Monday, November 06, 2006

Final Shots... let's show them what we're made of...

I will be glad when this election is over... though it may take us a decade to get the mess cleaned up, budgets balanced, courts neutral again, the civil service and officer corps re-professionalized, our international reputation and popularity back up to levels that we'll need in order to restore alliances and trust and lead again... and so on...

I look forward to non-political postings and topics like the long-delayed series on "Theological Questions in an Age of Science." But still...

...these are the times that try men's souls... If Thomas Paine were alive today, he would recognize the urgency of fighting new aristocratic lords and cronies of the king, who would take away our rights and turn our great experiment into one more tedious pyramid of inherited privilege. Alas, he is NOT alive. So some of us must channel for him, guessing, imagining, knowing what he would say.

Here are some final comments and items and bullets. Use them well.

== The Iraq War ==

More on the stunning article in January’s Vanity Fair, in which Rummy’s Iraq war cheerleaders, “Cakewalk” Ken Adelman and Richard “Nix Blix” Perle, are falling all over themselves to knife the Pentagon boss who (they say) betrayed all of their fond hopes for a supremely competent Pax Americana, militantly spreading utopian values around this benighted world. Scaling new heights in the annals of Now They Tell Us, the two men blame the “dysfunctional” Bush team for the “disaster” in Iraq and say that if they had known then what we all know now (and what some of us knew then), they never would have pushed to invade Iraq.

Bright dingbats. Writhing rationalizers. But they are welcome. After all, they are here when we (civilization) need them. Their reasons for standing up may be infantile and whiney... but they are here, now, standing up.

Toward the end of this election-eve posting, I will cite another voice from the right who is stepping up... well, partly, in a nervous dance that does not get full points, but at least may help you talk to that wavering conservative who is still on your last minute arm-twist list. See below who I’m talking about; but first, some brief points.

Speaking of neocon dopiness, put the lie to “nobody expected to need more troops!” Professionals and adults expected it, all right. And yet, to me it is distilled (as I’ve said before) by the plight of the U.S. THIRD INFANTRY DIVISION. During the initial invasion of Iraq, those heroes did the work of an entire armored corps, saving Donald Rumsfeld’s hash, so that he could caper and crow and proclaim “Mission Accomplished.” Their reward? Relentless deployments in a purgatory of danger and ingratitude. Push this in the face of goppers who screeched at Clinton for putting too-few tanks in Somalia, resulting in 10 (that’s t-e-n) extra US troops lost there. That was bad. THIS is orders of magnitude worse.

== And more ==

Along similar lines, Russ Daggatt is really on: ”So let me get this straight. Shiite radical mullah Sadr, who heads the militia believed to be holding a US serviceman, is a key supporter of the Iraqi prime minister who orders the US military to back off from its search for the US serviceman believed to be held by Sadr's forces. And the US complies?!!? And nobody on the right complains? Can you imagine if this happened under the watch of, say, Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter? The entire right-wing noise machine would be going ballistic! (Even more than when John Kerry flubs a joke.)”

"President Bush demanded that Kerry apologize. Can you imagine that -- Bush demanding an apology for someone stumbling over his words? ... Kerry should have tried the Bush strategy: say so many stupid things, no one cares anymore." --Jay Leno

In addition... Bechtel, the giant engineering company, is leaving Iraq. Its mission — to rebuild power, water and sewage plants — wasn’t accomplished: Baghdad received less than six hours a day of electricity last month, and much of Iraq’s population lives with untreated sewage and without clean water. But Bechtel, having received $2.3 billion of taxpayers’ money and having lost the lives of 52 employees, has come to the end of its last government contract. (And, mind you, they are absolute pros compared to Haliburton!)

Paul Krugman comments: As for how this could have happened, that’s easy: major contractors believed, correctly, that their political connections insulated them from accountability. Halliburton and other companies with huge Iraq contracts were basically in the same position as Donald Rumsfeld: they were so closely identified with President Bush and, especially, Vice President Cheney that firing or even disciplining them would have been seen as an admission of personal failure on the part of top elected officials. As a result, the administration and its allies in Congress fought accountability all the way. Now, Congress has passed a bill whose provisions include the complete elimination of the Inspectorate whose job it is to shine light on contract abuse....

You can see why a Democratic takeover of the House provokes terror: suddenly, committee chairmen with subpoena power would be in a position to investigate where all the Iraq money went. Ooooooh. But then, there are those pardons.

Back to Daggatt: So, two days before the election they sentence Saddam. By contrast, what have the Republicans pushed off until after the election? 

See the following:
The National Intelligence Estimate on the Iraq War.
The Jim Baker Iraq Study Group report.
The Mark Foley Ethics Committee investigation report.

Also, the IRS is postponing notification of back taxes to Katrina victims until after the election.

And the Agriculture Department's "Hunger Report" (usually released in October) has also been pushed back until after the election.

Man, if they are holding back the BAD NEWS until after the election, we're really in trouble.

== Stand up for Civilization ==

All right, back to that teaser from the beginning of the posting.

Last time I spoke unfavorably of how some other intellectuals of the right have failed us by obstinately refusing to recognize their duty to stand up, when their nation and civilization needs them. (Indeed, to save their conservative movement from spiralling into hell.) One of those I’ve mentioned was George Will, who oscillates frenetically, between sage and rationalizing apologist. Recently, Will took a turn toward the former, when he wrote in a New York Times book review (10/06):

“Brooke Allen, an author and critic who has distilled her annoyance into Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers.” It is a wonderfully high-spirited and informative polemic that, as polemics often do, occasionally goes too far. Her thesis is that the six most important founders — Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton — subscribed, in different ways, to the watery and undemanding Enlightenment faith called deism. That doctrine appealed to rationalists by being explanatory but not inciting: it made the universe intelligible without arousing dangerous zeal.”

