Thursday, September 30, 2004


My old dear friend Kevin is starting his first year as a high school English teacher, a job for which he has been preparing and studying for a couple of years now. As you know, I've just finished a six year stint as a high school teacher, myself. For over a year he and I have been having an ongoing discussion and debate about the nature of education: what works best, what's wrong with the system, what's right, and how to survive it all with sanity intact. These discussions have been lively at times, but always thought-provoking and fun. While neither of us have any illusions that our debates will change the nature of the public school system as it currently exists, I believe that both of us are better people for our exchanges.

For the last few days, another round of our debates has been going on in Real Art comments that was provoked by a statement that I posted that was both inflammatory and, I must admit, for the most part unexplained (however, if you really want to understand where I'm coming from on education, read this). So, while a Democrat "stay the course" corporatist debates a Republican "stay the course" corporatist on TV tonight, I figure it's appropriate to post a debate with some real clash.

Coming to you from the Real Art comment boards, another Kevin and Ron education debate:

If there actually was an atmosphere of discipline and fear of authority in public schools I might be able to agree with you. As it is, the real reason that the only students who learn are those who decide to do it themselves is that there is actually less of a punitive, authoritarian atmosphere in schools than there is in society. If you or I were to disrupt people's ability to buy products in a store or to make their way from point A to point B in the way that many students disrupt the learning process, I guarantee that we would not soon return to do it again soon (not to mention the shorter, sharper shock dealt out to those who interrupt their workplace). The reality is that after years and years of litigation against the education system, schools have become places where the students are in charge of their own learning, and those who don't really feel like learning anything are making it next to impossible for those that do to get on with it.


Motivation from within is awesome when all, or even most, of the participants are motivated. When a third are NOT motivated from within, and another third are undecided, you wind up with the current system which leaves the motivated third to their own devices and dooms the undecided to no education at all.


But Kevin, you're looking at school discipline as though it existed in a vacuum. It doesn't; it's a societal phenomenon. That is, student attitudes about discipline and motivation begin at home, and these attitudes reflect parental attitudes and methods, which are, in turn, influenced by the overall culture.

The point is that, for decades now, our culture worships and adores the anti-hero rebel. Popular culture is full of role models that don't take any shit from anybody; parents both act out such behaviors while at the same time bemoaning how unruly their children are: the schools are hopelessly mired in a 19th century system of discipline and motivation that cannot possibly work in the 21st century.


Teachers, as authority figures, are set up by society to be the targets of young would-be individuals trying to prove themselves.

That third of students you speak of is here to stay. How do we teach them? How do we keep them from disrupting all of education without descending further into educational totalitarianism in the form of "zero tolerance?"

The solution is to start over, at the very beginning. Educators cannot be authority figures; they must be facilators of learning, and children must, at the youngest ages, be taught to work together, for a common goal, instead of against each other and their teachers.

We must find a way to fly under American anti-authoritarian radar. Really, that's not such a bad thing.


And if you want the system as it is now to work better for you (for survival's sake), I strongly suggest you start to cultivate what you call an actual "atmosphere of discipline and fear of authority" in your classroom starting TOMORROW. The system can only help you if you're willing to use it. If your classroom is being disrupted by weird insurgents, you really need to go Nazi on them and not let up for at least six weeks.

I'm not kidding. Under the current system, it's the only way.

That's why I quit.


Come on now, what is it exactly that America worships?

"America worships discipline and authority"


"The point is that, for decades now, our culture worships and adores the anti-hero rebel."


I agree that the third who don't want to learn will always be there. Where we disagree is in how best to deal with them. You seem to think that a utopian balance will appear when students take charge of their own learning (something you state is difficult when every move is madated etc). Regardless of how put-upon students think they are, the freedom of choice they enjoy now was unthinkable even 15 years ago. Hardly anything can be "mandated" about student behavior without first checking with an attorney. In this atmosphere, I think that the students ARE in charge of their education


The reason so few are getting an education is that teachers now have to spend the majority of their time trying to keep those that don't care from disrupting class (without, of course, actually doing anything to the disruptive student that might curb or stop their behavior) instead of helping those that want to learn but can't do it on their own.

If you are imagining a system where those who refuse to take part in education are allowed to move on and out, then I agree, the group process approach would be amazing. If they are forced/allowed to remain, then we need more discipline not less, in order to, hopefully, teach them how to take part in positive, productive communal action (it doesn't come naturally).


I agree that there is a contradiction, but it's not in my thinking or analysis; rather it's in the culture itself. That is, Americans worship authority and discipline as long as it's somebody else who has to deal with it. Otherwise, Americans don't like to take any shit personally. You know, kind of like drug war zealots who suddenly change their tune when their house is seized because their teenage kid was selling dime bags out of his bedroom.

Contradictory, yes, but that's the USA.


And I repeat: if your classroom is being disrupted time and again by the same people, you've got to put the system to work. You've got to bust these kids over and over for the least little thing. Call their parents every damned day if you have to. It's something of a hassle, but it works, if the administration is doing it's job, too.


Also, I don't believe in utopianism, but I do believe that things can be much better. Basically, if the kind of system I'm imagining was implemented, we'd have to write off an entire generation of both students and teachers--all have been socialized into what amounts to atagonistic relationships that are, at best, inefficient for learning.



We'd have to start over with all new teachers and with brand new kindegarteners: we would have to start with play and games that focus on group responsibility, which ultimately translate into individual responsibility to the group, games that emphasize collective problem solving, games with increasing levels of challenge as each year goes by. Ideally, students would not be thrown into a system of relationships that are, by their very nature, doomed to be understood in terms of "us versus them." The idea is to create an environment where there is only "us."

Pie in the sky? Maybe, but no one's ever really tried to do this, or even study it seriously. Who knows? I don't know how it could be worse than what we have now.


