...If abortion rates are falling because it has become harder or more costly to get an abortion, then a falling abortion rate is bad news for crime. As the “price” (whether in monetary terms, social stigma, having to travel a long distance, etc.) rises, women who otherwise would have sought an abortion will not get one. This suggests that more unwanted children are being born, and thus crime rates may rise in the future.
On the other hand, there are other reasons why the number of abortions might fall, and none of these have dire crime implications. For instance, because abortion has been legalized since the 1970s, there may be fewer women today who are seeking abortions — the women who might have been at highest risk for unwanted pregnancies today may never have been born.
A second scenario in which low abortion rates don’t lead to high crime is an increase in reliable birth control. For instance, following the increased spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases in the 1990s, condom use may have risen. More condoms would lead to fewer conceptions, including fewer unwanted conceptions. The result would be both a lower abortion rate and a lower number of unwanted births.
A third possibility is that the demographic most likely to obtain abortions is conceiving less for other reasons — including, possibly, less sex. My student Amee Kamdar has a fascinating paper in which she shows that incarceration of twenty-something males greatly reduces the number of teenage births. Indirectly, the continuing rise in incarceration may be contributing to reduced rates of both teen births and teen abortions.
Important Things Learned During Tonight's Debate
1) Hollywood people will applaud anything. It must be years of sitting through Billy Crystal-hosted Academy Awards shows, where they're expected to pretend like they're being entertained.
2) Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both feel that Democrats would do a better job of leading the country than Republicans.
3) Wolf Blitzer is dumb.
4) The American people should not be allowed to ask the candidates questions. Seriously. "Why should I vote for you when you've never run a business?" "Why are Mexicans taking jobs away from blacks?" "Don't you think Hollywood produces a lot of smut?" Jesus. By comparison, Wolf Blitzer looked smart.
In all seriousness, I thought the debate was interesting, and impossible to call-- Senator Clinton was probably more consistently impressive, but she can't get around the fact that she voted to authorize the war. And Senator Obama hammered her on it-- pointing out (quite correctly) that it's not just about the past, it's about proving that you'll exercise good judgment in the future. No matter how Clinton tries to explain herself, she can't avoid the fact that she was wrong, wrong, wrong, and everybody knows it.
As many regular readers know, I'm a Barack Obama supporter, mostly because of his consistent anti-war stance, but also because of his work to make higher education more affordable. But Hillary Clinton had a really good night tonight, and I would really like to see that hypothetical Obama-Clinton "dream team" ticket-- with John Edwards appointed to the position of Attorney General. Or Supreme Court Justice. Do you think Congress would go for that?
Labels: debate blogging
Congressional oversight of textbook costs
I'm getting tired of the belief that faculty do not care about what the books cost their students. The House of Representatives is poised to reauthorize the Higher Education Act with a provision about textbook costs.
From The Chronicle of Higher Education:
To ease the burden of textbook prices on students, the House of Representatives' education committee has proposed strict requirements for colleges and publishers in its version of legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, the major law that governs federal student aid. Textbooks are part of the overall cost of higher education and should be included in the renewed law, said Alexa Marrero, a spokeswoman for the Republican members of the committee.. . .
The bill also calls for two disclosures, one from publishers and the other from colleges.
Publishers would have to make clear, in all promotional materials, their textbooks' wholesale prices, the copyright dates of previous editions, summaries of substantial content revisions, and other formats—such as paperback or unbound—in which the products are available. Those proposals are similar to requirements imposed on publishers in several state laws.
But the federal bill would also place some obligations on colleges, requiring them to include lists of the required and recommended materials for each course in their published catalogs.
Okay, I can get behind the idea that publishers should be a bit more forthcoming with textbook costs when they're showing books to faculty. I like to know what books cost, because I think about my students when I'm selecting a book. I always have to look it up online. But I'm not totally convinced that this would actually make all that much of a difference, because faculty pick the best text(s) for the course. In the sciences, unfortunately, that often means expensive texts. In the humanities texts might not always be as expensive, but I think it's important to choose a book for reasons beyond simply finding the cheapest version. For example, I like notes in certain editions; I like the policies of other publishers; and some books only appear with certain imprints (i.e. 18th century rediscovered texts published by Blackwell).
The Chronicle article acknowledges some of the potential collateral damage of listing text prices in college catalogs: what if students avoid science courses (esp. pre-med and pre-nursing) simply because the texts are very expensive?
Of course the bigger problem comes out of the absolute invasiveness of such an edict. From the practical point of view -- as the article points out -- faculty can't have their book orders in early enough to make college catalogs. That's simply not possible. But what's most bothersome (it's bothersome, not worrisome) is that this suggests that congress knows what's better in the college classrooms across the country than professors know. Certainly, I'm all for more openness in the pricing of textbooks -- students do need to know what they're in for.*
I'm just tired of faculty being blamed for this. Sure, some professors assign unnecessary and expensive books. Most faculty don't do that.**
I am continually remembering that people outside of the academy don't actually know how it functions. That's not to say there aren't things wrong with it -- that's to suggest, instead, that before demanding solutions (or giving the "solutions") lawmakers might want to look into things like how things work in our system.
*I mean, some of them could give up their Blackberries or designer sunglasses and wallets, but you know, being seen is most important. But I wouldn't want to suggest to students that their priorities might be a bit, um, off.
** My students this semester were told that it would be okay to buy another publishers edition of a play that I'm teaching. It's okay, in that they'll not be too lost. But it's not okay because it's not the edition that I selected -- and the edition that these students ended up buying was more expensive than the version that I ordered. I wasn't the one who told the students to buy this other edition.
I don't usually use internet-speak.
But for this, I must. Bradley bought me a copy of this:
It's awesome and horrible all at once. The back tells us that "The classic tales of William Shakespeare are often as packed with gore and corpses as the scariest slasher flick -- and can spawn equally gruesome sequels ..."
The Smartest Idea in the History of Lowest Common Denominator Capitalism
Go look at this. It's just too perfect. This is the kind of marketing genius that changes the world, people!
I'm sad to learn John Edwards is exiting the presidential race. Not surprised, just a little sad and disappointed. As much as I like Obama, and would happily vote for Obama or Hillary, I've always preferred Edwards to all the candidates (with the exception of Kucinich).
It will be interesting to see who Edwards endorses, assuming he endorses someone.
Happy Birthday, FDR
Today is Franklin Delano Roosevelt's birthday. He would have been 126 years old today.
Today is also Dick Cheney's birthday. Thanks to technology developed by Cyberdyne Systems and to a Faustian bargain made in the year 1428, the vice president is 614 years old today. His cybernetically-enhanced Satanic powers will destroy us all. Happy Birthday, Dick!
On a More Cheerful Note...
Incertus is four years old today. Brian mentioned that this birthday was coming up, but I thought it might cheer us all up to remind ourselves of all the fun times we've had blogging together. Granted, Emily and I have only been around since last May, and S.O.S. only for a few weeks, but still.
I've been looking around this blog's archives, and I'm struck again and again by how smart my co-bloggers are. And I thought I would remind all of you of some of the insightful things that have been said around here. So I've chosen one post from each of the bloggers who posts here that either made me think, made me smile, or did both.
First there's Emily. My wife. On October 23, 2007, she wrote a post titled On Not Giving Birth, which I guess stands out for me because it's both personal and political, like a lot of really good blog posts. Naturally, a woman should be free to decide if she's going to have a child or not, but women who choose to forgo this particular experience often find themselves on the receiving end of insensitive questions or remarks, as Emily well knows.
Confederate and Patriots? was a post written by S.O.S. just a few weeks ago that looked at the Confederate flag, what it means to some people, what it means to other people, and what role it plays in our culture. And it was remarkably restrained and even-handed. And it prompted a really good discussion, I thought-- and I'm hoping that she's turning the experience of going to that restuarant into an essay right now, as I type this.