Here are some more excerpts from this piece by Will, who is apparently, like Bob Woodward, trying to redeem himself as the Old Union and the Enlightenment rebel against the monstrosity that conservatism has become,

“Eighteenth-century deists believed there was a God but, tellingly, they frequently preferred synonyms for him — “Almighty Being” or “Divine Author” (Washington) or “a Superior Agent” (Jefferson). Having set the universe in motion like a clockmaker, Providence might reward and punish, perhaps in the hereafter, but does not intervene promiscuously in human affairs. (Washington did see “the hand of Providence” in the result of the Revolutionary War.) Deists rejected the Incarnation, hence the divinity of Jesus. “Christian deist” is an oxymoron.

“What Allen calls Washington’s “famous gift of silence” was particularly employed regarding religion. But his behavior spoke. He would not kneel to pray, and when his pastor rebuked him for setting a bad example by leaving services before communion, Washington mended his ways in his austere manner: he stayed away from church on communion Sundays. He acknowledged Christianity’s “benign influence” on society, but no ministers were present and no prayers were uttered as he died a Stoic’s death.

“...In 1781, the Articles of Confederation acknowledged “the Great Governor of the World,” but six years later the Constitution made no mention of God. When Hamilton was asked why, he jauntily said, “We forgot.” Ten years after the Constitutional Convention, the Senate unanimously ratified a treaty with Islamic Tripoli that declared the United States government “is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”

... “Christianity, particularly its post-Reformation ferments, fostered attitudes and aptitudes associated with popular government. Protestantism’s emphasis on the individual’s direct, unmediated relationship with God, and the primacy of individual conscience and choice, subverted conventions of hierarchical societies in which deference was expected from the many toward the few. But beyond that, America’s founding owes much more to John Locke than to Jesus.”

== Hypocrisy reigns ==

And, finally, as long as we’re on the topic of sanctimonious hypocrisy... alas... there are downsides even to giggle news. While it seems righteous and right for the self-righteous to get comeuppance -- and specifically, for the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Pastor Ted Haggard, to be revealed having had a three-year relationship with a male prostitute that include the use of crystal meth -- in fact, Pastor Ted has been among the leaders in the evangelical movement in drawing attention to the climate crisis. So even when we win... we lose.

Ah well. Nevertheless, the hypocrisy is too rich to let go. Dare your friends to compare this to Monica-gate... at any level, and by any criterion, whatsoever. Watch the contortions ensue!

On second thought... maybe we should stop trying to convert “sincere conservatives” at this point. If they haven’t yet realized what’s going on... that it is time to take great-grandpa’s blue uniform out of the trunk and put it on, while singing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”... then they have already decided which country and century they want to live in. And it ain’t America. And it ain’t the future.

Turn your efforts to get-out-the-vote. Check on your friends till they find your nagging irksome. Prod the angry cynics off their lazy duffs and drag them to the polls.

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
Franklin D. Roosevelt

"The only thing we have is fear."
George W. Bush

People. We have done better.

We can do better.



Anonymous said...

On the last few election days, I brought to work a few dozen fancy jumbo cookies. I put them out in the company break rooms in wicker baskets lined with red, white, and blue dessert napkins.

Next to each basket I'd put a paper plate full of ginger snaps or vanilla wafers from the Dollar Store.

And a sign, instructing voters to have a fancy cookie, and non-voters to have a ginger snap.

This year, I thought I'd get more ambitious. I bought some Pillsbury cake mix and tubs of frosting and make four chocolate layer cakes.

I put two of them in sealable plastic containers a caterer had used to deliver sandwiches to a lunch. Sturdy, clean, and airtight. I put them out on the balcony to keep them cool and out of the way.

A few minutes ago I thought I'd get a head start and brought them to the car. One of the containers that was on the balcony . . . sloshed.

The container was airtight, but not water tight. The cake inside was sitting in a pool of murky brown fluid.




David Brin said...

...and he'll (EVERYBODY!) never know the recipe again... oh...noooooooooo!

Stefan, you are a good guy and good citizen. And you live in Oregon, for $%#@$# sakes! Oregon. It's okay, really.

Anonymous said...

I tried looking for that song on one of those internet lyric databases, but I couldn't find it.

Could powers beyond our ken be protecting us from the errors of our past?

Anonymous said...

I'll be voting, with my fingers crossed and hoping that my faith in then humainty and sanity of my fellow Americans is valid and we return to our sanity.

As Thomas Jefferson said over two decades ago (and I may have run across originally reading this blog, but bears repeating anyway), and is every bit as important (and eerily similar to) today as it was back then:

A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt. If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake."
Thomas Jefferson From a letter of 1798, after the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

I will do my sacred duty to vote in an informed and carefully considered manner, and have been actively encoruaging friends and family to do the same.

Best of luck to us all, and to the foundations of America and the enlightenment ideals we all cherish which are at the heart of our republic.

Citizen James

David Brin said...

Citizen J... very inspiring. May I quote Jefferson? ;-)


Anonymous said...

I demand cake with my democratic ticket vote.


Rob Perkins said...

Stefan, Stefan, Stefan, Stefan,

We've been having the autumn rains here, man. How could you not remember how very very wet it gets? :-)


No, really! :-)

I have an assurance from my friend in Ohio that he's going all Dems this time. But he has no confidence in them. Says they'll just go corrupt just like the Republicans there have.

Tony Fisk said...

All this talk of gardening, and rain (not to mention cake) has got we of the 'real' deep south envious.

