Economics Professor Strips Naked to Gain the Attention of Her Male Peers!


Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a an article on Victoria Bateman, an economics historian at the University of Cambridge, who strips naked at various professional events to gain the attention of her male peers.  An inch shy of five feet, with a gentle  smile, she favors prim dresses and business jackets when she wears clothes.  As reported.

“Sometimes, to highlight economists’ obliviousness to women, she doesn’t, as at a March 2018 meeting of the Royal Economic Society. There she strode in to a gala reception “wearing,” as she puts it, “nothing but shoes, gloves, a necklace — and, of course, a smile.” She was “removed” after about 20 minutes, during drinks but before dinner. But on that night, among those economists, at least one woman was visible. And that was Bateman’s point.

“I didn’t choose,” she recalls, “to appear naked at such an event because it was unseasonably warm (it certainly wasn’t), nor due to a lack of suitable outfits in my wardrobe (I have a sizable collection at home), but because economics has a sex problem. If economists were going to stand up and listen, I knew it would require something more than a short conference speech of the kind I was scheduled to deliver the following day.”

She has also disrobed at recent appearances protesting Brexit  (video) in a lecture at a Cambridge theater (“Brexit leaves Britain naked” written in magic marker across her exposed front) and in a BBC interview. She appears au naturel, she says, to celebrate freedom and show solidarity with women — their minds, their bodies, and their vast unacknowledged contributions to prosperity.

Bateman, sometimes referred to as the Naked Don, has just come out with a book on these themes: The Sex Factor: How Women Made the West Rich (Polity Press). “Just because the written and spoken word is the usual means of academic communication, it doesn’t mean that we should restrict ourselves to them at all times,” she writes. “When I think about what has most powerfully affected my own thinking as an economist, on everything from poverty and prosperity to capitalism and the state, it is something else entirely: It is art.” 

“If economists were going to stand up and listen, I knew it would require something more than a short conference speech.”

And art, or naked protest, is what she calls her unclad appearances, not just in person but in commissioned portraits by the painter Anthony Connolly at the prestigious Mall Galleries. The first of these caused a mild ruckus in 2014. Bateman explained in a Guardian op-ed that the painting was intended “to raise questions about the depiction of women and to challenge the blinkered association between the body and sex; to show that the female figure is something that a woman walks around with every moment in her life — that it is not, therefore, purely sexual.” 

The second Connolly portrait (like the first, part of an annual exhibit by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters) was unveiled this month and features the 39-year-old Bateman seated, nude, reading a book. In the background is one repeated phrase: “Women who monetize their brains are denying other women the ability to monetize their bodies.” 

That points to a second theme in Bateman’s work: the right of sex workers to make use of what the British sociologist Catherine Hakim calls “erotic capital” in the same way other women use their intellectual capital. This argument arose from the shaming Bateman has received for her nude activism. She was suddenly thrown into direct alliance with other women who dare to publicly and proudly acknowledge their physical selves. As Bateman explains, “my body, my choice” shouldn’t be the mantra only of certain ostensibly enlightened women with regard to birth control and abortion. “If a woman wants to make money from using her body,” she says, “why shouldn’t she?” If she wants to cover it with a burqa, that is her prerogative, as is revealing it in a short skirt or no clothing at all.”

Lady Godiva would be proud of Victoria.



New York Legislature Takes Aim At Potential Trump Pardons!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York State Legislature is taking aim at restricting President Trump’s presidential pardon powers.  Yesterday it passed legislation tightening a “double-jeopardy loophole” that could undermine potential pardons by President Donald Trump.

The state Assembly passed a measure that would permit authorities to bring state charges against individuals who have received presidential pardons for similar federal crimes.

“Our democracy survives because we have checks and balances,” Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (D) said during Tuesday’s vote, according to Courthouse News’ Adam Klasfeld.

The bill heads now to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk for a signature.

Proponents of the bill say it’s necessary to ensure that state investigations into Trump, his family and associates aren’t derailed by potential presidential pardons.

