Because I Just Can’t Help Myself

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Before the blog… Before Mead…. Before teaching law… Ann Althouse was making music videos!

OK, I’m just kidding. That isn’t Ann Althouse. But this song was featured in last weeks Simpsons. It’s an awesome song. Enjoy.

Oh, and…

No No No No No – Not Another Conspiracy.

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OK. First, I will freely admit that I love a good conspiracy – Bush / Cheney planned 9/11, moon landing was a hoax, Roswell, the illuminate are running the world, in which case they really need to be fired… they’re doing a lousy job. The more creative the conspiracy the better.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in them, but they’re just, well, fun.

But sometimes something comes along that is just lame.  Last month it was “the guv’ment is going after Toyota to try and help GM (Guv’ment Motors, as the conspirorists like to call it) sell more cars“, which set me off on a bit of a blog tirade. Never mind that consumers would more likely gravitate toward Honda, Nissan, or even Ford, before going to GM.

Well, now there is a new one.  According to the one and only Rush Limbaugh, the Obama administration purposely blowed up the oil rig in the gulf coast on Earthday to stymie the plan to drill for a little more oil, a plan which conservatives have already said would not actually produce more oil.


You know, some times thing simply happen… No plan…  No great conspiracy….  They just happen.

Oh, and I’d be willing to bet that Rush also propagated the stupid Toyota conspiracy…..   Yep.  When are rational conservatives going to recognize he will ultimately be the destruction of the party?

Stupid Meme Alert – Here We Go Again…. The Tea Party Is Racist

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I find this disturbing. It was written by Tim Wise, an anti-racist writer. Here is his take on the Tea Party movement :

Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure – the ones who are driving the action – we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.

So let’s begin.

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.

Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.

Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.

Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough—“living fossils” as he called them—“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.

Imagine that a black pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.

Imagine a black radio talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what would happen to any congressional representative who praised that commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to “American values?” After all, those are among the things said by radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas, who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.

Imagine a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing up the New York Times.

Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”

Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.

In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

Game Over.

There is one huge flaw in this post. When accusing people of doing something, you must provide links to show that what you are expressing actually happened. I remember a few did, and some are despicable. But without providing links to buttress the case, this comes off as rhetoric instead of fact.

Now imagine that Tim Wise actually included context behind some of his scenarios. Lets go through the list of the events real quick and analyze them from a neutral POV.

On the gun protests. The protests themselves were second amendment rights protests. Oh, that is a detail that would have proved useful. And if a group of African Americans were to stage one of these, well, it would be a Rush / Hannity / Beck wet-dream (shudder) as it would be used to show that more minorities are coming around to their POV.

Second paragraph. Spitting on congressmen is stupid. Did the guy wind up and spit? Or did spit fly from his mouth when he was yelling? We have video and it looks like the former, not the latter. Are you willing to put this on the line and say that there have been no spitting incidence involving white congressmen? I’ll do some digging on that, but twenty to one says there will be one of those too. Also, if the guy did spit on the Congressman, which is very much disgusting, are you going to really tell me it’s not because the guy is disgusted by the congressman’s vote for the health care bill, but simply because he’s black… really? (  if you’re a hyper-partisan liberal, I already know the answer, so don’t bother answering the question)

Paragraph three:

“Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.” Remember when I said that links are important in establishing and enhancing your case? Follow The Links. ’nuff said.

The Buchanan thing. Don’t know much about it. I do wonder what would happen if a black woman accused a bunch of white frat boys of rape, that even if the evidence was obvious that the woman was not being truthful, lying, and the rape could not have occurred, then many liberals who sided with the accuser continue to call the white privileged frat boys racists and rapists, based on race, not on fact? Oh, that did happen. Never mind. The same thing is happening here with the Tea Party smears.

Rush Limbaugh said this and that and….. Whaaaaaaaaaa! You sound like children. Jeez, get over it! I cannot believe, that after his twenty-whatever years of broadcasting nationally, you still haven’t figured out that much of the crap that comes out of his mouth is done with the explicit intent to antagonize you. And before you say “Oh, well you’re a white guy, so you just don’t understand”. OK, well, I’m also gay, and he’s said tons of derogatory crap about gays too. And you know what? I don’t care! Hell, he’s probably had more of a negative influence on my life than yours due to his opposition to gay marriage. But you know what? Even if he had said nothing about it, Prop 8 here in California still wouldn’t have passed, based on religious beliefs, AND President Obama is also opposed to gay marriage. Prop 8 passed in large part because of his lack of support in a state that is dominated by Democrats.

