Friday, November 07, 2008

How to educate a generation on $10 a day

Well, it looks like Harvard is almost broke. Apparently, the once mighty endowment is down 25-30%! Even worse, the university

is also reportedly trying to dump 1/3 of its private equity holdings to raise cash, which would be a seriously distressed move.
If these rumors are true, we should expect to see:
  1. A giant "Harvard Yard SALE!"
    Everything must go!

  2. A slowdown in construction of Harvard's new Allston Campus (as seen below).

  3. More pesky fundraising letters to Harvard alums. Sorry, alma mater, I gave all my extra money to fight Prop 8.

Alas, it is not just the storied Ivy League that is in trouble. Here at UCSC, we were informed by email today that the UCSC Provost has
advised principal officers to implement a $4.5 million budget reduction for our campus.
According to the same email:
In the meantime, I've directed principal officers to implement all reasonable cost-saving measures and to engage their staffs in identifying creative ways to invest limited resources as efficiently as possible. I invite you to share with them your thoughts and questions, as well as your own suggestions for belt-tightening. We will thoughtfully consider every reasonable suggestion.
In keeping with the spirit of "reasonable suggestion[s]" for "invest[ing] limited resources," we received a message four hours later from UC President Mark G. Yudof. President Yudof invites us to join him for a discussion of "the value of public education." Oh, but here's the good part:

Why, that's just crazy enough to work!

Gail Collins Does Not Speak for Fosco

From Gail Collins's column in yesterday's NYT:

By the way, I believe that during the campaign McCain’s great friend Senator Lindsey Graham said something along the line of promising to drown himself if North Carolina went for Obama. I believe I speak for us all, Senator Graham, when I say that we are feeling extremely mellow today and you do not have to follow through.
Oh, and Senator Graham, can you take your hideous pet monkey with you?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Don't Fuck with the Gays, California.

A majority of those voting on Tuesday (still only 15% of CA's total population, as I noted earlier) approved the vile Prop H8.

It's time to show California that the gays are not going to take this. It's time for a new Stonewall. So let the chaos begin.

Last night, there were protests in West Hollywood (with seven arrests!)

This afternoon, gay marriage supporters targeted the Mormon Temple in Westwood (a particularly appropriate target, I might add). One good sign from the protest: "YOU HAVE TWO WIVES I WANT ONE HUSBAND."

Rumor has it that there will be a major protest in SF tomorrow (although not specifically targeting the Mormons), which means that Fosco needs a sign! But what should it say?

Possible Signs for Fosco to Carry to Protest Prop H8

  • Muck Formons.
  • Your Daughter Is Too Ugly to Marry a Princess.
  • At Least Our Bridemaids Wear Tasteful Dresses.
  • Taking Away My Marriage Won't Make Yours Any Less Unfulfilling.
  • Which of Your Rights Should We Take Away?
  • Scared of Gays? Don't Piss Them Off.
  • Your Pastor Is A Liar.
Hmmm. I'm not sure any of these works. Any suggestions, commenters?

Burn It Down


The Mormon Temple in Westwood, site of major protests today against Mormon involvement in the passage of Prop H8.

Watch out, California--here come the gays!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What does Sarah Palin know?

When Fosco was in high school, his American History teacher was (behind-his-back) nicknamed Captain Video, because he showed films in class four days a week (yes, Fosco went to public school). While this may account for why Fosco has only a vague understanding of World War I, it does mean that Fosco has a particularly vivid historical imagination (although that imagination tends to be populated by the likes of Matthew Broderick and LeVar Burton).

Anyway, on the one day a week that we didn't watch a movie in class, Captain Video would sometimes give a "current events quiz." The desk behind me was assigned to a girl I'll call Jenny R. Jenny R. was a transfer student (from Alaska, coincidentally...). She was pretty, popular, and dumb as an air mattress (not the only thing she had in common with an air mattress... ZING!). Now because Captain V. preferred to do as little work as possible, he had us grade each others' current events quizzes (usually by having us pass them one seat forward). And so Fosco usually ended up grading Jenny R.'s quizzes.

During this time, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was being debated in the US (yes, Fosco is that old). So, in that week's "current events" quiz, Captain Video asked the following question:

NAFTA has been in the news this week. It is a trade agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. On what continent are those three countries?
I'll pause a moment to let that question sink in. Yes, my high school history teacher asked us which continent we lived on.