“Right now the president’s threatened use of the pardon power is very troubling. It would be done to undermine an investigation to help out friends and family members,” state Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who sponsored the bill, told NPR on Tuesday.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, who spearheaded the effort to change the loophole, applauded the bill’s passage on Tuesday.

“Double jeopardy exists to prevent someone from being charged twice for the same crime, not to allow them to evade justice altogether,” James wrote.

Last summer, Cuomo pledged to sign legislation closing the double jeopardy loophole “the same day” lawmakers passed it.

“New York must have the ability to stand up against the abuse of power,” Cuomo wrote in August.

The governor referenced Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, who was indicted for tax and bank fraud as well as conspiracy. The president has hinted at a potential pardon for Manafort for the federal charges. The bill passed by New York’s Assembly on Tuesday would essentially ensure Manafort could still be prosecuted for the state charges.

The state legislature is poised to pass another bill Cuomo supports on Wednesday that would authorize state officials to release Trump’s state tax returns to Congress.

These are interesting developments that portend of lots of legal challenges if and when they are enforced.  Regardless, they subject Trump and others to a whole other level of scrutiny.


Robert Caro’s New Book: “Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing” a Gem!

Dear Commons Community,

For those of us who are fans of Robert Caro biographies, his new book, Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing, is a gem.  In it, he gives us  more than a look at his research techniques and his writing process but a glimpse into Caro the man himself.  I became a fan of Caro with The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York,  which in my mind is the best book about New York politics in the 20th century ever written.  His multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson is comparable with respect to Texas and Washington, D.C.  I highly recommend Working… to anyone who is interested in the effort that one puts into research and writing.  I will be adding it to my reading list in my graduate research methods courses.

Below is an excerpt from the New York Times Book Review.



Avid readers of Robert A. Caro may greet his new book, “Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing,” with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. On the one hand: Another Caro book, and it’s not a biography! On the other hand: Another Caro book — and it’s not a biography?

Considering that the 83-year-old averages a book a decade, his fans might wonder whether “Working” will reset the clock that started in 2012, when the fourth book of his multivolume magnum opus, “The Years of Lyndon Johnson,” was published.

No need to worry, though this assemblage of personal reflections and interviews may give the true Caro completist a creeping sense of déjà vu. Much of the material was either published before or distilled from stories Caro has recounted elsewhere, and the book reads as if it were designed to divert as little of his time as possible. (Caro says he has a “full-scale memoir” planned, to be completed after the next Johnson volume, though at his age, he says, he can also “do the math.”) Small and charming at about 200 pages, a quick spritz instead of a deep dive, “Working” is like the antithesis of Caro’s labor-intensive oeuvre, making it strangely reassuring proof that he is, well, working.

The next Johnson book will be “the fifth of a projected three volumes,” he writes, declining to get into specifics (“My writing seems never to come out well if I’ve talked about it beforehand”) while promising that it will be the final installment. That means it will have to cover, among other things, the presidential election of 1964; Johnson’s Great Society programs and his continuing feud with Bobby Kennedy; the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act; the decision not to run for re-election in 1968; Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination; Bobby Kennedy’s assassination; and Johnson’s post-presidency life until his death in 1973.

Not to mention the escalation of the war in Vietnam, a subject about which “the L.B.J. Library is opening up new files all the time.” It sounds like biography writing as Zeno’s paradox — getting infinitesimally closer to the end without ever reaching it.

Caro, though, wouldn’t have it any other way. His research methods are deservedly legendary. He and his wife, Ina, pore through archival documents with a determination to “turn every page.” He tracks down as many people to talk to as he can, counting 522 interviews for “The Power Broker,” his landmark biography of Robert Moses, and “thousands” for the Johnson books.

