30 June 2008

Mark Steyn off the “Hate Hook”

The case against author Mark Steyn and Maclean’s has been dropped. Charges equaling “hate speech” were brought against them in Canada’s crazy detour from free speech known as the Human Rights Commission. Christopher Warren’s article, linked above, gives a good background on the HRCs.

I hope that nothing even remotely like the HRCs come to the US. It would be a sad, sad day if they were to ideologically jump the border. In fact, I suspect that many a blogger would fall under foot, that there would be much less “free speech”, and that the ranks of “victims” in America would swell ever larger.

If you haven't, I strongly encourage you to read Mr. Steyn's book America Alone. Judge for yourself if his is "hate speech".

Gingrich's "Three Ways"

I found a link to this Youtube video on Neal Boortz's website. Some people may not like Mr. Gingrich. Some may think that he's a radical partisan (even though he recently did an ill-advised GW/CC spot with Nancy Pelosi). Whatever anyone thinks of him, it's hard to deny that the man has come up with some very good ideas in the past. He will probably continue this trend in the future. His "three ways to lower gas prices" is worth a view.

If you feel so inclined, as I do, to write your US Representative and Senators, you can get information here for your Rep. and here for your Senators.

29 June 2008

Rape and the Death Penalty

The end of the judicial “season” was a momentous one. The US Supreme Court upheld rights in interesting ways. Both by 5-4 margins, the Court extended habeas corpus rights to, presumably, every human being on the planet regardless of location or disposition, and ensured US citizen’s right to bear arms – albeit with limited (reasonable) exclusions.

Also by way of 5-4 decision, the Court struck down the death penalty for a man, one Patrick Kennedy of Louisiana, who raped his girlfriend’s then 8-year old child. The details of the crime are quite heinous. To say that the crime damaged the girl would be a profound understatement, even if only from a medical point of view. Yet the majority on the Court claimed that allowing a state to impose the death penalty for a criminal convicted of rape case amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, thus violating the US Constitution.

In the majority opinion, “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society” which guide cruel and unusual punishment is cited. What strikes me about this argument is that it hopes to impose through judicial interpretation a single standard of decency with regard to punishment across the entire nation. If, with full knowledge of “cruel and unusual punishment” front and center, the Supreme Court of Louisiana upholds the death penalty for Mr. Kennedy, how is it that the US Supreme Court can impose its “evolving standard of decency” upon the state? For a crime which, by its very nature, is quite beyond any decency, it seems to me that proper punishment can and should be decided by the state in which the crime was committed.

An argument can also be made that imposing the death penalty for any crime which does not, in fact, take a life may result in future criminals terminating their victims’ lives simply because there would be no greater punishment imposed. This seems like an argument with poor footing, as it presupposes knowledge of the criminal mind in the act. However, some may be persuaded by this argument – which is why allowing the individual states discretion with regard to proper punishment should be exercised instead of resorting to the US Supreme Court on the matter.

Finally, there are some that say that it is no matter – “prison justice” will visit Mr. Kennedy once he goes to the general population. This to me is a cop-out; it is trusting convicted criminals to do what the US Supreme Court has prohibited.

At least the state of Louisiana has decided to imprison Mr. Kennedy for life without the possibility of parole. This is not, as the majority opinion states, because it “preserve[s] the possibility that he and the system will find ways to allow him to understand the enormity of his offense.” It is, rather, a death sentence by other means. Unfortunately, Mr. Kennedy will be a ward of the state for much, much longer than if the state were allowed to impose its preferred punishment without federal interference.

27 June 2008

Fighting “Vouchers” in Texas

Recently, the Texas State legislature has devised a plan to help high school drop-outs go back to school and work toward a diploma. According to the Dallas Morning News (from May 08), Texas “has allocated about $6 million for dropout recovery grants that will be distributed to school districts, charter schools, universities, education service centers, and private schools operated by nonprofit organizations.” And therein lays the problem.

It’s not a money problem; the $6 million is separate from school funding. The problem is that, along with public school districts, the state has encouraged nonprofit private schools to apply for the funds. That smells like a voucher program to some. Somehow, the public is to believe that there is a slippery slope between this pilot program and public funding of private schools.

