposition on Capitol Hill have given up their philosophical opposition to his agenda? Would they have stood silent if militant conservatives had tried to rush through sweeping tax-cut legislation as a monument to Reagan’s legacy?


“What if the Great Hero had died in 1981? Would the Golden Age for which I now pine have ever come to be?”

I believe he was better off pretending two of the four most recent Presidents weren’t immediate kin—at least then he made my job a wee bit difficult.


Iraq and Afghanistan have forced the American military to begin to think about 21st century warfare in a realistic way. Post-cold-war, the military gave lip service to the idea of reforming and rewriting how it fought wars, but actually continued down the same conventional path it had before. They talked about transformation but rarely backed up that talk. One of the ways in which that mindset was reinforced and perpetuated was in who got promoted (especially to the most senior ranks) and the doctrine put forth as the official way of war.

Thus, to be promoted in the Army, it was much better to have come from the Armor branch than the Special Forces. The former excelled at conventional war, while the latter focused more on counterinsurgency. As one army officer said “Everyone studies the brigadier-general promotion list like tarot cards — who makes it, who doesn’t. It communicates what qualities are valued and not valued.” [See here ] A most telling sign was the initial failure of H.R. McMaster to be promoted from Colonel to Brigadier General. McMaster, a University of North Carolina Ph.D, had led an effective counterinsurgency campaign in Tal Afar in the early days of the Iraq War. He was widely seen as a protege of General David Petraeus. But he was passed over twice for promotion from Colonel to Brigadier General, a message that other Army officers received loud and clear: “When you turn down a guy like McMaster that sends a potent message to everybody down the chain…the message everybody gets is: ‘We’re not interested in rewarding people like him. We’re not interested in rewarding agents of change.” [See here] That was it why the frequent publicity about General Petraeus and his emphasis on counterinsurgency in Iraq was somewhat been misleading. Though Petraeus lead an effective counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq, the issue of whether those lessons got incorporated into the military mindset remained open.

But then something interesting happened. Read the rest of this entry »

By which I mean: what specific sites/forums/IRC chat rooms do students use to find people willing to produce “original” works of scholarship?  When I search for such services online, all I find is an endless sea of spam.  There must be somewhere—perhaps localized at the level of individual schools—that students go to make these sorts of arrangements.  Would it not be incredibly useful for instructors to know what those sites/forums/IRC chat rooms are? (And isn’t it odd that there hasn’t already been some sort of collective effort to create a list of this type?)

If you know the locations of some of these sites, I would love it if you left the address in the comment or send me an email (scotterickaufman at gmail dot com).  Anonymous is fine.  I want to create a sort of master list so I can play Leverage in my spare time because I’m curious.

UPDATE 1. The answer, from my initial investigations, is that it’s not craigslist.  I found a few ads there, but after a brief investigation, learned that they were all spam.

In the Report of the Public Lands Commission published 1905, you will find this discreet description of land fraud beginning on page v:

Under the act of June 3, 1878, generally known as the timber and stone act, there has lately been an unusual increase in the number of entries, which can not be accounted for by an increase in the demands of commerce or by any unusual settlement of the localities in which the greater part of the entries were made. … The law was enacted to meet the demands of settlers, miners, and others for timber and stone for building, mining, and other purposes. There is much evidence, however, going to show that many entries have been made for purposes not contemplated by Congress. … The Commission believes that Congress did not intend that this law should be used for the acquisition of large tracts of valuable timber land by individuals or corporations, but it has been used for such purposes. … [M]any of these entries were made by nonresidents of the State in which the land is situated, who could not use the land nor the timber upon it themselves, and it is apparent that they were made for speculative purposes and will eventually follow the course made by many previous similar entries and become part of some large timber holding.1

The Timber and Stone Act was supposed to provide settlers with timber and stone from lands neighboring their claims, offering such lands not suitable for farming for sale in tracts sized up to 160 acres at $2.50 an acre.

Misappropriating timber lands was big business in the Pacific Northwest, involving pillars of the community like Senator John H. Mitchell, and Representatives John Williamson and Binger Hermann, who assisted investors in finding timber lands they might find suitable, whether or not they were entitled to such lands under the Timber and Stone Act.

Under Theodore Roosevelt, agents of the Secret Service—among them, William “Billy” Burns, who would later become a celebrity private detective and be disgraced as director of the Bureau of Investigation for involvement with the Teapot Dome scandal—worked with prosecutor Francis Heney to bring cases against the fraudsters. They obtained a variety of convictions, including Williamson and Mitchell (though not Hermann).

