25 May 2011

Meanwhile, in a serious crackdown on violent crime....

The DC Metro Police have made sure we're all safe from thin men in wheelchairs. Thank God for that. Here's the story from the Post:
In a statement issued Sunday, Metro said the man was spotted Thursday by Metro officers patrolling at the U Street NW Metro station. The statement said the man declined to leave the area and refused to have a citation issued to him, whereupon he was told that he would be arrested.

In that statement Metro said the man resisted arrest, resulting in a fall from his wheelchair. The man was charged with assault on a police officer and drinking in public, Metro said.

Well, that's one perspective. I don't know...I might decline to leave an area if I hang out there often. You see people hanging out around the Dupont Circle Metro all the time. What turns this from everyday police harassment to police brutality is what happens next, despite Metro's obnoxious and ridiculous claim that the man "fell from his wheelchair."

Here's the video from You Tube. The man "fell" from his wheelchair if Metro defines "fell" as "forcibly picked up then shoved to the ground," which isn't exactly the standard definition:

I've talked before about how poisonous the comments sections of most internet media outlets are. This article's comments are no different, with many people -- notably those who self-identify as Virginians (although I have trouble taking seriously the moniker "VATrailerTrash" as an honest self-description) -- acting as though the guy in the wheelchair deserved this treatment or was a symptom of the District's rule by Democrats (apparently because assault on a wheelchair-bound intoxicated man would be a badge of honor if Republicans were in charge?? No, it doesn't make sense to me, either).

The Post of course tiptoes around the evidence in describing the video this way:
At one point in the video, the officers appear to be lifting the man from the wheelchair, and shortly afterward, the officers and the man are prone on the sidewalk. The video shows blood near the man’s head.

Um, it's a continuous motion...there's no "shortly afterward." There's also no "appear," unless you think the whole thing was a staged Pro-Wrestling Affair, with the Metro Police and the man in a wheelchair acting out some street drama. Let's at least report what the video says, and if you are so chickenshit scared of the cops ticketing your double-parked cars on 15th Street, then preface the entire thing with "the video appears to show" -- don't sprinkle the weasel words throughout the description.

It remains to be seen if anyone will give a rat's ass about this thuggery. If nothing else, advocates for the handicapped ought to be putting the heat on the scumbags from Metro. Maybe Jim Graham should take note.

24 May 2011

Oh Noes It's The New Woild Order!

So I began this morning looking for something quick to celebrate Bob Dylan's 70th, and no I wasn't checking under the couch for a half-smoked joint. I was up on You Tube looking for a decent video to share with my good friends on facebook. However, having found said video, I became trapped in the You Tube Maelstrom, that whirling vortex of connectivity that drags you in and holds you for an hour or two.

I noted first how many links there were to Bob Dylan covers. OK, great, but not what I was seeking out. Then there were several links to Bob Dylan selling his soul. Interesting stuff from a whacko standpoint, so I made a note to come back to the link, which I did after I found a great video from the Rolling Thunder Revue tour.

Bob Dylan selling his soul led me to all sorts of selling one's soul and all sorts of anti-christ musings, which are very interesting given our recent brush with the Rapture on May 21. What impresses me most is the seamless way in which anti-government hysteria is linked with apocalyptic religious readings.

Apparently, in addition to the evil that the UN represents, and especially because the UN has turned out to be more bumbling idiot than despotic overlord, we need a more scary adversary in the area of New World Orders. The UN, admittedly, has failed miserably as a frightening force for world unity. Enter the North American Union!

It's scary.

It's come to take your cars out your garages!

And best of all, since it doesn't exist, it can be all things to all people! It can cause abortions! It can turn your son gay! It acts in secret because it knows it can't get elected!

Seriously. Do a you tube search on North American Union. Apparently any sign of cooperation among the three North American nation states of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico is evidence of this nefarious collaboration. Whether it's formal agreements such as treaties or less formal photo opportunities, it's all a sign of something underhanded.

In fact, discussion "North American borders" is the same thing -- the exact same thing -- as erasing national borders. Did you know that? Well, now you do! In fact, joint military exercises and trainings are nothing more than the creation of a North American military that will overthrow out sovereign nation! Keep that in mind next time you see a smiling Canadian -- that Maple Leaf is red for a reason, Comrade!

All this mayhem would be disturbing enough if it were only national sovereignty at stake, but the real goal of the NAU -- or should I say the real purpose of the NAU -- is to prepare the way for the AntiChrist and then my friends it's not only your passport label at stake: it's your eternal soul.

