Wednesday, March 02, 2011
You can find it at http://nopassa.com
The NCLB testing is ruining America's public education system. And it's really time to do something about it.
Sunday, December 06, 2009
We are officially in the Christmas spirit. St. Nicholas came last night, stuffing the shoes left by the door with small gifts and collecting the assorted lists, notes, and wishes from the kids. The countdown to Christmas has finally begun.
But it’s more than that. Yesterday, the boys burst into our bedroom at first light and ran to the window. “It’s snowing! It’s snowing!” they announced joyously. And so it was. The snow was light, but continued all through the day. By the time late afternoon rolled around, our county had been magically transformed into a proverbial Winter Wonderland.
Off we went to the boys’ winter recital, at the New Hope Lutheran Church near Spring Mills. The boys wore holiday sweaters, and the Christmas tunes on the car radio, combined with the snowy fields passing by, made us feel festive. At the church, we settled into our pew after the boys opened their cases in the back. A glance at the program confirmed they were slated early, fifth, and they sat quietly with their instruments in their laps, a bit nervous. When their time came, though, they walked right up to the front of the church. Their teacher, Mrs. Shannon Henry, tuned them with two piano notes, and they proceeded to play a trumpet/saxophone duet of “Jingle Bells,” gaining confidence as they went on. As they finished to applause, their parents were so proud of them.
After the last student performed, Mrs. Henry thanked everyone and announced, “Let’s eat!” A delicious feast, prepared and served church members, followed — roast beef, mashed potatoes, noodles, stuffing, vegetables in cheese sauce, all served family style and topped by cake and various kinds of pie. We all stuffed ourselves, sitting at long tables next to other families, the boys playing with the books and present bags Mrs. Henry gave her students, and we left with a warm glow. On the way back, we sang along to the radio, especially with Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” driving by illuminated houses toward our own. Back home, we wrote our lists for Saint Nicholas’ Day, stuck them in our shoes and curled up together, with a bowl of popcorn, to watch “The Grinch,” laughing with our favorite parts — all in all, a fine official start to our Christmas.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
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Monday, March 24, 2008
Thursday, September 14, 2006
ANDREW MIGA, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Democratic Sen. John Kerry, the party's 2004 presidential nominee, accused the Bush administration of pursuing a "cut and run" strategy in Afghanistan that has emboldened terrorists and made the U.S. less safe.
"The administration's Afghanistan policy defines cut and run," Kerry said in remarks at Howard University on Thursday. "Cut and run while the Taliban-led insurgency is running amok across entire regions of the country. Cut and run while Osama bin Laden and his henchmen hide and plot in a lawless no-man's land."
Saturday, August 12, 2006
The article is very long and only available online with a paid subscription, so I'll do my best to summarize Fallows' analysis below without quoting too much. I have posted a .pdf of the entire article here if you want to read the whole thing -- all 15 pages, and I strongly encourage everyone to do so. After reading this article, I can begin to see how the entire national conversation about Bush's "War on Terror" can be turned against him. My summary with extensive quotes and a few of my own thoughts below.
Fallows interviewed sixty experts ranging from the military and intelligence communities, as well as academics, members of think tanks and businesspeople, both American and foreign. They all told him basically the same thing.
In his overview, Fallows quotes David Kilcullen, an Australian military officer who commanded the counterinsurgency efforts in East Timor, and is now a senior counter terrorism advisor at the State Department. Kilcullen says that al-Qaeda today is actually a lot like
European anarchists in the nineteenth century. "If you add up everyone they personally killed, it came to maybe 2,000 people, which is not an existential threat." But one of their number assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. The act itself took the lives of two people. The unthinking response of European governments in effect started World War I. "So because of the reaction they provoked, they were able to kill millions of people and destroy a civilization.
"It is not the people al-Qaeda might kill that is the threat," he concluded. "Our reaction is what can cause the damage. It's al-Qaeda plus our response that creates the existential danger."
Since 9/11, this equation has worked in al-Qaeda's favor. That can be reversed.
The experts, both here and abroad, agree that al-Qaeda has essentially been neutered.
"Their command structure is gone, their Afghan sanctuary is gone, their ability to move around and hold meetings is gone, their financial and communications networks have been hit hard," says Seth Stodder, a former official in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Kilcullen says, "The al-Qaeda that existed in 2001 simply no longer exists. In 2001 it was a relatively centralized organization, with a planning hub, a propaganda hub, a leadership team, all within a narrow geographic area. All that is gone, because we destroyed it."
