Just Another Day

"Any idiot can handle a crisis, it's day to day living that wears you out." - Chekhov

Friday, January 14, 2005

Amen to Carpetbagger

Lifted fully from The Carpetbagger:

Thankfully, Paige will be on his way back to Texas in a few weeks, but it's hard to see how his tenure could have much worse.
  • Paige called the nation's largest group of school teachers a "terrorist organization."
  • The record Paige compiled in Texas, which is why he became education secretary in the first place, was exposed as a fraud.
  • A St. Louis high school student "stumped" Paige with a question about education budget cuts.
  • Paige has condemned public schools for not having the right "values."
  • Paige has never fully grasped what the No Child Left Behind policy actually does.
  • And when he's tried to defend it, no one, even Republican lawmakers, believed him.

With a record like this, I'm surprised Bush isn't giving Paige a promotion.


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Ain't My US

I like to think that the yahoos who voted for Bush deserve all the injustice, poverty, grinding greed, religious persecution, and loss of freedom they get for being so willfully stupid. However, W won by such a slim margin, there are too many others in danger as well. Sara Paretsky has a good commentary:

Grannie, this is what we're doing now:

We imprisoned an artist in upstate New York for an installation piece he was creating around genetically modified food. When his wife died suddenly one morning and he called 911, he was arrested for having micro-organisms in the apartment. He was held without charge until a postmortem was completed and showed that the benign, legally obtained organisms in his home had not caused his wife's death. He faces trial in January for having benign, legal organisms in his house, his travel is restricted, and he is subject to frequent drug tests.

We arrested a library patron in New Brunswick for looking at foreign-language pages on the web. We held him for three days without charging him, without letting him call a lawyer, or notify his wife.

We arrested a man at St John's College in Santa Fe for making a negative comment about George Bush in a chatroom from the college library. We put a gag order on all the students and faculty, forbidding them from revealing that this arrest had taken place: the staff member who told me about it could be imprisoned for doing so.

We pressured a North Carolina public radio station to drop a long-time sponsorship from a reproductive rights group, claiming that it is political and therefore not permissible as a donor.

We've seized circulation and internet-use records from a tenth of the nation's libraries without showing probable cause. We're imprisoning journalists for their coverage of a White House vendetta on a CIA agent. We coerced newspapers in Texas and Oregon to fire reporters who criticised the president's behaviour in the days immediately after 9/11. We have held citizens and non-citizens alike for more than three years in prison, without charging them, without giving them any idea on how long their incarceration might be, and we have "out-sourced" their torture to Pakistan and Egypt.

When George Bush spoke at the Ohio State University commencement in 2002, we threatened protesters with expulsion from the university.

We imprisoned an 81-year-old Haitian Baptist minister when he landed at Miami airport with a valid passport and visa. We took away his blood-pressure medicine and ridiculed him for not speaking clearly through his voice-box. He collapsed and died in our custody five days later.

In Germany, there is a feeling of terrible loss and betrayal in the wake of the presidential election. People in their 60s told me that growing up in postwar Germany, they idealised America. Even when our faults were obvious, as with lynch mobs and segregation, these Germans saw America as struggling to become true to its ideals of justice and equality. Now, as Germans see the many ways in which we are turning our backs on those ideals in the name of protecting ourselves from terror, they feel a betrayal deeper than the loss of a lover. They fear, too, that as America moves the definition of radicalism to new points on a rightwing compass, other nations will follow suit. They fear that in a world without a beacon of liberty, there will be no curbs on totalitarian behaviour anywhere.


In Dresden, a man in his 70s said that anyone who thought the worsening war in Iraq, and a worsening US economy, would turn Americans against this administration should look to Germany. He said he remembered the second world war vividly, when people were willing to shed the last drop of their blood for a regime which had destroyed their economy while plunging them into senseless wars.


My taxi driver in Frankfurt was a devout Muslim who fled Iran to protect himself and his wife from state- imposed religious and moral standards. He had served in the Iranian army during the Iran-Iraq war, and had lost his mother and both grandmothers. "Why does America want to rule by religion?" he asked. "Religion makes a cruel government."

