Monday, August 31, 2009

Why Can't Them Students Write?

Bardiac lays it out.

My favorite paragraph:

I can't teach a student to be a brilliant writer in one semester any more than you can teach your best incoming tuba student everything s/he needs to learn about playing the tuba in one semester. A really promising high school student has probably learned a fair bit about writing by the time s/he gets to college, and I can (one hopes) help him/her improve. A less promising incoming student should also improve. It's worth noting that I'm teaching all of these students in a class of 20, so I don't have the one on one intensity of your trombone studio private lesson.

Although many other excellent points get made as well.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Kids! Little Disease Vectors!

My kid brought a foul headcold home from school again, so I've been wickedly sick this weekend -- since Thursday night, really.  "Little disease vector," I told her, giving her mean looks, to which she responded, crumpling in guilt, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

It's no fun being mean to your 11-year-old.  They take it too seriously.

Anyway, the kid's BFF's family came through, and hauled the kid and the BFF off to a school-organized event, a day at a waterpark, where they had a deal of fun, and flirted with some boys (what? WHAT? is the kid turning into a girl? apparently), and then today she and mr. delagar have gone off to a movie, and I am going back to bed.

I am sure important things are occurring, but I am a giant feverish ball of snot, so.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thursday, August 27, 2009

We're Not Racist

In Idaho, Republicans are joking about hunting Obama with guns.

Oh, but they're not racist! It's just in fun!


Taxing the Rich socialism, as the party of the rich tells us.

But driving the rest of us into penury, as this post points out, destroys civilization.

Which is what is happening, and not just in California, although it is being played out more clearly in California than anywhere else at the moment.

In order NOT to tax ExxonMobile, Shell Oil, and other oil conglomerates that have made record profits in the tens of billions of dollars off California consumers in recent years, the Republicans blocked Torrico's oil severance tax proposal that would have provided a billion dollars for higher education. They also blocked a tax on cigarettes that would have adverted cuts as well. And they did so for blind ideological reasons with a total disregard for what is in the best interest of the state of California. They sided with Big Oil and Big Tobacco to penalize college students who are just trying to increase their skill and knowledge levels to be productive members of the state's workforce and to make California's future as bright as its past.

When those who profit from a society's goods do not support that society, who will?  Oil companies profit by this country -- use its workers, use its roads, are defended by its soldiers, profit off its natural resources, wreck its environment, grow obscenely wealthy according to its very beneficial laws -- they should support the country that makes that possible.  Thus also the timber companies, Big Pharm, other giant corporations.

Instead, what we hear is that it is not fair to tax the wealthiest among us, who have worked so hard to gain that wealth; not only is it not fair, but it will stifle their initiative.  They will stop working so hard, and that will destroy our country. (Stop drilling for so much oil.  Stop cutting down so many trees in our national forests. Stop developing so many drugs for male impotence and restless leg syndrome.)  No, no, we must cut their taxes, and, instead, those in the lower brackets -- me and you, and those sad people over there, who make fifty thousand a year, or thirty thousand, let them pay more for their clothes or their food -- because if the support from the state drops, the local taxes go up; and if the support from the feds drops, the state taxes increase; and if all the support drops, well, things like tuition and services just start costing more, or disappear entirely, and you have to provide your own books, since the library doesn't have them anymore, or pay more of your own college tuition, since the university is charging more -- though I guess you could just stop reading books and just drop out of college.

What happens if we all have to pay our own tuition, and tuition keeps going up?

What happens if we all have to buy our own books, and we don't have money for that?

What happens to the quality of education on the university level when universities can't hire new faculty (many can't now) and enrollments keep going up (people come back to school when unemployment levels rise)?  More students in every classroom, lower pay for faculty members -- do you think that equals a better education for students?

But let's not tax the rich.  Because that would be wrong.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


This is a story that, here in the Academy, I've been keeping an eye on.  California, along with other states, is low on money. (Oklahoma, and some of those midwestern states, are in nearly as bad a fix.)  Among other things, California is "furloughing" the faculty at its public universities.

What this means is they're cutting the pay of the faculty and staff by some percentage: 8-9%, usually.  Faculty are then supposed to work 8-9% less.

