Category Archives: Academia

Ron Radosh on Jennifer Delton: A Fresh View of Cold War America

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This article by Ron Radosh is from Minding the Campus:

Teaching in the universities about the so-called McCarthy era has become an area most susceptible to politically correct and one-sided views of what the period was all about. One historian who strenuously objects to the accepted left-wing interpretation that prevails in the academy is Jennifer Delton, Chairman of the Department of History at Skidmore College.

In the March issue of The Journal of the Historical Society Delton writes:

However fiercely historians disagree about the merits of American Communism, they almost universally agree that the post-World War II Red scare signified a rightward turn in American politics. The consensus is that an exaggerated, irrational fear of communism, bolstered by a few spectacular spy cases, created an atmosphere of persecution and hysteria that was exploited and fanned by conservative opportunists such as Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy. This hysteria suppressed rival ideologies and curtailed the New Deal, leading to a resurgence of conservative ideas and corporate influence in government. We may add detail and nuance to this story, but this, basically, is what we tell our students and ourselves about post-World War II anti-Communism, also known as McCarthyism. It is fundamentally the same story that liberals have told since Whittaker Chambers accused Alger Hiss of being a Communist spy in 1948.

This conventional narrative of the left has been told over and over for so many years that it has all but become the established truth to most Americans. It was exemplified in a best-selling book of the late 1970’s, David Caute’s The Great Fear, and from the most quoted one from the recent past, Ellen Schrecker’s Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. My favorite title is one written by the late Cedric Belfrage, The American Inquisition 1945-1960: A Profile of the “McCarthy Era.” In his book, Belfrage told the story of how he, an independent journalist who founded the fellow-traveling weekly The National Guardian, was hounded by the authorities and finally deported home to Britain. American concerns about Soviet espionage, he argued, were simply paranoia.

The problem with Belfrage’s account was that once the Venona files began to be released in 1995–the once top secret Soviet decrypts of communications between Moscow Center and its US agents—they revealed that Belfrage was a paid KGB operative, just as the anti-Communist liberal Sidney Hook had openly charged decades ago, and as turned KGB spy Elizabeth Bentley had privately informed the FBI in 1945. The Venona cables revealed that Belfrage had given the KGB an OSS report received by British intelligence concerning the anti-Communist Yugoslav resistance in the 1940’s as well as documents about the British government’s position during the war on opening a second front in Europe. It showed that Belfrage had offered the Soviets to establish secret contact with them if he was stationed in London.

Facts like these did not bother or budge the academic establishment. Most famously, Ellen Schrecker wrote in her book that although it is now clear many Communists in America had spied for the Soviets, they did not do any real harm to the country, and also most importantly, their motives were decent. She wrote, “As Communists, these people did not subscribe to traditional forms of patriotism; they were internationalists whose political allegiances transcended national boundaries. They thought they were ‘building…a better world for the masses,’ not betraying their country.”

Schrecker’s views were endorsed by former Nation publisher and editor Victor Navasky, who regularly in different articles argues that the Venona decrypts are either gossip or forgeries, irrelevant, or do not change his favored narrative that in the United States– only McCarthyism was a threat. As Navasky wrote, Venona was simply an attempt “to enlarge post-cold war intelligence gathering capability at the expense of civil liberty.” If spying indeed took place, it was “a lot of exchanges of information among people of good will, many of whom were Marxists, some of whom were Communists… and most of whom were patriots.” As for those who argue against his view, they were trying to “argue that, in effect, McCarthy and Co. were right all along.”

The lens through which McCarthyism has been seen, therefore, is one seen exclusively through the left-wing prism, which regards defense of one’s own democratic nation against a foreign foe as evil, and sees only testimony against America’s enemies as McCarthyite. What is therefore necessary is to look anew at the McCarthy era, not in the terms set by its Communist opponents, but from the perspective of examining dispassionately the nature of the entire epoch. Those who have chosen to do this, however, have been met with great opposition. A few years ago, the editors of The New York Times claimed that a new group of scholars “would like to rewrite the historical verdict on Senator McCarthy and McCarthyism.” Fearing such a development, the newspaper warned that it had to be acknowledged that it was McCarthyism more than Soviet espionage or Communist infiltration that was “a lethal threat to American democracy.”