On the plane coming home, I sat next to an Englishman, urbane, fluent in four languages, travelling every month to South America or the Pacific rim, who told me "you Yanks" had done the right thing in giving Bush four more years. "He's protecting you from terror," the man explained.

I told him about the arrests and interrogations of writers, artists, ordinary citizens. He paused, then said: "You Yanks put a lot of your people in prison, anyway." I was bewildered. He said: "It's a necessary price to pay for protection against terrorism. You'll be glad 10 years from now that you did it."

Grannie, you know that's what a lot of people said in Germany in the 30s - that the torture of Jews, communists, homosexuals and the mentally retarded was a necessary price to pay for moving Germany in a better direction.

When I think of you sailing into New York harbour alone, terrified, and seeing "the Mother of Exiles" lift her lamp beside the golden door, I feel my heart breaking.


Sex Education

They forgot another one of the myths being promoted not just by the right wing but put up on NHS sites: abortion increase breast cancer. As noted in another post today, education is the enemy of the right wing. Abstinence education doesn't work. Comprehensive sex education does. Want to cut down on abortions? We all do, except for the leaders of the right wing because they will then lose a potent political issue. Well, the best way to do it is make sure that your kids have all the information. If you're squeamish about talking about sex with your kids, you shouldn't have kids. They're going to become sexually active, talk to them about sex: the whats, whys and hows. Go into detail, take the mystery out of it and MAKE DAMNED SURE they know that hey can talk to you about things like birth control, peer pressure, biology.

'Give me an example of risky behaviour,' said Koehler, sex education teacher at Shoemaker High School, Killeen, about an hour north of the state capital Austin.

The teenagers started with easy stuff. 'Cheating in tests,' called out one. 'Smoking,' said another. Not what Koehler was after.

'Something to do with sexuality. What about girls in short skirts?' Silence from the class of 25 pupils. 'If you wear provocative clothing it makes people think things about you. Guys, what does that say to you - she is loose? She is easy?' asked the teacher.

The boys tittered. Koehler ignored them: 'Girls, how far are you going to take the first date?'
From this educational foreplay, the lesson progressed to the dangers of sexually transmitted infections and an insistence that condoms do not prevent disease or pregnancy.

Those who know her know that my wife is as sexy as they come and she likes to show off her beauty. If I had it, I'd do the same. However, when people make comments about her on the street, in taxis, at airports, etc., it doesn't embarrass her or us, it makes us think that person is an ignorant twit. The problem is in your head, not on her body.


Yes, yes, and YES!!

Looks like Morientes will be a Liverpool player. Finally, another one who knows how to score at the Kop (when Cisse and Morientes line up together it should a sight) and who isn't a one-trick pony (ahem, Owen is not missed).



Al Kennedy at the Guardian lays it out nicely: education is the enemy of Blair and Bush. Keep 'em stupid and they won't know any better about what they're trying to do to us.

No government with any sense - and many politicians have had excellent educations - wants a populace that's confident, articulate and mentally alert. They are fundamentally opposed to education, education and education.
Our current prime minister is well aware that only an electorate with an average IQ of 12 would find him credible. (And this would be the case even if all Tony's teeth were perfect.)


But it could be worse.

No, really, it could. State education in the United States favours teaching 11-year-olds about capital letters and self-esteem - should funds be available. And beyond a horrifying national curriculum lies the strange land of home schooling and Christian Reconstructionist institutions like the Robertson School of Government and Patrick Henry College. (The same Patrick Henry College that supplies so many White House interns.)

Here, in the intellectual equivalent of Tupperware boxes, students are isolated from the media, the internet and any information which is not "biblical". Which is to say, most sciences, much of literature, medicine and history - and definitely no astronomy or archaeology.

And even in this rarefied, if not medieval, atmosphere, it's reckoned risky to attempt anything beyond a masters degree for fear of undermining your "core values".

