Thursday, September 25, 2008

Not an Economist II

Now we have socialized the losses of a lion's share of predatory lenders. Sarah Palin refused press coverage of her meetings with prominent leaders. John McCain has declined to debate. Karl Rove, Sarah Palin, and her husband (whatever his name is) have all, with apparent immunity, refused subpoenas. And red is the color most associated with the Republican Party.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I'm Not an Economist...

but does one really need to be to understand that the short-term profit associated with unregulated lending practices has been pocketed by the few while the enormous losses have been thoroughly socialized, and we're now just...fucked? If you are an economist, please talk me down. I'd love to be wrong about all the dismal statements I make here.

Anyway, my grandmother got married during the Great Depression. My grandfather could not afford a wedding ring, but as luck would have it, she found a rose gold woman's wedding band on the ground and wore it until she died. Someone else's initials are engraved inside. I have worn it for the past decade as a reminder not only of her but of the story behind the ring.

In the past few days, I've remembered a conversation I had with my uncle over 20 years ago, when I was in my late teens. He was talking about his retirement savings in Merrill Lynch, and I asked what was then perhaps a stupid question: "Is it okay to have all your money in one place like that?" He laughed and said, "If things got that bad, Funk, the value of the dollar would deflate to such a degree that it wouldn't matter anyway." He wasn't an economist, either.

Excuse the diversions. It just seems like a time for walking down memory lane. And I mean way down.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Here's a comment I left at The Field Negro on 9/1 in response to some commenters who felt it necessary to inform each other that New Orleanians should come to terms with the dangers of living below sea level and move somewhere else because we are doomed. I want to make it clear that The Field Negro himself did not share that opinion. His post acknowledged our justifiable outrage, blasted Bush, and sent us heartfelt well wishes. One conservative commenter was so outraged that he kept posting repeatedly about how we should pull ourselves up (and away). He even went after a lady who posts as "Granny Standing for Truth" AFTER she told him that she'd lost someone in Katrina, it was a very upsetting subject for her, and that she was not going "to let [him] go there with [her]." Damn.

It's so sad (for them as well as for us) that so many people do not understand that we don't have only a New Orleanian problem, we have an American problem. ALL of our infrastructure is failing. What should have been a wake up call to everyone in the U.S. served so many as just an excuse to call us idiots (again).

Here's the comment:
Despite the 12 hour-drive to get only 250 miles out of New Orleans, the painful memories associated with the same drive three years ago, and the very real possibility of having no home and no job to return to, I still have a last nerve, which the GOP and mainstream media have managed to get all over. I've watched every Republican from the state governor to the president pat themselves on the back all day simply because the storm did not make landfall at quite a high enough intensity to breach the levees and because they have gotten enough of a clue not to have a party while a state is threatened with catastrophe. Mainstream media has allowed them to get away with that and has perpetuated the notion that "progress" is what saved us. No. The weakening of the storm did.

A barge, moored YESTERDAY near the same industrial canal that was breached by a unmoored barge three years ago, came loose today and happened not to have breached the same flood wall again. Is that really progress?

During Katrina, mainstream media got honest for about a week. During Gustav, they've not been honest at all.

I can move away from New Orleans to avoid hurricanes, but I'll also need to stay away from the entire Gulf Coast as well as much of the East Coast for the same reason. I shouldn't move back to New York because of the relative ease with which the subway system could be attacked. I'd also need to say away from any earthquake prone regions on the West Coast, as well as any of the Heartland, which sees devastating tornadoes [and flooding] regularly these days. I think at this point the best bet is Holland, where they got their floodwalls right the first time.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

To Students In My Online Course

Photo: marlandova

I did not send the following message:

Taking this course, or any course online, unless you are among a quite rare breed of self-motivators, will compromise your educational experience. But because you are enrolled (and I teach) at a third-tier university, hungry for your tuition dollars without especial concern for the quality of your education, we are embarking upon this experience together.

The hours that I have invested in designing this course to meet your online needs have earned me less than minimum wage, so you can surely imagine that I care about instructing you. If I did not, I would either do any number of less demanding jobs for much better pay or provide significantly less instruction in an effort to justify my salary.

You may be taking this course because of a rumor that online courses are easier. They are not. An online course requires that you spend three additional hours per week, hours that you would otherwise be engaged in real-time discussion with your peers and me, reading written instructions and following them. There's no getting around that self-evident reality.

Nevertheless, in the past two weeks, it has become apparent to me that many of you are quite resentful of the course requirement that you read assignments independently and complete them. I am baffled. Half of you, and you know who you are, seem to be mistaking this experience for WalMart shopping -- you feel entitled to a good grade for half the work, or even for no work at all.

