Thursday, October 30, 2008

Now What Now?

I can't help it, this cracks me up.

(Via Pharyngula)

I'm always telling students in Arkansas that the U.S. really has two major competing religions, Christianity and Capitalism, which wholly contradict each other, and that this is why we're a fucked country, which is when they start howling at me -- nuh-uh, nuh-uh, we don't worship money, we don't, and anyway, it's nothing WRONG with being rich, God wants us to improve ourselves (cause getting rich is improving yourself, dude) --

But this!

Here is a quotation from the charming woman who called for Christians to pray at at the golden bull, btw, and save all of America's fatted money:

On September 29 last month, the US stock market went down 777 points in one day. Cindy says it was no coincidence that this happened on the first day of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.

“This is so severe in the economic area because we are facing judgment from the actions, not only for our stance towards Israel, but our blatant sin against Him in passing laws such as the one allowing homosexual marriages,” Cindy said.

Well, okay then. So long as it's also about hatin on the Jews and the Gays.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Good News Again!

I've been off working on my portfolio -- I'm going up for promotion to Associate Professor, which is actually sort of interesting and almost fun, albeit a ton of work. It involves getting together everything I have done for the past six years, and writing "narratives" for the promotion committee about how I teach and how I "innovate" in the classroom, explaining my assignments and how I respond to assessments that show my teaching isn't working -- anyway, it's turning out to be cool, since I get to talk (write) about what I like best, teaching and how it works, only, yikes, exhausting?

And everything has to be documented.

And put in a binder, which requires operating a three-hole punch.

And tidy. I could be better at tidy.

And it's due November 1.

So I've been occupied.

But here is some good news I have found for you: although it did not look like good news at first, since you'll see at the opening that it confirms more Right-Wing Religious Parents indoctrinating their kids against science/evolution (evil-ution, as my students often spell it); but look how the instructors are dealing with the problem: wisely!

A few years ago, Pratt started holding meetings – open to parents, students, church members and others – to address their questions about evolution. She holds the annual session a few weeks before she begins the unit and gets about 200 people.

“It used to be that the whole unit was a struggle, and we were butting heads,” Pratt said. “This meeting helps everyone understand that science teachers are not the enemy. Now, the kids are showing up ready to learn about evolution.”

Other teachers said they try to fix students’ misconceptions. They explain how humans and apes share a common ancestor that no longer exists, not that humans and apes evolved from one another. They say that while “theory” may describe a hunch in everyday language, in science it is defined as an explanation supported by factual evidence to describe events that occur in our world.

That's how our side wins: enlightenment.

Their side has fear and ignorance. Our side has education. We will always win in the end. (Well, that's my hope, at least.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ah Reality

So in my comp class this morning, where I was teaching grammar and format, how important it was to run the spell-check and be certain you have checked for run-on sentences and haven't misused semi-colons, all of that, before you submitted a paper --

"Why?" I asked.

I always ask this. I want them to think about why surface errors matter. "Certainly it matters if you have an excellent thesis and excellent arguments and you support those arguments with lots of solid sources. But suppose you do all that, and then your paper is riddled with lousy spelling and you've got two misconstructed sentences in the first paragraph and you can't manage to use semi-colons correctly. What happens to your reader? What's he do, twenty words into your argument?"

"He decides you're an idiot and quits reading," says my football player from the back row.

"Absolutely," I agree. "It's like if you show up for the job interview in cut off jeans and a nose ring and your hair stick up all over your head -- well, does it matter how many degrees you have or how qualified you are?"

My very intelligent but home-schooled student in the front row raised his hand. "How you explain, then," he asked, "how well John McCain is doing? Considering he's not that articulate, and he doesn't speak nearly as well as Obama? Why is he doing so well in this election?"

I stared at him, bemused. Then I glanced around the classroom. Then I looked back at him. "Well," I said, gently, "he's not, is he? The latest polls have him down what, fourteen points? He's at 38%? That's not so good."

He gave me the bemused look I had just given him. That couldn't be right, could it?

"Anyway," I said, "that's not really the scope of this class..."

And I moved them on.

But apparently, in the world these folk live in, McCain is doing well -- even winning the election.

It's that Republican again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Good News For Once

This makes me feel better!

Over at Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog (I don't know if you've discovered that blog yet, but you should), an embedded video shows more horrible racists -- except this time, they're confronted by their fellow McCain voters, who shame them into backing down, shutting up, packing up, and going away.

Further, they get called unAmerican by the other McCain voters.

Now that's the America I can get behind.

Yay McCain!

A Racist Tool in Kentucky has hanged Obama in effigy, with a Star of David spray-painted on his head. Though he declines to be interviewed on camera, he says flat-out to the reporters that he has done this because he doesn't want a black guy to be leading his country.

