Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tax Dollars At Work

Or bread and circuses. I can't figure out which phrase to use after reading this examiniation of how tax dollars get into the hands of strippers via BCS bowls.

The crappy thing is, if the financial projections are right, colleges could make money off a playoff, while most lose money on bowls.

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No Excuses

"This is why you don't put your face on the cover of Time magazine with a broom." - A former New Orleans teacher, upon being shown these links.

Y'all remember the test score investigation in Atlanta? The one where they're planning on hanging Beverly Hall out to dry? The one where the state investigators and the APS are fighting over which teachers they get to intimidate into testifying or staying silent?

Kinda makes you wonder what they're going to do with Michelle Rhee.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

That Baptist Ain't Right

Another Georgia small-town blog. I've only read through posts made in March, and I'm already a fan.

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Trails

Even as New Orleans gears up for another hike down our work-in-progress Lafitte Corridor Greenway, the greenways in Athens, Georgia have been so successfully implemented that the Clark County Leisure Services offices is considering dissolving the Natural Resources Division.

Because that's how you reward success in Georgia!

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The Great Divide

More studies on the difference between really real conservatives, and people who play conservatives on radio and television.

Our nation has truly entered a phase where a significant number of the people who think of themselves as "conservatives" are not actually conservative. The dilution of the term is what allows the Republicans and the Tea Party (and, in truth, the Democrats) to say whatever they like about politics without fear of being held accountable.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Grudging Acceptance

Andrew Sullivan examines the President's words:

The Libyan example was particularly vital because a rare constellation of forces came together to make turning away even harder: European and Arab support for preventing mass murder; UN permission; America's "unique" capabilities; and an imminent massacre in Benghazi.

Obama the Niebuhrian put the moral in realism. Yes, we could not do this everywhere all the time; but we could do this when we did; and that was good enough.


I'll add only a few things. This felt like a tremendous gamble, militarily, internationally, and politically. But I'm not privy to the cards held in the hand of the American President.

While I still believe in the internationalism embodied by the UN, and the good that can be done in the face of humanitarian disaster, even the best of intentions can blow up in your face. I'm still not sold, and we know not what we will reap from the continued entrenchment of a Presidency so imperial that no Congressional approval of any kind is needed before committing troops to an intervention of choice. Today's internationalism is yesterday's tomorrow's war of choice.

Which reminds me, especially as I read Sullivan, how we are still fighting the last war, literally and politically.

Though I grudgingly admit: our alliance has so far prevented a true humanitarian crisis; our alliance has so far been welcomed as liberating; Quaddafi is responsible for more terrorist attacks on NATO members than Saddam Hussien could manufacture in his wildest dreams - and an attack on one is an attack on all; the Arab Spring continues; and this has so far been the most efficient international intervention in memory.

But this chapter of history is not yet in the books. So many things have yet to be resolved, and there ought be no desire to wave a Mission Accomplished banner over the proceedings until we are damn sure it really is over.

I don't have to like the bet to hope the gamble pays off.

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The Glynn County Life

Finally, someone exposes the bullshit stinking from behind the bench from the Glynn County Drug Court. (HT: patsbrother)

Luckily, like in the Middle East, when cracks first appear in the despot's reign, things start to happen. Hopefully, people will start taking notice and start realizing how much power local authorities have over your life.

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Georgia Republican Presidential Hopefuls

What should really make Democrats mad is that guys like these, who politic to the lowest common demoninator by brining up the lurking spectre of American sharia law, belong to the political party who ran the Democrats out of every state office.

Oh, and with his "secular atheist country, potentially dominated by militant Islamists" quote, Gingrich officially joins the In Their Own Words Chorus of Incongruent Political Opinions that many of my conservative friends couldn't believe existed. And let's not pretend we don't know where the "Muslims = Bad" stuff is really coming from.

Irrational cultural panic may sell advertising, but it should not win elections in an educated nation.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Religion of Peace

A stated reason behind a stoning death in Pennsylvania provides additional evidence that that no one religion holds a monopoly on stoning sinners to death.

Of course, if the perpetrator had been of another religion - you know - that one that is consistently demonized in American popular culture, you'd likely hear about this as a top news story on every outlet across the country.

And so no one's confused, the other religion I'm talking about being demonized in popular culture isn't Wicca. Though, apparently, it is OK to demonize Wicaans in the workplace.

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Recommendations

Jeffrey takes a look at the recommendations the Department of Justice has made to the NOPD concerning homicides.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Liberal Media

I don't think that means what you think it means.

When it comes to covering and analyzing the news, the reverse of right isn't left; it's independent reporting that toes neither party nor ideological line. We’ve heard no NPR reporter -- not a one -- advocating on the air for more government spending (or less), for the right of abortion (or against it), for or against gay marriage, or for or against either political party, especially compared to what we hear from Fox News and talk radio on all of these issues and more.


On my morning drive to work, I can tune into WWL News, Talk, & Sports; Rush Radio; or Walton & Johnson on Clear Channel. Until Glenn Beck comes on Rush Radio at 9am, Walton & Johnson provide a long string of invective and false folksy "common sens-ism" towards all things center or left. The number of inaccuracies and misrepresentations are simply stunning most of the time.

Such are the building blocks of agnotology. Even strung together with grossly exaggerated fake gay, black, and overly redneck voices, people listen to that morning show in New Orleans, and later repeat those inaccuracies as fact in discussions.

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Threat of Real Reprisals

Oh, and if you're a Republican looking to curtail collective bargaining in the public sector it may not be the best idea to engage in the same types of behaviors that convinced public sector workers to unionize in the first place.

Just sayin'.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

The Threat of (False) Violence

Continuing coverage of union make-believe thuggery in Wisconsin, a local Indiana deputy-prosecutor suggests Governor Scott Walker stage an attack on himself in order to discredit political opponents.

That's a pretty extreme measure required to discredit someone. Hasn't anyone heard of robust, open, public debate?

Of course, right-wing talk radio will soon discover that this deputy prosecutor is really a secret liberal, doing all he can with this fake email to discredit Governor Walker...

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Perspective

Please serve yourself a helping.

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Perpetual War

Up until the Libyan bombing campaign started, there were hosts of right-wingers, neoconservatives, and Republicans using the situation to call out President Obama for "dithering" while people died.

As soon as the bombs started to fall, and especially because France was involved, we've heard nothing but outrage from many of those same people. I try to keep up with the talking points by listening to local right-wing radio, and what I heard yesterday ran like a laundry list of arguements that were previously dismissed in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

Of course, one of the most absurd of these arguments can be found coming out of the mouth of Newt Gingrich, who argues to go to war before he argues against it.

Our topic of discussion here is not the Libyan war itself, but how our politics and culture talk about and respond to it. Mainstream Republicans have a foreign policy elite, and they are the folks who have never met a war they didn't want to start. They have an outsized place at the political table, despite their advocated policies falling flat on their face for the last decade. That's who the GOP Representatives listen to, that's who the next GOP President will listen to, and when they turn the volume up loud enough for long enough (as with Iraq) most of the Democrats go right along with them.

