Friday, December 23, 2005


This is just fucking weird.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Why my final grades are going to be late (Excuse #42)

Ricky Gervais has a weekly podcast. You can find it here. If you don't know who Ricky Gervais is -- well, there's just nothing I can do for you.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Tainted Love

"[W]e're still as close as we've ever been. We've been through a lot. When I look back at the presidency and my time in politics, uh, no question Karl had a lot to do with me getting here. And I value his friendship. We're very close."
-- George W. Bush, speaking with Brit Hume (14 December 2005)

Joe Conason, writing in today's Salon:
Following the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Rove's public relations apparatus accelerated the spinning of the national press corps with claims of innocence -- or if not innocence, then at least immunity from successful prosecution.

He hadn't lied. He had just forgotten. Who can remember every little phone conversation six months later?

As Conason rightly suspects, Rove and his handlers are running around with their hair on fire, hoping to forestall armageddon just a few days longer. Thank goodness, however, that we have a government vigorously committed to the investigation and exposure of presidential falsehoods, secret relationships, and clandestine meetings that compromise the nation's security, distract elected officials from fulfilling their public duties, and bring dishonor to the Oval Office. And thank goodness I have maintained healthy relationships with people in a position to know what's going on. Through sources known only to myself and my raft of lawyers, I have obtained top secret internal documents related to the Fitzgerald investigation, and I have decided -- after long, sleepless nights of meditation and anguished soul-searching -- to share my information with you. The unreleased report begins with an account of the President's relationship with Rove as it developed in early June 2003:

On that day, according to Mr. Rove, he saw the President in a hallway by an elevator, and he invited him to the Oval Office. According to Mr. Rove:

We had . . . had phone sex for the first time the week prior, and I was feeling a little bit insecure about whether he had liked it or didn't like it . . . . I didn't know if this was sort of developing into some kind of a longer-term relationship than what I thought it initially might have been, that maybe he had some regular girlfriend who was furloughed . . . .

According to Mr. Rove, he questioned the President about his interest in him. "I asked him why he doesn't ask me any questions about myself, and . . . is this just about sex . . . or do you have some interest in trying to get to know me as a person?" The President laughed and said, according to Mr. Rove, that "he cherishes the time that he had with me." He considered it "a little bit odd" for him to speak of cherishing their time together "when I felt like he didn't really even know me yet."

They continued talking as they went to the hallway by the study. Then, with Mr. Rove in mid-sentence, "he just started kissing me." He lifted his top and touched his chest with his hands and mouth. According to Mr. Rove, the President "unzipped his pants and sort of exposed himself," and he performed oral sex.

At one point during the encounter, someone entered the Oval Office. In Mr. Rove's recollection, "[The President] zipped up real quickly and went out and came back in . . . . I just remember laughing because he had walked out there and he was visibly aroused, and I just thought it was funny."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

So much for that plan


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Operation Enduring Hobo

. . . the man had the look of an astronaut who'd been in orbit, alone, far too long. He shaved only when his beard began to itch, showered only when he started to offend himself.
-- Adam Mansbach, Angry Black White Boy (2005)

Exam week is a difficult time for everyone. Though I constantly urge my students to view history in complex ways -- asking them, for instance, to consider the relationship between past and present as something other than a simple, linear narrative of progress or decline -- the end of the semester demonstrates clearly that the passage of time, at least in the short term, often generates massive and obvious evidence to suggest that the condition of the universe is indeed devolving, single-mindedly, in the direction of universal ruin.

Today I modeled that sense of decline by proctoring the final exam for HIST 131 in a style that can best be described as "neo-vagrant" or "molester chic" -- jeans that may or may not have been laundered recently; sweatshirt usually reserved for walking the dog or scraping moss from the roof of our house; hair matted like a crushed squirrel, hidden beneath the least attractive knitted cap in my vast collection of unattractive knitted caps; unshaven and generally untended in that hitting-rock-bottom-teeth-first sort of way. The students should have seen this coming. I began the semester with so much promise, wearing clean sweaters and dressy pants -- slacks and cords and khakis and such -- while sporting a brand new haircut and commiting myself to a rigorous program of personal hygiene and individual responsibility. Since September, however, I have slowly unhinged myself, leading inexorably to this.


