Category Archives: Guest Blogger

The best and the brightest grace The Public Professor

Guest Blogger Scott Pilutik: Donald Trump’s Attack on the Constitution

Image credit: NRO (from out Donald Trump’s democracy-threatening moments is like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500.  But I fear some of his more egregious ideas are being normalized, and thus becoming progressively less dangerous-sounding the second, third, and thousandth time they’re uttered.

Two from last night’s debate in particular are worth mentioning: (1) Threatening to jail your political opponent should you succeed to the job, and; (2) Smearing defense lawyers with their client’s crime.

Neither critique is new.  “Lock Her Up” will be on the future K-tel greatest hits version of Trump’s campaign, and criminal defense attorneys are hardly strangers to populist condemnation (when you get a chance, thank Law & Order’s Dick Wolf for his malignant contribution to this perception).

However, threatening to jail your political opponents is a common feature of banana republics and dictatorships, and it’s sad that people feel the need to even point this out.  Sad!  Hillary Clinton was cleared by the justice department.  People need to get over it and be less selectively outraged.

Furthermore, when Trump hauled Kathy Shelton into his shit-flinging circus, he implicitly assailed the Sixth Amendment’s guaranteed right to defense counsel in criminal trials.   In 1975, Clinton was appointed defense counsel to the man Shelton accused of rape.  It’s the type of job that few people want, but which is absolutely necessary in a functioning democracy.

Our Bill of Rights contains a number of counter-intuitive features that are intended to cement boundaries that can’t be breached by the whims of majorities: First Amendment freedom of speech guarantees the right of even KKK members to march in a parade; the Fourth Amendment prevents illegally obtained evidence from being used against otherwise-guilty criminals at trial, thereby serving the larger goal of keeping police forces honest; and the Indy 500Sixth Amendment promises that no person will be left defenseless at trial, even rapists, murderers, and, say, Nancy Grace.

These and many other features were installed for good reasons by people who acutely understood the damage that results without such protections.

It is precisely these unpopular protections that “Make America Great,” and what made our Constitution the model for so many democratic nations.  The people who assume unpopular roles within the constitutional scheme are vital and, indeed, heroes.

Which is why it’s not only ironic but dangerous that Trump marches under the banner of patriotism while he promises to govern by his angry, impulsive id, and erode these protections.

Scott Pilutik is a lawyer and Rangers fan living in New York City.

Continue reading Guest Blogger Scott Pilutik: Donald Trump’s Attack on the Constitution

The Public Professor Site Redesign

cropped-Profile-Picture.jpgFive and a half years after its initial launch, this site is receiving a substantial update for the first time.  Some of it is aesthetics, with new colors, imagery, and font.  Some of it involves updating content.

The “Pages” at the top of the site (eg. “Me” and “Books I Done Written”) are not only renamed, but also updated.  Click inside and see.

In addition, I’ve added two new pages: “Books I Might Write” and “CV.”  The former contains brief overviews of book projects I’m working on.  Beyond the infamous Communities book that was responsible for launching this site but has yet to see the light of day, there are also working manuscripts on music and misadventures from the road.  The “CV” page contains my Curriculum Vitae, which is what professors call their resumé.  Is our pretentious Latin name for it better than your pretentious French name for it?  Who knows.  The bottom line is, we’re all pretentious.


P.S. Yes, I’ll keep blogging here on the front page.  If you’d like to sign up for email notifications, or get them via Facebook or Twitter, that’s just to the right near the top of any page.  Viva la blog! (That’s pretentious Spanish for, “None of this stuff ends up on my resumé.”

Guest Blogger Shayla Swift on Child Sexual Assault

Shayla Swift is an educator, a social justice historian, and an advocate for victims of sexual violence.  She is also the Executive Director of Speak Truth to Sexual Violence.  When she is not fighting hard for social change (always) she might be found in a dojo actually fighting, er, training several martial arts practices and overusing the word “rad.”

Last month, the Associated Press broke a story about child sexual assault cases in the military, and the staggering number of plea agreements the Judge Advocate General makes in lieu of going to trial.  What’s more, the general public can only find out about such cases after an arduous freedom of information search process.

The story was profoundly disturbing, raising all sorts of red flags.  It seemed to be yet another case of military’s shady handling of sexual violence, even against children.  It was a moment that called for something more than the vagaries.

What is really going on beyond the surface? Continue reading Guest Blogger Shayla Swift on Child Sexual Assault

Buying The Public Professor

PayolaFor some time now, I’ve been getting offers to run commercial content at this website.  Once every few months or so, a marketing company will contact me about the possibility of paying to publish a “guest blog.”

Typically they dangle an undisclosed amount of cash in front of me, with promises of  serving up guest content that will be “consistent” with my site.  They also assure me that I’d have final say about the content.  As if they’re doing me a favor by letting me decide what goes up on my own website.  So kind.

Of course it’s a quasi-scam.  They’d give me nothing more than a thinly veiled commercial to run.  And for that, how much are they willing to pay?