Amy's published a lot of interesting posts, but I think the one that struck me the most was one from June 30, 2007, titled It's 12:30 a.m., and I've Just Seen Sicko. I'm not a huge Michael Moore fan by any stretch, but Amy's account of how his latest documentary moved her inspired me to reconsider my feelings about his work-- or, rather, reconsider how important some of his work might be to our national dialogue. And when I look at our current political conversations and see just how important health care in America is going to be as an issue in the 2008 presidential campaign, it seems obvious to me that both Moore and Amy were really onto something last summer.
Just about everything Brian writes about politics impresses me-- there's a reason all the lefty-pinko-blame-America-firsties link to Brian so often; it's 'cause he's hella smart and super articulate. So it's hard to pick just one post that really stands out, but I have to say that his recent post Hey, People-- You're Not Helping really stands out for its obvious intelligence and good sense. Or, rather, intelligence and good sense that should be obvious, but often isn't.
And me? This one. 'Cause I'm such an idiot sometimes.
And I still maintain that this
is the greatest video ever posted to any blog anywhere in the universe in the history of blogging, from caveman times through today!
The [!@&!#@] Tax Amendment Passed
I'm not surprised by this. In fact, I regarded as fantasy the news stories that suggested it would be "close." If anything, those stories just served to assure that anti-tax activists got out there and tapped their touchscreens. The fact is, you tell people that you're going to save them $240 a year, they don't think about the (literally) higher DEATH rate that will result from reduction in services, about the fewer emergency responders to their emergency taking longer to get there and leaving them for danger, injury, and death. No. They think, hm. $240. That's almost a Wii.
But the bottom line is this: the state of Florida is a sinking ship. And there are 49 lifeboats within reach. Swim for it, people.
In Broward County, the number 1 individual employer is the public school system, followed by Publix. Think about that.
I'm not going to mince words, here: anti-tax activists are stupid. They would rather live in a worse world where they could keep more ["mine, mine, mine!" the 2-year-old shrieks] of what they consider "theirs." They do not think in a complex enough fashion to understand the vast benefits they already reap, nor how those benefits are paid for. It never occurs to them that there's not much you can do with one dollar. But if 300,000,000 people each give up one dollar, they have enough money to do something powerful.
In the end, anti-tax activism is just anti-government activism, and since, in a democracy, that "big" government is YOU, by making it smaller, you are giving up your own power. Prepare to be the buttbitch of a "big" corporation, buddy, because you're powerless without that ooh so scary and comm'nist-seemin' "collectivism."
Perhaps human nature inclines us towards tyrants and submission.
Florida's Property Tax Amendment Passes
I'm actually too mad to blog about this sensibly right now, but Floridians have selfishly voted to save themselves an average of $240 a year by approving a ridiculously ill-concieved plan to amend the state constitution in order to cut property taxes. Granted, the state doesn't raise enough tax revenue to pay for essential services as it is, but fuck it. Who needs cops, firefighters, teachers, libraries, or road crews? $240! That'll buy a top-of-the-line videogame system!
To make matter worse, I predict that tomorrow, I'm going to open the Sun-Sentinel to the opinion page and read some halfwit writing about how terrible the public schools are, or how rampant the gang problem is, or something. But you know what, Florida? You reap what you sow. You don't want to pay taxes, then you don't get services. It's that simple. Quit your bitching.
Yo, Those Your Clitches?
Usually only my students misspell this ironically. Well done, Sun Sentinel!
PS: if anyone knows how to turn a screen capture into a jpg, please tell me how. I can copy the screenshot onto a word doc or whatnot, but can't figure out how to keep it as an image. Which is why this moment of ignominy was brought to you by dig-cam, dog. [edit: figured it out! :-)
I need to do more traveling
I need to think about something other than the vote tonight. So I did this instead.
We keep hearing down here that the Florida Democratic primary doesn't matter, since the DNC stripped us of our delegates. We hear that Hillary Clinton wants our delegates to count, and that it's a matter of principle, and has nothing to do with her significant lead in the state where we've been mercifully spared the endless campaign commercials that have inundated the other early states. (If Obama pulls off a surprise win, will she change her tune? He probably won't, but what if?)
On the plus side, this is the last election we'll vote on black boxes, and I can't be rid of them soon enough. In an Orwellian twist, the stickers that poll workers dutifully give out after voters push the button (as opposed to pulling the lever) no longer say "I voted." They now say "My Vote Counted!, as though that's supposed to inspire confidence in machines that have proven time and again to be both hackable and faulty (which makes them eerily similar to the Bush administration). I'll feel a little better come November when we're onto the optical scan ballot machines, if only because there will be something tangible that can be hand counted in the event of an audit or recount. It is a system that can fail well, and that's important, because failures are inevitable in any mechanical or electronic system.
So here's hoping the election goes well today, that we have record turnouts, that the ill-considered tax proposal goes down to a flaming defeat, and that the electronic voting machines find new lives doing something useful, like incorrectly tabulating profits for captains of industry, or tuning vibrator motors.
For years, President Bush and his advisers expressed frustration that the White House received little credit for the nation's strong economic performance because of public discontent about the Iraq war.
What exactly was he looking for credit for again? The airy gains made in the housing bubble, that have all vanished in the bursting? How many billions of dollars are financial institutions writing off now, saying that they never really existed? Even the stock market, that unwieldy and mostly inaccurate tool of measuring an economy's strength that right-wingers still like to point to as a barometer of economic growth, has given back most of its ephemeral gains since 2001.
Here's what Bush's "strong economic performance" has given us--more people in poverty than in 2001, more people without health insurance than in 2001, more people in bankruptcy and foreclosure than in 2001, and an economy that is going to, by all indications, last longer and hurt more than any recession since 1979. Somehow I don't think that's the credit Bush wanted.
I'm certain that tonight, he will talk about the economic challenges we (not including him and his real base) will face, and he'll say that we need to make his tax cuts permanent. Assuming the Democratic Senate doesn't cave on telecom amnesty (never a safe assumption), he'll talk about how our Senators are refusing to give the government the tools it needs to win the waronterra (while never mentioning that the telecoms cut off wiretaps because the government didn't pay their phone bills). We'll get some bullshit about how Iraq is going swimmingly, and that we just need to stick it out instead of cutting and running, even though there's no troops to continue the surge, and even though the surge has produced exactly no political reconciliation. There will be some nonsense about Washington being too partisan, even though it was his administration that made it as bad as it is.
There will be this and a whole lot more as Bush tries to cover himself in undeserved glory, and there will be half-hearted clapping and standing ovations instead of the ringing shout of protest that such a speech will unquestionably deserve, because the only speech Bush should be making tonight is one that involves his Vice-President being arrested for war crimes and his resignation from office. That speech I would watch.
This one? I'll pass.
Labels: State of the Union Address
It is rare to find a food columnist (like the NY Times' "Minimalist," Mark Bittman, a food columnist who routinely glories in the sizzle of strip steak, and who has, in the past, considered pork a seasoning) writing about the downside to food. So Bittman's "Rethinking the Meat Guzzler" threw me for a loop:
Like oil, meat is subsidized by the federal government. Like oil, meat is subject to accelerating demand as nations become wealthier, and this, in turn, sends prices higher. Finally — like oil — meat is something people are encouraged to consume less of, as the toll exacted by industrial production increases, and becomes increasingly visible.Again, this isn't coming from some activist -- I've seen this guy pull apart live seafood: he's a foodie, a professional foodie, and definitely not a vegetarian. Does anyone smell a seachange? The only thing that would be more significant would be if Iron Chef had a Challenge: Farmer's Market, or something -- oh, wait, they did that.
Growing meat (it’s hard to use the word “raising” when applied to animals in factory farms) uses so many resources that it’s a challenge to enumerate them all. But consider: an estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation.
Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, according to Rosamond Naylor, an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States.
The environmental impact of growing so much grain for animal feed is profound. Agriculture in the United States — much of which now serves the demand for meat — contributes to nearly three-quarters of all water-quality problems in the nation’s rivers and streams, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Because the stomachs of cattle are meant to digest grass, not grain, cattle raised industrially thrive only in the sense that they gain weight quickly. This diet made it possible to remove cattle from their natural environment and encourage the efficiency of mass confinement and slaughter. But it causes enough health problems that administration of antibiotics is routine, so much so that it can result in antibiotic-resistant bacteria that threaten the usefulness of medicines that treat people.
