Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hagel, Chuck That Is

They look like they're related. I also thought, in the bit of "hearing reparte" which I actually bothered to listen to a couple of weeks back, that Chuck was more philosophical in his answers than his inquisitors might have wished. I was further disappointed with the media "take" on that--they saw Mr. Hagel as being weak, when he was in fact being thoughtful and nuanced. But if we don't want our statesmen to be thoughtful and nuanced, we're basically insane. We undertook a whole war on the grounds that "he shot at my Dad."

Anyways, driving home yesterday, NPR announced that "Obama's controversial appointee to head the Defense Department, Chuck Hagel, was confirmed." This is why I have my doubts about sending more money to public radio. It's not that I want NPR to be liberal. I just want them to resist being played. Mr. Hagel was never "controversial." He was a somewhat moderate Republican Senator from Nebraska. And he was unwilling to simply lie when the party line demanded. (In this he parted company with General Powell.) This fact about Mr. Hagel was obvious, it was on the record, it was never in doubt.

Nevertheless, NPR allowed the Republican kabuki dance around Mr. Hagel to actually cause them to mischaracterize the former Senator from Nebraska. Why not just call him a decorated Vietnam veteran, or the former Republican Senator? Now, because of a bit of transparent political theatre, Mr. Hagel is "controversial." And this reframing of the new Secretary was perhaps the only purpose of the kabuki, and in this it succeeded. McCain and Graham said, "let us play NPR, and verily it came to pass."

This is of course what Fox News and frequently all the other network news programs participate in daily. They build frames and shape the public's limited understanding of what's going on. It is disgraceful that NPR, as well, joins in this activity. How hard is it to gain enough perspective to see through ploys as obvious as the Hagel hearings. This art is what it means to be a professional journalist. You'd think even Cokie Roberts would have sent out a memo to the news room on this one.


Meanwhile, on the tattered home front, our fresh new hard right Governor, Frack You McCrory, was appearing on Fox and announcing that Mr. Obama had merely given him a "political speech" when he audienced with the President to discuss off-shore drilling off our Outer Banks. There's no doubt that our Mr. McCrory has big plans, looking out to 2016. The GOP has a shiny moderate candidate already: Mr. Christie. Who do they have on the hard right? All the obvious choices are tarnished and, frankly, ridiculous as serious challengers to Mrs. Clinton. McCrory's a fresh face. He was mayor of a sorta big city. He worked for Duke Power, which means he's an Energy insider, just like George W. Bush. He's protestant and Southern and white. And my guess is, North Carolina is going to be mighty tired of him in four years, after he's sold out our wonderful coastal fishery to big oil, and endangered our Piedmont ground water sources with a fracking boom. There's also no doubt that the GOP is flat out owned by the Energy Sector. I mean, if ever one doubted this after the Cheerleader chanted "Drill, Baby, Drill" across our teevees throughout the fall of '08.

Just sayin', of course.

Thursday Update: Here's a link to our current legislative doings on the subject of fracking:

Here's the salient quote, oddly buried some grafs down by the news organization that brought first North Carolina and then the world the Right Honorable Jesse Helms:

Other changes in the bill include removing the state geologist and water and air experts from the state Mining and Energy Commission, allowing drillers to inject production waste fluids back into the ground, repealing the law requiring "land men" to register with the state and streamlining the permitting process to a single permit, removing checkpoints at which DENR could look for problems.

Reminds me of Lee's description of the Confederate Congress in 1864. Somebody should send our GOPers a rail car of boiled peanuts.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

An Old Kerouac Memoir


In the spring of 1965 I was starting my senior year at UNC, having
missed a semester with mono in l963 (a topic worth lengthy discussion
elsewhere). It was final exam time, which meant then, as I recall, late
May: warm early summer nights, with twilight lasting till 9:30, and a
general tendency towards drink as the end of the school term approached.

In Chapel Hill at that time was a fine cellar bar called "The Tempo
Room," which has had various incarnations since as a variety of botiques
and mid-range Italian restaurants, none of which have even tempted me
down those dark, narrow stairs. But the Tempo, as I say, was a fine place,
both in the afternoon and the evening, and I spent many an hour there in
my undergraduate days in the mid-sixties.

