December 30, 2013

The unrelenting cost of poverty

And this continues to just amaze me.  Study after study shows that poor people struggle with more than just paying their bills.  The impact of poverty on children is documented and clear.  It slows their development and leaves them far behind their peers.
Unrelenting Poverty Leads To 'Desperation' In Philly Schools : NPR: Also, studies show that in some cases, kids living in poverty are more than two years behind their privileged counterparts. They're more likely to have fewer books in the home, have more health problems and miss more school days. Many kids come to school hungry, and then they can't focus and learn.
Closing The 'Word Gap' Between Rich And Poor : NPR

Yet, the conservative response--and even that from so many of my moderate friends--is to shrug and say, "what can we do, we have government programs that don't work."  For those more conservative, the response seems to be to blame the poor for their situation, and the overall approach has been to cut funding for those programs that help kids and the poor the most, and essentially tell them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps--even if that means doing so with both hands tied behind your back.  That small percentage of the poor who fight their way out become the exceptions that disprove the rule for conservatives.  All of that makes me think that most Americans simply don't like the poor.

But the very real conclusion of these studies is that poverty harms us all.  Every kid who falls behind in school is "at risk" for anti-social behavior, or for behavior that is costly to us--from early pregnancy to drug use or violence.  Those kids who never catch up to their peers equals last productivity and innovation, as well as likely more cost to our infrastructure and safety net.

Yet, the dominant narrative has become (since Reagan) that you can't solve poverty, and you sure as hell can't solve it by throwing money at it.  All that is left is to shrug and suggest that when the poor are better people, we will see it reduced.

I find that unacceptable.  And criminal.

December 27, 2013

Racism, evangelicals and Duck Dynasty

I read this evening that A&E has decided to take Phil Robertson back after his brief and meaningless suspension.  His homophobia is, as the network decided, part of his "journey," and the duck people are really good people after all:

Duck Dynasty is not a show about one man's views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family… a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness. These are three values that we at A+E Networks also feel strongly about,"
Yeah, whatever.  I have no problem with the fact that people evolve and change on their journey.  I also acknowledge that these people are probably decent people who do not intend to be homophobic bigots.  Their statements about gays bothered me tremendously, but I have to say that his statements on race bothered me even more.  I think because there is a theological argument (with which I disagree) that says that homosexuality is a sin.  But there is no theological argument (legitimate, anyway) that posits that black people were happy under segregation--as Phil Robertson suggested in his interview.

That aside, because I don't watch the show and won't be likely to do so in the future, the part that bothers me more than anything is that the denomination of my youth had the opportunity here for an easy little win on race.  They could have come out and stated that while they agreed with many of the family's views on religion and family, they could not endorse such racist thoughts about segregation.  It wasn't that hard.  But they decided to tribally back the duck people--because since liberals were mad at them, they must be doing something right.

The evangelical church lost me a long time ago, but it is this response on racism that really leaves me cold.  As I told several people, it is one thing for a white person to suggest that he was convinced that black people were happy in 1950s Louisiana--even though we all know that whites knew that blacks faced lynching for any transgressions outside white supremacy.  Phil Robertson knew that blacks were lynched.  He had to know.

But even if we somehow give 1950s Phil a pass, we can't excuse a grown man of today still suggesting that as fact.  He is either in deep denial or one of the most monumentally stupid people in America.  (Perhaps he should run for President under the GOP?)

What bothers me most is that I know full well that this repeats a long repeated lie for white supremacy.  During Slavery, the South insisted that their "slaves were happy," and were, in fact, happier than those northern immigrants.  During segregation, they repeated the same lie--that "their blacks were happy and understood their place."  We all know that was a lie, and we saw Southern blacks put their lives on the line (literally) to oppose segregation.
I’m reminded of these words from James Baldwin’s essay “A Fly in Buttermilk”: 
“Segregation has worked brilliantly in the South, and in fact, in the nation to this extent: It has allowed white people with scarcely any pangs of conscience whatever, to create, in every generation only the Negro they wished to see.”
That conservative evangelicals cannot see this makes me sad.  This was easy.

December 16, 2013

December 12, 2013

Gun Culture

And yes, illegal. But this is what you get when you encourage everyone to arm themselves.  You get irresponsible people with guns, and you have a gun industry that wants no filter or self-assessment of that culture.

No charges after man pulls gun on ‘b*tch’ with disabled kid over Walmart parking delay | The Raw Story

November 27, 2013

Is the American church broken?

My disillusion with the church began with my old denomination's stance on women, and went into hyperdrive when that same denomination supported torture.  My head just about exploded at that.  And much of my criticism has been aimed at the conservative church for these kinds of actions.

But reading this story about what food stamps are doing to real Americans makes me wonder if the sickness isn't broader.  Who, outside the people who do nothing other than work on hunger issues, is talking about hunger?  Are churches, of any denomination or framework up in arms because of these tremendous and cruel cuts to the neediest?  I am not seeing it.  Hell, while Republicans seem to cheer it, my own party seems to really not care that much that more and more Americans are falling behind.

If our moral tradition cares little about it, what hope is there?  The Wapo ran a story the other day about how many food stamps it would take for one average American thanksgiving meal.  Ours will not be decadent by American standards, but is well beyond the hopes of the poor.

I am bothered, of course, at the lack of caring.  But story after story highlight the negative impact poverty has on people.
Lower-income kids enter kindergarten with poorer language skills than kids from middle- and upper-income homes.

Also, studies show that in some cases, kids living in poverty are more than two years behind their privileged counterparts. They're more likely to have fewer books in the home, have more health problems and miss more school days. Many kids come to school hungry, and then they can't focus and learn.

"They can't concentrate as well, and children who are food insecure don't perform as well on math and language arts tests. They don't do as well in school," says Mariana Chilton, director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel University's School of Public Health.
Poor people fall farther and farther behind those who have.  And our moral voices are silent.  And our political choices are clear.  Meanwhile, I heard an ad (on our local public radio no less) for a sale this coming Friday that used the phrase "to celebrate Black Friday."  What in the what?

There is no doubt in my mind that the Southern Baptists have become far more conservative than Christian.  That is clear in my mind and was crystallized when they supported torture, and now cheer the failure of healthcare.  But I have my doubts about any of our faith traditions.  I am sure that many churches do what they can to feed poor in their area.  I wonder how many have put out a call of urgency because of the pressing need?  I hope they are there.

Because if those who claim to follow Jesus can't care about the poor, I hate to break it to them, but their faith isn't Christian.

November 19, 2013

At least the war on the poor is going well

That's a paraphrase of a bumper sticker that said the same thing about the environment.  I have said this before, but will continue to say that one of the things that has shocked me the most is the right wing's outright hatred toward poor people.  That used to be limited, I think, to those who received welfare benefits and didn't work.  After all, it was under Reagan that we got the Earned Income Tax Credit which assisted working people who hovered just under the poverty line.  But those days are gone.  Republicans today can't stand anyone who gets federal assistance, unless, of course, it is in the form of farm subsidies.

So we want to cut assistance for the poor, and the idea of raising the minimum wage makes Republican heads explode.  That is why we get stories like this one, where Walmart is having a food drive for their workers.  Their workers don't have enough to eat, and if Republicans get their way, they won't have much in federal assistance, so the only alternative is to beg from Walmart customers to donate food for employees.

I will say this.  At least someone in George Bush's camp believed that compassion was actually a Christian requirement.  We can certainly argue with how they implemented that, but at least they thought it worthy to push.  Modern Republicans are openly hostile to the poor and are doing everything they can to cut the safety net.  Too bad so many of those Republicans wave the Bible in one hand while voting for Ayn Rand's dream.

November 15, 2013


I have been battling my old friend disillusionment of late.  This latest job change has contributed, no doubt, as I watch the university turn into a cash machine and watch the community college continue to be a pool of mediocrity and cronyism.

