Monday, October 31, 2005

Democratic Zen on Alito

So Bush, in typical form, down under the weight of falling poll numbers and a scandal in the White House following a disastrous week in which he had to withdraw his nomination for the Supreme Court, has done what he always does. He caved to his Conservative Christian (read American Talaban) base. He latest nominee to the Supreme Court, Samuel Alito, is just what every Wingnut would wet themselves over: he's rabidly anti-abortion, anti-women's right, anti-civil rights, anti-anything passed into law that protects the constitutional rights of Americans. The irony of it all is that Alito is the quintessential activist judge. But for Right-Wing Conservatives, reversing decisions in this way is not revisionist at all. It's just the way they like it. Return the US of A back to a time when good ol' white boys ruled the world.

So here's my damn take on what the Democrats should do: Fight Altio by not fighting.

You heard me right. Don't fight his nomination. Don't bitch about what a terrible nominee he is. Don't cry about the sky falling and the Constitution being repealed. Don't react. Don't blink. Just smile and enjoy the sound of the Republican party stabbing one another in their respective backs.

You see boys and girls, to me, this is a no brainer. The guy is so much the perfect poster boy for the American Taliban that his nomination will pit the moderate Republicans against those to the far right of their party. No Democrat is going to vote for the guy short of suffering brain damage. We don't have a majority. The Republicans do. So this fight comes down to how many moderate Republicans, seeing their party carrying water for the fanatical religious fringe, are going to wake up and notice that the party they once belonged to is just about dead. How many of those Republicans, seeing Bush's poll numbers tank, scandal after scandal in the Republican leadership, and American dissatisfaction with Congress in general, will get with the program and try to save their political skins by distancing themselves from Bush and the extreme Alito.

Now I don't mean to imply Democrats should do nothing. They should define the difference between what Democrats stand for and what people like Alito, ergo Right-Wing Republicans, stand for. They should remind the American people that if they were in power, they'd nominate someone who sought protect the rights of women, minorities and individuals. They would nominate someone less extreme, someone more like the majority of Americans, someone less activist.

But they shouldn't cry that the sky is falling. They shouldn't go overboard on what a terrible nominee Alito is. They can't block his nomination anyway. All they can do it use the weight and force of their Republican opponents against them. Define them by defining their nominee. Then vote against his confirmation, placing the responsibility - and consequences - for his confirmation squarely upon those responsible for his potential appointment: The Radical Right of the Republican Party.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Republican Leadership

What do you get when Republicans control both houses of Congress, the White House, a good chunk of the judiciary? First, you get no plan:
The US government had "no comprehensive policy or regulatory guidelines" in place for staffing the management of postwar Iraq, according to the top government watchdog overseeing the country's reconstruction.

[...]

The lack of planning has plagued reconstruction since the US-led invasion and has been exacerbated by a "general lack of co-ordination" between US government agencies charged with the rebuilding of Iraq, said Stuart Bowen, inspector-general for Iraq reconstruction.

Then you get cuts in programs that provide a social safety net for the working poor:
WASHINGTON - The House Agriculture Committee approved budget cuts Friday that would take food stamps away from an estimated 300,000 people and could cut off school lunches and breakfasts for 40,000 children.

The action came as the government reported that the number of people who are hungry because they can't afford to buy enough food rose to 38.2 million in 2004, an increase of 7 million in five years. The number represents nearly 12 percent of U.S. households.

The cuts, approved by the Republican-controlled committee on a party-line vote, are part of an effort by the House GOP to curb federal spending by $50 billion. The food and agriculture cuts would reduce spending by $3.7 billion, including $844 million on nutrition, $760 million on conservation and $212 million on payments to farmers.

Of course cuts for the poor and children will be offset by Republicans giving big oil subsidies because they need the help more in light of their record profits:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House Republicans recently pushed through legislation that would give more federal subsidies to the oil industry instead of trying to help U.S. consumers cope with sharply higher energy prices, the top Democrat on the House Commerce Committee said on Saturday.

[...]

On October 7, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill that would give federal insurance to oil refiners whose expansion projects are delayed by lawsuits or regulatory snags. It also put the Energy Department in charge of permits for new refinery projects as a way to speed up approvals.

The bill was approved, 212-210, after Republican leaders held a five-minute vote open for more than 40 minutes to persuade some party members to change their votes.

[...]

Their change in views came the same week that Exxon Mobil reported a $9.9 billion quarterly profit and other major oil companies also saw big increases.

With Republican leadership, you get criminal behavior from top leaders:
Republican Majority Leader in the House of Representatives indicted
Republican Senate Majority Leader under investigation
Presidential Advisor and Cheif of Staff for the Vice-President indicted for obstruction of justice and perjury

But wait, there's more:
You get proposals to cut Medicare and Medicade
You get a pro-torture administration
A record budget deficit
Big federal government growth
And if you act now, you get a war of choice with over 2000 dead US soldiers!

You've got to love those Republicans.

Friday, October 28, 2005

What's Missing in the Libby Indictment

So "Scooter" Libby has now been indicted on 5 counts, including obstruction of justice and perjury. What's lost in the talk of who won or lost with these indictments is that no one is denying that the White House, the office of the Vice President, Scooter Libby and senior White House "Official A" (cough -Karl Rove - cough) all were actively trying to discredit anyone who undercut their argument for war with Iraq: that Saddam was trying to make nuclear weapons.

I'm sure you've all heard the story, but it bears repeating. For the Neo-Cons to get their Iraq War plans off the ground, they needed a reason everyone would back for invasion of Iraq. Violations of UN sanctions, Saddam's crimes against his people, spreading Democracy in the Middle East, or settling old scores from the first Gulf War and the like just were not enough to convince the American people, let alone Congress, that war was a good idea. To get Bush authorization from Congress they needed more than that. They needed Saddam to have a nuclear program.

But the evidence they had was shaky at best. In front of the UN, Powell noted aluminum tubes as evidence of a nuclear program:
Saddam Hussein is determined to get his hands on a nuclear bomb. He is so determined that he has made repeated covert attempts to acquire high-specification aluminum tubes from 11 different countries, even after inspections resumed.

These tubes are controlled by the Nuclear Suppliers Group precisely because they can be used as centrifuges for enriching uranium. By now, just about everyone has heard of these tubes, and we all know that there are differences of opinion. There is controversy about what these tubes are for.

Difference of opinion is a mild way of saying everyone but the Bush administration knew these tubes were not suitable for much of anything nuclear:
The George W. Bush administration’s use of faulty intelligence in making its case for war against Iraq drew much attention from the media. One particular case shows that the administration knowingly disregarded scientific analysis of intelligence data that contradicted its case.

[...]

However, a set of technical experts from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge, Livermore, and Los Alamos National Laboratories reviewed the CIA analysis and disagreed with this interpretation because the tube dimensions were far from ideal for this purpose. In fact, the dimensions and the aluminum alloy were identical to those of tubes acquired for rockets by Iraq in the 1980s. Furthermore, the Iraqis had developed and tested centrifuges before the first Gulf War that were much more capable than those that could have been built with the imported tubes.

The DOE experts also pointed out that if these tubes were actually intended for centrifuges, there should be evidence of attempts by the Iraqis to acquire hundreds of thousands of other very specific components, but no such evidence existed. This critique of the CIA interpretation was seconded by the State Department’s intelligence branch and, independently, by an international group of centrifuge experts advising the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

So once again, the Bush administration was ignoring Science in favor of their view of reality. But nameless, faceless scientists were easy to ignore or discredit as being in "disagreement" with "other" opinions. Yellowcake was another story.