And in school yesterday, as has frequently happened over the past weeks, my daughter had to hear about how Obama wasn't an acceptable candidate because he wasn't a Christian.

She's ten, you know, and she's tough, but she's being driven to the brink: she shouted at the punk who came up with this argument that first, yes, Obama is a Christian, and that second, dude, not everyone in America is a Christian -- for instance, hey, Jew here?

Her friends supported her. They got told not to gang up on the poor punk.

Yes, see, because that's mean. That's persecuting the poor Christians.

We can't have that.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Tom Tomorrow provides some links to videos outside McCain-Palin rallies, and their supporters.

I warn you up front: seriously depressing.

My favorite bit is in the last one, where the Palin supporters keep trying to insist that the country "knows" Palin better and has known her longer than than we do Obama.  He keeps asking, "When did you first hear about Palin?  When did you first hear about Obama?"

They start lying their asses off.

I've known about Palin for three years! one claims.

I heard about Obama maybe a year ago, another decides.

One guy finally, at the end, says, never! I've NEVER heard of Obama.

Because, you know, it's the Right-Wing Way: if Reality doesn't work, we just invent our own Reality.


Yay Us!

This one, I must admit, is partly for my brother who used to send me snide emails about how Democrats were no different from Republicans -- our party being funded by really rich tools, just like his, etc:

Barack Obama raised $150 million in September, the largest monthly total any candidate has ever raised for any office in the history of the United States. The previous record was Obama's haul of $66 million in August. The money came from small donors averaging less than $100 each. This approach--many small donors--represents a revolution in fundraising, where previously the goal was to tap a small number of rich donors with many rich friends who could be hit up for money.

It's not just for him, of course. It's also for us -- America. Fifteen days out. Can it be that we might actually pull it off this time?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fair & Balanced Education

This is making me ill.

I'm grading my midterm exams for my WLIT class; I've graded half a dozen so far.  For the essay question on Frederick Douglass, four out of the six have devoted their essay to claiming that Douglass was "bias" because he didn't tell the "slave-owner's" side of the story; or that the slave narratives I gave them from the WPA site showed the "true" story of slavery, which was that it had "good" to it.

(No, btw, the narratives I gave them showed no such thing.  One, this one, John White of Texas, talked about his mama being let to marry the guy on the next plantation.  This guy gets to come visit when he's done with his work in the field, for a time; but then one day he just never shows up again.  And John?  When he's eleven?  He gets sold to Texas and never sees his mama again. Once in Texas, he is worked as a cook, beaten with a bullwhip, left hungry and cold --  My student who cites this essay claims John is showing the good in slavery, because, you see, his parents were allowed to marry.)

What is up with this?

Why do they think slavery has "a good side"?

Why do they think the side of slave-owners should be heard?

I can't prove this, but I have suspicions: many of these students have been educated here in the River Valley, at Christian Schools, or home-schooled with Christian curriculums.  We've all heard what those curriculums have to say about slavery in the American South.

"Slave life was...a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes, and good medical care."

"Slavery...was not an adversarial relationship....because of its dominantly patriarchal character, it was a partnership based on mutual affection and confidence."

Now I don't know my students were taught from this text; I hope to shit they weren't, in fact.  But from their reactions to Douglas, and to the WPA interviews; and from how they utterly refused to hear anything I said in rebuttal to their assertions in class that the WPA interviews were "evidence" that the slaves liked slavery ("She says here that they had two dresses!" one students told me.  "She says they got lots of food!"

I stared at the class in astonishment.  "Two whole dresses?  Really?  How many dresses do you think their owners had?  How many do you lot own, by the way?"

They scowled at me, sullen.

"And read me the part about the food, will you?"

"They got Christmas off!"

"They got three days at Christmas off.  Good --" I bit off the swear word.  "Did you read the part where John White was sold away from his mother?  Did you read how the little girl was dragged out and beaten for spilling the soup?"

"My mother whipped me for spilling things plenty of times," one of them said sulkily.  "Big deal.")

Nothing I did made a difference.  Slavery is a good thing.  Frederick Douglass is prejudice against them white folk.

It's the World they're making for us.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Right-Wing Radio Mmm!

Took the kid to the denist for an emergency tooth extraction (the state of dentistry in Pork Smith, ai, where we have no fluoride in our water, since to put fluoride in our water, as we all know, that would be a commie plot, and Jesus doesn't want socialism, he wants us to take personal responsibility for brushing our teeth and paying huge dental bills when they rot in our heads anyway, I think that's how the argument goes)...

Where was I?

Kid had an abcessed tooth, abcess under one of her many fillings, so I took her to the dentist at 7:00 a.m. this morning. Like most of the dentists in Pork Smith, this one is an Evangelical Christian. We love her anyway, she's a great dentist, great with the kid, who, as I might have mentioned, is just the smallest bit neutrotic, especially when it comes to matters of medical care.