But these standard techniques are just a start. He and Ina moved from their home in New York to the Texas Hill Country in 1978, living there for three years to better understand Johnson’s childhood. (To get the local women to warm to her and open up about what their lives were like before Johnson brought electricity to the region in the ’30s and ’40s, Ina taught herself how to make fig preserves.) Caro has said he wants to spend time in Vietnam to get a sense of what it felt like “to fight in the jungle.” ll of this painstaking work takes time. The writing itself comes quickly and easily — so much so that the critic R.P. Blackmur, who taught Caro at Princeton, admonished him to “stop thinking with your fingers.” The prose in Caro’s biographies is a mesmerizing combination of fine-grained, meticulous detail recounted in lush, incantatory sentences; he is, as he says repeatedly in “Working,” always trying to accumulate enough material to “show” rather than to tell — “to make readers not only see but understand and feel” the consequences of power.

Because power, Caro says, is his real subject. He doesn’t think of his books as biographies in the conventional sense. “From the very start,” he writes, “I thought of writing biographies as a means of illuminating the times of the men I was writing about and the great forces that molded those times.” Robert Moses was an unelected bureaucrat whose public works projects transformed the skyline and shorelines of New York City; Lyndon Johnson was a ruthless opportunist and an astonishingly effective legislator who transformed the country’s social landscape. These were men who channeled power, wielded it, embodied it.

Caro talks a lot about power in “Working.” It can corrupt, yes, but not always. “Once you get enough power, once you’re there, where you wanted to be all along, then you can see what the protagonist wanted to do all along, because now he’s doing it,” he says. “What power always does is reveal.”

It’s a memorable line, from an interview Caro gave to The Paris Review in 2016. It appears not only in “Working” but also in “Master of the Senate,” the third of the Johnson books, published in 2002. There are a number of anecdotes in “Working” that Caro has shared before — after all, his books are so comprehensive that it only makes sense for, say, “Means of Ascent,” the second book in the Johnson series, to include a section on how Caro tracked down Luis Salas, a former voting official who confessed to helping Johnson steal the 1948 Senate election.

The version of the Salas story that Caro includes in “Working” is presented as an example of what Caro calls “something in my nature” — “the part of me that, now that I was writing books, kept leading me, after I had gotten every question answered, to suddenly think, despite myself, of new questions that, in the instant of thinking them, I felt must be answered for my book to be complete.”

This is awfully windy — where is Prof. Blackmur when you need him? Caro makes the same point more succinctly when writing about “The Power Broker,” recalling how he was swept away by the scandalous material he was discovering and an accompanying sense of duty. “I just couldn’t write the book about the great highway builder — couldn’t outline it, even — without showing the human cost of what he had done,” he writes. “There really was no choice involved.”

For someone so interested in the power of others, Caro seems coy about his own power to shape legacies. The writer who emerges from these pages is so humble as to be self-effacing — a quality that makes his halting bids at introspection, for all their genial appeal, seem mostly denuded of the drama that normally fuels Caro’s work.

But then the stubborn willingness to keep digging, to rescue secrets from oblivion, is a form of power, too. Recalling why Moses finally relented and agreed to talk to him, Caro writes: “At last someone had come along who was going to write the book whether he cooperated or not.”


Maureen Dowd Compares Donald Trump and George W. Bush on Iran and Iraq!

Dear Commons Community,

This past week we heard a lot of saber-rattling among White House staffers and especially from National Security Adviser John Bolton.  Maureen Dowd in her New York Times column yesterday takes aim at Trump and makes comparisons to George W. Bush’s disastrous decision to go to war in Iraq.  Here are a couple of excerpts.

“Only one person can save us from the dangerous belligerent [John Bolton] in the White House.

And that person is Donald Trump.

How screwed up is that?

Will the president let himself be pushed into a parlous war by John Bolton, who once buoyed the phony case on W.M.D.s in Iraq? Or will Trump drag back his national security adviser and the other uber hawks from the precipice of their fondest, bloodiest desire — to attack Iran?

Can Cadet Bone Spurs, as Illinois senator and Iraq war vet Tammy Duckworth called Trump, set Tom Cotton straight that winning a war with Iran would not merely entail “two strikes, the first strike and the last strike”? Holy cakewalk….

Once, we counted on Trump’s advisers to pump the brakes on an out-of-control president. Now, we count on the president to pump the brakes on out-of-control advisers.