[read it all]

Professor Delton’s article, “Rethinking Post-World War II Anticommunism” is excellent. Here is a bit:

[T]the most famous and effective anticommunist measures were carried out not by conservatives, but by liberals seeking to uphold the New Deal. It was the liberal Truman administration that chased Communists out of government agencies and prosecuted Communist Party leaders under the Smith Act. It was liberal Hollywood executives who adopted the blacklist, effectively forcing Communists out of the movie business. The labor leaders who purged Communists from their unions were, similarly, liberals. Most anticommunism—the anticommunism that mattered—was not hysterical and conservative, but, rather, a methodical and, in the end, successful attempt on the part of New Deal liberals to remove Communists from specific areas of American life, namely, the government, unions, universities and schools, and civil rights organizations. It is true that the FBI and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) helped carry out these measures, but it is a mistake to assume that J. Edgar Hoover or HUAC could have had much power without the cooperation of liberals who wanted Communists identified and driven out of their organizations.

New evidence confirming the widespread existence of Soviet agents in
the U.S. government makes the Truman administration’s attempts to purge Communists from government agencies seem rational and appropriate—even too modest, given what we now know.3 But even in those cases where espionage was not a threat—such as in unions, political organizations, and Hollywood—there were still good reasons for liberals to expel Communists. Communists were divisive and disruptive. They had the ability to cripple liberal organizations, especially at the local and state levels. Removing Communists from labor and political organizations was necessary for liberal Democrats like Hubert Humphrey, Chester Bowles, and Paul Douglas to be elected to Congress, where they supported Truman’s Keynesian economic policies, raised the minimum wage, fought for health insurance,
defended unions, taxed the rich, and laid the political groundwork for
civil rights and desegregation.

American Library Association (ALA) Candidates Speak on Cuban Library Issue

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I received this press release from the Friends of Cuban Libraries:

ALA Candidates Speak on Cuban Library Issue

Sara Kelly Johns and Molly Raphael, candidates for ALA president, spoke on March 8 at the office of New York City’s METRO library organization.

Both candidates affirmed their respect for intellectual freedom as a core value of the ALA, but a specific question from the audience about the Cuban independent library issue identified their contrasting views on intellectual freedom as a matter of policy.

Critics of current ALA policy say that past ALA investigations and panel discussions on Cuba have overlooked or ignored the repression of Cuba’s independent library movement, founded in 1998 to oppose censorship. According to journalists and human rights organizations, Cuba’s independent library workers have been subjected to police raids, arrests, 20-year prison terms and the court-ordered burning of confiscated book collections. Amnesty International has named Cuba’s jailed independent librarians as prisoners of conscience and is calling for their release.

In the only opinion poll of ALA members on the Cuba issue, conducted by AL Direct, 76% of respondents voted for the ALA to condemn the repression Cuba’s independent library movement.

During the question period at the March 8 presidential candidates event in New York, a member of the Friends of Cuban Libraries complained that several ALA investigations and panel discussions of this issue had allowed only one side of the controversy to be fairly heard. The questioner asked Sara Kelly Johns and Molly Raphael to guarantee that, under their leadership, diverse views on the Cuban library controversy would be fairly represented in future ALA considerations of this issue.

Sara Kelly Johns responded to the question by noting that she has paid close attention to the Cuban library issue. She gave assurances that, under her leadership, diverse views on controversies would be heard within the ALA and that the Cuban library issue would not be permitted to “go under the table.”
If brought to Council by a Council committee, the issue would be discussed.

In contrast, Molly Raphael said that the ALA has already established its Cuba policy on several occasions, and she stated it is not the role of the ALA president to challenge settled policies. With regard to the ongoing controversy over Cuba’s independent libraries, she stated it is not a “yes or no question.”

In contrast, the Friends of Cuban Libraries believe book burning is very much a “yes or no question.”

Also see:

fREADdom: How do you catalogue a burned book?

Upcoming Events in NYC: The United States and The Cold War September Seminars

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[Maybe I'll see you at John Earl Haynes' presentation?]