We also have an election looming ( not quite as momentous as your show). One of the big issues? (MonkeyBoy will love this!)...


Official: SE Australia is now in the midst of the worst drought in 1000 years. It is possible that the Murray-Darling basin is set to run dry by the end of this summer.

In microcosm, have a look at the Melbourne catchment records, and you'll see the trouble started a year ago (although good rains at the start of spring masked it)

If the trends continue as they are, a city of 3 million people will be out of water in ten year's time.

Climate change is watching a full-on dust storm descending on you.

(It happened in 1983. You can simulate it quite well at home: sight your eye along a desk, spread out your hand on the desk, and move it towards you. Imagine the fingers are 1000 ft high...)

Ironic, considering there's been rain in the last week, and a light drizzle at the moment

Ah well! Go get rid of your light denying drizzles...

...and, Stefan? Go bake another cake!

Anonymous said...

Does this count as a "November surprise"?,21985,20719183-663,00.html

Anonymous said...

Oh My!
Has David Brin seen the light at last?
For how long have I been saying essentially

"On second thought... maybe we should stop trying to convert “sincere conservatives” at this point. If they haven’t yet realized what’s going on... that it is time to take great-grandpa’s blue uniform out of the trunk and put it on, while singing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”... then they have already decided which country and century they want to live in. And it ain’t America. And it ain’t the future."

Patrick said...

Just a reminder to everyone that if you experienced voting issues (I did) you should call 1-866-OUR-VOTE and report them.

Blake Stacey said...

Well. . . I voted. The institutions of the Enlightenment are safe for another day. Hell, I even researched the three propositions they were putting on the back of the ballot — this has to put me in the top umpteenth of the 99th percentile of voter informedness, or sumthin'.

SpeakerToManagers said...

Residing in Oregon and being in Louisiana on election day has made me more aware of the convenience of the Oregon vote-by-mail system; I could fill out and mail in my ballot, knowing it would be counted on election day and not in some special, more easily compromised process.

Blake Stacey's post points out an even more important advantage that I also have not apppreciated enough: vote-by-mail is to polling plaes as an open book test is to a snap quiz. I think more people are apt to think over and research their choices if they can do it at the dining room table (there's a lot of paper to spread out), than if they have to remember them from the previous night, or write them on their palms with a Sharpie(tm).

If nothing else, the fact that they have the Voters' Pamphlet to open up in front of them while they mark the ballot must be a help. Every little thing that impells citizens to vote from an informed position is a good thing for a democracy.

Rob Perkins said...

Around here you've always been able to bring your pamphlet or whatever notes you want to the poll with you.

But you're right, I had the websites in front of me and the ballot in front of that, as I held my nose and voted for Maria Cantwell on the logic that the President needs opposing more than otherwise this time.

Blake Stacey said...

I took a look at that Herald Sun article, and. . . Er. . . I'm just not sure what to make of the details. Just consider these:

Barot and his alleged co-conspirators used coded emails sent from addresses such as "" and "" to try to escape detection as they hatched plans. [...] Evidence included video footage of a trip he made to New York on a tape that also had the film Die Hard With A Vengeance. [...] On the plan to detonate a bomb on a train under the Thames, Barot wrote: "That would cause pandemonium, what with the explosions, flooding, drowning etc."

And finally this:

The radioactive bomb plan was described in a computer folder known as "Brad Pit" inside a subsection headed "Radioactive children".

Anonymous said...

I'm especially appreciating mail-in voting today, because I'm as sick as a dog. Probably from walking the dog in damp jackets and wet socks and wet pants. (Wet from the ground up, mind you. I'm not feeling that sick.)

The folks at work will have to make do with Day After Election Day Cake.

The NW is getting hit with "The Pineapple Express;" warm, wet weather from the vicinity of Hawaii. The rain just keeps on coming. One spot in SW Washington got 25 inches of rain since Thursday.

David Brin said...

They say that climate change will make dry places drier and wet places wetter. (Roughly.) I'm not so sure. If that were true, I am sure our desert masters would oppose it, instead of pushing it along. My guess is that they have good models showing nice monsoons will settle over the lower Middle East.

All of that notwithstanding... remember to nag ten people to vote. Esp in OH & FLA. Be a pest.

Then we gotta start thinking about the "February Surprise." The thing that will distract from House subpoenas and hearing, making them seem unpatriotic.

Anonymous said...

I voted today. My local House race is a shoe-in for the Democratic candidate, but I sure hope that Bob Memendez wins the Senate race. (I'm going to look over the blog post for more specific comments later; I have to take my 92-year-oid grandmother to the polls.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Cory said: I demand cake with my democratic ticket vote.

Stefan Jones said... The folks at work will have to make do with Day After Election Day Cake.

Let them eat bread…

- Captain (I voted and all I got was this lousy peach sticker) Button

Anonymous said...

In the 1970s, an educational philosophy started rotting out the heart of American schools: the philosophy that children need to have their self-esteem boosted in order for them to excel. Eventually this belief grew to the point that wrong answers were praised so not to damage the self-esteem of students and thus harm their educational future.

Recently, a survey was done to see which group had the highest self-esteem in the country. The group that did was surprising. It wasn't businessmen or millionaires or politicians. It certainly wasn't educators. No, the group with the highest self-esteem was... criminals in prison.

That's right. Convicts. (As an aside, the vast majority of criminals can be drawn from the pool of high-school dropouts that exists in this country, especially now that the military refuses to allow people without a high-school diploma from entering the armed services.) The one group that gained the most benefit from the boosting of self-esteem over learning are those who prey on Americans. In fact, many criminals feel that society itself owes them, that society needs to accept them and change for them rather than these criminals reforming and becoming productive members of society.

