Thursday, May 31, 2007

Today Was My Last Day as a High School Teacher

I'm still processing that reality. I'll get back to you later with my thoughts about it all. Right now, it seems like a dream.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Monday, May 28, 2007

On Memorial Day 2007

Thank you to all those who have sacrificed for our country. Let us honor your memory forever and extend comfort to your families.

And may there someday be an end to the adding of new names to the Roll of Honor.

The Truth About John Wayne

The screen "hero" of such epics as The Sands of Iwo Jima deliberately avoided all combat in the Second World War. The story is here, courtesy of Truthdig:

An outspoken hawk during the Vietnam War, Wayne co-directed and starred in the Pentagon-subsidized propaganda picture “The Green Berets.” Duke denounced antiwar protesters, reportedly saying: “As far as I’m concerned, it wouldn’t bother me a bit to pull the trigger on one of ’em.”

Wayne was, in reality, a draft dodger. America’s archetypal soldier was in fact a chicken hawk. He was a cheerleader and champion of militaristic patriotism and combat he had never experienced. Wayne had “other priorities” during WWII—achieving superstardom (and saving his neck) was more important than defeating fascism. Much like Vice President Dick Cheney, who sought numerous deferments during the Vietnam War, Wayne was the quintessential war wimp.

According to Pilar Wayne, her husband “would become a ‘superpatriot’ for the rest of his life trying to atone for staying home” during WWII. Like Wayne, the current crop of GOP chicken hawks are great actors, overcompensating for their previous patriotic failings (draft dodging, etc.) by sounding the jingoistic battle cry for a new generation of working-class sons and daughters to go to war. Or, as George W. Bush did in a priceless moment of Hollywood flourish, dressing up in a flight suit to declare a failing and deadly war in Iraq a “mission accomplished.”
William Manchester, in his memoir of his World War II combat experiences, Goodbye, Darkness, writes that when wounded Marines saw Wayne's image on the screen, they booed and threw things at it. The Marines knew the truth about John Wayne. Wayne may have been a great actor, but he was not a hero--and nothing should ever let us forget that. We see the echo of Wayne's hypocrisy in the current crop of Chickenhawks--and nothing should ever let us forget that, either.

Henry Kissinger on the Men Who Serve America

“Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.” - Henry Kissinger

Bastard. Filthy right-wing bastard.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

An Amazing Article That Deserves Your Attention

It's called, "Greetings from Idiot America" and in it Charles Pierce lays out the most devastating analysis of our current crisis I have ever seen. The gist of Pierce's argument is that many Americans have come to hate and fear anyone who actually knows what he or she is talking about, preferring instead to act from "The Gut", the irrational, unthinking, primitive, instinctive part of the brain. Pierce's words are ferocious and savage, cutting right to heart of our national tragedy. Key excerpts from Pierce's 2005 article that originally appeared in Esquire:

LET'S TAKE A TOUR, shall we? For the sake of time, we'll just cover the last year or so. A federally funded abstinence program suggests that HIV can be transmitted through tears. An Alabama legislator proposes a bill to ban all books by gay authors. The Texas House passes a bill banning suggestive cheerleading. And nobody laughs at any of it, or even points out that, in the latter case, having Texas ban suggestive cheerleading is like having Nebraska ban corn. James Dobson, a prominent conservative Christian spokesman, compares the Supreme Court to the Ku Klux Klan. Pat Robertson, another prominent conservative preacher, says that federal judges are a more serious threat to the country than is Al Qaeda and, apparently taking his text from the Book of Gambino, later sermonizes that the United States should get with it and snuff the democratically-elected president of Venezuela.

The Congress of the United States intervenes to extend into a televised spectacle the prolonged death of a woman in Florida. The majority leader of the Senate, a physician, pronounces a diagnosis based on heavily edited videotape. The majority leader of the House of Representatives argues against cutting-edge research into the use of human stem cells by saying that "an embryo is a person... We were all at one time embryos ourselves. So was Abraham. So was Muhammad. So was Jesus of Nazareth." Nobody laughs at him or points out that the same could be said of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, or whoever invented the baby-back rib.