Bush would rely heavily on the lack of understand of uranium enrichment, and play the nuclear card heavily in his State of the Union address as he made his case for war to Congress and the American people:
The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

The famous 16 words. Only problem is, the uranium sought was Yellowcake, or stabilized Uranium.
Yellowcake is nothing more than uranium right from the ground that has been refined and stabilized. Short of eating it, breathing it, or batter-dipping yourself in it, yellowcake is not all that dangerous either.

[...]

Making weapons-grade uranium from yellowcake sucks, and it takes a long time. First you have to turn the yellowcake into a gas, and then that gas into a different gas, etc., etc. and ONLY THEN can you start searching through a gas for the atoms that go "boom." Remember that scene in the Karate Kid, where Mr. Miagi and what's his face are trying to catch flies with chopsticks? Harder than that.

But even if Saddam was really good at catching flies with chopsticks, he didn't need to go looking for he Yellowcake. He already had litterally tons of the stuff sitting in barrels:
  • In 1991, Iraq was discovered to have about 500 metric tons (~1 million lbs.) of yellowcake they'd 'forgotten' to mention. George Herbert Walker Bush, his coalition pals, and the International Atomic Energy Agency were so alarmed that Iraq had yellowcake, they decided to leave it in Iraq. The "prudent" course of action as they saw it: put it drums, seal it up, and check the seals once a year. They knew an entire year was not long enough for Hussein to make anything dangerous out of yellowcake. [3, .pdf]

  • That yellowcake was inspected and remained untouched until Hussein barred the U.N. inspectors in late 1998. [see 3 above]

  • On Oct. 6, 2002, the CIA sent a fax to the White House that stated "the procurement [of yellowcake] is not particularly significant to Iraq's nuclear ambitions because the Iraqis already have a large stock of uranium oxide [yellowcake] in their inventory. [4, para. 7, emphasis added]

  • During Dec. 9-11, 2002, before Bush's SOTU claim that Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake from Africa, U.N. Inspectors verified that the yellowcake from 1991 was in Iraq, undisturbed, and still sealed. [see 3 above]


  • So Yellowcake isn't all that great for bomb making and Saddam has tons of it already. So when Joe Wilson points out publicly that the Yellowcake argument is based on junk science and forged documents, this directly threatens the Bush administration's key reasons for going to war.

    So they tried to discredit Wilson. As early as May 2003 (Indictment PDF)Libby and other officials were looking into ways to undermine his trip to Niger by claiming his wife, who worked at the CIA, got him the job by using her inside the agency connections. Never mind what he found. Never mind the science, the evidence, the facts. Wilson's public repudiation of the Bush administration's claims of Saddam in possession of nuclear weapons had to be quieted. The waters had to be muddied. Wilson had to be undercut. His wife's job was the key to the disinformation.

    Only problem was, Valerie Plame Wilson was an undercover CIA agent in charge of WMD. Disclosing her name was a crime and they had to know that:
    Go to page 5 of the indictment. Top of the page, item #9.
    On or about June 12, 2003, LIBBY was advised by the Vice President of the United States that Wilson's wife worked at the Central Intelligence Agency in the Counterproliferation Divison. LIBBY understood that the Vice President had learned this information from the CIA.

    This is a crucial piece of information. The Counterproliferation Division (CPD) is part of the CIA's Directorate of Operations, i.e., not the Directorate of Intelligence, the branch of the CIA where 'analysts' come from, but the DO, where the spies, the 'operatives', come from.

    Libby's a long time national security hand. He knows exactly what CPD is and where it is. So does Cheney. They both knew. It's right there in the indictment.

    No where is Libby, the Republicans, Bush, or any of the Conservative pundits denying that for some strange reason they were trying to find out all they could about Wilson's wife. None of them is denying there was an effort to undermine Joe Wilson.

    Nope. To them, this was just another day at the office. Politics before national security. A Culture of Corruption in action. But all we keep hearing is that Rove wasn't charged and Libby "only" was charge on crimes that weren't the leak.

    Thursday, October 27, 2005

    Starve the Beast

    Now that the Republicans in control of both houses of Congress have seen Bush's poll numbers dropping like a stone, and realized that Conservatives aren't all that pleased either with the "spend like a drunken sailor" fiscal policy, it seems suddenly the GOP leaders up on the hill finally realized they've racked up the biggest budget deficit in the history of the country. So much for fiscal responsibility from the Republicans.

    So what are Bush and the boyz going to do to bring down that deficit now that the party is over and the hangover for the American worker is about to set in? Repeal Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy? Bring back the estate tax on millionaires? Raise the Social Security contribution caps so those most able to pay into the system do so?

    Silly children. That's not the Republicans way. Everyone knows the GOP cuts spending by cutting those nasty social programs that benefit those poor people sucking our government dry. Haven't you learned anything yet:
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans voted to cut student loan subsidies, child support enforcement and aid to firms hurt by unfair trade practices as various committees scrambled to piece together $50 billion in budget cuts.

    More politically difficult votes -- to cut Medicaid, food stamps and farm subsidies -- are on tap Thursday as more panels weigh in on the bill.

    [...]

    "I encourage Congress to push the envelope when it comes to cutting spending," Bush said.

    Push that envelope you Republican pachyderms! Still don't get it boys and girls? Follow along with me now:

    The GOP, with a majority in both houses of Congress, is able to cut funding for child support enforcement, driving more single parent families into government programs, which though a pincer movement, they simultaneously cut. Then they reduce or get rid of Medicare and food stamps for these drains on the federal budget, which knocks a few off to attrition and death a bit earlier than the standard actuarial tables predict. This saves more money, as there are then fewer of the social leaches and Welfare Queens on the government dole. Those who do survive will now be excluded from going to college as there is no way they will be able to afford it, what with working two jobs to pay their rent and buy their cat food to eat on their lunch break at the local Wal-Mart. Brilliant!

    Actually, what better way to cut social programs than to argue that we have to pay for hurricane relief. After all, Bush's buddy Brownie did such a great job handling Katrina, that Bush had to play Santa to even try to save face in in any state touches the gulf coast. Obviously we can't cut defense spending. Then the terrorists might blow up a Wal-Mart in Des Moines killing the poor schlep eating his cat food on his lunch break. Everyone knows Osama has it in for Wal-Mart.

    No, boys and girls. All that is left to cut are those pesky New Deal relics that provide a safety net for those poor bastards who have developed a taste for living in doors and working for a meaningful wage. The beast of a government has grown far too large feeding these leaches, and no one has the guts to end the gravy train. Until now. Now Bush has an excuse to starve the beast. We have a war to pay for. Endless promises of hurricane relief to pay for. And a huge budget deficit to service. Who cares how it got there, who created it, and who ran the "spend like a drunken sailor" fiscal policy. 9-11 absolved everything.

    We have a beast to starve. I hear cat food is an acquired taste.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2005

    Blogger Ethics and Other Crap

    So I learned today, from a post on his blog, along with everyone else, that Jerome Armstrong is hanging up his blogging until at least 2008. Seems since he was consulting with several candidates running in major Ohio races that he came under fire for some of his recent posts. Seems some idiots questioned his ethics. Seems some morons thought it would be better if the guy who founded MyDD, was the blog father to half the flipping Blogosphere, was the guy who had some of the best insights regarding Democratic politics, was better off silent.

