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    Trayvon Martin and "Making It About Race"

    Whenever an unarmed black person gets shot to death, the way Trayvon Martin was, you'll hear some people defend the shooter by claiming that the shooting wasn't racist, and how dare you judge what's in the shooter's heart? The shooter would have killed any unarmed person for walking down the street in a sweatshirt, or walking down the street with a wallet, or performing whatever "suspicious" everyday activity prompted the homicide. The defense is that the killer is not a racist, but a universal menace to society. This is supposed to be reassuring somehow. It's a thoroughly illogical defense. It even suggests that no matter what the person making the argument says, and no matter what they tell themselves, they know in their hearts that racism was the motive for the violence. In fact, their own sense of safety is based on their rock-bottom belief that the killing was racist.

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    Why College Costs So Much, Part 2

    In my previous post about college prices, I focused on the massive state spending cuts that have driven up tuition at public school universities and also made it easier to raise private tuition, because private universities no longer face serious price competition from the public sector.

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    Why College Costs So Much, Part 1

    Mitt Romney recently told an aspiring college student that if he had trouble affording college, he should just shop around for the best price, which proves that Romney has no idea how college prices work:

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    Barack Obama, Warlord of the 21st Century

    You know who I really, really wouldn't run against on a national-security platform? A Nobel Peace Prize winner who killed Osama bin Laden.

    But that's just me. Last week Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, in an extended and generally thoughtful interview with President Obama, asked the following question:
     

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    Teaching by the Numbers

    Last week, New York City released Teacher Data Reports for every teacher in its system. This week, I got my own teaching numbers: last semester's teaching evaluation scores. Getting my numbers was a good thing for me personally; they were very high, and my bosses tend to reward that.

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    Prime Time Persecution

    Anyone on television talking about how they're being persecuted for their religion is not being persecuted. How do I know this?

    Because they are on television.

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    Birth Control Makes Catholicism Work

    The brilliant Ramona and Destor have been especially brilliant this week on the Catholic bishops' outrage at having to pay for full employee health insurance. Destor is so smart about the church and state principles involved, and Ramona so good on the women's-health issues, that I have nothing left to add but my own personal experience. I am a former employee of the Catholic Church.

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    The GOP's Drunk-Dad Primary

    There's been a lot of punditty chatter about what the Romney vs. Gingrich struggles means: insiders vs. outsiders, establishment vs. Tea Party, elite vs. non-elite, whatever. But listening to that clip of Gingrich attacking John King, listening the open, undiluted pleasure that Gingrich takes in his own rage, made it clear to me what this is really about. The Republican primary voters are electing their political family a new Drunk Dad. And they want to be sure they get the right kind.

     

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    Gingrich and "Protecting Barack Obama"

    So, Newt Gingrich is getting all kinds of media love after blasting the media in Thursday's debate, and saying that he's "tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans," for example by reporting on things that Republicans running for President have actually said and done. I mean, the "elite media" hasn't fact-checked anything Barack Obama has said in a Presidential debate since before he was elected!

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    Why Tenure Exists, Part 1

    Zandar, at Balloon Juice, points out that Missouri's new Creationism-in-the-schools bill, HB 1227, applies not only to K-12 schools but to the state's public colleges and universities as well. According to the bill,

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    "Meh" Is for Mitt

    So, Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary last night with 39% of the vote. The media is counting it as a big win, which is fair enough. 39% is a perfectly good win in New Hampshire, and very much in line with what many past winners have received. But there are two things that should worry the Mittster.

    1) Voter turnout was basically flat from 2008, even though there wasn't a contested Democratic primary this time.

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    No Love in Iowa, No Hope in Iowa

    The obvious stories from the Iowa caucuses are that 1) Mitt Romney ended up tied with the long-long-long-shot Rick Santorum, with Ron Paul hot on their heels and 2) Romney still has exactly the same crappy vote totals he had four years ago. But there's an even more important story: the Republican turnout was pretty much exactly what it was four years ago, when the Republican electorate was depressed and demoralized.

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    Your New Year Public Domain Report: 2012

    Happy New Year, all. My spouse and I spent part of yesterday evening at our local revival house, watching a classic New Year's Eve double-feature of The Thin Man and After the Thin Man. Then we adjourned to a favorite bar for midnight; after all, that's what Nick and Nora would do.

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    The Romney Paradox (and the Crybaby Bishops)

    Mitt Romney used to be Governor of Massachusetts, a commonwealth which has at various times been A) the closest thing to a theocracy America has ever had and B) the poster child for tolerant secular liberalism. Many vocal religious conservatives now insist that the tolerant secular liberalism is an infringement on their religious liberty, and that they can only fully exercise their religion when the state actively endorses and promotes their religious values for them.

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    The Other Shoe Dropping

    Last night, thanks to Annie Laurie from Balloon Juice, I finally understood what the Republicans are about to do to themselves.

    I've been thinking of primary voters choosing whether to run Mitt Romney or to run an undisciplined crazy person.

    Of course, they will end up running Mitt Romney and an undisciplined crazy person. Of course they will. They're just working out which one.

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    Nostalgia for Hypocrisy (and the War on Christmas)

    It's Christmas time, which means "War on Christmas" time, which means a whole bunch of bizarre complaints about persecution by members of an overwhelmingly privileged religious majority group. This bad behavior is often understood as part of the most intense and fire-breathing American Christianists' fire-breathing intensity.

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    Free Advice for Hate-Mongers (About those Gay Troops)

    Hey there, conservatives. I know a bunch of you have had a good ride bashing on gays in the military for most of the last twenty years. (If you're a conservative who hasn't, good for you. You can ignore the following advice, with my hearty compliments.) And I know those of you who've been doing the public hating also hate to give up a good thing. Now that gays are openly serving in the military, I understand that it feels like time to double down. The issue's always been a winner for you before. Why wouldn't it be a winner now?

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    Kevin Hogan Is a Great Teacher; Mike Beaudet's a Pornographer

    Twenty years ago I got my first teaching job, as one of two young English teachers hired by a little high school in greater Boston. The other new teacher was a guy named Kevin Hogan. Kevin was already a much better teacher than I was, assured while I was struggling, deft where I was stumbling, natural in the classroom in a way I wouldn't be until years later. The kids loved him. I liked and admired him.

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    Let's Not Have a Revolution

    Dear Authorities:

    I would like very much not to have a revolution. I know that you don't want one either. I prefer my change peaceful and democratic. You, I suspect, prefer any changes to be strictly top-down, decided upon by the existing power structure. But neither of us want lawless, spasmodic change. So please take my advice: leave the protestors the hell alone.

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    The Cain Scrutiny

    Hello, GOP primary voters. I know you're feeling upset about the new and graphic charges against Herman Cain. And I know that many of you blame white liberals, like myself, for allegedly drumming up these allegations to keep Cain from winning your nomination. But let me say on behalf of my fellow honky pinkos that this one really, really wasn't us. Because, you see, we would love for Herman Cain to win your nomination. Oh please, please, please vote for him anyway. There's no one we'd rather see run against Barack Obama in the fall. We're willing to beg here.

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