One of the more devious collusions envisioned comes from the Texas Freedom Network (a vaguely Orwellian name), which, according to the DMN story, say “the program's ‘loose rules’ would make it easy for parents to withdraw their children from public school and have them classified as dropouts so the state could pay tuition for them to attend private school.” If parents go through that much trouble to enroll their student in private school, doesn’t that put in boldface a problem at the public school?

No matter. Any program that would detour any money whatsoever away from the public school structure is anathema. That this program specifically targets former public school students who, for one reason or another, did not succeed in public schools is beside the point. That the proposed rules have some decent qualifiers for student participation (may not have dropped out of a private school, notarized affidavit requirement) appears to be beside the point as well. This is telling because it gives the lie to the claim by so many in the public school structure that “it’s all about the student”.

It’s not. It’s about money. $6 million is small potatoes in this game, but that number could certainly grow. That the public school structure would protest so loudly should make one ask “why?” Public schools want what amounts to sole rights to “double-dipping” when it comes to drop-out students. Why should anyone believe that they will do a better job putting an alternative-alternative educational program together?

Personally, I do not necessarily favor this drop-out recovery program. I’d rather see one that allows loans to students and parents which would be forgivable on program completion, i.e. high school graduation. Thus, non-completion would require loan repayment. Imagine that, teaching personal accountability to students who arguably need it more than most.

26 June 2008

Bizarre News Media Capitalism

One never knows what one will find on the web. While looking for news results for today’s Supreme Court ruling on the 2nd Amendment (which went the way it should have, in my humble opinion), I noticed a strange icon next to some stories on the CNN website. The icon looked like a t-shirt. Needless to say, I clicked. What I found was a shameless attempt to capitalize on headlines by CNN. I’m not sure how long the link will be active, so I took a screen shot (cropped down).

As of the moment, there are three "headlines" CNN finds suitable for t-shirt release. Along with the one pictured here, there's also "Gas scammers refill rentals with water" and "Women spin atop escalator handrails". Fine fodder for shirts, indeed. Somehow, I don't think I'll be buying one, nor do I think that this will make me want to read, or view, CNN any more than I previously did.

It's not that I don't support capitalism. Far from it. I'm an ardent believer that most of the time, the market brings the cream to the top and lets the dregs settle at the bottom. This t-shirt gimmick belongs down with the dregs.

[As a side note, this is my 300th post to this blog. Thanks to all that have read a post or two here over the past year and a half. Cheers! - Bob]

24 June 2008

Staged Climate Propaganda

Yesterday, Global Warming / Climate Change (GWCC) guru James Hansen gave a 20-year anniversary speech in Washington touting his expert view on what could stop man-made GWCC. According to the Washington Post, Mr. Hansen claims that we cannot stop the world from using oil “because that's owned by Russia and Saudi Arabia…But what we could do is stop the coal."

That’s right: stop using coal. Unless coal-fired power plants in the US capture CO2 emissions, Mr. Hansen wants to “[p]hase out coal as promptly as is practical.” His suggestion brings up an interesting dilemma: because we cannot stop “Russia and Saudi Arabia” from exporting oil, we ought to stop using coal ourselves and, presumably, stop allies like Australia from selling their coal abroad. From a cynical point of view, it would seem that Mr. Hansen’s goal is more to let others off the hook while holing Western democracies (India notwithstanding) responsible for “saving the planet from GWCC.”

Mr. Hansen’s answer for our power problem sans coal is – wait for it – “solar, wind and other renewable energy.” If that other renewable energy is not nuclear, and if that nuclear power is not the bulk of the replacement energy, then Mr. Hansen is simply full of hot air. But then again, I believe he is full of hot air anyway.

As a side note, it is very curious that, while Mr. Hansen advocates a self-imposed moratorium on coal, he sees energy executives as “criminals.” In an interview with the Guardian, Mr. Hansen posits, “When you are in that kind of position, as the CEO of one the primary players who have been putting out misinformation even via organisations that affect what gets into school textbooks, then I think that's a crime.” His statement has been inflated to mean that he would want energy firm bosses “put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature.” The hyperbole couldn’t get much higher.

