30 November 2006

The Talking George Will Is an Idiot Blues.

I'm not really sure how George Will came to prominence as a columnist, or how he got a reputation as an educated, reflective thinker. Perhaps it's because he does have a large and varied vocabulary, even if his uses of it often remind me of reading freshman comp papers: the sort where the poor student has labored most of the evening over a thesaurus trying to come up with the most obscure but learned words to describe common things.

Will's latest descent into idiocy is his attack on Senator-elect Jim Webb, because Webb refused to pursue a photo-op with a war criminal. Here's Will:
Webb's more gross offense was calculated rudeness toward another human being -- one who, disregarding many hard things Webb had said about him during the campaign, asked a civil and caring question, as one parent to another.

So Webb's big problem, according to Will, is that he refused to play the political game of chumming up with incompetent abusers of the United States Constitution. Here we have an absentee President who through gross negligence and foolish hubris has brought death to untold thousands of Iraqis and to 2,888+ U.S. troops, and Will is worried about "calculated rudeness."

How clueless must George Will be to even suggest that Bush's question was asked "as one parent to another," when the Post has recently been following the Bush's kids partying it up (and getting robbed) in Argentina? Bush's kids probably couldn't even find Iraq on a map, let alone ever end up there in combat fatigues (unless of course they were play-acting, like their father).

Apparently, in Will's world, you coddle the tyrant. After all, as a champion of conservative values and administrations, Will has had plenty of examples shown to him through the years: Kissinger and Pinochet, Rumsfeld and Hussein.

29 November 2006

Looking ahead to the Outback Bowl.

PSU has already accepted a bid from the Outback Bowl, but their opponent is to be determined. Before last weekend, it looked possible that either Auburn or LSU would be there, but now it's more likely that Tennessee will be the opponent. Tennessee has only lost three times this season, and all to ranked teams (Florida, LSU, and Arkansas). Penn State's four losses have all come to ranked teams (Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin). On the other hand, Penn State hasn't beaten any ranked teams, while Tennessee beat both Georgia and Cal.

Penn State's offense is abysmal, so if PSU is to win the Outback it will require the defense to have the kind of game that held Michigan to 17 points and Ohio State to 14 (OSU scored two late touchdowns on interception returns).

I'm sure as the bowl season progresses I'll have more to say about PSU and other things, including why that dirtbag Charlie Weis and his Notre Dame team are seriously overrated (as if the USC game didn't show that one up).

p.s. and to anyone wondering about where Maryland will end up, ESPN is predicting either the Meineke Car Care Bowl or Champs Sports Bowl.

28 November 2006

Update on Iraq: file under idiocy.

Bush's Iraq Adventure is turning out worse than anyone could have expected...unless of course you count the millions of people worldwide who filled the streets protesting against an unnecessary and illegal war of aggression prior to its beginning. Unless you count the non-mainstream media that continually debunked Bush's allegations, but were all but drowned out by the deafening stomp of the war drums being beaten by the mainstream media.

Those who argued that the Iraq Adventure would be a mistake were repeatedly cast as "Pro-Saddam" or "Pro-Terrorist," when it was clear then and it has become increasingly clear even to most of the sideline cheerleaders that toppling Saddam had nothing to do with anti-terrorist efforts and was in fact more likely to increase rather than decrease terrorism -- esp. the kind that cloaks itself in the guise of religious fundamentalism. At the start of Bush's Iraq Adventure, Saddam Hussein was a paper tiger, a dictator whose control was undermined by weapons inspectors and no-fly zones; a has-been whose greatest war crimes had been conducted with the logistical and financial assistance of the United States.

However, the Iraq Adventure has been a success for two distinct groups: Haliburton and other war profiteers AND al-Qaeda, who has seen its profile raised to new levels by Bush's boondoggle.

Proving that he is ever more out of touch with reality (and perhaps heavily medicated as well), President Bush continues to deny that Iraq is now in or approaching civil war. Our Dear Leader pulled his head out of the sand long enough to issue this statement:
"There's a lot of sectarian violence taking place, fomented in my opinion because of the attacks by al Qaeda, causing people to seek reprisal," he said.