    MORONS. ABSOLUTE IGNORANT HEAD UP THEIR ASS MORONS.

    So now, in the interest of removing any possible conflict of interest these jackasses are harping about, one of the leading bloggers on the left has censored himself, silencing his voice and leaving bloggers like me and countless others in the dark on issues where we could learn from his insight.

    I'm just disgusted. I'm really tired of the "consultant" crap. Would it be better if bloggers couldn't make a living in politics, didn't associate with any campaigns, and just sat around in their cardboard boxes down by the river (next to a Starbucks for WiFi) and blogged their completely uninformed opinions?

    Give me a break.

    What the fuck is wrong with being a consultant? Are these people jealous or something that someone with the talent and insight that Jerome has is actually sought out by campaigns? I wish I was that lucky.

    I wish I had the kind of inside contacts Jerome has made. I wish I had the kind of knowledge base he has. What, do you idiots think that isn't valuable? Do you think if he gets paid he's going to get all fat and happy and move out of his box down by the river while you sit there righteously in yours? Does his success make you feel small?

    Get over it.

    Being a consultant isn't selling your soul. It isn't evil. And believe it or not, you don't drink Magic Kool-Aide that makes you lose your fucking mind. There is not contract signed in blood that makes you suddenly forget what matters. I can still have an opinion about the candidates I work for, and will work more closely with candidates that resonate with my thinking. AND GUESS WHAT? By working closely with candidates I get insights on what makes them tick that are valuable to share on a blog.

    I'm rambling, but this is like the Grinch who stole Fitzmas here. If anyone wants to question Jerome's ethics, then we might as well all go and hold hands and sing Kum-Bay-Ah in a little circle around the campfire outside our boxes down by the river while we free associate on the concept of "blogger ethics."

    Monday, October 24, 2005

    Cheney Told Libby

    It wasn't the media who told Libby about Wilson's wife working for the CIA. It was Dick.
    WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 — I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday.

    Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby’s testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said.

    The notes, taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson’s husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration’s handling of intelligence about Iraq’s nuclear program to justify the war.

    Could Darth Cheney have been the driving force behind the outing of an undercover CIA agent in a time of war? Treason from the VP of the US of A? This is just getting too incredible.

    Boneless Bush

    I was first introduced to "Boneless Girl" by several of my teen-aged students who could watch her bounce off bubbles for hours (instead of doing their work). Well, some enterprising soul with too much time on their hands has taken this amusing animation to the next level by converting it over to a "Boneless Bush:"



    Watch him bounce off bubbles. Pull his boneless body through tight gaps. Toss him around like a rag doll. Hours of great stress relief.

    Sunday, October 23, 2005

    Here We Go Again

    How will the Bush administration bail itself out this time? Poll numbers for the president are falling fast. Republican leaders being indicted left and right. And possibly the indictment of top White House officials looms for this week. What is an administration to do in such a tight spot?

    Beat the war drums again:
    Today, 23 October, 2005. Brit Hume and Bill Kristol substantially made the following statements on FNS:
    Syria's government is that of a band of "Gangsters." (arguably true)

    Syria's government must be fragile and could easily be brought down.

    Syria's government must have no popular support.

    There is a well organized and numerous Syrian exile opposition who could easily "take over." (Kristol says he has met the man. That's interesting in itself)

    The destruction of the regime in syria would be the key to a general societal revolution whtroughout the Middle East.

    What part of this does not sound familiar?

    Bush cries wolf again.

    Perjury is Just a Technicality

    I love Republicans. They reinforce to anyone paying attention that a Culture of Corruption is indeed the Republican business model. Case in point, today on MTP, Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson reminded us all that the GOP doesn't see lying to a grand jury as anything more than a technicality:
    I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn’t indict on the crime so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation were not a waste of time and dollars.

    If perjury is not a crime, then why is it against the law according to the good Senator:
    Sen. Hutchinson in 1999 on perjury:
    Willful, corrupt, and false sworn testimony before a Federal grand jury is a separate and distinct crime under applicable law and is material and perjurious if it is `capable' of influencing the grand jury in any matter before it, including any collateral matters that it may consider. See, Title 18, Section 1623, U.S. Code, and Federal court cases interpreting that Section...

    If perjury is just a technicality, why did she think it was worth impeaching a president for?
    Sen. Hutchinson in 1999 on perjury:
    The President's testimony before the Federal grand jury was fully capable of influencing the grand jury's investigation and was clearly perjurious.

    [...]

    `Admit the sex, but never the lies.' Shift the blame; change the subject. Blame it on the plaintiff in the Arkansas case. Blame it on her lawyers. Blame it on the Independent Counsel. Blame it on partisanship. Blame it on the majority members of the House Judiciary Committee. Blame it on the process.

    So I wonder when we will see the GOP start to blame any indictments for perjury or obstruction of justice on the lawyers, the Independent Counsel, Democrats, Liberals or the Tooth Fairy.

    I wonder what Bush and other Republican leaders have had to say about presidents caught lying to the American people or a grand jury:
    ROUND ROCK, Texas - Texas Gov. George W. Bush, cranking up his still-unofficial run for the White House, said on Tuesday he would have voted to impeach President Clinton for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

    In response to a reporter's question, Bush said he supported impeachment for a simple reason: "The man lied."

    To quote Republican Senator, and Mr. "youthful indiscretion" himself, Rep. Henry Hyde:
    Lying under oath is an abuse of freedom. Obstruction of justice is a degradation of law. There are people in prison for such offenses.

    Republicans impeached Clinton for committing perjury about a extramarital affair. A blue dress was stained and his reputation and marriage injured.

    Bush et. al. lied about WMD. They then tried to cover up their lies and push the country into war with Iraq by smearing Wilson and outing his wife, an under-cover agent assigned to WMD. They did this during a time a war. Tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children, included 2,100+ American service men and women, have been killed to date because of their lies.

    I wonder if the Republicans will flip-flop and see perjury as a technicality this time now that a Republican White House faces the charge.

    Saturday, October 22, 2005

    Miers Another Brownie?

    If Bush nominates someone for a job in the Federal Govenment, the first thing everyone should be asking by now should be "is this person qualified." Especially after "Brownie" did such a great job for FEMA in New Orleans, what with his great qualifications as an Arabian Horse judge and all. So when it comes to a Supreme Court nomination, we expect some Right-wing conservative friend of the family to get the nomination. But at a minimum we expect the nominee to know Constitutional law, right? Not so much:
    WASHINGTON — Asked to describe the constitutional issues she had worked on during her legal career, Supreme Court nominee Harriet E. Miers had relatively little to say on the questionnaire she sent to the Senate this week.

    And what she did say left many constitutional experts shaking their heads.

    At one point, Miers described her service on the Dallas City Council in 1989. When the city was sued on allegations that it violated the Voting Rights Act, she said, "the council had to be sure to comply with the proportional representation requirement of the Equal Protection Clause."

    But the Supreme Court repeatedly has said the Constitution's guarantee of "equal protection of the laws" does not mean that city councils or state legislatures must have the same proportion of blacks, Latinos and Asians as the voting population.

    "That's a terrible answer. There is no proportional representation requirement under the equal protection clause," said New York University law professor Burt Neuborne, a voting rights expert. "If a first-year law student wrote that and submitted it in class, I would send it back and say it was unacceptable."

    Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan, also an expert on voting rights, said she was surprised the White House did not check Miers' questionnaire before sending it to the Senate.