And, finally, in August, the cover of Time—for almost a century the dyspeptic voice of the American establishment—clears its throat, hems and haws and hacks like a headmaster gagging on his sherry, and asks, quite seriously: "Does God have a place in science class?"

Fights over creationism—and its faddish new camouflage, intelligent design, a pseudoscience that posits without proof or method that science is inadequate to explain existence and that supernatural causes must be considered—roil up school districts across the country.

The president of the United States announces that he believes ID ought to be taught in the public schools on an equal footing with the theory of evolution. And in Dover, Pennsylvania, during one of these many controversies, a pastor named Ray Mummert delivers the line that both ends our tour and, in every real sense, sums it up: "We've been attacked," he says, "by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture."

And there it is. Idiot America is not the place where people say silly things. It's not the place where people believe in silly things. It is not the place where people go to profit from the fact that people believe in silly things. Idiot America is not even those people who believe that Adam named the dinosaurs. Those people pay attention. They take notes. They take the time and the considerable mental effort to construct a worldview that is round and complete. The rise of Idiot America is essentially a war on expertise. It's not so much antimodernism or the distrust of intellectual elites that Richard Hofstadter deftly teased out of the national DNA forty years ago. Both of those things are part of it. However, the rise of Idiot America today represents—for profit mainly, but also, and more cynically, for political advantage and in the pursuit of power—the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people whom we should trust the least are the people who best know what they're talking about. In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a preacher, or a scientist, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert.

In the place of expertise, we have elevated the Gut, and the Gut is a moron, as anyone who has ever tossed a golf club, punched a wall, or kicked an errant lawn mower knows. We occasionally dress up the Gut by calling it "common sense." The president's former advisor on medical ethics regularly refers to the "yuck factor." The Gut is common. It is democratic. It is the roiling repository of dark and ancient fears. Worst of all, the Gut is faith-based.
Yes, folks, people who believe that Adam and Eve played with dinosaurs are idiots, and there's no other way to put it. Unfortunately, many of these idiots are now in power. The capture of our political process by this terrifying irrationalism constitutes as grave a threat to America's future as Islamic fundamentalism. (I notice, by the way, a growing alliance between the militant Christian fundamentalists and the militant Muslims, especially in the areas of creationism, the crushing of women's rights, and the violent persecution of gays.) Pierce has courageously called our attention to this situation in the bluntest terms. You owe it yourself to read the entire article--and then vow to take action.

They STILL Don't Give a Damn

Despite recent phony rhetoric, the Bush Administration intends to do absolutely nothing about the global climate crisis. The BBC has the story of a proposed G8 global warming document here:

Correspondents say the document hints at a looming struggle over the issue of climate change at the G8 summit, to be held on 6-8 June in Heiligendamm, Germany.

Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to use Germany's presidency of the G8 to secure a major climate change deal, including:

--Agreement to slow the rise in average temperatures this century to 2C

--A cut in global emissions by 50% below 1990 levels by 2050

--A rise in energy efficiency in power and transport by 20 percent by 2020.

Greenpeace Director John Sauven described the US position as "criminal".

"The US administration is clearly ignoring the global scientific consensus as well the groundswell of concern about climate change in the United States," he said.

Yes, criminal is a good way to describe it. Ignoring massive scientific evidence--as usual--the Bush regime is willing to sacrifice the well-being of billions of people to protect its cronies in the oil industry. Big Oil is fighting tooth and nail against doing anything about global warming, and in fact is spearheading a disinformation campaign that is spreading lies about the nature of the problem. (You can check it out for yourself here.) The U.S. produces about 25% of the world's greenhouse gases. China, the other big polluter, won't do anything substantial if we don't. Thus, the Bush right-wing Republican position is effectively destroying the international effort to slow or reverse the effects of warming, effects which are indisputably tied to human activity. Once again, the Oil Men in the White House have proven that when it comes to the lives of ordinary people, they still don't give a damn.

