"A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny."
-- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Friday, April 28, 2006
A post at This Modern World by Greg Saunders gives some insight into why George Bush, oil baron, is suddenly a big fan of alternative fuels. At least in the case of ethanol. The president spoke Tuesday at the Renewable Fuels Association convention. Greg points out that:
...agribusinesses giant Archer-Daniels Midland (whose Senior Vice President for Ethanol Sales & Marketing sits on the RFA's board of directors) has given over $3 million dollars in political "donations" since 2000.Thing is, although anything is better than fossil fuels for automobiles, ethanol from corn is not as efficient as other sources, particularly biomass sources such as switchgrass. Sugar cane is used in Brazil. It's sad that even when these guys do something good you have to suspect their motives for doing it. You have to wonder cui bono. I guess that is part of life. It becomes clear why they haven't done more regarding alternative fuels and why they aren't doing all they can now.
Greg cites this line in Bush's speech as hilarious:
The way I like to put it would be -- it's a good thing when a president can sit there and say, "Gosh, we've got a lot of corn. And that means we're less dependent on foreign sources of oil."We've got a lot of something. And it ain't all corn.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
When I saw this post on Huffington Post by Congressman John Conyers, Jr., I realized that there was at least one exception to my do nothing Democrats in congress comment a couple posts ago. Actually there are several. The congressman and a few colleagues are taking President Bush to court over yet another example blatant disregard for the constitution, law and our system of checks and balances. It's explained on HuffPo, but briefly the recent Republican budget bill, though it passed both houses of congress, portions of the House and Senate versions of the bill are not in agreement. In case you missed that episode of School House Rock, apparently the President and Congressional Republicans did, by law both versions of the bill must be the same in order for the bill to pass. But the Republican congress, anxious to make cuts in many essential programs, simply certified the versions of the bill as the same. President Bush was warned that the bills did not match, yet he signed it into law anyway.
I guess when you are The Decider, you don't have to worry about little things like the law and the constitution. You can approve spying on US citizens without a warrant no matter what the law says. You can declassify information on the fly when it suits your purposes to justify a war, even when that information is incorrect. You can torture prisoners of war and not worry about the Geneva convention or any messy stuff like that.
When I read some of the comments under that post, I realized that there are several congresspersons who don't deserve the "do nothing" remark I made recently. Those joining in Congressman Conyer's suit don't deserve it. Also Congressman John Murtha for speaking out against the war. And, of course, Senator Feingold for his resolution to censure the president. I'm sure there are others, but those are the major ones that come immediately to mind. Actually Congressman Conyers was one of the first voices to talk about impeachment, long before the president's poll numbers dipped. We must give credit where it is due. I think what this country needs is not a decider, but a president whose decisons follow the constitution and the law.
I saw this on CNN.com - The most trusted name in news, this morning, and at the end of the piece a few swipes are taken at Wikipedia that I think are unfair. To be fair to one of the people making the swipes, if I was in his shoes I would probably feel the same way he does about Wikipedia. He has good reason. But basically it's the same kind of blame the Internet for every evil in the world that you see in the mainstream media every day. Listening to the news these days you would think that Myspace.com was invented by and for the sole purpose of connecting pedophiles with children. It's not that I don't recognize the real dangers out there. I do. Teenagers should not put personal information on Myspace and should be supervised by adults when they use it. But isn't that just an extension of what we've always known since we were able to understand what our parents were telling us. Don't talk to strangers, don't tell them about yourself, and that parents need to watch what their children do. Not just online, everything. It's really that simple. It all gets blown out of proportion in the press.
At the end of the article it touches on the case of John Seigenthaler Sr. and an update to a Wikipedia article that falsely linked him to the Kennedy assassination. It wasn't discovered and corrected for 132 days. But the main story of the article is about a campaign manager who updated the Wikipedia article on their political opponent, including information that was true, but completely unfair and hurtful. Specifically the article refers to this:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Georgia gubernatorial candidate accepted the resignation of her campaign manager Wednesday after he was accused of changing the online Wikipedia biography of an opponent in the upcoming Democratic primary.
Secretary of State Cathy Cox's opponent, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, said Cox campaign manager Morton Brilliant altered an online encyclopedia entry to include a reference to Taylor's son being arrested for DUI after an accident that killed his passenger.