    "Are they trying to set her up? Any halfway competent junior lawyer could have checked the questionnaire and said it cannot go out like that. I find it shocking," she said.

    Worst. President. Ever.

    Friday, October 21, 2005

    That Liberal Media

    You know, after huricane Katrina, Bush sure did a great thing cutting workers rights to prevailing wage and all. I'm glad the Liberal Media has finaly highlighted what a great decision this was. It is especially laudable because several major papers in several states published editorials today on just how great Bush's decision was. Especially using exactly the same thoughts. Hell, they were so inspired by Bush and his great decision to cut workers wages, they even wrote spontaneous unsigned editorials that used the same exact words:
    What do this newspaper editorial, this one, this one, and this one all have in common?

    All of them are unsigned editorials, which makes it look like they're original opinion pieces for each paper. (The Colorado Springs Gazette even says it's "our view.")

    And they all happen to say exactly the same thing, beginning with this paragraph:
    One of the smartest things President Bush did to reduce recovery costs in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita was to suspend Davis-Bacon Act rules in the hardest hit states. But Congress is frantically trying to overrule the president, which would add billions of dollars to the already staggering recovery costs.
    Amazing that newspapers from California, Colorado, and North Carolina could be channeling, simultaneously and in complete harmony, the Bush administration line for cutting wages for workers rebuilding the Gulf Coast.

    Gotta love that Liberal Media.

    Thursday, October 20, 2005

    NCLB Not Working: Duh.

    I'm sure all the teachers out there reading this are now collectively saying "duh." But now there's a study out there that backs up what teachers and administrators have been saying since the start of this stupid law: standardized testing does not increase student achievement, and more standardized tests given more often don't improve upon this fact:
    Reading scores among fourth- and eighth-graders showed little improvement over the past two years, and math gains were slower than in previous years, according to a study released yesterday. The disappointing results came despite a new educational testing law championed by the Bush administration as a way to improve the nation's schools.

    [...]

    Though the tests have been taken by fourth- and eighth-grade students about every two years since 1990, the latest NAEP scores were the first tangible testing numbers available since the implementation of No Child Left Behind -- the Bush administration's premier and controversial education initiative requiring all states to test students annually as a prerequisite for receiving federal funds.

    "No one can be satisfied with these results," said Ross Wiener, policy director for the Education Trust, an advocacy organization that backed No Child. "There's been a discernible slowdown in progress since '03, at a time when we desperately need to accelerate gains. The absence of particularly bad news isn't the same as good news."

    The only thing miraculous about "Texas Miracle" upon which NCLB is based is that the statistics were heavily manipulated in Enron accounting fashion. Now that Bush has pushed this fraud based unfunded mandate upon the nation's schools, we find that not only does it place a financial burden on local school districts, but research doesn't show any validity to this moronic law's claim of improving education for our nation's students.

    Once again, for all the teachers out there I have only one thing to say: Duh.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    It Just Gets Better

    It seems like there are starting to be too many leaks in the dike for the Bush administration, and Republicans in general, to stick their fingers in. Now it's Powell's top aide:
    In a scathing attack on the record of President George W. Bush, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Mr Powell until last January, said: “What I saw was a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.

    “Now it is paying the consequences of making those decisions in secret, but far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences.”

    [...]

    Mr Wilkerson said former president George H.W. Bush “one of the finest presidents we have ever had” understood how to make foreign policy work. In contrast, he said, his son was “not versed in international relations and not too much interested in them either”.

    The facade is starting to crack. Please ignore the men behind the curtain.

    The Rats Jumping Ship

    And then there were two:
    Now, those close to the investigation say that a second Cheney aide, David Wurmser, has agreed to provide the prosecution with evidence that the leak was a coordinated effort by Cheney’s office to discredit the agent's husband. Her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, was one of the most vocal critics of the Iraq war.

    Wurmser, Cheney’s Middle East advisor and an assistant to then-Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs John Bolton, likely cooperated because he faced criminal charges for his role in leaking Wilson's name on the orders of higher-ups, the sources said.

    According to those familiar with the case, Wurmser was in attendance at several meetings of the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), a little-known cabal of administration hawks that formed in August 2002 to publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Those who say they have reviewed documents obtained in the probe assert that the Vice President was also present at some of the group’s meetings.

    Fitzmas is indeed glorious! Could Darth Cheney actually become one of those indicted? Be still my heart... Too many F-word jokes come to mind.

    Who's Lying Here?

    Is Turdblossom fibbing to Dubya or is Dubya lying to federal prosecutors? From Greg at Talent Show:
    What's the more likely scenario? Karl Rove lying to the Patrick Fitzgerald or George W. Bush?

    [...]

    And it turns out, Rove didn't lie to Bush after all :
    Other sources confirmed, however, that Bush was initially furious with Rove in 2003 when his deputy chief of staff conceded he had talked to the press about the Plame leak.

    Bush has always known that Rove often talks with reporters anonymously and he generally approved of such contacts, one source said.
    . . .
    A second well-placed source said some recently published reports implying Rove had deceived Bush about his involvement in the Wilson counterattack were incorrect and were leaked by White House aides trying to protect the President.

    "Bush did not feel misled so much by Karl and others as believing that they handled it in a ham-handed and bush-league way," the source said.

    But here's something to chew on. What if both stories are correct? On the surface, they seem contradictory, but let's look at that National Journal piece again (emphasis added) :
    White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove personally assured President Bush in the early fall of 2003 that he had not disclosed to anyone in the press that Valerie Plame, the wife of an administration critic, was a CIA employee, according to legal sources with firsthand knowledge of the accounts that both Rove and Bush independently provided to federal prosecutors.

    Isn't it equally plausible that both of these stories tell different sides of the same story? Let's assume for a moment that Murray Waas' sources didn't lie to him about what Bush and Rove told Fitzgerald. If that's the case and today's story is also true, then we've got a President who's in "cover your ass" mode. Regardless of whether or not the President was under oath, lying to federal prosecutors seems like a pretty clear case of obstruction of justice.

    So Bush tells the American public that he wants to know who in his administration leaked the name of an undercover agent in a time of war. But he's furious that Uncle Karl did a "ham-fisted" job of it. Then he and Rove tell different stories to the federal prosecutor! This is just too much like Fitzmas for me to contemplate.

    But at least Bush and Karl aren't lying about a blowjob. That might be an impeachable offense.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2005

    Tax "Reform"

    Guess who gets the better end of the stick from the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform? I'll give you a hint: It's the "have mores." Kevin Drum has a chart attempting to figure out just what the report that saw a stealth release today means. Here's my favorite "tax reform:"
    - No deduction would be allowed for state and local income and property taxes.
    - Hurts anyone who deducts state taxes, but especially hurts residents of high-tax blue states like California and New York.

    And counties like DuPage. This would cost me a bundle. Great reform. Way to give me tax relief. Raise my taxes! Great idea guys. What's next? Federal Tax Reform by abolishing the home mortgage deduction next?

    Oh ya. That's on the list too. Gotta love Republicans. The party of bigger government, less freedom and higher taxes! All served up with a Culture of Corruption to boot!