Those grain-fed animals, in turn, are contributing to health problems among the world’s wealthier citizens — heart disease, some types of cancer, diabetes. The argument that meat provides useful protein makes sense, if the quantities are small. But the “you gotta eat meat” claim collapses at American levels. Even if the amount of meat we eat weren’t harmful, it’s way more than enough.
Americans are downing close to 200 pounds of meat, poultry and fish per capita per year (dairy and eggs are separate, and hardly insignificant), an increase of 50 pounds per person from 50 years ago. We each consume something like 110 grams of protein a day, about twice the federal government’s recommended allowance; of that, about 75 grams come from animal protein. (The recommended level is itself considered by many dietary experts to be higher than it needs to be.) It’s likely that most of us would do just fine on around 30 grams of protein a day, virtually all of it from plant sources....
Perhaps the best hope for change lies in consumers’ becoming aware of the true costs of industrial meat production. “When you look at environmental problems in the U.S.,” says Professor Eshel, “nearly all of them have their source in food production and in particular meat production. And factory farming is ‘optimal’ only as long as degrading waterways is free. If dumping this stuff becomes costly — even if it simply carries a non-zero price tag — the entire structure of food production will change dramatically.”
Animal welfare may not yet be a major concern, but as the horrors of raising meat in confinement become known, more animal lovers may start to react. And would the world not be a better place were some of the grain we use to grow meat directed instead to feed our fellow human beings?
Which is to say, food consciousness is hitting its tipping point, and going thoroughly mainstream. The "but if I stop eating cows, how will I possibly get enough protein?" complaint sounds positively quaint -- sooo 1978. Right now, people are practically dying of over-consumption of protein. That last blast of Atkins-diet "ketosis is good for you!" has gratefully faded into history, and there's a really good chance you know what HFCS means, and are absolutely terrified of the shite.
But this, this is major: a food columnist channeling Michael Pollan. The age of meat is watching its tenderloin-shaped, blood-dripping, final sun set.
Emily and I went to see Michael Clayton last night, which means that for the first time ever we've seen all five movies nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. Either our taste is getting worse, or the academy is getting smarter. Or, you know, neither, and this was just an odd year.
Anyway, oddly enough, this year all five movies nominated for Academy Awards are really, really good-- Michael Clayton is probably the weakest of the bunch, and it's still a tense, well-crafted two hours of film. There's not a Titanic or American Beauty in the bunch. What's more, each of these five movies tends to embody some type of critique of contemporary American values. Consider:
The story of a pregnant teenage girl whose family rallies to her support without sanctimonious pronouncements or judgement, and how she makes her own decision about what to do with her own body and her own fetus/baby. Some have complained that her rejection of abortion as a choice seems cavalier, irresponsible, and anti-feminist. While I can understand that point-of-view, I disagree-- I think the scene where she decided not to get the abortion was a psychologically-realistic scene about a young girl who was confused and terrified, trying to do the right thing but too scared to make a real decision. When she finally does make her decision, it's still unconventional (I think conservative viewers would most likely prefer to see her marry her boyfriend, raise the kid, and throw all of her ambition out the window), but it's also empowering, with a strong, pro-woman message at its core.
George Clooney plays a lawyer who winds up embroiled in a corporation's conspiracy to deny its responsibility when one of their products is found to cause cancer. The "bad guys" in this movie are the corporate executives who allow profits to come before human lives, and this motivation becomes even more apparent, more desperate, and-- unfortunately-- more heavy-handed and obvious as the film goes on and the corporation's human face for the film, Tilda Swinton, acts to protect the company's interests.
Websites and messageboards devoted to films frequently have discussions about recent movies concerned with soldiers and war-- Redacted, Lions for Lambs, etc.-- and inevitably someone-- usually a conservative-- will point to these films' poor box office performance as proof that "Americans don't want to watch movies that make war look bad." While there might be some truth to this sentiment, I think it's more likely that Americans just don't want to see bad movies, period. A film that wears its political heart on its sleeve-- that's not a documentary-- is bound to alienate with its didacticism. If the agenda overwhelms the narrative, then the audience feels insulted.
To prove that, consider Atonement-- a well-crafted, suspenseful, tragic story about love, lies, heartbreak, and war. The first half of the movie sets up a status quo that becomes shattered by one child's angry lie; the second-half shows the consequences of that lie while also showing the brutality of war. I can't imagine how anyone could walk out of that movie and think that war-- any war-- is a good idea.
There Will Be Blood
A lot of people really hate Paul Thomas Anderson; I like him. Those who criticize him claim that his films are self-indulgent, and it can be hard to defend him against that-- did Magnolia really need to be a three hour long Aimee Mann music video featuring additional singing from Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, et al? Well... I think so. But I understand those who found it tedious and just too damn precious.
With There Will Be Blood, though, Anderson has finally found subject matter that I think everyone will agree merits the epic scope he likes his movies to have. Not only does this movie present a fascinating time in American history in all of its danger and brutality, but Anderson also draws some eerie parallels between these turn-of-the-century characters and their contemporary counterparts. Daniel Day Lewis's Daniel Plainview is the type of capitalist who brings his business into a community with lots of promises for the townsfolk-- Roads! Jobs! Progress! He even talks a good game about family. He's like a human Wal-Mart (which is the retail equivalent of a plague of locusts, if you weren't aware). Naturally, he forms a brief alliance with Paul Dano's young preacher Eli Sunday-- but you never get the impression that they have much in common beyond a desire for power and influence; eventually-- and it doesn't take long-- their mutual loathing rises to the surface. It's like looking at the Republican Party in 2008-- once upon a time, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee could put aside their differences for the sake of their similar agendas, but eventually there's going to be a split. And, in the case of this film, blood.
The movie was also just beautiful to look at, with lots of long shots of the undeveloped landscape. And Daniel Day Lewis deserves the Academy Award for best actor, if you ask me-- even though I think they're going to wind up giving the Oscar to either Johnny Depp or George Clooney, since neither has won a Best Actor Academy Award before and Lewis has-- in recent years, it seems like the Awards are given to people based not on the merits of the work currently under review, but rather on how many times that person has been passed over before (thus, Scorsese wins for the The Departed, Sean Penn wins for Mystic River, etc.). But trust me-- Daniel Day Lewis was phenomenal in this movie.
No Country for Old Men
I've written about this movie extensively before, and I haven't changed my opinion at all. It's the Coen Brothers at their most intelligent and, perhaps not coinicidentally, their most critical and Marxist. The movie's as beautiful as There Will Be Blood, but it's more tense, better acted overall, and more nuanced in its critique of our culture and values. It's not only the best movie of 2007-- it's the best movie of the 21st century so far. I'm almost certain. I can't think of anything better at the moment, anyway. So No Country for Old Men is going to win (because it's certainly the Coen Brothers' "turn"), but it also deserves to win.
Other Oscar predictions? Okay-- Johnny Depp for Best Actor, Julie Christie for Best Actress, Cate Blanchette for Best Supporting Actress, Javier Bardem for Best Supporting Actor (it sucks for Tom Wilkinson to be up against Bardem-- any other year, Wilkinson would have deserved it for his portrayal of a manic-depressive lawyer who develops a conscience in Michael Clayton), Coen Brothers for Best Director, No Country for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Juno for Best Original Screenplay.
by Hermann Hesse
You simply don't know what to believe, but you're willing to try
anything once. Western values, Eastern values, hedonism and minimalism, you've spent
some time in every camp. But you still don't have any idea what camp you belong in.
This makes you an individualist of the highest order, but also really lonely. It's
time to chill out under a tree. And realize that at least you believe in
Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
A Convergence of Milestones
Technically, this blog had its four year blogiversary five days ago, but it's just a placeholder post. My first real post was on January 29, a piece on how Republicans were actually the party of the welfare state, at least in terms of federal tax revenues received versus those paid in. That was nearly 2,000 posts ago--this one is post 1,994.
