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This is What Democracy Looks Like
Friday-Sunday, June 9-11, 2006
A John Stewart Quote in the Lead
"If (Rumsfeld) seemed a little choked up it's because it's the first thing he's done right,"
-Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, in response to Secretary of Defense Donald "We Don't Know What We Don't Know" Rumsfeld's remarks about the killing of Abu Musad al-Zarqawi
And we're not even sure if "Rummy" did anything at all!
Like everything else, I have an opinion on education. In relation to my own thoughts on home schooling, and the responses I received (all of them in opposition to my thoughts, I might add) I felt it was the right time to use my endless powers of logical thinking (of course, one man's logic is another man's absurdity) to put my two cents into the education debate. After indexing my numerous thoughts on the subject, I realized that the future of education is in real jeopardy in this country while it flourishes overseas. Its implications can be disastrous for the Society of Life here at home and takes away advantages that the most important nation in the world (yes, I really do believe that) has to offer its citizens and others in its charge. So here goes:
School starts with teachers. Teachers are the guardians of our children's future. They need to be well-paid and they shouldn't have to purchase school supplies out of pocket. Staples shouldn't have advertise a special program that offers you "points" that turns into discounts for teachers at your child's school every time you make a purchase, even though it's a good idea and a nice marketing tool. Now that I've made any teacher reading this say "Yeah!", it's time to put some of the onus on them. Teachers need to be responsive to... and respectful of their students. As the father of 19-year-old daughter (Bonnie) who recently graduated High School and a 14-year-old son (Jason) who is about to enter High School, I have seen both the good and the bad, and everything in between. For example, I already know the teacher who will stay in my son's memory (from middle school) for quite some time. Jason calls him "Mr. OD" (for O'Donnell, not overdose). To hear my son tell it, Mr. OD not only made learning fun, but he made it educational. What a concept! In contrast, I had to deal with a substitute teacher who used a racial epitaph directed toward Bonnie and a 26-year-old gym teacher who made my asthmatic son "walk" the rest of the mile an hour after he had an attack (and yes, he knew my son had asthma).
First, teachers need the resources and the school budget should reflect that. Each teacher should be allocated a budget to be used at his or her own discretion. however, in the spirit of "trust and verify", requisitions should be made and approved by the school's principal or department head for major purchases (some arbitrary dollar amount). There would be an appeals process if the teacher feels he or she had been wronged.
Next, teachers would have to be subject to a constant review, not only by their supervisors but by parents and students as well. One way, I believe, that teachers should be reviewed is by comparing same-subject marks from grade to grade. For example, if a student received an "A" in seventh grade and a "D" in eighth grade, the question "Why?" needs to be answered. And if it is epidemic (many students receiving a similar grade-to-grade comparison); there would need to be a major review.
One of the major concerns I hear expressed is the disparity between "good" students and "bad" students, terms I personally don't like. There are students who are understand immediately and those who need help, just the same way there are employees who learn new jobs and procedures almost as fast as they are implemented and those employees who require more training. The latter employee may be slow to learn, but he (or she) could be a loyal and honest person who is worth the extra time. In short, each employee, as does each student, has value. In the case of education, however, the value of each student requires a commitment by their respective schools.
It is my intention to have teachers and the "good" students help the poorer students. In the case of the teachers, it would mean the added responsibility of an additional period in which to teach, For the student tutors it would mean the self-satisfaction of helping another student and an indication on their records which could be used on a college application. There is no reason why a senior in High School couldn't help an eighth grader or even an elementary school student. Obviously, the student tutor sessions would have to be supervised and on school property. For same-school student tutoring the study period could be used, as well.
I believe that removing after school programs due to budget cuts was one of the worst mistakes ever made by any school district, especially urban school districts. Many students need the guidance of responsible adults and many parents simply have to work. Children spend too much time alone when they could be learning teamwork (playing intramural sports); discovering hidden talent (an art class); or catching up on their studying in a learning-enhanced environment. The question is how are we going to pay for the faculty to supervise these programs? Not with money, of course. My plan is simple: For every year worked in an after school program the teacher would get credit for time worked and an overtime paycheck that would be donated back to their school, which would be used as a personal tax deduction. The time-worked reimbursement could be allocated like this: For every hour worked two hours of credit would be earned. This could offer teachers a chance at early retirement, for example. I think that this is a win-win-win: For the teachers; for the schools; and the students.
Require any colleges which rely on any state or federal aid to offer complete scholarships to a certain number of High School students based on effort, commitment to their communities and improvement through their High School careers. This uses the same which the federal government used to allow military recruiters on campuses: If they want the government money they'll have to follow these rules.
