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Archive for the ‘stupidity’ Category

When the Ohio Senate didn’t pick up the Heartbeat Bill immediately after the House passed it, I started to hope that it would be allowed to die a quiet death. No such luck. Last week, it was discussed in committee, and it’s liable to come before the entire Senate this week. If it passes this hurdle, Governor Kasich is almost sure to sign it.

Why is this a bad idea? Well, here’s what I wrote to my local newspapers:

This week, Ohio’s Senate begins deliberations on the so-called “Heartbeat Bill” (HB 125) – anti-abortion legislation so extreme that it failed to garner the support of Ohio Right to Life. [By now, it's "last week," and the bill has made it out of committee.]

Imagine you (or your daughter, or your sister) were six weeks pregnant and didn’t know it. This bill would take away your right to choose even at that early date. It’s very common for women to be unaware of their pregnancy when they are only six weeks along. For those women, the Heartbeat Bill would effectively outlaw abortion altogether.

Even in cases of rape, incest, or threats to the woman’s health, HB 125 destroys a woman’s right to choose. This is an extreme position that most Ohioans do not embrace, including many folks who have qualms about abortion.

Perhaps you’re sure you would never get an abortion yourself. But do you really want the government deciding instead of women? Should legislators be making medical and moral decisions that impact a woman’s health and future? That’s what I’d call big government.

Would you want to criminalize health care providers who serve women? This bill would make felons of doctors or nurses who help terminate a pregnancy unless they can document a “serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.” Medical professionals will be forced to weigh legal risks to themselves against the physical risks to their patient.

The Heartbeat Bill is so extreme, it’s almost surely unconstitutional. The framework set forth in Roe v. Wade (the 1973 Supreme Court opinion affirming a woman’s right to choose) says that states cannot ban abortion prior to fetal viability – the point when a fetus can live outside the woman’s body. Even with all our technological advances, viability occurs no sooner than the 22nd week of pregnancy, much later than the six-to-eight week deadline set by the Heartbeat Bill.

If the Heartbeat Bill passes, it will be appealed up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it’s nearly certain to be struck down. (That’s why Ohio Right to Life opposed its introduction into the House.) First, though, the state of Ohio would be exposed to a costly legal battle funded by us taxpayers.

This week [again - last week!], the Senate committee on Health, Human Services, and Aging is holding hearings on this extremist bill. I urge our legislators – especially Republicans committed to “small government” – to do the common-sense thing: vote NO on HB 125.

————-

If you’re an Ohio resident and feel moved to contact your senator, here’s a locator.

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Almost daily, I get email from friend-of-the-blog Lisa Simeone on novel ways that the national security state is eroding our liberties. But today, Lisa herself was the poster girl for the corrosion of liberty – and I read about it first on Alternet, then at War Is a Crime, not in one of Lisa’s emails. It’s typically, really, that Lisa is all about the principles while setting aside her private worries. Now, though, they’ve become a national cause celebre.

Lisa has been fired from her job as the host of the documentary program Soundprint, which is carried by NPR affliates. The reason? Her involvement in the October 2011 movement, a peaceful protest against militarism and corporate greed, which has joined forces with Occupy DC. Lisa was targeted by The Daily Caller, which accused her of conflict of ethics and possible ethics violations, suggesting she was bound by the NPR ethics code. But first, Lisa was only a freelancer, not an employee, and was evidently never warned that she could lose her job due to political activity. Moreover, Soundprint’s statement seems to have a pretty tenuous relation to reality:

Soundprint is a journalistic program and Lisa’s leadership role as a member of the steering committee and a spokesperson for the October 2011 protest activities, associated with the Occupy DC movement, conflicts with her role as the host of a documentary series. Soundprint adheres to the highest standards of journalism which include maintaining appropriate distance from marches, demonstrations and other political activity. These are standards held by many other journalism organizations, including National Public Radio.

Fine, but look at Soundprint’s current program: the tale of a deaf septuagenarian who wants to learn to fly, and a tribute to Sir Edmund Hilary. It’s obvious that Lisa couldn’t be objective about Hilary! Never mind that he died three years ago; were he still with us, he’d definitely be in the 1%! Lisa introduces the story, and I’m listening really hard for her left-wing invective. Listening … oooh, straining a bit … Wait! She just called him a “humanitarian”! Surely that has a political subtext?

Lisa’s other radio job, hosting the nationally-syndicated World of Opera program, is hanging in the balance as well, though so far it looks like its sponsoring station is resisting pressure from NPR.

Lisa points out in her interview with War Is a Crime that NPR is applying a wildly inconsistent standard, allowing some of their regular employees who actually report on current events to pontificate on Fox:

“I find it puzzling that NPR objects to my exercising my rights as an American citizen — the right to free speech, the right to peaceable assembly — on my own time in my own life.  I’m not an NPR employee.  I’m a freelancer.  NPR doesn’t pay me.  I’m also not a news reporter.  I don’t cover politics.  I’ve never brought a whiff of my political activities into the work I’ve done for NPR World of Opera.  What is NPR afraid I’ll do — insert a seditious comment into a synopsis of Madame Butterfly?

“This sudden concern with my political activities is also surprising in light of the fact that Mara Liaason reports on politics for NPR yet appears as a commentator on FoxTV, Scott Simon hosts an NPR news show yet writes political op-eds for national newspapers, Cokie Roberts reports on politics for NPR yet accepts large speaking fees from businesses.  Does NPR also send out ‘Communications Alerts’ about their activities?”

Yep, knowing Lisa, I think Madame Butterfly is about to be Occupied. (But there likely won’t be any tents involved. Like me, Lisa enjoys, needs, appreciates, and once again NEEDS a decent bed at night. I sometimes think a good mattress is one of the top three secret clues to vitality in one’s 40s and beyond.)

But seriously: It remains a mystery how Soundprint arrived at the conclusion that Lisa’s activism collided with the NPR ethics code. NPR denies having even contacted Soundprint. And vice versa. How to explain? Might I smell a whiff of Breitbart and his ilk? The earliest smear job I found on Lisa s a piece by Neda Samnani at Roll Call, dramatically dated “October 18, midnight,” insinuating that of course Lisa committed an ethical breach, because if she’s on radio, then she must be, well, a reporter.

Horseshit.

Ethics codes have a place in journalism, but Lisa was not exactly committing journalism. Lisa was doing cultural programming. Nor are ethics codes the be-all and end-all of media ethics. If they’re relevant to Lisa’s current work, they must equally apply to Ira Glass and Garrison Keillor at Lake Woebegone. The last time we heard about Keillor’s religious prejudices, there were consequences! ripple effects! an article in Salon … and not a blip in his contract.

So much still is shrouded in obfuscation. I am hoping Lisa will find time to fire off one of her emails, just like she does whenever she sees someone else’s rights being abrogated. I’m sure she’s pretty overwhelmed. There could also be a lawsuit brewing.

Given that we may need to wait on the facts, it’s half-past midnight (see, we can do her detractors one better – nay, 30 minutes better!). It time to rally to her cause. I just wrote the following to NPR:

I know Lisa. She’s whip-smart and highly principled. Her work is consistently thoughtful, fair, professional, and easy on the ears. I was thus dismayed to hear that Soundprint fired her for her engagement in October 2011.  Despite her history of activism, she hasn’t let her personal politics bleed into her professional work.

I’m so pleased that WDAV has not yet bowed to pressure to fire Lisa, who has done nothing wrong. Please support WDAV in their loyalty to Lisa. And while you’re at it, might you ask Soundprint to reconsider their hasty decision to fire her? There’s a difference between a reporter who covers hard news and a radio host of cultural programming. Lisa’s work falls in the latter category. I respect the reasons why NPR has an ethics code (even though I also know that real media ethics are more complex than a mere set of rules). However, as a freelancer who didn’t report on hard news, Lisa should not be muzzled in her private life as a citizen in the name of “objectivity.” Doing so just makes her former employer/client appear petty and, frankly, scared of right-wing bloggers and pundits.