But -- get this!  Not on teaching days.  That's the decision that's just come down in California.  Don't cut instructional days!  Show up to teach every day.  And you're "allowed" to do research on your furlough days!

In other words?  Do the same job for less pay!

Because that'll show the Legislature!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Prescriptive Linquistics

Back at the job again -- first day of the new semester. As I told mr. delagar this morning, Sisyphus is a happy man.

"Happier than Prometheus," he said, "getting his liver torn out right about now."

An excellent point.

I just finished teaching my first HEL class (History of the English Language), where I explain to them that no, their way of speaking English (Arkansas speech) is not inferior or lazy or hill-talk, that "proper" English is not, in fact, some sort of morally superior dialect, that the only reason white guys at Princeton own the language is because they have the money and the power. "So why," I then ask, "do English teachers, like me, force you to learn to speak like white guys from Princeton?"

It's always an enlightening class.

But what I really wanted to talk about was my kid's fourth grade class last year. They were studying Spanish, and of course the 5th grade boys were obsessed with gayness. They had been obsessed with gayness all year. Everything was gay. The hamster was gay. The muffins were gay. Someone's backpack was gay. You know the drill.

So the Spanish teacher was teaching them this song about butterflies, and apparently the word for butterfly is close to the word for gay. Teach us the Spanish word for gay! Teach us! Teach us! She's young and cool, this Spanish teacher, so she did.

Back in the main classroom, their teacher sternly said to the class, but what does gay really mean?


My kid glances around, and then says, "Homosexual."

Everyone bursts out laughing.

"No," the teacher says. "What does it really mean?"

"That is what it really means," my kid says.

"It actually means," the teacher informs her, "happy and merry."

Okay, then.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Health Care Crisis

Here, from Daily Kos, are a series of charts breaking down the data, state by state, on how many of us are uninsured, and how many of us who, despite having insurance, are nevertheless going broke paying for healthcare -- paying 10%-25% or more of our income on healthcare costs despite having insurance.

I haven't run the numbers on what I am paying, because, duh, numbers, but I'll reckon I fall in there somewhere, since every month I'm paying the orthodontist, two different dentists, five different doctors and hospital bills, nine different prescription meds (five for me, four for mr. delagar), not to mention any little ancillary bills that might come up, such as if the kid gets an earache or mr. delagar needs a new CPAP or I need a new set of glasses ($480 dollars that was, not one penny of it covered).  And I have health insurance!  I pay something like five hundred a month for health insurance, and extra for dental!

And then there's this (scroll down) -- did you see this?  RAM, which is an organization that visits Third World Countries, to provide medical care for their populations, went to Los Angeles! To provide health care for United States Citizens!  And the lines were three days long!  That's what we are now!  Third world citizens!

Best health care in the world my liberal ass.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


It is The Back to School Pre-School session, where we have our long, long, long No Sexual Harassment Training and our How To Improve Retention Training and our What To Do When The Tornado Comes Training and our Provost's Pep Talk and it lasts from 8.00 to 5.00 and I am sooooo tired.

Though, in fact, we finished up early today, and they did feed us lunch.

And tomorrow is meetings -- department meetings and faculty meetings and I forget what else meetings and why is all this so much more tiring than teaching?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Poverty & Race...

...and jackbooted thugs.

By far the most reliable way to be criminalized by poverty is to have the wrong-color skin. Indignation runs high when a celebrity professor encounters racial profiling, but for decades whole communities have been effectively “profiled” for the suspicious combination of being both dark-skinned and poor, thanks to the “broken windows” or “zero tolerance” theory of policing popularized by Rudy Giuliani, when he was mayor of New York City, and his police chief William Bratton.

Flick a cigarette in a heavily patrolled community of color and you’re littering; wear the wrong color T-shirt and you’re displaying gang allegiance. Just strolling around in a dodgy neighborhood can mark you as a potential suspect, according to “Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice,” an eye-opening new book by Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor in Washington. If you seem at all evasive, which I suppose is like looking “overly anxious” in an airport, Mr. Butler writes, the police “can force you to stop just to investigate why you don’t want to talk to them.” And don’t get grumpy about it or you could be “resisting arrest.”

