Presidential Debate #1, Live Blogging

I’m writing these notes as I watch. This is the only bipartisan account you will ever see! Oh, whom am I kidding? Of course, I root for the cute guy to win.

Obama wastes time on marriage anniversary greetings and so does Romney. Welcome to Hollywood! Who cares about the country’s politics when there are people who have private occasions to celebrate.

Romney threatens to mess with Latin America and kind of suggests that small business owners are starting their businesses not here but overseas. Romney tries to humanize his image by smiling in a weird way.

Obama steals the “close loopholes” line from Romney. People tend to become emotionally attached to this meaningless “close the loopholes” shtick, so good move for him.

Romney says that when your income goes down due to poor economy, that is a tax, too. Jeez, we are only 5 minutes in and I have to hear stupid things right there. How am I expected to go into a classroom and explain what a tax actually is after this?

Obama is using strings of boring enumerations which makes an impression that he doesn’t have much to say.

Romney continues to smile goofily.

Obama keeps saying the word “loopholes.” Probably the goal is to make people so sick and tired of it that they will run away from anybody who mentions it. I have to say, the strategy is working on me.

Obama makes fun of Donald Trump who “doesn’t like to think of himself as small anything.” I have no idea how it is justified to waste time on taking pot shots at Trump at this point. Just for comedic effect?

Romney makes it clear that the tax code is so messed up that even the two presidential candidates really know what it’s all about and how it works.

Obama mentions Romney’s desire to give the military a huge sum of money that it isn’t even asking for. Burn! Mentions Bush’s failed policies but doesn’t mention Bush. A big mistake.

Romney engages in “no, it’s my turn, no it’s my turn” round of whining which makes him look weak. “People are suffffering,” he says, trying to look compassionate.

Romney says that not balancing the budget is immoral. I hate hearing religious terminology in political debates. What next? “Jesus wouldn’t like it”?

To save the budget, Romney proposes to stop funding the PBS. No, Jesus would definitely not approve. I cannot believe how shallow this economic discourse is. Fucking PBS is what is keeping the country in debt. Romney keeps trying to scare people by repeating the word “China.”

Obama also disappoints. He says he will be asking “those of us who have done well to contribute a little bit more.” Thank you for being so damn specific, Mr. President. We have no interest in knowing who you consider to have done well and how little this little more actually is, so keep being vague.

Romney can bat his eye-lashes better than I can. I’m not sexist, so I think it’s perfectly fine. Romney proceeds to bash Spain. OK, now he has made me very angry. Such an egregious and insulting simplification of a very complex issue in a country that has done him personally no ill is unforgivable.

Both candidates keep repeating “this is not what works, this is not how America is.”

Romney is upset that green energy gets more tax cuts than oil companies. He actually said this. How does he get anybody to vote for him at all if he makes this kind of statements? Have you ever heard anything less intelligent?

Continue reading “Presidential Debate #1, Live Blogging”

My Revised Position on Todd Akin

I have revised my position on Todd Akin. The guy is not a jerk or a vile freakazoid. He is simply in the grip of a severe mental illness:

Who wants to be at the very bottom of the food chain of the medical profession? And what sort of places do these bottom-of-the-food-chain doctors work in? Places that are really a pit. You find that along with the culture of death go all kinds of other law-breaking: not following good sanitary procedure, giving abortions to women who are not actually pregnant, cheating on taxes, all these kinds of things, misuse of anesthetics so that people die or almost die.

This is obviously delusional and my heart goes out to a guy whose relatives are friends are too cheap or indifferent to offer him much needed professional help. I’m not being sarcastic here. A very sick person is not getting help he needs, and that is tragic.

I, however, do not revise my position as to the arrant idiocy of stupid losers in Missouri who think this unhealthy man is qualified to run for office. If you identify with insanity to the point of wanting to place a deranged individual in a political office, then you deserve whatever is coming to you. This sucks because I’ve been considering relocating across the river to Missouri.

The Stunning News of the Day

In today’s most fascinating news story, I have entered my classroom twice, taught my classes, spoke in a quiet, polite manner to the students, and managed to keep my clothes on and my breasts firmly in place and away from the students’ eyes. Since all we hear nowadays are stories about naked, swearing, breast-waving professors, I think that this occasion where a teacher manages to get through the day’s work without any scandalous incident should be noted and celebrated.

