A New Era of Student Activism?

As a baby boomer liberal I have often despaired over the fact that for the past 40 years the USA has become much more conservative.

This march to the right has coincided with a long period of “student apathy.” Since the Vietnam war ended in 1973, most college students have focused on: (A) having a good time; and (B) preparing for their careers.   Except for a tiny handful at the most liberal campuses, “student political activists” almost disappeared.

Nash 2.5

Nash 2.5

I recently retired as a professor at one of the smaller campuses in the University of Maine System. For the last 23 years I have watched in disgust as the Maine state legislature gradually shifted the cost of education to students and their families by always “increasing” the university’s funding at less than the rate of inflation. The state paid 80% of the cost of college in the 1970s; it now pays less than 40%. Most full-time U Maine students must work while in school, many as much as 40 hours a week, to help pay the cost of their education. For their money, students get fewer choices. On my campus alone, I have seen a dozen majors eliminated over the years, mostly in the liberal arts, which were deemed “less critical” by administrators and trustees.

For decades, students have accepted these conditions (higher costs, more work off campus, and fewer liberal arts options) with silence.

But no more.

Recently, there has been what can only be called a “student uprising” at the second largest campus in the University of Maine System, the University of Southern Maine (USM), located in Portland. I have provided a link below to just one of the stories covering this, but there have been DAILY similar news articles and opinion pieces in both of Maine’s major newspapers, for weeks. Just do a Google News search using “University of Southern Maine,” and you’ll see what I mean.

20140412_596133_xml-20140410_protest004Portland Press Herald: USM deserves steadfast leadership

What happened at USM was that the campus president decided to cut a dozen faculty positions and eliminate several majors, mostly in the liberal arts. Students immediately occupied the administration building, and stayed there for weeks. They did not interfere with workers, but sat along the walls in the hallways, so the campus police left them alone. (Maine has a small population and everyone knows everyone else, or at least knows someone who knows you, so cops here would not dream of “cracking the skulls” of students who were peacefully demonstrating.)

And the old model of “radical student groups” of the 60s was not driving this.  This demonstration, like the “Occupy” movement, or the various “Arab Spring” movements, did not have any centralized organizational structure; instead social media like Facebook and Twitter were used to spontaneously create and sustain a movement that was a true “network,” with no center and no formal leaders.

The result? An abrupt reversal by an embarrassed administration. All the faculty jobs were saved, and most of the majors restored.

This startling result surprised most of U Maine’s faculty and staff, and made me aware of what seems to be an increase in student activism, nationally. For example…

1554412_512297012208685_2052219118173467018_nDaily Kos: Students Sit-In, Rally to Get Washington University to Cut Ties With Peabody Coal

If anyone can correct the messes that conservatives have made (and are still making) of our democracy, our economy, and the natural environment, college students seem to be the logical vanguard. They are in the process of getting better-educated, as young people they tend to be more idealistic, and they will have to deal with the long-term consequences of what’s going on.

So I ask Trailmixers…

  • Do you see any evidence of increased college student activism in your locale?
  • If so, what can the rest of us non-students do to help them?
  • Does anyone know how to use Facebook and Twitter? (I sure don’t.)

– Nash 2.5 is a Trail Mix Contributor

Jeb Doubles Down on Immigration

How about that? Jeb Bush not only doesn’t back away from his call for immigration reform but goes on to provoke the anti-reform crowd by showing just what he means in saying immigrants deserve compassion.

Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love, it’s an act of commitment to your family.” – Jeb Bush

That’s a long way from Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” plan for those here illegally, whatever that meant. And for his trouble Romney won just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, the lowest portion for a Republican in 16 years.

GOP right-wingers are having none of this love and compassion silliness.

“Pandering,” said Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas chided Bush for opposing enforcement of the “rule of law.” Conservative pundit Michelle Malkin went for the heavy artillery, creating a new Twitter hashtag: #CancelJebBush. Just the mention of his name provoked boos from the crowd at a gathering of New Hampshire conservatives.