I think it actually has been tried. It seems to only work if there is a plan in place to jetison those who don't buy into it (like all plans be they educational, governmental, community etc that depend on EVERYONE somehow learning that things go much more smoothly when we ALL recognize that there is really only an "us" and no "them"). There will always be a butthead, or more likely a contingent of buttheads, who will see a "them". Thus, my use of the term Utopian.


And here's my final comment:

Personally, I've never heard of it being attempted in the way that I've described, from the very beginning, schoolwide, administered by people who have absolutely no connection with or experience in the public education establishment. Students and teachers from the current system bring in attitudes and subconscious behaviors that are permenantly laden with authoritarian and antagonistic leanings. We must start with a blank slate; public education in its current state is extraordinarily successful with its indoctrinational power, for both students and teachers.

As for the buttheads, one hopes that a new, communal system of education would foster a group spirit such that peer pressure, along with the human herd instinct, would deal with the buttheads in a much less authoritarian way: the buttheads would learn that being a butthead only impedes progress and positive social interatction.

What do you think, Kevin?


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Kickass Journalists Edition

From CounterPunch, an essay by longime Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk of the London Independent:

Why Have We Suddenly Forgotten Abu Ghraib?

And that, I fear, is the least of the suffering that has gone on at Abu Ghraib. For what happened to all those videos which members of Congress were allowed to watch in secret and which we--the public--were not permitted to see? Why have we suddenly forgotten about Abu Ghraib? Seymour Hersh, the journalist who broke the Abu Ghraib story--and one of the only journalists in America who is doing his job--has spoken publicly about what else happened in that terrible jail.

I'm indebted to a reader for the following extract from a recent Hersh lecture: "Some of the worst things that happened that you don't know about. OK? Videos. There are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib... The women were passing messages out saying please come and kill me because of what's happened. And basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children, in cases that have been recorded, the boys were sodomised, with the cameras rolling, and the worst above all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking..."

Already, however, we have forgotten this. Just as we must no longer talk about weapons of mass destruction. For as the details slowly emerge of the desperate efforts of Bush and Blair to find these non-existent nasties, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Click here for the rest.

And from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the New York Times' Princeton economist-in-residence, Paul Krugman:

Media need to fact-check the debate

Interviews with focus groups after the first 2000 debate gave Al Gore a slight edge. Post-debate analysis should have widened that edge. After all, during the debate, Bush told one whopper after another -- about his budget plans, about his prescription drug proposal and more. Fact-checking in the next day's papers should have been devastating.

But as Adam Clymer pointed out Monday on the Op-Ed page of The Times, front-page coverage of the 2000 debates emphasized not what the candidates said but their "body language." After the debate, the lead stories said a lot about Gore's sighs but nothing about Bush's lies. And even the fact-checking pieces "buried inside the newspaper" were, as Clymer delicately puts it, "constrained by an effort to balance one candidate's big mistakes" -- that is, Bush's lies -- "against the other's minor errors."

The result of this emphasis on the candidates' acting skills rather than their substance was that after a few days, Bush's defeat in the debate had been spun into a victory.


Nonetheless, tomorrow there will be a temptation to revert to drama criticism -- to emphasize how the candidates looked and acted, and push analysis of what they said, and whether it was true, to the inside pages. With so much at stake, the public deserves better.

Click here for the rest.

As for myself, I don't think I'm going to even watch a few minutes of tomorrow's "debate." They've become an even bigger joke/photo-op than party conventions. I've got better things to do.

Of course, with my luck, Kerry'll finally show some spine, and I will have missed it. Such is life. Whatever will be will be. And all those other latin-based phrases that became pop songs.


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Agencies Postpone Issuing New Rules Until After Election

From the New York Times courtesy of This Modern World:

Both industry lobbyists and their critics say that the re-election of President Bush would probably lead to the adoption of some regulations favorable to industry and the rejection or watering down of others that industry considers objectionable. Consumer groups, environmental organizations and food safety experts, meanwhile, say that delays could lead to significantly weaker rules that could increase prices on some products, reduce safety and relax environmental protections.

While the delay of completing rules, known to lobbyists and policy makers as "slow rolling,'' is common in a campaign season, some environmental groups and consumer advocates say this year is different.

"Generally, regulatory submissions often get pushed off in election years,'' said Gene Kimmelman, a senior director of public policy at Consumers Union.

"What is unusual this time,'' he added, "is the clear pattern of holding back regulatory decisions that will benefit the largest industry players and will drive up prices and market place risks for consumers, ranging from telephones to drugs to the risks of contaminants of food. The pattern of slow rolling will ultimately benefit the largest players and hit consumers in the pocketbook.''

Administration officials have denied such consequences, although they acknowledge that they are generally inclined in each instance to take the least restrictive approach and that they have been sympathetic to the concerns of business interests.


Slow rolling takes place before a presidential election because it is an axiom of political life that agencies take no action that could give an issue to the opponents of the incumbent administration.

After an election, by contrast, agency work often accelerates, particularly in anticipation of a change in administration.

Click here for the rest.

In Texas, some call such a thing "dancing with the ones that brung ya." I'm in Louisiana now, so I'll speak more plainly. Bush is providing free drugs and sex for his electoral base of corporate polluters, price gougers, and food poisoners at the expense of everybody else. He's just going to wait until his administration is no longer under the electoral microscope.


means "Who polices the police?"

From the Houston Chronicle:

Ex-HPD officer gets 20 years in drug deal

A former Houston police officer was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to taking part in a $50,000 drug deal while on duty and wearing his uniform.

Gilberto Zertuche, 43, was armed and providing protection for a deal in which a kilogram of cocaine — 2.2 pounds — and 100 pounds of marijuana changed hands at an apartment in Humble on Feb. 24, Harris County prosecutors said.

The arrest resulted from a sting operation set up by the Houston Police Department's Internal Affairs Division. Undercover police targeted the 18-year HPD veteran after receiving a tip.

Zertuche was not a buyer or a seller, but he oversaw the transaction, helping to weigh the drugs and count the money exchanged, said Assistant District Attorney Julian Ramirez.

Click here for the rest.

