Saturday, April 05, 2008

How Big Are the Bucks for Hill and Bill?

Yesterday, it came out that Hillary and Bill Clinton had made $109 million altogether since Bill Clinton left office.

But that's hardly surprising. Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton both wrote bestselling memoirs and --well, let's face it--they've both had interesting lives to write about.

Likewise it's not surprising that Bill Clinton has made a ton of money in public speaking or that his friends have brought him into lucrative investments. Bill's the kind of charismatic guy who draws people to him like a magnet. His friends push great investment opportunities his way, corporations want to hear him speak, and everybody wants to contribute to his charities.

What is surprising is that Bill and Hillary Clinton waited so long to cash in on their talent.

The news media and casual observers think that going into politics is a natural thing. But that's not the case at all. Most people at the upper level of government are smart, driven people who would have still been famous and still made a ton of money if they hadn't been involved in politics. Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, and Tom DeLay are all people who sacrificed an enormous amount of wealth by going into politics as young men and women. If Bill and Hillary Clinton had gone to New York instead of Arkansas in 1973 and worked in corporate law rather than Arkansas state government from 1978 to 1993, their joint wealth would probably be closer to the $1,000,000,000 level than the paltry hundred million they have now. With Bill's charisma, it's easy to imagine that people proposing deals for mergers, leveraged buyouts, and IPO's would have flown to his office as easily as the robins and blue jays fly outside my window. If Bill Clinton's friends are letting him in on lucrative deals how, how many lucrative deals would he have had in the 80's and 90's.

The same with Hillary. She was a highly successful lawyer in Arkansas before Bill became president. She would have been a lot more successful in New York.

But instead of rainmaking in the Big Apple, Hillary and Bill started climbing the political ladder. Instead of being worth a few hundred million in 1992, Bill Clinton was making $35,000 as Governor of Arkansas.

As in so many things, the Bush administration is somewhat of an exception here. Geore Bush was even a bigger failure as a businessman than he's been as President.

But being a successful politician usually involves an enormous amount of financial sacrifice and Hillary and Bill Clinton have sacrificed more than just about anybody.

Friday, April 04, 2008

MLK Assasination Day

MLK. It's hard to believe that MLK wouldn't have been distressed by developments in the U. S. since the 1960's. It's hard to tell which is worse. There's the isolation of large segments of the black population in deteriorating ghettos, the explosion of homelessness, the crack cocaine epidemic, and the incarceration of so many young black men. But there's also the fact that so much moderate opinion supports the excesses of American militarism, Wall Street greed, and color-blind racism. King wrote in "Letter From Birmingham Jail" that he was more bothered by white "moderates" than he was by the Bull Connors of the world. He would be just as disappointed today.

Mariah Carey. With the release of the first single from her new album, Mariah Carey now has more no. 1 hits than Elvis Presley. I saw an interview in which Carey, now 38, demurred that she had not had nearly the impact of performers like Presley, the Beatles, or Madonna. That's true, but Mariah Carey also deserves a lot of credit for recovering from her recent breakdown and getting back to the top of her game. It's tough for people to drag themselves out of that kind of chasm and it's good to see that Carey was able to do it.

The Tree Down Front. There's a tree in the neighbor's front yard with a super bloom of white flowers. Spring in Morehead is unbelievably beautify and a variety of brightly colored flowers are beginning to bloom. It's great.

As Hope Becomes Expectation. The violence and hatred that killed Martin Luther King are endemic to American society and are best represented by the strength of the activist right-wing in American politics. But I believe that the will to create a better society is once again gaining strength and I'm looking forward to seeing a renewal of the kind of social progress that was accomplished in King's time.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Auditing, Vision, Dean, and Provost

Hey, Morehead State's academic audit is not such a bad thing after all. Yesterday, I was talking the audit over with a friend when the Muse or my patron saint or the spirit of John Dewey visited me and I suddenly had a vision for turning Morehead State University's "regional studies" institute into a "global outreach" organization.

I don't remember the details that well, but it was a beautiful thing.

This means that I need to broaden my horizons. I used to think of my self as a good candidate for chair positions. However, now that I have had my "vision," I've achieved the most important qualification for being a college dean. At least that's what administrative candidates get asked when they do campus interviews. "What's your vision for this?" What's your vision for that? Given that my accomplishment as an educational visionary will soon be transmitted over whatever "vision network" connects small universities, the offers for exciting new dean positions will start coming in.