Amy joined me as a co-blogger almost exactly two years ago, when she wrote this piece on February 4, 2006, not long after the funeral for her nephew Payton. I read it to her just now when I was talking about doing this post, and she hadn't remembered it, but she was pleased by it all the same. I'm starting to get the feeling I should traipse through the archives more often. There's some good work in there, I think.
Nine months ago, Bradley and Emily joined the circus here, and our traffic started going up as well. Whether that's due to an increase of the quality and frequency of the writing, or simply having 2 more people hit refresh two dozen times a day is up for debate--I lean toward the former--but we've seen considerable growth since then. Bradley's first post was on NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to put hybrids on the streets as cabs. Who knows--maybe Amy and I will catch a glimpse of some of them while we're in NYC for the AWP Conference later this week. Emily's first post was about the shift in rhetoric in the abortion debate, in particular the infantilizing of women.
We will also, this week, probably hit 50,000 visits. I didn't install the sitemeter until about 20 months ago, but I can't begin to describe how mind-boggling those numbers are to me. I know places like Shakesville get that kind of traffic every day, and places like Kos get that in a few hours, but I'm still shocked by the idea that we'll average even a hundred hits a day. That's a bigger audience than I ever even hoped for, and now it happens all the time. And I'm sure the growth will continue with the addition of S.O.S. to the blogging team. I'm looking forward to it.
So, Bradley tells me that someone is remaking the movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still. It has Keanu Reeves in it, which suggests it will not be good.
This got us to thinking about movie remakes. We're trying to come up with good ones.
So far we have Ocean's Eleven and King Kong (maybe). We also talked about the new Battlestar Galactica as being superior to the original television series.
That's it. We're at a loss at the moment for more remakes that are either as good as or better than the original version of the movie or television show. So, I ask you, can you think of others?
Here are our parameters: the remake must be based on the original movie/TV show. We're not including any movies that are reinterpretations of original source material, such as any Shakespeare movie, any Dracula movie*, The Wizard of Oz**, or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
* Really, a lot of those early monster movies wouldn't fit our criteria here -- people have made multiple versions of The Phantom of the Opera and Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, for example.
**The Judy Garland version wasn't the first Oz movie -- there was a silent version before it.
This is weird. Apparently, a Texas District Attorney is under fire for allegedly sending creatively racist emails to his staff:
"Earlier this week a columnist with the Houston Chronicle uncovered an email from Harris County assistant district attorney Mike Trent who, in a congratulatory note to a junior prosecutor, used the word 'Canadians' to describe blacks on a jury.
"Trent wrote of the prosecutor in a 2003 email: "He overcame a subversively good defence [sic] by Matt Hennessey that had some Canadians on the jury feeling sorry for the defendant and forced them to do the right thing."
"Trent's email remained unchallenged by colleagues who received the email, despite there being no actual Canadians on the jury.
"But when Trent's office came under scrutiny this month over an unrelated incident, the email was unearthed, leaving Trent open to accusations of bigotry.
"Those accusations are grounded in allegations that the use of 'Canadians' was in keeping with the definition listed on an online racial slurs database that defines 'Canadian' as a masked replacement for the N-word.
"In his own defence, Trent said he honestly thought there had been Canadians on the jury and did not understand the negative connotation of the word."
You get a lot of juries with significant numbers of Canadians on them down there in Texas, Mike? You know, I almost could have believed that this wasn't about race, until I read that comment. It seems to me that the sensible thing to do would be to claim, "I was using 'Canadian' to mean 'bleeding heart-type.'" That I could kinda see-- I mean, you know Canadians, with their wacky health care for everyone and strict gun control laws. Pinko mounties-- that's what I'm talkin' aboot.
But he didn't say that-- he said, "I thought they really were Canadians!" Presumably, you know, because they were dressed in hockey uniforms and tukes and spoke in a Newfoundland accent and were drinking Molson and eating Kraft dinner and they kept receiving affordable health care as they needed it.
As they say in Quebec, le sigh...
Apparently, someone-- maybe SONY, maybe Adult Swim, but most likely BET-- doesn't want to us to see two episodes of The Boondocks produced for this season.
On a vaguely-related note, I got the latest Boondocks comic strip collection, All the Rage, and it is bueno.
Something you should know
Just in case you were wondering.
(Oh, what's that you say? Am I procrastinating again? Yes! Actually, I think I might be done for the day.)
Saturday Morning Ska
Party like it's 1997!
Another picture post
We bought an external hard drive this week so that I could free up space on my laptop. Which is good, because my laptop is where all the pictures have been. I've made space. It also means that I've been going through my pictures again (I do this very regularly, but this time I have a really good excuse). I'm keeping a file on my laptop of "Favorite Travel Photos." They're all from Japan at the moment. I know there are others, but I'll have to go through the other files some more. Anyway, here's one for you:
Incense burning at Haguro-san (one of the three mountains of the Dewa-Sanzan holy area).
(Why, yes, I am procrastinating. How did you know?)
FAU GOP Debate, New View
Guest Blogger: Matthew Letter [Matt is my cousin, organizer for We Are Change FL, and an ardent Ron Paul supporter*]
As the sun settled behind the lines of trees in the background I sped northwards. I was late and still had things to do.
After fielding phone calls all day co-ordinating our members who were protesting at the entrance with our members who were with the Ron Paulites, now it was my turn. I arrived on scene just in time to be informed that our group had just been threatened with arrest if they did not cease to hand out the DVDs that we make it a point to distribute en-masse at all of our events.
Never before had that happened to us. Of course, never before had there been such a high concentration of Police, Secret Service and Republicans. Welcome to the United States of Fascism.
A group of protesters "Firefighters against Giuliani" were relegated to a "Free Speech Zone" far away from the action. They seemed a sorry lot, pouting behind their fence. I couldn't help but feel sorry for them. Our group refused to be caged up, so rather than protest in the "Free Speech Zone" they had put away their signs and began to hand out DVDs. But now even that was not being allowed. Fascism had come to town with a vengeance.
Signs posted at the entrance to the official "Debate Observation Area" indicated that it would not be tolerated to bring in Firearms (understandable), Cellphones (Thank God), or any Paraphernalia supporting a specific candidate! Squeeze me? I thought that was the point.
I wasn't even going inside, but the sight of the sign enraged me. I made it very clear to all those within earshot that I was quite displeased. How dare they. This is supposed to be a political debate. Last time I checked you were supposed to wear a shirt supporting your candidate, or at least a button.
Of course its difficult to rig an election when it is obvious to everyone paying attention that all the supporters on TV are wearing paraphernalia for a candidate that isn't the one being elected or selected should I say.
So I pointed out to the persons manning the entrance as well as anyone else within range that this was the antithesis of what an American political debate, especially one being held on a college campus, traditionally the nexus for free thought and debate, is supposed to be. People around me were just staring incredulously. Gawking as they would have had I just pulled a gun from my waist band and was now frantically waving it around in a non threatening manner, perhaps firing off a round or two into the sky.
I moved along at this point being extremely flustered and reminding all I passed not to support a particular candidate lest they be arrested or at the very least expelled.
"Make sure to be as generic as possible", I said to one person, an elderly gentleman, who then in turn inquired as to my meaning. I explained to him about the checkpoint and the sign with the rules to enter the debate watching area and so on and so forth. He couldn't believe it. "Welcome to fascist America sir, papers please" I said half-jokingly as I continued on my way.
Destination? A seafood restaurant up the street where hundreds of Ron Paul supporters were gathered. As we approached (at this point the remainder of our protesters are with me) a mob of between 150 and 200 Paulites we're heading on foot towards the 20 or so supporters of various candidates at the university's entrance.
A news crew was present filming and interviewing the handful of sign bearers. A news crew that was quick to disappear as the Paul supporters arrived. We mustn't show the vast grassroots support that his message of restoring the constitution has generated. You know the whole bandwagon effect. And we wouldn't want that going viral now would we.
A very orderly and peaceful march ensued during which the only thing audible was a constant drone of RON PAUL! punctuated on a loud speaker by words such as Freedom and Constitution and Revolution.
After about an hour of this the group returned to the restaurant to watch the debate itself. Each time Paul came on screen a wave of jubilation washed over the crowd and announced itself with a low roar of approval. Say what you want about Ron Paul, but one thing is for sure. His supporters love him.