There’s no minimum age for being sucked into what the Children’s Defense Fund calls “the cradle-to-prison pipeline.” In New York City, a teenager caught in public housing without an ID — say, while visiting a friend or relative — can be charged with criminal trespassing

America The Police State

It's only gotten any press b/c it was Bob Dylan, just as the Gates arrest only raised a fuss because it was Henry Louis Gates Jr, but really, really -- wasn't this the country where that word free and that word citizen meant something?

Apparently, as a community, we've decided that the police are our owners now?  They can stop anyone they like on the street, demand proof of ID for any reason, and we're supposed to roll over on pain of a beating or being tasered?

That's the country we've decided we want to live in?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

What Are You Doing Now?

Oh, Sigh -- Four days until school starts, and what am I doing?

  • The kid comes back tomorrow -- well, actually, we are driving up the hill to fetch her, so that takes care of tomorrow.  (Yay!  I have been missing the kid.)
  • I am working -- more or less -- on my RaceFail09 paper, for which I have so far done about 1/4 of the research and come up with an extremely vague outline
  • I am revising book six of the Great Big SF Trilogy (Hee -- yes. It is a 7 book Trilogy.)
  • I am cleaning house, sporadically and room by room.
  • I am working on the syllabus for the fiction workshop I am teaching, for the first time EVER, this semester.  I have no idea how to teach a fiction workshop.  What in shit am I going to tell these people?  11 of them in the class so far.  What the shit do I know about writing fiction?  I visualize sitting in class, gazing at them, and mumbling, "Well, um, write it better, y'all.  You know.  And..."  Somehow I don't think that will get me stellar ratings.  
  • I am drinking way too much rum.  What can I say? Life is hard and liquor is easy.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Why We Should Want Obama's Health Care Reform

Here we go -- a link for everyone.

My favorite graph:

7. No Free Lunch for Businesses

Currently, large employers that rely on low-skilled workforces usually offer little or no health coverage, and much of these workers' health care is already subsidized by taxpayers in the form of Medicaid and Medicare payments, other public programs and unpaid bills for emergency-room visits. Under the proposals in Congress, medium and large firms would face a simple choice: Offer their employees decent coverage or pay something into the system to offset the burden their employees' health needs impose on the American taxpayer.


I had a post up about that Arhyalon's item's lord & master, which I deleted, because he had deleted the lj post in question.  Here, however, is a discussion of it.

Basically, like Arhyalon, he is filled with fail, and my point in the original post was it is no wonder she is in such denial -- she would have to be.

Elsewhere on his lj he preens himself for "forgiving" those who reacted with such vehemence to his homophobic post.  He turned the other cheek to their troll spew, he claims, since that is what Jesus would want.  Nor could he do that without having given himself to Jesus -- what motive could there be for acting decently, he inquires, without Jesus in one's heart?

My, am I sick of Christians coming forth with that argument.

Plato, of course, rebutted it 2500 years ago.  You live in this world, he pointed out.  You live among your neighbors.  If you act badly toward your neighbors, you make the world a worse place.  If you act decently toward them, you make the world a better place.  Where are you going to live?  Why, obviously, in this world, Socrates.  Therefore, unless you are a dimwit, you will act decently toward your neighbors (and, as Plato points out, all the world is your neighbor).

Why Xtians need a Sky-Fairy and a threat of hellfire to enforce the simple logic of this is the real mystery, in my opinion.


I wonder if Dr. Helen's heard about this one.

Friday, August 14, 2009

What I Did Today

I actually got things done today.  This is so unusual I have to share.

  • I finished mowing the lawn, which, monumental task
  • I fixed the dryer, so very impressive, though actually it turned out to be not that difficult.  As I said to mr. delagar (who has finished his dissertation, btw, and will be defending in 2 weeks and thus very soon must be called dr. delagar) as I said to him when I figured out what was wrong with it -- a clogged air hose -- all my problems should be as easily fixed as this dryer
  • I revised 26 pages in the current novel
  • I did six loads of laundry, now that I can
  • I mopped the kitchen floor
  • I spoke to the kid, twice.  She is in Wyoming and will soon be home again.  Come home, kid!  She's been gone weeks & weeks, vacationing to San Francisco and Seattle and Yellowstone Park.
  • I finished Richard Russo's new book, That Old Cape Magic, which was readable, but not nearly as good as Nobody's Fool. I'm afraid nothing he has written has pleased me as much as Nobody's Fool, which, frankly, is a perfect book.  Well, I would give my back teeth to write one perfect book, so that's all right I guess.

