Monthly Archives: November 2013

Tuesday Night Music: Shop Around

This morning’s post gave me a Smokeylicious earworm:

Tuesday Night Music: Shop Around

This morning’s post gave me a Smokeylicious earworm:

Empty Words From Best Buy

Here’s a heart warming” story for the holidays as reported by WWL-TV in New Orleans:

Last September, Louisiana Army National Guard Spc. Sherman Crandle volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan for a year.

When the call came, he had been working customer services at Best Buy in Covington for five days, but he says he was told a job would be waiting for him when he returned.

Crandle said that was not the case when he stepped back on American soil two months ago.

“In those 10 days, I called Best Buy checking if I still had my job,” said Crandle, “At one point, they told me no. The only way you was gonna get your job back was if we needed you.”

U.S. law states that returning service members are to be re-employed in the job that they would have attained had they not been absent for military service. A challenge with that resulted in Best Buy re-hiring Crandle, but even that, he said, hasn’t been easy.

“Throughout the rehiring process it took me about a month and a half to get my job back,” he said.

When asked what has happened since the return, he said, “I’ve worked a total like six days so far out of the last three weeks.”

We first started contacting Best Buy last Friday for this story, starting with the corporate headquarters. We heard nothing through Monday, so we called and stopped by the local store in Covington. And still, we have had no response for this story.

I don’t know about you but I’d rather leap into a vat of boiling peanut oil than shop on Black Friday. If you’re insane enough to do so, you might want to skip Best Buy. I’m sure they pay pious lip service to veterans when it suits their needs, but when it really counted in this instance, they initially broke the law and then did the bare minimum to comply with it.

Some holiday spirit.

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Words Having Context

You’ve probably seen this by now, but if you haven’t, go read it:

A few summers ago one of my best friends invited me up to what he affectionately called his “white-trash cabin” in the Adirondacks. This was not how I described the outing to my family. Two of my Jewish acquaintances once joked that I’d “make a good Jew.” My retort was not, “Yeah, I certainly am good with money.” Gay men sometimes laughingly refer to one another as “faggots.” My wife and her friends sometimes, when having a good time, will refer to one another with the word “bitch.” I am certain that should I decide to join in, I would invite the same hard conversation that would greet me, should I ever call my father Billy.

I’ve been trying to think of something illuminating to say about it since I saw it a couple of days ago, but really, I think he covers pretty much everything that needs to be said. Words mean things. Words can mean different things in different contexts, and a big part of the context that words have comes from who is saying them.

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Words Having Context

You’ve probably seen this by now, but if you haven’t, go read it:

A few summers ago one of my best friends invited me up to what he affectionately called his “white-trash cabin” in the Adirondacks. This was not how I described the outing to my family. Two of my Jewish acquaintances once joked that I’d “make a good Jew.” My retort was not, “Yeah, I certainly am good with money.” Gay men sometimes laughingly refer to one another as “faggots.” My wife and her friends sometimes, when having a good time, will refer to one another with the word “bitch.” I am certain that should I decide to join in, I would invite the same hard conversation that would greet me, should I ever call my father Billy.

I’ve been trying to think of something illuminating to say about it since I saw it a couple of days ago, but really, I think he covers pretty much everything that needs to be said. Words mean things. Words can mean different things in different contexts, and a big part of the context that words have comes from who is saying them.

Quote Of The Day: Deadline Poet Edition

I know I saidI didn’t give a rat’s ass about the Cheney sisters public hair pulling, but thisholiday ditty from the great Calvin Trillin was too good to ignore:

Yes, Liz and Mary now are fighting.
Thanksgiving there should be exciting.
On Turkey Day, we may get word
On who was first to flip the bird.

Quote Of The Day: Deadline Poet Edition

I know I said I didn’t give a rat’s ass about the Cheney sisters public hair pulling, but this holiday ditty from the great Calvin Trillin was too good to ignore:

Yes, Liz and Mary now are fighting.
Thanksgiving there should be exciting.
On Turkey Day, we may get word
On who was first to flip the bird.

Empty Words From Best Buy

Here’s a heart warming” story for the holidays as reported by WWL-TV in New Orleans:

Last September, Louisiana Army National Guard Spc. Sherman Crandle volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan for a year.

When the call came, he had been working customer services at Best Buy in Covington for five days, but he says he was told a job would be waiting for him when he returned.