But expose its adherents to an uncensored news broadcast, a CS Lewis novel, a snippet of Jerry Springer - The Opera, or a single Private Eye cover, and you can expect a replay of The Exorcist within moments.

Perhaps it's simply tricky to keep people who believe themselves to be good, inside what is effectively a cult devoted to death - intellectual death, imaginative death and (for other people) physical death.

And in a climate where facts are irrelevant and belief all-important, politicians in the Bush/Blair mould will hope to prosper.

Increasingly, US institutions are asked to provide "balance" of the kind that would add, say, biblical endorsements of slavery and hypothesised links between Lincoln and Satan to serious studies of the civil war.

We don't quite have a fantasy channel like Fox News, but the softening or avoidance of inconvenient realities is already here.

Another few years and, no doubt, it's hoped that our under-informed citizens will simply believe what they're told, however bloodstained and loony that may be.

Then we can all crusade our way towards the Rapture, untroubled by doubt or independent thought. They don't have to burn the books, they just have to make sure no one reads them.

If I had a dime for every time I heard right wingers spew about why they hate college education...


Tuesday, January 11, 2005


Atrios has a good take down of the right's idiocy that there is a liberal bias in the media. It's a small start but a good one. Go read The Hunting of the President, or What Liberal Media, or Blinded by the Right, if you are so inclined and get a lot more. I particularly like the right wing screaming about liberal bias based on a survey of political leanings by reporters as if they can't be professional. For example, does a defense attorney necessarily support murder because he takes on a person caught red-handed murdering someone as a client? No, he separates his personal feelings of disgust and does his job defending the client in a fair, professional manner. I know the right wing may have trouble with that concept, i.e., not taking something personally, but it does happen in the reality-based community. By the way, isn't it the editors who decide the placement of articles, the wording of articles and the headlines? And, didn't the same survey of the media that showed personal political preference for liberal ideas show that editors are mostly conservative? Yes, it did.

Update: The Carpetbagger links to Atrios and provides his own rundown of the horseshit on Memogate. Note to the right, although CBS screwed up regarding the supporting documents, the truth is still that Bush was AWOL (not to mention was and is too much of a chicken shit to have actually served...in his own word although you won't find it in the liberal media).


Monday, January 10, 2005

Awww, What A Shame

Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a Robin Hood tale in here somewhere? Quayle was robbed? I would love to have seen him spelling out the list of those things taken.


Sunday, January 09, 2005

Sad Sights (Sites)

I went out for a walk with my little boy yesterday up to and around Rodina Mat. While I am happy with the progress being made in Ukraine to a normalized free market economy, howevered stuttered at times, it was distressing to see the big billboard along the road which winds around this park dedicated to memorializing the victory in WWII. It wasn't the billboard itself that is the problem but the sponsor: someone calling themselves Adam Smith Advertising. Now, I am not sure whether they are affiliated with the Adam Smith Institute but, if they aren 't already here, I am sure those people are lurking somewhere ready to try to force their fantasies on another country. Fortunately, I think Ukraine is sophisticated enough, with enough educated people, to fend off the pressures of these nitwits but time will tell. Another sad scene was when my boy and I walked around the "eternal" flame dedicated to the heroes of WWII. That flame long ago was doused because the country couldn't afford the gas to keep it burning. The country that was arguably more ravaged by this conflict than any other, especially as it was a springboard to recovery and relative modernity after Stalin's evil murder (or was everything that right-wing nut did evil?) of up to 10 million Ukrianians.

Of course, walking back past the big monastery near our home, which could be said to be one of the national symbols of Ukraine, I saw the usual sad sight of so many people who have been sucked into the religious resurgence here heading into the monstery to pray, kiss dead saints, etc. As anyone knows me understands, I think all religion is stupid, backwards, and on the same logical plane with things like astrological and the reading of tea leaves, but the Orthodox church is more backward than most in its reverance for mysticism, rejection of modernity and culture of martyrdom.