Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Over the Rhine: Born

I've been listening to this band all morning:

Over the Rhine: Born

Walt Whitman: I See Something of God...

"I see something of God in each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then, In the face of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass, I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign'd by God's name, And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe'er I go Others will punctually come for ever and ever."
--Walt Whitman

Donald S. Lopez: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Tibet

7 Things You Didn't Know about Tibet
by Donald S. Lopez Jr.
author of Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West


3. Tibetans have never heard of their famous religious text The Tibetan Book of the Dead. What is known in the West by that title is a short Tibetan work, the Bardo Thodol, meaning "Liberation through Hearing in the Intermediate State." It is a mortuary text, read over a dead or dying person to help him or her escape from rebirth or, if that's not possible, to have a good rebirth in the next life. It is an example of a genre of similar texts used in one of the four sects of Tibetan Buddhism. It became the most famous Tibetan text in the West after Walter Wentz, a wealthy American Theosophist, traveled to India in the 1920s, and commissioned a translation. Wentz then added his own commentary, transforming the Tibetan mortuary text into a Theosophical treatise. The text has lived on through several reincarnations, including one by Timothy Leary that uses the Tibetan text as a "flight plan" for an acid trip. Leary's book (The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead) is best remembered for the line "Whenever in doubt, turn off your mind, relax, float downstream," which was lifted by John Lennon for the song "Tomorrow Never Knows" on the Beatles' 1966 album, Revolver.

To Read the Other Six

Michael Winerip: Study Great Ideas, but Teach to the Test

(Courtesy of George Micajah Phillips)

Study Great Ideas, but Teach to the Test
By Michael Winerip
New York Times

BECKY KARNES, a high school English teacher, recently completed a graduate-level writing course that she loved at Grand Valley State University.

"The course taught us better ways to teach writing to kids," said Ms. Karnes, a 16-year veteran who is finishing up her master's degree. "It showed you ways to stretch kids' minds. I learned so much, I had my eyes opened about how to teach writing."

Ms. Karnes learned all sorts of exercises to get children excited about writing, get them writing daily about what they care about and then show them how they can take one of those short, personal pieces and use it as the nucleus for a sophisticated, researched essay.

"We learned how to develop good writing from the inside, starting with calling the child's voice out," said Ms. Karnes, who got an A in the university course. "One of the major points was, good writing is good thinking. That's why writing formulas don't work. Formulas don't let kids think; they kill a lot of creativity in writing."

And so, when Ms. Karnes returns to Allendale High School to teach English this fall, she will use the new writing techniques she learned and abandon the standard five-paragraph essay formula. Right?

"Oh, no," said Ms. Karnes. "There's no time to do creative writing and develop authentic voice. That would take weeks and weeks. There are three essays on the state test and we start prepping right at the start of the year. We have to teach to the state test" (the Michigan Educational Assessment Program, known as MEAP).

"MEAP is not what writing is about, but it's what testing is about," Ms. Karnes said. "And we know if we teach them the five-paragraph essay formula, they'll pass that test. There's a lot of pressure to do well on MEAP. It makes the district seem good, helps real estate values."

In Michigan, there is added pressure. If students pass the state tests, they receive $2,500 college scholarships, and in Ms. Karnes's middle-class district, families need that money. "I can't see myself fighting against MEAP," she said. "It would hurt my students too much. It's a dilemma. It may not be the best writing, but it gets them the money."

In this fashion, the five-paragraph essay has become the law of the land: introductory paragraph; three supporting paragraphs, each with its own topic sentence as well as three supporting ideas; and summary paragraph

Students lose points for writing a one-sentence paragraph.

Many English teachers have developed a standard five-paragraph form with blanks to fill in.

Topic sentence:__________.

Literary example:_________.

Historical example:_________.

Current event:__________.

Concluding sentence:_________.

The National Council of Teachers of English has warned that standardized state tests mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind law, as well as the College Board's new SAT writing sample, are actually hurting the teaching of writing in this country. For their part, the makers of these tests emphasize that they don't mandate a writing formula, and they, too, say it would be a mistake if schools taught only by the formula.

But Nancy Patterson, the Grand Valley professor who offers the popular course for teachers here, says in the face of those tests, teachers cling to the formula and it spreads like kudzu. "A lot, particularly the younger ones, have been raised on the five-paragraph formula, and are insecure about their own writing," she said. "They drink up what we do here, but then go back to teach to the test. It shuts them down. It narrows the curriculum."

"If you give kids the formula to write an essay, you're taking away the very thinking that a writer engages in," she said. "Kids are less apt to develop a writer's thinking skills." And it is spreading downward. In preparation for the fourth-grade state writing test, she said, she sees third-grade teachers pressed to use the five-paragraph formula. A teacher in Dr. Patterson's class described her frustration over a practice essay test in her district asking third graders to "defend or refute from a patriotic standpoint" whether a friend should go to a Memorial Day parade. "For 9-year-olds?" said Dr. Patterson. "Defend or refute?"

Dr. Patterson has her teachers write in every class - something she did with her students during 29 years in the public schools. They draw maps of their neighborhoods, then write a story of something that happened there. They envision a character they'd like to create, make a paper doll of it, then pair up with another student and together write a story with the two characters interacting.

"You're teaching them narrative - how to tell stories that are dear to them," she said. She has them read good essays that start a hundred different ways - with a quote; a question; a simple declaration of a problem; a run-on sentence; a word or two. There are lessons on how a writer blows up an important moment and how to turn a personal piece of writing into a researched essay.

RECENTLY, Kristen Covelle, 24, has been going on interviews for English teaching jobs. She mentions exciting things she's learned from Dr. Patterson. "The interview will be going great," Ms. Covelle said, "and then MEAP will come up. They want to know will I teach to the test, that's what they're looking for. They asked how I feel about using "I" in writing. Would there ever be a case when "I" is appropriate in an essay. I knew the answer they want - you're not supposed to use it. But I couldn't say that. I said there could be times, you just can't close the door. They didn't say anything but it was definitely the low point of the interview."

Ms. Karnes isn't totally against the formula. "For kids struggling, if you can give them a formula and they fill in the blanks, some will pass the MEAP test who wouldn't otherwise," she said. "But it turns into a prison. It stops you from finding a kid's potential."

She loves the last month of school, when state tests are over, she said. Last spring she did lessons on poetry and writing short stories. "I found interests and talents in those kids I didn't know were there," she said. "It would have been nice to have a whole year to build on those things."

Article Link

From British Columbia's The Tyee:

Canada also emphasizes the test over the thinking, but China decides that Rote memorization kills creativity--who is making the right move?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Why Did Bush Wait Until Now To Act? Was His Vacation That Important?

Abby Normal sent me the August 30th front page of CNN with a howl of rage at the headline above the pictures of the devastation and misery in the Southern Gulf states:


Since it will change after today, here is what the headline said: "President Bush returning to Washington two days ahead of schedule to help oversee Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, White House announces. Details soon."

Kentucky Governor Fletcher Pardons Suspects in Ongoing Corruption Investigation

The democrats are unorganized and toothless in Kentucky, independents are too few to make an impact, and thus the republicans are running riot... mind you this republican governor is issuing these pardons in the midst of an ongoing corruption investigation by the State Attorney General!

(Courtesy of Illinois' Abby Normal and Bluegrass Report)

Fletcher Issues Blanket Pardons To All Involved (Except Himself) In Press Conference With Cheering Political Staff (Merit Employees Not Invited) Akin To Political Rally And Implies He Will Take The 5th Tomorrow Before The Grand Jury

The Pardons

Monday, August 29, 2005

ACLU reveals FBI labeled peace, affirmative action groups as 'terrorist' groups

Is the F.B.I., taking their cue from Bush adminstration abuses, seeking to return to the days when J. Edgar Hoover monitored and harassed peace activists and civil rights groups?

(Courtesy of Abby Normal)

ACLU reveals FBI labeled peace, affirmative action groups as 'terrorist' groups
Raw Story

The American Civil Liberties Union today released an FBI document that designates a Michigan-based peace group and an affirmative action advocacy group as potentially "involved in terrorist activities," RAW STORY has learned. The ACLU release follows.

The file was obtained through an ongoing nationwide ACLU effort seeking information on the FBI's use of Joint Terrorism Task Forces to engage in political surveillance.

"This document confirms our fears that federal and state counterterrorism officers have turned their attention to groups and individuals engaged in peaceful protest activities," said Ben Wizner, an ACLU staff attorney and counsel in a lawsuit seeking the release of additional FBI records. "When the FBI and local law enforcement identify affirmative action advocates as potential terrorists, every American has cause for concern."

To Read the Entire Report

Tempest Brews Over Quotes on Starbuck's Cups

The politically correct, far right continues its attempt to regulate (censor) all aspects of our society...

(Courtesy of Coffee House Studio)

Tempest Brews Over Quotes on Starbucks Cups

A sampling of contributions to Starbucks' "The Way I See It" promotion

Michael Medved, radio talk-show host "Americans spend an average of 29 hours a week watching television ... which means in a typical life span we devote 13 uninterrupted years to our TV sets! ... Cutting down just an hour a day would provide extra years of life — for music and family, exercise and reading, conversation and coffee."

Rita Golden Gelman, author, "Tales of a Female Nomad" ... "Without risk, nothing new ever happens. Without trust, fear creeps in. Without serendipity, there are no surprises."

Alice Randall, novelist and first black woman to write a No. 1 country song "Mother-love is not inevitable. The good mother is a great artist, ever creating beauty out of chaos."

