Friday, February 29, 2008

Prison Planet

Or, Where our Money Goes

You might have seen this already, since it's around the 'sphere: it concerns a late study which shows that one American in a hundred today is in prison.

One in a hundred.

“While we certainly want to be smart about who we put into prisons,” Professor Cassell said, “it would be a mistake to think that we can release any significant number of prisoners without increasing crime rates. One out of every 100 adults is behind bars because one out of every 100 adults has committed a serious criminal offense.”

But of course, this is not actually the case:

"We have 5,500 D.W.I offenders in prison,” [The State Senator from Texas] said, including people caught driving under the influence who had not been in an accident. “They’re in the general population. As serious as drinking and driving is, we should segregate them and give them treatment.”

Why does this matter?

[T]the report said, “prison costs are blowing a hole in state budgets.” On average, states spend almost 7 percent on their budgets on corrections, trailing only healthcare, education and transportation.

In 2007, according to the National Association of State Budgeting Officers, states spent $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections. That is up from $10.6 billion in 1987, a 127 increase once adjusted for inflation. With money from bonds and the federal government included, total state spending on corrections last year was $49 billion. By 2011, the report said, states are on track to spend an additional $25 billion.

And that, of course, ignores the cost of human suffering: not only the human suffering of the prisoners. As the report notes, we imprison in a racist manner: 1 in 9 black men are in prison; 1 in 46 Hispanics are in prison. If nearly 1 in 10 black men are in prison, what happens to their families? What do they suffer? What do they learn, about America, about our culture, about our justice system, about their own chances in this country?

And they are right, of course.

We also imprison in a classicist manner -- that is, people from the lower classes end up in prison more often than rich folk do. What's that teaching Americans? (Nothing, probably. Probably I only wish it were.)

My main point: if we're spending money on prisons, we don't have money to spend on schools, on health care, on scholarships, on public transportation, on libraries, on alternative fuel sources.

On rehab, for fuck's sake.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Kids Today!

So we're coming out of my office late last night and I spot a nickel on the floor.

"Money!" I tell the kid, nodding at it.

She swoops down and snatches it up. "I have a quarter!" she gloats. "I found a quarter!"


"Uh...a dime?"

I stare at her. "What?"

She studies the coin, perplexed. "It's a nickel?"

"You're messing, right?"

"Well, I know it's not a penny," she said, with certainty. "Those are made of copper."

She's nearly ten. She'll be ten in May!

OTOH, why would she know anything about money? When has she ever handled any? All she ever does with money is drop it in her pickel jar (where she keeps "her" money).

When I was a kid, we needed money -- well, needed. We used it, anyway, to spend at the small store six blocks from my house, though I can't quite recall what we bought with it, beyond candy. Lots of candy -- those wax lips and teeth, fat wads of Laffy Taffy, little chocolate bars, the big hunks of iced gingerbread, those were good. I think we might have bought comic books. Squirt guns, maybe? Cap guns? I do remember buying caps and banging them off with bricks i the front yard. I know I didn't start buying actual books until I was about thirteen, because I remember buying my first one, Door Into Summer, and I remember how much it cost, .75 cents. But that was later. I already was on my third or fourth actual real job by then.

Anyway my point here is that she doesn't need to know about money because she never buys things: they get bought for her. My mother buys her everything she wants, when it comes to toys or junky food, and we get her every book, very nearly, she even looks wistfully at. Why would she need to know about money?

Obviously this child needs to be a bit more deprived.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What, More Whining?

I'm trying to cheer up, down here in Arkansas, where gas is $3.09 a gallon these days, and milk is fifty cents past that, and I don't even want to consider what my heating bill will be this month, which is not easy, since I had not one but two stories rejected this week.

Well, at least I have a good book to read: Emma Bull's Freedom and Necessity.

If I had the strength, I would review it for you. As it is, I barely have the strength to read it.

And update: over on Crooked Timber they're talking about that idiot Kristol bit in the NYT, where he went after Michelle Obama b/c she noted things have not gotten better lately -- he claimed things are better, have been getting better. The old "every one has TVs and cell phones now! The poor all have cars and DVD players! See! Americans are doing great!" That stupid fucking argument.

Who believes this?