You shouldn't be surprised.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Shooting Down Neo-Confederate BS

The next time you hear some apologist for the Confederacy talking about the "War of Northern Aggression" or hear him asserting that the South fought only to defend itself and its way of life, remind him of what Mississippi's state government said was its reason for seceding:
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.
(Thanks to a poster named "ahermit" on HuffPo for pointing this out.)
The Civil War was about SLAVERY. It was, from the southern point of view, an attempt to PRESERVE HUMAN SLAVERY and to DESTROY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. It was a loathsome, repulsive act of TREASON and the leaders of the rebellion were TRAITORS who should all have been HANGED. The defense of the display of the Confederate flag is nothing more than an attempt to GLORIFY TREASON. It has NOTHING to do with "heritage" and it has everything to do with RACIAL HATRED AND VICIOUS BIGOTRY. (Heritage? Virginia became an English colony 400 years ago. Virginia was part of the Confederacy for four years. How does 1% of the state's historical experience become its "heritage"? Mississippi was part of the Confederacy for 2% of its statehood history. Some "heritage".) The Republicans who defend the Confederate flag are KISSING THE ASS OF RACISTS in order to win the votes of RIGHT WING REDNECK IDIOT NEANDERTHAL PINHEADS.
Have I made my position clear?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bush to Troops: You're Not Worth the Extra Money

This kind of crap just makes me crazy.

Troops don’t need bigger pay raises, White House budget officials said Wednesday in a statement of administration policy laying out objections to the House version of the 2008 defense authorization bill.

The Bush administration had asked for a 3 percent military raise for Jan. 1, 2008, enough to match last year’s average pay increase in the private sector. The House Armed Services Committee recommends a 3.5 percent pay increase for 2008, and increases in 2009 through 2012 that also are 0.5 percentage point greater than private-sector pay raises.

The slightly bigger military raises are intended to reduce the gap between military and civilian pay that stands at about 3.9 percent today. Under the bill, HR 1585, the pay gap would be reduced to 1.4 percent after the Jan. 1, 2012, pay increase.

Bush budget officials said the administration “strongly opposes” both the 3.5 percent raise for 2008 and the follow-on increases, calling extra pay increases “unnecessary.”

You see, the White House says the wonderful benefits package that the military provides will close the gap. Some might disagree with that, in light of the disgusting treatment of our troops at the hands of Halliburton. And others might point out the many troubles plaguing the VA. But hey, it's the Bush Administration. They wouldn't lie, would they?
Mr. "Support Our Troops" strikes again.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

On the Death of Falwell

He repeatedly stirred up hatred against gays. He lied through his teeth about Bill Clinton and hurled every vicious smear against the Clintons he could think of. He was consistently dishonest, a complete moral fraud, and a pseudo-Christian. He was a tyrant who wanted to see science driven out of the schools and a theocracy established in our nation. He had extensive ties to far-right psychotic and financier Sun Myung Moon. He was moral ugliness and hypocrisy personified. So I have no tears to shed for this wretched man. Eric Alterman has more here.
Good riddance.
UPDATE: Think I'm being too rough? Check out the Falwell quotes from this article.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Wow! An Absolute Must-Read From Digby