Crandle said that was not the case when he stepped back on American soil two months ago.

“In those 10 days, I called Best Buy checking if I still had my job,” said Crandle, “At one point, they told me no. The only way you was gonna get your job back was if we needed you.”

U.S. law states that returning service members are to be re-employed in the job that they would have attained had they not been absent for military service. A challenge with that resulted in Best Buy re-hiring Crandle, but even that, he said, hasn’t been easy.

“Throughout the rehiring process it took me about a month and a half to get my job back,” he said.

When asked what has happened since the return, he said, “I’ve worked a total like six days so far out of the last three weeks.”

We first started contacting Best Buy last Friday for this story, starting with the corporate headquarters. We heard nothing through Monday, so we called and stopped by the local store in Covington. And still, we have had no response for this story.

I don’t know about you but I’d rather leap into a vat of boiling peanut oil than shop on Black Friday. If you’re insane enough to do so, you might want to skip Best Buy. I’m sure they pay pious lip service to veterans when it suits their needs, but when it really counted in this instance, they initially broke the law and then did the bare minimum to comply with it.

Some holiday spirit.

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – Robot Zimmerman edition

Egads!

Every time I turn to unload some older stuff because there’s not much interesting going on at Freeperville, a brand new drum of piping hot stupidity gets turned over on the loading dock.

And what could that possibly be?

Seminole deputies arrest George Zimmerman
Orlando Sentinel ^| 18 Nov 2013 | Rene Stutzman and Arelis Hernandez

Posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 1:22:40 PM by Alissa

George Zimmerman has been arrested and was en route to the Seminole County Jail, according to Sheriff Don Eslinger.

It’s not clear what happened or what crime he’s accused of committing, but just before 1:30 p.m., Eslinger confirmed that Zimmerman had been arrested today and was being driven to the county jail in Sanford.

He said more information would be available shortly.

WESH-Channel 2 reported that Zimmerman was accused of domestic violence by a girlfriend.

The Sheriff’s Office, in a short news release, reported that the agency had arrested Zimmerman after being called to a disturbance on Topfield Court in western Seminole County near Apopka.

1 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 1:22:40 PM by Alissa

Oh, dear.

I’m sure the Freeperati (for whom not-so-gorgeous George is a hero and a role model) will have some fascinating insights on this.

To: Alissa

He hasn’t learned! He needs to leave the state and move to a remote place secluded.

2 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 1:24:56 PM by Patriot Babe

See? If he goes someplace else, and is George Zimmerman over there, he’ll stop being an assclown victim.

To: Alissa

He needs a good shrink.
He’s been through demonic-rat hell and back.
Truly a shame he doesn’t live in my city.
DrO would see him for free.

3 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 1:27:43 PM by onyx

See? Demonic rats have put him through hell, and he’s crazier than a shithouse rat because shut up, that’s why.

Certianly some Freeper can get to the bottom of this for us!

To: Alissa

I have come to the conclusion that George Zimmermann is a robot who is activated by Liberals anytime they desire to steer news coverage away from their own bad news.

6 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 1:28:26 PM by Buckeye McFrog

ZimmermanCreeps

??????

Could you say that again, please? I must have misheard you.

To: Alissa

I have come to the conclusion that George Zimmermann is a robot who is activated by Liberals anytime they desire to steer news coverage away from their own bad news.

6 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 1:28:26 PM by Buckeye McFrog

ZimmermanCreepsSkittles

That’s what I thought you said.

Of course, we know who’s really to blame here…

To: Alissa

Seminole deputies arrest George Zimmerman

Did der 0berFuhrer emperor Hussein 0bama issue a decree that as an enemy of the state he should be apprehended?

16 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 1:36:05 PM by The Sons of Liberty (Who but a TYRANT shoves down another man’s throat what he has exempted himself from?)

ObamaHitler666

To: bigbob

Zimmerman needs help before he ends up dead.Whatever is happening with him and these repeated accusations and arrests, he doesn’t seem to be making wise choices.

18 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 1:36:46 PM by CityCenter (Resist

YaThink

Sounds like a little buyer’s remorse to me.

To: ColdOne

I think it will not be interesting to hear about this guy any longer unless it is that he moved to an undisclosed location, never to be heard from again.

19 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 1:37:42 PM by stanne

OK – make that a lot of buyer’s remorse.