I think you know the punchline already.

That's right: Jenny R. got the answer wrong.

I was reminded of this story this evening when I read about another dimwit from Alaska who, based on recent reports from inside the McCain campaign, "was unable to name all the nations in North America."

The report also notes that
[Palin did not] understand that Africa was a continent rather than a single country.
Although, in her defense, I must admit that this map is rather confusing.

Of course, one of the greatest pleasures of the next week will be discovering more juicy titbits of ignorance from Governor Moosemunch (titbits that are now available as the Walnuts campaign decides to blame her for everything). But is this fair? Aren't there probably a lot of things that Sarah Palin does know about geography?

Things Sarah Palin Does Know about Geography
  1. The way to San Jose. Woh-woh-woh-woh-woh-woh-woh-woh-woh.
  2. Greenland is a lot smaller than it looks on a map.
  3. Argentina speaks Spanish. Brazil speaks Portuguese. Chile primarily speaks sign language.
  4. Real America is often left off maps, but you can find it by following the scent of cornbread and Believe.
  5. Go to world 1-2. At the end of the level, there is a pipe, and some bricks. You must smash the second to last brick and the third to last brick as seen to the left. Now you must stand on the edge of the pipe, duck, and face left. Now jump to the right towards the one block that you didn't break, while facing left. You should slide right through the bricks. Go into the first pipe when you get to the other side. You should be warped to the minus world, the level is -1.
  6. In Australia, kangaroos are called "roos." Although sometimes they are called "kangas."
  7. That island on Lost is no longer where it used to be.
  8. "Wait. There's a New Mexico?"

And I'm sure that there are at least dozens more facts in Sarah Palin's head! Stay tuned for new discoveries.

Notes from the Same-Old Era

Thank you for asking. Yes, Fosco is feeling a little more emotionally stable than in his earlier post.

Of course, this doesn't change the fact that, as Gawker noted today: Changed America Still Hates the Gays.

Part of Fosco's pain is the irony that, at least in California, Obama's landslide directly resulted in the passage of Prop 8. As an article in The Guardian notes:

For months, pro-gay marriage campaigners fretted that a big turnout for Obama would tip the scales in favour of Proposition 8 because it would bring out record numbers of African-Americans, who tend to hold more conservative social views. A CNN poll seems to suggest that's exactly what happened, with African-Americans voting 69 to 31 in favour.
Was it worth it? Was an Obama victory worth losing the right to marry? Yes, probably. But forgive me for hating that choice. And forgive me for resenting that gay people were the only members of Obama's coalition who had to make such a sacrifice.

Aaron Hicklin, the author of the article, goes on to point out (quite reasonably):
It goes without saying that we wouldn't be seeing the election of a black American today had the civil rights battles of the 1960s been decided by public referenda - a message we would do well to play up more.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure the US Supreme Court is going to help us on this one. At least not yet.

Also weighing in was the frequently annoying and occasionally sensible blogwhore Andrew Sullivan, who wrote a lovely piece that is helping Fosco to deal with today's news. As Sullivan notes, we have to take this setback seriously:
It cannot be denied that this feels like a punch in the gut. It is. I'm not going to pretend that the wound isn't deep and personal, like an attack on my own family. It was meant to be.
And perhaps we also need to temper our Obama enthusiasm just a tad:
Many Obama supporters voted against our rights, and Obama himself opposes our full civil equality.
But in the end, Sullivan's message is that we need to fight:
So we get back to work, arguing, talking. speaking, debating, writing, blogging, and struggling to change more minds.
And, just like that, by the end of the day on November 5, the gays are fighting again--this time with another lawsuit aimed at the CA Supreme Court. Fosco is (at least a little) heartened.

Notes from a New Era

Fosco was teaching section last night when the CA polls closed and the election was called for Obama (we knew immediately--I allowed laptops in section last night). When Fosco left the classroom around 8:45, there was a spontaneous crowd of several hundred students standing in the Oakes quad cheering and chanting "O-Ba-Ma!" As Fosco watched, the crowd began to walk to another nearby residential college (College VIII), becoming an impromptu victory parade.