Pastor Stan Craig / Reverend Jeremiah Wright. They kind of cancel each other out.

Ann Coulter / Bill Mar. Again, cancel this one out too.

Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. You don’t have to, because that’s what many liberals, white AND black, did during almost the entire Bush Presidency.

And now for the death threats (as listed from the previous link):

– A man who in 2008 made verbal threats towards Bush at the White House fence where he left a suspicious package;
– A student who was quoted in a 2007 school publication as saying, “I would like to shoot George W. Bush, because in my opinion he is the worst president ever. After that was accomplished, I would be known as a national hero”;
– A mentally deranged man who threatened to blow up the White House in January of 2009;
– A graduate student who posted online threats against Bush in 2006;
– A guy who was turned in to the authorities by his own girlfriend after he threatened to kill Bush during a phone call;
…and so on.

By contrast, here are a couple of signs that the Huffington Post considers offensive:

OK, that’s not great. But what about this?

Oh No. A kid holding a sign. Gee, that NEVER happened at the anti-war rallies. Liberal kids are NEVER indoctrinated by liberal protesters. And then there’s this horrible sign:


This game can be played with all sorts of incidences.

I, for one have not, and do not claim that the Tea Party thing is in any way on the same scale as the civil rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s. Again that would be another Rush / Hannity / Beck wet dream (shudder). The Tea Party is important because it is the conservatives getting off the couch for the first time ever I think. The original intent, fiscal responsible government, is still the main driver in the movement, but it has, as all political movements do, been commandeered by outside parties to serve their own political purposes.

There have been stupid, and yes, even racist signs seen and invectives overheard at a few of the events. But, just as the crazies littered the original intent of the anti war protests during the Bush administration, so do crazies at the Tea Partys.  The more people like Tim Wise accuses all opposition to liberal government policy as being racist,  even when it not only can’t be proven to be so, but can easily be proven NOT to be so. Curious, why didn’t this TRULY racist event not get much write-up from the likes of Mr. Wise? Maybe because it wouldn’t suit his political means.

To paraphrase Tim:

And this, my friends, is what liberal privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as conservatives are, when  they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

Game Over.

No Tim. The game is not over. But it is just a game, the way you play it. Isn’t it.

2 Out Of 3 Ain’t Bad I Guess

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From Andrew Sullivan:

In a really smart post, Ross Douthat considers whether conservatism benefits from Fox News. It seems clear to me (and Ross) that the rise of the FNC/Talk Radio machine has led to great political success in some respects for a rump right in dominating the discourse, but has led to concomitant and substantive shifts toward liberalism in actual policy. This is rather mischievously put here:

If you were feeling particularly unfair, you could probably make a chart linking Fox’s rising ratings to the renewed growth of government spending under Bush and Obama.

I don’t think that’s particularly unfair. Under Bush, the conservative media machine’s partisan loyalty enabled the GOP to put domestic spending on steroids, launch two enormously expensive unending wars, drastically increase the power of the executive to trample on civil liberties, and added a huge unfunded entitlement, Medicare D. So while Fox was giddily celebrating power, conservatism was busy abandoning whatever policy principles it once had.

One little quibble; if memory serves, most of the Fox opinion casters were against Medicare-D. That’s my quibble, and I’m sticking to it.

People Don’t Fix Problems… Big Governments Do

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….  And we’re all dead in 62 years. So proclaims Sting and his wife Trudie Styler. He declares Earthday protesters at the D.C. “Climate Rally” are “The Real Tea party”… because, they’re, you know, green. It’s the right cause.

Sting and his wife Trudie have been in a struggle. To get the message across no less…..

Oh, how difficult that must be.

Sting: “Well, you can see the enthusiasm out there, and people are really here to tell big government that we want big government to make the big decisions about the biggest problems we face…

CNN’s Don Lemon: “You want big government.”

Sting: “Of course we do! This is a huge problem, and only governments can solve it”

He then states:

“You know, the man on the streets can do a little bit, but only big governments can stop it…”.

