October 31, 2007
President Bush has counseled the country to have patience, that he would 'listen to the general' when it came time to 'make a decision' regarding bringing the troops home or staying in Iraq.
President Bush was able to say all this with confidence because he knew ahead of time what 'General Betrayus' report would consist of.
Petraeus stated that his report is his alone. However he and his staff phoned the White House politicos daily to coordinate their messages. He used what the Washington Post has called, 'Funny Math' to compile his figures. For instance, car bombs didn't count as acts of war and such deaths are not counted among the war dead. Bullets to the back of the head count as assassinations, however bullets to the front of the head
This sounds like the games I used to play when I was seven years old and the playground echoed with shouts of, 'No fair! Didn't count!
But Iraq, tragically, is not an elementary school playground.
Here is some math that is not funny:
On September 11, 2001, Osama bin Ladin killed 2,974 US citizens. Twenty four people went missing that day and are presumed dead. One person, so far, died of lung disease which has been attributed to breathing the dust at Ground Zero. The total official number dead due to bin Ladin’s actions: 2,999.
Since then, the war in Iraq, a country which had nothing to do with 9/11 and had no stockpiled WMD's, has killed 3,842 US citizens and approximately 1,099,372 Iraqis while thoroughly destabilizing the region.
Therefore, I respectfully ask, ‘Who are the terrorists?’
October 29, 2007
Here are the sites of 2 videos he took while there:
Please pay him a visit.
October 28, 2007
And, today, it’s being used as United States policy against the Afghan people. Our government engages what was called by the narrator on Sixty Minutes as a 'macabre calculus' used in determining the number of civilian deaths appropriate in order to kill one 'bad guy.' On occasion, that amounts to an entire village.
A case in point was a recent incident when 2 men shot at a military post. They missed it entirely and no one was hurt. They were seen to run into a house in a nearby village. The house was subsequently bombed. After the smoke cleared, the house was gone and all the people in it were dead [women and small children]. The 2 men were not there. One boy, who happened to be visiting his uncle that night, survived while his immediate family was wiped out.
Not surprisingly, when asked what he felt toward the Americans, this seven-year-old boy said, "I hate them." The US just created another suicide bomber.
So, my questions to our government are:
1] Do you really want to follow a policy practiced by the Nazis?
2] Do you perceive Afghanis as subhuman? And, what does that say about you?
The honey bees are disappearing.
They're absolutely necessary for the continuation of the food chain humans depend on.
They've survived everything we've thrown at them until the last few years. A new pesticide is one cause being cited as a possible culprit. Not surprisingly Bayer, the manufacturer of the pesticide, denies it citing studies that back up their claims.
I think we all know what studies funded by the companies whose products they're investigating are worth.
I have to wonder too, though, if the new genetically engineered crops that include a gene that acts as a pesticide are responsible. After all, do we really think those genes can tell the difference between insects we depend on and those we'd like to see die out?
The hives, by the way, are empty. They aren't filled with dead bees. They're simply ghost towns, that's all.
Usually, abandoned hives are raided by other bees and any honey left behind is carried away to other hives. In the current situation, the honey is being treated like poison. No other bees want it. What do the bees know that we don't?
October 27, 2007
Human rights groups have filed charges against Donald Rumsfeld in a French court for authorizing torture at Guantanamo Bay and at Abu Graib while in office. The International Federation for Human Rights, The French Federation for Human Rights and the Center for Constitutional Rights [based in New York, USA] -- attempted to present him with their complaints as he left a breakfast meeting in Paris yesterday. [No word in the news piece as to Rumsfeld's response.]
The three organizations have filed their grievance with a prosecutor who has the authority to arrest Rumsfeld while he is in France. The French government has acted on such complaints against other government officials in the past.
Similar complaints have been filed in Sweden and Argentina.
Three thoughts here:
First -- It's about time. Here's hoping SOMETHING will get done on this issue SOMEWHERE since it's obviously not going to happen here.
