Virtual Bourgeois

Just An Analog Guy Trying to Upgrade For a Digital World

Archive for July, 2007

Being Responsible

Posted by Gerald on July 31, 2007

I made it in to the office today.  I was a bit later than I had intended, but I spent the morning getting all the bills paid that I could (today is payday and since I have automatic deposit my money appears in my account at around midnight – go to bed broke and wake up flush).  All in all, I’m having a very responsible day.  I went out to lunch with three of my colleagues in the Social Science department, including my new fellow history teacher.  She is going to fit in with our weird little family just fine.  The new joke is that I have a “harem” now since I am the only man left in the department – a joke I am careful NOT to make.  I wonder if women make up a larger percentage of community college faculties than they do university faculties?  Maybe a reflection of the gender disparaties between elementary and secondary education?  Certainly there is a preponderance of women on the faculty here – not just in my department.

Today I’m working on some fairly radical changes to how I’ve taught my western civ courses over the last few years, and I am drafting lesson plans to reflect them.  At the same time, I’m also trying to draft a new constitution for our Faculty Senate.  I am trying to decide whether I should try to float the idea of some sort of “faculty association fee” that might give the Senate some money to use for social stuff and to help finance the honors program here – one of my other present concerns.  The study of history has taught me many things, but at the top of the list are a) the power of humans to engage in self-serving rationalization is staggering (not significant here, but it is the greatest truth I’ve discovered in studying history) and b) no one EVER likes paying taxes (much more to the point).  There are other things I’ve learned, but I’d put these as my top two.  Having a budget would be cool.  Getting royally reamed for daring suggest it would not be cool.  I’m on the fence, but I need to crawl off in the next couple of weeks.

All of this means I’m doing a lot of coffee sipping and making notes on a legal pad while listening to The Decemberists.  I’m not sure if any of this qualifies as progress, but at least I’m working.

Which is good, right?

Posted in community colleges, Personal, thoughts | Leave a Comment »

Not Being Responsible

Posted by Gerald on July 30, 2007

Friday I wrapped up my Summer session courses and I’m now in the a-little-less-than-two-weeks break before we nine-month faculty types report back to work for the new academic year.  I spent this weekend in near total veg mode, and have been enjoying it so much I’m taking a third veg day.  Since no one here ever drops in on me unexpectedly (except the odd Jehovah’s Witness/local Baptist religious solicitors) I am sitting here unwashed, unshaven, undressed, and uncaring about the state of my appearance.

I’ve been doing highly productive stuff like watching all the things I’ve recorded on my DVR, but hadn’t gotten around to, playing Civilization IV (which I had put away months ago, but due to one of Nick’s posts I’ve been sucked back in), and watching all of the extras on my Battlestar Galactica (new series not old) DVDs.  I haven’t read anything except blog posts and news since Friday afternoon and my only evidence of sentient thought is the blog post I wrote over the weekend.

I really have a bunch of stuff I need to work on before we all report back next Thursday.  I’ve got Faculty Senate president stuff to do (like starting a re-draft of our constitution), I’ve got Teacher Guy stuff to do (like making some of the sweeping changes I’ve been contemplating in my courses – oh, and DESIGNING the hybrid course I’m going to be teaching this fall), and I’ve got loads of household projects (packing, sorting, tossing) that I should be doing.

Doesn’t look like they are getting done today, though.

This might go a long way toward explaining the whole not having finished my dissertation thing.

Posted in Personal | 1 Comment »

Ignoreland

Posted by Gerald on July 28, 2007

(I’m writing this bit after having finished the rest of the post.  This is a little warning before you continue reading.  What started as a bit of sarcastic fun about a news item quickly blossomed into my venting over the weeks activities in Washington – and things beyond.  I actually get something out of these moments of unedited stream-of-consciousness externalization, but I’m not sure any of my small band of readers do.  Hence, be warned!  This is one of those posts, and I had no idea how depressed I was when I started writing this thing.)

It turns out that our shadow overlord, His Serene Darkness Dick Cheney has a heart.  At least that is the cover story for his surgery.  The official story is that he had to have the batteries in his pacemaker replaced.

Sure.

My guess is that either the cloned body that was created for him by Kang and Kodos has started to deteriorate and had to be replaced or that it was time for him to complete his centennial sacrifice of one thousand babies to Nyarlathotep so he can maintain his immortality and his membership in the Illuminati. 

