A Cautious Man
October 30, 2007
Busted Out Of Class
I see this morning that Ms. Malkin, the comfort woman for the far right, has focused her ire on *gasp*, efforts to reduce stress for high-performing high school students. In her diatribe about efforts by Paul Richards, a principal in a Massachusetts district, to promote relaxation techniques, she merrily mixes stories of high-scoring apples and academicallly-challenge oranges to add to her sweeping condemnation of public education.
Oh, criminey. Just what American high school students need: “Less homework, more yoga:”
. . .

Now, Richards is leading an entire cult of educrats more obsessed with reducing “stress” and coddling fragile minds and bodies than with challenging students to push themselves to the limit and demanding nothing less than their best: "Mr. Richards is just one principal in the vanguard of a movement to push back against an ethos of super-achievement at affluent suburban high schools amid the extreme competition over college admissions." . . .

Welcome to 21st century public education in the US, where one in 10 schools are “dropout factories”

The "dropout factory" reference concerns another article, about schools where a severely high percentage of students never graduate -
WASHINGTON - It's a nickname no principal could be proud of: "Dropout Factory," a high school where no more than 60 percent of the students who start as freshmen make it to their senior year. That dubious distinction applies to more than one in 10 high schools across America.
. . .

There are about 1,700 regular or vocational high schools nationwide that fit that description, according to an analysis of Education Department data conducted by Johns Hopkins for The Associated Press. That's 12 percent of all such schools, no more than a decade ago but no less, either.

While some of the missing students transferred, most dropped out, Balfanz says. The data tracked senior classes for three years in a row — 2004, 2005 and 2006 — to make sure local events like plant closures weren't to blame for the low retention rates.

The highest concentration of dropout factories is in large cities or high-poverty rural areas in the South and Southwest. Most have high proportions of minority students. These schools are tougher to turn around, because their students face challenges well beyond the academic ones — the need to work as well as go to school, for example, or a need for social services.

Utah, which has low poverty rates and fewer minorities than most states, is the only state without a dropout factory. Florida and South Carolina have the highest percentages. About half of high schools in those states classify as dropout factories.

It's ridiculous to link these two stories, as Ms. Malkin does, since the problems identified are very different. Look, it really isn’t all that hard to actually understand the situations. Some kids are not succeeding in school, and their family and economic situations are major contributors to that. On the other hand, some kids are having extraordinary success in school, and once again their family and economic situations are major contributors. The kids who are not succeeding, need help from their schools, and they don’t need right-wing screechers telling them to just work harder. And, the kids who are succeeding, will do just fine, if we back off a little, and let them be themselves. If it takes a little in-school relaxation techniques, why the heck not? It certainly isn’t something to get in a tizzy over.

As for the "stress reduction" program, if Ms. Malkin thinks that this is some sort of public school abomination, she's mistaken. A colleague at work just attended a workshop at the private college preparatory school where her child is in the first year class. The point of the program was for upperclassmen to speak with both students and their parents about academic pressures, and how to handle the college race. Ms. Malkin seems to think that these kids need to have some sort of whip hand over them, "challenging students to push themselves to the limit and demanding nothing less than their best". These kids are doing their best, and they'll be fine, if they aren't made psychotic by the kind of attitude displayed by Ms. Malkin.

As the parent of two college students, I’ve seen how the anxiety over college admissions can create enormous pressure on students. Our kids were anxious, but not because we were pressuring them, but I did see it in their friends. The fact is, there are a lot of great colleges and universities out there (even “state schools”, contrary to the views of the snobs), and these kids will do fine – it’s more important to find a place that is the right fit for them. But, the pressure to get into one of the “top” schools can be harmful, especially since the kids may be looking for the school that everyone else thinks is the “right” school, instead of looking for the school that’s right for them.

So, chill, everybody.

October 28, 2007
Sunday Night Springsteen
In light of the protests this weekend, this is appropriate - "Gypsy Biker" -

The speculators made their money
On the blood you shed

* * *

The favored march up over the hill
In some fools parade
Shoutin' victory for the righteous
But there ain't much here but graves

* * *

To the dead it don't matter much
'Bout who's wrong or right
You asked me that question
I didn't get it right

Now The Revenue Man Wanted Grandaddy Bad . . .
With my penchant for using lyrics as post titles, I couldn't pass this one up.

From Mr. Atrios, regarding that Republican phenom, former Senator Thompson -
But a review of the 88 criminal cases Thompson handled at the U.S. attorney's office in Nashville, from 1969 to 1972, reveals a different and more human portrait -- that of a young lawyer learning the ropes on routine cases involving gambling, mail theft and, in one instance, talking dirty on CB radio.

There were a few bank robbers and counterfeiters. But more than anything, Thompson took on the state's moonshiners and a local culture, rooted in Tennessee's hills and hollows, that celebrated the independent whiskey maker's battle against the government's revenue agents.

Twenty-seven of his cases involved moonshining -- more than any other crime.

"Hell, I made whiskey and was violating the law, but I didn't do nothing wrong," said one of Thompson's many moonshining defendants, Kenneth Whitehead. "I would do it again if I had a still. I can't afford a still now."

