Thursday, April 30, 2009

Twitter and the Swine Flu


Apparently, Twitter is actually doing some good when it comes to apprising the CDC of swine flu developments. NPR actually had a feature on it this morning.

Anyway, in these days when the world is flat, it's pretty cool to think just how easy it is to access the kind of information that might save lives. If this were 1918, who knows how catastrophic this initial outbreak might have already become.

I'm still pretty cavalier about all of this, even though the news is getting closer and closer to home. I got a flu shot in the fall, and it seems we boomers might be pretty immune to this strain. The fact that all of one hundred Americans have been infected really doesn't seem to merit the event's attendant hysteria.

(I couldn't resist giving this post its title, as, on this Poem in Your Pocket Day, it scans exactly as does the title of one of my favorite oldies.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

His sobriquet


Last night's Red Sox' starter is aptly surnamed as that's about all his effort was worth.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Incessant handwashing


Here's the promised followup to the swine flu post below.

And the concomitant panic is brewing in other Connecticut municipalities.

Arlen Specter (D-PA)


Really an amazing turn of events, showing just how desperate these octogenarians are to keep their precious perks.

Here's Duncan Black's initial reaction.

Does this mean Senator Sanctimony can now change his party affiliation with impunity? (UPDATE — Apparently not.)

YCMTSU, part 53

Oink oink


In her never-ending pursuit of trying to be the mother to all Connecticutians, Governor Clubwoman has
formally requested 134,000 treatment courses of antiviral medications, personal protective equipment and respiratory protection devices from the CDC, which makes the supplies available to states. The state already has 11,000 antiviral treatment courses, according to Rell's office.
This kind of situation is perfect for Madame Governor: She can't figure out a budget for crap, but she can make sure we all take our medicine.

(I'll have another slant on the swine flu story later.)

And on a wholly unrelated matter,
US President Barack Obama, who is approaching his first 100 days in office, is enjoying the best presidential job approval rating at this point in 20 years, a new opinion survey showed.

The poll, by ABC News and The Washington Post, indicated 69 percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing, which is the highest evaluation in about two decades.
Mere words can't express how little I'll miss the phrase "first hundred days" after tomorrow.

UPDATE — Steve Benen has more on the numbers.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Senator Sanctimony's latest


Not surprisingly, Connecticut's odious junior senator would like the US to "look forward" when it comes to the illegal torture the country was involved in during his kissing comrade's administration. Yesterday on CNN's "State of the Union"
Sen. Joe Lieberman ... said the continued discussion [regarding torture] would "make it harder for the president to do some of the big things he wants to do for the country — not just get the economy going, but get some Republican support for health care reform, energy independence and education reform."

"I go back to what the president said at the beginning, it is time to look forward," Lieberman said. "These are top secret documents. These were lawyers, you could disagree with them but in my opinion they were trying to do what they thought would protect our country."

Lieberman also argued that "this whole debate is moot. President Obama has prohibited these tactics from being used in interrogation, so what do we gain… by releasing the memos (and) from indicting lawyers for their opinions?"

Lieberman also said that, in his opinion, having a so-called "Truth Commission" to investigate the Bush record on interrogation would "poison the water here in Washington. It will achieve nothing ... So let the Intelligence Committee do its work. That should be the end of it."
I can't help but think that Holy Joe is ok with this because those tortured were Muslims. It'd be interesting to see how he'd react if the victims were of another religious persuasion.

Today's winner


... of the Jacoby Ellsbury wannabe contest: Jose Reyes.

Of course, Reyes will have to get on third base first.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Conference" and "reference"


I know I sound like the language Gestapo here, but, for the love of God, they're nouns!

Quote of the Day


He who says "I know [God]" but disobeys his commandments is a liar.
— 1 John 2:4a
This verse was included in one of the readings this morning at our church, and I couldn't help but think of the holy rollers who occupied the nation's executive branch between 2001 and 2008.

Given the fact that the whole torture issue becomes larger by the day, it's interesting to note that those who were certain they had a personal relationship with God were guilty of heinous crimes against humanity.

And, needless to say, the zealots are being defended by those who should know better. Hilzoy and Glenn Greenwald explore this phenomenon.

