24 July 2007

Long lost twins

I was blog reading earlier today, and I saw two things that struck me in whole new ways. The first was a photo of Harriet Miers, and the second was a photo of the late and fabulous Tammy Faye Bakker. I thought to myself, "Hmm... they look strikingly similar." Then I thought, "Yes! Big hair! Fake eyelashes! Eyeliner mishaps!"

That's right kids, Harriet Miers and Tammy Faye Bakker bear a striking resemblance to each other.

Behold the evidence:
Would-be Supreme Court Justice Harriet Miers with her cowboy husband.

Tammy Faye Bakker with her "Jesus saves! (your money for me)" husband.

As an added bonus, not only do they look similarly silly, but they both enjoy the company of slimy bastards that like to fuck people over.

There you have it kids, my revelation of the day.

20 July 2007

AU president announced

As expected, the AU Board named Neil Kerwin as president of the University today. I was at the announcement, which was in an auditorium stuffed to the gills with staff, faculty, and students (plus alumni like me probably blended in). As soon as Kerwin's name was announced, the audience burst into loud applause and cheers that lasted for a few minutes. During his speech, Kerwin promised that a new process of planning for the future would begin soon, which will involve all constituencies on campus. That prompted even more applause. Kerwin also stressed improving governance and transparency. That certainly makes me feel better.

For a good governance geek like me, entering AU right as the Ladner scandal broke was pretty unnerving, and the two years of uncertainty that followed were simply disquieting. I'm glad that has now been resolved. I think this brings the kind of positive closure for my grad school experience that, unfortunately, I didn't get on Smurf Day. All in all, this is a good thing.

Update: Link to news coverage from the Post.

Finally, some progress in the AU president search

The Post gave us this little teaser this morning saying that the recalcitrant American University Board of Trustees might actually bother to pick a president tomorrow, and that it will probably be the interim president the University has already had for two years.

Well gee guys, it's about damn time.

My woes with AU governance started just shortly after I enrolled there as a graduate student. I watched in horror as President Moronic Asshole Thief stole a lot of money, was caught, and then was given severance pay. After all, I was a student rep to the Board of Trustees when I was in college, and I got a nice tutorial in college and university finances. I also enjoyed, and helped improve, a fairly open and transparent system of governance back when I was a lowly undergrad at liberal arts college. That hey day ended as soon as I got to AU, and I realized how good I'd had it before.

I also got really damn pissed off. And I said so. And it got me nowhere. So I shut up. Anyway.

I think Neil Kerwin will be a fine president at AU. He hasn't had a lot of leverage in the past to years, as he's basically been seen as a caretaker, and as the Post reveals, hasn't really been taken seriously by the Board until just recently. But he seems to be an amiable guy. He actually can be seen walking around on campus, smiling and saying hi to people, which is something his predecessor didn't do (probably because his fat ass was being driven around everywhere).

Nonetheless, this search has been run in a smoke-filled room, with as little transparency as humanly possible. Indeed, there were student, faculty, and alumni reps on the search committee, but no one was allowed to talk about anything. The only public forums on the subject dealt with characteristics various constituencies would like to see in a new president, which of course led to a lot of "we'd like someone who isn't a crook, please." I understand being sensitive to candidates' needs to keep things quiet, but I don't think it's unreasonable to at least name the finalists and bring them to campus for general ogling (sans press).

Even this process would have been more tolerable if the Board had been more transparent to begin with. In spite of going through a big governance reform process during 2006, it seems that most changes were cosmetic. Although a student and a faculty member were added to the Board (without vote), the process of selecting those individuals was done completely in private, after the initial solicitation of applications. In short, who the hell knows what the AU Board will do, except the Board itself. It was telling when, after completing its so-called reform, the Senate Finance Committee wrote back and said "not good enough," to which the Board basically responded "tough." Frankly, inviting a couple more people to your meetings and publishing a very, very brief summary of meetings doesn't quite make Board operations transparent. There needs to be actual effective communication back and forth, and in that regard, the AU Board is still seriously lacking.

Nonetheless, I'm excited about tomorrow's announcement. AU left a bad taste in my mouth at the end of two years. While I think it's a fantastic institution academically, the fact that it's managed by idiots/assholes at the highest level rather casts a negative light on the whole thing. If we could get a forward looking president with the genuine best interests of the University in mind, and a Board that is willing to exercise its responsibilities while neither grandstanding nor micromanaging, then things will be in good shape. If Neil Kerwin is given the authority to do that, then I'm all for it. I guess now we wait and see.

17 July 2007

The Official List of People George Bush Hates

So I was reading this weekend about how our beloved president wants to veto the renewal of the children's insurance program, because it doesn't cut enough taxes or some shit. This made me realize that George W. Bush, President of the United States of Dumb Shits Who Voted For Him Twice and the Victims of those Dumb Shits, hates babies. Especially poor ones.

