Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Archive for the day “May 21, 2011”

True Christian Parenthood

I recently blogged about Damon Fowler, a high school senior (well, now he is a graduate) of a Louisiana school who protested his school’s plans to violate the Constitution of the United States by offering a prayer during the graduation ceremony. As a result, Damon has been harassed and has received death threats. His own parents reacted in a truly Christian spirit and kicked the kid out:

From the Support Damon facebook group (which Damon’s brother is updating):

“This may sound like a petty update but Damon’s parent’s (my parents as well, obviously) threw his possessions outside on their front porch and they have left town on “vacation.” They won’t answer our calls. Currently the only thing missing is his Playstation 3 (that he bought with his own money). I hope that it will turn up. We’re still trying to contact the parents about it.”

Christianity would be an extremely attractive religion were it not for the actual Christians.
In the meanwhile, atheists and agnostics have raised over $9,000 for Damon’s college fund.
For a video of Damon’s prayerful graduation filled with very angry Christians, go here.

Academics Against Israel

Nothing angers me more than yet another chain email from a well-meaning arm-chair academic who believes he can solve all the problems of our planet from his Ivy tower office. I have this former colleague who believes it is his sacred duty to militate for the liberation of the Palestinian people. I have a strong suspicion that this otherwise intelligent person has never even seen any Palestinians, yet he considers necessary to fill his colleagues’ in-boxes with endless petitions exhorting the Israeli government to “negotiate for peace.”  It is, of course, extremely easy to put a signature on a petition and congratulate yourself for being such a huge benefactor to humanity. It is also very comforting to be able to reduce the extremely complex issue of Israeli-Palestinian relations to a bunch of one-liner slogans of the “Free Palestine!” variety.

What this kind academic forgets to take into account is that there might be certain very powerful organizations in Palestine that do not share his vision of a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict where Israel goes back to its 1967 borders, everybody kisses, dons flower garlands, and happily sings kumbayas in the streets of Jerusalem:

Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Zahar on Wednesday told the Maan news agency Hamas would never recognize Israel. Saying Hamas would accept a PA state based on the “1967 borders,” Zahar made it clear a peace accord would only serve as a prelude to Israel’s destruction. Zahar, who has served as Hamas’ foreign minister in Gaza since 2006, said Hamas would not recognize Israel because doing so would “cancel the right of the next generation to liberate the land.” “If the Palestinian state does not encompass all of Israel the next generation will liberate the land,” Zahar said.

I would respect such pro-Palestine academics more if they stopped lying to themselves and just started their petitions as follows: “Want to see Israel destroyed? Sign our petition!” I would still not sign, of course, but I would at least retain a modicum of respect for people who have the courage of admitting where their inane attempts at pseudo-activism actually lead.

P.S. In case you are wondering whether I badmouth people behind their back, a link to this post will be sent to the colleague in question as soon as I publish it.

I Just Discovered That I’m Not Human

You know how most blogs require you to prove that you are not a spambot by entering a string of letters or numbers into a box before you can comment? Well, this blog: me from the human race by asking for the following:

Prove you are human. Enter the value of e to the i pi if you are.

I have made inquiries and it turns out that the correct answer is -1. It’s good to know that there is at least one actual human being living in my house.

I wonder how many of my readers are human according to this test.

Why Books on How to Publish Your Doctoral Dissertation Are Useless

When I first decided to turn my doctoral dissertation into a book, I purchased all the available “How To” literature on the subject. As a result of reading these manuals, I gleaned no useful insights and felt very discouraged from even embarking on the project. For one, each of the books I read on the subject started off with a lengthy chapter trying to get the readers to reconsider their idea of transforming their dissertation into a book. Thirty+ pages of stories about how editors are sick and tired of getting submissions of books based on dissertations and how nobody wants even to read such proposals are usually followed by exhortations to the readers to consider whether the entire project might be a huge waste of time. These are usually followed by stories about people who decided to forget about their dissertations and move on to something completely different and how they benefited from that wise decision. Even the most determined amongst us might get discouraged as a result of reading something like this.

The only practical suggestions that I ever encountered in such books are the following:

a) Expand your topic, and

b) Remove all signs that this used to be a dissertation. For example, substitute the word “dissertation” in the text with the word “book.” Remember that this is aimed at the people who already have a PhD and have probably arrived at this profound insight on their own. (I never used the word “dissertation” in my text to begin with, precisely because I wrote the entire dissertation knowing that I will want to publish it later on).

