Thursday, April 30, 2009


Watching the media treat torture as just another policy discussion shows how smooth the road to evil can become with the press' assistance. The Washington Post, for example, ran a story headlined:

Effectiveness of Harsh Questioning is Unclear

We look forward to further stories along this line such as

Experts Debate Effectiveness Of Concentration Camps For Unwanted Immigrants

Legal Scholars Examine Murdering Suspects As More Effective Drug Enforcement Tool

What Made Hitler So Effective?


Sam Smith

Ten days ago your editor came down with the first serious case of the flu or a cold or an allergy or god knows what since the Internet hit the big times. I did what I always do now when I'm trying to find something out: I hit the Big G. But unlike buying a new car, finding out local recycling laws, or checking the films at the E Street Theater, the Internet totally failed me.

True, it wasn't all the Internet's fault. The media has a strange approach to illness - obsessed with its possible fatalities but largely indifferent to less important matters such as symptoms and best cures. To the extent that modern medicine has discovered the Internet, it is still remarkably skewed towards preachy little statements that don't help the patient much. Especially when he's coughing.

As best as I can figure, this current unpleasantness had its roots in my granddaughter's group nursery and was lovingly transmitted to pops and omah about ten days ago. This would put it well in advance of the swine flu epidemic and would rank it amongst the most normal of respiratory mishaps. Certainly my doctor and my wife's thought so. We were part of the flu and allergy background noise of the season.

But once the swine flu crisis descended, things changed. On those surprisingly rare occasions when the media even bothered to mention the symptoms, it became ever harder to distinguish them from my own. CNN even claimed I had every symptom of swine flu. Which gave me one more reason to watch MSNBC.

There is something to be learned here. When one is ill, one has little taste for beautiful graphics or pompous and puerile prescriptions or suggestions of a worthy but, at the moment, unattainable life style. One wants cures, brands of cures, and useful warning signs that things are getting worse. One basic question, for example, went totally unanswered as far as I could find: when do you call your doctor?

All this could be accomplished on a simple spread sheet that helped one distinguish between the types of misery one might be enduring, what things might help it, when to get truly worried, and what to do then. The origins, history or geography of the illness is of little concern. There is, after all, only case that really matters. Yours.

As it was, nine days in I had to rely on an NPR correspondent. After all who in the world has a greater interest in not sounding awful? She explained to me something I had missed thanks to my rare contact with these problems and to the fact that I could find it nowhere on the Net. Water is not only important because of dehydration, but it actually soothes those tiny objects in the bottom of your throat that make you sound like a vertical Mt Vesuvius erupting every few minutes - proving once again that if you really want to know about something, go to someone for whom the answer truly matters.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Juking the Stats"

Modern testing culture is certainly not education and might be child abuse.

David Simon, who is responsible for my all time favorite TV series, "The Wire", was on Bill Moyers last night.

He referred to our national zeal for test taking as "juking the stats", a quote that comes from an episode where teachers in a Baltimore inner city school are told that they must teach strictly from the test for the few months prior to giving Baltimore's version of the DCCAS.

The cop turned teacher from the series is familiar with his city's police force (and incumbent mayors) needing positive statistics and draws an analogy between the school's superintendent needing better test scores and the police chief needing better crime stats.

Simon adds that this need for positive statistics has made real police work nearly impossible, a theme that ran through "The Wire".

Real teaching is also inhibited when teachers are asked to abandon the literature they love or mathematical investigations that involve time and the building of things for mass produced DCCAS test taking practice materials.

A newly minted graduate of Howard University called me recently. She is working as a long-term sub at a DCPS Public elementary school.

She was overwhelmed and jittery. Her 4th graders were badly behaved and could not focus on the materials she had been given to use for the three hour Language Arts block.

"What curriculum are you using?" I asked.

"Test taking skill stuff. You know, read a short passage and pick out the main idea. Or, underline the verb in the following ten sentences. Materials like that. We have been ordered to use them."

"For three hours a day? What about history and science?"

"We have been asked to not teach history and science for the time being because they are not subjects on the test."

“Who's your principal?”

“He is new,” she answered. “Hand picked by Michelle Rhee.”

The friend that called me studied theater at Howard University. She knows how to get kids excited about language, movement, the spoken and written works. She has her favorite stories and plays.

But no, like the Baltimore Police Force, in the name of juking the stats, she has abandoned her instincts and dutifully followed her principal's orders.

How sad is that.