Second -- I have to wonder: How's he sleeping these days?
And, third -- Wouldn't it be lovely if he was delivered to Abu Graib where he would be held in solitary confinement, kept in a super-cold cell, restrained in his bunk if he tried to keep warm, be menaced by dogs, shackled in strained positions and water-boarded?
October 26, 2007
Rose Garden Colored Glasses -- Andy Stern
There's setting the bar low, then there's changing the game entirely.
Earlier this week, the administration tried again to justify its astonishing veto of the popular SCHIP bill. Although the bipartisan bill will make healthcare benefits available to about 10 million children, the White House thinks we would be helping the wrong kids.Now I confess that when we're talking about making sure children can get routine check ups, dental care and emergency medical treatment, I am not sure how to identify the right kids from the wrong.
However, if you share the president's belief that we should only consider protecting the health of the children at the very, very bottom, there's a silver lining. According to the official White House Oct. 23 press release on the SCHIP veto, "Over half the families in America are not poor."
That's right. There's a high standard for you.
Straight from the folks who thought Brownie did "a heck of a job," we now can take comfort in the fact that according to the White House, "There are a lot of things you can say about half the families in America. Half of them aren't poor."
It's hard not interpret this as another sign of an administration that is profoundly out of touch with the lives of working people all around this country. But maybe what we've got here is a glass-half full kind of guy celebrating his milestones where he can find them. After all - a little cockeyed optimism at the White House probably brightens some of the darker headlines these days.
So donning our Rose Garden colored glasses, here's some other good news from the Bush administration:
* More than half of all the homes in this country have not been foreclosed on--yet.
* More than half of the residents of New Orleans were not permanently displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
* More than half of Halliburton executives haven't been indicted.
* More than half of the polar ice caps are still in place.
* More than half of Americans who don't have health insurance probably won't get sick today.
* More than half of college graduates won't have to declare bankruptcy immediately because of their student loan debt.
* More than half of oil company executives can still afford to fill their cars' gas tanks
* More than half the nations of the world still return our phone calls.
With this kind of good news, it's no surprise that well more than half of Americans are counting the days until the Bush administration is no more.
For the last decade or more I’ve believed every word the scientists said about Global Warming. After all, the politicians immediately came out swinging, smearing the scientists and declaring their findings ‘pseudo-science.’
I mean, who would you have believed?
But, I just watched a documentary I’d seen before—and, this time, I noticed something that had escaped me the first time around.
I had known for thirty years or more about the Little Ice Age that began around the year 1000. It ushered in such innovations as chimneys, multi-roomed dwellings with staircases [the gentry lived upstairs where it was warmer] tapestry-hung beds, buttons on clothing, rotation of crops, an increase in animal husbandry [and meat in the European diet] as a result of the mass failure of cereal crops while animal feed crops were better able to survive the cold, the end of growing grapes [and wine production] in England, etc. etc. etc.
The Black Death arrived about the same time and preyed on a population already weakened by the change in climate.
The European mindset became paranoid. Surely, the Almighty was calling on the populace to clean up its act. The Church and governments turned on Jews and women and the witch hunts and purges of the Jews brought about tens of thousands of violent deaths.
Across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe, the Vikings’ great experiment had been underway for several generations.
When they arrived, Greenland was a lush and green place—not the glacier-covered mass we’re all familiar with today. For the first century or so of the European settlement, the newcomers derived 80% of their sustenance from the land [goats, sheep and cereal crops] and 20% from the sea. After the Little Ice Age began, that ratio gradually reversed itself and the Vikings, who had never learned the winter-fishing techniques used to by the Inuits to tide them over during hard times, died out.
This is the history of the early Little Ice Age. The earth actually began that cycle at a considerably warmer climate than we see today.
The part I hadn’t put together before was the length of the cycle we’re dealing with, here.