Not bad for  Thursday, is it?

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Martin's War gets mentioned on Karynthia's blog!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


And I am mowing lawns.  Our lawn is not so immense as TOLP's lawn, but OTOH, I frequently neglect to mow it for weeks at a time, so that when I finally drag out the ancient lawnmower (also TOLP has not only a riding lawnmower but a husband who does the mowing -- curse you, TOLP!), the grass is usually a foot high.

Mowed and mowed and mowed this evening.  I'm beat.

Then I came in and read blogs.  What a mistake.  Many, many examples of FAIL on the 'sphere tonight, but here is my favorite: Karynthia of Verb Noire went to WorldCon and sat on a panel with this charmer who insists racism is not an issue in her 'verse, because she and her friends just don't see color, and if we could all just learn to be like her.... 

Here's her book, btw, which has possibly the whitest woman in the universe on its cover.

Among other things, in her tasty post, she tells us, very earnestly, that story I have never heard before, about how her kid's bestest friends are a black kid (only she calls him a kid  "the color of pitch") and a Spanish kid "who barely speaks English" and a Korean kid.  See?  See?  Some of her kid's bestest friends aren't white (though how she would know this if she can't see color I do not know) so she can't be racist!

The other story she tells I like even better.  She has these two friends, see, from DC, who were married for ever so long, and until they went on this trip down south, when some redneck pointed it out to them, they never even noticed one was black and one was white!  That's how colorblind she and her friends are!

Which, okay, you might not believe this story.  But I totally do, see, because the exact same thing happened to me. Well.  Not the exact same thing.  But close.  See, one of my cousin's bestest friends was gay.  Well.  We didn't know he was gay, because we're sexblind.  We're not homophobes!  We never notice stuff like that!  Also he didn't know he was gay either.  Neither did his boyfriend.  They were just people to us.  That's just how we were raised, not to judge people on who they did sex with, or how many musicals they owned the DVDs to but on the content of their character.  But!  Once we went to this rodeo in Oklahoma and the cowboys there called my cousin's friend and his friend faggots.

But! We never ever ever used that sort of language.  Not raised that way!  So my cousin's friend and his friend got SO confused.  They thought it meant they were bundles of wood.  (That's what it says in the OED!) You can imagine the resulting confusion, all those attempts to start fires by rubbing themselves together at BoyScout jamborees and so forth.

Luckily another of my cousin's bestest friends found this on Urban Dictionary and all became clear, but still!  I totally see how Arhyalon could FAIL to see or comprehend or understand why someone's race or the issue of racism might matter in America in 2009.

Don't you?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


My grading is done! (Except for one student who is undergoing surgery and one whose grandma is dead, though Obama didn't kill her, I am almost certain, to both of whom I have granted IPs.)

This means NO MORE classroom related academic work until August 25 -- well, 19, when we have to show up for the mandatory crap sessions I mean very useful preschool meetings.

But the next 9 days, they are mine!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Obama's Healthcare Plan Is Killing Grandma!

Have you seen the idiot anti-healthcare reform ad, the one where Ma and Pa Kettle sit at the kitchen table and Pa is furious because gummit healthcare has denied him his surgery, while nevertheless his tax dollars are paying for abortions?

"They can't do that!" Ma Kettle says.  "You need that treatment!"

Pa Kettle says, "People like me can't get the medical care we need, but we're being forced to pay for abortions!"

Hold on Ma and Pa Kettle staring, outraged and distraught, into one another's good, honest, moral, American eyes.

Nearly as hearty as the ad that claims that if the HC Reform passes YOU will be FORCED to consider euthanasia as an OPTION!!!1!