Identify students who are unusually adept at a certain subject, even if their other grades are just average. Test them for aptitude in that subject and offer them placement and scholarships in programs that would take advantage of those talents-still-hidden. Similarly, as I have written before, I recommend a system which recognizes talent in the science field as early as High School. It would be a system which would keep tabs on young and talented students with an eye on allowing them a way to go to college, then medical school, for free. After graduation and completion of their after medical school education (internship, residency, etc) they would be required to work at clinics for a period of four years or two years military or Peace Corp service. (During their service, they would earn a living wage.) This would allow us to make better doctors and allow them a way to pay for their tuition and concentrate on their studies without the albatross of huge loans hanging on their shoulders.
Corporations should be offered huge tax breaks for supporting schools, especially those in poor districts. For every dollar contributed a tax deduction of two, three or four times that amount should be credited. There are many corporations out there who would rather give a small portion of their profits to a school for books, or a music program, or for a scholarship fund than pay it to Washington and watch those dollars end up in the coffers of war profiteers like Halliburton and the Bush "base" of "haves and have-mores".
Finally, whatever happened to the lottery profits? I remember when New York State approved a lottery (I was brought up in Brooklyn and spent the first half od my life there) in order to improve education. Much in the same way President Bush has misused the Social Security Trust Fund (remember that he borrowed from it and then said that it had no money, only paper), the lottery's profits have been used, it seems, for anything and everything other than educating our children. We should skim an additional ten percent off the top of all lottery winnings and help pay for learning.
THE BABY KILLER
More of those GOP Hypocrites
Herr Former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) has got to be the most despicable, loathsome example of a hypocrite in contemporary American politics. Consider these reports from various websites:
• While proclaiming family values, it turns out that Herr Barr has been married three times!
• While marketing himself as the poster boy for family values, and being married to his second wife, Herr Barr was having an affair with his soon to be third wife.
• Herr Barr has been required to appear in court at least twice for failure to pay child support.
• When Herr Barr was still married to wife number two, his wife decided to have an abortion. Herr Barr, Mr. Anti-Abortion himself, not only allowed his wife to have the abortion, he drove her to the abortion clinic and after the abortion, he paid the medical bill. This incident raises two questions:
1 When did Barr's second wife have the abortion? Did she get the abortion because she was getting a divorce, or was it much earlier? This is important because if the abortion occurred around the time she had decided to get a divorce, Mrs. Barr probably got the abortion because she did not want to raise a child in a one-parent home. It would also explain why Herr Barr wasn't so opposed to the abortion: Herr Barr didn't want to be stuck with child support payments! Especially since wife number three was coming into the picture, and he wanted to start his newest marriage off with a clean slate.
2 Herr Barr has been one of the most outspoken opponents of a woman's right to choose. In fact, Herr Barr calls abortion murder. However, if abortion is indeed murder according to Herr Barr's "articles of faith", then why isn't Herr Barr serving prison time for his part in the murder of his own unborn child? Clearly, Herr Barr's philosphy is "Do as I dictate, not as I do".
• It has been reported that during a fundraiser Herr Barr was observed licking whipped cream off a stripper's breast! (I must have missed that part of the definition of "family values".)
• Herr Barr claims that he is not a bigot. Yet he had no problem addressing pious, white supremacist members of the Council of Conservative Citizens.
• Herr Barr was at one time a U.S. Attorney. However, it turns out he wasn't a very good one. In fact, the Assistant U.S. Attorneys working with him got to the point that they didn't trust him! They didn't trust Herr Barr, because they suspected him of leaking sensitive information about their investigations to the news media. Local heads of law enforcement agencies also complained about Herr Barr - to the Justice Department! Barr was an ambitious publicity hound, even before seeking elected office. His behavior while U.S. Attorney was so intolerable that U.S. District Judge William C. O'Kelly actually reprimanded him for appearing in too many news interviews!
A GOP Subpoena-Boy
SENATE REPUBLICAN LEADER BILL FRIST (TN) Frist Subpoenaed By SEC On Suspicion That He Violated "Insider Trading Laws." "Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist... has been subpoenaed to turn over personal records and documents as federal authorities step up a probe of his July sales of HCA Inc. stock, according to sources familiar with the investigation. The Securities and Exchange Commission issued the subpoena within the past two weeks, after initial reports that Frist, the Senate's top Republican official, was under scrutiny by the agency and the Justice Department for possible violations of insider trading laws."
-The Washington Post, October 13, 2005
Plenty more where this came from. By the way, the Abramhoff investigation has barely scratched the surface. There's plenty more bad news in store for the GOOPERS.