So I thought about it, and thought about the Neocons and many of the politicians and business leaders (and spiritual leaders for that matter) who take advantage of the American people and of society and when caught have no shame for their actions but instead pass the blame to someone else (like Foley who claims to have been molested by a Catholic priest... an allegation I find most suspect and a means of shifting blame and responsibility from himself to some boogyman from the distant past - even if he had been molested however that doesn't excuse his actions. He needs to take full responsibility for his choices. What is he, a civilized human being, or a base animal acting on instinct?).

Our government appears to have embraced this concept of positive self-esteem for itself. They (the government officials) can do no wrong because they are our leaders and know what's right for the American people. Indeed, how many politicians and business leaders have engaged in downright illegal activities, only acting contrite when caught red-handed? (And even then often they point their fingers elsewhere or try to divert attention from their guilt.)

Just a little food for thought....

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

Tony Fisk said...

...I am sure our desert masters would oppose it (climate change), instead of pushing it along. My guess is that they have good models showing nice monsoons will settle over the lower Middle East.

My back of the envelope estimates suggest that warming will tend to occur more in equatorial regions (more are, receives more sunlight etc.). Warm air expands... so weather patterns get pushed away from the equator. In our case, a dominant anti-cyclone has drifted down over the Australian Bight, pushing rain bearing fronts away.

I can imagine the r'oil back of the supercomputer calculations predict monsoons that currently hit Ethiopia come north.

(Nowhere near as simple as that, I know)

Anyway, enough of my worries. Get on with fixing yours. Interesting how the comments about mail voting parallel the convenience and low hassle promise of online voting (post Diebold!)

Anonymous said...

There's, clearly, a lot of conflicting theories on the impact of climate change. Least controversial is that the path we are on is leading to increased temperature extremes. That doesn't always imply wet=>wetter, dry->dryer.

In fact, some research suggest the opposite in some areas and that the new climate mode will resemble an El Nino state (so, for example, much drier in Pacific Northwest, much wetter in Southern California).

David Brin said...

Rent Ted Turner's great movie GETTYSBURG. Among other joys is a lovely conversation between Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and his top sergeant, over why each of them is fighting to end slavery. Chamberlain speaks movingly of the innate equality and "divine spark" in each person. Very fine idealistic words.

The sergeant calls the colonel "a great and lovely man"... but demurs respectufully. He is fighting for equality of opportunity - not because all men are inherently equal, but because they are not!

The sergeant holds that every man should have to prove himself by his actions, not by what class he was born into. "I want to be treated as I deserve, not as my father deserved. I am fighting for the right to prove that I am better than the other fellow... or for him to prove that he is better than me."

It is a wonderful scene that sets in sharp focus the Dilemma of Liberalism.

We NEED Chamberlain's idealism! We must treat equality of basic law and freedom of speech AS IF they were sacred and inalienable and self-evident... even though the vast majority of human history disproves this, at every turn. We must believe this mad fantasy because only by believing in it, purely and passionately, can we defend these things as fiercely as they must be defended, for them to exist at all.

And yet, the idealism can get twisted and turned into something terribly wrongheaded. A kind of "tolerance fetishism" that says we should not only free all people to speak and learn and collaborate and compete... but that we must equalize all outcomes.

Jimmy Carter got huge flack from the left, for saying that "it is not the business of government to compensate for all bad luck."

Indeed, we must admit it. Some of our allies against the New Feudalism still extrapolate morality to bizarre and self-righteous extremes, yearning for a state-led levelling of all differences. A goal that is positively loony! Every time it was tried, the chief result was takeover and exploitation by a new and more violent breed of predators.

Worse, by spouting such drivel, they give incantatory excuses to the neo-feudalists, helping them point fingers at strawmen/scarecrows, raising the old "commie" spectre, distracting foolish romantics and subsidized farmers into supporting a rising class of New Lords.

But I drift. Yes, indeed, the "self-esteem" movement slipped into a cycle of relentless ante-upping that is the disease of all radical groups, left AND right.

And yet, even though my own kids face this baloney, I am less than outraged. Why?

Because pendulums overshoot. And there needed to be compensating forces, opposing the relentless squelching of the spirit that used to be part of life in the underclass. I can put up with nonsense like "there are twenty intelligences, so everybody has a high IQ!" We can afford such harmless twaddle.

Moreover, I don't give a damn if the crazy men in most prisons are also crazy enough to call themselves superior. Their "high self-esteem" does not give me a wedgie.

What I care about is success. Pragmatic, modernist success, using every tool at our disposal. SUccess for all of us, since it simply makes no sense to waste ANY human talent.

And right now, when it comes to education, I am far angrier at the right - for spreading slander about our "failed schools", than I am at the left, for ignoring the roots of true liberalism. (Preparing people to compete, instead of simply being cared for.)

This damnable slander about "failed schools" is so pervasive, so widely accepted, that I doubt you'll find more than twenty people, like me, who will speak up for public education, and declare the lie for what it is! A goddamn pice of utter horse hockey!

If our schools are so awful, how come America has 95 of the world's 100 best universities? (And FORGET the reflex answer that it is "all foreign students." Try thinking, instead of operating on reflex!)

More on this another time. I've talked too long. Anything that distracts folks from sitting at the phone, nagging friends to vote, is simply counter productive.

Hit the phones. Offer people rides

Fight for civilization, becuase the world still needs this country. Take patriotism back from the assholes who claim that they have a monopoly on love of country.

God bless America... and I mean that.

Remember Lincoln, and go take our nation back.

Woozle said...

