Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Wednesday's Links

'Spanky' the Clown Arrested on Child Porn Charges.

Porsche drivers have most affairs.

"Killer" swans attacking, drowning dogs in England.

The lead singer for the band "The Darkness"mistakes a 17 year-old fan for a music critic and verbally assaults her.

Italy passes laws protecting how "real" pizzas are to be made.

Media around the world reported Donald Rumsfeld banned camera phone use by soldiers in Iraq. One problem: it was a hoax!

Picture Of The Day

Distant galaxies form a dramatic backdrop for Arp 188, "The Tadpole Galaxy".

After Some Reflection...

Perhaps I've been too hard, albeit unintended, on public schools and educators. I know so many people who work in public education, most as teachers. If any of my comments in this blog appear to show contempt for the work they do, I apologize. I will strive to be as fair as possible in any comments I make about public (government) education. However, I will continue to present stories of zero-tolerance inanity and other education-related issues, public school or otherwise. I shall do my best to let the stories speak for themselves. But you know me, I have little tolerance for stupid people. I will also endeavor to present stories that put schools and educators in a positive light. There are some really great schools and teachers out there.

Elementary school students in Ohio write letters to U.S. troops in Iraq, inspired by a local soldier who has been held captive there for over a month.

Teachers and parents at Rupert Elementary School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania collaborated on a plan to boost student achievement. They are focusing first on reading, which will make advancement in other subjects easier. Their plan has brought the school system a state grant to fund the project.

Last week, I told you about two columns Walter Williams wrote on educational ineptitude. Walter has another column this week, proposing what he calls "educational triage", allocating resources based on need as well as likelihood of success.

In Michigan, as many as 100,000 children are being home schooled. The kids are scoring quite high on standardized tests, and it it saving the state an estimated $600 million. An interesting read...

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Lots Of New Stuff

President Bush addressed the nation last night, laying out in fine detail his plans for the immediate future of Iraq. The full speech can be read here. His plan was well-presented and complete. As you should know, on June 30 the coalition will transfer full sovereignty to a government of Iraqi citizens who will prepare the way for national elections. In 36 days, we will become guests in that nation, with no governing authority. The final step, free national elections, will be held no later than January. Our military will remain in Iraq for some time, offering protection, training and leadership to the growing Iraqi military. Our time in Iraq is limited, but we're setting up a future of freedom for the Iraqi people that is permanent.

Incidentally, the Democrats last night insisted that Bush still needs to lay out a plan for the future of U.S. involvement in Iraq. Go figure...

A lot of people are talking about the new movie The Day After Tomorrow. Former V.P. and enviro-hack Al Gore is promoting the validity of the film's premise. Unfortunately, it just ain't so. While the film might make for good escapist fare, it certainly has no basis in scientific fact. Patrick J. Michaels is senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute. He solidly refutes any claims that the book is based on science. Read it before you see the film. By the way, the film is based on a book by Art Bell (a black helicopter, alien abduction and Loch Ness Monster conspiracy theorist) and Whitley Strieber. In Strieber's previous work, Communion, he explained that he was told of the Earth's upcoming apocalypse by aliens. Yeah, they're reliable...

Is the media biased? A new study by the Pew Research Center says... maybe so. The study polled 547 national and local reporters, producers, editors, and executives across the country. This study followed a Pew study of opinions of the general public.

In the study, only 7% of national journalists described themselves as "conservative," compared with 33% of the public. Thirty-four percent of national journalists called themselves "liberal," vs. just 20% of the public. A majority of national journalists (54%) called themselves "moderate," while 41% of the public did. So, while roughly 1 out of every 3 people considers themselves to be a conservative, only 1 out of 14 journalists is a conservative.

Asked about the media's treatment of President Bush, 34% of the general public said the media has been "too critical", 35% said "fair", and only 24% said the media isn't critical enough. Only 8% of the national press responded with "too critical", while 55% said the media was giving the president a pass.