When the debate was finally over, Paul himself showed and when he took stage despite the deafening roar there had been a moment before as he moved through the cheering crowd towards the podium, you could hear a pin drop. Everyone was hanging on every last syllable spoken by the Libertarian-leaning 10 time Congressman from Texas. Everyone including yours truly.
*This blog does not endorse Ron Paul or any other candidate (although this blog definitely leans democratic and perhaps a little socialist, which would seem antithetical to Ron Paul support), however, this blog does endorse freedom of speech, expression, and the energetic and reasoned exchange of opinions and ideas.
Berfday Berfday Unh Unh Unh!
See what happens when you raise a guy as a Jehovah's Witness? He never gets these birthday things right. Anyway, it's Grim's birthday today. I have no idea how old he really is, but he feels older because he's constantly beating the shit out of himself on a skateboard. So slide by there and wish him a happy whatever he is, and watch some video of him harming himself while having what looks to be a hell of a lot of fun. I'm slightly jealous, truth be told.
Labels: Happy Birthday Neal
The Debate Spectacle
I won't bore you with all the behind-the-scenes details regarding the big event (those will be incorporated into the [anything but boring] essay I'm writing about the event). I will say I was most amused by hearing reactions of people when they saw the various newsmen. It seems television newsmen are real superstars, and when a recognizable one walked by, whispers followed. Here were some of the ones I heard regarding Brian Williams:
He looks older in person.
He looks ancient in person.
He's much taller in person.
He's kind of hunching over. (Said as he was walking past us)
These were observations made by a cluster of people (mostly students) sitting near me in the lobby.
When Chris Matthews walked by, the woman next to me said, "Look, there's Chris Matthews! He's much taller than he looks on t.v." The same woman, upon seeing Jim Sackett (a local anchorman) declared, "Oh, Jim Sackett!" She then turned to me and said, "They all look so different [in person] don't they?"
I sat next to a couple of ushers during the debate, and when Brian Williams was introduced, one woman turned to the other and said, "He's a handsome man!" During the second part of the debate, David Gregory made his way into our section and the usher watched him intently. After a moment, she looked over at me with a big smile and said, "It's David Gregory!" I was thinking the same thing, exclamation point and all. I recognized a phenomenal photojournalist from the New York Times; I stood up and screamed at the top of my lungs "Oh My God! It's Stephen Crowley!" in my best Beatles-at-Shea-Stadium-fanatic-fan voice, but everyone just looked at me like I was nuts. Photojournalists get no love.
My assigned seat was appalling. All of the student/faculty seats were appalling. I mean, we may as well have been seated behind a wall: the various items on stage (technical items, scaffolding-type items, decorative items) completely obscured our view. I was on the end of a row, so I could make out 1 1/2 podiums. The folks to my left could not see anything. One by one (and sometimes in groups) we left to find better seats. At one point an usher came over to the section and announced that if we had moved from our assigned seats, we needed to move back because the seats we moved to were also assigned. We gave her a blank stare; crickets could be heard chirping in the background as she waited for us to confess to our transgression. She eventually gave up, so I ended up having a great seat (there were a lot of empty seats).
My favorite question of the evening was from a Florida resident and it was directed at Guiliani: If your immigration program insists all immigrants learn English, why is your campaign running an ad in Spanish? I thought it was an intriguing question and looked forward to his answer, but he didn't answer it. He just spoke of the importance of speaking multiple languages.
And could the candidates have been any nicer to each other?
Poetry for the Environment, Review
[NOTE: Brian and I agreed to review one another's readings. I see he decided to review himself, instead. I, however, am sticking to the agreement.]
It was a beautifully Floridian winter's day in Davie, Florida when Brian Spears joined three other poets (John Childrey, David Plumb, and some woman) reciting their work to a packed room of undergraduates and retirees at the top floor of Broward Community College's still-quite-fresh campus library.
Some might say the stage was set for thoughts on global warming, as it was 78 degrees and sunny on this January day, the students laughing and playing in tanks and camisoles in the shade of trees before the library's main entrance. But this was actually traditional weather for the season: low humidity, and a cool breeze.
The event was staged by Angela Fernandez, a Women's Studies student and Davie Writing Center employee, as her contribution to an environmental extravaganza. A dark-haired lady with a sympathetic aversion to public speaking, she spent most of the event moving around the room with an donation plate filled with small green ribbons and pins to be worn in support of environmental awareness. These were mostly gratefully received, although one conspicuous audience member loudly announced "I don't do ribbons," and sent her on her way.
The room was large, a corner top-floor room surrounded by windows which could mechanically shade themselves, in part or in whole. The warm-up act of the event, was, at some level, the amusement we all took in watching these shades be adjusted to the perfect "poetry reading" light-level, neither too dark nor too bright. (One wonders what amount of fossil fuels was involved in such an engineering delight, but no matter -- one can barely get to the Davie Campus without a car.)
The reading began with John Childrey, whose poems give a close view of the physical environments of South Florida -- he accompanied his reading with the photographs of his wife, Candice Childrey, an accomplished photographer whose mode is similar: intimate views of the natural world that surrounds us, from a car. Or, in the case of one of her photographs, a gorgeous egret taking flight, his wings curled seductively inward as he powers himself forward, barely missed by a passing car. John Childrey's poems gave one this sense.
Then some chick read. [Maybe someone can edit in a review of this part? I can't remember a damn thing about this woman.]Edit: I am thoroughly ashamed of my lack in this matter, and will fix it right now. Amy was, and I am not exaggerating here, resplendent in her reading. She was engaging and funny, and she managed that most difficult of poetic reading tasks--keeping an audience's attention all the way through a 2-3 page poem, titled "The Ones I Love and Texas." She spoke Florida more truly than any of the rest of us, in part because she is Florida, in all its overheated, overcrowded, elbowing-at-its-boundaries glory. And I teared up when she read the poem she wrote for my daughter after Hurricane Katrina. That poem, which may be the most awesome ever written, is available here, thanks to the brilliant editors at storySouth.
David Plumb's focus was, to tell the truth, not primarily on the environment, but the audience didn't seem to mind: his poetry focused on the Iraq War, and was ranting, vivid, pulling what felt like global details into a crazed local gazpacho -- a soup of newspaper clippings, if you will. His one read "found poem" sticks in the mind: "I dreamed my grand-daughter was covered with oil, but I couldn't find anything to wipe it off her." (Quoted as the mind remembers, not necessarily verbatim.)
Finally Brian Spears was asked to close the show. After the customary ingratiations, he delivered a rousing call to arms about free speech, encouraging the audience to defy "free speech zone" restrictions should they happen to disagree with them, no matter their political points of view. He then talked a bit about how this reading encouraged him to write after a long dry spell. He then got to reading. His poems were flawless, in this reviewer's opinion the best of the lot, vivid and sensitive, beautifully paced, although sometimes lacking in articles (one must chalk this up to "poetic license"). He closed on a villanelle, which was very warmly received by the audience (as Angela Fernandez closed, she especially thanked Brian for including her favorite form, the villanelle), and many audience members made a point of expressing their appreciation to the poets, especially Brian for his villanelle. (One must conclude that villanelles are prompted for a huge comeback.)
And so ended the Broward Community College Poetry for the Environment reading, January 24, 2008.
1. Sloop John B -- The Beach Boys
2. You Know I'm No Good -- Amy Winehouse
3. Tripping Billies -- Dave Matthews
4. River is Waiting -- John Fogerty
5. Jolene -- The White Stripes
6. Ocean Waves -- Virtual Audio Environments [this is a 45 minute long recording of the ocean]
7. Here We Go -- Ozomatli
8. Kingdom of Lies -- Folk Implosion
9. El Aguafiesta -- The Spam Allstars
10. Numb -- Portishead
On "Dangerous" Students
This escaped my notice earlier this week, but I think it bears noting. Apparently, according to News Channel 12 (which I think is a local CBS affiliate, if I'm not mistaken), "FAU Professors [are] Concerned About Dangerous Students." That's what the headline says, anyway.
