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The Therapy Sessions
Tuesday, May 31, 2005

France torpedoes Europe

Intersting commentary on the French and the EU constitution:
The prevailing view among European elites was summed up by a senior EU bureaucrat we spoke to last month who said about the French and the constitution: 'They haven't read it. If they had read it, they wouldn't understand it. If they understood it, they wouldn't like it.' Nonetheless, he thought that the French should vote yes anyway.

Hey, that would persuade me!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Way to go, NJ

The nation's dumbest drivers:
When faced with a written test, similar to ones given to beginning drivers applying for licenses, one in ten drivers couldn't get a passing score, according to a study commissioned by GMAC Insurance.

The GMAC Insurance National Driver's Test found that nearly 20 million Americans, or about 1 in 10 drivers, would fail a state driver's test if they had to take one today. GMAC Insurance is part of General Motors' finance subsidiary, GMAC.

More than 5,000 licensed drivers between the ages of 16 and 65 were administered a 20-question written test designed to measure basic knowledge about traffic laws and safety. They were also surveyed about their general driving habits.

Drivers in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states did worst. Twenty percent of test-takers failed there.

The state of Rhode Island leads the nation in driver cluelessness, according to the survey. The average test score there was 77, just eight points above a failing grade.

Those in neighboring Massachusetts were second worst and New Jersey, third worst.

No surprise there.


France votes

Whether the French vote yes or no, Chirac is really proving himself to be a dick:Turmoil as Chirac plots to disregard 'non' vote.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Interesting math

Sports fans cry foul on math question
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The state's test writers tried to come up with a math question about football and ended up with a fumble.

On an end-of-grade test this month, seventh-graders had to calculate the average gain for a team on the game's first six plays. But the team did not gain 10 yards on the first four plays and would have lost possession before a fifth and sixth play.

The team opened with a 6-yard loss, a 3-yard gain and a 2-yard loss, which would have made it fourth down with 15 yards to go for a first down. The team's fourth play was just a 7-yard gain, yet it maintained possession for a 12-yard gain and a 4-yard gain on two additional plays.

"Whoever wrote it didn't think it through," said Gene Daniels, athletics director of Salem Middle School in Apex.

Mildred Bazemore, chief of the state Department of Public Instruction's test development section, said the question makes sense mathematically and was reviewed thoroughly.

"It has nothing to do with football," Bazemore said. "It has to do with the mathematical concepts that you're studying."

Damn those test writers!


Digging their own grave

So where is China going? I think the Internet is hastening China along the same path that South Korea, Chile and especially Taiwan pioneered. In each place, a booming economy nurtured a middle class, rising education, increased international contact and a growing squeamishness about torturing dissidents.

President Hu has fulminated in private speeches that foreign "hostile forces" are trying to change China. Yup, count me in - anybody who loves China as I do would be hostile to an empty Mao suit like Mr. Hu. But it's the Chinese leadership itself that is digging the Communist Party's grave, by giving the Chinese people broadband.

The more wealth a society acquires, the more likely it is that it will become a democracy. The wealthiest societies in the world are all democratic.

People with wealth demand more than food; they demand jobs, education, decent living standards and a clean environment. They demand freedom of information.

None of this bodes well for the Chinese Communist Party.


Worth it?

George W. Bush has unleashed a tsunami on this region," a shrewd Kuwaiti merchant who knows the way of his world said to me. The man had no patience with the standard refrain that Arab reform had to come from within, that a foreign power cannot alter the age-old ways of the Arabs. "Everything here--the borders of these states, the oil explorations that remade the life of this world, the political outcomes that favored the elites now in the saddle--came from the outside. This moment of possibility for the Arabs is no exception."

A Jordanian of deep political experience at the highest reaches of Arab political life had no doubt as to why history suddenly broke in Lebanon, and could conceivably change in Syria itself before long. "The people in the streets of Beirut knew that no second Hama is possible; they knew that the rulers were under the gaze of American power, and knew that Bush would not permit a massive crackdown by the men in Damascus."