Amanda says this:

Hell, the government in all but a couple of states already has inhumane laws limiting the choice of how to die for people with terminal illnesses.  We’re still pushing back against states that set artificial limits on how much morphine a dying person can have for fear that they’ll get addicted, presumably in the afterlife.  We haven’t even set foot on the slippery slop towards mandatory euthanasia that anti-choicers tell us we’ll all be on if we allow the dying to have some pain relief and dignity. But now we’re told that Obama’s going to take your guns and shoot grandma with them. 

And more, basically pointing out the fallacious goodness to all these stories the Insurance Companies and their lobbies are spreading.

Which doesn't stop the Right from lapping it up, like the lap dogs they are.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Early Right-Wing Whackwits

Ha: look at this.

Dr. Helen just thinks she invented going Galt.

In 1938, at fifty-one, [Rose Wilder Lane] bought three suburban acres near Danbury, Connecticut, and a clapboard farmhouse—her first real home. (Remodelling, she told a friend, was “my vice.”) As she aged, her inner and outer worlds both contracted. She abandoned her journal and, with it, Holtz concludes, her introspection. Old friends were alienated by her increasingly kooky and embattled militance. (One of them described her as “floating between sanity and a bedlam of hates.”) The F.B.I. took notice of her “subversive” actions to protest Social Security, and she made headlines by denouncing the agency’s “Gestapo” tactics. She talked about reducing her income to a bare minimum, so that she wouldn’t have to file taxes. 

The whack descended on Laura Ingalls' daughter when Roosevelt was elected.  Apparently having poor people get a Social Safety Network, back in the 30's, was as evil for Rose Wilder Lane, as having a President of Color give health care to poor folk is to the Wingwits now.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Crap, This again

So this SF editor, Mike Ashley, who I am sure means very well, puts out this anthology of SF.

The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing Science Fiction!

Except, as plenty of people notice, of the 21 stories he puts in his anthology, which he claims contains the finest stories ever, all are by not just guys, but white straight guys.

And, as ABW explains, in insightful and hilarious detail, uproar ensues, with those who object to this patriarchial SOP pointing out that writers of mind-blowing SF who aren't white straight guys exist, and Mike Ashley making not-helpful comments such as he doesn't know any stories by women or black people (or I guess by gay people) and he thought about looking around for some, but, you know, he didn't want to included women as tokens (because, you know, that's the only way girls can ever get into anthologies, as tokens, it's not as though we're actually decent writers) and women just don't write the sort of SF he was interested in (um, mindblowing?), they write that squishy stuff about feelings, not about, you know, science.

Other pro-status quo SF leapt also into the fray. Nothing wrong with this picture! These writers are fine writers! What's yo problem, bitch! Go write something else if you don't like how we do SF! This is writing, not politics!

And etc.

Well. That is something, in my libertarian youth (yes, all right, I admit the dark secret to you: in my youth I was a libertarian. I blame Heinlein, who, in my youth, I was mad enamoured with) I also believed: that literature had nothing to do with politics. Indeed, in graduate school, I remember struggling with notion that all literature was political. I remember sitting in the library, reading my Intro to Graduate Studies text, which introduced that odd idea, the one which told me that any text which claimed to be without politics was simply ignorant of its politics -- was relying on its unmarked state, its priviliged ability to ignore its dominant position*.

"Bullshit," I remember grumbling. "Nothing I'm writing has anything to do with politics..."

Yeah, right.

Literature is political.

I do not say it is only political; but political is one of its modes.

Further, nothing Mike Ashley nor any of us do is without consequences. He acts, results acrue. Maybe it's no deal to him whether women or PoC or gay people are people who matter; to me it is. He has a position of power in the world of publishing. (Yes, that's what an editor is: someone with a position of power.) It's his job to know something about people writing in the world of SF, and not just about some of the white straight guys who are writing.

Here's what I do, every time, these days: I pick up an anthology, and I turn to the table of contents. If at least four of the stories aren't written by women, if there's not at least one PoC, I put the book back on the shelf.

See also this.

*Thus, in the recent RaceFail09 debate, some speakers scolded others for using aliases online, ignoring that those using their real names could do so because they spoke from a position of privilige: they had nothing much to fear, since they spoke from positions of power, whereas those of us who use aliases online frequently do so because we have a great deal to fear, and much at risk.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Totally Not Racist

This is...I don't even know what to say about this.