The studies also questioned the general public and the media about moral issues. About 58% of the general public believes that a belief in God is essential to being a moral person. Of conservative journalists, 26% agreed. Of so-called moderate journalists, only 12% agreed. 85% of moderate journalists said belief in God isn't necessary for being a moral person. Asked if homosexuality should be accepted or discouraged by society, the responses from conservative journalists mirrored the general public. Among non-conservative journalists, however, about 90% overall were in favor of accepting homosexual lifestyles.

The report makes a thought-provoking read.

Thought Of The Day

"Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Blaming a gun for killing someone is like blaming a pencil when you misspell a word."

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Educator Ineptitude

Walter Williams has written a pair of columns about the current state of the education system in this country, including a look at the educators whose responsibility it is to teach our youing people. I'd strongly recommend you read them. The first column is here, and the second here. Williams doesn't make blanket judgements against all teachers. But he does present statistics that show concerns, and needs for improvement, in some areas. Some of the highlights...

In Tennessee, the success of some students has made other students feel badly about themselves. What're the schools' responses? Public schools in Nashville have stopped posting honor rolls. Some are considering a ban on posting exemplary schoolwork on bulletin boards. Others have canceled academic pep rallies, while others might eliminate spelling bees. Nashville's Julia Green Elementary School principal, Steven Baum, agrees, thinking that spelling bees and publicly graded events are leftovers from the days of ranking and sorting students. He says: "I discourage competitive games at school. They just don't fit my worldview of what a school should be."

Teachers have recruited students to write letters to the president protesting the war and participate in demonstrations against school budget cuts.

Very often, good teachers and principal are faced with the impossible task of having to deal with administrators and school boards who are intellectual inferiors and motivated by political considerations rather than what's best for children.

Retired Indiana University (of Pennsylvania) physics professor Donald E. Simanek says that "most teachers have learned 'methods and skills' of teaching, but don't have a solid understanding of the subject they teach. So they end up 'teaching' trivia, misinformation and intellectual garbage, but doing it with 'professional' polish.

A National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) publication shows average SAT scores by student characteristics for 2001. Students who selected education as their major have the lowest SAT scores of any major (964). Math majors had the highest (1174).

It's the same story when education majors finish college and take tests for admission to graduate schools. In the case of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), education majors have an average score that's the lowest (467) of all majors except for sociology majors (434). Putting this in perspective, math majors score the highest (720), followed closely by economics in third place (625).

Book Of The Day

Maybe I should start a book club, like Oprah. Maybe this should be my first book...

Find Walter, The Farting Dog at

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Are These Evidence Of WMDs?

It was announced yesterday that an artillery shell containing sarin nerve gas exploded in Iraq recently. Fortunately, US military bomb squad members who were there received only "minor exposure" to the chemical agent. We've also learned that mustard gas was found by US inspectors. Two banned chemical weapons... sounds like enough to warrant continued searching.

Funny how this news is being handled by the cable news outlets. The two stories linked above are from MSNBC and FOXNews. On FOXNews the story is linked on the main page, along with two other major Iraq stories. On the MSNBC site, you have to go to their News page, then find the link to their story under "International News". I've made quick searches of the ABC and CBS web sites and found the story, although neither thought it important enough to mention on their main pages. Even the BBC has a story, although it also took saerching to find it.

But the fine, respected journalists at CNN have almost no mention of this on their site. It is referenced in one sentence, buried in a story about the slain Iraqi Council chief who was killed in a car bombing. Possible signs of WMD, and they bury it. Isn'tthat interesting...

Stupid School Administration Here In Georgia

You've read my rants about zero-tolerance policies in schools, and how they seem to be enforced at the exclusion of intellectual thought.

Well, in Clayton County, Georgia, zero-tolerance seems to apply to more than just weapons and drug offenses. Apparently, they have a zero-tolerance policy covering self-defense.

At his Jonesboro middle school, Daryl Gray says he has been hit, called gay and even had his shoes urinated on in the school restroom. But in March, Daryl, a Jehovah's Witness who had not been in trouble before, struck another boy in the face with a pencil. The blow left a scar on the bully's face.

Daryl says the boy he struck in the face hit him on the head first during math class at Pointe South Middle School. Like Daryl, the boy who hit him was suspended for 10 days, according to Daryl's mother, Jeanette Gray.