Bush said slain Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had wanted to stir up trouble between Iraq's Shiite majority community and the Sunnis favored by Saddam Hussein.

He traced an increase in violence to the February bombing of a revered Shiite mosque in Samarra, north of Baghdad, saying: "We've been in this phase for a while."
Really? So sustained sectarian violence, where one group of people are killing another group of people and vice versa within the same country, does not create a civil war? How about what is nearly universally known as Lebanon's Civil War? Maybe Bush is a stickler and doesn't accept that there's a civil war unless there's a formal declaration of seccession and something called a "Confederate States of Iraq" set up with Jefferson al-Davis as President.

Or maybe he's just stupid.

From today's Post:
Kofi Annan says Iraq civil war is imminent
Anbar Picture Grows Clearer, Bleaker

Here's the lead of the second article:
The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq or counter al-Qaeda's rising popularity there, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report that set off debate in recent months about the military's mission in Anbar province.

Let us not forget that the Post and other news organizations refused to investigate Bush's claims prior to the war or give credence to any war critics; let us not forget that Congress abdicated its Constitutional responsibilities to oversee the nation's descent into war when it -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- issued Bush a blank check in Iraq.


27 November 2006

Post-Holiday Letdown.

Last night I fell asleep with my clothes on, even my jacket -- a zip-up hoodie. I guess I was pretty well exhausted after a long weekend that included a rare early morning excursion on Black Friday (I generally sit that day out, because I really don't like store lines and fighting over parking spots and the last "must have" toy in the store). Anyway, I put the kids in the big bed and fell asleep with them. At least I took my contacts out prior to that.

Anyway, my wife and I hit Target at 6 a.m. on Friday morning because they had the "Easy Bake Oven" on sale for $13 and the RoboPet or RoboDog or something like that for $30. They were also selling the Simpsons Season8 DVD for $15, and I wanted a piece of that action. Unfortunately, we were unable to locate it, but I heard later on that my sister found it for me. The whole family had to come up with Xmas lists, so we all had some items to buy here and there. My brother was the most adventurous/helpful/obsessed: he combed through all the advertising and indicated next to his selections the stores in which you should buy them. For instance, Entourage Season 1 at Circuit City; Entourage Season 2 at Best Buy; Simpsons Season 8 at Target.

We got back into DC late Saturday, so Sunday I took the kids to the Hirshhorn while my wife prepped for her Monday class. They have a great contemporary sculpture show going on that was a real hit with my son. I mean, what's not to like about Andrea Cohen's "Mist Over Lake Miami," pictured below:

It's colorful and looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. He loved that some of her sculptures seemed to use "floam," although that's a trade name and wasn't listed as a material on the little info card. I highly recommend the show to anyone, and especially anyone with kids ages 5 to 12, because it's very entertaining and we had some good conversations about the pieces.

22 November 2006

As we head into Thanksgiving, let's remember Why Johnny Can't Read.

I've been digging into the Bush Administration's "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) education initiative and I've found out some fascinating things, although not what I'm looking for. Here, for instance, from the government's own website is an overview of a few ways to have your school denied funding:
Funds cannot be used for condom or other contraceptive distribution, obscene materials, promotion of sexual activities, or for sex education in schools that is not age- appropriate and does not emphasize abstinence.

OK, so no sex education that actually educates. Instead you have to pretend sex doesn't exist in the secondary school in order to receive funding. In related news, toilet seats spread AIDS. Here's another interesting bit:
Any local district that discriminates against or denies equal access to patriotic organizations, such as the Boy Scouts of America, is denied funds.

Who decides what a "patriotic organization" is? The KKK claims to be "patriotic," arguing that they are defending (white) America against "mongrelization" in much the same way the Boy Scouts claim they are defending (straight) America against the homosexual threat. Does this mean that the school must accept meetings of the Future Klansmen of America in order to receive funds?

Furthermore, what does letting reactionary quasi-military outfits like the Boy Scouts into the schools have with education? (Full disclosure: I was in scouting from cub scout through boy scouts, having come up through the ranks to 1st Class, which is to say not terribly far)

The more I read about this policy, the less it seems to be about education and helping children succeed and the more it seems to be about dictating a path of failed conservative opinions toward schools.