Sting, I’m sorry, but things do change when the “man on the street” changes their consumption habits. People didn’t start buying more fuel efficient cars in the late 70’s and 80’s because “Big Government” told them to. It was because it became in their best interest to do so. If the little guy doesn’t really matter, then why is every advertisement seen on TV include something with the word “Green” in it?

A keen observer might note that, in the B roll, the shots of the goings-on at the “The Climate Rally”, there are a lot of cars featured on display. I’m assuming they are green tech, either alternative fuel based, or electrical. I’m all for the new technologies, but time after time, the alternative fuels have been shown to be just as bad for the environment as the regular ones, and most electricity is generated by what? Also note the widespread use of flat screen TVs strewn all over the place. As the legislature of California has already told us, those are high power consumption devices. And don’t get me started on how much the manufacturing of all that plastic and stuff from the cars and TVs pollutes the environment. But I digress.

Trudie then goes on to note how she gave a speech at the UN five days before the Copenhagen conference was to begin, and how she was so buoyed by the buzz at the UN that something was going to happen in Copenhagen, then at how disappointed the activist community was with the results. She laments that no world government was willing to establish any cuts, or do something to say “we are really going to do something about climate change”, and that it was a terrible waste of time and resources, and money.

Trudie…. Meet Big Government!

She says there is a rebelious feeling within the green movement…

Uh Oh.

Then she goes on to use the “tipping point” card, that within our children’s lifetime “we will at some point no longer be able to support life on this planet Earth”.


The couple’s youngest child is about fifteen, which gives his statistical life span to be about 62ish more years. Although there is absolutely NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE that life will become unsustainable in that time-frame, she believes in that “defiantly, and passionately and strongly”. Right after she pronounces this completely unscientific point of view, Sting goes on to label those climate skeptics who actually look into the science and have questions and doubts about some of the methodologies as “crazy”.

And what’s up with Sting? He’s very fidgety in this video, as if he’s either got ADD, which he may for all I know, or he’s got himself into some poison oak or something.

PS. Since some have pointed out some of the silly placards at the tea party, I must note that there is one stupid one on this vid. It says “make music, not plastic”. Uhm, have you ever tried to put water into music? It doesn’t stay there very long.

For Those Who Insist That Government Is Not Too Intrusive….

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On a tip from Ann Althouse:

A recent case reported by the New York Law Journal upholds charges against helium balloon sellers for “unlawfully possessing or selling noxious material” on the grounds that helium is a “noxious substance.” Apparently, the arresting police saw two men filling balloons and selling them to customers who then inhaled the gas. Surely, the cops must have thought the balloons were filled with nitrous oxide; not even former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani would have sicced the cops on helium balloon sellers (Guiliani tried to get the NYPD to ticket jaywalkers, but they refused). However, the case got started, and now it’s established: You can face criminal charges in New York for selling helium balloons.

See full article from the DailyFinance

Stupid Science For Earth-Day – Oysters And CO2

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I expected to see something dumb to be paraded out to “celebrate” Earth-Day, and I wasn’t disappointed. Here is an article decrying the effect of increases in CO2 on oysters of the future:

“The average pH of ocean surface waters has decreased by about 0.1 unit — from about 8.2 to 8.1 — since the beginning of the industrial revolution,” the scientists said in noting earlier research. Moreover, models project “an additional 0.2-0.3 drop by the end of the century, even under optimistic scenarios,”

…testing used lab seawater with present-day CO2 ocean concentrations, as well as lab seawater that used higher CO2 levels that scientists say could occur by 2100.

In the higher CO2 environment, the larval shells at day 9 of their growth were 16 percent smaller than those reared in the present-day seawater conditions.

A week later, the difference was 41 percent and the smaller oysters never caught up.

You might be thinking: “Sonic…. You’re an idiot! This sounds really bad! Oysters are disappearing!”

The MSNBC article reinforces that fact:

Worldwide, oysters have already been impacted by development along coastlines — 85 percent of shellfish reefs have been lost, taking with them valuable services like filtering water and creating natural buffers from storms and even boat wakes.

“Oysters have gone extinct in many areas, especially in North America, Australia and Europe,” said David Garrison, director of the National Science Foundation’s biological oceanography program, which funds Gaylord’s research.

