January 31, 2006

It had to happen!

Cindy Sheehan for Senate blog.

Check out "Update #8": Important-- Tonight Cindy will be giving her own State of the Union address in Washington. If anyone is live-blogging this please email me with the link to your blog. I will put the link up here so everybody can follow.

What a hoot.

Posted by Rhodey at 08:49 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Dopey WNJ Letter of the Week, and...

This week's winner is Robert E. Vanella's Democratic talking points "letter" back on the 24th:

I attended St. Anthony's Church and visit Wilmington's Little Italy regularly. It comes as no surprise that citizens are too shortsighted to realize the depressing ramifications of installing cameras to record activities on city streets.

When phone calls and e-mails can be monitored without warrants, detainees can be held without legal representation or transported to other nations to be tortured, why not monitor city streets?

I wonder when the false feeling of safety will be replaced by fear at the bottom of the slippery slope.

Hmm. Speaking of "slippery slopes," today's News Journal notes how a Dover Post reporter was fired from his job for personal blog entries that were deemed offensive. DP Editor Don Flood was informed by the producer of the Dan Gaffney Show about Matt Donegan's blog entries, and when Flood confronted Donegan about it, he fired him after Donegan stated the blog was indeed his.

Flood said some of the blog entries "were extremely offensive and just contrary to what we believe here." Donegan believes his 1st Amendment rights have been violated: "What I wrote ... was rude, but it doesn't make it wrong." Donegan has contacted the ACLU, Public Citizen and the Electronic Frontier Foundation about his firing.

What say you? Is Donegan's case similar to that of Frank Calio? Can Donegan be axed from his job for personal comments made on a personal blog on his own time? Why or why not? Dana Garrett and I -- who are usually polar opposites politically -- came to agreement over Calio; that he indeed, if he so desired, would have won a legal case against the state for demanding he stop writing his occasional newspaper columns for which he was not even paid.

UPDATE: PolitaKid has more. He notes:

I certainly don't blame the Dover Post for firing him. By using his name and picture, as well as referencing his job, he reflects poorly on the paper. I can't imagine anyone sitting down for an interview with some one who spews such filth.

That certainly adds another element to the whole deal about the Post's right to fire Donegan. The first thing that comes to mind is when various women who had posed naked for Playboy were subsequently fired from their jobs -- because they had stated who their employer was in the magazine's photo spread. The employers did not want to be indentified with Playboy.

UPDATE 2: Mike at Down With Absolutes goes off!

UPDATE 3: The First Slate has much more, too ... in its inimitable manner!

UPDATE 4: Michael Crook chimes in in Donegan's defense.

Posted by Hube at 04:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 29, 2006

Al Gore: A ranting madman -- again

Man, if it isn't here in (and about) our own country, it's our neighbors'. This time, the target of lost-his-marbles Al Gore is the newly-elected conservative government in Canada. Or, as Gore calls it, "the ultra-conservative" government:

Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore has accused the oil industry of financially backing the Tories and their "ultra-conservative leader" to protect its stake in Alberta's lucrative oilsands.

Canadians, Gore said, should vigilantly keep watch over prime minister-designate Stephen Harper because he has a pro-oil agenda and wants to pull out of the Kyoto accord -- an international agreement to combat climate change.

"The election in Canada was partly about the tar sands projects in Alberta," Gore said Wednesday while attending the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

"And the financial interests behind the tar sands project poured a lot of money and support behind an ultra-conservative leader in order to win the election . . . and to protect their interests."

Al seems to forget -- not surprising given his current mental state -- that the U.S. Senate completely and overwhelmingly defeated the Kyoto Treaty during his and Clinton's executive term. So, it sure doesn't appear that conservatives, whether they're in Canada or in the US are the only ones against that accord.

That, and it sure ain't surprising he made the remarks at the Sundance Festival -- Robert Redford's brainchild.

(h/t: DPGI.)

Posted by Rhodey at 07:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Another view of "Munich"

By Israeli Benjamin Kerstein. Excerpt:

[Co-screenwriter Tony] Kushner is the shuck and jive man as artist. The ultimate Jewish Uncle Tom. He never fails to give the Gentiles what they want. The thought that a Jew might have no qualms about killing those who would kill him, that vengeance can also be righteous, that turning the other cheek is the hypocrisy of Christianity and not the creed of the Jews, that Jewish blood matters the most to us because it matters to no one else, that a Jew can be more than a blithering house negro for the beautiful people; all this is too horrifying, apparently, to be even thought of as a rational possibility.

See also "Bloggers View 'Munich.'"

Posted by Hube at 09:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 28, 2006

NEA head shaker -- again

I'm a member of the NEA -- National Education Association -- but it sure ain't because of most of their beliefs. Being a member, I get their monthly newsletter, NEA Today. The only place where conservative/libertarian viewpoints are voiced in a non-attacking/mocking way is in the letters page. But, of course, we're treated to lengthy articles about the "latest" in leftist educational theory!

February's edition is certainly no exception. First, we have NEA President Reg Weaver rapping with education author Jonathan Kozol. I've read some of Kozol's stuff, notably Savage Inequalities, and at times he offers up some striking material. Just be sure to research alternate viewpoints before you let yourself be driven to despair, or at least to the pharmacy for some Prozac. Kozol, in his latest, blasts what he terms the "restoration of apartheid schooling." This is preposterous on its face, and deliberately provocative (which I'm sure is Kozol's intent). Apartheid was a repugnant legally enforced system of racial separation (in South Africa, of course). As little as 40 years ago, many areas of the United States had laws quite similar to apartheid. But for Kozol to utilize such terminology today is asinine. Where are blacks and other minorities being legally separated today in the United States? Where are blacks being legally denied to he right to live in a predominately white neighborhood? Where are black students being legally denied the right to attend predominately white schools? Answer: Nowhere, Mr. Kozol.

Oh, but you see, Mr. Kozol is a social crusader for REVOLUTIONARY CHANGE! He says

I’m going to encourage teachers...to speak out politically, to rise up and protest, not only against this testing madness...but also about the perpetual separation of our children so they don’t know each other any longer in America.

The idealism is so viscous you can....well, you know. Look, not to engage in too much of an ad hominem (don't want to upset Mr. Garrett! ;-) but Kozol is the epitomy of the "limousine liberal" -- born to wealthy parents, Harvard and Oxford educated, he has now come to "save us from ourselves" with the glorious "enlightened" pedagogy of social revolution. (Aside: He did travel to Cuba -- surprise -- fairly early in his career and wrote Children of the Revolution which features this enlightening line:

"There is a sense of shared achievement, of hard work that remains . . . one good notch below the level of competitive obsession"—unlike capitalism's dog-eat-dog way of life. The school is "able to combine . . . a reverence for productive labor and an impressive level of true humanistic education of the whole man and the whole woman."

Further,

Like all Cuban schools, this one is based "on a firm and vivid grasp upon the concrete truths of life itself. Almost all ideas and skills that are acquired in these schools are meant to lead to action, to real work, and to real dedication. . . . There is a sense, within the Cuban schools, that one is working for a purpose and that that purpose is a great deal more profound and more important than the selfish pleasure of an individual reward." [Link.]

Just so you know where Jonathan is coming from, folks.)

In addition, Kozol is vehemently anti-testing and even anti-discipline. He notes that

Principals in segregated schools "create an architecture of adaptive strategies" that include "a relentless emphasis on raising test scores," "scripted lesson plans," "heightened discipline" and other policies that emulate the military--a "command and absolute control."

One of Kozol's biggest critics, Abigail Thernstrom, says

[Kozol] is against longer school days, summer school for kids who need it, charter schools (and other forms of choice), merit pay and every promising avenue of school reform. He does, as an aside, acknowledge that kids should learn "essential skills," but his main concern is with schools that exude "warmth and playfulness and informality and cheerful camaraderie among the teachers and their children."

And in a sadly all-too-typical liberal belief that blacks and other "disadvantaged minorities" are somehow not responsible for their actions (because white racism is the overarching cause of all their ills), Kozol justifies the "self-destructive behavior" of these young people:

After one of his students is accused of stealing, he writes: "I do not think that he had stolen anything, but I would consider it quite understandable and almost natural if he had. Any Negro child who stole anything movable out of any home or Boston schoolhouse would not have stolen back as much as has been stolen from him."

Maybe "stolen from him," Mr. Kozol, like what you'd do regarding his basic education? Why are you against successful literacy programs? The NEA article notes the reason: "[Kozol] reserves some of his most passionate denunciations for what he sees as the assault on professionalism by advocates of scripted literacy programs—which, he notes, are used almost exclusively in low-income, minority communities. White, middle-class parents, he says, would never stand for these programs’ rote learning strategies."

Whaaaat? So, how dare teachers use "scripted" strategies -- despite their success -- because they "assault" the "professionalism" of teachers. Meanwhile, the students would remain ... blissfully illiterate? (And, of course, the white, middle-class parents to whom Kozol refers probably wouldn't be in favor of such a strategy since, as Kozol himself and virtually all statistics show, their children aren't as in need of such basic programs.)

The exposé could continue, but I think you get the point about Kozol, and sadly, the NEA. It's neatly summarized in four words (for education): More of the same.

"More of the same" did I say? Oh oh. Because next the NEA Today gives us David Berliner whose philosophy includes more Section 8 housing vouchers so kids' education will improve (while the neighborhood goes to hell, which, Berliner doesn't say, of course). Berliner's solutions for kids include "raising a family’s income by $13,000 a year" (increases IQ "significantly"), an increase in the minimum wage, universal healthcare, and ... not shopping at Wal-Mart.

In the "Up Front" section of the newsletter we read "Mixing Wealth for Academic Health" which advocates for ... busing! (Did I say "more of the same" above?) Oh, but it isn't "race-based" busing -- it's "parental income-based" busing. Riiiiight. Silly, then, that in the very next paragraph, the article states "Last spring, 80 percent of Black third- through eighth-graders scored at grade level on the state’s standardized tests. A decade earlier, only 40 percent had. This evidence of economic integration’s benefits comes at a key time for Wake County." But it's not race-based! (Y'see, the NEA can do the semantical thing and say what they've claimed is indeed accurate; it just so happens that more average black parents' incomes are lower than those of white parents.)

But this is unnecessary verbal jousting. The real issue is, is the busing the cause for the increase in academic achievement? Of course, the NEA article says "yes," citing

But these results aren’t surprising to many researchers. Decades’ worth of evidence suggests that exposing kids at all economic levels to middle class educational values provides a better learning environment for all, says Richard Kahlenberg of The Century Foundation, a New York-based non-profit that touts economic diversity in schools.

Not to quibble, but how is a "better learning environment" the same as academic achievement? Nevertheless, Kahlenberg differs from Kozol in that he states "Educators know that a school's quality derives less from per-pupil expenditure as from the people who make up the school community children, parents, and teachers." But he still adheres to old school (no pun intended) notions of busing to raise academic achievement. He uses terms like "choice," which seem palatable, but when you read how the limits on choice actually work, one wonders:

Socioeconomic integration plans can be implemented in a number of different ways. For example, once a jurisdiction commits to the goal of having a majority of students in all of its schools who are not eligible for free or reduced-price meals, it can pursue that goal by redrawing school boundaries, siting new schools in particular locations, or approving only those transfers that promote economic integration.

Given existing residential segregation by class and race, the best way to achieve integration is through a strategy known as "controlled public school choice." Under controlled choice, families are not assigned to neighborhood schools but instead may choose from a variety of public schools within a given geographic cluster, each emphasizing a particular specialty or pedagogy. The choices are approved by the district with an eye to promoting economic integration.