My informant's reference to Hama was telling: It had been there in 1982, in that city of the Syrian interior, that the Baathist-Alawite regime had broken and overwhelmed Syrian society. Hama had been a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood, a fortress of the Sunni middle class. It had rebelled, and the regime unleashed on it a merciless terror. There were estimates that 25,000 of its people perished in that fight. Thenceforth, the memory of Hama hung over the life of Syria--and Lebanon. But the people in the plazas of Beirut, and the Syrian intellectuals who have stepped forth to challenge the Baathist regime, have behind them the warrant, and the green light, of American power and protection.

Time will tell.

Monday, May 23, 2005

My tin foil hat - explained

I've long thought my neighbors were bombarding me with radiation to get me sick. I always wear my tinfoil hat when I leave the house because out there I am no longer protected by the house's aluminium siding.

Nice to know I'm not alone:
A home in Sacramento's south Natomas neighborhood is surrounded by sheet metal, and neighbors are calling it an eyesore.

The D'Souza family lives in the home on Timberwood Court, and claims the aluminium pieces are necessary to protect them from unknown neighbors who have been bombarding them with radio waves and making them sick.

'(It's) a shield to protect against radiation, because microwave radiation is reflected off of aluminium, so it's a protective measure,' resident Sarah D'Souza said."

Eyesore is better than brain sore, I say.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Teaching for profit devastates Philly schools


PHILADELPHIA -- Maxcine Collier had been principal of the 400-student Anderson Elementary School in Southwest Philadelphia for five years when, in 2001, she was told that a for-profit company, Edison Schools Inc., was going to take over the school's management from the Philadelphia School District.

Parents and teachers were apprehensive, she said. But more than three-quarters of Anderson's students were performing below grade level, according to Pennsylvania state testing standards. The school, in a neighborhood that borders suburban Upper Darby, housed many special-education students from other parts of the city.

Teacher Barbara Ann Scott Himmons works with her first-grade class at Kenderton Elementary School, one of the Philadelphia schools operated by Edison. Edison has run 20 schools for three years, with grade-level proficiency up from 6 to 21 percent of students.

'There was no cohesiveness. Many of the children were from elsewhere, and they didn't bond, which hurts education, especially in urban settings,' Collier said. 'We knew something had to be done better.'

Three years later, Collier said, Edison's curriculum, particularly in math and writing, has doubled the number of children who reach state proficiency levels and has unified her teachers. 'We still have a long way to go, but I can see already we are on the right track,' she said.

Uh, maybe not.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Ink belt in decline

New York, N.Y. - Like the corpses that lazily bob along in the nearby East River, life obeys its own pace in this isolated island community of 8 million in southern New York State.

It is an ancient pace, its cadence dictated by the steady whirr and click-a-clack of word processors, plied by the gnarled hands of skilled opinion craftsmen who once supplied nearly eighty percent of the world's refined punditry output.

To some ears, the din from the mighty opinion mills of this gritty Ink Belt town may be grating; but it has served as a siren call for generations of hungry immigrant OpEd workers.

Each year they come here, from Cambridge and Ithaca and New Haven, young and eager social critics seeking nothing more than an honest day's wage for an honest day's condescension, and perhaps a decent squab pate in white wine reduction.
For the newest generation of polemic workers, though, the promise of that simple Anti-American Dream seems ever more distant. Most of the mills have long fallen silent, tragic victims of cheap foreign radio talk shows and the growing monopoly of multinational corporate blogs.

Now, even the grandest of the old mills - the venerated New York Times 43rd Street Opinion Works - stands at risk. A recent spate of quality control problems, product recalls, management turmoil and a painful round of layoffs is leading many here to worry if the plant is destined to go the way of automats, five cent Cokes and international socialism.