Erykah Badu, musician "The wise healer endures the pain. Cry. Tears bring joy."

Nikki Giovanni, poet "Hot allusions. Metaphors over easy. Side order of rhythm. Message: If you want to be a poet you've got to eat right."

Jonah Goldberg, editor, National Review Online "Everywhere, unthinking mobs of 'independent thinkers' wield tired cliches like cudgels, pummeling those who dare question 'enlightened' dogma. ... Cliches begin arguments, they don't settle them."

J.A. Jance, crime novelist "When I began writing, the words that inspired me were these: 'A writer is someone who has written today.' If you want to be a writer, what's stopping you?"

Source: Starbucks

Some Questions About the Possibility of Changing Minds

-What prevents us from changing our opinions?
-Does debate truly encourage people to change their minds, or does it actually prevent the formation of new opinions?
-Can one look at the opinions of others accurately without looking closely at their own assumptions?
-What is the role of mainstream media in the formation of public opinion?
-Does it allow for people to change opinions or work against it?
-Is action necessary to prove an opinion has truly changed; is saying one has changed enough?
-Is violence an option in changing opinions?
-What effect does an absence of imaginative change have on the possibilities for agency?
-Does academia serve to foster or prevent the changing of minds?
-Does experience override education (or vice versa) in the formation of beliefs, values, and opinions?

Matt Taibbi: Problems With Our Polling Culture

48% for Taco Bell; 52% for Invading Iraq
By Matt Taibbi
Originally published in New York Press; repuplished at AlterNet

Did you know that polling is illegal in some countries? In Russia, published polls are not allowed before an election; the same is true in Nicaragua. In Belarus, polls are illegal in general -- but then again, so is everything else. Still, how interesting!

I think we take our survey freedoms for granted. Nothing else can explain the appallingly low quality of our polling. Polling in this country has degenerated almost entirely into a tool for describing consumer behavior, where the goal of almost every well-funded survey is to make a numerical determination about the strength of X product vs. Y product in the general marketplace.

The brand names might be Taco Bell and Jack in the Box, they might be Democrats and Republicans; the methodology is, to a degree at once damning and hilarious, exactly the same. Take a look at the press releases for two of the top two polls conducted by Zogby last week:

1. Coke Is It: Americans Choose Coca Cola over Pepsi by 47% to 28%; 'Real Thing' Leads Every Demographic; 'Choice of a New Generation' Unpopular With Younger Consumers -- New Zogby Consumer Profile Finding

2. No Bounce: Bush Job Approval Unchanged by War Speech; Question on Impeachment Shows Polarization of Nation; Americans Tired of Divisiveness in Congress -- Want Bi-Partisan Solutions -- New Zogby Poll

The degree to which polling methodology reflects the bias of the interested (and usually commissioning) parties is seldom noted when the polls are cited by reporters. For instance, pre-election polls are almost always presented in their, final, less embarrassing, airbrushed form -- e.g., 51 percent for Bush, 49 percent for Kerry -- when the actual numbers are more like 26-24 percent, if you include nonvoters.

Respondents, when quizzed, about, say, their favorite fast-food restaurant, are never asked the obvious cross-reference questions. Thus you never see press releases that read like this: "74 percent of Americans who cannot climb two flights of stairs without gasping for breath said that McDonald's was their favorite fast-food destination, while a surprising 47 percent of respondents who 'expect to be dead within weeks' said that the Wendy's Big Classic was their 'favorite sandwich.'"

Our prominent polling agencies almost never take it upon themselves to actually pose a new question. Instead, they almost always content themselves with recording the answers to a question that in some very public way has already been asked -- usually in the form of a choice presented by the media. Do you prefer Friends to Seinfeld? Is Michael Jackson guilty or innocent? Are you for or against the invasion of Iraq?

To Read the Entire Essay

Conflicting Messages From Iraq: Sunnis Reject New Iraq Constitution and Bush Hails New Iraq Constitution

(Courtesy of Seth Kahn)

Sunnis Reject Iraq's New Constitution

Bush Hails Iraqi Draft Constitution

Shiite factions clash as opposition mounts to the draft Iraqi constitution

Guess which one my local news reported tonight?

(Courtesy of Nick Lewis)

The Next Generation of Young Rich Kids Prepare to Lead Us Out of This Mess

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Responding to "Infuriating Incidences of Ignorance"

My colleague Mason sent me this link:

Infuriating Incidences of Ignorance


He seems to leave us sort of hanging in empty space in regards to the Palestinian alliance with the NAZI's... did they wave an olive branch at their border and welcome the NAZI's in or where they attacked or surrender out of fear? Well if that is the case we can add a good 20 countries to this list who collaborated with the NAZI's after being conquered... out of fear or out of lust for power (and only certain groups? generally?--see next pgph)

Plus, was it the ruling elites of Palestine that collaborated or was the blacksmith in the village also saying, you know this NAZI plan sounds very good? If it was the elites (those in power) well then this is part of a longer chain of elites working across national borders to collectively exploit/destroy their and other peoples.

I would agree with the last comment that he seems to be conflating history (something I am guilty of from time to time) ... and past injustices against your group still do not justify your present abuses/crimes/oppression against the descendents of the group that hurt you (if so there would be all kinds of legitimated ethnic massacres). This is why a bombing of everyday citizens is evil and why an occupation that seeks to demoralize and destroy a section of a (or entire) population is evil. They both only increase the hatred and continue the chain of violence. I commend Israel on recognizing this fact and I hope that their current actions will be a step in the right direction.

Yes, there is a long, cruel history of anti-semitism in the world. Likewise there have been many, many other examples of historical and continuing concerted acts of injustice, oppression, exploitation, abuse and genocide against many groups of peoples (of various designations, ethnicities, genders and sexualities).

For me the most powerful, progressive and positive Jewish thinkers/activists (at least in the context of work done in the US--my perspective in which I can claim some authority) have been those that recognized common cause with others and sought broader movements that moved beyond a solely Zionist, special people outlook (if you mark yourself off as God's chosen people, you are asking for trouble? in other words isn't this another cognitive assertion of cultural elitism--just not very successful?)



Saturday, August 27, 2005

Christopher Hichens on the Daily Show

(Courtesy of Ariadne)

If you are interested take a trip to Crooks and Liars to see how it turned out:

Christopher Hichens vs Jon Stewart

Michael Eric Dyson: Is Bill Cosby Right?

Its been a year since Bill Cosby's remarks to the NACCP about poor African-American's irresponsible behavior and lifestyles, emphasizing personal behavior/responsibility/consumption, with no comment about collective economic, social or political policies/responsibility.

Now Michael Eric Dyson, who from the beginning pointed out the problems with Bill Cosby's complaints, continues his critique in a new book:

MSNBC: Responding to a controversial debate about race in America

NPR: "Is Bill Cosby Right or Is the Black Middle Class Out of Touch?"

Michael Eric Dyson: Armed for the Class Wars

And others, in turn, critique Dyson's take on Cosby's speech:

Kay S. Hymowitz: Bill Cosby is Right

The World Socialist Web Site On Why They Defended Judith Miller

The World Socialist Web Site has been a consistent opponent of journalist Judith Miller, attacking her inconsistenicies in her writings for the New York Times and exposing her connections to the Bush White House. So many readers where surprised and angry when the WSWS publicly stated that Judith Miller should not be jailed for defending her source from the investigators in the Valerie Plame Case. Wasn't her anonymous source responsible for outing Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA operative in retaliation for her husband Joseph Wilson's opposition to the Bush plans for war with Iraq? Wouldn't forcing her to reveal this anonymous source ensure that justice is carried out?

WSWS publishes the responses of some of these very angry readers and then the author of the original statement, Patrick Martin, responds to their arguments... are your enemies worth defending for a higher cause? How far do your beliefs about rights and justice extend? Is it "just-us" or justice for everyone? What is at stake in the struggle between the Bush administration and the American press?

Why the WSWS Opposes the Jailing of Judith Miller--A Reply to Readers

Friday, August 26, 2005

Leah Samuels: A Degree of Security

I noticed when I was visiting the University of Kentucky this week that the military was out in full force recruiting students facing steep rises in their college admission/housing fees. Here is another form of recruitment in the face of Pell Grant cuts (a main form of funding for Community College students):

(Courtesy of Anna Froula)

A Degree of Security
by Leah Samuels
Originally published by ColorLines; reposted at AlterNet

Is the government training community college students for war?

Young, poor people of color who signed up with the U.S. military to get college money ended up fighting in Iraq. Meanwhile, their peers back home who take the community college route to higher education may also end up fighting the "war on terror."

Money problems for community colleges, as well as their students, are forcing both to buy into what can only be called "homeland security education." The federal government is offering colleges a way to survive and the students a way to get educated: money specifically earmarked for the war on terror.

This year's federal budget includes more than $4 billion for homeland security research and development. The Department of Homeland Security is offering $64 million directly to colleges and universities that will develop anti-terrorism programs.


There has been resistance to the growth of homeland security training at community colleges. In December 2004, students and faculty members at the New York's Borough of Manhattan Community College demanded that the school abandon plans for a certificate program in security management. They viewed it as an endorsement of the Bush administration's Department of Homeland Security. Members of student government leafleted an administrative meeting with a flyer titled, "Stop BMCC 'Homeland' Repression Program Now!" The flyer stated concerns that, among other things, a homeland security program at the college "will intimidate and drive away many present and potential students, especially immigrants."