In those days I was part of a fairly small society of students and
ex-students who shared a group of necessary and sufficient conditions,
including a rather high consumption of alcohol (and may I say, "the
smoke,") and an affinity for poetry, painting, and the short story, with
a bit of the politics of the civil rights movement thrown in, and the
gathering cloud of Vietnam just over the horizon. We were
all listening to Bob Dylan and the Beatles. We had all, certainly, read
On The Road and much of Jack Kerouac's other opus. Most of us were editors
and writers for local literary magazines, including the Carolina Quarterly,
Reflections, and Lilibolero. Our number included Russell Banks and Lucius
Shepard, as well as Robert V.N. Brown and Norwood Pratt. (Brown and Banks
were friendly rivals, the former editing Reflections, the latter
Lilibolero. As I dimly recall, Banks rented a room in Brown's '30s era
duplex on West Franklin for a while.)

One of these loosely connected people was a guy named Marshall Hay. He was a
couple of years younger than me, and wrote poetry I think. Whatever, he had been
indulging in that most studently activity of hitchhiking back from his home
town of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina this fine morning in late May, l965,
when an old black Chevy stopped to pick him up. Climbing into the front,
he was poked and passed a large bottle of cheap red wine from the occupant
of the rear seat: Jack Kerouac!

This was a remarkable thing, and surely one of the great rides of all
time, any place, any where. Kerouac himself, and not only that, but
seemingly the very same Kerouac who peopled the books Marshall and all of
us had read in high school, still amazingly on the road, boozing, digging
the road whizzing by, still possessed of "white line fever" as Merle
Haggard called it later. When asked his destination, Marshall said "Chapel
Hill", and offered the great one an invitation to visit a town second only
(so we all felt then) to San Francisco in hipness. Kerouac had never been
to the southern part of heaven--though he had spent some fine time in
Rocky Mount, N.C. according to his novel Dharma Bums. He took Marshall up
on the invite.

It is at this point, late afternoon, an exam in Religion 52 to study
for later, that I walked down those dark stairs and into the Tempo and
found the place a hubbub, the back tables crowded with a throng of people.
I soon learned what the commotion was about: Jack Kerouac was holding
forth. I rushed over to listen.

If only I had had a tape recorder. Kerouac talked just like his books,
an endless, intense stream of words, enthusiastic, exuberant. He was
talking about his recent trip to Brittany, in search of his ancestors. He
was talking about many, many things. But all I remember now is the moment,
the sense of connection with someone known before only in books, and the
sense, too, of recognition, of that voice that had spoken so many evenings
in Raleigh, N.C. in my ear, spoken of the real wide open possibility of
the life which stood before me. At Chapel Hill, of course, we students
were privileged to see and hear many famous writers over the years. Such
is the life of the academe. I remember well nights in vast Memorial Hall
with Norman Thomas, or William Buckley. John F. Kennedy spoke at UNC while
I attended. Kerouac was quite different. He was here, in the Tempo Room,
sitting and drinking and talking just like we all did, a guy at a back
table under the dart board, talking, talking, talking.

After a few hours of this, Russ Banks (now an acknowledged American
Author in his own right, with several novels that I see with some pride
displayed in the Intimate Bookshop) invited the whole gathering over to
his house on (I think) Purefoy Rd. Adjourn we did, and the word continued
to spread, and more and more arrived. I arrived too, and found Kerouac
on the couch in the living room circled by people, who occasionally got in
a question as he continued his marathon declamation. At eleven or twelve,
Russ finally closed shop, and the diehards went on to still another house,
Tom Banks' (no relation) on Justice St., where the talk* still continued.
Sometime in the early morning I began to remember the Religion exam. I
at least had to attend, and to do that I had to be awake. So off I trudged,
back to the dorm.

The exam was at some hour like 10 AM, and I took it, and probably
reduced my grade by a letter. Afterwards I went back over to Tom's, and
incredibly Kerouac and his youthful Neal Cassidy look-alike driver were
still there, stirring. Kerouac started the day with a large pull of
wine, then doubled over with stomach pains. Then they straggled out to the
old black chevy, something like a '53 I think, and we all said goodbye,
come back again, good luck, and such, and they were off: on the road again.