But that boy was charged only with misdemeanor battery because his blow, unlike Daryl's, did not cause serious physical injury. Also, for fighting back, Daryl has been guilty in juvenile court of aggravated battery. The judge gave him probation and ordered him to pay over $300 in restitution to the victim.

So the victim of years of bullying, beatings, name calling and humiliation, finally stands up, and HE'S the one facing the biggest penalties?

"Just because I was trying to defend myself they want to say I'm guilty," Daryl said. "I feel like I'm going to continue to be abused at school and nobody's going to help me."

One voice of idiocy, Clayton County Schools Assistant Superintendent for Area 3 Linda Tanner, explained the system's policy concerning self--defense...

"Students cannot fight back... Violence is not the answer to bullying."

But Tanner also said students who are being attacked by bullies are only allowed to restrain their attacker or ask for help from a teacher.

Shouldn't the focus of punishment should be on the bully, not his victim? What the heck is wrong with the Clayton County School System?

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Good Tuesday

Some very good news to start today's entry. My Uncle Buddy has gone home today after undergoing heart bypass surgery last Wednesday. Apparently everything went well and he's doing fine!

Good Advice, But Can It Be Done?
Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Slate and Vanity Fair, and a supporter of the Liberation of Iraq. On the topic of the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, he makes this very valid point...

One of two things must necessarily be true. Either these goons were acting on someone's authority, in which case there is a layer of mid- to high-level people who think that they are not bound by the laws and codes and standing orders. Or they were acting on their own authority, in which case they are the equivalent of mutineers, deserters, or traitors in the field. This is why one asks wistfully if there is no provision in the procedures of military justice for them to be taken out and shot.

Hand to Hand
"One of his friends was dead, 12 others lay wounded and the four soldiers still left standing were surrounded and out of ammunition," the Associated Press reports from Najaf, Iraq:

So Salvadoran Cpl. Samuel Toloza said a prayer, whipped out his knife and charged the Iraqi gunmen.

In one of the only known instances of hand-to-hand combat in the Iraq conflict, Cpl. Toloza stabbed several attackers swarming around a comrade. The stunned assailants backed away momentarily, just as a relief column came to the unit's rescue.

"We never considered surrender. I was trained to fight until the end," said the 25-year-old corporal, one of 380 soldiers from El Salvador whose heroism is being cited just as other members of the multinational force in Iraq are facing criticism.
El Salvador is part of what John Kerry calls the "fraudulent coalition."

Kerry's Purple Heart Doctor Speaks Out
Speaking of JFKerry, the National Review has located a doctor who treated Kerry for one of his purple heart "wounds". It makes for very interesting reading. Kerry claimed his boat had come under enemy fire. His shipmates said it never happened. Kerry's superficial scratch was "covered with a bandaid."

I Love A Good Quote
Blogress Ana Marie Cox, who goes by the moniker Wonkette, wrote:

About ten or so middle-aged folks (really!) and a youngster or two, interrupted Rumsfeld's Senate testimony for about 3 minutes. Chants of "Fire Rumsfeld! Fire Rumsfeld! Guess the New York Times editorial board had the day off."

Something A Little Disturbing
Now that the spring thaw has gotten into full swing in Alaska, they can finally get around to burying those who died sometime during the past winter. With temperatures in the Alaskan interior reaching 40-below during the winter, the ground becomes too hard to dig. This is one side of life in the great white north I didn't need to know about.

What A Legacy For Ol' Bill
A former pastor accused of sexually assaulting a church member denied wrongdoing Thursday, telling jurors he and the woman had a consensual affair that could be described as "a Bill Clinton thing."

Monday, May 10, 2004

Great Economic News

Late last week new employment figures were released, and they continue to show what a growing, strong economy we have. Contrary to what the Dems would have you believe, this country is powering ahead full throttle.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 288,000 new jobs created in this country during April. That's on top of 337,000 in March. The economy has seen 625,000 new jobs created in the past 60 days.

