Sunday, February 27, 2005

A Brief Respite

Thanks for stopping by, but sorry, I'm not home. I'll be out of town and away from the computer 'til Thursday or Friday. Since you're here, though, why don't you check out what the always interesting John has to say at blogenlust, look in on the ever erudite Simbaud at King of Zembla, peer into the provocative mind of Paperwight, or visit my recent discovery MandT atThe Adgita Diaries.

I'll be back in about a week, refreshed and, I sincerely hope, in one piece, to kill some time with you. You all come back now, here?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Gov pays tribute to Gonzo

Except for 1982 (when I voted for Gore Vidal in the Democratic primary for US Senator), I think I've voted for Jerry Brown every time I've had the chance. He has just always been cool. Find me another politician of his stature who could whip out an obit for HST like this one, (or even bother to note his passing at all).

So that's how it's done...

For the legion of us wondering how to get a link from Atrios.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Confronting Viewer/Reader Bias

Reading the article mentioned in my previous post about Arab media outlets got me to thinking about how perspective shapes our news here at home.

It talking of media bias, it’s useful to keep in mind the perspective of the viewer or reader; where they view themselves on a left-right continuum. I view myself as liberal, so from my perspective most media are more conservative than I am and, allowing for that, I conclude that they are probably pretty middle of the road. A notable and growing number of media outlets, particularly Fox News and quite a few websites, are decidedly to the right of center, whether they identify themselves as such or not (Fox, infamously, portrays itself as “Fair and Balanced”). Much energy has been extended by those of us on the left, in blogs, regular websites, and in print, decrying the duplicity of those who, falsely, in our eyes, portray themselves as centrists. I wonder if all of this effort on our part amounts to anything, other than the creation of a large support group to whom we get to vent.

Although we are to varying degrees certain that Fox News and its ilk know they are not representing the center, it’s not at all clear that the viewers and readers of these outlets recognize this. Many of these people, who watch O’Reilly and Hume, though probably right of center by any critical means of analyzing such things, honestly don’t recognize themselves as such. They view themselves as middle of the road. Anybody to the left of them ranges, in their view, from slightly out of step to lefty-pinko types. I don’t know if they give any consideration to those who might exist to the right of them or, if they do, what they think of those people. We on the left spend too much time, I think (and I am as guilty of this as anybody else), fretting about the unfairness of how the conservative “news” outlets have managed to position themselves, and not enough time figuring out what we can do about it. We have a lovely liberal opinion ghetto from which we need to escape. The message needs to get beyond the people with whom we are in agreement and out to the people we need to convert. Blogs aren’t the way to do it. I mostly read the blogs I agree with and it seems my handful of readers mostly agree with me. Emails to friends and coworkers and letters to the editor and other means of reaching out beyond our base are what we need to focus more attention on. We’re not going to change the media outlets we disagree with and we’re not going to change the opinions their viewers and readers have about those outlets. We need to reach those people in the areas in which we have common ground and emphasize our similarities.

For more on who these people are that we need to reach, I refer you yet again to The King of Zembla and this fine essay by Joe Bageant.


Check out The Angry Arab Guide to Middle East Media from The Angry Arab News Service, particularly the part addressing Middle Eastern perceptions of Al-Jazeera. According the the author (the Angry Arab),
“Al-Jazeera’s orientations are largely vague Arab nationalist, although people in the West would be surprised to learn that people in the Middle East are convinced that Al-Jazeera is run by the Mossad. People in the Middle East do not find Al-Jazeera to be "nationalist" enough. Furthermore, they do not like how Al-Jazeera features Israeli guests/propagandists. The news broadcasts are largely straightforward; the shouting and the anti-American sentiments are expressed on, or confined to, AlJazeera’s talk shows that are widely watched. But they always match the anti-American guest with a pro-American guest.”


“Al-Jazeera covers Bush and his administration very extensively, too extensively if you ask me. For the 11 hours of Bin Laden tapes that AlJazeera has aired since Sep. 11, it has aired more than 500 hours of Bush (or Bin Bush) tapes. They cover all his speeches live, and I have mocked Al-Jazeera (on AlJazeera) by saying that they cover the sneezes of US officials now.”