In 1912, applications for pardon in some of the convictions came before the Justice Department headed by George Wickersham for President William Howard Taft. And Taft did indeed issue some pardons, most notably to one Willard Jones:

… [I]t is perfectly clear that his conviction was effected by the most barefaced and unfair use of all the machinery for drawing a jury that has been disclosed to me in all my experience in the Federal court. It gives sufficient reason to justify the pardon of Mr. Jones, as well as the condemnation of the methods of Mr. Heney and Mr. Burns. …

Sincerely yours,

Wm. H. Taft

Now, astute readers will have thought, as indeed Congressman Israel Foster mildly says here, “1912 was the year there was quite a contest between Taft and Roosevelt, was there not?”

His interlocutor rather hilariously replies, “I do not recall.” Indeed, it was an unprecedentedly and unrepeatedly epic contest. And Theodore Roosevelt, bitter to the last about its outcome, wrote in his Autobiography,

One [sic] of the most conspicuous of the men whom they had succeeded in convicting was pardoned by President Taft—in spite of the fact that the presiding Judge, Judge Hunt, had held that the evidence amply warranted the conviction, and had sentenced the man to imprisonment. As was natural, the one hundred and forty-six land-fraud defendants in oregon, who included the foremost machine political leaders in the State, furnished the backbone of the opposition to me in the Presidential contest of 1912. … [H]alf of the delegates elected from Oregon under instructions to vote for me, sided with my opponents in the National Convention—and as regards some of them I became convinced that the mainspring of their motive lay in the intrigue for securing the pardon of certain of the men whose conviction Heney had secured.

In fact, the Republican National Convention was held just the week after Jones’s pardon—though Taft’s review of the cases extended well into late 1912.

So here’s the mystery: was Roosevelt’s belief that the pardons were politically motivated a correct one? On Roosevelt’s side, the timing is interesting. And most of the time I side with the sentiment of Thomas Gore—”I much prefer the strenuosity of Roosevelt to the sinuosity of Taft”—even if I have a hard time associating that much adiposity with a characteristic sinuosity.

On Taft’s side, Billy Burns was not known for observing the niceties when dealing with juries. And generally, one suspects Taft took the law pretty seriously. Still, you never can tell.

Or maybe you can: does someone know all about this, and I just haven’t seen it?

1Report of the Public Lands Commission with appendix. Serial Set vol. no. 4766, session vol. no. 4. 58th Congress, 3rd session. S.Doc 189.

See also John Messing, “Public Lands, Politics, and Progressives: The Oregon Land Fraud Trials, 1903-1910,” Pacific Historical Review 35, no. 1 (February 1966):35-66.

Poodle sculpting.

I cannot read these signs correctly at first go. I am forever wondering who set fire to the lane. Am I alone?

Chris Hayes has the cover story in this week’s Nation with a case why we need a new Church Committee to investigate CIA abuses. Or rather, we need something even better than the Church Committee.

As historian Kathy Olmsted argues in her book Challenging the Secret Government, Church was never quite able to part with this conception of good Democrats/bad Republicans. Confronted with misdeeds under Kennedy and Johnson, he chose to view the CIA as a rogue agency, as opposed to one executing the president’s wishes. This characterization became the fulcrum of debate within the committee. At one point Church referred to the CIA as a “rogue elephant,” causing a media firestorm. But the final committee report shows that to the degree the agency and other parts of the secret government were operating with limited control from the White House, it was by design. Walter Mondale came around to the view that the problem wasn’t the agencies themselves but the accretion of secret executive power: “the grant of powers to the CIA and to these other agencies,” he said during a committee hearing, “is, above all, a grant of power to the president.”

A contemporary Church Committee would do well to follow Mondale’s approach and not Church’s.

Ackerman concurs, using the same pullquote citing Kathy and adding, “I don’t know how someone this perceptive and this insightful and this diligent is allowed to go on television.”

Have I mentioned how you should buy this book?

So, this is a Fox News video called “Under Attack Again”, which says the CIA is suffering much as it did during the Church Committee era, and a bunch of stuff you should cock a skeptical eye at. But wait — who’s that strikingly expert voice we hear in the middle?