Today, in celebration of semester's end, I filled out my bi-annual request form for office supplies:
sterile buffered eye wash (one bottle)
antiseptic swabs (numerous packets)
latex protective gloves
wound flushing solution (one bottle)
conforming sterile gauze bandage (one roll)
Laerdahl pocket air mask
butterfly stitches (one box)
assorted adhesive bandages
body fluid disposal kit

I spent the rest of the day securing travel arrangements. I booked plane reservations only to cancel them moments later, rebooking other flights to other destinations on completely different airlines. I did this repeatedly. I called taxi cabs, sometimes three or four at a time, requesting that they take positions around campus, waiting to skirt me away at a moment's notice in any number of possible directions. I chartered buses, scheduled cruises, and reserved hotel rooms in cities around the country under twenty-six different names. I kept two travel agents on the phone at all times. Relatives in several states have been placed on twenty-four hour alert; they have been asked to change the sheets on their guest beds every half hour.

I am oh-so-ready to submit my final grades.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Two Cheers for Grade Inflation

Today is the final day of classes for fall semester, meaning that today is the happiest day of my professional life since the final day of classes last spring. As part of our departmental ode to joy, we had a "holiday party" this afternoon, proving that the Arts and Sciences faculty at my university are undeterred by minor setbacks in our ongoing Global War on Christmas. We may not have been adequately prepared for the ferocious wave of Fox News suicide bombers (or "homicide bombers," as I prefer to call them), and no, it didn't help our worldwide image when a few rogue officers were discovered waterboarding all those elves. But we are slowly isolating all the manger scenes in town and are choking off the oxygen on which the Baby Jesus Brigades thrive. Today, in fact, I gave a little speech and used the word "victory" at least 75 times in three minutes, a record by any calculation; by the end of it, people seemed pretty convinced that I actually had a plan for victory. Also, I was standing in front of a giant sign that read, "Plan for Victory." I don't know how much more plainly I can make my point.

Then, flushed with holiday cheer, I informed my dean that I was going to supplement my horrific, inadequate salary by cornering the crystal meth market in student housing next semester. He laughed, almost as if he thought I was kidding.

After a few moments of awkward silence, somebody mentioned this article from the Washington Post a few days ago. In particular, this passage raised some concern:
The CIA, working with other intelligence agencies, has captured an estimated 3,000 people, including several key leaders of al Qaeda, in its campaign to dismantle terrorist networks. It is impossible to know, however, how many mistakes the CIA and its foreign partners have made.

Unlike the military's prison for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- where 180 prisoners have been freed after a review of their cases -- there is no tribunal or judge to check the evidence against those picked up by the CIA. The same bureaucracy that decides to capture and transfer a suspect for interrogation-- a process called "rendition" -- is also responsible for policing itself for errors.

The CIA inspector general is investigating a growing number of what it calls "erroneous renditions," according to several former and current intelligence officials.

One official said about three dozen names fall in that category; others believe it is fewer. The list includes several people whose identities were offered by al Qaeda figures during CIA interrogations, officials said. One turned out to be an innocent college professor who had given the al Qaeda member a bad grade, one official said.

Somewhere, a light bulb just went of in David Horowitz's brain.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

"Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed."

Now that my wife and I have a child on the way, we're starting to ask all the obvious questions. Will she be healthy? What will she be like when she grows up? How can I assure that she grows up with the proper, supine devotion to our capitalist system and our Christian protectors?

Thanks to the good folks at the World Net Daily online store, I can prevent my daughter from becoming a frothing, liberal harlot by purchasing an array of fabulous -- and conservative -- children's books, including the unjustly overlooked "Help! Mom! There are Liberals Under My Bed!":
This full-color illustrated book is a fun way for parents to teach young children the valuable lessons of conservatism. Written in simple text, readers can follow along with Tommy and Lou as they open a lemonade stand to earn money for a swing set. But when liberals start demanding that Tommy and Lou pay half their money in taxes, take down their picture of Jesus, and serve broccoli with every glass of lemonade, the young brothers experience the downside to living in Liberaland.

"Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed!" offers a witty alternative to the usual liberal fare, demonstrating the virtues of capitalism and true diversity of expression in words and pictures that both kids and adults can laugh along with.

With the nation’s libraries and classrooms filled with overtly liberal children’s books advocating everything from gay marriage to marijuana use, kids everywhere are being deluged with left-wing propaganda. "Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed" is the book conservative parents have been seeking. This illustrated book — the first in the "Help! Mom!" series from Kids Ahead — is perfect for parents who seek to share their traditional values with their children, as well as adults who wish to give a humorous gift to a friend.

By now, you're probably saying to yourself, "Wow, this book sounds really fucking awesome, but isn't there something a little -- oh, I don't know -- dangerous about introducing liberalism as the subject of a children's story?" Well, you're right to ask, just as this fellow traveler did at Amazon:
This book, although cute, teaches children that "liberals" are annoying and dumb but well meaning.....just with distorted values. That is not true. What is true is they are bad people, who are working to make bad things happen. If children aren't told the truth about this and what they are doing, they run the very real danger of being sucked in and indoctrinated into an evil ideology (and I do mean, EVIL, as these chuckleheads hold solidarity with radical Islam and the north korean brand of communism these days). They infiltrate our schools at all levels and try to work on the children when they are as young as possible.

