A punishment poll

The Magdalene Laundries were a horrible blot on Irish history — thousands of young women and girls were basically enslaved by the Catholic church and abused and exploited. The Irish government is taking steps to make amends and be open about this unsavory taint, and one of the things proposed is to pay compensation to the surviving victims. Seems only reasonable, right? The church profited, it’s fair to extract the money criminally acquired back, with some punitive damages as well.

But no — the nuns who tortured and mistreated girls are unapologetic and claim they provided a “service”, and that €200,000 (less than €7 per victim!) was “excessive”.

There’s a poll. Apparently a majority of the respondents think the nuns are right. The horrible, awful, nasty nuns.

Should the religious orders involved pay compensation to the survivors of the Magdalene laundries?

Yes 31%
No 61%
Don’t know 7%

My university in the news!

Now if only it were good news. It seems we’re the victim of bureaucratic excess.

College administrators have found an interesting new way to strike it rich: quitting their jobs. Upon leaving his role as executive vice president of NYU for a job with Citigroup in 2006, Jacob J. Lew (the current Secretary of the Treasury) took a $685,000 bonus from the university. Harold S. Koplewicz, an executive at the NYU Medical Center, got a $1.2 million severance after choosing to leave voluntarily. Given that NYU’s tuition and fees are among the highest in the nation, we’re curious how students who took out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans feel about their money going towards generous benefits and severance packages for administrators.

At least NYU is a private institution, so tax dollars are not spent to cover its inflated costs. As the New York Times notes, public universities are just as guilty of letting a bloated and inefficient administration drive up tuition costs. The University of Minnesota employs 19,000 administrative officials employees, and administrative personnel account for 24 percent of its total payroll, compared with only 20 percent in 2001. At Purdue, the number of administrative employees grew by 54 percent in the last decade.

Overall, the number of administrators hired by colleges and universities increased 50 percent faster than the number of instructors hired between 2001 and 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

We’ve felt the pain down here in the trenches, too. Our core biology curriculum was disrupted a bit by the reluctance of our administration to hire replacement faculty — they saved a few pennies by bringing in temporary faculty as replacements and deferring filling tenure track lines. The replacements were good people, but when you’ve got students coming up through a curriculum pipeline, you really want stability and continuity at the base.

The good news, though, is that the blockages have been uncorked and we’re finally expanding our biology faculty from 8 to 9 — a big boost at a small college.

Well crap, I missed out on the cake

This is what happens when you stay off the internet all day: you miss your co-blogger’s birthday celebration.

I didn’t even get a card together or anything. Guess I’ll have to dust off this old thing again. Just add 7 to all the ages mentioned.

Actually, from the looks of that cake plate, I think it’s just as well I missed the party. How did those sucker marks get all over the tablecloth?

The difference between us and them

Liberals and conservatives…let’s first consider what we agree on. Rape is bad, mmm-k? It should be stopped, it would be an uncompromised good if the rates declined. We’re on the same wavelength there.

But now we turn to how to fix the problem, and look what happens. The liberal’s eye focuses on the perpetrator, and they suggest we ought to educate them and modify the culture that enables rape to persist. The conservative focuses on the women, and regards the liberal as crazy for not thinking that the victims need to be fixed.

Here’s a beautiful example: Zerlina Maxwell meets Sean Hannity.

And then read how conservative media responded. Read the comments, or go to the youtube video and read the comments there (no, on second thought, don’t.) They all think Maxwell is moronic, insane, stupid, ridiculous.

I think she’s right.

As is typical, the conservatives have this unimaginative, short-sighted view of what it means to tell someone rape is wrong. They’re all imagining a woman confronted by an attacker who then solemnly tells them that they’re committing an illegal act, and expecting them to simply stop. But that’s not what she’s talking about at all.

We live in a culture where boys grow up to be privileged, entitled little shits who think women are pleasure objects for their benefit. Let’s start there and change that. Let’s say that frat boy antics are not OK. Let’s tell media to wake up and notice that women are autonomous human beings, not convenient plot points and MacGuffins. Let’s wake up and realize that valuing women only for the size of their breasts and the youthfulness of their skin is dehumanizing. She’s talking about taking on the difficult task of changing cultural attitudes.

And perhaps we could also have a little more respect for men, too. Most men are as capable of empathy as most women; if we stopped enabling the promotion of facile juvenile behavior as manly, maybe we’d see more responsibility from would-be rapists than someone like Sean Hannity proposing that women need guns to keep him from assaulting them. That’s a surrender of responsibility. That’s a declaration that men are too selfish and stupid to maintain civilized social behavior without the threat of gunfire to keep them in check.

Seriously, Hannity and you other gun-worshippers. Stop belittling my sex so much.

Reddit doesn’t geddit

So…SXSW had a panel yesterday about Reddit, with Farhad Manjoo, Adrian Chen, and Rebecca Watson. It went about as well as you might expect.

I like to imagine Reddit as great wide open restaurant with a lot of appealing stuff, and unfortunately, a lot of appalling stuff. It wouldn’t be so bad if it had a culture dedicated to making it better, but it seems to revel in wallowing in the crap instead. If my hypothetical Reddit restaraunteur were to discuss the content of his place, it would go about like this:

Fan: At our buffet, we have ripe peaches and pears, freshly tossed salads, New York bagels flown in expressly that morning, smoked salmon, baba ghanoush, churros, tureens of borscht and gumbo, a small mountain of fresh picked tomatoes, baklava, risotto, Chesapeake soft shell crab, spaetzle, sliced honeydew melon, an assortment of curries, paella, key lime pie, a large pungent vat of shit slurry, pho, barbecued ribs…

Critic: Wait, what was that you said after the pie? Shit slurry?

Fan: Yes. But I said we have peaches and pears, tossed salads, bagels…

Critic: I know. But why would you ruin the whole spread with something so noxious?

Fan: Some people love to splash fecal material over their food. What is this, Red China?

Critic: Maybe it would be a good idea for you to seriously think about what makes a good buffet.

And of course, once you suggest that they could be even better and that the shit is really nasty, they get all defensive and immediately stop listening. That’s what you get when you have no interest in adapting. Well, that’s the first thing you get. The second thing is extinction.

You know who else was a great painter? Hitler.

Sorry for the excessive hyperbole, but I had to counter the sniveling sycophancy in this Fox News puff piece.

They’re impressed that it took “only a month” to teach him to paint like that? It shows. He’s going to go down in history as a great artist? Judging by what is shown in that clip, this is a retired guy with a nice hobby. That’s about it. Good for him — at least he’s not ripping the hearts out of virgins and kicking puppies for a hobby like Dick Cheney — but come on, American Pravda, let’s not lay it on quite so thickly.