The Democrats. I got an email yesterday from Democracy for America asking me to fill out a survey on how that group should react to the war in Libya. Because they don't already have a position.

The Tea Party is showing its true colors when it comes to interventionism and foreign policy. They will listen to the neocons every single time, and search the world for monsters to destroy. That's not good, considering how many monsters they already see at home.

The hatred for this President is so deep and all-encompassing that these individuals continue to find fault even when Obama is pursuing the policies they themselves propose. If he isn't attacking, he's dithering. If he is attacking, he's doing it wrong. If the UN is involved, he's abandoning American leadership in the world. If the UN isn't involved, he's not able to rally the allies.

And yet, for the 8 years of Bush Wars, we heard that anyone who questioned the "Decider's" decisions were unpatriotic and didn't support the troops. I guess that's why all the pundits on the right, even as they excoriate the President for not going to war sooner going to war whatever the day's critique is, they make sure to mention that they are 100% "behind the troops."

Because saying it is what is important.

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Not One More Drop

A lot has been made over the "moratorium" on new deep-water drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. From the idea that drilling, left unregulated, is so safe that "not one drop" was spilled during the 2005 hurricanes (despite all factual evidence to the contrary), to the idea that the moratorium on drilling for oil is somehow raising gasoline prices now, even though functioning wells never stopped producing oil.

Today, even as we hear the the first new drilling plan has been approved, we also find out that even "permanently plugged," out of commission oil wells can be responsible for new, massive oil spills.

Well, not a massive spill as relative to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, or as Rush Limbaugh might say, naturally occurring.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mad Wagerin'

I'm wondering how long it takes the NCAA to find a secondary recruiting violation based on this situation at the University of Georgia.

(HT: Get the Picture)

I also wonder if Buford, Georgia is considered part of metro Atlanta but not part of metro Athens (difference is between 4 to 6 miles).

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(False) School Choice

One of the biggest selling points for the "school choice" movement is that "schools will compete for your student." Basically, the theory behind the market approach to education is that schools will work to be better as they do whatever they can to attract the best, brightest, and most students. Without doing that, they don't get paid.

This is a fine concept in theory, that plays off the "common sense" of utopian libertarianism. The concept falls on its face when presented with reality. I present two examples where "school choice" places all the responsibility on the parent and the children to compete to get into schools.

College and Preschools.

One would think that with so many institutions "competing" for student participation at the preschool and collegiate levels, the application process would be much easier and less stressful.

But the application process is stressful because those schools know they are the best, have a large pool of applicants, and can pick and choose their students based on internal criteria to remain the best. Those who don't get in have to pick and choose between their second choices.

This works well at the college level, where you have a wealth of viable and excellent second choices - second choices that are also a lot of other folks' first choices. Colleges can also specialize - from small, private liberal arts teaching institutions to giant, State U research institutions attached to Division 1 Minor League Football Teams. There already exists a robust variety of college choices that take the "false" choice out of the equation.

Those choices DO NOT EXIST in many places the "school choice" model is being sold as a vehicle for education reform. In these places, like New Orleans, if you don't get into one of 8 functioning and accredited public schools, your remaining options are A) expensive parochial private schools, B) non-accredited charter schools, and C) non-accredited, underresourced public schools. With the exception of C), you have to compete to get into the other options as well. Even with those places that offer "open enrollment," there are specific requirements (forms, attendance requirements, behavior requirements, uniform requirements, transportation requirements, etc.) that come with participation and application.

The schools at the top of this food chain do not "compete" for the best students, the students and parents "compete" to get into these schools. The existence of non-functioning schools at the bottom of this chain keep the monopoly working. That is not an incentive to reform the local system.

The only way "school choice" works is if you are choosing between two places where your student is going to recieve a functioning, adequately-resourced education. The "choice" should be between the "art" school and the the "math & science" school, not between "functioning school" and "non-functioning security risk."

And this examination doesn't even touch the underserved exceptional students or socially maladjusted students, who are expensive to educate in the first place. When these students and their parents have to "compete" to recieve services, they are handed an additional, systematic level of disadvantage.

But, hey, it makes sense in political speeches that appeal to counterintuitive, utopian "common sense-ism."

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The Senate Switcheroo

A plan to redistrict Louisiana state senate seats in order to concentrate "evangelical power."

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Libyan Gamble

Libya. WTF? In a nation as polarized as we are, things aren't supposed to be this complicated. You're either Pro-War or you're in with Big Peace. You're either a neocon or a realist. You're either Pro-UN Internationalism or Pro-US Unilateralism. What do you do when your deliberative President reaches a similar conclusion to that of a "decider?" We're supposed to know exactly what to think, which party officials will do what, and which voting blocs will behave in what ways.

Karl Rove isn't supposed to "God Bless" Hillary Clinton.

Adrastos says it well:
[G]ood intentions are NOT sufficient. After watching the Bushies give Wilsonian internationalism a right wing twist, I'm a born again realist in matters of war and peace.

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I *really* hope I'm wrong about this because I'd love to see that murderous brown clad shitbird Gaddafi toppled. But the way they've gone about this gives me the heebie jeebies.


I think this is the biggest gamble America's made in decades. Ousting Gaddafi quickly with the combined might of Allied air-power and United Nations mandate restores badly needed credibility to internationalism. America no longer world policeman? I'm down with that. A big plus would be the preservation of the Arab pro-reform movement sweeping the Middle East. If newly liberated Libyans are cheering in the streets and setting up a post-Gaddafi government, Bahrain and Yemen are more likely to cut some deals at the conference table. And that's all secondary to the elimination of one of the world's last true madmen.

But if Gaddafi wins? Everything falls apart. Internationalism and the United Nations will be worthless. The United States will have sealed the deal in establishing a new era of Great Powers (that is coming quickly anyway but why hurry it along?). Gaddafi will butcher people on state television and no one will be able to do a thing about it. The Arab Reforms stop in their tracks, as dissent is crushed by autocrats who never have to listen to anyone but themselves again, ever.

That's just what happens immediately, and I'm not seeing a middle ground.

How did we get here? Let us count the ways:

Somalia was such a disaster for internationalism that little was done about Rwanda & Burundi, the Sudan, and - of course - Somalia.

The Balkans were the messy win of internationalism at work: proving that thousands dead, genocide, and war crimes in the neighborhood will eventually push the Europeans to clean house and bring America along for the ride.

Afganistan was the base of operations for those who attacked us on September 11th, the USS Cole, and in Kenya and Tanzania; it was an ongoing human-rights disaster; and it was a mess we had no small part in creating. I don't argue about our nation going to war in Afganistan, though I wonder what strategies could have been used to end that war sooner.

