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May 06, 2011

Tony Kushner denied honorary degree for suggesting that Palestinians are human

And then Kushner writes an open letter defending himself and pretty much just eats their faces and drops the mic. Not to be, y'know, hyperbolic or anything. The malaise behind CUNY's affront to Tony Kushner | Sarah Wildman | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
Tony Kushner may be many things. An American playwright. An instigator. A prodder. A gay man. A Jew. What he is not is an antisemite. What he is not is an Israel-basher. Does he question Israeli policy? He does. And in the new Jew v Jew world of American Jewish discourse, those questions are tantamount to dismissing the state in its entirety. As a result, a reputation has been slandered and all nuance in this conversation has, yet again, has been set aside. . . . And then, as only he can, Kushner took apart their criticism. (He was not, he has repeatedly pointed out, invited to defend his case before the board). "My questions and reservations regarding the founding of the state of Israel are connected to my conviction, drawn from my reading of American history, that democratic government must be free of ethnic or religious affiliation, and that the solution to the problems of oppressed minorities are to be found in pluralist democracy. I am very proud of being Jewish, and discussing this issue publicly has been hard; but I believe in the absolute good of public debate, and I feel that silence on the part of Jews who have questions is injurious to the life of the Jewish people. My opinion about the wisdom of the creation of a Jewish state has never been expressed in any form without a strong statement of support for Israel's right to exist, and my ardent wish that it continue to do so, something Mr Weisenfeld conveniently left out of his remarks." He went on to say that his position regarding the forced removal of Palestinians in 1948 was formed by reading renowned Israeli historian Benny Morris, and that: "My outrage, my grief, my terror, my moments of despair – regarding the ongoing horror in the Middle East, the brunt of which has been born by the Palestinian people, but which has also cost Israelis dearly and which endangers their existence, are shared by many Jews, in Israel, in the US and around the world. My despair is kept in check by my ongoing belief in and commitment to a negotiated conclusion to the Palestinian-Israeli crisis." . . .
And hey, a bonus quote from Wiesenfeld, the guy who personally denied Kushner the degree:
But Mr. Wiesenfeld interrupted and said the question was offensive because “the comparison sets up a moral equivalence.” Equivalence between what and what? “Between the Palestinians and Israelis,” he said. “People who worship death for their children are not human.”

May 04, 2011

The value of a college degree depends on where you go to college

There have been a spate of articles lately calling college degrees useless or wastes of money. And to be fair, some are--especially from for-profit schools that are little better than factories for degrees and student debt. But a degree from a good school--a Harvard, a Brown, or even a University of Michigan--matters. Yglesias -- College: It’s Complicated
Excellent point from Sara Mayeux about the problems inherent in trying to hold a generic discussion about the value of “a college degree”: It’s worth disaggregating what we’re actually talking about when we talk about “higher education.” Four years at Harvard or Stanford is not the same thing as four years at Oberlin or Grinnell, which in turn is quite different from three to five years at a state flagship, all of which are basically incommensurate with cobbling together credits at a local community college while working full-time. And as for for-profit “universities,” well, in my ideal world we’d just call a spade “consumer fraud.” (On that topic, see Adam’s earlier thoughts in this space.) Articles about whether “college is worthless” or “higher education is a bubble,” which we’ve seen a lot of in 2011, are thus fairly useless. There’s just no such thing as a generic “college degree” or “college experience” that can be meaningfully discussed — too many variables determine whether, and how, any particular undergraduate program is useful or valuable.

The ten weirdest sentences in David Brooks' "The Social Animal"

THE SOCIAL ANIMAL is Brooks' not-quite-novel and not-quite-science book. It's a pop psychology novel thing, where Brooks tries to illustrate his point by creating a fictional world where everything he believes is true. Which for a science book is absolutely insane. I mean, it's like actual science disagrees with Brooks' facile observations SO MUCH that he felt the need to create a parallel batshit universe where his hollow materialism and Yuppie Champions are the pinnacle of human evolution. Anyway! Below are ten of the weirdest sentences in the book. (Click through to see the rest.) Yo! Douche bag! -- LRB blog
Imagine a man who buys a chicken from the grocery store, manages to bring himself to orgasm by penetrating it, then cooks and eats the chicken. He wore a scruffy three-day growth of beard on his face, and his hair was perpetually shaggy, like one of those sensitive stud novelists at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She still thought it was a sign of social bravery to be a crude-talking, hard-partying, cotton candy lipstick-wearing, thong-snapping, balls-to-the-wall disciple in the church of Lady GaGa. With his friends he was all ‘Yo! Douche bag!’ but in parental and polite adult company he used a language and set of mannerisms based on the pretence that he’d never gone through puberty.