And they note that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone as if this is the problem. The interesting thing is that this appears on CNN's site and no doubt elsewhere in the mainstream media. Are you going to tell me that a campaign manager, or any other political operative hasn't leaked damaging information to the news media and they've run it? Sometimes information that's not true. In this case it was. It was unfair, but it was true. It happens all the time. Daily in fact. So much so that I would bet anyone willing to take the bet that Wikipedia on any given day is more accurate than the mainstream press. Precisely because anyone can edit it. And what they don't say is that edits are reviewed and don't go directly on the site. Anyone can dispute an edit and controversial material is marked as such. That's a lot better control over content than you have with the mainstream media.
But this is the typical bias, and I think it is a fear, that anything that is open and free and isn't controlled from the top down is dangerous. In a sense it is, but it is mostly dangerous to the media who are not free (you have to pay for their information or listen to advertisements that pay for them), and who exercise that top down control over what is allowed to be said. Because once people realize that it doesn't have to be that way, and through the blogosphere and Wikipedia they are realizing it, those media are in trouble.
What I don't think is fair, but I can understand why Seigenthaler feels that way, is that Wikipedia is a, "flawed and irresponsible research tool." That's simply not true. Wikipedia is an excellent research tool and no more flawed than any other. And at least as accurate. Anyone who doubts it should simply take a look and compare it to other resources. And if you find it valuable and are able, you should support it.
Final note: The campaign manager's name (above) is ironic. Apparently he was not very.
I saw a phenomenon yesterday on CNN - The most trusted name in news that is insanely American. I wish I had video or could find the story online. CNN has the worst search on their site. Google does a better job of finding stuff on their site than their own search. Their results are nearly 100% irrelevant. In any case, it was one of the 8 million stories recently about high gas prices. All of which include obligatory footage of people at gas pumps bitching about how the oil companies are reaming us. And they no doubt have a reason to complain. Don't get me started about oil subsidies. In this piece, however, the CNN reporter talks to a woman waiting in line in of all places, a fast food drive thru.
This woman is sitting in an SUV, apparently alone and when the reporter asks her how long she's been waiting, she looks sheepishly into the camera and says, "six minutes." Then almost guiltily, "I know, the gas...." This is the very last place you should look to for sympathy regarding gas prices. She's sitting alone in her $30k gas guzzling SUV, which is belching particulate matter and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere so she can be served something that they shouldn't allow to be advertised as food, to put in her face. Fortunately the poor, starving and suffering of the world don't have cable so they don't, have to see this on top of their suffering.
She made me talk to the TV. I'm saying, park your friggin' SUV, get your fat, lazy, American arse out and go inside and wait in line for your food. First you'll burn some of the calories you're about to consume, and second it will probably take you half the time because of all the other lazy arses. No where else in the world would you see such a picture. No where else in the world would they even understand such a picture.
This is gross
Janet's SuperBoob, do ya really need to see it again?
Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers has been described as, "the angriest black man in Nebraska." I'm not sure where that would rank the senator nationally. Nebraska is not the first place I think of when I think angry black men. He is the only African-American senator and extremely liberal in that very conservative Republican state. Maybe that's what makes him so angry. He has also been described as the "defender of the downtrodden" and "the Maverick of Omaha." His name has been in the news recently regarding a law he backed which separates the Omaha School District in to three separate districts, one majority white, one majority black and one largely Hispanic.
The law has been described in the news media by civil rights activists and others as state-sponsored segregation. It has in the senators own words, "thrown white people into a tizzy." It's thrown a few black people into a tizzy as well. Beyond being an obvious lightning rod for controversy I think Mr. Chambers might be a political genius. And I think that this law, clearly a step backward on the road toward the ebony and ivory living in harmony society which we idealize and strive mightily to achieve in this country, might be one of the smartest pieces of legislation ever.
Chambers is not your typical state politician. He wears sweatshirts and jeans on the floor of the senate. Every year at the start of the session he introduces legislation to abolish the death penalty. He fought against an amendment to the state constitution to protect the right to hunt. Also, according to Mother Jones magazine:
He cajoled his colleagues into abolishing corporal punishment in schools, correcting the state pension system so that women would be treated equally with men, and back[ed] a switch from at-large municipal elections to district-based voting so that nonwhites would have a chance to serve. Under his sway, Nebraska led the nation in the 1980s in divesting in companies that did business with apartheid-era South Africa.