Iraq. We've really been in a state of undeclared war with Iraq since 1991, when the triumphant coalition of international allies drove Hussein's armies out of Kuwait. But we never really left. This is the longest-running external armed conflict in US history, and we are now on President #4 trying to end this cycle. The American people are still arguing about the restart of this war in 2003, basically so we have something other than Vietnam to argue about. And we're arguing about it despite the fact that the troops have held together two invasions this most recent invasion and an occupation without a clear strategy from Washington; without the appropriate resources needed to take, hold, and rebuild a nation of millions; and without true international support. That is an amazing accomplishment that is usually ignored when talking about this war.

Because the talking is mostly arguing about why we went to war in the first place. And that argument, based on our intervention in Libya, apparently hasn't been settled or even acknowledged. Which is one of the ways we've gotten to where we are today.

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Stolen

Unlike the United States, some nations cannot readily hide the sins of the past under the cloak of nostalgia for some revised and imaginary history. I shudder while reading that story and then listening to the hateful rhetoric of partisans in America.

I know that it could happen here for the simple fact that it has happened here. We are not so far removed from our shameful national legacies as we like to think we are.

The United States is a great nation, but its greatness lies in overcoming the sins of our shared past, and addressing the legacies of those sins with justice. There is still much work to be done.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Crimes Against Testing

Well, this pretty much encapulates every wrong priority about public education these days. Let us count the ways:

1. The Atlanta Public Schools are accused of withholding teacher contracts in order to intimidate teachers not to testify against possible APS wrongdoing under state investigation. This is not the first time state investigators have raised concerns that the APS is conducting a campaign of witness intimidation.

2. In the "PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONZ ARE TEH EBIL SOCIALIZMS" narrative, the APS here represents "the taxpayer" and the teachers being intimidated represent the leeches on society. Georgia is a right to work state, with a teachers' association, but with no rights to collectively bargain.

3. The narratives say that the main thing wrong with public education is the existence of all the "bad teachers," who the unions and labor laws protect against being laid-off without cause. Systems, as narrated representatives of "the taxpayer" should be able to hire and fire at will. The narrative trusts the systems to make the right decisions and not to abuse these powers. Until they don't.

4. Also representing "the taxpayer" are the state investigators, who might seem concerned that teachers - as witnesses to a crime - are being intimidated into silence by the APS. But make no mistake, the investigators are not interested in the well-being of these teachers, they are interested in the well-being of high-stakes standardized testing.

5. But don't worry, this news does not violate any tenet of the "bad teacher" narrative, as the state investigators are looking for "bad teachers" to take a plea deal and roll on the "bad APS."

That means representatives of "the taxpayers" are fighting other representatives of "the taxpayers" and using the employment of public sector employees as part of their interagency competition. This serves as proof that, in the new educational-industrial paradigm, the only time it is NOT OK to hold teachers' contracts or get rid of teachers without cause is when the teachers might be witnesses to crimes against testing.

Because you'll notice that the high-level state investigations only started in response to a scandal involving the testing. I cannot, however, recall any serious investigations into why so many public schools in Georgia are unable to get the resources and support necessary to adequately educate their students.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Gerrymander Rages

While losing population always corresponds with losing representation, I am ashamed that the paper is focusing more on the incumbent battles than on how these districts were drawn. Because these districts make little logical sense unless your purpose is to intentionally split communities and dilute voting strength.

And I'm thinking, specifically:

We've got a curlicue up in District 90, which earns it an autodouchematic dishonorable mention. Not sure what neighborhood that represents, but I assume we're not looking at pure intentions there.

But the number one spots for insane district drawing is quite evident in the neighborhood and community splitting boundaries of Orleans Parish districts 91,93,95,96,97 & 98.

And this is going to happen nation-wide, y'all. This will further secure one-party rule in many states, and does not bode well for congressional redistricting. There is a structural reason I think the US House will remain in GOP hands for at least the next 9 years - they are the ones drawing writing the rules, at this point.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

For the Record

They're just calling it "The Report."

The full version is a massive, 150 page excoriation of a police department that has structurally operated outside the law far too often for far too long. The executive summary alone reads like 19 page thriller novel of every Hollywood stereotype associated with the "bad cops." But you keep scrolling down to another example of malfeasance and miscarried justice. Some of these couldn't be made up.

Some folks have a lot to say about it. Others don't have to say much at all. They are truly the ones most vindicated by these findings, as they have been telling everyone who would listen what has really been going on for painfully far too long. They have been the ones telling us how deep the cancer grows.

And now the United States Department of Justice has concluded their investigation, and we find out just how right those voices have been.

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Feudalism

Lord David describes what it is like to live under a different system of government than that to which many Americans are accustomed.

Don't worry folks, the way things have been going nationally, it is only a matter of time.

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The Furnace

Editor B describes the blogging of Ashley Morris.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Part of Obama's Sneaky Plan

Remember how, in Rush Limbaugh Land, Obama praised oil production and offered to open up more American drilling suspiciously just before the Deepwater Horizon disaster? It was all a plot by TEH EBIL KENYAN ANTI-COLONIALIZMS!! to scare Americans away from the selfless executives of those community minded oil industry that create American jobs for Americans in America!

I wonder what El Rushbo's going to say when he finds out the President specifically praised nuclear power - in Japan! Suspiciously before this latest disaster! OH NOES TEH MARXISMS HAVE EARTHQUAKE CONTROLZ!!! Espcially now that Americans are questioning our national "renaissance" with noocyoolar power!

We'll not even mention the deregulation necessary to make both oil drilling rigs and nuclear power plants safe for the communities they serve...

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The Foreign Entanglements

To War! To War! To War! To War!

Hope this turns out better than the last two.

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Sports Tawk

Yule unnerstan wen yoo click awnit.

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Seattle's Hurricane Pam

Unlike the earthquakes that have done incredible damage to Haiti, Chile, and New Zealand, the earthquake in Japan has rocked the American psyche. Not only is our stock market in freefall, but the "renaissance" of nuclear energy is now being questioned in a way that was unthinkable before.

Because if it can happen to Japan, it can happen to us. That seems to be the opinion, anyway. Nevermind that an earthquake in Haiti could very well set off a tsunami that batters an already fragile Gulf Coast...

But it does awaken some folks to the risks "the big one" poses to American cities. While we all suspect San Francisco and Los Angeles are tops on the list, you can't forget about Seattle. Maybe the city leaders in the Northwest, the people who live there, and the political federal authorities who will be tasked with response will take their scenario simulations more seriously than past worst-case scenarios that later proved prescient.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Japan vs. New Orleans

This train is never late.

There are many comparisons and contrasts that reporters and punditry could make between the disasters in Japan and the disasters in New Orleans. A short list could include a comparison where officials ignored warnings of impending danger, you could contrast the differences in response, or you could examine the parallels of energy safety failures.

Instead of those policy failures at the hands of highly placed officials, who have so often let us down while serving as mouthpieces for well-moneyed interests let us focus on the "real" story here - why there isn't any "looting" going on in Japan.