The 70-year-old with the Yeti mustache [Bolton] is an insatiable interventionist with an abiding faith in unilateralism and pre-emptive war. (The cost of our attenuated post-9/11 wars is now calculated at $5.9 trillion.)

W. and Trump are similar in some ways but also very different. As Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio notes: W. was interested in clarity. Trump wants chaos. W. wanted to trust his domineering advisers. Trump is always imagining betrayal. W. wanted to be a war hero, like his dad. Trump does not want to be trapped in an interminable war that will consume his presidency.”

Read the entire column, Dowd paints a scary situation.


Robert F. Smith to Pay Off the Student Debt for the Entire Graduating Class at Morehouse College!

Image result for Robert F. Smith

Robert F. Smith

Dear Commons Community,

Robert F. Smith, the billionaire investor who founded Vista Equity Partners and became the richest black man in America, told the crowd at commencement exercises at Morehouse College that he and his family would pay off the entire graduating class’s student debt, freeing them to begin their “next chapter without loan payments to worry about.”

“We’re going to put a little fuel in your bus,” Mr. Smith, dressed in academic regalia to receive an honorary doctorate, said near the end of his address on Sunday to the 396 graduates and their families.

He turned to Morehouse alumni in attendance and abruptly issued a challenge.

“This is my class, 2019,” he said, personally claiming the graduating seniors as his own. “And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.”

It seemed to take a moment for the immensity of what he had promised to sink in. Then the place erupted, as the senior class, all male and mostly African-American, shook hands and hugged one another in glee.

“We’re all in robes, hot, the sun was beaming on us,” said Ernest Holmes, who said he had about $10,000 in loans that his parents were going to tackle. “We’re holding our papers up, trying to block the sun out of our eyes. Everyone jumped up, cheered. People were crying. It was just the most amazing thing.” Mr. Holmes said he would soon start work as a software engineer for Google in Mountain View, Calif.

“A blessing, a blessing!” were the words Brandon Manor offered as he imagined for the first time what life would be like without student loans to repay. It meant he could consider applying to a wider range of medical schools, because cost would no longer be his main concern. “Now all of a sudden, I can look at schools I might not have considered, because I am not applying with about $100,000 in undergraduate loans.”

We need more Robert F. Smiths among our billionaire class.


Video: Dozens of Graduates and Faculty Walk Out of Graduation at Taylor University Before Vice President Mike Pence’s Commencement Speech!

Dear Commons Community,

Dozens of graduates and faculty protested the selection of Vice President Mike Pence as the commencement speaker at Taylor University in Indiana yesterday by walking out moments before his introduction.

The Indianapolis Star reports the protesters in caps and gowns rose and quietly walked down the aisle and out of the auditorium in the Kesler Student Activities Center at the university in Upland, Indiana.

The protest was planned and discussed prior to Saturday’s ceremony. Some faculty and students at the nondenominational Christian liberal arts school debated the appropriateness of the former Indiana governor at the commencement ceremony.

Most of Taylor’s graduating class did not leave.


Republican Congressman Justin Amash Calls for Trump’s Impeachment!

Dear Commons Community,

Representative  Justin Amash is the first Republican to call for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.   He came to that conclusion after reading the full report from special counsel Robert Mueller into Russia’s 2016 election meddling.  As reported by the Associated Press and The Washington Post.

“Amash, a long been a critic of Trump, voiced his concerns in a series of tweets Saturday afternoon, concluding that Trump’s conduct is worthy of impeachment. He is the first Republican congressman to call for Congress to take that action.

“Contrary to Barr’s portrayal, Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment,” Amash wrote.

Amash also concluded that Attorney General William Barr willfully misled the public about what was in the report before its release in hopes of downplaying the findings.

“In comparing Barr’s principal conclusions, congressional testimony, and other statements to Mueller’s report, it is clear that Barr intended to mislead the public about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s analysis and findings,” he wrote.

Amash also accused his fellow members of Congress of not actually reading the full report.