It's a text that gets used in Christian schools, though. I'm betting it's one that gets used around here. It would explain the odd resistance I get in my classes when I teach Frederick Douglass and the WPA Slave Narratives -- always, always two or three of my students will want to argue with me, insisting that "slavery wasn't really like that," or tell me how most slaves were actually well-treated by their masters.

Here's my favorite paragraph so far.

Some whippings were severe. In other instances, whipping was as mildly applied as the corporal punishment normally practiced within families today.21 Although some masters were brutal, even sadistic, most were not. The Slave Narratives are overwhelmingly favorable in the judgment of masters as "good men." In fact in the Narratives, out of 331 references to masters, 86% refer to their masters as "good" or "kind." Quite a few would not allow whipping at all, and many only allowed it in their presence.

The "Slave Narratives" being referred to here are the WPA Slave narratives, the same ones I use in my class, and I am here to tell you those numbers are bogus. First, far more than 331 slaves mention their masters -- there are over 2300 narratives in the collection, and as I recall nearly every one I read mentioned their master, usually multiple times; and I've read hundreds. Several of the ones I read did, in fact, claim to have kind masters but first, as both Charles Darwin and Frederick Douglas point out, that doesn't mean anything when a black person is talking to the man; and (b) it wasn't anywhere near 86% of the narratives I read claiming such a thing. Maybe 3%. If that.

But this paragraph is also adorable:

This points to the need for Christians to learn the biblical way of avoiding "problem texts." This is the way of a priori submission. Christians must recognize that they are under the authority of God, and they may not develop their ideas of what is "right" and "fair" apart from the Word of God. And when the Bible is our only standard of right and wrong, problem texts disappear. This entire issue of slavery is a wonderful issue upon which to practice. Our humanistic and democratic culture regards slavery in itself as a monstrous evil, and it acts as though this were self-evidently true. The Bible permits Christians to own slaves, provided they are treated well. You are a Christian. Whom do you believe?

As far as I can tell, the main arguements made by these tools is that they must argue the pro-slavery position because (a) slavery is in the Bible and the Bible is God's word; (b) if they admit slavery is bad then them evil librals can say homosexuality and feminism are okay too, since not everything in the Bible is true if even one thing isn't true; and (c) atheists are the real pro-slavery demons (what?) because no atheist has any real reason to oppose slavery -- after all, what true ethical reason can an atheist give for being opposed to slavery? He doesn't believe in a God to tell him slavery is wrong! (Did I say what already?)(No, seriously, that's what passes for logic on Planet I'm a Christian Reconstructionist.

Conservative Lying Tools Trying to Block Health Care Reform!

Here is the story Rachel presented last night which had my back up.

Here's Rachel's actual version.

But also see this.

Monday, August 03, 2009

One Way To Save on HealthCare Cost

More Edge of the American West Goodness

(I'm not serious about saving on Healthcare, of course. I've just been watching Rachel Maddow and am totally ticked at the tactics of the Insurance Company lobbies, so I've decided to get healthcare reform into every single post from now on.)

Post-Racial America

I'm from down there in Louisiana, where it's way too hot to get into that denial game, for the most part. 

This means our governors are people like Edwin Edwards, he of the famous, "It wudn't illegal for me to take the bribe; it was illegal for him to offer it."

This means we not only run racists like David Duke for office, we elect the tools.

This means we openly have (or had) segregated schools and parades and entire parishes, and yards filled with Yats cracking open crawfish and Dixie beers willing to explain to you, in lazy lengthy detail, just why that is just fine.

So it's not that I am a stranger to racism, mind you.  On the other hand, when I got out to Idaho, the casual vehemence with which the white folk would discuss the local Indians -- mostly Bannock Indians, where we were living -- shocked me every time.  I remember an essay from a remedial English student that, every single draft, contained the line "Indians are lazy and stupid."

See, now, writing is a recursive process in my class.  This meant he turned in a draft, we met on it, I explained what I thought he might do to make it better, he wrote another draft, I explained what he might do, and so on.