To: deport

He has lost his guns this time, and for good, I’ll bet.

It’s hard to keep supporting an idiot…

74 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 2:32:03 PM by ltc8k6

BanHimRomney

It’s not like it’s the first time for you yahoos, is it?

To: Hot Tabasco

And since no charges were filed in that case, I’m not counting that. He was arrested today for a seperate(sic) incident. Guy has anger issues . I hope he gets help before he hurts someone.

99 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 3:52:46 PM by christx30 (Freedom above all.)

JawDrop

What the actual fuck did you just say?

Of course (and you knew this was coming), it should be easy to turn their backs on their erstwhile hero because he’s not really white.

To: ronnie raygun

It’s legal to get your name changed, just go to city hall. He should move out of the area and apply for a new name. Maybe his mother’s Hispanic maiden name, I think a Hispanic name would go better with this appearance since he looks all Hispanic and not white. With all the Hispanics living in the country today he should blend right in and please keep away from the women for some time.

110 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 4:34:37 PM by cradle of freedom

You know how those Messicans are – can’t keep it in their pants, amirite?

Back to the older stuff after the leap of faith…

Tagged , , , , , ,

Malaka Of The Week: John Cornyn

John Cornyn looks like a Senator from central casting. He also looks a bit like the late Texas Governor John Connally who shared a bad time and a bullet with Jack Kennedy in 1963. Of course, Connally was an intelligent man whereas John Cornyn is a malaka who I like to call Senator Cornhole. Btw, many on the Kennedy White House staff called LBJ, Rufus Cornpone, which was unfair. Cornhole is not unfair to Cornyn…

I’m surprised it took me so long to anoint Senator Cornhole as malaka of the week, he’s more than qualified. His imbecilic comments on the Tweeter Tube earned the Texan his, uh, spurs:

Amazing what WH will do to distract attention from O-care

— JohnCornyn (@JohnCornyn)November 24, 2013

I somehow doubt that Senator Cornhole does his own tweeting. It’s probably some spotty young wingnut staffer who posts stupid shit on behalf of his master, but Cornyn is responsible. Make that irresponsible. If a Democratic Senator had said something like this during the Bush years, they would have been pilloried as unpatriotic but as we all know IOKIYAR.

It’s typical of most GOPers that they’re as ardently against waging peace as they are in favor of waging war. Unless you’re Bibi Netanyahu, a Saudi Prince, or a neo-con thedeal cut by John Kerry and the other Western foreign ministers is a good first step to a peaceful conclusion of this controversy:

A few weeks ago, a “senior administration official” outlined the agreement that President Obama hoped to achieve in Geneva. Some reporters who heard the briefing (including me) thought that the terms were way too one-sided, that the Iranians would never accept them. Here’s the thing: The deal just signed by Iran and theP5+1 nations (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China plus Germany) is precisely the hoped-for deal laid out at that briefing.

It is an interim agreement, not a treaty (which means, among other things, that it doesn’t require Senate ratification). It is meant as a first step toward a comprehensive treaty to be negotiated in the next six months. More than that, itexpires in six months. In other words, if Iran and the other powers can’t agree on a follow-on accord in six months, nobody is stuck with a deal that was never meant to be permanent. There is no opportunity for traps and trickery.

Negotiations kicked into high gear back in March, long before the so-called Obamacare trainwreck, which is, in reality, involves a web site that needs fixing. Senator Cornhole and other ACA foes are the ones who are obsessed with it., which led to Cornyn’sWag the Dogtweet. This whole thing makes me long for the day when “politics ended at the water’s edge” on most important foreign policy issues. Nobody except for irredentist neo-cons and Israeli wingnuts wants war with Iran. This is a golden opportunity to bring Iran back into the community of nations and I’m glad the administration is going for it and ignoring malakas like John Cornyn.

The other thing that troubles me about Senator Cornhole’s malakatudinous outburst is where it took place: on the Tweeter Tube. I like Twitter, it’s fun and it’s a great place for snarky one-liners. But it’s not a good place for thoughtful policy discussion, especially by senior politicians who can actually influence matters. Think about it: some bozo on John Cornyn’s staff wrote a tweet that made his boss look like the Emperor of the Moronosphere and, in turn, made him the malaka of the week.

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – Robot Zimmerman edition

Egads!