Just as seriously though, last weekend Dubya had to cede power to Darth Cheney for the period of his two-hour rectal probe.  Now under the OLD Constitution, the VP didn’t have to do that if he was going into surgery.  However, today we live under the Bush Constitution – the one where he, his advisers, and the spin master he chose as Attorney General (I never would have believed I could miss john Ashcroft) are all above the law and the VP is also a power unto himself.  Do you suppose Cheney had to cede his authority as Chancellor of the Undisclosed Fourth Branch of Government during his unholy rites, er, I mean “surgery”?  If so, who do you suppose took over for him?  I’m sure it wasn’t Nancy Pelosi…

It would be easier for all of us if Bush and Gonzalez would go ahead and release the text of the new Constitution instead of just letting us know what it is bit-by-bit.  I guess we don’t need to know the details, and they are probably covered by executive privilege in any case.

Here comes a rant – hold on! 

I am so fucking tired of that whole gang of mealy-mouthed, smiley, logic-chopping, back-stabbing, spin-doctoring traitors that I could simply weep.  I’d jump on board the “let’s impeach Bush” bandwagon if I thought anybody in Congress had any nerve at all, but it is clear they do not.  George Bush could order the Secret Service to arrest every one of his political opponents and so long as he claimed they were linked to the Big Islamic Bogeyman the only response would be some complaints (and applause from Fox News.)

I am confident, however.

I’m confident in the ability of the Democratic Party to so rip itself apart in the fight over Clinton vs. Obama that they will hand the election to the Republicans.

I’m confident that whoever the Republicans put into the White House will curse Bush publicly while continuing to extend the powers of the executive as much as possible.

I’m confident that the future in Washington is going to include a legislative branch that has forgotten how to do anything but posture when not rubber-stamping and a judiciary that is so opposed to “activism” that it might as well be an arm of the executive.

I’m confident that Americans will complain and will disapprove in opinion polls, but as long as they can convince themselves that one day they’ll win the lottery they are going to just tune out the problems and tune in to the next season of American Idol.

I’m confident that those who do care are going to be so consumed in regarding the mote in their neighbor’s eye that they will regardest not the beam in their own.

And every minute, one more kid decides it is too hard to care, so she stops; one more person stops thinking; one more kid gets killed in a pointless war; one more family slips out of the middle class; one more American shoots another American and no one takes the guns away; and one more person is made to feel worthless by a culture that values nothing except wealth.

Meanwhile, the ice caps are melting, and we are having rock concerts.

Whew!!!

To quote lyrics – as best I can remember – from an R.E.M. song (“Ignoreland”):

I know that this is vitriol
No solutions, spleen-venting
But I feel better, having screamed
Don’t
 you?

Please forgive me… or… never mind.

Posted in news, politics, rant | 3 Comments »

Wisdom of the Greeks

Posted by Gerald on July 24, 2007

From Quotes of the Day:

“The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities.”
-Sophocles

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Science Coolness

Posted by Gerald on July 24, 2007

 A couple items from the BBC for the science nerd in all of us:

From the “people of the past were really kind of smart” file; researchers have come up with a design for a very robust nano-sized computer based on Charles Babbage’s “difference engine.”  Somewhere William Gibson and Bruce Sterling are smiling – extra geek points if you got the reference.

From the “creatures in the past were really big” file comes the discovery in Greece of the remains of a Mastodon.  There was no report on whether they also found the remains of a giant sloth and a smilodon nearby.  Definitely no “skrat”.

Posted in science | Leave a Comment »

An Open Letter to Unca’ Vlad

Posted by Gerald on July 24, 2007

Vladimir Putin – a man whose view of the world is so refreshingly different from anyone else’s that he ought to consider psychiatric help – has characterized Britain’s attitude toward Russia in the recent row over the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi (for murder) as a remnant of a colonial mindset.

First, Vlad, you don’t get to slam someone for having a colonial mindset unless you used to be colonized yourself – it is just bad form.*  Nigeria can say that to Britain during a Commonwealth meeting, but you don’t get to.  Lets remember that Russia was an empire while Britain took colonies everywhere and that the Soviet Union was a superpower while it lost them.  You are also constantly talking about the great power of Russia today.  You do not get to use the rhetoric of a third world state – you haven’t earned it.