So the first draft comes in, I underline that line, I explain, as gently and as much like Buddha as I can, why that's not such a cool thing to say.  Surely, I press him, not every Indian is lazy?  Surely he has not, first off, met every Indian?  Do you know all the Indians in the country, or even the county? I ask.  Do you have evidence to support this, I ask.  Do you see why this sentence will turn the reader against you, I ask.  Do you see why it would be better to say something less inflammatory, I ask.

The next draft says, "Indians are lazy and stupid."

I go over the paper with him.  He's made all the other changes I suggested, and more.  His writing in general is improving.  I underline the sentence.  I remind him of the discussions we have been having about Rogerian tactics in class.  I remind him about ad hominem attacks, and offensive language.  I send him on his way.

The next draft: "Indians are lazy and stupid."

And the next.  And the next.  

Finally I underline the stupid fucking sentence in red and write in the margin SAY THIS SOME OTHER WAY.

The final draft of the paper? "Indians are irresponsible, worthless, idiotic, useless, moronic, idiotic, losers."

Yeah, that's some good American family values for you.

is what I'm talking about, though.  If we could do more of what this group is trying to do, and less of that student and all his ilk (I imagine the counter-argument playing in his head, which he never voiced to me, went somewhat like, "What does it matter what I call it, you PC libral idiot, they'll still lazy and stupid even if I call them disadvantaged Native Americans, jeez-us."  Except, being a nice boy, he never would use G-D's name in vain that way) want done, it would be a finer country.

American Health Care

I don't know if you watch Bill Maher. He can get down my neck from time to time, as can his guests. He had Joe Queenan on this past Friday, spouting drool about American health care; Queenan's main thesis seemed to be I Got Mine, Jack.

So it's too bad, Queenan said, 50 million Americans don't have health insurance. The rest of us do. Do you really expect us to up our taxes to buy a system that will pay for those without? Please. What are we, altrustic? Bah.

This was when I started screaming tool at the screen.

Because, no, you fuckwit, that is not what we're doing with healthcare reform and not why we need it.

Yes, obviously, that so many citizens are without that basic need is an issue -- just not the biggest one.

The biggest one is that for most of us, the health care system is broken. (See Sarah Wildman, who, like Joe, has health insurance, and still ended up deeply in debt after childbirth. See Jesse Taylor, who has health insurance and still ended up deeply in debt after minor surgery. See me, who declared bankruptcy a few years ago, due to medical debts well in the hundred thousand dollar range, over half of which were incurred while I had health insurance.)

Nor does it have to be the scary major illness that shoves Americans into disaster -- for me, for my family? It's high blood pressure, it's a kid who has anxiety issues (the shrink is covered, but there's a $1500/year deductible), it's well child care that's not covered, vision care that's not covered, dental benefits that run out in July (only a thousand dollars a year per family, so, well, one root canal and you're fucked), prescription drug benefits that run out in October (I'm on five different meds, mr. delagar is on six, our insurance has a yearly cap for medications), it's how only 80% of the shoulder surgery is covered, and it's how this shit adds up, especially when at the same time the cost of fuel and everything else has doubled and wages?

Wages are flat.

So maybe Queenan, the tool, is doing fine. Maybe he's got his. But for the rest of us out here? It's a problem.

Katrina -- the Gift That Keeps on Giving

So Saturday mr. delagar and I are at his favorite liquor store, me buying enough black strap rum to get me through grading final exams and final portfolios (yes! it is the last week of Summer II!) and him buying enough Scotch to get him through the final revision of his dissertation (yes! he is almost done!) when we hear --

Well, it's not a ruckus. It's just a guy talking, up at the counter. But the counter women are sort of arguing with him.

Now I had seen this guy and his friend earlier, sort of hitting on a woman among the whiskey aisles, so I knew who they were: see, over at the fairgrounds, which is about three blocks from this liquor store, there's a roping contest in town. People from all over the four-state area, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, are here to show how well they rope, um, cows, I suppose. (I am at the limit of my knowledge here, even if I do teach cowboys on occasion.)

So I knew this guy and his buddy were cowboys. This guy was black and his buddy was Latino. I mention this because it's about to come up. Given that they're cowboys, not to mention from his accent, which was totally northern Louisiana, I doubt seriously either was from New Orleans. (Also going to come up in a moment.)

