Greg Prince's Blog

Musings and pontifications from a reality based progressive

Archive for December, 2005

Concerning the concerned

Posted by Greg on December 30, 2005

Jeff Sharlet has a good piece focused on Concerned Women for America.

It’d be easy to dismiss CWA as fundamentalists, fringe characters without the influence of even Jane. But to do so would mean overlooking CWA’s Washington lobbying power. Worse, it would mean ignoring how groups such as CWA control and define terms such as “evangelical,” “Christian,” “family,” and even “woman.” Officially, CWA says that such terms cut across racial, class, and ideological boundaries; but the aesthetic the organization puts forth presents a different picture, one that is white, affluent, married, “free market,” and “concerned” most of all about sex — how to stop it from happening. 

Worth reading.  Hat tip: Crooks and Liars

 

Posted in Culture War, The Right | Leave a Comment »

Valuing education

Posted by Greg on December 30, 2005

Yglesias at TPMCafe

There’s not a stark either/or choice between the hard cases and the easy cases, but at some level you do need to make a decision about priorities. Insofar as we’re serious about educational equality, that will to some extent involve shortchanging the best and the brightest. Insofar as we’re serious about taking the most talented as far as they can go, that will involve shortchanging equity. The former strikes me as more desirable than the latter, especially for people who want to think of themselves as being on the left.”

Jedmunds at Pandagon

If we as a society our going to make decisions concerning prioritizing scarce educational resources, it makes sense to me, for us to consider what kind of output we desire. Do we want to, for example, mazimize the number of future American Nobel prize winners and enjoy the fruits of the breakthroughs that our most gifted can achieve, or do we want to maximize the educational level of the median American worker? Both results have great value, and if we were to quantify them in terms of dollars, I’m not sure which one would prove to be of greater value to society. But I think these are the questions we should be discussing. And that devoting our resources to maximizing the future opportunities of our least educationally apt children for the sake of doing so, without examining the costs, is fuzzy-headed. Which may or may not be a liberal value. But as liberals we do acknowledge that society is not just a collection of disparate competitive individual maximizers, but that we live in a community where cooperation is also an important value. And that maximizing the strength and resources of that community is itself a liberal value.

It’s a good discussion.

 

Posted in Education, The Left | Leave a Comment »

Friday Humor

Posted by Greg on December 30, 2005

ROFL.  Thanks to Big Gay Sam

 

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Worst of the worst

Posted by Greg on December 30, 2005

All Things Beautiful has issued a generic challenge to the blogosphere to list the ten worst Americans of all time.  She has links to many of the lists out there, and it’s worth your time to read through some of them. 

Off the top of my head, my list (in no order) is:

J Edgar Hoover

Jimmy Carter

Nathan Bedford Forrest

John Walker Jr.

Michael Newdow

Antonin Scalia

Noam Chomsky

Bull Connor

Rodger Taney

Dick Cheney

Far and away, one of the best lists I’ve seen is at Captain’s Quarters.  Check it out – it’s a real list, not a political pissing match.

 

Posted in The Blogosphere | 1 Comment »

There’s no place like home

Posted by Greg on December 30, 2005

The Associated Press reports that Farris Hassan, 16, of Ft. Lauderdale, is returning home.

Using money his parents had given him, he bought a $900 plane ticket and took off from school a week before Christmas vacation started, skipping classes and leaving the country on Dec. 11.

His goal: Baghdad. Those privy to his plans: two high school buddies.

Given his heritage, Hassan could almost pass as Iraqi. His father’s background helped him secure an entry visa, and native Arabs would see in his face Iraqi features and a familiar skin tone. His wispy beard was meant to help him blend in. 

But underneath that Mideast veneer was full-blooded American teen, a born-and-bred Floridian sporting white Nike tennis shoes and trendy jeans. And as soon as the lanky, 6-foot teenager opened his mouth — he speaks no Arabic — his true nationality would have betrayed him.

Wow!  Part of me is impressed by the cojones on this kid who took “immersion journalism” far beyond anything his teachers imagined.  You’ve heard the phrase, “fortune favors the foolish?”  Certainly someone upstairs was watching out for this kid who by all rights should be dead given his adventures. 