20 November 2006

My picks got pounded.

It wasn't a good weekend to be predicting games. I went an abysmal 10 wins and 7 losses in the top 25. I push up to 11 wins and 7 losses if you count in my bonus pick of PSU over MSU, but man I came close to losing that one. Now it's just up to seeing who Penn State plays in the Outback Bowl on January 1. Will it be Auburn and crybaby Tommy Tuberville? Will it be LSU (in which case two inept offenses will go up against two outstanding defenses)? Or will something bizarre happen, like OSU and Michigan remaining 1 and 2 in the BCS and therefore bumping PSU up to the Capital One Bowl? Highly doubtful.

Anyway, I'm off to the dentist's.

17 November 2006

Two completely unrelated items.

Item 1. Bush is in Vietnam, where he has the audacity (or idiocy) to say that Vietnam holds lessons for Iraq. If I'm a Republican (and given that I'm neither an uninformed drone nor a black-hearted scoundrel, I'm not a Republican), I'm cringing as this Texas half-wit links Vietnam to Iraq, instantly generating a week of fodder for late-night comedians and weekend talk shows. Bush, ever the lackluster student, of course can't draw out the real lesson of Vietnam for Iraq, so he resorts to bullshitting the essay question. And boy does it show:
"My first reaction is history has a long march to it, and societies change and relationships can constantly be altered to the good," Bush said after speeding past signs of both poverty and the commerce produced by Asia's fastest-growing economy.

"It's just going to take a long period of time for the ideology that is hopeful -- and that is an ideology of freedom -- to overcome an ideology of hate," Bush said after having lunch.

"We'll succeed," Bush added, "unless we quit."

The lesson Bush apparently learned from Vietnam is that we would have won, but we quit. I know that may be true in the Rambo and the Missing In Action movies, but unfortunately after dropping millions of bomb tonnage on North Vietnam and surrounding countries, after resorting to chemical weapons, after "pacifying" villages like My Lai, we apparently were no closer to winning than the French had been back in 1954.

But enough of Item #1.

Item 2. College Football Pick'Em.
1. OSU v. (2) Michigan. Michigan wins.
3. Florida v. Western Carolina. Please. Florida in a 50 point blowout.
4. USC v. Cal. Cal leaves the Trojans feeling unprotected at home.
5. Arkansas v. Mississippi State. Arkansas in a rout.
6. Notre Dame v. Army. Another delicate pastry for the ND schedule. What a surprise.
7. Rutgers v. Cincy. Rutgers destroyify the Bearcats.
8. WVU already beat Pitt.
9. LSU v. Mississippi. LSU wins.
10. Louisville v. South Florida. Louisville wins in a closer than should be match.
11. Texas is idle.
12. Wisconsin v. Buffalo. A late season cupcake for the Badgers, what a tasty treat!
13. Boise State v. Utah State. Boise State tramples Utah State.
14. Wake Forest v. Virginia Tech. Wake thumps Tech.
15. Auburn v. Alabama. Roll Tide Roll and shut Tuberville up.
16. Oklahoma v. Baylor. Oklahoma dominates this supposed division 1-A team.
18. Georgia Tech v. Duke. Georgia Tech wins by 40.
20. BC v. (21) Maryland. While I don't fear the turtle, BC should. Maryland wins.
22. Tennessee v. Vanderbilt. Tennessee goes down in embarrassment to Vandy.
23. Brigham Young v. New Mexico. BYU wins, and all your wives can watch!
24. Nebraska is idle.
25. Clemson is idle.

Unranked PSU will beat Michigan State at Beaver Stadium. JoePa returns!

16 November 2006

He should stick to reading the Register.

Nothing like a rainy day to make you want to sit around in the morning and read the entire paper. Today's letters to the editor in the Post prove instructive. Richard Ralston of Newport Beach, California, who claims he represents "Americans for Freedom of Choice in Medicine," whatever the hell that means, argues like most nutcases from Libertarian loonyland Orange County that government safety regulations are an affront to personal liberty:
It is unfortunate that those of us outside the intellectual elite are incapable of deciding on a proper diet and must therefore not be allowed to eat or drink anything without prior government permission.