Bring back Lisa Simeone! [Okay, I admit to trying to play the diplomat. "Horseshit" tends not to fly as an actual argument, except from my dissertation advisor who made it work beautifully.]

You can contact NPR here. To their credit, WDAV seems to get it (way more than NPR does!), as you can read here. Thankfully, comments are running overwhelmingly in favor of Lisa. But don’t hesitate to add yours, too, if you’ve appreciated her comments here or her work elsewhere.

And also: Hugs to you, Lisa. Count me among your friends and fans who love you and will stand with you – chin up and boobs out, as a friend of mine loves to say. Brava, for your passion, commitment, principles, and love of liberty. This panic from our overlords? I read it as a sign that we’ve got them rattled.

I hope you’ll weigh in once the worst of the madness subsides. Until then, sending hugs and virtual chocolate while posting madly on Facebook about this travesty.

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If you read feminist blogs, you’ve surely already seen this gem of a T-shirt, which JC Penney was hawking until they (sensibly) withdrew it in response to public protest and apologized for its sexist nitwittery:

Available in sizes for girls in roughly grades 1 through 8, the T-shirt sports the pseudo-sassy phrase, “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.”

Feminist bloggers have rightly slammed the shirt for its obvious sexism. Recalling the notorious “math is hard” Barbie, feMOMhist snarks:

What person would want to encourage a little girl to think that beauty and intellect are mutually exclusive?  Clearly no one who has met moi!

The shirt is a disaster aesthetically, politically, and intellectually. It’s part of a larger phenomenon of T-shirts with attitude, mostly marketed to boys; this particular specimen adds sexism to the mix for a little extra charm. It reinforces the idea that girls and women have to trade sex, sexiness, and prettiness for security and success, an idea that you’d think would be moribund by now but just refuses to die: see Laurie Penny’s hilarious takedown of a new book by LSE researcher Catherine Harkin, who makes exactly that argument.

At Feministe, Caperton questions how “every employee who touched it between wholesaler and Web site” could have thought the shirt innocuous. I’d add that the design team, too, brings to mind the fine fellows from “Dumb and Dumber.”

But there’s one point that I haven’t seen other commentators skewer, and that’s the idea that a girl’s brother ought to be swayed by her prettiness. Am I the only one creeped out by this? Why should a brother be inspired to do his sister’s homework just because of how she looks? I mean, this shirt is encouraging boys to look at their sisters in a way that verges on incestuous. Ewwwww.

It goes to show that in a world where sexuality is seen basically as transactional, even young sisters and brothers are pushed into that paradigm. While actual brother-sister incest is (obviously) a real thing, it’s relatively rare, compared to adult-on-child incest. In most families, brothers and sisters are either indifferent to each other’s looks or insult them. I imagine this T-shirt slogan refers to brothers because most girls in the target age group don’t have boyfriends yet. Its dumb-and-dumber designers probably didn’t think through its incestuous implications. That doesn’t make it any less twisted. Ewwww, again.

 

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Earlier this week, coming off a wonderful visit with family in Northern California, I was about to board a flight home from Sacramento, my two kids in tow. We walked through the metal detector without a beep. Better yet, no Rapiscan in sight! Our luggage rolled right through the x-ray machine without a glitch. But then, just when I thought we were home free, I was summoned for a pat-down.

Aside from my principled objections to invasive and needless patdowns, I feel an extra layer of anxiety when I’m pulled aside while traveling with my kids, especially as a (temporarily) solo parent. What if the officers decide to separate you from the kids? This had happened to us once in Berlin, when my husband was hauled off to the bomb-detection room; fortunately, the whole family was traveling that day, so the kids were never left alone.

The TSO who conducted the search informed me that the kids had to stay with our luggage and I couldn’t touch our bags or, for that matter, my kids until she was finished with me. I have to say that she was warm and reassuring as well as professional. I have no beef with the Sacramento TSA personnel, who acquitted themselves well. My gripe is the TSA’s silly policy, obsessed as it is with security theater.

I asked the TSO why I’d been singled out. She said, “Because you’re wearing a loose skirt.”

Behold the skirt of terror!

The astute reader will have already noticed that this skirt contains four of the five colors from Homeland Security’s sadly defunct terror-threat color chart: blue, green, yellow, and orange. Logically, the red must be somewhere, too … perhaps under my skirt?

No, the TSO didn’t inspect my underwear, and the patdown stopped just short of the “enhanced” standard. She did not move her hand up my thigh until she met “resistance.”  My ladyparts were left undisturbed. She also didn’t search above my waist.

But the patdown was still an exercise in foolery. Being separated from my kids would have been stressful if my younger son were still of the age where he routinely ran away in public. The delay, too, would’ve been irksome if we’d been short on time.

I spoke to the supervisor on the way out and asked him why long skirts weren’t listed on the TSA website as objects of interest. I said that if travelers were forewarned, we might choose to wear clothes that didn’t trigger a patdown. He, too, was warm and professional, but his response just floored me:

“Because we don’t want to let the bad guys know all about our methods. They might find someone who looks just like you and use that person to try and sneak through a bomb.”

Leaving aside the extreme shortage of blonde female terrorists since the demise of the Red Army Faction, what purpose does this faux secrecy serve? Blogger Bob at the TSA likes to emphasize that different methods are used at different airports to keep the terrorists off balance. That’s always been a transparent excuse for TSA excesses.

My own personal theory is that searching passengers with long, loose skirts is a way to target women who appear to be Muslims. Inclusion of a few blonde gals creates a smokescreen of plausible deniability in case anyone charges the TSA with racial or religious profiling. I’m positive the policy is motivated by xenophobia, but you can’t prove it.

All you can do is wear jeggings (eek!) the next time you fly.

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We planned to celebrate 14 juillet by attending the German-French friendship fest. All began well: bumper cars! bungee jumping! mini-airplanes! roasted, sugared almonds! the Tiger feeling horrid on one of those “Himalaya”-style rides (or so they were called in my childhood) that consist of speed, minor up-and-down bumps, and a disco-ball plus smoke machine.  (He loved it last year. I take some pride in still enjoying it at 47. I could hardly toss him overboard, could I?)

At 10 p.m. sharp, all the rides, games, and drink stands started to roll down their blinds, much to our puzzlement. Why, we hadn’t even ridden the giant ferris wheel, the one point of consensus in my little family of four! (Evidently some pickle-hearted neighbor – unbothered by the noise of the adjacent airport?!? – had complained after some forty years.) The gal at the whisky stands gave us a generous pour, and then the fireworks began. First the Tiger objected that we were going to miss them. Then he wailed that they were too close. It is not easy to be a small tiger.

And so, since I have no footage of our fireworks, and since any such hypothetical video would be marred by heartrending cries of  “make it stop, Mama, this is SKEERY,” I offer instead the happy patriotic kitten that David Futrelle posted a couple of weeks ago:

By the way, if the images in the clip come from Uzu, as seems to be the case, this program has also been cheap entertainment for my own kittens this summer. Sometimes a light show is best at a safe remove. Ditto for cat claws. I’ll hold my tongue on the complex relation between state power military might, and liberty, since this day is supposed to be one of celebration, after all.

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I leave my adopted state, Ohio, for my annual summer sojourn in Germany, and this is what happens! Nothing but lunacy!

Ohio’s Governor Kasich just signed a bill allowing bars to allow people to carry concealed firearms into bars. As Slate puts it: “Because nothing goes better than guns and crowded places …”

Ha! I know an even better combo: guns + crowds + booze + students + beer pong + flashpoints of overt racism. That’ll be the new scene on Court Street, the main drag where my students congregate to imbibe, socialize, and – all too often – get into fights.