***The United States and The Cold War September Seminars***

To RSVP or to receive a copy of the paper please email, zk3@nyu.edu

Thursday, September 17, 2009*
Dana Frank, University of California, Santa Cruz
“The AFL-CIO’s Cold War in Honduras: The First Years of Intervention, 1954-59″
5:30 – 7:00pm (with reception to follow)
*
Thursday, September 25, 2009*
John Earl Haynes, Library of Congress,
“Alexander Vassiliev’s Notebooks and the Documentation of Soviet Intelligence
Activities in the United States during the Stalin Era”
Special Start Time: 5:00 – 6:300pm (with reception to follow)

*
Tamiment Library Book Talk*

To RSVP please email zk3@nyu.edu
*
Wednesday, September 23, 2009*
Nelson N. Lichtenstein, University of California, Santa Barbara
“The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business”
6:00pm- 7:30pm (with reception to follow)

Tamiment Library
70 Washington Square South , 10th Floor
(between LaGuardia and Greene Streets)

UCLA Labor Center Faces Possible Closure

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ucla labor center

Regular readers know I can’t stand the Huffington Post or Ariana Huffington. Nevertheless, I received a link to this article about the possible closing of the UCLA Labor Center by political scientist Peter Dreier through the H-Labor listserv that I thought was worth sharing.

Our society is so dominated by corporate culture that we hardly notice it. Every daily newspaper has a “business section,” but not a single paper has a “labor” section. Politicians and pundits talk incessantly about what government should do to promote a healthy “business climate,” but few discuss how to improve the “labor climate.” Most economics courses treat businesses as the engines of the economy, workers as a “cost of production,” and unions as an impediment. Most universities in the country have a large, well-endowed “business school,” but only a handful of them have even a small “labor studies” program.

Among the small number of labor studies programs, the one at the University of California-Los Angeles is one of the best, and now it has been targeted for extinction by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the UCLA administration. Allies of the UCLA Labor Center have mounted a letter-writing campaign to persuade Chancellor Gene Block to reverse this decision and restore funding for this cutting-edge program. Block can be reached at: chancellor@conet.ucla.edu.

Each year for the past five years, Schwarzenegger — egged on by the state’s corporate powerbrokers and right-wing Republicans — has tried to kill the University of California’s labor research and education programs at UCLA and Berkeley, but has been thwarted by resistance from its supporters and its allies in the state legislature.

This year, with the worst state budget crisis in memory, anti-labor forces think they can prevail. UC labor studies, a minuscule part of the state budget, is the only UC program that the Governor specifically targeted for elimination. The combined budgets for these programs is only $5.4 million a year. The UCLA Labor Center has 20 staff members involved in research, teaching, and community outreach.

UCLA Labor Center director Kent Wong learned about the administration’s plan to eliminate the Center from a July 11 article in the New York Times.

[read it all here]

More from the center’s website:

As part of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education plays a unique role as a bridge between the university and the labor community in Southern California.This role has grown in the past few years with the dramatic changes that have overtaken the Southern California economy.

As part of the university, the Labor Center serves as an important source of information about unions and workers to interested scholars and students. Through its extensive connections with unions and workers, the Labor Center also provides labor with important and clearly defined access to UCLA’s resources and programs. An advisory committee comprised of about forty Southern California labor and community leaders (representing more than one million members in the public and private sectors) provides advice and support for the center.

The Labor Center also hosts a downtown office just two blocks from the L.A. County Federation of Labor, amid the majority of L.A.’s union halls and worker centers and in the heart of a diverse immigrant community.

Laborers-Artwork

[Mural image swiped from UCLA Labor Center website]

Social Research Journal: Letter in Support of Iranian Dissident Akbar Ganji

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[If you want to add your name to this letter, please send an email to Social Research at socres@newschool.edu. Social Research website here.]
——————————————————————————–

Dear friends of Social Research,

Because you have joined us in protesting abuses of human rights in the past, we hope you will be willing to add your signature to the letter below. This is a letter from Akbar Ganji, an Iranian dissident who spent five years in jail in Iran, to the United Nations in response to the brutal assault on the Iranian citizens protesting the illegality of Ahmadinejad’s election. If you sign this letter, your signature will be included on the document presented to the United Nations. Time is of the essence here, so we hope you will get back to us right away. If you would like to join in signing Ganji’s letter, please reply to this e-mail with your name and affiliation, and we will pass your signature along.