Old Yeller


Unfortunately you can only read the first 1/3 or so of Matt Taibbi's latest article online, but he pretty much sums it up in the first sentence anyway.
Following the Republican Party of late has been a movingly depressing experience, sort of like watching Old Yeller die — if Old Yeller were a worm-infested feral bitch who spent the past eight years biting children at bus stops and shitting in neighborhood swimming pools.
Taibbi is just one reason why the random subscription I started getting to Rolling Stone has become one that I look forward to receiving - and their free subscription that they gave me will definitely turn into a renewal.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Quote of the day


I think there were plenty of people like me who had a degree of faith in elite opinion, in the sensible people in nice suits, which I never will again.
—Duncan Black, responding to a Paul Krugman blog post
And then there were those of us of the preceding generation, who knew too well that sensible people in nice suits could be every bit as reprehensible as Mafia hit men, who were angered beyond reason to see a similar experience happening yet again.

Alan Page, J.D.


In reading an article on the hideous Norm Coleman and his upcoming appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, I noticed this sentence:
Justices Alan Page and Paul Anderson are the other members of the court.
Now, I may have known this, but, my God, is it ever impressive that Atty. Page is one of the greatest defensive lineman in college and NFL history and a state Supreme Court justice to boot! (And it's interesting to note that he's had some experience in the area of famous (or infamous) close contests.)

Wake up the echoes, indeed.



The White House and the Democratic leadership in the Senate signaled on Thursday that they would block for now any effort to establish an independent commission to investigate the Bush administration’s approval of harsh interrogation techniques.
Notwithstanding the fact that the prissy Times (like just about all the MSM) won't call torture "torture," do ya think BO could show just a little consistency here? It's not as if the issue didn't make the US look like some banana republic for years.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Quote of the day (a day late)


"We are America! I don't give a rat's ass if it helps! We do not f***ing torture!"
—Fox News host Shepard Smith on the online show, The Strategy Room

The right track


For the first time in years, more Americans than not say the country is on the right track.

According to a new Associated Press-GfK poll, 48 percent of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction and 44 percent say it's going in the wrong direction. The "right direction" number is up from 40 percent in February.

Not since January 2004 has an AP survey found more "right direction" than "wrong direction" respondents.
While these data hardly seem surprising after the nightmare of the last eight years, there are still those patriots who remain skeptical.

The New Haven Case, cont'd


Today's Courant has a big article on the reverse discrimination case argued in the SCOTUS yesterday, and it looks like the justices are asking the $64 question:
In an animated hearing punctuated by near nonstop questioning, the justices seemed intent on trying to arrive at a means to balance the often conflicting issues of workplace diversity and the prohibition against race-based decisions in hiring and promotion.
Not surprisingly, "only Justice Clarence Thomas remained silent." My God. Does this guy have a brain in his head, or is he aware that on the few times he actually opens his mouth, he sounds like he has no idea of the nation's democratic principles?

Then there were two


I'm very pleased to note that Connecticut's legislators have joined Vermont's in approving
a measure that strives to strike a balance between the rights of gay couples and the rights of religious institutions that object to same-sex marriage.

A spokesman for Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she will sign the bill.

Votes in both the House of Representatives and the Senate came after hours of often impassioned discourse that touched on broad themes of religious liberty, freedom from discrimination and the state's long history of tolerance. The debate capped a multi-faceted campaign by gay marriage opponents that included newspaper and radio ads and messages from the pulpit.
I became very attuned to this issue (and its concomitant vote) because for the last several days I received unsolicited homophobic robocalls (and one mailing) from something calling itself the National Organization for Marriage, which apparently still believes that "gay marriage has real consequences for religious liberty." Exactly what those consequences are aren't entirely clear to me, but that's their position, and they're sticking to it.

It's kind of instructive to review how Lewis Black feels about this dire threat (salient portion starts about 3:40 in):

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The New Haven Case


Connecticut is much in the news today as
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments this morning on a reverse discrimination complaint by a group of white New Haven firefighters who claim they were denied promotion because the city illegally rejected their top promotional examination scores when black colleagues scored relatively poorly on the same test.

The case, Ricci v. DeStefano, is the first to come before the court under Chief Justice John Roberts that broadly raises the issue of race in the work place. The court's decision could reshape hiring and promotional policies for millions of the nation's public employees—and possibly for private employers as well.
NPR and a number of other outlets were all over this story earlier today, and while I'm, at best, of two minds on this issue, the court's ultimate decision is one that, as the article points out, could be extraordinarily consequential.