His mother is threatening to never leave him alone in the house again, and he’s admitted that in retrospect his trip was completely nuts and he’s lucky to be alive.  But his adventures did give him some perspective on the situation there.  From an essay he submitted to his teacher from Kuwait City:

“There is a struggle in Iraq between good and evil, between those striving for freedom and liberty and those striving for death and destruction,? he wrote.

“Those terrorists are not human but pure evil. For their goals to be thwarted, decent individuals must answer justice’s call for help. Unfortunately, altruism is always in short supply. Not enough are willing to set aside the material ambitions of this transient world, put morality first, and risk their lives for the cause of humanity. So I will.?

“I want to experience during my Christmas the same hardships ordinary Iraqis experience everyday, so that I may better empathize with their distress,? he wrote. 

Naive and idealistic, but I like this kid.  If he survives to adulthood, he could go on to great things.

The snark du jour seems to compare Farris to Ferris, as in Ferris Bueller.  Not being a fan of Ferris I have to admit the comparison completely escaped me.  But when the shoe fits…

Randy Thomas

Catallarchy

Sister Toldjah

Brutally Honest

Flying Lumberyard

UNCoRRELATED

Posted in Education, International | 1 Comment »

US gulags

Posted by Greg on December 30, 2005

Courtesy of John Aravosis.  Read the whole thing, I’ve not copied it all.

Markos has the story, and I’m repeating the gist of it here to help get it out there. Feel free to copy and paste this entire post on your blog.

Basically, the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, is livid about the fact that the US and the British governments have been gladly accepting information from Uzbekistan procured by torture. You may remember that Amb. Murray was none too pleased with the horrendous human rights situation in Uzbekistan – the country is one of the most repressive on the planet – and as a result the Tony Blair, most likely with some US nudging, had Amb. Murray removed from his job. (You can read a chilling speech by Ambassador Murray detailing the Soviet police state that we are supporting in Uzbekistan.)

Well, today Ambassador Murray gets his revenge.

Amb. Murray has published a number of confidential British government documents proving that the US and the UK were conding torture in that abominable country. Tony Blair is now striking back, pulling down Amb. Murray’s Web site. UK bloggers responded by doing a coordinated leak to get the documents out to the public. Markos has republished the docs to make sure they remain public, and I’m doing the same below.

Our government is sanctioning and benefiting from torture in one of the most repressive regimes in the world. A regime that we openly embraced after September 11. A regime that many of you will recall was torturing gay journalist and human rights advocate Ruslan Sharipov (the Uzbek government arrested Ruslan for being a human rights advocate, then, after beating him, threatened to rape him with a bottle and inject him with AIDS). These are the people that George Bush has buddied up to to fight this honorable war. The worst governments on the planet – people who make the Soviets look downright nice.

And who else do you think personally was sucking up to the Uzbek dictator just a couple of years ago? Donald Rumsfeld. The same man who sucked up to Saddam Hussein before we decided he was evil.

Crossposted to UNCoRRELATED

Posted in Bush Adminisration, Civil Rights, International, Justice and the Courts, Terrorism, The Right | Leave a Comment »

A matter of perspective

Posted by Greg on December 29, 2005

Thanks to Bring it On for bringing the following ACLU ad to our attention.

 acluad.jpg

 

Will “the wingnuts be pissing red”?  Somehow I doubt it. 

In a way I find the ad unfortunate because the connection to Nixon is artificial and distracts from the very real constitutional concerns here.

As The Bull Moose observed this morning:

 There are strong arguments that the President should have sought authorization from the FISA Court for the surveillance. However, in the Moose’s view, it is out-of-bounds to suggest that the President was attempting a tyrannical seizure of power. Contrary to the not too subtle suggestion in the fevered ACLU ad in today’s New York Times, this is not Watergate. Aging baby-boomers don’t need to get their fraying Impeach Nixon shirts out of the closet just yet. There is no evidence, for instance, that President exploited the program to spy on domestic opponents or to assist in his re-election. If he did, it would be an entirely different matter.

He’s right.  The war formerly known as on terror is not election tampering.  But he’s still too easy on Bush. 

The detection of phone calls between terrorist suspects and contacts in America constitute legitimate war activities in this new type of conflict. Establishing probable cause and justification might have been impracticable with the need to immediately mine hundreds of calls and electronic communications. And there are certainly precedents for warrantless searches.

