Sunday, October 07, 2007

Cole on the GOP

John Cole of Balloon Juice weighs in on why the GOP is "in shambles:"

For starters, people got tired of being associated with these drooling retards. Then, when they realized that these drooling retards had ideological allies running the show in the Bush administration and then began to experience their idiotic policies, they moved from disgusted to outright hostile.

Like me. It had nothing to do with Burke, and everything to do with what the party had become. A bunch of bedwetting, loudmouth, corrupt, hypocritical, and incompetent boobs with a mean streak a mile long and no sense of fair play or proportion.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Elmo Volunteers to Explain War Injuries to Children


NEW YORK - It’s not your typical Sesame Street episode. There are no lessons in letters or numbers, but there are plenty of hugs and lots of talk about feelings.

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization that produces the hit kids’ show, is working on a DVD that will be distributed to military families. It’s designed to help injured veterans talk about their disabilities with their children.


More than a million children have parents who are in the military and have been deployed in the last six years. And roughly 18,000 military personnel in Iraq or Afghanistan have been wounded or injured seriously enough to be evacuated.

In the new production, Rosita, a fluffy blue mop-headed muppet, is upset because her father has returned home in a wheelchair. Rosita angrily refers to the wheelchair as “that thing” and reminisces about the days when she could dance to salsa music and kick a ball with her dad.

With encouragement from Elmo, Rosita musters the nerve to talk with her parents about how she is feeling.

“Sometimes I feel a little sad, because things are so different now,” Rosita says during a family outing to the park. “I wish your legs were OK, Papi, and I wish you didn’t have to go to the doctor so much. And I just wish things could go back to the way they were!”

Rosita’s father tells her that although he may have changed, his love for her hasn’t. And he persuades her to hop on the back of his wheelchair so the two can try a new kind of dancing.


Knell said Sesame Street is trying to model behavior and provide the vocabulary for parents who need extra help. “In many cases, Mommy and Daddy or caregivers may not have the tools necessary to deal with these very tough-to-teach issues,” Knell said.

Psychiatry professor Stephen Cozza of Uniformed Services University, which trains military doctors, said a parent’s injury or emotional problem is often “a big white elephant in the room that nobody’s talking about.”


While the program doesn’t directly address emotional disorders faced by an estimated 20 percent of returning veterans, the DVD can help frame family conversations around that too, Cozza said.

Leslye Arsht, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy, said Sesame Street is doing something that isn’t easy for the military to tackle alone.

“There is no more credible voice for 3- to 5-year-olds than the voices of Elmo ... and parents trust him too,” Arsht said.

Army Maj. David Rozelle agreed. An amputee who spends time counseling others, Rozelle was injured in Iraq before becoming a parent to two young children.

“These little people our kids trust so much can explain limb loss and help kids cope,” he said. “We don’t do it very well ourselves.”

The statistics on deaths and injuries obviously only deal with the very tip of the iceberg. The costs of the war are nearly incalculable.

Murder, Negligent Homicide, or Taking Care of Business?

Interesting debate at Blackfive in the comments regarding the incident involving US Marines at Haditha.

The official, Lt. Col. Paul Ware, said in a recommendation obtained by the North County Times that rather than face murder charges, squad leader Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich should be tried for the lesser offense of negligent homicide in the deaths of five children and two women.

Ware recommended 10 other murder charges against Wuterich be dismissed.

"I believe after reviewing all the evidence that no trier of fact can conclude Staff Sgt. Wuterich formed the criminal intent to kill," Ware wrote in reference to the women and children. "When a Marine fails to exercise due care and civilians die, the charge of negligent homicide, and not murder, is appropriate."
Blackfive blogger Uncle Jimbo made what I thought to be a reasonable analysis:
While I know that many would have preferred that no charges at all be filed, I believe that LTC Ware's judgment is proper. The actions taken by SSgt Wuterich were not designed to kill innocent Iraqis, but they certainly did, and his choices should be scrutinized. It took a generous reading of the ROE to justify the shootings and he may not even face the negligent homicide charges. But in my mind it shows that accountability matters to the Marine Corps and even if he is convicted on those charges, he and the other Marines involved are owed a huge apology from the lummox Murtha.
But most of Uncle Jimbo's readers don't see it that way. And that is troublesome.

"Mom, You've Got Homework Again in Mr. Frye's Class!"

