Saturday Night Random

I’m not sure if this should be a post, but since it’s Saturday night and things are quiet here, I’ll put it up in the spirit of the old Plum Line At Night segments that BGinChi used to host, often about books. (And BG’s planning to stop in here when he has time, which is nice news.)

Some of you may have checked out my publishing website, which is linked to at my profile. I’ve just posted an interview question Bernie asked me to answer about the sensory experience of writing fiction. If you’re interested in how writing fiction gets done, you might want to look.

At the Plum Line, I’ve occasionally commented about things Wisconsin since I lived there for over two decades. As a political junkie, I’ve thought a lot about what’s going on there–that persistent divide that gave the country both the Progressive tradition and Joe McCarthy. During my Wisconsin years, particularly when I lived in the country, I was very aware of the outlook of many of neighbors and how that played out in politics. I wrote a lot of short stories that were informed by my affection for those neighbors and my interest in their attitudes.

For those of you who’re curious about what the real Wisconsin is, those stories are collected in In the Land of the Dinosaur: Ten Stories and a Novella. There’s info on it (including excerpts and music links) and other titles, including my Civil War War novel, Suite Harmonic, on the site. There’s also a related interview question from David Douglas (not somebody from the Plum Line) about the isolation of living in the country in Wisconsin. You’ll want emilymeier dot com.


Listen to the story if you can.  The State of CA went with low bidder on the steel for the new Bay Bridge.  $400M saved by accepting the bid from a Chinese subcontractor on the steel cable.  $18/day steelworkers in China.

I wrote three days ago that I think we should impose ILO [UN International Labor Organization] standards on our trade partners and that together with Europe, Japan, Australia, and Canada we could have fair free trade.  That would mean going around WTO.

If ILO rules were adopted by CA, CA could not have done this.  If there were fed money in the bridge, CA could not have done this.  BUT CA DID THIS.  And I think it is pissing our lives away for a state government to do this.  For the NAACP to contract the stone in the MLK Memorial to a Chinese outfit is a private regrettable decision.  But our state governments belong to us, dammit.

The ILO rules only require minwage/maxhour enforcement, not at a particular level, child labor restrictions, no slavery, and freedom of association [for collective bargaining].  This latter absolutely does not exist in China.

If my rant offends you, fellow Americans, I can only ask why.

For Better or Worse, but not Alzheimer’s

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson told his “700 Club” viewers that divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer’s is justifiable because the disease is “a kind of death.”

During the portion of the show where the one-time Republican presidential candidate takes questions from viewers, Robertson was asked what advice a man should give to a friend who began seeing another woman after his wife started suffering from the incurable neurological disorder.
“I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her,” Robertson said.
The chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network, which airs the “700 Club,” said he wouldn’t “put a guilt trip” on anyone who divorces a spouse who suffers from the illness, but added, “Get some ethicist besides me to give you the answer.”
Most Christian denominations at least discourage divorce, citing Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Mark that equate divorce and remarriage with adultery.
Terry Meeuwsen, Robertson’s co-host, asked him about couples’ marriage vows to take care of each other “for better or for worse” and “in sickness and in health.”
“If you respect that vow, you say ’til death do us part,'” Robertson said during the Tuesday broadcast. “This is a kind of death.”
A network spokesman said Wednesday that Robertson had no further statement.

Cowboys Never Say They’re Sorry

Perry’s doubling down on his “Social Security is a Ponzi scheme” is a familiar tactic.  Perhaps he wishes he had not published that in his book, but once he did, he now seems committed to defending the idea and the language.  He also shows this same committment to tuition assistance that may benefit illegals in Texas and the wisdom of Texas’ execution policy.  To be fair, he has backed off on the HPV vaccination kerfuffle, but he’s not backed off very far.

He reminds me of George W. in this personality trait, although he’s like GW on steroids.  This trait keeps ringing a bell–why is this so familiar?.  It can’t just be GW and Rick Perry.

Perhaps this is a western ranching state, macho male, “never complain, never explain” kind of cowboy bravado.  That’s it!  I’ve heard this a million times.–people who pride themselves on never changing their ideas, their language, their minds lest they appear weak.  Changing equates to weakness.  No wonder that people like President Obama are so offputting to them–he’s the epitome of what a western Marlboro-man would consider a drugstore cowboy with his emphasis on nuance and air of reasonableness.  In fact, he’s constantly being criticized now for being too conciliatory.  [edit]

Perhaps this personality type is not a ranching state phenomena, but that’s what I’m familiar with.  In California, which is certainly western, but not much ranching culture in the cities, where I was involved with all sorts of entrepreneurs (who are definitely alpha types), this type of allegiance to prior statements was very uncommon, in fact nonexistent.  They could change on a dime and frequently did so, and actually prided themselves on their ability to adjust to changing conditions.  In fact, the venture capitalists evaluated people on their ability to quickly abandon losing strategies and develop new strategies, without emotional damage. 

Perry and higher ed

This may seem a parochial concern to non-Texans, but bear with me.  See:

UT has become a powerhouse research institution.  SAT averages are in the mid 80th percentiles [1240 on the old scoring we are all familiar with, but significantly higher in scitech and business and architecture, lower in the social sciences and education, predictably] plus very high GREs for its grad students and very high LSATS, GMATS and PCATS as applicable.  The scitech grad schools are all top ten in America and among the most highly funded.  The biz school and the music school and most of the arts and social sciences are highly regarded and ranked as well.  Accounting is often #1 and pharmcy #2, 3, or 4.

Most of UT’s funding is NOT from the state legislature.

Perry had pushed a plan that has some populist appeal:  make profs “work” harder.  His plan cut into research time and demanded more teaching time and included student evaluations as part of the tenure map. There are two Tier One publics in TX:  UT and A&M.  Perry’s plan got traction with the non-UT system lower tier schools and with A&M, grudgingly.  It was fought tooth and nail by UT, system wide.  There are some up and coming lower tier UT system schools and some first class purely graduate and professional research institutes outside Austin, like the Health Science Center in Houston, and Southwest Medical School in Dallas.  So Perry’s two year long war [see:] came to a head in July and Bill Powers won.  During that foment, btw, a poll actually found that BHO would run even with Perry in TX.  He really would not, of course, but the confluence of BinLaden’s death at the hands of SEALS and this war, perceived as an affront by UT alums, was momentarily heady for BHO fans.

My point for national consumption:  Perry actually has some good ideas for higher ed –

see: –

 but in Texas he wanted to punitively use them against the research tier one schools, or so it seemed.  I think there is a place for tier one research universities as well as for community colleges and I am a huge fan of community colleges as the best and fastest way to retrain a work force and give the willing a second chance.  I think Perry’s ideas are best applied to community colleges.  What do you think?

This is likely my last appearance here until tonight.  Look forward to the day’s reading when I get to it.

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