Quote of the day


It still rankles me two decades after the fact that Bill Casey died before he could be held to account in the Iran-contra scandal. Here's hoping that Rummy and Cheney live long enough for the wheels of justice to finish grinding.
David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Torture and the law


While I won't descend to the level of comparing Bushies to Nazis (The wingnuts have the corner on that in their analogies to the current administration.), it nevertheless might be instructive to remember that Nuremberg trials were held specifically for German judges who were "held responsible for implementing and furthering the Nazi 'racial purity' program through the eugenic and racial laws."

I'm reminded of this because it appears that the Obamans might be backtracking a bit on what appeared to be the all-inclusive statements of the weekend. Viz.,
On Sunday, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said on the ABC News program This Week that "those who devised policy" also "should not be prosecuted." But administration officials said Monday that Mr. Emanuel had meant the officials who ordered the policies carried out, not the lawyers who provided the legal rationale.

Three Bush administration lawyers who signed memos, John C. Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and Steven G. Bradbury, are the subjects of a coming report by the Justice Department's ethics office that officials say is sharply critical of their work. The ethics office has the power to recommend disbarment or other professional penalties or, less likely, to refer cases for criminal prosecution.
So perhaps the philosophy of more than sixty years ago will prevail: that the sanctioners, and not only the implementers, are also miscreants in the episode.



I can probably count on one hand the number of NBA games I've thought worthy of watching since Larry Legend retired, but last night's Celtics-Bulls game was one of the best basketball games—at any level—I've seen in a long time.

Needless to say, my enjoyment was heightened by the incredible play of two former UConn Huskies.

The handshake


The apoplexy over Obama's handshake with Hugo Chavez continues apace this morning, as every wingnut in creation is bemoaning the fact that the gesture took place.

Fox News has apparently likened the incident to a Kennedy-Khrushchev meeting nearly fifty years ago, but most people aren't old enough to remember an even earlier incident: when Eisenhower's evangelical Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, refused to shake hands with China's future premier, Chou En-Lai, at 1954's Geneva Conference.

Not surprisingly, the wingnuts would prefer this boorish behavior to what occurred. At long last, they still have left no sense of decency.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Quote of the day


From Bob Reich's latest post:
Obama should fast-track health care and stop trying to court Republicans [who are] hell bent on becoming a tiny, wacky minority—the party that denies evolution, denies global warming, denies Americans need a major overhaul of health care, and denies the economy needs anything more than a major tax cut to get it moving again.

Forgive and forget


While I certainly disagree with the Obamans' decision not to pursue prosecution of either those who approved torture or those who actually carried it out, I have to admit to a grudging understanding of Obama's rationale regarding their impunity:
"It is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice, that they will not be subject to prosecution."
Of course, the DoJ was populated by a bunch of crooks (The latest proof of that can be found here.), and so the justification isn't as rock solid as it might be, but I can kind of understand Obama's decision.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quote of the Day


Anakin Skywalker is a promising young man who is turned to the dark side by an older politician and becomes Darth Vader. “George Bush is Darth Vader,” he said. “Cheney is the emperor.”
—George Lucas, explaining how Dick Cheney is not Darth Vader

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Quote of the Day


I find it hard to believe that a man as intelligent as Mr. Obama, who once taught constitutional law, would equate the pursuit of justice with retribution. It makes it appear as if his decision is one of political expediency.
—Chase Webb of Gresham, OR in one of the many letters from today's New York Times decrying President Obama's decision not to prosecute CIA personnel involved in torture

Friday, April 17, 2009

I don't get it


Corrupt Chris is in the news, but the news (i.e., here and here) seems pretty contradictory to me.

Off to the Big Apple for the weekend; no posts until at least Sunday evening.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

264 hours of sleep deprivation


In dribs and drabs the utter malevolence of the Bushies is coming to light. Viz., from a memo written by former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee to interrogators of Abu Zubaydah, a high-ranking al Qaeda member:
Sleep deprivation may be used ... You have orally informed us that you would not deprive Zubaydah of sleep for more than eleven days at a time and that you have previously kept him awake for 72 hours, from which no mental or physical harm resulted.
Meanwhile, in talking about the release of the latest torture memos, President Popular essentially sanctions the practices by ignoring them:
This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke. We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past. Our national greatness is embedded in America's ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future.
While I suppose Obama's position isn't dramatically different from what he said during his campaign, this is nevertheless a shameless and irresponsible attitude.