Remember, my point in making these cop corruption posts is not to simply to bash the police, an institution society needs. Rather, I'm attempting to illustrate that there's something badly wrong with police culture in the United States: there are numerous instances of corruption and misbehavior that make it to the papers every week, but far more go unreported. Really, we're in the midst of a law enforcement crisis, even if no one wants to call it that.


Strong and wrong

From the Washington Post via WorkingForChange:

Nevertheless the president's insistence that the world is safer without Saddam is a powerful political position for one reason: it can't be disproved. There is simply no way to rerun the past year and do a double-blind crossover study of what would have happened if we hadn't invaded Iraq.

Are we better off? Compared to what? Are we safer than we would have been with a long, continuing pressure of world forces? Safer than if we'd focused on al Qaeda instead?

For that matter, who is safer? The people Saddam persecuted? Surely. But the 1,000 American soldiers who died? The 20,000 Iraqis?

And, if that math is perplexing, no one can truly calculate safety without seeing the future. Are we safer for having taken our eye off Iran and North Korea? Safer for taking our dollars away from homeland security? Are we recruiting more enemies than we are defeating? Will we only know when and if there is another attack?

What? Who? When? Bush stands before the United Nations and every other political forum and states with certainty that Iraq is on the way to being “secure, democratic, federal and free.” Kerry charges that “terrorists are pouring across the border” and calls the invasion a “crisis of historic proportions.”

But most Americans have no way to either refute or to affirm the central question raised: are we safer? Indeed in the face of so many troubling unknowns and such fearful uncertainties, facts fall by the wayside. We are left relying on our beliefs, including our beliefs about human nature, about the way the world works.

Click here for the rest.


Xtreme weather meets Xtreme media bubble

From ZNet:

And yet something was missing. For the first time in history, four hurricanes -- Charley, Frances, Ivan (the Terrible), and now Jeanne -- have smacked into Florida's long coastline one after another in a single hurricane season (not yet over), and here's the strangest thing of all: Forget that in March Brazil experienced the South Atlantic's first hurricane ever -- Brazilian meteorologists didn't even know what to name it; or that the Atlantic coast of Canada got whacked by Hurricane Juan, "the storm of the century," late last year (and the Canadian government suspects a link to global warming); or that the United States has already experienced a record number of tornados in 2004; or that Japan has had the worst season of typhoons in memory; or that Xtreme weather events have increased in recent years across the planet, including massive flooding in Europe, Bangladesh, and China, and a deathly summer heat wave that struck Europe in 2003. Forget the rising sea levels and the increased melt-off toward the poles. Forget that the head of at least one (hated) country in the path of Hurricane Ivan -- Fidel Castro -- was ready to warn his people about global warning and hurricanes, or that the Bush administration's closest ally, Tony Blair of Britain, made a major speech, widely ignored in the American press, labeling global warming a danger beyond compare. ("What is now plain is that the emission of greenhouse causing global warming at a rate that began as significant, has become alarming and is simply unsustainable in the long-term. And by long-term I do not mean centuries ahead. I mean within the lifetime of my children certainly; and possibly within my own. And by unsustainable, I do not mean a phenomenon causing problems of adjustment. I mean a challenge so far-reaching in its impact and irreversible in its destructive power, that it alters radically human existence.") Forget all that, and just focus for a moment on the fact that it took almost to the moment Jeanne hit Florida for our media to produce a spate of pieces that even speculated in passing about possible links between the hurricanes in Florida and global warming -- and almost all of those articles denied that there were any connections at all.

Click here for the rest.


Sunday, September 26, 2004

GOP Flyers Hit
Hillbilly States

It turns out these weird flyers aren't just in West Virginia. From the Advocate courtesy of

Republican Party admits to antigay mailers

The Republican Party acknowledged Thursday that it has been sending mass mailings to residents of Arkansas and West Virginia warning that ''liberals'' seek to ban the Bible while promoting same-sex marriage, according to a report in The New York Times. As part of the GOP's efforts to mobilize religious voters for President Bush, the mailings include an image of the Bible under the word "banned" and an image of a man proposing to another man under the word "allowed." The Arkansas mailing warns: "This will be Arkansas if you don't vote." The West Virginia mailing is similar in content.

here for the rest.

As far as I know, gay marriage is not part of the Democrats' national agenda, although it probably should be. Accusing them of wanting to ban Bibles is, of course, completely insane. However, I don't think that the Republican operatives who put these flyers together really believe what they're saying: they are clearly targeting poor states with ignorant, socially conservative populations in order to push emotional buttons. In short, they're concocting sensational lies, no doubt because they don't really have much to offer these people in the way of actual policy making.


Image courtesy of Eschaton.


It's back to basics for many in college

From the Houston Chronicle:

Nearly two-thirds of 2004's graduating high school seniors now enrolled in Houston-area community colleges are taking remedial classes because they weren't prepared for college.

Sixteen local school districts sent 6,552 newly graduated students to the Houston Community College System and the North Harris Montgomery College District this fall. Sixty-four percent of them, or 4,217, are taking high school-level courses, according to the colleges.


Although the problem is generally worse among school districts with high poverty levels, such as Houston and Aldine, some of those with wealthier populations, including Spring Branch and Katy, face the same predicament.

And it's not just community college students who are struggling. Even those attending four-year universities lack many of the basic skills necessary to tackle college-level work as freshmen.

A report released this spring by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board found that half of the state's 2001 high school graduates needed remedial help in college.

Among Harris County's largest school districts, the percentage of 2001 graduates required to take high school-level courses in college ranged from 62 percent in Houston Independent School District to roughly a quarter of Katy ISD graduates. About one third of all college-bound students from Spring Branch ISD and Cy-Fair ISD needed extra help.

Click here for the rest.

This comes as no surprise.

As the Houston area public school establishment goes into crisis mode trying to figure out this latest educational travesty, I can already tell you what the problem is. Public education's overwhelming emphasis on discipline and authority not only creates an atmosphere that is detrimental to knowledge and understanding, but in prioritizing obedience as school's major goal, it also tends to deemphasize learning itself. Students, for the most part, are essentially on their own. Those who are either unwilling or unable to teach themselves fall through the cracks.