Last fall, 0ne of my former students was racially targeted and physically assaulted on Court Street. His tormenters managed to frame him on assault and menacing charges. This Athens News article ably describes the beginning of his saga and hints at the weakness of the case against my student. All charges were ultimately dropped as evidence mounted that he’d been the victim, not the perp. Ultimately he was exonerated. While I avoided writing about his case because I didn’t want to disqualify myself as a character witness, I posted a thinly fictionalized account of how the local jail radically isolates inmates, especially newbies, from the outside world. My student was in that hellhole for a week before he even saw a lawyer (the hardcore folks of course have their attorney’s number memorized), facing racism from fellow inmates, fearing for his freedom.

I now try to re-imagine the whole ugly story with a gun in play. The likely outcome? My student bleeds out on Court Street. An alternative scenario: My student seizes the gun from his tormenter and finds he’s up against high-grade felony charges, even after allowing for self-defense.

Another student, recently returned from Iraq in 2006, was gravely injured (on his head, I believe) by a bouncer at a Court Street establishment. He had to be airlifted to Columbus for treatment. I don’t know yet how his story ends. While writing this post, I did my best to locate him in the Facebookgoogleplex, and I think I might have found him. I’m now so hopeful that he might be living a good life. (I’ll be sure to update if I learn more.)

But again, what if that bouncer had had a gun? What if my thoroughly traumatized student had been carrying, his wits sharp but his nerves frayed from facing down death in Iraq? Two men could have died that night.

What about the goofy, good-natured football player who showed up with his arm in a cast? “Training injury?” I asked brightly. “Um, no, a bar fight.” Gotta admire these students’ honestly. His athletic career continued – in no small part because he hadn’t been riddled with gunshot wounds.

What about a female student (way back in 2003) who took a certain pride in holding her own in “girl fights”? Will her successors all morph into clones of Bree Vanderkar (or Sarah Palin)? Hey, chicks can shoot as straight as any dude! Their flesh can absorb just about as much lead as a man’s can, too.

I realize why this bill passed. The NRA has legislators at the point of, well, a gun. My Democratic and generally progressive rep in the State House said she had to respect her consituents’ overwhelming support for the guns ‘n’ bars bill. Even an abstention (for me, the least-bad path) might have allowed the Repubs to vote her out in the next cycle. And it’s true that bar owners can post “no guns” signs on their doors, which are just as valid there as in any other public space.

But as for myself, I’ll be avoiding the Court Street bar scene, especially past 7 or so in the evening, until it becomes clear whether full body-armor has become the new trend, replacing the standard-issue shorty-short skirts and towering heels.

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“Oh, b-b-b-baby, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet …”

The other day on Facebook, I told an old friend (who lives near Bachmann territory, woe is he) that the only reason to look forward to a Palin candidacy would be the chance to use the phrase that I already blew in the title of the post.

I’m sorry to say that this post has just run out of indigenous humor. But fortunately, Jesus’ General recently posted a clip that does my concept one better: Pain and Bachmann as rock opera! I could do without the cheap Ann Coulter joke (really, if she were trans, it would be the most sympathetic thing about her!) but the rest is brilliant satire, a sort of politicized This Is Spinal Tap.

(Click here if you can’t see the clip.)

Also, the Tiger – with his seven-year-old’s taste – thinks it rocks. Clearly he needs much more exposure to The Who’s pioneering rock operas. He’s firmly anti-Justin Bieber, so we’ve still got time and opportunity. But I’ll admit that those power chords are firmly stuck in my head.

Go here for the backstory; the creator’s blog is pretty funny, too.

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I’ve got to disagree with Clarissa on this one: It’s not fair to equate pregnancy with a hangover (even if the nausea can be similarly overwhelming). Specifically, a student who misses class for pregnancy-related disability should not be treated the same as one who misses due to oversleeping or a hangover.

But let’s back up. Clarissa was responding to a post by The Feminist Breeder on prodromal labor, in which TFB also mentioned that she was feeling crappy enough in her 40th week of gestation that she just couldn’t hang with her college-degree program. Here’s the bit that set Clarissa off:

I have to keep going to class until I’m really in labor, and school is pretty far away.  My Tuesday class is a reasonable half hour away, but my Wednesday class is 90 minutes away in traffic.  If I started hard, active labor at school, I have no idea what I would do.  Also – get this – I left class early last Tuesday because I was so sick I couldn’t see straight, and my professor actually had the balls to dock me 20 out of 25 possible Participation points just because I had to leave.  Clearly she’ll be docking me ALL 25 Participation points for each class I miss while I’m doing a silly little thing like trying to have a baby, so I cannot take off a single extra day other than what is absolutely necessary.  (And yes, I am SOOO writing a letter about that.)

Now, I think jumping straight to a letter to college administrators, rather than trying so say, talk to her prof, is pouring gas on the flames. If a student has a beef – especially an adult student like TBF who’s got the cojones and verbal skills – she should first talk to the the instructor, preferably when she doesn’t feel on the verge of hurling. Personally, I would be much more receptive to a conversation than a formal complaint. Going slow offers a chance to preserve the student-teacher relationship as a collaborative one. Going directly to the administration strikes most teachers as an act of aggression (which is why I’ve never done that to my kids’ teachers, even when it might have been warranted). Often, too, the instructor will cool down and reassess a rash decision, opening the gate to a reasonable compromise. If not, there’s still time to write a scathing letter, though I suspect TBF, who could very well be in labor as I write this, felt the hourglass was empty (prodromal labor has a way of remininding one of the clock). And so I understand perfectly why she might skip negotiating and just lodge a formal complaint.

That said, I just can’t sign on to Clarissa’s reaction:

There is no doubt in my mind that her pregnancy is very special to this woman. It must also be very special to her relatives and friends. For strangers, however, of which her professor is one, it is neither more nor less special than another student’s hangover. Both the pregnancy and the hangover are the results of the choices these students made as adults. In my capacity as an educator, I don’t think it’s my place to judge whose choices are more legitimate and deserve of greater consideration. All I need to know is that the student wasn’t there and, as a result, didn’t manage to participate.

This is a false conception of “fairness.” As my friend Moonglow (who just happens to be the mother of a brand-new daughter, yippee!!!) told me today: “I never promise my kids that I’ll treat them all equally. But I do commit to treating them all fairly. That means knowing what each of them needs and when they need it.” (And if I misquoted you, my dear, please blame it on the delectable distraction of brie with fig jam.)

Much the same goes for my students. Last spring, a student of mine landed in the ER with appendicitis and only appeared two weeks later (full documentation in hand). I’ve had multiple students felled by mono, over the years. I’ve had students come to me with serious mental health issues (sometimes exacerbated by the portion of my syllabus dealing with sexual violence). I’ve had students totter to class on crutches due to slippery messes in the dorms. I’ve had students with arms in casts due to (ahem) barroom brawls.

I am not happy about the last category of problem – injuries that result from drunken stupidity – but I am grateful for those students’ frankness. And once a student acquires a disability, don’t I have an obligation – both human and feminist – to accommodate it? Would I not be a monster to mark down a student on participation just because his appendix tried to kill him? How could I live with myself if a student went into a spiral of depression, and I exacerbated it with rigid expectations of attending every single class meeting?

Last year, I had a graduate student announce to me that she was likely to give birth within the next couple of weeks. I was dumbfounded. I hadn’t even noticed she was pregnant, only that she’d put on a few pounds. (That alone should’ve given me pause, because I tend not to notice even major changes in people’s shapes. I’m obtuse that way.) The very next class meeting, she was absent, because she’d just come through labor. A week later, she showed up for class, her iPhone brimming with baby pictures. She worked very hard not to let her pregnancy interfere with her coursework, but I certainly could have found ways to accommodate her if she’d asked for more time off.

There’s an easy, pragmatic, fair solution to most of these situations. Exempt the student from work missed (as long as it’s not a major project) and weight the rest of their grade more heavily. This little trick works as well for a pregnant student as for anyone else struck by unexpected disability. The student does pay a small price, in that there’s more pressure on the rest of their work and less opportunity to dilute a crummy grade. But it’s a fair price that makes allowances for the fallibility and vulnerability of our flesh. However much a university might pretend that we’re all disembodied brains, in the end those brains still rely pretty heavily on their whole-body support systems.