Every time I turn to unload some older stuff because there’s not much interesting going on at Freeperville, a brand new drum of piping hot stupidity gets turned over on the loading dock.

And what could that possibly be?

Seminole deputies arrest George Zimmerman
Orlando Sentinel ^| 18 Nov 2013 | Rene Stutzman and Arelis Hernandez

Posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 1:22:40 PM byAlissa

George Zimmerman has been arrested and was en route to the Seminole County Jail, according to Sheriff Don Eslinger.

It’s not clear what happened or what crime he’s accused of committing, but just before 1:30 p.m., Eslinger confirmed that Zimmerman had been arrested today and was being driven to the county jail in Sanford.

He said more information would be available shortly.

WESH-Channel 2 reported that Zimmerman was accused of domestic violence by a girlfriend.

The Sheriff’s Office, in a short news release, reported that the agency had arrested Zimmerman after being called to a disturbance on Topfield Court in western Seminole County near Apopka.

1 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 1:22:40 PM byAlissa

Oh, dear.

I’m sure the Freeperati(for whom not-so-gorgeous George is a hero and a role model) will have some fascinating insights on this.

To: Alissa

He hasn’t learned! He needs to leave the state and move to a remote place secluded.

2 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 1:24:56 PM byPatriot Babe

See? If he goes someplace else, and is George Zimmerman over there, he’ll stop being anassclown victim.

To: Alissa

He needs a good shrink.
He’s been through demonic-rat hell and back.
Truly a shame he doesn’t live in my city.
DrO would see him for free.

3 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 1:27:43 PM byonyx

See? Demonic rats have put him through hell, and he’s crazier than a shithouse rat because shut up, that’s why.

Certianly some Freeper can get to the bottom of this for us!

To: Alissa

I have come to the conclusion that George Zimmermann is a robot who is activated by Liberals anytime they desire to steer news coverage away from their own bad news.

6 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 1:28:26 PM byBuckeye McFrog

ZimmermanCreeps

??????

Could you say that again, please? I must have misheard you.

To: Alissa

I have come to the conclusion that George Zimmermann is a robot who is activated by Liberals anytime they desire to steer news coverage away from their own bad news.

6 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 1:28:26 PM byBuckeye McFrog

ZimmermanCreepsSkittles

That’s what I thought you said.

Of course, we know who’s really to blame here…

To: Alissa

Seminole deputies arrest George Zimmerman

Did der 0berFuhrer emperor Hussein 0bama issue a decree that as an enemy of the state he should be apprehended?

16 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 1:36:05 PM byThe Sons of Liberty (Who but a TYRANT shoves down another man’s throat what he has exempted himself from?)

ObamaHitler666

To: bigbob

Zimmerman needs help before he ends up dead. Whatever is happening with him and these repeated accusations and arrests, he doesn’t seem to be making wise choices.

18 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 1:36:46 PM byCityCenter (Resist

YaThink

Sounds like a little buyer’s remorse to me.

To: ColdOne

I think it will not be interesting to hear about this guy any longer unless it is that he moved to an undisclosed location, never to be heard from again.

19 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 1:37:42 PM bystanne

OK – make that a lot of buyer’s remorse.

To: deport

He has lost his guns this time, and for good, I’ll bet.

It’s hard to keep supporting an idiot…

74 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 2:32:03 PM byltc8k6

BanHimRomney

It’s not like it’s the first time for you yahoos, is it?

To: Hot Tabasco

And since no charges were filed in that case, I’m not counting that. He was arrested today for a seperate(sic) incident. Guy has anger issues. I hope he gets help before he hurts someone.

99 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 3:52:46 PM bychristx30 (Freedom above all.)

JawDrop

What the actual fuck did you just say?

Of course (and you knew this was coming), it should be easy to turn their backs on their erstwhile hero because he’s not really white.

To: ronnie raygun

It’s legal to get your name changed, just go to city hall. He should move out of the area and apply for a new name. Maybe his mother’s Hispanic maiden name, I think a Hispanic name would go better with this appearance since he looks all Hispanic and not white. With all the Hispanics living in the country today he should blend right in and please keep away from the women for some time.

110 posted on Monday, November 18, 2013 4:34:37 PM bycradle of freedom

You know how those Messicans are – can’t keep it in their pants, amirite?

Back to the older stuff after the leap of faith…

Tagged , , , , , ,

Weekend Question Thread

Since Athenae’s out, I’m usurping the Question Thread.