I am not naive, and this is not the first time I have become disillusioned by an institution or group.  In grad school, one of my friends referred to me as an incredibly cynical idealist.  Perhaps.  No doubt, I have lost respect for a lot of institutions that I used to have at least some respect for.  And no doubt that one of the big ones was when the church of my youth openly cheered torturing individuals.  Hard to wrap my mind around the contrast of "don't you dare tell me I can't say 'Merry Christmas'" and "it's ok to torture people because we are afraid of another 9-11."

Those church people, I believe, are largely uninformed.  Discussions with many torture defenders reveals that, I would argue.  That doesn't completely let them off the hook, mind you, but it certainly mitigates their approach.  Same goes for my conservative friends who continue to vote for Republicans even when they know that vote will cause actual harm to actual people.  In most cases, I think they believe (or want to believe) that my concerns are inflated and either the harm will not occur or it will not be nearly as bad as I predict.

But make no mistake, one of the things darkening my mood is the pure malevolence of the people they vote for.  I know no other way to explain Tea Partiers openly mocking disabled people or Republicans chanting to repeal health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions.  That is malevolent, and the fact that many of them wave Bibles while doing so surely does not help.

And speaking of that, here we combine Republican and Christian malevolence with David Barton and Kenneth Copeland saying that PTSD isn't Biblical.  I understand the tribalism aspect, mind you, but there is something completely fucked up about some minister telling a soldier they should not be troubled by seeing people die--either by their hand or someone else's--and guilty or innocent.  What kind of arrogant evil person would tell soldiers that they should not feel bad about the death of others?

David Barton, that is who.  Much loved in Christian conservative circles for his faux history, and devoid of an ounce of humanity or awareness.

November 12, 2013

Speaking of Jesus needing better PR

There is this story about anti-abortion tactics (language warning).  But here is the summary:  anti-abortion activists are encouraging their (supposedly Christian) followers to hijack an email thread where poor women seek assistance getting to an abortion clinic.  These Christians believe that lying to someone is perfectly ok in this situation, and seem to also think that kidnapping unsuspecting and desperate women is ok.

How Franklin Graham is truly an awful person

Perhaps he gives to the poor.  Perhaps his ministry actually helps people.  I don't know.  But I know that what he has done to his father is an awful thing.  Look at this link and the picture within and you will understand.  My Christian conservative friends seem to not get how their lack of discernment with regard to people like Sarah Palin speaks volumes about their tribal conservatism being more important to them than their faith.

Worth 1,000 words: The awful state of American evangelical Christianity after Billy Graham

November 8, 2013

But first, a bit about gun culture

These stories bother me, and they bother me even more because now even mass shootings don't phase Americans.

A Mass Shooting Happened Yesterday But You Didn't Hear Anything About It | ThinkProgress

Or this story where a young woman seeking assistance after a car accident was gunned down by the home owner.

Or of course, this story that highlights why I loathe the gun culture.  Not gun owners, but the culture surrounding the people who worship guns and the 2nd amendment.  One of the editors from Guns and Ammo dared to defend the proposition that we could have some gun control.  His idiot readers revolted and demanded he be fired.  He didn't, as I read it anyway, suggest that we should take everyone's guns away.  No.  He just said that we can regulate this right, just as we regulate other rights.  And gun culture freaked out.

So I guess this blog is still here?

I know I have been absent from the blog for a while.  Not even sure why I have not been writing.  Some of it was battling allergies.  Some was applying for a job.  No, I didn't get it, but the process was useful, and I am not sure I would have enjoyed the amount of travel probably necessary.

I am still working through my sense of identity in the aftermath of all of this.  On one hand, I am doing just fine, but there are times when my frustration at being a really good teacher without a teaching job really gets to me.

But in other news, I have joined the board of a local arts group that hosts concerts here locally.  That is already proving to be a lot of fun and getting me connected to the artists and the process of choosing and recruiting acts.  In addition, I have devoted a lot of my time to improving my own musical skills and have even taken up the task of song writing.  I have about 4 relatively reasonable songs--reasonable in that they are essentially songs--and am enjoying that process.

More later.

August 20, 2013

Irony of Ted Cruz

Not really the main point of this piece, but the real irony is the assertion that his American mother makes him a citizen regardless of being born in Canada immediately and completely makes the Birther's look idiotic.  Not that they needed one bit of help.

In Renouncing Canadian Citizenship, Ted Cruz Sounds Like A DREAMer | ThinkProgress

August 11, 2013

But what will happen to those people?

Been a while since I blogged over here.  We have a sick cat, for one thing, as our 10 year old cat, Molly's kidneys appear to be functioning at about 25%.  We will have to do more home care for her for as long as we can, and she isn't the easiest cat to work with.

In addition, my reinvention moves forward.  I went to Tulsa this last week and made some connections with people running food banks and working with non-profits.  Part of that inspired this post, as I came back to read this story about Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan wanting more cuts to food stamps.  At the same time, of course, we see that the deficit is decreasing at one of the fastest rates in modern history, so we know that conservatives lie when they say this is just about fiscal responsibility.  It is, for many, a deep dislike of the poor.

But for my Republican friends and family, I suspect a version of truncated thought, and that relates to more than just food stamps.  But SNAP is a great example.  It goes something like this:
  • We should cut food stamps because we have far too many people dependent on them.  And anyway, the churches should take care of the poor.  When I point out that churches are incapable of feeding all of those people, and that many churches and faith organizations are swamped right now, with SNAP at its current levels, my friends usually nod.  That will leave a swath of Americans who get some assistance now without much, and they know that.  But what will happen to those people?  Silence.
 Or what about the death penalty:
    • My conservative friends all support it on moral grounds.  But when I point out the racial and class bias to the law, they all acknowledge that too.  But what will happen to those people?  Silence.
    • On abortion, most of my friends and family profess something approaching reason.  They all hate abortion (as do I), but most believe there should be exceptions where the procedure is used.  When I point out that Republicans are removing even those exceptions, they shrug.  When I point out that Republicans are, at the same time removing programs and clinics that provide healthcare to pregnant women and children, I get the same shrug.  But what will happen to those people?  Silence.
I would argue that most religious traditions call for taking care of the most vulnerable, and often demand it.  Christianity suggests that not taking care of the poor is the same as not taking care of Jesus himself.  In other words, those who say they love Christ, but look the other way at the needs of the poor and the sick are not truthful.  

July 26, 2013

What do you call people who purposefully harm others?

Important to remember that Norm Ornstein is hardly some left wing radical, but even he has to say that this Republican resistance is not quite treason.  And important to remember that the GOP's stated goal is to keep people from signing up for health insurance.  What do you call people like that?  I think sociopath is about right.

The Unprecedented, Contemptible GOP Quest to Sabotage Obamacare - Norm Ornstein - The Atlantic

July 16, 2013

Topics other than my career: race, politics, etc.

I have been obsessed with my career situation, but, as everyone knows, many other things have occurred outside my little world.  First, was the jury acquittal of George Zimmerman after he shot Trayvon Martin.  One of the more interesting cases of late, and one that has all the hallmarks of our current debate over race--and of course, our debate over gun usage.

The best responses, I think, didn't focus on the jury--though there seem to be some issues there as well--but looked at the problems with the law in the case.  Florida law did not require the court to even acknowledge or address the fact that George Zimmerman ignored police instructions and created the conflict.  Black observers were not wrong to note that this case was about a man stalking and killing a young, unarmed black male--and that the state of Florida said that was ok.  Zimmerman didn't have to prove that his life was actually in danger, merely that he felt threatened.

Eugene Robinson had one of the better posts on this, where he noted that while everyone talked about Zimmerman's right to self-protection, for some reason Martin had no such right.  Further, he and many have noted how this case suggests that young black males simply don't count that much.  I am reminded that capital cases are biased terribly on race--not so much the perpetrator--especially dealing with the race of the victim.  Another dead black boy simply doesn't matter that much, and that makes me terribly sad.