Well I know who believes it. 19% believe it. Right-Wing idiots believe it. Anyone who hasn't had to decide between paying a clinic bill and paying a heating bill and paying the cable bill, that's who believes it. Oh, we all have cell phones, sure, because we'vce dumped our land-lines because nothing comes over the landlines except sales calls from desperate people making less than minimum wage to try to sell us aluminum siding -- so we all have cell phones now, and we all have color televisions, though mine, frankly, is 15 years old and I didn't buy it, it was given it me by my FIL; and we all have cars, though many of us have exorbinatant loans we're paying for them; and we all have big old houses, yes, and have you heard about the housing crisis, and we all have health care, and isn't that hilarious?

And we all have microwaves and washing machines in our own houses! And we all have iPods! But half our incomes go to healthcare and the other half to credit card companies and we get no vacation at all -- zero, I can't remember the last time I had a fucking day off -- and we're terrified all the time about what will happen when all this crashes and our government is evil and most of us work two jobs or a job and a half and Mr. Kristol thinks we're better off?

I'm sure that's so on his planet.

Then the 19% tell us if we just managed our money better -- learned to do without the bling, learned to say no to what we didn't have the money for (like, I guess, Amoxicillian, or, you know, gas for the car) -- we'd be fine.

Better off my back teeth.

We'd be better off without a fucking war in Iraq, that's what we'd be better off without.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My Brilliant Kid

So mr. delagar took the kid to class with him, up the hill, at the real university, as he calls it...

She sat through his two WLIT I classes, and only threw her stuffed duck at him once (when he said J. K. Rowling was a terrible writer).

But here's the part that makes me proud.

In one class, he asked all the feminists to raise their hands?

My kid was the only one who did.

(Well, it makes me proud *and* ill, I have to admit: 45 students in that class, probably 2/3 of them women, none of them feminists? I want to rise up from this chair and go do some damn WORK. Zelda! Mouse! To the Barricades!)

Monday, February 18, 2008

More Whining, Plus A Book Report

In a doomed effort to cheer myself up this weekend, I read Robert Parker's latest work less one. (Now and Then, which I cannot recommend -- dude, stop, please.) Parker used to be, well, you know, he never was brilliant. But he was a good writer. He was competent, he was a good read, he had something to say, and he said it.

Plus, he was fun. The interplay between Hawk and Spenser, the juxtaposition of a tough detective who cooked and read philosophy and discussed poetry, you know, it was amusing. His misogyny occasionally itched, the way no women who weren't either Susan or exactly like Susan (Parker's obvious Ivory Girl) were traitorous bints, well, you know, I just swallowed hard and slid past that as fast as I could.

Lately, though, ai. First, his slide to the right. Granted, we have all been polarized over the past seven or eight years, thanks to King George III. So, well, maybe not his fault. But it makes me even itchier, having to read the work of this fella who once, I remember clearly, if he was not a liberal, at least allowed for liberals not being evil; who if he did not agree with feminists, at least acknowledged they had a case. (Now he makes snotty remarks about female professors "keeping their names" because that's how "they" do it -- like it's a fad, or who knows what, those flighty women.)

Further, he should keep Spenser off university campuses if he can't go spend some time on a few himself, and open his eyes while he is on one. I understand he hates academics. Most on the Right do, for reasons that are both plain and puzzling to me. (Because ideas and truth rule us, and bullshit and nonsense won't, and because we keep on arguing long after most people would have nicely shut up -- why would that be a problem?)

Still, if he doesn't like academics, shit's sake, stay away from them. Write about dock workers. Write about guys who work in bars. Write about dairy farmers -- I hear they're good loyal Americans. Take Spenser to Kansas! Spenser ain't been to Kansas yet! He can go to Kansas City and eat some damn BBQ!

Don't write about academics and tell fat fucking lies. Which is what he's done in this book. Which is what he's done every time he tries to write about the Academy: writes some grudge he's got about the academy, and never gets it right.

And then this guy, too, while we're on it: though at least you can tell he's been on a campus. But really -- a dress code?

(That was one of Parker's complaints, too: the university faculty, not to mention the students, did not dress nicely. The students wore rumpled clothing. So did the professors. Alors! Further, and I know this will shock each of you, when he went to visit a pair of graduate students? The male partner's (they were not wed, if you can believe such a thing!) clothing showed signs of being -- no! -- home laundered!)