The key phrase here is "intellectual elite," since it tells you all you need to know about this douchebag's agenda. Mr. Ralston probably laments that Coca Cola is no longer made with cocaine and that patent medicines, most of which consisted of nothing more than alcohol and flavorings, can't claim to cure everything from baldness to cancer. Of course it's the "intellectual elite" who are behind all this gestapo-like repression. Just like the "liberal media" and the "Hollywood elite" and the "international Jewish bankers" who are behind all the other problems that afflict poor Mr. Ralston in his struggle to live with dignity.

A brief glance at the Americans for Freedom of Choice in Medicine reveals that Mr. Ralston and his ilk are nothing more than "Fuck You, I've Got Mine" selfish bastards with absolutely no clue as to how society works. These idiots truly believe that the free market is God come down from heaven itself to shower all with His bounty, when even an economics class at the University of Chicago will reveal that some people win and some people lose and that having the better idea or the better technology or even putting in the most effort means you will win. In other words, the free market leaves a heap of rotting hulks along the side of the road.

But not at AFCM. At AFCM, the winners are really the losers, as health care in the United States is designed "to sacrifice the well-off to the old and the poor." Pity the poor wealthy entrepreneur, who if only he lived under a bridge or in a nursing home could get health care. Yes, it's a dream living on Medicaid and Medicare, at least in the AFCM's fantasies. Wouldn't you love to trade places with one of the many men and women sleeping on DC's steam grates -- it's quite obvious they're getting superb health care.

Yes, Mr. Ralston, I feel your oppression, as you are ground down under the iron heel of trans fat regulation.

15 November 2006

And the other shoe dropped...

Capitalizing on the widespread interest my post on local DC politics generated yesterday, I'm following up with what happened. The Council wisely "postponed" voting on pay raises for themselves -- although from all their statements it seems like this postponement won't last long -- and the Post writeup was almost entirely about the proposed pay raise. Tacked on to the end was this paragraph:
In other action, the council approved an emergency bill that allows exceptions for businesses that are within 400 feet of a school, college or District-operated recreation area applying for liquor licenses. D.C. law prohibits such proximity, but the bill will allow exceptions for businesses in commercial areas.

And there it is, the little loophole coveted by the liquor industry and commercial real estate moguls that will now allow exceptions so that Jeff's Tap Room and Liquor Emporium can now open up next door to the elementary school and park. I think the argument was that with the liquor stores being open adjacent to the park, the drunks won't pass out on the sidewalks but rather on the park benches.

As far as the delayed pay raise goes, here's what the Post says Jim Graham (Ward 1) thought about the whole thing:
Like several other council members, Graham said yesterday that he never entered politics for the money. But he said he now sees a disparity between pay for the council and the two top jobs.

Right. And I imagine there's a relatively large disparity between his pay ($92K) and, say, the security guy operating the metal detector down at the Wilson Building. I know for certain there's a large disparity between what his part-time job pays and what the median household income is in the District of Columbia.

14 November 2006

DC Council Priorities: The "Emergency" Is Our Salaries!

I was already feeling a little upset in the stomach this morning when I sat down to read the Washington Post. The editorial "Raid on the D.C. Treasury" did little to calm me down. The gist of today's supposed "Emergency" legislation in the D.C. Council is to hand out hefty bonuses and raises to the elected officials -- voted on, of course, by the elected officials:
Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) has proposed that the council raise the mayor's salary from $152,000 to $200,000 and boost the council chairman's salary from $142,000 to $190,000. The measure would also give Mayor-elect Adrian M. Fenty (D) $250,000 in transition funds and award Council Chairman-elect Vincent C. Gray's (D) transition team $150,000.

Ward 1 council member Jim Graham (D), safely ensconced in office for another four years, wants to amend the bill to boost his and other council salaries by $23,000 a year, lifting their pay for "part-time" work from $92,530 to $115,000. Not to be outdone, departing council member Vincent B. Orange (D-Ward 5) has drafted an alternative bill that kicks up salaries by $48,000, to $140,000.