At the time, and in a way still, I was very impressed. Kerouac was
famous. He could have been teaching somewhere, like many authors his age
and younger, safe in the bosom of the English Department after a blazing
youth. But he wasn't. He was still out there, still living his books.
Remarkable. Brave even. It is the choice all rebels want to make, intend
to make, when they are 20. It is why everyone in the older generation
seems like a "sell out," and why, at the time, there was a ring of truth
to the firebrand "never trust anyone over 30."

But on the other hand, most of us, though not all, did pass 30 (how
long ago, how young!) And 40, and 50. Kerouac didn't. He died at 47,
only a few years after that meeting. And it's easier to see, now, all
the torments and tangles in his life, the losses and failures as well as
the bravery.

It's coming on to 30 years since that Kerouacian visit to Chapel Hill,
though, and it's still one of my vivid memories of the decade, along with
the assassinations, and Vietnam, sit-ins and smoke-outs. He had a lot of
power, that wildeyed canuck. Rest in peace, Jack.


*"the talk" of what you might well ask. I recall much about Kerouac's recent
trip to Normandy, France, home of his ancestors. At some point at Russell's
place he launched into a feux about South Carolina's "blue gummed niggers,"
a phrase which was probably something said here and there in the South, and given
Kerouac's overall affinity with black culture, was probably a phrase he found
interesting as a poet finds interest in phrases, and also delimited his concern
in any sort of political correctness. Some in the party were offended and retired.
He was Jack Kerouac and could have cared less. It was a moment when the demarcation
between the '50s bohemian culture and the civil rights struggles of the '60s
was evident. In a year, some of the people there were enlisting rather than
waiting to be drafted, while others were on the road to Canada. I re-upped into
graduate school and got a very high draft number.

I wrote this back around 1995 I think. There was an event called the
"Harry's Reunion" happening in Chapel Hill, a kind of reassembling of this
group of folks I refer to in the piece. Russell Banks was in fact there. The
most remarkable thing about the event was to see Franklin Street, in downtown
Chapel Hill, suddenly full of the same folks as one would have seen on a typical
day in the mid-'60s. Harry's was a deli down the street from the Tempo Room.
By '95 the Tempo Room space had turned into a shoppe of some sort. Russell, who
was at least as old as Kerouac was when we met him, and who had published well
by then, was ensconced at Princeton. I'm now 70, and see more clearly than
I did eighteen years ago (sheesh!!!) that time does fly far far too fast, and that
we learn too much in the rear view mirror, when it's much too late to help. I dug
this piece up at the nudge of a great Sheila O'Malley piece:

about Russell Banks' essay on depression. Kerouac was of course surely depressed,
as well as frequently manic and self-medicating himself literally to death. He
nonetheless did live a fine few years, and experience quite a lot of joy, from
the sound of it, and wrote some possibly timeless prose, even if it all rests
firmly on the foundation of "... so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his
heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."

Sunday, February 17, 2013


"Wheels," by Maria McKee; some serious music for a Sunday morning:

And a photograph by Garry Winogrand from 1954:

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Pre-Speech SOTU Show

It's too bad Mr. Obama couldn't have used some of the footage in the long pre-speech Live from Big Bear show in his section on mild, sensible gun-control measures. And they didn't even cover some very important aspects of that terrible story comin' down, such as this one:

No one will ask Mr. LaPierre how his vaunted "give 'em more guns" solution applies to this case. Should the two newspaper ladies have returned fire? Now that would have been a really bad idea. But the fact is, as anyone with any sense surely knows, all the training in the world will not necessarily produce fire arms activity which is necessarily on the right side of murder and mayhem. Fear and fire arms are a dangerous combination. In a sense, they resulted in every case of mass murder we've witnessed over the past forty or fifty years, give or take a few cases of I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. While a lot of folks see the specific problem as reflecting the specifics of the Los Angles Police Department, it takes little more than Occam's rusty razor to perceive the general point. Indeed, to miss it is a symptom of that margin where the Religion of Baal, in the form of the Semi-Automatic Rifle and its accompanying 30 round magazine, supersedes any rational perception of events in the real world.