I thought everybody loved babies. Even people like me who can't stand kids love babies.

With these thoughts in mind, I decided to just tick off in my head who else George Bush hates. I've basically come to the conclusion that his goal is to get approval ratings into the single digits (at least). Anyway, here's my list. Feel free to make additions.
  1. Children (see above)
  2. People of color (see the results of his appointments to the Supreme Court, among other things)
  3. Women (ditto)
  4. Old people (turning Social Security into private accounts, adding labyrinthine prescription drug measures to Medicare)
  5. Persons who live in low-lying areas susceptible to hurricanes (Katrina; see also #2)
  6. Congress (ok, so we all do... still)
  7. Poor people (tax cuts for the wealthy! death in a quagmire for your kids!)
  8. The middle class (you got $300, while your boss got a yacht)
  9. Deer, antelope, and the places where they play (ANWR)
  10. The Constitution of the United States (Guantanamo, "domestic surveillance")
  11. The Queers (see the entirety of 2004)
  12. The uninsured (very similar to #7)
  13. Radical, gun-toting border vigilantes that make up his political base (see immigration reform)
  14. Baptists (he's a Methodist, kind of a given)
  15. College students (see ass raper student loan companies running amok)
  16. Americans (see #10)
So there you have it folks. I feel better having gotten that out of my system.

Oh, and PSA for all the manly patriots who will inevitably read this and leave a bitchy, unedited, and largely nonsensical comment: I'm liberal, I'm smug, and I don't like to lose.

14 July 2007

Happy Bastille Day!

Are you an unsatisfied peasant in a regime that thinks of you as merely a source of tax revenue? Are you a middle class merchant who finds your upward mobility hampered by an entrenched and corrupt elite? Did some obnoxious wealthy woman tell you to eat cake when she found out your children were without bread? Will you do absolutely anything to preserve your 35 hour work week and five weeks of vacation?

If any or all of these describe you, storm your nearest fortified prison with a few thousand of your closest friends and make your voice heard!

Alternatively, go out, get really drunk, and watch the French Maid Relay.

13 July 2007

No Tennesseans for president, please

What's that you say? A Tennessean advocating that people not vote for someone from Tennessee? Let me put this in perspective, by sharing with you some brief stories about the three gentleman Tennessee has already sent to the White House.
  1. Andrew Jackson (Seventh President, 1829-1837). Jackson greatly promoted the idea of giving friends government jobs. He also opposed having a central bank, and then ordered the removal of Native Americans from their land and sent them to Oklahoma instead. In memory of this greatness, his visage is on your $20 bill. After all, who needs a monetary policy, and wasn't this country claimed for god or England or something back in 1607?
  2. James K. Polk (Eleventh President, 1845-1849). Polk was an imperialist dude, who annexed Texas, bought what is now the Pacific Northwest, and scammed Mexico into giving up all but a tiny bit of what is now Arizona after a brief and effective, yet totally unnecessary war of aggression aimed at increasing America's resource wealth. That probably all sounds familiar, except for the "winning" part. But again, he gave us Texas, the state that killed Kennedy and sent us a few too many Bushes. At least Polk started and ended his war within one term, and then retired, having had his fun. He promptly died.
  3. Andrew Johnson (Seventeenth President, 1865-1869). Johnson replaced Lincoln, and proceeded to piss off virtually everyone he came in contact with. He also opposed civil rights legislation on more than one occasion. His own cabinet hated him, so Congress forbid him from firing anyone. In a gesture of conciliation, he of course fired the Secretary of War. Congress then impeached his ass on 11 counts, but he was acquitted by one vote. Having managed to somehow not be a member of any political party, nobody nominated him for re-election, so he decided to piss off President-elect Ulysses S. Grant by unilaterally and unconditionally giving amnesty all remaining Confederate soldiers and civilian officials that had failed to swear allegiance to the United States.
Now why do you need this history lesson? Because people keep talking about Al Gore and Fred Thompson running for president. Both of them are from Tennessee. In an even greater irony, Thompson was elected to fill the Senate vacancy created by Al Gore after he became vice-president.

What would a Tennessean do if elected? Why, he would steal your land, kill your relatives, invade a country for no real reason (though he might do that well), piss everybody off, and then screw the country for a century or two. Think of it like you're given a choice between electing one Bush or another, and then think about how much worse the country would be as a result.

There's a reason no one from my state has run the country in over 100 years. Just think about that.

09 July 2007

I thought she retired

Allow me to just go ahead and jump into the chorus of people laughing at Cindy Sheehan's announcement that she'll (maybe) challenge Nancy Pelosi for her seat in Congress in 2008.

