Saturday, June 4, 2016

Unacceptable New Normal

While organizing on Temple's campus last semester, the FBI issued a blanket warning for a possible shooter somewhere in the Philadelphia area.

The very next day, while driving to one of my Adjunct jobs, this story came on the radio, where an actual shooting occurred at the Community College of Philadelphia.

As nothing happened the day before, my fears reemerged as I though the previous day's threat could still be in effect.

After my initial shock and political indignation over America's irrational gun-boner, I attempted to rationalize away my fear with the fact that I work an hour outside of the city, and the likelihood of my small school in South Jersey falling under the warning was slim to none.

But as I prepped for my students' arrival I found myself planning a defense from a shooter, fretting over the fact that my door doesn't lock, the largest barricade large enough is too far across the room, and the window openings may be too slim to escape through (and may lead to more danger).

My response to both events can be found over at the Drinking Liberally Blog.

And today, I am reassessing my grading policies because now if a student disagrees with a grade I may get shot.

I have given my fair share of bad grades over my short teaching career. And those students most certainly deserved them. I was once called "tough but fair" by one student (an awesome one at that) so I feel confident in my grading.

I take a lot of time developing grading standards that are transparent and fair. My rubrics are clear, and my students are asked if thy agree to my standards at the beginning of each semester. I've found that as long as I can show a clear system to them, they don't argue. The understanding is that if assignment X has predetermined value of Y, then they know exactly what to expect when they slack.

Even attendance has an assigned value.

But even with all that, I've been challenged by students who clearly cheated, even after I presented them with evidence of their infraction.

So now do I inflate my grades to avoid dying? Do I reward cheating so as not to be murdered?

The fact that I have to ask these absurd sounding questions (as well as set up my classroom like a doomsday prepper) is more than problematic, it's deeply troubling.

Now I understand that I do not teach a high-pressure subject, and it seems the UCLA shooter was in a high-pressure career track, under a great deal of pressure to succeed, and whatever grade he received made him crack. And whatever that grade was, I have a feeling it would have been perfectly acceptable to some of my students.

But I have also been told that, due to a failing a student, that I have ruined careers. And I'm certain I've ended Academic careers with one grade. So I am again left to contemplate certain death for giving an F.

What is worse is how facts about gun control are ignored like Global Warming or Vaccinations (that's right anti-vaxers, you're as bad as Lamar Smith!).

The evidence is clear,  more gun regulations means fewer shootings, lax rules means more shootings. Just look to Hawaii and Alaska for proof. To over-simplify, the more guns the more shootings. You don't need to be a scientist to understand this, but sometimes it helps to ask one.

I easily found that source from one the most reliable fact-checking organization out there, They were founded right here in Philly at an academic institution, the University of Pennsylvania, and importantly are not beholden to profit.

 They say the same, that more guns do not equal fewer shootings.

And if you are not into "science" or "facts" and respond more to heart-tugging issue based arguments to make this point clearer, here you go.

As an Academic I tend to avoid sources that reinforce my bias, as the article does. But the article makes good points and includes personal stories of teachers including one that would rather leave their job than accept Campus Carry laws.

And don't you dare tell me that I should carry. There's even more evidence that suggests, unless I am a highly trained member of  law-enforcement, with hours and hours of constant firearms training, as well as exposure to high-stress live-shooter simulations, I am as useless with a gun as my Dad is with Twitter.

It's time for evidence-based, reasonable gun laws, universal background checks (supported by most Americans), fewer guns on the streets, and zero in the classroom. I will likely be giving out a few more bad grades in the future and I'd like to live through them.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

My message to #Bernieorbust folk

Today's post has a soundtrack. Listen to this as you read

This election season, I am having flashbacks to Aught Eight and the Obama v Clinton arguments we had at Drinking Liberally, which got so tiresome that Roxanne Cooper and I abstained and bonded over our mutual love of Battlestar Galactica.

Good times those.

Now I need to  find someone to talk to about Mr. Robot.

These days things have gotten worse,  Social Media has amplified the arguments (now about Sanders v Clinton) to the point that you would think Sanders is being completely ignored by the Media (he isn't) or that he is actually winning but because of a broken mainstream media and a corrupt Democratic party, he is losing. Or the Dems are purposefully denying the will of the people (also, not happening, at least to the extent my FB feed would have me think).

The same camp would have us believe that Clinton is the Spawn of Satan who hates Black people and is a Republican in disguise. She has certainly said some questionable things, but what politician hasn't?