How closely do you suppose that hews to the opinions of Al-Jazeera held by the average American? Al-Jazeera has been widely portrayed by American media and the Bush Administration as an anti-American leftist pro-Islam mouthpiece (one of the great stories not covered by the mainstream and right leaning American media is the extent to which fundamentalist Christians have far more in common in their societal views with fundamentalist Moslems than more liberal thinking Christians and other westerners have with fundie Moslems). Once again, the perception depends on where you stand.

On the Bright Side... least this will keep white trash like Niel Bush out of the White House.

From the Sunday Mirror:

GEORGE Bush has banned Camilla Parker Bowles from the White House - because she is a divorcee.

The unprecedented snub has effectively sabotaged Charles's plan to take his bride on a Royal tour of America later this year.

The trip would have been the pair's first official tour as a married couple.

But the US President - a notoriously right-wing Christian and reformed alcoholic - told aides it was "inappropriate" for him to be playing host to the newly-weds, who are both divorcees.

The decision was made even though the late President Ronald Reagan was divorced.

A Government insider said: "It was relayed to us from Washington that Mrs Parker Bowles would not be welcome at the White House.

"The Americans are aware that the visit will be subject to a lot of media attent ion and did not want the President drawn into what they view to be a public relations exercise.

"It's now uncertain if the visit will even go ahead."

Insiders point out that hosting a lavish Royal dinner for Charles and Camilla would be bad PR for President Bush because while Princess Diana is still much loved by many Americans, her ex-husband is seen and dull and aloof - and bothhe and Camilla are widely blamed for the break-up of his marriage.

The trip, which has been planned for three years, was being portrayed as a "trade mission" and Charles and Camilla were expected to dine with Mr Bush and his wife Laura at the White House.

Mr Bush's shock decision is the latest in a sting of crises to hit the couple. Charles was forced to abandon plans for a Windsor Castle wedding on April 8 after he discovered the Royal Family would have to let other couples get married there too.

The blunder saw the couple hastily switch the venue to the register office at Windsor Guildhall, sending the Queen into a rage. She summoned Charles to Buckingham Palace and torpedoed his plans for a swanky reception at Windsor Castle.

Charles's trip to the US would have been his first State visit to America since Princess Diana's death seven years ago.

The prince wants to win acceptance for Camilla and believed the US public might have taken her to their hearts if the visit was planned properly. The source said: "The potential fall-out from this decision could be massive."

These people in the White House are all class, aren't they?

Saturday, February 19, 2005

In the Land of the Ice and Yoshida

Ah, what the hell. Having already soiled my hands writing about Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin this week, I might as well go for the hat trick of looneydom and cover Adam Yoshida, too.

Our Canadian basement blogger writes this week that...
"Ongoing problems in Iran, North Korea, and Syria demand a serious response. I’m sympathetic towards the position that, in order to send a message, the United States has to occasionally pick out someone and throw them up against the wall. I call this the 'Hama Solution.'”

Further developing his previous column, what young misanthropic Adam proposes is something along the lines of the bombing of Dresden, the firebombing of Tokyo, even of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As the self-loathing wanker puts it,
"What’s now required is something to shake up the situation. What’s needed is something to convince the plotters of American power. Something needs to happen that reaches out to them and says, “Don’t fuck with us. What’s called for is an action so extreme that the whole world will get the message. What’s needed is an action which screams out, 'attention must be paid.'”(Do they study Arthur Miller in Canadian Lit classes?)

In case anybody wonders what such a proposal, coming from the mother of all chickenhawks, means, little Adam makes it clear, "Naturally, this would require more than a simple pin-prick strike. In order to ensure the complete destruction of North Korea’s nuclear war-making potential, it would be necessary to strike with nuclear weapons."

Yes folks, there you have it. In order to tell the rest of the world that the US is not to be trifled with, we ought to nuke North Korea. Because that's sure to settle down the international situation.