Of course the toil in service of illusion is unceasing. This is because there are simply no limits to what is required to keep one's eyes open, yet unseeing. If the Auto Industry had been as hip to the science of advertising back in the day, we'd not now be saddled with driver's licenses, speed limits, or stop signs. After all, criminals drive without licenses when they want to, rarely observe the speed limit unless it is to remain unnoticed in the immediate aftermath of a crime, or stop for lights and signs when it is an inconvenience. LaPierre's world is free indeed, as free as the world of a squirrel or a herd of bison, or a Lakota warrior in 1650, before anyone from the other side of the planet had made their way to the Black Hills.

Mr. Ornery Bastid makes the points well:

The argument isn't to disarm the police. The argument is that weapons convey power beyond any completely realizable power of restraint. This is actually a very conservative notion, one might say, Burkean: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We're all doomed by reality to work along that thin window ledge, six stories up, sometimes in rain and ice. What's saddest of all is to listen to the gigantic amount of dissembling being generated by our various representatives in the service of this modern Baal. Well, at least if you don't count watching Ms Giffords' efforts to clap, or the piles of slaughtered children.

[photo: The Sun, John Valenzuela/AP Photo]


Sunday Update: This post was actually prompted by the bustedknuckles post cited above. Over there, "Moe" responded to my comment (which I later expanded herein) with the retort (I paraphrase), "who's going to protect me and my family if I don't--obviously not the cops, who can't shoot straight." That's of course part of the "gun problem" we all face in a succinct nutshell. All of us are individuals, living behind our individual doors, looking out at a world that is indeed dangerous on occasion. It's very easy to imagine particular exemplifications of danger which we might well meet with a weapon. We've all seen exactly those examples portrayed over the years with better and better precision in the movies. From the widder woman standing at the door with the shotgun, to Elmore Leonard's "Kill Shot," we all thrill (vicariously) when the bad guys are thwarted. "Lookie here, Lon, there warn't no bullets." Even in that case, evil is thwarted with the help of a weapon.

The hard part is to try to imagine not just the one particular scenario, but a more general hubbub of events which carry with them many "morals," some contradicting others. The Lanza boy got his weapons from his mother by murdering her with one of them. Like Moe, she would have probably said, before the tragic events silenced her and all those children--"well, I want to defend my home against all the crime I see--we all see--on the teevee every night." Fear and ambiguity will always be part of the context. The cops who shot up that truck were not crazy. They were misperceiving. And, they were most likely reasonably well trained.

LaPierre's foolish idea, to put armed, trained guards in every school, does not mitigate every thing, only certain particular things. An armed guard might well shoot a certain, particular school assaulter. He might well deter another. And he might himself be killed or disabled by yet another. As someone noted, some school boys in Arkansas decided to sit out in the woods near a school with high powered rifles and, after calling in a false fire alarm, picked off children who were exiting the school due to the alarm. What exactly is an armed guard going to do with that scenario? Yes indeed, a citizen might well defend his home against a particular home invader or even several. And a particular citizen might also mistakenly shoot his kid coming home late and sneaking in. Both things have happened, in "real" life.

The point is just this. There's a place for some sensible restrictions on the unfettered weapons market we now have. Just as there was a place for a restriction on owning a machine gun, or a bazooka. What happens when folks like "Moe" bring up defending their homes is, our perception of the overall problem is reduced to tunnel vision. We start looking at one particular way things can happen. This kind of tunnel vision is also part of being human. Ask George Zimmerman.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mid Week, Mid Winter

Ann Colter on Hannity's teevee show this past week. I paraphrase but only slightly.

"First universal background checks, then universal registration, then universal confiscation, then universal extermination."

Yep, she said that. She deserves the Goebbels award of the new century.

Meanwhile, in NC we're experiencing something on the order of the Scott Walker Wisconsin Four Wheel Drift. Of course here in NC we already did the Right to Work thing back in the '50s, so there's almost no union resistance to anything, and we've been in front of the ever-bending backwards curve since ole Jesse was elected in 1972. Once the Post Office is destroyed, people will just get to grouch about how they never had to drive 40 miles to get their tax notices back in the good old days. Bill Friday held back the tide, and out-lived Mr. Helms, but now he's gone too. But the all Republican Legislature and the All Republican Governor are doing what they can in service of the process. Today they're considering the following bill:

Here's the salient quote from WRAL's coverage:

As rewritten and passed along party lines in the Senate Rules Committee Tuesday, the bill eliminates some boards and commissions while firing those who sit on several key regulatory bodies. It would sack sitting members of the Utilities Commission, Environmental Management Commission, Coastal Resources Commission, Lottery Commission and Wildlife Resources Commission.