I guess I’m a bit of a feminist-Marxist on these issues: from each according to hir ability, to each according to hir needs. That doesn’t mean abandoning all standards. It simply means realizing that life intervenes. Death intervenes. And all kinds of other shit – good, bad, and ugly – intervenes, too. Students are whole people, often needy people, coping with lives more complicated than we instructors often know. They cannot be reduced to their throbbing-in-a-petri-dish brains (or pickled-in-a-game-of-beer-pong brains, either).

This isn’t a matter of trusting my students. (Mostly they deserve my trust; sometimes they prove that they don’t.) It’s a matter of trusting my own judgment. I trust myself to distinguish between the student who couldn’t turn in her final paper on time due to strep and the one who added my class late, then fell asleep in the back row after a mere three minutes! Hey, at least he zonked out so fast I couldn’t take it personally; there was no time for me to bore him to sleep.

This is also an arena where I have to live true to my principles. Any feminist ought to be committed to disability rights. Heck, even Sarah Palin (a nightmare feminist, but a feminist nonetheless, in my book) at least pays lip service to disability rights. You cannot honor human rights without acknowledging that most of us, if we live long enough, will eventually live with a disability. You cannot work toward gender justice but then insist it’s only for those of completely able bodies and minds. What does that mean for me, practically speaking? If a student is struggling to achieve with a disability – of any sort, be it a physical, mental-health, or learning-style condition – it’s my job as an educator, feminist, and mensch to help them perform at their peak, on as level a playing field as I can cobble together.

But hey – isn’t pregnancy a natural, healthy condition? Well, for all the work that women’s health educators, natural childbirth advocates, and feminist historians have done to unseat the idea that pregnancy = disability, we do childbearing women an awful disservice if we insist that pregnancy never spawns disability. Most of us suffer at least debilitating fatigue. Most of us have stories about how we nearly ralphed at work. My students from fall 2002 and winter 2003 – when I was gestating the Tiger – can consider themselves lucky that I maintained a barf-free classroom. And I got off easy, compared to my friends who landed in the hospital, hitched to an IV, after weeks of incessant vomiting.

If you care about women, you must care about mothers, and thus you must be willing to honor pregnancy-related disability as real disability. And yes, pregnancy usually results from a planned, voluntary choice, these days, but not always; women still find themselves pregnant against their will, and they still sometimes decide to carry out a surprise pregnancy, even with the option to terminate. Anyway: Should I only make allowances for students’ injuries if they can prove that, say, the other guy started the fight, or the other driver broke the law? And do I really want to start interrogating a pregnant student about why she and her partner didn’t both get sterilized before they ever had sex (after all, every other contraceptive is fallible), or why she didn’t terminate the pregnanacy early on? That way lies fascism.

To be crystal clear – and fair! – Clarissa doesn’t advocate bare-bulb interrogations. She instead argues that one should never cut students slack when their free will contributed to their inability to participate; that a class missed due to a hangover is no different than one missed due to pregnancy symptoms, because in both cases, “choice” was involved. I trust Clarissa enough to believe her when she says she’s a good teacher – and actually, I trust that in a few more years, because she’s smart and tuned in to her students, she may very well trust herself to draw finer-grained judgments, which just might put the pregnant students in a different category from the hardcore imbibers.

But this other extreme – harshly penalizing pregnant women for making a “lifestyle choice” that most couples eventually make (but predominantly women  pay for) – sets feminism back a couple of generations. It tells women, “It’s fine if you want to compete with the men – as long as you’re just like the men!” Didn’t we leave that trap behind us in the ’80s, along with big hair, shoulder pads, and Tears for Fears?

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As of this writing, our so-called leaders are still engaged in budget brinksmanship. Alternet called it correctly: This is the Republicans applying shock doctrine. They are doing their damnedest to break democracy. They’re such patriots that they’re willing to delay paychecks reaching our already-underpaid rank-and-file troops.

The Tea Partiers, in particular, are willing to hold our government hostage to their unhinged plan to defund Planned Parenthood.

For the Tea Party, this seems to be a win-win. If they get to defund Planned Parenthood, they’ll have achieved an unimaginable victory in their war against women’s bodies, which otherwise the Senate would block. If they get to shut down the government, then it’s party time. Woo hoo! We’re gonna party like it’s 1995!

A lot can happen in 16 years of politics. Since Newt Gingrich threw his slimy wrench into the works, we’ve had presidential blowjobs, welfare reform, the rise (and now fall?) of the DOMA, hanging chads, Enron and Bernie Madoff, 9/11 and the security state, at least three U.S. wars (that we know of), torture and secret prisons, an economic meltdown, election of our first black president, the rise Mama Grizzlies, pistols at Tea Parties, the attempted assassination of a congresswoman, and gallons of Boehnerian tears. Oh, and a substantial portion of the present electorate was still in the Blues Clues or Britney Spears demographic in 1995, and they have no memory of Newt’s machinations.

Even Newt’s own memory seems to have blurred. In the late ’90s, the conventional wisdom held that the shutdown hurt the Republicans, making them look like the extremists they were (and are), and paving the way for Bill Clinton’s re-election. Back then, the Newtster concurred with with this view. By now, though, he’s hyping the shutdown threat as a positive, viable tactic for his comrades.

The Tea Partiers are practically drooling over the prospect of a shutdown. What more dramatic way to demonstrate their small-government cred to the voters back home? What better way for Rep. Mike Pence to show that women’s bodies are expendable that he really, really hates abortion? Sure, some of us will see it as childish and irresponsible to practice blackmail and hold women’s health hostage. We are the same people who already found the “me-first, me-second, and me-third” attitude of the Tea Party childish and irresponsible. (Not to mention cruel.) We are the same people who know that the Planned Parenthood funding in question cannot legally be used to subsidize abortions.

For Tea Party supporters, though, a shutdown is red meat.

As I write this, the talking heads on MSNBC are discussing whether John Boehner can deliver on a potential compromise deal that may have been hammered out behind closed doors this evening. My take on it: I don’t think he can. As right-wing as Boehner is himself, his Tea Party colleagues are neck deep in anti-government, anti-woman ideology. They see this as a matter of principle. They perceive, again, a win-win.

So I fully expect a shutdown. My hope is that the party will end as it did in 1995: with a lose-lose for the Republicans, who will look petty and extreme. (Which is, of course, exactly what they are.) In any event, the Democrats have already made such deep concessions that no one will be dancing. The compromise already reported includes the $33 billion in domestic spending cuts that Republicans have demanded.

What do y’all think? Will the shutdown happen tomorrow? Will it be deferred ’til later? Or will Captain Boehner deliver?

And is there any hope that Obama would veto a package that included the demolition of Planned Parenthood and/or the full $33 billion in cuts? Remember: The 1995/96 shutdowns only occurred after President Bill Clinton vetoed the heaping pile of a budget that the Republican Congress sent him. Obama frequently tries to frame himself as Reagan’s successor, but it’s Clinton who learned from Reagan not to negotiate with hostage-takers.

Update, 4/8/11, 12:15 p.m.: Maddow had a great segment on the potential shutdown tonight, arguing that unlike the mid-1990s, there’s no high-profile Republican to take the heat, as Newt did in 1995/96. I am now feeling like the game may be lose/lose, after all.

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You wouldn’t think I’d be angry, would you, given that I’ve just been declared part of management? In less than three years, I’ve gone from a lowly adjunct teaching position to a “managerial” function. The real magic? I might have been a management employee all along! Next year: world domination!