UPDATE — Mark Benjamin has more.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

For one brief shining moment ...


Requiescat in pace, Mark Fidrych.

Side note: I may or may not have been on a plane out of Logan with The Bird nearly fifteen years ago. I asked a tall man with very curly hair (and three kids) if he was who he looked like. He answered no.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Comcast's incompetence


I'm not real happy with Comcast for a variety of reasons (mostly cable tv related), but this situation has really riled some people. The comments are a riot.

Quote of the Day


If you are planning simultaneous tea bagging all around the country, you’re going to need a Dick Armey.
—David Shuster on MSNBC's Countdown, taking Fox News to task for so aggressively promoting the right wing’s anti-Obama tea parties

As Steve Benen says, the current political discourse at least deserves a PG-13 rating.

Governor Go-go Watch


It's been a tough couple days for the former vice-presidential candidate as
Alaska Democrats are blasting Gov. Sarah Palin's decision to travel outside the state this week as the state Legislature's session winds down.

Alaska Democratic Party chairwoman Patti Higgins says much work remains to be done and Palin's decision to leave is an abdications of her duties.
Worse, the homophobe she recently nominated as the Last Frontier's Attorney General comes off as a typical Republican cretin.
Members of a Senate committee on Monday repeatedly pressed Wayne Anthony Ross, Gov. Sarah Palin's attorney general appointee, on whether he still believes gays are "degenerates," a term he used 16 years ago in a letter to the state bar association ...

Two Democratic senators on the committee repeatedly asked Ross if he still believes gays are degenerates.

Ross replied that his job as attorney general is to represent all Alaskans, and "my personal opinions in that regard have no place and I decline to state my opinion."
I heard responses like this countless times during the Bush years, and invariably the respondents' beliefs, as much as they protested that they would "have no place" in how they carried out their duties, became very much a part of the way they conducted themselves.

Ross is a reprobate, and the person who nominated him is no better.

Book news, cont'd


Here's the latest on Amazon's faux pas:
[Yesterday] afternoon, [Amazon] spokesperson Drew Herdener told

This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles—in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica.
Sounds to me like a glitch that really could've happened to anyone, although I wouldn't be surprised if some self-righteous employee messed around with some code. Nevertheless, the situation certainly doesn't seem to merit the semi-hysterical reaction Salon's Kate Harding is giving it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

One man's opinion


Bob Reich on where we stand vis-à-vis Wall Street's sudden upturn:
[W]e're not at the beginning of the end. I'm not even sure we're at the end of the beginning. All of these pieces of upbeat news are connected by one fact: the flood of money the Fed has been releasing into the economy. Of course mortage rates are declining, mortgage orginations are surging, and people and companies are borrowing more. So much money is sloshing around the economy that its price is bound to drop. And cheap money is bound to induce some borrowing. The real question is whether this means an economic turnaround. The answer is it doesn't.
Reich also reminisces about a colloquy he had recently with a coterie of supply siders, including a potential challenger to Corrupt Chris's Senate seat:
I spent the better part of an hour last week debating Larry Kudlow on his CNBC program, along with Arthur Laffer and two other financial analysts, all of whom were sure that the stock market had hit bottom and was now poised for a major recovery. I admire cockeyed optimism, and I understand why Wall Street and its spokespeople want to see a return of the bull market. Hell, everyone with a stock portfolio wants to see it grow again. But wishing for something is different from getting it. And cockeyed optimism can wreak enormous damage on an economy. Haven't we already learned this?
Of course we haven't. When times go bad, the lesson of the last eight years or so has been simply to clap louder.

Not with a whimper ...


DarLucky sends this along:
Rock music producer Phil Spector was convicted [this afternoon] of second-degree murder in the shooting death of a film actress at his mansion six years ago.

A Superior Court jury returned the verdict after an estimated 29 to 30 hours of deliberations. The jury had the option of choosing involuntary manslaughter, but did not do so.