In fairness, they did go to someone who knew what she was talking about. But I bet she had more to say than we heard. I think if you want to know some of that you should probably buy this book. Which I’m sure you have, but maybe you need an extra one or two or three, to give to your friends. Buy some for your conservative friends and tell them you saw the author on Fox News. Go on, it’ll help the economy.

Over at her place, B has a thoughtful appreciation of Ted Kennedy.

Also, Erik Loomis asks if Kennedy was the nation’s greatest senator.

My favorite Ted Kennedy piece is Charles Pierce’s, from 2003:

If his name were Edward Moore . . .

He would not have served so long, if he’d served at all. He might not have served with more than 350 other senators. He would not have served with all three men – Everett Dirksen, Richard Russell, and Philip Hart – after whom the Senate office buildings are named. He would not have had his first real fight over the poll tax and his most recent one over going to war in Iraq. None of this would have happened if his name were Edward Moore.

If his name were Edward Moore . . .

If his name were Edward Moore, Robert Bork might be on the Supreme Court today. Robert Dole might have been elected president of the United States. There might still be a draft. There would not have been the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which overturned seven Supreme Court decisions that Kennedy saw as rolling back the gains of the civil rights movement; the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act, the most wide-ranging civil rights bill since the original ones in the 1960s; the Kennedy-Kassebaum Bill of 1996, which allows “portability” in health care coverage; or any one of the 35 other initiatives – large and small, on everything from Medicare to the minimum wage to immigration reform – that Kennedy, in opposition and in the minority, managed to cajole and finesse through the Senate between 1996 and 1998, masterfully defusing the Gingrich Revolution and maneuvering Dole into such complete political incoherence that Bill Clinton won reelection in a walk. None of this would have happened, if his name were Edward Moore.

If his name were Edward Moore . . .

His brothers might be alive. His life might have been easier, not having mattered much to anyone beyond its own boundaries. His first marriage might have survived, and, if it had not, Joan Kennedy’s problems would have been her own, and not grist for the public gossips. It might not have mattered to anyone, the fistfight outside the Manhattan saloon, the fooz ling with waitresses in Washington restaurants, the image of him in his nightshirt, during Holy Week (Jesus God!), going out for a couple of pops with the younger set in Palm Beach and winding up testifying in the middle of a rape trial. His second marriage simply would have been a second marriage, and Vicki Kennedy would not have found herself dragooned into the role of The Good Fairy in yet another Kennedy epiphany narrative.

All of this would not have mattered, if his name were Edward Moore.

Edward “Teddy” Kennedy, February 22, 1932 – August 25, 2009.

(The whole speech above: 1, 2, 3, 4. And Teddy’s eulogy for his brother, Bobby.)

I can’t decide whether this is Kafkaesque or a lesson about investigating sources, but either way, if anyone wants to impersonate me, please let your scholarship be good.

After fielding yet another media call about the supposed “dismantling” of the CIA by the Church Committee, I feel moved to systematically address the neoconservative assumptions that dominate the current debate.  In 1975, staffers in the Gerald Ford White House, most notably chief of staff Dick Cheney, started an organized effort to spin the press coverage of Senator Frank Church’s investigation of the CIA.

The talking points of the Ford administration are now taken as gospel truth.  This is not just a matter of historical accuracy; it’s directly relevant to the current discussion.  Because if the Church Committee did destroy the CIA, then we can say that “history tells us” that all CIA investigations are inherently destructive and will endanger our safety.

So, let’s look at the record.  Right after Watergate, Senator Church’s Senate Select Committee to Investigate Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities launched a massive inquiry into past crimes of the CIA and FBI.   Despite the heated rhetoric you hear these days, it did not do certain things.

1.  The Church Committee did not dismantle the CIA.

The committee revealed that the CIA had committed crimes and abuses of power, including mail opening, wiretapping, illegal spying on American citizens in the United States, and assassination plots against foreign leaders.  Thanks to the Church Committee, we now know that the CIA engaged mafia dons to stab, poison, shoot, and blow up Fidel Castro; that it tried to poison Patrice Lumumba’s toothpaste; and that it hired goons to kidnap the general in Chile who was trying to uphold his country’s constitutional democracy and thus stood in the way of a US-backed coup.  (He was killed in the course of the kidnapping.)  The committee also revealed the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO program, including the harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a result of the committee’s investigation, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which requires warrants for wiretapping, and created the Senate Intelligence Committee. FISA did not destroy the CIA; it merely required intelligence agencies to explain to a top-secret panel why they wanted to wiretap people in the United States, thus avoiding the bad old days when J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon listened to the phone conversations of anyone who had the nerve to criticize them.  The creation of the Senate Intelligence Committee actually laid the foundation for reducing the number of oversight committees; there were eight congressional committees with jurisdiction over the CIA in 1976, but only two – one intelligence committee in each house – after 1980.  So, it’s hard to see how this legacy amounts to “dismantling” the CIA.

