Archive for June 8th, 2011

by appalachianfreedom

There was some great news from the University of Montana’s Provost Website recently:

IMPORTANT NOTICE: At this time, the funds available for Student Enrichment Opportunities have been exhausted. This notice will be removed as soon as additional funding sources are identified. It is unlikely that any more proposals will be funded in fiscal year 2011.

This is great news because there is finally a disclaimer that tells prospective grant applicants that the Provost is broke, even though it is more than a year overdue, its nice to see some consideration there. I also like to think that I played a small part in this after my discussion with the Provost office earlier this Spring. The discussion centered around the disdain from me and my graduate ilk toward the office after we and our department faculty spent three weeks preparing and rewriting a grant proposal. We then waited a month and a half after submission until we contacted the office (as an ironic twist, the submission deadlines on the office’s website were also wrong). It took them a few minutes to retrieve our request from file, followed by an additional minute to explain that the office had been out of funds since before the previous semester. I took a few days to confirm this with other departments that I knew had submitted grants and I suggested another meeting with the Provost office to try to get them to put a notice on their website that they were broke. They did not grant us the pleasure of such a congress.

Please understand that I am not disgruntled because our grant did not get funded. I have written many unsuccessful grants in my tenure as a student. When writing a grant you have to make yourself believe that you have the largest non-zero probability of getting funded. I can honestly say, however, that this was the first grant that I have been a part of where the probability of funding was in fact, zero. I certainly wish I had not wasted three weeks writing and revising it, that is for sure.

So the Provost is out of money, that is certainly par for the collegiate course in our current economic environment. We researchers may just have to go a bit lean for a while, it is understandable. As long as our campus community at-large can also make some sacrifices, it may even bring us a higher sense of fraternity as we all weather the great recession together–Students, Faculty, Staff, and Administration alike. Wouldn’t that be something?

Instead, errors of excess continue. Had you walked into the Davidson Honors College lounge on a Friday evening when school was in session, you would have seen this:

The Friday night faculty and staff party. I am not going to tell you how much a cheese buffet and open bar form the University of Montana Catering Services costs for two reasons. Number one, you probably would not believe me, and number two, the cheese you see on the silver platter is in principle, wrong. It is wrong because these pictures were taken during the threat of a 34 million dollar cut in funding from the State Legislature. Three days prior to this party I stood in the cold rain with my fellow students to rally in hopes that the legislators would reconsider. One week prior to this party the University sent a mass email preparing students for “double-digit tuition increases” and a “dramatic decrease in student services.”

The cheese party went ahead as scheduled. Now we know that the budget scare is over. The University will actually receive about a 2.4 percent increase over the next two years. The question now becomes; will that money be used for more cheese, or perhaps to fund students by creating an environment that they deserve as scholars (paying scholars, that is). Perhaps it could be used to replace the carpet in the Mansfield library currently being held together by duct tape?


Really the only thing that gets people excited about high oil prices is the prospect that suddenly American manufacturing might once again become competitive.

The reason this is wrong is the expansion of the Panama Canal. A great deal of our trade in America comes from Asia which means great big ships with a hell of a lot of shipping containers. Before the expansion much of this shipping container traffic was dropped off on the west coast, transferred to an awful lot of 18 wheelers or trains and shipped east. But now, According to the latest edition of the Planning Magazine with the “new and improved” Panama Canal the size of ships that can be accommodated just tripled and conversely lowered the cost of shipping a single container to the Midwest and East Coast where most of the cheap shit from China ends up.

A journey from Hong Kong through the port of LA and on to the East Coast costs $3,500/container. With the new ships the Panama Canal will now allow up to $1,000/container to be knocked off the cost of shipping.

I’m sure the shareholders of Walmart are very happy about this news, after all, none of us have enough plastic crap in our lives.

by appalachianfreedom

I am listening to my first Lady Gaga album today, a gift from a friend. I decided to Google Ms. Gaga to learn a bit more about her when I stumbled upon an interview in which she admitted to leaving the love of her life for her career and indicated that she may never marry. This really struck me personally, as I pretty much made the same decision in order to continue my education and travel to new places. In the wake of the most recent publicly condemned sexual tryst perpetrated by a male politician (Weiner), I thought I could squeeze in a rant regarding America’s desire to cling to its imagined narrative of the family unit.

