Remember how this has been a Montana blog for ages? Since its inception, even? Well, no longer. I am in fact living in Tennessee at this very moment. Now, don’t worry, I’m in the eastern part, closer to Charlotte than Nashville. There are mountains. Smaller, more quaint mountains, but mountains.
There was a Tea Party sticker left on one of the windows of my apartment. Next update I’ll be wearing a confederate flag t-shirt and have an “In God We Trust” license plate. You won’t get a picture of that because it would cause emotional distress and that’s illegal in this state.
(I actually do like it here.)
Mark Hemingway wants to know Obama’s opinion of a scene in one of Kal Penn’s movies. It apparently offended his delicate sensibilities. Hard-nosed journalism, people.
Speaking of idiots, there’s a tax day tea-bagger protest in Bozeman on Wednesday. I’m tempted to wander by, if only because I’m sure it will be unintentionally hilarious.
And also because I’m a member of ACORN planning to sabotage the protest. Don’t tell anyone.
Since I’m such a slacker and haven’t posted at all this week, my fairly pedestrian thoughts on Norman Finkelstein’s lecture last night.
There were around 120 people in attendance, mostly students (obviously). Finkelstein spoke for about an hour and a half and then took questions for another forty five minutes. His talk was essentially a basic history of the Israel/Palestine conflict, nothing that I hadn’t heard before. It’s hard to do that in an hour and a half and Finkelstein spent most of his time talking about pre-1967 events. In what I’ve read of his work (a book and various interviews), he comes off as somewhat arrogant and combative. So it was surprising to me when he came off as pretty mild and conciliatory during his lecture. Aside from microphone trouble and some odd over-explanation (am I overestimating the student body when I say that he didn’t need to define caveat and quid pro quo?), he did quite well.
The question and answer period was pretty boring. He asked for “dissenters” to come up first, obviously used to people objecting strenuously to his statements. We only got one towards the end, though it was hard to tell if he was annoyed at what Finkelstein had said or was having trouble processing information that was so contrary to what he had heard before. His question led to the most interesting (to me) point of the night. He took issue with the practicality of refugees returning to Israel, the so-called “right of return” issue. Which is a genuine problem and Finkelstein’s response was that it’s unjust to refuse them such a right and that if Israel is going to do so, they need to make them an offer. An obvious position in retrospect, but it struck me because that’s an issue that I often dismiss out of hand because there’s simply no chance of Israel accepting a right of return.
So not the most interesting night, but a fairly unique one for this campus. He was brought here by a couple of students from Gaza, which should answer the question of why we would get someone like Finkelstein.
According to posters on campus, Norman Finkelstein will be speaking at MSU next Wednesday about Israel/Palestine.
I can’t say I expected this to ever happen. I wonder what his reception will be?
There’s apparently a bill in the Montana legislature to require an American Indian on the state Board of Pardons and Parole.
As it stands, Board members are required to have “training in American Indian culture and problems.” And, as Jamie notes, Montana requires that:
As vacancies occur and appointments are made, all appointing authorities of all appointive boards, commissions, committees, and councils of state government shall take positive action to attain gender balance and proportional representation of minorities resident in Montana to the greatest extent possible.
As Jamie also notes, 42% of the current board is American Indian. So why does this bill exist? This is the reason given:
Our greater concern, and the concern of Indian leaders who have fought hard for this bill for many sessions, is with who will make these appointments after our current leaders are gone.
Doesn’t this seem kind of weak? There is no problem with the board now, according to Jamie. He doesn’t claim that the current provision for training on American Indian culture and problems is insufficient for the board to carry out its responsibilities fairly. He doesn’t claim that the parity requirement isn’t effective. It’s just that, maybe, in the future, our leaders might allow the board to lapse to a point where American Indians are not treated fairly.