It may be very bad, and I’m not going to quibble with the extinction of oysters as being a bad thing. But there are two bits of info missing from this story that would prove to be relevant.

First, ocean pH can be shown to have decreased since the beginning of the industrial revolution, and since most of the man-made CO2 increases have come in the last fifty years, in fact the largest increase has been from 1940 to the present, most of the 0.1 change has happened within one human generation. So oysters should already be getting small, right?

Are they?

You would think that there should already be proof, but there doesn’t seem to be. Even in the lengthier Scientific Daily article, that gives more details of this experiment, there is no mention of the current effects in the environment; no proof that what is expected is already being seen in the real world, i.e. not in the lab, but out there in the ocean. The article does go on to note:

Globally, 85 percent of shellfish reefs have been lost, making oyster reefs one of the most severely threatened marine habitats on the planet.

“Shellfish reefs in some places are at less than 10 percent of their former abundance,” says Garrison. “Oysters have gone extinct in many areas, especially in North America, Australia and Europe.”

OK. But that is a non-sequitor, since the decline in oyster populations are not due to increases in CO2 and Global Warming. In fact:

Oysters have supported civilization for millennia, from the ancient Romans to railroad workers in California in the 1880s. In the 1870s, eastern oyster reefs extended for miles along the James River in Chesapeake Bay. By the 1940s, they had largely disappeared.

Scratch Global Warming / man-made increases in CO2 as the culprit, as the bulk of the increase in ocean acidification occurred after 1940.

Here is a study of Caribbean water chemistry that shows that the pH of those ocean waters are more variable than thought, with dramatic seasonal variations. Yet, in the area they monitored for four years, there appears to be no direct evidence that these dramatic changes are having any effect. I expect this same result of natural variability will be discovered in other ocean environments as well. Even in this highly touted study on the affects of acidification on various shellfish, they cannot show any real-world consequences of the effect.

Here is another problem with this line of lab research. The shellfish / oyster larvae are moved from one pH level environment to another in a very short time period. The lifecycle of an oyster and similar creatures spans, from egg fertilization to full-grown breeding adult, about one month. Not only does the Caribbean study show the adaptability of shellfish and coral, but those are changes that occur sometimes over the lifetime of a single generation. How many generations shellfish will have lived and died, and in the process, adapted to a very small change of pH from 8.1 to 7.9 in 100 years?

My “Green” Post For Earth Day.

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[No, it has nothing to do with Earth Day, I just thought it was a nice coincidence…. And upon further review, I feel like I’m channeling Ann Althouse… who linked this post]

Rage and love, those consuming emotions felt with a particularly acute pang in youth, all but burn up the stage in “American Idiot,” the thrillingly raucous and gorgeously wrought Broadway musical adapted from the blockbuster pop-punk album by Green Day.


“Hey Dudes! Guess what! The grown-ups on Broadway made a hecka-cool musical out of an album from the punk band Green Day! And it ROCKS!!!!!” Or so the reviewer from the New York Times thinks. It’s edgy!

Pop on Broadway, sure. But punk? Yes, indeed, and served straight up, with each sneering lyric and snarling riff in place…..

First off, Green Day is not punk.

But from the moment the curtain rises on a panorama of baleful youngsters at the venerable St. James Theater, where the show opened on Tuesday night, it’s clear that these kids are going to make themselves at home, even if it means tearing up the place in the process.

Which they do, figuratively speaking.

Either this reviewer is to old to remember and appreciate what punk really was, or is way to young, and simply doesn’t know what punk really was. Again, Green Day is not a punk band. A punk band would NEVER be caught dead putting this song on an album. Sorry, punk does not do Broadway. And if they did, they would tear up the place… literally.

“American Idiot,” directed by Michael Mayer and performed with galvanizing intensity by a terrific cast, detonates a fierce aesthetic charge in this ho-hum Broadway season. A pulsating portrait of wasted youth that invokes all the standard genre conventions — bring on the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, please! — only to transcend them through the power of its music and the artistry of its execution, the show is as invigorating and ultimately as moving as anything I’ve seen on Broadway this season. Or maybe for a few seasons past.