The bill would also fire members of the Turnpike Authority, Industrial Commission, 12 sitting special superior court judges, and the chairman of the State Board of Elections.

Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative Republicans would then be free to appoint new members to those boards, replacing those appointed by Democratic Govs. Mike Easley and Bev Perdue with new members more friendly to the GOP.

See, used to be they made these various regulatory boards with overlapping terms of service, so that election politics would not seep into such matters as electric rate increases, toll road fees, and so forth. There was bipartisan agreement that this idea was a good one. Used to be no Governor could just pack a commission with his cronies, or with folks who agreed entirely with his ideas on, say, education and the place of "gender studies".

And nobody ran, this past election, on the explicit idea of "reforming" the system in this particular way. My guess is, such a "reform" would not be particularly appreciated even by rank and file Republicans. I kinda expect that most regular people appreciate it when the Insurance Commission tells the insurance companies that they can't raise our auto liability rates again, or when the Utility Commission tells Duke Power they can't double their rate, only raise it 8%.

So it goes.

I'm thinking McCrory and our lead legislators went to some big meeting with our national conservative legal scholars last year, and plans were drawn up. We need some intrepid reporter to get into one of these meetings. Where's Hunter Thompson?


Thursday Update:

Another day, another deutschmark I guess.

The money shot:

The National Physicians Center for Family Resources, which Lightfoot founded in 2001, advocates against "institutional" preschool programs.

"In the case of early childhood education programs, available research suggests they may actually be inferior to early learning opportunities at home. In addition, it appears the demand for out of home childcare is not as prevalent as many advocates claim," says an open letter signed by Lightfoot on the group's website.

The letter also warns that "There is great potential for early learning institutions to foster more dependency on the government (i.e. taxpayer) and more of an entitlement mentality."

(Dr. Lightfoot is of course the new pre-K "czar." Sheesh!) Here's the website for the National Physicians Center for Family Resources: Right now it's trumpeting a study which "proves" that abstinence "works," at least in South Carolina. Seems like the word "family" has become a "tell." That's pretty sad.

Saturday, a brief final update:

Good news! Ms Lightfoot has withdrawn from her appointment to this pre-K position, due to unfavorable publicity, i.e., more and more dubious political comments by her have surfaced even after her efforts to scrub the record. Here's the news links:

As with the McCain choice of Sarah Palin for Vice President, Lightfoot's appointment now directs a harsh light back at the new McCrory Administration. It's one thing to have a different point of view, and something else to disrespect an obviously accredited administrator by giving her mere hours to vacate her office: "Deb Cassidy had been at DCDEE since 2009. She holds a Ph.D. in child development and has been on the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro since 1990." Seems like such a person as Ms Cassidy would deserve at least the respect of a personal conversation with her superior. These are professional educators after all.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

What the Destruction of a Humanistic Education Would Entail

As you can no doubt tell, I'm pretty horrified at our new Governor's ideas and attitude concerning our education system here in North Carolina. As a personal aside, my dad, William N. "Red" Hicks, went to N. C. State College (now University) in Raleigh and graduated with a degree in engineering in 1919 or so. He then went on to achieve degrees in philosophy and in religion from Oberlin University, and from Duke. He returned to State as the wrestling coach, and taught classes in philosophy and religion. After over a decade of work, he convinced N.C. State to found a Department of Philosophy and Religion, of which he was the first Chairman. He built the department over the next twenty five years to a stature where it had (as I recall) five tenured professors. My father's argument to the Chancellor and Faculty, when he founded the Department, was simple. People studying technical subjects (State specialized in agricultural science, in various branches of engineering, in textile science, in architecture, in various other technical venues of study) need to be exposed to other essential aspects of the life they are going to encounter after they leave with their degrees. My dad's most cherished course, which he taught for most of his career, was a course called Marriage and Family Living. One of my fondest memories of my dad was going out to eat with him and watching, time and again, when former students would come up and thank him for that course.

Sheila O'Malley writes today of James Joyce and his great novel, "Ulysses."