Interesting approach. Somewhat amazed the guy is getting away with it.

From The New York Times:

The parents of Damion Frye’s ninth-grade students are spending their evenings this fall doing something they thought they had left behind long ago: homework.

So far, Mr. Frye, an English teacher at Montclair High School, has asked the parents to read and comment on a Franz Kafka story, Section 1 of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” and a speech given by Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. Their newest assignment is a poem by Saul Williams, a poet, musician and rapper who lives in Los Angeles. The ninth graders complete their assignments during class; the parents are supposed to write their responses on a blog Mr. Frye started online.

If the parents do not comply, Mr. Frye tells them, their child’s grade may suffer — a threat on which he has made good only once in the three years he has been making such assignments.

The point, he said, is to keep parents involved in their children’s ’ education well into high school. Studies have shown that parental involvement improves the quality of the education a student receives, but teenagers seldom invite that involvement. So, Mr. Frye said, he decided to help out.

“Parents complain about never getting to see their kids’ work,” he said. “Now they have to.”

Some parents, he added, seem happy to revisit their high school years.

“There was one parent last year who would write pages and pages of stuff. It was great, so good to read,” said Mr. Frye, who graduated from Montclair High in 1994.

Others are more resistant. “When my daughter told me about the homework, I looked at her and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. I graduated. I’m done,’” said Lydia Bishop, a local real estate broker whose daughter Vanessa was in Mr. Frye’s class last year. “I did it very resentfully, but I did it.”

Inaugural Friday Cat Blogging

This is Mr. Allen. Allen is about 20 - 25 lbs of declawed fluffy love. Strictly indoor patrol. Loves to wrestle. Very talkative (part Siamese). Major part of my and Genna's life.

The lamely named Little Kitty. Little Kitty showed up last winter. Genna called me from the driveway to tell me to bring some cat food out. A famished kitty gobbled it up and has been on steady patrol ever since, putting on several pounds. Genna sprang for a $200 outdoor, padded, insulated cat house only to watch Little Kitty snuggle up in a planter full of potting soil.

Putting food on the deck for Little Kitty kind of started a soup kitchen for the local wildlife. We get plenty of possums and there's a wily raccoon who has figured out the feeding schedule. Additionally, there was this cream colored kitty that we would see flash by upon occasion but who would run off the instant he was spotted. Very slowly he got used to us and now comes up to us for pets and will even let us hold him. Missing tail, hence the not-quite-as-lame name of Bobby. Bobby has the most musical purr, singing/purring one note as he breathes in and another as he breathes out.

Rainbow Over Whiteside Cove

click for much larger image

Taken from the deck of my grandmother's house last spring after a monster thunderstorm had just passed through the valley.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Xenophobia Meets the Stupids

  • Mexican-American citizen owns business that looks to be a bar in Reno, Nevada.
  • Flies Mexican flag above American flag on pole in front of business.
  • Someone takes a break from busy life and calls local TV station to inform them of national emergency.
  • Slow news day plus questionable decision made by news editor equals news team dispatched to bar.
  • As cameraman approaches, a feller who claims to be a vet and claims that the provenance of the long knife in his hand also is from the US Army, lowers flags and liberates Stars & Stripes while tossing the Mexican flag to the ground. Makes profound statement.
  • Cowed bar owner retrieves Mexican flag and goes back into bar.
But then it really goes to weird, as the local anchor who clearly was doing her makeup in civics class offers up this profound inanity:

"Federal law states it is illegal to fly any flag above an American flag."

And then she goes on to give proof she doesn't understand what it means for something to be a federal law nor does she understand federalism:

"The penalties for these laws vary from state to state."

This excellent website lays out all of proper flag etiquette, which for better or worse, as the site explains, has never risen to federal law. The anchor would have been correct to note that the bar owner was indeed violating flag etiquette as opposed to a federal law. {There is federal flag CODE but, again, not any criminal law}

There are state laws about flag displays. In Nevada for instance, there is a law which states:
" is a misdemeanor for anyone to deface or defile the U.S. flag or the Nevada state flag. The law also forbids the use of such flags for advertising or publicity purposes."
What's interesting here is that it is illegal to use the flag for advertising which is why car dealerships across the country vie to see which one can fly the biggest flag....because they support the troops.