Thank you,

Arien Mack
Alfred and Monette Marrow Professor of Psychology
Editor, Social Research
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To: Secretary General of the United Nations, His Excellency, Mr. Ban Ki Moon
From: Akbar Ganji, journalist and political dissident
June 23, 2009

Dear Mr. Ban Ki Moon,

Evidence shows that in the Islamic Republic of Iran elections are not free, competitive or fair, and they never lead to a real transformation in the country’s political structure. Several reasons exist for this:

Article 110 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/ir00000_.html) places most of the power in the hands of the Supreme Leader (rahbar) and institutions that are directly under his control. Article 57 of the Constitution places all three branches of the government – namely the executive, legislative and the judicial branches – “under the purview of the absolute [divine] rule and [divine] leadership” of the Supreme Leader. The people of Iran only have a say in voting for the presidency, the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majles), and local councils. Even if the people’s representatives were to be elected on fair and competitive grounds, they would be unable to bring about any real reforms in the affairs of the state. Non-elective institutions, such as the Guardian Council, the Exigency Assembly, and the High Council of Cultural Revolution, often thwart and nullify the action of elected institutions.

In practice, the real power in Iran lies in the hands of the Supreme Leader (rahbar) and it goes beyond the letter of the law as written in the Constitution. According to Article 98 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Guardian Council has the authority to interpret the Constitution, and members of this Council are directly appointed by the Supreme Leader (rahbar). The Guardian Council holds that the power of the Supreme Leader is not limited by the letter of Constitution, rendering the powers of the rahbar of the Islamic Republic virtually limitless.

The recent Iranian elections were carried out under these same limiting circumstances. Moreover, political dissidents are excluded from the pool of candidates, and a pre-condition for being considered as a candidate is to express their belief in and adherence to Islam, the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, and the absolute authority of the Supreme Leader. In the latest parliamentary elections, the Council of Guardians disqualified some two thousand potential candidates and excluded them from the candidates’ pool. Again, in the most recent presidential elections, the Council of Guardians disqualified four-hundred-seventy-one applicants for candidacy and only allowed four candidates into the competition, all of whom had previously been top official positions in the Islamic Republic over the past three decades. During the Friday Prayer congregation on June 19th, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic publically divulged that the one candidate who came closest to his own personal views was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In the election held on June 12th 2009 more than eighty percent of eligible voters participated under these very restrictive and pre-screened conditions. Sadly, their free choice was rejected even in this latest election, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was announced as the winner.

Most Iranians concur that their vote has not been truthfully accounted for. All across the country, the people have come out and held peaceful rallies to protest electoral violations that amount to a drastic violation of their right to shape their future. Sadly, the government of the Islamic Republic has faced off these peaceful and civil protests harshly, and several innocent people, including students in the nation’s universities have been barbarically assaulted by the state police. Numerous political and civil activists have been imprisoned without due process and, and at the same time, communication networks have been widely disrupted and severe restrictions have been placed on the activities of reporters and international observers.

We, intellectuals, political activists, and defenders of democratic rights and liberties beseech you to heed the widespread protests of the Iranian people and to take immediate and urgent action by:

1)    Forming an international truth-finding commission to examine the electoral process, vote counting and the fraudulent manipulation of the people’s vote in Iran

2)    Pressuring the government in Iran to annul fraudulent election results and hold democratic, competitive and fair elections under the auspices of the UN

3)    Pressuring the government of the Islamic Republic to release all those detained in the course of recent protests

4)    Pressuring the government of the Islamic Republic to free the media that have been banned in recent days and to recognize and respect the right of the people to free expression of ideas and the nonviolent protesting the results of the recent elections

5)    Pressuring the government of the Islamic Republic to stop its harsh and barbaric treatment of the people of Iran

6)    Refuse to recognize Ahmadinejad’s illegitimate government that has staged an electoral coup, and curtailing any and all forms of cooperation with it from all nations and international organizations

Sincerely,

Done for the Semester

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I am officially done teaching for the semester. All that is left is grading and I should be able to finish that by Sunday.

The main event occupying my brain space is the rapidly approaching due date of our baby. My wife and I have been frantically trying to clean and make space for all the new things a baby brings, like a crib, a stroller, all that stuff. Since we only have a little more than two weeks until the baby arrives, I will likely not be spending much time blogging. I imagine even less so the first two weeks.

Here are two items I intended to write longer posts about but have not found the time:

It looks like a couple more animal activist nutjobs activists were picked up by the state apparatus, this time in Southern California. Kevin Olliff (22) and Lindy Greene (61) were arrested and charged with stalking and conspiracy to commit the crime of threatening a public officer or school employee. The indictment claims both were members of the Animal Liberation Front whon targetted employees of the University of California, Los Angeles and POM Juice Company.