By the time the parade reached Porter College, there were several thousand students--cheering, screaming, laughing. (But why were the men taking off their shirts? Inexplicable. An equally vexing question: why is Steve Guttenberg jogging pantsless?)

Fosco attempted to capture some of the euphoria with his phone, to little success. However, in the interests of full documentary realism, here is the video:
video
Even though Fosco's Obama buzz was killed today, he still appreciates the joy and hopefulness of his students and the students he saw last night. This is truly something new in Fosco's experience of American politics. May it last for a long time.

Why do I feel left behind?

I will have the requisite "celebratory Obama post" later. Right now, I'm not feeling too celebratory.

I don't want to kill completely the Obama buzz (which I am still feeling as well); we should rejoice at this triumph (and I am). But we also need to spend some time grieving for an almost equally important failure: the (apparent) passage of California's constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Sadly, I fear the message of November 4 turned out to be "Change We Can Believe In (Unless You're Gay)."

There are so many people I want to blame right now. The vicious and fraudulent Mormon "Church." That repulsive Catholic cult, the Knights of Columbus. The fucking Central Valley with its troglodytic farmers. Blacks and Latinos who do not recognize discrimination against members of another minority group. The idiots who wrote the California Constitution so as to allow A SIMPLE MAJORITY VOTE to amend it.

Let's take a moment to consider that last one. The California state constitution is going to be amended because approximately 5 million people voted "Yes" on Prop 8. The population of the State of California is over 36 million people. By my (admittedly fifth-grade) calculations, this means that less than ONE SEVENTH of the population of this state was able to amend the state constitution.

ONE SEVENTH.

Think about that for a minute. Doesn't 1/7 of the population seem a wee bit too small to be amending a state constitution? Doesn't this seem like broken government?

When I think of all the work that volunteers like Ted Gideonse put into the fight against Prop 8 and when I think of people like me and my friends cutting into our bare-bones grad student budget in order to give small (but meaningful--at least to us) amounts to the fight and when I think about the brave Mormons (and yes, there were a few) who were willing to stand up to their "Church" to fight discrimination...
I'm proud, sure; but I'm also discouraged and demoralized.

I'm an adopted Californian. And today, for the first time since I moved here, I am ashamed of my state. I suddenly feel uncomfortable in California--the same discomfort that I felt when I lived in Indiana and Virginia. The sense that most of the people surrounding me hate me. Not in Santa Cruz, of course (although the margin in Santa Cruz County wasn't as big as it should have been), but in the clear geographical majority of my state. I know it could be worse and that I could be stuck in Utah or Alabama or some other moron colony, but it used to feel good to live in California. And I miss that feeling already.

Want to know a secret? My boyfriend and I almost got married last week. We knew it would have been a little early in our relationship (especially in terms of breaking the news to our family and friends); yet, we were worried that we wouldn't be able to do so in a year or so when we are actually completely prepared for it. But we decided to rely on the polling (which was wrong, but not by a ton) and our belief in the general benevolence of Californians. We were wrong.

I think the gay rights movement is in a bad place right now. If an Obama landslide and record youth turnout couldn't defeat a gay marriage ban in one of the most liberal states in the US, we have to start reconsidering our position in American society. I think we have to start asking questions about our assimilation to standard American domestic values (like marriage and children) and whether we are in my lifetime going to be allowed full civil rights. Maybe we need to try something else.

Electing Obama was huge step forward for America; so why do I feel left behind?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Hope and Pugs

Fosco's Little Election Narrative

Fosco woke up at 4:30 AM and couldn't get back to sleep. The polls in California opened at 7 AM (PST); Fosco was there at 6 AM (because he had an 8 AM lecture and needed to be done voting by 7:15 or so). He was the fourth person in line! By 7, there were a couple of hundred people behind him. This is what it looked like when Fosco left:

For the next few hours, Fosco is parked in front of the TV with his laptop. Unfortunately, he has to teach a section tonight at 7:30 PM (PST). However, with any luck, the race could be called as early as 6:30 PM (PST). That would make section a lot easier...

No on Prop 8


If you live in California, please vote NO on Prop 8 today.

Read here about the nutballs who are responsible for this hateful measure.