My first inclination is to say, "Well, of course we are-- shouldn't everybody be concerned about danger?" That seems obvious to me. A teacher who acts blasé about a student coming in wielding a chainsaw and wearing a jacket made out of human flesh is-- and I hate to speak ill of any of my colleages-- not a very good professor, and probably doesn't deserve tenure. Yes, truly dangerous students should alarm us all.
But it turns out that this article isn't really about truly dangerous students-- it's about students who professors perceive as dangerous. "Professors at Florida Atlantic University have made twice as many concerned calls about odd student behavior than they did before the Virginia Tech shootings in April," the article tells us. So, from the headline to the first paragraph, the threat level gets downgraded from "dangerous" to "odd," or-- to use the new terror threat level I've been designing-- from "Al Qaeda" to "Britney Spears."
"Educators say that's also true at other Florida colleges," the article goes on to say. "One Florida State University officials says there's 'an increase of professors being frightened.'"
This seems kind of obvious to me-- college professors are used to being hated; that's part of our job. But this year, one student took his contempt for everyone around him on campus farther than most college students ever will. I imagine a lot of my colleagues are like me, and realized that what happened at Virginia Tech could very easily happen on any campus in America-- we've all made students profoundly angry; several of us have seen students cry. Most of us probably believed-- rightly so, I think-- that moments of profound disappointment are part of the college experience; when you're twenty years old, someone's going to tell you that your poetry needs work, or that your research paper was sloppy, or that they love you but they're not in love with you. I got all three, multiple times. And it was upsetting. But still... prior to Virginia Tech, I had never worried that a student might hate me so much that he'd do anything worse than post a nasty comment on "Rate My Professor."
So do some of us pay more attention to pissed off or depressed students now, nine months after Virginia Tech? Yeah. I think it's unavoidable. And in some cases, it's for the best-- but we do have to be careful. There are some students who clearly have anger-management problems-- like the student who once yelled at me in my office, demanding to know a classmate's grade. Or the student who got frustrated and tried to start a fight with one of his classmates. Or-- and this is rare-- the student who actually makes veiled threats about harming himself or others. These are students who obviously need someone to talk to, and we do them a disservice (and put ourselves and our other students at risk) when we ignore these problems and hope they go away on their own. So if the lessons of Virginia Tech result in professors taking on some additional responsibility to get seriously disturbed students the help they need, that's good.
At the same time, though, I think it's important to remember that "seriously disturbed students" are very, very rare, and that it's not our job to "report" every student who's homesick, or going through a difficult break-up, or-- most importantly-- who writes creative work that some might find upsetting. In the aftermath of the shooting, a former classmate of Seung-Hui Cho's tried to exploit the tragedy and gain his fifteen minutes of fame by giving copies of the shooter's creative work to America Online and claiming that if only the faculty and administration had paid attention to what this guy was writing in class, this whole tragedy could have been avoided.
This is, of course, moronic. In the past two years, I've had students write fiction about shootings, self-mutilation, rape, incest, child abuse, stalking, and all sorts of unpleasant things. And these students all belong to a club called "Students Who Haven't Gone On Killing Sprees Despite Writing Violent Stories." A certain type of student will always rely on graphic violence to tell a story, because violence is the most obvious way to indicate conflict, which is vital for a narrative. That, and these students only read Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk, and thus think graphic depictions of brutality are "powerful" and don't quite understand the value of subtlety.
Right after the shooting, lots of pundits and self-appointed experts asked "What could the school have done to prevent this?" And the sad answer was, probably nothing. Somehow, this disturbed young man managed to intimidate people without making overt threats, which meant there wasn't much the school could do. Law enforcement and psychiatric officials might have been able to do more-- perhaps if he'd been hospitalized rather than treated as an outpatient after his early run-ins with the law, he wouldn't have been able to purchase firearms. But hindsight is always 20/20, isn't it?
So I guess, in the end, it doesn't surprise me that professors are talking about students who seem troubled-- and in a lot of cases, that's a really good thing. Before Virginia Tech, I'd never spoken to anyone about an intimidating student; now, I've spoken about one. That may not seem so dramatic, but in terms of statistics, it's significant-- I'm in that number who made twice as many calls to report students who might need help.
But at the same time, I think it's important that we move past the fear that might have struck us on that day. A student who writes about death and dismemberment is most likely not going to turn his fiction into reality. The vast majority of our students are not "dangerous" in any way. A few-- from abusing drugs and alcohol-- are potentially dangers to themselves or others, but that's quite different. Despite some of our own fears and the sensationalized headlines dreamed up by our local media, our campuses are relatively safe places, and our students are not to be feared.
(Or a post on a totally personal subject.)
I haven't had an anxiety dream about school in several years. They would happen occasionally in graduate school, but those dreams would always be about a class I was actually in. For example, I once dreamed that my professor ripped my seminar paper to shreds and told me I couldn't do graduate work. This came a few days before I met with her and a peer review group. That makes sense in terms of focused anxiety. (She didn't actually tell me I couldn't do graduate work. She did, however, tell me to completely reorganize a 20 page paper and fix my topic sentences.)
Last night, however, I had a dream about being in a class. I think it was some sort of general science class -- but I'm not totally sure because it took place in the room that was the writing lab at my undergrad institution (converted back to a classroom), with the guy I took American history from, and I had a political science book with me. Anyway, I hadn't done any sort of reading. I figured I would be okay, since the quizzes were usually only a couple of questions.
But this time, I had an enormous quiz, with lots of explanations about lots of different things that I had to do. The class was also passing around several sign-up sheets for things, including a sign-up sheet where we had to name stars in different constellations in order to make our presentation preference known (I don't know. It's a dream. It doesn't have to make sense). The various sign-up sheets all landed on my desk at about the same time, piling up since I couldn't make heads or tales of them. This, of course, added to my anxiety about the class since I was holding things up.
The class ended, I met with Bradley, and we walked through a building that looked like an extended version of the business building complex on our current campus of employment.
But then it turned out to be the Kansas City Airport.
I used to have some recurrent dreams, but lately I don't really remember my dreams (I used to remember them all the time. And they are often very, very weird. This dream is relatively normal. Sometimes I would dream in cartoon. I am not kidding.). I've been getting a lot of sleep over the last couple of days, so I'm remembering things better. Now, though, I seem to be developing these weird school anxiety dreams.
So ... um ... any weird dreams that you've had lately?
Environmental poetry and the Random Ten
I mentioned yesterday, amid the ranting about our Orwellian free speech zones, that Amy and I did a reading on the Davie campus. It was a small part of a program called "Focus the Nation," and we were asked to read poems about the environment. When I was asked a few months ago, I agreed--but I didn't have any poems that I considered "environmental." I had some that I figured I could squeeze into that category if necessary--poems set in or about natural surroundings, for instance, but nothing that I thought really got into the relationships between man and nature, or more importantly, for this reading, that showed the damage we can cause. So I had to write something.
Fortunately, I'd been in a bit of a writing funk lately, so this forced my hand. I wrote a couple of new pieces for the reading--one is a prose poem, but I don't know how to format it so that it won't come out looking all wonky on blogger, so you get the villanelle instead. It's only the second one I've ever written, and I'm not generally fond of the form, but it seemed appropriate to me for this sort of subject, since it's as much a rhetorical statement as anything else.
Not-SummerI closed with that poem, and it was received well, I'm glad to say. It was received a bit better than my opening, which was part rant about the free speech zone in Boca. I just can't leave that alone, can I?
Today my neighbor went into the pool.
January, even in Florida it’s odd
that winter has come, and yet it isn’t cool.
The water’s cold enough. You’d be a fool
to swim outside right now. Just the thought
of my neighbor swimming in the pool
gives me chills. And yet the sun’s so full.
On Christmas Eve I drank cold beer, not toddies.
Winter has come and yet it isn’t cool
enough to bundle up in wool
socks, thermals, gloves. I’m still in shorts, and God!
my neighbor, swimming in the pool.
We crossed the line somewhere, we broke the rules
of nature’s balance; now we’re staying hot.
Today my neighbor went into the pool.
Winter has come, and yet it isn’t cool.