Another concern is that students studying homeland security may not find jobs. In Michigan, Lansing Community College instructor Charles Bogle fears that community college students are being steered away from programs that will allow them more flexibility in their careers. "Michigan community colleges will no doubt have to get their own homeland security departments in order to compete," he wrote in 2003. "But what will our working class students do when, after having received a program degree or certificate in a defunct or saturated field, they are forced to compete with a graduate of a good liberal arts college for a job that requires an education rather than training?"

Students and activists can expect to see community colleges become the newest battlefield in the war on terror.

To Read the Entire Article

Julie Cart: Controversy Over Plans For Changes in U.S. Parks

In response to my posts about Banff (and here), my good friend JM told me to "remember the place because it might end up being the last pristine place in North America..."

Controversy Over Plans for Changes in U.S. Parks
By Julie Cart
L.A. Times

A series of proposed revisions of National Park policy has created a furor among present and former park officials who believe the changes would weaken protections of natural resources and wildlife while allowing an increase in commercial activity, snowmobiles and off-road vehicles.

National Park Service employees warn that the changes, which were proposed by the Department of the Interior and are undergoing a Park Service review, would fundamentally alter the agency's primary mission.

"They are changing the whole nature of who we are and what we have been," said J.T. Reynolds, superintendent of Death Valley National Park. "I hope the public understands that this is a threat to their heritage. It threatens the past, the present and the future. It's painful to see this."

The potential changes would allow cellphone towers and low-flying tour planes and would liberalize rules that prohibited mining, according to Bill Wade, former superintendent at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

Larry Whalon, chief of resource management at Mojave National Preserve, said the changes would take away managers' ability to use laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act to oppose new developments in parks.

Although Interior and the Park Service are free to change the service's management polices at any time, they have been amended only twice. The last time was in 2001.

Officials at the Park Service's Washington headquarters downplayed the significance of the proposed revisions, saying they were less a reflection of policy than an attempt to start a dialogue.

The changes are the brainchild of Paul Hoffman, who oversees the Park Service and was appointed deputy assistant secretary of the Interior in January 2002.

Hoffman came to the Park Service after serving as director of the Chamber of Commerce in Cody, Wyo. He had previously served as Wyoming state director for then-U.S. Rep. Dick Cheney from 1985 to 1989.

"Paul Hoffman had some initial suggestions and prompted us," said David Barna, a Park Service spokesman. "Paul Hoffman was playing devil's advocate. He was saying, 'Show us, the political appointees who make policy, why do you do things the way you do?' It was a starting point. We're a long way from that now. They have drafted a new raw draft."

The proposed changes, which have been in the drafting stage for two years, were leaked this week. About the same time, a group of 400 retired Park Service employees scheduled a news conference for today to announce a campaign to block the changes from taking effect.

To Read the Entire Story

Terry Tempest Williams on the necessity of open spaces in a democracy:

Engagement: What is the Meaning of Democracy?

Ground Truthing

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Campus Progress: The Federal Courts and the Classroom

Federal Courts and the Classroom: From censorship to drugs to evolution, ten ways that court decisions have affected students’ lives.
By Professor Jamin Raskin, American U. law school
Campus Progress

If you think that the Supreme Court and lower federal courts are irrelevant to your life as a student, guess again. With today’s confirmation of extremist right-wing judge Priscilla Owen, it is important to remember the stakes for students in federal judiciary nominations. Here are ten ways that federal judges dramatically shape the rights and experiences of young people in public high schools and universities.

1. Censorship of Student Newspapers. In 1988, the Supreme Court upheld a high school’s censorship of two articles in the school-sponsored student newspaper. One article was about teen pregnancy and how pregnant students struggle to keep up with their studies. The other was about the impact of parental divorce on students at school. Writing for the majority in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, Justice Byron White found that the censorship was “reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.” In dissent, Justice William Brennan, writing for himself and Justices Thurgood Marshall and Harry Blackmun, argued that the “mere fact of school sponsorship does not license” a regime of “thought control in the high school.” How far will the Supreme Court let high schools go in censoring and punishing the student press?

2. Drug Testing. In 1995, a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, citing safety and “role model” concerns, upheld a high school’s compulsory, random and suspicionless drug testing of student athletes. In 2002, in a bitterly divided 5-4 decision in Pottawatomie County v. Earls, Justice Clarence Thomas went a step further and found for the majority that schools could forcibly drug test all students in high school extracurricular activities. The theory was that this would deter kids from drug use. Why not just randomly drug test all students in that case? It could happen at a school near you.

3. Student Speech. When Mary Beth Tinker wore her black armband to protest the Vietnam War in 1965, she was suspended and told not to return to school until she took it off. Her parents went to the ACLU for help and, in 1969, the Supreme Court found that neither students nor teachers “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Students can express themselves so long as the speech is nonviolent and not disruptive of the educational process or violative of the rights of other students. But the Supreme Court has of late been taking big bites out of the Tinker principle, upholding discipline against students for “indecent” speech and allowing much greater censorship of speech in school contexts. Will the conservative courts reduce Tinker down to a shadow of itself?

4. Teenagers’ Abortion Rights. The Supreme Court has tolerated much greater state regulation of abortion where it affects the rights of teenagers. Thus, young women have to contend with parental notification and consent laws in many states. In parental consent states, pregnant teens in, for example, abusive homes who cannot obtain the consent of one of their parents must appear before a judge to ask permission to get an abortion. The Supreme Court just announced on May 23 that it would hear a case about a New Hampshire law that requires abortion providers to give parents 48 hours notice before an abortion unless the teen can get a judge to sign off or her life is at stake. The law makes no general exception for a girl’s health. How will the Supreme Court treat this law?

5. Prayer in Public Schools. Despite a lot of hype, the Supreme Court has never banned prayer in public schools. That is, as long as there are pop quizzes there will also be prayer in the public schools. What the Court banned, in 1962, was prayer in public schools organized and sponsored by teachers, principals and administrators. Yet, there have been continuing efforts to erode Jefferson’s “wall of separation” at school. In 1992, the Court had to specify that public high school graduation ceremonies are not the occasion for religious prayers by rabbis and priests. In 2000, the Court had to make the obvious point that the football field is part of the school and therefore not an appropriate place for officially-sponsored prayer. In all of these cases, conservative justices have argued for allowing religious prayer. In the current climate, the Establishment Clause is under fire again. Which judges will be deciding these issues?

6. The Ten Commandments at School. The Supreme Court just heard a pair of cases about the placement of the Ten Commandments on public property. Although it said back in 1980, in Stone v. Graham, that school systems could not post the Ten Commandments at the front of the class, this fairly obvious point is now deeply controversial. Many conservatives say that the Ten Commandments are not really religious! Who is going to make this call?

7. “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. The original Pledge of Allegiance, written in 1892 by radical Baptist minister Francis Bellamy, was designed to unify all Americans and did not mention God at all. Congress changed it in 1954 to send a message to the Soviet Union. A few years ago, the 9th circuit court of appeals in California, in an opinion written by a federal judge appointed by Richard Nixon, found that the recitation of the Pledge with the words “under God” was as religious as having kids say “under Krishna” or “under Christ” or “under Allah.” The Supreme Court tossed the case, Newdow v. United States Congress, out on technical grounds (Michael Newdow lacked standing because he was not the custodial parent of his daughter). The issue is still alive. Are we going to be one nation under the Constitution when we are at school?

8. Sexual Harassment. In 1999, in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, the Supreme Court found that schools can be held liable for student-on-student sexual harassment when teachers and officials know about it and are “deliberately indifferent” to the harassment. In this case, a girl was subjected to repeated groping and grabbing of her genitals and breasts as well as a stream of verbal abuse. Three justices—Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas—dissented, saying that the “girl who skips recess because she is teased by the boys is no different from the overweight child who skips gym class because the other children tease her about her size in the locker room; or the child who risks flunking out because he refuses to wear glasses to avoid the taunts of ‘four eyes. . .’” Basically, they were saying, grin and bear it. The students just have to accept the “teasing” and the schools are not responsible. Does unwanted groping of genitals count as basic schoolyard teasing? Which theory makes more sense for America’s students?

9. Corporal Punishment. In 1977, in a 5-4 decision called Ingraham v. Wright, the Supreme Court found that school systems can engage in reasonable corporal punishment, including the “paddling of students as a means of maintaining school discipline,” without violating the 8th Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment.” Many states still allow corporal punishment at public schools and there have been many severe injuries as a result. Should students really have no rights under the 8th Amendment?

10. Evolution and Creation. Up until now, the Supreme Court has held the line against constant efforts to drive the teaching of Darwin and evolution out of the public schools. The new trick is to insert “creation science” or “intelligent design” theory into science classes, mixing religion and science together into an incomprehensible stew. A district court in Georgia just got rid of a warning label that said evolution was “theory not a fact” that the Cobb County schools pasted on science books, saying that it violated the separation of church and state. What will the courts say about the resurgent efforts to substitute Creation-based “science” for the teaching of evolution?

Jamin B. Raskin is a professor of Constitutional Law at American University Washington College of Law and the bestselling author of Overruling Democracy and We the Students, a collection and analysis of all the most important Supreme Court decisions concerning the rights of students. Professor Raskin founded the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project, which sends law students into public high schools to teach a course on the rights and responsibilities of students.

Article Link

Lexington: Downtown Shakedown

(Courtesy of the Action Arts Collective)

This Thursday night August 25th is the 2nd installment of the "Downtown Shakedown."