Has Broadway really been that pathetic? What follows is perhaps the most lame thing a New York Times writer has written in this ho-hum Broadway season:

Who’s the American idiot being referred to? Well, as that curtain slowly rose, we heard the familiar voice of George W. Bush…

Oh, now there is a HUGE surprise, seeing as the album’s title and theme was aimed squarely at the evil Bush. Duh!

….we heard the familiar voice of George W. Bush break through a haze of television chatter: “Either you are with us, or with the terrorists.” That kind of talk could bring out the heedless rebel in any kid, particularly one who is already feeling itchy at the lack of prospects in his dreary suburban burg.

But while “American Idiot” is nominally a portrait of youthful malaise of a particular era — the album dates from 2004, the midpoint of the Bush years, and the show is set in “the recent past” — its depiction of the crisis of post-adolescence is essentially timeless.

Ah, yes. The ggod ol’ days. Back when it was OK to hate the President. Of course, bashing Bush was not exactly edgy or breaking new ground by the time “American Idiot” came out – Dixie Chicks, Keith Olberman, and Rosie “fire has never melted steel” O’Donnell had already blazed that trail. What make the Green Day album notable was not the music – I doubt many could name a single song from the album, or hum one of the tunes – but the fact that the anti-Bush sentiment was marketed so prominently as a feature of the album. I know the “American Idiot” album won a Grammy, but does anyone really think it would have been nearly as successful if it wasn’t an exercise in Bush bashing?

“American Idiot” is a true rock opera, almost exclusively using the music of Green Day and the lyrics of its kohl-eyed frontman, Billie Joe Armstrong, to tell its story. (The score comprises the whole of the title album as well as several songs from the band’s most recent release, “21st Century Breakdown.”) The book, by Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Mayer, consists only of a series of brief, snarky dispatches sent home by the central character, Johnny, played with squirmy intensity by the immensely gifted John Gallagher Jr. (“Spring Awakening,” “Rabbit Hole”).

“I held up my local convenience store to get a bus ticket,” Johnny says with a smirk as he and a pal head out of town.

“Actually I stole the money from my mom’s dresser.”


“Actually she lent me the cash.”

Wow! Brilliant! Kind of reminds me of the one that goes “I’m a punk band… well not really”. But enough of my Green Day bashing. It’s not their fault.

Such is the sheepish fate of a would-be rebel today. But at least Johnny and his buddy Tunny (Stark Sands) do manage to escape deadly suburbia for the lively city, bringing along just their guitars and the anomie and apathy that are the bread and butter of teenage attitudinizing the world over. (“I don’t care if you don’t care,” a telling lyric, could be their motto.)

Oh, more originality – escaping proto-hick-town middle America for the wonderful “Big City”! Don’t get me wrong, I actually have experience with this sort of thing. I was raised in “The Big City” and moved to a real Nowheresville when I was a teen. We’re talking about going from Dallas Texas to a town where there is no movie theater or bowling alley. Hell, there wasn’t even a stoplight when I moved there at the tender age of 13! What I went through was worse than being trapped in suberbia… it was being trapped in no-burbia! (I couldn’t wait to get out. Landed in San Diego…. Aahhhh. Relief at last!!!) But this is a story that’s been told ad-nauseum. Oh, and too bad 3rd Matinee beat Green Day to that “I don’t care if you don’t care” sentiment by a good ten years.

Having not seen the play I can’t criticize the the thing. Maybe it’s as good as the NYT theater critic says it is. But I find it hard to believe that a musical based on such shallow material could lift itself to the heights that this critic portends. I find it sad that the material that this is based on is the best they could do when deciding to produce a rock opera of this nature. There is at least one “Rock Opera” out there just begging for the same attention. It’s called “The Shaming Of The True” by the late, brilliant Kevin Gilbert. Not only is the story of Johnny Virgil, the protagonist of the album, very well laid out, but the character itself is somewhat autobiographical of Gilbert’s frustrations with not only the music industry as a whole, but also the betrayal of his now-famous ex girlfriend, who used his music then cast him aside as she catapulted to the superstar status and recognition he so desperately reached for (more on that story here). And the music itself has a power that is a rare commodity for modern artistic standards. Kevin Gilbert died before he could complete the album, way too young, at 29, and never got the chance to finish this master project. It only exists today because a few very close friends, fellow musicians, decided to make the completion of “Shaming” a labor of love and respect for their friend.