To the contrary, the students I have taught are hyper-conscious of the environment. That sort of hyper-consciousness doesn’t happen by accident; it must be taught. Somehow, I don’t think that parents are going engaging in this activity. As might be expected, teens’ hyper-consciousness about the environment is largely displayed speech only – most teenagers couldn’t give a hoot what their personal actions do to the environment or most other things for that matter. Who to sue over that?

22 June 2008

The Two Voices of ElBaradei

In related stories reported by Fox News on Saturday, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Mohamed ElBaradei made two interestingly contradictory statements. Both regard middle east nations greatly suspected of hiding nuclear arms programs.

First, Mr. ElBaradei said, “We will go (to Syria) with open eyes and we will observe the facts ... All I ask of Syria is to show absolute transparency and help" the IAEA probe…I hope that Syria will take us to all the locations.” Note that the first public “transparency” of Syria’s suspected nuclear program came when (apparently) Israel bombed a site containing a clandestine reactor.

That hard fact, however, was derided by Mr. ElBaradei. From the same Fox News story: “ElBaradei again rebuked Israel for the bombing. ‘Before (Israel's) hitting Syria ... we could have had the time to go to Syria to investigate and learn of any covert Syrian reactor.’” Mr. ElBAradei’s wishful, toothless, subjunctive thinking does nothing to dissuade countries with nuclear ambitions, especially autocratic regimes.

Sometimes, the one thing that can discourage the nuclear ambitions of rouge countries is military action. Israel has twice shown the foresight and courage to undertake such missions. Recent Israeli military exercises over the Mediterranean and Greece may indicate their willingness to undertake a third, this time against Iran. But in anticipation of such a possibility, another Fox News article reports Mr. ElBaradei warned that “a military strike will be the worst ... it will turn the Middle East to a ball of fire.” Mr. Elbaradei may even resign if such an attack occurs.

These two comments, to the best of my knowledge, were made by Mr. Elbaradei on the same day.

What I take from this is that Mr. Elbaradei would rather talk his way, negotiate his way, into a nuclear-armed Iran than actually prevent such a development. His own contention is that anything but negotiations will result in a region-wide war. At the same time as he warns against taking any military action against Iran, he hopes that Syria will be open and honest with the IAEA.

There is one important difference between Iran and Syria; Syria’s reactor site was hit and Iran is at the moment still closed – to inspectors or armed intervention. As the IAEA has no teeth, there is no need for Iran to open its doors. Syria had its doors kicked in, and now the IAEA may take a peek about.

Please note that I am not advocating military action against any and every country suspected of this and that. That sort of thinking is simplistic and highly dangerous. There are many ways to resolve difficult issues, such as Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But the means must have teeth – political, economic, and in the last resort, military. Mr. Elbaradei would use a toothless mouth to negotiate, warning that taking overt measures only results in “ball[s] of fire”. Such toothless negotiations are empty, as has been demonstrated again and again.

21 June 2008

Selling Brand Obama

(Photo credit: AP)

A picture can say so much. I normally like to rely on words to get a point across, but this picture of Sen. Obama and his self-propagandizing pseudo-presidential seal spoke to me. It told me an unsettling story.

His recent adoption and adaptation of the Presidential Seal is only the most recent and visible self-aggrandizing twists that Mr. Obama would sell to the public as the most immediate possibility of our political salvation. We are to believe, simply on the face value of his slogans, that he will change the country.

Notice that all of the aspects of candidate Obama over-stamp the traditional seal. There are no stars and stripes covering a shield in the center of the eagle, a position of importance. Instead, the Obama campaign logo serve as the centerpiece. The Obama campaign makes his person encompassing – his name and his website surround the eagle. The familiar and purposeful “e pluribus unum”, a truly unifying statement because it is based on diversity, is replaced with the Latin version of Obama’s “yes, we can” slogan. What "we" can do is not specified, and that is by design. As long as the pronoun is plural, "we" must assume it is something we would want to do. After all, candidate Obama is the "unifying" candidate.