But there's more. Since we're already rooting around in yoshida-world and have to shower anyway, we may as well look at that previous column I mentioned. In the previous post, entitled "Collective Punishment," our brave warrior justifies such actions, the preemptive destruction of cities, because "no government, even a totalitarian one, truly rules without the consent of the governed." What's odd in this entry by the noble keyboarder is that he is specifically talking in terms of our conflict in the middle east. He is proposing that, in a middle eastern country in which we are currently at war, we ought to level a city (actually, as he puts it, "a few of their cities"), because the people of that city, whichever city it turns out to be, have bloody hands for supporting the ruler we went to war against.

Except...and feel free to help me out here if I missed something...except, the wars we are currently fighting in the middle east are in countries in which we have already deposed the leaders we originally went to war against. In one of those countries in particular, oh, let's call it Iraq, there were other reasons originally bandied about for going to war but they didn't turn out so well and we were left with only one reason, deposing the dictator. And now we're supposed to nuke one of the cities in this country, where we have already locked up the old boss, to punish the people for making us come in and do what they should have done? Is that the point? WTF, mate?

Oh, one more thing about that particular post and its point. Is baby Adam's concept of "collective guilt" and his belief that those who "fail to actively resist the Islamists are, to one degree or another, complicit in their atrocities" qualitatively different from Ward Churchill's "little Eichmans" comment?

PG&E...Out of the Red and into the Black

This is nice:

"The corporate parent of formerly bankrupt utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co. reported Friday that its 2004 profit soared by nearly 1,000 percent to $4.5 billion, thanks mostly to a bailout financed by its Northern California electricity customers."

Yes, that's right. The customers of PG&E, as opposed to its shareholders and creditors (many of whom, through their manipulation of California's energy supply in 2000-01, created the conditions that led to PG&E's dire financial straits), bore most of the costs of bailing out the utility when it sought bankruptcy protection and now the shareholders realize a profit of $10.57 per share.

Ain't "capitalism" grand?

Friday, February 18, 2005

In Ann Coulter's Dreams

For two weeks in a row now, Ann Coulter has written about Ward Churchill. This reflects either the prominence she believes he has in the world or the prominence she wishes he had. Whether her obsession is due to a delusion or a hope, though, it indicates how desperate the right is for liberal boogey-men. Lacking prominent left-leaning pundits who are as far out on the wing as Limbaugh, Savage, G. Gordon Liddy, and Coulter herself are out on the right, the right feels compelled to take an obscure professor almost nobody had heard of two weeks ago and prop him up as an exemplar of liberal thought. And this week, while she was at it, she forgot all they taught her in "law school" about the 14th amendment.

Defending Free Speech for Everybody...

What a concept.

Michelle Malkin, brings up the case of a 12 year-old Schenectady student who was banned by her local school district from wearing a red, white, and blue necklace and bracelet she had made in honor of her uncle serving in Iraq.

Malkin snarkily wonders “if the ACLU will volunteer to defend Raven's free-speech rights, as they have in at least one case involving a student who fought to wear an anti-Bush t-shirt to school?”

I know it fits Malkin’s agenda to imply that the ACLU only defends free speech rights when those victimized are expressing a “liberal” viewpoint, but, sadly for her, the facts are biased against her. You can check here, here, here, here, and here. There are others, too.

Interestingly, Ms. Malkin, the strong advocate of free speech, does not allow comments on her site.

No, Not Negroponte

For the skinny on why people with a humane outlook might object to the confirmation of John Negroponte as our country's new chief of intelligence (or for any other position, really), check out the King.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Terrible Crocodile of Uberaba

I just like writing that, Terrible Crocodile of Uberaba. I like saying it. It sounds like something you would encounter in one of those movies I used to sit around watching with my mother on the old black and white on rainy Saturday afternoons in the sixties. To get to King Solomon's Mines or to Journey to the Center of the Earth, you'd first have to get by the terrible crocodile of Uberaba. The grizzled guides would look over their shoulders and spit when Stewart Granger or James Mason mentioned it, and half the native porters would desert in the night. That it's really a recently discovered prehistoric Brazilian crocodile makes it no less cool.

NHL to Keep on Not Playing

For those of you who may have missed the news (and it would be hard to miss; it was front page news in my town's paper and our "local" team is 100 miles away), the NHL season has been cancelled. That's not actually what I'm writing about. What I'm writing about is to ask why this is worth writing about. The season was supposed to start last fall. It didn't. No games have been played this season. As near as I can tell, nobody has expected for some time that any games would be played this season. So the news is that something that hasn't been happening for several months will continue to not happen for the rest of the year. Wow. That's front page stuff, alright. Isn't this kind of along the lines of Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead? Only, not intended to be funny?