Wolf over at milblog Blackfive has put his finger on who is to blame for this sad state of affairs:

"Teachers, Professors, Police, Politicians, Neighbors, Lawyers, Politicians, The President, The Governor, The Mayor, Congressmen, Senators, Legislators, Bosses, Students, Colleges, Schools, Principals, Politicians, Kids, Parents, Internet, TV, Radio, Howard Stern, Mancow, Foreigners, Al Qaeda, Islamists, The French, Movies, Hollywood, California, Pelosi, Reid, Murtha, Politicians, Schools, Councilmen, Lawyers..."
I and my fellow teachers are at the top of the anti-flag conspiracy. Hmmm. We all fly one in our classrooms. Actually, I have several, including my favorite, the Gadsden flag (pictured at the top of this post) which was first seen on the battlefield of Bunker Hill in the American Revolution, considered by many historians to be the first American flag, which is hoisted in all its 3x5' glory.

I love my country and I love the flag, all versions of it. But I sure don't like xenophobia. And xenophobia married to militarism with a stiff case believing anyone who doesn't support a war of choice is unpatriotic, is gross, obnoxious, and has nothing to do with what the flag, and more importantly, what the Constitution stands for.

If Wolf's lessons of democracy are what we are to be inculcating in Iraq, if the "deciders" have a firm a grasp of civics as the Reno anchor, then the whole enterprise is doomed, not to mention the trouble we've got here at the house.

{The YOUTUBE video cuts the anchor commentary, but you can watch the whole un-edited nastiness here}

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Mark Morford Goes to Whole Foods

..Why the hell can't this be the way of American business overall?

It's like some sort of drug, something warm and happy and dangerous and visceral they inject into the lighting system or mist all over the carefully constructed mountains of pornographic produce or slather all over the nearly religious seafood and meat departments because, oh my sweet Jesus with a Le Creuset ramekin and 10 pounds of artisanal Gruyere, there really is something frighteningly addictive about the glorious hellbeast grocerypalooza known as Whole Foods.

It's like this otherworldly vibration, this wickedly overblown slice of succulent, obnoxious, must-have lifestyle nirvana for the health-conscious semi-progressive well-moneyed hipster set and also those who really, really want to think of themselves as such.

And best/worst of all, it's all overlaid with this amazing sheen of healthy, pro-green, socially responsible attitude that effortlessly chips away at your cynicism and seems to suggest a bit more of a statement than just, you know, "Hey kids, if you shop here, if you buy into the ethos and if you eat the right kind of organic lettuce and can afford our huge tubs of crab-artichoke bisque, well, you are on the right track. You are, in fact, approaching enlightenment."


Because here's the thing: While it's terribly easy to accuse the joint of being the very embodiment of pseudo-progressive ideals wrapped in pitch-perfect marketing that goes so far beyond a mere grocery store, so far beyond the place you need to dash into to grab some sour cream and a pack of condoms, there is indeed something more to this joint's existence, something that, in the age of bloated Wal-Marts and tract homes like a cancer and a president with a fifth-grader's vocabulary, is actually worth celebrating.

I mean, my God. Merely skimming the company's own press releases, reading up on its various foundations, its commitment to transparency in how it does business and the issues it faces as a so-called "do-gooder" company, its current No. 5 ranking in the Forbes list of the 100 best companies to work for, its surprisingly progressive positions on supporting local farmers and promoting sustainability and humane animal treatment, its commitment to community, its overall dedication to minimizing chemicals and additives and all the mountains of toxic crap our country swims in like a noxious river, well, it's tough not to sit back and go: Wait, if they can do it, why the hell can't this be the way of American business overall?


Because it turns out — hey wow and go figure — you can actually make a great deal of money by, you know, caring about the products you sell and the people you sell them to. It turns out it might actually be possible to run a large, profitable corporation and still have something resembling a conscience, an idea that seems almost antithetical to the brutal capitalist ideal of money-uber-alles.

Yes, Whole Foods is far from perfect. Yes, the large-scale "industrial organic" model the store adheres to, as Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" so expertly lays out, has its share of major drawbacks. Yes, maybe I've just been suckered in and drunk the organic Kool-Aid. And yes, far too many of the yuppie moms who shop there have the same $400 strollers and the same Range Rovers and the same perky haircut. Whatever.

