Checkout Woes

I always get detained forever at the grocery checkout because the cashiers can’t identify the fruit and vegetables I buy.

Last time it was the sharon fruit. Before that, parsnips. Black potatoes and donut peaches have also made cashiers giggle. This time, however, the cashier was befuddled by rutabaga, of all things. Isn’t rutabaga very common in the US?

Can You Sexually Harass With a Public Lecture?

If you haven’t been following Professor Gilbert’s story, here is a recap. This tenured professor at the University of Denver was banned from campus after two graduate students in his course “Domestic Consequences of the Drug War” complained that the professor sexually harassed them by the content of their lectures. Yes, I know that this sounds wackadoo, but it’s Denver, what do you expect?

The professor made these anonymous complainants feel harassed by – get this – bringing an art deco vibrator into the classroom during a discussion of how sexuality was theorized historically and by discussing studies linking masturbation to prostate health. Of course, the course unit where these egregious offences happened was titled “Drugs and Sin in American Life: from masturbation and prostitution to alcohol and drugs.” The prissy fools who find a scholarly discussion of masturbation to be intolerable could have chosen to skip the class. What fun would that have been, though? They chose to attend and feel harassed by the discussion.

This is a 75-year-old prof with an unblemished record who is being banned from campus and enjoined from having any contact with students because he talked about masturbation and showed an antique vibrator to graduate students. There was no formal investigation, the numerous pleas on behalf of this distinguished scholar by his peers at different institutions have been disregarded, the attempts by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to start a discussion with the university about this issue have been ignored:

In letter correspondences to DU, the AAUP and FIRE have not only urged the university to revisit its decision upholding the sexual harassment charges against Gilbert, but also the university’s policies for sexual harassment cases and the university’s case review process.

“The University of Denver is treating its adult students like children who are too fragile to hear academic talk about sex and drugs,” said Adam Kissel, the vice president of programs at FIRE, in an article published on the FIRE website on Dec. 12, 2011.

The situation is wrong on so many levels that I don’t know where to begin. The very real issue of sexual harassment on campus is completely trivialized by a pair of officious idiots who don’t see the difference between a prof stopping them in the hallway to whisper “So how often do you masturbate?” and a prof discussing the societal perception of masturbation in the classroom. Vindictive students who dislike a prof for being a tough grader or committing the unpardonable sin of trying to make them think discover a perfect way to punish that pesky scholar. Profs are forced to start self-censoring for fear that, say, showing Goya’s famous painting “The Naked Maja” will be interpreted as distribution of pornography. I have a lot to say about this painting but I have excluded it from my lecture on Goya because  I’m afraid of idiots.

The good news is that Professor Gilbert will now resume teaching his “Domestic Consequences of the Drug War” course. He will require that all students sign a statement saying that they understand what the course will be about and what topic will be discussed. Of course,we all know that if some idiot wants to feel harassed by an intellectual discussion, they will do so in spite of signing any statement.

Margaret Thatcher: A Semi-Open Thread

I have no opinion on Margaret Thatcher, folks. Isn’t that refreshing? For once, I have no opinion. Which is why I will now ask you, my readers, to help me form one.

When Thatcher was in power, I lived in the Soviet Union. We all worshiped Thatcher. At least, everybody I knew (including my parents and their friends) did. She was a powerful woman, beautiful, poised, and also extremely strong. Culturally, we respond very well to that. We knew that she was pro-free markets and pro-capitalism. In the Soviet Union, we didn’t know what capitalism really was. We just knew that being in favor of it made you a really good person, and being against it made you one of those bastards who kept us in perennial poverty in our own country.

I was visiting the UK at the moment when Thatcher had just been replaced by John Major. To my intense surprise, I discovered that the people who I was staying with in Birmingham and then in Kent were not as into Thatcher (I’m putting this very mildly) as I had imagined every British person to be.  In this sense, Thatcher seemed to have a lot in common with Mikhail Gorbachev. He was also adored abroad and disliked at home.

The nice Brits who opened their homes to me and who railed against Thatcher destroying the economy and plunging the country into dire poverty were a doctor and a nurse on the one hand and a CEO for Range Rover on the other. To a Soviet teenager like myself, their lifestyle seemed princely (and it still does, to be honest), so I found it hard to process the idea that British economy was in dire straits. (I was 14, OK? How smart were you at that age, eh?). As a result, I became very confused on the subject of Thatcher and I still am.

So what say you, people? Are we in favor or against Margaret Thatcher and why?

P.S. See how I can write a post on the subject where I don’t even have an opinion? This is the secret of my blogging success.

Citizenship Termination Bill

Northern Gaijin has uncovered the following disturbing information:

Just to make your day, a new bill was introduced on January 12, 2012 which allows the US government to terminate the citizenship of any American who “supports hostilities” against the US government. Of course, “supports” and “hostilities” are not defined nor is any mention of conviction so this is an extrajudicial elimination of citizenship for any American which the government decides is a threat. No lawyer. No trail. No constitutional rights. Someone makes an accusation and you’re history. And to what other country can you go? It’s called the Enemy Expatriation Act (HR 3166/S1698) and on first reading is very cryptic but if you follow the links and analyse the logic then it becomes clear why Obama said that he wouldn’t use the previous bill (HR 1867) which he signed on New Year’s Eve on US citizens. He can nail anyone with this! There is a mention of hostilities being subject to the rule of law but the decision can’t be rebutted within the context of the situation. Here’s the official video:

And here’s the text.

Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer!

This is worse than the Patriot Act, folks. This is worse than Guantanamo. Now we have to agree that Obama is purposefully trying to lose the elections.

I don’t even know what to say about this. It’s just too bizarre. Is this really happening?