Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Ralph Nader

Tuesday Links!

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This is not a glitch in the system. It is the system. Readers are gullible, the media is feckless, garbage is circulated around, and everyone goes to bed happy and fed. The Year We Broke the Internet.

* A lengthy think-piece on the place of rhetoric and composition in the modern university.

But who gets to write in The New York Times — and to whom is The New York Times accessible? If we’re talking about accessibility and insularity, it’s worth looking at The New York Times’s own content generation cycle and the relationship between press junkets and patronage.

Lately, some people have suggested that doctoral programs should take somemodest steps in order to keep track of what happens to their Ph.D.s after graduation. It’s a good idea, and these suggestions are made with the best of intentions, even if they’re coming about 50 years too late. They are, unfortunately, looking in the wrong place as far as you are concerned. You can’t just count up how many of a program’s graduates end up as professors—otherwise, the best qualification you could get in grad school is marrying a professor of engineering or accountancy who can swing a spousal hire for you. Instead, there is just one thing you should be looking at: What percentage of a program’s graduates are hired for tenure-track jobs through competitive searches?

Rutgers Boosts Athletic Subsidies to Nearly $50 Million.

Rutgers University, already the most prolific subsidizer of sports of all Division I public institutions, gave its athletics department nearly $47 million in 2012-13, USA Today reported, a 67.9 percent increase over the 2011-12 subsidy of $27.9 million. Rutgers athletics is $79 million in the red, but officials say that the university’s move to the Big Ten Conference will generate close to $200 million over its first 12 years as a member. The most recent subsidies make up 59.9 percent of the athletics department’s total allocations, and total more than the entire operating revenues at all but 53 of Division I’s 228 public sports programs.

* Sell your book, go broke.

* State-by-state misery index. Wisconsin’s doing pretty all right, and that’s counting the existence of Wiscsonin winters…

* Meanwhile, Arizona is once again officially the absolute worst.

* The latest on adjuncts and the ACA.

A New York and Chicago Mom Discover What Standardized Rigor Really Means for Their Children.

RIP Harold Ramis. A New Yorker profile from 2004.

American Aqueduct: The Great California Water Saga.

How Slavery Made the Modern World.


* Down an unremarkable side street in Southwark, London, is a fenced lot filled with broken concrete slabs, patches of overgrown grass and the odd piece of abandoned construction equipment. Its dark history and iron gates separate this sad little patch from the outside world. Lengths of ribbon, handwritten messages and tokens weave a tight pattern through the bars of the rusty gates … all tributes to the 15,000 Outcast Dead of London. Thanks, Liz!

2014 Graduate Scholarships and Fellowships That Do Not Require Proof of US Citizenship or Legal Permanent Residency.

* Geronrockandrolltocracy: On average, the Rolling Stones are older than the Supreme Court.

* Ghostbusters and Reaganism.

* The Digital Comics Museum.

* Is Venezula burning? Everything you know about Ukraine is wrong.

The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals. What the hell is Barack Obama’s presidency for?

Having a Gun in the House Doesn’t Make a Woman Safer.

The financially strapped University of California system is losing about $6 million each year due to risky bets on interest rates under deals pushed by Wall Street banks.

Here’s why you shouldn’t buy a US-to-Europe flight more than two months in advance.

@Millicentsomer announces her plan to be supremely disappointed in House of Cards season three.

* Suburban soccer club has so much money no one notices two separate officers embezzling over $80,000.

* Antimonies of e-cigarettes.

* Another Day, Another Oil Spill Shuts Down 65 Miles Of The Mississippi River.

* Department of Mixed Feelings: Marquette likely to get its own police force.

* BREAKING: Bitcoin is a huge scam. Charlie Stross schadenfreudes.

Gawker Can’t Stop Watching This Live Feed of Porn Site Searches.

* New state of matter discovered in chicken’s eye gunk.

* Your one-stop-shop for Harry Potter overthinking.

* And Ralph Nader still thinks only the super-rich can save us now.


What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

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Written by gerrycanavan

April 29, 2011 at 11:50 am

Friday Everything

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* Ralph Nader has found an awesome new way to troll the nation: he will campaign to kill athletic scholarships.