Now let me take a moment to prove my bona fides here. I'm just about as anti-Iraq War as they get, and I'll gladly point out the various reasons why that effort was and is both illegal and unethical. I'm not yet a pacifist, but a Quaker education and a degree in peace have pushed me markedly in that direction. Nevertheless, I have a long-standing (though rarely mentioned) beef with Cindy Sheehan (not that I've ever met her).

Plenty of people have gone on about how she's unqualified for this and that, how she takes overly simplistic positions on incredibly complex subjects, etc. I'll leave those arguments to their merits (or lack thereof).

My thing is this. Cindy Sheehan is far too possessive of the "parent of an Iraq War service personnel killed in action" mantel. I hear her story about her son's service and her grief at his loss and it is truly heartbreaking, and certainly one I empathize with. However, through her things like setting up Camp Casey and naming every soldier and marine that's fallen and claiming that they died in vain, she's disrespecting the memories of those individuals. I won't tell her how she should remember her son or what she should feel about his loss. But she shouldn't go around telling the other parents/loved ones to be enraged. Some parents/spouses/children of deceased Iraq veterans believe that their family's victim in the war died honorably, in an honorable cause. No matter how much Cindy Sheehan, or anyone else, feels about the war and its consequences, absolutely no one has the right to challenge people in their grieving. Sheehan should have respected the wishes of those families who did not want their loved one's names displayed at Camp Casey (and elsewhere) and who did not want to be connected with the message she was conveying. She simply cannot rightly claim ownership over and complete understanding of every single U.S. military death in Iraq or Afghanistan, and her claim to speak for all war-dead parents is totally unfounded. It's painfully disrespectful and frankly rude.

Now my faith in any elected representative is virtually nil, and my trust of them is even less existent. This definitely means I don't really like any of them. Nonetheless, I truly wish Speaker Pelosi the best in a potential campaign against Cindy Sheehan. Besides, I thought Sheehan was supposed to have bowed out of public life by now.

05 July 2007

Things to think on

Re: nationalism and patriotism.

Thing one, by Howard Zinn (thanks Daniel).

Thing two, by Anne-Marie Slaughter (thanks to Passport).

Read both things in the order I posted them here, like I did this morning. They inadvertently play off each other, I think. I lean towards Slaughter's position, though Zinn certainly brings up some valid points. Both leave out a few things. Nonetheless, you be the judge of that. I'm just passing on things that made me ponder.

04 July 2007

Happy Independence Day! Please leave your explosives at the door

So it's the anniversary of when we declared the independence of the nation we stole from other people. To mark this splendid occasion, Her Majesty's Government of the country that used to lord over us till we made their last Prime Minister a poodle has announced that it will maybe begin the process of developing a bill of rights, if people sort of want one.

See, America's not all bad.

01 July 2007

Stop misusing this word

As we say in my mother land, I'm "plum sick and tired" of the consistent misuse of the word "reconciliation" that has bounced about the international affairs world in the past six months or so. This most often occurs in the context of discussions of Iraq or Somalia, and in both cases the use is nearly always wrong. For examples, see here (near the end of the article) and here.

What all these politicians actually mean when they use the word reconciliation in either Somalia or Iraq is "cease-fire." That's right, cease-fire. This talk of reconciliation is a ruse. They use reconciliation because terms like cease-fire, armistice, etc., imply that Mr. Shit has met Mr. Fan, and the results aren't so hot.

Who's most responsible for this curious turn of phrase? Why, members of the Bush Administration, of course. We all know how well Iraq has turned out. Somalia, it seems, hasn't gone any better, even when we let Ethiopia fight it as our proxy.

Friends, the end of shooting/bombing/slaughter does not reconciliation make. Nor can reconciliation be agreed to via legislation, as is touted in Iraq, or in negotiations, as have been repeatedly delayed in Somalia. Reconciliation is a society-wide process that involves the pursuit of justice, the identification of truth, the factually informed assignment of historical responsibility, and finally (and most difficult to achieve), the transformation of conflict-generating and conflict-sustaining relationships into mechanisms for peaceable coexistence (see Nadim Rouhana, 2004). All this, quite obviously, cannot be accomplished by 5 or 50 guys sitting around in a room.

As much Somalia would benefit from a cessation of hostilities between the Hawiye and the Darood dominated Government forces, this wouldn't be reconciliation. It would be an end of fighting. Reconciliation could only even begin to come after this crucial step. The same holds true for the various patterns of inter- and intra-group violence seen in Iraq. The various political types that keep preaching this misnamed objective (the UN has gotten on board too, and the media hasn't questioned it), need to state their real short-term desires. They want a cease-fire. Of course, reconciliation can and should remain a goal for both Somalia and Iraq, but first things first.