PS. “Dookie” was a fine album, very punk-ish. But, like the Police when they first formed, they are way too competent and skilled on their respective instruments to be “Punk”. The Police realized this early on, which is why they abandoned the whole idea of trying to be a punk band, and wrapped their music with a reggae-punk style that was all their own, and each album did better than the last. Green Day? Each album after “Dookie” slagged on the charts, and sales dropped, until they hit on the brilliant formula of bashing Bush, and like the Dixie Chicks, sales took off.

The Sad State Of California… A Waste Of Resources.

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Here is another wonderful reason to live in California, via an e-mail from a friend. This was approved back in Feb of 2000, but I guess it never got much publicity:

Did you know that CA has a program where cops can set up a “Smog Check Point”. It looks like a sobriety check point, in that CHPs randomly pull people over and ‘invite’ them to take part in a random smog check. One of my employees got pulled over today on the way to work.


Although there do not seem to be any penalties if you refuse to submit to the test, why does this feel so much like an abuse of power. Plus, how much does this cost, and would the CHP’s time be better spent pursuing, you know, law-breakers? This was approved back in Feb of 2000, but I guess it never got much publicity.

Thoughts On “The Education Mess” Pt 1

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An essay appeared on Glenn Reynolds’ blog “Instapundit” today, advocating not only the repeal of the mediocre “No Child Left Behind”, but going back to the Reagan idea of scrapping the entire Department Of Education.

As a trained educator, I wholeheartedly agree with the idea. It can be shown that nothing has been gained by the establishment of this bureaucracy. In the thirty-something  years of its existence,  there is not one item from the image above (courtesy of the DOE) that could not have been done at the state or local level. I mean come on, do we really need a Federal Office of Safety and Drug Free Schools to tell our kids that drugs are bad… M’Kay. Surfing through the DOE graph, it seems that many of the departments exist more as a pet projects of a very narrow constituency, rather than something that is designed to help the entire education system; many seem like a political gift to a well meaning friend of an influential Congressman. Did anyone else reading this  know there was a Department for the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities Staff, or one for the WH Initiative for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Please raise your hands if you had any idea what these two departments do. Oh, and look, there is an Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs, as if our Congressmen need some sort of help or guidance to steer them through their various peccadilloes! (just  kidding… I think)

One could make the argument that abolishing the DOE would be like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Some might ask; “you’re a teacher, why do you want to get rid of No Child Left Behind?”. The reason is that the results don’t really indicate the long term retention of knowledge of the average student body. Rather, NCLB has become a game of  “how well can we cram the students and get the best grade possible”. Here is my experience as an educator. Schools will typically want to start prepping the kids for a week, sometimes two weeks before the test is administered. Teachers will give power-points or transparencies on the best strategies on taking multiple choice tests (as if the students had not long ago figured out how to take bubble-in tests). A good week is spent refreshing the entire years worth of material that you’ve covered. Then, on the day or two before the test, the students take a multiple choice test designed to include questions that we’re pretty sure will show up on the test. Teachers have know knowledge of the actual questions that will appear on the official test, but since they are designed to incorporate set educational standards, we have a good idea of the probable questions. The test takes two days to administer.

The end result?

First note that the test is, for the most part, a measure more of the preparation of the test, rather than the retained knowledge of the student body for the entire school year. Some kids will do very well on the tests. These are the kids who are self motivated to do so. Some students will absorb some of the reviewed material, enough that it will make a difference. But many kids will not do great, because they didn’t do well on the subjects when they were being taught during the regular course of the year, and one week of scatter-shot review will not be enough to retain the pertinent information. Worse. since the scores do not count as part of the student’s own grade, many, even the brighter ones, will not put much effort into doing well on the test. Hell, with the understanding that some of the faculty’s jobs may be on the line, a few may intentionally bomb the test in the hopes of getting a different teacher or principal, and doing bad on the test may be the way to implement that change. That is probably rare, but you can’t rule it out.  Meanwhile, as the teacher, you’ve just lost two weeks of instruction time, and, since you were right in the middle of the unit on Russian history when you had to drop everything to administer the NCLB test, the students have forgotten what they’ve covered and you might find you have to start your unit plan all over again.