Don't mind the dire predictions of all this happening under Bush's watch (Bush I as instigator and Bush II as the Realizer) -- it's still valid. Who knows, your neighbor could be a spy for the NAU. Be careful out there.

So as Bob Dylan said so many years ago, "you've got to serve somebody." But not in the clip below:

Happy Birthday, Bob.

20 May 2011

It's Friday and I have a list.

I just finished Don Delillo's Point Omega. It's a thin little book, so it wouldn't take anyone too long to read, but it's one of the more beautiful books I've read in a while. It's a novel about narrative, language, the truth, and alienation. These are all connected to one another. The visual narrative , the use of language to create narratives that obscure the truth, our alienation depending on narrative perspective and the stories we tell ourselves. It's a good candidate for inclusion in a future course.

Delillo's book was the first one on my list of post-semester reading. The second one will be to finish (finally) a novel I started last year but had to shelve because I was buried in reading and writing. That novel is Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. I'm halfway through it. Sure it was written in this century, but it goes back to the antebellum years to investigate one of the points of slavery that often gets lost in either a focus on the physical brutality and dehumanization of the system at large or the courageous stories of resistance and rebellion, which isn't to say that Wench is devoid of these events or issues. However, the focus is on the practice of well-to-do slavers to maintain slave mistresses and to take them on "vacation" as it were. As the resort in question is in a northern "free" state, the novel also raises the issue of the polite collusion of the North in the continuation of slavery. This novel is not a "see how well some slaves were treated" apology such as you would get from Margaret Mitchell; it's a serious depiction of the compromises, sacrifices, and dehumanization that attends even the "favored" slaves.

Behind that book, I have Brock Clarke's latest queued up: Exley. I'm looking forward to reading this one mainly because I find Clarke's voice so intriguing. He writes unlikeable characters in very compelling ways. Sam Pulsifer, the narrator of An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England, is a perfect example of his ability to create the unlikeable but still interesting character that you continue to listen to despite your dislike.

So my list so far:
1. Wench by Perkins-Valdez
2. Exley by Clarke

With any luck, I'll get through these before summer classes start and/or inundate me, and then I'll be able to squeeze in another novel between grading and reading for the summer course.

17 May 2011

Googling around and finding the internet is fueled by stupidity.

I spent a little time this morning following the google links from one place to the next. I eventually ended up on a relatively poorly thought out blog named "Western Hero" or something like that. Like most right-wing blogs (and right-wing pundits on mainstream outlets), critical methodology isn't WH's strong point, including such risible jems as describing links to stories in such ways as the descriptions bear little resemblance to the story itself. A good example of this mistake can be seen if you want to search for "debunk Iraq death count Lancet" + "Western Hero" -- you'll get a piece from 2009 (don't ask me how I got there...I was looking for information on Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa's Academically Adrift) linking to a BBC article that, WH claims, "debunks" the Lancet report.

Unfortunately for WH, the article does no such thing. What it does do is discuss how the lead researcher refused to give research information to the American Association for Public Opinion Research, leading that body to censure him. It says nothing about the validity of the claims made in the Lancet, and in fact makes a point of noting that AAPOR doesn't comment on the accuracy of the research...only that the researcher has not been forthcoming in providing material. The BBC article, by the way, is here. There are plenty of other examples on the site, if you care to dredge through some of the most poorly supported writing and self-congratulatory echo-chamber comments you can find concentrated in one place.

In a way, the results of that search did connect to Arum and Roksa's work, because it's clear -- or perhaps more accurately I should say that it appears from anecdotal evidence of googling serious issues -- that colleges and universities are producing a large amount of fools who can't evaluate evidence or engage in much critical thinking. If a student of mine had linked that BBC article as an attempt to prove anything about the Lancet's Iraq War civilian deaths, he or she would get a nice note about support needing to do what you claim it does. If the paper were about questions raised concerning research methodology and transparency in statistics gathering, the article has relevance; as a debunking of the research, it is silent.

Later today, I'll be listening to Arum at a luncheon keynote. It'll be interesting to hear what he has to say, but I haven't read through the book -- I've only digested the digested version available on the Chronicle of Higher Education site. I have questions about what's being measured as learning -- questions I'm willing to bet the book (which is as of this morning sitting on my desk) goes some way to answer -- and more importantly how do we quantify something I find to be inherently unquantifiable: the co-curricular and extra-curricular (intentional and more often unintentional by the way) components of those four years spent in college? As a recent Pew survey has found, 84% of college graduates are satisfied with the cost of their education relative to the benefits. While that survey question doesn't speak to learning (I can be plenty satisfied without having learned anything if I achieve a favorable outcome like getting a good job), the survey as a whole seems to ask about some of those "unquantifiables."