Speaking of that, it is time again to reread To Kill A Mockingbird, but first this excellent essay by Ta-nehisi Coates on the Fear of a Black President.


In other news, the state of Texas continues their war on women by pushing through a draconian law banning abortions after 20 weeks, and effectively shutting down most clinics in the state.  I can't help but wonder if the right wing crazies have not overplayed their hand and miss that they are winning battles, but possibly losing the war.  Overnight, they made a national figure of Senator Wendy Davis, who is attractive, smart, and eloquent--only one of which Rick Perry brings to the table.

Then, we read that North Carolina Republicans pushed through a bill that gives lie to any notion that these people respect hard work or the middle class.  This law would cut taxes on the richest, while raising taxes on the bottom 80%.  Add this to the federal farm bill that gave agri-business subsidies while ignoring food stamps all together (also cutting environmental protection, btw).  Even conservative Rod Dreher sees this for what it is--cruel and horrible policies from a party that should know better.
The Republican Party is throwing corporate welfare at farmers, but telling people who are so poor they qualify for government aid to feed themselves that they are not a priority. As a matter of basic politics, the Republicans have lost their minds. This is Mitt Romney’s 47 percent remark all over again.  
I remain stunned that my friends and family continue to vote for these sociopaths who do not, beyond minor superficial words, reflect their values.

July 12, 2013

Word of the day: "Reinvention"

Though I have no idea what that looks like.

My career is at a crossroad.  The lack of a full-time position is nothing new, but my access to adjunct gigs is declining, not increasing.  I know that it is time to move to something new.

But first, I have to get this out, and perhaps it will stop the dreams.  I was good at teaching.  I had more than one student tell me I was the best professor they had in 4+ years.  I still have former students who not only keep in touch, but will tag me for coffee or beer when they are in town.  My friend and former ta D told me a few weeks ago that if the academy functioned as it should, I should be teaching, because I am good at it.  Those are kind words and I appreciate them.

But back to the dream.  During grad school, I developed a course on western film.  It started as simply a money-making venture and morphed into a pretty decent class.  I taught it for years and honed and fine-tuned the films and readings.  Students often came expecting an easy course of looking for historical anachronisms, but found, instead that they had to challenge some of their deeply held assumptions about American exceptionalism, race, gender, sexuality and history.  Watching that dawn on some students was a delight.  Some never got it or never cared.  But many found the analysis fascinating and embraced it.

I haven't taught the course for several years.  My university changed how they funded adjunct classes (revenue stream, I am pretty sure) and my department simply could not offer my film class.  I think another tenured prof teaches something similar, but I feel pretty confident that mine was better.  But for the last few years, I have been unable to teach anything but the survey (which may be one reason why this "reinvention" is timely as I have been bored with that same course).

But I often dream of teaching that film course.  In my dreams, the discussions have moved to that great sweet spot where students are arguing over imagery and history, and talking about big ideas and assumptions.  They are laughing as we often did in the class, and eager to talk about Lonestar or The Searchers.

Then I wake up.

And that hurts.  I miss that.

So I must move on to something else.  SOF believes that not only have I been bored, but that my true essence is to be an advocate, and that it was just as well that I didn't end up in a research-heavy job.  Others have told me that my skills are such that I can do a variety of jobs.  But I have no idea what that means.  What kind of jobs?  Doing what?

For now, I am in a fortunate position.  I don't have to do something right now to pay the bills.  I have the luxury of some time to figure this out.  Does it mean re-tooling in school?  Volunteering for a non-profit for a while?  I have taken some steps.  I contacted a former student now in our state legislature (a reminder, if you don't mind, that my teaching wasn't too bad) and hope to meet with him next weekend for some networking ideas.  I am having beers with a poli sci prof to ask about other opportunities and to see what some of their programs in public administration might offer me.

We will see.

June 29, 2013

Life is weird

So things have been a little weird of late.  Not only the tough last 6 months with SOF's family, but watching as my career cratered.  Of course that means that my 30th high school reunion would be this summer.  I committed before I realized, of course, and decided to brave it.  It wasn't without much fear and trepidation, and a very near last second bailout that I finally pushed my way through the door.  

It was ok.  I am still trying to process all this, because I think high school can carry a lot of weight for those short 3 or 4 years.  Not sure why, really, but seeing those people brought an emotional response that I am still trying to understand.  

I had some help getting ready.  Not only the amazing support from SOF, but my numerous friends and family members who have been so encouraging through all of this.  Then a couple of odd ones.  An ex-girlfriend who commented on my "career falling apart" comment with "career, schmeer."  Then a serendipitous meeting over dinner at the brew pub in Hays, Kansas, with a retired English professor who not only completely understood my career issue, but encouraged me to walk in with my head high.  

Not sure I did that, but I went, and had some really nice connections with people I have not seen for 30 years.  Some I expected, but many I did not.  It wasn't all seamless.  I sat down with women from my choir days (we were in a pretty elite choir in high school, so it was a small group).  One looked at me and had to look again at my name tag before she would talk to me.  "Hey, Jenny Slater.  Hey, Jenny Slater.  Hey, Jenny Slater."  

But that didn't bother me at all.  Trying to explain my life was sometimes hard, but not impossible.  It was pleasant to see some of the most successful people respond so nicely, and without a bit of arrogance.  The only annoying one was the woman who could not stop talking about just "how smart her kids were.  Sure, we were all good students, but these kids take after their dad and are just brilliant..."  Sigh.  

But those interactions didn't dominate.  It may take me a bit to makes sense of this, but I think it was a good idea.  But the universe has a funny sense of humor.  

June 24, 2013

Conservative cruelty

I have long been a critic of conservative politics, but have, for the most part, believed that my conservative friends were not cruel toward the poor and needy.  Far from it, actually, as most of them are involved in charities that help the poor, and attend churches that have an outreach.

When it came to policy, I believed that they, and the people they voted for, had an overly optimistic view of what poverty looked like.  They believed, I assume, that poor people genuinely were locked in dependency on government handouts, and reducing that would nudge them into the work place.  Or that there was so much corruption and fraud in the programs, that no actual people would suffer.

Over the last few years, however, we have seen conservative hatred toward even the working poor, best exemplified by Romney's sneer about the 47% who are dependent on the government and pay no taxes.  Conservatives have attacked working teachers and firefighters--demonized those with multiple jobs, and have actually worked to cut overtime pay and further weaken unions.  Message:  even if you work hard, conservatives and Republicans still hate your guts.

A great example of this kind of malevolence is this most recent failed farm bill.  In what has become typical fashion, conservatives decided that we are spending far too much on the poor.  Not on farm subsidies, even to people who have raked in millions in from the government, all while quoting the Bible as he called food stamps "theft."

In this recent bill, conservatives not only cut food stamps, they capped state spending on employment and training.  Hear that?  They cut food stamps, while making it harder for states to get people off welfare and off food stamps.  This bullshit about wanting people to work is just that.  They just don't like poor people, and want nothing to do with any safety net.  All while quoting the Bible.

Sigh.  Gag.

June 16, 2013

The decline of higher education

Not really hyperbole, and certainly not just about me and my latest battles with the job market.  I read this article yes, in Al Jazeera, of all places, that notes that today some 76% of college professors are adjuncts.  They average 2,700 per class with no benefits, no job security, and no say.  So I am far from alone.

And while the article focuses, perhaps too much, on the psychology of why people like me put themselves through this and don't just go find another job, it is still well worth reading.  After all, to be very honest, while I have been "exploited" pretty heavily since I started teaching college courses, for much of that time, it worked well for me.  Our economic situation was not that of many in the field, and so for a while, I was content to teach a few courses for the University (at a rate nearly double that average pay) with none of the meetings, advising, committee, to say nothing of not having to publish.  It was a symbiotic relationship with my tenured friends.  My work allowed them to do more research, and along the way, I was able to add small, but vibrant classes to majors and non-majors alike. In that, I was extremely fortunate for a while, and I am glad for that.