So mr. delagar and I have our mind-altering substances in hand, and head for the checkout. This is like a Wal-Mart superstore of booze, btw, huge, towering, because it's on the county line between Sebastion and Crawford County, and Crawford County is dry -- so if you live over there, you can whip right across the line and buy your booze here, see.

We get up there to find the big cowboy explaining to the checkers how no, in fact, bottles of booze where he lives don't have little plastic rings around their necks to stymie shoplifters, because in Louisiana there aren't any liquor stores. (Apparently the discussion started because he wondered why the bottles of whiskey had those tiny plastic anti-theft collars around their necks.)

They argue with him: of course there are liquor stores, everywhere has--

Naw, naw, he explains, you buy booze everywhere there, but you can't steal it--

Oh, people don't steal in Louisiana, sure! they exclaim.

You can't steal it, he's trying to explain, because it's not kept out in the open, it's behind the country, where you can't walk up to it, you have to ask for it. He gestures to the tiny nip-size bottles and packets of cigarettes kept on the shelves behind them. Like those there, he says.

People steal everywhere, his checker insists.

Not people I hang out with, he says, pays up and leaves.

Once he's gone, they start in: They don't steal in Louisiana, ha, they don't.

I saw that Katrina right here on this television, the other says. You tell me they don't steal?

Did you hear that? the first asks us. Did you hear what he said?

Things are different in Louisiana, mr delagar tried to explain, trying to explain how we don't, in fact, have liquor stores in much of the state, since it is legal to sell liquor anywhere, including in grocery stores, gas stations, and through drive-through windows. My wife, he said, gesturing at me, is from New Orleans --

This did not work. Now I was included in their circle of hostility.

What was that about? Another worker came up.

Apparently it's racial if we try to keep people from stealing, the first worker said.

At which point I walked out.

(a) I didn't hear the entire conversation, but I am willing to bet the guy said nothing about being black.

(b) I can't tell you how many times this Katrina meme has come up around here. "You saw what happened after Katrina," or "I had to deal with some of those people that came up here after Katrina once," or "I know someone who used to rent to some of those Katrina people, and she says--" or "You remember what those people from Katrina were like."

My favorite is when they say it to someone who actually is one of those people who came up here after Katrina, since they're still around. When they say it to me, I always look them in the eye and say, "I'm from New Orleans. My entire family live in New Orleans. They still live there. My brother was in the city during Katrina."

They're quick to say, "I didn't mean you!"

Which of course they didn't. They meant, well, you know. Those people.


See also this.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Why I Love Edge of the American West

Posts like this one.

More Cops Putting Citizens in their Place

I'd say I can't believe this shit, except I totally can: over on Pandagon, Pam, who keeps track of these issues, has a clip of a 73 year old woman getting tased by one of our fine Police for giving him mouth on Hwy 71.

She's about five feet tall, this great-grandmother, obviously not armed and dangerous, and her high crime? Speeding. (Police have been running speedtraps like crazy where I live lately, trying to make up for falling revenues, so I imagine it's the same there.) 

She's miffed, I imagine, at getting pulled over for DWP -- police where I live, I have noticed, never pull over the Hummers or the giant SUVs or the Jags that zip past me going 95; no, it's always the pickups like the one this woman is driving, or my bit of shit car (I've been pulled over six times in the past two years, always for going less than fifteen miles over the limit, twice for bullshit -- once because my tags were "on wrong,").  Anyway, so instead of doing what you're "supposed to" when the police have you, which is act all nice and apologetic, she talks back.

This giant police officer shoves her around, yells at her, throws his clipboard at her, threatens to tase her ("I dare you," she snaps back), and then?  Then the fucker tases her!

Then, while she's lying on the side of the highway wailing in pain, fucker threatens to tase her again, threatens her over and over -- get your hands behind your back, he keeps yelling, or you'll get tased again!  She keeps crying that she can't do it, he keeps bellowing threats.

So here's my question: still time for a beer, is it?

Update: And, of course, in the comment section of the Fox Station where the clip is originally posted, most of the commenters are defending the cop -- as did his boss.  Bitch had it coming, see.  Should have shut up and done what the cop said.  Appropriate use of force, and tasers never hurt nobody anyway.


money money money money money!

(Shit, I hate being poor.)