    Q3 Numbers in IL-06

    Fundraising numbers from the FEC website for October Quarterly reports:
    REPORT OF RECEIPTS AND DISBURSEMENTS:

    O'Malley:
    Raised:11139.44
    Spent: 9331.46
    On Hand: 18181.36

    Scott:
    Raised:21509.58
    Spent:4523.58
    On-Hand: 16986.00

    Cegelis:
    Raised: 52256.25
    Spent: 46744.00
    Cash On-Hand: 48972.59

    Roskam
    Raised: 286302.86
    Spent: 105980.96
    Cash On-Hand: 549997.12

    Two kind of minor surprises to me here. First, Roskam's numbers are down from his last quarter and even though he has no primary challenger to worry about he's still spent more than a third of what he raised last quarter. I wonder if he gave back any money that caame from DeLay's PAC? Second, Lindy Scott showed a surprising first quarter for someone pretty unknown in the district in his first fundraising efforts.

    But overall, it seems everyone numbers are down this quarter. Archpundit provides the explanation for this:
    Between the hurricane and this being a slow quarter, expect the 3rd Quarter numbers to be down overall. Those that needed a quick out of the gate number already did it, and lots of money went to charitable donations this quarter.

    Sounds right to me. It's a year away from the 2006 ballot and people are on vacation in the summer not thinking about politics or they are sending their donations to Katrina victims. Cegelis is out in front for the Democrats (remember O'Malley has dropped out), but as is typical of the Republicans, they are doing their best to buy this seat by throwing money at it from large donors.

    Monday, October 17, 2005

    Impeachment Time

    I wonder why the MSM hasn't reported on this poll:
    By a margin of 50% to 44%, Americans want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush if he lied about the war in Iraq, according to a new poll commissioned by AfterDowningStreet.org, a grassroots coalition that supports a Congressional investigation of President Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

    The poll was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, the highly-regarded non-partisan polling company. The poll interviewed 1,001 U.S. adults on October 6-9.

    The poll found that 50% agreed with the statement:

    "If President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should consider holding him accountable by impeaching him."

    44% disagreed, and 6% said they didn't know or declined to answer. The poll has a +/- 3.1% margin of error.

    Gee, I wonder what this type of poll looked like for the last president that was impeached for lying about extra marital sex:
    In August and September of 1998, 16 major polls asked about impeaching President Clinton. Only 36% supported hearings to consider impeachment, and only 26% supported actual impeachment and removal. Even so, the impeachment debate dominated the news for months, and the Republican Congress impeached Clinton despite overwhelming public opposition.

    I wonder what would happen to Bush if the Democrats swept congress in 2006. Bush lied. People died. Time for the media to catch up on this story.

    Conventional Wisdom and Teaching

    My last teaching post seemed to really bug some people, "fasteddie" more than most. In his comments I heard a great deal of conventional wisdom about teaching. Conventional wisdom that is often distorted by school board members with agenda or those bent of "tax relief" on the backs of educators. To the "fasteddies" of the world, I seem to have forgotten a few things that were important:

    - I find it interesting that you do not even mention TWELVE ADDITIONAL WEEKS OF VACATION.

    - $38,559 for a bachelors and $43,359 for a masters. AND 14 weeks of vacation and 10 holidays. - 12 weeks more vacation than the management trainee.


    First, no teacher gets 12 weeks, let alone14 weeks, vacation. It's 10 weeks. No teacher gets all of June, July and August off ever unless you live in a district that ends in May and starts in September. Then teachers start before students and are there after they leave.

    But regardless, what do I do with that 10 weeks of vacation? To keep my certificate I have to take more graduate classes. On my vacation. This summer I carried 5-semester hours. On my own dime and on my vacation. Then there is that curriculum project. You know, for when I don't feel like pulling lessons out of my butt like all lazy teachers do. There went another couple weeks meeting at school with other teachers on their vacations just like me. Then there was that software class I took to keep up to date on the software I teach. Took that class while I was on vacation. Then there was the end of school clean up. Did I do that at the end of school? You must be kidding me with all those meetings. Took care of that on my vacation. Then I had to set up my lab, get my copies made, organized and updated my files. I had plenty of time to do that on the last week of my vacation.

    My last job I had in corporate America before I became a teacher I had 4 weeks vacation, 2 personal days, and 8 paid holidays. Sure I have more vacation now. It also took me 7 years to earn what I did before I became a teacher.

    But wait, I forgot all those juicy pay raises I get:
    - I really don't hear that. I do know that Naperville 203 teachers threatened to strike when offered a 5.99% pay raise and settled for a 6.2% pay raise. They average $65,000, so they were willing to fuck around with the community over what amounted to $130 each per year. - about $0.72 per teaching day.


    Yes, the greedy teacher argument. We just want to milk the tax payers with those 6% a year raises. Do you homework, would you. Where do you think that number came from? The teachers association? School boards alway name the raise including the pay differential for additional experience. It makes the teachers look bad, gets the community on the side of the school board, and attempts to leverage media and public opinion against teachers during and after bargaining. You might want to also ask why your school board was willing to fuck aroud with the community over less money they I'd bet they are paying their Superintendent before you blame those greedy teachers.

    Teacher pay is based on experience and degree. If you hire a more experienced person you pay more in teaching and in business. Every teacher gains experience every year, and is paid more for that experience. I make more than a starting teacher because I have 10 years experience and a Masters degree. If you figure in the raise for experience a teacher gets to this 6% figure, you'll see the actual raise to the district salary schedule is barely at inflation, if that. If it is more than this, than the district salary schedule was way off surrounding districts and had to be raised significantly to be competitive - just like in business.

    - Management trainees try to live in DuPage county too - and they are not likely to get a guaranteed 6% raise every year and get NO tenure protection so their jobs can't be outsourced.


    Sure, no management trainee is every guaranteed a 6% raise. If they are as driven as most teachers, work 50-60 hours a week, they might get a promotion. No raise in their current job classification, just a brand new job with a brand new bigger salary. What do you promote a teacher to? There is no career ladder, hence teachers are paid based on experience and degree. And then let's not forget those performance bonuses, holiday bonuses, and gifts from clients that teachers never get. Getting a box of chocolate from a student for Christmas is nice, but I liked the $500 bonus checks and sky box tickets to basketball games I used to get better.

    Oh, and let's not forget tenure. Lord knows, once I achieve tenure I can never be fired and have a job for life. Unless there is a reduction in force (a nice way to say "lay offs") or my program is cancelled or enrollment drops or class sizes increase or we decide that every kid should have 4 years of Math which means they can't take their elective classes anymore, eliminating elective teachers.

    And what happens to that management trainee who gets canned? Unemployment checks come in the mail which cost unscrupulous employers discouraging them from from random pink slipping people. Teachers are contractual workers. They are not eligible for unemployment assistance and can be dismissed just because the department chair doesn't like the way you dress.

    But seriously, tenure is a guarantee of continued contractual status. What that means in English, is that a bank will give me a mortgage because I will most likely be employed for more than just this school year, providing I'm not a terrible teacher or violate any number of board policies. If I'm a terrible teacher, chances are I'm not going to last 4 years in any district, tenure or not. The reason tenure appears to be for life, is that once a teacher proves they can cut it in the classroom without going postal on some 13-year old little brat who just told them to "fuck off", on top of endless grading, meetings and paperwork, generally means they can handle just about anything in the classroom, are very competent, and will continue to be so.

    Do some teachers suck? Absolutely. But some lawyers, doctors, accountants, architects and any other number of professions all have members who are less than adequate in their fields who merrily go along in those professions. When you figure out a way to rid the world of all crappy lawyers who practice law, then maybe we can apply that model to teaching. Until then, take delight in knowing that a crappy teacher's life is a living hell and they make less than your crappy doctor and crappy lawyer. Probably less than your crappy plumber too.