Now, the fact that Mr. Thompson was the prosecutor who kept the promise that the revenue men made, when they caught the moonshiners, is not something that I think is bad. On the other hand, it's not a "good ole boy" kind of activity, as near as I can tell.

But enough of politics - this is as good an excuse as any for some "Copperhead Road" from Steve Earle.

A "music video" version, which apparently can't be "embedded", is at this link.

A "Sims" version, which can be embedded -

And, an interesting clip from what seems to be a "Country Music Television" show hosted by Jerry Jeff "Up against the wall redneck mother" Walker. The audience doesn't seem to know what to make of this guy, Steve Earle, and his solo performance of "Copperhead Road", but they sure do applaud at the end.

I don't know what the crowd would have thought of Mr. Thompson, so we'll just have to let our imaginations run wild.

October 27, 2007
Out In The Street
So, we sent the Cautious Daughter off to college this fall. And even though you don't think your kids are listening to you - apparently, some of them do. In our case, she's become involved in social justice activities at school, including the Eyes Wide Open project on her campus.

She caught a ride home from school today, because she was on her way to participate in today's march against the war in Iraq. She caught the train from town into New York, with our local "Be About Peace" activists.

I stayed home, did the grocery shopping and picked up the dry cleaning.

I don't know whether I should be happy that I have children who want to do something to oppose our government's war policies, or sad because we're in a situation where our children have to actually deal with a war like this - while their parents run errands.

Anyway, here are some of her pictures from today. This shows some of the people from town, and the "Be About Peace" sign that is seen all around our community.

This sign had a message that says it all -

A shot of the crowd -

And, somebody whom the Cautious Daughter found amusing -

October 21, 2007
Sunday Night Springsteen
As reported at Backstreets.com, Mr. Springsteen and the band teamed up with some "local heroes" in Ottawa last week.
Yep, in the six-song encore, Bruce and the E Streeters were joined by members of Arcade Fire, husband-and-wife band co-founders Win Butler and Régine Chassagne. First up was "State Trooper," a song Arcade Fire has been known to cover, and which the E Street Band hasn't played live since the Born in the U.S.A. tour. After that, they all went into "Keep the Car Running," a hard-hitting track from Arcade Fire's magnificent Neon Bible.
. . .

[Q]uite a curveball in the indie band's homeland, and a cross-generational mingling of talent on par with the R.E.M. team-up of 2004. Update: Actually, upon reflection, AF's appearance has more in common with Eddie Vedder's, especially in terms of bestowing the ultimate honor in a guest spot: The E Street Band learns your song, and you peform it with them.
Pretty cool, imho.

Some videos of the performance in Ottawa. First up, "State Trooper" On this one you can hear the audience (especially one person) freak out that the folks from Arcade Fire have come onstage.

And another version of that, starting in the middle of the performance -

And then, the E Street Band turned themselves into the "house band" for the folks from Arcade Fire, and backed them up on their own song, "Keep the Car Running". And the crowd goes wild . . .

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover
You can't judge the sugar
By looking at the cane
You can't judge a woman
By looking at her man
You can't judge the sister
By looking at her brother
You can't judge a book
By looking at the cover

- Bo Diddley
So with all the fussing about Ann Coulter and her messianic zeal about Jewish people, I picked up her book yesterday at the bookstore.

No, I didn't buy it, I just picked it up and flipped through it. It appears to be a compilation of comments (sort of a "Sayings of Chairwoman Ann"), lots of which are apparently from previously published rantings. Just a sampling from the table of contents gives you the flavor of the work. Some examples -
"Airport security: make imams take buses"
"Blacks: the only thing standing between the Democrat Party and oblivion"
"Colleges: the English translation of 'madrassa'"
"Environmentalism : Adolf Hilter was the first environmentalist"
"Evolution, alchemy, and other 'settled' scientific theories"
"Foreigners, or the 'non-soap oriented'"
"Muslims: Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and a moderate Muslim walk into a bar"
Well, you get the idea. I know that her whole point is to say things that get people annoyed or angry, but why? In her introduction, she says that she is saying "the Truth" - but someone who views those things as "the Truth" has a serious perception problem, or is perhaps just a little, you know, a few threads short of a full cocktail dress.

Then it hit me. I was reading these all wrong. I went through the table of contents again, but this time imagining the voice of Stephen Colbert saying these things. And, it was hilarious! While they're outrageous coming from some clueless conservative pundit who thinks she's making a valid point, they are fantastic one-liners for someone who is trying to act like a clueless conservative pundit.

Mr. Colbert should mine this book for the nuggets of comedy gold contained therein. I give him that advice free of charge.

October 14, 2007
Sunday Night Springsteen
So we went to the Meadowlands on Tuesday, to see Mr. Springsteen and the E Street Band perform with songs from the new album. They had a glitch (an "Incident", if you will), and as a result did not perform the following song, which had been included in the setlist for the show.

They did it for the crowd the next night (lucky bastards), from which the recording below came.