I understand that the recent evacuation and the requisite post-traumatic stress are hard on all of us. I also realize that because I am not a familiar person to you but rather an email address and a set of instructions in cyberspace, I am an easy target upon which to vent frustration. Venting unwarranted frustration upon me, however, is extremely unwise since faculty have much more control over your comfort level than you seem to understand. We are not Walmart managers. You cannot demand that we exchange your faulty effort for a decent grade.

Rude emails informing me that assignments were due during evacuation and therefore must be rescheduled are bizarre. Had you taken the opportunity to read the current course announcement, posted since pre-evacuation, you would have noticed the clear message that the assignment schedule would likely fall a week behind and that the current assignment would be due Thursday, September 11. Rude demands that I explain how the schedule will be adjusted in the distant future are also out of line given that the University has not issued a clear statement on when or if the missed week will be made up. As soon as the University does so, I will present you with a thoroughly updated course schedule. This last point would not bother me nearly as much if many of you were not sending such demands in lieu of completing work that was due before evacuation.

Furthermore, only a 9th-grade reading level is necessary to understand the instructions that I have posted for you regarding immediate assignments and due dates. If you are senior in college and cannot understand them, then your prospects in the job market into which you will soon be thrust are quite bleak. I'll still work with you as best I can, but belated claims of confusion will not excuse missing work or lackluster performance.

Those of you who have exercised your critical thinking skill to ascertain that a week-long university closure necessitates a week-long postponement of assignments, and/or have addressed me in a polite tone with your questions and concerns, please excuse this truly unfortunate public down dressing of your peers.

Students attending on-site courses are doing just fine.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Perfect Candidate

Over evacuation, I met the nicest person -- a socially responsible, Obama-supporting Democrat who told me that she had recently done Karl Rove's nails. He owns a beach house in her area and came into the establishment where she works. Because she is not the owner, she did not have the authority to oust him. At first I thought that if I were her, I would have risked my job and put him out anyway, or at least I would have removed at least one of his nails. But this is a man who will have your house burned down for looking at him the wrong way. Would losing one's job (or worse) for refusing Karl Rove a manicure be an act of civil disobedience or just plain recklessness?

Speaking of Karl Rove's grooming, the man has escaped federal prison long enough to play an instrumental role in Election 2008. Unbelievable but true. And Sarah Palin is his perfect candidate. Anyone who wants to preserve the unbridled market forces we have at present needs another cosmetically qualified, marginally intelligent, easily manipulated, shockingly unempathetic, ethically impaired figurehead. McCain may have wed himself to Bush policies and the neo-conservative movement, but he's not to be trusted by the power machine, really. War is his solution to everything, but he is not going to be ordered around once in office. His temper combined with his scary delusions would likely lead him into one or more wars that even Halliburton et al wouldn't advocate, just because some head of state angers him. You know I'm not kidding. Bush was a whole lot easier to manipulate than McCain would be.

But he's a 4-year president, max. This Sarah Palin will be around for awhile. She's good for a few politically illiterate, disenchanted Hillary votes, sure, but that's not all. She's looking a whole lot like Bush to me, and he was the biggest Christmas present the most unsavory of capitalists could have ever hoped for. She's the New Year's champagne.

Her background as a beauty pageant contestant says enough about her character and ego strength (or lack thereof), but as an educator, I have to add that attendance at five colleges in six years rarely says much good about a student, except under dire circumstances, which she was not under. Her eagerness to please The Man coupled with that spotty education may contribute to her wilingness to spin propoganda more shamelessly than most by, for instance, claiming to have "taken on Big Oil" in Alaska while her inauguration speech was sponsered by BP. Or by rallying around abstinence(a.k.a "anything goes") education while her 17-year-old unmarried daughter is five months pregnant, a fact that is fair game since she's built a career on trying to legislate other people's children's sex lives, access to information about birth control, etc.

There's also the vindictive streak: She tried to ban books from the public library when she became mayor and then tried to have the librarian fired for being contrary. Apparently, she also used her influence as governor to have her brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired during his divorce from her sister, and then attempted to fire his supervisor for refusing to fire him.

There's also the all too familiar narrowness of experience, quite in the Bush tradition: Her first passport was issued 20 months ago because a requirement of governorship. Lots of brilliant and wonderful people have never left the country by age 42, and that's fine, but they're not running for president.

Finally, of course, Karl Rove wrote her substanceless yet strangely effective acceptance speech, as well as, most likely, most of what she has said since the surpise v.p. pick. What's worse, many seem to be buying into Rove's strategy...again.

What will it take to get this man out of our political process?