Letter to the Editor

Sara Berg comments on her brother Nick's murder, and the treatment her family received from the media:A crime that cannot be forgiven

Re: "A father's mission: Forgiveness," May 6:

Some things are unforgivable. What Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his many accomplices did to my brother Nick is unforgivable. It was not an act of war; it was a cold-blooded, premeditated heinous crime. To call it anything else suggests that it is an acceptable act of war, an acceptable response to America's military action. It is not.

The world would be a better place if al-Zarqawi was no longer in it. He is pure evil. I don't think someone like him is capable of any human feeling anymore. The only way to keep people like him from harming thousands of other people is to eliminate them.

Before this happened, I did not comprehend the magnitude of his evil and of people like him. But to experience the heinousness of what he did to someone as good and as innocent as my brother has totally changed my perspective. I don't know how to respond in a humane way to such inhumane acts. I don't think a humane response is necessary.

What the media did to my family is also unforgivable. They made the worst week of my life infinitely worse. Decision-makers in the media need to make more humane decisions about what is a story and how they get it. Someone should have thought of a shocked, astounded and grieving family when they made those decisions. They spoke of their sympathy for us, but not once did they think the sympathetic thing to do would be to stop harassing us and allow us to grieve in peace.

Sara Berg

Virginia Beach, Va.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Public TV's conservative bias?

Very interesting:
Two congressional Democrats called Wednesday for an investigation into recent activities by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, suggesting that efforts by the Republican chairman of the private nonprofit to add more conservative programs onto PBS may violate federal law.

In a letter released Wednesday evening, Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., and Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., asked CPB Inspector General Kenneth A. Konz to investigate the contracting, hiring and policies of the corporation, which distributes federal funds to public television stations. Both congressmen are ranking Democrats on committees that have oversight of public television.

They called recent actions taken by CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson ``disturbing'' and ``extremely troubling.''

A CPB spokesman could not be reached for comment. But in a recent interview with the LOS ANGELES TIMES, Tomlinson defended his efforts to expand conservative perspectives on PBS, saying he merely wants to increase the network's audience.

From all the storm being raised about this issue, you would think PBS was giving the floor to Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.


It is a single show from the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board. In my area, my enlightened - always open to debate - public TV stations have the show on at the oh-so-convenient time of 6:00 AM, Saturday morning (the show formerly run by Bill Moyers, Frontline, The McNeil-Lehrer Report and the others are prime time productions).

Luckily, I have TiVo (which kicks ass, by the way) so I have seen it. The program is a very low key, low budget production, where four WSJ editors discuss the main issues of the day. Yes, they tend to lean conservative - in the same way that the urban perspectives show that follows it in the schedule leans liberal.

But if this show is "disturbing" and "deeply troubling" to liberals, than liberalism is truly dead.

Working philosophies welcome debate. People who have things figured out are eager to communicate to unbelievers. They do not throw pies or shout people down. Only people who feel their views cannot stand up to scrutiny try silly gimmicks like that.

For the record, PBS is still a useless anachronism - a costly liberal network broadcasting commercial-free programming to wealthy elites. Their typical audience member is more likely to drive a Lexus than take the bus - and these wealthy people want to watch their tasteful programming without commercial interruption. Regular rubes can sit throught the ads for toilet paper; these people have influence to insure that they don't have to.

There is no reason why our government needs to help run TV stations (or radio stations, for that matter). The meteor is hurtling toward this dinosaur, but in Washington, things change slowly. Usually, change is only made possible by economic realities. And those economic realities will not be running in PBS's favor.

The most telling moment that I have witnessed in this whole debate was a discussion between Morton Kondracke, Charles Krauthammer and NPR's Maura Laisson on Brit Hume's news show. Kondracke and Krauthammer assailed PBS from every perspective, and Maura Laisson - a generally good and fair-minded reporter who works for National Public Radio - did nothing but correct them on minor points. Even she could not rise to offer any kind of spirited defense for her employer, the "Corporation" for Public Broadcasting.

That doesn't bode well for the future of PBS.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Another dumb story from parenthood

I'm a serial kid teaser. I admit it.