This great gift comes via Ohio’s Senate Bill 5. As you’ve might have heard, S.B. 5 – which will drastically curtail collective bargaining rights for Ohio’s public employees – was signed into law by Governor John Kasich yesterday. S.B. 5 will outlaw strikes by public employees, upon penalty of fines and jail time. It severely curtails the collective bargaining rights of teachers, police, and firefighters. And with language that echoes the Supreme Court’s Yeshiva decision (1980), which smothered faculty unionization at private colleges, it prohibits collective bargaining entirely for the most faculty at public universities. Here’s how the Chronicle of Higher Education summarizes the ban:

The classification provision defines as “management-level employees” those faculty members who, individually or through faculty senates or similar organizations, engage in any of a long list of activities generally thought of as simply part of the jobs of tenured and tenure-track professors. Those activities include participating in institutional governance or personnel decisions, selecting or reviewing administrators, preparing budgets, determining how physical resources are used, and setting educational policies “related to admissions, curriculum, subject matter, and methods of instruction and research.”

As “managers,” faculty won’t be able to organize. And the bar is set very low indeed for faculty to be classified as managers; it’s not just department chairs or faculty senators who will be swept up in this. Virtually all tenure-eligible faculty sit on hiring committees, so the “Yeshiva language” would instantly bar them from collective bargaining. But those of us off the tenure track also have influence on curriculum and instructional methods. Even as an adjunct, I served (gladly) on a curriculum committee. Voilà! I’m a “manager.”

Now, the faculty on my campus aren’t unionized, though some of us have been involved in a sustained drive to organize under the auspices of the American Association of University Professors. I sunk a bunch of time into this drive during fall and winter, trying to rally volunteers and launching our local AAUP blog. I take S.B. 5 personally.

Organizing against the attack on unions in Ohio has been harder than in Wisconsin because our capital is not a stronghold of liberal and left-wing politics. If Madison can be likened to Berkeley, Columbus is more like … Sacramento, complete with the sprawling suburbs and strip malls. Still, faculty and students have been hauling up to Columbus to demonstrate, and we’ve had a few demos here in Athens, too. It’s hard to know where to go next – sink more of our scant resources into the union drive, hoping S.B. 5 will be overturned by referendum? Work on the referendum instead? Sit in a corner and whimper?

But now that I’m a manager, I guess I need to buck up and start demanding some of the perks of the job. Our university president has access to a private plane. Upper-level administrators have enjoyed free country club memberships. And then there’s our football coach, who earns more than any of the top administrative bananas. I’m willing to forgo the plane and country club once I start getting the six-figure salary that’s now my due.

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Even before he took office, John Kasich declared that Ohio didn’t need none of that high-speed rail funding from the feds, no sirree. Florida’s Governor Rick Scott has been just as short-sighted on rail, so Kasich is in great company. Both of them made Keith Balmer’s list (at Alternet) of the 8 Worst Governors – no small feat in such a fiercely competitive field.

Shame, shame. Even Mad Men’s Pete Campbell – best known for his tight society connections and his loose ethics – sees the future of high-speed rail. Well, he does mix it with a big dollop of casual sexism.

Harry Crane: “America always makes the best investment.” We believed that, back in 1965. Silly us. We had such pie-in-the-sky ideas for the future. We believed there’d be picture phones someday, and look what came of … why, actually, we were right about that one! Too bad we’ve missed every boat (and train) since, when it comes to smarter energy policy.

————–

Better enjoy this clip (courtesy of Funny or Die) because it’s as close as we’re likely to come to a new episode before 2012. I got my Season 4 DVDs this week. (My attempt to record it went sour due to some unknown mix of tech failure and manipulation by the kiddos.) I am hoping to savor the new episodes, as opposed to gobbling them in an orgy of Jon Hamm gluttony. Guess which outcome is more likely.

Just to cleanse your mind of the the Jon Kasich reference, here’s a picture of Jon Hamm with magic powers to calm and arouse all at once! At least, it works for me.

(Shamelessly swiped from Snarkerati.)

Since my spring flowers are a bit disappointing, you may see more Jon Hamm decorative elements around these parts in the days ahead.

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Oh, Ohio. The batshittery just never ends. As you may have heard, we’ve got pending legislation (House Bill 125, aka the Heartbeat Bill) that would make abortion illegal as soon as a heartbeat can be detected. That would be at six or seven weeks, when a woman might well not know she’s pregnant. (Keep in mind that spotting is fairly common during the first month of pregnancy when one’s period would usually be due, so even a woman tuned into her body could be fooled.)

This is the same bill for which Republican lawmakers called a fetus to testify. Actually, it was two fetuses, whose heartbeat was played for our esteemed legislators via ultrasound. (Quite sensibly, one of the fetuses refused to cooperate with the proceedings.)

Yesterday, the bill emerged from committee, but House Speaker William Batchelder won’t yet commit to a date for a vote. Batchelder is a Republican and a hardcore pro-lifer. Why would he waffle?

Turns out that this bill is splitting the anti-abortion camp. Ohio Right to Life – the biggest anti-abortion lobby in the state – is actually begging state legislators to back off of the Heartbeat Bill. They fear the bill couldn’t pass constitutional muster. Of course, this isn’t a principled objection. Ohio Right to Life remains committed to overturning Roe v. Wade. They just realize Anthony Kennedy is unlikely to vote to uphold a measure this extreme. (It doesn’t even include a rape/incest exception.)

I say, bring it on. Anything that divides the Republicans and anti-abortion lobbies is good by me. This direct challenge to Roe – which is what the Heartbeat Bill’s supporters actually crave – will go down in flames. If it passes the Senate and goes to the courts, the Supreme Court will surely refudiates it. This will strengthen Roe’s basic finding that the state cannot prohibit abortions prior to fetal viability. A successful court challenge might even take down Ohio’s 24-hour mandatory waiting period and “counseling” – or so fears Ohio Right to Life! My, this bill is sounding better all the time.

Here’s what really worries me. While we’re all distracted by chatter about vaginal sonograms in the Statehouse and the circus of fetuses “testifying,” another bill (H.B. 78/S.B. 72) has passed both chambers and is headed for the desk of Governor Kasich, who’s certain to sign it. That bill’s viability (so to speak) looks much stronger. It would ban abortion after 20 weeks (instead of Ohio’s current 22-week limit). In addition, H.B. 7 – which would place the burden of proof on abortion providers to show a fetus was not viable – is still lurking in the wings, along with other anti-choice legislation.

At least none of my representatives has threatened to criminalize miscarriages. Not yet.

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I continue to be transfixed by the situation in Japan, where technology has shown its best and worst face in the past few days. “Best,” I say, because the terrible human losses would have been greater yet, had builders not prepared for violent earthquakes. There were certainly gaps in planning for the tsunami, in particular, but overall Japan’s construction technology saved untold lives – tens of thousands.

The nuclear plants partly had bad luck, but then again, the chain of power failures that’s now leading to overheated radioactive fuel rods was fairly predictable. I don’t know enough about the technology to give an explainer. Rachel Maddow continues to have good coverage. But essentially, you don’t have to be a nuclear engineer to know that highly radioactive spent fuel presents a problem for decades at a minimum, even under controlled circumstances. How many civilizations have survived for tens of thousands of years - long enough to keep ploutonium contained? And yes, some of the fuel rods (about 6%) at the Daiichi plant contain some plutonium.

Then again, with some technologies you really don’t need to be an expert in order to say: this is stupid. A case in point is the use of hormones to stunt girls’ growth lest they grow too tall to catch a husband. I knew that this was a fairly common practice in the 1950s. A recent study reports that the estrogen used to stop growth also mucked with these girls’ fertility, and as adults they have had trouble conceiving. Not all that surprising. What did shock me? The fact that this practice continues today.

This use for estrogen gained popularity about 50 years ago after researchers found it might limit the growth of girls who were much taller than their peers in adolescence. According to one estimate, up to 5,000 girls in the U.S. were treated with estrogen, and many more in Europe.

At that time, “women were basically supposed to get married and have children, and that would be harder if you were a very tall woman, everybody believed,” Christine Cosgrove, co-author of Normal at Any Cost: Tall Girls, Short Boys, and the Medical Industry’s Quest to Manipulate Height, told Reuters Health.

“There were so many parents, mostly mothers probably, who just feared that their daughters’ lives would be ruined if they ended up being six feet tall, because they’d never have a husband and a family,” she said.