    Isn't the new education graduate just as wet behind the ears?? Doesn't the management trainee have a Bachelors degree also?


    This is a common misconception. Beginning teachers are very well trained. They are just not as capable as a seasoned teacher, and often completely overwhelmed. Management trainees, or most professionals, do not go through as many observation hours preparing for their fields of employment as teachers. Most professionals do not have to spend 12-16 weeks undergoing full time training in a real environment like teachers do when they student teach. Obvious exceptions to this are doctors, but who would consider paying teachers on par with doctors, right?

    Nursing is another story. I'd agree they are underpaid as well, and share some of the exact same problems that the teaching profession has regarding pay. That's why there is a shortage of both teachers and nurses. You've got to want to be one, or else you just burn out and leave the profession.
    Please don't expect anyone to cry for the teachers in Dupage County.

    You illustrate my point, hence my time on this diary. Everyone went to school, so everyone thinks they know what it's like to be a teacher. Guess what? Conventional wisdom is often wrong, especially relating to teaching. I don't show up at 8am and leave at 2:55pm. I don't get summers off. Hell, I often don't even get weekends off. I work harder as a teacher than I did at any job I had prior to being a teacher. I love the classroom. But the BS associated with being a teacher - from idiotic laws like NCLB to endless pointless meetings to parents who don't want to parent to ignorant attitudes like you've expressed - make teaching difficult for even the most dedicated.

    This is the crux of my whole diary, and every diary on teaching I write. There is this prevalent attitude that teaching is easy, and teachers are overpaid. Expect no sympathy from us! Raise our taxes to pay you blood sucking teachers! Sure, fine. Be that way. But why did you move into the neighborhood you did? Did it have good schools? Where do you want to send your kids? The school that hires the cheap help? The school that pays the lowest in the area and can't attract math, science and technology teachers? What kind of teacher do you want in your classroom? A highly qualified teacher with advanced degrees in education or curriculum development or one that was the cheapest for the district to hire?

    Everyone understands paying $250/hour for a lawyer. Everyone is willing to pay through the nose for health care. No one questions the pay of engineers, architects or accountants. But teachers? Why should we pay them on par with other professionals?

    I don't expect anyone to cry for teachers. I expect them to put their actions where their words are. If you want highly qualified teachers in your child's classroom, then stop complaining about how easy teaching is and how over paid teachers are. If you demand excellence in education for your public schools, start compensating those who do the educating accordingly. If you want you child to enjoy art, music and electives that enrich and give direction to their college choices and their lives, then stop complaining about paying for them.

    If you think it's so easy to be a teacher, go earn your degree and be a teacher - if you can hack it. If you can you're doing better than 50% of those who enter teaching and leave less than five years later because teaching turned out to be not so easy for them.

    Sunday, October 16, 2005

    Treason in a Time of War

    Outting a CIA agent, especially during a time of war, as Bush constantly reminds us that this is, is a crime that used to be punished with a quick execution. But not under the current crop of Republican leaders in Washington. To them, covering up treason is the order of the day. From Ameriblog:
    If a senior White House staffer had intentionally outed an American spy during World War II, he'd have been shot.

    We're at war, George Bush keeps reminding us. We cannot continue with business as usual. A pre-9/11 mentality is deadly. Putting the lives of our troops at risk is treason.

    Then why is the White House and the Republican party engaged in a concerted campaign to make treason acceptable during a time of war? That's exactly what they're doing. On numerous news shows today, Republican surrogates, their talking points ready, issued variations of the following concerning White House chief of staff Karl Rove's outing of a covert CIA agent as part of a political vendetta:

    - It's the criminalization of politics
    - Is this 'minor' leak really worth all this?
    - Political payback is common and should not be criminalized
    - Mis-speaking or mis-remembering is not a crime

    Yes, the Republicans are now making light of an intentional effort to expose an undercover CIA agent, working on weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, no less, while we are at war in the Middle East on that very issue.

    The GOP has become the party of treason.

    Senior White House staffers about to be indicted. The Republican House Majority Leader indicted three times. The Republican Senate Majority Leader in deep water for pulling a Martha Stewart, probably leading to indictment. The Republicans through their ownership society own the culture of coruption they have created.

    Don't Give Me that Teacher Pay Crap

    It must be that time of the year or something, but I keep hearing about how teachers are paid too much. This comes in double doses for those darn DuPage teachers that make a cushy living working their easy teaching gig for only 9 months a year. You know what? Shut your pie hole. Just shut it. Anyone making this statement has no idea about what teachers are paid and how they compare to other professions so I don't want to hear it anymore. If teaching is so damn easy and we are paid so damn well, than what's stopping your ignorant ass from jumping into this cakewalk of a profession? Well, I'm waiting...

    To be a teacher I had to get a degree in education. Not just any college degree, but one from an approved professional program that had additional admission standards. Then I had to take a series of really long boring certification tests. One for teaching and one for my subject area. Then I have to continue my professional development verified by the State of Illinois to renew my teaching certificate, with one-third of my development coming in Special Education. And for all this I get to supervise over 100 students every day during the school year.

    Now this all makes me think that teaching is indeed a profession. So how does teacher pay stack up? Well, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers not all that well:
    Accounting (private):$44,564
    Consulting: $49,781
    Industrial Engineering:$49,432
    Investment Banking: $46,845
    Management Trainee: $35,811
    Registered Nurse: $38,775
    Sales: $37,130
    Software Development: $53,729
    TEACHING: $29,733

    That's right, boys and girls, even if you are a wet behind the ears Management Trainee who doesn't know squat about the business you've been hired into, your starting pay is more than that of a high qualified teacher! But people are sure with all those teacher strikes, teachers earn more. Yet contrary to popular wisdom, we learn the following from the Economic Policy Institute:
    • An analysis of weekly wage trends shows that teachers' wages have fallen behind those of other workers since 1996, with teachers' inflation-adjusted weekly wages rising just 0.8%, far less than the 12% weekly wage growth of other college graduates and of all workers.

    [...]

    • A comparison of teachers' wages to those of workers with comparable skill requirements, including accountants, reporters, registered nurses, computer programmers, clergy, personnel officers, and vocational counselors and inspectors, shows that teachers earned $116 less per week in 2002, a wage disadvantage of 12.2%. Because teachers worked more hours per week, the hourly wage disadvantage was an even larger 14.1%.

    Did that study say teachers worked more hours a week than other professionals? Surely that's a typo as everyone knows teachers are lazy and have the whole summer off. Besides, everyone knows that teachers have better benefits, right? Or not:
    The extent to which teachers enjoy greater benefits depends on the particular wage measure employed to study teacher relative pay. Based on a commonly used wage measure that is similar to the W-2 wages reported to the IRS (and used in our analyses), teachers in 2002 received 19.3% of their total compensation in benefits, slightly more than the 17.9% benefit share of compensation of professionals. These better benefits somewhat offset the teacher wage disadvantage but only to a modest extent. For instance, in terms of the roughly 14% hourly wage disadvantage for teachers we found relative to other workers of similar education and experience, an adjustment for benefits would yield a total compensation disadvantage for teachers of 12.5%, 1.5 percentage points less.

