Archive for the ‘department of wtf’ Category

UC Walkout

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Back in June, when the governor and the legislature were still fighting over the best way to balance the state’s budget without raising taxes, they agreed upon a series of cuts to public education in California. One of their ideas was to take away $800 million from the University of California system. When I wrote about this for the Nation, I argued that:

The UC budget represents only $3 billion of the state’s budget, but its economic, educational and health benefits are enormous. The UC system employs 170,000 faculty and staff; it educates 220,000 students; its five medical centers serve more than 3.6 million patients each year; and for every dollar it receives in state research funding, it secures six more in federal and private research dollars. Cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from California’s public universities would be an unmitigated disaster. It would result in huge losses in tax revenues for the state and a decline in the quality of healthcare, and it would eventually lead to nothing short of the dismantling of quality public higher education in the state.

In early July, when most faculty and students were away, the administrators of the University of California began sending a series of emails, which seemed to me confusing and contradictory. It eventually became clear that President Yudoff’s plan included salary cuts and furloughs for all faculty and staff, larger classes, reduced enrollment, and higher tuition and fees. Because of the University’s system of “shared governance,” the faculty and staff still believed they would have a voice in how the budget cuts would be implemented on their individual campuses.

So when the UC faculty voted (system-wide) to have at least 6 instruction-day furloughs (out of a total of 26), they expected to be heard. Ordinarily, faculty divide their time between three main duties: teaching, service, and research. It makes sense that at least some of the furlough time be on instruction days. In addition, instruction-day furloughs keep the pressure on the state and force the governor/legislature to be accountable for the effects of continued disinvestment from public education. But on August 21, the University’s administrators announced that “the decision was made to not have faculty furlough days take place on instructional days.” This seems to be a fairly clear violation of the system of shared governance.

In addition, while the administrators claim that the salary cuts were unavoidable, they also somehow managed to vote for pay increases for a couple dozen top administrators way back in May. So the administrators do believe that the cuts are necessary, so long as the people at the very top are not affected.

Most importantly, the students will have larger and fewer classes, and higher tuition and fees. The cost of their education has risen dramatically and, chances are, will continue to rise over the next few years. Meanwhile, there are fewer options for them in the job market.

The UC Board of Regents Chair, Russell Gould, launched a commission, which he will co-chair with President Yudoff. It’s called the “Commission on the Future of UC” and it will likely help redefine the way in which the University will operate in the next few years. It consists of business and professional people, chancellors and deans from UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, UCLA, and UC Santa Barbara (but not other campuses—UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz, UC Merced, UC Davis, UC San Francisco, and UC San Diego), and very few faculty. There is real reason to worry that certain fields and certain campuses will be given a higher priority than those fields/campuses that do not bring in as much money to the University.

It is because of all of this that a group of UC faculty, including faculty on my campus, has organized a walkout for September 24. Our walkout is endorsed by the American Association of University Professors.


Existential Angst

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Here is how the French newspaper Le Figaro titled its exclusive interview with Afghan president Hamid Karzaï: Karzai: “Je ne serais pas une marionette des Etats-Unis”. (Karzaï: “I will not be a puppet of the United States.”) It’s the funniest headline I’ve seen in a long time. Such existential angst on his part.


Department of WTF

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Harper’s Scott Horton links to footage from an interview that General Petraeus gave to Fox News, in which he argued in favor of the release of the remaining photographs showing alleged prisoner abuse.  Says Horton:

Petraeus argued in favor of release, saying “Let’s lance this boil.” He feared that the damage from withholding the photos would be greater than that from releasing them, because it would fuel suspicions that the photos are worse than they are. General Ray Odierno took the opposing view, and Obama sided with Odierno, although my sources say this is strictly a timing decision, and that Obama fully intends ultimately to release the photos.

That last bit seems somewhat optimistic.  At Salon, Glenn Greenwald points out that Obama is actively supporting a new bill, sponsored by Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, called The Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act of 2009.  Greenwald explains:

[This bill] literally has no purpose other than to allow the government to suppress any “photograph taken between September 11, 2001 and January 22, 2009 relating to the treatment of individuals engaged, captured, or detained after September 11, 2001, by the Armed Forces of the United States in operations outside of the United States.”  As long as the Defense Secretary certifies — with no review possible — that disclosure would “endanger” American citizens or our troops, then the photographs can be suppressed even if FOIA requires disclosure.  The certification lasts 3 years and can be renewed indefinitely.  The Senate passed the bill as an amendment last week.

If this is what the Obama administration calls transparency, can you imagine what obfuscation might look like?

Department of WTF

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Life expectancy in the United States has now fallen behind that of almost every other industrialized nation, while at the same time the U.S. is spending more on health care (per capita) than any other country.

Department of WTF

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Remember Kanan Makiya? Aside from predicting that American troops would be “greeted with sweets and flowers” in Iraq, he’s apparently also moved more than 7 million pages of records from the Baath party to the United States, where they will be housed in the Hoover Institution at Stanford. The Iraqi National archivist Saad Eskander wants the looted papers back in Baghdad, where they belong, but who’s listening to him? Neither the occupying forces nor their handmaidens in Iraq.

Department of WTF

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

I don’t get all the hoopla over Scott McClellan’s What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception. If he knew that his boss’s arguments were war propaganda, then why didn’t he step down? And if he didn’t know, then why suddenly come out with it now, when criticizing George Bush has become the safest national pastime? Oh, right: Ka-ching!

Department of WTF

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

You’ve heard a lot about Jeremiah Wright, but have you heard about McCain’s “spiritual adviser,” one Rod Parsley?

Don’t worry, most of the mainstream media haven’t heard either.

Department of WTF, Redux

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

Then again, when I read what Mike Huckabee told a Michigan crowd on Monday, it made me feel like there are enough nutcases in every religion to turn you into an atheist:

“I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution,” Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. “But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that’s what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.”

And this guy won Iowa, for God’s sake.

Department of WTF

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

I heard that Britney Spears wants to convert to Islam. There comes a point in every lunatic celebrity’s career when this happens (See: Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson, etc.) And all I can say is: Our nut house is full, Britney. Please take up another religion, we have enough crazies of our own.

Department of WTF

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Giles Foden, the author of The Last King of Scotland and this year’s chair of judges for the Booker Prize, files a post-mortem piece for the Guardian about the judging process. I was shocked to read this tidbit:

The Reluctant Fundamentalist divided the panel: one judge felt the book tacitly supported Islamic fundamentalist violence, another that it evaded the issue. I thought these views were wrong. To my mind the skill of the book lay in the way its ingenious narrative device implicated the reader in the political issues explored.

The text itself remained ambivalent. The fact that the device was borrowed or learned from Camus’ The Fall did not generate as much excitement among the judges as it did among certain literary journalists. Most of us felt imitation of form was one of the ways in which literature is carried on. Besides, the debt to the author of The Fall was implicitly acknowledged by its overtness, and by a mention of Camus in the blurb.

Some of the judges thought The Reluctant Fundamentalist condones Islamic fundamentalist violence? The character of Changez smiles at the collapse of the towers not out of political or religious fervor, but because of feelings of inferiority and resentment that he, a man from a forgotten city of the third world, harbors toward the strongest city of the first world and its obscenely powerful corporations. But let’s face it: If the book had been written by a middle-aged white man (think Updike) he’d have been praised for his insights into the “Muslim mind.”

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