He frequently single handedly filibusters against laws he believes are harmful to the poor and powerless. He's served for 35 years and must step down in 2008 due to term limits he believes were voted into law to get rid of him. So why would a defender of the disenfranchised support segregation by law? When asked about the bill in a couple TV interviews, and in this article on CNN.com, the most trusted name in news, Chambers answers simply, "the district is already segregated." It has been segregated since the state stopped busing students to insure integration. This has resulted in an inequitable distribution of resources that leaves minority students on the short end of the stick. Minority students are receiving a poor quality education as a result. The change in the district lines would allow each minority group to control its own schools. That would give them the ability to allocate resources in a way that would give minority students a chance at a better education.
The odd thing about this story is that every time you hear it on the news or read about it in the newspaper, the fact that the district is already segregated gets buried under all the hubbub over the new law. The outrage seems to be not so much over the segregated school system, as it does over the law acknowledging that fact.
Why Our Children Isn't Learning
Recently the Oprah Show devoted two programs to a Special Report: American Schools in Crisis. The shows were eye opening and featured Bill Gates with his wife Melinda and their crusade to revolutionize America's school system, which is now failing. Oprah's web site cites statistics that are shameful.
Just 20 years ago, American students were among the best in the world, routinely coming in first in test results. Now, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, students in the richest country on earth are in 24th place in math. That's behind Canada, Germany, France, Korea...but also smaller, poorer countries like Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.
Gates points out that at the rate American students are dropping out of school we are at risk of raising a nearly unemployable generation. Nearly a third of all American high school students drop out of school. That figure is 50% for minorities. On the same show author Jonathan Kozol appeared. Kozol is an educator and activist, and one of the most vocal critics of American public education. He has written a book, The Shame of the Nation, which compares the current state of the American school system to South African apartheid. Kozol says:
"We are now operating a school system in America that's more segregated than at any time since the death of Martin Luther King," he says. "Racial segregation has come back to public education with a vengeance."
The Oprah show compared an inner city Chicago school to an upper class suburban school and the disparity is shocking. At the city school students are greeted by metal detectors inside the doors. They have outdated computers that don't work, a gymnasium that is falling apart, a pool that has not been filled with water in decades and only a few broken instruments for music classes. The suburban school is a 65 million dollar facility with a new Olympic sized pool, a state of the art workout room which looks like a commercial fitness center, a modern computer lab and an award winning music department.
Located in a low-income community in Chicago, Harper High School graduates just 40 percent of its 1,500 students. Meanwhile, about 35 miles away in suburban Naperville, Illinois, Neuqua Valley High School...graduates 99 percent of its students....
The difference between the two schools can also be seen in their scores on state exams. At Neuqua Valley, 78 percent of students meet Illinois' reading standards, 76 percent meet the science standards, and 77 percent meet the math standards. At Harper, 16 percent meet the reading standards, 1.5 percent meet the science standards and just .5 percent meet the math standards.
The special goes on to show that crime rates and poverty are directly related to the disparity in education. They visit a prison where they talk to inmates and discover that 75% of the inmates are high school dropouts. The schools don't educate students and essentially these high schools become prep school for prison. Prison is merely higher education for criminals. They also point out that it costs $34,000 a year to house a prisoner, about 3 times what the state spends on the average student per year. This all ties in to a post I made last week about Angel Davis and her campaign to abolish prisons.
I don't know the specifics of the Omaha school system. But I doubt it is very much different. As Jonathan Kozol points out, this is happening across America. The busing experiment is over for the most part and schools are once again separate and unequal. The other part of this controversy that gets minimal coverage in the media is expressed in this NY Times article. And that centers around the fact this bill started out as an attempt to incorporate surrounding white majority schools that were within Omaha city limits, but were in suburban school districts, into the Omaha city school district. It was an attempt to provide a larger tax pool for school funding and to integrate the district. Voters in those districts revolted fearing that the measure would result in school busing to achieve integration goals. This short excerpt from that article says it all:
Parent reaction is divided. Darold Bauer, a professional fund-raiser who has three children in Millard schools, said he was pleased that the law had eliminated the threat of busing, although he said he was not thrilled about sharing a common tax levy with the Omaha schools.