It’s getting unfortunately cold outside for those of us in civilized latitudes (lookin’ at you, Adrastos). What do you do for entertainment when it’s too cold to just go drink a beer on the porch in a t-shirt?

I’ve hauled out the knitting and bought a 1000-piece puzzle; there will also be much roasting of poultry and making of soup. If it deigns to snow this year, I’ll haul out the cross-country skis, but the weather has been somewhat fickle in that regard the past few years.

Sunday Morning Video: JFK In Ireland

The 50th anniversary of the assassination has passed, so let’s turn to a highpoint of Jack Kennedy’s Presidency, his visit to Ireland in June of 1963

Sunday Morning Video: JFK In Ireland

The 50th anniversary of the assassination has passed, so let’s turn to a highpoint of Jack Kennedy’s Presidency, his visit to Ireland in June of 1963

‘Color-Blind’ Racial Attitudes

I’m taking a class this semester to learn how to teach; specifically, I’m taking a class to learn how to deal with the challenges and opportunities inherent in a classroom with a diverse student body. What exactly is meant by “diverse” ranges from national origin to race or ethnic identity, or from gender to sexual orientation to even just your mastery of the English language. It’s a recognition that every student in your class is coming at your subject from a different place from every other student, and ignoring that background diversity can impede your ability to actually get a point across – and conversely, acknowledging that diversity can make you a much more effective teacher. Being a graduate-level seminar, we read a paper or two before class and then our class is a two-hour discussion/activity session related to the theme of the paper.

Today’s theme was a concept called “stereotype threat”. We read a paper by a Stanford professor called How Stereotypes Shape Intellectual Identity and Performance (long-ass PDF warning, if you feel like reading it), which focuses on the stereotypes of women as being bad at math and of African Americans as being bad at school in general, and the negative impacts of those stereotypes on those groups. The first half of class we spent talking about the implications of stereotype threat. Generally, a negative stereotype about a group in a particular discipline is more threatening the more strongly you identify as a member of that group AND that discipline. For me, it has a lot to do with impostor syndrome, which is the general feeling that I don’t belong in my field, despite the fact that by most measures, I’m doing pretty well in it.

The second half of class, however, we focused primarily on racial attitudes, by way of a CoBRAS inventory. CoBRAS, or a Color-Blind Racial Attitudes Scale, is one of those fantastic corporate quizzes (“please indicate your level of agreement on a scale of 1-6”) that reduces your awareness of race-based issues to a handy-dandy number that you can compare to other people’s numbers and say “ha ha I’m more racially sensitive than you are” or whatever. But what is really interesting about it is not the numbers it produces but the conversations it begins.

We discussed a few of the specific inventory items, but moved quickly to a discussion of the overall inventory. Why did you agree or disagree with certain statements? Why did you have the strength of reaction that you did? What does your response say about your identity?

Our class, of 25 people on a good day, has one Black (well, biracial) student. She spoke up as being somewhat surprised by the categorization of her responses as being “kinda racist”, particularly in comparison with mine (which were somehow more racially-aware than the average POC response by a standard deviation and a half). However, her Black dad is African, and her mother is a White American, so she has no identificiation with the African American culture as such – she was told as a small child that she “sounded White” and didn’t know why anyone would want to not. That led to a teachable moment where I introduced a bunch of graduate students to the concept of AAVE and its cultural significance (in Jude’s words: WHO DOES NOT KNOW THIS but that’s a rant for another time), but also a salient underscore to the concept of stereotype threat.

A stereotype is an assumption made about another person based on certain characteristics of that person: You’re a lady so you can’t do math. You’re African American so you’re bad at school. You’re young so your opinions are uninformed. How much these stereotypes are threats to you, though, has a lot to do with how strongly you identify with either the group (e.g. “African Americans”) or the domain (e.g. “academics”). Here, lemme draw you a picture:

Venn

Stereotypes are threatening to people in the overlap of that first Venn diagram. If you’re not a part of the group, it’s not a threat; if you don’t care about the domain, it’s not a threat. Men generally don’t feel threatened by stereotypes about women and math; similarly, women who don’t care about math don’t find the stereotypes to have any influence in their lives.

The real insiduousness of stereotypes isn’t that they keep underrepresented groups from trying: they push out those people who care enough to try to get in.

