The last time most people heard the name "Van Jones," it was as a political football. He got burned on the national scene, and he's learned a few lessons: play your cards close to the vest and keep moving forward. While his name's been less heard, Jones is still making his case in inner cities, Appalachia and think tanks.
In an interview before a speech to students at Howard University, Jones showed how much he's walled off his time, alluding to it only indirectly: "I'm glad I had 6 months in the White House. Now I'm working on the same issues in other ways."
He spends little time in the past and bounds over questions regarding his departure. Earlier this summer, though, the past seemed to repeat itself in a way that couldn't be ignored. The events surrounding the hasty termination of another black administration employee at the hands of a conservative media campaign begged Jones' analysis. The following is from his NY Times op-ed.
"Our situations aren't exactly the same. Ms. Sherrod's comments, in which she, a black woman, appeared to admit to racial discrimination against a white couple, were taken far out of context, while I truly did use a vulgarity." Jones is referring to himself using an expletive to describe Republicans
"Life inside the Beltway has become a combination of speed chess and Mortal Kombat: one wrong move can mean political death. In the era of YouTube, Twitter and 24-hour cable news, nobody is safe."
Nobody is safe. And Jones knows that in a way that few do. Even a year later, Glenn Beck continues drawing squiggly lines between Van Jones and the "New Black Panther Party" (Jones has retaliated with the L word). But amazingly, Jones hasn't tried to burrow deep below the chalk radar. Between his visiting fellow stint at Princeton University and his senior fellowship for the Center for American Progress, he could remain largely hidden under a stack of policy papers.
Instead, Van Jones, has started to beat the drum again, a little more measured this time: "We've got to find a way to get past the food fight. On TV you have people screaming at each other. When you have a really tough problem people should get more quiet--listen harder rather than screaming louder."
Author of the best-selling "The Green Collar Economy," Jones is still trying to convince America that "we are going into a period where the economy is melting down and the glaciers are melting down too." He promotes environmentally friendly jobs as the best way to employ the unemployed while tackling global warming. This two pronged approach, preaching environmentalism for the poor, can be an uphill battle.
But that is Jones's strength. Part of the reason he garnered a White House appointment rests in his deft, nearly poetic ability to deliver this message.
Following Jones to his address to Howard University's incoming freshman, he acknowledged the shortcomings of our current climate nomenclature; "Let's call it global weirding," then went on to lampoon our industrial stasis; "For 100 years we've been stuck on the post whale-oil solution." Finally, he invoked a slight of magical realism to describe the origin of our fuel supply..."That black goo that comes out of the ground is death--it is the blood and bones of our biological ancestors and we've been running our society on it. You pull death out of the ground and burn it...without ceremony. Then you've got death in the air and death on the oceans."
All his prose is in service of stretching out the corners of the environmental tent to include those who typically have been left out. He makes a special effort to engage two groups in particular: urban youth and Appalachian families. Thought not often seen at the movies together, both tend to suffer from economic hardship and environment-based illness (the highest levels of obesity, asthma and cancer). And to each their own rhetoric.
A Howard freshman hears: "If you are a young person standing in front of somebody's house, I'd rather you be on top of their house putting up a solar panel. I'd rather you put down the handgun and be able to pick up a caulking gun."
Inner-city youth seem like Jones' natural audience. He first entered the environmental debate through an Oakland-based campaign called "Green Jobs not Jails."
But Jones takes special pride in his ability to talk over the pink, bristled head of Glenn Beck, directly to his audience. At every speaking engagement, even at Howard, Jones mentions his plan for Appalachia and the heartland. "Under sane climate policy a rural farmer could get three paychecks. This is an agenda for a red state--three paychecks to bring back rural America...the first check is from deploying wind turbines. You get paid to watch those spin. The second is from growing an energy crop--hopefully an advanced energy crop, not necessarily corn. The third check comes from sequestered carbon in the soil that you can trade on the carbon markets."
Different solutions to the same problem. Which is how Jones views his own personal and political evolution as well: "Quite famously I've had a very colorful past as an activist. I've tried on lots of hats and ideas. The great thing about being an American is that you have the right to think whatever you want and you have the right to change your mind...My answers have changed as I've gotten older but my questions have stayed the same."
At least they didn’t go for the giant, spring-loaded needle traps.
The events that led teams of helicopter-borne vets to pelt the Swiss countryside with vaccine-impregnated chicken heads began in 1939. Two things were then sweeping through Poland: the Nazis, and an epidemic of rabies carried by red foxes. Every year, the wavefront of disease advanced southward and westward by several dozen kilometers, hitting country after country. In March of 1967, it reached Switzerland.
The epidemic was a huge problem. Rabies is caused by a virus that spreads through the bites of animals and targets the brain. Unless infected people get a (really expensive) vaccine right away, the disease is almost always fatal. So, something had to be done about the foxes. The usual methods—poisoning, trapping, gassing, and shooting—weren’t working. The alternative was to vaccinate them.
It’s a paradox: Shouldn’t the most accomplished be well equipped to make choices that maximize life satisfaction?
There are three things, once one’s basic needs are satisfied, that academic literature points to as the ingredients for happiness: having meaningful social relationships, being good at whatever it is one spends one’s days doing, and having the freedom to make life decisions independently.
But research into happiness has also yielded something a little less obvious: Being better educated, richer, or more accomplished doesn’t do much to predict whether someone will be happy. In fact, it might mean someone is less likely to be satisfied with life.
