Monthly Archives: September 2006

Duct Tape

To document this, Kathleen says:

I want to say that deleting comments from “those with no life” is quite cathartic. When I click on comments it just shows the first few words, so I just click delete. It’s like a loud obnoxious person coming into a room and just as they get the first two words out you slap duct tape on their mouth and they disappear. It’s quite fun actually.

The torture class is born.


The Lengths Some Will Go

One of my colleagues is gay.  We often talk politics, more so in the last few years, since 9/11 greatly affected our work.  Yesterday afternoon, I wento to the copy room and while running my copies, brought up the case of Representative Foley.  He had read about it, just as I had, and in the course of our conversation, I told him of my fear: that once again homosexuality and pedephilia would get conflated. 

I was completely wrong.  What has happened is the questioning of how old one has to be to consent.  Yep.  I missed the mark on this one.  Listening to Micheal Savage on the way home (Friday), he didn’t want to judge Foley prematurely.  However, Savage managed to say that Ruth Bader Ginsburg supported changing the age of consent to 12.  I haven’t fact-checked that yet, but given the source, well, I can take my time.

Then my pet wingnut, Sparkle, had this to say

Not to defend this scumbag at all, but I am reading that the age of consent is 16 in Washington, so that would make what he did not a crime . . .

Disclaimer not withstanding, she is arguing that the 16 year old knew what he was doing.  Later in the same thread, she says:

I want to make this observation though. And I want to make it clear that I am in no way defending Foley, but I have made the point here before that teenagers today are exposed to WAY too much sexuality too early. I mean look at the way the teen responded. When I was that age if someone who was 50 had said to me “I’d love to slip those shorts off you” or ” do I make you horney?” I would have gone screaming into the street. This kid acted like it was just another interesting IM. and he is not alone. Kids today are too sexualized and that is just the damn truth. This was no innocent child here. Not to blame him. I blame society. But it isn’t quite the same as talking that way to an 8 yr old (sadly enough)


Rasmussen has finally gotten to the point that he couldn’t manipulate the responses anymore.  Or he has finally called the right people.  I have been watching this for quite a while now, and today is the first day his poll has gone below 40%.

Here’s the breakdown.  What is interesting is that more strongly disapprove (42%) than the strongly/somewhat approve combined.

Update:  It’s off the page now, averaged into the totals for September.  Paying members can see it, but for today, the number is back to 40%. 

Unfocused, as promised

I spoke with Robert today and per usual, he brought some clarity  (and some books, too — I’ve looked through a couple, but haven’t focused on reading any as of this moment.)

One thing he said gave me pause (!) (that’s a little joke — perhaps I will explain later) .  He said I was like the rabbit in a story I always tell my students when I teach narrative paragraphs.  The assignment is to chose an event in your life that teaches you a lesson.  To illustrate the idea of a “moral to the story,” I use children’s stories.  Their first assignment is to think of a story they heard as a child and to explain the moral of that story.  I talk about Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Bears.  Many years ago, a student from Korea responded to the initial assignment with the following story.  I have added it to the other two.

A rabbit goes into a pharmacy and asks the pharmacist:  Do you have any carrots?  The pharmacist replies:  Silly rabbit, this is a pharmacy.  Of course we don’t have any carrots.  The next day, the rabbit returns to the pharmacy and asks the pharmacist:  Do you have any carrots?  The pharmacist replies:  No.  I told you yesterday that we have no carrots.  This is a PHARMACY.  If you come in here ONE MORE TIME and ask about carrots, I will take some scissors and cut your ears off.  The next day, the rabbit returnes to the same pharmacy and asks a question.  What is the question? 

Continue reading

Torture and the Torturer

Roberto, this is a post you will have to help me with.

I’ll start with what I have always thought about capital punishment.  I’ll have to go back on the tape of the News Hour to find the Congress person’s name, but she seems to be one of the “I would never be a terrorist or be accused of killin’ anyone” types, but she is what I am fighting against.

