Santorum’s Education Commissars and other short notes

Lots of news shows have replayed the Rick Santorum clip where he says that contraception is “not OK” and endorses various other medieval notions about sex.

If you watch the whole interview, though, sex isn’t the half of what’s alarming. Check out 26:30, where he says:

Just like we have certifying organizations that accredit a college, we’ll have certifying organizations that will accredit conservative professors. If you are to be eligible for federal funds, you’ll have to provide an equal number of conservative professors as liberal professors, so that we have some balance when our children come to school, and they’re not in the process of being indoctrinated by the academy, which is exactly what they are right now.

Think about that: He wants the federal government to enforce a system in which professors at private or state universities are hired for their political views. “Certifying organizations”, i.e. political commissars, would decide who is conservative enough to provide appropriate “balance” to the professors that the commissars decide are liberal.

Whatever you think about academic bias in the current system — I think business schools, economics departments, and fundamentalist institutions like Liberty University are biased to the Right — it doesn’t have federal commissars. That would be new.

Picture Santorum’s system in operation. Would an accredited conservative professor be afraid to teach or publish anything that might jeopardize his rating? And what is liberal or conservative? Is it “liberal” for a climate scientist to look at the data and conclude that global warming is happening? What about evolution? Keynesian economics? A history of religion class that treats Christianity the same as Islam or Animism? Anthropology courses that see nothing special in our culture’s sexual mores?

The scariest thing is that Santorum had just said:

We’re going to repeal all sorts of regulations … that inject the federal government into the area of education.

He doesn’t see the contradiction.

Fundamentally, what’s dangerous about Santorum — and this shows up across a range of issues — is his self-centeredness. He can’t picture his own view as one among many, or think in terms of principles that apply equally to himself and to those he disagrees with.


I know Chris Hayes’ weekend show Up is supposed to be amazing, but was anybody else freaked out to discover that the Ferengi Grand Nagus is a socialist?


A recent decision by the Montana Supreme Court may bring the unlimited-corporate-campaign-contribution principle back to the Supreme Court. Liberals probably don’t have the votes to overturn the Citizens United decision, but they should be able to make Justice Kennedy — the Court’s swing vote and the majority opinion’s author — squirm. Justice Ginsberg writes:

Montana’s experience, and experience elsewhere since this Court’s decision in Citizens United, … make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.’


Friday’s NYT highlighted this statistic: More than half of women under 30 who give birth are unmarried. Overall, 41% of children are born to unmarried mothers. Both numbers have been rising steadily for a long time.

The article suggests a number of explanations: As well-paid working-class jobs vanish, fewer men can play the traditional bread-winner role. As women’s economic opportunities increase, they need a man less. Women whose parents divorced no longer trust men or marriage. Government safety-net programs relieve men of the responsibility to take care of their children. For everyone involved — mother, father, and child — the stigma of illegitimacy has diminished.

But it seems to me that we have a blind spot about one of the most important reasons, one the article doesn’t mention: Increasingly, we live in an economy of short-term arrangements. A job is not a career. Factories move. Companies re-organize. Employers commit to nothing beyond (if you’re lucky) a few weeks of severance.

This is especially true for people in their 20s. Even with a college degree, and even if you are making decent money right now, you string together a series of short-term jobs and hope for the best. This short-term thinking is bound to show up in non-economic life as well.

Put yourself in the shoes of an unmarried young woman who might become pregnant and might already be living with the father. In past generations, marrying the man would increase her child’s economic security. But today, doesn’t it just add another person’s uncertainties to the picture?



Big week in same-sex marriage: Washington passed it into law and Maryland is on the verge. The New Jersey legislature passed it, but Gov. Christie vetoed.

The chairman of Garden State Equality explained: “[Christie] won’t veto the bill because he’s anti-gay. He’ll veto the bill because the 2016 South Carolina presidential primary electorate is anti-gay.”

On the West Coast and in the Northeast, I think we’ve reached a tipping point. The question is no longer why you allow same-sex marriage, it’s why you don’t.


The new blog Confessions of a Thinking Woman gets off to a good start by reposting the author’s viral Facebook piece: Grievances against the GOP from a (former?) Republican Woman.


Columbia Journalism Review spells out how conservative media disciplines conservative politicians, pushing them far to the right of the electorate. As David Frum put it: “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox.”


You may have heard the right-wing talking point that the Occupy movement is somehow committing or condoning rapes. This comes from an Andrew Breitbart list of 17 (actually 14 when you remove duplicates and one story from overseas) incidents in which Occupy and some form of sexual assault are mentioned in the same news story.

Keith Olbermann goes through the list one by one, demonstrating that in none of the incidents is an Occupy demonstrator a suspect in the crime. When Occupy protesters are involved at all, they are the victims of the assault.


The rumor that Israel was about to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities has been going around since the Bush administration. Foreign Policy’s Robert Haddick claims it’s serious this time.


How much entitlement spending supports able-bodied working-age people without jobs? Less than a tenth.


RIP, John Fairfax: Gambler, pirate, jaguar hunter, rogue explorer. At 13 he ran away from home to live in the jungle like Tarzan. As an adult, he crossed the Atlantic and Pacific in a rowboat just to prove it could be done. I guess I don’t envy the inner process that drives a guy to live like that, but I’ll bet my obituary won’t be nearly so interesting.


This speaks for itself:

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  • By The Long View « The Weekly Sift on February 20, 2012 at 10:48 am

    […] Santorum’s Education Commissars and other short notes. Rick Santorum expresses his small-government philosophy by calling for the feds to impose political “balance” on college faculties. The Grand Nagus is a socialist. Citizens United is coming back to haunt the Supreme Court. Why aren’t young couples marrying? The government subsidizes Big Macs over salads. Same-sex marriage hits a tipping point. And hats off to John Fairfax, whose obituary is much more interesting than mine will ever be. […]

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