New Bay Area Blogger - Jerry Brown (yeah, that one)

Blogenlust points out that Jerry Brown now has a blog and invites him to join us at the next BARBARians' meeting. I'll second that.

While you're rooting around in the neighborhood, check out Blogenlust's item about the 100% increase in terror attacks within Iraq in the last year and the effect the occupation is having in the region.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Steve Earle, in Concert

I went to an anti-Bush rally last night and a rock concert broke out. Steve Earle and the Dukes, with Allison Moorer opening, rolled into San Francisco's Great American Music Hall last night for the first night of a two-night stand of country-tinged-ball-busting-rock-and-roll.

The night featured more than two hours of Steve Earle originals, drawing heavily from 2002's Jerusalem and 2004's "The Revolution Starts Now." There were a handful of covers thrown into the mix, including a rousing and appropriate run through the Beatles' "Revolution." Earle's lyrics draw heavily on a life fully-lived, including the required misspent youth and bouts with drugs and alcohol, and reflect a self-described "borderline Marxist" who has spent years thinking about and trying to find and apply solutions to the troubles and injustices of this country. His political views come through in most of his songs, usually passionately, such as in "Jerusalem," "Rich Man's War," and "Amerika," and, well, virtually everything he sang. His wry sense of humor comes through, too; notably in "Condi, Condi," his "love song" to you know who, which he prefaced with a reference to the SofS's recent ass-kicking at the hands of our own Barbara Boxer.

The show ended at nearly 11:30 with a well-chosen cover of the Chambers Brothers' classic "Time Has Come Today." Tonight's show at GAMH is sold out, but you got to see the man when you get the chance. I can't speak for others, but I walked into the street at the end of the night revitalized and recommitted to finding a way to running George Bush's band of thieves out of office.

Ms. Moorer is an uncommonly lovely woman and, if they were her own songs she was performing, a powerful song-writer. I thought her solo performance to open the show suffered from a lack of variety, however, and I didn't find her voice particularly pleasing.

Oh...happily belated birthday to Generik, who I ran into at the concert, not, for some reason, to my surprise.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Stupid, stupid, stupid...

The Tulsa World doesn't want "unauthorized links" to its website. What do you think? Should we refrain from linking to it?

Monday, February 14, 2005

Pear Flag Republic?

I got a phone call last week from my sister, who asked if I had ever heard that the orginal flag for California's short-lived Bear Flag Republic was supposed to feature a pear, rather than a pear. She had been given an article claiming this by a friend and was a bit skeptical. I shared her skepticism and told her I'd look into it. What I came up with was this article at Snopes. The article claims that the band of rebels, led by Jebediah Bartlett, a horticulturist, proposed that the flag of the nascent republic ended up bearing the image of a bear because of sloppy penmanship that was misread by the flag's designer as "bear," rather than "pear."

As Snopes tells the story,

"The rebels quickly decided to raise a new flag over Sonoma Plaza to announce their victory, resulting in hurried discussion about the composition of the banner. Most agreed it should feature something physically symbolic of California (and distinctly non-Mexican), but they could not reach a consensus on what that symbol should be. Finally Captain Bartlett, an agricultural magnate with large holdings in the Sacramento River area (and an amateur horticulturist who developed the Bartlett pear), broke the deadlock by "suggesting" (none too gently) that the banner include a symbol reflective of the lush agricultural regions of northern California and the rich, 400-mile long Central Valley area. Acquiescing to the desires of their leader, the group quickly decided to honor both him and California agriculture by opting for a pear as the primary motif of their new flag."

Also according to Snopes, the 33 rebels, led by Bartlett, included "Albert Bosc" and "Emmanuel d'Anjou." The article doesn't state as much, but based on its assertion that Bartlett developed the Bartlett pear, it would be hard to miss the implication that his comrades, "Bosc" and "Anjou," developed eponymous pears themselves. As references, Snopes listed several books.