In Wake County, it seems all is not settled. Many parents, white and black, are tired of the social engineering, and want their kids closer to home. But does it work -- economic or racial integration, that is, for improved academics? Well, regarding Wake County, John H. Gilbert, a professor emeritus at North Carolina State University in Raleigh says "There is a lot of evidence that it's just sound educational policy, sound public policy, to try to avoid concentrations of low-achieving students." Again, is "sound educational policy" the same as "academic achievement"? And was Wake really the "example" of successful "socioecomic integration" that the NEA and others claim? The NEA article states "Last spring, 80 percent of Black third- through eighth-graders scored at grade level on the state’s standardized tests. A decade earlier, only 40 percent had." What they (and others) don't tell you is that 77% of black students across the entire state of North Carolina did the same. That, and the same goes for the overall increase over the decade measured. (You can check out North Carolina scores online here.)

We're back again to the question: Does busing work to improve academic achievement? I'm sure there are better studies than Wake County's out there, but so far, in my experience, I haven't seen a convincing argument and hence, overall, I believe forced busing is a failure when talking about academic improvement (for minority/low-income students). After nearly two decades of federally mandated busing in New Castle County (DE) (and virtually unchanged feeder patterns since the overturning of the court order), black student achievement remains essentially unchanged. And note to Kozol: Per pupil spending in (pre-busing) 1977 Wilmington (Delaware's largest city and where most black students live and went to school) was approximately $2900, while the rest of the county (primarily white) averaged $1850. In Kansas City, a judge ordered $1.3 billion in new spending by 1995. That's over $36,000 per student. The result? "White enrollment fell further and African-American students failed to improve their academic performance. White/black test scores remained as far apart as they had ever been."

David Armor, a desegregation supporter and "who has studied desegregation efforts extensively in communities around the United States since the mid 1960s has nevertheless remarked that, based on the evidence, improved school performance is the last reason for one to favor desegregation." If anything, the "sociological father" of forced busing, James Coleman, eventually concluded that, instead of good (middle class) students "raising up" poorer students' academic performance, it turns out the bad behavior of the latter negatively affects the former (via University of Delaware professor Raymond Wolters' report to the DE State House during consideration of the 1993 busing "consent decree"). Coleman also noted

"But the concept of a complete household ... has been undermined so much that we now just call them single-parent households." Overall, Coleman found child rearing was one of the great casualties of the modern age. He continued, "Of all the changes in society, I think this breakdown of the family is going to prove to be the most powerful, the most destructive and the most enduring."
Posted by Hube at 11:54 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

January 27, 2006

Good news about DE schools?

Gooch did some research for a class he's taking and found the following (good) news about Delaware schools:

Schools spend fewer dollars per student in Utah than in any other state, but more fourth-graders there improved reading and math scores over the past decade than in more than half of the states. (Hmm ... who was talking about how much more school $$ were needed to make DE schools "at the market norm"?)

Utah students' academic success is due in part to the state's lower-than-average population of minority and non-English-speaking students, who historically score lower. But state education officials also credit their efforts to raise state academic standards, such as by aligning classroom curricula with standardized tests and holding schools accountable for student performance. (If there's a correlation between money spent per pupil, why aren't Utah's results worse? What does having minority students -- "who historically score lower" -- have to do with it? Why do they score lower? Anyway, now for the pertinent stuff ...)

Delaware, which ranks eighth-highest in the nation on spending, increased the percentage of students who can read at grade level more than any other state and was the only state to make better-than-average gains in both fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math. While nationally the number of fourth-graders who can read at grade level increased by fewer than 3 percentage points since 1992, Delaware increased its percentage of passing fourth-graders by 10 percentage points. National reading scores for eighth-graders dropped slightly since 1992, but the number of Delaware eighth-graders who were rated proficient in reading increased nearly 7 percentage points.

A report by the magazine Education Week released this month found that states that made the largest gains on the NAEP -- including Delaware, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Texas -- were also the most fervent and longest supporters of standards-based education reforms.

The report, "Quality Counts 2006," found that factors such as per-pupil spending and student demographics had less of an impact on student achievement than a state's history of raising expectations and standards.

Well, imagine that. It's not exactly rocket science. International comparisons show this. For the record, there was a big debate at Felix's post about John Stossel's recent special report on education, on exactly what Delaware spends per pupil. The answer: $9693. (Link is here -- it's an Excel file.) But to Education Week, the point is moot.

Anyways, it's nice to read some good news about DE schools for a change. My close-knit group of buddy teachers work their tails off each and every day. It's pleasant to read something that shows their efforts have borne some fruit.

Posted by Hube at 06:01 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

January 26, 2006

WMDs in Syria?

Did Saddam move his WMD stockpiles to Syria before the 2003 invasion? Yep, according to Georges Sada, the number two man is Saddam's air force:

[Sada] says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.

Sada makes the charges in a new book, Saddam's Secrets, released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with The New York Sun.

"There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands," Mr. Sada said. "I am confident they were taken over."

The flights - 56 in total, Mr. Sada said - attracted little notice because they were thought to be civilian flights providing relief from Iraq to Syria, which had suffered a flood after a dam collapse in June of 2002.

Thoughts: Will this be investigated thoroughly by the MSM? Is this guy really believable? And if somehow proven true, would it assuage the American Left? (The last one, in particular, would be a resounding "No way," in my opinion.)

Posted by Rhodey at 08:34 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

January 25, 2006

Always in search of "insensitivity"

Oh no! Simon Cowell of "American Idol" and even his cohort Randy Jackson said something not-so-nice to ... a non-specific gendered individual!!

The Fox talent show elicited a response from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) after judges Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson made what the gay rights group deemed questionable comments on last week’s premiere episode.

On Tuesday’s show, seen by a Nielsen-chart topping 35.5 million viewers, Cowell told one male contestant to “wear a dress” and Jackson asked another, “are you a girl?”

Since my daughter loves the show, I watched this very episode with her that night. The person in question was not only clueless about his/her gender, apparently, but also his/her degree of talent. And when Jackson asked the person (who was actually a teenaged boy, by the way) "are you a girl?", it was quite a reasonable question. After all, it was indeed incredibly difficult to tell! The boy answered back, "Of course!" like it was supposed to be obvious -- despite the fact that the boy's hair was styled like a girl's, he sounded like a girl, and he dressed like a girl!! He even chided Jackson and Cowell (to his grandmother), in a post-audition camera moment (paraphrase), "Am I a girl .... what kind of question is that?? I mean, come on!"

It was a damn good question, pal. And all GLADD wants is publicity, which obviously it has gotten from the popular show.

Posted by Hube at 04:15 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

OK, figure this one out

Hey -- remember when Google got all up in arms when the Bush administration wanted access to its "search" databases? Now, however, the company has signed a deal to launch its services in China -- a move that will require the Internet firm to subject itself to self-censorship.

"While removing search results is inconsistent with Google's mission," [Google Senior Policy Counsel Andrew] McLaughlin added, "providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission."

Maybe the Bush admin. could argue that Google giving the admin. some access to its databases, while "inconsistent with Google's mission, is better than providing no (or heavily degraded) access."

Posted by Hube at 03:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 24, 2006

Responsibility? Me??

From the annals of "I'm Helpless to Turn Off the Tube" and/or "Those Big Companies Have Power Over Me": Junk-food suit targets Nickelodeon, Kellogg.

Advocacy groups and parents are suing the Nickelodeon TV network and cereal maker Kellogg Co. in an effort to stop junk food marketing to kids.

The plaintiffs are citing a recent report documenting the influence of marketing on what children eat. Ads aimed at kids are mostly for high-calorie, low-nutrition food and drinks, according to the government-chartered Institute of Medicine.

Wakefield, Massachusetts, mother Sherri Carlson said she tries her best to get her three kids to eat healthy foods.

"But then they turn on Nickelodeon and see all those enticing junk-food ads," Carlson said. "Adding insult to injury, we enter the grocery store and see our beloved Nick characters plastered on all those junky snacks and cereals."

And you just can't say "NO," right Sherri? You can't put your foot down to your kids' desires, can you? You cannot have a chat with them about those Nick commercials, and educate them about a balanced diet, eh?

Good God.

A food industry-backed group defended the companies, saying the lawsuit assumes that parents can't turn off televisions, have no control over the food they buy and can't make their kids go outside to play.

Um, heLLOOO? Exactly!

I'm thinking back to my kid days in the 70s, and if TV and the grocery store were really all that different from today in terms of marketing to the kid audience. I really don't think they were. But y'know what? We had parents that put their feet down. We had parents that knew how to say "no." We had parents that put balanced meals in front of our faces and made us eat what was on the friggin' plate.

No, there wasn't the Internet or realistic video games (hey, there was "Pong"!) to keep us all sedentary for huge portions of the day. This is where a thing called "parenting" comes in handy: Set limits on computer and video game use. Get the kiddies into sports and play. Y'know, common sense things that parents are supposed to do ...

Posted by Hube at 08:53 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Scourge incorporated

The Delaware blogosphere "scourge," better known as "Jason," is upset that I have banned his commenting on Colossus. He was warned, kept at it, and hence has suffered the consequences, such that they are. (If he's bright enough -- a big "if," mind you -- he'll realize a way around it. But don't hold your breath.)

It certainly isn't our policy to ban commenters who engage in reasonable conversation about the topic at hand, offer a bit of insight, and even a totally dissenting POV, etc. However, the "scourge" doesn't do any of that. His moonbat Bush hatred permeates all that he writes/comments, and frankly, he has his own site to utilize as a sort of Delaware Democratic Underground. We don't want that garbage here. It's our site -- private property, so to speak.

Also, I've enabled the name and e-mail requirement for commenting at Colossus. An "anonymous" who had posted often here (and at the "scourge's," too, apparently) seems to think this is to prevent him from commenting. Hardly. It is merely an anti-spam measure, albeit a small one. But as any blogger knows, any anti-spam tactics are useful. You can still post anonymously -- just use a pseudonym and "phony" e-mail if you wish.

Posted by Rhodey at 04:48 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

January 23, 2006

No wonder no one was sure of where he stood

Why John Kerry lost in 2004:

Kerry, via ABC, on the Bush/NSA spy flap:

Sen. John F. Kerry is calling President Bush's warrantless wiretaps "a clear violation of the law."

Although Kerry did not go as far as to agree with former Vice President Al Gore's belief that the wiretaps may constitute an "impeachable offense," Kerry called for a special counsel and independent investigation.

But wait -- Reuters reports:

Kerry, who endorsed former Vice President Al Gore's call for an independent investigation of the Bush program, said on ABC's "This Week" that some Republicans like Bush adviser Karl Rove are trying to equate Democratic opposition to warrantless spying as weakness.

"What he's (Rove) trying to pretend is somehow Democrats don't want to eavesdrop appropriately to protect the country. That's a lie," Kerry said. "We're prepared to eavesdrop wherever and whenever necessary in order to make America safer."

So, he thinks Bush broke the law, but he'd be "prepared to eavesdrop wherever and whenever" to protect America! Then we have the Washington Times:

Kerry yesterday called the National Security Agency's program to eavesdrop on terror suspects illegal, but he said he will continue to support its funding.

Now THAT sure sounds familiar!!

(via Taranto.)

Posted by Rhodey at 08:53 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

DE bloggers shine on radio

Kudos to local bloggers Politakid and Ryan of Jokers to the Right who were on WILM 1450AM this past Saturday. You guys sounded great -- well spoken and intelligent. Good spokesmen for the right-of-center point of view!

And, thanks for the mention, 'Kid! ;-)

Posted by Hube at 05:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 22, 2006

My 2nd home battles illegal immigration

Judith Apter Klinghoffer over at the History News Network has a quite interesting article about Costa Rica's plight with illegal immigration. The parallel with the US's problems is eerie:

Costa Rican coffee and banana planters need foreign workers for jobs Costa Ricans no longer wish to do. Nicaraguans come in to work then bring their larger families along. Underemployment in Nicaragua is estimated to reach 40% and 50% of the populations lives under the poverty line.

