Thursday, November 11, 2004


The Spanish Civil War--Book Recommendations?

I would like to locate a book on the Spanish Civil War that takes a balanced approach, condemning fascism where warranted but without acting as an apology for communism, or, worse, romanticizing the Republicans.


Friday, November 05, 2004


It's not (all) about the morality, baby

The news that morality was given as the main reason for 22% of Bush voters has caused quite an uproar on the listserv. Many posters are determined to reclaim morality from the right, which has the "wrong" definition of morality; they urge their fellow liberal Christians to resist the appropriation of the terminology of morality, and to discover ways to use such terminology themselves to fight the apparent tide of mindless Christian voters:

As long as we allow the political and religious right to continue to arrogate the words "moral" and "ethical" to themselves and to frame political discourse according to their own (mis)definitions of those terms, we will continue to lose these contests.

I personally want to retrieve from the immoral grasp of the Christian right my personal choice of being pro-life, anti-war, anti- state decreed murder (aka, death penalty), vegetarian, preferential option for the poor (my Catholic social justice mantra), feminist/ liberation theologian, etc., etc. We have for too long let the big mouths on the right- and to be fair, the left-- frame the debate and frame the
Now, mind you, I am highly sympathetic to the notion that being a Christian is only compatible with the views expressed by the religious right is, frankly, absurd. Kudos to those who want to undertake such a reclamation of religio-political identity. However, more and more questions are being raised as to the validity of the inferences drawn from the exit polls. The Swanky Conservative has a breakdown of the statistics showing how, when we combine terrorism and Iraq, posed as two separate questions by the pollsters, the percentages work out a bit differently: 20.4% of Bush voters cite terrorism or Iraq as their primary reason for voting for Bush, compared to 12.95% of Kerry voters. Morality is the primary issue for 17.6% of Bush voters, 3.96% of Kerry voters. Check out Pejmanesque and The Volokh Conspiracy also.

UPDATE: Washington Times columnist Clarence Page has some additional stats:

"But a closer look at Election Day exit polls indicates the reputed rise in social conservatism may be a false media-generated perception. The exit polls conducted nationally by research companies Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International showed "moral values" with 22 percent, beat "economy and jobs" (20 percent), "terrorism" (19 percent) and "Iraq" (15 percent) as the issue of greatest importance to voters. The Pew Research Center found similar results with a post-election poll of 1,209 voters. But when Pew offered a wider range of choices, "moral values" fell to only 14 percent, behind "Iraq" (25 percent) and ahead of "jobs and the economy" (12 percent) and "terrorism" (9 percent.)
The biggest category turned out to be "other," which included such options as "honesty" and dislike off Bush or Kerry, although if you combine Iraq and terrorism (36 percent) the way the Bush campaign constantly did, they beat every other category."

Thursday, November 04, 2004


Bush Voters are either Stupid or Evil

If it wasn't so infuriating I'd be laughing...

I'm a member of an academic listserv, and for the past 2 days there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the outcome of the election. Take a gander: I've copied representative posts below, with names and instutional affiliations omitted. Each entry is a separate post; one or two are by the same posters, but for the most part they were written by different individuals.

my attitude is MAKE THEM PAY - time to find some political groups that are going to help me fight Bush's expected initiatives on 1) no help with healthcare for the poor (guess who, women) 2) end of legal abortion 3) end of hopes for same-sex marriage 4) increase of gap between poor and rich via such things as permanent tax cuts for the rich 5) home land nazicurity.....

I think it was pretty appropriate that I was lecturing on the fourteenth century and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse this morning.

Unfortunately, there are people in academe who voted for Bush...some of my best friends did, and it is hard to believe that they ignored that something known as the enlightenment actually took place a few centuries ago.

For some very-well educated people in this country and for many not so well-lettered, reason pales when facing revelation. The war in Irak is for them a holy war, Bush said it, it is a "crusade"...

For the poor people of this country, I feel very sorry. They will get infinitely poorer in the next four years. For Bush and his followers in his administration, the future looks great: there is plenty of money coming their way soon.

I agree with [the poster who wrote "MAKE THEM PAY"]- raise the bar-- if they want to promote a radically conservative, fascistic, fundamental Christian agenda, then we should array forces on the left with an equal amount of passion and deliberation. Push the hot topics-- if they want to tell us how to live, let us respond as adamantly...The new civil war...

I am stunned, and sick. I hadn't wanted to believe this administration could so thoroughly disguise its record and its agenda to so many people. I finally understand how people of good will in Germany must have felt in the 1930's: do we get out while the getting is still good, or do we stay and fight this evisceration of democracy?

And selfishly I'm thinking that if we stay and fight, and lose, we'll all be tarred with the same shameful brush. The triumphalist rhetoric occludes the fact that there ever even was significant dissent.

It's the 8 year-old son factor that weighs heaviest on my mind right now considering last night. In all seriousness, what advice can anyone give for those of us who really, truly are considering leaving the country, if not to protect our scholarship and sanity, then at least to protect our children who will be 18 in another ten years? I agree with the various motions to become more active in a variety of different organizations and fight this thing, but I cannot help but wonder, will we be reaching the people who most need to be swayed?