As odd as the story sounded when I first heard it, I was even more dubious when I read it at Snopes, with some of the details filled in. Bosc and d'Anjou? Not bloody likely. ASide from this, I have lived in and near Sonoma, the home of the Bear Flag Revolt, and had never heard this story before, not even during the 1996 sesquicentenniel celebration of the revolt. Googling "Pear Flag Republic," "Albert Bosc," and "Emanuel d'Anjou" led me back to the Snopes article. Pear Fag Republic also led me to a February 3, 2005 Long Beach Press Telegram article State flag story a juicy mystery, which essentially repeated the details of the Snopes item, as well as a blog, which gave a condensed version of the story. I found nothing that gave any more details or cited different authorities.

Googling "Origins of bosc pears," "origins of anjou pears," and "origins of bartlett pears," however, revealed that all three were developed in Europe and introduced in the United States in 1832, 1842, and 1797, respectively. No mention of Mssrs. Bosc, Anjou, and Bartlett as their developers. There was a mention, however of a Mr. M Bosc developing the fruit bearing his name in Belgium in 1807.

Finally, while checking my links to write this, I ended up back at Snopes, where I noticed a link I'd missed before, More information about this page, which led to the Snopes "False Authority" page, warning its readers to never accept unverified information.

So, there you have it. The Pear Flag Republic story is an baseless as it sounds.

(Update: In a more recent (February 10) Long Beach Press Telegram story, Tom Hennessy acknowledges that the story is an urban legend, though he missed Snopes' internal link.)

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Just Another Day

Posting has been light lately (please say you’d noticed) as I’ve explored the possibility of “getting a life.” Results have been mixed.

On Tuesday, my friend Sandy and I went skiing at Sugar Bowl. It was a nice, quick drive up there, with just a little traffic passing through Sacramento, and clear skies when we reached the mountain. She rented skis and boots, we got our lift tickets, and by 10 we were riding up the mountain. No snow had fallen overnight, but a little snow had fallen Monday and I think the snow machines were working Monday night, so there was nicely groomed fresh snow and almost nobody on the mountain. There were no lift lines to speak of and it was a nearly perfect day of spring skiing. By the time we’d stopped for lunch around noon, we’d had about 8 or 9 good runs and we were already feeling a little tired. Well, I was. After a short lunch we headed up the mountain again and on about our third run found ourselves in the midst of a terrain park, with lots of jumps. We skied up and down the sides of the jumps and when we reached the bottom decided to go back up the same chair and try a jump on the way down on the next run. Coming down again we cautiously crept up a couple of jumps, hitting them with just enough speed to barely clear the top and catch a little air. After pausing about half way down, I chose a jump I would try, selecting one over another one beside it because there was more room at the top before the slope resumed. I figured this would give me more room to land and regain control. I started at it from about 100 yards away and maybe 50 feet above it and had a pretty good head of steam going when I reached it. The jump was much steeper than I anticipated and when I hit it my knees were thrust up toward my chest; I think I was prevented from falling forward only by my momentum and the sudden upward motion the jump forced me into. The next thing I knew I was in the air, facing the sky with my body parallel to the ground. I don’t know how high I was but I had no idea how to get my legs and skis back underneath me and the thought ran through my mind that this was going to hurt. That was followed by the thought that this was really going to hurt. Sadly, I was right.

I landed on the left side of my back, with the area from my hip to my rib cage absorbing the impact. I felt my back compressing and the air being forced from my lungs. I heard Sandy asking if I was okay but was unable to take in a breath to answer her. I tried to sit up but was only able to make short jerking motions with my legs. Things weren’t quite working right. I lay back, not very comfortably, and gradually my ability to breathe returned. After taking a couple of breaths I was able to sit up. When I had fallen I thought I felt and heard my sunglasses fly off my head, so I was surprised to find them on my forehead. Sandy had reached me by now and when she asked again if I was alright I was able to force out an “I think so,” so she said she would go get my ski for me, which was the first sign I had that I was missing one. I slowly stood up, feeling pain in my lower mid-range on the left side of my back. I walked sideways down the hill to where Sandy was waiting with my ski, and after I put it on she asked if I would be okay or if needed help getting down. There were a couple of snowboarders who had been resting beside the jump I had attempted and they offered to go for help. I thanked them, but I figured if I kept moving it would keep my back muscles from tightening up and I would be okay, so after I got my ski back on we resumed down the hill, avoiding the remaining jumps, though.