Some tall girls are still treated with estrogen today — more in Europe than in the United States — and estrogen is currently given to these girls in about the same dose that is in a birth control pill, Cosgrove said. In the past, it might have been given at 100 times that dose before doctors realized the potential dangers, she said.

[Cosgrove is co-author of Normal at Any Cost: Tall Girls, Short Boys, and the Medical Industry's Quest to Manipulate Height, speaking here to Reuters.]

Two very different scenarios – one a matter of life-and-death, the other “merely” a matter of life foregone through infertility. Yet both reflect the foolhardiness of humans when it comes to technology. I’m no Luddite (my laptop is a cyborg extension of my brain), but could we just cut it out with the human experimentation? Because that’s what nuclear plants are, at bottom, too – an uncontrolled experiment with far too many uncontrollable variables. Also, perhaps friend-of-the-blog Hydraargyrum will chime in on this: humanity will never win against CORROSION, which is basically what I understand to be happening at lightning speed in those uncooled fuel rods.

Can’t we humans please learn for once, and put an end to the techno-hubris?

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Charlie Sheen is a serial abuser of women, as Anna Holmes argued persuasively in the New York Times earlier this week. As Holmes wrote, his current two live-in partners are “disposable,” not least because they are presumed golddiggers who tarnished their virtue in sex work. I don’t care if they’re only with Sheen for the money, fame, and drugs. We should be worried for these women’s lives. Sheen’s “goddesses” (his word) are living 24/7 with a control freak with a long record of domestic violence charges and no discernable ties to reality.

Despite his evident break-up with the reality-based world, Sheen appears to have his two partners in thrall. That gives even more cause for concern. A People Magazine story portrayed the women’s relationships with him as downright Stepford-ish.

“I’ve always felt that a man should be able to be with as many women as he likes,” says Rachel Oberlin, 24, one of Sheen’s two live-in girlfriends. “I’ve never had the opportunity to share that with any man before because, honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been with a man who was even deserving of that.”

Consenting adults can order their households however they like. But what’s good for the gander ought to be good for the goose – yet here, it only the gander has the privilege of multiple partners. My understanding of ethical polyamory is that it’s based on equality, not hierarchy and paternalism. That’s the exact opposite of how Sheen describes his relationships to People Magazine quotes:

“They don’t judge me,” Sheen repeated. “They don’t lead with opinion. They don’t lead with their own needs all the time. They’re honest enough to tell me, ‘Hey, look, you – you know, park your nonsense. You gotta help me solve this.’ And we solve it.”

When it comes to household decisions, he said, “Everybody’s vote has equal importance. But when we’re approaching crisis, I remind them, ‘Look, I’m 22 years further down the road … my plan is gonna be the best one in the room. So, just trust me on that and everybody will win. Everybody will win and everybody’s needs will be taken care of.”

This is creepy, coming from a guy with a history of physically hurting women. What happens if a goddess dares to express an opinion? The old brick in the face, a la ancient Mesopotamia?

Patriarchy isn’t dead. It has just moved to Hollywood and allegedly developed an epic coke habit. (“For the win!” as Sheen might say.)

Also, the idea of Charlie Sheen as a problem solver and crisis mananger (???!!!) would be hilarious, if he were living in a universe occupied solely by the body and ego of Charlie Sheen. As it is, someone stands to get hurt.

Nonetheless, it’s Caturday, so let’s not just soberly criticize Sheen’s behavior. Let’s mock him, too! (Yes, I know he needs help. He’s making too much money off of not seeking it that mockery is perfectly fair.)

There’s lots more Sheen-y cattiness at the blog Medium Large – check it out. (Thanks to Lisa Simeone for the tip!)

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First things first: If you’re local to SE Ohio and already know why you should contact Jimmy Stewart today and give him an earload on why SB 5 is bad for Ohio, why here’s his phone number! (614) 466-8076 – and email! SD20@senate.state.oh.us – I’m sure he’ll delight in hearing from you. [Update, 2/21/11, 9:50 a.m.: Stewart's office is closed for President's Day - gah! My plan is to leave a voicemail and send an email today, then follow up with a call early tomorrow.]

If you don’t know why SB 5 is evil, or why you should mix a call to Jimmy with your morning Joe, or what sort of earload you might deliver … well, read on, preferably with said Joe in hand.

We here in Ohio do not have a governor who has been parodied as a Mike Myers character – yet.

We don’t have 70,000 protesters as Madison did on Saturday – yet.

But we do have a fugly bill, S.B. 5, that makes Wisconsin’s anti-union agitators look like they’re playing bumper cars while we’re up against John Kasich’s Monster Bus Madness. Where Wisconsin’s legislation (as far as I understand) preserves the facade of collective bargaining, Kasich is going to kill collective bargaining dead for state employees. Be alert for the speeding gubernatorial bus at the end of this otherwise turgid passage! (It’s underlined, so you’ve got no excuse to miss it.)

Here’s the relevant legalese:

Sec. 4117.03. (A) Public employees have the right to:

(1) Form, join, assist, or participate in, or refrain from forming, joining, assisting, or participating in, except as otherwise provided in Chapter 4117. of the Revised Code, any employee organization of their own choosing;

(2) Engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection;

(3) Representation by an employee organization;

(4) Bargain collectively with their public employers to determine wages, hours, terms and other conditions of employment and the continuation, modification, or deletion of an existing provision of a collective bargaining agreement, and enter into collective bargaining agreements;

(5) Present grievances and have them adjusted, without the intervention of the bargaining representative, as long as the adjustment is not inconsistent with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement then in effect and as long as the bargaining representatives have the opportunity to be present at the adjustment.

(B) Persons on active duty or acting in any capacity as members of the organized militia do not have collective bargaining rights. Employees of the state, of any agency, authority, commission, or board of the state, or of any state institution of higher education do not have collective bargaining rights. The state, any agency, authority, commission, or board of the state, or a state institution of higher education shall not bargain collectively with its employees.

At first glance this passage seems incoherent. There’s a lot of lahdeedah about procedures for collective bargaining, only to have it become red asphalt in the final scene! (Eerrrrrrrg. That’s me. Run over. Damn, that bus was big.) The apparent contradiction melts away when one realizes that local public employees are in a different category from those of us who work for the state. The local folks – including teachers – won’t be sitting pretty, either, but in principle they retain access to collective bargaining; it just won’t help them much, thanks to a set of arcane new rules in the spirit of Wisconsin’s. (Progress Ohio lists local public employees’ proposed tribulations.)

Unlike Wisconsin, Ohio is not exempting police and firefighters, and this may cost the Repubs dearly. Several Republican senators have already balked at this, realizing who lines their pockets. Other State Senators, such as Jimmy Stewart from my neck of the woods, realize that anti-union votes won’t go down well in dying coal country, where unions once secured not just a decent living but also self-respect and community. (See Friday’s Dispatch article for a list of wafflers, and contact them if you can! Or better yet, check out Plunderbund, which dishes up the list of fence-sitters with verve, style, and snark.)

The Ohio bill also tries to out-badass its neighbor to the north by hiking health insurance premiums more steeply. Again, the legalese from SB 5:

Sec. 124.82.

(F) A state employee who receives insurance under this section shall pay at least twenty per cent of the cost of the premium assessed for any insurance policy issued pursuant to this section that covers health, medical, hospital, or surgical benefits.

Wisconsin public employees, by contrast, will be forced to pay at minimum 12.6% of their healthcare coverage. We already pay around 10% – not counting deductibles and other tricks for evading the current cap.

I realize that there’s enormous populist anger at the thought that any public employee would receive benefits while many private employees are completely shorn of them. The solution, though, isn’t to hollow out state employees’ benefits. By that logic, we’d all soon be earning minimum wage. The strategy has got to be expanding collective bargaining and revitalizing unions to ensure that all employees receive decent pay and benefits. (A single-payer healthcare system would, of course, solve half of these problems. A girl can dream.)