The Little Ice Age didn’t last for two or three hundred years, as I’d always assumed. Its effects, in fact, were being felt when the Pilgrims arrived in the New World. They were still going on when George Washington crossed the Potomac in 1776. It brought about both Napoleon's failure in Russia and his downfall at Waterloo. In 1816, when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, ice imagery abounded in the novel, reflecting conditions outside as she wrote. The Irish potato famine of the mid-nineteenth century was, to a large extent, due to long, wet winters and short summers.
According to the documentary, the Little Ice Age came to an abrupt end in 1850—possibly fueled, at least in part, by industrialization—though that is not an absolute. On the other hand, it may have begun its wane then and may be ending now.
The fact remains, though, that the earth has not even yet, by any means, warmed to the level it was when the cycle began in approximately the year 1000—when Greenland was actually green and England harvested grapes every summer as a matter of course. That climate had been stable for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years and its change took the populace by surprise then, too.
This is not to say that we aren’t faced with a possible crisis or even series of crises as a result of the warming we’re undergoing at the moment.
After all, with the polar ice caps growing for about a millennium and Greenland covered in ice for almost that long, we’ve been building on coasts that have been dry for less than that amount of time. Whole cities have grown up on land that was covered by ocean before the Little Ice Age locked up great quantities of water in glaciers and permafrost [I live in one of them].
We don't know what conditions were on the Great Plains prior to the Little Ice Age. Would the vast quantities of grain we plant there now have flourished there prior to the colder, wetter winters we see there now? We have no way of knowing. What will we do if the grain belt turns into a dust bowl? And, was that the norm 1000 years ago?
Likewise, what of sub-Saharan Africa? Today the desert is growing -- at least in part due to deforestation which is, certainly, because of human intervention. As long as the Little Ice Age ruled, the area was less volatile than it will be as the planet warms. As it dries even further, what will happen to that already strife-torn region?
Therefore, it would behoove us to keep the Little Ice Age that we’re currently living in stable—or face violent social upheavals as the climate returns to the level that may well be the actual ‘norm’ [assuming there is such a thing].
I guess my point is—if conditions that existed prior to the year 1000 were the norm—and we are currently living in a waning Little Ice Age which may, now, be drawing to a close—we may be fighting a losing battle as we attempt to stabilize the climate, no matter what we do.
After all, in a battle between us and Mother Nature—guess who’s gonna win?
October 23, 2007
This is AWESOME!
I just saw a short piece on a documentary anthology [Beyond Tomorrow] on the Science Channel.
It seems a man has invented a new engine that runs on -- get this -- compressed air! So far, the engine is being used to power such things as forklifts. Well, except for the personal automobile of the inventor of the engine.
It was demonstrated that one of these forklifts can tow a full-sized pickup truck--with an engine that can be held in one hand. It weighs 12 kilos -- just under 26 1/2 pounds. And there's one on the drawing board that weighs in a SIX kilos! That's 13.2276 pounds.
It takes about 2 minutes to fill your tank and you will get about 2 hours of drive time. Compressed air isn't flammable -- so you can carry your fuel source with you. Start to run low, pull over and fill your tank wherever you are and just keep on truckin'. Then, every so often, stop at a filling station and refill your air tank.
Oh, and by the way -- I'm not sure of how it works but there's no transmission as we know it today. No gears, no cogs, no pistons. The air that fuels the engine also keeps all the moving parts from touching each other. So no oil for lubrication is needed.
The engine is much more efficient than internal combustion engines. In our cars today, much of the energy derived from the gasoline goes toward running the engine itself--so less is used to actually propel the wheels. The new engine doesn't work on these same principles. Almost all the fuel is used directly to propel the car forward and almost none is used to keep the engine, itself, running. It sounds suspiciously like a perpetual motion machine.
I'm not sure of his nationality but, not surprisingly, the man who invented the engine is some stripe of European. Also not surprisingly, there have been no news stories in this country about this engine that will take much less in the way of raw materials to manufacture, cost MUCH less than a standard engine to produce, will run on air and could save our species from itself almost single handedly.