Spector exhibited no reaction to the verdict. His attorney argued that he should remain free on bail pending the May 29 sentencing, but Judge Larry Paul Fidler remanded him to jail immediately.

Second-degree murder carries a penalty of 15 years to life in prison.
I still believe that Spector produced the greatest music created in my lifetime, but I've got to think the jury got this one right.


Book news


As a person who buys books for a living, I'm finding this ongoing story quite interesting. Early last weekend
Amazon ... mysteriously stripped the sales rankings of hundreds (thousands?) of books, many of them with LGBT subjects, and reclassified them as "adult" content. The move prevents those books from showing up on the site's Best Seller list and can seriously screw up search results, pretty much rendering some titles invisible ...

By early Sunday evening, in a post on Publisher's Weekly, Amazon blamed the whole debacle on a glitch and told the Associated Press it was being fixed. It's certainly possible. The changes were so outrageous, so sloppily applied -- by a company with a pretty decent track record, by the way -- that it's hard to believe anyone who wasn't smoking the world's biggest bong would have OK'd it, far less OK'd it without letting anyone know [sic].
The story doesn't appear to be over, and, as one who has a real audience for books like this one, I'll be interested to see how it shakes out.

Quote of the Day


The contradictions between Obama's campaign claims and his actions as President are now so glaring and severe that the harshest denunciations of Obama's actions are coming from those who, during the Bush years, were held up by liberals and by Obama supporters as the most trustworthy and praiseworthy authorities on these matters.
—Glenn Greenwald
Greenwald's entire post is an important read, as the question must be asked: Just how bad will this get? I.e., how badly were Americans duped last year?

Greenwald is as derogatory in this post wherein he denounces the current DOJ's stand on habeas corpus:
The Obama DOJ is now squarely to the right of an extremely conservative, pro-executive-power, Bush 43-appointed judge on issues of executive power and due-process-less detentions ... The Bush DOJ -- and now the Obama DOJ -- maintain the President does and should have [the right to abduct people anywhere in the world, ship them to faraway prisons and hold them there indefinitely without charges].
I'm starting to have a very bad feeling about this.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Mother of Mercy, is this the end of the Church of the FSM?


The world's (and now the US's) antipathy toward pirates makes me fear for the future of Pastafarianism.

Quote of the Day


Obama would be doing himself a huge favor, and making some significant gains as far as unifying Democrats, if he took the business of dismantling the unitary executive seriously. The cosmetic surgery of closing Gitmo merely papers over the fact that all of what Gitmo was will continue to be at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan - except it will be harder to get oversight into the facility, since it's in the middle of a war zone. There's been no meaningful action to take apart the the Bush era wiretapping of low-value domestic nobodies. And the Obama administration has gone further than the Bush administration in keeping the truth of these programs under wraps. Barring some amazing transformation in the next week or so, the Obama administration is set to hit the 100 day mark with a failing grade in preserving and defending our individual liberties against the previous administrations executive power grab. And it won't be a particularly high "F," either.
Jason Linkins on Huffington Post

Friday, April 10, 2009



I really was unaware of the irony in this. Apparently, I don't get out enough.

Will the real Barack Obama please stand up?


The bloggers I read are getting more and more impatient when it comes to various policies the Obamans are—or are not—effecting. Something like this isn't going to make them—or me—any less testy:
Lawyers and judges working on Guantanamo Bay legal cases are showing signs of exasperation at President Barack Obama's administration, which they accuse of slowing federal judicial procedures for detainees.

Two federal judges tasked with examining cases by five Guantanamo prisoners contesting their detention—a right to habeas corpus granted by the Supreme Court in June 2008—have made a rare public row of their impatience with government prosecutors.
The prosecutors' behavior is being called "stonewalling" at TPM and, worse, is being compared to the immoral intransigence of the Bushies.

Anecdotally, it sounds as if the bloom is off the rose for Obama and his crew: The economic recovery seems to be just another plan to placate the rich, and some odious practices of the Bushies look like they're going to be continued.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

More conservative nonsense


It's always a neat experience when someone I know or knew is in the news. Thus it is with this story:
A coalition of conservative activists is beginning to form around opposition to Harold Koh, President Obama's nominee to become the legal advisor for the Department of State. In Koh, opponents of "transnational" legal theory have found a test case to prove that international law is a political loser—and a way to preemptively discredit a possible candidate for the Supreme Court ...