Weekend Question Thread

Since Athenae’s out, I’m usurping the Question Thread.

It’s getting unfortunately cold outside for those of us incivilized latitudes (lookin’ at you, Adrastos). What do you do for entertainment when it’s too cold to just go drink a beer on the porch in a t-shirt?

I’ve hauled out the knitting and bought a 1000-piece puzzle; there will also be much roasting of poultry and making of soup. If it deigns to snow this year, I’ll haul out the cross-country skis, but the weather has been somewhat fickle in that regard the past few years.

Explaining our “normal”

I had a meeting with our dean last week to talk about various facets of life at the U. We had recently undergone salary equity issues and I found that apparently our administration felt I, unlike 92 percent of my college-wide colleagues, was equitable enough to not merit any additional dollars.

The discussion was awkward for me, as I grew up in a home that was populated by a teacher and a factory worker. Talking to anyone about my salary in any way always made me feel like Latrell Sprewell bitching about how $21 million wasn’t enough to feed his family.

I started to explain to the dean why I wanted to talk to him but that I didn’t want to be there and he cut me off.

“I get it,” he said. “I came from a family like that too.”

He told me a story about how he once tried to explain to his uncle what life as a professor was like. He said he was teaching three classes per semester and how that was about 12 hours in the classroom plus about 12 office hours per term.

“Don’t worry,” his uncle told him. “If you keep working hard, eventually they’re going to give you more hours.”

Years later, when he became a full professor, he called his uncle and told him the good news.

“See?” the man replied. “I told you if you worked hard enough, they would make you full time!”

We talked for a while about the state of the U, especially the public perception of it. The Legislature in this state lost its mind last summer when it saw the university as hoarding cash. The folks around our area also lost their mind when the local paper posted the salary of every university worker to its website. In most cases, including mine, the money was way off. Still, that didn’t mean it wasn’t enough to freak people out. He understood the same way that I did how hard it was for people who worked 40 hours a week (or more) to not look at college professors and ask, “You only spend HOW MANY hours a week in front of a classroom?”

It’s also hard to explain to people that this is like asking a cop, “You only arrest HOW MANY felons a week?” The preparation, the research, the effort, the attempts and other elements take time but don’t seem to matter in the subsequent bean counting.
It can be even harder to explain that teaching isn’t all we do. I remember getting my first scholarly article published and calling home to tell my folks. My dad’s reaction was Classic Dad: “They pay you extra for that?”

He couldn’t understand that I do get paid for that. It’s called my salary. The same is true of the books I write, the meetings I attend, the class prep I do, the grading aspect of those courses and 83 other things that happen to be required of me if I didn’t want to suck at my job.

Life was different for Dad.

He would come home at about 3:30 or 4 p.m. every day and take off his safety shoes. He’d grab the paper and lie on the couch, reading about the state of the state and how the Brewers were doing. He’d eat dinner with the family, drink a few beers, watch TV and go to sleep.

The next day, he would do it all over again.

I wouldn’t trade my job for his by a damned sight, but I do wonder sometimes what it would be like not to be tethered to a computer full of work and working at the behest a group of people demanding more and more time. I also wonder what it would be like to not have people complaining that I was overpaid, regardless of what I did.

In the ESPN film “Broke,” Jets linebacker Bart Scott outlined how he explained his salary to his childhood friends in one of the more dangerous parts of Detroit. He noted he didn’t hit the lottery. He earns the money. Given what we know about concussions, crippling injuries and the early onset of mental disorders in former players, I’d say he’s probably right.

Still, it’s hard to tell people that I earned my money. Nine years of college (which is pretty minimal for a full run through a Ph.D.) coupled with grad student servitude and cheap labor as a teaching assistant kept me out of the labor market for almost a decade. Meanwhile, people who bailed after high school or an associate’s degree were earning an actual salary for most of that time. In some ways, what I have now might best be viewed as deferred compensation: school came first, money came later.

Even so, I get it when people look at me and don’t want to think, “Hey, he earned it.” Or “Wow, it would be great to have that.” Instead, it’s easier to think that we teach 10 hours a week, get our summers off and pretty much live the sweet life. It’s also easier to channel those feelings of discomfort or anger into a sense of how as a “taxpayer” my money comes from their sweat.

Later that week, I went to go pick up my kid from school and met up with one of the parents I tend to pal around with as we wait for dismissal. I was still stinging a bit from the “We like you but we aren’t going to pay you any more money” discussion I had with the dean.

