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I read the news today, oh boy

June 22, 2008 5 comments

Three news stories have raced by me this week, while I’ve been both busy and not feeling very well. But fortunately they’ve been excellently covered by some of my favorite bloggers:

Did you hear about John Freshwater?  He’s the creationist science teacher in a public school in Mount Vernon, Ohio, who constantly proselytized his students and burned crosses onto the arms of a few of them.  Of course when he got fired, he tried to spin it as “they fired me for having a bible on my desk” but as Paul at Cafe Philos explains in The firing of John Freshwater, there so much more to it than that.

My prediction; he’ll be teaching at some Christian academy in the fall, and be a popular hero in the fundamentalist circuit.

The other story that just floored me was the House pretty much giving the telecoms a free pass on illegal wiretapping for the Bush administration.  This is how far we’ve come, folks; the Nixon administration was brought down by a cover-up of one office being wiretapped, but the Bush administration brags about wiretapping the whole damn country and the house backs them up 293 to 129.  ***Dave at ***Dave Does The Blog says he’s too ticked off to write rationally about it, but he still covered it a lot more calmly than I would have in “I Have A Note From My Mom”.  And he has some excellent external links.  Me, I’m still at the incoherent spitting-mad stage.

My prediction; none of the Bush administration will ever be brought to justice for anything.  Not the gigantic deficit, not the wiretapping, not the lying to get us into a war that didn’t have to happen, not the torture, not the gutting of science-driven policy, not the illegal “faith-based” funding, none of it.  They’ll all be popular heroes on FOX news as they spin their un-American misdeeds as “patriotism”.  (I’m not going very far out on a limb here – that’s been the fate of pretty much the entire Reagan administration)

War with Iran anybody?  The next big story is already on Dana’s radar at En Tequila Es Verdad with yesterday’s Happy Hour Discurso, along with some good links to contact your representatives.  Because, anyone who doesn’t realize that President Bush wants to go to war with Iran is just being naive.  Shrub wants to leave a nice hot steaming pile of war on the chair in the oval office for our next president.  It’s his warped sense of “destiny”; he really believes he’s on a Mission From God to bring Democracy-by-force to the MidEast.  All he’s missing is the dark sunglasses and the charcoal Fedora.

I offer no prediction on this story, only hope that idiocy will not carry the day and that for once, we’ll act like real conservatives and not get another one of our limbs stuck in yet another foreign wood-chipper.  Unfortunately much of the idiocy in question is the “let’s bring on Armageddon so the Lord can return” variety.  There’s no reasoning with it, there’s only exposing it for what it is and hoping the majority will go the other way.

UPDATE:

  • Mike The Mad Biologist serves up excellent post-game analysis with Democrats Cave On FISA And The Rule Of Law, including an interview with constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley from George Washington University on “Reverse Engineering”, or changing the law to allow past conduct.

  • The question I have not heard addressed by anyone is: how many congressmen and senators received campaign contributions from telecoms?
  • In Paul’s post on Freshwater, Ed Darrell from Millard Filmore’s Bathtub left in a comment an outstanding summation of separation of church and state.
Categories: News, observations

The Big Picture

June 17, 2008 2 comments

Boston Globe’s The Big Picture is an awesome feature I’ve been meaning to post about.  Check it out – the top story right now is the closest picture of a tornado that I have ever seen.  Scroll down the page and if you click on a picture, it opens up to a gallery of pictures on that subject.  Current stories include Midwest flooding, California fires, Soaked soccer, Faces of Sudan, Sidoarjo’s man-made mud volcano, Water everywhere, The Sky From Above, and much more.

Beautiful, informative, terrifying, amazing.  I’ll put a permanent link in my news sources section on the sidebar. Enjoy!

Categories: News, observations

Not ‘getting it’, network news style

February 23, 2008 2 comments

TV news producer Chez, author of popular blog Deus Ex Malcontent, fired for blogging:

As far as CNN (and to be fair, the mainstream TV press in general) believes, it still sits comfortably at the top of the food chain, unthreatened by any possibility of a major paradigm shift being brought to bear by a horde of little people with laptops and opinions. Although the big networks recognize the need to appeal to bloggers, they don’t fear them—and that means they don’t respect them. Corporate-think dictates that the mainstream television press as a monstrous multi-headed hydra is the ultimate news authority and therefore is in possession of the one and only hotline to the ghosts of Murrow and Sevareid…

Chez lets his industry have it right between the eyes – TV news has descended beyond irrelevance to deceptive side-show, a frantic competitive contest for the title of Lowest Common Denominator. 

I have seen all the TV and cable news outlets, and the depth of triviality and sensationalism therein amazes me.  I have encountered only one remaining good general-news program on TV today, and it is The News Hour, with Jim Lehrer.  (What?  No panel discussions of Anna Nicole Smith?) And it is the only TV news program not beholden to corporate shareholders. Coincidence?

Categories: News, observations

Northern Illinois University

February 15, 2008 16 comments

Another day, another university shooting this time only only a couple hours from here.  You can’t work in a university building and not think about troubled students, about your own community, and about… the exits.  And what I would do, and who I would hope to be in the building when it happens.  We have a fine university police force.

Once again we’ll be treated to a round of “why” when the event is so rare that there is hardly any likelihood of a consistent reason.  And proposed solutions, we’ll have plenty of those.  There may be a little bit of truth in all of it, but no complete truth anywhere despite the religious opportunists piling on.

I don’t offer a solution, only a counterbalance; try to brighten the light of human kindness today.  Give someone a compliment, take an extra moment to help out a student or co-worker, and remember that cynicism is toxic in greater than the most minute doses.