At my university, the student fees that paid for my modest stipend became too attractive for the administration to just let go back to the departments.  That ended my run there, and I am not exactly sure what to do with that.  Are they trying to avoid the "adjunctification" of the academy?  Or are they simply trying to make more revenue.  Student enrollment has not declined, and they already have tenure track people on salary.  I guess the argument was to make those people teach more and pocket those fees.  That seems to be what occurred, anyway.

Perhaps I am a bad one to complain about this as I was rather happy to be exploited while it lasted.  I think that in the long run, we are looking at a commodification of learning.  As one of my friends noted on Facebook this morning (and I should note that much of the support I am hearing from friends comes from tenured colleagues):
The recent mess causing all the layoffs is also a consequence of deliberate legislative efforts to starve public education into a must-commercialize mode that requires abolition of tenure and normalizes faculty work at much less than a living wage.
This is undoubtedly true.  State support for higher education has been in steep decline since the 80s, as has been support for national funding of research into science and technology.  All of that has served to force Universities to reach out to the private sector for funding.  On one hand, that isn't a bad thing, but on the other, it means that people like the Koch brothers can essentially purchase an economics department to continue support for their own economic needs.

I think all of those issues need addressing.  Universities appear to have embraced the idea of simply selling college as a consumer good, and are now building entertainment facilities to attract students.  Climbing walls, water parks, etc., rather than investing in smaller classrooms and more faculty.  Anglican and I are convinced that part of the problem with the University is that so many insiders still believe (rather naively) that their primary mission is still education and research, while the evidence suggests that for most administrations, the goal appears to be more revenue.  This is bad for the students as well, as I constantly run into students who see their degree as a consumer good they purchase, rather than a reflection of what they have learned.

For today, that is going to have to wait, and it looks increasingly like it will be someone else's issue.  The academy doesn't want me, so they will have to battle MOOCs, water parks, and the continued attacks on tenure and academic freedom.  For me, my bitterness is broadly at conservatives who continue to gleefully gut academics, but also directly at the community college for their open disrespect of my ability and contribution.  And finally, just frustration toward those inside the academy who seem to have internalized their own experience as to make them really more worthy than those of us outside.  From the Al Jazeera piece:
On Twitter, I wondered why so many professors who study injustice ignore the plight of their peers. "They don't consider us their peers," the adjuncts wrote back. Academia likes to think of itself as a meritocracy - which it is not - and those who have tenured jobs like to think they deserved them. They probably do - but with hundreds of applications per available position, an awful lot of deserving candidates have defaulted to the adjunct track.
The plight of the adjunct shows how personal success is not an excuse to excuse systemic failure. Success is meaningless when the system that sustained it - the higher education system - is no longer sustainable. When it falls, everyone falls. Success is not a pathway out of social responsibility.

June 13, 2013

Dreams die hard

I just found out that my latest application for full-time teaching ended up where most of them have--in the trash can.  This one hurts a little more because I really thought I had a chance.  I have been teaching at this particular community college for the last 5 years and have a pretty impressive resume of teaching experience both online and in person.   I have a phd, have one publication (which matters not to community colleges, to be fair), and have had very good teaching evaluations from students over the years.  When I applied last year to a different community college, I had to pull those evaluations together and was rather surprised at how the vast majority of them were positive.

Not that any of this matters.  I sit here watching Phd after Phd come out of the same school and land jobs.  Some of them are in places I would never want to live, to be fair, but many of them have landed in very good positions.  I have no idea how to make sense of any of this.  As I have written before, those inside academia often act rather cultish about it, and look at those of us who teach the majority of the courses in about the same way that suburban dwellers look at the migrant workers roofing their house.

I kind of get that.  If you get inside, you have to believe it is on your merit, and not just the luck of the draw of being in the right place at the right time.  Either that or the people who get hired are just better than me.  That is a possibility.  A frustrating one, but one nonetheless.  I am told over and over that I am an excellent teacher, though most of those who tell me that have never actually seen me teach.  I am told that I am good with people (not that my blog readers can tell) and that I would make an excellent colleague.  I am told that I am very good in interviews.  Last year's community college told me that I had put together an excellent presentation and he had absolutely no suggestions for improving it.

But they weren't going to hire me.  With this one, even more frustration as they didn't even bother to interview me.  This from a department who has hired several people with only master's degrees and with very questionable people skills.

I apologize for the whining.  I know there are people here in Oklahoma who are homeless after major storms.  I know there are people suffering with serious health issues and family loss and tragedy.  In that context, my life still looks pretty good.

But this one hurts.  I have been studying history at a serious level since 1990.  I have been teaching and honing my craft since 1997 (off and on).  When I put together my vita this last time I had to re-categorize all my teaching experience because listing the individual classes would take too much space. All for nothing.  Well, not nothing.  Those classes and those students still matter.  But I have had a dream for a long time of being able to teach fulltime at a place where I could do more than teach the intro course.

But some dreams are not meant to be.  Clearly.

May 22, 2013

Prayer and Tornados

I am sure all of you know of the massive storm that hit Moore, Oklahoma from Monday.  I watched on TV as that monster formed and knew it was going to be bad.  I didn't realize it was going to be this bad.  I still haven't been up to see the damage as the last thing I want to do is get in the way.  There will be time for that.

Meanwhile we have already had some craziness.  First, it was our own Oklahoma Senator Coburn suggesting that aid will come to Oklahoma only after it has been offset by other budget cuts.  As I told someone else, this is the equivalent of offering to save a drowning man, but only after he signs off on payments to you.

Then, we got the ubiquitous crazy right wing fundamentalist in the form of Pat Robtertson suggest that the victims could have avoided the storm had they prayed harder.  I know.  The man is a complete loon and nutjob.  But here he has more in common with saner Christians than they would like.  Robertson says that if enough people prayed, God would have intervened.  That is essentially how many Christians already talk about prayer.  This is the logical conclusion.  If more people praying is better than less, then God somehow needs prodding, and he is prodded in a democratic fashion.  And if a bad thing like this happens, then it is a result of not enough people praying.  All of this is reminiscent of Smitty's great comments on equally bad theology coming from a ND legislator who blamed gun violence on abortion.

A friend recently panicked when her mother had a severe health issue, and asked that people "pray hard."  One of her friends commented, "I just prayed."  What does any of that mean?  Is God only swayed when people pray "hard" or does he take note of those comments?  I feel like I am stuck in Bill Moyer's story about LBJ asking him to pray in a cabinet meeting.  Moyers started and heard LBJ shout from the other end of the table, "speak up, Bill.  I can't hear you."  To which, Moyers responded, "I wasn't talking to you."  I doubt very much that any of this is aimed at God.

Robertson sees all of this as literal.  I suspect that for many people, "I will pray for you" or "can you pray for me" is simply an expression of concern or a cry for help.  I have no problem with that.  I have no problem with praying for people in crisis that they might be able to find peace or comfort.  But I have a big problem with prayers that turn God into an ogre.

May 10, 2013

The age of Christian persecution

We are in an age of Christian persecution.  Just ask any conservative Christian, and they will suggest that their values are under attack, that they are unwelcome for their views, and they are on the verge of actual persecution.  Facebook will light up with stories of supposed persecution--"did you hear about the one where the house church was closed down?"  Or the more recent one:  "Obama has the military prosecuting Christians for proselytizing."  Never mind that isn't true, it fits a narrative that my Christian conservative friends prefer.

I remember that narrative from my youth.  Our churches often talked about the passage where Jesus said that we would be hated.  And that is usually quoted when Christians are criticized for a stance; such as their opposition to same-sex marriage.  Or when former NBA player Chris Broussard said that recently outed player Jason Collins wasn't a "real Christian" as an openly gay man, and received his share of criticism for that statement.  For my Christian conservative friends, that is proof that Christians can be called names just for their beliefs.  Or, as Louis Gohmert said last weekend, we are in an age where the liberals are the most intolerant of all, and where the only acceptable intolerance is toward Christians.