The solution is a massive revamp of the structure of public education: starting with the earliest levels, children must be taught the nature of democracy and communal action; that is, students must learn how to take charge of their own learning, as a group, which is extraordinarily difficult to do under the current system which mandates students' each and every move, making individual responsibility unlikely. Ideally, this would make the passing-but-not-understanding phenomenon go away: learning would be motivated from within, rather than by threat of punishment in the form of bad grades or disciplinary action.

Of course, this won't happen. Society is quite happy with the current system, and the corporate establishment is even happier: despite platitudes about democracy, America worships discipline and authority; the schools are the churches of this homegrown religion.


For more of my views on education and authority, click here.


DeLay, Craddick will have to be light on their feet

From the Houston Chronicle's Clay Robinson:

Most school yard bullies wouldn't be caught dead in a dance class, or so the old macho stereotype would have us believe. Political bullies such as Tom DeLay, however, are another breed.

The U.S. House majority leader from Sugar Land takes pride in his ruthless partisan tactics, his ability to intimidate and run over opponents and raise huge amounts of political cash from special interests eager to court him.

But DeLay also is something of a dancer, although not a very good one. He and Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick were awkwardly two-stepping on the public stage last week after three of DeLay's political associates — who also were Craddick's benefactors — were indicted over fund-raising activities during the 2002 Texas legislative races.

It remains to be seen whether anyone ever will be convicted of a crime, but DeLay's and Craddick's attempts to distance themselves from the allegations were pretty weak.

Click here for the rest.

Obviously, I'm totally biased against DeLay. Not only does his simplistic brand of "common man" conservatism set my teeth to grinding, but his absolute arrogance and sense of triumphant glee also sends me into convulsions. The man just grosses me out on numerous levels. So of course I think he's guilty.

Now, having said all that, I also have to say that in the political world, generally, where there's smoke there's fire. That is, when a politician seems to be bathing in a stinky pool of corruption, there's good reason to suspect that such a politician is corrupt himself. Indeed, this was the principle, coupled with the same kind of hatred that I have for DeLay, that drove millions of conservatives to demand President Clinton's investigation and eventual impeachment. That turned out to be a wild goose chase, but there are some real issues going on with this DeLay thing. Indeed, there is enough prima facie evidence to warrant a trial for some of DeLay's associates.

In pursuit of a one party nation, the Republican House Majority Leader has behaved pretty aggressively: it's not at all hard to believe that he might have crossed the line on more than one occasion. The fact that he's now trying to distance himself from an organization that he, himself, created simply spawns more suspicion--as Ronnie Earle says, the investigation is continuing; they may yet nab the Lizard King.

Or not. If DeLay's innocent of any wrongdoing, I'll continue to hate him, but I have no wish for him to be wrongly convicted. Still, I hope they roast the motherfucker.


REAL ART: Virtual Museum of Political Art

This is a pretty cool site. Check it out. I'm particularly fond of the Socialist Realism section.



Addictive flash-fun in cyberspace, courtesy of Dr. Menlo.

Go smack Bush!


Saturday, September 25, 2004


An old school investigative report from the Houston Chronicle:

Records show ties of DeLay, Craddick to PAC

U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Texas Speaker Tom Craddick quickly distanced themselves from a GOP political action committee this week after a state grand jury indicted three of the group's consultants.

But a Houston Chronicle review of documents from civil lawsuits and government databases involving Texans for a Republican Majority show DeLay and Craddick were kept abreast of the PAC's operations and were personally involved in the committee's fund-raising activities.

DeLay's daughter and personal political consultants ran TRMPAC. DeLay was on the board of advisers and was the featured guest at fund-raisers.

Craddick consulted frequently with TRMPAC staff. He accepted donations for the PAC and passed along contributions from TRMPAC to Republican House candidates during the 2002 elections.

Click here for the evidence.

You know, before these indictments, DeLay seemed to have no problem at all with his name being linked to TRMPAC. Now it appears as though the Lizard King has shed his skin: sounds like it's getting to be a bit too hot for such a cold blooded creature.




Sure, voting for Kerry will feel like having a tequila hangover, but it's much better than the feeling of Montezuma's Revenge that would most certainly accompany another Bush victory. From
Noam Chomsky's blog:

It doesn't take a microscope to see these differences. Many on the left seem far too casual about them, in my opinion. Not only is that wrong in itself, but it completely nullifies any possibility of appealing to the natural constituency of the left, at home or abroad. How far do you think one will get organizing people by saying, for example, we simply don't give a damn about the fact that you'll suffer more from Bush-style dismantling of the progressive achievements of the past century than by the programs of the political opposition?

here for the rest.

In other words, Bush is doing, and will continue to do if reelected, real and significant damage to both America and the world. Even though I hate the corporate-friendly style of such "New Democrats" as Kerry, I'd be a fool not to see that four more years of Bush will cause irreparable harm.

Pass the tequila; I'm swallowing the worm.


Thursday, September 23, 2004


From AlterNet courtesy of Eschaton:

Until that reversal, the Detroit case had marked the only terrorist conviction obtained from the Justice Department's detention of more than 5,000 foreign nationals in anti-terrorism sweeps since 9/11. So Ashcroft's record is 0 for 5,000. When the attorney general was locking these men up in the immediate wake of the attacks, he held almost daily press conferences to announce how many "suspected terrorists" had been detained. No press conference has been forthcoming to announce that exactly none of them have turned out to be actual terrorists.

Click here for the rest.

Zero. None. Zip. Zilch. You'd think that after invading two countries, curtailing numerous civil rights here in the homeland, and hemorrhaging billions of dollars into a black hole, the Bush administration would have something to show for their efforts. But no. Nothing. It's almost as though they weren't even trying.

Hey, there's a thought.