I've been drooling over the Prius and vowing to buy one as soon as I could afford it. NO MORE. Now, I'm going to hold out for a car that needs no gasoline, no hydrogen, no batteries, just AIR!
I'm watching a show right now on the science channel.
it showed a battery made by nano-organisms-- viruses.
they're already on the market: lithium batteries. only, I learned by bitter experience: don't use em in conventional objects.
the batteries are advertised to last 7x as long as alkaline batteries 'in your digital camera.'
my bad. two of em only lasted 3 or 4 days in my sphygmomanometer. oops. ok -- I'll only use em in computer-related devices from now on.
and, someone is now developing similar batteries to use in cars. it will be a hybrid car that, so far, will use gasoline. and, you'll get 150 mi to the gallon.
these batteries, tho, are safer to dispose of than conventional batteries. so, ok, I spent 2ce as much on the batteries and burned 2 of em out quickly. but, at least I didn't pollute the environment when I threw em away after wasting em.
[hee hee! Borowitz outdid himself this time!]
Amid a growing belief that there is no way the Democrats can blow the 2008 presidential election, Democratic National Committee chief Howard Dean sought today to reassure the party faithful that the party was “doing everything in its power” to uphold its losing tradition.
At a top-level summit called “Defeat: 2008” being held in Boston, the former Vermont Governor gave a rousing speech to concerned Democrats, bringing his audience to his feet by vowing, “I can assure each and every one of you, we will find a way to screw this up.”
With President Bush’s approval rating below thirty percent and none of the Republican presidential contenders stirring the public’s imagination, many Democrats have been worried that their historic role as losers and sad sacks might come to an abrupt end in 2008, a fear Mr. Dean attempted to quell today.
“Folks, let’s not forget, we’re Democrats,” Mr. Dean said. “If there’s a way to lose, we will find it.”
Carol Foyler, a longtime Democrat from Bethesda, Maryland who attended the summit, said that she had been worried that the Democrats might somehow pull out a victory in 2008, but added, “Just knowing that Howard Dean is in charge makes me feel much more confident about losing.”
October 22, 2007
Retroactive Protection Could Create Problems in the Future
By Dan Eggen -- Washington Post Staff Writer
When previous Republican administrations were accused of illegality in the FBI and CIA spying abuses of the 1970s or the Iran-Contra affair of the 1980s, Democrats in Congress launched investigations or pushed for legislative reforms.
But last week, faced with admissions by several telecommunication companies that they assisted the Bush administration in warrantless spying on Americans, leaders of the Senate intelligence committee took a much different tack -- proposing legislation that would grant those companies retroactive immunity from prosecution or lawsuits.
The proposal marks the second time in recent years that Congress has moved toward providing legal immunity for past actions that may have been illegal. The Military Commissions Act, passed by a GOP-led Congress in September 2006, provided retroactive immunity for CIA interrogators who could have been accused of war crimes for mistreating detainees.
Retired Rear Adm. John Hutson, dean and president of the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H., said he is concerned about the precedent that a new immunity provision might set.
"The unfortunate reality is that once you've done it, once you immunize interrogators or phone companies, then it's easy to do it again in another context," Hutson said. "It seems to me that as a general rule, retroactive immunity is not a good thing. . . . It's essentially letting Congress handle something that should be handled by the judiciary."
Click here for the complete text.
Once again our invertebrate Congress does its thing.
Although both it and the court system have been deeply wounded by this administration, is that sufficient reason to simply roll over and play dead?
October 21, 2007
One in particular caught my eye because it is such a delicious question -- putting the shoe on the other foot, so to speak.
The question was asked of [and evaded by] Gonzales.
"If an enemy of the United States captured non-uniformed U.S. personnel, such as intelligence officers, and interrogated them using some combination of severe stress positions, hypothermia, threats, and prolonged sleep and sensory deprivation, would you conclude that the U.S. persons had been subjected to torture or to "cruel treatment" prohibited by Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, or would you say that the enemy had acted lawfully?"