Kind of.  When speed is of the essence, it’s well established that they can tap now and file the paperwork afterwards.  Carte blanche data mining is precisely what the law prohibits which is why the administration wanted to circumvent the process to begin with.

National support for the administration’s policy is overstated.  Yeah over 60% favor it as defined in a recent Rassmussen poll, but all they asked was whether it was appropriate to monitor communications between terrorists overseas and people in the US.  Were you to ask about generic data mining of American citizens you’d be getting a different answer.

 

Posted in Bush Adminisration, Terrorism | 2 Comments »

Coming home to roost

Posted by Greg on December 29, 2005

Now isn’t this choice?  The Pennsylvania branch of the AFA is coming down hard on Senator Rick Santorum now that he’s transparently trying to disassociate himself from the religious whacko element of his constituency.

“Senator Santorum has been backwatering on this issue since August when he stated he did not believe Intelligent Design should be taught in the classroom. The Senator is missing the mark – Dover was not requiring the teaching of Intelligent Design only the reading of a one-minute statement.  Senator Santorum has said he believes teachers should have the freedom to mention Intelligent Design, yet Judge Jones’ decision forbids this, making the Senator’s agreement with the Judge even more troubling,? stated Diane Gramley, president of the AFA of PA. 

We’ll leave open the question of what “backwatering” is for now.

Hat tip: By the Bayou who observes

The senator, who’s helped build his career by adopting almost any nutty religious right stance that comes along, apparently draws the line at teaching mythology as science in public school classrooms. So, when he took the oh so brave stand of agreeing with a judge that science curricula should contain science, not bizarre fantasies like “intelligent design,” the AFA announced that they’d had enough; if the senator is going to occasionally adopt rational thought, they’re done with him. 

Also see

Not in My Bible

Pandagon

Dem Bloggers

Fatmixx

Americablog

Crossposted to UNCoRRELATED

Posted in The Right | Leave a Comment »

ROFL

Posted by Greg on December 29, 2005

If you haven’t read THIS yet, you need to.

Posted in Bush Adminisration, Congress, The Right | Leave a Comment »

Battlestar blogging

Posted by Greg on December 29, 2005

Timothy Sandefur has a good essay comparing the iterations of the Battlestar Galactica TV show. 

It’s worth a read if you’re a fan, and even if you’re not. 🙂

I was a fan of the original and approached the new rendition with more than a little skepticism.  I have to give them credit, they did a good job, though it seems to be turning into a soap opera in space.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Remembering greatness

Posted by Greg on December 29, 2005

The New York Times is running features on some of the noteable personalities who passed away in 2005.  Among them is James Stockdale who is, alas, best known for his ill fated vice presidential run with Ross Perot in 1992.

Read it in full.

Hat tip: The Carpetbagger Report, who notes:

Many of us recall Phil Hartmann doing a funny Stockdale impersonation on Saturday Night Live after the debate in which Stockdale rhetorically asked, “Who am I? Why am I here?” If that’s the only thing people remember of Stockdale, we’re missing a remarkable story about an extraordinary individual.  

 

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Sure to provoke

Posted by Greg on December 28, 2005

I see the following editorial in the Star Tribune:

Sometimes a popular film meets politics at just the right moment (“The China Syndrome” and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979 come to mind), and now it may have happened again, perhaps in a more important way.

In the coming weeks, “Brokeback Mountain” will spread from major cities into the heartland, and millions of Americans will line up to see what’s being called the “gay cowboy movie” — although it’s more accurately a classic story of forbidden love and of lives wasted because of the world’s narrow conventions. 

Watch the paper for the typical cries of outrage from the usual suspects. Maybe it will be louder than usual with the Jihadist-in-Chief Bachman’s aspirations for a Congressional seat this year.  Will be amusing to watch.

Posted in Culture War, The Right | Leave a Comment »

Conservatism vs. the GOP

Posted by Greg on December 28, 2005

Jeffrey Hart has a good piece at the Opinion Journal discussing the changes in the GOP.

Conservatives assume that the Republican Party is by and large conservative. But this party has stood for many and various things in its history. The most recent change occurred in 1964, when its center of gravity shifted to the South and the Sunbelt, now the solid base of “Republicanism.” The consequences of that profound shift are evident, especially with respect to prudence, education, intellect and high culture. It is an example of Machiavelli’s observation that institutions can retain the same outward name and aspect while transforming their substance entirely.

