Tuesday, April 19, 2005

No Blogger Left Behind

"Truth doesn't make a noise."
~~ The White Stripes

I rarely get involved in politics, especially on a national level. Washington is like a colorful carnival: it’s entertaining to sit back and watch the freaks do their tricks. Joining in is likely to result in personal injury.

But two chance events conspired bring you the following blog:

1) I get extremely restless when I don’t write for a few days. Here’s a hint: when you haven’t slept and it’s 5:00 a.m. and you’re fixing yourself a cup of coffee because you can’t resist sitting at your keyboard and pounding out bullshit words, you’re a writer at heart. I need to recognize this, because I’ve lived in denial for so long …

2) There were so many political events this week that are so far beyond acceptable that it’s downright scary. This needs to be addressed. Here goes.

*Warning: hazardous levels of sarcasm contained within.

*Note: the first issue was brought to my attention by Sarah, and you can check out her blog for more information about it.


My award for Idiot of the Week goes to ... a Republican!

But take heart. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill, open-minded, friend-of-the-poor, gay-loving Republican. This is Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who has publicly sided with my favorite breed of Republican, the Christian conservative. According to the New York Times, Frist “has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as ‘against people of faith’ for blocking President Bush's nominees.”

I encourage you to check out the NY Times article (4/15) Frist
Set To Use Religious Stage on Judicial Issue. For those of you who are Net-tarded, the NY Times actually likes people to read and be informed (crazy left-wing propaganda if you ask me), so you can register TOTALLY FREE on their website and read this article. It takes a good five seconds of your life away, but let’s face it, if you’re reading this blog, you have time to register.

Anyway, here’s the deal: the Democrats are using the filibuster and other means to block President Bush’s nominations for judiciary positions. A Christian conservative group known as the Family Research Council has decided that Democrats are doing this as an attack “against people of faith.”

Clearly, they are right. Who woulnd't have faith in a president that wants to appoint John Bolton as an ambassador to the U.N. (Washington Post, 4/11)? What party would have the nerve to block 10 out of 52 appeal court nominations?! Unless, of course, you believe crazy old John McCain:

“’By the way, when Bill Clinton was president, we, effectively, in the Judiciary Committee blocked a number of his nominees,’ Mr. McCain said.”

Nope. Sorry, Mr. McCain. This is not the Democrats rationally thinking through the ramifications of appointing right-wing judges whose views on issues like abortion and school prayer are clearly aligned with a Christian conservative agenda.

The simple truth is that Democrats are pagans and/or witches who hate all Christians, and want to punish them by blocking the appointment of appellate judges. The 204 nominations that have been approved were a fluke, or perhaps a mandate from God. Clearly, Democrats hate “people of faith.”

Whew. Ok, sarcasm aside, Frist and the FRC are not referring to all people of faith here. They are only referring to people of Christian faith, and even then only to people of a certain type of Christian faith. There are plenty of Christians, for example, who are perfectly fine with school prayer being restricted. Frist and the FRC are only referring to a very tiny bloc of Christians, and this is a major part of the problem.

Conservative Christian groups such as the FRC make up a very tiny but extremely outspoken political activist group. What a lot of people don’t understand is that these people are the minority of Christians. These groups, including the FRC, push school prayer issues, the teaching of “intelligent design” as a legitimate science and suggest that teaching children not to harass gay classmates is a scheme to further a homosexual agenda. These campaigns (including the issue of the blocked nominations) are carried out by fliers, Internet ads, television and radio broadcasts (on Christian stations). You can check out the FRC website for more information.
I encourage you to go. It’s a grand time. A much more fair and balanced look at politics than, say, the Times. Let’s face it people, the Times is left-wing propaganda coloring book defecated by liberal journalists, what with their “quotes” and their “sources” and their “research” and their “facts.”

Oops, sarcasm slipping back in there.

So, one problem here is that most of these issues are obtuse perversions of Christian beliefs. This is a very tiny minority of Christian faith, but most people don’t recognize that. And why should they? They are extremely outspoken and passionate. Worse, the media and the Bush administration treat them as the voice of Christians everywhere. Even this article is written with two sides: that of the Democrats, and that of the Republicans / Christian conservatives. They at least interviewed McCain as an example of a Republican who isn’t brainwashed. But what about other Christians who disagree with this sort of campaign? On behalf of the rest of the Christian community, as well as people of different faiths, I am offended by the obnoxious generalizations of people like Tony Perkins, president of the FRC:

“For years activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups like the A.C.L.U., have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms.”