The evolving Obama story is scary to me because of Mr. Obama’s ongoing process branding himself (as in name-brand) as the hope of America. He has made himself, with much help from the media, as the “post-racial” candidate of “change” and “hope”. Indeed, the name-brand that is Obama has been pushed forward as the candidate himself has receded into seclusion. What the electorate is left with is the image, the brand, of “change” and “hope”. That is calculated. And as the process goes forward, candidate Obama may very well be asked less and less formidable questions. Much as no one wonders what a Coca-Cola tastes like, much of the mainstream media will only assume that “change” and “hope” are at the core of everything he does.

Questioning candidate Obama, as can be read in his own words, equals “fear” of his youth, his inexperience and his racial background. The candidate, his brand-name, has been placed above all questioning. All of that questioning “just divides us.”

The resulting cult of personality may bring into the White House a new kind of president and a very, very different America – change undeniably.

Obama's Funding Gambit

Originally posted on the American Thinker website.

The day after Sen. Obama announced that he would not take public financing for the general election, part of his overall plan for the general election came into focus. MoveOn-dot-org announced that “it's time to close [their] 527 forever”. The stated reason is their belief that small, individual donations are the way to go in this election. MoveOn endorsed Mr. Obama in February.

There is some fine political maneuvering in this Obama shift away from public financing – which he assured everyone he would take. First and most obvious, Mr. Obama will be able to personally spend as much money as he can pull in, and he has shown the ability to pull in plenty.

With MoveOn leading the way in closing their 527, one can reasonably expect the Obama campaign to gain that money as well. That will end up being a boatload of centralized cash.

And that centralization is important for Mr. Obama. His is a carefully crafted brand that needs protection and preservation. Groups like MoveOn have a history of creating ads that offend Americans of various political stripes. Transferring its ad buying dollars to the Obama campaign, MoveOn also relieves the campaign of worrying about the political impact of another “Gen. Betray-Us” type ad. This, however, may only be a half-measure, as MoveOn’s political action committee has recently aired another “100-years” ad targeting Sen. McCain. Time will tell if MoveOn can be kept on the Obama Campaign’s leash.

Lastly, and most importantly, MoveOn is one of the more readily recognized political “not-for-profit” groups anywhere on the political continuum. If they chose, surely in consultation with the Obama campaign, to close their 527 shop, then Mr. Obama can more realistically refer to 527’s in a one-sided manner. Ironically, from Mr. Obama’s newly discovered paradigm, 527 groups become a tactic of “old Washington” – though they are a rather recent creation of McCain-Feingold.

So once again, Mr. Obama will attempt to have his cake (and the cake of others), eat it, too. He’ll attempt to demonstrate just how well centralized control and execution can propel a brand name – his own. He is creating a political safe zone for his brand, his campaign. What’s more, he has the audacity to sell the spin that his opposition is forcing him into this situation, thus deflecting blame onto his opponent. Time will tell if Mr. Obama’s spin sticks and if his centrally controlled bubble can hold together until after the general election.

20 June 2008

Reflections on the Year: 80-10-10

I have written a fair bit in the past about the downsides of public secondary education. I fear that I may have somewhat miscolored the situation as a whole. An 80-10-10 split may more accurately portray the situation, especially with regard to students entering the secondary stage of their education.

Given the public education framework we have at the moment, I feel that 80% of students can be fairly well served in what most would consider “traditional” classrooms. What the “traditional” classroom becomes in the future is open for debate – and ought to be. More on that later.

But that leaves 20%, or 10 and 10. I would say that 10% of potential students do not belong in a “traditional” classroom whatsoever. This is largely because of self-inflicted discipline problems. Regardless of the source of cause of the problems, students in this group must, for the sake of the 80%, be removed from traditional classrooms unless and until they choose to control their behavior and participate in their education.

The other 10 is comprised of students who do not fit or are not served well by the traditional classroom. Students fall into this 10% for a multitude of reasons. Where they differ greatly from the previous 10% is that any (or most) behavior problems they have tend not to disrupt traditional classrooms to any extent. These students are simply better served outside of the traditional classroom.

For all of my soap-box standing and reasoned ranting against the discipline 10%-ers, I truly enjoy teaching the 80%-ers. They are the reason that most teachers wake and walk into the classroom day after day. They are the reason why many teachers spend significant summer hours searching for ways to become better teachers.

