Thursday, June 12, 2003

Moving to New Digs

Yep, thanks to the inestimatable Dean Esmay and his anti-Blogger jihad, I now have my own Moveable Type site set up for your enjoyment, faster loading, and accessible archives. < ! fangirly squeal> This is so KEWL! < ! / fangirly squeal, and by the way, you never heard OR saw that and if you say you did I will deny it with my dying breath>.


Please change any bookmarks/blogrolls accordingly.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Look - A Forest! Would have seen it earlier, except for those dang trees...

In one of the more amazing recent examples of what I will henceforth refer to as "academic wank," the ability of an academic institution to completely miss the simple in its pursuit of, well, I'm not entirely sure what, I present for your inspection the ongoing saga of Professor Sami Amin Al-Arian, the USF prof currently awaiting trial on charges of terrorism.
The main story here (thanks for the tip from J, over at nowatermelons) is ostensibly the American Association of University Professors' inability to understand why Al-Arian might lose his job when he's, you know, currently in prison awaiting trial for an amazingly long list of terrorist activities. Read the article yourself for some fun snarkiness at the AAUP's expense. But the real story is in the details, garnered from the AAUP's very own site.

It seems that FSU had a bit of trouble trying to figure out exactly what to do with Al-Arian back when all this started, and it subsequently put in motion one of the wankiest lawsuit/dueling academic institution/competing high-handed press release wordfests I've seen in a while. Back in 2001 when all this started, USF was all about the "academic freedom" where Al-Arian was concerned:

Regarding the disruption within USF that he was alleged to have caused, the response stated that "Dr. Al-Arian is simply not responsible for the unlawful conduct of those who would threaten to do violence to him or to the university because they disagree with his beliefs" and that his "exercise of his constitutionally protected rights cannot be curtailed because a mindless few have chosen to retaliate against him and against the university because he has spoken out about matters with which they disagree."

Yeah, funny how some folks get touchy about other folks wanting to exterminate them. Philistines.

But then, USF seemed to change its position (I'll go out on a limb here and suggest that they actually paid attention to what Al-Arian was doing with the money laundering and the blood on his hands, etc) and started looking for ways to lose this particular albatross. Enter the shining knights of the AAUP:

At its spring meeting on June 1, 2002, Committee A approved an interim statement on the Al-Arian case which it presented a week later to the Association's 2002 annual meeting and released to the media. The interim statement conveyed the investigating committee's beliefs that it had all the information it needed for a full report on the charges against Professor Al-Arian as they had been articulated in December and, with respect to these charges, that Professor Al-Arian's statements that allegedly injured the university "fell well within the ambit of academic freedom" and that the other stated charges were "too insubstantial to warrant serious consideration as adequate cause for dismissal."

The USF president, after much waffling and meeting, and trustee-ing and lawyering, finally decided to try and cut the cord. Admittedly (read the whole process--it's a doozy!), their grounds were shaky, but that's because they were so interested in covering their asses and being all PC at the beginning that they didn't have a strong history to base their subsequent cases on. At any rate, they looked for constitutionally/legally appropriate ways to axe Al-Arian, and the AAUP got all huffy about it:

President Genshaft's August 21, 2002, announcement that USF was taking legal action against Professor Al-Arian in an effort to obtain a judicial ruling on considerations of academic freedom in his case drew a strong reaction from AAUP general secretary Mary A. Burgan. In a statement issued the following day, she said, "We are stunned that a university would take one of its own faculty members to court on an academic freedom issue. We certainly recognize the difficulty that President Genshaft has faced in dealing with these issues in the midst of intense political controversy; but that's the very reason that we strongly encourage universities to adhere to nationally recognized standards of academic due process . . . . We are baffled by President Genshaft's continuing efforts to evade normal academic due process, especially in this politically sensitive case. . . . 'Pre-suing' faculty members as part of an effort to dismiss them is an extremely rare tactic, with ominous and chilling portents for academic freedom." (emphasis mine)

Wanktastic! Note the insertion of "ominous and chilling portents," the magical witchy-words guaranteed to make any wrongdoing academic wet himself and try to correct the mistake. Now let's leave the enchanted forest of higher ed for a moment and imagine that you or I are currently in prison awaiting trial on charges of terrorism. Ya think we'd have committees and teams fighting to keep our jobs in the name of academic freedom? No, really. Stop laughing. I'm serious!