Haven't you wondered about the perversity of much of our Washington-based political commentariat? They exploded with rage when Bill Clinton lied about sex, but they've tried their damnedest to prop up a dishonest little silver-spooned rich boy who blundered and lied this country into its worst foreign policy blunder since Vietnam. They are a self-designated elite who hold the rest of the country in utter contempt while pretending to be in touch with "ordinary Americans". They consider Washington to be "their" town. Now Digby, on Hullaballoo, has ripped into this sick, perverse, inbred group of losers with surgical, laser-like precision--and it's a devastating indictment. Excerpt:
When the equally phony George W. Bush came to town it was love at first sight, and why wouldn't it be? Here you had a man whom these people could truly admire --- a rich man of the bluest blood, born into one of the most powerful families in America who nonetheless pretended to be some hick from Midland Texas. He took great pride in his phoniness, just as they did, and they all danced this absurd kabuki in perfect step for years each pretending to the other that they were all "just regular guys."
You can see then why some of us have concluded that the Dean [David Broder] and his cadre of establishment courtiers don't actually care much about what "the people" think about anything. And it should also be obvious why we are so skeptical of their reporting skills when they venture out on their anthropological expeditions to find only examples of Americans who strangely hew to their own Hollywood casting of themselves -- an America of Sally Quinns warmly played by plucky Donna Reed and David Broder himself, brought to life by loveable Wilfred Brimleys. ("They came in and they trashed the place. And it's not their place." Can't you just hear it?)
Of course political reporters should go out and interview Americans and write stories about what those Americans have to say about the issues of the day. But those interviews are not any more representative of what "the people" as a whole think than are the liberal blogs or Sally Quinn's fictitious "small town" or the fans at a NASCAR race. This is especially true when it's filtered through the phony bourgeois posturings of a bunch of highly paid reporters and insiders who have contrived a self-serving little passion play in which they are regular blue collar guys from Buffalo and corn fed farmers from the Midwest (Real Americans!) who just happen to summer on Nantucket and get invitations to white tie state dinners with the Queen of England. Pardon us fringe dwellers for being just a tad skeptical that these forays out into "America" are informing us about anything more [than] the embarrassing neuroses of some very spoiled elites.
Nothing I have read recently sums it up better. I urge you to read the whole thing--and then pass it on.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Greenwald Lays the Hurt on Broder the Fraud

Man, if this were a boxing match, the ref would have stopped it. Glenn Greenwald absolutely destroys David Broder and the entire corrupt "Beltway" culture he represents. In a reply to Joe Klein, Greenwald takes issue with Klein's defense of the "Dean" of the political press corps. Excerpts:
Broder seems to have absolutely no idea that the country has turned against George Bush and his war to a historic and irreversible degree, and no cute and clever Rove-designed platitudes at a Press Conference will change that. Anyone remotely in touch with the political sentiments of "Americans" would know that.

Klein should also look here, where some of Broder's most out-of-touch and obtuse observations are collected -- including:

* Broder's 2005 canonization of Bush ("the quest for freedom . . . is a central purpose of his administration");

* his November, 2004 criticisms of Bush critics for what he said were misguided concerns that the Bush presidency was radical ("he will have to work within the system for whatever he gets. Checks and balances are still there");

* his November 1, 2004 proclamation that the country likes Bush personally far more than Gore and Kerry and that "the country is truly conservative";

* his April, 2003 decree that "there is little the Democrats can do to shatter the reputation for strong leadership Bush has built, and not much their presidential candidates can do to win equal reputations for themselves";

* his May 2003 confession that "I like Karl Rove" followed by a very moving reminiscence of the quality time he was able to spend with Rove in Austria when (just like the ordinary people): "Tom Mann of the Brookings Institution and I were assembling a cast of American politicians to address a group of 40 emerging political leaders from Western Europe, the former Soviet bloc, Asia and Africa, I suggested we invite Karl Rove to be one of the instructors";

* his October 2002 "report" where he explained how Don Rumsfeld personally invited him to the Pentagon to explain how Iraq is such a grave threat, and at the meeting, Rumsfeld "pulled out a pencil and drew me a simple chart -- a downward sloping line tracing the erosion of Iraq's conventional military strength in the decade since the Gulf War, and an upward sloping line showing its growing store of WMD - weapons of mass destruction." Based on Rumsfeld's crude and condescending scribblings, an obviously flattered Broder pronounced: "Rumsfeld left me with the impression that he is aware of the risks of war with Iraq, but confident they can be handled." And finally:

* his October 2002 attack against protestors trying to stop the Iraq War with meetings in Iraq: "It was all too reminiscent of Jane Fonda in Hanoi or antiwar protesters marching under Viet Cong flags."
Last year, Broder decided to spew pure caricature and cliche about the ordinary people he loves so much by claiming that only [a] few Democrats "have much experience with, or sympathy for, the military."