The evening will start at 7pm with a FREE show in front of the Kentucky Theater featuring local favorites ?Bluegrass Collective? in the open air. Foxfire Hypnotica will perform Fire & Belly Dancing to the rhythms of Tripp Bratton on hand drums at 9pm, directly after the bluegrass music, 9:30 we hope everyone will join us inside the State Theater for more Tribal Drumming as Born Cross Eyed integrates with Tripp Bratton and the Belly Dancers for a tantalizing throw down. Born Cross Eyed will take over the stage after that and give you the all night Grateful Dead Ho down that you need for your soul. The inside show is only $6.

The lobby of the Theater will be filled with artists and interactive art for your visual stimulation all night long. Don't miss this exciting convergence of local art in downtown Lexington.

CFP: Smart Women in Current Popular Culture

(Courtesy of Virginia Blum)

Smart Women in Current Popular Culture: Call for Contributors to a New Forthcoming Anthology

For a new anthology on the depiction of intelligent women in the contemporary U. S. popular media (1980)-present), I am seeking essays that explore the complex and sometimes contradictory depictions of smart women in popular media. How are women's real lives influenced and shaped by depictions of smart women (or their opposites)? How do different popular genres depict intelligent women? Are these new depictions
progressive? How does popular culture depict smart women from different races, classes, and ethnic backgrounds? How is intelligence in women constituted differently than in men? The range of materials that could be addressed is vast: television shows, films, toys, video games, and comic books, to name just a few. Essays that adopt an interdisciplinary approach to their material are welcome, as are ones that discuss race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class. Essays should be lively, vibrant, and engaging; they should also be of broad interest to scholars in many academic disciplines from the humanities, including history, women's studies, English, American studies, Asian-American studies, and African-American studies. Articles should be 8,000 to 10,000 words (including notes and references); accompanying photographs are welcome. Inquiries are welcome. Please send completed article and curriculum vita by September 15, 2005, to Dr. Sherrie A. Inness, Department of English, 1601 University Boulevard, Miami University, Hamilton, Ohio 45011 (

This anthology will be edited by Sherrie A. Inness, Professor of English at Miami University. Inness is the author or editor of over a dozen books, including The Lesbian Menace: Ideology, Identity, and the Representation of Lesbian Life (University of Massachusetts Press, 1997); Delinquents and Debutantes: Twentieth-Century American Girls' Cultures (New York University Press, 1998); Tough Girls: Women Warriors and Wonder Women in Popular Culture (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999); Kitchen Culture in America: Popular Representations of Food, Gender, and Race (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001); Dinner Roles: American Women and
Culinary Culture (University of Iowa Press, 2001); and Action Chicks: New Images of Tough Women in Popular Culture (Palgrave, 2004).

Amy Goodman and a Cast of Thousands: More on Pat Robertson's Call to Assassinate Hugo Chavez

Please, if you have not heard Robertson's words yet please visit the link below and take a listen to the Democracy Now broadcast. Afterwards, I want to ask is whether Pat Robertson, a Christian fundamentalist, publicly calling for the death of a leader from another country, is exactly the same as an Islamist fundamentalist making an extremist threat concerning the US? Where is the difference?:

The Cannon of Christianity: Pat Robertson Calls for the Assassination of
Hugo Chavez
Democracy Now

Christian televangelist Pat Robertson set off an international firestorm this week when he called for the assassination of Venezuela's democratically-elected president Hugo Chavez. We speak with journalist and author Chris Hedges and attorney Michal Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.


Harry of Scratchings, via Oil Wars and Wealth Bondage, provides a link that demonstrates that Robertson is parroting ideas that are more carefully phrased by powerful American think tanks that seek the eradication of left-leaning governments (lets read between the lines):

Center calls for regime change in Venezuela

As a socialist I wonder what my neo-conservative rulers have planned for me once they finalize their revolution--will they line us up against the wall?


Chris Hedges' Losing Moses on the Freeway

Center for Constitutional Rights

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition of America, Urges Assassination of Venezualan President Hugo Chavez

Ooops, the mask slips...

(Courtesy of Melissa Purdue)

Robertson urges assassinating Chavez
ASSOCIATED PRESS, printed in the Lexington Herald-Leader

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson called yesterday for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, calling him a "terrific danger" to the United States.

Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition of America and a former presidential candidate, said on The 700 Club it was the United States' duty to stop Chavez from making Venezuela a "launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism."

Chavez has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of President Bush, accusing the United States of conspiring to topple his government and possibly backing plots to assassinate him. U.S. officials have called the accusations ridiculous.

"You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," Robertson said. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

Electronic pages and a message to a Robertson spokeswoman were not immediately returned Monday evening.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Don Hazen: Turning Up the Heat on Wal-Mart

Turning Up the Heat On Wal-Mart
by Don Hazen

With its stock gone flat and bad publicity in virtually every news cycle Wal-Mart is feeling pretty defensive these days. Among recent company missteps are fines and monetary settlements for hiring illegal immigrants and allowing underage employees to operate heavy machinery.

According to a recent article by AlterNet reporter Kelly Hearn, a more complete list of Wal-Mart's myriad transgressions includes "union busting, labor law violations, shipping jobs overseas, artificially suppressing wages, financial improprieties by a top corporate officer and links to a powerful Chinese businessman allegedly involved in the weapons-trading arm of the People's Liberation Army."

In the face of a steady drumbeat of bad publicity, the company has recently started spinning its PR wheels to cover its tracks. First, Wal-Mart broke a long-held tradition and invited the media to its Bentonville, Arkansas headquarters. The company has set up a new Web site that emphasizes its "positive impact on business." It has also shown sudden support for journalism schools, minority scholarships, and even -- gasp -- funding for NPR programming.

But Wal-Mart should prepare to dig much deeper into its PR budget, because its image is about to get much more tarnished.

Brave New Film

Robert Greenwald, the Hollywood producer/director-turned documentary filmmaker (2004's Outfoxed; Uncovered, 2003), is now aiming his investigative lens at Wal-Mart's gargantuan global empire.

Entire Hyperlinked Article

University of Texas Turns Undergraduate Library Into Cyber-Cafe

Semester started today and it was tiring. New campus, three back-to-back courses, in three different buildings, and don't have an office until tomorrow (although I got a rare solo office--no windows though). Working on the film society for my college and will post a list of films to have everyone peruse to refine my choices.

I was catching up on some news and came across another bad idea courtesy of Texas...

Christian Science Monitor: Academic Libraries Empty Stacks for Online Centers

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Steve Light: As $1 billion is earmarked for stadium, New York City teachers mark two years without a contract

As $1 billion is earmarked for stadium: New York City teachers mark two years without a contract
by Steve Light
World Socialist Web Site

As the political establishment in New York City remains firmly focused on the profit-driven scramble to build a stadium for the Jets football team—at the cost of $1 billion to taxpayers—the city’s 80,000 school teachers are marking the end of two years without a collective bargaining agreement.

While insisting that the city is too broke to afford any more funding for schools, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration is prepared to hand over massive subsidies and valuable Manhattan real estate to fellow billionaire and Jets owner Robert Wood “Woody” Johnson IV.

This is the reality of political and social relations in New York. The gap between the city’s overwhelmingly poor and working class population, on the one hand, and the world’s greatest concentration of multimillionaires and billionaires, on the other, has never been greater.

Public policy is determined by the interests of this wealthy elite, at the expense of the majority. The city is ending the current fiscal year this month with a $3.3 billion surplus, yet the Bloomberg administration is vowing no change in course from a fiscal policy based on budget austerity and tax cuts. Meanwhile, the trade union organizations that historically have claimed to represent the working class, including the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), have been reduced to impotence.

The lack of a teachers’ contract is only one of the symptoms of the abject neglect of the country’s largest public education system, situated in America’s wealthiest city.

The New York City schools system is failing. Its dropout rate has not dipped much below the most recent figure of 32 percent for 2001.

According to a 2005 City Department of Education (DOE) report following the class scheduled to leave high school in 2001, just over half of the students—52 percent—were able to graduate in four years. Graduation rates (including General Equivalency Diplomas [GEDs] achieved outside of school) rose to 63 percent in five years and 68 percent in seven years (when most had turned 21).

The Entire Article

The Detroit News: The Great Lakes, An Endangered Legacy

(Courtesy of Jeri Pollock who posted a link on the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, aka ASLE, listserv)

This is a huge archive of current reports on the Great Lakes environment. Essential reading for anyone interested in this region or environmental problems:

The Great Lakes: An Endangered Legacy

ACLU Freedom Files

Email announcement from Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. This sounds like a very important series, too bad it isn't on regular TV (just so that more people can see it), but with Robert Greenwald and Jeremy Kagan's involvement, it should get noticed.
Excerpted from the description of the show:

During [the] first week in September, The ACLU Freedom Files launches with the premiere episode "Beyond The Patriot Act." As the House and Senate versions of the Patriot Act go to conference to create a final bill to be presented to the President, "Beyond The Patriot Act" highlights the importance of this legislation and urges members of Congress to take the time to act sensibly and bring the law back in line with the Constitution by restoring proper checks and balances.

The ACLU Freedom Files will air the second Thursday of each month across the country at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and again at 8:00 p.m. on the West coast. Utilizing what Greenwald refers to as "moving media," the dynamic new series will use interviews, documentary, comedy, drama, music and animation to directly engage and alert viewers to the importance of the issues currently facing the American public. Greenwald serves as series executive producer and Jeremy Kagan as co-executive producer. Series topics will include the Patriot Act, the Supreme Court, free speech and dissent, religious freedom, gay and lesbian rights, drug policy, racial profiling, women's rights, and youth freedoms.