The other camp wants me to know that Sanders doesn't have a chance in hell and his pie-in-the-sky rhetoric is nothing but empty idealism with no real-world application.

I don't believe any of it. The age of click-bait headlines and opinion-driven journalism has made the academic in me die a little bit every day. I thought my students were bad at proper citation.

Otherwise intelligent individuals have posted some of the most unreliable sources coupled with caps-lock heavy posts. I've even seen Reddit used as a "source" of information. Fucking REDDIT.

The pro-Bernie Left has sunk to the levels of the Anti-Acorn or anti-Planned Parenthood Right.

And the pro-Hillary-Left hasn't learned from '08 and has written off Sanders as a joke, and is defending an admittedly flawed Political Party.

This doesn't help the actual, and beneficial debate we need to be having about Clinton and Sanders' records, their ability to win, and eventually, lead.

Especially when, no matter who wins, an intransigent Legislature will more than likely continue to block everything either a Woman or admitted Socialist purpose.

And what really get's me, and the impetus of this post, are the folk on the Left that will not vote if Clinton is the candidate.

The #Bernieorbust cult claims that they won't care if Drumpf wins because then we will finally have the Revolution we have always wanted and finally tear down a broken system.

They do not propose an alternative, other than "the system is broken so fuck it" and this same attitude gave us Bush II with all his foreign and domestic horrors. Not to mention an arguably more dangerous Ted Cruz, elected by a tiny minority because people didn't show up to vote when it really mattered.

Samantha Bee, one of the better standard bearers of Jon Stewart's legacy, makes the argument that not only do we have Ted Cuz because of low midterm election turnout, we have Governors and State Legislatures enacting racist Voter ID laws, transphobic bathroom laws, and anti-abortion laws.

That's right, if you listen to the anti-Clinton propaganda pushed by the Right ever since the 90s, and don't vote, we get Drumpf/Cruz, and shit gets worse. Tearing the system down by not participating has real-world, often deadly consequences for a lot of people. And your Revolution ain't happening. Sorry, if you didn't revolt in '04, what will be different now?

I agree that the system is effed, and that Clinton is a Centrist and an opportunist, and also that Sander's offers some very attractive, but sometimes impractical, Populism (who also voted fro the same Crime Bill cited by the anti-Clinton camp as evidence of her evil). But hyperbolic Facebook posting is not helping

I also think that Clinton is not patently evil, has a great deal to offer, and when pushed to the Left she moves to the Left.  I also love that Sanders is succeeding in such a way that the conversation has been forever altered, and is helping push Clinton to the right side of History (or Left side of History, as it were).

So let us just promise that we won't read USUncut, or UpWorthy, or Reddit, (or unverifiable Memes, God help me the Memes!), calm the fuck down and really talk reasonably about how we on the Left can move our country the right direction.

Also, go vote, the only way to change the System is to properly organize and make the System work in our favor.

In the words of my friend Booman (someone you really should be reading):

"You can tell me that this is a rigged system, except it was precisely this system that allowed Barack Obama to overcome the institutional advantages the Clintons had in 2008, when holdovers from Bill's presidency dominated the DNC and many state and county level positions.
And I don't think this system disfavors outsiders if the outsiders are good (and early) organizers. I do think it disfavors anyone who thinks they can take over an entire power structure without winning over a substantial part of that power structure to their side, but that's part of what organizing is all about. Without that kind of organizing, you're relying on magic, and I don't believe in magicians."

Friday, June 5, 2015

Bongiorno! or, Keep Your Shoes On Dumb-Ass

And make sure to roll that R like your tongue is one of those Skydancer wavy-guys you see at Car Dealerships on a windy day.
Seriously, after 8 days of sincere attempts to speak Sesame Street level Italian out of respect for our hosts, my mouth feels like I have been giving airport bathroom BJs to every anti-gay Republican in the House.
So I've been away from the news, but I come back to the semi-occasional renewal of the Patriot-If-You-Disagree-With-It-You-Hate-America-And-Kittens-Act.
And in a rare instance, I found myself appreciating the fact that Rand Paul (named after an author who's book his Dad was reading while banging his Mom Mom apparently) was doing his best to delay the Act's renewal
This is one of those times where we Progressives and our Libertarian friends agree, much like the coalition that legalized the Buddha-Bud in my home-State of Colorado, you would think there is enough bipartisan support to eliminate the post- 9/11 fear-driven Government Overreach that to this day, is not working to protect us one bit.
So much so that they failed their own efficacy tests leading to the chief inner-thigh-caresser stepping down.
I just traveled overseas and when going through security not one item of clothing came off. I even started removing my belt and the Italian security guy, whilst mumbling "stupido americano" under his breath, gestured to me not to bother.
Same thing happened at Heathrow when we tried to remove our shoes during a layover on our way to the Middle East. We were laughed at.
One problem is that the American people can't seem to decide if they like Patriot Act or want to limit it's primary provisions
So we have a confused electorate and Elected Officials who want to scare the crap out of the electorate to get re-elected.
Then it's left to the Judiciary to decide, but will this court rule in favor of Privacy? Let's discuss this tonight. Will the JP theorem hold, and without a profit motive will the court rule in favor of our Privacy Rights? Or will Scalia and his Man sized puppet along with Roberts, Alito (and possibly Kennedy) decide to bend to Conservative Ideology?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Plan A, or, Don't Call Me An Adjunct