You don't have to wonder what they're trying to say.

But if we're going to go down this road, maybe we should ask why certain Japanese citizens and local police didn't start gunning down other citizens for "looting".

Update: You knew the narrative would get busted (at least in some quarters). The news is just in - the Japanese people are just as human as the rest of us, and while they might be more "culturally resillient" in the face of many natural disasters, they still experience thieves at a fire like all other cultures.

Update 2: Yet another comparison between Japan & New Orleans and the corners cut that made local energy infrastructure unsafe. More deregulation, anyone?

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World Police & the Foreign Entanglements

As wonderful as it would be to remove a tyrant, it is difficult to imagine the United States engaging in another regional conflict when our prior two regional engagements have yet to be concluded successfully. I'm not even talking about all the possible realist and pragmatic obstacles that exist to US intervention in Libya, I'm discussing things from a straight-up resource managment scenario.

If your domestic priority is the subsidization of the uber-wealthy, your nation cannot also pursue unending wars and military conflicts as a foreign priority. At least, your nation cannot do both of these things, and hope to remain solvent.

In America, our governments are slashing funding for medicine, schools, roads, infrastructure, and programs that assist our most vulnerable citizens under the guise of "fiscal responsibility," even while our nation maintains a robust military presence all over the world, and is still engaged in not one but two ongoing wars.

And now, a lot of the same folks who have argued that health care and schools are too expensive want to get us to go in, guns blazing, and rescue a bunch of Libyan rebels who many not really represent the "good guys" we'd like to pretend they are on the evening news.

Which is it, fellas? Are we broke, or do bombs grow on trees?

I will be the first one to say that Quaddafi's continued rule is not in the interests of American foreign policy; nor is it in the interests of human rights and dignity. The best thing would be a cavalry-call of international smackdown to remove the liveried dictator from power and drag his ass before The Hauge.

But there is only so much the United States can do about that based on the resource management skills of our former and current national leaders. The nations of Europe have militaries, as do the nations of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. (Well, I guess our allies the Saudis are too busy putting down the popular demonstrations with their military in another US client state to be bothered by an actual military threat that exists in their region.)

And that's just the resource managment angle. The moral responsibility angle is still out there. Luckily, some real conservatives are specifically examining America's responsibilities in this scenario. Too bad we didn't read more of that back in 2002.

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The Rail Problem

McArdle knocks this one out of the park by describing how high-speed rail advocates sabotage their own efforts.

The point is not trains for the sake of trains. The point is a viable transportation option that delivers a return on an investment.

Instead of a Tampa-to-Orlando showcase, let's get moving on the Southeastern High Speed Rail Corridor. That line can terminate in New Orleans, after expanding to Birmingham and Hattiesburg.

And you know what city is already reading the writing on the wall? Atlanta. They've recently started moving forward on design.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Selective Enforcement of City Ordinances

This city could have made hundreds of thousands of dollars if they had only issued citations and summons for ridiculous Mardi Gras parade behavior.

One of those links also represents the most rational, reasonable, well-behaved comments section on NOLA.com, ever. (At least, when I looked it over.)

But Jeffrey makes a fantastic point - no such leniency was demonstrated when the NOPD employed tasers, billy clubs, pepper spray, and arrests to take down the art kids in the Krewe of Eris for not having a parade permit.

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South Regional Weather Bracket

Vote for cities with the most extreme weather. Guess which city is the 3 seed?

Hint: it is also the 4th most tornado prone large US City.

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Picking a Fight with the Christian Right

I wonder what my real conservative readers think of the Mitch Daniels' "truce" on social issues until financial issues are addressed.

Because, as Andrew Sullivan points out, there is a very significant portion of the Republican base that wants to focus on the culture war above all things. Because people who disagree with certain religious or moral beliefs are the ones who are bankrupting the country. We can get ourselves out of debt ON FAITH!!

Someone will have to explain how that opinion is in any way conservative, because what I read there was a culture warrior cloaking his theocracy in fiscal conservative marketing.

Though I'm glad that he admits the Tea Party is just what I thought they were.

Luckily, there appears to be some pushback to the theocratic right.

But will it be enough? Can a real conservative like Mitch Daniels, who acts like a rational, thinking human being (with some ideas I disagree with) win the GOP Presidential nomination? Or will the base, more interested in Mau-Mau-ing opponents, warning America about the coming Sharia onslaught, and James O'Keefe's video splices of outgoing NPR executives, again prove they are more about cultural panic than substance?

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Testing: The Education-Industrial Complex

All about profits, not about education.

This shocking expose is neither shocking, nor an expose, if you've been paying any attention at all to education "reform" in this country.

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Hittin' the Slopes

The slippery slopes.

Under the last administration, torture was justified because it was only being used on "enemy combatants," those individuals shoehorned in between the legal definitions of "criminals" who would require a trial prior to punishment and "prisoners of war" who could be held until the end of hostilities but only in humane conditions.

And folks let it slide down that slippery slope because they were mostly brown people of a supposedly scary religion who were perceived if not proven to have taken up arms against America. Even if a few of them were citizens of the US or western nations generally considered to be part of the "civilized world."

While critics argued that it would only be a matter of time before more US citizens were subjected to such punishments forbidden by Constitution and treaty, those critics were laughed at and called a bunch of negative nancies, worrying a little too much about the slippery slope we find ourselves on.

I wonder what excuse they will sell us now that we must face the Manning situation. And before you jump up and down about what is and isn't known about the case just yet, tell me just who has credibility in this situation. Then begin to understand the deeper reasons we're supposed to do things better and cleaner than the other guy.

Above reproach is about where I would like our nation to be. It is a shame so many celebrate in our not living up to that standard.

I thought even those individuals accused of treason were afforded due process in this country. I thought even those individuals facing charges which carry the death penalty remain protected from "cruel and unusual" punishment. Especially before a verdict has even been delivered.

Can someone tell me where Constitutional protections end this week? The goalposts seem to be moving.

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Say It Ain't So

Someone will one day have to explain all this to me. Together, we can figure out where "conservatism" became "feudalism."

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Costs

In other news regarding government waste, here are just a few figures regarding the cost of our nation's war on drugs.

Because some people continue to think that marijuana being illegal doesn't cost us anything.

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Unions Oversimplified

Saw this easy to distribute explanation of unions on Facebook. It is a stunning oversimplification, that revises whatever history it doesn't ignore. Unions have problems and so do state budgets, to be sure, but why can't those folks who play "conservatives" on quirky internet videos discuss the real issues? Why do they feel they have to make stuff like this up?

Once these clowns are done destroying the rights of free Americans to assemble and petition for grievances from their employers, I can't wait to see what other civil rights they go after.

The quirky video they make to explain how integrated schools are bad is going to be a doozy!