Class Differences

My students are watching Fernando Leon de Aranoa’s beautiful film Mondays in the Sun in my class. In one scene in the movie, Santa, played by Javier Bardem when he was still a great actor and not a Hollywood lap dog, reads to a little boy the story of the ant and the grasshopper.

The story goes as follows. The ant was hard-working and toiled all day long. The grasshopper didn’t like to work and only sang and danced. When winter came, the ant had a lot of food and could live in comfort. The grasshopper, however, was starving. The grasshopper knocked on the ant’s door and begged for help.

“You chose to dance and play all summer while I worked,” the ant replied. “So now it will serve you well to die of hunger.”*

Santa, who is unemployed, who lost his job because of his activities as a union organizer and who saw his colleagues’ jobs outsourced, is incensed with the fable.

“No, this is simply not how things work,” he tells the little boy. “In order to live well, you have to be born an ant. If you have the bad luck to be born a grasshopper, no matter how much you work, you are screwed.”

When I showed this scene to my students at Yale and Cornell, there was no reaction. The students watched with blank faces and looked bored. When I showed it to my current students at a state school in an economically blighted area, the reaction was intense. The scene spoke to them in a singular way. There was not one indifferent face in the classroom of 30 students. I had to stop the video to let them discuss what they were seeing.

The moral of the story: remember that people always bring their personal experiences to an encounter with any work of art.

I’m sorry, dear voxcorvegis, for stealing the idea of the moral lesson from you. I resisted as long as I could but my passionately didactic nature won over.

*I’m retelling the fable as it appears in the movie, not the original Aesop version.

Am I Being Unreasonable?

I just made a student very upset and I hate making students unhappy. So now I’m wondering if I’m being unreasonable in what I ask of them.

Here is what is going on. I supervise 10 independent researchers who are doing their Senior Assignment with me. Our Senior Assignment program is consistently rated as being among the best in the country, on the par with universities like Brown. We are very proud of this program and are committed to maintaining high standards of scholarship within it.

The student X wants to use Master’s theses as the majority of his critical sources for this research project. The work of literature he is analyzing is extremely famous and there is a humongous body of research on it yet he persists in using this collection of MA dissertations. My own doctoral dissertation analyzed this writer, and I know for a fact that the bibliography of critical sources on it in respectable peer-reviewed journals is very extensive. Also, the MA theses the student wants to use mostly come from very humdrum universities, which, to me, means that we cannot rely on their rigour.

Finally, after protracted and emotionally charged negotiations, I allowed the student to use the maximum of 2 MA theses for the project. He was still very unhappy and disappointed.

Do you allow students to use MA theses in their research? Am I being unreasonable?

P.S. My in-built spell-checker tries to change “dissertation” into “detestation.” Well, at least it isn’t “defenestration.”

Enrichment of a Language

The Russian-speaking people have borrowed the English word “friend” to refer to a person who reads and comments on your blog and whose blog your follow. They transliterate the word friend and add the feminine suffix -ess if the blog follower is female. As a result, there are 2 sets of words denoting friendship. One is the Russian drug / podruga which means actual RL friends. And the other one is friend / friendess to refer to virtual friends.

I think it is absolutely brilliant. It is also curious to observe that the global linguistic hegemony English enjoys nowadays robs it of a possibility to make active use of this form of linguistic appropriation.

On Libertarians

I just found this interesting observation about Libertarians:

Libertarians are distinctive, in part, because they and they alone seem to have difficulty perceiving the enormous moral difference between a marginally higher tax rate and forced marriage or doctorhood.

This is very true. Every argument I have ever had with a self-confessed Libertarian always runs against of wall of extremely weird analogies. You talk to them about rape and they say, “Imagine somebody stealing your wallet. . .” Food stamps for the poor magically transform into a mysterious gun the scary government holds to their collective temples. Social services that protect abused children are compared to the Holocaust.

It seems like Libertarianism is the kind of worldview that makes it impossible for people to stay on point and not get distracted by attempts to create a grand narrative where everything is exactly comparable to everything else. I understand the temptation to reduce the world’s rich complexity to a simple formula that will explain the universe but it is ultimately an intellectual dead-end.