The other day, I was getting my son's toothpaste. It was covered with pictures of Spongebob Squarepants. (Huh? You're one of those parents who would never let your kids get exposed to such things? Ohh, fuck off. There is no children's toothpaste that's not decorated with some cultural icon except "Tom's of Maine" - and I don't trust that shit at all. There is no new age substitute for fluoride.)

So anyways...I ask Sean: "What is this guy called? Dishrag Doug?"

Sean (very offended): "No Dad! That's Spongebob Squarepants!"

(At this point, it is important to point out that he has never seen "Spongebob Squarepants." He picked up everything he knows about this character from his miscreant peers at school.)

Dad (still clueless): "Huh. I thought it was Dishrag Doug."

Sean (getting mad): "Mom! Dad is calling my toothpaste "Dick-Rash Doug!"

Mom (horrified, to Dad): "You told him WHAT?!!"

Yep, that's me. I'm already teaching my four-year-old about STD's.


The Penis Monologues

Oh, college:
College administrators have been enthusiastic supporters Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues and schools across the nation celebrate “V-Day” (short for Vagina Day) every year. But when the College Republicans at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island rained on the celebrations of V-Day by inaugurating Penis Day and staging a satire called The Penis Monologues, the official reaction was horror. Two participating students, Monique Stuart and Andy Mainiero, have just received sharp letters of reprimand and have been placed on probation by the Office of Judicial Affairs. The costume of the P-Day “mascot” — a friendly looking “penis” named Testaclese, has been confiscated and is under lock and key in the office of the assistant dean of student affairs, John King.

The P-Day satirists are the first to admit that their initiative is tasteless and crude. But they rightly point out that V-Day is far more extreme. They are shocked that the administration has come down hard on their good-natured spoof, when all along it has been completely accommodating to the in-your-face vulgarity of the vagina activists.

V-Day has now replaced Valentine’s Day on more than 500 college campuses (including Catholic ones). The high point of the day is a performance of Ensler’s raunchy play, which consists of various women talking in graphic, and I mean graphic, terms about their intimate anatomy. The play is poisonously anti-male. Its only romantic scene, if you can call it that, takes place when a 24-year-old woman seduces a young girl (in the original version she was 13 years old, but in a more recent version is played as a 16-year-old.) The woman invites the girl into her car, takes her to her house, plies her with vodka, and seduces her. What might seem like a scene from a public-service kidnapping-prevention video shown to schoolchildren becomes, in Ensler’s play “a kind of heaven.”

The week before V-Day, the Roger Williams campus was plastered with flyers emblazoned with slogans such as “My Vagina is Flirty” and “My Vagina is Huggable.” There was a widely publicized “orgasm workshop.” On the day of the play, the V-warriors sold lollipops in the in the shape of–-guess what? Last year, the student union was flooded with questionnaires asking unsuspecting students questions like “What does your Vagina smell like?” None of this offended the administration or elicited any reprimands, probations, or confiscations.

The campus conservatives artfully (in the college sense of "artful") mimicked the V-Day campaign. They papered the school with flyers that said, “My penis is majestic” and “My penis is hilarious.” The caption on one handout read, “My Penis is studious.” It showed Testaclese reclining on a couch reading Michael Barone’s Hard America, Soft America. (nice touch. -JR)

“Testaclese” tipped the scales when he approached the university Provost, Edward J. Kavanagh, outside the student union. Apparently taking him/it for a giant mushroom, Provost Kavanagh cheerfully greeted him. But when Testaclese presented him with an honorary award as a campus “Penis Warrior,” the stunned official realized that it was no mushroom. After this incident, which was recorded on videotape, the promoters of P-Day were ordered to cease circulating their flyers and to keep Testaclese off campus grounds. Mindful of how school officers had never once protested any of the antics of Vagina warriors, the P-warriors did not comply. The Testaclese costume was then confiscated and formal charges followed.

Those crazy kids. Reminds me of my college days.