This persecution complex is hard to take seriously, I must say.  But some of this is because historically Christianity enjoyed a special place in our public square.  That wasn't really correct or constitutional to do so, but it occurred.  Schools led sectarian prayers, and Christians dominated political discourse for most of America's history.  When you drill into that, btw, you will find a lot of conflict that most today don't remember--for example, that Protestants were early proponents of public education because of their opposition to Catholic parochial schools.

But however you slice it, Christianity is no longer the only game in town.  It no longer gets to dominate that public square.  But that isn't persecution.  I don't care if a school has a "Spring celebration" rather than Easter or if a local vendor says "Happy Holidays "  That isn't persecution.  That also means that when you call homosexuality an abomination or antithetical to Christianity, you are going to get criticized.  That isn't because you are closer to Jesus.  It is because a good many people, including a lot of Christians, find that attitude bigoted toward our gay friends.  And no, saying you have a gay friend doesn't erase the bigotry.  Haraldsson has a pretty good take on that here.

But hidden in it is this gem:
Blake also cites the examples of Edward Johnson, a communication professor at Campbell University in North Carolina, “[who] says we are now living in a ‘postmodern’ era where everything is relative and there is no universally accepted truth. It’s an environment in which anyone who says ‘this is right’ and ‘that is wrong’ is labeled intolerant, he says.
Look beyond the persecution complex to the idea that truth is relative.  Don't you find it funny that the people who are claiming universal truth and calling things "right" and "wrong" are the same ones who respond to evolution with "were you there?"  Or talk about evolution and climate change as issues of faith rather than science.  Issues, of course, where they believe they can decide that facts are not facts and they don't believe them to be facts?


May 8, 2013

The NRA is crazy, and doesn't even seem to hide it

I know these clips are filtered through a liberal comedian, but I am not sure any honest person can look at the NRA's convention--their speakers--and not say that this is an unhinged right wing insanity.

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May 6, 2013

"Save it for the blog"

So it has been a pretty wild couple of months here.  SOF lost her mother back in February, and then her father last week.  Needless to say, that has been difficult and continues to be so.

In the middle of that, we attended my niece's graduation, which was very cool and inspiring.  So proud of her and her sister for becoming such amazing and interesting people.  We had such a nice time with friends and family.  It was all more than worth the mad scamper there and back.

The one "but" in the weekend came in the graduation speaker.  Turns out the President of this University is friends with Representative Louis Gohmert.  Do I really have to note that he is a Republican?  I think not.  Friday night, while waiting for a table, I saw a man walk into our restaurant with a confederate flag patch on his shirt.


So back to Gohmert.  For a rundown of his greatest hits, go here.  The man is one of those accusing Hilary Clinton of hiring a Muslim extremist, has suggested that the Muslim Brotherhood has influence in the Obama administration, which is why he continually says that "everyone knows the threat of Islamic terrorism except this administration."  Like so many of the far right, he is convinced that gay marriage will lead directly to bestiality, and that any gun control will lead to a complete confiscation and all guns being illegal.

My niece M warned me about the speaker, and told me to bring my Ipod.  When I said anything before the ceremony, she cut me off with "save it for the blog."  :)  And she was right.  After I realized just how dumb the speaker was going to be, I approached it as an anthropological exercise--where I could observe a right wing Tea Partier speak to many in their choir.  (I say many, in that I heard some applause, but know there were several who had to find him as annoying as we did).

His speech was actually better than I expected.  Better in that he didn't accuse Obama of being a Muslim from Kenya.  And he actually opened up with a couple of relatively funny jokes.  Not Jon Stewart funny, but still, not bad.

But then he started in on us liberals.  He was there to speak the truth (just ask him) and the truth could be summed up in the following propositions:

  1. Liberals are more intolerant than any conservative, and in fact, the only people you can be intolerant of are Christians.  
  2. Political correctness allowed the Boston bombing because, of course, Obama doesn't regard Islamic terrorism as a threat.  Or something.  
  3. Christians are under attack and are persecuted.  
Throughout the talk, he repeated right wing talk about Boston, or about how the Pentagon is making Christianity illegal, or that, in fact, 50% of America got more from the Federal government than they paid in taxes.  That last part was in the portion where he said that we were in danger of losing America--not that it was bad that so many people were poor.

I seriously was glad that he didn't go birther on us, but the basic talk was a series of outright lies preceded by a claim that he was there to speak the truth.  That was very disheartening.  And disingenuous   In one part he spoke about the past when we could disagree with each other, but "fight to the death for your right to disagree."  That had been replaced with, he said, attacks on Christians for their beliefs.  Not enough to disagree with persecuted Christians, they had to be persecuted as well.

All with absolutely no sense that conservatives had defended Japanese internment, Red Scare witchhunts for communists real and imagined, or that they had defended attacks on liberal patriotism for those who might disagree with the Iraq war or Patriot act.  (Has anyone forgotten that Saxby Chambliss accused a triple amputee--Max Cleland--of siding with Saddam for his opposition to Bush's Homeland Security bill?).

No, in Gohmert's world, Christian conservatives are only the victims of persecution.  This complete lack of perspective or honesty--all shrouded in his belief that he was speaking the truth--made him the perfect Christian conservative Tea Partier.  After all, when facts are inconvenient, you just ignore them.

NRA demonstrates how sane they are by having the most insane person give keynote address

Glenn Beck at NRA Rally: 'Freedom of All Mankind Is at Stake' - ABC News

Still going to say that the NRA political wing is sane?  Going to even try?

May 1, 2013

The conservative epistemic closure continues

Actually, it seems to be picking up steam.  All you have to do is open your web browser and read about the Republican party and you will find it.  Today, Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania (he of the Club for Growth fame, btw, so hardly some wimpy liberal) noted that the background check bill failed because "There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it..."  You catch that?  They didn't want to pass the bill, not because of deeply felt philosophical issues (though some certainly had those too), but just because Obama was for it.  That is how sick and twisted this party has become.

Think I am making this up?  This is more than just on guns, and more than just elected officials.  The conservative movement is defined actually, not by principled belief and philosophy, but by opposition to "liberals."  If we are upset by torture, then it can't be that bad, and I am not making that up.  When some suggested that the new Pope had connections to right wing death squads, conservative Erick Erickson tweeted this:  "That lefties are accusing the new pope of handing over lefties to the right wing junta for execution makes me adore the new pope."

Then yesterday, I read this polling data that demonstrated that conservatives were less likely to buy energy saving light bulbs if the package said that might help the environment.  Get that?  If the issue is just cost, or long term usage, they might buy them. But if the package says anything about the environment or climate, conservatives will look for a more polluting option.

That is sick and twisted and dumb and dumb and dumber.  All of these demonstrate that the modern Republican party and conservative movement is hollow to the core.  There is, as the saying goes, no "there, there."  When your only political position is to see where liberals stand and then do the opposite, you should really switch games.  You are better suited to follow professional wrestling where you can boo the villain and not look like a complete dolt.

April 27, 2013

THIS is Gun culture

And it is completely fucked up to raffle off the same kind of gun used in Newtown just because you want to stand up to the president.  Who, btw, has done precious little to change your gun ownership.  But to elevate this particular gun is a "fuck you" to the Newtown families, and to anyone effected by gun violence--as well as a giant "fuck you" to those of us nervous about guns.

Grownup gun owners need better PR. This does not make me respect any of you.

April 25, 2013

Dumb conservatives at Fox

And not just Fox.  I listened to Stephen Moore on NPR yesterday assert that the President had all sorts of flexibility during the sequester.  Several other people noted that the entire purpose of the sequester had been to impose an asinine and unreasonable budget cuts that would be so politically unpalatable that even Republicans would never go for it.  Of course, this underestimated Republican craziness and stupidity.  As we are seeing every day, they have no idea what government does and seem to, as their Tea Party base does, not realize that government is involved in many of the programs and daily activities that they support.  Yes, "keep your government out of my Medicare," indeed.