Costa Rican schools are bursting with Nicaraguan children. Some wish to check citizenship before admitting students. Others fear that it will create a permanent underclass and a rising crime rate.

Klinghoffer opines that many Costa Ricans worry that the impending election victory of Oscar Arias won't do much to solve this problem. They worry he'll be more interested in international issues than immigration -- "or the state of the roads" (to which I can personally attest, are pretty brutal!). Based on Arias' last term as president (1986-1990 -- I was fortunate to attend his inauguration in '86), it's a legitimate concern. Arias worked hard for peace in Central America during the Nicaraguan Civil War in the 80s, winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. Perhaps to the detriment of internal concerns?

Given the shenanigans that Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales (Bolivia) and, of course, Fidel Castro will try to stir up in the region doesn't bode well for the ticos' internal problems. Every time I have been back to CR since 1986 I am warned not to go into downtown San José (the capital) as I'd be an easy target for the "nicas" -- Nicaraguans -- who have upped the crime rate in the city significantly over the last 15 years or so. Which is a big shame; in '86 I could stay out to all hours and walk the city at any time of the day with little or no trouble. So, just imagine what the average tico has to deal with there today on a daily basis.

(Thanks to David Gerstman for the tip!)

Posted by Hube at 09:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 21, 2006

It doesn't much funnier than this

Unintentional parody, that is.

Headline: Global Warming Could Spell Disaster for Blacks.

Everyone else will be what -- just fine?

(h/t: Discriminations.)

Posted by Felix at 05:12 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Bloggers view "Munich"

Last evening, Dana of Delaware Watch, Mike of Down With Absolutes! and Paul Smith Jr. of ... Paul Smith Jr. (makes sense, right?) all met for dinner and then headed over to view Steven Spielberg's "Munich." Oh, how dare I forget to mention -- my wife attended as well! ;-) Personally, I'd like to thank Dana for originally coming up with the idea; he's had some terrific ideas lately for getting local bloggers together and discussing local, national and international issues. Kudos!

Back in December, Felix had posted about the initial "controversy" surrounding "Munich;" however, I failed to see much controversial about the movie. As you're probably aware, the film details the events after the 1972 murders of eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich, West Germany Summer Olympics. (As a mere seven year-old lad at the time, I do amazingly recall some of those Olympic games, but not anything about the terrorism. My biggest memory is of my entire family flipping out that Olympic officials gave the Soviet Union basketball team a few extra seconds to defeat the US team!)

Eric Bana (at right in the picture from the movie; he also stars in "The Hulk" and "Blackhawk Down") plays Avner, the leader of the Mossad team that goes after the masterminds of the Olympic massacre. Initially, the team seems to go about their "job" with little ambivalence. However, as the "hits" proceed, the members become less sure of the "rightness" of their actions, and the political intrigue increases exponentially. Avner's information contact ("Louis") and his father ("Papa") provide him with the leads to nail the terrorists, but we're led to believe that Louis and Papa actually only end up being non-political information merchants -- as several (unsuccessful) attempts on Avner's life and assassinations of a couple of Avner's team demonstrate. But it remains a question. Papa (played by Michael Lonsdale, whom I recognized immediately as one of my favorite James Bond villains -- "Drax" from "Moonraker") holds a nebulous philosophical conversation with Avner during a lunch at the former's mansion, and reinforces the point that he (and son Louis) "do not deal with governments;" however, Papa also implies then that he fully understands Avner's motivations and desires.

Avner appears to be in the middle when it comes to querying the rightness of the team's mission. One member is vehemently in favor of tracking down each and any person associated with Munich; one appears quite the opposite. The team's explosives expert seems more on the "con" side, once pleading with Avner in an airport that Jews believe in "righteousness," that for 3000 years they hadn't succumbed to the same desires that have led to their constant persecution, and that they shouldn't begin now.

Dana indicated that there was one instance in the movie that was confusing: in Athens, Avner and his team are sleeping in a "safe house," when suddenly an Arab hit team shows up to occupy the same house! No -- not to kill Avner's team, but to utilize the same building from which to launch their own strikes. I agreed with Dana, and offered that, to me, it just showed how we're led to believe that Louis and Papa ultimately didn't care about to whom they sold information. That, and maybe they secretly hoped that the two teams would eliminate each other in the ensuing confusion. They did not, however, as Avner and co. -- as both teams all have guns pointed at one another -- convince the Arab team that they're a radical European hit squad, more or less aligned with the Palestinian cause. It is here, perhaps, that we witness the greatest amount of political debate, as Avner and the leader of the Arab team argue about the rightness/wrongness/origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Arab team leader sermonizes about the "need for a home," and that "no matter how long it takes," the Palestinians will have one, offering up other terrorist struggles as an example (like the IRA) and even those of countries that have long existed (he offers Germany), but whose formulation took decades, even hundreds of years. Dana remarked here that "He has a point," and I agreed. It's hard to argue against a nation's desire for a home. My only problem is, of course, how the Palestinians have gone about it, especially considering the origins of Israel and the United Nations Partition Plan of the late 1940s.

One scene that was almost exactly the same as the HBO movie "Sword of Gideon" (which Felix mentions in his December post, as well) was when Avner is at a hotel bar and is swooned by a most attractive woman. He resists temptation, but another member of his team does not (later on). Avner discovers his friend's body -- he has been shot in the head by the woman. As a result, Avner goes back to Louis and Papa for the ID and location of the woman assassin, gets them, and then proceeds to kill her.

Avner's boss, Ephraim (played by Geoffrey Rush), is insistent throughout most the film on getting the ID of Avner's information contact (Louis and Papa). For some reason unknown to me and the other bloggers, Avner kept refusing to relinquish this info, especially when it seemed as if Louis and Papa were playing Avner and his team against ... those who wanted them killed. Perhaps it was Avner's remembering of how fond Papa was of him, and how Papa promised that he would not tell anyone Avner's whereabouts when Avner's hit mission was over.

Avner and Ephraim debate the mission at film's end (in New York City, by the way), where Avner asks "what exactly did we accomplish"? After all, he notes, all those bumped off by Avner's team were replaced by personnel even more radical than their predecessors, terrorism against Israeli interests increased worldwide, that Israel didn't even have the death penalty, and perhaps most strikingly, how Israel had "bothered" to capture people like Nazi Adolph Eichmann and put them on trial. In my view, Spielberg ended this movie quite perfectly as these questions continue to this very day (we see Avner and Ephraim going their separate ways, and in the background is the skyline of NYC -- complete with a computer-generated image of the World Trade Center towers):

Do we -- as a civilized nation of laws -- "stoop" to the level of the terrorists, or do we utilize [at least some] of their own tactics? Do we afford those who would destroy our laws and freedom ... the very things they'd annihilate?

They're excellent questions.

Posted by Hube at 03:15 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

New additions to DE blogroll

Three new additions to the Delaware blogroll: De la where, The First Slate, and Pencader Days.

Posted by Hube at 10:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Local donneybrook

You gotta check out Mike's post over at Down With Absolutes! where he calls out a local nutcase who frequently calls in to local [Wilmington] Delaware talk radio stations (as often as she can get away with it).

Posted by Hube at 08:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 20, 2006

What's wrong with it?

That's what the America Blog asks about college speech codes and "rules of behavior." Sarcastically stating "Holy cow! Next thing you know those darn colleges are going to tell us women have the right to vote and black people can swim in our pool," AB then goes on to list several examples of colleges who engage in the rules-making:

* A ban on "insults, taunts, or challenges directed toward another person" (Appalachian State University).
* A practice of outlawing "statements of intolerance" (North Carolina Central University).
* A requirement that all students "respect the dignity of all persons" and "strive for the openness to learn from differences in people" (UNC Asheville).
* A policy outlawing "disrespect for persons" (UNC Greensboro).

AB asks, sardonically:

[But] seriously, how twisted are these self-proclaimed holier-than-thou pseudo-religious groups that they feel threatened by campus codes that require students to "respect the dignity of all persons" and "strive for the openness to learn from differences in people." What exactly are conservative Christian activists promoting that they're afraid of these kind of campus policies?

Sheesh. Here's what the problem is, AB: A "statement of intolerance," for example, can -- and has -- been attributed to those who speak out against affirmative action (anyone recall all the hubbub about affirmative action bake sales?). Ward Connerly could be charged. (But, of course, those protesting him -- attempting to not him speak period -- wouldn't face admin. punishment.) Here's an excellent post about this foolishness, too. This may be even better.

And then there's "disrespect for persons." What does that mean? Is this an example of "disrespect"? Or this? Or this? I could go on and on and on.

Here's why AB sees no problem with campus codes: They enforce what AB believes in. And what better to "get your point across" than by not letting the other party say what they think.

An excellent overview of this nonsense can be found at The Fire.

Posted by Felix at 05:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 19, 2006

What liberal media?

Osama bin Laden according to the Associated Press: "Exiled Saudi dissident."

Y'know, sort of like "Adolph Hitler: 'Disgruntled German politician.'"

Posted by Rhodey at 06:56 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

"Whiteness" studies

Ah. The latest field of "study" -- one born out of a "meeting" at "Berkeley some 10 years ago" -- is now featured at "hundreds of universities."

Aren't we lucky.

"Whiteness studies is not about white-bashing, and it's not about white supremacy," said Duncan Rinehart, who will teach CU's (Colorado University's) fourth whiteness-studies course this semester. "As long as whiteness is invisible, it's contributing to inequality and injustice. There is a fair amount of just flat-out denial, not malicious, but denial nonetheless."

As I said, aren't we lucky to have people like "Professor" Rinehart to assist us with white "denial."

And what happens when campuses stray from real academic endeavors to re-educational rubbish like this? You attract other nuts. Case in point -- Louis Calabro, head of the The European/American Issues Forum, has centered on whiteness studies courses.

Calabro, a 73-year-old retired San Francisco police lieutenant, found out about the white-privilege symposium on the Internet and was incensed. He said CU has created a culture of white guilt by teaching that "everybody else are the victims and we're the perps."

"The University of Colorado has a campus that's hostile to European American white people," he said.

But "student-government leaders say they are trying to ignore Calabro":

"We were getting a lot of types of these crazy e-mails," said Stephen Fenberg, chief of staff for the student union. "They were on Web sites discussing the issue, saying (white privilege) is this liberal idea that doesn't really exist."

Fenberg is an environmental-studies major, but he can define whiteness studies -- proof, he says, that the campus is awakening to the concept.

CU is extremely lucky to have such an enlightened student leader as Fenberg, isn't it? Calabro is "crazy," but how DARE whiteness studies be mocked as a "liberal idea," a problem "that doesn't really exist," and hey -- Fenberg can define whiteness studies, so there's an "awakening."

I think I'm gonna lose my lunch.

And, to finish off this enlightening tidbit, we have Prof. Eleanor Hubbard, who once taught the CU course:

To fight racism, whites need to see they have advantages that are a "result of them being white, not for any other reason like they are smarter or have a better education."

I think it's safe to say that any white person with a decent education is cognizant that being white in America today is easier than being black. Martin Luther King's era was still only a mere 40 years ago. Much of the US's population still have .... anachronistic ideas about race. Still, blacks have it magnitudes better in America than 40-50 years ago, and to deny this is just plain, utter nonsense. Hubbard is quite disingenuous when she says "not for any other reason like they are smarter or have a better education." Well, with "smarter," sure, as that infers inherent ability, and I do not subscribe to the notion of genetics and intellect. However, "better education" is a whole other matter. The fact is that there is a huge gap (oft cited as -- get this -- "The Gap" by educators) between white and black student academic performance. Is white "privilege" responsible for this gap? Is racism the cause of this gap? People like Hubbard, I think it's safe to say, would answer "yes," in whatever labyrinthine way they can muster.

But is it?