Click here for the entire text.
October 19, 2007
But, no matter what we think of Bush's wars, we need to see the human faces, too.
And we need to remember the needless suffering we caused during the Vietnam era.
We know we are causing more needless suffering now -- but, many of us are trying to put a stop to that by bringing our children home and giving the Iraqis and Afghans back their countries.
So, to those of you who will bristle at this video, I will say only this:
We're doing the best we can.
October 16, 2007
'The real possibility that Giuliani might be the Republican nominee led a group of religious conservatives, who met in Salt Lake City on Sept. 29 under the leadership of James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family, to consider a third-party alternative.'
Now, wouldn't THAT be a lovely kick-in-the-teeth to the Republican Party?
My idea of heaven on earth would be for the fundies to splinter off and found their own party. Then the dems could be set for a long tenure while the 2 opposition parties fought between themselves before finding their bases again -- assuming they ever did.
That could give the country the breathing space it needs to find its way back to sanity.
May Giuliani hang onto his lead!
[Of course, we may have to break out the whip and the chair, ourselves, to keep Nader at bay if Clinton gets the nod. But, hopefully, we've learned our lesson during the last eight years.]
October 15, 2007
Continuing on the theme of the decriminalization of marijuana. Actually, imnsho, the criminalization of marijuana would, in a sane world, be a non-issue. For various political reasons, a new crime was created: possessing and/or using marijuana [see post from 10/1/07 for the historic details.]
In any case, here's a vid that pokes a bit of fun at the issue. Enjoy. :)
October 14, 2007
Fund Raising Drive to Bring Miracle and her family home to the Lower 9th Ward
Two weeks ago I posted about the Joseph family who lost their Lower 9th Ward home for the second time. Kellie Joseph and her 6 children lost their home to Katrina. The rebuilding of their home was nearly complete when it was tragically destroyed by a fire after someone abandoned a stolen car in their backyard and lit it aflame to destroy evidence. The flames engulfed the home.
A group of Tulane medical students who heard of this devastating news decided to help the family rebuild again and started a website called Hope in Grace for what is called Project: Bring Miracle. Recently the students contacted me. The online donation effort has reached a standstill after some initial local media attention. It is their hope to reach a wider audience through the Internet.
Here is where we can help. We as individuals and bloggers can not rebuild the great city of New Orleans but perhaps we can help to rebuild the home of one family that has now fallen through the cracks. The family had invested their Road Home grant of $138,000 to rebuild their home. That is now lost. Unfortunately the maximum they can receive from their insurance to rebuild their home a second time is $12,000. At this point, after donations and insurance, $132,000 is needed to rebuild the Joseph's family home. Donations can be made online to a rebuilding fund specifically restricted for use only in reconstruction.
Donations can be made here. Any amount will do, even as low as $5.00. Just think how fast that money can be raised if bloggers and other caring people from all over the internet donated just a small amount!
For those who are uncomfortable with the giving of funds online, and are not able to stop by a local Capital One branch, you can send a check directly to the Capital One Mail Teller at the following address:
Attn: Mail Teller
PO Box 60150
New Orleans, LA 70160-1050
In the "Payable to" portion of the check, please write "The Kellie Joseph Rebuilding Fund"
and in the "Memo" portion please write "Account number 2045630008".
If you would like to make a direct donation of building materials, a ministorage unit provided generously by Mini's Portable Storage is available for such donations in the parking lot adjacent to Representative Charmaine Marchand's Office on weekdays between 10am and 2pm at:
4030 St. Claude Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70117
If you would like to reach a family member directly, both Kellie and Kellie's brother (Dennis Joseph) are available to receive your inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com respectively.
For those of you on my blog who can help, it's greatly appreciated. For those who can't afford to help, I understand, but there is a page where you can leave a message of hope and good wishes, here.