They are also the reason to reform the “traditional classroom.” The 80%-ers deserve a rigorous, varied and life-preparatory education that reflects both local character and national heritage. How to achieve that will be an on-going debate, but the reason for reform is clear: the rule-abiding, mainstream 80%-ers deserve nothing less.

18 June 2008

Congressional Techniques: OPEC and the WTO, Nationalization

If at first a politically driven legal method does not succeed (right away), try, try again. That’s what eleven senators – ten Democrats and one independent (I wonder who that was…) – have on slate at the moment. From the AP:

"The refusal of OPEC nations who are members of the WTO to play by these rules is inexcusable, and they must be held accountable," said the senators in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

The group, led by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said the White House should direct Schwab to file a complaint with the WTO against the oil producers.

Gretchen Hamel, spokeswoman for the Office of U.S. Trade Representative, said "We have considered this before and remain of the view that under WTO rules filing a (complaint) case cannot be an effective course of action."

In other words, that’s already been thought of – quietly – by the Representative’s office and rejected. I would think that the eleven senators or their staffs might have attempted some communication with the Trade Rep’s office before this “announcement.” Because there apparently was none, I can only assume that this ploy was more a political maneuver than a serious attempt to address the country’s energy issues.

OPEC is only a problem when there is a perceived oil crisis. There is, of course, collusion on the part of OPEC members; it has probably been going on since OPEC’s inception way back in 1960. The cartel was formed to help stabilize oil prices for the benefit of member nations. Surely these eleven senators – ten Democrats and one independent – realize this…surely they knew this before launching their WTO effort.

To take this one step further, what would these eleven senators suppose world opinion would be if the U.S. took oil-producing nations to task for unfair trading practices? By their own party doctrine, shouldn’t they consider the international reaction to the U.S. making such a unilateral power-play?

In a related note, during a press conference regarding President Bush’s request that Congress lift domestic drilling bans, Democrat House Representative Maurice Hinchey said (source, Fox News): “We (the government) should own the refineries. Then we can control how much gets out into the market.”

There are three obvious criticisms here. First, the U.S. practices capitalism; for a taste of “well-run, state owned refineries”, see Venezuela and Iran. Second, the same body that refuses to change regulations concerning domestic drilling should never be trusted to run all (or for that matter, any) domestic refineries. Last, surely the government has enough on its plate to deal with – standard “governing” things like defense, immigration, reforming already existing bureaucratic monstrosities. There is no need, time, or space for our government to pick up another piece to juggle…poorly.

So, ten Democrat Senators want to take OPEC to the WTO for price collusion, and one Democrat Representative wants to nationalize gas refineries so that domestic supplies can be completely government regulated. Perhaps these folks could get together and figure out their party stance on collusion, inter- and intra-national. Why would we, the people, desire complete government control over domestic gas supplies while at the same time remove foreign governments’ collective control over their own natural resources? The double-think required by Senate Democrats is astounding.

Close Encounter with BDS

Charles Krauthammer described Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) in December 2003 as: “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency -- nay -- the very existence of George W. Bush” (italics in the original). Until quite recently, I had never experienced this phenomenon first-hand.

I won’t go into the particulars of the encounter too much. Let it be said that my interlocutor is an educated person who, apart from this conversation, is just an average, self-described liberal. This person and I have had a few charged conversations before, but they all went off without any ill feeling afterwards.

I do not list the following particulars as an attack of any kind on the person who shared them with me. Rather, I hope to show the lack of logic resident in this point of view; the source of this lack of logic is hyper-emotional thinking. The following are paraphrases.

- Bush is a fascist and the U.S. is under his dictatorship. (For more on the roots of fascism, I highly recommend reading Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg.)
- Bush and his cronies monitor civilian activity in the U.S. The Patriot Act is proof of this.
- The Iraq War was designed and has been extended to enrich Bush, Cheney, and their friends.
- The military-industrial complex enriches Bush, Cheney, and their friends through no-bid contracts to Haliburton.
- (Notwithstanding all of the above) Bush is an idiot.