Second, the British might have had an empire fifty years ago but you are acting like you’ve got one now.  Cyber attacks on Estonia, blatant interference in the elections of former Soviet Republics, Chechnya, all of this is called… what is the word?  Oh, yeah – imperialism!  While playing dick-swinging imperialist games to such an extent that you are scaring the Poles and Czechs into allowing Dubya to build his missile boondoggle on their soil you do not get to chide Britain for putting some pressure on you to cough up a murder suspect.  After all in Britain – unlike in your country or mine – Lugovoi isn’t in danger of being disappeared or executed by the state. 

 This is just a case of the imperialist calling the kettle colonial.

Where the hell is Edward Said when I need him?

*By the way, we here in the US don’t get to do that either.  Our episode of being a colonized people is a) way too caught up in our being colonial oppressors at the same time, b) beyond the statute of limitations for such complaints, and c) rendered ridiculous by our actions towards, oh the list is too long, since then.  It would be like when white people complain about being victims of racism and when men complain about being victims of gender oppression.  It is kind of whiny and pathetic given the historical context.

Posted in Britain, international relations, news, rant, Russia | 3 Comments »

Save Troy Davis

Posted by Gerald on July 24, 2007

I’ve made several posts asking for your help in support of Amnesty International’s efforts to save the life of Troy Davis.  This is a summary of the case from Amnesty International.

Troy Davis was sentenced to death for the murder of Police Officer Mark Allen McPhail in Georgia. The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained inconsistencies even at the time of the trial. Since then, all but two of the state’s nine non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted their testimony. Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Troy Davis.

A 90-day stay of execution has been granted in this case, but Troy Davis remains in peril of his life.  Even those who believe in the death penalty must grant that a man must not be executed if there is doubt about his trial and the verdict against him.

Unfortunately, Mr. Davis would not be the first African-American to suffer such an unjust end in this country. 

Please follow this link to take action to keep the pressure on the State of Georgia to see that justice is done in this case.

Posted in America, Amnesty International, death penalty, Human Rights, taking action, Troy Davis, United States | 1 Comment »

Partisan Political Diplomats

Posted by Gerald on July 24, 2007

The Washington Post is reporting on political briefings by Rove’s people held for senior diplomats at the State Department.  As with so many other actions by the Bush White House – such as the US Attorney firings – we have here something that isn’t actually illegal, but is very much out of the traditional understanding of previous administrations about what is appropriate.  While launching constant attacks on the “partisanship” of their opponents, this White House has made every aspect of government partisan.

The constant in all of this is Karl Rove.  He seems to have looked at almost every procedure in the life of the administration and asked “How can we wring some political advantage out of this without technically violating the law?”  Repeatedly we have actions that, at least one could argue, are not illegal – just prejudicial to the functioning of government and the remaining shreds of prestige and dignity of the executive.

Of course, a similar game was played by Bill Clinton in his word-parsing defense of his sexual indiscretions and the perjury he committed to cover them up.  The problem is that comparing the effects of these is like comparing a cut on the finger of the executive with having a broadsword slammed into its guts.

Clinton dishonored the White House – no two ways about it.  Bush has compromised the trust between the branches of government and between the executive and the American people.  No one is ever going to view the actions of a US Attorney in a political corruption case without wondering what other motives might be at work.  No one is going to quite trust the intelligence assessments used by the White House and the State Department to explain our foreign policy ever again.  No American administration is ever going to be able to say, “At least we don’t hold people without trial, we don’t hide them in secret prisons, we don’t torture people – that is what our enemies do” and be believed.

The worst part is, that these guys don’t even seem to realize that what they have done has hurt our country – and that most of our country doesn’t seem to care, either.

Posted in Bush administration, Bush Legacy, Karl Rove, news, opinion, politics | Leave a Comment »

Non-posting Post

Posted by Gerald on July 23, 2007

I cannot think of a single thing to say.  Maybe I’m tired.  Maybe I have writer’s block.

I’ll try again tomorrow.

Posted in my blog | Leave a Comment »

A Really Smart Move

Posted by Gerald on July 21, 2007

Israel has released 255 Palestinian prisoners.

If there is anything that might strengthen the appeal of Fatah relative to Hamas among Palestinians, it would be some type of concrete successes in dealing with Israel.  Let us just hope that this is the first of many such gestures.  If the Israeli government were also to address illegal settlements on the West Bank, that would go even further.

Of course, if Fatah were to seriously address issues of corruption in the Palestinian Authority, that wouldn’t hurt either.

Posted in Israel, Middle East, news, opinion, Palestinian, Palestinian Authority | Leave a Comment »