Andrew Sullivan observes:

Hart’s rather beautiful summary of conservatism,

“a philosophy always open to experience and judging by experience within given conditions–the experience pleasurable or, more often, painful, but utopia always a distant and destructive mirage,”

is as eloquent a damning of the current Republican hegemony as any I know of.

 

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Roundup

Posted by Greg on December 28, 2005

Commentator and columnist Cal Thomas comes up with an unorthodox way to reduce class sizes:

Religious parents should exercise the opportunity that has always been theirs. They should remove their children from state schools with their “instruction manuals” for turning them into secular liberals, and place them in private schools — or home school them — where they will be taught the truth, according to their parents’ beliefs.

Too many parents who would never send their children to a church on Sunday that taught doctrines they believed to be wrong, have had no problem placing them in state schools five days a week where they are taught conflicting doctrines and ideas.

Private schools or home schooling cost extra money (another reason to favor school choice) and extra time, but what is a child worth? Surely, a child is more valuable than material possessions.

Our children are our letters to the future. It’s up to parents to decide whether they want to send them “first class” or “postage due.”

Rulings such as this should persuade parents who’ve been waffling to take their children and join the growing exodus from state schools into educational environments more conducive to their beliefs.

Interesting. It’s unfortunate to think the children’s education might be harmed by their parents’ ideology, but certainly the parents are within their rights.

Hat tip: The Carpetbagger Report

Attempts to force anti-gay amendments into the California constitution are failing. One group admits to being over 200,000 signatures shy of the required 591,000. If their proposals are that popular, they should be able to get that many signatures without leaving Los Angeles County.

Others commenting:

Americablog

aTypical Joe

Republic of T

Boi from Troy

All a TheoryJohn Cole highlights a James Wilson piece that is a must read.

People use “theory” when they mean a guess, a faith or an idea. A theory in this sense does not state a testable relationship between two or more things. It is a belief that may be true, but its truth cannot be tested by scientific inquiry. One such theory is that God exists and intervenes in human life in ways that affect the outcome of human life. God may well exist, and He may well help people overcome problems or even (if we believe certain athletes) determine the outcome of a game. But that theory cannot be tested. There is no way anyone has found that we can prove empirically that God exists or that His action has affected some human life. If such a test could be found, the scientist who executed it would overnight become a hero.

Evolution is a theory in the scientific sense. It has been tested repeatedly by examining the remains of now-extinct creatures to see how one species has emerged to replace another. Even today we can see some kinds of evolution at work, as when scholars watch how birds on the Galapagos Islands adapt their beak size from generation to generation to the food supplies they encounter.

Keep in mind, the same weenies who lament the teaching of real science are the same weenies who lament the migration of technical jobs overseas.

Technically legalthis piece highlights the quiet war against abortion rights in several states.  What does it matter if it’s legal if it’s unavailable?

Birthright Citizenship The far right’s attack on the 14th Amendment continues, getting more press now. 

See:

The Carpetbagger Report

Red State

Brandon Jaynes

The Grape’s Vine

Posted in The Blogosphere | 2 Comments »

What’s the best of the best?

Posted by Greg on December 28, 2005

It’s interesting watching all the “best movies” lists come out this time of year. Of course everyone’s looking forward to the Golden Globes and Oscars, and every critic worth his salt has the best and worst of the year tabulated.

Of course you’ve got the expected entries.  The things like Brokeback Mountain, Crash, Cinderella Man, and so forth.  Not that I have anything against serious movies – I even liked Brokeback and Crash – but what’s wrong with admitting that some of the popular films, while not high brow, were damn good entertainment.  Which is more than can probably be said about some that will be contending for top awards.

Box office isn’t everything in terms of determining artistic merit.  Indeed, some real stinkers rake in the bucks.  But it’s too bad things like Goblet of Fire, Narnia, Sahara, and Batman Begins don’t get more credit.

I suppose there’s some marginal hope for King Kong.  But I haven’t seen that one yet…  Part of me considers it sacreligious to remake classics of that stature.  No doubt Peter Jackson can do it justice, but just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be…

 

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