With regard to capital punishment, I have always thought that it was not right to ask a human to kill another human for money/salary.  Better ways to identify suspects has made this a more pressing question.  Notwithstanding sloppy lab work, people who were convicted and sentenced to death in our system of justice have been found not guilty.

My point is:  what about those executioners — today read CIA professional interrogators — that find out later that they executed/interrogated an innocent person.   What about them?  How would you feel if you had killed someone and taken them from their family wrongly?  Could you live with it, rationalize it or impose it on another to do?  Yes, that’s it.  Let the pros take care of it.  What about the “pro’s” wife or husband?  How would you feel knowing that your spouse, brother, sister, mom, dad, had killed someone, without even giving that person the opportunity to fight it?  Proud?  Honored?

I have always fought my own fights.  I have defended myself and my friends.  I have never started a physical fight.  I have always finished them. (Robert and Maija can attest to this.)

Those who torture incapacitated people are not heros.  Those who sit in their living rooms and advocate torture are cowards.  

I’ll add to this later — Robert has promised to bring home a couple of books about the effects of torture on the torturers.  I think it is mostly regarding Argentina and South Africa. 

Lastly, if my senators vote for the bill before the Senate, then I will feel the greatest shame in my life.  If some senators manage to stop the insanity, I will be relieved.

Just in case someone other than Robert and my friends are reading this:  call your senator.  Ask, plead, beg for our country.  While your words may fall on deaf ears, our country is worth fighting for.



Gas Prices

It hasn’t been quite long enough for me to forget the rationals given for the high price of gasoline last summer, much less in the immediate aftermath of Katrina, nor the run-up to Rita.  I remember before Katrina.  Gas prices had gone up.  We were told that it was due to the “summer driving season.”  Also, there are different blends of gas — leaving us to deduce that summer blends are more expensive than winter blends.  Then I remember being told that gas prices in part rely upon the futures market.  (Ninnies I will address later.)  The oil that the gas we used last summer had been bought earlier at a higher price.

I also remember that during Katrina, places like Atlanta had gas prices in the $4 to $5 dollar range.  We were told that it was because the Gulf oil rigs were being threatened or damaged.  But wait — the oil that the gas at the pump had come from had been bought before Katrina was in the Gulf, before any rig had been threatened.  And at least outside of the Gulf Coast (see Atlanta), no interior cities were in danger of not being able to get delivery to their service stations.

Oh yes, there were other factors.  Iraq was one (remember, last summer Iran wasn’t into nukes, but North Korea had been for a while, but NK doesn’t have oil.)

Before Rita hit, gas stations closed.  Put plastic bags on the pump handles.  It was the Thursday before the mass exodus.  It was before the city of Houston became a virtual ghost town.    People were willing to pay anything to get gas.

I’ve got to go check on some other things, but I promise to pull all of these threads together.


Robert and I were talking today and something he said reminded me of a book I read almost 20 years ago about Chile.  It is Chile Death in the South by Jacobo Timerman.  From the jacket:  Timerman was born in the Ukraine and moved to Argentina in 1928.  He was arrested in 1977 by military authorities.  He was released in 1979.  He died in 1999.

I found the book without much trouble and started to look for the passage Robert had reminded me about.  It was an anecdote of Timerman’s conversation with a taxi driver in Santiago, I believe.  It was something about how what happened after the overthrow of Allende wasn’t supposed to happen in a modern country like Chile.  While I was looking for the passage, I (re)read this (p.17):

The whole time, approximately 16 days, they had me blindfolded . . . . Later they put electrodes on my toes, knees, the tip of my penis and on my testicles . . . . Every night, except for the last two, they made me sleep standing up.  Every other day they would hang me and beat me.  They had a barometer: it was that blood would burst from my nose and ears.  I saw that when I felt something hot drip from my nose and ears, they would calm down and lower me.