Well, here's the deal. This guy Jensen thinks professors dress appallingly, and students do, because we wish we were ten. Parker thinks it's liberals and, no doubt, feminists, destroying the world as usual. Neither of them consider what might be the real cause: cost. (Parker tries to quash this by claiming the rumpled clothing is pricey. May I doubt his veracity?) Cost in time and cost in fact.

Home laundered, you ass? Do you think graduate students have the money to dry clean anything, much less their fucking jeans?

Do you think graduate students have time to iron?

I barely have time to home launder, and I'm a professor.

I don't own fancy dress (this is the flat truth) because my salary doesn't run to buying it, or maintaining it; I have one interview suit, which I can't fucking well wear to teach in, since I would then have to have it, as Mr. Parker notes, professionally cleaned. We wear cords and khakis because they don't have to be ironed -- not because we don't want to iron (though who does? Does Mr. Jensen? Is that how he wants to spend his twenty minutes of free time per day? Or does he have more than that? How did he get it? Does his wife do the ironing? Or does his maid handle that? Maybe his clothing comes back from the professional launderer already ironed?)

Dress code? Pay me the scale professors were being paid in the fifties. Give me a wife at home, doing my chores. Maybe I'd dress the way professors did then. Maybe.

It's not feminists and liberals, you tool. It's not how we don't want to be grown-ups -- I wish. It's Republicans and their trickle-down crap and outsourcing and rising health costs and the inability of our income to keep pace with costs.

God, these people who live in their fantasty planets torque me proper.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Religious Enlightenment

Here's something to irk the enlightenment lovers in us all --

Via Clastic Detritus

Isn't that a fine name?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

More Whining

This class, this class!

I am pleased, mind you, to be teaching this pack of young writers, and many of them turn out to be good writers, a fine surprise (I was fully prepared for them to be awful), but since I am having to build the class as I go along, and since I have nearly no idea what I am doing, and since I am teaching four other class, with four other preps, at the same time, not to mention trying to write this novel which has suddenly, after playing dead for a month, decided it wants to be written after all, fucking shit, what am I to do?

I am sleeping about five hours a night, doing no housework, and the cupboards are bare, that's what.

I did make pumpkin soup last night, though, the first meal I have made in about a week.

Got the recipe from the Hungry Tiger, a fine recipe blog.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Oh SEE This!

Go watch this on YouTube: I'd embed it if I could #@!*! figure out how.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Blogs I Read

This is the intermittent Blogs I Like Post -- feel free to add Blogs You Like in comments!

In no special order, BTW, and this is not by any means all the blogs I like, but --


Sugared Harpy


Edge of the American West


Crooked Timber


Green Gabbro


Language Log

Dr. Helen

Ann Althouse

I read other blogs, but these are the blogs I read every day, and the blogs I use to reach other blogs -- this is my blogosphere.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Teaching, Writing, Teaching Writing

I've picked up a fifth class this semester, which yikes, but okay.

It's a writing class -- undergraduate, not called creative writing, but that's essentially what it is. The last time I taught anything like this was when I was a pup, in a disaster (dis-aster, bad star) of a job, at a university that was falling to pieces around me: the administration had given up on the faculty, the faculty hated the administration, the students didn't exactly know what was up, but they knew something bad was happening, and were bailing as fast as they could find berths elsewhere -- anyway, the administration were flat out out to make money from the students anyway they could, then, and piled students in every class: I had two sections of creative writing, with, I believe, 40 students in one and 42 in the other. (Oh, yes, this was, still, somehow, an actual university.) Teaching 40 students per class to do anything with writing, as anyone can tell you, well. I split them into pods of 12-14 and we met once a week, it was still a nightmare.

My point? I don't actually know how to teach this class, I suppose is my point. OTOH, I suppose I know more about how to teach it than I did about how to teach Victorian Lit, and, um...

How hard can it be?

I'll tell them what I know. I'll look at what they're doing. I'll make them cut everything that's not an elephant.

Who has other suggestions?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Weather, Whining

It's hot here again! 72 degrees and sunny. WTS? When it's winter, you know, I like WINTER.

And I've had to rearrange my schedule recently, which always makes me cranky. (Not that I'm OCD or anything. I just like day after day with NOTHING CHANGING.)

Oh -- and did I mention I busted my Buddha coffee mug?

I'm having a bad week.



Get out there and do it!