Black illegitimacy rates at over 70%? That has nothing to do with the gap? Rampant black single parenthood? That has nothing to do with the gap? Why do Asian students surpass the academic results of whites? In the minds of the racialists, wouldn't they suffer from the "white privilege" syndrome too? How do they succeed?

The list of questions can go on and on and on.

Posted by Felix at 05:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Nazi who never was

"The strange story of Jacques Pluss just got stranger.

In March, Pluss was fired from his position as an adjunct professor of history at Fairleigh Dickinson University shortly after it became known that he had become a leader of the National Socialist Movement of the United States, which is also known as the American Nazi Party. Students and colleagues at the New Jersey institution were stunned, but Pluss could be heard on Nazi radio broadcasts and made racist and anti-Semitic comments to reporters covering his dismissal.

Today, in an article being published on the History News Network, Pluss explains that he was never a real Nazi, but pretended to be one and outed himself so that Fairleigh Dickinson would fire him — all to collect material so he could write a book."

Wow. There certainly will be more -- much more -- to this story, but in the meantime it surely is quite interesting to read Pluss' account of how incredibly fast the college moved against him when he wrote a letter "outing" himself:

The letter itself, noting that I was a dangerous member of an international neo-Nazi group and also probably a member of the Irish Republican Army (nonsense, of course), was posted by me and mailed simply to “Editor, University Newspaper, Fairleigh-Dickinson University, 1000 River Road, Teaneck, NJ, USA.” What gave the whole affair a true “punch” was that the letter was posted from the Republic of Ireland (it was composed in Galway and posted in the village of Spital) while I was in that beautiful land on a Spring Break vacation with my grown daughter!

Apparently, the Monday morning following Spring Break (March 21, 2005), a completely panicked Faculty Cabinet met in secret session, my letter was read aloud by the President of the Cabinet, and it was decided that I be “removed from the classroom with pay” for the remainder of the term. I was notified of that action via a cell phone call from my School Director, Professor Faremarz Fatemi, at 5:30 pm that Monday, at my home. I was not told of any Faculty Cabinet Meeting. When asked why I was being “removed,” the Director’s only response was that “the decision had been made for the convenience of the University.” No reference was made to any political activities or organizations. I requested, and was not permitted, a hearing with the School Dean. Just ten days later, on March 31, 2005, a lengthy article appeared in the Equinox, citing excessive absences which never occurred. My political orientation as a neo-Nazi was surely described, but it was not cited as a reason for my removal. A number of statements made on my radio program, all anti-minority, were quoted, also.

Contrast this to, say, to the treatment given to a guy named ... Ward Churchill? Nazis are clearly certainly detestable, and they have the added bonus of being politically correctly detestable. The concept of "academic freedom" does not apply to them because they are, after all, evil. Only politically incorrect "evil" like Stalinists, Maoists, etc. have that academic freedom protection!

Posted by Felix at 03:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 18, 2006

Just as I write ...

Wow. I had taken some time to write my "Comics and Politics" post back on Saturday (didn't post it until Monday), but it's been even more time since I was last by my local comics shop. I nabbed the latest issue of The Ultimates, which you may recall is writer Mark Millar's (and artist Bryan Hitch's) reimagining of the Avengers super-team. And wouldn't 'ya just know it? Here's what we're "treated" to in the waning pages of the recent Ultimates 2 #9:

The small dialogue box reads: "This is what happens when your ambitions outstrip your capabilities."

Prior to that we're offered the following from various as-yet unknown (and some known, like the Crimson Dynamo) characters:

  • "The world is a safer place now this Roman Empire has been restrained."
  • "I mean I know why our Chinese agents did this, We did it to stop more preemptive strikes. Likewise, the Russians, the Arabs and all the North Koreans. Even the [Black] Widow infiltrated these people for free because she feared what America might do next."
  • "We told you to stop making super people, America. We told you not to interfere with cultures you can never understand." (This last is followed by the dialogue box accompanying the Statue of Liberty toppling.)

The last page has one "villain/hero" proudly claiming "The Great Satan has just been liberated."

Yowsah.

You see, apparently SHIELD and its American and European superheroes had been getting "too big for their britches," so the law enforcement organziation (led by Nick Fury) and the Ultimates had been infiltrated. As a result, the Hulk had been set up and executed. Thor had been ID'd as a psycho and imprisoned. Hawkeye's family was murdered and he thought killed, and Capt. America was set up as his killer. (Hawkeye was actually taken prisoner, and the intel he knew was utilized to administer the coup d'grace against SHIELD et. al.)

The consortium of "heroes" from Russia, China and various rogue states [apparently] are the ones inflicting the destruction on the United States. The panel you see above is just New York. Washington, Chicago and L.A. were also attacked. The US nuclear arsenal has been compromised.

Are you getting Millar's message, folks?

Posted by Hube at 05:23 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 17, 2006

Keep talking

What's the best hope for Republicans, despite their innumerable political problems? Democrats and their mouths:

"When you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run - it has been run like a plantation," said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. "You know what I'm talking about."

Mrs. Clinton, who was addressing a packed house at the Reverend Al Sharpton's annual Martin Luther King Day event at Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem, continued: "It has been run in a way so that nobody with a contrary point of view has had a chance to present legislation, to make an argument, to be heard. The Senate's not that bad, but it's been difficult. It's been difficult."

Then there's inept New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who first said, in Pat Roberstonesque manner, that God was throwing hurricanes at the US for its actions in Iraq, continued:

[He] called for the rebuilding of a "chocolate New Orleans" that maintains the city's black majority, saying, "You can't have New Orleans no other way."

"I don't care what people are saying Uptown or wherever they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day," Nagin said in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech. "This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be."

But he gave himself an "out," so to speak -- he also said God was upset at the black community, too, for "not taking care of our women, and ... not taking care of our children when you have a community where 70 percent of its children are being born to one parent."

Posted by Rhodey at 07:17 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

January 16, 2006

Thank you


Take a moment and ponder why many have the day off today.

Posted by Hube at 11:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Comics and politics

Inspired by Bronwen's "Which Superhero Are You?" link, I mentioned in the comments section that I could write quite a bit about how comics (in particular Marvel) over the last 5-10 years have taken on a decidedly leftist tone in their storytelling. And indeed I could. One little known tidbit about me is that I was once a contributor and editor-in-chief of a famous Marvel Comics character fan magazine (dubbed "fanzine" -- and had no official connection to Marvel). I was in the "thick" of the thoughts behind Marvel's creative processes, and numerous Marvel creators were happy to share their views and ideas (not always political, mind you).

First, one thing that annoys me is when creators get facts dead wrong. Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada (then a writer) once wrote in a particular issue that the "United States did extensive atomic [bomb] testing during World War II." I wrote a letter to the editor of that character's comic correcting this silly error, and they published it. And Quesada, once when discussing the controversial Captain America series The Truth, claimed that "most of the [US] military is black." The editor-in-chief of one of the biggest literary outlets on the planet doesn't have a basic grasp of history, in which his creators dabble constantly. Nice.

But the real issue is the current political bias. I actually have little problem with the whole "bias" issue for two main reasons: One, the comics creators can do as they wish -- I just don't have to buy what they put out; and two, I will buy 'em if the stories are intelligently written (which is a rarity these days, believe me). But this doesn't address the fact that there is a prodigious quantity of center-left bias prevalent in modern comics. One of the more prominent liberal writers these days is the Scot Mark Millar. I have bought -- and continue to buy -- Millar's stuff because he is a great writer. His Superman: Red Son is sensational; it imagines the Man of Steel as a Soviet superhero, and he masterfully reworks virtually all of DC's major characters into the storyline, including Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. The overall story is probably good enough to enable one to overlook Millar's anti-US bias. (The most blatant example of it in Red Son is when Supes, even though the epitomy of Stalinism, is cheered on by a crowd of Londoners when he takes on the Lex Luthor-created Superman analogue.) Still, that is unless you don't read between the lines -- or elsewhere on the Internet or print, in this case -- for a dissection of Millar's thinking. For instance, regarding Red Son, he said "Texans are invulnerable to Kryptonite, unfortunately." He also refers to the Batman character in Red Son as "an al-Qaeda-like figure" which is simply amazing to me, since Bats clearly fights against Soviet tyranny. The implication of this Millar statement is that al-Qaeda's "grievances" against the US are analogous to those of Soviet dissidents' against Stalin, et. al.

Millar currently works on Marvel's The Ultimates, which is a re-imagining of the famous Avengers superhero team. The Ultimates is a fast-paced book, and very realistic by today's standards. But, when speaking of this book, Millar once said

"I don't think there's such a thing as a hero. It's a lovely idea and this isn't meant to be cynical, but I think people are just people who are capable of very good of verry bad things.... (The Ultimates is) really more like an ensemble cast of characters (as we'd find in "Oz" or "ER") interacting with each other as opposed to the traditional superhero vs supervillain thing."

This may seem a gray area, but Millar has compared the United States to Nazi Germany (Wolverine #32) by featuring a camp guard stating:

"I took no pleasure in our camps or our preemptive strikes, but recognized that it was necessary to fight this terror abroad just as we had done for the security of our Homeland....The jews might have started this war when they brought down one of our finest buildings, but it's the duty of all patriots to finish it."

But where Millar really gets his leftist views across is in Wildstorm's title The Authority. Co-created by another leftist comics writer, Warren Ellis, The Authority is a radical's comic come true: A team of wildly powerful beings impose their world order on the entire planet, and guess what sort of "order" it is? Yep -- that of a typical protestor at an anti-WTO rally. Millar picked up on Ellis' genesis, and did so quite well. The team eventually institutes a coup d'etat against the United States government for essentially failing to do as the group wishes. Authority leader Jack Hawksmoor becomes US (and world) dictator, spouting Democratic talking points at press conferences. The Authority is brutal and relentless; negotiation isn't in their lexicon. Their whole existence is a radical's wet dream. Personally, I enjoyed their initial books mainly because the art (done by Bryan Hitch, who also currently draws the aforementioned Ultimates) was spectacular, but also because it was a completely different type of superhero team. They actually, by brutal force, impose their will on society. This idea had certainly been touched on in comics before, notably in Mark Gruenwald's Marvel Squadron Supreme from 1985, and more recently the spectacular DC Kingdom Come. But in either case, the "utopia" envisioned was either tempered by the inherent wrongness of the philosophy, or dissension in the ranks of the "do-gooders." No such "waffling" in The Authority. Still, after a while, the constant denigration of all things "conservative," and elation of all things "liberal," becomes tiresome. In a separate Authority volume, Jenny Sparks: The Secret History of the Authority, the literal embodiment of the 20th century is shown to have engineered Gerald Ford's 1976 election defeat (because he pardoned Nixon) and that Ronald Reagan, despite his popular election, "will be taken care of" by Ms. Sparks.

A side note to The Authority's Coup D'etat book: it was co-written by Micah Wright, who falsely claimed that he was an Army Ranger after first "admitting" he "outed himself," but it was clear others had discovered his fables. He went so far as to rip into "fellow veterans" thusly during his charade:

"Another West Point Butterbar who can't read my bio page and figure out that while he was playing Mario on his Super Nintendo, I was shooting people for George Herbert Walker Bush the 3rd. Been there, done that, newbie. Lecture me after you've seen piles of dead people who stood in the way of a Bush President. For the last time, I'm a (expletive deleted) veteran. None of these posters mock the men and women in uniform. How is it that people are so stupid that they can't look beyond the image and understand the message?"

Isn't that "nice"?

