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.
I have two items:
1. Good ISPs in town? Currently, my DSL is controlled and administered by a company hired by the owners of my apartment complex. This means I have less control that I want to have (and it’s slower than I want), so I’m thinking I’m going to go off an get my own. Suggestions? I don’t really want Bresnan and I’ve been looking at Bridgeband.
2. Roy Zimmerman is playing at the Labor Temple this Wednesday. If you don’t know who he is, well, watch this:
See, clearly you need to go see him. I believe it’s $15 and benefits the Montana Women’s Lobby.
Warning: This is a pretty trivial post in the finest traditions of blogging navel-gazing. You may want to skip it if you don’t like that sort of thing.
So Craig just shut off comments on his blog. Obviously, it’s his blog and he can do what he wants. It’s an interesting subject, though.
I’m always a little wary of blogs that don’t allow comments. For a while, it seemed rare for top tier right-wing blogs to have comments. I understand Craig’s comment about them being tedious. There’s definitely value in having a place just to vent, and if you constantly have to defend yourself, well, it’s annoying. I’m pretty sure I’d find comments a lot more tiresome than I do if every serious post I made had a comment disagreeing and demanding a response from me. On the other hand, there’s also some value in allowing someone to put up a counterpoint to your thoughts. Maybe it’s tedious, but it also keeps you honest. If you know you’ll get ripped for saying something dumb, you’re going to think twice before put up half-assed commentary. You will if you’re honest, anyway. Then again, maybe we’re so set in our ideologies that it doesn’t matter.
So I won’t say it’s “stifling dissent” or anything so overwrought, but closing comments is removing a check on your opinions, even if it’s a very noisy and tedious check. That’s a little disappointing.
C’est la vie, I suppose.
I’ve just returned from Jackson, Wyoming. I regret to inform you that the town’s immigrant underclass has not yet overthrown the local government and rescinded the regulation that requires buildings to be in keeping with the village’s rustic aesthetic. Also, I was a traffic jam caused by cattle outside of Ennis. Most of my readership will not find that surprising.
The Bush administration is either as corrupt as I suspect or it consists almost entirely of political opportunists looking to make money off of book sales. Either way we get to make fun of them; we can’t lose. Oh, wait…
LitW’s (relatively) new novelty – a Clinton supporter – is really lazy.
I’m nearly a quarter-century old today. How nice of the government to send me a $600 present. Now, how should I do my part to stimulate the economy? I think I would be breaking my government’s trust if I put it toward my student loans.