-Forwarded and commented by Robert Scardapane
RFK, Jr. Accuses the GOOPERS of Cheating In 2004
Robert Kennedy, Jr. writing in Rolling Stone magazine accuses the GOOPERS of stealing the 2004 election:
What is most anomalous about the irregularities in 2004 was their decidedly partisan bent: Almost without exception they hurt John Kerry and benefited George Bush. After carefully examining the evidence, I've become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004. Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election.
On Exit Polls:
On the evening of the vote, reporters at each of the major networks were briefed by pollsters at 7:54 p.m. Kerry, they were informed, had an insurmountable lead and would win by a rout: at least 309 electoral votes to Bush's 174, with fifty-five too close to call. In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair went to bed contemplating his relationship with President-elect Kerry. As the last polling stations closed on the West Coast, exit polls showed Kerry ahead in ten of eleven battleground states - including commanding leads in Ohio and Florida - and winning by a million and a half votes nationally. The exit polls even showed Kerry breathing down Bush's neck in supposed GOP strongholds Virginia and North Carolina. Against these numbers, the statistical likelihood of Bush winning was less than one in 450,000.
[Ohio Sec of State Kenneth Blackwell] has openly denounced Kerry as ''an unapologetic liberal Democrat,''(50) and during the 2004 election he used his official powers to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Ohio citizens in Democratic strongholds. In a ruling issued two weeks before the election, a federal judge rebuked Blackwell for seeking to ''accomplish the same result in Ohio in 2004 that occurred in Florida in 2000.''
Given what the GOOPERS have done over these past years - NSA wiretapping, torture, starting a war based on lies, is it really so hard to believe that they cheated in 2004? I think that Kerry really did win in 2004. Poor Mr. Kerry has withstood such abuse - even at the hands of frustrated Democrats. What did he do so wrong except to make a few verbal blunders? That pales to insignificance compared to Bush's criminal record.
-Forwarded and commented by Robert Scardapane
THE LAVENDER TUBE: 72 VERSIONS
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2006 San Francisco Bay Area Reporter, Inc.
This was one of those weeks on the tube where it became clear that the U.S. is like *The 4400*–we're living in an alternate reality from the rest of the planet. It isn't just George Bush that makes it seem that way or watching Al Gore on every other talk show looking smart and casually presidential.
Take football. We call it soccer, but the rest of the world calls it football. No one else on the planet plays the game Americans call football. But the game that the world calls football and we call soccer is in the midst of the World Cup. The World Cup is kind of like the World Series (if it were fast and interesting and included, well, the world) and the Superbowl (if it were fast and interesting and was, well, super) combined, except with *lots* more fans. More than a billion people are watching the World Cup series this month and none of them are Americans. Which is what we mean by alternate reality.
The other morning we were listening to BBC World News (which is where we turn if we want news about the real world and for now, before the Bush Administration pulls the plug on PBS, we can still watch it) and it was all about the World Cup. Because, well, when a billion people are watching, it gets covered on the news.
Well, not *our* news, but then so many things don't get covered by our news. There actually is a team from America playing in the World Cup series. We just don't know who they are. No bending it like Beckham here. Here football is done with the hands, in tights by 300 pound guys with lots of padding up top like it should be. None of that gorgeous build and fancy footwork in little shorts with no padding or helmets. That's not for American men. That's like, well–*sports.*
The coverage we've seen so far (outside of ESPN) was a segment on *Nightline* June 9th, the day the World Cup began, on how much the English hate the Germans. (Left over from WWII, dontcha know.) It was a pretty hilarious bit, even though it wasn't supposed to be funny, because it included some out-takes from one of the funniest TV shows of all time, *Fawlty Towers* and from another hugely funny Brit show, *Allo, Allo.* (Both on PBS, natch.)
See, the Germans are the Kaisers of football/soccer and this year the games are being held in Germany. The Germans win World Cups like the Lakers used to win NBA titles. Apparently the Germans are touchy about folks mentioning the war, though. Very touchy. And the English still hate them (although the English still hate most countries, including everyone else in the EU, but they hate the Germans *especially*). So it's hooliganism once again, which is what the English are known for, after all–haven't you been to the British Museum?
We gleaned another interesting tidbit from BBC/PBS, which is that Saudi Arabia, not content with having a stranglehold on the world's oil reserves and because you can never been too rich or too greedy, bought the rights to the World Cup series and is only showing it on their special cable channel which no ordinary Middle Eastern football fan can afford (it costs about $400). But the Saudis also made a deal (they are so good at that) with a few countries–like Lebanon and Jordan: for a half million U.S. dollars they would allow those countries to show the feed on their networks.