* Fox has renewed Fringe. This is great news—but I still haven’t forgive them for Firefly.

* Vermont’s not green, it’s red: Vermot House passes single-payer health care bill. It’s also expected to pass the state senate, too, which means things are about to get very interesting.

* I haven’t put up anything about Fukushima in a while, but suffice it to say things still sound very bad. (UPDATE: More here.) Nuclear power advocates—who I seem to recall assuring me that nothing bad could possibly happen at Fukushima because of updated, failsafe reactor designs—have now begun assuring me that what happened at Fukushima could never happen again because of updated, failsafe reactor designs. Okay, that ship turned out to be sinkable. But this one…

* Great moments in abuse of power: A deputy prosector in Johnson County, Indiana, has resigned his job after it was revealed that in February, during the large protests in Wisconsin over Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee union bill, he e-mailed Walker’s office and recommended that they conduct a “false flag operation” — to fake an assault or assassination attempt on Walker in order to discredit the unions and protesters. Josh Marshall catches the most interesting angle: “the fact that he lists his 18 years of experience working in GOP politics as his experience for doing this sort of stuff.”

* Cheating scandal in the game of kings.

* Incomprehensible Shouting Named Official U.S. Language. It drives me crazy when people don’t speak it.

* And from Inside Higher Ed: Who’s in your fantasy research institute this season?

What Is Jared Diamond Smoking?

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As part of my board work, I have been asked to assess the environments in oil fields, and have had frank discussions with oil company employees at all levels. I’ve also worked with executives of mining, retail, logging and financial services companies. I’ve discovered that while some businesses are indeed as destructive as many suspect, others are among the world’s strongest positive forces for environmental sustainability. His key examples—no joke—are Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, and Chevron.

Truly, only the super-rich can save us now.

Please, Just Go Away

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I’ll be all around in the dark. I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look. Wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be there in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be there in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they built—I’ll be there, too.

Written by gerrycanavan

November 27, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Dollhouse, Flashforward, and a Few SF Links

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Dollhouse, Flashforward, and a few SF links.

* Both Dollhouse tonight and Flashforward yesterday were noticeable improvements over a string of weak episodes, but problems persist. On Flashforward, the characters remain essentially interchangeable ciphers, with almost no tension or mystery surrounding their relationships or their individual participation in these events. (This is perhaps the one area where the show really should have cribbed more from Lost.) But the tease that China may have been involved is a nicely paranoid reading of the disastrous consequences of the Flashforward for the Western hemisphere and a clever post-9/11 twist on the novel, which has no such subplot—and the connection of the isolated L.A. office to a larger investigatory framework has been much needed. And the episode was just more fun.

The Sierra episode of Dollhouse was good, but I can’t help feeling as though the show is being quietly retooled yet again; the actions of most of these characters just aren’t commensurate with either half of last season. In particular, most of last season was devoted to a multi-episode arc in which the Dollhouse staff struggled to stop the dolls from “glitching”—but now the exact same glitches are considered perfectly acceptable to everyone involved. Echo is allowed to openly discuss her newfound continuity of memory without consequence or even particular interest from the staff, while Victor and Sierra are apparently now allowed to openly date. What has happened to account for this radical shift in Dollhouse policy? Dr. Saunders’s disappearance and the generally chaotic atmosphere that plagues the Dollhouse week to week should incentivize them to keep a closer eye on the dolls, not give them freer reign.

Likewise, the idea in the episode that the Dollhouse staff had been “misled” about Priya’s situation—a fairly clear attempt to retcon one of the characters’ most heinous crimes—doesn’t really hold up to scrutiny; patients in mental institutions can’t consent to secret medical experimentation (or, for that matter, sex slavery) any more than kidnapped women can. There’s no excusing what’s been done to Priya either way, and that Topher supposedly believed he was somehow “helping” her barely qualifies as a fig leaf. I think I preferred the harder edge of Original Recipe Adelle and Topher 1.0.

