Wednesday, April 29, 2009

ready to go

The CFA Budget summit is, as of now, prepared.

'tweren't easy. It seemed that, at every turn, one snafu or other emerged. For instance, there have been oodles of delicious bureaucratic madness, topped with whipped cream (okay, actually, it was CoolWhip TM - this is a bureaucracy, after all). There have also been overworked colleagues unable to participate in deliberative processes, essentially leaving me - a mere lecturer - in the uncomfortable position of deciding how my union will put on this function. There have also been the usual thousands of doubts, misplaced anxieties, and so forth, that make events like this, and my life in general, always a little uncomfortable.

But the planning is as done as it can get. After 1:30 tomorrow, by the time the dust has settled, for good or ill, no matter who I've pissed off or how much, the thing will be well and completely done.

Then the question will be whether it did any goddamn good at all. The answer to that won't come for at least a couple weeks, I surmise. Which means I'm not really done, because I can't really afford to stop organizing in whatever way I can. People's livelihoods, students' educations, and the university's future seem, to me, to be very much at stake, in how the budget crisis is handled.

I enjoy reading Marc Bousquet's blog about academic politics. I think, in the main, his analyses are spot on. Somehow, though, his post today didn't help.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

party time for Arlen Specter

I'm not all that surprised.

Arlen Specter has never struck me as a particularly party-line kinda guy. He was a pro-choice Republican when Republicans routinely made anti-choice a national party platform plank. One year when Specter was up for re-election, pro-choice women in Pennsylvania (who'd normally swing liberal, hence Democratic) voted for him in droves.

He's always struck me as a bit of a flake, too.

But now he's a Democrat. So there you go.

Specter is losing to a right-wing-backed candidate in the Republican primary, Pat Toomey, so his party switch is clearly tied to his political ambitions. But as much as the Republicans are exaggerating this claim, Specter's own claim that the Republicans have moved too far to the right is also suspect.

What's really happened is that the Democrats have moved so far to the right that the party platform of the Republicans, circa 1984, now looks like the Democrats'. The Republicans may have left Specter behind, but the Democrats have moved right into his lane.

Which means that there's almost no discernible ideological divide between the parties. They vie for power, party power, and really, nothing else.

Coke or Pepsi?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

word of the day

The word of the day is "boilerplate."

I subscribe to Merriam-Webster's word of the day email service, basically because it supplied me with wordplay fodder. I haven't done much with it for a while, for a number of reasons.

Beyond that, the service is pretty much useless. I don't mean that I already know what "boilerplate" means, so I don't need the M-W people to tell me it means a standard text that you repeat. I mean that the definitions and sample usage sentences they come up with are frequently so twisted as to render the word of the day unintelligible.

("Tartlets? Tartlets? Tartlets? No, the word's lost all meaning.")

Today, f'rinstance, the derivation of "boilerplate" included this gem:

In the days before computers, small, local newspapers around the U.S. relied heavily on feature stories, editorials, and other printed material supplied by large publishing syndicates.

(It goes on to tell us that the material was supplied on "boilerplates." In case you were wondering.)

Of course, this practice is no longer followed, now that there are computers. Nowadays, local newspapers consist of almost nothing but material supplied by large publishing syndicates. Just read the Modesto Bee some day. Better yet, don't.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

you know, sometimes, I just don't know

My entry titles are getting more and more elliptical.

But that's beside the point.

I have been toying around with writing new news satire for a while. I last wrote stuff about the early days of the Bush administration and a series about the 2000 election. Then it seemed that the Bush people would be self-parodying. Then it all just got too depressing. I mean, I've been watching the Daily Show, but even that's pretty painful sometimes.

Now that Obama is president, for whatever reason a bunch of people have decided to convince themselves and others that he's a crazed socialist maniac, when in fact his actual policies are marginally different from Bush's on the economy and the middle east - a point that escapes most of what is sold as political commentary these days. Anyway, the level of unhingedness of these Obama-mad weirdos has got me writing a bit.