Anyway, dentist talked her down off the ceiling and got the tooth out, it was practically painless.

BUT: while we were waiting in the waiting room and I was threatening the kid with baby Xanax if she didn't stop spinning in circles, the Christian radio station that is played over the sound system at the office broke off their inspirational songs for a moment ("Je-esus wilsave you! Hee --has the pow=r!") to give the weather and chat about the news.

"Now I didn't watch the debates," said male dj. "Did you, Honey?"

Honey hadn't watched the debates, either.

"But I keep hearing about this Joe the plumber. Who's the Joe the Plumber?"

Honey very sweetly says she has no idea.

Neither DJ is familiar with the operation of the Google I guess. They turn to a third expert, who has consulted some outside source.

"Well," he says, with the fatherly voice of one Who Knows All, "Joe was a concerned small business owner at an Obama rally. He was worried because Obama's tax plan is going to raise his taxes. Obama told him that it was better for everyone if we spread the wealth around, and McCain used this comment during the debate."

"Ah," said male dj. "Well, that makes things a lot clearer! From what I was hearing on CNN last night, I was thinking Joe the Plumber was made up! Like a unicorn that McCain kept under his bunk in a magic box!"

"Yes!" chirped Honey. "That's much clearer!"

Then they went to another song about Jesus.

Why is the Christian Right so ignorant? There you go!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vouchers? What?

Okay, there were lots of places where McCain had me yelling at the screen last night, since, like many on the Right, he has apparently decided to just start making up his own reality now, but this bit with Vouchers -- They Work!


Go see Steve Benen's Post at the Washington Monthly for a more substantive rebuttal.

Monday, October 13, 2008

It's Happening Here, Again

I've been reading Slavery By Another Name, by Douglas Blackmon, which I really cannot recommend highly enough, even if it is the most appalling and depressing book I have ever read

I keep having to stop reading it -- seriously, I have to put it down every day or two, it upsets me so much: maybe you know the movie Cool Hand Luke? Fun and games on the chain-gang, white boys eat eggs and be tough on the chain-gang? This is the reality behind that silliness. This is what got done to whole generations of black men in America so certain white men could maintain their dominance, and Blackmon will not let us look away. He lays out the evidence, also, that everyone knew: the courts knew, the towns knew, the owners of the businesses and corporations that bought the enslaved prisoners knew, Teddy Roosevelt knew: just as in Nazi Germany, when the people in the towns knew what was happening in the camps, everyone knew what was happening: well, in Alabama and in Georgia and in Mississippi and In Florida, everyone knew how those roads and levees were getting built. Everyone knew how those mines were being staffed, where those farm workers were coming from. No one acted. Why? Because to act would be to support black guys over white guys: can't do that. Even when the courts followed the law, and agreed that what was being done was wrong -- violated U.S. law -- they did not enforce their own sentences: did not stop the white guys from enslaving the black guys: in 1905, in 1920, in 1930 and 1940.

Here we are in 2008, and what is happening?

What is getting done by white men in power in this country?

What always gets said?

McCain's crew wants to claim you can't trust Obama. Why in shit should we trust them?

As mr. delagar likes to tell his classes, he loves black people. None of them ever started any concentration camps. None of them ever ran a pogrom. You don't see many black folks starting crusades or holocausts.

Trust McCain? Tell me why.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Yom Kippur

Last night began the last of the days of awe. We feasted on chicken, matzo ball soup, honeycake, and challah, in preparation for the big fast today, though no one actually fasts, since mr. delagar can't (he's diabetic) and the kid is still only 10, and I am a stone atheist. Today, mr. delagar and the kid are home considering their past year and the next to come. I ought to be, says mr. delagar. I remind him I am a stone atheist, and also have to get caught up in my classes, which I am days and days behind in due to this shoulder and this wicked Lyme's diease. He says Rabbi Hillel would not have given such spurious excuses.

This will give me something to regret next year, I tell him.

Grammar Issues

So just before class the other day, one of my students, who must have seen me in the parking lot, demands to know what "that button" on my briefcase says.

"Feminists for Obama," I said.

She gives me a piercing look.

"Well, what did you expect it to say?" I ask reasonably. "My kid has one just like it," I add, and move on with the lecture.

After class, she comes up to me and says, "Obama, huh?"

"Of course Obama. Jeesh."

"Well." She shakes her head, like I'm an idiot, but what can one expect from professors. As she starts to leave, she turns back: "But what about Sarah Palin? She's a product of feminism. You have to support that."

I have sworn -- I have promised -- hold me back --

I cannot keep it in my teeth. "Palin," I say, as reasonably as I can, "is not a feminist."