2.  The Church Committee did not prompt the firing of hundreds of CIA agents.

It was Jimmy Carter’s CIA director, Admiral Stansfield Turner, not the committee, who cut 800 positions from the covert operations side of the agency.  The positions were eliminated mostly through attrition. Though he only fired 17 people, this episode is often exaggerated by agency supporters and falsely attributed to the influence of the Church Committee.

3.  The Church Committee did not name or cause the deaths of CIA agents.

The committee named only the highest-level officials, whose names were known to everyone.  Some extreme anti-CIA activists did publish lists of the names of agents in the field, and as a result, terrorists killed the CIA station chief in Athens, Richard Welch.  The Ford administration, led by Cheney, waved the bloody shirt and implied that the committee had been responsible for Welch’s death, but even CIA officials themselves later admitted that this was just spin.

4. The Church Committee was not an unambiguous victory for liberals.

As I argue in Real Enemies, after forcing the nation to confront its past, Church found that he had strengthened a trend he abhorred: the ultra-right, libertarian rejection of all governmental authority. The percentage of Americans who said they distrusted the government actually increased during and after Church’s investigation.  Still, the senator was certain he had done the right thing. “We must never become weary of being vigilant,” he said. “We dare not shrink from another redemptive investigation.”

If Frank Church and his colleagues did not destroy the CIA, then what did they do?  They revealed that our nation had made mistakes, in hopes that we would not repeat them.  They proved that we do indeed live in a constitutional democracy, where the rule of law is (eventually) respected.  And they pushed Dick Cheney over the edge, convincing him that Democrats are America-hating traitors who will stop at nothing to undermine our nation’s defenses.

Joseph Palermo, who works very close to our own little corner of the Edge of the West:

There has been a profound lack of leadership…. Now the CSU administration has been finally forced to acknowledge that the latest round of devastating cuts will adversely affect the quality of education: “Cuts of this magnitude will naturally have consequences for the quality of the education we can provide,” a side letter to the furlough agreement states.

The California Faculty Association has stood and will continue to stand with students and their families. The record is clear. CFA has opposed every single increase in student fees whenever the issue has been raised in the Legislature. As a faculty organization we have consistently lobbied state legislators and the governor’s office to invest in California’s higher education. To that end we have voiced our strong support of Assembly Bill 656, sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico (D-Fremont), because it is a sensible and fair effort to secure funding for the CSU. The Republican minority in the State Senate and our Republican governor squashed it, and by doing so they denied the necessary funding for the CSU system that would have helped us avoid what we are seeing today — cuts, furloughs, and fee hikes. (It’s a tax on CSU students and their families. The pay cut is also a tax on faculty and staff.)

In order NOT to tax ExxonMobile, Shell Oil, and other oil conglomerates that have made record profits in the tens of billions of dollars off California consumers in recent years, the Republicans blocked Torrico’s oil severance tax proposal that would have provided a billion dollars for higher education. They also blocked a tax on cigarettes that would have adverted cuts as well. And they did so for blind ideological reasons with a total disregard for what is in the best interest of the state of California. They sided with Big Oil and Big Tobacco to penalize college students who are just trying to increase their skill and knowledge levels to be productive members of the state’s workforce and to make California’s future as bright as its past.

Somebody should ask Governor Schwarzenegger and the Republicans in the Legislature why they insist on taxing students instead of oil and tobacco corporations. That’s why students were chanting outside the Chancellor’s office when he approved the fee hike: “TAX OIL, NOT STUDENTS!”

On this day in 1975, Bruce Springsteen released Born to Run. The greatest rock and roll album ever produced by an American artist? Maybe not. But it certainly makes my top ten (though I like Nebraska even more). Anyway, let’s not fight about such things. The rendition above is from 1975, when Bruce was still a kid.

You’ll find a couple of more recent performances below the fold.

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On this day in 1857, the New York branch of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company (OLITC) failed, an event often (dis)credited with starting the Panic of 1857. But of course the Panic didn’t really begin there; as with all major financial catastrophes the story is more complicated than it initially appears.

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