It started with Michele Bachmann (R - Crazyville), and I had to make up something about the "tea party" protests that have been referred to by Fox News commentators as "teabagging" - to the great delight of people who think that kind of thing is funny. Which I do.

Anyway, I followed the recipe for political satire type 3 (inflate cockamamie idea to the point of grotesque, absurd excess, for comedic effect and fun and profit) on the whole teabagging fiasco. Both these entries I've written as a blog that I'm calling "The Real Story." I think the conceit of it works pretty well. Lauren wants me to invent a history of the reporter, Neil "Red" Perskit, to explain that his previous blog was suddenly deleted under mysterious circs, etc., etc.

Read the comments on the teabagging story. Tell me I'm wrong: these people don't understand that it's a joke.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I'm grading a set of Professional Ethics papers. I have received about 10 from students who are not attending, or not attentive, and who evidently believe that they can write nonsense, throw in the word "ethical" a few times, along with the names of a couple authors they were required to read, and that I'll see those words and let it pass.

It's driving me a little crazy this evening, because these crappy papers were, randomly, predominant among the last 20 or so I graded.

And I don't mean these are papers by folks who tried and failed, because they don't understand the language or they can't wrap their minds around the concepts, or because they just blew it interpreting the question. These are people who have decided that they will sign up for the course, not come to class, not do the work, and then try to trick me by writing things they think I'll skate over or will flatter what they wrongly imagine to be my prejudices. I've given them grades like 29 and 38 out of 100, but frankly, I don't think that's quite low enough. They deserve grades in negative numbers.

It's strangely like the end of the Flyers-Penguins game tonight, which the Pens won 4-1. With the game out of hand, the Flyers did what the Flyers always do - take cheap shots to try to injure or just to vent. With less than 30 seconds in the game, two Flyers took penalties on the same play on the ice, and another took a penalty while sitting on the bench during that play. Right off the next faceoff, another Flyer took another penalty. All three on-ice penalties could easily have resulted in injuries. They somehow deserve to have their goal taken away, and another one for good measure. Final score: Penguins 4, Flyers -1.

And it's for the same reason, really: disrespect, manifested as an obvious, lame attempt to get away with whatever they can get away with.

It's also strangely like the neo-conservative political maniacs lately, but that's another story.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

marriage fear, etc.

I have not had the stomach to watch any of the crazy people's ads about same-sex marriage. I didn't have the stomach to read all of this San Francisco Chronic op-ed piece about the ads.

However, I can inform all who blunder across this page about the homosexual agenda. You see, I've known several actual gay people. I know what the homosexual agenda is.

Ready? Sitting down? Seriously, I'm about to reveal the deep, hidden perversion of the homosexual agenda.

Okay, I warned you.

They want to lead their own lives and to be left alone by crazy intolerant people.

Disgusting, isn't it? Yucky yuck yuck!

Also in the news today: the shocking revelation that a woman from Tracy who has been arrested for murdering her daughter is a Christian who taught Bible study.

I believe these are related stories.

Friday, April 10, 2009


It's spring break.

I have, lessee... 120 papers to grade. The last regular-season NHL games happen tomorrow and Sunday, and the playoffs start Wednesday - during spring break, which is deeply weird to me.

It's also time for a bit of a break from this year's CSU Budget Crapfest, and all that comes along with it (just this week: lies from the administration about a CFA grievance, in an attempt to make it seem CFA is causing budget problems, when, obviously, CFA doesn't decide how to spend the CSU's money, the CSU does - [rant omitted]).

I'm gonna try to actually, you know, take a break. I played a couple guitars for about an hour this evening, and may hit a few others. Why not?