There's "innocent until proven guilty," and there's "freedom of speech," but neither of these concepts carries the caveat that "by the way, you get to keep your job while you languish in prison on extremely serious charges that definitely go beyond making a few speeches here or there." And then there's reality, in the form of the charges and the stacks of evidence just waiting to be piled on Al-Arian when he does come to trial. But academia is a wilderness where reality fears to tread, and so all that's left to the rest of us is to point and laugh. Or else die of the resulting high blood pressure--whatever.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

The H Factor; Or, Frankly My Dear, We Don't Give a Damn

So I'm spending last weekend trying very very hard to avoid the whole Hillary media blitz on the TV, which, as you might imagine, is impossible. After bouncing between Fox News' lovely snarky commentary and the straightfaced proclamations of the other news sources, I found myself wondering exactly why I have such a visceral reaction whenever someone mentions the "H" word. The reasons are myriad, but since I'm all about the "root causes" here, I've managed to narrow it down.

Whenever I see Hillary on TV, I am always left with the impression (moreso than with other politicians) that HRC is a construct, a persona as fake as the cardboard cutouts of her husband that you could get pictures of yourself taken with at fairs and theme parks. Now the charge you hear all the time among the folks who go rabid about Bill and Hill is the Hypocrisy charge, and Lord knows, we don't need to travel that path again. What I'm talking about here surpasses simple hypocrisy and goes into a level of cold calculation that would make Machiavelli blush. You can see the wheels turning back there, sizing up the potential fallout from every scenario, and then choosing the one most likely to give her the desired result, which is simply more power.

I'm not interested in whether or not Hillary really believes she knows what's best for the country; I'm not interested in her plans, ideas, or even, oddly enough, her politics. My revulsion for her stems from her inability to be an authentic human being, the lust for power that she takes pains to conceal behind conservative pantsuits and middle-aged hip housewife hairstyles and the fact that although she claims to be a progressive feminist of the first water, she's nothing more than a Scarlett O'Hara sans hoopskirts. Don't believe me? Okay, let's examine the facts:

Remember Scarlett's second husband, the ill-fated Frank who owned the lumber yard? Remember how Scarlett married him and took over the entire business, getting herself into a bit of trouble as she did so? Well, here's the Hillary parallel: she rode into the political scene on the coattails of her husband, then proceeded to try and take a hand in policy when she was NOT ELECTED TO DO SO. Say what you will about the 2000 election; at least the people at the center of the debate were ON THE FREAKING TICKET and you could VOTE FOR THEM. My reaction to Hillary's health care hoo-ha at the time (when I was a young, rabid, feminist democrat) was still something along the lines of, "Bitch, please!" A law degree does not equate expertise in socialized medicine, no matter how hard you wish it to be so. I guess we should be relieved that a racial incident involving the Klan and the shooting of Bill by Union soldiers didn't ensue, although that would have been lots more interesting than her health care plan.... But that was merely the beginning.

She famously denounced the whole "Stand by your man" scenario of wifely duty in the face of infidelity and scoffed at cookie baking, yet when it served her purpose to be seen as the strong, suffering wife and modern do-it-all mom she both stood by her man AND submitted chocolate chip cookie recipies. Visions of Scarlett working at the charity ball, anyone?

Just as Rhett forced Scarlett to rehabilitate her image in the eyes of Atlanta society, Hillary has employed ghost writers and Barbara Walters to give the public the impression that she truly is a woman who's in touch with the average American. Scarlett's implacable will to power was disguised behind a pretty face and coquettish smile; Hillary's is hidden behind a wall of P.R. In both cases, the mask slips occasionally and we see what is truly there. The irony is that you can admire a Scarlett O'Hara for doing what she must to survive in a male-dominated post-war society. In Hillary's case--in a post-modern, liberated America--it's not just a pathetic throwback and a betrayal of all those good feminist ideals about being a strong woman, it's also a little bit sinister.