My life is going to change forever.

Of course, I'll be ready to be a provost when I start getting credit for other people's visions.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Criticism of Right-Wing Masculinity: We Need More!

On Right-Wing Masculinity. Liberal bloggers like Glenn Greenwald and Digby argue that the right-wing has perfected a political narrative in which conservatives are conveyed in terms of down-to-earth, regular guy, masculinity and liberals as effete, feminized, and over-educated. Here's Greenwald characterizing his new book on the topic:
The Right has perfected the art of creating mythical cults of personality around their leaders. They are strong, courageous, honor-bound, protective, morally upstanding salt-of-the earth Everyman-warriors -- contemptuous of elitist prerogatives, and oozing traditional masculine virtues and cultural normalcy. As important, if not more so, is the corresponding character demonization of liberals, Democrats and a growing group of miscellaneous right-wing opponents -- those weak, subversive, conniving, appeasing, gender-confused, elitist freaks, whose men are as effeminate and cowardly as their women are angry, threatening and emasculating.

There's a strong sense in which Greenwald is correct here. But all he does is go out in claim that the right-wing narrative is false.

These election-determinant themes are not merely petty and completely removed from what actually matters. That would be bad enough. Far worse is that they are
complete fabrications. Virtually the entire leadership of the right-wing GOP is the complete opposite of these cartoon icons they are held out to be. Their lives are almost completely devoid of the virtues in which they are packaged. After all, their leaders are Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Ann Coulter, Bill Kristol and the whole slew of tough guy pundits from Fox News and National Review, cheering on wars while imputing to themselves the courage and virtue of those they endlessly send off to fight and prancing around as moral guardians and defenders of individual freedom while, in reality, living lives that rapidly destroy those very values.

But proving that the right-wing is lying doesn't get the job done in the sense that Greenwald and other liberal bloggers have not gotten through the media clutter to make their case before the non-liberal public.

Of course, there are several sources for the failure of liberal blogging in this instance. Liberal bloggers are not as popular or entertaining as right-wing figures like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. Likewise, mainstream media outlets like NPR, CNN, and MSNBC view figures like Greenwald as deadly competition for their secular, culturally liberal audiences and do their best to keep them off the air. Greenwald has a better chance of getting featured on Fox than PBS.

However, it's also true that Greenwald and the other liberal bloggers don't produce enough "truth" about masculinity and the right to outweigh the "entertainment" value of the right-wing narrative.

The right-wing not only does not embody it's own masculine values, but the right has its own patterns of masculinity that is so pathetic that it almost defies characterization. Liberal bloggers have been scratching the surface of right-wing macho. We have to get to its beating heart.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Making the Republic Whole, Giving Birth to General Freedom

Condoleeza Rice had an interesting comment on race the other day.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday that the United States still has trouble dealing with race because of a national "birth defect" that denied blacks the same opportunities as whites when the country was founded.
But I don't think that quite works.

Abraham Lincoln came closer to the mark when he talked about the Civil War as a "new birth of freedom." The war resulted in the emancipation of the black slaves and also a broader understanding of freedom to include people of African descent as well as whites. Unfortunately, that new birth of freedom was ultimately defeated with the end of Reconstruction.

As a result, another "new birth of freedom" become necessary. In many ways, that was the inner meaning of the Civil Rights Movement of the fifties and sixties.

Over the years, I've gradually come to the conclusion that the efforts of the African-American population to overcome the many legacies of slavery have done much more to define the nature of American democracy than George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the other men who are now known as the Founding Fathers.

The founding generation created a Republic, but it was disabled by slavery and consequently required repeated "new births of freedom" which were carried out more than anyone else by the work of figures like Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, and other African-Americans.

One of the characteristics of the new birth of freedom in the 1960's is that the work of the Civil Rights movement was extended by the later advent of feminism and gay rights. Despite resistance, the forty years since then have been characterized by a constant and broad-based effort to expand the 60's new birth of freedom to include everyone. Because "freedom isn't free," people in general need to generate a continual effort to give birth to a society of broad-based freedom.

It's only then that we'll be able to say that we've overcome the legacy of slavery.