When I heard about the Macy's promo, 'Shop for a Cause', I had been planning to buy some cookware anyhow [WHAT?!? ME?!? 8-O ] --
So I made 2 donations of $5.00 each to the Women's Heart Association [Why they didn't go for breast cancer, seeing as how this is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I don't know but -- oh, well] and saved over $31.00 at checkout. and I did it all online! SO cool!
And I bought:
a cookware set that includes:
a 6 qt. stockpot
a 2 qt. saucepan
8" and 10" saute pans
2 detachable handles
a canvas bag that stores all this stuff in one stack [given the amount of space in my cabinets that's a Good Thing.]
$59.97 [ On sale before the 20% off 'Shop for a Cause' promo -- original price $100 ]
[I was flabbergasted at the prices -- there were 6 to 8-piece sets that cost $600 and up on the list and one 14 piece set that went for $1,899.99! Do people actually BUY those???
_I_ wouldn't pay $1 to go look at those at the Museum of Amazing Artifacts!]
I paid $47.99 :)
A cutlery set that includes 5 knives, a pair of scissors and a block
original price $100
also on sale for $59.97
and I paid $47.99
2 oven mitts -- $10 each [ I paid $7.99 each]
1 hot pot pad -- $8 [I paid $6.39]
A set of kitchen towels -- $10 [I paid 7.99]
And a partridge in a pear tree
Add taxes and shipping: $161.12
And that includes the warm-fuzzy for the donations.
Now, the question for the universe remains-------
Will I ever, you know, actually COOK with this stuff?
Will keep you posted. :)
October 11, 2007
Right now, it's featuring the standing of all candidates in Arizona and Nevada but you can click on the R or D next to your state to see how all the candidates are faring where you are.
I plan to use this site as my PIbC [pre-implosion by Clinton] baseline and watch to see if her stupid, moronic, self-destructive, crash-and-burn march to war has the predicted effect.
fwiw-- she started at 51% opposing Giuliani at 31%.
So, let's see-- how low can she go?
btw-- I'm a bit miffed at her. Does it show?
I'll keep you posted or you can see it for yourself here.
October 10, 2007
Well, it seems I just barely turned around after saying that and she did something not only stupid but ABSOLUTELY, INCREDIBLY DUMBASS STUPID. She handed carte blanc to Bush to head into Iran. Hasn't this woman been paying attention during the last six years?
I take back everything I ever said about her including the statement that she's not a fool.
So, it's back to the drawing board when it comes to deciding what I'm going to do about the primary.
Just outside our nation's capital, in affluent Montgomery and Fairfax counties, they still build public schools when the number of school-age children rises above the number that the existing schools can accommodate. . . . They thus increase government spending and withhold revenue from the private-school industry, but I've never heard anyone complain about that. A free public education is a right, or, if you prefer, an entitlement in America, because the nation long ago decided that an educated population is a national good.
You might think that the same logic would apply to providing children with health care, that the gains to the nation from having a healthy population would outweigh those of bolstering private health insurance companies in the name of laissez-faire ideology. According to President Bush and the hard-right wing of the Republican Party, though, you'd be sadly mistaken.
Click here for the complete text.
October 8, 2007
no author attributed
According to recently released statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), marijuana arrests reached an all-time high last year. This news comes despite a rise in violent crime for the second consecutive year. Yet, last year alone, 829,625 Americans were charged with marijuana offenses according to the recently released FBI Uniform Crime Statistics. Eighty-nine percent of those charges were merely for simple possession.
This begs the question: shouldn’t law enforcement focus on the rising violent crime rate instead of wasting precious resources and manpower going after people for marijuana?
Click here for the complete text.
Oh, yes, let's ignore rape, murder and mayhem [which, by and large, marijuana users don't engage in] while spending energy and resources on people who possess plants. How insane is that?
October 6, 2007
How the United States became associated with torture is not just a matter of historical interest. And that's all the more clear today, with the publication of a major New York Times story describing the Bush administration's ongoing circumvention of national and international prohibitions against barbaric interrogation practices.
In other words: It continues.