The ACLU Freedom Files will premiere on Link TV, the first nationwide television channel dedicated to providing Americans with global perspectives on news, events and culture. Link TV is available to over 26 million U.S. homes that receive direct broadcast satellite television through DIRECTV and DISH Network satellite services. The ACLU Freedom Files will also be broadcast on Zilo TV, the college television network that provides programming to over 5.5 million college students nationwide.

On the Web, The ACLU Freedom Files will foster a new kind of "information activism" with the launch of its website Like a DVD with extra features, the site will provide vital issue information for viewers, advocates and anyone who wants to learn more about civil liberties. It will also foster grassroots activism online and offline and educate teachers and students through curriculum guides and campus coordinator toolkits. The ACLU Freedom Files will also cultivate a grassroots network of podcasters, video bloggers and other web-savvy multimedia producers, to help pioneer new forms of "Do-It-Yourself" audio and video activism online.

Combining real stories and dynamic storytelling will create a powerful emotional effect that, Greenwald and Romero predict, will motivate viewers to action. Around each episode, the ACLU will hold screenings, house parties and events across the country. In addition, Zilo TV will produce and promote viewing parties featuring the series at select colleges and universities across the country.

DVDs of individual episodes of The ACLU Freedom Files will be made immediately available for purchase and information about each episode will also be available to the 1.2 million unique visitors to the ACLU website and more than 300,000 subscribers to its bi-weekly newsletter and Action Network alerts.

Rest of the ACLU Press Release

ACLU Freedom TV (includes trailers and schedule)

Link TV

DVD copies of individual shows are also available for 5 dollars (including shipping) and public showings are encouraged.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Heartland Review: 2005 Short-Short Fiction Contest and CFP for Fall 2005 Issue

The Heartland Review would like to announce our 2005 Short-short Fiction Prize

1st Place $175

2nd Place $100

3rd Place $75

and publication in The Heartland Review Fall 2005 issue. Submissions should be no longer than 1000 words, typed, and double-spaced. There is a $5 entry fee for each story.

Send cover page with name, address, and word count. Name and address should not appear on the stories themselves.

Submissions are juried blindly by THR’s Editorial Board.

Post-mark deadline for entries is August 26, 2005.

Winners will be announced in October and invited to read at the Morrison Gallery Poetry Series.

Send SASE for results.

Mail entries to:

The Heartland Review
2005 Short-short Fiction Prize
c/o Mick Kennedy
Elizabethtown Community & Technical College
600 College Street Road
Elizabethtown, KY 42701

For more information e-mail Mick Kennedy at or call (270) 706-8407

The Heartland Review: Call for Submissions fall 2005 Issue

The Heartland Review is a biannual digest-sized journal published with funding from the Kentucky Community & Technical College System. We are seeking original fiction, poetry, and black & white artwork and/or photography (no larger than 8 ½ x 14). The “best” artwork that depicts a natural setting will be awarded the cover. Writers/poets/artists should submit 3-5 poems (200 word limit); 3-5 pieces of art work/photos; 1-2 stories (3,000 word limit). Manuscripts must be typed and (except for poetry) double-spaced. Each submission should include biographical information on a cover page (name, address, phone #, E-mail optional). Name, etc. should not appear on the works themselves. If possible, please send work on a 3.5” disk in Word format along with hard copy. THR is not responsible for damaged disks. THR does not return submissions. Entries are juried blindly. Deadline (postmark) is August 26, 2005. Send a SASE for results with submissions to:

The Heartland Review
c/o Mick Kennedy, editor
600 College Street Road
Elizabethtown, KY 42701

For more information, call 270-706-8407 or e-mail Mick at

WUKY's Tom Godell and "The Writer's Almanac"

A few days ago I posted WUKY (Lexington, KY) Cancels Radio Program Over Offensive Content about the local Lexington public radio general manager's cowardly decision to pull the national literary radio show, The Writer's Almanac, because of its previous usage of the word "breast" (twice) and "get high" in poetry segments. The GM's excuse was that it "might" offend some listeners and lead to FCC fines?

Good news, this was in the latest issue of Charlie Hughes' Kentucky literary newsletter (Charlie is also the publisher of Wind publications):

WUKY-FM aka SNAFU-FM -- After ceasing the broadcasting of Garrison Keillor's Writers Almanac, allegedly for fear of FCC sanctions due to "raw" language, the University of Kentucky radio station reinstated the program following a storm of protest from listeners. And what were the offending words--- "breast" on two occasions, and "get high." After the fallout, Tom Godell, WUKY General Manager, offered reassurance that the station will no longer censor the word "breast," and that there are no plans to discontinue the broadcasting of Prairie Home Companion. The whole episode was an insult to the station's listeners and an embarrassment to the University perpetrated by a radio staff that failed to think before acting. It's %*@#*! stupid---a story I'd expect to find in The Onion.

I noticed that WUKY's Tom Godell in his wisdom has moved the show from 11am to 7pm to protect young innocents from the usage of the word "breast"...

CFP: Photography and Oppositional Politics in Post-War America

(Posted on the UPenn list-serv)

We are seeking essays for a multi-disciplinary edited collection on “Photography and Oppositional Politics in Post-War America.” While recent scholars lament the decline of documentary photography, (be it through Cold War repression or photojournalistic sublimation), we are interested in mapping the continued vitality of photography for imaging or organizing an oppositional politics. By exploring the politics of visual culture- photography as activist practice— this anthology aims to contribute to recent debate on social movements that stress the role of culture. Especially welcome are essays that explore the new political objectives and methodologies of oppositional movements in the post-war era. How do these shifts inform photographic practice? How, moreover, does photographic practice affect the culture of social movements? Possible topics include photography’s role in the Civil Rights, New Left, Feminist, Anti-Colonial, Anti-War and Nationalist movements.

Please send 500-word abstracts (or full papers) by 1 October 2005. If selected for inclusion, full papers (25-30 pages, including notes) DUE 15 JANUARY 2006. Questions about possible topics or approaches also welcome.


Thy Phu
Assistant Professor
English Dept.
University of Western Ontario

Tavis Smiley Show: Norm Stamper's Breaking Ranks

I saw this interview tonight on PBS. A must for anyone interested in a 30+ year police veteran's honest and illuminating discussion about the problems of policing in America.

Tavis Smiley Show

Tavis Smiley: Good evening from Los Angeles. I'm Tavis Smiley. Tonight, breaking through the blue wall of silence in America's police departments. A provocative new book written by the former police chief of Seattle exposes the dark side of American policing, a side rarely talked about by the men and women in uniform. Norm Stamper was a police officer for nearly 30 years in San Diego before becoming the top cop in Seattle. His new book is called “Breaking Rank.”

Listen/Read the Show/Transcript

Website for the book Breaking Rank

Excerpt from the book on AlterNet: War on Crime, Not Drugs

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Eminent Domain in Action, Part 5: A New (London) Low

Welcome to Bush's (un)compassionate, (non)conservative, corporate, controlling America...

(Courtesy of Harry from Scratchings)

A New (London) Low: The Kelo Seven prepares for the worst
by Jonathan O'Connell
Fairfield County Weekly

Those who believe in the adage "when it rains, it pours" might take the tale of the plaintiffs in Kelo v. New London as a cue to buy two of every animal and a load of ood from Home Depot. The U.S. Supreme Court recently found that the city's original seizure of private property was constitutional under the principal of eminent domain, and now New London is claiming that the affected homeowners were living on city land for the duration of the lawsuit and owe back rent. It's a new definition of chutzpah: Confiscate land and charge back rent for the years the owners fought confiscation.

In some cases, their debt could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Moreover, the homeowners are being offered buyouts based on the market rate as it was in 2000.

The hard rains started falling that year, when Matt Dery and his neighbors in Fort Trumbull learned that the city planned to replace their homes with a hotel, a conference center, offices and upscale housing that would complement the adjoining Pfizer Inc. research facility.

The city, citing eminent domain, condemned their homes, told them to move and began leveling surrounding houses. Dery and six of his neighbors fought the takeover, but five years later, on June 23, the downpour of misfortune continued as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the city could claim the property for economic development.

Dery owns four buildings on the project site, including his home and the birthplace and lifelong home of his 87-year-old mother, Wilhelmina. Dery plans to make every remaining effort to keep his land, but with few legal options remaining, he's planning for the worst.

And for good reason. It's reasonable to think that people who purchased property years ago (in some cases, decades ago) would be in a position to cash in, especially since they're being forced from their homes. But that's not the case.

The New London Development Corp., the semi-public organization hired by the city to facilitate the deal, is offering residents the market rate as it was in 2000, as state law requires. That rate pales in comparison to what the units are now worth, owing largely to the relentless housing bubble that has yet to burst.

"I can't replace what I have in this market for three times [the 2000 assessment]," says Dery, 48, who works as a home delivery sales manager for the New London Day . He soothes himself with humor: "It's a lot like what I like to do in the stock market: buy high and sell low."

And there are more storms on the horizon. In June 2004, NLDC sent the seven affected residents a letter indicating that after the completion of the case, the city would expect to receive retroactive "use and occupancy" payments (also known as "rent") from the residents.

In the letter, lawyers argued that because the takeover took place in 2000, the residents had been living on city property for nearly five years, and would therefore owe rent for the duration of their stay at the close of the trial. Any money made from tenantssome residents' only form of incomewould also have to be paid to the city.

With language seemingly lifted straight from The Goonies , NLDC's lawyers wrote, "We know your clients did not expect to live in city-owned property for free, or rent out that property and pocket the profits, if they ultimately lost the case." They warned that "this problem will only get worse with the passage of time," and that the city was prepared to sue for the money if need be.