I feel compelled to describe the crescendo of the conversation in more detail. My interlocutor charged that Mr. Bush is still a practicing alcoholic. As proof, I was shown a video (on a cell phone) of the President at a wedding reception, circa 2003. My interlocutor urged me while I watched the video to admit that Mr. Bush was obviously drunk and slurring. There was no sign of alcohol visible in the video. Having been to many a wedding myself and watched more than a few Bush Q&A sessions, the President seemed like his usual self – slightly hesitant and wary of saying something which might be not quite right – and quite sober. For this observation, I was politely told that I was something akin to blind.

It occurs to me that, much in line with rational thinkers elsewhere, it is utterly impossible to reason with BDS afflicted persons. Theirs is beyond reason, built on the assumption that all evil in American finds its focus and source in President Bush (and his VP). If the focus of this affliction were any other person, it would be equally irrational. That its focus is the current president is, if nothing else, damaging to the country.

What is troubling is that as the political process moves forward, the Left will attempt – indeed, already is attempting – to directly equate Sen. McCain to President Bush. Obviously, this is being done for election year reasons and without regard for the true differences between the two men.

However, if successful, those afflicted with BDS will have the opportunity to smoothly morph their current derangement into MCCDS. While this may prove immensely comfortable for BDS sufferers, it would not be a healthy prescription for the nation.

13 June 2008

On Vacation

Sorry folks. On vacation at the moment. I'll be back next week with new posts.

As always, thanks for reading.


09 June 2008

Reflections on the Year: Relevance

This school year, I heard the term “relevant” quite a bit. As a teacher, I was supposed to teach things that were relevant to the students, things that they would find interesting, important, and immediately applicable. The curriculum backed this up. There were “all about me” projects for the students throughout the year. One would think that the students were being studied, not literature or writing. The first person singular seemed all-important for some reason.

These projects seemed silly to me for one important reason: what is relevant should not be given over to students to choose. As a teacher, it is my job to use meaningful exercises which instruct students how to read, write, and think. While some might think that students can (and should) be able to choose how they learn, I would submit that what students generally want is excitement. All things being equal, a student will tend to choose the most entertaining, least academically demanding route through the day. That is what is “relevant” to the student – unless he has been taught otherwise.

As a teacher, it is my job to teach them otherwise. Most students – over 90% I would guess – would never choose to read and discuss Romeo and Juliet. Indeed, it is far from my favorite Shakespeare. But it is meaningful; it has relevance. The characters, conflicts, and themes are all timeless. And when students realize this, when they crack open the questions within the play, then their lives are enriched.

Some students probably think I’m a stick in the mud. I do not have assignments where they analyze the lyrics of pop songs; we read and discuss Dickenson and Frost instead. However, I hope that through being exposed to writing and thoughts deeper than the shallow pool of the everyday world they choose to take a closer look at their everyday world. In doing so, I hope that in some small way, one or two may recognize the shallow messages around them (in television, pop music, etc.) for what they are. I also hope that they choose to seek relevance in their own lives, with the examples of timeless pieces of literature as their base. Without these, I fear they may be rudderless on rough seas.

06 June 2008

A Short Conversation

Every once in a while I find myself by chance in a conversation which ends up being quite enlightening. One happened on the last day of school while I stood morning duty – keeping the peace, so to speak. I stepped over to speak to a young man, just to let him know that I was there. A portion of the conversation went as follows (my words in italics):

“Best not stand close to me. I’m a gangster.”
“What does that mean? What is a gangster? What does one do?”
“I strike.”
“You mean, like a snake?”
“Like a match.”

The student's choice of simile hit me like a brick, and as I walked away from the student, I wrote it down. The student’s image of himself striking out is probably far different than mine. His equating his own action with a match instead of a snake may be telling. A snake does not consume itself when it strikes. A match only strikes once, then it is used up. Essentially, it strikes out the first time. The double meaning there is quite appropriate for the young “gangster” class of young men and women coming of age today. They may strike and burn, but the acts themselves are self-consuming. The charred remains are less then functional.

I fully realize that the student did not in any way craft this simile for any specific purpose. I realize as well that I may be reading far too much into this simple conversation. But these ideas are important, and the consequences of what our kids buy into are of paramount importance. If these ideas use them up, they may well never have the chance to amend their ethics, to understand that the gangster lifestyle is essentially a dead end.