For instance, I do know people in the midwest and other areas who probably voted for Bush. Clearly, a good number of people did vote for Bush (just perhaps not very many on this list!). . . . They [Democrats] clearly have the academic vote, but what can we do to help them reconnect with people other than our colleagues, who are probably already of like minds? [Name omitted], I think you are right that there are people (probably not most of us) who are really going to suffer -- and a good number of them probably were responsible for putting him in the seat for 4 more years, as well as strengthening the republican presence in the house and senate.

Although I speak from a big blue state, we have gubernatorial evidence that even in California, their message is persuasive to many people.

This is what it must feel like to live in Italy under Berlusconi or Austria with Schroeder. My only consolation is that they will overreach, soon. My greatest fear is how many people will die in the process.

You voice my sentiments and fears very well, [name omitted]. I would like to think there is some hope in education, which we all engage in as part of our professional lives. But trying to impress upon the young women on this campus (in a VERY red state) that their lives and those of their daughters would be seriously limited by voting for Bush has been extremely difficult, if not impossible. One more reason why feminist teaching and WS programs need to keep happening. I think about the nation like an addict... nothing will change until we hit bottom and there's nowhere else to turn. For me, we're there. But this is obviously not the case with half of the electorate.

The vote was a 51/49 split. Not to mention the multitudes that didn't vote. But the fact that the turnout was so much higher than previously and gave these results is demoralizing. Worse, Congress went further right too, and we are about to lose the Supreme Court, what's left of it. Looks like we are about to get Scalia as Chief ... -- no I will never bring myself to call him a "justice." Having said all that, I think what [name omitted] has said is exactly right. We will just have to keep fighting and educating people. The biggest single cause here as I see it is the disinformation and manipulations of the mass media. People aren't informed, and I say that in full knowledge that much of that 51% don't want to know, and that a whole lot has already happened that is staring them right in the face. What more overreaching do they require? A lot, apparently. The exit polls had a lot of people citing "values." If they could see the carnage being wrought in Iraq, or in a different form on their own poor compatriots, I don't think we would have had these numbers. <>But exile is not an option for most of us. Stand and fight.

First, a few facts: There is no reason to be depressed. We are back where we were a few days ago, very little has changed. There are no more red staters now than there were a week ago. You did not just wake up in another country. Those whose agenda we fear most managed to move from 49% approval to 51% approval, largely by using homosexuals as boogeymen. They are unlikely to be able to repeat this turnout, unless they somehow find a way to ban gay marriage ... again?

The big picture: Tuesday was the high water mark of our aristocracy's cynical exploitation of a largely rural cargo cult.

Suggestion: Be the backlash.

The continuing struggle: We are right to fear that the right will use this 'mandate' to justify escalating the kulturkampf (here's one example: )

Know your enemy: There are shifts within the right that you might not know about. Moderates are losing out to extremists, and the latter's policies are awash in red ink and blood. Their anencephalic policies are no more likely to succeed in the real world than they were a week ago. Their fantasy world may make for a formidable political machine, but its alienation from hard facts is crippling to policy. Consider this:

Divide and conquer: There are divisions among those for whom 'feminist' is a dirty word. Do not make the mistake of the recently re-elected one, i.e., driving different enemies together because you failed to distinguish between them. Reach out to moderates, while making sure that the most risible extremes of the culture warriors are known far and wide. If they want to chant their loyalty oaths or sing 'Let the Eagle Soar,' just make sure there's a camera pointed at them. Shame is a powerful weapon.

(If you can speak to bread-and-butter issues in a frightening world while your opponent is speaking in tongues, then you are the sober alternative. Everyone's on a political stage right now, so find a part to play.)

It's not like you have an option: We have no choice but to make the most of our present situation, and I think the best way for the values of civilized people to triumph is to give the lunatics just enough rope to hang themselves (while trying to prevent any lasting damage to society, e.g., SCOTUS). It takes little leverage to sicken most of America with the antics of these extremists.

So: don't give up, and have the sense to pick your battles. Forge communities, frame messages, don't give up.

This was the overwhelming tenor of the list through yesterday and this morning. I was extremely tempted to post myself, but I'm in a vulnerable position professionally--I'm an untenured assistant professor, and one of my dissertation committee members is on this list (in fact, this person is the author of one of the posts I've listed above). What I wanted to say was this:

In light of [listmember's] call for community--not just among liberals but among all Americans--I have a few comments I'd like to make.

First, I am truly dismayed by the rampant condescension evident on this list towards Middle America. Poor gullible Heartlanders (not to mention conservative minorities)--they're too stupid to know what's good for them. We, of course, with our degrees and academic posts, are far wiser, and impervious to manipulative rhetoric. I'm sure that if we make sure to teach all our students good critical thinking skills, they'll all end up with politics just like ours.