Read here about the amazing work against Prop 8 being done by Fosco's friend Ted Gideonse.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Happy Birthday to Todd

Today is not just election eve--it's also the birthday of my dear friend Todd. Here's a cake for you, Todd...

I know which piece I don't want.

Here's hoping you get your birthday wish.

Bad Election Verbage [sic]

For those of us who care about words, it's time to dissect this interminable election. What are the worst words and phrases that you've heard during the campaign (from the media, from the candidates, from the voters)?

Glenn Greenwald kicks it off: the phrase "commander-in-chief" offends his progressive sympathies.

Fosco decided to make a list. And what better way to make a list than by using the Stephen Colbert "On Notice Board" Generator? Consider these phrases to be "On Notice" (i.e., Fosco never wants to hear any of them again--at least in connection to politics).

Join in, commenters!

How McCain Could Win

As featured on Guanabee:

Apparently, this is what Walnuts McCain would look like if he were actually a member of his secret black family. I don't know about you, but I actually think it makes Walnuts look more good-natured and approachable. Now this is a man I would want in the White House! (I guess this is no surprise, as television has been familiarizing us with crusty-yet-lovable old black men for more than thirty years. Like him. Or him. Or him.)

As for "Chet Obama" there: why are white people such dorks? (And is he wearing John Edwards's hair?)

All the details on this poster can be found here.

The Final Countdown

Okay, if you haven't watched the best television show of this decade, Arrested Development, this post will be less enjoyable (although if you like to laugh at amateur magicians, you still might find this worth your while).

From an article in yesterday's Santa Cruz Sentinel: "There is magic in the air when the Coastal Magicians Club meets at the Live Oak Senior Center."

Granted, it's no "Magician's Alliance"; however, the club does seem pretty worthy of Gob Bluth.

According to the past-president, "Red Malone":

"My tricks cost me about $150 these days" said Malone, who regularly buys the secrets of how to do tricks and the materials needed from Hocus Pocus Magic Shop in Fresno.
Not tricks, Michael. Illusions.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Hear, hear.

Here's another great reason to love that "chirpy lesbian" Rachel Maddow:

Callin' for Barry

In an attempt to alleviate some of his election anxiety through action (and because he's run out of money to send to Obama-Biden), Fosco volunteered at his local Obama campaign headquarters today.

Because Fosco lives in California (which is completely "in the tank" for Obama), volunteering means making phone calls to lesser, er, "swing" states. The local HQ was hopping, with 15-20 volunteers at work (on a Sunday!). Fosco made calls for several hours to voters in Florida and Missouri.

In Florida ("America's Wang"), Fosco was calling mainly within Broward County, home of many elderly and tan. His calls in Missouri (the "Show-Me-Your-Tits State") were all over the place (as far as Fosco can tell, Missouri is made up of two cities: St. Louis and Everywhere Else).

On the whole, calling wasn't too discouraging. Floridians are mostly fatigued with election calls at this point (although that's their own fault--if they could be trusted to run a fair and efficient election...). Fosco talked to some nice Obama supporters. The McCain supporters weren't outright rude. Fosco spoke with three actual undecided voters (!), but he has no especial insight into this particular strain of psychosis (see below).

Most interestingly, Fosco did have a conversation with a Florida voter who was channeling the Crazy McCain Rally Lady. She kept asking me if Obama was from "the same people" that we're fighting over in Iraq (she didn't seem too impressed when I noted that he was born in the Sandwich Islands). However, she also said she isn't planning on voting at all, so that's just fine with Fosco.

Strangely, during the Missouri calls, Fosco found himself slipping into a mild Southern accent (droppin' his 'g's, etc.). I guess I'm just a regular Joe SixPack at heart.

Things You Should Know

Here's one of those "miscellaneous" posts, in which Fosco points you toward interesting titbits of information from the last few days.


N.B., for the next two (nail-biting) days, Fosco has embedded the widget from the brilliant poll-crunchers at fivethirtyeight.com (see the embed at top left). Fosco cannot recommend this site highly enough, especially if you (like Fosco) are
  1. obsessed with Tuesday's election
  2. "in the tank" for Obama (and might I suggest that this phrase is one of the most annoying of the whole election season?)
  3. secretly into statistics
Enjoy!