October 13, 2007
As It Changes To Green
Ms. Malkin has taken time out from stalking the families of injured 12-year-olds, to return to her full-time job as Islamophobic Rage Girl.

She has found another example of “Dhimmitude” (a nonsense word coined by some hard-core haters, of which Ms. M is a prime specimen). And what does she consider to be the latest craven capitulation to the crescent and star? The lights of Empire State Building will shine green, in commemoration of Eid-al-fitr, the festival at the end of Ramadan.

New York's iconic Empire State Building is to be lit up green from Friday in honor of the Muslim holiday of Eid, the biggest festival in the Muslim calendar marking the end of Ramadan, officials said.

"This is the first time that the Empire State Building will be illuminated for Eid, and the lighting will become an annual event in the same tradition of the yearly lightings for Christmas and Hannukah," according to a statement.

That’s right, she’s rallying her rage boys and rage girls to get upset over the commemoration of a religious holiday celebrated by millions of Americans, and over a billion people around the world.

And what is her reason for this? She coyly leaves it unspoken, letting her post title speak for her, and then linking to other, more obscure but no less hate-filled bloggers. Among the “reasonings” offered for getting the hate on over this –

Today, they announced that the Empire State Building will light itself HAMAS-green in honor of the end of Ramadan.

. . .

"Interreligious understanding" now means we must "understand" those who want to obliterate us through tall buildings. When you demand multi-culturalism, the "cult" is the part of the word that ends up dominating.

In 2001, it was through forced, violent, fiery colors. In 2007, it is through voluntarily whimpering and butt-kissing to Ramadan colors.

Either way, it's a defeat. The first time, the tall buildings' owners didn't expect it. This time, the owners not only see it coming, they cower to it.

Planes into the building, yesterday. Jihadist-Green atop the building, today. Same difference.

If only Jim Jones were around today . . . Kool-Aid Purple Lighting atop the Empire State. "Interreligious Understanding."

Just asking us to look at the HAMAS-Green is like forcing us to drink the Purple.

Yes, I know that Ms. Malkin didn’t write those words, she “only” linked to the post. Doesn’t matter, given her hearty recommendation. Oh, and read the comments at her post, too, if you want to see more examples of ignorant hatred.

Of course, this is another example of the rule that "Hate Makes You Stupid". Even if they didn't already know it, five seconds on the computer would have shown these clowns that "Green is considered the traditional color of Islam". Or, perhaps, they do know that, but their intense hatred has got the better of them. This is a perfect example of the "Islam=Terrorism" Islamophobia they embody, even as they lie and claim that's not what they are saying.

These people are hatemongers, pure and simple. It’s an outrage that someone like Ms. Malkin is given the hosting chair on O’Reilly, or constantly brought onto television programs as some sort of cultural or political critic.

October 07, 2007
Sunday Night Springsteen
Tonight, it really was "Sunday Night Springsteen", with the gentleman himself featured on "60 Minutes".

The story's online, so if you didn't see it, just go here.

My favorite part of the interview (and, IMHO, it's something that a longtime fan would find most interesting) is the dialogue regarding his father. His father did seem to be part of a lot of those characters in his songs, who were looking for a better life. That came out in this interview -

His recurring obsession is the life that he knew as a boy, the harsh relationship with his working class dad who didn't think much of a rock and roll son.

"It was a tough, struggling household. People struggled emotionally. People struggled financially to get through the day," Springsteen remembers. "Small town. Small town world which I continue to return to. It's like when I went to write, though, I put my father's clothes on. You know the immersement in that world through my parents and my own experience as a child and the need to tell a story that maybe was partially his. Or maybe a lot his. I just felt drawn to do it."

"Your dad wasn't all that proud of you as a young man?" Pelley asks.

"Oh, he was later. When I came home with the Oscar and I put it on the kitchen table, and he just looked at it and said, 'Bruce, I'll never tell anybody what to do ever again,'" Springsteen remembers, laughing. "It was like, that was his comment. So I said, 'Oh. That's okay.'"

If you've ever heard one of Mr. Springsteen's stories about his dad, in concert, that last one is the topper.

October 02, 2007
The Roll Of The Dice
In the middle of a masterful exposition of just what is so wrong about Mr. Bill O'Reilly and the Fox News enterprise, Hunter at Daily Kos let forth with this perfect summation.
The entire "conservative" media movement, from Limbaugh to O'Reilly to Coulter, is based on old Andrew Dice Clay skits. Someday, America will get tired of people whose only schtick is comic hatred, just like they got tired of their antecedents. Ratings will begin to slide, and it will be all over: on to the new schtick.

That actually explains everything, for me.

One can only hope that America tires of it before something really bad happens.

I mean, other than the really bad stuff that's already happened . . .

October 01, 2007
Watch The Traffic Pass Me By
So, over at Crooks and Liars, somebody gave the keys to Steven Hart of The Opinion Mill, who's on my reading list on the side. Mr. Hart was kind enough to link to my musings on Mr. Giuliani, below.

Well, as you can imagine, the traffic here soared today. I came home and checked the "Sitemeter" stats, and felt like a big-time blogger.

Thanks, dude.


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