Millions Blocked from Voting in U.S. Election

And most of them are, surprise surprise, African-Americans. From Common Dreams courtesy of Dr. Menlo:

Millions of U.S. citizens, including a disproportionate number of black voters, will be blocked from voting in the Nov. 2 presidential election because of legal barriers, faulty procedures or dirty tricks, according to civil rights and legal experts.

The largest category of those legally disenfranchised consists of almost 5 million former felons who have served prison sentences and been deprived of the right to vote under laws that have roots in the post-Civil War 19th century and were aimed at preventing black Americans from voting.

But millions of other votes in the 2000 presidential election were lost due to clerical and administrative errors while civil rights organizations have cataloged numerous tactics aimed at suppressing black voter turnout. Polls consistently find that black Americans overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.

"There are individuals and officials who are actively trying to stop people from voting who they think will vote against their party and that nearly always means stopping black people from voting Democratic," said Mary Frances Berry, head of the U.S. Commission on Human Rights.

Click here for the rest.

This is very much along the same lines as the Jim Crow stuff in Florida that gave Bush the election back in 2000. It turns out, however, that the same thing has been going on nationally, on a much wider scale. Needless to say, this is an absolute travesty.


Warning! Terrorist threats even
more significant than Cat Stevens!

Just go read it at This Modern World. It's well worth the trip.


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Swaggart apologizes for gay killing remark

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

A complaint was filed with a Canadian broadcasting group, and Swaggart said his Baton Rouge-based Jimmy Swaggart Ministries has received complaints from gay groups over the remarks made on the Sept. 12 telecast.

In the broadcast, Swaggart was discussing his opposition to gay marriage when he said "I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry."

"And I'm going to be blunt and plain: If one ever looks at me like that, I'm going to kill him and tell God he died," Swaggart said to laughter and applause from the congregation.

Today, Swaggart said he has jokingly used the expression "killing someone and telling God he died" thousands of times, about all sorts of people. He said the expression is figurative and not meant to harm.

Click here for the rest.

Oh, it was just a joke. I see. Hahaha. Very funny. Like the old joke that compares pizza in an oven to Jews in a concentration camp. Or, better yet, like the joke that talks about roofing a house with sliced up black people. Funny, funny stuff. Swaggart just cracks me up. Really, he does.

That's sarcasm, by the way.


GOP Mailing Warns Liberals Will Ban Bibles

From the AP via FindLaw courtesy of Dr. Menlo:

Campaign mail with a return address of the Republican National Committee warns West Virginia voters that the Bible will be prohibited and men will marry men if liberals win in November.

The literature shows a Bible with the word "BANNED" across it and a photo of a man, on his knees, placing a ring on the hand of another man with the word "ALLOWED." The mailing tells West Virginians to "vote Republican to protect our families" and defeat the "liberal agenda."

Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said Friday that he wasn't aware of the mailing, but said it could be the work of the RNC. "It wouldn't surprise me if we were mailing voters on the issue of same-sex marriage," Gillespie said.

Click here for the rest.

You know, I'm about as liberal as they come without drifting off into revolutionary wacko territory, and I'm all for gay marriage and everything, but banning Bibles??? Man, banning any book is bad enough, but, for Christ's sake, the Bible is one of the most important works of literature ever produced by western civilization. It's a source of morality and wisdom for millions, including my own non-believer self. Needless to say, liberals aren't even pondering banning Bibles. That's just fucking silly.

I swear, conservatives are getting kookier every day.


The Rise of Pseudo Fascism Part I:
The Morphing of The Conservative Movement

From the always thought provoking Seattle journalist David Neiwert:

What's become clear as this election year has progressed -- and especially in the wake of the Republican National Convention -- is the actual shape of this fresh beast.

Call it Pseudo Fascism. Or, if you like, Fascism Lite. Happy-Face Fascism. Postmodern Fascism. But there is little doubt anymore why the shape of the "conservative movement" in the 21st century is so familiar and disturbing: Its architecture, its entire structure, has morphed into a not-so-faint hologram of 20th-century fascism.

It is not genuine fascism, even though it bears many of the basic traits of that movement. It lacks certain key elements that would make it genuinely so:

-- Its agenda, under the guise of representing mainstream conservatism, is not openly revolutionary.

-- It is not yet a dictatorship.

-- It does not yet rely on physical violence and campaigns of gross intimidation to obtain power and suppress opposition.

-- American democracy has not yet reached the genuine stage of crisis required for full-blown fascism to take root.

Without these facets, the current phenomenon cannot properly be labeled "fascism." But what is so deeply disturbing about the current state of the conservative movement is that it has otherwise plainly adopted not only many of the cosmetic traits of fascism, its larger architecture -- derived from its core impulses -- now almost exactly replicates that by which fascists came to power in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and '30s.

It is in this sense that I call it Pseudo Fascism. Unlike the genuine article, it presents itself under a normative, rather than a revolutionary, guise; and rather than openly exulting in violence, it pays lip service to law and order. Moreover, even in the areas where it resembles real fascism, the similarities are often more familial than exact. It is, in essence, less virulent and less violent, and thus more likely to gain broad acceptance within a longtime stable democratic system like that of the United States.

And even in the key areas of difference, it is not difficult to discern that those dissimilarities are gradually shrinking, and in danger of disappearing.

Click here for the rest.

Of course, it is now cliched to point to the superficial similarities between post 9/11 America and the rise of the Third Reich; however, Neiwert isn't your typical knee-jerk, outraged liberal: he has devoted quite a bit of his research and writing energies these last few years to studying neo-Nazi hate groups in America. That is, Neiwert has an understanding of the motivations and machinations underlying European fascist movements of the past, and how such thinking operates within American communities today. In other words, if anybody is qualified to truly meditate on the potential for fascism in the United States, Neiwert's your guy.

Which is kinda scary, given his assessment.