We're totally not in any kind of contested area, as far as I can tell, so this excercise may not be as meaningful as it might have been, but I've posted a complete list of what we voted for ("we" being myself and the hypertwin).

Perhaps if more transparency / enlightenment-minded people start doing this kind of thing, it will encourage more intelligent web-style political dialogue, as opposed to the gossip-, headline- and soundclip- oriented discussion which seems to dominate (especially in the local arena, which seems to be rather neglected by many web activists).

The inspiration for this posting came because this year I was able to find (online) a copy of the actual ballot for our district and thus to be able to sit down and consider the issues, rather than just copying what I could from The Independent and having to guess about the other races (or leave them blank). It made a huge difference in how I felt about the process, and I will definitely be doing that research further in advance next election (I didn't know it was even available, and only decided to hunt for it on a whim).

For the fraud-watchers: we got paper ballots, filled in with a pen (little ovals like on the SATs) but tallied by a machine. Minimal investment in infrastructure, and yet with very little room for ambiguity in the event of a recount. Cheap, accountable, and efficient.

Anonymous said...

Conservative William Lind's vision of how bad things in Iraq could become.

David Brin said...

Let me add my own voice urging that folks go to the web site given just above (in the previous comment.)

This is an example of a conservative whose functioning brain is able to recognize monsters that arise on his own side of the spectrum. Moreover, his warning (in the spirit of 1947) is as brave as it is both cogent and desperately needed.

Terrifying, in fact. A scenario that PERFECTLY meshes with the "paranoid" notion that I have bandied about. Except for one thing; Lind still attributes all of this relentless destruction of American power and prestige to stupidity, incompetence and outright looniness.

He never, ever contemplates the Occam's Razor possibility. That men with lifelong reputations for utter competence are doing every last bit of this with ruthless effectiveness and absolute intent, according to their own agenda and plan.

I am not insisting that it's so!
I hope it isn't!
But will NO ONE even consider the theory that is parsimonious, and that requires the fewest far-fetched assumptions?

Not even "just for the sake of argument"...?


Never mind this capering sci fi guy! Ignore his rantings! Just go do your duty.

Which is to nag... nag... nag!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin said, This damnable slander about "failed schools" is so pervasive, so widely accepted, that I doubt you'll find more than twenty people, like me, who will speak up for public education, and declare the lie for what it is! A goddamn pice of utter horse hockey!

I bought into that lie for a long time. I had even trained to be a secondary (high school) teacher until my student teaching took me to an inner city school, where on my first day I saw a student cleaning his finger nails with a switchblade. I looked at the salary, I looked at the students, and I went into computers instead.

So, when it came time to send my daughter to school, I sent her to a Catholic school. She’s bright -- reading high school-level material when in fourth and fifth grade. As time wore on, I began more and more uneasy with her teachers, until one of them saw her reading a Harry Potter book and scolded her. Apparently, the book was supposed to be too hard for her, and she shouldn’t attempt to read it.

In retrospect, it’s kind of cool seeing how angry I got at such a direct attack on my daughter’s future!

So now she’s in a -- shudder! -- public school. One of the standard suburban schools in central Ohio. And I was amazed. I’m not saying they’re perfect, but I am here to say that there are some wonderful teachers and some strong, competent administrators here. Best of all, my daughter’s flourishing like never before.

School’s aren’t perfect. I honestly think there was some quality slippage through the mid eighties and nineties, and a number of recent developments like charter schools and vouchers have, though competition, helped public schools get better. Still, they’re literally the foundation of our republic, so we’d better take care of them.

Anonymous said...

From Warren Ellis's email newsletter:

"Karl Rove is not Aleister Crowley,
Severus Snape, Darth Vader or
Satan. You can kill him by ensuring
your vote is counted and being
vigilant at your polling station. This
message is brought to you from a
country where votes are marked
with pencil on paper and counted
by humans."

Anonymous said...

I'm actually majoring in education. One of my greatest fears is that I'll prove not only an inadequate teacher, but actually harm the students I will end up teaching. To get around this, I plan on focusing on the younger grades and try to strive for one thing: reading and writing fluency for my students by the time they leave 2nd grade. With reading and writing fluency, they will be in a position to continue learning, something that is problematic with quite a few students who fall behind in these two essential fields early on.

One thing as an upcoming educator that I've noticed is this: schools are unequal. The reason? People are unfair when it comes to tax allocation. "I want my tax money to come back to my kids." Thus even State and Federal funds end up unequally divided. No representative or senator is going to risk their popularity-driven job by doing something unpopular such as fair and unbiased distribution of funding to schools. Instead, the rich communities have well-funded schools and the poor communities have barely-adequate facilities to teach children. And the poorer children thus get an unequal education and in turn this results in more problems in educating these children.

Blame then gets assigned to these schools. They need to "improve" and if they don't "improve" then they will be Shut Down. No Child Left Behind. A popular sentiment but one that blames the schools rather than the people behind funding for the schools.

And don't look at Vouchers or Charter Schools and the like as alternatives. These end up benefiting the rich. Children from richer communities are worth more in vouchers than from poor communities. Nor is each student equal in what they cost. A deaf student who requires a signer costs significantly more than that quiet little girl who sits in the back of class and doesn't do well but doesn't raise a fuss either. A seriously autistic child likewise costs significantly more. Yet the voucher for each child is the same as for a child without "exceptionalities". (And if Vouchers let parents choose private schools... those private schools can always refuse students they don't want like the autistic or someone from a religion they disapprove of or the like.)

Charter Schools are an attempt to gain profit from education, without the same level of accountability that are found in public schools. Hell, in Ohio you can get a $60,000 grant for declaring your intent to start preparing to create a charter school... and if you then decide "never mind, I don't want to do the school" that money is still yours.