Sociologist William Robinson at the University of California, Santa Barbara is coming under fire for an email he sent to his students which compared the recent IDF operations in Gaza to the Nazi’s in WWII. Back in my rad lefty days I used to be really into Robinson’s work but it shouldn’t surprise me he is part of the hate Israel contingent. Bluetruth has more info. So does Ron Radosh (h/t to Bob and Jogo).

Almost the End of the Semester

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Next week is the last week of class, always a joy for me but less so for my students as it means they are approaching finals. Between now and then I have a little time to slow down (at work, not at home) and get some reading done. Too many books on the list, I don’t know where to start. After finals, three weeks until the baby is due…

I have not posted a list of links in a while so here are some things you should be reading elsewhere:

Airforce Amazons: Check out the art Kellie did during his Mallorca holiday

Bob from Brockley has the anti-Zios going off the deep end (re: Cafe Crema)

But I am a Liberal! On the paranoid right (and left)

Contentious Centrist discusses the assassination of Afghanistan women’s rights activist Sitara Achakzai

Elder of Ziyon: Gaza Fake Civilian Count Keeps Rising

Norm Geras: Terror as Accident

Martin in the Margins on the G20 protests

Modernity Blog: Canada and Attacks on Jews

MountainRunner: How to Win the GWOT–or Whatever it’s Called Today

Simply Jews: Johann Hari, Not a Moonbat

Small Wars Journal: Professors in the Trenches: Deployed Soldiers and Social Science Academics Part 5.

Stumbling and Mumbling: Irrelevant Rationality and Rational Stupidity

Sultan Knish: Leftists and Islamists, The Tiger in the Box

Michael Totten in Commentary on Durban 2

ZWord: BBC Admits to Bias

Rachel Shabi and “Israel’s humiliating discrimination against Arab Jews”

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[H/t to Point of No ReturnZWord and TNR]

This is a guest post by Point of No Return at ZWord:

The Daily Telegraph, Britain’s centre-right mass-circulation newspaper, today carries a review of Rachel Shabi’s new book – unpromisingly titled ‘Israel’s humiliating discrimination against Arab Jews’ – about the discrimination faced in Israel by Jews from Arab countries, Not the Enemy.

The reviewer calls the book ‘eye-opening’, ’sobering’ and ‘disturbing and important’. He seems to nod in horrified agreement at Shabi’s catalogue of humilations inflicted on Mizrahi Jews by Ashkenazim (European) Jews. They were made to feel ‘excluded’ and ‘inferior.’

What’s more, Ms Shabi must know what she is writing about: she is after all the descendant of Iraqi Jews herself.

But this is no ordinary reviewer. This is Gerald Jacobs, literary editor of the Jewish Chronicle.

He hardly attempts to challenge Shabi’s narrative that the Mizrahi migration to Israel was ‘imposed by Zionist pressure and even acts of sabotage’ (Ah yes, those Zionist bombs).

One would have expected of a man in Jacobs’ shoes to know that, as I have already pointed out, Israeli popular culture is today dominated by Mizrahi influences. The stories of discrimination belong in the 1950s. Intermarriage is rife, and Mizrahim have reached the highest echelons of power. Jacobs does not even sniff a whiff of tendentiousness in Shabi’s anti-Zionism and her downplaying of Arab antisemitism – curiously it largely seems to begin in 1948 – nor does he question her spurious assumption that Jews from the Middle East are really Arabs.

If this is what we can expect from an editor of the leading organ of British Jewry, Lord help us.

Shabi is part of small group of post-Zionist Mizrahi intellectuals who want to reclaim the non-European aspect their identity. I think this is a positive thing. But some of these post-Zionists have a tendency to borrow analytical frameworks from Marxists and others who view Ashkenazim and Zionists in general as imperialists and colonialists. In this narrative, the Mizrahim are indigenous people who have been victimized by Zionism, just like the Palestinians. In other words, Mizrahi Jews and Palestinians are people of color and Ashkenazis are whitey. Shabi and her political allies, in turn, are part pf the global resistance against the forces of global empire. It is a very tired and played out perspective which is why I won’t be spending time reading the book.

However, to claim there is no discrimination against Mizrahim in Israel is not accurate. Most of my Israeli friends are Mizrahi and they see elite positions in universities, the armed forces and politics continue to be dominated by Ashkenazim and that Mizrahi families are generally less well off than Ashkenazi families. They see institutional inequality in Israel that is not as pronounced as that experienced by African Americans in the United States but still similar. Yes, they see their faces reflected in popular culture and entertainment but to a much lesser extent in the sciences, engineering, law, medicine, finance and politics.