As I saw the guy approaching, I asked him how things were going. He was a guy who did construction, dug wells and worked throughout the area as a fix-it man. On good days, he was able to get home for a change and a shower before he had to pick up his kid. I could always tell when he had a rough day, as clay would cake onto his boots and dirt would be all down the front of his hoodie and jeans.

“Pretty good,” he said. “We got to work inside today. How about you?”

“Yeah. Pretty good too. Just getting stuff done. Y’know…”

The Fog of History: The Oswald Enigma

Oswald NOLA mugshot

Frontline is consistently one of the best non-fiction shows on teevee, so it’s not a big surprise that Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald is one of the best entries in the macabre 50th anniversary sweepstakes. Did I really say sweepstakes? Yeah, just deal with it.

The Frontliners give us a comprehensive look at one of the most baffling aspects of the whole story: what drove Oswald to do what he did. The puny and unimpressive nature of the man himself is one reason that so many people have a hard time believing that he killed a great man like Jack Kennedy. There are many assassination buffs who take Oswald literally when he claimed to be a patsy. I am not one of them. Oswald clearly fired at least 2 shots on that horrible day in 1963. The argument lies in whether or not he had help in doing so. I think that he did but there are strong arguments on the other side. For one thing, Oswald was a loner and *not* a joiner to say the least.

Oswald was an elusive and rather slippery character. Just when you think you have a firm handle on his character and motivation, something else catches your attention and leads you down a rabbit hole. It’s like trying to nail Jello to a wall, not that I’ve ever tried that; that sounds vaguely Midwestern, actually. Frustration thy name is Lee Harold Oswald.

The Oswald story has become so familiar that it’s easy to forget how fucking weird it is. A skinny dumbass from New Orleans studies rudimentary Marxism, joins the Marines, moves to the Soviet Union, becomes a pro-Castro activist, then an anti-Castro agent provocateur and finally murders JFK and a Dallas cop. He is then whacked by a Jewish strip club owner with mob ties. It doesn’t get much stranger than this, y’all.

Oswald was born in my town, New Orleans, and spent a good chunk of his weird and pathetic life being weird and pathetic here. As much as I hate to admit it, the kids at the Picayune and NOLA.com are doing a pretty good job covering the extensive links between Oswald and our fair city. Oswald did most of his growing up in NOLA and retreated here in the months preceding the murder of President Kennedy. The Picayune’s team has assembled two swell maps illustrating what they call “key locations for conspiracy theories” and a map of places that weird Lee livedas both a child and an adult. The latter map is of special interest to me because the place on Magazine Street, where he lived in 1963, is 3 blocks away from Adrastos World HQ. It’s a double that looks neither sinister nor imposing, sort of like the assassin himself.

I’ve pondered Oswald for many years and remain puzzled as to what made him tick. I didn’t necessarily learn anything new from the Frontline film, but if you haven’t wasted much time trying to understand Oswald you’ll learn a lot from this film. In the end, it’s damnably hard to explain the inexplicable, and everything about Oswald was damned enigmatic.

That is all.

PBJ blows with the wind

Bobby JIndal is a human weather vane. He walks around with his index finger extended at all times to see if it’s time to change positions.The prevailing wind in the GOP right now seems to be gusting pragmatism:

Republican governors’ leader Bobby Jindal turned on his party’s national leadership on Wednesday, calling on the GOP to suggest alternative ideas for healthcare and immigration reform rather than simply defining itself as the “party of no”.

Amid signs of a growing backlash among Republican moderates since the failed government shutdown and the landslide re-election of centrist New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Jindal opened the annual conference of governors in Arizona with a stark warning to the Tea Party-dominated House of Representatives.

“We no longer want to outsource our brand management to the folks in DC,” said the governor of Louisiana. “Too often in Washington, we are defined as the party of no. Too often we’re defined by what we’re against. We need to do a better job as a party of defining what we are for.”

PBJ sounds more like a junior ad exec than a future President doesn’t he? His old slogan of no mo stupid party went over about as well as a dead rat in the punch bowl, so he’s trying to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and stop messing with Mr. In Between.