Am I wrong to believe that protecting the rights of Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or agnostic faiths does not rob me of my Christian heritage or religious freedom?

Another problem here is the political course of retaliation. Rather than working out a compromise or finding new choices, Republicans decided to just change the rules of the filibuster (CNN, 4/18)!

One voice of reason in this mess is Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) who says, “When we talk religion and government, neither should become an instrument for the other. And I see drifting here in different directions that are, I don't think, healthy for our country.”

But the biggest problem, from my perspective, is the use of the phrase, “against people of faith.” It is propaganda, and it is wrong. This is not political debate. This group is not making a rhetorical case to convince people that the Democrats are blocking nominations based on religious bias. No, that would take time and effort and numbers and quotes and facts. And who is listening anyway? (Remember Ross Perot’s infomercials on how he was going to get rid of our national debt? Of course you don’t.) It is much simpler to resort to propaganda, and this is a tactic used almost solely – with the exception of Michael Moore – by the Republican party. Terrorists are called “evildoers” and “freedom haters.” Dissenter to Republican opinion are deemed “un-American” or “against people of faith.” A flawed, little-read bill designed to whittle away our civil rights is labeled the Patriot Act. And one of the most worthless education policies this country has ever seen is dubbed, “No Child Left Behind.” And who could vote against something like the Patriot Act or NCLB and expect to return to office? Republicans are banking on American Idle. We won’t educate ourselves – nor will our elected officials. We will take the names at face value. Hell, the Patriot Act sounded great at the time. And who gave a damn if NCLB was under funded and contained no provisions for handicapped or foreign-language children to pass standardized tests? Nobody but our teachers.

NCLB is my next Problem Issue. the New York Times also ran this article (4/13): Study Finds Shortcoming In New Law On Education.

The lead sums it up well: “The academic growth that students experience in a given school year has apparently slowed since the passage of No Child Left Behind, the education law that was intended to achieve just the opposite, a new study has found.”

And guess what! Standardized testing is (gasp!) racially biased! Who would’ve thought non-english-speaking students from rural areas would have trouble understanding a test provided in English language? Let’s make the little bastards learn fucking Englis
h. If it’s good enough for George W., it’s good enough for the rest of the world. In fact, if you don’t learn English (in a country, by the way, with no official language), you must be an Un-American Freedom Hater.

Fortunately, there are Informed Dissenters, who point out the flaws of the study:

“’It's hard to know how much you can extrapolate from this study,’” said Ross Wiener, policy director for the Education Trust, which released its own report in January showing mixed results on student performance and achievement gaps. ‘I don't think you want to make generalizations
about what's going on nationwide.’”

Honestly! How dare those silly scientists generalize from their data! How can 320,000 students from 23 states possibly represent a national trend? And let's not forget, most of the major cities were left out of the study. I’m pretty sure minorities probably made great advances there. But our real secret weapon is the other studies, in which education officials report improvements in academics and the achievement gap. Obviously this study is not worth its weight in toilet paper.

Ho ho, fair readers! Let’s momentarily put the sarcasm aside yet again. First of all, the testing agency openly admits their results aren’t fully representative. But the numbers are still impressive. And the article notes that they went the extra mile:

“Rather than relying on test scores at just one point in the year, the Northwest study looked at how students fared in the fall and then again in the spring, in an effort to see how much they had learned during the year.”

And you know what? Scores did go up. By less than one point.

My other criticism, which is not addressed in the article, is the fact that reports of “progress” are coming from “education officials.” Generally, state education officials are either elected to their jobs, or appointed by another elected official.

When I read this, I said to myself, “Who among these officials is going to stand up and say, ‘You know what? My school / district / state sucked this year. The kids didn’t make any progress at all!” Especially when no progress means the government cuts your funding.

As it turns out, there is at least one such lady, who managed to make it into the Times a mere five days later (4/18): At The Front Of The Fight.

That bold woman is Betty Sternberg, recently appointed head of Connecticut’s Department of Education. She openly criticizes the flaws in NCLB, including the lack of provisions for disabled students and the amount of funding states must find to meet the requirements. It will cost Connecticut about $8 million to meet the newest requirements of NCLB.

In a snide television appearance, Margaret Spellings, the secretary of the United States Department of Education, called opponents of NCLB “Un-American” and said they demonstrate the "soft bigotry of low expectations."