It's Not About the Clock, or KA-CHUNK, 48"x52" Oil on Canvas, 2011
It's Not About the Clock, or KA-CHUNK, 48"x52" Oil on Canvas, 2011

(Today's Blog Soundtrack, to be listened to as you read)

Teaching is as as much a labor of love as it is a part of my artistic practice. I would be teaching in some capacity no matter the circumstance just as I would be painting or collaging no matter the circumstance. 

Yet I am continually reminded that it is labor. 

I am obligated by my passion to teach, yet I am laboring extremely long hours at two different schools in order to fulfill that obligation. 

Add to that the burden of a third job because the other two cannot cover all my bills. 

As a result I am not giving my students all of myself; they only receive what I have the time to give because I am spread so thin.

This makes me a less effective educator. I see the student's disappointment when I do not hand back an assignment when promised because my weekend was occupied by a surprise design assignment on top of my regular 6-class prep regimen. 

And I am even more disappointed that I cannot respond to papers and assignments in a way that I think will provide the student maximum opportunity for academic achievement and personal improvement.

Recently at one of my schools I was late in turning in the previous Semester's Assessments because my other school changed my class schedule to include a new class I was capable of teaching, but had never taught before. 

This makes me a bad employee of the Institution which relies on our Assessment data for State funding, as well as a bad employee of other which needed my full attention to create a class, (albeit with little time) which would accurately reflect my expertise as well as the academic standards of the school.

So even though I consider my self to be a pretty badass teacher (epic in the words of one of my students) and a hard working employee to anyone who has the temerity to hire me, I cannot be as badass or epic as I could be if I had the normal (and well compensated) workload of a full time Professor.

At last years Adjunct Symposium hosted by the United Academics of Philadelphia I had the privilege of speaking to the issue of limited resources available to the Adjunct.

UAP 2014 Symposium Panel Discussion
UAP 2014 Symposium Panel Discussion
I essentially said (in my awkward and sometimes jumbled public speaking mode) that my impulse to say yes to a student's request is often times hampered by limited supplies.  

As an Art teacher, saying that a student cannot see an idea through because I don't have what they need is tantamount to censorship.

And as a worker I am obliged to say yes to any class or assignment given to me. Partially because I am willing to work and eager to work hard, but primarily because I need the money. Saying no means I miss out on pay.

As I said, I'm spread thin. 

Wanting to say yes to my students but having to say no because of institutional limitations means the total loss of Academic freedom.

Having to say yes as a function of quantitive financial factors means the loss of quality labor. 

At this point I need to point out the fact that I am technically only paid for the time I spend in front of the students. Keep that in mind as you read the next few sentences.

The Institutions I work for require a great deal from me outside of that time in class. I am continually asked by my schools to attend Faculty meetings, fill out Departmental Questionnaires, Rubrics, Assessment Grids and the grids that assess my assessments. I'm even required to hold office hours by one school, regardless of whether or not I have an office.

(I luckily now have and office in at one school, which I share with 6 boxes of language department storage and a Piano)

And the Students I work for expect meetings outside of class,whether they need to talk about their grade or need extra help. They expect prompt replies to their emails and even ask if I can meet them outside of my regular office hours as their class schedule can't accommodate my limited time. So I am expected to accommodate them.

I am required to do all the things that a full-time Professor is expected to do without any of the support, benefits or pay.

As stated in a recent article in the Philadelphia Metro, about the movement to Unionize Adjuncts, "Estimates range from 60 to 75 percent of the workforce in higher education being made up of adjunct professors" (this number varies from school to school, but the over-all trend is towards part-timers out numbering full-timers).