There’s also populist resentment of public employees getting paid more generously than those in the private sector. Professor Rudy Fichtenbaum, labor economist at Wright State, just decimated this preconception in his testimony before the Ohio Senate, opposing SB 5. Basically, Fichtenbaum notes that state employees have amassed a whole lot more education and training than their private-sector counterparts. Controlling for education, studies find that public employees actually earn less than those counterparts. Seriously, if you have even a passing interest, read Dr. Fichtenbaum’s testimony, which is lucid and very, very persuasive.

It is those “coddled” public sector employees who teach our children, or our neighbor’s children. It is they who determine whether Ohio will nurture innovators and informed, critical citizens, or whether we will have to try to compete with Sri Lanka – on their terms. (I’m still trying to figure out who’s coddled, by the way: those who stay up emailing students from 9:30 to 11:30 and then write about politics until after midnight, perhaps?)

What’s at stake here is nothing less than my adopted state’s economic future. As long as the marginal tax rates for rich Ohioans remain unchanged, we have no moral right to fatally undermine unions, pull the plug on the middle classes, and sell our children’s education to the lowest bidder.

Which brings us full circle. If you’re moved to contact Jimmy Stewart, please do it today (Monday) as the vote will likely take place on  Tuesday. He’s no doubt waiting for your calls. (614) 466-8076 or SD20@senate.state.oh.us. Sen. Stewart is also Majority Floor Leader, the #3 position in the Senate, so folks outside of his home base (the 20th district) might feel free to contact him, as well.

Oh, and if you can make it to Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 22), there will be a massive rally starting at 1. Word is that SB 5 will come up for a vote that day. I’ll be in my classroom, preparing the rising generation to compete with Sri Lanka, but I am thrilled to hear that some students and  colleagues will make the trip. Wish I could join them!

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If you haven’t already heard, CBS News correspondent Lara Logan was viciously attacked by a mob of men last Friday during the celebrations at Tahrir Square. She was sexually assaulted and beaten. A group of women and soldiers came to her aid. She flew back to the United States and is convalescing in a hospital (which gives you some idea of the viciousness of the attack).

I am horrified that this happened, and I hope she will heal well, physically and psychically.

You’d think that every reaction would echo those sentiments, but no. Mary Elizabeth Williams of Salon charts just a few of the hateful responses, which range from blaming Islam to blaming Logan herself. Jill has more at Feministe. Some of the blamers suggest Logan should never have been in Egypt – evidently her mere presence provoked sexual assault – and conclude that women shouldn’t do dangerous job. (See for instance the absolutely vile comment thread on Garance Franke-Ruta’s article at the Atlantic.) As Jill notes:

When male journalists are harmed or even killed on the job — and I’d be willing to bet that male journalists are assaulted and killed more often than female journalists — the media narrative is, basically, “He was brave and this is a tragedy.” But when it happens to a woman, the narrative shifts to, “Should women be doing this?”

Funny how no one said that Bob Woodruff shouldn’t have been in Iraq when he suffered brain damage due to an IED that detonated while he was traveling. Nor should they! (Fortunately, Woodruff has made a pretty good recovery.)

As others have noted, the blaming directed at Logan demonstrates how deeply ingrained rape culture is. It shows how eager some people are to demonize Islam (which would merit a post of its own). It reveals some folks’ determination to use the threat of rape to restrict women’s choices. Following that last line of thought to its logical conclusion, we could argue that women shouldn’t be homemakers! Because women are often raped in the “safety” of their own homes! Funny how we don’t hear that argument often, either.

But the blaming exposes one other persistent element of rape culture that I don’t think has gotten much attention: the notion that being raped is even worse than being killed. In what universe is surviving rape worse than dying? Why would we think that sexual assault is worse than shrapnel entering one’s brain? And yet, only if you believe that rape is worth than death does it make sense to “protect” women – but not men – by keeping them out of war zones.

It all goes back to the idea that women’s worth is solely in their sexual purity. A woman who was sullied by rape, under the principles of patriarchy, had better be dead. If she was raped, well, then she just didn’t try hard enough to resist, because a chaste woman would rather die than “let” herself be raped. Apparently these ideas are still alive and kicking – unlike some of the women they have literally condemned to death.

So I’ll say it again: I hope Lara Logan recovers well. I hope she’ll be able to return to work she loves and does well – wherever that work may take her. And I hope for a world where sexual assault is vanishingly rare and is never, ever blamed on its victim.

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My deepest apologies to any turnips who feel slighted by the previous post’s title.

In so many, many way, turnips have far more to offer than John Kasich. For one, turnips are strikingly prettier than Kasich, as evidenced by the photo in my last post. For good measure, here is more documentary evidence of their comeliness:

(Photo by Flickr user wikioticslan, used under a Creative Commons license.)

I shall refrain from posting a photo of Kasich here because I like my blog to be visually pretty even when I write about doom and gloom. (Srsly. This has been Kittywampus policy from the get-go.) Besides, his mug was all over the banner ads on Alternet (!!) throughout the fall, and I’d be just as happy if I never saw it again.

Another way turnips are unlike Kasich: They have never once threatened to run their bus over anyone, having no bus at their command and also being rather timorous vegetables. Quoth Kasich:

“If you think you’re going to stop us, you’re crazy. You will not stop us. We will beat you … This is our chance. Please leave the cynicism and political maneuvering at the door … If you’re not on the bus, we’ll run over you with the bus. And I’m not kidding.”

John Kasich, Republican and governor-elect of Ohio, said at a luncheon for state lobbyists.

By comparison, turnips are more likely to roll with you. They’ll never roll over you – nor roll you over. They are political naïfs: earnest and unassuming, with their feet planted firmly in the earth, their convictions deeply-rooted.

That hasn’t stopped Margaret Atwood from proposing a turnip for Prime Minister of Canada. Atwood declared: “I’d vote for a turnip if it was accountable, transparent, a parliamentary democrat, and listened to people.”

Sounds about right.

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(Image from Flickr user Ali Graney, used under a Creative Commons license.)

Less than a month in office, Ohio’s new governor, John Kasich, has given us plenty of reason to doubt his integrity. He tried – and failed – to keep media away from his inauguration. That was a silly little thing, really, but it portends a new era of secrecy in governance. The legislature took a cue from Kasich and imposed onerous requirements on recording committee hearings. I expect that any day now, we’ll hear that Kasich is governing the state from a secure undisclosed location.

Then Kasich started driving his bus over state employees. He appointed a raft of (all-white) cronies to help him run the state and gave them pay raises. He fired attorneys who were life-long state employees, not political appointees, simply because they had voted Democratic. (No link on that one; I heard it from the niece of one of the purge’s victims.) At the same time, Kasich cut mailroom staffers’ salaries by 21%. Such is the new era of fiscal responsibility in Ohio.

Secrecy paired with cronyism and contempt for the little guy … where have we seen that combo before? Um, yeah … George W. Bush. Good times. Brownie, Brownie, where are ye when we need ye?

But what I’ve really come here to talk about today is The Stupid. The wonderful blog Plunderbund (which I gleefully plundered for the links above) has revealed that along with all his other sterling qualities, Kasich ain’t none too smart, neither. As Modernesquire reported, Kasich officially proclaimed Martin Luther King Day to be March 17.

(Image via Plunderbund – and no, it’s not photoshopped.)

I suppose we can toast racial equality with a glass of green beer? And route a St. Paddy’s Day parade from Selma to Montgomery? Yes, I realize some poor sodding staffer made the error. Kasich signed off on it. The buck stops … oh, right, the buck may never reach Kasich, because he’s gutted the state mailroom. Good planning, dude.

In another shining moment, Kasich advised Ohioans last week on how to weather the storm. The worst of the weather hit north of my house, but had I been less lucky, I would have been prepared, thanks to my governor’s memorable words:

So, if you need to go somewhere, to a neighbor or whatever, you’re going to need to prepare – extra blankets, some candles – I’m not a big fan of candles, but uh, make sure you can control them and blow them out.