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Friday, March 11, 2011

$400 Million Dollars

We've been hearing about it for years, but the voices demanding a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons continue to rise in volume, and look more and more serious. The whole pricetag would be north of $700M, of which $400M would be on the taxpayers. And (unlike Dallas) the plans for the new Bird's Nest would be an uncovered stadium with less seating capacity.

Meanwhile, real conservative Kyle Wingfield of the AJC goes over all the other things Atlanta could do with that stadium money.

Hell, he even includes streetcars, mass transit, and trains on his list.

Of course, if Atlanta does build a new Falcons' stadium, they might get rid of the Georgia Dome, even though they say they want to keep it. The reason to keep it is pretty solid: the Georgia Dome hosts the Chick Fil-A Kickoff Classic, the Peach Bowl, the Georgia State Panthers regular season and OH YES THE SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME. But how long do you think two NFL sized football stadiums will last a few parking lots away from one another?

Maybe the SEC could just buy the facility outright, which wouldn't be a bad idea, actually. Atlanta is, primarily, a college football town. The move could make economic sense for both the conference and the city. But such manuvering might not pan out, and who knows what will happen in 6 years?

This tells me one thing: New Orleans needs to have a 5-year bid to host the SEC Championship Game ready to roll before 2017. That's one of the only games on the planet more valuable than the Sugar Bowl. If there were ever an opportunity to get that game out of Atlanta, this would be it.

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The Price of Chaos

Varg about covers it. Lord David knocks it out of the park. I have nothing substantive to add.

Though, "Levees and Schools" should be repeated as often as possible in this city, and Lord David's remedies will save more than just art in New Orleans.

And even more video of the incident is coming to light. Tell me if what you see looks like real police work.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sister's Creole Market

Hey look, Athens, Georgia has a new "creole" restaurant, and it seems to be getting good reviews from the local folks. Except, of course, those Athenians who lose their minds because the po'boy bread comes from New Orleans.

Maybe we can work out a trade deal where they get their bread and send us some Terrapin...
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More Jester Than King

What an embarassment for the GOP. Representative Peter King of New York is getting ready to fan the flames of sectarian discord in the United States because he thinks all Muslims are terrorists while not all terrorists are bad.

That's right, I said it. Anyone who can defend the IRA because they "didn't threaten America" is one step away from defending the KKK because what they did is "in the past."

This is more of that state security nonsense under which too many Americans - and too many powerful Americans, especially in the Republican and Tea Parties - cloak their religious intolerance, xenophobia, racism, and bigotry all while calling their detractors out for nonexistant political correctness.

Political correctness, in this case, being the focus on non-threats and the willing disregard or intentional marginalization of real-threats in order to promote a political motive - such as winning support of an interest group.

You want political correctness? Look at the Islamophobes, who willingly disregard or intentionally marginalize the danger of the Timothy McVeighs, Eric Rudolphs, Ted Kaczynskis, Andrew Stacks and now Kevin Harphams of the world so they can go after the "Ground Zero Mosque" that is not a mosque, not at "Ground Zero," and NOT A THREAT.

As a matter of fact, if you compared body counts of radicalized American Muslims to that of radicalized American Christian white males, it isn't even a close comparison. And that's before you even factor in the historical body count of the Klan or the Citizens Councils who terrorized, raped, and burned their way across the country until about the 1970's. But that would require seeing African-Americans as fellow citizens, and we know how hard some people still have with that particular attitude.

But for Rep. King, this isn't even that complicated.

For him, this nonsense is a circus sideshow designed to play to the base, win elections, and raise money more than investigate actual threats to the United States of America. The numbers of actual, pragmatic, and effective conservatives in the Republican Party continue to dwindle as they are replaced by clowns like this.

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Honesty & Forgiveness

My question after all of this, how does coming down hard on honesty and rewarding lies help the NCAA investgators going forward? You'd think it would be the other way around. This situation could demonstrate even less incentive to be forthcoming while it increases the advantage of covering up wrongdoing for as long as possible.

And that will be the case at every school, not just the sacred cows that the NCAA won't touch with sanctions to fit the crime.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Another Example of Government Waste

Disclaimer: The following is a 100% true story. In order to protect the people who supplied me with the critical information, never mind myself from any disclosure laws this uneducated writer might unknowingly break, I have switched out all the critical names of people and places with aliases. I'm not Woodward or Bernstein. This is just a perfect example of some of my own personal thoughts on our government.

About a year and a half ago, a small-town local bank called Southeast Atlantic bank were approached by the FDIC with some distressing news. Apparently the Federal Gov't has been studying the bank's financial practices intensely since shortly after the housing crash. After going through their findings, they came to the bank's offices personally to report three things. First, the FDIC were NOT happy with people SEA bank were in business with. Second, they had found that the bank had a $25 million shortfall in their bottom line. Third, if the bank did not rectify this shortfall, there would be dire consequences.

On the first note of the bank's major customers, this is a symptom of the economy. The sources that I talked to assured me that roughly 3/4 of the people mentioned in the report were regular customers SEA bank have been in business with for better part of almost two decades. While yes, since the housing crunch, these top notch customers took a rough hit, it wasn't just the get rich quick schemes of many of the big hitters tried to take advantage of before they lost HUGE and then received their bailout. These were regular customers with a long and impeccable LOCAL banking history that were actually by and large doing business as usual when the bottom fell out.

As far as the $25 million shortfall, SEA bank actually said that they understood that this was obviously not the strong financial base they wanted for themselves or their customers. But they also felt a local upswing and the community was in the middle of bouncing back. Given time, the senior officers felt confident in righting the ship and getting their bottom line back into the black. The one year ultimatum was daunting, yet knowing the area, and being on the ground floor of the local economy, they looked at the next twelve months with a careful sense of hope, even with the federal government looking over their shoulder(and at times directly influencing the directions of day to day operations).

Fast forward to the first week of this year, the bank had recovered just shy of $16 million of the $25 million. Sparing the suspense, it wasn't enough. Most officers above teller were removed(quietly) and the FDIC replaced SEA with Big Middle America Corporate bank. Most of SEA were saddened by the government's decision, especially after a year of unpaid overtime and hard work, but understood in the end. After all, the were millions in the hole. Those are the breaks.

So far, everything is pretty understandable. I feel bad that any local business goes out of business, bank or no, but it does scream to the heart my feelings of the status of business in America. If you lose money, you don't get to play any more, whether you are a bookstore, coffee shop, or even a bank. That is of coarse, you reallllly suck, then you can have $8 billion to right the ship.

That unfortunately is not all. Because Big Middle America Corporate bank apparently got a pretty sweet deal. Now I'm not a banker, but it seems to me that in order to absorb this institution's assets and debits it would require just under $10 million of additional capital to basically cover the remaining shortfall. That money would expectadly come from FDIC guarantees, or just the Federal government in some fashion. Strange enough, I talked to some bankers and they outlined how this was exactly so(Footnote: I could not understand the hows and the ways this is so, but the bottom line is what is important here). The actual end result was the federal gov't paid them $20 million instead of ten. That seems high to me, but I can let that go. The final caveat though is the FDIC guaranteed $90 million in bad loans to BMAC to cover any and all future shortfalls. That $90 million is basically free money they can piss away to no cost to anyone except the taxpayer.