Nothing like voting yourself a raise far above the 3% that many people see in their yearly pay packets, or in Vincent Orange's case, how about proposing a raise that is in itself more than the median household income in Washington, D.C.? Perhaps outgoing Councilmember Orange could spin his proposed 51% pay raise as a Statehood issue: the council deserves a 51% increase because D.C. should be the 51st state. What hubris. What greed.

Particularly galling is that this pay grab comes immediately following the election. It would have been nice if Jim Graham -- who ran unopposed -- had announced his intentions to award himself a $23,000 a year raise before the election rather than after voters had given him another four years in office.

These pay proposals are so outrageous and idiotic that I have to wonder if they aren't also smoke-screens that will deflect attention from some of the other so-called "emergency" bills before the Council. The liquor industry has been plying the greedy councilmembers for some time in an attempt to tear down the District's regulations barring the opening of liquor stores and bars next to schools and parks:
Another emergency bill offers changes to a law that bars issuing liquor licenses to businesses within 400 feet of a school, college or District-operated recreation area.

With all the brouhaha over the salaries, I'm sure the liquor industry is licking its collective chops over the prospect of closer access to "new markets" like middle schools.

09 November 2006

Run Every Red Light on Memory Lane.

The past keeps knock knock knocking on my door...
And I don't want to hear it anymore.

Or so says Lou Reed.

But rare is the person who can sever so completely all ties to his or her past as to not be haunted at one moment or another by memory's return. Geography, friends, family, keepsakes fluster our attempts to re-create from whole cloth our lives. So we patch together our bits and scraps and do as best we can, which quite often is pretty damn well.

Getting older brings a melancholy, because I can remember when my feet didn't hurt after playing basketball for two hours. I can remember when I could stay up until two a.m. and get up around six a.m. and feel none the worse.

We would all love to correct our mistakes. For me there's a moment in eighth grade that stands out because I didn't act as I should have. Sometimes they're the white hot moments of decision: to fight or flee, to knock over the liquor store or not. Sometimes they're the long slow turns of screws: the bad relationship, bad job, or ill-advised college major selection. The best we can hope to get out of these mistakes is to learn from them and not commit them again. As the right honorable Beastie Boys opine, "As long as I learn I will make mistakes."

Dreams return things to us unasked. Dreams are interesting: they are utterly internal to us and of our own making, yet they are uncontrollable. Freud's return of the repressed. "If my thought dreams could be seen, they'd probably put my head in a guillotine," sang Bob Dylan. What do you do when the decades keep coming back at you?

I feel much of this mood has to do with my standing on the cusp of another transition, as my defense date approaches. My mind's done thinking about the mountain of the task and is now occupying itself elsewhere.

08 November 2006

Post-Election Hopes.

I went to bed last night around 10:00 p.m., confident that my home state of Pennsylvania would finally cleanse itself of Santorum. I woke up this morning to news that the House has moved mightily over to the Democrats and that even the Senate could possibly shift. What all this means to me of course is that I have new reasons to be disappointed in the middle-of-the-road timid Democrats. It'd be nice if some of them would have the courage of Bernie Sanders, the lone socialist -- he runs as an independent -- who after so many years in the House has now moved handily over to the Senate. The last Democratic Senator with such powerful ideals was the late, great Paul Wellstone.

But enough of the big races -- and speaking of racists, George Allen trailed Jimmy Webb by only a few thousand votes in the land that time forgot -- let's move on to local politics, where Ward One Councilmember Jim Graham easily defeated...a handful of write-ins, since no one went up against him. And Fenty...90% of the vote. My only disappointment was that the Republican candidate received more votes than the Statehood Green (6744 to 4554). I'm very interested to see how Fenty's move for control of the schools shapes up. I would hope he would let Dr. Janey continue to push academic reform, while at the same time wresting facilities management from the dysfunctional, corrupt, and downright negligent administration.

Duke Ellington School for the Arts, featured in the Post recently, is a fine example of what I'm talking about. Here we have a showcase school build around the performing arts and the students are practicing in hallways or have no access to some programs because DCPS facilities allowed the school to deteriorate and refuses to fix the problems in a timely manner. Likewise, Dunbar High School's athletic facilities have been recently featured in the Post, thanks to their deplorable and beyond third-world condition.