Republican fund-raising leads
to indictments of 3 DeLay aides

From the Houston Chronicle:

A Travis County grand jury today returned 32 indictments related to Republican political fund-raising activity in 2002, including charges against three top aides to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

The grand jury returned indictments against DeLay political aide Jim Ellis and fund-raiser Warren RoBold and John Colyandro, who was executive director of DeLay's political action committee Texans for a Republican Majority. Colyandro faces 14 charges, RoBold was named in nine charges, and Ellis was named in one.

Colyandro and Ellis were indicted once each on a charge of felony money laundering.
They are accused of taking $190,000 in corporate money raised by the political action committee and giving it to the Republican National State Elections Committee. That committee in turn gave a like amount of legal donations to seven Texas House candidates.

The grand jury also returned indictments against corporate donors Sears Roebuck and Co., Westar Energy Inc., the Williams Cos., Questerra Corp., Diversified Collection Services, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Bacardi U.S.A. and the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care.

here for the rest.

What was it that the mob informer in Godfather II laughingly called the figure head mobsters insulating Michael Corleone from prosecution? "Buffers," I think it was.

It looks like they managed to get the goods on some of Don DeLay's "buffers," not to mention some of his sleazy corporate accomplices. But has the Lizard King really gotten off scot-free? Maybe from the Travis County District Attorney, but there's another investigation going on, and they're about to decide whether to take it to the next level.

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Ethics committee ends fact-finding in DeLay case

House ethics committee leaders said Monday they soon will present the panel with information on Majority Leader Tom DeLay's conduct and recommend whether to undertake a full investigation.


Two allegations directly involve use of DeLay's congressional office.

One accuses the Texas Republican of soliciting corporate contributions in return for help on legislation. A second contends he improperly used his staff to contact U.S. aviation authorities and ask them to track down Texas Democratic legislators who had fled the state while trying to thwart a DeLay-backed redistricting plan.

The third allegation accuses DeLay of using his political action committees to distribute money from corporations to Texas legislative candidates in violation of state law.

DeLay has replied to the committee, but has not released his response publicly.

here for the rest.

Here's hoping they do the right thing.

House Majority Leader DeLay

He sure does look like a lizard, don't he?


Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The 'lynching' of Dan Rather

Good guy journalist in exile, Greg Palast, gives his two cents worth on the CBS document scandal:

Is Rather's report accurate? Is George W. Bush a war hero or a privileged little Shirker-in-Chief? Today I saw a goofy two page spread in the Washington Post about a typewriter used to write a memo with no significance to the draft-dodge story. What I haven't read about in my own country's media is about two crucial documents supporting the BBC/CBS story. The first is Barnes' signed and sworn affidavit to a Texas Court, from 1999, in which he testifies to the Air Guard fix -- which Texas Governor George W. Bush, given the opportunity, declined to challenge.

And there is a second document, from the files of US Justice Department, again confirming the story of the fix to keep George's white bottom out of Vietnam. That document, shown last year in the BBC television documentary, "Bush Family Fortunes," correctly identifies Barnes as the bag man even before his 1999 confession.

At BBC, we also obtained a statement from the man who made the call to the Air Guard general on behalf of Bush at Barnes' request. Want to see the document? I've posted it at:

This is not a story about Dan Rather. The white millionaire celebrity can defend himself without my help. This is really a story about fear, the fear that stops other reporters in the US from following the evidence about this Administration to where it leads.

Click here for the rest.

Palast makes an absolutely crucial point: the allegedly forged memos used in the now infamous 60 Minutes broadcast some days ago are simply a diversionary sideshow; when taken as a whole, the report is essentially accurate, and Bush isn't denying it--he's ignoring it, in fact, while the media goes on and on about a few memos out of a mountain of evidence. Forgery or not, Bush got into the Air National Guard in order to stay out of Vietnam, and this only happened because his influential family pulled some important strings. Then he deserted.

'Nuff said.


Monday, September 20, 2004

CBS admits it cannot confirm authenticity of Bush documents

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

CBS News apologized today for a "mistake in judgment" in its story questioning President Bush's National Guard service, claiming it was misled by the source of documents that several experts have dismissed as fakes.

The network said it would appoint an independent panel to look at its reporting about the memos. The story has mushroomed into a major media scandal, threatening the reputations of CBS News and chief anchor Dan Rather.

It also has become an issue in the presidential campaign. The White House said the affair raises questions about the connections between CBS's source, retired Texas National Guard officer Bill Burkett, and Democrat John Kerry's campaign.


White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the White House appreciated CBS's expression of regret but that there were still serious questions about Burkett.

"Bill Burkett, who CBS now says is their source, in fact is not an unimpeachable source as was previously claimed," McLellan said. "Bill Burkett is a source who has been discredited and so this raises a lot of questions. There were media reports about Mr. Burkett having senior level contacts with the Kerry campaign."

The Kerry campaign has said it had nothing to do with the story.

Click here for the rest.

This whole thing has been damned strange. These allegedly forged documents--CBS said only that they could not verify their authenticity--put into a tidy little basket a lot of information that seems to be available from numerous other sources. In other words, these four memos seem too good to be true in hindsight. The strangeness is compounded by the fact that the secretary of the officer to whom these memos are attributed says that even though the documents are fake, the content is true (whatever). Something's going on here, and we may never know the truth.

However, one can speculate, and that's exactly what James C. Moore, co-author of the book about sleazy political advisor Karl Rove, Bush's Brain, does in this essay via BuzzFlash courtesy of Eschaton:

Are They True Fabrications?

If Burkett is suspect, though, so is Karl Rove. Admittedly, this is a five-cushion bank shot if it does involve Rove. But such things are no longer considered impossible when looking at his political machinations. Every campaign he runs seems to have well-timed distractions. In 2000, just before his inarticulate client was to debate Al Gore, a tape of Mr. Bush’s training ended up in the Gore campaign’s mailbox. Reporters wrote about this discovery and overwhelmed issues and debate coverage with the unraveling mystery. An employee of Mark McKinnon, Bush’s media expert, was later implicated in the scandal but nobody ever proved Rove wasn’t pulling strings. Of course, it was strictly coincidental when Rove’s office was found bugged in 1986, the day of a critical debate between another one of his inarticulate candidates and an incumbent governor. That mystery overwhelmed debate coverage and implicated the democratic opponent. I remember standing with other reporters outside of Rove’s building after his news conference to announce the revelation he was bugged. We all laughed about how amateurish it all appeared. And then we realized he had us because we had to report it straight; not the way we perceived the facts. When the FBI file was finally made public, it showed the bug on Rove’s wall had a battery with a life span of only six hours and just 15 minutes of it had been expended. Rove did it. But there are probably too many people who would have had to have been in on the fraud for him to make phony documents surface in CBS’s hands.