You want to make politicians on both sides squirm, try to mention "accountability" in education, and suggest to them that funding of schools needs to be equal for all schools. You will hear so much backpedaling and squealing that it'll look like Bush caught with his hand in the till.

Also remember that few states have the same level of requirements on private schools that are on public ones. Do you think that private schools are held to the same level of accountability that public schools are? If so, you're in for a bit of a surprise, and I'd like to offer to sell you a bridge off of Manhattan.

Public schools are not necessarily bad. Sometimes they're far superior to anything in the private sector.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

I baked a replacement cake today. It'll be for everyone. We've all won, even if some see this as a defeat.

Projections show the Democrats taking the House.

Tony Fisk said...

In defeat, defiance
In victory, magnanimity
- W. S. Churchill

... and cake, it seems.

The senate still looks too close to call, although the BBC projection looks like the Republicans will just squeak it.

Still, following on from my comments about droughts, I'll take a half-full glass.

David Brin said...

Rob H, that is a thoughtful and interesting post on education. Please forgive us for being distracted though. We'll return to education when you people wish.

For now, I am mixed-elated.

Elated because now at least one institution in the Great Republic will now be piloted by people who are not monstrous ideologues and who will start applying tools of accountability where they are desperately needed.

I have many suggestions for the new House leadership, some of which could have major effects, especially in proving to the American people that tonight's decision was the right one.

But of course my reaction is mixed. See above for Lind's dark scenario for just one way that the White House might respond, if and when the House subpoenas start zeroing in on terrible truths.

The Senate? Ideally it would be 50:50, so that Dick Cheney would be chained to the podium, in order to barely hold on. A pre-prison prison sentence that no pardon can excuse! Moreover, then the IMAGE in the next two years would not be a fully dem congress. Leaving them at least visually in opposition for 2008. But then, that's just a scenario and I don't get my druthers in detail. I can live with it.

Watching the news, I care about the Senate, but feel anxious to know more about about the STATES! Will this wave eject GOP majorities in some state legislatures, enough to spur sudden redistrictings? If it happens enough, we could get a short term goodie - stronger dems in 2008...

and a long term one. If we can pound the GOP hard enough so that they no longer benefit from gerrymandering, watch! Voila! They will become the anti-gerry party! Whoopee. Watch how quickly I start talking about their "good side."

I am jabbering. Guardedly happy. It is a sign of the strength of this nation, that we can breathe a sigh of relief when just ONE great institution rejoins sanity. Even this one ought to help keep this civilization ours.

Tony Fisk said...

Incidentally, Jamais Cascio has an interesting variant on surprises:

"...come Wednesday, November 8, the shrill cries of computerized vote tampering will come, in abundance, from the Right"

Anonymous said...

Woo-hoo! Looks like the Democrats have taken back the House and they just might take the Senate, too.

Rob Perkins said...

Well, I'm interested in how Pelosi will proceed, as her speech promised, to make this next congress the most honest and open in U.S. history.

Interesting night.

Anonymous said...

This damnable slander about "failed schools" is so pervasive, so widely accepted, that I doubt you'll find more than twenty people, like me, who will speak up for public education, and declare the lie for what it is! A goddamn pice of utter horse hockey!

The same thing is true over here as well. And I used to believe the myths until I looked at the actual relevant figures. In terms of actual achievement, there's no contest between state and private schools. On the other hand, the relevant measure is "Value added" - i.e. how much the child has improved over the years rather than his/her inherent ability (which is found effectively by differencing the SATs scores at various levels). Here, the best state schools and best private schools are about equal - but the average state school beats the average private school and the worst state schools aren't that bad when you allow for the quality of students they start with and the worst private schools are.

(On a tangent I speak about state education and state schools because the public school system in Britain refers to schools which you pay for - they were public as compared with schools which required a certain birth or religion to join. Currently most old private schools are also public schools - something which made historical sense but makes no sense following the introduction of state education in the late 19th Century).

If our schools are so awful, how come America has 95 of the world's 100 best universities? (And FORGET the reflex answer that it is "all foreign students." Try thinking, instead of operating on reflex!)

And just which set of league tables are you looking at? Certainly not any of the ones I've seen recently. And then there are two other factors. Firstly the sheer amount of money you spend on your universities (far more than we do, and we still approximately match you per capita in the league tables). Secondly, the sink or swim nature of most American institutions as compared to British ones (let alone other European ones) - things are much better for the best, but worse for the worst (and normally slightly worse for the average as well). The universities focus oin the best - a very pyramidal system :-) Thirdly, Britain and America both start with an unfair advantage in that most research is done and published in English, meaning that most foreign researchers have to continually work in two languages.

Anonymous said...

Virginia Senate Results:

J H Webb Jr Democratic 1,169,356 49.54%
G F Allen Republican 1,162,497 49.25%
G G Parker Independent Green 26,108 1.11%
Write Ins 2,332

I don't want to hear any bitching about the Green party, even though I can understand the feeling, I can also understand why they run. And it means that Virginia is swinging bluer than it looks.

So now they have to count the absentee and provisional ballots, and then if it's still within 1%, there's a basically automatic recount, and in any case the loser can call for a recount, which I'm expecting.

Hopefully this doesn't turn into another Florida, what with the imported mobs and the threats and things.

Andrew Smith said...

Watching the news, I care about the Senate, but feel anxious to know more about about the STATES!

On NPR last night they brought up the interesting point that nearly every exit-pollee cited a national issue as their reason for voting Democratic last night, even in local elections such as the Governors, who didn't have anything to do with Iraq/Abramoff/Foley/etc.

They're just sick of Republicans.