At the bottom of the run, Sandy asked if I wanted to go into the lodge for a cup of hot chocolate. I said I thought I’d be better off if I didn’t stop, so we got on the chair and rode back to the top of the mountain. When I got off the chair I started to doubt the wisdom of this plan, as the pain had increased and it was going to take a conscious and painful effort to complete each turn as we headed down the mountain. Taking our time, and pausing a couple of times, we finally reached the bottom of the mountain. We took off our skis and went into the lodge, looking for a first aid station where I could get some Tylenol. We found one, and after I explained what had happened they did give me some Tylenol, but one of the ski patrol guys also wanted to check me out. After he had done so, he wanted to take me over to another first aid station, at the other lodge, where they had a nurse. They took me over on a ski-doo, and Sandy had to make it over on her skis by taking the lift to the top of the mountain and coming down another face to get to the other lodge.

The first aid nurse wasn’t happy with my vital signs, so she hooked me up to an IV and called an ambulance. My pulse rate and blood pressure were bouncing all over the place and she didn’t know why. The ambulance guys arrived at the same time as Sandy and advised me that they could drive me to the hospital or my friend could take me, but with my vital signs unstable I might have a medical emergency on the ride over (those are words you want to hear). If I went with them, on the other hand, I would have to be strapped to a board and then to the gurney and have my spine immobilized. I chose the security and relative humility of being strapped into the ambulance. Sandy later told me she was so sorry she didn’t have a camera to preserve that image. Sweet, eh? She also told me later that one of the ski patrol guys, who was helping carry the gurney down the stairs, nearly tripped in his ski boots. Now that would have been funny, me and the four guys lowering me down the stairs sprawled in the snow.

At the hospital there were three people asking me questions at once; a doctor, an admitting nurse, and somebody else. I think the third person was just trying to trip me up. Finally they moved me to a hospital bed and unstrapped me from the board. This was so the doctor could poke me in the same places the ski patrol guys and the first aid nurse had. I still hurt in the same places, only more so in some of them. Doctors ask a lot of questions, but they haven’t much to say. When I asked what he thought, he told me my liver, spleen and spine seemed okay, but couldn’t be sure yet about anything else. He would need x-rays next.

When they finished with the x-rays they wheeled me back into the examining room where I’d started. A couple minutes later a nurse came into the room and attached a vial of painkiller to my IV. I asked him what it was. “Morphine,” he said. Really? Wow. Morphine. Within a couple of minutes I started to feel…different. I bent over at the waist and stretched my back a little. As near as I could tell, it still hurt about the same. The difference was, now, with the morphine, I didn’t care.

A couple minutes later Sandy showed up, bringing my shoes. My appearance probably wasn’t as shocking to her as it had been at the first aid station, but probably every bit as ridiculous, sitting cross-legged on the gurney in a t-shirt and my long-underwear, with the IV still in my arm. Another nurse, Mo, came in and took my pulse again. She held my wrist and took it manually while at the same time using a monitor that clips onto a finger. There was no agreement between them, so she hooked me up to another monitor, with four sensors on my chest. While hooking me up she asked me how old I am. When I told her, she looked askance at me and said, “little old to be jumping, don’t you think?” Everybody’s a comedian, and I’m their raw material.

Finally the doctor came by to tell me I have a cracked rib. He told me what to do about it (when I asked if I could go skiing again in three weeks, he told me not unless I wanted to see him again) and gave me a rib belt and a scrip for a painkiller. We went to the pharmacy across the street, where nothing fun or interesting happened and nobody said anything memorable.

All in all, it actually was a great day. The skiing was great and everybody who helped us, from the ski patrol to the ambulance guys, to the doctors and nurses in the emergency room, was cheerful and helpful. Although I’d had some pain and discomfort and a great day of skiing was cut short, I wasn’t seriously injured. I don’t think I’d want to repeat the whole thing, but it was a fun and interesting way to spend a day with a good friend.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Snooping Made Easy

This is going too far. You can find a copy of anyone's driver's license on the internet. Well, I found mine, anyway...I'm assuming yours is there too.