Jon Stewart, as usual, has a keen eye on their stupidity--this time their unbelievable flexibility with the Constitution.  When talking about gun rights, the Constitution is clear and unambiguous.  When talking about terror suspect rights, or even Muslim rights, the constitution becomes a Etch-a-Sketch.

April 23, 2013

Republicans hate government, until they realize what it actually does

I seriously question the intelligence of the current Republican party.  Historically, Republicans hated theory, but loved facts.  Now, they hate anything that doesn't support their ideology--especially facts.

So, after complaining and complaining about evil Government, here comes the Republican calls for an end an end to furloughs of air traffic controllers.  You know, "cut the budget, cut the budget, cut the budget, until, oh crap, do you mean that government actually does stuff that we need?  I had no idea."

Not just Rick Scott.  Republicans from Kansas also want the evil government to return to their jobs.  And then there is the idiot from Texas.  After last week's fertilizer explosion, Rick Perry asked for a quick federal response to help West, Texas.  Of course, at one point, Governor Idiot was talking about secession. Now he is begging for a quick turnaround.  And of course, Texas' senators both voted against aid for Hurricane Victims in New Jersey.

I really would like just a touch of consistency, but that isn't going to happen as long as the Republican party elects the dumbest people they can find.

April 21, 2013

The effectiveness of guns to reduce violence

Ok, here is a very biased and liberal link.  It is openly anti-gun.  So here is what I would like, Steve.  I am certainly open to critiquing the facts in this letter.  By all means, show me where the sources are incorrect.  But I don't want screeching angry bitching here.  I don't want snark about Mother Jones and I don't want to hear what "an idiot this person is."  Ok?

I also post this because the ABC news story on concealed carry (in admittedly one very particular scenario) was very interesting.  The huge difference between shooting on a range and shooting under duress strikes me as really worth thinking about.

So, let's keep this factual.  I am seriously not in the mood for condescending snark.

An Open Letter To Gun-Toting, Tyranny Fighting, 'Kindergarteners Need To Carry Guns To School' Preaching Americans | Liberals Unite

April 19, 2013

Conservatives agree that constitution is very important

Some parts, of course, are very VERY important. The right to bear arms is critical and cannot be even questioned. Can't even make gun owners uncomfortable or say bad things about them. But as we just saw from Senator Lindsey Graham, other parts of the Constitution are not so important.


The 5th, 6th, and assumably 8th amendments are more suggestions.  But don't you dare touch my guns!

The Onion’s Tips For Passing Gun Control Legislation | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

• Write gun control legislation. Pass gun control legislation.
• Before voting on gun control bill, try, if you can, to remember any recent examples in which guns have been used to kill innocent people.
• Acknowledge that it’s going to be hard to buck the pressure of the high-powered gun lobby, but not that fucking hard, dumbass.
• Consider if overwhelming public support for a particular measure is something you want to be associated with or not.
• Inform your decision by researching whether guns are good or bad when placed in the wrong hands.
• Muster everything that’s left in your black, desiccated heart to do something that might actually be of service to someone other than yourself.
• Carefully assess the other side of the argument wherein mentally unstable people can buy weapons at a gun show with no problem whatsoever, and then realize there is no other side of this argument.
• Put on your stupid little suit, run a comb through your greasy hair, go to the U.S Capitol building, pick up your fancy little gold pen, and pass a fucking gun control bill.

April 18, 2013

I am not the only one who thinks the NRA has lost its way

Adolphus Busch IV Resigns From NRA After Gun Control Defeat In Senate

Small Glimpses: Sheltered

SOF wrote this thoughtful post the other day as she is dealing with the grief of losing her mother this past February and facing her father's declining health today.

These are tough times in the Streak household.  Not unique, by any stretch.  We all have to face these issues, but as much as we like to think we are ready for them, they are harder than we can imagine.  As my mother said the other day, "there is no way to make this easy."

I am so proud of my wife for writing about this in an open and thoughtful manner.  I know this helps her, but have to think that her words are also helpful for others.

April 17, 2013

Gun culture

Don't ask me to respect these people.  Just don't.

McConnell's Facebook Page Mocks Reid Moments After Gun Bill Fails | TPM LiveWire

Gun people run the country

Senate To Vote On Gun Background Checks Wednesday | TPMDC

Can't even have reasoned background checks.  Can't even do that.  And meanwhile John Cornyn wants a bill that would require all states to allow concealed carry if you have a permit from a state like Arizona.  As David Frum noted, conservatives love state's rights until, well, they don't.

More guns.  More guns.  More guns.  Fuck it.  You guys win.  But this is where you will be on the hot seat.  The next shooting will be on the NRA, because they wouldn't even budge on reasoned responses.  So fuck them.

April 12, 2013

Gun culture and the conservative reliance on the false specter of the "slippery slope"

GOP Congressman Duncan offers us a great example of "gun culture" when he compared a possible gun registry to genocide.  Of course, a gun registry is not up for debate now, but the NRA and gun culture people are warning that more background checks will result in one.  It is a "slippery slope," in this case leading us to genocide, evidently, with a stop in a national registry of gun owners.

I am not suggesting that there are no slippery slopes in politics, mind you.  But I believe that conservatives have used that in a very cynical and dishonest way over the past 10 years.  Raising taxes is a good one.  Once you raise taxes, we are told, then the government will just raise more and spend more.

Except that nothing has proven politically easier than cutting taxes.  Raising taxes is the hard thing to do.  Cutting taxes is actually the slippery slope, because it has led us to the place where any tax increase is tantamount to tyranny.  Or have we forgotten the origins of the modern Idiot Party--oops, that is supposed to read Tea Party.

Likewise, since the heyday of modern gun control in the 1990s, the slippery slope has been to move away from control toward freer access to guns--giving us the Arizona's of the world where access to guns is much easier than access to healthcare or reason.  But those Arizona idiots aside, the general tenor of the American public has been less supportive of gun control over those years.  As a result, it has been much easier to ease restrictions on guns than to restrict them.  And here we are a few months after Newtown when the initial response was going to be AWB and other restrictions to the now where we might get universal background checks, but probably won't get anything.

But somehow, in the gun culture mindset, even this minor move forward is a step on a slippery slope to registration and then, of course, genocide.  

April 9, 2013

And btw, but this is gun culture

Senator To Newtown Families: The Gun Debate Has Nothing To Do With You | ThinkProgress

When the NRA and their Senator tell people who lost their children in a massacre that they have nothing to do with this debate--that they have no voice here--that is gun culture.  Is it all about those families?  Nope.  but good god.  Their young children were butchered by guns.  They get a voice here.

Pro-Gun Absolutism: or the move to privatize law and order

Always nice when a journalist echoes almost exactly what I said last December about this attack on our basic sense of community.  Take away the basic arguments about the second amendment, and replete through all the pro-gun rhetoric is this basic idea:  government can't (or won't) protect you, so you have to do it yourself.

This piece echoes that sentiment:

In the gun lobby’s dystopic view, Americans can no longer rely on government to keep them safe, so they have to do the job themselves. When everybody is armed and dangerous, the predators among us won’t be able to find any victims. Banning assault weapons and high-capacity clips is tantamount to unilateral disarmament, since it would leave law-abiding citizens outgunned in their confrontation with thugs and criminals.  
By this warped logic, it’s better to outsource public safety and law enforcement to private vigilantes than to curb public access to weapons of war. Conceived in paranoia, this mad project will make all of us more vulnerable to sociopaths with unlimited firepower. It would make America a less civilized country.
And this very good point that for the NRA, government is both all powerful and will take your guns, and equally powerless and incapable of law and order.
The NRA has a schizoid attitude toward government. In fundraising appeals to members, it fans fears that jackbooted feds are coming for your guns. In the political arena, it depicts government as pathetically weak, overwhelmed by the orgy of violent criminality and insanity engulfing our society.   