05 June 2008

On Being an Environmental(ist) Pig

State-sponsored environmentalist indoctrination has publicly reached a new low in Australia. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has put up a site called “Planet Slayer” which is intended for children. Interestingly, the page is listed in the “science” section of the ABC website.

The most reported (on Fox News’ Special Report and Boortz’s site) section of the site asks the web-browsing public to “Use our greenhouse calculator to find out when you should die!” (my emphasis). The calculator uses a pig graphic to demonstrate where the tester rates on the scale. If a person takes this test and does not own or use a car, eat meat, live alone, or spend money, then perhaps he could live a long, green life, according to the website. I should have died, according to the website, at 1.5 years of age. Apparently because I bought a house and a car over the past year, I’ve damaged the environment in sundry ways and ought to have spared the planet my existence not long after birth. Indeed, my mother should have seen this coming and…done the right thing for the planet.

If the “Planet Slayer” website doesn’t seem anti-human, perhaps I’m beating my head against the wall. Of course, the designers of the site may defend themselves by saying that children love hyperbole, and this is why the site uses such shocking ideas as “you should [have died] at age 1.5.”

All that aside, here’s an interesting, underlying concept being pushed on the test page. Question 11 of the test is a sliding bar for spending habits. If what the website considers an average person tithes just 47% of his income to “stuff that’s better for the environment” and “ethical investments,” then that person is environmentally acceptable and may live until the age of 77. No tithing? Then he ought to have died at age 9.3.

So, it really is all about the money. Money spent in certain ways is classified as evil, planet-hating and ultimately self-destructive. Money spent in other ways – ways which enrich the high church of Global Warming / Climate Change – will lead to longer life. It’s not eternal bliss in the light of God, but it’s a start.

There are more indoctrination fun and games on the ABC site – some of which are contradictory. For instance, beer drinkers are mocked in one section, but at least drinking beer is more environmentally sound than drinking wine. The “This is Your Lifestyle” section asks the viewer to “See how much you suck.” But the first question about buying a new car or keeping an old one offers no better choice, only bad and worse. Buying shirts offers the same bad choices. One wonders where the big-picture logic is in the website's line of thinking. Of course, there really isn't one. "Save the planet" means doing and believing what environmentalists say when they say it. And surely there's nothing political about that, right?

And, I’m sure the ABC does not intend to feature images of Che Guevara for any specific reason. It’s more of a fashion thing, like the anti-Bush costume in one section. There’s nothing political about those things…right?

What is obvious is that the creators of “Planet Slayer” push a specific lifestyle – I’ll call it an enviro-tithing, vegetarian, communal living, anti-capitalist lifestyle. They do so by using tactics that are questionable at best, especially because they are targeting young viewers. While such tactics are easily transparent to older, more sensible viewers, they are probably not so to the young. That this is government sponsored (the ABC is somewhat like the BBC, if I’m not mistaken) is troubling. It makes me wonder if PBS has the same drivel out there on its website.

04 June 2008

A Public Service Announcement (from Ahmadinejad)

Just in case it was missed in all the hubbub about Sen. Obama’s number of pledged delegates, here’s some words from Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (source: AFP):

"I must announce that the Zionist regime (Israel), with a 60-year record of genocide, plunder, invasion and betrayal is about to die and will soon be erased from the geographical scene.”

"Today, the time for the fall of the satanic power of the United States has come and the countdown to the annihilation of the emperor of power and wealth has started."
These are the real words from the real mind of the public leader (notwithstanding the mullahs in the background) of a soon-to-be nuclear state. Not very comforting for those of us who live in Israel or the US.

Yet we will be told again and again as we have been in the past that this is all bombast for the cameras, that he really doesn’t mean it. We will be told that Iran’s nuclear ambitions are too far off for us to really worry about them now; we should really hold off taking any action, indeed even imposing serious sanctions. Just hold off and let things develop. Or, in a more “aggressive” move, talk directly with Mr. Ahmadinejad. Surely this man can be reasoned with, negotiated with, without preconditions.

I for one take the man at his word. He, of his own admission, would like to wipe Israel off the face of the earth and defeat the US in any way possible. Iran’s allies – Syria, Hezbolla, and Hamas – share the same vision. I don’t think it is that difficult to understand, but it is difficult to combat, even if the US were part of a solid alliance against such entities. That the US is not only makes the job impossibly difficult, if not just plain impossible.