The truth remains: Would that more businesses behaved this way. Would that more corporations were cursed with a conscience, a sense of community and decency and an overall ethos of holistic health. Plus the damnable place makes you want to eat better and cook more and spend your kids' college fund on fresh duck sausage and 10 bottles of tawny port and a case of organic grass-fed free-range lube. What's not to like?

One might not like the fact that Whole Foods is "corporationy" but in Asheville we have two other alternatives, Earth Fare and Green Life which I basically cannot tell apart except for the fact that for some aesthetic twitch, I still prefer Dorothy Lane Market in Dayton, OH.

Questionable Devolving to Bizarre

From Education Week:


The issue of whether teachers should be permitted to carry guns in schools has once again triggered heated debate among educators and lawmakers, this time in Oregon and Michigan.

The Oregon case involves a lawsuit filed by a high school teacher in the 12,400-student Medford school district who contends she should be allowed to carry a licensed concealed weapon on campus.

The teacher, who has a restraining order against her ex-husband, denied to authorities that she was carrying a gun at school. But she filed suit in the Jackson County Circuit Court on Sept. 18, under the pseudonym “Jane Doe,” claiming that her concealed-weapons permit should allow her to carry a gun on school grounds.

Oregon law allows anyone with a concealed-weapons license to carry guns into public buildings, but most school districts have rules barring employees from carrying weapons onto school grounds.
In Michigan, meanwhile, state Rep. David Agema, a Republican, has introduced a bill that would give districts the option of allowing a teacher with firearm certification to have access to a registered gun on school grounds.

“We have recent federal reports that al-Qaida is targeting our schools, which are sitting targets,” said Trevor Z. Pittsley, a spokesman for Rep. Agema. “This bill is not at all about guns. It’s about keeping our kids safe.”

I admit that I have been caught fully unaware that AQ had me and my fellow teachers and students in their cross-hairs. I'm sure a handgun will thwart their pitiful plot. Maybe we can use it to shoot the survivors in the death throes of an anthrax attack.

Contemporary Political Discourse

Ed Brayton of Dispatches From the Culture Wars gives us Maxim #1: (using the revived Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill spat as an illustration)

When I offered the possibility that the stories Hill told may well have been true and still not be a genuine case of sexual harassment, I was immediately attacked from both sides; the liberals claiming that I was obviously a sexist who thinks all women are liars, while the conservatives were claiming that I'm obviously biased against Thomas, probably because he's black, for even suggesting that he could possibly have made a few crude comments. And that, sadly, is pretty normal for political discourse these days.

It's not enough that our political opponents be wrong, they must be evil. We can't just explain why we think they're wrong, we have to imagine some glaringly obvious character flaw that explains why they're wrong. I'm sure I'm guilty of this from time to time myself, but it's something we should all try and avoid as much as possible.

Partisan politics is far too much like sports rivalries. Once you begin to identify yourself as an advocate of X and an opponent of Y, it is all too easy to set up cognitive filters that distort the way we see reality. The X filter strains out any information that might cause one to question X, while the Y filter strains out any information that might cause one to consider Y.

We build up simplistic dichotomies with entirely different standards for belief and we begin to think solely in terms of Us and Them. If one of Us is accused something wrong, we demand absolute proof before we'll accept it; if one of Them is accused of doing something wrong, the mere allegation is all the proof necessary. After all, we all know what They are like, don't we?

Pulp Fiction Suitcase

What was in the suitcase that Jules and Vincent had to retrieve?

This makes sense to me.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sir Al

click for larger image

Moonshine Patriot's take on the Diane Sawyer/Jenna Bush Interview

From the Moonshine Patriot

Sawyer: who is the disciplinarian in the family mom or dad

Jenna: Grandma Barbara that woman is pure evil


Diane: describe yur fiancee

Jenna: he's outdoorsy he's a lumberjack and he's okay

Diane: but he's really political

Jenna: no not really he only worked with karl rove to get ahead
Diane: does he get to sleep with Not Jenna

Jenna: yes i will be traveling alot

Diane: what will you do differently from Chimpy and the Joker

Jenna: well based on their example and my whole family i think we'll just skip the whole having kids thing

Diane Sawyer: yes three generations of imbeciles is probably enough

Diane: your dad is teh most powerful man in teh hemisphere

Jenna: yes I’ve learned to read and met black people

Diane: you wrote a book

Jenna: yes its like bob marley meets a Bennetton ad