I don’t know, I’ve never followed up.  Whenever one of these offers pops up in my Inbox, I just trash it.  If they’re persistent, and some of them are, I spam it.

Recently, however, a new kind of commercial offer came my way.  Something a little more insidious, perhaps, than supplying material for the website.

I’ve been offered a form of payola. Continue reading Buying The Public Professor

State of the Blog Address: My 500th Post

WWII celebrationThis past Monday I hoisted my 500th post to this blog.

Wow, that went fast.

My first post was only three and a half years ago.

But while 500 in 45 months is a testament to what at times has been a dizzying pace, there are also signs that I’m slowing down, at least for now.  And so I thought this benchmark might be a good opportunity to take stock of the website.

Back in 2010 I was looking for a way to market a book manuscript about the decline of American communities.  My friend/agent at the time (he’s still a dear friend, though no longer my agent) alerted me to the harsh realities of modern publishing.  The industry had been ravaged by the internet and that creepy monopolist Jeff Bezos.  It was harder than ever for a first time author to get a book deal.

Yes, yes, I had already written an award-winning book, but it was an academic book, based on my doctoral dissertation and geared towards a scholarly audience.  That kinda stuff didn’t count.  In the commercial world I was still a first time author.  And first time authors needed to build their own audience ahead of time, my agent/friend told me.  You had to prove to publishers that you had a loyal following that could be counted on to buy your book.

“Get on the internet and make some noise,” my friend/agent suggested.

For the record, my dear friend is arguably even less technologically inclined than I am.

How would I get on the internet?  How would I “make some noise?”  Neither of us actually had a clue.

Around this time, I’d been talking to another dear friend out in California.  Rae had been generous enough to not only read the book manuscript in question, but she had also offered very insightful feedback.  And it also just so happened that Rae knew a little bit about making noise. Continue reading State of the Blog Address: My 500th Post

Judging History

3QDYesterday at 3 Quarks Daily, Thomas Rodham Wells published an article entitled “Internationalise History!”.

Wells calls for the establishment an international tribunal to identify and punish governments that commit the most egregious historical sins.  He suggests it be based on the European Court of Human Rights, and empowered to censure those nations that blatantly propagandize history to further their own ends.  Wells states:

History [is] too important to be left to national politicians and their ideological visions of national identity and social engineering projects.

As a historian, his piece got me thinking, and I left a response in the comments section.  It was long enough to re-post here as a standalone. 

On the one hand, I’d love to wave a magic wand and purge the world of historical propaganda.  I think most historians would.  But on the other hand, I think the real world practice of history, not to mention international politics,  make this impossible, and perhaps rightly so.  Here is my response, slightly edited for clarity and style:

While I laud your general aim to eliminate, or at least lessen the propaganda in various government-sponsored histories, I think there are a few problems with your proposal. Continue reading Judging History

Guest Blogger: Paul Nance on ObamaCare

Paul Nance works for Strenuus, LLC, which provides data and competitive intelligence to managed care companies, brokers, consultants, and delivery systems.  He lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with his wife Molly, his daughter Audrey, and too many pets.  He spends his free time as a DJ for the local community radio station, and playing violin in the local civic orchestra.

panic buttonThe Affordable Care Act (ACA) begins going into effect October 1st.  As someone who has a significant understanding of the issues by virtue of my work in the healthcare industry, as well as some fairly intense personal interest over the last few years, I just wanted share a couple of tidbits for your consideration.

When you hear that premiums are going to quadruple (looking at you Forbes Magazine), relax.  Those disingenuous comparisons are not apples-to-apples, and the authors know it.  They are deceiving you.  For comparable coverage, some premiums will be a little lower, and some will be a little higher, but there will be no massive increases for comparable benefit packages.  Not happening. Continue reading Guest Blogger: Paul Nance on ObamaCare

Guest Blogger: Louis Renault on Unethical Lobbyist-Government Relations

“Louis Renault” is the pen name of a Philadelphia native and longtime Baltimore, Maryland resident.  In this piece he writes about the disturbingly intimate relationship between high powered lobbyists and the elite city and state politicians they get paid to influence, as well as the lax press coverage of these relations.

As reported in The Baltimore Sun on May 24th, two Maryland lobbyists, Lisa Harris Jones and Sean Malone, were married the prior weekend in Las Vegas.  The lobbyists had already joined forces professionally years ago, and are the principals of Harris Jones & Malone, an Annapolis-based lobbying firm with offices in Baltimore.  They represent well over a hundred clients including McDonald’s, Constellation Energy, Wal-Mart, Verizon, and bio-tech giant Genentech.

That Harris Jones and Malone decided to marry in Las Vegas is not the public’s business, and merely news only for the society pages.  Besides, as a frequent visitor to America’s Playground, I can certainly endorse the choice.

However, what did make these nuptials newsworthy was the presence of numerous and prominent Maryland politicians who were in Las Vegas on the taxpayer’s dime.  That would seem to warrant more coverage by The Baltimore Sun than just a Saturday, page 2 article.

But The Sun did not even break the story.  Initially, the wedding really was relegated to the society pages.  It was first reported on May 22 by, the web site of the Afro-American Newspapers chain, which publishes in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. reported none other than Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake presided over the ceremony, while Maryland State Senator Joan Carter Conway was a maid of honor.

Could anything better illustrate the unseemly intimate relationship between politicians and lobbyists? Continue reading Guest Blogger: Louis Renault on Unethical Lobbyist-Government Relations

Guest Blogger: Sarah Culpepper Stroup on the Olympics

Last week, I ranted about the Olympics.  Sarah Culpepper Stroup offers a response.  An Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Washington, Culpepper Stroup is also on the faculty of Jewish Studies and Comparative Religion departments, and she leads an archaeological field school at Tel Dor, Israel.  Her last book is entitled Catullus, Cicero, and a Society of Patrons.  And for the record, I strive very hard to not be a liberal.  Though I often fail.


I’m tired of hearing liberal, academic sorts bitch and moan about the Olympics, which is precisely what I’ve been hearing for, oh, pretty much the past five weeks or so.  It goes something like this:

OMG, the sports! I don’t even like sports!
OMG, I don’t even watch television, but it’s all that’s on television! (Did you get the part about how I’m so intellectual I don’t really watch TV?).
OMG, it’s all anyone can talk about! It’s even on NPR! (Notice that I listen to NPR; did you get that?)
OMG, it’s so commercial, political; so . . . athletic!
OMG, Who gives a shit?  Not me!

I mean seriously: shut the fuck up.  I have a PhD, too.  I’m a professor, too.  I honest to god know fuck all about most modern sports, and kind of don’t really give a shit.  Too.

But this is the goddamned Olympics, and it’s not like you didn’t know they were coming.  It’s not like they’ve ever been completely apolitical, either in antiquity, and or now.  For example,  the failure of truce during the stephanetic games is well documented.

And commercial?  Yes, they were.  Poets like Pindar stood to make a pretty little commission writing epinikia, or victory odes, for the successful athletes.   Local poleis and demes often hired sculptors to produce a statue of the victor in the kairos, or moment of victory: perhaps you’d recognize the Diadumenos, or the Discobolus, or the Charioteer of Delphi.

The games were always commercial.  True, there wasn’t so much branding back then (it’s hard to brand when you don’t have uniforms), but certainly commercial.  Then, and now.

And yet these liberal PhD types act surprised, aggrieved, annoyed, indignant, personally offended that, hey, it’s Olympic time.  God forbid that once every four years academics should have to suffer through the mere knowledge of the spectacle of athletes from around the world competing in sports that don’t interest them.  How rude.  Really, I don’t know how we stand it.  We must be pretty tough sorts. Continue reading Guest Blogger: Sarah Culpepper Stroup on the Olympics

Guest Blogger N. Peter Armitage Explains Higgs

N. Peter Armitage is Assistant Professor of Physics at Johns Hopkins University, Principle Investigator at the Armitage Lab, and has more than 50 publications to his credit.  Today he explains not just the Higgs boson, but also the Higgs field and the Higgs mechanism.

It’s the biggest discovery in particle physics of the last 30 years!  Or not . . . But probably it is, barring the 1 in 3.5 million chance that it is a statistical fluke.  Such are the vagaries of the careful statistical analysis of Higgs boson search being done by physicists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland.

At 9:00 AM Switzerland time on the 4th of July, at universities and laboratories around the world, physicists hunched in front of computer screens and gathered in lecture halls to see the much anticipated release and report of data from the LHC.  The data was conclusive for finding “something Higgs-like,” but the scientists were circumspect of what exactly they’d found.  The experiment favored the existence of a Higgs-like boson with a mass of approximately 125 billion electron volts.  What does this mean?  What is the Higgs boson?  How are people looking for it?  Why is it important?

The Higgs boson is the only missing particle in the so-called “Standard Model” of particle physics.  This model has been established over the last 40 years and has been exceedingly (perhaps unreasonably) effective at accounting for the results of almost every elementary particle physics experiment ever done.  The Higgs Boson is an essential part of it.

In the early 1960’s, the existing framework for particle physics was very successful in some respects.  However, in contradiction to experiments and everyday experience, it predicted that elementary particles had no mass.  Then a series of 3 separate papers, known as BEHGHK for its authors (Brout and Englert; Peter Higgs; Guralnik, Hagen, and Kibble) proposed what is now called the “Higgs mechanism,” which explains how a certain class of elementary particles could acquire mass.  Elementary particles are the most basic particles in the universe.

This was a huge deal because it contributed to a well-defined theory as to why the world around is as it is.  Even despite the lack of experimental verification, the Higgs mechanism quickly became most accepted game in town. Continue reading Guest Blogger N. Peter Armitage Explains Higgs