Whatever you think of affirmative action-type measures (I am generally opposed to them, though I do support some of the more minor forms), I think most would agree that they are not ideal solutions, but may be necessary. If we’re going to take the extraordinary step of mandating that a certain position be filled by someone of a specific racial background, I think we need a very compelling reason. We would need to be reasonably confident that our current provisions are failing. Perhaps it’s unfair to Jamie, who just put up a blog post about this, but I don’t think he even hinted at compelling reasons for a new measure above and beyond what we already have.
If you haven’t been reading Pogie’s writing on the Montana Meth Project, you’ve been missing out. There’s some great stuff over there.
I received my voter information pamphlet the other day. Those are always fun. I especially like the argument against the 6 Mill Levy, which partially funds the Montana University System.
Voters may oppose this tax for many different reasons:
Obtaining a college education is admirable. Forcing someone else to pay for it is NOT admirable. Especially when many of the Montanans paying this extra tax can’t afford to go to college themselves. Why should a high school graduate, making wages nearly dead last in the country, be forced to pay college costs of others who will soon be making substantially more than her? Low-wage Montanans are being taxed to the absolute limit.
Yeah, and why should I pay for roads I don’t use? Why should I pay for the military when they’re fighting a war with which I disagree?
I would say leading off with a libertarian argument people have essentially rejected as a guideline for domestic policy is bad form.
Big government opponents may oppose this tax because they feel Montana government generally (and the university system specifically) are way too big already. Montana’s University System (MUS) has obligated Montanans to almost $300,000,000 in debt. MUS is constructing fancy new buildings and spending money at an alarming rate – near $900 million in ’08, and soon to top $1,000,000,000 annually. With only 36,000 students, this University bureaucracy blows through $25,400 per student annually. Perhaps a little belt-tightening is in order; just like Montana’s over-taxed, underpaid families are doing.
This is essentially the first argument, but restated. The guvmint shouldn’t be spending so much damn money! On frivolous things like buildings that aren’t falling down, no less! Again, a libertarian argument that people don’t seem to have any specific attachment to.
This next one is the fun one:
Others may object to how MUS spends these enormous sums. Those concerned about academic freedom may object that their tax dollars are used to discriminate against certain beliefs (e.g., conservative professors and students). People of faith may object to such things as UM’s attempted suppression of a Christian group while funding “Sex-a-Palooza.” Self-defense advocates may object to recent ill-advised university policies which disarm innocent students, leaving them defenseless and advertising an open invitation to some crazed, cowardly killer. Constitution defenders may be similarly outraged by this Second Amendment violation.
Yes, this is why you should vote to stop 9% of the MUS’s funding. Discrimination against conservatives, despite a significant lack of evidence! UM funding something that teaches students about safe sex and drinking! I just might faint. And that’s really what I want, an armed campus. Scared college kids with guns, I think I’ll pass. Curiously, these people seem to think the crazed campus killers are thinking strategically. That’s a lot more credit that I’d give to the guy at VT.
The next argument is about accountability or something. They suggest giving a scholarship to all college-eligible Montanans in place of this funding. Right. I’m sure they would vote for raising the taxes for that were it to come up.
Their rebuttal has some more populist silliness:
Obviously, Montanans supported it. But humble, focused colleges grew into billion-dollar empires, with million-dollar budget discrepancies, grandiose “country club” gyms, and fine furniture and manicured landscaping far surpassing average Montana homes; whose homeowners are forcibly taxed to fund this opulence.
You know, I work in the same building as the MSU president. I’ve seen his office. Opulent is not the word I’d use to describe it. You’d think all the walls are made of gold listening to these guys. Which isn’t to say MSU doesn’t spend money stupidly. There’s a renovation of the “duck pond” on campus that’s costing an absurd amount of money. I’m sure the ducks will like it, but really. There’s also a very nice and completely pointless electronic sign that the music department bought recently.
By the way, the authors of this are Joe Balyeat and Scott Sales. I know, you’re shocked.
In the interest of disclosure, as you might have noticed from some comments, I work at MSU, so I’m paid by the MUS.