There is nothing in the barren desert that Mr. McCrory imagines as an improved public educational system which could yield what Ms O'Malley here describes, this blossoming of thought and understanding. You might also find relevant her piece, just adjacent, on Mr. Roger's Senate testimony in 1969. Mr. Nixon was proposing to cut the budget for PBS in half.

Why there must be such endless refighting of clear and proven truths is really beyond me. I had exactly the same feeling of exasperation when President Bush began the 2nd Iraq War, and opened this era of apparently endless war, some ten years ago, after the events of 9/11.

The picture is of poppies, "escaped" and blooming in a brush pile a few years ago.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Groundhog Day

[Photo: Our Last Aspiring National Politican, captured in photo at the moment when charges against him were dropped.]

North Carolina's fresh new Governor must have grander political ambitions. Why else would Pat McCrory appear on William Bennett's radio show so soon after taking office. What possible business of North Carolina is being served by our governor pontificating on the place of philosophical inquiry, much less "gender studies," in the public university system of our state.
Nevermind the odd fact that Mr. McCrory was talking with the most financially successful trained philosopher in the United States, or that said philosopher, Mr. Bennett, once published a book on "virtue" and then was revealed to be a compulsive gambler in his private life.

Mr. McCrory said, on Mr. Bennett's show, that he thought state funding of universities should be based not on the number of students enrolled, but on the job placement rate of the university after graduation. He said, moreover, that since he knew of no jobs in "gender studies" or "philosophy," these areas of studies should be reserved for expensive private institutions. Moreover, he complained that the university system was "in the hands" of an "educational elite."

Here's the link to this part of the story:

Meanwhile, in the real world, a couple of weeks back our Dish subscription gave us a weekend of free HBO, which included Lena Dunham's "Girls," the entire first season as it turned out, plus the first episode of season 2. I accidentally watched one episode, then DVR'd the rest, and I'm working through them. That same weekend we also watched Ms Dunham receive two awards for her work on the show. This isn't particularly a serious review of "Girls," even from a geezer of 70 who used to build chimneys. Some episodes I like more than others. Every episode I've seen contains at least some delightful, wry humor and insight. The show seems to me to be honest, and very "real." Ms Dunham, ditto. She's trying to talk and show real women (and men) in their '20s, at the start of adulthood, in a particular place (New York City). There are things in the show that might remind one of "Seinfeld," and I think Ms Dunham is in a way "doing" a distaff and updated Woody Allen. Like Mr. Allen, she is able to play characters she writes, to direct, to be much more than what she acts, yet to inhabit her characters. As with Mr. Allen, we are all lucky that Ms Dunham gives her talent to us. She blesses our culture.

And, obviously, "Girls" is in some ways a course in "gender studies," and probably goes down a lot easier than a treatise by Andrea Dworkin, even if more academic feminist thought might well inform a viewing of "Girls," and surely informs Ms Dunham's creative process. At the same time, and blessedly perhaps, "Girls" is not directed by Goddard.

So then we come in the cavalcade of days to this bit of right-wing confetti regarding "Girls," which I stumbled on via Roy Edroso:
Edroso highlights Kurt Schlichter's money shot as is his wont, and the metaphor is apt: Think of Sex and the City, except Sarah Jessica Parker has doubled her weight, dresses like a potato sack and fancies herself the voice of some undefined generation. Edroso also quotes Jeffrey Lord of the American Spectator, on the grain of sand under his shell:

It is exactly that America that sent Tyrone Woods to fight Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi so that Lena Dunham can sit at peace in Brooklyn with her tattoo and her sleeveless T-shirt and her wink-wink on-camera pratlings about first-times. So that Amanda Marcotte can play with her race cards at Slate.

Edroso's whole post is worth reading, including the copious comment section:

Not to be missed, the commentor's remark that perhaps Schlicter hopes for an HBO series called "Boys," and the further comment that perhaps he'd be happier at YouPorn, where all the girls are quiet, because their mouths are always full of things other than words.

All of which is of course addressed more or less directly in various episodes of "Girls," had these right-wing chuckleheads bothered to do more watching and less meat-grinding. The episode where Lena's character goes home for the weekend and endures a one-night-stand is not only real, but instructive. Her vapid partner could have written either of the columns Edroso cites.