What this law does is protect the boundaries of my district," said Mr. Bauer, who is white. "All the districts in the area are now required to work together on an integration plan, and I'm fine with that, because my kids won't be bused."
There it is in black and white. White parents don't want their children bussed to achieve integration. And they aren't thrilled about sharing taxes to make minority schools better.
My European friends ask me all the time why America doesn't do what they do in Europe. The first time I was asked was 20 years ago by a friend from the Netherlands. Just recently I was asked by a German friend. Why not allocate money for all the schools from the state's general tax base, and not by district according to real estate taxes, as is the current practice? Then every school gets the same amount of money per student no matter whether the students are black, white, brown, or any other minority. Whether their parents are rich or poor. That ways no child is truly left behind.
I believe that when this is seen as an integration issue, basically a black and white issue, it short changes both blacks and whites. Specifically poor blacks and poor whites. Because it is the poor of both races and other minorities who have poor schools and end up stuck in a cycle of poor education which leads to prison or poverty or both. Which leads to in turn poor education for the next generation. My finely tuned sense of paranoidar leads me to suspect that it's a good way for the rich folk to keep out the competition. Kids with rich parents don't have to compete with the poor for a good college education and later for good jobs and eventually for a nice house in a good neighborhood. It keeps poor folk right where they are generation after generation. A kind of neo-serfdom. The poor and middle class, distracted by arguments over integration, spend time fighting each other over busing, as America under-educates its potential workforce into third world status. Meanwhile the privileged point their fingers at minorities and blame them for generation after generation of failure. But this is a failure of the system. Given the same chance at education, the poor, all the poor, minority or otherwise, would have much improved lives.
A Liberal Legislative Genius
And this is exactly what makes this piece of legislation one of the craftiest moves a politician ever made. Especially a liberal politician. Unable to get his state to fix the inequities in the school system through integration or providing adequate funds to minority schools, Mr. Chambers got them to vote for something they apparently find more palatable. Racially segregated districts. The legislature voted for it, and Republican Governor Dave Heineman signed it into law. He got them make a law that opponents to segregation have no choice but to challenge.
We are fifty-two years past Brown v. Board of Education. Fifty years past the end of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Rosy speeches have been made on Martin Luther King Day and at the funerals of Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King. At this point in our history we simply can't have laws that reflect the true state of segregation of our country's school system. Civil rights groups will fight this in the courts, but Chambers wins either way. Because if they fail to strike down the law, minority parents get control of their kids education. If they win, it will still involve court battle which may go all the way to the Supreme Court. The media attention from that fight will certainly also shine a light on the problem that was his focus in the first place; that the district is already segregated. It may well bring focus to the problem nationally. I can't tell you if this was his plan from the start, but if it was, he's the Bobby Fisher of state senators.
And that's why this lone legislator who forced through some of the most liberal laws in the country in one of the most conservative Republican states in the nation is without doubt a genius. He is also one of my personal heroes and a revolution of one. We could use a guy like this among the do-nothing Democrats in the US congress. Now that Omaha is retiring him involuntarily he is available. Hell, I'd vote for the man for President, but I don't think the "angriest black man in Nebraska" image will play nationally with white voters. Barak Obama he is not.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
The video's a bit shakey on this clip, but it's what's being said that's important. In about 5 minutes Senatorial candidate Kevin Zeese covers a number of topics and makes some salient points. I'd vote for him if I was in Maryland. Found the video on Google video. I think I see Cindy Sheehan seated beside Mr. Zeese. It's from back in January, so you may have seen it somewhere already. Here's the description from the posting on Google.
A forum discussion on the possible impeachment of President Bush was held at Busboys & Poets in Washington, DC on January 30th, 2006. Kevin Zeese, a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Maryland and directory[sic] of Democracy Rising, moderated the event. This is a video of his closing remarks.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
An interesting phenomenon on the teevee are shows that center around what is happening on the Internet. CNN -- the most trusted name in news, has for some time now had Internet reporters whose job it is to tell you what's happening in the blogosphere and on the Internet in general. And as much as I hate to give them any credit for basically surfing the net for me, I have to admit that occasionally something they find is useful and informative. The Internet is a big place and someone...anyone, is bound to find things that you won't. Usually those people are in your email addressbook and they forward the stuff to you.
