This Blog is Stolen Property

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Hand is Quicker than the Eye.

So, Scooter Libby is on trial. Whoopdee doo. If crimes against taste were prosecutable, he would surely be on trial for writing stories about forcing young girls to be raped by bears. That's a nasty bit of work. But the current trial is just another bit of executive sleight of hand.

I am so sick of "Plamegate." Of course, it was VERY wrong of Novak and Libby and whoever else to have leaked Valerie Plame's name. It jeopardized her work and potentially her safety.


Why are we calling this Plamegate and not Nigergate or Documentgate (on a side note, at some point in history, people are going to think that Nixon's career ended because of some scandal involving water)?

Libby is just the scapegoat, a fine bit of misdirection so that no one asks the important questions about intelligence being manufactured in order to justify miltary action.

I happened to be in London right after David Kelly committed suicide, and the press was all over it because, I think, of the phrase "sex up the dossier." Now, the British press isn't any better than ours, so maybe we need to start talking about the Niger documents getting "sexed-up." Maybe then we can refocus our attention on the real scandal.

It occurs to me that my very first blog post was on this very issues. Ah, memories.

Update: I was speaking to a very smart friend of mine about this matter, and she pointed out that it's like the "scandal" in The Constant Gardener, where the characters are all very busy tracking down memos and secrets and the big scandal is some corrupt scheme at a pharmaceutical company. "Yeah," she quipped, "that's the scandal about AIDS in Africa." Now, I like John le Carre, and he was just trying to write a suspenser, but for people to take it as a big political meesage is again to deflect attention from what we all know to be the case: getting AZT to people costs less that a dollar per person a day. This is a world wide threat. And we're still not taking decisive (and relatively cheap) action. But cloaking it all in intrigue lets us isolate the problem and continue not to face the reality of the situation.

And that's all I have to say about the Libby trial.

First Day of Class

Yesterday was the first day of Spring term. After class, this girl comes up to me. She has that glint in her eye that marks her as a grade-grubbing menace. Um, I mean "high achiever."

"Is this class hard?" she asks. "I mean, like, challenging?"

I hate this kind of thing. Different things are challenging to different people. And what she really wants to know is if it's an easy A. For which she can look in student evaluations from previous years where they have a category for that very question. Plus, grow up. Stop worrying about your GPA for one fucking minute and worry about your education.

I try the old standby of pretending not to understand the question (passive-aggression, Feemus-style): "Well, the wonderful thing about literature is that it can be as challenging as you make it. There is always more to be discovered in a text. But if you're worried that you might be bored, come see me during office hours and we can set up some alternative assignments for you."

Usually at this point, the student looks faintly embarrassed and walks away. But this person is undaunted and unchagrined. Without missing a beat, she says: "But for grades. Is it challenging for grades?"

"It's medium," I say. Whatever that means. She walks off.

I talk to another student and turn around. And like some creature from a horror movie, there she is, having crept back, in silence like the night.

"Ack!" I say.

"Um, yeah," she says. "But how hard is it to get an A on the papers?"

I've lost patience. "Young lady," I say [I know how obnoxious this phrase is, but it just slipped out] "May I give you a bit of advice? I believe that you will find the most rewarding things are precisely the things that challenge us. And I guarantee you that if you write your essays with the grade in mind, they will be tepid and pointless. If you write them to teach yourself something that you didn't already know, you will likely succeed in spite of yourself. And if you ask me one more question about your grade in a course that you haven't even enrolled in yet I am not responsible for my actions." [this is why at least once a semester someone writes in their course evaluations something along the lines of "Feemus is a dick."]

"But..." she said, "Just...can you tell me..."

I actually walked away. In the middle of a conversation with a student, I turned my back on her and walked away. But sheesh.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Whiny Confessional Post

I had to fail a student today and I feel just sick about it.

It's pretty rare--thanks to grade inflation and a motivated student body, this problem doesn't come up often. And usually when it does, the student has so exhausted my patience that I don't care. Often it's a case of academic dishonesty.

And usually the kind of kid who's in danger of failing because of blowing off class is a total system-working tool. He calls, emails, weasels, and pleads toward the end of the semester. If they put the energy into their work that they do into working me, they'd be fine.

But this student just sort of evaporated. Didn't turn in his term paper. Didn't turn up for the final. I've tried emailing him to offer amnesty and he doesn't answer. His adviser says that there's nothing particularly going on in his life that would explain his noshowism.

I typically am annoyed by all the babysitting we have to do here to make sure that the precious darlings don't ever have to feel the effects of their choices. But this kid just has me in knots. I keep picturing him huddled in his room watching Heathers for the 108th time and getting ready to Quentin Compson himself off this mortal coil.


Although maybe he's just been too busy snorting coke off the thighs of coeds to care. I hope so.

Thanks for listening.