At no point should anyone get away with the following statement, made by DCPS spokesperson Patricia Alford-Williams:
"We are repairing them," D.C. schools spokeswoman Patricia Alford-Williams said of Duke Ellington's trouble spots, "but we have a master facilities plan to renovate all our schools, and there's an order in which we're going to get to each of the schools. We're obviously not going to get to them all at the same time."

Let them eat cake, indeed. There is no excuse at any time in any school for any student to have to wait for basic facilities like restrooms or facilities integral to instruction to be useable. If you don't have the staff in-house, you outsource it. It should be unacceptable and inexcusable to place children at risk in unsanitary and decrepit conditions. The most valuable lesson learned by students in those situations is that education is not important and that they do not matter. A master facilities plan should be for upgrades and reconfiguration; it should not be used as an excuse to deprive children of core facilities.

If Fenty can do anything to shake the complacency out of facilities management in DCPS, then that's a good thing.

07 November 2006

I voted and lived to tell about it.

Election day is here. As The Who sang, "Meet the new boss; same as the old boss." In a way, of course they're right and in a way they're wrong. Much is at stake in this mid-term election, not least of which is ANC1C07, where Wilson Reynolds runs unopposed. I voted early this morning and was struck yet again with how impoverished we are in the District during the mid-terms.

Of course, I was able to vote for our long-standing "Delegate," Eleanor Holmes Norton. But can she vote in Congress? No. And I voted for the various "shadow" positions that are basically meaningless. Probably the most important undecided race (because Fenty has basically been acting like and been treated like the mayor-elect since he won the Democratic primary) is for D.C. School Board Chair, and if Fenty has his way that position won't be terribly important anyway, if it even exists when he's through.

In the other states, I'm hoping that Casey holds on and beats Santorum in my native state. However, I saw Casey in one of his own political ads, and he talks like someone who's just been beaten about the head and spun in a circle ten times. And that's in a spot that he paid for. In Virginia, it's just a question of whether a racist will be re-elected to Senate. In Maryland, you have to wonder if Bobby "The Purge" Ehrlich will be re-elected or will O'Malley, the Bard of Baltimore, unseat him. Steele or Cardin? Are any of these people actually interested in DC Statehood? No.

So it gets back to the District and its colonial situation. Now you can argue in three different directions on this one. The first is status quo: the Constitution specifically indicates a federal district be under direct authority of the federal government ["To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States"], Federalist 43 argues for the "indispensable necessity of complete authority at the seat of government" etc. The second is giving DC Statehood (which has been tried before -- both houses of Congress passed the amendment in 1978, but not enough states ratified it before it expired in 1985). The third is to treat D.C. like other U.S. territories by exempting the District from federal taxes -- an interesting prospect that might gather steam in our consumer society that views having more dispensable income to buy their lifestyles as more important than political rights.

I will be watching the television tonight, hoping to see a shift of at least one house in Congress to the Democrats so that BushCo has some competition in one of the three branches.

03 November 2006

The State I'm In.

I've been a little bit off lately, mainly because the posts I want to do involve putting up a few pictures from recent events and I haven't had a chance to sit at my computer with my camera and my fireworks, so I haven't really written.

Last night we went out to Busboys and Poets because we were too lazy to cook. I had the catfish, which was good but the greens lacked any sort of taste, which is not good. My wife got a veggie burger that appeared to have been fried (?!). Our kids split a pizza, which is exactly what they wanted to do.

Of course, any trip for us to Busboys and Poets means checking out the bookstore's children's books, which are always interesting. I found a book by Gloria Anzaldua, someone whom I never would have suspected would write a children's book. But there it was, and according to Wikipedia, the font of all authoritative knowledge, she has three. It also tells me that she was weeks away from completing her dissertation for UC-Santa Cruz when she died of complications due to diabetes. As someone who's weeks away from completing his dissertation, I can tell you that must have sucked. She died ABD.

I also noticed that Angela Davis has written much more than I thought. I have the incredibly useful Women, Race, and Class, but now it seems she's moved into much more detailed research on prisons and the Prison Economy/Industry that the US supports. I can add that to my list of things to catch up on when I can finally say goodbye to the year 1926.

Hopefully some photos after the weekend or over the weekend. We shall see.