One such show devoted to stuff you find on the web is VH1's Web Junk. It's full of the timewasting stuff you'd either have found yourself if you cared, or somebody forwarded to you days before the show aired. It's all very funny stuff. But I find it interesting that networks now pay someone to do what you risk being fired for at work, and then tell you about it. It's like spam from your TV. Part of it I'm sure is TV's desire to capitalize on the popularity of the web and to get back what it is loosing in audience. But mainly it is inevitable. If you want to talk at all about what is happening you have to talk about the web and what's happening on the web.
Far better at the job and much more useful is a whole channel devoted to technology, G4TV. Unfortunately G4 has recently morphed into this kind of hybrid channel that is half about computer games and half Star Trek reruns. But when they report on the web, they do a much better job than the more conventional broadcast and cable networks. The G4 network gets the net. I think the other networks still don't and some never will.
It's only for lack of a technology to keep people from skipping the commercials that all of free TV and radio aren't on the web already. Making watching the actual teevee itself, or listening to a radio unnecessary. And that's a useless strategy on the part of the television industry because the technology, using Tivo or any other type of recording, already allows you to skip all the commercials you want. Most people watch them anyway. Culturally and technologically speaking, TV is already the new AM radio. Back in the olden days when FM radio was introduced, many thought it would be the death of AM. Like they thought movies would be the death of plays, TV the death of movies and so on. Those kinds of fears surface with every new media innovation. But all those old media are still around. Inevitably changed by the new media, but still out there. Excuse me now, gotta go, Web Junk is on....
And that's Ok because there are a lot of people out there who still don't get it and to whom these kinds of shows are extremely informative. Call me technically old-fashioned, but I still think the web is the best place to find out what's happening on the web. There are plenty of sites that will give you the same kind of information these shows do, better, with links to the actual sites they are talking about so you can go there in a mouse click.
Monday, April 24, 2006
I get Russian spam. At least I think it's still Russian. I used to work with a Russian woman and I had her translate one. It was years ago and if I remember correctly it was about weight loss or something. Typical spam. I used to get German spam. It was all sex stuff. I would occassionally throw it in the Bablefish translator if it seemed particularly juicy or I was curious. The German stuff doesn't come anymore, but I still get the Russian messages. I have no idea why or how I got on a list for Russian spammers. I don't know if this will display correctly in your browser, but here's one I just got:
Частная гостиница в Москве.Wow. I guess it doesn't display, at least not in mine. Anyway, here's the Babelfish translation:
Не можете заказать номер в гостинице? Проблемы с размещением гостей и партнеров компании?
Предлагаем в посуточную аренду апартаменты в центре Москвы. Цена ниже номера гостиницы той же категории. Полный гостиничный сервис: охрана, уборка, смена постельного белья.
Контактный телефон: (495) 901-91-51
Particular hotel in Moscow. Cannot order number in the hotel? Problems with the arrangement of guests and partners of company? We propose into the by the day lease apartments in the center of Moscow. The price lower than number of hotel the same category. Complete hotel service: protection, harvesting, the change of bed linen. Contact telephone: (495) 901-91-51There's even a phone number. It's probably the kind of thing that will set me up to be spied on by the domestic spying program, oops, I mean the Terrorist Spying Program. You folks are doing a fine job by the way. I say that randomly in my email occassionally. I don't want to end up at Gitmo naked and piled crotch to butt with some Iraqi detainee and a german shepard nipping at my nads. Sorry for that imagery.
Except this time it's a video. It's just like watchin' the teevee, except it's on my blog. And that makes it a vlog (video + blog). Now all you need is a couch, and a wireless keyboard and mouse to make this feel just like watchin' the tube. Technology is incredible, isn't it?
I still say Bush talking about a cure for America's oil addiction is like getting drug counseling from your dealer. I mean, that is, if you have a dealer. I don't.
"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."Found the above quote on this blog, along with this interview (video below) with Neil Young about his new album, Living with War, featuring the single, Let's Impeach the President. More about Neil's album, including lyrics at his site neilyoung.com.