Other things rankle, too. The violent final scenes in the Evil Client’s House are well-acted, but the sequence of events makes little sense outside the heat of the moment. What did Priya and Topher think was going to happen, and why were they so utterly unprepared for what obviously would? Topher would have given her a ninja update at the very least.

Seeing so much praise for this episode from critics and the Twittotubes just shows again how badly people want this show to be better than it really is. I’m still enjoying Dollhouse, but abandoning the 2019 arc and failing to sign Amy Acker as a regular are starting to look like fatal flaws for the series. Even an heavily hyped episode that (for once) didn’t focus on Echo doesn’t compare to last season’s stellar second half (1.6-1.11 and 1.13). I hope the upcoming focus on Senator Wyndham-Price and the inevitable introduction of Summer Glau help pick things up.

No new episodes until December, in any event.


* Harlan Ellison has won $1 from Paramount Pictures in his suit regarding Star Trek‘s “The City on the Edge of Forever.” In fairness, $1 was all he asked for.

* Christopher Hayes reviews Ralph Nader’s “practical Utopia,” Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!.

* And Gregory Cowles reviews Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City for the New York Times.

Lethem’s Manhattan is an alternate-­reality Manhattan, an exaggerated version where an escaped tiger is rumored to be roaming the Upper East Side and Times readers can opt for a “war-free” edition dominated by fluffy human-­interest ­stories. Instead of terrorist attacks, an enervating gray fog has descended on the financial district and remained there for years, hovering mysteriously. (Mysterious to the novel’s characters, anyway; investigators may want to subpoena DeLillo’s airborne toxic event.) 

Looks good.

Ralph Nader, Novelist

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Ralph Nader, novelist.

Written by gerrycanavan

September 23, 2009 at 5:50 am

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On Washing One’s Hands of the Democrats

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I’m seeing a marked uptick in lefty griping in my feeds, often with some variation on the phrase “washing my hands of the Democratic Party.” I’d say this sort of proclamation was unfair, but I guess its time has come; Obama has been president, after all, for two whole months and yet puppies still die.

Confidential to my fellow travelers: What I wrote about pragmatism during the primaries (1, 2) still holds. I don’t like the way the financial crisis is being handled either, but unless you foresee wholesale Constitutional reforms before 2012 you’re going to have either a Democratic or Republican president. You have to pick one, and there’s only one who will ever even listen to people like us. The happy feeling you get from not voting for a Democrat is worth exactly nothing.

Elections have consequences. To take just one example that passed across my newsreader yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency has now blocked mountaintop-removal coal-mining. That happened because the far-too-centrist, corporatist, hopelessly compromised Democratic Party is now in power. And not just in power, but more unabashedly progressive than it’s been for forty years. Drag the country to the left with one hand, hold your nose with the other, but we’re stuck with the Democrats if we ever want to get anything accomplished. You don’t have to like it—but if you want to be a politically relevant actor in America you have to come to terms with it.

I would have thought the example of the last eight years would have proved this point well enough. Have our memories gotten so short?

Duopoly in American Politics

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Despite everything, we must admit Nader was mostly right: Duopoly in American politics at the New Left Review.

Hough’s account draws on intensive archival work to detail the processes by which the two parties contrived to limit electoral participation, gerrymander constituencies and divide up the electoral spoils within the ferociously competitive landscape of modern industrial America -— greatly aided, although he does not spell this out, by the first-past-the-post system. At stake, for both parties, has been the problem of mobilizing maximum electoral support for policies that are not primarily conceived in the interests of the median voter. According to Hough:

both parties have structured their economic policy so as to try to maximize support in the upper class of the population—the 25 per cent of the population that makes above $75,000 a year in family income. Without any meaningful choice on economic questions, voters have been forced to choose between the parties on cultural issues alone.

In his view, the recent withdrawal of the two parties behind the winner-takes-all ramparts of the red-state/blue-state division, leaving only a dozen states genuinely competitive, represents a further diminution of the real electorate, narrowing the already circumscribed space available for meaningful political participation.

