Here and There, In Absentia
My colleague Ralph Luker is much more widely read on the web than I am, but as he and most of the Cliopatriarchs are in Seattle for the AHA, a pale substitute for his daily briefing:
--The day's biggest political news comes from California, where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has called for the state to move to a non-partisan redictricting format, though by a panel of judges rather than a commission. As he pointed out, a system that in 2004 yielded no party changes in any House or state legislative races is broken. The problem: as long as Texas engages in gerrymandering, having a Dem state like California go nonpartisan means the biggest winner from the governor's proposal would be Tom DeLay. If I were advising the state Dems, I'd offer to support the Schwarzenegger proposal if he could get Rick Perry to push a similar initiative through the Texas legislature.
--Another day, another denunciation of Columbia's handling of the MEALAC controversy. The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, told the New York Sun that Columbia University is failing to protect its Jewish students from harassment by anti-Israel professors. Foxman is sometimes too quick to claim anti-semitism, but I'd say that a committee whose majority consists of two professors who signed what President Bollinger himself termed the"grotesque" petition calling for Columbia to divest from Israel and a third who was dissertation adviser to a key figure in the controversy gives Foxman grounds for complaint.
--CNN has declined to rehire Crossfire host Tucker Carlson. The most amazing quote: CNN president Jonathan Klein, citing comedian Jon Stewart's famous appearance on Crossfire from this past fall, in which Stewart said that shows like Crossfire were"hurting America," remarked,"I agree wholeheartedly with Jon Stewart's overall premise." Crossfire itself is going to be cancelled.
My take: there would be a great dissertation in mediia studies or political science in the"history of Crossfire," and what its evolution (or devolution) says about the changing nature of political discourse in the US. In its 1980s version, with Bob Novak and Michael Kinsley as hosts, it frequently featured high-level, if sharp, political exchanges. In recent years, it seemed as if everyone, including the hosts, was simply spouting political talking points. But, of course, that's about all that politicians seem to do any more.
--A very interesting exchange at Legal Affairs over whether Clarence Thomas has the qualifications to be chief justice. Personally, I've seen nothing in his performance to suggest that he does.
--My favorite academic organization, FIRE, has just released its Guide to Free Speech on Campus. Worth reading for all.
--Oliver Stone yesterday blamed American"fundamentalism" for the poor box office sales of his biopic on Alexnader the Great, saying the American public didn't want to see a movie suggesting that Alexander might have been gay. I'm not sure I'd call American movie critics"fundamentalist," and yet according to the Rotten Tomatoes website, only 14% of the 168 polled gave the movie a positive review.
--Finally, in the truth is stranger than fiction category, the chairman of the BBC is under fire for his plans to screen"Jerry Springer--The Opera" on the British network. ("Jerry Springer--The Opera"??!!) The opera, apparently trying to stay true to form to its subject, contains more than 8,000 obscenities, includes tap-dancing Ku Klux Klan members, and features a scene in which Jesus states that he is “a bit gay." Remarkable.
Sharon Howard - 1/6/2005
Crikey, how did the swearword count get to 8000? The official count is 300 ish. Even The Sun newspaper only got it up to about 3000, by multiplying each word by the numbers of people singing it.
Didn't you know that Jerry Springer--The Opera has been a massive hit in London's West End since (I think) 2003? OMG, the website says the US premiere is going to be this spring.
Oscar Chamberlain - 1/6/2005
I agree that the short term impact of non-partisan redistricting might hurt democtrats, but I think building momentum for the idea is more important in the long run.
Jonathan Dresner - 1/6/2005
If Schwarzenegger can pull that off, it would be a signature achievement. Now, about Texas...