02 June 2008

Reflections on the Year: Speaking and Silence

One of the most surprising lessons I’ve learned this school year is the importance of silence in teaching and learning. This year and in years past, I’ve practiced a “talking out” process to help students find answers and think things through. I’ve found that this process can be very helpful, especially when students are learning new concepts or procedures. It is also helpful when students are forming ideas and pre-writing. But when students are internalizing concepts and procedures, my silence – and the resulting silence of the student – can help far more than discussion.

I’m no educational psychologist, but I believe that well-timed silence has resulted in a better classroom. In fact, the more balance that I have between classroom (or one-on-one) discussion time and structured quiet time, the more engaged the students are and the more that they learn. This is because they have the luxury, in silence, of absorbing what’s being taught.

The interesting thing for me is that I have been, to a great extent, the limiting factor in creating quiet time. I realized that I tend to get bored. I also find it fascinating to talk with students about what they’re learning and what they know. Normally, boredom combined with a desire to understand is a good thing, but not necessarily when it’s the teacher.

01 June 2008

The Last Word on McClellan

I realize this has probably been posted to countless blogs, but I wanted to count mine among them. In an open letter to former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan, Senator Bob Dole cuts through any politically correct "fat" there may have been on the issue of Mr. McClellan's bound paper money-maker. After reading the letter, there is really nothing left to say on the matter. Mr. Dole nails it.

(From Jeffrey Mark's blog)


There are miserable creatures like you in every administration who don't have the guts to speak up or quit if there are disagreements with the boss or colleagues. No, your type soaks up the benefits of power, revels in the limelight for years, then quits, and spurred on by greed, cashes in with a scathing critique.

In my nearly 36 years of public service I've known of a few like you. No doubt you will "clean up" as the liberal anti-Bush press will promote your belated concerns with wild enthusiasm. When the money starts rolling in you should donate it to a worthy cause, something like, "Biting The Hand That Fed Me." Another thought is to weasel your way back into the White House if a Democrat is elected. That would provide a good set up for a second book deal in a few years.

I have no intention of reading your "exposé" because if all these awful things were happening, and perhaps some may have been, you should have spoken up publicly like a man, or quit your cushy, high profile job. That would have taken integrity and courage but then you would have had credibility and your complaints could have been aired objectively. You're a hot ticket now but don't you, deep down, feel like a total ingrate?


Obama: Having Cake and Eating It, Too

On Saturday, Senator Obama somewhat quietly resigned from the Trinity United Church. It is probably supposed to be the last act of the drama regarding the two, which began when videos of the former pastor of that church, Jeremiah Wright, began to circulate and the political views of the church came into the light. These views were reinforced by Mr. Wright at a National Press Club event in April and again one week ago today by the visiting Catholic, Michael Pfleger.

I realize what I’m about to claim is horribly cynical. It does not give Mr. Obama the benefit of the doubt; indeed, it assumes that the most calculatingly political motives reside in the man.

Mr. Obama resigning from the Trinity United Church in Chicago is an empty gesture. It is empty because Mr. Obama can do it without truly distancing himself from those people who have caused the uproar because of their beliefs.

Both Mr. Wright and Mr. Pfleger are long-time spiritual (and one must assume political) mentors to Mr. Obama.

Mr. Wright, as Mr. Obama continually urged us to consider after the first round of uproar, is no longer the pastor at Trinity. Therefore, Mr. Obama can still stand by his words that he could “no more disown him than I can disown the black community.” Mr. Pfleger, though a regular at Trinity, is a Catholic priest – one wonders why and how, but those thoughts are for another post. Mr. Obama’s resignation from Trinity, therefore, does not necessarily distance him at all from Mr. Pfleger.

The cynic in me says that this is all symbolism and zero substance. I’m not surprised. In my view, Mr. Obama’s campaign has been run on just that concept. And despite his claim that he is post-racial and un-political, he is indeed the polar opposite. His 20-year membership in a black liberation theology church should dispel the former; his cha-cha to find a third way concerning his mentors, his church, and his ambition should dispel the latter.