The final math on this is this. A local, stand alone bank faces a shortfall of just under $10 million. Somewhat understandably the government shuts down this bank. A very large corporate bank is paid $110 million to take the place of the small local bank when it could very easily cost $10 million. That is $100 million of wasted taxpayer's dollars to fix a $10 million problem.

My questions and comments: This is a sad representation of how consistently the government treats the smaller players in the business world and how it blankly rewards those that are big enough.

I'm fine with replacing businesses that lose money, big or small. But if you are going to step in and outright replace it, do it for what it costs, not ten times for what it costs.

Finally, this fiasco cost taxpayers $110 million. That is real money, especially considering this is going to fix an extremely local, somewhat uncomplicated, and small town operation of less than 20 employees. What scares yours truly is if this is the way the government handled this problem, how much more money is being thrown away to similar, uncountable situations from coast to coast.

Ron Schiller, I Salute You...

We all hear about lazy, incompetent government workers who don't care about their cushy government jobs. But then here's Ron Schiller, Foundation President of NPR. On the verge of at least getting cuts to their funding (if not being defunded outright) Mr. Schiller decided to meet with a group of Muslims offering to donate $5 million and he told them pretty much anything they wanted to hear. And for what? To keep NPR alive. That's some real dedication from a government employee. Mr. Schiller, I salute you. I would've done the same thing. I'd tell Klansmen about the Negro problem. I'd tell vi users of the evils of emacs. I'd say pretty much anything I had to in order to get my hands on $5 million in funding. Sadly, it turns out it the potential donors were a fake. It was all a setup. Instead of being praised for his ingenuity in the face of budget cuts, he gets drummed out of his position. What a shame...

Whistle Stop

Conservatives don't hate trains, people who play conservatives on TV and talk radio hate trains.

Real conservatives are concerned with the way we pay for trains, just like they're concerned with the way we pay for NPR and a host of other things they think government shouldn't do. That's why I like discussing politics with real conservatives, because reality is refreshing. If real conservatives are cool with subsidies for the airline industry, the auto industry, road construction and oil companies, they can probably be convinced to get behind subsidies for trains and mass transit, too. If they're against subsidies for trains, then they can probably be convinced to abandon the subsidies for the airlines, auto industry, road construction and oil companies (which would make train transport and mass transit more competitive). Furthermore, real conservatives are more likely to be convinced of the need to "diversify" the transportation portfolio while facing the reality of rising gasoline prices.

Because real conservatism is about pragmatism, the bottom line, and facts.

People who play conservatives on TV and talk radio, on the other hand, hate trains because teh ebil libruls who want trains are really Kenyan-anti-colonial Marxist Fascist Nazi Mau-Maus coming to destroy America (with the help of yOu-knOw-whO), and they're going to do it by making you give up your SUV and force you to ride trains (with, umm, those other people) because that's how the Marxists turned Europe and France into teh socialismz! What did Mussolini do? He made the trains run on time! And how did Lawrence destroy the "caliphate" in Arabia? He attacked their trains! Trains are TEH EBIL! Except when America's founders worked tirelessly to free the slaves by using the underground railroad built by well-paid non-union labor back when the EPA still let folks use coal dug out of West-by-God-Virginia by even more well-paid non-union labor. It all comes back to history, as Glenn Beck would say.

So, until the real conservatives can be found, we're stuck with that last group of folks. Which means we won't get trains until gasoline really is $8, and at that point, it will be teh ebil libruls and their environmental studies and labor laws keeping us from building trains and mass transit fast enough...

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The Seattle Model

I've long said that New Orleans, instead of looking to cities like Atlanta and Houston (sprawl) as models for growth*, should look at cities like Athens (cultural economy) and Savannah (historic preservation).

Now, you can add Seattle to that list:

The Seattle model is particularly important, because the ideas created in skilled cities are likely to be the economic mainstay of America in the next century.


High density, mass transportation (that works), and a dynamic population.


* Though we can use their road-building/paving techniques at any time, y'all.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Intervention Price Tag

Have these people ever seen a military action that they didn't like? After all we've heard from the war yahoos, from our decade in Iraq and Afganistan to the desire to open up a third war against Iran, do they have any credibility left? Especially after they've spent years telling us out of the other sides of their mouths that "debt" is killing our future and that the United States is out of money to pay for schools.

What do you think makes the planes go, fellas? Jet fuel costs hard currency, and munitions don't grow on trees. And don't forget, you've got an American population weary of supporting a decade of war with no end in sight. How is getting involved in an Arab civil war going to benefit the USA?

Not to mention the fact that the Libyan rebels seem to be doing an OK job with this.

Pardon me if I don't see President Obama as weak-kneed or indecisive for not rah-rahing our way to another foreign entanglement. We cannot solve all the world's problems and suffer no prestige hit for the President acting prudently in America's own self interest (finally).

I'm sure there is already some behind-the-scenes stuff going on, and this is just political point scoring on the part of Washington politicians and pundits who need something to talk about for the Sunday papers. I'd rather our President not be goaded into cowboying up and charging in with the cavalry for what would amount to a very, very expensive infomercial on American air-power.

We are already at war in two places. We already have troops stationed around the globe. We pay dearly for all of that. If the world - NATO, the Arab League, the Organization of African Unity, or the United Nations wants to get involved, I will have no problem if our President supports their actions. I have no problem with our nation assisting a shared international burden.

But America, unilaterally? Again? We just can't afford it.

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Monday, March 07, 2011

Eighteen Inches

Looks like that's the safe water level in the London Avenue Canal.

For comparison's sake, that would be water up to my knees.

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Heritage

Reading some Ta-Nehisi Coates, I am reminded that if Civil War rememberance in the South was more honestly about "heritage," as it should be, then we'd see an awful lot more events like this.

After all, hundreds of thousands of Southerners fought for the Union, and hundreds of thousands of those Southerners were black.

Though in complete honesty, it isn't just the South who has ignored the history of the USCT. That's why the event was held in Harrisburg in the first place, instead of Washington.

How powerful would it be to one day host a Civil War rememberance event in the South that honored the sacrifices of all her people, regardless of color or color of uniform, just an unvarnished realization of our shared regional and national tragedies? We've got 4 more Aprils to figure it out, and we can say it only took us 150 years.

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

Rivalries

Oh, this is gonna be good. Two of the more iconic Mardi Gras Krewes are getting into it. In one corner, you have the artsy ladies of Muses, and in the other corner, the good ole boys of d'Etat.

Their parades roll on consecutive nights, too. It can only be a good thing that krewes dig deep into their satirical souls, and provide the crowds with float-sized paper mache smack talk on the eve of Carnival weekend.