So see how ecumenical the Saudis are? They gouge the Middle East just as ruthlessly as they gouge us. Who says they aren't our friends?
Anyway, back to those alternate realities. So while the rest of the world is really, really concerned about the war in Iraq and the possible escalation now that we finally took out al-Zarqawi, George Bush was going nuts over gay marriage... Again.
But then Bush goes on this rag every couple of years right before an election. Perhaps there's a hormone pill for this? Oh, it wouldn't matter, the Religious Right would ban it anyway.
So there was Bush, in his Captain Deflector gear, raging on about the perils of gay marriage, hoping to pull his numbers out of the toilet, and all the networks are polling Americans who say gay marriage isn't really an issue for them and the proposal crashes and burns on the Senate floor with even more Republicans voting against it than did in 2004.
But comedians got a lot of mileage out of it, even if Bush didn't. Some of our favorite lines came from Jay Leno on *The Tonight Show.*:
Leno: "Is this the most important issue in the country? I mean, I was off last week–did we catch bin Laden?"
Then: "Polls show 51 percent of Americans disapprove of gay marriage. But polls show that 71 percent disapprove of George Bush. So he's more unpopular than gay marriage."
And our personal favorite: "Did you notice when gay marriage started to become an issue? When Republicans started going to prison!" (As a follow-up to this, Leno noted that Ken Lay was going to have a tough time in prison with that name: "Might as well change his name now to Ben Dover.")
So gay marriage got quite a workout on the tube, both on the news and on the late night monologues. (*Nightline* also did a piece on gay Mormons, just for good measure.)
Our favorite alternate reality moments, however, came from the gal you love to hate, Ann Coulter, the Cerebus guarding America's ultra-conservative gates in her sleeveless black mini-skirt dresses. Just when one thought the perennial *bitch* couldn't get more offensive, she did.
Coulter has made a career of being a pathological liar and flipping her long, bottle-blonde hair at people like the Bad Seed grown up. But she got a fine skewering this week from a variety of sources when her latest travesty, *Godless: The Church of Liberalism,* hit the bookstores.
One of the best reasons to have cable, now that *the Sopranos* is over again and *Deadwood* will not be revived, is for MSNBC's *Countdown* with Keith Olbermann. Olbermann has previously taken Coulter and the other members of her sociopathic triptych–Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh–out behind the woodshed, but this week Olbermann reprised us on the alternate reality perspective. Here's Olbermann on Coulter (imagine it delivered in a voice tight with controlled rage and revulsion):
"Honestly, if you were Ann Coulter's attorney at a sanity hearing, where could you possibly start? The Connecticut Screech has continued her assault on 9/11 widows. After calling them ‘witches who acted as if the terrorist attacks happened only to them,' she has now told Reuters news that they are ‘professional victims.' All as part of the promotion of a book in which she claims *liberals* are ‘godless.'"
Olbermann then showed a clip from Coulter's venomous attack on NBC's *Today* show, in which she said, "these women got paid, they ought to take their money and shut up about it." Which had later prompted the usually restrained Brian Williams to comment on *Nightly News* that Coulter had crossed the bounds of decency. (Again, we might note.)
Olbermann continues: "Let's return to *this* planet. To recap Coulter's argument: The wives of those who died in the worst attack in this nation's history enjoyed their husband's deaths and profited off them, they have politicized 9/11, their positions as widows immunize them from any criticism or debate over their opinions. All of this stated by a commentator much of whose income in the last four and a half years has derived from *her* speeches and writings about the deaths of those same men on 9/11. All this stated by a commentator who has staunchly, repeatedly and enthusiastically defended an Administration that began to politicize 9/11 within a month of the nightmare and has never paused for a moment since. All of this stated by a commentator who has called those who have criticized her and her party ‘un-American' and now, ‘godless.' All of this stated by a commentator who is bitching that these 9/11 widows can't be criticized while she is writing a book and going on TV and venomously criticizing them."
Olbermann wasn't finished with Coulter. For his *piece de resistance* he delivered the final riposte: "Ms. Coulter's walk on the swaying tightrope of her own emotional stability did not end there. In her book she also wrote, ‘And by the way, how do we know their husbands weren't planning to divorce these harpies? Now that their shelf life is dwindling, they'd better hurry up and appear in Playboy.'.... Lastly, back to my allusion about having to defend Ann Coulter in a sanity hearing, that was inappropriate–because it was insufficient. Imagine, in fact, defending her on Judgment Day–and trying to find her soul."