Liberalism isn't dopey. And it's not the other side of the coin to conservatism. Liberalism is communism...with all the REALLY scary stuff that implies. Probably, [that stuff is] not an appropriate topic for a children's book. But, it is damn important that you let your kids know the score BEFORE the neo-communists that have infiltrated our schools get a chance to work on them. Because, if you don't, you may end up with your kid as part of the huge crowd of students that give standing ovations to people like Ward Churchill (as he convinces the students that THEY are the ones who should be flying airplanes into the world trade center), when he is invited to give a talk at the university you are spending big bucks on for your kid to get an "education".

OK, got it. I'll have to wait a few years to begin larding my child's bookshelf with the latest vessels of truth from Ann Coulter, David Horowitz or Jonah Goldberg, but in the meantime I can plant the seeds of entrepreneurialism and individual liberty with this happy little proverb. Anything to counteract the bilious, communistic ravings of Farmer Duck, Brave Potatoes, and Rotten Island.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Does "Idiot Son of an Asshole" Count?

John Miller at NRO has an idea that will doubtless bring the legions of Sammy Hagar and Ted Nugent fans in from the woods and off their ATV's:
I’m going to compile a list of great conservative rock-and-roll songs, and I’d like your suggestions. Criteria: 1) Lyrically, the song must express a conservative sentiment, such as appreciation for a traditional value, skepticism of government power, etc. 2) It must be a great rock and roll song. A good example: “Taxman,” by the Beatles (“If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street/If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat”).

Please send your recommendations to me at -- and be sure to explain your reasons. I have a bias in favor of songs that are already well known, or at least songs that are by well-known bands. But I’m willing to consider anything. Even Duran Duran.

By Miller's peculiar definition, virtually any antiwar song should make the list, given their "appreciation for a traditional value" (e.g., not incinerating people) and their avowed "skepticism of government power" (as the primary instrument for violating said "traditional value.") Somehow, though, I think Miller is in for a few thousand nominations of "I Can't Drive 55."

As for myself, I just e-mailed John and suggested the following nominees, which are based on the somewhat different criteria of (1) sounding like they could be conservative rock and roll songs while (2) not actually being conservative rock and roll songs:

(1) Dead Kennedys, "Kill the Poor"
(2) Black Flag, "Gimme Gimme Gimme"
(3) Paul Robeson, "My Old Kentucky Home"
(4) Ernest Phipps and his Holiness Quartet, "I Want to Go Where Jesus Is" (not technically rock and roll, but who fucking cares?)
(5) Mountain Goats, "There Will Be No Divorce"
(6) Happy Flowers, "I Gave the Cat Some Acid"

Other suggestions can be passed on to John Miller at Or leave them here. Either way.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Until Further Notice

meetingsUntil further notice, the following words and phrases are banned from common usage in all academic committee meetings:

  • "Culture of Assessment." Oxymoronic concoction that endows a vague concept ("assessment") with hitherto undeserved anthropological dignity. Synonymous with addition of new layers of qualitative and quantitative evaluations, descending like a toxic fog throughout the academic institution; requires ever-expanding web of uncompensated labor from faculty and staff, generating self-congratulatory glee from administrators and accrediting agencies. (e.g., "How can we promote a culture of assessment on this campus?")
  • "Nourish." Vapid, organic metaphor used to disguise the artificial intrusion of soul-depleting, carbohydrate-rich innovations into the lives of university employees and patrons. (e.g., "It is important for us to nourish a culture of assessment on this campus.")
  • "Faculty-driven." Deceitful neologism typically used ex post facto by administrators in reference to processes universally abhorred by faculty and implemented with or without their actual consent. (e.g., "Now that we've moved to a system of on-line student evaluations, we need to ensure that the process is faculty-driven." See also "faculty buy-in.")
  • "Learning communities." Feel-good sop used by various groups claiming to oppose the bureaucratic partitioning and patterned isolation of higher education into "instructor-driven environments" such as "disciplines," "departments," and "classes." De-emphasizes "content" in favor of "process" and "experience." (e.g., "When our students skip class, smoke dope and play X-Box 360, perhaps they're simply yearning for more rewarding learning communities at this university.")
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    Friday, December 02, 2005

    Why I Keep My Office Filthy and Locked

    Holy shit.

    All of this reminds me of a legendary tale from graduate school, in which several couples from a previous cohort allegedly broke into the department chair's office, engaged in a ménage à quatre on the desk, and left some kind of late-1980s/early 1990s postmodern manifesto that explained their acts in characteristically abstruse fashion.