I forget to be kind all too often so it’s important to cultivate it as a habit.  Lately I’ve been too grumpy, too cynical, too focused on my own concerns.  Kindness won’t bring back the dead or even necessarily prevent the next shooting, and it won’t give any insight as to ‘why’.  But I am certain that there isn’t enough of it.

Update:

  • My boss (ex- mil police) recommends this book, Verbal Judo. It’s a set of nonviolent tools for violent situations.  Since I can’t envision myself as the Rambo type, I’m going to pick up a copy and study it.

Categories: News, observations

Shyness may contribute to school shootings, says researcher

October 14, 2007 1 comment

With yet another school shooting in the news I was reminded of a recent article on ScienceDaily, about shyness:

After performing an analysis of school shootings in the last decade, researchers at the Shyness Research Institute in Indiana say that the perpetrators are likely to suffer from cynical shyness—an extreme form of shyness that predominantly affects males and can lead to violent behavior.
Science Daily —Cynical Shyness Can Precipitate Violence In Males And May Be Factor In School Shootings

Ok, yeah, sure, that makes sense… Wait a minute!  There’s a Shyness Institute? Is this Science Daily, or The Onion?  I can’t help imagining a comedy routine; “I called the Shyness Institute, but they wouldn’t pick up…”

Yes, it turns out there really is a “Shyness Institute” at Indiana University Southeast.  It is led by Dr. Bernardo J. Carducci, PhD, and…

The Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast was established in 1997 to promote understanding in the area of shyness. The main function of the institute is help understand the pains and problems of shyness, not to market a cure. Bernardo Carducci, director, has been quoted as saying, “We’d rather understand shy people than change them.” Carducci and the associates at the Institute receive many responses from shy individuals from all over the world. By carefully analyzing these many responses, those at the Shyness Research Institute hope to aid those who are shy in understanding the dynamics of their shyness.

I have known some extremely shy people.  It was a genuine disability for them, and made more painful by the fact that many people – even the shy persons themselves – mistakenly believed it was a character flaw.  None of them had gotten to the point where they hated other people because of it… or maybe they had.  How would we know?

Social interaction is like traffic; it has rules, it has timing, and we gauge others’ intentions by how they apply the rules and mesh with the timing.  A second too long or too short of eye contact, or a moment’s delay in recognition, and a person finds themselves outcast, a victim of their malfunctioning mirror neurons.  It is a lot worse for children.

I have no advice for parents of shy children but for everyone else: teach your kids to take a deep breath, get control of their tendency to outcast others who are different, and cut shy people some slack.  Behind that downcast countenance is a human being who might become a good friend.  To quote the philosopher, “Don’t be cruel”.  In the long run, a little kindness might be more important than all the defense we can clamp down on our campuses.

Categories: News, observations

Laughter against the devil

October 4, 2007 Comments off

Stalking Sunlight reports that Buddhist monks in Burma – no joke – really have their butts in a sling.  But on the principle that the devil cannot endure laughter…

At his best Roy Zimmerman reminds me of Tom Lehrer, which is a high compliment.  This song introduces the word “patridiotic” which deserves to find its way into our lexicon.

One could say that the Burmese monks should take up arms but what they are doing instead may have more lasting effect for peace.  And I cannot fault their courage.

Categories: News, observations

Ambitious fan

August 13, 2007 1 comment

Authorities have moved to stop a French teen who published his own complete translation of the latest Harry Potter novel online.  They were, however, impressed by the near-professional quality of his translation work.

*blink*blink*… Wow.  Something tells me that kid won’t have any trouble finding a job. 

Categories: News, observations

Ultimate SUV gets stuck on busy road

May 4, 2007 2 comments

Think your vehicle is large?  Own a Hummer and think you’re big stuff?  Drive an Excursion and feel pretty smug?  How about a Boeing 737?  It seems some fellow was driving his Boeing through downtown Mumbai and got lost.  :gulp:  Geez, doesn’t that thing have GPS?  :lol:

(OK, it probably wasn’t as funny to people who live there…)

Categories: News, observations

Mainstream press fails to follow up on sensationalistic story; film at 11

April 27, 2007 4 comments

You may have seen (could hardly have missed) all the press coverage some weeks ago about plants exhaling methane, and how that was a big contributor to global warming.  It was a preliminary result, subject to review and analysis, but the mainstream press (not to say conservative pundits) ran with it as if it were the final nail in the coffin of anthropogenic global warming.  Not humans burning gigatonnes of fossil fuel, no-sir!  Plants were responsible!

Well, exactly.  I mean, seeing as how plants are such a new invention and all, only dating back to the beginning of the industrial revolution.  How could we have missed it?

Scientists at the Max Planck institute were horrified. Their paper was quite technical, and that wasn’t what they were saying at all, so they issued a clarificationNature issued a clarification, and other responsible publications as well.

The mainstream press?  Not so much.  And conservative pundits?  Well, not at all.  What a surprise.

Categories: News, observations

Maybe there isn’t one simple thing to blame, after all.

April 21, 2007 7 comments

Cho’s rampage has been blamed on 47 things so far, and there’s one I hadn’t thought of.  John Wilkins at Evolving Thoughts has the first interesting and possibly useful analysis I’ve seen: Cho, autism, bullying, and honor, about the combination of neurological, social, and cultural forces that may have led to his murderous flame-out.

Makes sense that something this rare could be a convergence of factors, a perfect storm. 

(List of 47 things from ***Dave)

Categories: News, observations