“Few members of Congress even read Mueller’s report; their minds were made up based on partisan affiliation—and it showed, with representatives and senators from both parties issuing definitive statements on the 448-page report’s conclusions within just hours of its release,” he wrote.

The Michigan congressman was praised by the public and colleagues who applauded his decision to cross party lines.  

“America’s institutions depend on officials to uphold both the rules and spirit of our constitutional system even when to do so is personally inconvenient or yields a politically unfavorable outcome,” Amash wrote. “Our Constitution is brilliant and awesome; it deserves a government to match it.”

It will be interesting to see if any other Republicans especially those in the Senate have the courage to voice their convictions.


Conservative Tomi Lahren Blasts New Anti-Abortion Law in Alabama!

Dear Commons Community,

The backlash against the new anti-abortion law passed this week in Alabama has been furious especially among Democrats, progressives, and women’s rights groups. However, it was surprising to see some on the right such as conservative pundit and Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren take a stand against it also.  On Thursday, she railed and tweeted against Alabama’s  abortion ban, calling it “too restrictive” and warning it wouldn’t stop women from seeking out the procedure. 

“It doesn’t save life, it simply forces women into more dangerous methods, other states or countries,” she tweeted. “You don’t encourage life via blanket government mandate!”  As reported by The Huffington Post:

“Lahren, who has a history of pushing Islamophobic rhetoric, promoting nativism and bashing “snowflake” liberals, has distinguished herself from other conservative pundits by supporting women’s right to choose and standing against government restrictions on abortion.

“If you think banning abortion with no exception for rape or incest will stop women from terminating pregnancy, you’re not being honest with yourself,” Lahren tweeted after Canadian far-right commentator Faith Goldy said there was “nothing ‘dangerous’ about Christ & placing a quarter between your knees.” 

“P.S. you’re not God so don’t you dare evaluate my Christian faith based on your moral superiority complex,” Lahren wrote. 

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) on Wednesday signed the abortion bill into law. It criminalizes the procedure unless the pregnant woman’s life is at risk, and it does not make exceptions for victims of incest or rape. However, the law would not go into effect for another six months, and legal challenges could further delay or block its implementation. 

Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) said the next day that the ban was “irresponsible” and “shameful,” stating it is also “unconstitutional as it stands right now,” The Associated Press reported.

The legislation has sparked a firestorm of backlash from both sides of the aisle, including from Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who said Thursday that the ban “goes further than I believe” when it comes to its lack of exceptions.

Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Friday demanded Congress codify Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision affirming that women have a constitutional right to access legal abortions.”

Alabama’s new law and others like it that may be passed over the next several months will likely evolve into a major election issue in 2020 and one which will be a real problem for Republicans particularly if the misogynistic Donald Trump is the GOP standard-bearer.


SAT To Add ‘Adversity Score’ To Reflect Students’ Privilege and Take Hardships into Account!

Image result for sat adversity score

Dear Commons Communit,

The College Board announced yesterday that the SAT  will be adding  an “adversity score” to test results to help level the playing field for students of diverse social and economic backgrounds, as reported by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

The adversity score numbers will not be reported to the students ― only to college admissions officers ― and will be based on 15 factors, including the crime rate and poverty levels in the student’s home neighborhood, the College Board, the company that administers the test, told the newspapers.

Students of privileged backgrounds tend to score higher on the standardized test than students facing more hardships. Students from households with reported incomes of at least $200,000 average 250 points higher on the test than students whose household incomes are less than $20,000, according to the Journal.

White students scored an average of 177 points higher than black students in 2017, while Asian students scored an average of 63 points higher than white students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

“There are a number of amazing students who may have scored less [on the SAT] but have accomplished more,” David Coleman, chief executive of the College Board, told the Journal. “We can’t sit on our hands and ignore the disparities of wealth reflected in the SAT.”

The organization said the tool was beta-tested by 50 colleges last year and an official version is expected to be used by 150 institutions this fall before expanding more broadly in 2020.