That second finding is the puzzle that Raj Raghunathan, a professor of marketing at The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, tries to make sense of in his recent book, If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?Raghunathan’s writing does fall under the category of self-help (with all of the pep talks and progress worksheets that that entails), but his commitment to scientific research serves as ballast for the genre’s more glib tendencies.
Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency. I’m one of them.
Since 2013,the Federal Reserve Board has conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.” Most of the data in the latest survey, frankly, are less than earth-shattering: 49 percent of part-time workers would prefer to work more hours at their current wage; 29 percent of Americans expect to earn a higher income in the coming year; 43 percent of homeowners who have owned their home for at least a year believe its value has increased. But the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?
A professor of cognitive science argues that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses.
As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.
The president’s unique approach to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner will surely be missed.
No U.S. President has been a better comedian than Barack Obama. It’s really that simple.
Now that doesn’t mean that some modern-day presidents couldn’t tell a joke. John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton excelled at it. But Obama has transformed the way presidents use comedy—not just engaging in self-deprecation or playfully teasing his rivals, but turning his barbed wit on his opponents.
He puts that approach on display every year at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. This annual tradition, which began in 1921 when 50 journalists (all men) gathered in Washington D.C., has become a showcase for each president’s comedy chops. Some presidents have been bad, some have been good. Obama has been the best. He’s truly the killer comedian in chief.
Two scholars discuss the ups and downs of life as a right-leaning professor.
“I don’t think I can say it too strongly, but literally it just changed my life,” said a scholar, about reading the work of Ayn Rand. “It was like this awakening for me.”
Different versions of this comment appear throughout Jon A. Shields and Joshua M. Dunn Sr.’s book on conservative professors, Passing on the Right, usually about people like Milton Friedman and John Stuart Mill and Friedrich Hayek. The scholars they interviewed speak in a dreamy way about these nerdy celebrities, perhaps imagining an alternate academic universe—one where social scientists can be freely conservative.
The assumption that most college campuses lean left is so widespread in American culture that it has almost become a caricature: intellectuals in thick-rimmed glasses preaching Marxism on idyllic grassy quads; students protesting minor infractions against political correctness; raging professors trying to prove that God is, in fact, dead. Studies about professors’ political beliefs and voting behavior suggest this assumption is at least somewhat correct. But Shields and Dunn set out to investigate a more nuanced question: For the minority of professors who are cultural and political conservatives, what’s life actually like?
The U.S. president talks through his hardest decisions about America’s role in the world.
Friday, August 30, 2013, the day the feckless Barack Obama brought to a premature end America’s reign as the world’s sole indispensable superpower—or, alternatively, the day the sagacious Barack Obama peered into the Middle Eastern abyss and stepped back from the consuming void—began with a thundering speech given on Obama’s behalf by his secretary of state, John Kerry, in Washington, D.C. The subject of Kerry’s uncharacteristically Churchillian remarks, delivered in the Treaty Room at the State Department, was the gassing of civilians by the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.
A pastor and a rabbi talk about kids, poop, and tearing down the patriarchy in institutional religion.
The Bible is a man’s book. It was mostly written by men, for men, and about men. The people who then interpreted the text have also been predominately male.
No wonder there’s not much theology preoccupied with weird-colored poop and the best way to weather tantrums. Throughout history, childcare has largely been considered women’s work—and, by extension, not theologically serious.
Danya Ruttenberg—a Conservative rabbi whose book about parenting came out in April—disagrees. So does Bromleigh McCleneghan, a Chicago-area pastor and the author of a 2012 book about parenting and a forthcoming book about Christians and sex. Both women have made their careers in writing and ministry. But they’re also both moms, and they believe the work they do as parents doesn’t have to remain separate from the work they do as theologians.
“A typical person is more than five times as likely to die in an extinction event as in a car crash,” says a new report.
Nuclear war. Climate change. Pandemics that kill tens of millions.
These are the most viable threats to globally organized civilization. They’re the stuff of nightmares and blockbusters—but unlike sea monsters or zombie viruses, they’re real, part of the calculus that political leaders consider everyday. And according to a new report from the U.K.-based Global Challenges Foundation, they’re much more likely than we might think.
In its annual report on “global catastrophic risk,” the nonprofit debuted a startling statistic: Across the span of their lives, the average American is more than five times likelier to die during a human-extinction event than in a car crash.
Partly that’s because the average person will probably not die in an automobile accident. Every year, one in 9,395 people die in a crash; that translates to about a 0.01 percent chance per year. But that chance compounds over the course of a lifetime. At life-long scales, one in 120 Americans die in an accident.
Princeton freshman Tal Fortgang was right that "privilege" is a problem, but not about why.
Poor Tal Fortgang. (Well, perhaps “poor” isn’t the right word.) Not long ago, the Princeton freshman’s white male privilege was known only to those in his life. Then he published an essay about this privilege in a conservative student publication, arguing that because his ancestors had struggled, he personally doesn’t benefit from unearned advantage. If he’s not privileged, no one should be asking him to check his privilege, right? After all, some of his advantage was earned; he just doesn’t happen to be the one who earned it.
Because “privilege” is clickbait, Fortgang’s piece made the rounds, culminating in the New York Times interviewing his classmates about his privilege and whether he had, in fact, checked it. The consensus is that he did not. Fortgang’s privilege has now been checked not only by his classmates and Facebook friends but by the entire Internet.