Koh, the dean of Yale Law School since 2004 and a former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor under President Bill Clinton, was announced as the nominee for the State Department job on March 23. His nomination didn’t come as much of a surprise to conservatives, as Koh, long considered one of the most powerful legal minds on the left, had been floated as a possible Obama Supreme Court nominee as long ago as September 2008. At the time, Center for Ethics and Public Policy President Ed Whelan wrote a series of posts about Koh’s legal theories for National Review Online, digesting Koh’s views for conservative readers. Among Koh’s sins were appealing to "decent respect to the opinions of humankind" in opposing the death penalty, declaring "lesbian and transgender rights" a closely-held legal position, and citing "international and foreign court decisions" in an amicus brief arguing for the overturn of Texas’s sodomy law.
I knew Harold and his family when he was a teenager. They were all brilliant, and to think that Koh might become a Supreme Court justice is cool beyond words. Of course, not surprisingly, a xenophobic and homophobic "coalition of conservative activists" will have none of it.

The $3 trillion question


Is the VIX showing signs of a higher market? Here's one person who thinks it is.

The Federal Reserve no longer sees signs of recovery this year from a prolonged recession and only weak growth in 2010, minutes of a policy-setting meeting said.

Despite massive interventions by the Fed and other government bodies to jumpstart the moribund economy and unblock tight credit, policymakers at a March meeting viewed grimmer projections than those made two months earlier.
Perhaps a severe divergence between Wall Street and Main Street is pending.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009



An opus of mine can be found here.

Another day, another massacre


I'm getting real tired of the shootings that appear to have become epidemic around the US. The details of the Binghamton story get worse by the day, and, sure enough, another incident occurred last night.
A gunman opened fire at a Korean Christian retreat center [in Temecula, CA], leaving one woman dead and four people injured, authorities said.

The gunman, described as an Asian man in his 70s, was among the wounded, Riverside County Sheriff's Sgt. Michael Lujan told KNBC-TV on Wednesday.
Is it the time of year that sets these lunatics off? April does, in fact, seem to be the cruelest month, as the two worst tragedies of the last fifteen years—the Murrah Building bombing and the Columbine incident—occurred during the fourth month of the year.

Anyway, I find the incidents extremely depressing and continue to think that Charlton Heston was an absolute moron.

Stat of the day


Dustin Pedroia is one of only eight players in baseball history to have won the Rookie Of the Year award, the AL MVP award, a Gold Glove and a World Series.
The seven players who preceded him in this impressive feat did it over the course of their careers. Pedroia's done that in just two seasons.

The Sox' second baseman has had such incredible success at such a young age that I almost fear for him, but the Great Gretzky, who was by far the best hockey player in the western hemisphere at age nineteen, was able to sustain his eminence over a long career, so it's not unprecedented.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

My God, my God ...


While I'm certainly sympathetic to the horrid events in Italy, I can't help being perversely amused at the litany of damage done to churches in the region.
L'Aquila: The bell tower of the 16th-century San Bernardino church — its own construction delayed by 15th century quakes — and the cupola of the Baroque Sant'Agostino church fell.

Celano: The main altar of the Baroque Sant'Angelo Church collapsed in this town ...

Teramo: The quake badly damaged the facade of the church of Sant'Agostino, shifted a bell tower at the convent of San Domenico and brought down the ceiling of the church of Poggio Cono.

Paganica: The baroque church of Santa Maria Assunta in this suburb of L'Aquila was badly damaged, with chunks missing from the pale yellow structure and cracks running through it.

Loreta Apruntino: The quake brought down the bell tower on the church of St. Francis.

Goriano Sicoli: The tremblor badly damaged the facade of the Saint Gemma church.
No doubt the survivors will try to rebuild those sanctuaries so they can pray to the God who failed them this time to keep the cataclysm away in the future—to which I say, good luck with that.

Likewise, my own church will no doubt pray this coming Easter Sunday that the damages be repaired quickly so that the towns can become what they were before yesterday, which is to say, bastions of superstition.

The Boomers' Revenge


A couple of things strike me as I look upon this situation:
Over the next four years, more than a third of the nation’s 3.2 million teachers could retire, depriving classrooms of experienced instructors and straining taxpayer-financed retirement systems, according to a new report.