I hate being called Adjunct or Contingent Faculty. I think it's obvious why if you've read this far.

So do not call us Adjunct. The word means "something added to another thing but not essential to it.We are absolutely essential.

And Do not call us Contingent. The word Contingency means "a provision for an unforeseen event or circumstance." In other words Plan B. 

Increasingly we are plan A. We are the majority of Higher Ed teachers and yet are treated like we are still Plan B. Until this changes, our students will never receive the full effect of our Labor, knowledge, experience and passion.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Diddy on Ferguson MO, or, Ya'll Need to Get Pissed

I heard a caller on Radio Times this morning mention how none of her white friends were as outraged as her black friends over what is happening in Ferguson, MO.

I agree. More people from all backgrounds need to be angrier and screaming louder in support for a community that is largely ignored in our country, and that is being silenced once more.

Even those on the other side, including the nut-bags should be supporting the locals in their response to an overzealous and over-reaching Police Force, and ineffectual and unresponsive political class.

But we all know what would happen if the Tea-Baggers came out in support of a Black Community fighting for their rights.

But I digress.

This story best represents for me what is going on in Ferguson. His sadness and anger are palpable.
via NPR

As the Pastor, who is standing in front the young man, states "If it's not touching you, if it's not personal, that's where there's a problem."

As a white dude from Colorado I cannot imagine what it is like to live in a world where every moment of everyday you're automatically assumed to be the suspect, the criminal, the different, the other, the watched.

But as an artist I seek stories and narratives, imagery and words that can help me connect to anothers's experience. The young man, Joshua, as well as Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and all those silenced by violence, deserve the dignity of our support and to have their stories told.

Their narrative must be given respect, and must not include justifications for their deaths. These young men did not deserve to die, no matter what their actions. (And their actions are in dispute; there is no proof that Michael Brown stole anything. But he, along with others like him wasn't given Due Process)

That is why the coverage of the story is so important. This event needs to become personal for all of us.

The Police fear this, that is why they don't want Journalists exposing their actions. actions based in an irrational fear of the citizenry.

This diddy from the Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates perfectly describes the Black experience, and how young Black men are being destroyed, and that  "destruction is merely the superlative form of a dominion whose prerogatives include friskings, detainings, beatings, and humiliations. All of this is common to black people."

The fact that people are at best being harassed, and at worst killed, by a increasingly Militarized police force is a problem for all of us. And we need to be angrier.

But again, that Police force fears it's own citizenry. They see in us Terrorists and Bombers so they point their guns at us and chase us away.

It also fears the media because their fear is laid bare when their actions are exposed.
And know you're is in trouble when Egypt criticizes the arrest of journalists and the military-grade quashing of civil rights.

Egypt you say? The surprise inherent in that fact is based on an assumption that we are somehow better than other Nations that struggle with their citizenry.

Coates continues, summing-up the idea that the United States are no longer (and maybe never was) the exemplar of a Free Society perfectly:

"Taken all together, the body count that led us to our present tenuous democratic moment does not elevate us above the community of nations, but installs us uncomfortably within its ranks. And that is terrifying because it shows us to be neither providential nor exceptional"

We could be better and set an example of how a Democracy should deal with it's citizens. But instead we spend billions on Tanks and Armour and Weaponry, rather than community outreach programs, community self-policing programs, and more Police on foot in communities.

For one beautiful moment the violence subsided and people were given hope: rather than pointing a weapon at the people, a State Trooper walked with them. This should show us how the police don't need armor to be brave. Bravery is facing the people, letting them speak for themselves and hearing them out, and even apologizing.

Their anger comes as much from not being heard as it does losing their sons.

That all changed when again, the Police assumed the people were a danger and tried to imprison them in their own homes.

It seems the Media is starting to get it, when CNN's Jake Tapper said simply, "This Doesn't Make Any Sense!'

No it doesn't Jakey. It makes no damn sense at all.

And that pisses me off.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Go ahead and say that stupid thing you were about to say, or, freedom of CAPS-LOCK speech

The internet is a perfect example what happens when the freedom to say whatever is on one's mind is codified into law.

When you create a completely open forum for anyone to open their maw you get everything from the entirety of Shakespeare's writing to attacks on Star Trek without the camera shake.

You also get a butt-ton of misinformation and bull-malarkey, as demonstrated by the largely well off, educated white middle class anti-vaxer movement.