But the White House's non-denial denials, disingenuous euphemisms and oppressive secrecy have repeatedly stifled any genuine discourse. Bush shuts down discussion by declaring that "we don't torture" -- yet he won't even say how he defines the term.
Click here for the Washington Post editorial and here for the New York Times article.
I believe this matter never goes away -- it just ebbs and flows in the media's attention.
This is, in my opinion, going to be the single largest stain on our country -- beyond the war[s], beyond Black Water, beyond eavesdropping, beyond children's health care, beyond corporate welfare and unemployment, in fact beyond all those issues combined when, after this administration is gone, the facts finally begin to come to the light of day.
We, as a nation will stand ashamed of what was carried on in our names by the people we **ahem** entrusted our country to. And they will have fled the country for South America -- as so many of their fellow Nazis did before them.
October 4, 2007
Happy Days Are Hers Again -- By Dana Milbank
Thursday, October 4, 2007
"CLINTON NEARLY READY FOR HER CORONATION," the New York Post informed us yesterday. Almost correct.
But it must be working for her. The new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that a nostalgic two-thirds of Americans look back with approval on Bill Clinton's work as president -- double the 33 percent who approve of President Bush. That nostalgia may help to explain her surge in the polls.
. . . The Chicago Tribune, Obama's hometown paper, on Tuesday handed Clinton the royal robes, labeling her "inevitable" and "presumptive." Yesterday, Post media critic Howard Kurtz bestowed on Clinton the scepter, writing that "the media have collectively decided that the wife of the 42nd president is the inevitable nominee."
Click here for the complete text.
All this seems to me to reek of sour grapes. And an attempt to get people to turn away from her by constantly bringing up talk about a monarchy.
I wonder if he was sounding the same drum during Dubya's first run.
But, it's so much easier to pander to people's fears than to look at the issues, don'tchaknow.
October 3, 2007
October 2, 2007
Fight Back Against Giving Kids’ Names to the Military--
by David Giffey (originally posted at Common Dreams)
The No Child Left Behind Act is up for reauthorization this month. There has been much necessary criticism and commentary about its unfunded mandates, forced standardized testing, and takeover threats to struggling public school systems.
But another critical piece of the law is often overlooked.
Section 9528, in about 200 words, requires public high schools to give student information to military recruiters upon request unless the families or students opt out...
Section 9528 has consistently escaped attention while the other very real and controversial contents of the law preoccupy educators and legislators, distracting them from what is happening daily as uniformed military recruiters patrol the hallways of the 22,000 public high schools in the U.S.
The presence of military recruiters in schools is a tradition that demands more scrutiny of the increased pressure the war in Iraq places on recruiters to meet their quotas, for which they are paid.
Since the law threw open our school doors to new military recruitment opportunities, the responses among the 425 public school districts in Wisconsin have been utterly inconsistent. It is likely that some administrators, guidance counselors, and certainly many teachers in Wisconsin secondary schools never even heard of Section 9528. As a result, the responses have been disorganized, inconsistent, and in some cases totally absent.
There have been cases in which school districts immediately relinquished student information after receiving intimidating letters from a branch of the military, and then backpedaled after angry parents complained.
Some districts have attempted to limit the number of military recruitment visits per year, some have allowed other groups to present optional information to students, some have prepared concise opt-out forms, and some have done nothing.
The growing unpopularity of the war has resulted in reduced standards and greater recruitment pressure on students in rural Wisconsin school districts, where graduation rates are high and kids don’t have jobs. As a matter of fact, Wisconsin ranked fourth in the nation in 2006 for producing “high-quality” active duty Army recruits, meaning they graduated from high school and scored in the upper half on the Armed Forces Qualification Test.
There are many reasons to question reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, not least being the imbalance between federal funding of the military in 2008 at $1,228 billion compared to federal education funding at $59 billion. Legitimate concerns are raised over the future of public education in the face of the law’s impulse to take over school districts deemed to be unsuccessful.
Section 9528, on its own, is intimidating to school districts.