So, Rove, it turns out, might just be both lucky and good. His deceptive behavior through the years, involving everything from Swift Boat veterans to faux environmental groups made up of Bush donors, is not a sufficient rationale for others to enter lying into the political process. Nothing is. But that appears to be what has resulted from the persistent string of lies about the president’s time in the National Guard, should the CBS memos be proven false. Some of the good guys may not be the good guys any more. They may have become like their enemies. And in the process, they gave Rove what he needs to win. There is truth, however, in the fake memos. Witnesses, including commander Killian’s secretary, have said Lt. Bush defied an order to take his flight physical. The White House has not refuted what is in the memos. It has only attacked the legitimacy of the documents themselves. Republican congressional leaders, who asked no questions about faulty intelligence leading to the war with Iraq, are suddenly demanding investigations and hearings on the failings of CBS. Burkett told the Washington Post to not be so confident the Killian memos were forgeries. What does he know that he isn’t saying? Yet. Is it possible they are flawed transcriptions of real memos and the originals are being protected? And how would he know?

Or does he know?This has all worked very well for the Bush campaign. Reporters worried about the veracity of the Killian memos have not yet asked the president if he failed to obey a direct order to take his physical. And that’s a fair question, regardless of who wrote the Killian documents. Lt. Bush missed a physical and there has never been an explanation beyond Dan Bartlett’s lame argument of “formality.” This most glaring lie in the president’s resume, his time in the Texas Air National Guard, avoids intelligent scrutiny because memos raising the issue appear dubious.

Click here for the rest.



My former student, actually he's still in school, a senior at Baytown's Sterling High School, Miles, has become weary of making daily posts on his own blog, My Left Shoe. This I can understand: some days I'm like screw my blog; hardly anybody reads it anyway--those are the days I just slap up an excerpt and a link without much commentary, cheating really, but whatever. Anyway, Miles suggested that I might feature him as a guest blogger on a weekly basis and he would try to send some of his traffic my way. Well, I'm always hot for hits, and Miles is a cool and thoughtful guy, even if he is a bit too centrist for my taste, so I said okay. Miles even suggested that it might be a cool idea to have a Green/Democrat split here at Real Art from time to time (I'm the Green, of course), and he's right; this'll probably inspire some good posts on my part. Perhaps I should post Miles' stuff in a different font, to distinguish it from my about "courier?"

Here's Miles' first post (which is also on his blog; I guess he's having trouble giving it up):

As Income Gap Widens, Uncertainty Spreads

From Yahoo News:

"We don't know what the next big thing will be. When the manufacturing jobs were going away, we could tell people to look for tech jobs. But now the tech jobs are moving away, too," said Lori G. Kletzer, an economics professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz. "What's the comparative advantage that America retains? We don't have the answer to that. It gives us a very insecure feeling."

The government doesn't specifically track how many jobs have gone away. But other statistics more than hint at the scope of the change. For example, there are now about as many temporary, on-call or contract workers in the United States as there are members of labor unions. Another sign: Of the 2.7 million jobs lost during and after the recession in 2001, the vast majority have been restructured out of existence, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

My dad is a web developer, who's been working his whole adult life toward his career. He's also been laid off twice in the past year. The best my family can hope for now is a temp job here and there. As I type this out, he's in Dallas (a six hour drive) doing an interview because it's the closest job he could find.

Campaigning in the poverty-stricken farmlands of the midwest, Bush tells the residents "I can hear you". It's a sad state of the affairs when the best consolation the president can offer is "I promise I'm not completely ignoring you... this year."

Posted by Miles


Sunday, September 19, 2004

Still Unreported: The Pay-off in Bush Air Guard Fix

From the website of good guy journalist
Greg Palast:

This week, former Lt. Governor Ben Barnes of Texas 'fessed up to pulling the strings to keep Little George out of the jungle. "I got a young man named George W. Bush into the Texas Air Guard - and I'm ashamed."


That’s far from the end of the story. In 1994, George W. Bush was elected governor of Texas by a whisker. By that time, Barnes had left office to become a big time corporate lobbyist. To an influence peddler like Barnes, having damning information on a sitting governor is worth its weight in gold – or, more precisely, there’s a value in keeping the info secret.

Barnes appears to have made lucrative use of his knowledge of our President’s slithering out of the draft as a lever to protect a multi-billion dollar contract for a client. That's the information in a confidential letter buried deep in the files of the US Justice Department that fell into my hands at BBC television.

Here's what happened. Just after Bush's election, Barnes' client GTech Corp., due to allegations of corruption, was about to lose its license to print money: its contract to run the Texas state lottery. Barnes, says the Justice Department document, made a call to the newly elected governor's office and saved GTech's state contract.

The letter said, "Governor Bush ... made a deal with Ben Barnes not to rebid [the GTech lottery contract] because Barnes could confirm that Bush had lied during the '94 campaign."

here for the rest.

The media's obsession with "forgerygate" is really just a sideshow, distracting from the fact that Bush had his powerful family pull strings to get him into the fabled "Champaign" Air National Guard unit for rich kids trying to avoid service in Vietnam at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston: Bush couldn't even finish his service commitment, and later lied about it over and over again. The more info that comes out about this, the more undeniable it becomes. Bush is a deserter.