Monday, June 09, 2003

Well, THAT Sucked.

Up and about and back at work after 1+ weeks of the Infection From Hell! Tonsils swollen almost closed, double eye and ear infections, big fever, horrified doctors, the works. That. Sucked. A lot. And I have only my tiny walking biological WMD--the Boy--to thank for it. Line I'm most tired of repeating: "No, it's NOT SARS!"

On the plus side, got the Boy his first official kiddie pool from Target. It's in the shape of a whale, complete with a little spout attachment that connects to the garden hose for the front, and a big inflatable whale tail on the back. I think I'm more excited about it than he is...

Anyway, blogging shall reccommence as soon as I work up the energy to be pissy about something. Give me five minutes or so.

Monday, June 02, 2003

Sick. Ugh.

Have been, still am. Left eye is officially Eye of Sauron now, and I've had a fever since last Wednesday, so that should explain the lack of vitriol from this quarter. Going back to Dr today; starting to get v.v.annoyed at this situation.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Good TV

Well, if by good you mean alternately horrifying and depressing. I've been watching the History Channel's feature on the Tsars of Russia. We hit the Romanov high spots--Ivan, Peter, Catherine and Nicholas and conclude with the Bolshevik revolution and the beginning of Communism--I guess the idea is we all know what happened next.

The main thing I took away from the series was that no matter who was in power, the one expendable resource they all counted on was the Russian people. They seem trapped in some sort of repeating loop of history--sieze power, become tyrant. Hand rule off to inept fool by accident. Another person comes along to sieze power, become tyrant. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. But what a fascinating country and history. May have to do some reading, as the only thing I remember from 10th grade world history was the Catherine and a horse story.
Gratuitous Whining Self-Indulgent Post

Here's my week thus far:

  • Eyeball is swollen--I know not why. It doesn't hurt or itch, the lid is merely swollen and droopy. I look like I'm drunk or insane--no comments, please.

  • Evil fairies have replaced my darling boy with a whining, petulant, demanding, tantruming doppelganger who hates everything but doesn't know why. Helloooo, terrible twos three months early. He's so advanced. I'm so proud.

  • I cannot figure out how to get past the freaking Nazi tank on screen three of Medal of Honor. You would think this would be a small consideration. You would be WRONG.

  • My boss is an idiot. And not the way you're thinking. I mean he's really, actually an idiot. He overexplains the most menial tasks, and still manages to get all the details wrong, so that I spend 50% of any job going back and retracing the steps he took and then trying to extrapolate what it is that I'm supposed to do. Example? Okay. Hypothetically, let's say my boss wanted me to build a fire. The conversation would go like this:

  • Boss enters office, notices that I'm obviously EATING LUNCH, sits down (heavily) and sighs (heavily).

    Me: (irritated glance trying to pass itself off as politely quizzical) Yes?

    Boss: We have a new project. (pregnant pause)

    Me: (swallowing bite of Hummus wrap) Yes?

    Boss: Well, see, a few millenia ago, there was a thunderstorm. And lightning hit a tree, causing it to ignite. And some cavepeople came by and noticed the flaming branch and thought that it would be a good idea to take it home to warm their caves, so they did. And they figured out ways to keep the fire going, but one day it went out, so they had to try and figure out how to create the fire from scratch.

    Me: So what do I need to do?

    Boss: Well, eventually they figured out that flint was good for creating a spark, and so was rubbing sticks together, so that was good. And they came up with the myth of Prometheus to explain how we got fire--that was a good one.

    Me: Oooookay, so the new project involves fire?

    Boss: Sort of. There's this pile of sticks that came from I think a pine tree. They should be dry by now, although we did have that rainstorm last night, so they may be kind of wet.