Dispatch from the BIP

While the media spread propaganda and false information, the FOX faithful buy it to assuage their guilt while the living room sheep who never question their consensus-manufacturing devices concur, poor Latinos in the south (and everywhere else!) are living lives of quiet desperation. Arrest and harrassment numbers are wildly disproportionate for these people who merely want to make a livng, for themselves and their families, due their own economy's depressed state.--Pete

Shocking: Today, Life in the South for Poor Latinos Is Pure Hell!

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet

According to a study released this week by the Southern Poverty Law Center, low-income Latinos in the American South are living in what one participant described as a "war zone."

The report was based on interviews with hundreds of poor Latinos -- U.S. citizens and legal and illegal immigrants alike. It paints a bleak picture of the routine abuses faced by those among a marginalized underclass. According to the authors, poor Latinos in the South "are routinely cheated out of their earnings and denied basic health and safety protections. They are regularly subjected to racial profiling and harassment by law enforcement. They are victimized by criminals who know they are reluctant to report attacks."

Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice President of SEIU, a union that organizes service workers with some of the least political clout in the American workforce, called the results of the study, "a remarkable indictment of the prejudice, racial profiling and outright abuse faced by hardworking Hispanics, some of our country’s most vulnerable workers."

According to the report:

This treatment — which many Latinos liken to the oppressive climate of racial subordination that blacks endured during the Jim Crow era — is encouraged by politicians and media figures who scapegoat immigrants and spread false propaganda. And as a result of relentless vilification in the media, Latinos are targeted for harassment by racist extremist groups, some of which are directly descended from the old guardians of white supremacy.

The authors add, "instead of acting to prohibit and eliminate systematic exploitation and discrimination against Latinos, state and local governments in much of the South have exacerbated the situation" through harsh local policies and over-the-top rhetoric about illegal immigration.

Dispatch from the Black Iron Prison

Cop Tasers Minor Five Times for Not Getting Off His Bike Fast Enough
By Digby, Hullabaloo

Here's a story about a teen-age bicyclist who was tasered five times for failing to respond to a police officer's order to "get off the road." It is written by a lawyer who specializes in bicyclist rights and he asks the fundamental question: do you have a right to not comply with a police officer? It's at the heart of the taser question because nine times out of ten, people are not being tasered because they are threatening the cop or anyone else; they are tasered because they fail to comply with a police officer's order. So, the question is, do the police have a right to shoot someone with electricity simply because he or she is arguing with them or refuses to promptly obey their order?

If police used these things sparingly and had to answer to board of inquiry whenever they are used, it would be one thing. But they are using them pretty much in any situation and often when they already have someone in custody. And while it's true that as a practical matter one is well advised to cooperate with police, I find it difficult to see how we are a free people, with rights guaranteed by the constitution, if the government is allowed to shoot citizens with electricity solely because they fail to do what agents of the government tell them to do.

Digby is the proprietor of Hullabaloo.

© 2009 Hullabaloo All rights reserved.
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Sticker Nation 2!

Sticker Nation 2: The Big Book of Subversive Stickers Sticker Nation 2: The Big Book of Subversive Stickers The Disinformation Company Srini Kumar, the unstoppable force behind and, returns with a second blockbuster collection of over four hundred all-new stickers.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

If You Value True Democracy, Here's How You Protect It...

Europeans are taking militant actions to protect their jobs, pointing to a growing anger - and willingness to act on it - among workers in the European Union.

In the latest such move, staff at US automotive-parts manufacturer Visteon in Northern Ireland occupied a factory. . .

The British arm of Visteon, which is a major supplier to Ford, announced Tuesday that it was cutting almost 600 jobs across the United Kingdom, including 210 in Northern Ireland. It filed for bankruptcy the same day.

Workers immediately occupied Visteon's manufacturing facility in Belfast, seeking an enhanced layoff package, which they say should be financed by the factory's former owner, Ford Motor Co.

In Ireland, fired workers at Waterford Crystal occupied the world-renowned glassmaking factory after it was shut down. The occupation, which started in late January, ended after almost two months with the announcement that 176 jobs had been saved for at least six months.

In Dundee, Scotland, staff at Prisme, a box manufacturer, are in the fifth week of an occupation and are reportedly planning to restart the business as a workers' cooperative.

In France, workers at Caterpillar took the dramatic step Tuesday of kidnapping four managers, who were held for 24 hours at the company's plant in the southeastern city of Grenoble before being released Wednesday.