Authority co-creator Ellis has currently been working on my favorite Marvel character's title, Iron Man. Much like his Authority work, Ellis doesn't even try to be subtle. He has a "journalist," named John Pillinger (patterned directly from British radical John Pilger) grill Iron Man alter-ego Tony Stark about what he does with his wealth. (Gee, isn't it enough that Marvel quickly turned the Cold Warrior into the epitomy of the compassionate capitalist in the early 1970s? That he pays his employees far above what any other industrialist does, that his billions and inventions have gone towards the betterment of mankind, let alone that he puts his own life on the line constantly as Iron Man to save the friggin' planet??) His stint on the Armored Avenger's title is, thankfully, brief, so we won't be "treated" further to such completely gratuitous scenes like where a girl pontificates about how "bad" conservative America is -- she's wearing a T-shirt with an American flag on it, but in place of the 50 stars there's a swatstika -- as happened in volume 4, #4.

Even the pages of the most "patriotic" of comics' characters, Captain America, aren't immune. Besides the "America-as-Nazi-scientist" Truth, (at left) Cap's own book has been a deluge of post-9/11 political correctness. Film critic Michael Medved even co-wrote a "white paper" on the state of Captain America a few years ago. "Cap" was shown to wonder about whether the US "deserved" the hatred of Islamic radicals, and even equated the Allied firebombing of Dresden, Germany during World War II with the al-Qaeda World Trade Center attacks of 9/11.

This kind of thinking spills over into DC's Justice League America, where in issue #83 creators Joe Casey and Chris Cross have the super group challenging President Lex Luthor about intelligence regarding the use of a biological weapon on London by the nation of Qurac (Qurac? What's that sound like phonetically, huh?). The parallel is overly obvious between the heinous villain Luthor and President Bush, and check it -- no one knows Luthor is really a horrible villain, so he somehow manages to get elected chief executive -- what's that tell 'ya?

The supremely talented artist Alex Ross, whose paints graced the previously mentioned Kingdom Come and the spectacular Kurt Busiek-written Marvels (not to mention the opening mattes of the "Spider-Man 2" movie) is of like mind. He says:

"Uncle Sam represents the government. And our current government is giving us the finger. But you can turn that around and see the true spirit of the nation giving it back to a government that is telling its citizens, 'We know what's best—don't question us.' That finger is definitely a fuck-you back at this government."

He elaborates: "Everyone's asking why are we in Iraq? We were sold a bill of goods. This is a show of strength to scare the rest of the world—go after the obvious bad guy. It's like Batman going after the Penguin because he can't find the real villain, the Joker. Batman would never do that just for show—that kind of thing only works for lone justice anyway, not with countries. [The administration] is feeding its ego by trying to send that kind of cowboy justice out into the world. You can't take vigilante philosophy onto that kind of scale."

You might think, of all characters, Marvel's Punisher might be immune to politics on a global scale. Nope. Writer Garth Ennis had him -- two months after the 9/11 attacks -- threatening the life of President Bush:

The story portrays the President as a slobbering belching incoherent drunk, gleefully itching to launch nuclear missiles. The Punisher breaks into the Oval Office, tosses a nine-millimeter bullet before the President and warns ominously, “I can get in anywhere …Nine millimeters. I’m never further away than that.”

Marvel also published a popular series featuring many of its more popular characters, dubbed "The End." In The Punisher -- The End, the US is responsible for the destruction of the planet:

In The Punisher – The End we find our hero in an America totally devastated by nuclear war caused by – of course – American militarism and corporate greed. We are treated to a pedantic “progressive” discourse by the enlightened Punisher: “Once upon a time there was a bunch of evil f-cks. [fully spelled] Hardly anyone knew, because they were so good at keeping it quiet. But these particular evil f-cks owned the world. And they made the world a cruel and terrible place. They ran the great industries that poisoned the air. Their businesses turned whole countries into slaves. … They made puppets out of presidents and started wars for profit. Eventually, they came to believe that there was nothing that they couldn’t do. And so one day – inevitably – they pushed the planet’s luck too far."

The Punisher explains how the end will come, “Ten bad years. Iraq was one thing. North Korea. Even Pakistan. You shout War on Terror at the Chinese and they laugh so hard the world blows up in your face. That’s the trouble with a war you never want to end.”

This is almost exactly like the language in The Authority, by the way. (Hey! Ennis actually wrote an Authority book! What a surprise!)

More currently, noted creator J. Michael Strazynski (of "Babylon 5" fame, to name one) showed his political colors in the pages of Supreme Power (which is a re-imagining of the previously mentioned Squadron Supreme). In it, the Superman-like Hyperion has become a potential menace. Pres. Bush is shown giving a speech/press conference where he proposes conscripting (i.e. drafting) super-powered beings to work for the US government. In one panel, we see former President Bill Clinton and wife Hillary sitting on a couch, Bill saying "Here we go again," while Hillary states (to the TV), "Dick."

Just off the top of my head I can recall many instances of belittling President Reagan in 1980s Marvel comics (the 80s being my comics reading heyday). Mark Gruenwald, who wrote Captain America throughout virtually the entire decade, constantly portrayed Reagan as a buffoon, and even had Steve Rogers (Cap's alter ego) stripped of his role as Cap during Reagan's term, to be replaced by a -- you got it -- a mentally unbalanced conservative (John Walker, who saw continued existence as the US Agent). And just the other day I pulled out a What If? issue (one of my favorite Marvel titles) where the hero The Vision was attempting to take over the planet's computers. We're treated to a scene where President Reagan says to an aide (paraphrase) "Well, if he's taking over all the pewter, why don't we switch to plastics?"

But maybe there's hope. Maybe. Currently there's a Marvel title called Ultimate Iron Man and it's written by conservative -- and noted sci fi author -- Orson Scott Card.

Posted by Hube at 08:44 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

January 14, 2006

School monopoly

I caught a large portion of John Stossel's special "20/20" last evening about the state of American public education. It was an astonishing report; however, I am typically skeptical of such MSM "newsmagazine" shows. Still, it was a revealing effort, one which I am fairly familiar with.

One thing stuck out in particular: in Belgium for instance, state money follows a student throughout their school career -- and they get to use the state funds to choose wherever they want to go to school. They can go to a private school. A religious school. Wherever. Here in the US, well you know how it works. Property taxes are the main financer of public schools, and the public pays 'em ... for public schools only. You want your kid in a Catholic school? Gotta pay the Catholic school tuition ... and continue to support the public schools where your child doesn't attend. And, chances are you have elected Catholic schools because the local public schools ... suck. You're paying for a lousy product and lousy service, no matter what. Such is the nature of monopolies, people:

American schools don't teach as well as schools in other countries because they are government monopolies, and monopolies don't have much incentive to compete. In Belgium, by contrast, the money is attached to the kids — it's a kind of voucher system. Government funds education — at many different kinds of schools — but if a school can't attract students, it goes out of business.

Belgian school principal Kaat Vandensavel told us she works hard to impress parents.

She told us, "If we don't offer them what they want for their child, they won't come to our school." She constantly improves the teaching, saying, "You can't afford 10 teachers out of 160 that don't do their work, because the clients will know, and won't come to you again."

"That's normal in Western Europe," Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby told me. "If schools don't perform well, a parent would never be trapped in that school in the same way you could be trapped in the U.S."

Equally telling was Stossel taking on the teachers union(s). New York City was the target, which is a bit misleading when portraying teachers unions across the country, to be sure. Nevertheless, some of the anecdotes were shocking, especially how incredibly difficult it is to get rid of crappy teachers.

In New York City, it's "just about impossible" to fire a bad teacher, says Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. The new union contract offers some relief, but it's still about 200 pages of bureaucracy. "We tolerate mediocrity," said Klein, because "people get paid the same, whether they're outstanding, average or way below average."

This shows how anachronistic unions in general in the United States have become. Truly excellent teachers are not rewarded for their efforts; they're paid the same as some lemon teacher down the hall who sits at his desk all period and hands out dittos (anyone remember "Ditto" from the movie "Teachers"?) -- as long as they have the same amount of years experience and education. Is this fair?

"The public has to know that there's an alternative there. It's just like, do you get a Sprint phone or an AT&T phone," [Education reformer Kevin]Chavous said.

He's right. When monopolies rule, there is little choice, and little gets done. In America the phone company was once a government-supported monopoly. All the phones were black, and all the calls expensive. With competition, things have changed — for the better. We pay less for phone calls. If we're unhappy with our phone service, we switch companies.

Some teachers are quoted as saying "competition doesn't work" in public education. One even says "It's not for human beings." Huh???

It's worth a look at the show's message boards, too, because many posters have brought up that parents share quite a bit of responsibility for the "quality" of American students these days. Just by reading one thread there is a "parent" who wants to blame her teachers for virtually everything wrong with her child. This same parent even wrote that she has contacted her older child's college professors, saying "The only reason I contacted them was because I knew they would not contact me, because they could care less...they have already gotten the tuition." Wow. A college professor who may teach an introductory course whose class population may total in the hundreds, and this mom "knows" this professor wouldn't contact her "because he doesn't care." Simply amazing. The fact that her older child is now an adult, who should assume responsibility for his/her academic performance, doesn't even enter the equation! Schools ultimately accommodate these less-than-rational parents ... for fear of lawsuits.

School and/or district rules and guidelines are adjusted accordingly. Administrators -- and teachers -- will not enforce discipline and grade standards as they should out of fear of parental backlash.

Man, this is a topic on which I could write endlessly, and perhaps I will. Someday.

Posted by Felix at 09:20 AM | Comments (46) | TrackBack

January 13, 2006

The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative

Chetly Zarko's site is the place to go for in-depth reporting on the "rumble" that has been the MCRI.

Here are some audio files and commentary.

Union thuggery against MCRI signers.

Thought Ted Kennedy and his Alito questioning was bad?

Lastly, there's Chet's "BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) Watch" page which details the group's shenanigans.

Posted by Hube at 05:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 12, 2006

Guilt by Association

We were all told this is a BAD thing, especially in the now-garnering-several-pages-in-modern-history-books "McCarthy-era." In the Samuel Alito hearings (or "AliOTO" as Ted Kennedy calls him), the effort is on by Senate Democrats to paint Alito as a bigot -- because he once belonged to a group called the Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP) and their publication, The Prospect, once had an editorial titled "In Defense of Elitism," which had some quite unsavory things to say about minorities, women and the handicapped.

Alito, who was in the ROTC, said he joined the group because of Princeton's (and other universities') growing hostility towards the ROTC, and wanted to assure Princeton would keep the program after its ROTC offices were firebombed. (Alito had to finish his training at another campus.)

So here we go: liberals, who denounce "McCarthyism" at nearly every turn when something instance even remotely resembles what the 1950s senator engaged in, have no compunctions about engaging in it themselves regading a conservative SCOTUS nominee. I don't recall Senate Republicans asking Ruth Bader Ginsburg about her association with the ACLU, and whether "she's for" statutory rape since the group defended the North American Man-Boy Love Association's (NAMBLA) "right" to advertise descriptions on how to lure young boys into having sex with men. Neither do I recall Republican Senators asking Ginsburg whether she "abhors anything religious" like the ACLU does. And so on.

Even our own Wilmington News Journal engages in this activity -- when it affects conservatives. Several years I remember a measure that a conservative member of the State House brought before the assembly. I believe it was an anti-quota or anti-affirmative action type of bill. The WNJ editorial board noted the a nearby KKK chapter supported the bill, and hence they and the representative were "kindred spirits." Isn't that nice?

Senate liberals know this is a delicate issue which certainly can embarrass Alito. Who wants to be called a racist? The dreaded "R" word, which I've noted many times, is the modern-day Scarlet Letter. Why do you think Alito has said he "can't remember" signing up with the organization? Sure it's a disingenuous reply -- since his keen legal mind can recall cases off the top of his head without need of notes -- but I don't really blame him. Personally, I would have said, "Yes, I was a member of the group," then note why (the aforementioned ROTC reasons) and then state that membership in a particular group doesn't mean one agrees with something another member (or members) of the group may have said or written.

For more, see here.