From Seattle journalist David Neiwert's blog
Orcinus, courtesy of Eschaton:

It's pretty funny, really, how right-wing bloggers are serially breaking their arms patting themselves on the back for having exposed "Forgerygate." Actually, all they've really managed to prove is P.T. Barnum's famous adage, perhaps recast as "There's a blogger born every minute."

Have any bloggers actually yet proven definitively that the CBS documents are fake?

Well, no. All they've been able to produce so far is a great deal of speculation, much of it later proven to be entirely without substance.

Times New Roman didn't exist in 1972? It existed in 1931.

You can create a nearly identical copy with MS Word? Perhaps that's because MS Word was designed to replicate an IBM typewriter.

Click here for the rest.

As I've said before this whole scandal thing is pretty weird especially because the main debunker of these "smoking gun" documents says that the content of the documents are true even though the documents themselves are fake.

To which I say, "Huh?"


Saturday, September 18, 2004


An exchange in which I involved myself in the comment section on my former student's blog, My Left Shoe '04:

Why didn't Kerry run on his senate record of the past 20 years?

Truthfully I really don't care what he did in Vietnam, how he got his medals and threw them away, but then didn't throw them away, how he hated serving because of the war crimes committed, but now he is a war hero, how he was for the war on terror but now is against the war, how he voted to fund our troops before he voted against it, blah blah blah.

All I want to know is what he did as a senator, to improve this country. What did he do to keep our military strenght the strongest in the world? Things along those lines. Things that happened 30 years ago, let them go, what can he do for us today?



He's not Bush. That's enough.



No ron that is not enough. There has to be more than he is not Bush for me to vote for him. Can you come up with something better than he is not Bush, because if you can't that is very sad.



No, not really.

You're right, it's very sad that we're put in the position of having to choose a slightly less corporate, slightly less hawkish, slightly less evil man to be president than Bush. But face it, Bush is so awful, what with destroying decades old alliances, driving the economy into the ground, making America much less safe by enraging Muslim populations world wide, removing important environmental protections, and much more, that there's really no choice: he's gotta go, and Kerry's the only one who can beat him.

At this point, it's simply immoral to vote for Bush, and if you don't agree, you're a fool.



I have to disagree with you, I believe the President has done a pretty good job up to this point.

The economy is like a roller coaster rides it goes up then it comes down. It went up during the Reagan years started to go down soon after he left off, it started to go back up during the beginning years of the Clinton administration then started to go down during the end of his administration, and now it is going back up. Whoever wins this next election will take the credit for improving the economy. If it is Bush his tax break have continued to work, if it is Kerry well the fact that he was elected turned the economy around.



I don't know about you but I don't expect anyone else in the world to stand up and defend America. We were attacked whether you want to believe it that or not, something had to be done. I don't want my President, and this applies for Gore had he been in office, to go out and seek permission from the world to do what is needed to defend America. I feel the response was needed and was right if the world doesn't like it well too bad. Iraq under Saddam had broken every UN resolution ever placed on it, the oil for food money that was suppose to be used to help the Iraqi people was instead used to payoff UN personel and some of the countries who turned against us when we went into Iraq. I understand you disagree with that but that is fine.



Test question

What kind of news sells, the good news or the bad?

The answer the bad news. You watch the nightly news and you are lead to believe that the whole nation of Iraq is against us. If you talk to the military personnel who have served in Iraq and they will paint a different story for you. Who am I to believe the guys who are there serving my country or someone who is just out to make some money? I prefer to believe those who are serving.

You now have to nations of free people. Afganastan and Iraq, the people there have new freedoms that they would never have had under there old govenment structures. Are they better off today than they were several years ago? Yes. Well they be better off five years from now than they are now? Yes. Would some have preferred to keep it the way it was? Yes. But, that goes with change.


Even in our countries fight for independence there were people who wanted it to stay the same. Are we better off now because of the change? Yes.Ron I do disagree with you but I'm no fool.



Now besides Kerry not being Bush why should I vote for him?



Look, Miller, you seem to be a nice guy, reasonable, too. Problem is, I don't really know how to talk to you: we live in totally different realities.

You talk about the economy like it's some strange force that ebbs and flows like a river. I see it as the cumulative effect of the specific policy decisions made by corporations and the politicians that they control with campaign contributions. What does "a good job" on the economy actually mean? I mean, how do you really know if the economy is good or bad? I say it's bad because the vast majority of Americans aren't reaping the benefits of "economic growth."

I might just as easily say the same thing for the Clinton years. After all, real wages have been stagnant for two decades now, and the health care crisis continues to drown working people. When you can't make ends meet, it doesn't matter if the economy is "good" or "bad."




Politics is all just talk in America, and you seem to be pretty good with the language.

You talk about defending America like we were fighting Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union or something. But we're not. Instead, we're dealing with the longtime effects of our "economy" eating up the people of the third world. America, and by that I mean the corporate interests that control our government, treats people as resources to be exploited.

Of course there's horrible terrorism directed against us! What else are they supposed to do? Lie back and take it?

Defending America, as you mean it, will only make things worse, only enrage already victimized populations. The only way to end the threat of terrorism is to spread America's wealth around the world, using our great might and endless supply of money to feed the hungry and heal the sick, rather than make more money off them.




Of course, I realize that will never happen, especially as long as regular guys like you, Miller, continue to talk the deviant language of American politics.

And you ask about the news? They're speaking the same twisted words! They talk about the "economy" and "spreading freedom"and "defending America," never realizing that they're not talking about anything at all.

Like I said, Miller, you seem to be a nice guy, but you believe what they taught you in school, that the US is a light for freedom and justice in the world, yadda yadda. To some extent, that's true, but that point of view simply ignores all the awful things done in our name. I want you to face the facts, Miller. America is both good and bad, and we can go no further as a nation until we redress what's bad about us. As the Bible says, we have a rail in our eye, and we go on and on about the mote in everybody else's eyes.




I blame Bush. I blame Gore. I blame Kerry. I blame Clinton. They're all in on it. Vote for whoever you want, Miller. It doesn't really matter, because things will go on just as they have, whatever happens.