    But it gets better if you are one of those overpaid DuPage county teachers. Let's look at those leaches sucking the tax payers dry in a leading DuPage county high school that went on strike last year (how dare they): Downers Grove South! According to their Illinois School Report Card we learn the following:
    Average Teacher Salary: $73,200
    Average State Teacher Salary: $54,446

    Why those overpaid welfare queens of the classroom! They make nearly $20,000 more than the state average and had the nerve to go out on strike! Now why would they earn more?
    Average District Teaching Experience: 14.7
    Average State Teaching Experience: 13.8

    District Teachers with Masters Degree or Higher: 71.9%
    State Teachers with Masters Degree or Higher:48.6%

    Gee whiz, you mean you have to pay more for teachers that have more experience and advanced degrees in education? That never happens in business! I thought highly qualified educators where cheap. But maybe there's another reason why teachers at Downers South, and in DuPage county earn more. From the Illinois Association of Realtors:
    DuPage County Median Q2 2005 Housing Cost: $327,000
    Peoria Median Q2 2005 Housing Cost: $106,000

    DuPage County Average Housing Q2 2005 Price: $406,086
    Peoria County Average Housing Q2 2005 Price: $62,070

    Could it be that teachers in DuPage have to pay a bit more for everything, especially a home, than in downstate counties? Could it be that DuPage county is one of the most expensive counties in Illinois, let alone the United States?

    So there you have it. Want to be a teacher? It's easy. You just have to accept earning less than other professionals, enjoy wages that grow more slowly than other professionals, earn relatively the same or less benefits than other professionals, and be shown disrespect by children, their parents, school board members, and your administrators on a regular basis. And if you want to live and work in DuPage county, good luck qualifying for that mortgage.

    Saturday, October 15, 2005

    Big Box-Mart

    Jib Jab has done it again. This time it's Wal-Mart they take on. Go watch here.
    "Your everyday low prices have a price. They aren't free."

    It would be funnier if it wasn't so close to home for so many people.

    Sunday, October 09, 2005

    Teacher's Fault

    Over at dKos, there was a diary by Gov. Vilsack noting the discussion on "improving" education. As usual there were the typical comments about needing to improve the quality of our teachers. Georgia10, who I enjoy reading greatly, had a comment that this part set me off:
    Finally, it is about having these teachers take pride in their work.  Don't make the teachers work longer hours, or longer school years. Just make them work, and make them feel proud that what they are doing is making a difference in our world, rather than just babysitting.

    I probably took it the wrong way, but the following rant ensued:

    Take pride in their work you say, followed by "just make them work." Come on Georgia! I'm so tired of hearing that teachers don't take pride in their work and/or don't really work. It's what makes me feel like no matter how great I am in the classroom that it doesn't matter. I'm tired of hearing teachers make too much money, get too much time off, and don't really work. Yet this is the conventional wisdom out there. Teaching is easy, and teachers are lazy.

    Why do we have so many days that are not "full" school days? Field trips are mentioned, so let's do away with those. Let's keep teenagers bottled up in a sterile classroom for all 180 days and never expose them to the arts, a museum, or a trip to a working business.

    Late starts are mentioned along with teacher training. Let's do away with all the late starts - which would do away with collegial teaming, in-services, and specialized training for teachers. Let's do away with institute days as well. As a teacher don't need training in sexual harassment, gang activity, blood borne pathogens, or inclusion techniques. I can get all this training on my time off just like they do in business when they train their employees on their vacation time.

    If we want "highly qualified" teachers in every classroom, let's look at why teachers wind up teaching overloads or filling in outside their subject area. It could be the difference between offering a class, retaining an experienced teacher, or keeping staff full time vs. part time and losing them to another district.

    Let's stop expecting our teachers to be perfect. Teachers have bad days. They don't know everything. They have their own children. They get tired and sick. What profession has so much asked of it yet has its professionals treated so poorly. Teachers are suppose to be perfect, yet teaching is treated as a cushy job with "summer off." If teaching is so important and so easy, why don't the best and brightest go into teaching in droves? What business do you know that requires it's professionals to share a computer with 4 other staff members, buy their own copy paper, and has one copier for 100 people?

    And since when does it mean a teacher is better if he/she had a higher GPA in college? What if Teacher A gets a 4.5 GPA and had his college paid for by his parents while Teacher B gets a 3.5 GPA because he was working full time on top of school to pay for his tuition? Last I checked both Bush and Kerry were "C" students and they were just looking to run the USA. I guess they be terrible teachers, right?

    I'm tired of initiatives by politicians and those who haven't ever been in charge of 30 teenagers on a daily basis. Initiatives are a fad, a sales tool, a political rallying cry. They come and go like fashion. And at their base is the common assumption that there is something wrong with our teachers.

    I've noted this before, but what percentage of teachers are "average?" What percentage of teachers are "poor?" I have students who think I'm terrible as well as those who think I'm the best ever. Is this percentage lower in engineers? Doctors? Lawyers? Architects? Plumbers? I've had my share of poor practitioners in all these professions. Yet all these professions are not viewed as "broken" or full of substandard professionals. And all of these professions earn more than teachers.

    I've been in the classroom for 10 years now. In just that short time I've seen a CLEAR deterioration of students ability to think on their own. I've seen a CLEAR deterioration in students ability to concentrate. I've seen a CLEAR deterioration in student's work ethic and pride in what they do. "Is this good enough" is a common question I am asked daily now. It is a standard I will not let my students adhere to. But it is a standard student increasing settle for. So let's get something straight: I am a child's teacher for 55 minutes for 180 days. The parent is the child's teacher for life.

    As a teacher I find great joy in my classroom. It's the "initiatives" that claim to "fix" teaching that make me question continuing with my career as a teacher. One takes pride in one's work when their work is valued by society. Teaching and learning are not valued in our society. The lip service paid to teachers is quickly shown to only be a veneer when teachers are demonized for wanting a cost of living adjustment in their contact, or every time there is a budget shortfall and teachers salaries are cut, or every time a parent calls to tell me that it's my fault their kid is failing (even though he hasn't handed in any assignments), and countless other examples.

    Saturday, October 08, 2005

    One Damn Year

    Damn Liberals is now one year old. In blog years, I think that makes this blog about 9 years old. It's been a hell of a year too. Thanks to those who read, link and send people here. I haven't made the big time as a blogger, but I do have a steady readership now. I wish I had the time to post everyday like I have done in my more trafficed months, but things like work, children and morgages have gotten in the way of that. But lack of three-a-day posting here is not going to stop me either.

    Thanks for putting up with my rants, opinions and consistent typos.

    Thursday, October 06, 2005

    Bush's War on Terror™ or the Radical Right?

    Today Bush gave a "major policy" speech in which he again cried wolf. Loudly. With sinking poll numbers, and Republican leaders being indicted left and right, he needed to remind us all that, yes Virginia, Iraq is central to the "War on Terror™." But listening to the speech, I was stunned at the amount of transference Bush put on to "Islamic extremists" that quite literally applied to his administration, and the Radical Right in general.

    Allow me to illustrate my point:
    In this new century, freedom is once again assaulted by enemies determined to roll back generations of democratic progress. Once again, we're responding to a global campaign of fear with a global campaign of freedom. And once again, we will see freedom's victory.

    Last I heard, the Bush administration wanted to "reform" Social Security by essentially gutting it, cut funding for social programs like Head Start, lower the taxes on the ultra rich, reduce the rights of Americans with the USA PATRIOT Act, and many more I can't remember. Sounds like a roll back of generations of democratic progress to me. To do this, both Bush, his administration and the Republicans have waged a campaign of fear with a global campaign of war.


    But allow me to continue, as I paraphrase our fearless leader:
    Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it's called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment, by terrorism and subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. These extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Jews and Hindus -- and also against Muslims from other traditions, who they regard as heretics.