Rob Perkins said...

I think there's no reason to impugn the Greens; those people voted their conscience, which is what the polling was supposed to be about.

As nail-biters go, the Webb/Allen contest isn't, at least from the perspective of someone who watched Gregoire/Rossi here in WA.

Now *that* was a close election!

Is there anything at all to say about election fraud this time around, with the supposed hotbed (Ohio), sending a Dem governor and Senator to their seats, and with the process turning out Blackwell, who endured years of vilification because of the Kerry loss?

Tempest in a teapot? Self-defeating prophecy? Impossible to defraud because everyone watched?

Anonymous said...

My guess is that the hackers are sick of Republicans, too. ;)

Jose said...

I think you hit the nail on the head. The only thing that is really holding this coalition on the right together is a partisan hatred for the "other" side.

Christian conservatives are bracing for themselves for a U-Turn on the issue of Global Warming so there are limits to partisanship thank the Designer.

David Brin said...

Nate and Rob, I do not blame the Greens for existing, or voting conscience. Certainly Webb, a former Republican and Reagan official, is not the ideal Democratic image for Virginia’s few genuine lefties. I certainly do not blame them for bad luck squeaker spoiler roles like in Virginia. Indeed, this sort of thing is one more argument for either runoffs or preferential balloting. If we had the latter, Allen would simply concede, knowing where the Green votes were sure to go.

Ah, but the travesty of 2000 was another matter. Nader’s bitter attacks on Gore were undeserved and based upon a raging ego that helped put us in the mess that we are in. Along with 10,000 votes for Pat Robertson in an all-black neighborhood in Florida. (Reason enough to call the last 6 years a nightmare of genuine injustice.)

Yes, Rob, the surge of poll watchers and exit polls in Ohio may have pushed back nefarious Diebold plans... or else maybe the wave was even bigger than appeared in the results! Overwhelming a machine that DID try to cheat, but could not try hard enough without getting caught. In any event, if the new governor there is honest, perhaps there will be investigations and Diebold can be forced to open up.

I am glad of the governorships, but what I really want to hear is if any state legislatures shifted! As I’ve said, my dream is to see the Dems unleashed in a pig-orgy of counter-gerrymandering that (1) in the short term utterly eviscerates the GOP and (2) in the long term seeing this act so disgusts voters - nationwide - that a reborn GOP reverses itself, throwing on a white robe as the champion of neutral districting. Only a see saw like this might give us a chance to end this BS.

Hey! Did I call the 50:50 Senate, or what? Frankly, even better would be 51-49 dem. They could STILL keep Cheney chained to the podium by having Lieberman throw little “independent” spats and offering tantalyzing tie votes. But even a slim majority would let the Dems do a few things that the Republic badly needs. I’ll discuss those tonight.

Let’s continue education discussions another time. I do NOT claim all is perfect with our schools! What I claim is that things are complicated. And we here in the states should not hand-wring over international test scores that show US students lagging on standardized tests of memorized knowledge. (1) We have 60% of all the world’s immigrants, and do a good job with them. (2) Our immense diversity is a source of strength, but it makes teaching to a uniform test less easy. (2) Teaching to the test may be what’s WRONG with other education systems, all over the world! Indeed, right now, the Education Ministries in China, Japan etc are in anguish over how to get rigid teachers to run their classes “in a more American manner.”

Remind me some time. We’ll get back to this problem. As our nation now seems ready to turn away from its post-millennial madness and flirtation with retro dogmatism, returning at last to its mission: solving problems.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Just so's you know's I wasn't joking:

Victory Cakes.

David Brin said...

There are many levels. I rejoice, of course. This was one desperately evil and delusional American archetype.

And although I believe I am still the only pundit using the phrase "United States Officer Corps" - I raise my glass to those men and women... as they are (no doubt) hoisting tankards in relief. This victory is as much theirs, as it is the People's, or the Democratic Party's.

And yet, I am disturbed that it came to this, rousing political action out of a Corps that had been raised to be utterly apolitical. That tradition of utter deference to civilian authority was hard won. Damage has been done. We need to repair it.

On the other hand, thirty fewer horrid fanatics, appointing apocalyptic zealots to the military academies, that has got to be a good thing, all in its own right.

I will respond further tonight. But yes, let Rummy go into history's mockery pool... associated with America's two stupidest wars. The two that broke our illusion of perpetual luck and competence and reminded us that pitfalls await even those who are lucky and seem favored by God.

ESPECIALLY we we start relying too much upon luck, or being favored by God.

Blake Stacey said...

Time magazine sez:

And Mayhew's research does show that hearings and investigations increase dramatically with divided government, as one party seeks to embarrass the executive branch of the other. So expect to see lots of subpoenas flying from the offices of Democrats Henry Waxman and John Conyers, who would head the Government Reform and Judiciary committees, respectively.

Here's hoping. . . .

Blake Stacey said...

Remind me to dig up webpages about people taking cameras to polling places, etc., to file them under Earth predictive hits. I mean, wouldn't a few million Tru-Vue goggles help our situation here?

Anonymous said...

Blake Stacey said...
Remind me to dig up webpages about people taking cameras to polling places, etc., to file them under Earth predictive hits. I mean, wouldn't a few million Tru-Vue goggles help our situation here?

They may be ahead of you already here in Georgia.

When I voted yesterday there was some sign on the wall with several paragraphs of legal text. To a casual reader it seemed to be banning taking pictures at polling places except for certain exceptions. It gives the impression that it is to prevent people photographing you so they can have you fired or beaten up, etc. What it actually means I can't say.

I tried googling and surfing the state website a bit to see if I could find the text of the sign, without success.