Just remember these statistics when you hear Kerry or one of his handlers talking about the "2 million jobs lost" by Bush's Administration. More jobs exist in this country today than in January 2001 when Bush took office. We're on pace to see over 3 million new jobs created this year alone.

Unemployment numbers are also down, slipping from 5.7 to 5.6 percent. That's 188,000 fewer people drawing unemployment in April. Initial claims for unemployment insurance are at their lowest point since October 2000. The Institute for Supply Management, an industry group, has seen its manufacturing employment index jump to the highest level in 15 years, signaling growth in manufacturing employment of 50,000 jobs per month. With goods-producing employment having risen 124,000 in just the last two months, this forecast looks very good.

The Congressional Budget Office reports profits rising so fast that corporate income tax revenues are 45 percent above this time last year. It also reports higher payroll tax revenues consistent with expanding employment. Overall, the economic picture has brightened so much CBO now sees $30 billion to $40 billion more in federal revenue than earlier anticipated.

Finally, the most telling statistic is overall economic growth. The US economy has averaged 5 percent real growth over the last 12 months, and it grew 4.2 percent just during the first quarter of 2004. Very strong numbers, which rightfully should give President Bush a bump coming November.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Congrats Jason, and other stuff...

The most important news of the week... My cousin Jason has proposed to his girlfriend Georgia, and the girl said yep! Congratulations you crazy kids!


In the spirit of that happy news, only fun stuff here today.

Apparently, my hometown of LaGrange, Georgia is a hotbed for UFO sightings. My family has been there since 1978 and I've never seen anything. Funny, I feel left out. More UFO sighting info from LaGrange and around the state can be found here and here.

For some unknown reason, David Letterman plans to tape his Friday, May 14th show at 4:00am.

Late in WWII, Germans launched a wacky plan to kidnap Gen. Dwight Eisenhower. Because most posing as U.S. soldiers couldn't speak English, they were told to run off faking an attack of diarrhea if approached.

Spank The Monkey and Spank The Penguin games. No they're NOT what you think, you sickos!

Thursday, May 06, 2004

President Bush Speaks To Arab World

Following the release of pictures showing some American soldiers humiliating Iraqi prisoners in a prison in Iraq, President Bush spoke to the Arab community yesterday on two Arab-languare networks. "'We don't tolerate these type of abuses," Bush told Al-Arabiya television, a satellite channel based in the United Arab Emirates. "There will be a full investigation."

Now we have to wonder about how the Iraqi people, and the Arab community as a whole, respond to President Bush's comments. We get our first taste from the web log of Omar Fadhil, an Iraqi dentist and blogger. He shares comments from posts to an Iraqi message board. Here's a sample of what's being said by Iraqis and others in the Middle East...

Here we have the president of the greatest nation on earth apologizes for what a small group of pervert soldiers did. And here, the American press proves that it's free to show the truth. We lived with similar pictures for years until they became the basics of every prison's daily life and we never heard an Arabic paper point them out. These are lessons from the western culture entering the hearts of Arabs, whether the Arab leaders liked or not.
Sa'eed - Diwaniyah/Iraq.

I think that president Bush was honest in what he said. Those abuses do not represent the American people. As a matter of fact, we can find cruel men with no morals in any country; that's why we should not judge a whole nation for the violations of a small group of people and I'm sure that these will get the punishment they deserve. Here I'd like to direct my question to the Arabic media: Where were you when Saddam mass-executed my people and used all kinds of torture against us?.
Reemon A'adel Sami - Iraq

I'm very happy to see Iraqis condemning the abuse and defending the rights of the prisoners and this is the first time they do something like this, which was impossible for them to do under the dictator's regime. I think that our Arab brothers should mind their own business and take a look at their own prisons.
N - Jordan

I think that President Bush's statement will find acceptance from some of the Arabs, while the majority will not be satisfied with his words whatever apologies they included just because he is BUSH and he is AMERICAN. I'm sure that the American officials are more upset by the event than the Iraqis themselves because this doesn't belong to their culture or their ethics as a civilized nation. I think that the event took more space than it actually deserves and the media are creating a mountain from a grain. It's enough for us to remember Saddam's doings to comment on what recently happened.
Sameer - Jordan

I highly recommed that you check out Omar's blog, especially if you'd like a first-hand look at life in Iraq. He apparently takes some flak because he looks upon the U.S. and the defeat of Hussein as... gasp... good things.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Unfit For Office

John O'Neill is a highly decorated Vietnam Vet, and an expert of Senator John Kerry. I'm reprinting his letter from the Wall Street Journal as is. Before you decide to vote for Kerry, you really should read this.