(Plunderbund has it all. Oh, do they ever!)

I get that candles can be a safety hazard, especially if you trip over them as, er, ummmm, some governors fall over their words while trying to sound authoritative. But did I miss some super-secret lesson on blowing them out (maybe the boys got it while we girls got the Menstruation Talk)? Is there a special blowing technique? Does it help if you sing “Happy Birthday” first? And what if I want to blow out all but a couple of candles, so that I can have a couple of boyfriends?

Fortunately, Stephen Colbert picked up on Kasich’s turnip-esque intellect and pilloried it – and his racism, to boot:

(Click here if you don’t see the video in a blog reader.)

(Via Plunderbund, of course. Have I mentioned their awesomeness yet?)

Here’s hoping Colbert has bookmarked Plunderbund. For all the horror the Kasich Administration threatens to deliver, it also promises to be an endless seam of comedic gold. God knows we’re are going to need some laughs.

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Why, the same place you can find anything in our consumer culture: they’re on Amazon! (Unless, of course, you find that Kittywampus already offers all the white supremacy you’ll ever need.)

Some weeks ago, Gen. JC Christian, patriot (the brilliant satirist at Jesus’ General) posted a spoof review of a dreadful white supremacist novel, White Apocalypse, which went up on his blog as well as at Amazon. The premise of the book is that Norwegians were actually the first Americans but were wiped out by the Indians. Here’s a choice snippet of the good (and oh-so-manly) General’s review:

This is the book that will make [author] Kyle Bristol as famous and as revered as Dr. William Pierce, author of the Turner Diaries. …

That’s not to say the book is perfect. It isn’t. Bristow fails to fully explore the scope of Norwegian Exceptionalism. There is no mention of Father Abrahamson, whom God first blessed with the gift of lutefisk and an assurance that his descendants would be God’s chosen people. Nor is there any mention of Schlomo Noahson, who was the first Norwegian to step off the Ark onto Vinland’s soil after the Great Flood. Worst of all, he fails to tell the story of the greatest Norwegian, Jesus Letsjustcallthepoorfatherlessbastardjosephson, who redeemed our sins by being crucified on a giant herring (the proof of which can be seen stuck on the back of any Christian’s car).

(Read the rest at his blog.)

Amazon left the General’s review up on its page, where it’s nestled among real praise from real white supremacists. One didn’t care for the writing, but loved the premise:

[T]he subject matter is of great interest and significance in the struggle of white people to survive the 21st century in the ongoing war against the enemies who have targeted us for extinction. The theme of the story involves the argument that whites were the first human inhabitants of the New World and were the victims of genocide by the later Mongoloid arrivals. Naturally, the Amerindians and leftists don’t like this idea at all and are prepared to kill to prevent it from being broadcast.

“Wotan” writes:

With the “brainwashing” our children receive at school, in the media, both print and visual, parents should give a copy of “White Apocalypse” to their children by at least Junior High School. Truth about your White race and pride in your race does not make you a racist!

“Thor Odinson” gushes:

Through the medium of fiction, Bristow enlightens the reader about matters of philosophy, history, and evidentiary-supported conspiracy theories to support the “fictional” thesis of the novel: that white people are persecuted by non-whites today just as they have been throughout world history.

Amazon leaves this hate speech on its website, yet it claims to have done the right thing by cutting off services to Wikileaks??!! That’s some code of business ethics.

Uff da.

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Trickle, trickle, dribble, drip. One day in October, I was talking with a student after class when we heard the unmistakeable sounds of water. A few steps down the hall, we heard the gush that could only be a broken pipe. Our admin argued successfully with the facilities folks who wanted to put in a work order (!!) but even with their prompt response, the torrent took out a bunch of ceiling tiles while my student and I watched in horrified fascination. It took a month for those tiles to be replaced. The whole ceiling still looks stained and provisional.

Meanwhile, administrators prioritize student retention and recruitment over all other goals. The result? Money is found for lavish student activity centers and gyms while faculty are laid off and classroom facilities turn into scenes from Brazil (the movie, not the country).

The corporatization of the university is so far advanced that it’s probably unstoppable, but that doesn’t mean I have to shut up about it. Two little examples from beyond my campus:

Exhibit 1: I just went to check the links in my winter syllabus. I always include a couple of links to guides on nonsexist language usage. When I clicked on the one from the University of Minnesota, the old link redirected me – to a page on how to present a unified brand image for the university! It looks like this:

Lovely, but where are the women? Previously, there were university-wide guidelines for avoiding sexist expressions. Now, the university merely refers us to the Chicago Manual for guidance in all matters of style unrelated to its brand. Nowhere could I find the old guidelines (though a few individual departments offer brief tips on nonsexist usage in student papers). It’s all about the brand. None of this has any bearing on the university’s Department of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies, which is outstanding; I’m betting no one consulted them.

At least Keene State College still maintains an excellent guide to nonsexist language.

Exhibit 2: Clarissa’s Blog reports that upper-level administrators at Clarissa’s public university in Illinois are drafting a dress code for its employees. Here’s the proposed language:

32.7 DRESS AND PERSONAL APPEARANCE. All University employees are expected to portray a professional image to students, parents, and the community at large. An employee’s dress and appearance shall be neat and clean. At a minimum, the standard office dress code shall be defined as business casual. Apparel needs to be free of slogans or advertisements. In addition, apparel shall not be of an indecent, suggestive, provocative, obscene, or defamatory nature. If applicable, employees are encouraged to wear their university logo shirts. The University may direct an employee to leave work and/or change clothes if he/she is are found in violation of this provision.

Clarissa dishes out the snark that this proposal so richly deserves:

Will I be required to bring dry-cleaning receipts to prove that I clean my clothes on a regular basis? Do I need witnesses to testify that I do my laundry often enough to satisfy these losers? And who will teach my classes if I’m ordered to leave for “violating the provision”? The administrators? That, surely, be fun to observe. Maybe now, whenever I’m too lazy to prepare a class, I should just show up dressed “obscenely” and be sent home to rest.

Oh, and she says it reminds her of the bad old days back in the USSR.

The very idea of a dress code is to turn professors from idiosyncratic, original – if slightly frumpy – people into corporate drones. Clothes may not make the man (or the woman), but I sure think more clearly in comfortable shoes. It’s an interesting contradiction too, to say “apparel needs to be free of slogans or advertisements” but also “employees are encouraged to wear their university logo shirts.” University branding, anyone? If my uni comes up with a dunderheaded policy like this, I think I’ll need to buy some of those sweatpants with the university’s initials appliqued onto each butt cheek, just to test whether “indecency” or “suggestiveness” trumps the tomcat-like urge to mark everything with the university’s branding.

I have to wonder if the broader intent of such silly proposals is to be a diversionary tactic: Keep the professoriate busy with idiotic dress-code proposals and perhaps they won’t notice that their compensation is being slashed while their workloads balloon. Certainly my institution’s top honchos are very adept at forming unwieldly committees that either 1) lack meaningful faculty representation (if its task is important), or 2) keep scores of instructors tied up in busy work, often for a year or two, only to discard or disregard the committee’s product or recommendations.

These diversionary tactics are one way to suppress dissent against the advancing corporatization of higher ed, in which students are seen as customers and instructors are inconvenient expenses, useful only in generating “weighted student credit hours,” which is a measure of tuition income. It’s also a means of distracting professors from the way in which the casualization of academic labor – its delegation to people like me with no possibility of tenure, significantly lower wages, and a high chance of being unemployed next year – is undermining the ability of the entire professoriate to do its best work. Instructors who are busy fighting silly battles over basic dignity in working conditions have less time to refine their teaching and pursue their research. And those who are squeezed for time are more likely to seek individual, dog-eat-dog solutions to their own precarious situation, rather than investing in solidarity with other instructors and staff.

I’m off to a meeting now, myself, but this one is for union rabble-rousing. Professors do not have collective bargaining at my school. Now that incoming Governor Kasich is threatening to run over us with his “bus,” we’re going to need it.

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