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Saturday, March 05, 2011

The Five Hour Abita Twitter Revolution

Twitter isn't just for toppling Middle Eastern autocrats, anymore. Down in Louisiana, outrage can be expressed and dealt with swiftly, when beverages are at stake. This was over before I even realized it existed.

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Friday, March 04, 2011

The Numbers

The usual way of discussing education is for individuals on both sides to talk past each other. If you think the problem with education lies with the teachers' unions, you point to the anecdotes of bad teachers who have been kept on the payroll. If you think the problems with education have nothing to do with teachers' unions, you point out that the states with the weakest teachers' unions have the lowest performances.

I've done that last part. But don't get too excited, because that's usually used in response to individuals in the first category (even if they aren't listening). If you're the one selling something, you've got to prove that what you're selling is worth buying, after all.

Though it is nice, every once in a while, to see someone really dig into those numbers. That analysis doesn't pull any punches, and does not ignore something a lot of people would be more comfortable if we didn't talk about. Wingfield could have just let all that information sit in his comments section, so I have to respect that he doesn't shy away from the topic.

Race.

If they are to be believed, what do these numbers tell us? I see three things that really stand out: 1) the artificial, race-based gap in educational acheivement exists across the board, 2) that gap is the main failing of American public education regardless of state, and 3) teachers' unions don't really have a lot to do with it.

I'll keep this in mind the next time some education "reformer's" sales pitch leads with how important it is to break teachers' unions to increase student success.

The numbers still tell us that shouldn't be our priority.

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Balance

More on the comparisons and contrasts examination of balance for the sake of balance, false equivalencies, and non-comparisons.

According to Ross Douhat at the New York Times, "getting out into the streets and getting a little bloody" is equivalent to "second amenment remedies."

Which I guess gives us the equation:

street fighting = armed insurrection


Umm, I'm not a big fan of violence advocates on either side and I have grown to despise violent rhetoric in politics and consider inappropriate military metaphors childish.

That being said, those two items are in no way equivalent in terms of scale, and I am shocked that more reasonable members of our media caste are so invested in "balance" that they will willingly ignore this fact.

HT: Daily Dish

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Thursday, March 03, 2011

BYU is Filled With a Bunch of Religious Nuts(and I Agree With Them)

So today is day number one in my new office. I've got my Playstation 3 hooked up and all my clothes are still in boxes. I was ALMOST late for work yesterday because I forgot I put all my underwear in the same box as my old Matchbox cars(you know, to protect them from the elements). What can I say? Since leaving for multiple months to the godforsaken suburbs of the Most Overrated City in the Country, Dallas, Texas, I've discovered new fountains of productivity. Today I return to the written word with the controversy going on in everyone's favorite Morman city, Provo, Utah.

For those that don't know, earlier this week, the starting center for the BYU Cougars NCAA Division 1 basketball team was dismissed for violating the school's honor code. Did he steal a computer? Was his father involved in a pay-for-play scam? Was he arrested for underage possession/DUI/hit-and-run/assault(some UGA greatest hits)? Negative. He admitted to having premarital sex with his girlfriend.

What makes this relevent is this is one of BYU's best basketball teams in school history. This past weekend they were a prohibitive #1 seed in the big tournament and favored to make it to at least the Final Four. He is their leading rebounder and top three in scoring. Even to the layman, it's easy to see he is an integral part of this team, and the hopes of a national championship is dashed never mind the Final Four.

I have to give the young man credit for taking this punishment on the chin, and taking full responsibilities for his actions. Before signing on with the Cougars, he was brought before multiple school officials and the honor code, albeit extensive, was spelled out to him point by point. It wasn't like many schools, of which I will mention none, where you get a book handed to you between your syllabi and your map to all the package stores, and you can violate some obscure rule where you can only drink can beer on weekdays and game days. Dude was taken by the hand and actually signed a contract, promising to live up to BYU's standards. Whether you agree with the code or not, Davies said he did, and as long as he was there, he agreed to these standards and would live his private life as such.

On the flip side I gotta throw BYU some love for thier actions as well. In sports(collegiate especially) there is an endless list of examples to the attitude of the classic "win at all costs" attitude. From Belichek to Auburn to USC, all you see is instance after instance of institutions, players, and coaches of all levels, throwing out all ethics(and a few laws to boot) in search of the allmighty "W". While I might not agree with BYU's code, at least they are up front about it and they truly believe in something more than just the win. (and thankfully I'm a Dawg fan)

The Obnoxious Parade

Yesterday, the City of New Orleans hosted a major press conference regarding restrictions on parade watching. While I have less problem with the port-a-potties (I mean, who won't pay a dollar or two to some clever family to use the bathroom?), I have grown weary of the obnoxiousness level that goes hand in hand with watching Mardi Gras parades, especially the big ones. Ladders hard upon the parade route make it difficult to participate in this greatest of shows. Personal fiefdoms restrict the legal movement of the public on public land (and what if a medical emergency requires attention quickly?). And I've just about had it with the public parking blockades that take place all over this city on event days.




I really think it ruins a public event when you show up, and all the public spaces are taken. Especially a Mardi Gras parade. Heaven forfend someone other than your small, close group of friends end up in your "area" on the route. Especially when your area runs from roughly the middle of the neutral ground all the way to the parade barricades. It isn't like these things are designed to be fun for everyone out there, just you and your group and the other folks who have the time to spray paint or cordon off their own personal property on the neutral ground four days in advance.



And Lord help anyone who wants to drive into the neighborhood on Wednesday. There is a parade on Saturday after all, so much of the the public, on-street parking is occupied by litter and various household items to denote "ownership."



Because it isn't about you having fun, as long as Bill and Tom have an excellent adventure on Endymion Day.



Luckily, you may take the neutral ground, but you will never take New Orleans' humor.

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2012

I'll say it now, the Democrats will not retake the House of Representatives in 2012. As a matter of fact, I'm of the opinion that the Democrats won't even have a chance to retake the House of Representatives again until after 2020.

And they'll only do that if they can expand their influence in state legislatures in time for the next census figures. Remember, with the GOP sweep of so many state houses during the redistricting process, they get to politically consolidate congressional power through demographic manipulation. Not that the Democrats were any angels when they controlled this process, but the GOP isn't even going to have to play ball with Democrats in the South this time around. That'll free up resources to fight this out in other states in other regions.

Maybe that will teach the national Democrats not to ignore the state parties. Especially in the South.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Anti-Colonialists

Not to be outdone by those pesky Georgia Republicans, GOP Presidential contender Mike Hucakbee feeds some red meat to the talk-radio audience.

How many narratives did he hit?

1. Obama Was Not born here.
2. Obama = Kenyan
3. Obama = Anti-Colonialist
4. Anti-Colonialism = Bad*
5. Liberalism = Anti-American; Not From Here

This is a Presidential candidate talking directly to the base and asking ludicrous questions about stuff that isn't true. Why should I trust him if he speaks of tax breaks and the economy? Why should I believe that he is nothing more than a culture warrior pandering for votes at this point because that's the only way he'd win a GOP Presidential Primary?