(I was on Mr. Kerry's boat in Vietnam. He doesn't deserve to be commander in chief.)
Tuesday, May 4, 2004 12:01 a.m.

HOUSTON--In 1971, I debated John Kerry, then a national spokesman for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, for 90 minutes on "The Dick Cavett Show." The key issue in that debate was Mr. Kerry's claim that American troops were committing war crimes in Vietnam "on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command." Now, as Sen. Kerry emerges as the presumptive Democratic nominee for the presidency, I've chosen to re-enter the fray.

Like John Kerry, I served in Vietnam as a Swift Boat commander. Ironically, John Kerry and I served much of our time, a full 12 months in my case and a controversial four months in his, commanding the exact same six-man boat, PCF-94, which I took over after he requested early departure. Despite our shared experience, I still believe what I believed 33 years ago--that John Kerry slandered America's military by inventing or repeating grossly exaggerated claims of atrocities and war crimes in order to advance his own political career as an antiwar activist. His misrepresentations played a significant role in creating the negative and false image of Vietnam vets that has persisted for over three decades.

Neither I, nor any man I served with, ever committed any atrocity or war crime in Vietnam. The opposite was the truth. Rather than use excessive force, we suffered casualty after casualty because we chose to refrain from firing rather than risk injuring civilians. More than once, I saw friends die in areas we entered with loudspeakers rather than guns. John Kerry's accusations then and now were an injustice that struck at the soul of anyone who served there.

During my 1971 televised debate with John Kerry, I accused him of lying. I urged him to come forth with affidavits from the soldiers who had claimed to have committed or witnessed atrocities. To date no such affidavits have been filed. Recently, Sen. Kerry has attempted to reframe his comments as youthful or "over the top." Yet always there has been a calculated coolness to the way he has sought to destroy the record of our honorable service in the interest of promoting his political ambitions of the moment.

John Kennedy's book, "Profiles in Courage," and Dwight Eisenhower's "Crusade in Europe" inspired generations. Not so John Kerry, who has suppressed his book, "The New Soldier," prohibiting its reprinting. There is a clear reason for this. The book repeats John Kerry's insults to the American military, beginning with its front-cover image of the American flag being carried upside down by a band of bearded renegades in uniform--a clear slap at the brave Marines in their combat gear who raised our flag at Iwo Jima. Allow me the reprint rights to your book, Sen. Kerry, and I will make sure copies of "The New Soldier" are available in bookstores throughout America.

Vietnam was a long time ago. Why does it matter today? Since the days of the Roman Empire, the concept of military loyalty up and down the chain of command has been indispensable. The commander's loyalty to the troops is the price a commander pays for the loyalty of the troops in return. How can a man be commander in chief who for over 30 years has accused his "Band of Brothers," as well as himself, of being war criminals? On a practical basis, John Kerry's breach of loyalty is a prescription of disaster for our armed forces.

John Kerry's recent admissions caused me to realize that I was most likely in Vietnam dodging enemy rockets on the very day he met in Paris with Madame Binh, the representative of the Viet Cong to the Paris Peace Conference. John Kerry returned to the U.S. to become a national spokesperson for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a radical fringe of the antiwar movement, an organization set upon propagating the myth of war crimes through demonstrably false assertions. Who was the last American POW to die languishing in a North Vietnamese prison forced to listen to the recorded voice of John Kerry disgracing their service by his dishonest testimony before the Senate?

Since 1971, I have refused many offers from John Kerry's political opponents to speak out against him. My reluctance to become involved once again in politics is outweighed now by my profound conviction that John Kerry is simply not fit to be America's commander in chief. Nobody has recruited me to come forward. My decision is the inevitable result of my own personal beliefs and life experience.