Take a look at the Katamonim neighborhood in Jerusalem or Yeroham and other development towns in the Negev. What is the ratio of Jews from Iraq, Iran, Morocco, Ethiopia, etc. compared to those from Europe? From my experience (I realize this is totally anecdotal) most Ashkenazim avoid those places.

This is not meant to diss Ashkenazi Jews–I love my peeps–but one of the perennial downfalls of the Jewish people is our lack of unity. Acknowledging that these tensions exist is only the first step. The next step is addressing the inequality, perhaps above all in education. To provide one example, the Kedma School is doing some great work to assist Mizrahi students in achieving their bagrut:

Before Kedma was founded, only 10% of high school-age children from the Katamonim area completed high school with a bagrut certificate, and many students dropped out of school altogether. Ten years later, in 2003-2004, the percent of 12th-grade Kedma students who completed a full bagrut certificate was higher than the national average: 57% finished with a full bagrut certificate, and 30% were missing only one or two exams to complete the bagrut (click here to view a comparative chart). The first senior class graduated in 2000, and today there are 150 students in grades 7 through 12 who study at Kedma.

I agree with Noga (The Contentious Centrist) when she writes:

Imagine, that Jews can actually be like any other people, have their prejudices and cultural biases and seek to feel that they are better than their neigbours! Wow!

Yet when I look at what is going down in the world today I see a real need for Jewish unity. Not only between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi but between secular and religious and across all the other boundaries that keep the Jewish people divided.

OK, rant over.

International Zionist Conspiracy Terminates Joel Kovel

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zionist-octo-bad1

At least that’s what the loony left would have you believe. The reality is much less sinister. Kovel’s contract at Bard ended and he was let go due to lack of funds and poor student evaluations.

Inside Higher Ed reports:

In his letter, Kovel argues that his position at Bard deteriorated as his opposition to Zionism grew and became more public. He cites his various public statements as well as the links of Bard’s president, Leon Botstein, to Israel. Botstein is musical director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and Kovel’s letter cites as problematic a visit by the orchestra to Bard’s campus in which the national anthems of the United States and Israel were played. (While Bard does have ties to Israel, it notably has ties to Palestinian higher ed that may be deeper than those of most institutions, just this week announcing a series of joint programs with Al Quds University.)

A Bard spokesman declined to comment on the situation, citing the confidentiality of personnel actions. But an evaluation of Kovel, which he released, suggests that his “long and productive career” at Bard has been problematic of late. The evaluation notes an increasing number of student complaints about Kovel’s lack of organization, which he has previously explained by saying that he likes his courses to focus on current material.

Kovel isn’t the only instructor who was fired in this round of cuts. Here is a Bard student commenting on what is happening in other departments:

I am a student at Bard College. I’m a dance major, and really, I don’t think he’s being treated any differently than MANY of the non-tenured professors at Bard right now.

The exact same weekend, the dance department let go two of its part time professors who had been working there for 20 years. That’s two professors out of a total of six in the department. And the two let go were some of the favored in the department overall. Same goes for the theater department, who let go one of their favored professors.

Now, I’m not saying that Joel Kovel’s nonrenewal has nothing to do with politics. I just think it’s important to know that many other professors with no political issues with President Botstein were fired at the same time.

In case you an unfamiliar with Kovel, he is a psychiatrist, professor of Social Studies and an author of numerous books including White Racism, A Psychohistory (1970), Red Hunting in the Promised Land (1994) and most recently, Overcoming Zionism (2007), which is published by far-left Pluto Press.

After the University of Michigan Press halted distribution of Overcoming Zionism, the standard anti-Zionist authors and organizations expressed their outrage. I blogged about the University of Michigan Press’ decision to end their partnership with Pluto Press here. Kovel and Pluto Press editor David Castle founded the Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism (CODZ) to “defend the principle of free speech on debate over Israel.” Israel is the focus of undergraduate and graduate courses, seminars by organizations on the left and right and demonstrations (pro and con) on college campuses across the United States. Organizations like CODZ do not support free speech, they want to control the debate.