Critics of the SAT and the other main college entrance exam, the ACT, say the tests provide an advantage to privileged students. Though the new tool has been embraced by college admissions officers seeking to diversify their institutions’ student bodies, it could draw backlash from students of white and Asian families who are already achieving higher-than-average scores.

“We’ve got to admit the truth, that wealth inequality has progressed to such a degree that it isn’t fair to look at test scores alone,” Coleman told The Associated Press in April. “You must look at them in context of the adversity students face.”

Renewed scrutiny over the SAT, taken by over 2 million students in 2018, emerged last month when federal prosecutors charged dozens of wealthy parents and college officials in a massive college admissions cheating scam.

The case, known as “Operation Varsity Blues,” accused some parents of paying a college admissions consultant thousands of dollars to fraudulently boost their children’s SAT scores to help them get into elite colleges and universities.

Hundreds of colleges in recent years have decided to make SAT and ACT scores optional in their application process, but that number has sharply risen over the last few months in response to concerns over fairness and inequality.

“The conversation about access to higher education has been simmering for a long time,” David Hawkins, executive director for educational content and policy at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, told the AP.

It’s “starting to take shape in a way that we really are examining every aspect of the admission process to understand fully how it either promotes or inhibits access,” he said.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that 50 colleges over the last year have been using something called the Environmental Context Dashboard, which includes an “adversity score” for each applicant who took the SAT. The College Board, which oversees the exam, created the dashboard to give colleges a better understanding of test takers’ socioeconomic backgrounds — and the challenges they may have encountered.

So far, at least some participating colleges report that the dashboard has helped them admit more disadvantaged applicants. David Coleman, the College Board’s chief executive, said in a written statement that the tool “shines a light on students who have demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness to overcome challenges and achieve more with less.” And some admissions officials describe the platform as a promising race-neutral tool that could prove especially useful if the Supreme Court one day strikes down race-conscious admissions policies.

It’s already controversial, though. Robert Schaeffer, public-education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest), believes that the dashboard undermines the very notion that standardized tests are a common yardstick for comparing applicants. “This latest initiative,” he said in a written statement, “concedes that the SAT is really a measure of ‘accumulated advantage’ which should not be used without an understanding of a student’s community and family background.”

If colleges feel they must use the SAT in their admissions process, adding the adversity score is a move in the right direction!


New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Enters Race for Democratic Presidential Nomination!

Dear Commons Community,

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio entered the 2020 Democratic presidential primary this morning.  As reported by CNN:

“De Blasio’s Thursday entrance into the race, which was first reported by NBC News, will bring the total number of candidates to 23 with nearly nine months before the first votes are cast.

De Blasio will head out on the trail almost immediately traveling to Iowa and South Carolina on his early itinerary. The two-term mayor, who in 2017 became the first Democrat re-elected to his office in more than three decades, joins the race after months of deliberations and a handful of visits to early states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

Even before he made his plans official, de Blasio has come under fire — and some mockery — from the city’s unrelenting press corps, a group he’s clashed with repeatedly over the years and which openly delights in the mayor’s every misstep or misfortune. Still, his national profile is less defined, and de Blasio, as he introduces himself to Democrats outside New York, is expected to sell a record of progressive policy wins — bolstered by a racially diverse coalition of support — in a city with more residents than the home states of some of his rivals.

The questions dogging de Blasio, which tend to boil down to a simple “Why?,” will be familiar to him. His first campaign for mayor was greeted with similar skepticism and doubt, if not the hostility and contempt generated by his presidential ambitions. Whether de Blasio can transform those perceptions on the national stage — where he’s already been roasted by The Onion, which joked in a headline last week, “De Blasio PAC Spends $30 Million On Ads Urging Candidate Not To Embarrass Self By Running” — will be his first test.”

As someone who has lived and/or worked my entire life in New York City, I think Bill de Blasio is one of the best mayors we have ever had.  He is a true progressive who has put his money where his mouth is.  Whether a New York mayor can sell his credentials across our diverse country is another thing.

Good luck, Mayor!