Here's the Random Ten. No special theme for me today--just the first ten songs to pop up on shuffle on the iPod. Here we go.
1. Odyssey--Lazlo Bane
2. I Took Your Name--R.E.M.
3. Big Chief--Dr. John
4. The World's Fair--Dave Brubeck
5. The Jessica Numbers--The New Pornographers
6. Children's Story--Black Star
7. Romeo and Juliet--Mark Knopfler
8. The Distance--Cake
9. If You Leave--Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
10. Martini Five-O--from The Tao of Steve soundtrack
So, how's the weather?
Just in case there was any doubt
The FAU administration has gotten a little more direct in exactly what will and will not be allowed on the campus during the debate tonight. This is from an email to the university community from the police chief, and no surprise, he's citing security concerns as the reason for this bullshit crackdown.
The University police department is working in conjunction with other local, state and federal agencies to ensre the safety and security of the campus community and guests during the presidential debate on January 24th, 2008. Recognizing the need for an appropriate area for the exercise of free speech and campaigning, the University has designated a Campaign Visibility & Free Speech Area (CVSFA) as announced in the daily Debate Announcements. Ed: If I were wittier, I'd come up with some fancy description that spelled out fascist, but it's the end of the day and I got nothing. The CVSFA is located at the soccer field off Broward Avenue across from the debate venue. This location will provide all attendees with a clear view of the entrance to the debate and the media. Me again--from a long way off, and of course, with no guarantees that either the media or the candidates will look in their direction.
All faculty, staff and students of FAU should conduct their assemly and free speech activities in this area...Violations of these rules by members of the FAU community may result in referral to Human Resources or the Dean of Students, as appropriate, and/or law enforcement action.
For starters, any referral would be inappropriate in a free society, but we're obviously past that. This is a clear warning--make noise, and we'll fuck you up, however we can. If you're a student, expect to be gone. If you're staff, we've got budget cuts to justify getting rid of you. And if you're anything other than tenured faculty, don't test us--and we may take a run at your tenured asses as well, if you piss us off enough.
The last paragraph, by the way, is positively Orwellian.
University police ad outside law enforcement personnel will maintain a presence in the CVFSA to ensure the safety and security of all participants. We share your enthusiasm in the opportunity to participate in this national debate, and continue to keep your safety and security as our focus. Thank you in advance for your strict cooperation.In other words, nice arms you got there. Be a shame if they got broken from falling over your protest sign.
Meanwhile, Amy and I expressed ourselves freely on the Davie campus this afternoon, reading poems about the environment. Funny, that whole campus was a free speech zone, just like the Boca one will be tomorrow. When it doesn't matter as much.
One More Comment on the Confederate Flag
But this time from Christopher Hitchens. He responds to remarks made by Huckabee in South Carolina. I'm not in total agreement with his opening statement (that most issues and stories about race that the media are willing to cover are actually non-stories), but I appreciate the gist of his argument regarding Huckabee's comments.
Go Read This Now, You
Our friend and colleague Papatya Bucak's new essay "I Cannot Explain My Fear" is now up at Brevity, the electronic journal of concise creative nonfiction. It's really, really good. If you read this essay, your life will be much better-- scientists have found that reading this essay makes you more attractive, whitens your teeth, improves your posture, and can add three feet to your long jump. I swear I believe this is true!
Seriously, it's a good essay, and it's awesome that it found a home in such a good magazine. Congratulations, Paptya. The rest of you-- read now!
FAU's big day
There are events of national importance taking place on an FAU campus today. That's right--Amy and I are part of a reading titled "Poetry on the Environment" being held this afternoon at the Davie campus--2:30 to 3:30--as part of their day long discussion and presentation on environmental issues.
Oh, and there's some kind of presidential debate this evening, being televised on MSNBC, and not only are the Republican candidates gracing us with their presence, so are Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough.
Ever since the announcement was made, the university administration has been, not so subtly, hinting that this is our chance on the big stage, and that we shouldn't screw it up by being vocal or partisan--you know, we shouldn't screw it up by acting like citizens or anything. Amy's already expressed our collective disgust with the free-speech zones (something I plan to mention as an aside in my reading this afternoon), but I got this email from the university this morning that just reinforces what image they're hoping to portray. Here it is in part:
As part of Thursday's presidential debate, MSNBC will also air two shows live from OUTSIDE OF THE STUDENT SERVICES BUILDING (LOT 16): "Hardball with Chris Matthews" and "Morning Joe" with Joe Scarborough. The producers are inviting FAU students to be part of the live, on-camera audience for each show. The audience stands in the background and cheers while the stars of the show talk about the debates. From time to time, the host will speak directly with the audience members. Be sure to wear your blue and red gear to show FAU pride.Emphasis mine.
Here are the details:
Thursday, Jan. 24
4:30-6 p.m. - "Hardball with Chris Matthews"
6:30-8 p.m. - "Hardball with Chris Matthews"
10:30 p.m.-midnight - "Hardball with Chris Matthews"
Friday, Jan. 25 showtime
5:30-9 a.m. - "Morning Joe"....
NOTES: The producers want the audience to promote FAU and not a particular political campaign, so please no campaign shirts or materials. We encourage you to wear your FAU gear or anything that is blue or red. Please do NOT bring any handheld signs, as they block the camera's view of the audience and the debate site.
Please send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In other words, they want an ESPN College Gameday, kind of feel. Maybe I should get a big effing owl painted on my balding forehead to show school spirit, instead of calling Rudy 9iu11ani a ghoulish douchehound who is trying to ascend to the presidency on the bodies of about 3,000 victims of a terrorist attack.
I hope there's a big turnout, and I hope that every student there, no matter his or her political position, absolutely ignores every one of those marketing requests. I want to see call and response from partisans, perhaps even a scuffle or two. I want to see the Paulites go at it with the Romney supporters over Duncan Hunter's five supporters who aren't following him to Huckabee.
I want to see general mayhem, because that's what politics is--people disagreeing vehemently over matters that are important to them. I want to see some passion out there, not a marketing campaign.
And I especially want to see a sign that calls Chris Matthews "Tweety." That would be awesome.
Labels: FAU debates
I'll see your Mr. Show
and raise you, well... this.
It's not quite going all-in at the final table, but it's close.
Labels: Chuck Norris versus the bear
I find this maddening.
Why I am not an economist
Because this kind of stuff makes absolutely no sense to me.
CUPTERTINO, Calif. - Apple Inc. blew past Wall Street's bullish expectations in the first quarter with a 57 percent jump in profit, but a dramatically lower forecast sent shares plunging on fears about slowing consumer spending on electronics....
The company forecast profit in the second fiscal quarter of 94 cents per share, far short of the $1.09 per share that analysts were expecting. Revenue is also expected to be lower, coming in around $6.8 billion, compared with the $6.99 billion forecast by analysts.
Apple's guidance has historically been conservative, but such a divergence from Wall Street's estimate spooked investors already skittish about the economy.
So you have a company that blows past its previous expectations for the quarter, but because it sounds a more cautious note than "analysts" expect, the stock takes a beating. But if that's not counterintuitive enough, there's this bit later in the article.
Apple is profiting from sharply accelerating gains in the personal computer market in the United States, where the company has hovered for years in the 2 percent to 3 percent market share range. By the end of 2007, however, Apple had scooped out a share of more than 6 percent, according to market researcher Gartner Inc.That's right--Apple has doubled its market share in the desktop/laptop market thanks, one presumes, to the introduction of the iPhone, which got Apple's computing style in non-Apple users' hands. And even with that information, the stock gets pounded.
I swear, I'd rather try to understand L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poetry than figure out the stock market.
Matt Blunt Won't Seek Re-Election, or Bradley's Birthday Comes A Month Early
Woman-hater, child-hater, gay-hater, university-hater, and all-around player-hater Matt Blunt-- Missouri's idiot man-child governor-- will not seek reelection. Blunt, of course, says he looks forward to spending more time with his family. I tend to think there's more to the story. But for the moment, it doesn't really matter. He's gone, which is good for Missouri.
For those of you interested in what Emily and I have had to say about this utter degenerate in the past, go here.