This, ultimately, is my biggest complaint with the gun culture argument.  I don't want to kill, and I don't want bars on my home.  I want to pay for police and good governance and good community that eases tensions and crime.  I understand that none of that guarantees that I won't be a crime victim (though me having a gun has no guarantee either).  As I have noted repeatedly, it is the height of cynicism to go out of your way to gut government programs and then claim that as a justification for self-arming.

Let's make this very clear.  The pro-gun lobby didn't used to make this their centerpiece, but every but of lobbying I have seen from that side suggests that Obama or some Diane Feinstein-led raid will join a UN raid to take away your guns. Or make you get healthcare.  I am not exactly sure which.  (And I can't reiterate enough that many of the people paranoid about government tyranny are crying foul because of getting healthcare to poor people.)

Steve suggested that I was naive about our system, and that I should not believe it works all the time.  I disagree with the charge of naivete and would suggest that I am probably more informed on the history of our country than he suggests--but at the end of the day, we are left with this suggestion that we should be planning for a potential armed revolution where we shoot at our fellow Americans in the Armed forces or Reserve--or at our community's cops, or at government agents (Americans) trying to enforce the law.

Smitty, in his fine Tyranny of the Lunatics, notes that this paranoid fantasy also disparages our military and military leadership:

Also, that fails to take into account that our troops are A) sworn to uphold the constitution; and 2) sworn to obey lawful orders.  So for your delusion to come true, that means American troops would have no problem at all firing on....other fellow Americans.  No.  That's just fucking stupid.
I want good government.  I want competent and trained police.  I am not trying to take away your gun, but don't tell me that my only choice for safety for my community and neighborhood and household is to buy an AR and hunker down.  Don't tell my neighbors that the only thing you will support to help secure their kids during the school day is to arm their teachers.  And don't tell me that people who constantly rant about tyranny are patriotic.

Why southern heritage is just code for racism

I have friends who defend the "southern heritage" argument and who talk about the fact that most rebel soldiers didn't own slaves, that the flag was "battle flag," and of course, that the Civil War wasn't really about slavery.

The buzz is now about a duet between Brad Paisley and LL Cool J with the line:  "if you don't judge my do-rag, I won't judge your red flag" and "if you don't judge my gold chains, I'll forget the iron chains."

Sigh.  As Time's James Poniewozik notes, this may be the worst song on race relations since GOB Bluth wrote "It ain't easy being white or brown."

Ta-Nehisi Coates has the best take on why 'Accidental Racist' Is actually just racist.  His main point is that picking LL Cool J to represent all of black America is exactly what racism is, not what it isn't.  But his best point is one that seems so damn obvious, but not one I had noticed before:
Paisley wants to know how he can express his Southern Pride. Here are some ways. He could hold a huge party on Martin Luther King's birthday, to celebrate a Southerner's contribution to the world of democracy. He could rock a T-shirt emblazoned with Faulkner's Light In August, and celebrate the South's immense contribution to American literature. He could preach about the contributions of unknown Southern soldiers like Andrew Jackson Smith. He could tell the world about the original Cassius Clay. He could insist that Tennessee raise a statue to Ida B. Wells.
Every one of these people are Southerners. And every one of them contributed to this great country. But to do that Paisley would have to be more interested in a challenging conversation and less interested in a comforting lecture.
Exactly.  When all your Southern heritage is white you don't really get to claim that it isn't racist.

April 8, 2013


This has been one of those Mondays. To be fair, the last few days have been rough around here. The weekend was the two year anniversary of losing Streak, and on top of all the loss in SOF's family, it has just been a downer time. This morning, I learned that one of my employers will no longer employ me for online classes. I had kind of expected something like this, but the sheer stupidity of their decision angered me almost more than the loss of a section. That is the adjunct's lot, of course. We are the migrant worker of academia--taking only what the tenured class doesn't want to teach, and doing it for pennies. Yeah, it has been one of those Mondays. As you all know (probably) we have a fish pond in our backyard. Over the last year and a half, a blue heron has made our pond one of his stops, and we have significantly fewer fish than we used to. For a while, that seemed ok. The heron is huge and beautiful and just so amazing to see when he lands in our yard, and our fish have never been anything other than fish. We don't feed them and we don't name them. They are just there. But we have one exception--or partial exception to that rule. We bought a koi several years ago at Petsmart for a couple of bucks. They are colorful and pretty and we thought it would be nice. (Part of the reason we don't feed them, btw, is that I have seen huge koi in ponds with feeding and they come to the surface in a really creepy begging style. Ugh.) So our koi has made it through this last year and a half of heron visits. But on Saturday, I was kicking the ball with the dogs and saw something orange near the pond where there should be no orange. I went over there to find our koi gasping and twitching about two feet from the pond. I quickly grabbed him and put him back in the water, thinking that he was probably done for, but it was worth a shot. He moved down, then started to float. I was sure he was done. But as I neared, I realized he was just gasping for air. His gills were going crazy. After a few minutes of that, he swam off and is still doing ok. I am not sure why, but this incident has bothered me a lot. Obviously, I am glad I was there in time. I must have interrupted the heron. The koi could not have lasted much longer out of the water. I have heard of herons grabbing koi that are too big for them, but still either killing them or throwing them out of the water. But I found myself very sad. Perhaps it was the anniversary of Streak's loss. Perhaps it is all the loss in our family. Perhaps it is my own fear of losing those I love. Perhaps it was the sense of complete vulnerability that I saw in the koi. But I went from not caring if the koi was there or not to feeling a connection with him, and kind of pissed at the heron. Mondays happen. I will move on. And I will work to give the koi as many hiding places as I can to protect him from the heron. And I will try to make peace with the academic world. Eventually. In the meantime, I am going to get a beer and make some dinner.

David Kuo, RIP

Joe Klein has one of the nicest remembrances of his friend David Kuo, who passed away last week.  David Kuo |  I read Kuo's book on his days in the Bush administration and, at the time, thought his words would spur christian conservatives to rethink their loyalty to the conservative movement.

Of course, that was folly.  The people who defended torture weren't really that concerned about "faith based" organizations and were not at all interested in the "compassionate" brand of conservatism that Bush supposedly pushed.

But Kuo was, and there are a lot of people out there who are.  It is my hope that his legacy will live on in those people of faith who work tirelessly to help the least of these.

April 3, 2013

Yeah, this is also Gun Culture.

Gun Freedom Is Behind Proposed Amendment to North Carolina Constitution, Lawmaker Says

Don't ask me to respect people pushing laws because they are readying themselves for a gun battle with the federal government.

Gun culture revisited

Yes, Steve, the NRA's suggestion that more guns in schools will make them safer is a part of gun culture.  I await your derision.  Perhaps you will suggest that I am not patriotic enough.  Or I hate the constitution.

Actually, the expert in this story agrees that national laws will probably not stop school shootings.  I get that.  Despite Steve's selective reading, I have been pretty open to the suggestion that gun regulations will have limited effectiveness.  What I have suggested is that we, as a culture start to stand up to this gun culture that deifies weapons.

Expert warns against ‘blindly’ implementing NRA’s ‘superficially simple solution’ to gun violence | The Raw Story

Perhaps a start is that we start shaming or pushing people who hoard weapons to stop doing that.  Perhaps we stop encouraging the paranoia of the right and somehow legitimizing it as reasonable. It would be nice if the grownup gun people would somehow differentiate themselves in the public sphere from LaPierre and Ted Nugent.  That, of course, would gut the entire idiot base of the Republican party, I am well aware, but it would be better for all of us.

I won't hold my breath.  In the meantime, be sure to take offense at this post.