"I didn't say she was a feminist, I said--"

"She's an enemy of feminism," I interrupt. "She's not pro-choice, she made rape-victims pay for their own rape-kits, her position on equal rights is ridiculous."

"I didn't like the rape-kit thing," the student agreed.

"Also, she dangles her participles," I said, since I was getting a bit too fierce, "so, well."

The student smirked. "I won't comment on what Obama dangles," she said.

"Not his participles," I said. "I promise you that."

Since, I'll bet you six bucks to a quarter, she didn't have a clue what a participle was, this student had to leave my challenge alone -- but you know, even though I said I was going to shut up about Palin, her appalling grammar and Obama's perfect command of it, this does matter: it does tell us something about the two of them, the difference between the two of them. Not just the difference between their intelligence levels (I do think Obama is smarter than Palin, though people keep assuring me Palin is clever: I don't see it: no one that incurious about the world is clever, and it is not just her background. My students come from the same background, and plenty of them have plenty of intellectual curiousity.) It tells us that one of them got educated -- actually educated -- and one of them did the least she could, skated by, and will continue to do the least she can. She's that flashy student who thinks if she puts the essay in a pretty binder it will disguise the fact that she spent exactly three hours of the past three weeks working on it, and none of those hours involved research or proof-reading.

I'm shutting up on Palin now. I swear.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


I just like to look at this.

So much better than in 2004.

Sure, it's sad about Arkansas and Louisiana (my states), but I have resigned myself to living in Fucktown, USA, having lived there all my life, after all (driving around Pork Smith, we still see yard after yard with McCain*Palin signs, and big ole pickups with McCain/Palin signs, I kid you not, in their windshield -- yes, taking up half the front windshield --and letters to the editor still excoriate Obama as lie-bral): but how splendid to see the rest of the country coming to its feet.

Yay us!


A White Bear's more reasoned response to Palin has made me step back and rethink my own response to Palin over the past few weeks.

Because, you know, it's not just that I disagree with her -- though I do, on every bit of every single political issue she has spoken on so far, except, well, let me think here, what now?

Title IX: she spoke highly of Title IX. I give her props for that.

And from what I hear she was nice to the woman who cut her hair. (But OTOH that woman was a nice white Christian just like her.)

Where was I?

Here's my point. I also disgree with McCain on every one of these issues and he has not sent me into a gibbering fury of sputtering posts. Why am I off my leash over Palin and not him?

It's because she's a woman, obviously, because she got fed to us feminists as a woman and we're supposed to embrace her as our champion: but certainly I should be angry at McCain for that, not her?

I suppose I'm angry at her for going along with it. (Collaborator! Weasel!)

Still doesn't make sense. She's only the tool. He's the patriarchy, and those like him.

So I'm going to step back and shut up and try to get some balance here.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Kid Violence

White Bear's recent post is a good one, so I want to send you there -- that's the main reason I'm posting today at all, given how queasy I'm feeling (these antibiotics, I do not want) but also because reading the post reminded me of an event in my freshman comp classroom recently.

We've been working on evaluating sources, which, yikes. First, I discover that the students don't know what a Leftist is. They're not kidding. We're reading an essay by Mike Males, it's published in Mother Jones, I tell them that this venue is a bit leftist.

"Leftist," one of them says. "What is that?"

"Like...liberal." I study them. "Progressive? To the left side of the political spectrum?"

Their eyes are blank as empty fountains, except for my older student, the one who has come back to school on a TAA grant, who looks faintly amused at my shock and horror.

Anyway. Anyway.

The essay by Males talks about the root of violence in America, how violence doesn't come from kids watching violent TV shows or listening to rap music; violence is caused by violence being done to and around children. They get violent things done to them and they see violent things done to their siblings and parents, they'll grow up to act violently.

(Males' Webpage)

Anyway, of course this they could get a grip on: I had not mentioned, not had Males, their own parents beating the shit out of them with belts and sticks through all their childhood years, but their minds leapt there. Hands went up around the room: If you don't hit kids, then --!

Yes, then?

"Well, have you ever seen a kid that don't get beat?" One student asked me. "Have you ever seen how those kids behave--"

I usually put forth my own child here, but I didn't have to this time: one of the students in the class raised her hand. "Me," she said.

They stared at her like she was a viper.

"My parents never hit me," she said.

I let that sit a moment.

Then I said, "You can raise children without hitting them. Other methods of discipline exist."

"Yep," the girl in the middle row agreed. It didn't hurt none, BTW, that she was smart, charming, outspoken, goodlooking.

"That's not really what we're doing here, though," I added, "looking at content -- remember? We're evaluating this as a source."

They burned. They seethed. They stewed. They had to prove to me that it was vital that children get beaten, that it has to be that way, that GOD WANTS IT THAT WAY.

And it can't be changed!!