A lawyer for the residents, Scott Bullock, responded to the letter on July 8, 2004, asserting that the NLDC had agreed to forgo rents as part of a pretrial agreement in which the residents in turn agreed to a hastened trial schedule. Bullock called the NLDC's effort at obtaining back rent "a new low."

"It seems like it is simply a desperate attempt by a nearly broke organization to try to come up with more funds to perpetuate its own existence," Bullock wrote. He vowed to respond to any lawsuit with another.

With the case nearly closed, the NLDC may soon make good on its promise to sue. Jeremy Paul, an associate UConn law dean who teaches property law, says it's not clear who might prevail in a legal battle over rent. "From a political standpoint, the city might be better off trying to reach some settlement with the homeowners," he says.

An NLDC estimate assessed Dery for $6,100 per month since the takeover, a debt of more than $300K. One of his neighbors, case namesake Susette Kelo, who owns a single-family house with her husband, learned she would owe in the ballpark of 57 grand. "I'd leave here broke," says Kelo. "I wouldn't have a home or any money to get one. I could probably get a large-size refrigerator box and live under the bridge."

That's one way to get out of the rain.

Article Link


Eminent Domain in Action, Part 4: Clear Springs Farm in Proposed Road's Path

Eminent Domain in Action, Part 3: Oakland, CA City Government Seizes Small Business Properties

Eminent Domain in Action, Part 2: Cleveland Suburb Supports Progressive Insurance Needs Over Individual Property Rights

Eminent Domain in Action, Part 1: New London, CT Working Class Residents Lose Supreme Court Case

Latest Monstrosity From Texas: Proposed Super Highway

300-400 ft Waterfall Discovered in Whiskeytown, California

Wes and I discussed this while floating down the Kentucky River yesterday, looking for a lost cave that Wes had found when he was younger. The discovery of this waterfall inspires me because it reminds me that there is still much in our environment that hasn't been mapped out and marked down, yet it also makes me sad because it is one less wonder that is hidden from civilization:

Finding a Waterfall in the Middle of Nowhere

Hidden Waterfall in California

Sunday, August 14, 2005

EPA: Green Vehicle Guide

For those that are thinking of making a purchase why not check out the environmental ratings for the vehicle/s:

Green Vehicle Guide

Eminent Domain in Action, Part 3: Clear Springs Farm in Proposed Road's Path

'Clear Springs' farm in proposed road's path: Author Bobbie Ann Mason Seeks Protection for Family Homestead
by Jim Warren
Lexington Herald-Leader Staff Writer

Mayfield Kentucky - Bobbie Ann Mason has written many books and stories describing the difficult and often painful adjustments imposed on folks in her native Western Kentucky by the rapid changes of modern society.

Now, the internationally known writer finds her family homeplace on the edge of this Graves County seat caught in the path of just such a piece of progress.

The Kentucky Department of Highways wants to reroute a stretch of the two-lane Macedonia Road that runs in front of the Mason family farm. The project would swallow part of the yard in front of the old farmhouse and eliminate one or more of the shade trees under which Mason sat and read as a child.

The new right-of-way would run within about 20 feet of the front porch and cut through a large field west of the farmhouse, which Mason's grandparents bought about 1920.

State officials say Mason isn't being treated any differently from anyone else affected by a highway project. The Mason family will be paid for the land, but Bobbie Ann Mason insists the issue isn't about money.

Never received notice

Mason lives in Anderson County with her husband, Roger Rawlings. But she, her sister, LaNelle Mason, and her brother, Don Mason, still own the family farm. Don Mason's son, Justin, 21, lives there.

Bobbie Ann Mason maintains that the family never received formal notice of the road project, saying she learned of it by accident about two years ago. But the family didn't become alarmed until blue right-of-way markers suddenly appeared on the property late last month, she said.

"My sister LaNelle went out to visit the farm and saw the stakes," Mason said. "Then, she frantically called me and said we had to do something."

Now, the family hopes to persuade state officials to change the road plan to keep the farm intact. Mason said they are contacting state legislators and have e-mailed senior state officials such as Commerce Secretary Jim Host and Education Secretary Virginia Fox.

Mason said Host advised her that acting Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert is looking into the matter.

State officials said yesterday that, at least for now, the farm doesn't qualify as historically or architecturally significant, which could offer some protection.

"I can fully appreciate where she's coming from," said Keith Todd, public information officer with the highway department's district office in Paducah. But Todd added that "just because somebody famous lives somewhere doesn't necessarily mean it's a historic site."

Blackberries and bypasses

Bobbie Ann Mason's grandparents originally occupied the farmhouse. But her own parents later lived there until they built a home of their own nearby, when she was about 5. Mason basically spent her childhood on the farm until she left for college and a writing life.

The farm, which now is inside the Mayfield city limits, is vividly described in Mason's non-fiction book, Clear Springs: A Memoir, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography in 2000.

Out-of-town visitors who have read the book still stop at the Mayfield Chamber of Commerce requesting directions to the farm.

Mason's other writings include novels, In Country, which became a movie, and Feather Crowns; short fiction, Shiloh and Other Stories; and biography, Elvis Presley. She is writer in residence at the University of Kentucky.

Bobbie Ann Mason and Don Mason gave a visitor a tour around the family farm Thursday, pointing out the smokehouse, the corn crib and the stable, which still contains their father's old Ford tractor. Bobbie Ann Mason pointed out Kress Creek, near the back of the farm, where she used to pick blackberries.

"By this time of day, I'd already be back from the berry patch," she said.

But times have changed.

"When my grandparents bought the farm, one reason they picked the location was because it was only a mile from town," she said. "Little did they realize ..."

Todd, the highway information officer, said the rerouting of Macedonia Road is an "incidental improvement," intended to provide a safer intersection of Macedonia Road and U.S. 45, which passes west of the Mason farm. It was authorized in 2000 and is part of a larger bypass project for the south side of Mayfield, he said. The projected cost is $11.2 million.

The state has offered to pay the Masons $3,700 for the three-tenths of an acre of their land that would be taken, but Bobbie Ann Mason said money is not the issue.

"If you have an expanded road coming right past the front porch, it's no longer the same farmhouse that was once such an idyllic setting," she said.

A few weeks or a few months

Mason said she learned about the Macedonia Road realignment about two years ago when she went to Mayfield City Hall to ask whether the south side bypass project might affect the rear of the Mason farm. While there, she noticed a map indicating that Macedonia Road would be rerouted in front of the farm.

Mason said she was told a state appraiser visited the property last summer and was supposed to have mailed the family all the details. If no owner could be found, the appraiser was supposed to post a notice on the property, she said. But no notice was seen, and the family received no letters, she insisted.

"None of the family heard of this," she said.

Now, she said, the highway department has indicated that property acquisition might have to be completed in a few weeks or a few months, although construction isn't scheduled to start until 2010.

The family's options might be limited.

Rebecca Turner, historical preservation coordinator with state Transportation Cabinet's department of analysis, said yesterday that a department review has concluded the Mason farmhouse couldn't qualify as architecturally significant. The house, built about 1916, has been altered too many times over the years, she said.

Meanwhile, David Morgan, historic preservation officer with the Kentucky Heritage Council, said the National Register of Historic Places rarely accepts properties associated with famous individuals who are still living.

Morgan noted, for example, that Kentucky author Jesse Stuart's W-Hollow Home in Greenup County wasn't listed until shortly after his death in 1984. And Morgan said that since the Macedonia Road realignment is a state highway project, national listing might not help anyway.

Still, Morgan said the heritage council would urge the state Transportation Cabinet to give the case all possible consideration.

"Obviously, Bobbie Ann Mason is a tremendously important person in literature and in Kentucky history," he said.

And Bobbie Ann Mason -- whose new novel, An Atomic Romance, is due out Aug. 23 -- isn't giving up.

"I know that eminent domain is the law of the land," she said. "But we think there should be some leniency here. It doesn't seem fair that they could just come in and take our front yard."

Article Link


Eminent Domain in Action, Part 3: Oakland, CA City Government Seizes Small Business Properties

Eminent Domain in Action, Part 2: Cleveland Suburb Supports Progressive Insurance Needs Over Individual Property Rights

Eminent Domain in Action, Part 1: New London, CT Working Class Residents Lose Supreme Court Case

Latest Monstrosity From Texas: Proposed Super Highway

Amy Schiller: Wal-Mart Thought Police

Where does neo-conservative politics, religous fanaticism, corporate censorship and patriarchal abuse all come together? Check no further than your local Wal-Mart ... this a great essay and the original full essay that this excerpt is from has links throughout... written by a Brandeis University student!

Wal-Mart Thought Police
by Amy Schiller
Campus Progress


As you have probably heard before, the “everyday low prices” at these concrete boxes of utopian consumption have tremendous costs for our environment, our workers, our wages, our communities, and the public coffers. But they also come at the expense of free speech and artistic expression, as the corporation targets items that often include edgy, progressive criticism of conservative values.

Based in Bentonville, AR, the brand behemoth has become the self-appointed culture police by effectively screening the music, books and magazines that many Americans will be able to access – since in a number of communities, a Wal-Mart is the only convenient store in the area that stocks culture products.

Take, for example, Wal-Mart’s refusal to sell Sheryl Crow’s self-titled album in 1996, citing objections to a lyric that criticized Wal-Mart for selling handguns (a practice that the chain has since discontinued), which they felt was “unfair and irresponsible.” Much as Crow probably appreciated the paternalistic advice, as the No. 1 CD retailer in the world (yes, the world) with sales accounting for 10% of total domestic CD sales, a Wal-Mart boycott can result in hundreds of thousands in lost album sales.