And at some point, I intend to get back to writing anything of substance. I'm just fresh out of substance at the moment.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

further update, downdate, sidedate, whatever

I've spent some time this week informing students about the current state of the budget cut debate on our campus, and the double-dip of state cuts and the campus' own "budget gap" (used to be "structural deficit," but now we're not using that kind of talk). The dialog on campus has basically consisted of administrators telling people they have to cut part-time faculty down to just about zero. That might sound more like a monologue.

I also talked about the fact that after months of investigation and consideration, the University Budget Advisory Committee was finalizing its recommendations to the president about budget reductions this week, and that the only proposal that has apparently been given serious consideration has been the original proposal. That might sound more like non-consideration.

Anyway, this news displeased some of my students, some of them so much that they created a Facebook group to develop some organization and maybe do a little agit-prop. That group is here:

I love agit-prop. I am trying very hard to avoid any feeling of nostalgia for the various rabble-rousings of my checkered past. Ah, them were them days, then.


I'm in the throes of the university's budget catastrophe, trying to generate some awareness, publicity, activism, noise, etc.


Sunday, April 05, 2009

facebook spring

I've just returned tonight from the California Faculty Association's 70th Assembly.

The California State University is in peril. My own campus, Stanislaus, is at the precipice of catastrophe. Terrible economic times are only the beginning of the story, and anyone who has paid attention to the trends in public higher education in the US over the past 20 years or more would be able to tell you that this is no sudden crisis. Public higher education has been systematically de-funded all this time. Our current depress/recession has only brought the whole thing to its horrific climax.

For longer than I've taught at the CSU, the state budget has underfunded its mission. Considering that the CSU's mission is to educate the citizens of California so they become productive, tax-paying members of society, this clearly makes no sense... unless you believe public institutions are ipso facto essentially and irretrievably corrupt... and you believe that increasing state revenues only creates more of the same corruption.

Corruption: you know, like teachers, nurses, doctors, engineers, public servants.

This is not just a matter of the budget crisis that California, like every other state, is facing. This is what happens when a budget crisis hits an institution that has been fighting for its life for years.

Within the next 2 years, California will spend more on prisons than on all forms of public higher education.

The state's bizarre budget priorities are the major cause of the CSU's catastrophic condition. The CSU's astounding level of mismanagement is another.

So here's an interesting catch-22: The CSU desperately needs additional funding from the state. My colleagues' livelihoods, our students' educations, and the state's future economic health basically depend on better funding for this primary engine of California's economy. But CSU's management has demonstrated time and again that it is uninterested in either securing the CSU's future, or spending the ever-reduced funding the CSU receives wisely.

Nevertheless, the CFA works tirelessly to improve the standing of the CSU in the state, to make the case that the CSU contributes to, rather than costs, the state economy. We constantly seek new ways to send our message, to make our case, and to push the point.

This weekend, facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression (or maybe worse), facing the worst possible budget outlook for the CSU, and locally, facing a quintuple crisis from the state and campus budget crises, the CFA launched a new campaign.

Facebook. We've launched a campaign to fight the catastrophe of the CSU, on Facebook.

I'm not being critical. I think this is a smart move. I believe using Facebook will create an ongoing sense of virtual CFA community, and may extend our connections to students and staff, and the public we ultimately serve. As they told us at the Assembly, Barack Obama's campaign used Facebook. It seems to have helped.

Tonight, I friended a number of CFA colleagues on Facebook, and I now have many more friends. I'll diligently check in on Facebook to read their status updates, their notes on my wall or theirs, read what's on their minds (TM), and swap stories, links, and tactics. It will be a good tool, they told us, for organizing.

My question is: how many of them will disappear from CFA in the next year?

And many of these are not the Facebook kind of friend, but actual friends (no insult meant to Facebook friends), actual flesh, blood, brains, and heart friends that I've strategized with and talked late into the night with, and laughed with and eaten and drunk with, and argued with, and fought with, and fought alongside. And I am sore afraid, they will Facebook their fight, Youtube their dissent, email their legislators, flashmob their campuses, and then they will disappear.

I love my union siblings. I wish them better fates.