    Me: (gritting teeth in a feral pseudo smile) You want me to build a fire?

    Boss: Well, Dr. L thinks that the department would really move ahead. I mean, it's in our compact so we should get cracking on this.

    Me: Deadline.

    Boss: Well, I don't have a firm....

    Me: Is next week okay? I can do it Tuesday morning. Is that early enough?

    Boss: It just needs to get done. Here, call Fred.

    Me: (never having heard of this Fred) Fred who?

    Boss: He's in Environmental Health and Safety.

    Me: Why am I calling Fred?

    Boss: He originated the project.

    Me: Okay.

    Boss Leaves. I search the directory for Fred, and realize that there is no employee by that name in that department. There is, however, a Frank, so I call him and discover that not only did he NOT originate the project, he has no idea what I'm talking about. After a 15 minute, embarrassing conversation, I am informed by the secretary to the department head (also NOT NAMED FRED) that the project in question is actually a bonfire to be built three months from now. So then I go check with Dr. L, who also looks at me like I'm insane and wonders why we'd be working on this so early.

    I return to my desk and take a bottle of Tylenol to dull the pain.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Neo. And I Ain't Talking Matrix, Here.

So in this whole post 911, Republican in the White House, dusting off the military and getting involved in furrin affairs world, it seems like writers and pundits are trying to define and redefine the shift in American sensibilities from "laissez-faire, hey let's hug a tree or whatever" politics to "don't make me come over there, grow the hell up and let's get moving" politics. In other words, the chattering classes can't seem to figure out why being attacked might cause some folks to re-examine their world view, so they start doing what they do best--parsing words. The latest example is the neo-con kerfluffle. What is a Neo-Con? Hell if I know. I've heard every explanation from "term that was in vogue for 15 minutes in the seventies and is being dusted off again," to "Eeeeevillllle! Pure Eeeeeeeevilllle!" So I took the liberty of consulting some friends of mine...

Me: Thank you all for coming. I had nowhere else to turn regarding the meaning of the whole "Neocon" thing.

Irony: Don't look at me.

Hyperbole: Nope, me neither, although there is some fun hysteria out there that I must modestly take credit for.

Irony: (Rolls eyes.)

Similie: It's kind of like a conservative, only new.

Irony: Thank you, Captain Latinate.

Metaphor: It's merely a mask, a cover, if you will, for the new brand of conservatism--fiscally conservative, socially pretty liberal.

Me: Not according to this chick, it's not.

Metaphor: She misunderstands the basic premise. For her, conservatism is a noxious cloud, preventing those she sees as fun-loving and morally superior from raising taxes, pooh-poohing SUV owners, and feeling smug.

Similie: Noxious cloud? More like a wet blanket.

Metaphor: But you cannot extend the wet blanket comparison as well as you can the noxious cloud. With noxious cloud you can make allusions to "piercing the veil," "drawing a breath," and other...

Me: Ooookay, let's reel that in and get back on topic, shall we?

Irony: Can I go home?

All: NO!

Me: Frankly, if I have to be here, you all do. So metaphor thinks the neo-con label is a smear?

Metaphor: A smear. Yes, yes, I could do things with smear.

Similie: Yo, metaphor. We're not writing a novel here. We're defining a term.

Hyperbole: So why didn't you, like, consult a dictionary? Helloooo! Shiny book on shelf? Lots of pretty words?

Me: It's talking about a movement that started in the 60's, and leaves me as confused as ever about WHY people are so obsessed with it now. I need my labels to be definitively defined and to make sense, dammit, not just be whatever the pundit of the day wants them to be. Look, do any of you have ANYTHING helpful to add?

Irony: It's stupid and needs to die on the vine.

Metaphor: I can get behind that.

Simile: It's like this--yeah, I guess Irony's right.

Me: Okay, so the term neo-con has been hereby banished from our collective consciousness?

All: Hear, hear!

Hyperbole: Great! Now can we talk about this Eagle stuff from Andrew Sullivan?

All: NO!