The record industry, never too proud to bend over for sales, has started issuing two versions of the same album, one “sanitized.” Sometimes this entails altering the cover art, as John Mellencamp was asked to do for his album Mr. Happy Go Lucky, whose cover featured an angel and devil in the background. Nirvana actually changed its song title from "Rape Me" to "Waif Me" for the Wal-Mart version. Both they and the Goo Goo Dolls came under fire for portraying babies in their cover art as well. The cover of the Goo Goo Dolls album titled “A Boy Named Goo” featured a baby covered in blackberry juice; Wal-Mart banned it and only reversed its decision under pressure from the media.

Wal-Mart’s official statement on music is as follows: “Wal-Mart will not stock music with parental guidance stickers. While Wal-Mart sets high standards, it would not be possible to eliminate every image, word or topic that an individual might find objectionable. And the goal is not to eliminate the need for parents to review the merchandise their children buy. The policy simply helps eliminate the most objectionable material from Wal-Mart’s shelves.”

Objectionable material like a book cover with a comedian posing with an American flag and a bald eagle? Actually, yes. The huge bestseller, America: the Book, featuring Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and the rest of the Daily Show crew, was banned from Wal-Mart in 2004. Granted, the company objected to the infamous page 99 featuring obviously photoshopped naked pictures of Supreme Court justices (just think, now we can all look at Justice O’Connor’s wrinkled, saggy flesh with great nostalgia.)

Stewart is not the only comedian with a book banned by Wal-Mart, though; a shipment of George Carlin’s When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops was returned, citing a mistake in ordering the book in the first place. A mistake which probably had nothing to do with Carlin’s cover of himself inserted into the Last Supper. Perhaps there is some legitimacy (however hysterical) to their objections to irreverent images. Yet the political bias inherent in Wal-Mart’s criteria became clearer when Wal-Mart’s merchandiser for films found Robert Greenwald’s acclaimed documentary, "Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War," (produced with the support of the Center for American Progress) “inappropriate for Wal-Mart.” For no conceivable reason could a documentary involving no gratuitous violence, expletives, or sex be inappropriate, other than its criticism of a conservative political administration.

Pathetically, the rationale for these items is that they “would not appeal to the majority of our customers” or would offend those proverbial family values. Fine, if they know their designated market and have complaints pouring in from their consumers. Except that those two books were both fixtures on the bestseller list for months and Sheryl Crow, Nirvana and the Goo Goo Dolls are top selling entertainers. And those items that are not religiously objectionable demonstrate the degree of hypocrisy within the “family values” standards.

Even something as potentially broadly appealing, positive, and utterly non-offensive as a T-shirt reading “Someday a woman will be president” was pulled from the sales floor because “the message goes against Wal-Mart family values.” So old school patriarchy and sexism are Wal-Mart values? Seems a little retrograde and moot in the age of “take your daughter to work day.”

Frighteningly and hypocritically, the family values red flag was absent for the notorious anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion , which describes a vast Jewish conspiracy to rule the world. Booksellers like Amazon that do offer it at least include a disclaimer that describes it as a "pernicious fraud," and "one of the most infamous, and tragically influential, examples of racist propaganda ever written." Wal-Mart’s site, in contrast, says "If … The Protocols are genuine (which can never be proven conclusively), it might cause some of us to keep a wary eye on world affairs." Yet another example of the cloak of “family values” serving as a euphemism for a more sinister ideology. (If the book actually featured a cover image of Jews milking children for blood, then would Wal-Mart ban it?)

Furthermore, ever wonder who is buying those oversize drink coasters also known as Ann Coulter or Bill O’Reilly’s perniciously partisan publications? Their publishers readily admit that Wal-Mart’s merchandising and promotion basically fueled their bestselling runs.

The crown jewel of Wal-Mart’s commercial triumph is the dystopic end of days series Left Behind. As reported in the New York Times, Tyndale House, publisher of the Left Behind series, credits Wal-Mart with a pivotal role in turning the evangelical thriller "Armageddon" (No. 11 in the Left Behind series) into the best-selling novel in the country. As Melani McAllister wrote in The Nation, “these novels work [because] they seamlessly integrate an apocalyptic religious view with a strongly conservative political vision, and locate both in a universe of supernatural action adventure in which good and evil are fully and finally revealed.” Left Behind books do not include any actual sex, except for when the faithful rail against abortion and immorality, though they include plenty of violence between good (evangelical warriors complete with fighter planes) and evil (the Antichrist fronting as a smooth-talking UN ambassador.) Granted, the Left Behind series is hardly comparable to Maxim, but really, though, it could be considered the equivalent of evangelical porn. Not to beat a dead metaphor, but they’re all about self-gratification and ultimate rapture. As many have noted, a lot of purchasers for right-wing screeds probably buy them for the element of fantasy and self-affirmation, particularly those who believe that the war in Iraq and conflict in Israel herald the impending end times.

Entire Linked Essay

National Security Archive: National Intelligence Estimates of the Nuclear Proliferation Problem, The First Ten Years, 1957-1967

National Intelligence Estimates of the Nuclear Proliferation Problem: The First Ten Years, 1957-1967
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 155
by William Burr
National Security Archive

Washington, D.C., June 1, 2005 - Recently declassified intelligence estimates from the 1950s and 1960s show that a minimal capability to produce two nuclear weapons a year would be a relatively inexpensive investment - $911 million in today's dollars - for a country that sought a nuclear weapons capability. Moreover, the U.S. intelligence community concluded that a country that sought a nuclear weapons capability for prestige reasons or to deter the United States would be difficult to stop even if nuclear test bans and a proliferation agreement were in place.

Beginning in the late 1950s, the U.S. intelligence community began preparing National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) on the problem of nuclear proliferation. This briefing book is the first ever publication of the first ten years of NIEs on nuclear proliferation obtained by the National Security Archive through FOIA and mandatory review requests. The failure last week of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference makes publication of the estimates especially timely. Besides the estimates themselves, it includes documents, obtained through archival research and FOIA requests, which shed light on the context for the production of the NIEs. Newly declassified documents show how NIEs were requested and produced, how they were followed up, the role of embassies in the estimating process, and the contributions of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) to the NIEs. Among the findings in this collection:

- a basic capability to build two nuclear weapons a year was relatively cheap; no more than $180 million in 1963 dollars (about $911.5 million in today’s dollars);

- in the late 1950s, intelligence analysts saw the spread of "nuclear know-how" around the world as creating widespread capabilities for "small scale" national nuclear weapons programs;

- countries sought nuclear weapons for "prestige" and "military effectiveness"; countries like China sought nuclear weapons as a "deterrent to the use of US nuclear weapons in the Far East";

- multilateral nonproliferation agreements and nuclear test bans could restrain national nuclear programs but could not stop a determined government from initiating a nuclear weapons program;

- estimates on Israeli potential found, in 1961, "considerable evidence" that Israel was "developing capabilities"; by 1966, analysts believed that Israel had "imported and stockpiled sufficient unsafeguarded uranium for a few weapons";

- by the mid-1960s, India appeared to be a likely candidate for nuclear status; if India took a nuclear course, analysts saw Pakistan likely to follow suit, with possible help from China;

- during the late 1950s, analysts saw France, China, West Germany, Japan, Sweden, and Israel as among the countries with the greatest potential to develop nuclear weapons, but that many faced domestic and international constraints on independent nuclear weapons programs;

- by the late 1950s and early 1960s, analysts worried that proliferation could "materially increase" the chance of world war and the risk of an "unintentional
or unauthorized detonation." The acquisition of nuclear weapons by "irresponsible" governments was another risk;

- a CIA report from 1975 shows concern about new "threshold states" including Iran, Libya, South Africa, and Taiwan acquiring nuclear capabilities as well as the threat of nuclear terrorism.

Link to Reports

Bobby Henderson: Open Letter to Kansas School Board

(Courtesy Davenetics)

"Open Letter to Kansas School Board"
Bobby Henderson, Concerned Citizen

I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design should be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

It is for this reason that I’m writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories. In fact, I will go so far as to say, if you do not agree to do this, we will be forced to proceed with legal action. I’m sure you see where we are coming from. If the Intelligent Design theory is not based on faith, but instead another scientific theory, as is claimed, then you must also allow our theory to be taught, as it is also based on science, not on faith.

Some find that hard to believe, so it may be helpful to tell you a little more about our beliefs. We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it. We have several lengthy volumes explaining all details of His power. Also, you may be surprised to hear that there are over 10 million of us, and growing. We tend to be very secretive, as many people claim our beliefs are not substantiated by observable evidence. What these people don’t understand is that He built the world to make us think the earth is older than it really is. For example, a scientist may perform a carbon-dating process on an artifact. He finds that approximately 75% of the Carbon-14 has decayed by electron emission to Nitrogen-14, and infers that this artifact is approximately 10,000 years old, as the half-life of Carbon-14 appears to be 5,730 years. But what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage. We have numerous texts that describe in detail how this can be possible and the reasons why He does this. He is of course invisible and can pass through normal matter with ease.

Rest of the letter, responses from the two board members with a sense of humor, many other letters, graphs, pictures...