Friday, February 11, 2005

School Days

From a survey to which 1,075 Sonoma State University freshmen responded:

82% come from public schools and 18% from private schools

Their political views are far left (4%), liberal (36%),
middle-of-the-road (39%), conservative (19%) or far right (1%)

The US Department of Education's Private Schools: a Brief Portrait says there were 5.3 million k-12 students enrolled in 27,000 private schools in 2002. US public school enrollment in 2002 was 47,781,413; 9% of k-12 students were enrolled in private schools, half the ratio we find at SSU, part of the California State University system, one of the least expensive four-year systems in the nation (if not the least expensive). It leaves me wondering, why the disparity?

I haven't seen the survey to which they responded, but my guess is they were asked to identify their political views using one of these labels. Beyond that, I'm not inclined to speculate on what any of this means.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Time to Pull the Plug on O'Reilly?

Taking my cue from O'Lielly's poll asking if Ward Churchill should be fired, I'm taking my own little poll here at itlookslikethis. In comments, tell me if Bill O'Reilly should be fired. Yes or no answers are welcome, as are more extensive responses. Vote as often and as many ways as you like. Everybody is welcome to vote. This poll is completely unscientific and will establish once and for all whether the people who respond to this poll think falafel-boy should bite it.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Cutting Veterans' Benefits

It should come as no surprise that the White House budget being submitted to Congress today contains cuts in benefits to veterans. What must be remembered about this, and all other program cuts in the budget, is that they are the result of the Bush/Republican tax cuts for the rich.

"Support the Troops," indeed.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Zero Tolerance Strikes Again

Is it fair to say that "zero tolerance" can almost always be read as "zero judgement," as school administrators across the country have imposed rigid guidelines for infractions, without regard for context? How many times in the last ten years have we heard of students being suspended for bringing aspirin or butter knives to school? To that sad history we can now add the story of Frasier McCart, a ten-year old fifth grader from Gladstone, Missouri.

While waiting for the bus to pick him up for school in the morning, Frasier spotted what appeared to be a handgun that was "bent open." Rather than leave it on the ground, Frasier put it in his backpack and immediately upon arriving at school went to the principal's office to turn it in. For his troubles he was suspended for a day for bringing a gun (which turned out to be a toy) onto school property. The school principal, Marla Wasserman, said the punishment was necessary to teach him better judgement. Frasier had mentioned to other students on the bus that he had found and had with him a gun. He wasn't trying to scare them, but he couldn't keep a secret. For this "poor judgement" on his part Ms. Wasserman chose the "light punishment" of the one-day suspension, saying "Where I think that he could have made a better decision was in not saying anything to other children and causing them concern and worry."

I'm not sure these are the people to be teaching our children about judgement.

Killing Just for Sport Now?

Tex, at UnFair Witness, asks, in light of these headlines, since the Iraqi elections:

Rebels kill 12 Iraqi soldiers

Iraq oil pipeline suffers new sabotage

Three killed in Iraq insurgent attacks

"But what is interesting is that the reporters seem at a loss, after months of leading every story about violence in Iraq with, 'In an effort to derail the elections...' Now what is the violence supposed to be about?"

Thanks to oldwhitelady for the link.


Freedom Retreating

While the prez extols the virtues of "freedom" in the middle east, he continues to squelch it here. From Joshua Micah Marshall come word of a list of 42 people banned from seeing Bush speak in Fargo. That's how Bush reaches out to all of us.

SOTU Response

For the unofficial Democratic response to the State of the Union Address go to the RudePundit.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Thrilling Toys of Yesteryear

The dashing swashblogger Scaramouche brings us back this week, with his "Tech Tuesday" feature, to the world of baby boomer toys. Reading his entry and clicking through to the link for was a sweet trip down memory lane. Among the toys displayed that I remember having were the whamo superball and supermagnet, "greenies" caps (for our toy guns), "Sixfinger" shooting finger ("The most amazing toy ever"), and glow-in-the-dark models for Dracula and Frankenstein's monster. What really impressed me was the "Secret Sam Attache Case," featuring a handgun with attachable long barrel and stock to convert it into a rifle, a hidden rubber knife in the body of the case, and a booby trap you could set that would ignite caps if somebody opened the case without first disarming it by flipping the "secret switch." This impressed me because, although I had a case similar to this one, mine wasn't a "Secret Sam" case; it was a "007" case. I can't tell if this one does, but mine would also shoot bullets out of the case itself.