UPDATE: I get many cool stories from James Taranto's site, but today I actually wrote this post before I glanced at James' site this afternoon. And, by chance, he has linked to some blog thoughts similar to my own regarding Ruth Ginsburg and the ACLU:

Senator Kennedy took the scary position that it was just and appropriate for the Congress to extract by coercion the private, internal records of a political advocacy group just because it was considering the nomination of a person who had once been a member of that organization.

To understand how weird this is, consider the following "thought experiment": If the next Democratic SCOTUS nominee once belonged to the American Civil Liberties Union(as Ruth Bader Ginsburg actually did) and, say, Sam Brownback proposed issuing a subpoena for the "records" of the ACLU to help him "understand" the nominee's testimony, what do you imagine the reaction of the mainstream media might be? The implications of Senator Kennedy's demand for freedom of speech and association are appalling. Where's the outrage?


Posted by Hube at 03:55 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

January 11, 2006

Fast

Your results:

You are The Flash

The Flash
80%
Green Lantern
70%
Hulk
65%
Robin
60%
Supergirl
55%
Superman
55%
Spider-Man
45%
Wonder Woman
40%
Iron Man
40%
Catwoman
25%
Batman
25%
Fast, athletic and flirtatious.
Click here to take the "Which Superhero am I?" quiz...


Darn. Iron Man is actually my fave superhero, but I guess I can live with the Flash.

(h/t: Bronwen.)

Posted by Hube at 05:00 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

January 10, 2006

For fours

Saw these over at xrlq's:

Four jobs you’ve had in your life: waiter, bartender, bill collector, teacher.

Four movies you could watch over and over: "Used Cars," "Animal House," "Shawshank Redemption," "Platoon."

Four places you’ve lived: Can only offer two -- Delaware and Costa Rica.

Four TV shows you love to watch: "Battlestar Galactica" (new series), "M*A*S*H*," "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Seinfeld."

Four places you’ve been on vacation: Oregon, Germany, Belgium, Holland.

Four websites you visit daily: Discriminations, Down With Absolutes, The Corner, Instapundit.

Four of your favorite foods: Pizza, cheeseburger, ravioli, [crab] stuffed flounder.

Four places you’d rather be: Manuel Antonio (Costa Rica), Tamarindo (Costa Rica), Jacó (Costa Rica), Fellas Weekend at Big Al's. (thanks, schmitt -- you were dead right!)

Four albums you can’t live without: Comfort y Música Para Volar (Soda Stereo), Sueño Stereo (Soda Stereo), Venezuela Zinga Son (Los Amigos Invisibles), World Machine (Level 42).

Posted by Hube at 07:41 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 09, 2006

Pope: Islam can't reform

Benedict lays it all out. The Corner's Rod Dreher summarizes:

The reason is very simple: unlike Judaism and Christianity, which take the Bible to be the inspired word of God, mediated through humans and therefore subject to interpretation, Islam believes the Koran is the literal and direct word of God, dictated to the Prophet. If you believe this, then it's easy to see why diverging too far from the plain text of the Koran is blasphemous (and we know what happens to those deemed to have blasphemed against Islam).

Is Benedict right?

UPDATE (1/10 at 3:30pm): John Derbyshire thinks Muslim "inflexibility" is overstated.

Posted by Hube at 05:20 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Dopey WNJ Letter of the Week

This week's winner is Richard Bensinger of Wilmington who writes

Press reports of the facts get confused with opinions

President Bush is in trouble over domestic spying. And like clockwork, newspapers like The News Journal are being attacked. Journalism that reports the facts is not a liberal contrivance. Sadly, too many critics confuse reporting with editorializing.

The news will always be interpreted as biased when the press reports information that is different from the reader's own opinion. To a prejudiced reader, a newspaper report on the advent of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 would have been viewed as liberal propaganda.

No one ought to be afraid of the truth.

Actually Rich, outlets like the Journal are being questioned as to the depth of their "investigation." For instance, regarding President Bush and NSA spying, has the News Journal asked whether Bush's actions were merely a continuation of the ECHELON program from the Clinton administration? Why former Clinton Justice Dept. official Jaime Gorelick (also a later member of the 9/11 Commission) argued that the executive has the inherent right to order such surveillance?

An "archive" search of the online News Journal yields no such stories searching under "ECHELON program" and "Jamie Gorelick." It was up to bloggers to reveal this information, Richard. (See here, here and here -- and no, we didn't find this info; we got it from other bloggers.) Why is this?

If reporters reported about the Declaration back during the Revolution, a straight news report would cover all the facts surrounding the matter. That's not what has happened regarding the president and spying. At least not in the MSM.

The problem isn't people confusing facts with editorializing; it's with reporters confusing editorializing with facts.

Posted by Hube at 04:41 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Minority sues for being hired over more qualified people

More race-based lunacy, this time from across the pond:

A black police bodyguard who protected the Duchess of Cornwall has won $70,000 compensation after suing Scotland Yard for "over-promoting" him because of political correctness. Sgt Leslie Turner -- the first black personal protection officer to guard the royal family -- will receive the "racial discrimination" payout after reaching an out-of-court settlement with London's Metropolitan Police.

His representatives argued he landed the prestigious job as Camilla's bodyguard only because he was black. It was claimed that as a result of being over-promoted and not receiving proper training and support, Sgt Turner made mistakes which led to him being re-assigned. (My emphasis.)

I immediately thought of what Kim Swygert noted: Anyone want to take bets on when we see the first lawsuit filed by a US student who flunked out of college because of being admitted (at least partially) on race -- that they were, in essence, "over-promoted" which led them to "certain failure"?

I'd say it's the next logical step in race-based advocate philosophy -- except that there's nothing logical about it.

Posted by Hube at 04:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 08, 2006

A SEAL lesson

Navy SEALs are always taught:
1) Keep your priorities in order and
2) Know when to act without hesitation.

A Navy SEAL was attending some college courses between assignments. He had completed missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One of the courses had a professor who was an avowed atheist and a member of the ACLU. One day he shocked the class when he came in, looked to the ceiling, and flatly stated, "God, if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform. I'll give you exactly 15 minutes." The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop. Ten minutes went by and the professor proclaimed, "Here I am God. I'm still waiting."

It got down to the last couple of minutes when the SEAL got out of his chair, went up to the professor, and cold-cocked him; knocking him off the platform. The professor was out cold. The SEAL went back to his seat and sat there, silently. The other students were shocked and stunned and sat there looking on in silence.

The professor eventually came to, noticeably shaken, looked at the SEAL and asked, "What the hell is the matter with you? Why did you do that?" The SEAL calmly replied, "God was too busy today protecting America's soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid shit and act like an asshole.

So He sent me."

(h/t: Mickey Devlin.)

UPDATE (1/9 at 3:31pm): Sorry if I assumed people would believe this a real anecdote. I laughed my arse off and suppose I was hasty in posting it. It sure made the Scourge look like he had some brains and that he "got" me, but, alas, I assumed and you know what happens when you "assume." I would have added an update earlier but I was at a thing called work.

Yes, as WitNit said in the comments (we like their term), this anecdote is apocryphal. It actually is a derivative of an old Einstein fable. Sorry for any confusion. And Scourge? We told you about your comments here. You disobeyed; that's why they were edited/deleted.

Posted by Rhodey at 07:22 PM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

Chutzpah

''There have never been death squads in our country, nor a single missing person, nor a single political assassination, nor a single victim of torture. . . . You may travel around the country, ask the people, look for a single piece of evidence, try to find a single case where the Revolutionary government has ordered or tolerated such an action. And if you find them, then I will never speak in public again." -- Fidel Castro

9,240 victims, and counting.

Posted by Rhodey at 07:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Do you remember ....

...the 21st night of September?

OK, no, I'm not going to continue one of my favorite Earth, Wind and Fire songs (the wife got me a great DVD for Christmas of EWF performing their greatest hits, but I digress), but post on a cool idea I saw over at Jokers to the Right.

Do you remember (what you were doing, how you found about) ....

  • September 11th, 2001: I headed down to the school cafeteria for a coffee refill where I encountered a buddy shop teacher of mine. He asked, "Have you heard the news? A plane hit one of the World Trade Center buildings."

    Whoa, I thought. Still, I thought it was "just" a one-engine Cesna or something. But then the shop teacher said he had it on a TV in his room. I scooted over and saw that it was no Cesna that did that damage. I told him to call my room if any further developments arose. A few minutes later he called -- and told me another jet had slammed into the other WTC tower. Three hours later, our school district dismissed early (circa 12pm) based on the uncertainty of the whole [emergency] situation.

  • The start of the FIRST Gulf War - When we began combat operations: I was working at a bank in early '91 (I got hired as a teacher later that year) and was a member of the company basketball team. We had a game at Eisenberg Elementary School in New Castle (DE) (which we won handily, by the way!). After I got in my car following our lopsided victory, I turned on the radio and virtually every station was reporting that we had begun the attack on Iraq. When I got home, I watched the TV coverage into the wee hours of the night.

  • The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded: I was home sick from [University of Delaware] winter session classes. I headed downstairs with a cup of tea to watch some (lousy) daytime TV. As soon as the tube came on, there was Dan Rather frantically reporting on the Challenger explosion. I immediately called my roommates (at Park Place apts., where we lived off-campus) and told 'em to turn on the box. We were all aghast at what we were seeing.

  • The Space Shuttle Columbia broke up during re-entry: I got back upstairs with my mug of coffee to sit down at the computer to do some 'net surfing. As soon as I turned on the tube, there were the reports.

  • Berlin Wall came down: I was a newlywed, and the wife and I were watching the events on that November evening in our small apartment.

  • President Clinton was acquitted of impeachment: I actually don't recall the actual event. At any rate, I didn't care much as I thought the whole spectacle was ridiculous.

  • Election night 2000: I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Earlier, I actually called a former teaching colleague of mine -- a devout leftist -- who was still waiting in line to vote at the moment of my call. We were (and are) very good friends who would always have friendly -- and feisty -- political discussions when we were at the same school (she is now a principal at a nearby Pennsylvania school). Little did we know what was about to transpire over the next few weeks! As the days dragged on, I informed my students (even though I teach Spanish, my students know I am also certified in social studies and of my interest in history and politics) that they were "living through history" -- an event that won't soon be forgotten in the annals of American elections.

Thanks, Ryan, for a great idea!

Posted by Hube at 09:40 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

More public ed. black eye

Rhymes With Right notes the ridiculous situation in the Washington DC public schools:

D.C. School Superintendent Clifford B. Janey has notified 1,100 uncertified teachers -- about 25 percent of the system's teaching force -- that they will lose their jobs if they do not obtain proper credentials by June 30.

Most of those teachers have expired provisional licenses or have not submitted proof of a valid D.C. teaching license. Janey said yesterday that he took the action because the teachers had been warned repeatedly that they were in danger of being dismissed if they did not comply. (My emphasis.)

RWR offers:

Now I understand that there are folks on various and sundry temporary certificates in classrooms. When I moved to Texas from Illinois, I was put on such a certificate until I passed the state certification test down here. I have colleagues who are on such certificates as they go through intesively monitored alternative certification programs. But none of us would have ever been allowed to stay in the classroom past the expiration of such a certificate unless we could produce a valid permanent certificate! How is it that so many folks in Washington have been allowed to do so?

The districts I'm familiar with wouldn't allow it either, RWR.

And then the local teachers union opines on the DC matter, of course. They have the gall to say the district should have provided "professional development" for these uncertified teachers:

[DC union president George] Parker said that exceeding the federal requirements is "a good objective" but that school officials "have the responsibility to put in place professional development and training to help teachers become certified."

Why, George? Isn't it the individual teacher's responsibility? It sure was for the teachers I know. They had to take additional coursework on their own time, and it was only "provided" (re: offered) at local universities. Their districts offered NO certification courses. They were too busy offering education for their students.