And that is under attack. Obama has appointed the former top lobbyist of the Cable Industry to head the FCC, and next to the Military Industrial Complex representatives at Northrop Grumman, the largest Lobbysit in DC is Comcast.

John Oliver's bit on this is brilliant.

Now I would love to install a stupid filter on the internet. But seeing as if you put anyone in charge of the content, there is a risk that anyone's speech could be denied.

And since putting the highest bidder in charge has already destroyed our Democracy, let's do our best to keep our media free, open, and chalk full of wonderful people like this guy.

And in case you want to join in, visit FCC.GOV/Comments to weigh in on Net Neutrality.
Also, Nutflix now must happen or else. Do that Oliver or else I will.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cheaters Always Win, or, Can Anyone Tell Me How One Might Launder My Drug Money?

I know I bitch about jobs and the economy a lot. I mean, being barely employed and dealing with my bank puts me in a mood.

But today amidst my post-bank-conversation bitterness, I got to thinking, I'm trying to do this the right way. I don't spend money frivolously, I work hard when there is work, and only spend the earnings on bills and my once-a-week sanity maintenance regimen of beers and politics.

But the bank couldn't forgive this fee, or release that check, because I went to Starbucks last week and bought a small coffee, which clearly means I'm irresponsible.

Fuck You bank. Fuck you lots.

Stomping around Center City I had an "Office Space" moment: I thought, "I've done things right so far and I'm still getting shat upon. So why not cheat? Why not break the rules? Why not steal and embezzle and con my way through life, because it seems that is the only way to survive these days."

Then I realized that I don't know a thing about crime, or embezzlement, and would likely look up "How To Rob A Bank" on Yahoo Answers and get arrested immediately (I wonder if there's some sort of correspondence course on Pyramid Schemes).

Just so you know this isn't all about me (60-40 me?), I've been thinking along these same lines regarding the Republican candidate for awhile now.

Mitt Romney leaned on the accomplishments of his parents, risked other peoples money to invest and stood on the shoulders of workers, (more accurately laid off-workers, and is rolling in dough. Rather than working the system and earning his place, he gamed the system and he won his place.

He never committed a crime, but it sure as shit was immoral.

The idea that cheaters always win has become a commonplace strategy. Karl Rove outed a CIA agent, Voter ID Laws are being passed and Planned Parenthood is being gutted.

All this because the right can't justify a war's legality, they can't get votes because they alienate most of the country, and they can't make abortion illegal. So they cheat to get their way.

Mitt lies on stage and wins a Debate.

Ryan barges into a non-profit soup kitchen, pretends to clean dishes and leaves after fifteen minutes. All so he can appear compassionate

The facade of truth doesn't even matter anymore, because both dudes will come out looking golden.

The idea that someone can start out as a bag-boy and end up the CEO of grocery is a myth. Maybe once this was possible, but that was when the Middle-Class was strong and the government supported it's citizenry with job and retirement programs.

Another Republican touted myth I hate hearing about is the so-called "Meritocracy." Mitt didn't merit his wealth, and the idea that only by hard work and determinism can one earn the American Dream is extremely rare, or just a myth propagated by those who are justifying their immense wealth.

(Put this in your pipe and smoke it: Republicans care more about tax-breaks than earned income tax credits. See what I did there?)

Mitt's style of Venture Capitalism is a perfect example. He doesn't make anything, at best he makes money of of what someone else has already made. At worst, and the majority of the time, he profits off of their dismantling.

And what's more, he can say he is agains't big government, like the Auto Industry Bailout, while simultaneously profiting off of it You would think that he would support the bailout as he benefits from it. But if he did he would have to admit to gaming the system. Cheaters don't often like admitting that they cheat.

One interesting but related side note, many people who decry the Federal Deficit profit off it by buying very reliable US Bonds which have a solid rate of return Including people who increased the US Debt like George W Bush (can't find the link saying Bush invests in US Bonds, but buying US Bonds is a common practice among Hedge Funds, because it's such a safe bet

All that said, I know for a fact that the Obamas earned their place, they may have relied on family or other external sources for support but they never cheated to get where they are. And a little Affirmative Action does not mean they didn't earn their degrees

I'm also sure they benefited from Nepotism at some point, but who doesn't? It's what you do with it, and whether you come out the other end with enough respect to look yourself in the mirror the next day.

Mitt, obviously hires someone to shave him and brush his teeth, so he has never had the chance to look himself in the eyes. Or maybe he is a Vampire, either way he doesn't deserve to win... come to think of it Ryan does kinda look like two well known Vampires....hrmmm