The extreme punishment that could befall a school district for noncompliance with military recruitment mandates is described by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction in Bulletin No. 02.12 dated Dec. 10, 2002, which outlines “enforcement” of Section 9528.
“In addition to the potential loss of funds for failure to comply with (Section) 9528 (a school) that denies a military recruiter access to the requested information on students will be subject to specific interventions.” First the noncompliant school would be paid a visit by a senior military officer. Then “the Department of Defense must notify the state governor within 60 days.” Unresolved problems would then be reported to Congress.
What next? Waterboarding the high school principal?
Never mind that recruiters repeatedly violate the privacy rights of minor-age students. Never mind that they mislead, obscure and essentially bribe vulnerable teenagers into military service, which is, in truth, based on waging war, learning how to kill, or to accept being killed. It’s not a “career choice” the recruiters are selling. It’s a lifestyle.
The picture painted by recruiters is one of signing bonuses, veterans’ benefits and college tuition.It would be good for the DPI to step forward with an educational campaign and some statewide standards in order to provide students and their families a fair chance in the face of the $4 billion spent by the military on recruiting each year.It would be even better if our elected officials removed Section 9528 from the law. Until then, all we citizens can do is work to learn about and reveal the truth about military recruitment taking place today in our public high schools.
- David Giffey of Arena is a Vietnam War veteran and a board member of Veterans for Peace in Central Wisconsin.
In at least one town, parents got the high school to send opt-out forms to all parents as part of that mountain of paperwork that goes home with students on the first day of school every year. We sent one in with the Liberal-In-Training last month. It’s a start.
The point is, this information should be kept private. Away from everybody. The local military recruiter should be no more entitled to this data than the manager of the local Burger King would be. If a kid wants to enlist, the recruiters have very nice offices provided at the taxpayers’ expense at many local strip malls. The phone number and address can be found in the Yellow Pages. Recruits should have to opt IN.
So how do we change this?
Well, you can agitate a bit. Join me. Do these things, soon:
1. Write a letter to your local newspaper, explaining what most parents don’t know: that parents are allowing the privacy of their families to be violated if they allow their child’s school to share this information. Inform them they can opt out. It’s easy. Forms for that purpose can be downloaded here.
2. Share this information with family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and those attending your house of worship.
3. Write letters or send emails to your members of Congress. Tell them that you do not want NCLB to be reauthorized. At all. Barring that, if you don’t want the whole enchilada thrown out (you should, but that’s another post or three), at least this provision should be eliminated.
October 1, 2007
[For the record, I favor its legalization -- but I'm a realist and I'll settle for decriminalization as a first step.]
Before prohibition of alcohol, lots of people were for the issue.
After it had been in effect for a while, when alcohol- related violent crime had risen to epic proportions, when bootleggers had taken to hanging around elementary schools trying to get ten-year-olds to try a taste, when our prison population had risen dramatically, etc. etc. many of those same people were clamoring for its repeal.
We find ourselves in the same position we were in then. The ' War on Drugs' has become a war on our citizenry.
The US has more people in prison and on probation/parole than any other country. This includes all the brutal dictatorships right on down to those countries that have taken sane attitudes toward drug use.
Completely legal clinics that dispense medical marijuana to people who have legal prescriptions for the drug are subject to being raided by S.W.A.T. teams.
Vast numbers of the people in our prisons have been incarcerated for nothing more than owning enough marijuana for their personal use. Their lives and those of their families are torn apart with children being removed from their homes, the adults losing their jobs even before they've been convicted of any crime and, often, the crisis ending in divorce simply so that the spouse left at home can maintain custody of the children.
All this has been perpetrated on our society in response to a drug that has been shown to have fewer risks than alcohol or tobacco, that is less addictive than caffeine and has several valid medicinal uses.
And it's all argued in favor of by people who claim to have our children's best interests at heart.
We would do well to question who the real beneficiaries are. The pharmaceutical and alcohol industries, perhaps?