Did you pick up on the propaganda? No? Fine, I’ll beat you over the head with it. Margaret Spellings could have addressed this issue in a professional manner by explaining the strengths of standardized testing (I’ve yet to be convinced there are any) and addressing the weaknesses of the NCLB act. Instead, she simply called opponents a Dirty Name. How can you be American if you want your child left behind?

Of course, you could ask, “How can you be American if you enforce a racially biased testing policy on students?” or “How can you be American if you don’t want children to have funding for their schools?”

But a rational person would see the frivolity of rhetorical questions, or the outrageousness of calling an opponent with reasonable concerns “Un-American” instead of working to resolve the issue.

Fortunately, Betty Sternberg is one such rational person, and demanded an apology from Margaret Spellings. That apology is pending.

Onto my final problematic issue. Now, I’ve always claimed that there are moron Democrats that are every bit as soulless as Republicans. This is the condition of politics as a whole.

To appease those who are probably even now attacking me for being so horribly biased, here is my Democratic Idiot of the week, from my home state of
West Virginia!

CNN (4/12) reports that West Virginia accidentally made English the official state language! Our dear sweet Senate Majority Whip, Billy Bailey (D), snuck a rider onto one of the final bills of the legislative session, which read:

“English shall be the official language of the State of West Virginia.”

In a rush to finish the legislative session, the bill was passed before anyone had a chance to read the fine print.

Then the arrogant bastard bragged about how he lied to others just before the bill was passed:

“’I just told the members that the amendment clarifies the way in which documents are produced,’ Bailey, a Democrat, said Monday.”


Way to set West Virginia back another 200 years. Why don’t we just make literacy tests before people can vote, while we’re at it?


This is the sad State of our Union, folks. Don’t forget this shit when the next election comes around.

Peace and love,

Sketch E.


Blogger Lisa said...

Well said. Granted, the Times is a notoriously (and may I say, obviously) liberal publication. . . . but it doesn't take a freakin' rocket scientist to figure that one out. There's that whole skill of being aware of such slants. . . .I'd take the pro-"government stay out of my personal life" Times over "protect the unborn but to hell with 'em when they get here" conservatives any day.
George W. is a menace to our country's founding freedoms and we're too stupid to know it. My only comfort is that the asshole can never run again (although if he could find a way to say God wants him to, he'd try it).

10:44 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Aww shucks, you linked to my blog!

Did steam come out of your ears when you wrote this entry? Because that's what happened to me when I wrote my last one, complete with the train whistle noise.

When in the hell is the rest of the country going to see that the emperor has no clothes (in this case, the emperor being Bush and his neo-con cronies who've been turning this country into a jingoistic Jesusland)? In the past, the average Republican has just been the guy next door who I disagree with on most of the issues, but can at least generally respect. Now that the crazy folk have taken over, I'm waiting for the moderate Republicans to jump ship, or at least take back control of their party. I believe Christine Todd Whitman even wrote a book that addressed this issue.

As for NCLB, someone I know wrote a somewhat critical article about it a couple of months ago. I remember one example of its flaws was from a kindergarten teacher who had to use so much time each day teaching the students how to take tests, and that took away from other things, such as art and basic social skills. Like, they could read but they'd get all freaked out if they couldn't find their backpack. Of course, after the article was printed, some guy wrote to the paper and compared her to Dan Rather. *sigh*

I should hope no one would ever accuse of having a bias just because you blasted more Republicans. It's like The Daily Show. They're going to make fun of the absurd, and if one party does a majority of the absurd, there's no point to try to make fun of the other side just as much when their actions don't measure up.

10:53 PM  
Blogger Sketch E. said...

Lisa -- Man, you said it. George W. IS indeed a menace to freedoms, as well as the homeless, children, minorities and anyone else unable to protect him or herself in a democratic society.

As for the Times, it is notoriously liberal, but what a lot of people don't GET is that the 'slant' generally comes in the op-ed pages. The actual articles are generally as balanced as possible. In fact, we had an ed. of the NY Times speak to our journalism class. He said that any time an article REMOTELY criticizes the Bush administration, they take extra precautions to quadruple-check their facts, because they know as soon as it runs it will be nailed for being 'liberal leftist propaganda.' Sad that people can't understand the difference between a news ARTICLE and an op-ed piece.

Thanks for the comment!

12:07 AM  
Blogger Sketch E. said...

Sarah -- when the hell will people stop letting small minority interest groups like Christian conservatives speak for a nation? Also like The Daily Show -- it's time the common-sense centrists stood up and made their voices heard.

Steam has been erupting from my ears all week long. I can't handle the stress of reading a newspaper anymore. Gahh!

12:10 AM  

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