Let’s begin with the news from the 2010 census that married households are no longer in the majority. Only 48% of households reporting contained a married couple. By contrast, in 1950 that figure was 78%. Demographics researchers point to many factors influencing this shift including a higher proportion of college educated people, employment instability, and income inequality. On a side note, I wonder how marriage equality for the gay and lesbian community would affect these numbers?

We may not soon know because both the notions of marriage and family are polluted with imagined traditions and mores (like most of America’s narrative). These falsehoods are perpetuated through the Christian-right. A simple week spent reading about the history of marriage in America, however, would clear up any and all questions regarding the “tradition” of marriage. I would suggest Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation by Nancy Cott, the Stanley Woodward professor of history and American studies at Yale. In her book, Cott reveals that attitudes and norms about sexuality in our country were far different than today, and highly variable, especially in the early American west.

Marriage following the American Revolution was a hodgepodge mix of civil “contracts” which established gender roles through a series duties and legal rewards. These contracts were not only between the two consenting parties but also with their respective communities (hence the witness needed to be married, the questioning of the audience as to whether the two should be married, and the church bells that would ring signifying that the community was to enter a contract). These contracts were beneficial to men in that they owned all of their wives current and future earnings. The contracts were beneficial to women because their husbands were obliged to protect and provide for them and their children.

This is not the only perk, as you may be aware, as married men and women enjoy many privileges not afforded to single people. While most of us may be familiar with the tax incentives, a 1996 General Accounting Office report found over a thousand instances where being married granted a benefit, right, or special status. There is a definite economic benefit to being married and that is the true origin of the creation of marriage. During the American Revolution, the Christian monogamists were in the minority globally, which was discovered and well documented during British colonialism. It was fortunate for them at the time that the early American revolutionaries envisioned the union of marriage mirroring the union of the colonies. Marriage was the “sublime and refined… principle of union.” The belief was that society would benefit from monogamy.

The portion of society that benefitted the most was the upper-class. Arranged marriages were ways to unite family business and capital to ensure that they stayed tied to certain bloodlines. Not a surprise, everything that required property or legal rights went to husband. The wife was a feme covert – meaning that she had no legal recourse in contracts, assets, or suits without the consent of her husband. Wives were also not allowed to participate in politics of their own choosing, instead they were confined to their husband’s political affiliation. In a simplification of the institution, husbands owned their wives and all of their assets legally through marriage at this time.

Gender was not the only realm in which marriage was used to discriminate. To perpetuate the white majority ruling class, interracial marriages were not permitted. Not just between white and black, but between white and anything non-white. The list included Asians, Indians, and non-anglo Europeans. To give an idea of how prevalent this marriage discrimination was, some states had laws that prohibited interracial marriage until 1967 (Loving v. Virginia).

My point is that when Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-Minnesota, 6th district) continues to publicly denounce marriage equality for the gay and lesbian community as she did at the Faith and Freedom Conference in D.C. this week, she is not acknowledging the evolution of marriage in America that allowed her to do so. Perhaps marriage was originally intended for “one man and one woman,” but if we are being strictly traditional in marriage, Rep. Bachmann would have to speak her views through her husband, assuming that he shares those same views of course. She seems to be alright with the evolution of marriage that allowed her more equality with her husband, but is against any further evolution in which she has no benefit.

On a personal note, I think that the idea of marriage is rapidly deteriorating in our country. We are so painfully reminded each day that lifelong monogamy might not be ideal for everyone. I propose that instead of seeking equality in marriage for same-sex marriages, let’s instead abolish the economic perks that marriage affords people. I realize that this may be a bit circular, but investigating purchasing my first home recently, I realized that it makes about as much economic sense to have Jim Cramer as your broker as it would to be single and buy a home. As with everything else; it seems that the facts, both historical and statistical, are meaningless to some people. We will never get anywhere until we change the values that people base their decisions upon. Yes, I am talking to you Rep. Bachman. I want you to consider the true historical framework of marriage, not just its distorted religious narrative.

Marriage was used to discriminate against sex, then race, and now sexual preference. I know that all we need is time for a mass paradigm shift to finally be accepting of same-sex relationships, but maybe we can speed to the next evolution of American marriage faster by combining the fight for equality while highlighting the ever-increasing failure it is as an institution. Lets dis-incentivize marriage!

Primary Source:

Cott, N. (2000). Public vows: A history of marriage and the nation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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