Once upon a time, I went to a very liberal college. Once, you see, I was a liberal (it's true!). Some friends and I started a underground paper parodying the campus administration and other institutions of the campus.

At this time, the weirdly-named "Womyn's Center" went on one of its strange crusades, a celebration of menstruation.


The weirdest aspect of this strange thing was a column in the school newspaper, written by one of the feminist radicals. She perceptively pointed out that menstruation was a uniquely feminine thing (well yeah...), that blood was a symbol of female independence or something and that the whole process should be glorified and public.

OK. Got it.

Yes, Men have nothing unique that they can do.

Oh but wait! Yes we do! We can pee standing up! We should be glorifying it! Not doing it behind restroom doors!

Aren't rules against outdoor pissing really techniques to supress obvious male dominance in this area?

If we weren't restrained by the chains of matriarchy, we'd be winning every distance pissing competition on campus!

Hands down!

And even "hands free!"

But Nurse Wratched doesn't think puddles of pee are all that sanitary! So we are forced to keep this skill private.

I penned a column that asked that question in our little newspaper. The feminists were furious with me. It was my first taste of the humorlessness of zealotry, but it would not be the last.

Go Testaclese! You are making an important point.


Johnny Dopeyseed

OK. Here's one of those things I've always wondered about...

Many people like to smoke marijuana. In fact they like to smoke marijuana so much that they are promoting clothing made out of hemp.

Yeah right.

Most people, I think, sense that this zeal for hemp comes not from their fondness for scratchy, crappy clothing. They have an ulterior motive: hemp plants are marijuana plants without the THC. In the hippie bong dream, hemp would be growing all over the place. This would confuse law enforcement ("No officer! These plants and grow lights are here because I'm trying to grow a sweater, Dude! I'm clean, honest!")

But why aren't they growing all over the place?

Marijuana is a weed. The young hooligans who loiter in my neighborhood (the infamous "Lee Circle Gang")even refer to it as "weed," or so I'm told.

Marijuana seeds have no THC, so they are no value to hippies. By casting them out of car windows and flinging them into the grass on coutry hikes, the whole country should be bursting with buds by now.

Where is the hippie version of Johnny Appleseed? Or Johnny Stonerseed? Is he too baked to remember to save his seeds?

I can't understand why this hasn't happened.

(For the record, I think we should legalize pot and tax the hell out of it.)

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Filibuster silliness

Sen. Barbara Boxer is a longtime opponent of judicial nomination filibusters. Or she was. Suddenly the light has dawned, and she realizes how wrong she was to oppose them: 'I thought I knew everything. I didn't get it. . . . I am here to say I was totally wrong.'

Other Democratic senators have had similar changes in belief: Joe Biden and Robert Byrd, Tom Harkin, Ted Kennedy, Joe Lieberman, Pat Leahy, Chuck Schumer and their erstwhile colleagues Lloyd Bentsen, and Tom Daschle have all vigorously opposed the use of the filibuster against judicial nominations. Mr. Schumer was for voting judicial nominations 'up or down' without delay. Mr. Leahy flatly opposed a filibuster against Clarence Thomas's Supreme Court nomination: 'The president and the nominee and all Americans deserve an up-or-down vote.' Mr. Harkin believed 'the filibuster rules are unconstitutional,' Mr. Daschle declared that 'democracy means majority rule, not minority gridlock,' and Mr. Kennedy that 'senators who believe in fairness will not let the minority of the Senate deny [the nominee] his vote by the entire Senate.'

But that was then, when Democrats controlled the Senate. Now, they are a frustrated minority and it is different. Mr. Leahy has voted against cloture to end filibusters 21 out of 26 times; Mr. Kennedy, 18 out of 23. Now all these Senators practice and defend the use of filibusters against judicial nominees.

The Democrats' problem?

It's not that their beliefs are too centrist or too liberal (well, maybe a little bit).

Their problem is that they don't really believe in anything.

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