Gun culture simplified

Since some of my readers have difficulty with the concept.  Here is how this works.

  1. Read this story.  
  2. See if this person's actions or opinions match yours.  
  3. If they don't, then don't be insulted by the story because it refers to the "gun culture" of which I speak.  
  4. See how simple that is?

Gohmert: Gun Control Somehow Leads to Bestiality -- Daily Intelligencer

April 2, 2013

NRA says more guns--and that is their entire argument

I post this not to just piss Steve off, but because I can't quite rap my mind around this.  We have had 20 school kids slaughtered and the NRA's best response is to say, let's just put an armed person in each building.  That is their entire approach  Hutchinson Recommends One Armed Person In Every School Building | TPM LiveWire

Well, not completely.  They don't want to do universal background checks.  They don't want any limitation on the people who like to play army on the weekends.  Or who fantasize about Obama coming in a Black Helicopter to take away all their guns.  Those people must be respected.  Their paranoia isn't bad, it is a good thing for the NRA--and something that should be stoked and encouraged.  Fear your government and get ready to die in a hail of bullets as you stand your ground and defend your castle.  Or perhaps, you just shoot an innocent person or yourself in a fit of suicidal depression.

Either way, the NRA don't care.

Until Adam Lanza went into that school building shooting, he was the poster child for the gun culture (again, not responsible and sober gun owners).  He had, as we now know, a virtual arsenal of guns and ammo (all helped by his mother, of course) and was ready for whatever came his way.

So Asa Hutchinson's response from the NRA is that we just need more armed people.  It don't matter if they occasionally fire their weapon accidentally in school, or even if they leave their loaded weapon in the bathroom.  No.  More guns are better.

Of course, if we think about this, the absolute lack of response here is unbelievable.  As I think John Oliver has quipped, one guy tried to blow up a plane with his shoe and we all have to take our shoes off.  People shoot up schools, movie theaters and political rallies and our only response is to have more guns.

5 minutes.  Reminds me of a great Gretchen Peters' song by the same name.  "In just five minutes, your whole life can change."  A shooter, possibly with body armor, and certainly armed with an arsenal (as they all are in these cases) moving quickly with purpose, and our response is one armed person--not in body armor, and not armed to the teeth.  One magical gun will stop those shooters.

It better, because according to the NRA we aren't going to do one thing more to stop or prevent these shootings.  Not one thing.  No gun owner should ever be inconvenienced at all.

March 30, 2013

Religious persecution and the gay marriage debate

We have talked about the victimization complex so often employed by the religious right.  Well represented in our political system, and hardly discriminated against, the victimology is a little tiresome.  But not terribly surprising, as that has been their MO for the last 30 years.

Now, those opposed to same-sex marriage are claiming that they are now the victims and one even claiming that they are "more scorned than homosexuals."  Forget the tacit admission that they have been scorning others for years.  This is the part of the evangelical world that drives me crazy.  When people criticize you, it isn't necessarily because you hold dear to values while others around you change with the wind.  You are not always the principled one and they are not always the people without any morals.  In fact, Christians have demonstrated one hell of a lot of scorn and hatred toward gay people over the years.  They had their chance a long time ago to embrace their gay brothers and sisters and push for equal rights.  Opposing gay marriage might have looked ok in that light, because they could have claimed some vague "traditional" marriage claim, but held up their allegiance to legal rights and treatment of gay couples.  But they didn't.  They opposed every step out of that closet, and scorned and shamed along the way.  They told gay people to get therapy and force themselves to be straight.

As Josh Marshall wrote yesterday, religious conservatives are watching the polling changes too, and fear that they might be witnessing a sea change where openly espousing anti-gay sentiments may be politically and publicly unacceptable.  Just as the 1960s saw that change where politicians and public figures could no longer espouse white supremacy without a backlash.

Here is my prediction.  In 20 years, most evangelical organizations and even evangelical individuals are going to be claiming that they were always for committed and monogamous gay marriages.  They will rewrite their past and claim that their only objection was promiscuity, but they were always for committed relationships.

Mark my words.

March 26, 2013

Gay Marriage, pro and con

Watching this debate unfold over the past decade, it is hard to imagine another social issue that has changed as much as gay marriage.  As many observers have noted, it was just in 2004 when Bush (with the help of then closeted gay RNC chair, Ken Mehlman) made gay marriage the wedge issue that would make sure social conservatives got to the polls.  It worked, and Bush narrowly won reelection.  There were some attempts at the same thing in 08 and 12, but clearly, that argument has fallen by the wayside.

Not only is the national scene shifting, with over half the country in support of gay marriage, but the polling is even more eye-popping when you look at younger people.  Their numbers, across political and religious lines, are much higher for gay marriage than people over 50.

And some of this is the reason why the argument against gay marriage is losing ground, and the opponents know it.  After all, it was not that long ago that opponents said that our civilization would crumble and our culture would fall apart if we allowed gays to marry.  Several states have passed gay marriage, and the sky has not fallen.  Our younger people know very well that gay people are just as good, bad and indifferent as straight people.   They know kids who have gay parents, and their parents are just as messed up as anyone else.

The biggest problem for the traditional defense, I think, is that they are defending an institution that has largely never been what they thought.  Marriage has always evolved and changed, as ideas about the family changed, and as economic pressures changed.  Marriage was originally about property, but that no longer is even a requirement.  It was about family too, but family, like marriage has changed tremendously. We all know divorced, cobbled, single, unmarried families, and often will put all of those varied versions of the family up against the traditional model.

This isn't just about hypocrisy, but it is incredibly hard to shout piously for traditional marriage when so many people are divorced or live in highly dysfunctional families.  And I think most of the American people reflect this basic reality.  They know full well that their relationships all need work, and who are they to tell others how to live.

March 21, 2013

Do conservatives only care when they can personally relate?

I don't think that is true, but unfortunately, it seems to be the case.  As Fred notes, there are several cases where conservatives change their approach when they have a personal connection.  With Mark Kirk, it was a stroke that made him realize that poor people with the same issue would never be able to recover.  With Rob Portman, a gay son made him realize that he didn't oppose marriage for his son.

Why then?  Is it too difficult for conservatives to imagine life for poor people struggling with a major illness or what it might be like to be gay?  To be very fair, of course, the other conservatives could not wait to say that they would still oppose gay rights even if their own kids were gay.  When you are in the conservative tribe, nothing loses you membership like backing off of bigotry.

March 19, 2013

Fiscal conservatism?

Republicans claim to be fiscally responsible and to be fiscally conservative.  That means saving money, having a balanced budget, etc.  

But from where I sit, I see an awful lot of conservative proposals that do not save money, but actually cost the state or federal government.  Here are a couple:

  1. Passing unconstitutional laws as exercise in defiance.  These usually require the state or federal government to defend those laws in court.  Examples include:
    • DOMA at the federal level.  Republicans are funding the defense, all at the same time while cutting WIC and other safety net programs.  
    • State efforts to test welfare recipients for drugs.  Questionable under 4th amendment (and Florida's law just got thrown out on those grounds.
    • Anti-abortion laws that proponents know will be thrown out.  Attacking access to abortion clearly trumps any claim for fiscal conservatism.  
  2. Then there are those laws that are supposed to save money but do not.  
    • Best example that I can think of are the aforementioned laws drug testing welfare recipients.  Every study I have seen suggests that welfare recipients use drugs at the same level as non-welfare recipients.  Small percentage, actually, and so the savings to the system are usually vastly out weighed by cost of administering the program.  
    • Here in OK, the House Speaker has proposed a law to mandate that able-bodied persons spend somewhere around 30 hours a week in "work like" activity (or something of that sort.  Requires more staff and oversight to make sure that this actually occurs, and the estimates were that it would cost far more to implement than you would see in actual savings.  
Others?  I am not bashing conservatives here, but noting that the version that is leading most states and the House of Representatives seems to have not thought some of this through very well.