Anonymous said...

Whoops, forgot to put my nickname on that comment about the photo ban at Georgia polls.

- Captain Button

Anonymous said...

Answer to the question about state legislatures:
As of 7 a.m. MT, Democrats control both houses of the legislature in 23 states; Republicans in 15, and nine are split. Final counts aren't available yet for three chambers in two states: the Montana House and Senate and the Pennsylvania House. This adds up to 49 states because Nebraska's legislature is nonpartisan.

Before the election, Republicans controlled 20 state legislatures; Democrats 19, and 10 were split.

Tony Fisk said...

Blake, you should have photographed that sign ;-)

I'd like to post a link to a scientific experiment that has to be given points for ambitiousness, if nothing else. Emily at the Planetary Society did a double take, too, but it seems to be a sound proposal that strikes multiple chords:
- remember that kooky cult that decided to go astral travelling with Halley's comet?
- we have just witnessed americans (finally!) jettison a political group that seemed hell-bent on heading for the rocks
- meantime, scientists are proposing to resurrect the bit of Deep Impact that didn't collide with comet Tempel to search for terrestrial planets

Blake Stacey said...

Tony Fisk wrote, "Blake, you should have photographed that sign ;-)". Just to be clear, I didn't say that — Anonymous did, in replying to me. We'll never get to Alpha Centauri if we can't keep our blog discussions straight!


In other blissfully OT news, Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai has called on the people of the world to plant 1 billion trees over the next year.

The tree-planting project, organized by the United Nations Environment Program, shows that "action does not need to be confined to the corridors of the negotiation halls," said Achem Steiner, UNEP's executive director.

The project calls on participants — including individuals, schools and governments — to sign up on UNEP's Web site and register the trees they planted.

Just a little shy of predictions — by three orders of magnitude.

Tony Fisk said...

Kate sighted. Sorry Blake.

Planting a billion trees sounds fine and dandy... so long as they survive!

Australia had a similar initiative in the early nineties. It was a fizzer, partly because they planted innappropriately and didn't provide the backup care. (And who's going to give the backup care for a billion saplings?)

Don't think I'm down on the idea: I'm not! It can be done and the problems I allude to can be avoided (see here), but UNEP do need to plan for it.

(Guess I should shoot them the link, too, just in case they don't already know.)

Adrian Cotter said...

a coworker sent me this quote today:

"A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt......If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake."
--Thomas Jefferson, 1798, after the passage of the Sedition Act.

Anonymous said...

The Jefferson quote that Adrian posted was heavily circulated after the 2004 election.

Nice to see it validated.


(From "The Right was Right" site:)

"Now that the election is behind us, and the Democrats control one or possibly both houses of Congress, there's no reason not to admit it: the Right was right about us all along. Here is our 25-point manifesto for the new Congress:

1. Mandatory homosexuality

2. Drug-filled condoms in schools

3. Introduce the new Destruction of Marriage Act

4. Border fence replaced with free shuttle buses

5. Osama Bin Laden to be Secretary of State

6. Withdraw from Iraq, apologize, reinstate Hussein

7. English language banned from all Federal buildings

8. Math classes replaced by encounter groups

9. All taxes to be tripled

10. All fortunes over $250,000 to be confiscated

11. On-demand welfare

12. Tofurkey to be named official Thanksgiving dish

13. Freeways to be removed, replaced with light rail systems

14. Pledge of Allegiance in schools replaced with morning flag-burning

15. Stem cells allowed to be harvested from any child under the age of 8

16. Comatose people to be ground up and fed to poor

17. Quarterly mandatory abortion lottery

18. God to be mocked roundly

19. Dissolve Executive Branch: reassign responsibilities to UN

20. Jane Fonda to be appointed Secretary of Appeasement

21. Outlaw all firearms: previous owners assigned to anger management therapy

22. Texas returned to Mexico

23. Ban Christmas: replace with Celebrate our Monkey Ancestors Day

24. Carter added to Mount Rushmore

25. Modify USA's motto to "Land of the French and the home of the brave"


Tony Fisk said...

What was in those victory cakes?

Tony Fisk said...

...the aspirins hanging from the noticeboard are a nice touch!

Anonymous said...

The victory cakes were made from very ordinary Pillbury / Betty Crocker / whatever mixes, with commercial frosting that came in a tub.

One of them has almond flakes on it.

The "aspirin" are actually cleaning tablets for the espresso machine. You pop one in the water tank every few months to get rid of mineral build-up.

David Brin said...

Ummm... thrilling!...

;-) seriously, the cake thing. cool.

I shoulda offered book plates....

Anonymous said...

There may be one more quiet winner in this election: Sane moderate republicans.

For years the house leadership has downright terrorized members of their own party into voting rank and file. In addition, they cut out not only Democrats but their own members in their manipulation of what was voted on and what amendments could be added.

Should the Democrats choose to lead wisely, with an inclusive democracy those who choose to think for themselves will have an opportunity to do so and be more able to vote their concience with less fear of being banished to an office in some subbasement and locked out of the act of governing beyond straight up and down voting on only bills of their party leadership's choosing.

They might even be able to work with moderate Democrats to get through some of the items on their own agenda.

Hope springs eternal

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately for the sane moderate Republicans, most of them have been cut down in primary battles by the Club for Growth and other hardline right groups. And then a bunch of the rest were in the northeast and the midwest, in moderate conservative-to-liberal districts and states, and a lot of those lost to Democrats in the midterms. The Republicans' power is concentrated almost completely in the Old South now.

Of course, in some of the redder states, moderate Republicans did win... but by running as Democrats. Moderates haven't been welcome in the GOP's "big tent" for years.