    Some call this movement the Religious Right; others, Conservatism; still others Christian Fundamentalism. Whatever it's called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Christianity. This form of radicalism exploits Christianity to serve a power hungry political vision: the establishment, by fear and subversion and manipulation, of a fundamentalist state that denies civil rights and hard fought freedoms. These extremists distort the idea of Christian patriotism into a call for retribution against Democrats, Moderates and Liberals -- and also against anyone who dissents, which they regard as traitorous.

    We know the vision of the radicals because they've openly stated it -- in videos, and audiotapes, and letters, and declarations, and websites. First, these extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace, and stand in the way of their ambitions. Al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, has called on Muslims to dedicate, quote, their "resources, sons and money to driving the infidels out of their lands." Their tactic to meet this goal has been consistent for a quarter-century: They hit us, and expect us to run. They want us to repeat the sad history of Beirut in 1983, and Mogadishu in 1993 -- only this time on a larger scale, with greater consequences.

    We know the vision of radical conservatives because they've openly stated it -- from the Project for a New American Century to the Texas Republican Party Platform. First, these extremist want to end the New Deal, because it promotes the poor and middle class democratically which stands in the way of their ambitions. Their tactic to meet this goal has been consistent for a quarter-century: They cut taxes on the wealthy and run up federal deficits. They want to repeat the sad history of Viet Nam and the recessions of the 1980's -- only this time on a larger scale, with greater consequences.

    Second, the militant network wants to use the vacuum created by an American retreat to gain control of a country, a base from which to launch attacks and conduct their war against non-radical Muslim governments. Over the past few decades, radicals have specifically targeted Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, and Jordan for potential takeover. They achieved their goal, for a time, in Afghanistan. Now they've set their sights on Iraq.

    The Radical Right's militant network wants to use the hysteria created by trumped up American fear and patriotism to gain control of the US government, a base from which to solidify their agenda and conduct their war against moderates and liberals. Over the past few decades, the radical Right have specifically targeted political races for potential takeover. They achieved their goal in the House, the Senate and the Executive branches. Now they've set their sights on the Judicial branch.

    Defeating the militant network is difficult, because it thrives, like a parasite, on the suffering and frustration of others. The radicals exploit local conflicts to build a culture of victimization, in which someone else is always to blame and violence is always the solution.

    Defeating the Radical Right is difficult, because it thrives, like a parasite, on the fears and frustrating of others. The Right exploits racial and economic tensions to build a culture of corruption, in which someone else is always to blame, and 9-11 is always the justification.

    The influence of Islamic radicalism is also magnified by helpers and enablers. They have been sheltered by authoritarian regimes, allies of convenience like Syria and Iran, that share the goal of hurting America and moderate Muslim governments, and use terrorist propaganda to blame their own failures on the West and America, and on the Jews. These radicals depend on front operations, such as corrupted charities, which direct money to terrorist activity. They're strengthened by those who aggressively fund the spread of radical, intolerant versions of Islam in unstable parts of the world. The militants are aided, as well, by elements of the Arab news media that incite hatred and anti-Semitism, that feed conspiracy theories and speak of a so-called American "war on Islam" -- with seldom a word about American action to protect Muslims in Afghanistan, and Bosnia, Somalia, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Iraq.

    The influence of radical conservatism is also magnified by helpers and enablers. They have been sheltered by Republican administrations, and use paid political propaganda to blame their own failures on liberals and Democrats. These radicals depend on front operations, such as the Washington Times, Fox News, and corrupted charities, which launder money for political activity. They're strengthened by those who aggressively fund conservative think tanks. The conservatives are aided, as well, by elements of the Main Stream Media that incite hatred and ignorance, that feed conspiracy theories and speak of a so-called "Liberal" or "Gay" agenda -- with seldom a credible source or grounding in reality.

    Some have also argued that extremism has been strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq, claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals. I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001 -- and al Qaeda attacked us anyway. The hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was an issue, and it will exist after Iraq is no longer an excuse.

    Conservatives argue that America has been strengthened by Bush's invasion of Iraq, claiming that our presence there has made us safer. I would remind them that there were no terrorists in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001 -- and although al Qaeda had no ties there, Bush invaded anyway. The hatred of conservatives existed before Iraq was an issue, and will exist after 9-11 is no longer an excuse.

    Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism is elitist, led by a self-appointed vanguard that presumes to speak for the Muslim masses. Bin Laden says his own role is to tell Muslims, quote, "what is good for them and what is not." And what this man who grew up in wealth and privilege considers good for poor Muslims is that they become killers and suicide bombers. He assures them that his -- that this is the road to paradise -- though he never offers to go along for the ride.

    Like the ideology of communism, radical conservatism is elitist, led by a corrupt leadership that presumes to speak for American morals and values. Bush always says he is the "Commander in Chief." And what this man who grew up in wealth and privilege considers good for poor Americans is that they become soldiers in his War on Terror™. He assures us their deaths make America safer -- though when given the chance to serve didn't go along for the ride.

    Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy teaches that innocent individuals can be sacrificed to serve a political vision. And this explains their cold-blooded contempt for human life. We've seen it in the murders of Daniel Pearl, Nicholas Berg, and Margaret Hassan, and many others. In a courtroom in the Netherlands, the killer of Theo Van Gogh turned to the victim's grieving mother and said, "I do not feel your pain -- because I believe you are an infidel." And in spite of this veneer of religious rhetoric, most of the victims claimed by the militants are fellow Muslims.

    Like the ideology of communism, the Radical Right teaches that innocent Americans can be sacrificed to serve their political agenda. This exemplifies their cold-blooded contempt for human life. We've seen it in the deaths of nearly 2,000 of our troups and tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq, their lack of response to victems of hurricane Katrina, and their lack of interest in genocide or AIDS in Africa. In spite of their religious veneer, most of the victims affected by conservative policies are the poor and middle class.

    Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy pursues totalitarian aims. Its leaders pretend to be an aggrieved party, representing the powerless against imperial enemies. In truth they have endless ambitions of imperial domination, and they wish to make everyone powerless except themselves. Under their rule, they have banned books, and desecrated historical monuments, and brutalized women. They seek to end dissent in every form, and to control every aspect of life, and to rule the soul, itself. While promising a future of justice and holiness, the terrorists are preparing for a future of oppression and misery.

    Like the ideology of communism, the Radical Right, pursues totalitarian aims. Its leaders pretend to be an aggrieved party, representing the average working American. In truth they have endless ambitions, controll of Congress, and wish to hold everyone accountable everyone except themselves. Under their rule, they have increased the deficit, poverty, abortions, unemployment, reduced workers rights, eased corporate oversight, gutted environmental laws and chipped away at women's rights. They seek to end dissent in every form, and to control every aspect of a women's body, and to rule morality itself. While promising a future of morality and safety, they are creating a future of bankruptcy and fear.

    In listening to this speech, I wonder if Bush understood just how much he was describing his own fundamentalist base.

    Wednesday, October 05, 2005

    O'Malley is Out

    Hiram has the goods:
    "Democratic congressional candidate Peter O'Malley announced today that he will be withdrawing from the race for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 6th District effective immediately.

    Mr. O'Malley, an arbitrator with the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission, cited the demands of his job and the best interests and needs of his young family as the reasons behind his decision.

    So now it's just Cegelis and Scott. Lindy, it's time to start focusing on Roskam.