(Testimony of the actor Sergio Buschmann, presented by Americas Watch Committee, New York)

I should be able to find the passage I remembered — the book is only 120-something pages long — but the little I have skimmed so far, leads me to think it will not be an easy search.  From pages 25 to 26:

I am 18 years old.  I was arrested on September 4 (this was before the coup, which occurred on September 11) at about midday.  At the time I was traveling in a taxi with my boyfriend to a friend’s house.  Suddenly we were intercepted by a truck full of soldiers who surrounded us, violently pulled us out of the taxi and made us stand against a wall.  There they fondled me in an obscene manner while the officer in charge shouted insults at me.  A large group of civilians arrived and started beating me.

(Testimony of student Patricia Pena Diaz, presented by Amnesty International, London)

I’ve thought about a few other books I read so many years ago about Vietman, South Africa and Argentina.  The fact that these countries, as well as Chile, have recovered from their national insanity gives me a tiny bit of hope for my own country.  What grieves me is that my own country has clearly not learned from the experience of other states.   

Blake’s Comfort

The hunger for a purity of purpose,
if not the harder purity of heart,
the fanatic stroll along the fringe with a clean
conscience, righteous anger ever at a surplus.
Such a small thing, to slaughter those between
ourselves and our enemies, who stroll their own part
of the playground ; our opposites, our twins.
All are made debtors to the sins
we blind men choose, in choosing death.
Laughing voices whisper from the Land of Nod
what we howl back in rude translation.
The cruel lamb tastes the dying falcon’s breath,
restraint is shown through silence and starvation
and a fool ascribes his coronation not to men but God.



I watched the Nightly Business Report tonight (nerdly, I know) and at the end, a study done by Rutgers was mentioned.  The study, reported on here, found that business school — MBA — students cheated more than any other group.

The last two paragraphs are what NBR focused on:

Donald McCabe, a management professor at Rutgers who led the study, said one reason business students might cheat more is that they were more likely to encounter questions they could answer with one word or number, not an essay. “Compared to many of the other disciplines, if you can glance over and see somebody else’s test or exam, there’s a high premium for that,” he said.

The “more important and more discouraging” explanation he hears from students is that “they’re just emulating the behavior they see out in the business world.” There, they say, “it doesn’t matter how you get it done. The key thing is to get it done.”

As an educator, I deal with the posibility of cheating almost every day.  I find it troubling that something so fundemental as having more than one version of a test or using subjective type tests rather than objective is not a common practice in MBA programs.  They are graduate students.  I would think they would almost exclusively encounter productive measures of their progress.  Of course, I realize that essays take more time to score and multiple choice can just be run through a scantron. 

I’m trying to find the actual survey, but I haven’t had much luck.  I’d like to see the breakdown in disciplines for cheating.  I think education majors would be least likely to cheat, based on my personal experience.  I’d like to see if I am correct.  I know that I would much rather have a class that didn’t cheat than one that did.  I have two groups this session that illustrate both cases.  I don’t have to give my “if you cheat I will kick you out” speech to one group, but I do to another group — before every test.  The last time I gave the latter group a test, I tried to make the speech funny by giving examples of how I have seen students cheat.  It worked for all but two.  Those two, immediately upon getting the test, tried to cheat.  That group will have a test again this coming week.  We’ll see if those two learned anything.

Hurricane Rita

It was one year ago today, September 21, 2005, that something unheard of in my long-ish life as a resident of the Gulf Coast occurred.   The entire area began to shut down.  The university where I work closed.  People got out on the road going north.  The gas stations around my neighborhood closed.  The day before, I had gone to the grocery store.  The shelves were empty of every type of supply that we here on the Gulf Coast have always known were things we needed to have in case of a hurricane.

At school, we tried to find safe places for all of our students.  Since they were internationals and not familiar with the threat, we felt obligated to get them situated before we even thought about ourselves.  Once I got home, I turned on the news, radio and tv, and searched the internets.  We had two days to get ready.