Posted by Felix at 08:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 07, 2006

Maybe he'll get arrested for "hate speech"

Film critic Gene Shalit apparently panned the gay cowboy flick "Brokeback Mountain," and now the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is pissed off:

The veteran "Today" show critic has been taken to task by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation over his negative review of the gay cowboy western, in which he referred to Jake Gyllenhaal's character, Jack, as a "sexual predator" who "tracks Ennis down and coaxes him into sporadic trysts."

The group claimed that Shalit's statements, delivered during his "Critic's Choice" segment on Thursday's "Today" show, promoted "defamatory anti-gay prejudice to a national audience," (See? Told 'ya!) and criticized NBC News for providing the eccentric critic with a platform from which to air his views.

Indeed! How dare a major news organization provide a film critic with a platform to air his views! I mean, critics -- voicing their opinion?? Who ever heard of such a thing?

UPDATE (1/8 at 6:57pm): Dopey Jaime over at Down With Absolutes whines "I do not believe this resolves Mr. Shalit of his culpability in this":

Mr. Shalit may have indirectly contributed to these false notions of the “danger” related to homosexuality with his comments about sexually “predatory” behavior on the behalf of the amazing Jake Gyllenhal’s character.

In the comments, she goes on to note "... everyone is entitled to their opinions, as long as they aren’t clearly inflammatory or hate-directed."

Isn't that nice? We can all have opinions, but if someone -- whoever that may be -- deems them "inflammatory" or "hate-directed," you're NOT entitled to them. Hello Mr. Orwell. Jaime is a perfect example of the modern Left in action, people.

Elsewhere, a sensible lefty, Dan, offers his thoughts on "Brokeback."

UPDATE (1/9 at 7:12pm): Dan notes that Gene Shalit's son is gay, and that Shalit wrote a "loving op-ed" about him for the Advocate.

Posted by Felix at 03:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tom DeLay is out

The House Majority Leader has permanently stepped down from his post.

Posted by Rhodey at 12:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Iraq? Terror ties? C'mon!

Via the Weekly Standard:

THE FORMER IRAQI REGIME OF Saddam Hussein trained thousands of radical Islamic terrorists from the region at camps in Iraq over the four years immediately preceding the U.S. invasion, according to documents and photographs recovered by the U.S. military in postwar Iraq. The existence and character of these documents has been confirmed to THE WEEKLY STANDARD by eleven U.S. government officials.

Many of the fighters were drawn from terrorist groups in northern Africa with close ties to al Qaeda, chief among them Algeria's GSPC and the Sudanese Islamic Army. Some 2,000 terrorists were trained at these Iraqi camps each year from 1999 to 2002, putting the total number at or above 8,000.

And there's much, much more.

Posted by Rhodey at 12:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Battlestar Galactica mid-season opener

Not gonna opine much on last night's big "resolution" to the awesome cliffhanger from back in September, mainly 'cause it turns out the whole deal is a three-parter. The frackin' conclusion will be next week! But here's what we learned last evening:

  • The [humanoid] Cylons can indeed die. The captured Number 6 aboard the Pegasus wants to die -- badly -- and she begs Baltar to kill her. "But," Baltar says, "they'll just download your consciousness to another body." Ohhh -- not so fast! There's those great photos of a mysterious Cylon ship that Starbuck took in their new "stealth" fighter. The Pegasus Number 6 informs Baltar that that is a "resurrection ship" (the title of episode, by the way) -- where "dead" Cylons get their new bodies (but keep their "consciousness"). Destroy that, and the humanoid Cylons, once axed, remain so.

  • Admiral Cain (Michelle Forbes) is indeed nuts. We discover that the Pegasus once had a small civilian fleet accompanying it, but Cain ordered those ships stripped of all materiel, and all personnel that were deemed "important" were conscripted to Pegasus. Those who resisted were ... shot. The civilian ships, once sans their faster-than-light drives were left to the "mercy" of you-know-who (the Cylons, natch).

  • Oh, did I forget September's cliffhanger? Silly me. Starbuck's arrival from her recon mission averts the two Battlestars' clash of Vipers.

  • Tyrol's and Helo's execution is averted -- for now.

  • The mistrust between Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) and Cain reaches fever pitch. Even President Roslin tells Adama that Cain is loony, and suggests Adama have her killed! Adama is initially incredulous, but then we see the episode's closing moments: After a mission briefing where the two Battlestars prepare to annihilate the Cylon "resurrection ship," we see Cain privately telling her first officer to prepare to take over the Galactica, while elsewhere Adama tells Starbuck that he wants to her to remain on Pegasus's bridge after the mission -- and then shoot Admiral Cain in the head!

The conclusion next week should be frackin' spectacular.

Posted by Hube at 09:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 06, 2006

"Intolerant"

Penn State:

[It has a speech code that defines] "acts of intolerance"-- one of which Surra himself would have committed had he made his "waste of time" comment on campus. The good representative's alma mater defines such acts (which, it says, "will not be tolerated") as "an attitude, feeling or belief in furtherance of which an individual acts to intimidate, threaten or show contempt for other individuals or groups based on characteristics such as political belief."

Calling a committee a "colossal waste of time" surely shows "contempt" for the "political belief" of the folks who voted to create it, does it not? And one might argue a federal judge showed similar "contempt" by ... striking down a nearly identical policy at Shippensburg University in 2003.

Read more here.

Posted by Felix at 07:34 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

"Racism" in the lexicon -- again

"Racism" behind wanting to break up the Clark County (NV) schools? Interesting.

Since 2001 Clark County has been a "minority majority" district, with white students accounting for less than half of the total. White students currently make up 39 percent of the 292,000 students, down from 41 percent last year. Hispanic enrollment has been steadily increasing and now stands at 37 percent. The black student population has remained relatively stable at just over 14 percent.

Once again we have the dreaded "R" word creeping into a debate. In order to stifle it. To demonize those who have different ideas.

Not to sound too cliché, but it's the damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario -- yet again -- regarding race. Here, some people claim racism because a "majority-minority" district may be broken up. But in Wilmington, DE (Hube's hometown), racism was used as a reason for the complete reverse -- for wanting to keep the majority-minority Wilmington School District intact during the [in]famous federal desegregation case of the mid-late 70s.

In a related matter, from the wonderful world of education "research," we have Susan Black, an "education consultant" from New York state (that should put up a red flag right there), who weighs in, as many education "experts" and "consultants" have over the years, on "culturally responsive classrooms." What's that, you may ask? In a nutshell, it is the idea that teachers should be accomodating of their students' "cultures" within the classroom. Any good teacher worth his or her salt already knows this, of course, especially if they are working with a significant number of minority children. It's just plain common sense. But Black's anecdotes of "disproval and rejection" are mostly extreme examples of teachers overreacting.

And, when Black states

The differences can erupt into cultural clashes, says Geneva Gay of the University of Washington in Seattle. Her studies show that many teachers expect their ethnically diverse students to learn and behave according to mainstream European-American cultural standards -- in other words, to learn and behave as the teachers do.

To illustrate the problems that can ensue when kids think and act differently from their teachers, Gay describes a common classroom scene in which teachers insist that students sit quietly, listen to lectures, answer questions, and compete for high grades. But African-American kids, Gay says, often interject comments or blurt out answers when they're deeply engaged in a lesson. All too often, she says, teachers misinterpret the kids' enthusiasm and punish them for being "rude and disruptive,"

one has to ask: Are there NO common standards of behavior for students that cross cultural lines? Should teachers not prepare ALL students to enter the real world here in the United States, where African-American kids, now workers, may not be permitted to "blurt out" answers and/or interrupt? Their superiors may (likely won't) tolerate such; there will be no call for "understanding" the workers' "cultural differences" as everyone at that company will be expected to conform to a uniform standard of behavior. Similarly, a teacher acquaintance of mine once related how an education "consultant" once told a small group of teachers that she once encountered a small group of African-American male students walking down the hallway of a school and were talking quite loud and shouting. She said she "thought about telling them to quiet down," but then thought "better of it" because that would be "denying their culture." Say whaaaat? In other words, the students in all of the classrooms in that hallway didn't have a right to a peaceful, quiet learning environment because some "enlightened consultant" was more concerned about these boys "preserving their ethnic identity." Again, do you think a supervisor will tolerate loud, boiterous behavior in a work environment (that in no way calls for it)? Do you think a boss will be "concerned" about his workers' "ethnic identity"?

[Teachers] learned the difference between discipline (ways teachers respond to students' inappropriate behavior) and culturally based classroom management (ways teachers prevent behavior problems by creating caring, respectful environments that support learning). She also recognized that her beliefs and assumptions were based on a white, middle-class world view that not all cultures share.

Yes, but you see, the "white, middle-class world" is what the United States' economic system is primarily geared towards (and, of course, it is the majority culture, like it or not). It is those values which are prevalent and prevail. Again, this is not to say that (white, middle-class) teachers cannot and should not understand and in many ways accommodate minority students' cultures. But it is -- or at least should be -- part of the teacher's duty to prepare their students to function effectively in the mainstream [work] environment. Again, employers will not concern themselves with such "accommodations;" they just want effective employees who conform to company rules and regulations, and who get the job done. Education "experts" and "consultants" who do not realize this may write a good paper for their masters or doctoral thesis, but it is doing the minority students they apparently wish to help a disservice.

Also, a question pertaining to the first story above: if certain ethnic groups are dissatisfied with the "cultural" behavior of other groups, then wouldn't it make sense to want to leave such an environment -- and head to a educational ambience where they feel more comfortable with students/teachers that share their own cultural "norms"?

Posted by Felix at 07:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 05, 2006

Dopey WNJ Letter of the Week

This week's winner is David Quinn of Wilmington who writes the following:

Spying on U.S. citizens is a crime

It is amazing how quickly George W. Bush is investigating who leaked that he was spying on U.S. citizens to the New York Times. He has dragged his feet on so many other things, like the 9/11 Commission, creation of the Homeland Security Department, who leaked the name of a CIA operative, and responding to Hurricane Katrina.

Because what he is doing is a crime, he is basically trying to find out who reported a crime to the police. Will those who did it get protection under the law as whistle-blowers?

Regardless of what happens to them, Bush should be impeached.

It is amazing, really, that Mr. Quinn knows that Bush authorizing the NSA to listen in on calls (that involve a foreign connection) is a crime -- especially when great legal minds cannot quite decide on the matter yet! Even if Quinn is a lawyer himself, it is ludicrous for him to make such a plain judgment without knowing all the facts.

Of course, the NSA has been listening in on calls for much longer than George W. Bush's tenure in office (see here and here).

Oh, and the latest poll #s show that the public doesn't believe Bush committed a crime by his authorization.

UPDATE: James Taranto shows that even supposed constitutional "scholars" ain't all that bright when it comes to the NSA spy matter:

Yesterday radio host Hugh Hewitt interviewed Rosa Brooks, a professor who teaches constitutional law at the University of Virginia Law School and columnist for the Los Angeles Times, who has raised the idea of impeaching President Bush for spying on al Qaeda terrorists' phone conversations with Americans. Radioblogger.com has a transcript:

Brooks: I think it seems to me that the NSA surveillance program on its face violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and--

Hewitt: Now, you have read United States v. United States District Court, right?

Brooks: Uh, Hugh, you're pushing me here.

Hewitt: It's--

Brooks: Refresh my memory.

Hewitt: United States v. United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, in which the United States Supreme Court specifically says, Justice Powell writing, we are not going to consider whether or not the president can, in fact, conduct surveillance of this sort.

Brooks: What sort?

Hewitt: Foreign agents communicating with their agents in the United States, even if those latter are citizens.

Brooks: OK.

Hewitt: So they specifically reserved the question to one side, and the foreign intelligence surveillance court appeals board, in In Re Sealed Case No. 2 also said no, the president has the authority to do this. So given that the federal authority--

Brooks: Well, you know, Hugh, I mean, you've got the case law at your fingertips, and I'm not going to challenge you on it, because I don't.