The reason for the new GOP wind patterns, of course, is all the hot air emanating from the MSM about Chris Christie’s big victory up in Joisey. The folks at Politico and elsewhere believe that somehow Gov. Pufferfish can bellow, bluster and drag his party to the center. Color me skeptical. Both Senator Walnuts and Willard Mittbot Romney were moderates who moved far right to placate their party. It was easy for Willard, because like PBJ, he believes in absolutely nothing whereas McCain at least believes in going to war whenever and wherever possible. Just call him Dr. Strangelove.

Back to my large eared and butt ugly Governor.PBJ recently “wrote” another piece for Poltico wherein he kinda, sorta said he might be running in 2016. Actually, he said “I don’t know,” which Jindalspeak means “yes, yes, yes, give it to me now.” (No wonder he gives the bozos at Tiger Beat on the Potomac a collective stiffy.) Since he’s term limited, he can no longer say “I have the job I want.” PBJ seems to be positioning himself to morph into a moderate if Christie falters as I expect him to do after yelling at one too many biblethumpers in Iowa.

I remain eternally skeptical about Jindal’s future candidacy, but he does have a shot at the other route to the Presidency. That route, of course, is the one taken by Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford and Harry Truman: the Vice Presidency. If the GOP nominee is another Governor it won’t happen, but if it’s someone like Paul Ryan or a Senator, PBJ has a good chance to be on the ticket. He’s the sort of minority candidate the Republicans love: he’s one of them while looking like THE OTHER. It’s unlikely to help them all that much in the Indian-American community, most of whom are libruls, but it could make the GOP look more tolerant and inclusive to suburbanites.

That is all.

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Threatening Their Way of Life

Whet explains some of the venom directed at bikes and bikers:

And transit is at the dead center of this shift, perhaps literally—in 2012, economists from Berkeley and Oregon State argued that rising gas prices popped the housing bubble, as the quick, steep mid-2000s increase pushed families past their financial breaking points, forcing them to reconsider or involuntarily abandon long, expensive commutes.

All this sounds like a nightmare scenario if you live in the suburbs. Gas prices rise and housing prices fall, eating into liquid capital and equity. Families with the ability to move return back to the city, depressing housing prices even further. Declining property tax revenues and a fleeing upper-middle-class undermine previously excellent schools. At best, suburbanites take a huge hit on depreciating houses; at worst, they’re stranded in decaying neighborhoods, cut off by isolating new infrastructure.

If you grew up in Chicago from the 1950s onward, it will look familiar. It’s probably why you moved to the suburbs in the first place, and the city still bears the scars of that flight. A great—and rapid—inversion is a fearsome possibility.

Another thing that I’d argue made the rise in gas prices so devastating in the suburbs is the prevalence of suburb-to-suburb commuting. Not everybody lives out and goes in; some go sideways or up or down, and the office parks mentioned are rarely anywhere near a transit hub. Sure, some trains go to some burbs but it’s not the same as having a network of trains that let off not in the middle of 12 acres of parking but right in front of your office door. Mr. A and I both had jobs for a while that by virtue of their locations left us no choice but to drive, and that’s in a city we like to think of as having pretty awesome mass transit. You get 30 miles out, if your car is too expensive you ain’t goin’ no place.

And the lack of options means a lack of control, which is what used to make me crazy about the whole process. In terms of getting from point A to point B it’s a hell of a lot easier when everything’s close together, and Whet hits on the best thing I’ve found in my own bike riding adventures: Total control of the journey from one end to the other. I get on my bike at home, I get off it at work, I walk no more than the 10 feet from the house to the rack to the office to the rack to the house again. If you need to take a car to a train to another train to a bus and then back again at the end of the day, and even one of those chains of transportation is late or God forbid inactive entirely, your whole life is like a domino setup of fuckery that just got leveled by a T-Rex and you’re exhausted by 8 a.m.

Some of this is just generation sniping, of course, of my very least favorite kind: Why do you have all this stuff when I didn’t get any of it? One of the hardest things to argue, with myself sometimes even, is that future generations don’t owe past generations shit. You love the way you live — awesome! But don’t wait for the hipster kids to throw you a parade for it, because they won’t. You didn’t. Your parents didn’t, for their parents. That’s not how people work. Everybody wants what they want, which is no more a judgment on you than your choices are an imperative towards them.

Why glibertarian dickheads like Kass lionize self-reliance and then want their lifestyles validated by every Starbucks barista they see is one of the enduring mysteries of modern punditry.

A.