Of course, this attitude doesn't seem to be limited to condescension towards the population of 30 out of 50 states--one poster implied her colleagues who voted for Bush are stuck in the Dark Ages. Even on a list such as this one, I have no doubt that there are at least a few members who voted for Bush (not that they'd necessarily feel comfortable joining this conversation, with its current tenor). Let us remember that this community also includes those who consider themselves feminist as well as (gasp! horror!) Republican. If we are to reach out to others, we must not deeply insult them in the process, or indulge ourselves in derogatory remarks when we think they're not listening.

Fortunately, a few brave souls who posted this afternoon suggested that there may be members of the list who don't share the assumptions informing the discussion so far, and who might feel silenced. I am heartened in particular by this poster, who is responding to another's claim that liberals are a more heterogenous group by nature and thus more "respectful (i.e., less intrusive) about others' beliefs."

I have found this thread to be interesting, to say the least... this contribution especially so. On the one hand, the writer recognizes the heterogeneity of liberals, and yet many of those contributors to this thread fail to recognize the extremes of heterogeneity among its members, seemingly equating "feminism" with "liberalism." I am heartened by those contributors espousing communication as a means to fostering community, and yet several entries seem to silence dissention and/or debate by assuming a certain homogeneity in the audience. I, too, am frustrated with the current political scene -- with the political headway of the religious conservative extremists -- but I am equally disheartened by the rancor of the liberal extremists as well. As an independent voter, more conservative than some yet more liberal than others, I find less and less to admire from those on either side of the fence as I watch them move farther and farther away from each other. I think a surprising number of people would agree with me, if my conversations both in academia and outside are any indication (if I had a nickel for every time I heard the statement, "I don't like either candidate, but I can't NOT vote" or even "so I won't vote"...). How can we, as a nation, reach out to each other and find some common ground? How can we foster community when we refuse to listen to those who don't agree with us, when we neglect to work together toward solutions? How can we move forward when we are so busy moving apart? My great fear is that this country will continue widening its great divide, and the threat to our future will not be from without but rather from within.

You go, W. H.

I'll have a few more things to add later, but I've got a stack of midterms to grade...

Monday, November 01, 2004


Is this illegal?

Drudge links to a story from Newsday, which I know is not the most unbiased of sources (though it's written by an AP reporter, so don't the two biases cancel out?), but if this is true, shouldn't someone be taken to task to this?

The Dems are pulling out a boatload of dirty tricks, and the MSM has been campaigning for Kerry all day, from what I've seen on CNN, MSNBC, and CNBC. And God knows they won't report on this, though Schwarzkopf himself is said to be aware of the scam and to have contact the DNC about it.

Who the hell is going to be held responsible for all this? Heads need to roll, and people need to be in jail--some of them for pulling shit on behalf of the Republicans, but most of them for pulling shit on behalf of the Democrats.

Whoever wins, something needs to be done to clean up the electoral process in this country. Tomorrow's going to be an ugly day, and I don't expect it to get any better after that.


My Dell Horror Story

So, last year I bought a Dell Inspiron 8600, using a special increase in my Stafford Loan money that the government will grant once in your academic career for the purchase of a computer.

The computer cost around $2,000, but it was worth it to me because I needed a laptop, and I had been told such wonderful things about Dell.

The computer shipped to me one year and two weeks ago today. I did not buy the extended warranty, because it cost another couple of hundred dollars and I couldn't afford it. Thus I had a one-year warranty on the computer.

For the last couple of weeks, I have had problems with turning the computer on--it "wouldn't post" is the description the tech guy at Dell gave me. Yesterday, it wouldn't turn on at all, even after going through the whole "remove the battery," "unplug the computer" rigamarole.

After an online chat with Dell, it was determined that the motherboard had gone bad. The cost to me: $700.

I was on the phone this morning with Dell for about three hours, and their final word was to tell me that it was just too bad, and that the warranty was now expired, and that I could either fork over the $700 for the new motherboard or take a hike. I tried reasoning with them, and tried explaining that it was ridiculous that my computer had lasted only a year, and that though my computer had shipped from Dell on the 16th of October, 2003, it hadn't actually arrived until sometime around October 27th, so we were really talking about a matter of four days over the year warranty.

I wound up talking to five different people this morning, and the answer was always the same: your warranty is expired. Not so amusingly, I looked over the prices of the new Dell laptops, and find that they now come standard with 3-4 year warranties.

So, this is my manifesto against Dell, and given what I've been reading in the bulletin board discussions on Dell's own site, I am not alone in being sold a complete piece of shit and then being screwed over by Dell's service department.

I would imagine I'm also not alone in assuming that a computer should last longer than a year, and that this extended warranty crap is something that really needs addressing. A company should be forced to stand behind their product, particularly in instances of complete failure. I mean, really, this is like having the drive train of an automobile go out in the first year.

I would really appreciate it if my readers would pass this along and think twice before going with Dell. If I had known then what I know now--both in terms of my own experience and those I've read online--I would have gone with another manufacturer.

Dell will only stand behind its product if you pay them to stand behind it (unless they have to recall a product that catches fire, like the AC cords for earlier model Inspirons).

Don't buy a Dell.

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