Bush responded by sticking to his guns: “The simple fact is, there is no conflict between enforcing our laws, believing in the rule of law and having some sensitivity to the immigrant experience, which is part of who we are as a country.”

It is tough to imagine how such reasonable words can get Bush past the alien haters in the early Republican primaries. Give him some credit for trying.

Warren’s Insidery Tell-All

Such an ingrate, this Elizabeth Warren. She’s plucked out of academic obscurity for a life in Washington policy making and what did she do? She dared to what she thought was right, what she thought she was brought here to do.

That’s just not done, as the now Sen. Warren was told, according to her new book, A Fighting Chance.

A fierce consumer advocate supposedly brought in for that reputation, Warren soon learned that she was not supposed to aggravate the powerful – not an easy thing to avoid doing, for a real consumer advocate who isn’t there to assure consumers something is being done — that isn’t.

Larry Summers, then National Economic Council boss, laid down the rules for Warren.

He teed it up this way: I had a choice,” Warren writes. “I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People — powerful people — listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don’t criticize other insiders.”

There’s not much difference in how those rules apply to the Washington news media. Want scoops? Be good to the insiders. Piss off the insiders and you’re lucky to even get a press credential. Access journalism is all about serving insiders and getting dirt on their opponents (unless, of course, they are insiders you’re also protecting) or, waiting for the green light to attack one of their own who fell out of the club.

Warren seems most disappointed that Obama himself wasn’t on board for taking on the Wall Street bad guys she wanted to slice into chunks and feed to starving pigs.

After coming up with the idea for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, audaciously intended to keep banks from bilking their own customers, Warren was the presumed choice to head it. Obama had told her so.

But then the President told Warren she made Senate Republicans and Wall Street “very nervous,” urging her instead to take on advisory role. As it turned out, a White House aide said that meant merely to serve as a “cheerleader.”

If an agency charged with stopping banks that wreck lives for profit isn’t supposed to make anyone “nervous,” then it sounds like that agency should just close up shop and hand over their printers and paper weights to bureaucrats who cheerfully don’t do what we think they’re supposed to do. That way we get back to how Washington works, and the insiders can rest easy.

Obama summed it up for her, Warren writes. And he did it with words I find telling about his Goldilocks presidency, always trying to find just the right temperature and stay one step ahead of the bears.

“You’re jamming me, Elizabeth,” Obama told her, and she writes that he “urged me not to overplay my hand.”

“Trust me,” Obama said.

Easter Sunday…What’s your favorite Biblical Movie?

It’s Easter and there are Christian movies running all day on TCM and other channels.

Nash 2.5

Nash 2.5

What’s your favorite biblical movie?

  • “Ben Hur”?
  • “Quo Vadis”?
  • “The Robe”?
  • “Barabus”?
  • “Spartacus”? (OK, the book was written by a commie and there are no obvious Christian themes, but Spartacus does get crucified at the end.)

What’s your favorite?

– Nash 2.5 is a Trail Mix Contributor



Find Your Dinosaur

With the Smithsonian closing its famed dinosaur exhibit this month what’s a budding paleontologist to do?

Joe Bruns

Joe Bruns

Our own Joe Bruns, a frequent Trail Mix contributor, comes to the rescue in The Washington Post, where he offers a thorough guide to alternatives for dinosaur fans until the renovated Smithsonian exhibit reopens in 2019. With such a long wait, Bruns features ideas from Baltimore’s forty-foot T. rex to a prehistoric snake fossil in Delaware and in Philadelphia a green-screen display that allows children to walk among the dinosaurs.
Many children develop an interest in dinosaurs between the ages of 5 and 7. They’re becoming aware of, and interested in, the natural world around them, and the idea of big, lumbering beasts roaming the world and creating havoc — well, what’s not to like? Even better, they really existed, unlike the monsters from the fairy tales.” — Joe Bruns, Washington Post (4/18)

dino_and_flintstones__90538Congrats to our pal Joe!
Read his full Washington Post article here
Joe’s Trail Mix writings

Any dinosaurs in your community (including humans)? Tell us about it in Comments.