Additional Thoughts (12:35 p.m.)-- Okay, so I didn't look too closely; Emily's post isn't critical of Blunt as much as it is critical of Missouri's legislature. Still. Missouri Republicans suck. Also, it dawned on me as I was telling Emily about Blunt's decision that this might not be the end of him. "I bet he runs for Senate," Emily predicted. I, however, suspect he might be angling to become vice president-- I could very easily see him running with Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney; he'd be Dan Quayle, only younger and less cerebral. I could be wrong, but I'm very much afraid he's going to wind up on the ticket...
"Everyone’s a sucker for a redemptive character arc. That’s why my memoir ends with me being elected President of the Universe, winning eight Nobel Prizes, and solving the Kennedy assassination with the help of my irascible feline sidekick, Mr. Whiskers. Granted, none of that shit actually happened, but hopefully readers will walk away satisfied that I’m not the same asshole I was in Chapter One."
This may mean very little to most of you, but my all-time favorite movie review column comes to an end today, as Nathan Rabin concludes "My Year of Flops," his one year experiment in watching box office failures and reevaluating them. Or at least it seems to come to an end, but you'll have to read more to find out what I mean.
Seriously, if you like movies, or especially if you love to hear about why some movies just suck, you'll love this column. And the news that Rabin has a new memoir coming out is very good indeed-- he has a funny, engaging voice that never fails to entertain.
Wendell Berry, 1968 from "Against the War in Vietnam"
Believe the automatic righteousness
of whoever holds an office. Believe
the officials who see without doubt
that peace is assured by war, freedom
by oppression. The truth preserved by lying
becomes a lie. Believe or die.
WASHINGTON - A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."
I taught the above poem to my poetry classes yesterday, and I can say this much--we have succeeded in raising the most politically cynical generation I could have possibly imagined. I used to think that the people who were just slightly older than I am were cynical, seeing as they'd cut their teeth on LBJ's Gulf of Tonkin and Nixon's Watergate, but no. The children of Bush-Cheney are far darker when it comes to politics. It's amazing that they're as engaged as they are.
Another picture for your morning
Remember how I mentioned that I've got way too much to do? Yeah. I'm still there. So I just give you another picture from last summer's trip to Japan:
Prayers on the side of the Floating Shrine at Tazawa-ko.
Back at the table
And man, am I glad to hear it. I am seriously fiending for some Daily Show and Colbert, not to mention that I'm still worried that we won't get a full final season of Battlestar Galactica. The writers gave up their demand to start representing reality and animation writers, but it looks like they're going to try to follow a similar structure to what the DGA did. Here's hoping there's a swift end to the strike and an equitable deal for the guilds.
Labels: WGA Strike
Can you taste it?
That's a big, smelly glass of Haterade right there, and whoever mixed it up didn't even have the decency to tell me he or she was making it. How difficult is it to drop a comment if you're going to slam someone in a diary over at Big Orange? Why you got to hate like that, man?
Stirring the Pot
The single most controversial chapter of Freakonomics is the one about how crime rates dropped 20 years after Roe v. Wade. Steven Levitt gives this one another stir today on the Times Freakonomics Blog. Please click that link! Highlights...
That is a good thing, huh?
Via Attaturk, just imagine the world of crap we'd be facing now as an economy if we'd "fixed" Social Security and turned over those trillions of dollars to Citibank, Merrill Lynch and the rest. Amy and I took a small hit in our retirement accounts last quarter, and will probably take a bigger one this quarter--not a huge deal since we can't really touch the money now and because we just started to invest. If we were looking to retire in the next couple of years, we'd be shitting bricks right now, but at the moment, it's not really an issue for us.
Part of the reason it's not an issue is because our retirement savings are supposed to supplement Social Security. We can take some risks with our 403(b) accounts because we have the backup that's supposed to be safe, the stuff that can't be taken away. The privatizers wanted to put all that money in the markets, because they said it would grow faster--the fact that they would earn gobs of money in fees never occurred to them, because they're just doing it for the greater benefit, right? Fortunately, the Democrats said no, and enough Republicans joined them that it became King George the Lesser's first major defeat, and with the markets spasming all over the world the last couple of days, it's a good thing they held together on it.
You're really stretching, Glenn
And you ought to knock it off. Maybe it was a slow news day, and you needed to fill space over at Salon, but this is just silly. Yes, Obama's recent mailers in South Carolina seem a little overly Jesus-y to me (you can see images of them at Salon), but no more so than I would expect from any candidate who has to overcome a right-wing whispering campaign saying that you're a secret Muslim who was sworn into office on the Koran and who turns his back on the flag when saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
Side note: I don't have a problem with a candidate who does any of the above, but Obama is running for President, and the majority of voters, sadly, do seem to care about that stupid sort of crap, so I completely understand why he's fighting back.
It's the comparison with Huckabee's campaign that's the most galling, frankly.
Instead, I'm focusing solely on Huckabee's explicit religious appeal for votes, which conveys this message: "Like you, I'm a Christian; my Christianity is central to who I am and how I will lead; and therefore, as a devout Christian, you should vote for me for President." Huckabee was criticized extensively for that appeal. Does anyone doubt that this same message is at least part of the brochure which the Obama campaign is circulating in South Carolina? Regardless of the numerous, significant differences between them, how can one be criticized while the other be defended for employing what seems to be the same tactic?
You're glossing over the most important difference, and I don't know why--and I'm not going to impute motives here, either, though you're readily critical of Obama's supposed motives. But just in case it's not really, really clear, here's the difference:
No one's accusing Huckabee of being a Muslim.
That's it. If no one were accusing Obama of being a Muslim, of having been brainwashed at a madrassa as a child, of having loyalties that lay outside the nation (not to mention the dominant religious structure) and Obama came out with these mailers, then by all means, pile on. But he is being attacked that way, and in that most insidious of ways, via a whispering campaign. He's mentioned this in his speeches recently, so it's obvious the campaign is responding to this particular attack. That's the only logical reason that these mailers are so over-the-top. You can't judge his reaction as if he were some other candidate--his middle name is Hussein, and his biological father was Muslim, and people are making shit up about him. This is the kind of return fire we wanted from John Kerry in 2004 when the Swift-boating started, so why criticize Obama for firing back powerfully?
Edit: Greenwald updates, and so do I:
But I do think this question should be answered: the "Obama-is-a-Muslim" whispering campaign has been around for a long, long time -- more than a year ago, it made national headlines. If the primary purpose of this flier -- as Obama supporters insist -- was simply to rebut that false claim, why didn't Obama distribute this Christian brochure to Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada? Why is it only the heavily Christian South Carolina Democrats who received it? Didn't he want to rebut the Muslim claims in other states besides South Carolina?To the first part, that the whispering campaign has been around for more than a year, and that it made national headlines--so? The Vince-Foster -was-murdered-by-Hillary story has been around for more than a decade, but we still have to slap it down, in part because some people will believe anything, and in part because the opposition keeps putting it out there. You can't smack it down and expect it to stay down.
As to why Obama has taken this particular tack in South Carolina as opposed to doing it earlier, my assumption is that it has become more of a problem now. I've certainly seen more stories around about people getting the email again in the last couple of weeks than I did in the six months previous. He was also able to spend a lot more time in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada than he has been able to in South Carolina, and than he will be able to in upcoming states--it's easier to be a bit more low-key on certain subjects when you're spending 5 and 6 days a week in a place than when you're counting on television and direct mail to do your speaking for you.
But just in case the difference between the two campaigns--and therefore the criticism of the two campaigns--isn't clear, here it is. Huckabee is running on his faith--it is his campaign, just as it was for Pat Robertson in 1988. For Obama, it's a side issue--he is, in a sense, simply proving that he's Christian enough to be a president in this nation. I wish it weren't necessary for our politicians to do that, but as long as this nation considers atheists to be soulless heathens who would rape their dead mothers with stuffed horse cocks if it weren't against the law, that's what presidential contenders have to do--prove they're reliably Christian. So Obama is doing it. If he were other than who he is, this wouldn't be an issue, but if he were other than who he is, he wouldn't have as intriguing a story, and might not be the contender he is today.