She then goes on to say that "quite a lot of Republicans" agree with her--but when Hewitt presses her to name them, the best she can do is John Dean, the Watergate figure whose views today are indistinguishable from those of the angriest of Angry Leftists. "He counts. He counts," she insists.

Doh!

UPDATE 2 (8:03pm): John Rosenberg has still more on Hewitt's "bullying"(!). Ms. Brooks went further to say that

You know, I'm not an expert on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or the case law behind it. I don't know. It would seem to me that on its face, it violates it. I think clearly there have been people making arguments that it does not. I'm prepared to say that's one where, you know, close case. And I'd like to hear more arguments.

Rosenberg says "But at least Prof. Brooks is open-minded. She'd 'like to hear more argument' on a charge she's already made. Good thing she's only a professor (or a pundit; it's sometimes hard to tell the difference) and not a judge."

Indeed.

Posted by Hube at 04:12 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 04, 2006

The way to get free liquor

Answer: Turn homeless.

Via Reuters: "Giving homeless alcoholics a regular supply of booze may improve their health and their behavior, the Canadian Medical Association Journal said in a study published on Tuesday."

Rumor has it that many college students plan on "becoming regular homeless" on weekends.

Posted by Rhodey at 08:58 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Poll: Civil liberties vs. security

According to a new Rasmussen poll, "59 percent of Americans say the legal system is tilted too far in favor of individual liberties at the expense of national security or is well balanced between the two."

The same poll also noted that 50% of those asked said the president did not break any laws in authorizing the NSA to intercept phone calls. 33% said Bush did indeed break the law.

Posted by Rhodey at 06:59 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 03, 2006

Race "talks" by any other name ...

... are usually a colossal waste of time. La Shawn Barber notes the latest cutesy lexicon among the diversiphiles -- "Difficult Dialogues." The Ford Foundation, through which grants are given to establish the "Dialogues," notes

Difficult Dialogues was created in response to reports of growing intolerance and efforts to curb academic freedom at colleges and universities. The goal is to help institutions address this challenge through academic and campus programs that enrich learning, encourage new scholarship and engage students and faculty in constructive dialogue about contentious political, religious, racial and cultural issues.

First, you can thank the supposed "growing intolerance" square on the shoulders of the universities themselves. Separate this, separate that, limited speech for fear of "hate speech," free speech "zones," liberal indoctrination by professors, racial preferences ...

Second, "efforts to curb academic freedom"? Such as? Are you serious?

Third, let's face it -- all those "issues" will be "dialogued" in the following manner: America is a racist country and white people need to understand and accept it. If not, you're "racist," "classist" and a "xenophobe."

I love these titles, too. "Difficult Dialogues." Just like the "Courageous Conversations" I'm familiar with at the school level. Ask just about anyone (mostly teachers) who attended one of these "conversations" to find out just how "courageous" they really were. In other words, you were really courageous as a white person if you attempted to voice an observation about (various) minorities. Why? Loud denunciations. Yelling. Shouting. Epithets. They're not conversations. They're lectures. Lectures to whites about their "privilege" and lack of empathy for minorities. Minorities "must be understood" properly and then action taken accordingly.

Get it? Neither do I.

UPDATE (9:10pm): SCSU Scholars has more. King notes Charlotte Hays' observation of DD:

My own most recent experience with dialogue was a meeting to discuss why there aren't more women working on editorial pages. When I suggested that editorialists aren't hired on the basis of their sex, I learned that if you stake out a heretical position, nobody really listens.

The University of Nebraska, Omaha, has boldly named its initiative "Breaking Silence." It will aim at "open, productive dialogues on issues of religion, sexuality and race." Yes, the silence on all those subjects has been deafening. No doubt the Omaha dialogues will aide participants in "understanding the complex roots of bigotry," as Ford's grant prospectus puts it. And if participants are lucky and someone in the room announces his opposition to gay marriage, students will productively be told that they have real live bigots in their very midst. (My emphasis.)

Exactly. A "one-way" dialogue is all this is.

King also notes how the Ford Foundation has tied its grant for DD to "academic freedom."

Posted by Felix at 03:43 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 02, 2006

Hube interviewed

Delaware's premier "progressive" blogger, Dana Garrett, seemed genuinely interested in differences among conservatives when we spoke at our DE bloggers dinner gathering last week; hence, he asked if he could "interview" me with a few questions which he could post on his blog, Delaware Watch. Of course, I agreed, natch!

The post is here.

Posted by Hube at 07:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Oy vey

Black Entertainment Television online users have chosen .... Louis Farrakhan as their 2005 Person of the Year. Un. Frickin'. Real.

"I am greatly honored and extremely humbled that the BET.com users have chosen me as the 2005 Person of the Year, especially since the nominees for such an honor are some of the greatest members of the Black community in the world; Ms. Oprah Winfrey, Senator Barack Obama, the father of BET Robert L. Johnson and the suffering victims of Hurricane Katrina of New Orleans," Minister Farrakhan told BET.com.

Any of those would have been a MUCH better choice.

Posted by Rhodey at 01:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

New Year's link-o-rama

Hope everyone is recovered from any Nuevo Año celebrations. For your feel-better perusal, we offer the following stories:

* Greg at Rhymes With Right details how Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco has discovered $564,838 to renovate her offices. However, as Greg notes, "at the time of her decision, Blanco also was hinting at deep budget cuts to state programs and the possibility of laying off 20 percent of the state workforce." Typical.

* Via the NAS e-mail bag: A review of The Chosen, which details Ivy League school discrimination against Jews in the early part of the last century, and compares/contrasts it to the current debate over affirmative action for minorities. Reviewer Jonathan Kay notes:

One of his key findings is that, contrary to conservative myth, there never was a golden age for pure meritocracy. By the time widespread discrimination against Jews was eliminated in the 1960's, universities had already taken their first open steps toward the preferential admission of blacks, an infringement of the meritocratic ideal that persists to this day.

Nowhere in the book does [author Jerome] Karabel suggest he is bothered by this. He views merit not as an absolute but rather as a malleable concept defined according to the balance of power among competing constituencies. As seen through this lens, the fact that Jews profited by fighting discrimination and blacks now profit from its perpetuation is irrelevant. Both groups have simply succeeded in redefining merit to serve their own purposes.

There is, however, an enormous difference between the two cases - which is why no one thinks twice today about the decision to ease off on Jewish quotas in favor of merit while affirmative action (and, for that matter, legacy preferences) continue to grate heavily against the fundamental belief that individuals should be judged, as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it, "by the content of their character." (Emphasis mine.)

* Also via the NAS e-mail bag: A math professor at the University of Rhode Island saw an "opportunity" to vent his political beliefs in class:

In a recent article for the campus paper at URI, Ryan [Bilodeau] reported how Professor John Montgomery taught students in his class, Math 107, about Venn Diagrams, a mathematical tool for depicting subsets of a group:

Example:
W = all members of President Bush’s administration
S = all members who are stupid
I = all members who are incompetent
Y = all members who are “yes –men” (or women)

Describe and draw a Venn Diagram:
a) all incompetent “yes-men” who are not stupid
b) those who are stupid or incompetent, but not yes-men.

In a message responding to Ryan’s article appearing on a public campus message board, the professor admitted that he used partisan examples in the classroom, but claimed that his use of these examples did not constitute indoctrination:

"I never get to discuss politics or my worldview in class. The one-line statements that I use for examples (in symbolic logic) are never discussed because their truth or non-truth is irrelevant to the validity of a symbolic argument. In an attempt to keep the students awake, I try to make the statements provocative or entertaining. When I proposed the stereotype statement "No Republican cares for the poor," it was in the context of "how would you negate that" or "change that into an "if...then..." statement."

"I never get to discuss politics or my worldview in class." As it should be, especially in a MATH class! Consider:

Suppose the example was set up this way:

W = all members of Peace Movement
S = all members who are stupid
I = all members who are incompetent
Y = all members who are traitors

Does anyone in his right mind think that Professor Montgomery could get away with using this example and defend it by saying he was only trying to make it interesting?

Of course if he used this example, a delegation of leftist faculty would have appeared in his office (if he was lucky) and in the Administration’s office (if he was not). It is difficult to conceive a scenario where Professor Montgomery would not be forced to apologize and withdraw the example. Unfortunately – but typically – there are no conservatives to speak of on the liberal arts faculty of the University of Rhode Island to make such a protest. Consequently no such apology was forthcoming.

* Dana over at Delaware Watch discusses the case of Delaware Election Commissioner Frank Calio. Calio was forced to resign from his unpaid "job" as a columnist for two Sussex County weekly newspapers, the Laurel Star and Seaford Star after it was shown that it appears he violated state law by writing "advocacy" articles for the papers. The law in question states (emphasis mine):

§ 301. Appointment; term and compensation.

(e) The State Election Commissioner shall not directly or indirectly use or seek to use his or her authority or official influence to control or modify the political action of another person or at any time participate in any political activities or campaigns. (15 Del. C. 1953, § 302; 50 Del. Laws, c. 168, § 1; 57 Del. Laws, c. 181, § 15; 58 Del. Laws, c. 215, § 2; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.)*

Dana's argument is that state laws such as this should not be able to trump 1st Amendment constitutional protections, i.e. Calio (not "Calico" as Dana uses throughout his post but got correct in his post title!) should be permitted to write whatever he wishes for whatever paper. It is a compelling argument, but does it stand up to legal scrutiny? Stromberg v. California (1931) appears to be a good precedent for Calio at first glance; the US Supreme Court has examined myriad free speech cases since.

Pickering v. Board of Education 391 U.S. 563 (1968) says "To receive protection, the speech must be on a matter of public concern, and the employee's interest in expressing herself on this matter must not be outweighed by any injury that the speech could cause to the interest of the State, as an employer, in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees." In Pickering's case -- he was a public school teacher -- the SCOTUS agreed that his 1st Amendment rights were violated when his school board dismissed him for writing a letter to the editor that was critical of his district's plans to seek additional tax revenue.

Further, Hyland v. Wonder determined that "Speech focused solely on internal policy and personnel grievances does not implicate the First Amendment." Calio, a DE state employee, wasn't writing about DE internal policies; indeed, he was opining on a macro scale -- matters of general national and international scope.

Following that example, Connick v. Myers determined the the use of the Pickering precedent was erroneous. Sheila Myers, an Assistant D.A. in New Orleans, was opposed to a position transfer she had to undertake. She disputed the methods by which transfers were done. She then circulated a questionnaire throughout her office regarding transfers. Myers was accused of creating a "mini-insurrection," and was subsequently fired. The SCOTUS upheld her dismissal because they saw little "public concern." This, also, appears to favor Calio in that, despite his position as Election Commissioner, his articles were indeed focused on matters of "public concern." Justice White, in Connick, noted:

"[Speech] concerning public affairs is more than self-expression; it is the essence of self-government." Accordingly, the Court has frequently reaffirmed that speech on public issues occupies the 'highest rung of the heirarchy of First Amendment values,' and is entitled to special protection.

There are many more additional questions to consider, certainly. One, for example, is Rankin, where a deputy constable was terminated after she remarked immediately following President Reagan's assassination attempt, "If they go for him again, I hope they get him." She won when her case was heard by the SCOTUS, primarily because her speech addressed "a matter of public concern," didn't affect her job performance, and that her comments were directed to only one person.

For an excellent overview of whether government has violated the free speech of its employees, see this page.

At first, I was of the opinion that Frank Calio rightfully quit his "job" as a columnist because that "job" violated state statute. However, if he refused to stop writing his columns and was consequently terminated from his elections position, it appears [from what I discovered via research this morning] that any legal challenge he may decide to undertake would be successful.

Posted by Hube at 10:59 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 01, 2006

Happy New Year

Hope the beginning of your 2006 was excellent, and that you don't feel too much like this dude.

Posted by Hube at 10:05 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack