It's been a while since pals
Tavis Smiley and Cornel West took up the task of challenging President Obama
from his left flank. The talk-show host and the philosopher have taken some
heat for their criticism of the president, notably from political scientist
Books on Barack Obama are proliferating. Recent additions include biographies, political analyses, a look into Obama's African family tree, books on his handling of specific issues and books on race and politics in American society. Among these, James Kloppenberg's intellectual contextualization stands out.
This week, a former Google
executive asked President Obama to raise his taxes so that more people will
have the chance to succeed as he has. It was nice to hear the president defend
the idea that individual wealth is built in part by collective investment--even if he didn't state it as forcefully as Elizabeth Warren, and even if he mostly
avoided the word "taxes" itself.
"Constantinian" has lately been a favored pejorative in
theological circles. The term--an allusion to the fourth-century Roman emperor
whose conversion to Christianity turned a marginal sect into a state religion--has
been used to deplore any alliance between the church and the state or, more
broadly, between the church and the dominant political culture.
In 1838 the Jesuits who ran Georgetown University sold 272 slaves in order to keep the school afloat. The college relied on Jesuit plantations in Maryland to finance the school, and slaves were sometimes given to the Jesuits by parishioners. The sale of the slaves in 1838 would be worth $3.3 million today. The university is considering what, if anything, it owes the descendants of those slaves. Richard Cellini, a Georgetown alumnus and CEO of a technology firm, has established a nonprofit organization and hired eight genealogists to track down those slaves and their descendants. A university group is also studying how Georgetown could make amends for its involvement in slavery (New York Times, April 16).