In sum, Broder has propped up one of the most unpopular and corrupt presidencies in history, all after he spent years waxing hysteric over a deeply popular President and a sex scandal that Americans by and large thought was petty and inconsequential. Time and again, David Broder is on the wrong side of every critical political issue. His judgment proves again and again to be worthless and misguided. And his opinions could not be any more detached from the "ordinary Americans" he thinks he represents.
In truth, Broder is a fraud, a shill for Bush and Cheney (he is, as I recall, Cheney's personal friend) and representative of everything that is wrong with our lapdog political press. Greenwald is right: the "Washington Beltway" insiders ARE the problem in this country, and only a peaceful revolution that displaces them can correct it.

Friday, May 04, 2007

New Video on Government Corruption



Refuting the Big Lie of the "Failing" Public Schools

The buffoons who make education policy in this country at the federal level (and the equally buffoonish commentators on education) never tire of touting standardized test scores as "proof" of the failure of American public schools. As a teacher, I naturally take umbrage at these accusations of incompetence. So I always enjoy seeing these people made to look foolish in articles like this by Gerald Bracey. Key finding:

By comparing the results of foreign students and American students on tests administered in both nations, and then examining the American students' scores on the U.S. NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress], it is possible to reliably estimate how well foreign students would perform on the NAEP.

And it turns out that only one-third of those high-flying Swedish kids would be considered proficient readers; the NAEP figure for U.S. fourth-graders was 29 percent. The great majority of the remaining countries would have fewer proficient students than the United States. Using the NAEP standard, no country comes close to having a majority of proficient readers.

Under the NAEP standard, Singapore is the only nation in the world to have a majority of its students be proficient in science, and that by a scant 1 percent. Only a handful of countries would have a majority of students proficient in mathematics.
And yet the NAEP results are constantly used to flog the public schools and scare Americans into thinking that education is in a state of collapse in this country. The reasons this is done are often quite simple: opponents of the very idea of public schools want to take over the education system. These are the John Stossels of the world, driven by ideological motives, who constantly lie about the public schools in order to destroy them. Articles like Bracey's are a refreshing antidote to such lies. Read the whole thing, as they say in blogdom, and see if you don't agree.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Job One: Save the Bees!!

This is pretty alarming, to say the least.

"The Commander Guy"??

Good God, is this guy six friggin' years old or what??

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Bush-Cheney-Kristol-Rumsfeld-McCain Catastrophe: By the Numbers

Courtesy of Think Progress.

On the Fourth Anniversary of "Mission Accomplished", Bush Betrays the Troops--Again

Glenn Greenwald recalls, in scathing fashion, the disgusting groveling and media worship enjoyed by Commander Codpiece four years ago today as he pranced around on the deck of an aircraft carrier, playing dressup so he could feel like a Real Man. (And worship it was. Was there anything more cringe-inducing than Chris Matthews' homoerotic verbal fellating of the Boy King at that time?) This was one of the low points in the history of the modern American media (and that says something).
Now, four years later, with more than 3,300 Americans dead for no good reason, with an Iraqi death toll perhaps in the hundreds of thousands, and $500 billion squandered, the Emperor With No Clothes has vetoed a bill for merely suggesting that a timetable for withdrawal be set. The lack of funding for our troops is Bush's fault. It is he, and he alone, who is holding the process up. Like a spoiled, petulant child, Bush's idea of compromise is "Give me everything I want and don't ask any questions." Well to HELL with that. I hope the Democrats throw the same bill in his g-d damned face again and again until it is abundantly clear who has betrayed America's fighting men and women.
And while we're at it, why is Condoleeza Rice allowed to simply ignore a congressional subpoena? Whatever happened to contempt of Congress?
Democrats, dig in your heels and FIGHT. The people of America are counting on you.
UPDATE: By the way, let's help this go viral.