Spring has Sprung

As I was pumping water out of my basement this week, I was thinking, “Spring is FINALLY here.”   We had a lot of snow this year in northern Maine, and the “Spring Melt” was delayed by unusually cold weather.

Nash 2.5

Nash 2.5

The date of the beginning of Spring: In the USA, we define it as the Spring Equinox (about March 20th, but the ancient Celts in Europe thought that spring began half-way between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice (about June 21st). So, according to Celtic sensibility, Spring doesn’t start until about May 10). Other cultures use different dates for the beginning of Spring.

The meaning of the word “Spring.”  This refers to the idea that “new life springs forth.” Trees bud, flowers bloom, germination occurs, seeds are spread, and most species of animals give birth. Why now? Because the young organisms need to time to grow to be as large and strong as possible to survive winter.

Fertility rites and/or human sacrifice.   Many cultures around the world, especially in temperate zones where the differences in the seasons are more pronounced, have festivals to honor the arrival of spring. Some of these cultures focus their celebrations on either symbolic or actual …. SEX. In ancient European rural peasant cultures, spring was one of those rare times when unmarried young people got a “free pass” to fool around, for a day or two.   For centuries, this has provided poets, novelists, playwrights, composers, and film makers with ample material guaranteed to improve their sales. For audiences who wanted a bit of violence mixed in with their sex, some cultures (like the Celts) also practiced the sacrifice of animals or humans. Yes, spring has been a thematic goldmine for artists.

Here are a couple of my favorite “Spring” videos…

The Courtship of the Centaurs scene From Disney’s ”Fantasia.” This is as sexy as Disney gets.

The trailer for the 1973 version of “The Wicker Man,” a film about a remote island off the coast of Britain where the local inhabitants have renounced Christianity and have reverted to the ancient Celtic religion. Plot: a policeman arrives to investigate the disappearance of a young girl and becomes convinced that she is being held in captivity prior to becoming the victim of a human sacrifice.


Finally, I ask my fellow Trailmixers, what does Spring mean to you?

– Nash 2.5 is a Trail Mix Contributor

Heavenly Bloomberg

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he’s got a free pass to heaven thanks to his work protecting city dwellers from themselves.

I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.” – Bloomberg (New York Times)

Curbing obesity, smoking, salt and sugar did the trick, he thinks. But just in case he needs a few more credentials Bloomberg is putting up $50 million to build a grassroots organization for stronger gun laws, such as expanding background checks for gun buyers at state and national levels.

Even the persistent Bloomberg has given up on getting Congress to pass an assault weapons ban. They probably have those in heaven too, or maybe the NRA can’t get in.

First video by Bloomberg’s new group, Every Town for Gun Safety.

Free Guns for Voters
On the other side of the issue we have politicians giving away guns in their campaigns. Mother Jones lists several — a few examples:

  • Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), 2014: The US Senate candidate gave away a Colt AR-15 and a Colt Marine Corps 1911 Rail Pistol to two members of his email list.
  • South Carolina state Sen. Lee Bright, 2014: Bright, who is challenging Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), is handing out an AR-15 from Palmetto State armory to a member of his email list.
  • Tennessee state Rep. Joe Carr, 2014: Sen. Lamar Alexander’s tea party challenger enticed voters to sign up for his email list by gifting a Beretta 92A1.
  • Steve Wagner, 2014: The Hendricks County, Indiana, sheriff candidate is raffling off four shotguns.
  • Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), 2014: The former presidential candidate and current Colorado gubernatorial contender is teaming up with Ted Nugent—who once told his rivals to “suck on my machine gun”—to hand out an AR-15 to one supporter (no donations necessary).