(* - Currently the dumbest of the dumb narratives, I fail to see how people who relate to a "Tea Party" and wave the revolutionary Gadsden Flag can hold in contempt other people who fought for freedom against the same colonial masters. I do so hope one of my conservative friends can explain why this non-conservative lunacy has traction with so many individuals who identify as Republicans.)

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Palace Guards

Athenae at First-Draft re-iterates that the behavior on the part of law enforcement has been one key in the Madison Sit-Ins peacefully expressive nature.

People generally do what is expected of them, and everything in law enforcement's demeanor said, "We expect there to be no trouble and for you to keep having a good time while doing your thing." They weren't tense, so nobody else was either.


It also helps when the demonstrators themselves help keep the more obnoxious among them under control. (This is one comparison where I think the Madison Sit-Ins and many Tea Party demonstrations have something in common.) "Mob" mentality can spread easily if reasonable people allow it, and it is a good thing to see real people participate in representative government processes without the violence that has often plagued our nation's history.

But let's get back to the police & law enforcement, and how their tactical stances can help keep a demonstration peaceful. Demonstrations are usually high-emotion events, and if you inject more tension or emotion into such a situation where it is unnecessary, you're adding artificial risks to the situation. There is a huge difference between preparing for confrontation and expecting confrontation, and tactical postures tend to reflect this.

But so does human psychology. If you are expecting confrontation with a crowd, your standard operating proceedures and situation briefs are very different. One person's misbehavior under such circumstances can be misconstrued as crowd misbehavior or an accident can be mistaken for intentional provocation. Multiply that with the general confusion that exists in the coordination of naturally chaotic scenarios, and you have an atmosphere ripe for overreaction, momentum, and panic.

On the other hand, if your organization is prepared for confrontation, but not expecting it, your membership will be more confident in a tactical response because they have options. Your standard operating proceedure focuses on investigating individual misbehavior, accidents, and mistakes; the chances of overreaction and panic, though still existant, are much less because there are stages of readiness where someone can exert command of the situation and calm things down.

The Madison Sit-Ins are just the most recent example of such a dynamic. Here, it appears that the law enforcement and the demonstrators have an almost professional, event-based rapport; communication in such situations is enormously advantageous in a tactical environment. The demonstrators have been free to focus their grievances at their elected representative (which is how representative government works with the right to assemble); law enforcement has been able to expect crowd support and self-policing in keeping crowd control (the only real way to ensure majority peaceful demonstrations), while focusing on accidents, individual misbehaviors, and the isolated incidents of medical emergencies any large gathering is sure to experience.

Changing the tactical posture of the law enforcement to keep demonstrators out of the usually public-accessible capital building places law enforcement agents in-between the demonstrators and the individuals to whom their grievances are directed.

It is also places law-enforcement in a more difficult situation, tactically, as they must now expend resources and planning blockading certain spaces. They must attempt to allow certain individuals through the doors, while keeping others out - and this presents its own new set of provocative issues. Also, by focusing their efforts on certain locations, they are not free to move about the crowd and investigate the accidents, medical emergencies, and individual misbehaviors as they were before. This creates more confusion, less communication, and increases the tension level. That's not conducive to the continuation of peaceful demonstrations.

Make no mistake, this is an intentional decision on the part of those in control to provoke the demonstrators, and redirect their grievances against law enforcement; law enforcement has been placed in-between the demonstrators and their goal, and a more adversarial posture has been assumed even before the riot gear makes its appearance. The plan is to get the demonstrators to go away or do something that can be used as an excuse to clear the area in a crackdown (and demonize the event forever).

Hopefully, the demonstrators will prove their peaceful nature in the face of this deliberate increase of tension on the part of those in charge.

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Fruit of the Poisoned Tree

A little while back, I gave some expamples of why I find it difficult to relate to Republican voters, Republican elected officials, and those who carry water for Republicans on television, radio, and the internet. A big part of it has to do with how many Republicans these days focus on President Obama's religion and birth certificate instead of any substantive policy disagreements.

My point is, and will continue to be, that if someone continues to worry about the President being an Kenyan-anti-colonial Marxist Muslim, I'm going to have a very difficult time trusting them when they do finally get around to discussing the pros and cons of his actual policies.

Of course, many of my conservative friends are dismissive of this attitude. According to their logic, I should compartmentalize all the crazy stuff the crazy Republicans say and only pay attention when they are discussing real fiscal policy or taxes or how Obama's policies cost American jobs; my distrust should reset depending on what issue is under discussion.

Which (I think) is why Dante asked:

What have elected officials actually done that make you think what the right-wingery says about Obama's religious views are even an issue? I'm not looking for words. I'm looking for action.


It doesn't specifically deal with Obama's religion, but I tend to equate the "Obama-is-a-Muslim" delusion with the "Obama-Wasn't-Born-In-The-United-States" fantasy. That might be splitting rhetorical hairs, but I'd wager that a significant percentage of individuals who think one think the other.

Which is why my distrust of Republican elected officials continues when I see that 94 of them in the Georgia House are proposing legislation to check each Presidential candidate's birth certificate.

Oh, and you'll never guess who one of them is.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

This

I can't remember the exact moment during my first year of teaching when I realized every one of my students, colleagues and I had been set up to fail, and there was no way out of the trap, but it felt a little like this.

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High Contrast

Back when I was in high school, I was often given writing assignments instructing me to "compare AND contrast," which meant you should find the similarities and the unique difference between two things. How many ways do we have to compare the union protests with the Tea Party? I can think of a few. But I don't think the main problem lies in the pathologies present in all populism:

My point is that when folks get angry, they get stupid, and stupidity knows no party or clique. Progressives should not meet this truism so defensively. I know we want to believe the best of our comrades. And I know that loudly congratulating one's team for its superior intellect and virtue is a critical part of keeping a bubble of enthusiasm aloft and rising. So we adults can speak in whispers, if we must. But it's a plain fact that the fuel-mixture of potent populism includes generous helpings of stupidity and self-regard. Democrats got flattened last fall by a fired-up, pie-eyed right. They should welcome an equivalent efflorescence of inchoate rage from the left. The naked, monkey-minded tribalism of an "engaged" political faction is not lovely to behold, but then smash-mouth politics is not brunch at the club.


While there's a lot of truth to be read there, I think that's too easy a write off, too easily a dismissal. It doesn't take into account what the Tea Party was when it started, what it became, and what it is now. It doesn't take into account what the Madison Sit-Ins currently represent. What it does fit is the oversimplification, the compartmentalization, and the furious pursuit of "balance" that currently pervades Western progress-resistant pathology that Americans have perfected in the past decade.

Thus the false equivalency of aloof analysis:

"Conservatives" + Inchoate Rage + Demonstrations = Tea Parties
"Liberals" + Inchoate Rage + Demonstrations = Union Demonstrations

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