Written by gerrycanavan

April 18, 2008 at 3:25 pm

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Obama’s Plan

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Drudge has the memo from David Plouffe on the next four weeks of Obamania:

Coming off an impressive win in Iowa and taking the once inevitable frontrunner down to the wire in her firewall state, it is clear that Obama is well-positioned to become the next President of the United States. As the people of Iowa and New Hampshire demonstrated, the American people desperately want change they can believe in. Barack Obama is the candidate to deliver that change by bringing people together, standing up to the special interests, and telling people what they need to know.

Our campaign now turns its focus squarely to Nevada and South Carolina, and February 5th. Today, we kick off the next phase of our campaign in New Jersey, an important February 5th state.


In the 4th Quarter of 2007, our campaign raised $23.5 million – over $22.5 million of which is for the primary election. In that quarter, we added 111,000 new donors for a total of 475,000 donors in 2007.

In the first 8 days of 2008, we raised over $8 million and gained 35,000 new donors. Since midnight last night, we have raised another $500,000 online. We continue to build a grassroots movement that makes us best-positioned to compete financially in the primaries and caucuses coming up…

It couldn’t hurt to add to that total, if you can.

I’m still smarting from last night—it was something of a “reality check” for my “false hopes”—but I honestly think the long-term prognosis is still good. The media feeding frenzy in the last week drove expectations totally out of control, obscuring the fact that the actual news for Obama in the last seven days has been overwhelmingly good—true, the Obama team wasn’t able to get the knockout, but they probably weren’t ever going to be able to. But it’s certainly not as if they’ve been knocked out themselves.

Not incidentally, my love/hate relationship with John Edwards is tilting strongly towards “hate” again. I admire the man and I admire especially the way in which he’s moved the rhetoric in the Democratic primary to the left, but his chances of securing the nomination are rapidly approaching the fantastic and I see no reason for him to stay in other than ego. We’ve been down this road with Nader enough times, haven’t we? The sooner he drops out, the sooner the “change” ticket is able to coalesce around the only anti-Clinton with a chance of winning the nomination.

Written by gerrycanavan

January 9, 2008 at 4:56 pm

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As with so many things I loved when I was young—the church, democracy, delicious Coca-Cola—I have an extremely complicated relationship with The Simpsons. Most days I just pretend it’s off the air. This may seem a bit surprising, especially given that for most of high school and college I had entire conversations (and occasionally newspaper columns) consisting of nothing but Simpsons quotes—but this actually appears to be the nearly universal experience for people in my particular demographic. Somewhere around year twelve or so we all suddenly realized that the show was no longer funny—and though I’m periodically assured by people I otherwise trust that it’s somehow become funny again, I’ve never taken the bait.

The idea that they’re still beating the dead horse after six additional years is more than a little inconceivable.

The Simpsons Movie, which Ryan and I saw today despite our better judgments, is a Simpsons movie only in the very limited sense that the characters in the movie look and sound like the Simpsons you remember. But this is in every other sense a kids’ movie; anyone looking for the grand satire of the glory years will be as disappointed as we were.

Afterwards we tried to figure out what went wrong, how this ever could have happened, and we think it might be this: The Simpsons always had a problem with the gooey family stuff, even in the best of times, unnecessarily cramming it into nearly every episode in a way that always threatened to crowd out the funny, subversive moments which were the only reason to watch. They needed the family stuff to sell the show to a mainstream audience, but having gotten the mainstream, they then needed to keep it, which meant more family stuff, which meant less subversion, and so on and so forth—which is how a show that I was forbidden to watch when it first came out has now put out a movie that’s just barely more adult than Shrek.

It’s a shame, and honestly something of a minor cultural tragedy—but then I suppose an earlier and equally cantankerous version of me might not have understood what happened to The Flintstones, either.

I sure do miss it, though.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 2, 2007 at 1:21 am

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Quick, I’m-too-tired-to-be-coherent plug for Ralph Nader: An Unreasonable Man, which nicely captures what is surely the most classically tragic fall from grace in contemporary American life.

Astoundingly, the entire film is available online via Google Video, though with questionable legal providence.

It’s just too bad they couldn’t include the testimony of the one man with the cojones to speak truth to lack-of-power (jump to 1:06:45).

Written by gerrycanavan

June 14, 2007 at 4:15 am

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