Today, America is engaged in a new war, against the militant Islamist terrorists who attacked us on our own soil. Reasonable people may differ about how best to proceed, but I'm sure of one thing--John Kerry is the wrong man to put in charge.

(Mr. O'Neill served in Coastal Division 11 in 1969-70, winning two Bronze Stars and additional decorations for his service in Vietnam)


Speaking of Kerry's military record, hundreds of former commanders and colleagues of Kerry, including 19 of the 23 who served directly with him, have signed a letter declaring him unfit to be commander-in-chief.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Back To School... For More Zero-Tolerance Crap

Someone far more annoying than myself once said, "I believe the children are our future." Given the inherent truth in that statement, I wonder what life lessons our children are learning from situations like these...

An honor student has been expelled from school for possession of a weapon on campus. Her Mazda had broken down, so she drove to school in her mother's Dodge Durango. That day, officials at Barron Collier High School in Naples, Florida decided to conduct random testing of students' cars. Inside her mom's Durango - a stun gun. Now this honor roll student must finish the year in an alternative school, which will leave a glaring blemish on her final transcript. The girl's mother summed it up best... "No one is allowed a mistake anymore."

A seventh-grader in Katy, Texas was suspended and picked up a criminal record for taking a sip of Diet Coke. Unknown to her, a classmate had spiked the drink with alcohol. After learning this, the student left and eventually tried to explain to school administrators. Refusing to even hear her story, the school suspended her for 60 days, forcing her to attend an alternative school. They also reporter her to the police, who charged her with being a minor in possession of alcohol. Now she has a Class D misdemeanor on her record.

A 15-year-old student draws charicatures of President Bush, prompting the school board to discipline the student, then report him to the police and Secret Service.

In Fort Bend County, Texas, a 12-year-old has been arrested and charged with a third-degree felony - for writing on his school desk. The writing came off with a cleaning solution, but the criminal record is permanent.

There is one common denominator in the above stories. They are all public (a.k.a. government) schools. Not all public schools are embarrassingly bad. But, sadly, some are. And you will only see the above-mentioned kind of foolish, irresponsible and utterly inane conduct from government entities.

Private schools can be looked at like companies, and companies are dependent on customers for the money they need to operate. If parents are dissatisfied with their child's education in a private school, they can simply move the child to a better school. If the school doesn't meet the needs of the students, if it doesn't adequately educate them and prepare them for the real world, the school must improve or parents will take their children (and money) elsewhere and the school might cease to exist.

Public (government) schools are a different beast, dependent on GOVERNMENT for their money. Where do you think their priorities lie? I hope you aren't naive enough to think that students always come first. When there's no real accountability, and when there's no real threat from disappointed parents, education takes a backseat. Private schools realize that parents who can afford private school have a choice, and they work hard to keep students and please parents. Public schools know that there is no competition for their "free" education. No competition means no meaningful pressure to do their best.

"Students Are Our Top Priority" should be the mantra of all school employees. What a grand notion, putting students above CYA (cover your ---) petty politics. Unfortunately, it's the children who often get shafted when the mindless idiocy of Zero Tolerance comes into play. How ironic that those who are supposed to be protected by this horrible policy are often its innocent victims. School administrators and teachers too afraid or too damn stupid to think clearly and make a sensible, intelligent decision simply take the easy road. "I had no choice," they say. "There were no other options... zero tolerance, you know!"


While I'm on my soapbox about education, I just had to pass along this fantastic Q&A from USA Today. The CEO of Intel Corp. says the biggest threat to American employment is... education. American students aren't being taught math and science at levels comperable with most of the modern world.

"The longer kids stay in the system, the worse they do compared to their international counterparts. In fourth grade, our kids are roughly comparable. By eighth grade, they are behind. By the 12th grade, they are substantially behind other industrialized nations."

He says many teachers in those areas need to be better educated in the subjects they teach. I'm sure this will upset some of you who are involved in education, but it's something that had to be said.