Ron Radosh has an excellent post regarding Kovel. Here is a bit:

[W]hen Bard College announced that it was firing Professor Joel Kovel,  his followers and supporters immediately tried to mount a campaign claiming that Kovel had been dismissed from his position because of his open and impassioned attack on Israel and his argument that Israel should be replaced by a unitary secular state made up of both former Israelis and Palestinians. Kovel himself wrote a statement about his termination in which he writes that, “If the world stands outraged at Israeli aggression in Gaza, it should also be outraged at institutions in the United States that grant Israel impunity.”

Kovel goes on to actually accuse Bard of firing him because he believes that it is the role of an educator to criticize the injustices in the world, and that Bard’s failure to not oppose Israel’s occupation and aggression makes it an accomplice in the perpetuation of Israel’s “state violence.” Since he implies that Bard defends both Zionism and Israel ( he points out that its President Leon Botstein is musical director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and that when it played at Bard the group performed both the Israeli and American national anthems) he argues that the worse Israel’s behavior, “the more strenuous must be the suppression of criticism.” His major point: Bard College “has suppressed critical engagement with Israel and Zionism, and therefore has enabled abuses such as have occurred and are occurring in Gaza.”

As for Kovel’s record at Bard, I have learned from sources that among other things, he used only his own books in the courses he taught. And as for his scholarly record, his publications include books like Red Hunting in the Promised Land:Anticommunism and the Making of America, which was published by Basic Books in 1994.  I have read that book by Kovel, and on the basis of his analysis and argument, I would have hesitated in appointing anyone who wrote such drivel to teach in the humanities, when his own field is that of psychology, and who had previously been a Professor of Psychiatry at Albert Einstein College. In this volume, he uses his psychological credentials to essentially argue that those who oppose communism in the United States- the anti-Communists- were essentially mentally ill.

You can find Kovel’s statement at numerous lefty blogs including this one. The vast majority seem to agree that Bard is an outpost of the Zionist colonial project and many think it is a conservative school. This shows how far out these people are. Bard has closer relations with Palestinian institutions of higher education than most colleges in the U.S. and a conservative school would not have a position in the department of social studies, let alone a chair in the department, named after communist spy Alger Hiss.

More at Harry’s Place and Solomonia.

Robert Reich on Infrastructure Jobs: Skilled Workers and White Males Need Not Apply

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[I know this post is a bit dated. It has been hiding in my "drafts" folder for close to a month.]

Robert Reich is a very intelligent man. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration and is a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley. Discussing President Obama’s Stimulus Plan, Reich notes it will repair and upgrade “the nation’s roads, bridges, ports, levees, water and sewage system, public-transit systems, electricity grid, and schools.” OK. Sounds good.

However, given the present labor market:

[T]he stimulus will just increase the wages of the professionals who already have the right skills rather than generate many new jobs in these fields. And if construction jobs go mainly to white males who already dominate the construction trades, many people who need jobs the most — women, minorities, and the poor and long-term unemployed — will be shut out.

His Solutions?

Many low-income and low-skilled workers — women as well as men — could be put directly to work providing homes and businesses with more efficient and renewable heating, lighting, cooling, and refrigeration systems; installing solar panels and efficient photovoltaic systems; rehabilitating and renovating old properties, and improving recycling systems.

and

I’d suggest that all contracts entered into with stimulus funds require contractors to provide at least 20 percent of jobs to the long-term unemployed and to people with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

The first would be a boondoggle and the second suggestion is unworkable.

I can visualize unskilled workers doing some of the labor for these projects but how can Reich expect to exclude the skilled from more complicated tasks? Honestly, I have no idea of what the man was thinking. Infrastructure is not simply filling in potholes, it is building dams and bridges, projects that require a great deal of expertise and skill. Also notice that Reich does not say a certain percentage of federal money should go to independent contractors and other small businesses, he mandates that twenty percent of the workers must be of a specific demographic.

Many cities and states have programs that assist women and minorities in starting their own companies. These programs deserve to be supported and expanded. However, the federal government should not mandate the race and ethnicity of employees, whether in the private or public sector.

I used to find conservatives bawling about “left-wing social engineering” to be such a joke. But when liberals like Reich promote these sorts of policies, the conservatives may be on to something. Read all of Reich’s suggestions here.

nycempirestate

[Construction workers, Empire State Building, NYC. Photo by Lewis W. Hine. CORRECTION: as a reader "Ryan" informs me in the comments below, the proper attribution is Charles C. Ebbets.]