The problem is aggravated by high attrition among rookie teachers, with one of every three new teachers leaving the profession within five years, a loss of talent that costs school districts millions in recruiting and training expenses, says the report, by the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, a nonprofit research advocacy group.

"The traditional teaching career is collapsing at both ends," the report says. "Beginners are being driven away" by low pay and frustrating working conditions, and accomplished veterans who still have much to contribute are being separated from their schools by "obsolete retirement systems" that encourage teachers to move from paycheck to pension when they are still in their mid-50s, the report says.
I'm struck by the fact that rookies just don't stay very long—more than half leave within five years—and that the Times recognizes the reason for their early exit as the crapola that exists in education. To use Connecticut as an example, new teachers have to jump through so many state-mandated hoops (while simultaneously trying to keep their feet on the ground) in their first two years that they're dissuaded from entering the profession at all. And once they actually get going with their careers, they find that it's a pretty onerous one: The teachers prep programs never really let on how much homework there'll be.

Moreover, it seems quite ironic to me that the very best candidates are mere dabblers as a result of the Teach for America program, wherein top notch participants know they're going to be at it for only a few years until they get a "real job."

And as one who plans to wait until 2015 to retire, I'm a little nonplussed by the possibility that the state's retirement system might be strained in the next four years. Perhaps I'll have to reconsider my plans.

Monday, April 06, 2009



Heretofore, Wikipedia has been a rather disreputable site when it came to legitimate research. L. Gordon Crovitz of the Wall Street Journal begs to differ. The money passage:
Wikipedia is quietly transforming itself into a hybrid of amateurs and professionals. Anyone can create entries—it has 10 million articles in 253 languages—but the ultimate editing is increasingly done by well-trained researchers.
Pedagogues may have to change their opinions about the once maligned site.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

But there is no joy in Mudville


... mighty UConn has struck out.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Preserving the plutocracy


It looks like we're back to business as usual in DC.
The Obama administration is engineering its new bailout initiatives in a way that it believes will allow firms benefiting from the programs to avoid restrictions imposed by Congress, including limits on lavish executive pay, according to government officials.

... The administration believes it can sidestep the rules because, in many cases, it has decided not to provide federal aid directly to financial companies, the sources said. Instead, the government has set up special entities that act as middlemen, channeling the bailout funds to the firms and, via this two-step process, stripping away the requirement that the restrictions be imposed, according to officials.

... In one program, designed to restart small-business lending, President Obama's officials are planning to set up a middleman called a special-purpose vehicle—a term made notorious during the Enron scandal—or another type of entity to evade the congressional mandates,
I didn't say so at the time, but the howls of protestation that Congressional grandstanders made regarding executive pay a week or so ago now seem to be what they were: just another opportunity for legislators to make it appear as if they actually cared about the country's inequitable economic system. We now see how much good their expostulations were.

This policy is a "signing statement" in everything but name.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Progressive taxation


Connecticut's plutocrats are already howling over this, but it's about time Connecticut's legislators came up with a rational taxation policy. The state's Democrats are proposing a bill wherein
The state's richest residents — those earning more than $1 million annually — would see their income tax rates increase by nearly 60 percent under the plan ... In a stronger-than-usual statement, [Governor] Rell said flatly that she would veto the Democrats' proposal if it reaches her desk.
It looks like the legislation would be veto-proof; of course, we'll see whether this is true.

This, of course, is only a start toward a fairer policy, but at least the foot is in the door.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

April 1 debriefing


Yesterday I sent out a tech-related e-mail to my colleagues that I thought was ridiculous enough to get an appropriately anguished response, but nothing happened. As it turned out, given the state of technology here, the scenario I described seemed like SOP. So much for that little enterprise.

Meanwhile, I got something from "the Central Office" which had to do with the salmonella risk in pistachio nuts. I responded in a hysterical fashion, being sure that the message was an April 1 endeavor. Alas, the sender was in earnest, so I was oh for two in the April Fools department.

I mention this because one has to be extremely wary every first day of the fourth month. Apparently, though, not everyone is as circumspect as I.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

No Foolin'


Another day, another evacuation at H-K.

This makes the third time in a week students at the school have been exposed to what might be toxic residue.