Other toys featured that I played and fought with my sisters over were a Mr. Potato head set, silly putty (of course), and a Vac-U-Form. Let me describe this last one for you. You have a metal box, about 5" deep, 5" tall, and 10" wide. This box will heat up for you small colored plastic sheets which, when hot, you press down upon a metal mold. The molds were of such things as cars, trains, planes, and probably some stupid little girl things too. After the plastic had cooled you cut out the toy you had made, painted it if you want, and played with it. It was fun. Really.

I remember my sisters having the "Easy Bake Oven," "Little Kiddles," and "Finger Dolls." The fun thing about this site was the memories it sparked of other toys I had that aren't on display here. There was my M-16 and my .45, both of which fired spring loaded bullets, My Fireball XL-5 Space City, with spring loaded rockets that would launch all the way to the ceiling, and of course Lego and Lincoln Logs. I wonder if kids today will remember video games as fondly as I remember those toys.

Alright, enough old fogey behavior for tonight.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Is That a Spine I See?

It says here that not a single Senate Democrat will support any effort by the Republicans to redirect current Social Security withholding to private accounts.

Promises to Keep

An article in the January 31 Newsweek describes the brouhaha over the proposed shuttering of some older VA hospitals around the country, including one near Waco and the President's Crawford estate. This hospital happens to have the only VA post traumatic stress disorder ward in Texas. Though there are other VA hospitals in the state, none are set up to handle the potential 1000 new PTSD cases that Texas alone is likely to see as a result of the Iraq war. Bush's advice to VA director Anthony Principi was to not worry about politics in making his decision, but rather to do what's right.

That sounds like the right answer, but you have to keep in mind the President's perspective. The "politics" he referred to was the hue and cry of veterans' groups and state and National Texas legislators objecting to the closure. "What's right" in Bush's mind would be what would save the most money.

This is an issue that every keyboard-flogging magnetic-yellow-ribbon-on-the-car flag-waving Bush-voting I-support-the-troops-boasting right-wing pundit out there ought to be getting behind, loudly and often. This one is a no-brainer. At any time, but particularly in a time of war, when newly injured soldiers are being minted every day, the lid should come off the VA budget. It doesn't make sense to me that, as it was phrased in the article, the VA budget "has not kept pace with inflation and rising costs." Inflation and rising costs? Those are their worries? What about increased long-term demand for VA services? When the President can send a request for $100 billion to Capitol Hill to finance the Iraq disaster without feeling the least bit remorseful or at least sheepish, there should be no objection from anybody in any branch of government to providing the VA with what it needs to perform its mission.

I have a friend whose son, a Marine Lieutenant, is currently stationed near Mosul. Last year, while still stationed near San Diego, he learned from a friend working in a VA hospital back east that soldiers in her ward were sharing old broken down television sets, or in many cases, just doing without entertainment. He got on line and started finding and buying inexpensive TVs and VCRs and having them shipped to his friend's hospital. His initiative and generosity are admirable, but it seems to me that they should have been unnecessary. We owe nobody a greater debt than those who have shed blood in our name. More people who support our President and his war, both in and out of government, need to learn this lesson.

The hospital in Texas will stay open for now, along with other threatened VA hospitals throughout the country. A $9.6 million study has been commissioned, to be completed next year, to evaluate whether and which hospitals should be closed. The choice shouldn't be based on what the government can afford, however. It should be based on how most effectively and efficiently the various VA hospitals and clinics around the country can serve their patients. When we, and by this I mean the US Government, sends our young men and women overseas to fight, we make a promise to them that we will take care of them, that injuries they suffer will be treated by the finest care available. This is a lesson men like Bush and Cheney need to learn before sending troops into harm's way.
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