As for expanding the subject, this advice is based on the assumption that all doctoral dissertations are extremely limited in scope. One of the books I read offered a lengthy list of suggestions on how to improve a dissertation dedicated to studying one novel by one author. I’m not even sure that anybody writes such doctoral dissertations any more, so it’s difficult for me to imagine a person who will benefit from such advice.

Another staple of manuals on how to publish your doctoral dissertation is an inevitable protracted explanation of the differences between trade books, popular appeal books, and academic books followed by a treatise on how a university press differs from Random House. Once again, one has to doubt the value of a doctoral degree whose recipient hasn’t been able to figure this out on their own during the course of their graduate studies.

The main problem of such manuals is, in my opinion, that their authors condescend to the readers to a degree that I find annoying. If I made a decision to transform my dissertation into a book, I have probably thought long and hard about it and considered all of my options. When I buy a “How To” manual, I’m looking for practical advice on “how to” do what I have decided to do and not for suggestions that “maybe you shouldn’t do it at all.”

Dominican Painting

This is a beautiful painting I brought from the Dominican Republic.

Just wanted to share.

All Humans Have Testicles

There are rare gems in Terry Eagleton’s Why Marx Was Right that almost make the book worth reading. Wel, not really but, still, there are parts that remind you of how well he used to write. Take the following story, for example:

At a conference in Britain in the early 1970s, a discussion took place over whether there were certain universal features of human beings. One man stood up and announced “Well, we’ve all got testicles.” A woman in the audience shouted out “No, we haven’t!” Feminism in Britain was still in its early days, and the remark was greeted by a good many men in the room as merely eccentric. Even some of the women looked embarrassed. Only a few years later, if a man had made such a fatuous statement in public, he might rapidly have become the only exception to his claim.

It is really good to see how fast ideology can change.

Who’ll Have the Last Laugh?

Everybody is poking fun at the religious folks who yet again have bungled things on trying to predict the rapture. We need to remember, though, that these people never forget to vote. They have already saddled us with a Congress that is obsessed with abortion to the exclusion of any other topic. Next year, they will try to place a religious fanatic in the Oval Office. They succeeded twice before, so why not again?

There is nothing more terrifying in this country than fundamentalists. Let’s not let them have the last laugh by not taking them seriously.

Bringing Sweatshops Back to the US

If you still think that the sweatshops of the world are located in Asia, think again. Who needs to move production all the way to China when you can organize sweatshops in the US South?

U.S. and a few Canadian manufacturers have long been relocating in the low-wage U.S. South. They’ve now been joined by European multinationals, most of which also operate in Canada. The Euros leave behind the social-justice practices of their homelands, as keen to squeeze blood from a stone as the most avaricious business operator. A stunning Human Rights Watch report from last September describes systematic exploitation of U.S. workers by such familiar European names as Ikea, Sodexo, BMW, Siemens, Daimler and Volkswagen. . .  China is no longer the “off-shoring” jurisdiction of choice. With annual wage gains now averaging 15 per cent to 20 per cent, combined with stagnant wages in North America, China will lose its labour-cost advantage over North America in just four years time, according to a report this month by the Boston Consulting Group. The Euro-exploiters are especially drawn to the U.S. South, which for three decades have lured employers with so-called “right to work” laws. That’s an Orwellian term for government-sanctioned hostility to workers’ rights, including the right to organize. In small-town Virginia, Ikea gets away with paying workers to make the components of its trademark bookcases just $8 an hour, and granting only 12 paid vacation days.

It’s sad news for all of us that nowadays, whenever a company needs to find a place where workers can be exploited and have their rights stripped away completely, US is the country that immediately springs to mind. We already have the poorest record on employee’s rights of any civilized country. Is the day coming when we will hold the last place in the world in terms of workers’ rights?

Code That Redirects Visitors From Blogger to WordPress

OK, everybody, I think I have finally found a code that sends traffic from your Blogger blog to your new blog on WordPress. You just have to add a gadget with this code on the Home Page of the blog and – and this is why it’s so beautiful – it redirects specific posts to the same posts on WordPress after you have imported them from Blogger. Say, you have a post titled ‘Gratification Disorder’ that you migrated from Blogger to WordPress. If a reader alights on this post through a Google search or whatever, that reader will be automatically transferred to your post on WordPress with the same title.

I just tried it and it works. This magical code can be found here.

It’s great that there are such talented programmers out there helping people navigate the complexities of the Internet.


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