September 27, 2012

Obama: U.S. Won’t Let Iran Gain Nuclear Weapon

Haven't posted in a while, but saw this and saw Romney's response:  "Romney said the U.S. seems “at the mercy of events rather than shaping events.” (Story link).  Tonight I listened to a story on Netanyahu's UN speech where he talked about creating a "red line" that will somehow stop Iran from moving forward.

I think all of them are slightly deranged.  Obama, at least, shows some humility in this region, but the rest seem to assume we can just "invade" our policy into place.  What really amazes me about Republicans (especially) is their short memory.  The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts didn't exactly go according to plan, but here we are just a decade later with the same people pushing for another war in the Middle East to stop some theoretical threat.

Reminds me of the film, the Ox Bow Incident, where the crowd hangs the wrong people.  At the bar, after they know clearly that they hung the wrong people, one of the posse says that they should actually hang the leader of the posse.


September 5, 2012

This is what happens when Christianity loses its brain, and ultimately its heart.

Remember Ralph Reed?  Young and charismatic leader of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition?  Then disgraced partner of Jack Abramoff?

Yeah, he is back.  

But outraged by the election of Barack Obama, and responding to what he describes as God’s call (via Sean Hannity), Reed returned to start the Faith and Freedom Coalition with the aim of toppling Barack Obama from the White House.
But let's remember what he did with Abramoff.  They were hired by people in the Mariana Islands to stop potential labor reforms.  See, they were bringing in Chinese women, abusing them, using them as prostitutes and even forcing them to have abortions.  Some decided to try to clean those sweatshops up, because, since they are under American control, their work was sold as "made in America."

One would think, as I used to naively believe, the Christian in this story would be trying to clean up that situation and help those women.  Yeah, not so much.  Instead, he told Alabama Christians to oppose this reform because it was some liberal plot.

(You can read part of it here) : Of course, Reed didn’t tell those Christians he was being paid to help keep running sweatshops that exploited women. Instead, he told them the reforms were a trick orchestrated by the left and organized labor. Limits on Chinese workers would keep them from being “exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ.” His company explained it was just trying to encourage “grass roots citizens to promote the propagation of the Gospel” and that many of the workers were “converted to the Christian faith and return to China with Bibles in hand.”
Oh, and they are still working on that.  Opposing labor reforms was included in the fucking GOP platform.

I don't think words can describe how much I loathe these people, and how amazingly disappointing it is that Christians today are so easily duped.  What is worse, if they are told this story, they will simply ignore and support Reed.  After all, he heard a call from God.

September 4, 2012

Do religious people give more than unchurched?

Actually, I still don't know the answer to that.  We have commonly assumed that conservative religious people give more than others.  I have always had a little problem with that assumption, just in that the idea that you give to pay for air conditioning for your church is not, inherently, a charitable gift.  It certainly isn't inherently giving to people who need it.

Now this essay suggests there are studies that suggest that even church goers give less than they think.  And not just church goers, mind you.  Part of the problem here is not unique to people of faith, though they suggest that religious people believe that they should give even if they don't.

From 1968 to 2009, member giving to church finances as a percentage of income decreased from 2.45 percent to 2.04 percent, a decline of 17 percent. Far more dramatic has been the decline in giving for benevolences, or the broader mission of the church ranging from supporting seminaries to feeding the poor. Per member giving for benevolences dropped 48 percent, from .66 percent of income in 1968 to .34 percent in 2009, empty tomb reported.

One reason, said Sylvia Ronsvalle of empty tomb, is the church did not offer a positive alternative to the rampant consumerism in the affluent post-World War II society. Religious individuals today may be confused about what constitutes successful giving since all many of them are asked to do is the minimum to keep the local congregation going.

"We've succeeded at maintenance," she said. "But is that what we're supposed to be succeeding at? No."

In Smith, Emerson and Snell's book, the data shows, among other things, that one out of five U.S. Christians gives no money to charity or that nearly three-quarters give less than 2 percent of their income. "The majority of American Christians are actually quite ungenerous financial givers" given the teachings of their faith and their potential for generosity, they reported.

"It would appear that American Christians have much soul searching to do about the question of money," the authors concluded.

September 1, 2012

Working through disappointment

I have posted on this before, so pardon the self-centered nature of this post.  Higher education in general, and history in particular, are very hard places to find steady employment.  Most of us end up doing exactly what I am doing--teaching multiple classes at multiple colleges or universities for very low pay and no benefits or job security.  Oddly enough, there is a little bit of comfort in knowing that my experience is so common.  Very little comfort, but there it is.

Last spring, I had one more opportunity at a local community college.  It is the one job arena where my experience matters and my lack of publications don't.  Long story short, they chose someone else--a grad school colleague.  As much as I appreciate his work effort, I certainly don't think he is a better teacher.  But his connections were better than mine, and that is the story of my academic life.

Frustrating, though.  I emailed the chair to ask what I could have done better.  He said my presentation, experience and interview were excellent and he couldn't think of any way to improve.  What sounded like a pretty strong compliment also made the rejection that much more painful.  "You were perfect and could not have done better.  But we still aren't going to hire you."

I know I am a good teacher.  I had a student say "wow" the other day when I explained how the Black Codes allwed southern plantation owners to recreate the ante bellum south in 1866.  I have had numerous students tell me my class was their favorite.  That helps.  I have worked really hard this semester to figure out new ways to approach teaching the same course.

But the constant rejection has taken a toll.  Don't get me wrong.  My life is better than I deserve.  SOF and I get along and have so for 24 years.  We live in a nice community and have amazing friends.  My life is better than most of the people on the planet.  Being rejected for a community college job is not even close to the end of the world.

There are moments, however, when the disappointment is hard to ignore.  The worst occur when I am around multiple people who are deeply ensconced in the cult of academia.  They really don't understand those of us on the outside.  Worse, at times, they have no idea how hard we work to teach more than they do (often) for a tenth of the pay and no benefits.  Yesterday was one of those painful moments when one of the people from the job search last spring emailed me (again) to ask me to adjunct at the same place.  I feel like asking him gently that he might consider how hard it would be for me to meet the same people who voted against me, and the person who they chose, while I do the same job for pennies.

I can rationalize every single job disappointment.  Either I screwed up as I did at a couple of opportunities, or I was never really a serious consideration in a few.  Or there were those jobs that I am so fortunate not to have.  But occasionally, I am reminded of them and it still stings.