Saturday, August 13, 2005

WUKY (Lexington, KY) Cancels Radio Program Over Offensive Content

Reactionary politics scares weak station manager at local public radio station. The words that were mentioned in two different episodes of The Writer's Almanac that led him to cancel the series: "breast" and "get high." One of my favorite shows, I listened to it many times last year driving in to teach and it would remind me of why I loved literature and reading and sharing my love of literature with others. It inspired me to read more and it transported me to a higher level of thinking. To general manager Tom Godell, you are a coward who shames the University of Kentucky through this gutless abdication of your community role as a public station that seeks to bring the best material it can to its listeners.

WUKY cancels radio program over offensive content
By Jamie Gumbrecht

A few weeks after The Boston Globe called The Writer’s Almanac radio program “a confection of poetry and history wrapped in the down comforter voice of producer and host Garrison Keillor,” WUKY-91.3 FM canceled the daily featurette for offensive content.

The five-minute segments aired on the University of Kentucky’s public radio station at 11 a.m. until Aug. 1. It opened with soft piano music and the voice of A Prairie Home Companion’s Keillor remembering major moments in writing history. It was a break for history between news broadcasts and pop music, each day ending with a poem and the wish to “be well, do good work and keep in touch.”

But in a time of Federal Communications Commission crackdowns on radio content, WUKY officials say, the poems Keillor read were too risky for airplay.

“I don’t question the artistic merit, but I have to question the language,” WUKY General Manager Tom Godell said. “It’s not that he’s behaving like Howard Stern, but the FCC has been so inconsistent, we don’t know where we stand. We could no longer risk a fine.”

Reaction to the cancellation has been minimal so far, Godell said. WUKY managers decided to stop carrying the Almanac after a recent spate of language advisories, although they were tracking the content for about a year, Godell said.

The warnings, issued by the program’s production company, came about Curse of the Cat Woman by Edward Field, which contained violent themes and the word “breast”; Thinking About the Past by Donald Justice, which also used the word “breast”; and Reunion by Amber Coverdale, which contained the phrase “get high.” The poems were scheduled for broadcast between July 23 and Aug. 12.

WUKY never heard complaints about The Writer’s Almanac because the station always edited potentially offensive language, Godell said. Prairie Home Productions and American Public Media, the segment’s producer and distributor, do not edit or select the content.

“It’s not a terrible burden to edit, but my concern is that something slips through,” Godell said. “We have certain standards of decency, and I expect our national producers to do the same thing.”

The station vigilantly checks song lyrics for offensive content, Godell said, and broadcasts with language advisories are carefully considered. If offensive language clarifies a story, it will be broadcast, especially when listeners can be warned first. But an FCC sanction would be an embarrassment to the station and the university, Godell said.

Keillor, who will perform Feb. 21 at Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts, said in an e-mail that stations are within their rights to cancel the Almanac but he’s proud of the poems he reads.

“There isn’t one of them I would hesitate to offer to any high school English class,” Keillor wrote. “The fact that someone is troubled by hearing the word ‘breast’ is interesting, but what are we supposed to do with A Visit From St. Nicholas and the ‘breast of the new fallen snow’? Should it become a shoulder or an elbow? I don’t think so.”

Public broadcasters have long had to edit gratuitous language, but meaningful language is worth a fight, said O. Leonard Press, the retired founding director of Kentucky Educational Television. If stations censor themselves, they might as well become jukeboxes, he said.

“The purpose of public broadcasting is not to be safe, but to be useful, good, to give people something to think about, something to grow on,” Press said. “Survival is not more important than being useful.”

Press, an ardent fan of Keillor’s writing and performing, called the cancellation an overreaction.

“If Garrison Keillor is less desirable on the airwaves than Desperate Housewives,” he said, “we’ve gone a far piece.”

Reach Jamie Gumbrecht at (859) 231-3238 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3238, or

Article Link


In other news check out our republican governor who promised to clean up the state capital: way to go Ernie!

Despotism; Banksy; Action; Freedom and Fascism

Check out this 1940s Encyclopedia Britannica documentary film on "Despotism" ... the big question is--would this be shown in our schools today? In the Post 9/11 Culture of quietism and patriotic intimidation this documentary gains new relevance for our contemporary society. How does your society rank?

Watch Despotism: Click on Stream Buttons to the Left of the Page (or save it)

Image by Banksy

And for those that have forgotten what the left's role would be in a corrupt system... a reminder from the 1940s:

Deadline For Action, Part 1

Its getting more and more difficult to combat the linguistic reductionism of important concepts so perhaps we should delineate what we mean when talk about freedom and fascism:

Eric Foner: The Story of American Freedom

First Amendment Center

Electronic Frontier Foundation

American Civil Liberties Union

Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press

FBI: Freedom of Information Privacy Act

International Freedom of Expression Exchange

Freedom of Expression at The National Endowment for the Arts

Wikipedia: Freedom

Perhaps it would be easier to do a negative definition--what is not freedom?

(Following images courtesy of a Sociological Tour Through Cyberspace)

"Fascism Anyone."
Laurence W. Britt
Free Inquiry 33.2 (Spring 2003)

For the purpose of this perspective, I will consider the following regimes: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’s Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia. To be sure, they constitute a mixed bag of national identities, cultures, developmental levels, and history. But they all followed the fascist or protofascist model in obtaining, expanding, and maintaining power. Further, all these regimes have been overthrown, so a more or less complete picture of their basic characteristics and abuses is possible.

Analysis of these seven regimes reveals fourteen common threads that link them in recognizable patterns of national behavior and abuse of power. These basic characteristics are more prevalent and intense in some regimes than in others, but they all share at least some level of similarity.

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy, was always obvious. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, and demands for unity were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.

2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. The regimes themselves viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite. Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial, and disinformation.

3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people’s attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions. The methods of choice—relentless propaganda and disinformation—were usually effective. Often the regimes would incite “spontaneous” acts against the target scapegoats, usually communists, socialists, liberals, Jews, ethnic and racial minorities, traditional national enemies, members of other religions, secularists, homosexuals, and “terrorists.” Active opponents of these regimes were inevitably labeled as terrorists and dealt with accordingly.

4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. Ruling elites always identified closely with the military and the industrial infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute. The military was seen as an expression of nationalism, and was used whenever possible to assert national goals, intimidate other nations, and increase the power and prestige of the ruling elite.

5. Rampant sexism. Beyond the simple fact that the political elite and the national culture were male-dominated, these regimes inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and also homophobic. These attitudes were usually codified in Draconian laws that enjoyed strong support by the orthodox religion of the country, thus lending the regime cover for its abuses.

6. A controlled mass media. Under some of the regimes, the mass media were under strict direct control and could be relied upon never to stray from the party line. Other regimes exercised more subtle power to ensure media orthodoxy. Methods included the control of licensing and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism, and implied threats. The leaders of the mass media were often politically compatible with the power elite. The result was usually success in keeping the general public unaware of the regimes’ excesses.

7. Obsession with national security. Inevitably, a national security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite. It was usually an instrument of oppression, operating in secret and beyond any constraints. Its actions were justified under the rubric of protecting “national security,” and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.

One Ring to Rule The All!

8. Religion and ruling elite tied together. Unlike communist regimes, the fascist and protofascist regimes were never proclaimed as godless by their opponents. In fact, most of the regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray themselves as militant defenders of that religion. The fact that the ruling elite’s behavior was incompatible with the precepts of the religion was generally swept under the rug. Propaganda kept up the illusion that the ruling elites were defenders of the faith and opponents of the “godless.” A perception was manufactured that opposing the power elite was tantamount to an attack on religion.

9. Power of corporations protected. Although the personal life of ordinary citizens was under strict control, the ability of large corporations to operate in relative freedom was not compromised. The ruling elite saw the corporate structure as a way to not only ensure military production (in developed states), but also as an additional means of social control. Members of the economic elite were often pampered by the political elite to ensure a continued mutuality of interests, especially in the repression of “have-not” citizens.

10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Since organized labor was seen as the one power center that could challenge the political hegemony of the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was inevitably crushed or made powerless. The poor formed an underclass, viewed with suspicion or outright contempt. Under some regimes, being poor was considered akin to a vice.

11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression associated with them were anathema to these regimes. Intellectual and academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and the patriotic ideal. Universities were tightly controlled; politically unreliable faculty harassed or eliminated. Unorthodox ideas or expressions of dissent were strongly attacked, silenced, or crushed. To these regimes, art and literature should serve the national interest or they had no right to exist.

12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Most of these regimes maintained Draconian systems of criminal justice with huge prison populations. The police were often glorified and had almost unchecked power, leading to rampant abuse. “Normal” and political crime were often merged into trumped-up criminal charges and sometimes used against political opponents of the regime. Fear, and hatred, of criminals or “traitors” was often promoted among the population as an excuse for more police power.

13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Those in business circles and close to the power elite often used their position to enrich themselves. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism. Members of the power elite were in a position to obtain vast wealth from other sources as well: for example, by stealing national resources. With the national security apparatus under control and the media muzzled, this corruption was largely unconstrained and not well understood by the general population.

14. Fraudulent elections. Elections in the form of plebiscites or public opinion polls were usually bogus. When actual elections with candidates were held, they would usually be perverted by the power elite to get the desired result. Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating and disenfranchising opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes, and, as a last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite.

Does any of this ring alarm bells? Of course not. After all, this is America, officially a democracy with the rule of law, a constitution, a free press, honest elections, and a well-informed public constantly being put on guard against evils. Historical comparisons like these are just exercises in verbal gymnastics. Maybe, maybe not.

Fascism Anyone

Have a good weekend ;)

Super Bush and Office Toilet images courtesy of Freedom Ads