As we noted, *Countdown*: worth every penny of cable service.
Not necessarily the case with CNN which often resembles Faux–we meant FOX--News. Like when Glen Beck, a host at CNN *Headline News,* compared Al Gore to Hilter when discussing Gore's new film, *An Inconvenient Truth,* about the *very real* dangers of global warming. According to Beck, "Hitler said a little bit of truth, and then he mixed in ‘and it's the Jews' fault.' That's where things get a little troublesome, and that's exactly what's happening [with Al Gore]."
If you say so, Glen. Perhaps you've been spending too much time with Ann Coulter? Or perhaps that aluminum hat is getting too tight?
Finally, since almost every new TV show for the summer season is reality- based (unlike some of the folks quoted above), we'd like to recommend our new guilty pleasure summer series on NBC, *Windfall* (Thursdays, in the *ER* time slot), about a group of friends who pool their money for lottery tickets, win big, think money will solve their problems and then watch their lives explode. For folks like us who miss Aaron Spelling (it even has a Spelling alum, Luke Perry) and really need a break from the Beltway. Not that we'll get one.
-with thanks to reader Deborah Peifer for the heads-up on Beck
If you're in or around northern New Jersey, please consider the following:
Former Governor of Virginia, Mark Warner, will be visiting our state and we have arranged for him to be our guest of honor at a very casual event on June 20th at 8:00 in the evening at
The Grasshopper Restaurant
645 Washington Ave
Suggested Contribution: $25
Take this opportunity to meet him for yourself and see why his unique talents and experiences make him a nationally recognized figure with great potential to impact the future of our country.
Please RSVP to Melissa Kaplan at 202-546-0474 or Melissa@Katzwatsongroup.com
or notify Zenon Christodoulou of your intentions at: Zenon@CreativeColor.net
In response to "I guess (Rumsfeld) doesn't remember 9/11 or Osama bin-Laden either," Pat Thompson writes:
They are playing this up as if they did kill Osama bin Laden. Suddenly, this guy is more important. And I agree, the world, or Iraq, won't be better off. During Vietnam they told us they were fighting the Communists there, so they wouldn't have to fight them here. Now we are told we are fighting the Terrorists in Iraq, so we won't have to fight them here. Just plain bad manners, to hold one's brawl in someone else's living room, so to speak -- where their babies and children are being killed by bombs and other "accidents".
In response to, "I believe that those who wrote are really saying 'Fix our schools,'" Pat Thompson write:
No, I am saying this is a sick society, and the less exposure small children get to it, the better off they are, and the more likely they will become independent thinking adults. Of course there are exceptions, good teachers, better schools. But there are always the kids who spit at others on the school bus, and the teachers who give their right wing slant on elections and wars.
That sounds like "Fix Society AND Fix our Schools" to me. -NG
In response to "A general was standing next to a picture of the head of a dead al-Zarqawi, live from Iraq (yes, I'm aware of the play on words), using a pointer to get his point across, almost like a high school biology teacher pointing out the the different areas of the head: "This is the eye socket and this is the orbit of the eye," Pat Thompson writes:
Wow, I'm glad I was on my way to work by then. All I got stuck with was Georgie's "Live from the White House" (I think) speech about the new "turning point". I was so glad to get in the car, turn on Democracy Now, and hear nothing further about al-Zarqawi.
In response to, "Oh yeah, don't even think about using the R word, (racist) because both my daughters are almost half Navajo and have inherited 1//8 of the blood of Israel from each of their parents", Billie M. Spaight writes:
So she is part Jewish and part Native American--whoop de doo. There is still no excuse for her obvious hatred and stereotyping of people who are black and/or Spanish. I went to school with tons of these people and did not have any more problems with them then with whites. (I am white.) She tells YOU not to use the R word. Well, she didn't tell ME not to use it and I am going to use it--to me she has always been a Racist and always will be until she quits her obnoxious racist rants. I cannot understand how someone with such progressive views on such issues as healthcare could be so backward. She sounds like somebody who doesn't get out and mingle with people.
I don't like home schooling because I feel that it isolates children and their parents from the community and doesn't help children learn to deal with society as it is--with all its good and bad elements. I also feel that it is psychologically unhealthy to be so constantly with the family. It feels "incestuous" to me. It prevents the healthy individuation that is necessary for normal development. I think it should be virtually illegal except in cases in which there are NO facilities for children who are unable to function in school. I only wish that we would have learned more about blacks and Native Americans when I went to school. I also wish they had taught us more about the Holocaust.
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