Which brings us back around to our new Governor I think. For the American Right, of which Mr. McCrory yearns to become a new fresh face, gender studies begin and end with internal vaginal probes as a prerequisite of any considered abortion. In their brave new world, academic inquiry will be reserved for a tiny minority, the "educational elite." What they say or think or do doesn't matter much, because they are always a tiny minority. Just keep them away from the kids, who should be funneled into specific jobs, and nevermind if large blocs of such specific jobs get whisked away to the 3rd world at the behest of an industrial policy that can never be tampered with by the likes of the jobholders themselves, or a government that represents them.

Gender studies? It's a fainting couch affair. Gawd knows the wimmens don't need to be a-thinkin' about any of that stuff. The Southern Baptist Church is the official state church of North Carolina. There they have decreed, some ten years on, that indeed a wife is to submit to her husband. Here in NC the placement of a constitutional "gay marriage ban" on our ballot helped insure Mr. McCrory's victory, and the achievement of total Republican control of our Legislature. Here we're well on the way to a special voter ID requirement, and some of our legislators have bristled at the idea that such requirements are racist and discriminatory to the elderly and to young people. (See, e.g., ) Ms Dunham has said that she won't consider marriage until there is legal same sex marriage in the United States. That moral logic is both obvious and inescapable. The only counter is to ban thinking about such things. Defunding is of course just such a ban.

McCrory, according to the News and Observer story cited above, is already backing away to some degree from his statements on Bennett's show. This is just more conservative methodoogy. In our fragmented and confusing media jungle, it is frequently possible to take all sides of any given position, and frequently that's exactly what politicians manage to do. At the very worst, there's always the fallback position: well, Democrats do it too.

The sun's bright and the sky's very blue around here. The trees cast dark shadows across the ground. Hopefully there will be a few more weeks of winter.


Sunday Update: It's possible, of course, that Mr. McCrory is actually dead serious, and that he's offering us something he views as a personal insight, after a considerable time as a successful adult. If so, I'd submit that this side of the coin is far more disturbing. Because what he's suggesting, in implication, is a rigid class system based almost entirely on money. In McCrory's revamped education system, the wealthy get to study the underpinnings of life, the presumptions and presuppositions that exist under every facet of human existence. No doubt such insights may serve these elites well as they travel their paths of managerial splendor. Perhaps in a perfect world these elites will even be insightful in the moral sphere, managing their charges, the poor blinded working class, with love and a true concern for their puny fates. This was exactly the fantasy which slaveholders in the South entertained, particularly at church and at the family dinner table. Some of McCrory's Republican ilk are actually giving speeches, at least in certain circles, on the topic of slavery as a not-so-bad institution, and David Bossie, the elite lawyer who won the Citizens United case, has published briefs arguing that Brown V. Board is actually unconstitutional when applied to Federal Law (hat tip to Charles Pierce):

Such a fantasy has its limitations, I'm afraid. For one thing, here's a real cross-section of life, if you want to look at it:

Seems very little of these folks' lives is about the structure Mr McCrory imagines, or even the lack of it, and Great Britain has a lot more class structure than we do here in America. Seems like what all those folks depicted as they paddle down the river of life could use is insight. Insight doesn't necessarily make you money though it certainly can. Insight helps you understand things better. In McCrory's whipping boy example, "gender studies," one might find a deeper understanding of the constant advertising storm we're all immersed in. For example. Or one might perceive more clearly various office dynamics in which one finds oneself--whatever one's gender. Or one might notice certain threads of continuity in the daily Limbovian rants one might well listen to, or see in the way we structure our jobs certain themes. The curious hysteria quite a few on the Right are currently exhibiting with regard to the "women in combat" issue might well become clearer. If Mr. McCrory is actually serious, what he's saying to his fellow citizens is, basically, "shut up and swing that hammer."

Mr. McCrory's suggestion that the central purpose of public higher education is simply job placement has, in fact, a rather Soviet ring to it. It reveals, more than anything, his Republican underpinnings. Republicans do not believe in democracy, which when applied simply to life means that each person gets as much chance at his own personal fulfillment as is possible. Republicans do not want to run on their actual beliefs, or to reveal them to the public. Mr. McCrory, for example, said nothing at all during his campaign about such drastic "reforms" in higher public education. But then he must believe he is one of the elite.

North Carolina is in for a dark time I'm afraid. Mr. McCrory has at his back a fully Republican Legislature.