My own take on this: Yes we did that by going into Afganistan, a move that vritually everyone thought was the right move, including the first anti-war candidate, Howard Dean. The problem is that we left before the job was done to focus on Iraq. Many of Fallows experts say the same thing. Back to Fallows.
Although bin Laden has apparently been elevated to "Che Guevara-like symbolic status," he has become "a philosophy rather than an organization", according to Caleb Carr, author of the The Lessons of Terror. "It's like the difference between Marxism and Leninism, and they're back to just being Marx."
This is demonstrated by the shift to "self-starter groups," such as the ones responsible for the bombings in Madrid, Bali, London, and probably the latest group arrested in Britain. Many of the experts that Fallows interviewed said that
the shift to these successor groups has made it significantly harder for terrorists of any provenance to achieve what all of them would like: a "second 9/11," a large-scale attack on the U.S. mainland that would kill hundreds or thousands of people and terrorize hundreds of millions.
So we are all still in danger from these groups, but they are closer to Tim McVeigh than to bin Laden's al-Qaeda.
How much of this can the Department of Homeland Security take credit for. Not much as it turns out. According to Fallows,
The DHS now spends $42 billion a year on its vast range of activities, which include FEMA and other disaster-relief efforts, the Coast Guard, immigration, and border and customs operations. Of this, about $5 billion goes toward screening passengers at airports. The widely held view among security experts is that this airport spending is largely for show. Strengthened cockpit doors and a flying public that knows what happened on 9/11 mean that commercial airliners are highly unlikely to be used again as targeted flying bombs. "The inspection process is mostly security theater, to make people feel safe about flying,"says John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State and the author of a forthcoming book about the security-industrial complex.
In order for continuing terrorism to be effective, each attack must be bigger and more terrifying than the last. Otherwise the public will become desensitized. But nothing short of a nuclear attack will top 9/11. Obviously, then we would all be much safer if the major thrust of our efforts was on countering and controlling nuclear threats. One of the biggest mistakes, however, that Islamic terrorists have been making is thinking like terrorists, strange as this seems.
What they have done is to follow the terrorist's logic of steadily escalating the degree of carnage and violence--which has meant violating the guerrilla warrior's logic of bringing the civilian population to your side. This trade-off has not been so visible to Americans, because most of the carnage is in Iraq. There, insurgents have slaughtered civilians daily, before and after the death this spring of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. But since American troops are also assumed to be killing civilians, the anti-insurgent backlash is muddied.
My thoughts again: A damn good reason to bring our troops home as soon as we can. Fallows gives examples of this principle in action. The bombing in Jordan of three hotels killed sixty civilians -- Muslims, including 38 at a wedding. The result was to turn the Jordanian population and government against al-Qaeda and al-Zarqawi. Polls in Muslim countries show that while the majority are anti-American, there is little support for "al-Qaeda's advocacy of a puritanical Islamic state."
The greatest threat from terrorists now is the damage that they can cause us to inflict upon ourselves. Fallows says
most people I spoke with said that three kinds of American reaction--the war in Iraq, the economic consequences of willy-nilly spending on security, and the erosion of America's moral authority--were responsible for such strength as al-Qaeda now maintained.
Me again. In other words, the ongoing "War on Terror" is far more damaging to the United States than al-Qaeda could ever be. Our military is bogged down in an unending/unendable war. Vast amounts of money have been squandered, wasted, and outright stolen by companies with no-bid contracts to rebuild Iraq (which they haven't done), as well as by the Dept. of Homeland Security which is incapable of doing anything in an emergency (Katrina) except hold press conferences. In fact Fallows says that, "nearly all (experts) emphasized the haphazard, wasteful, and sometimes self-defeating nature of the DHS's approach." But the worst is that we have lost our moral authority in the world.
The United States is so powerful militarily that by its very nature it represents a threat to every other nation on earth. The only country that could theoretically destroy every single other country is the United States. The only way we can say that the U.S. is not a threat is by looking at intent, and that depends on moral authority. If you're not sure the United States is going to do the right thing, you can't trust it with that power, so you begin thinking, How can I balance it off and find other alliances to protect myself?
Every time we overreact, we strengthen the terrorists. Although the article was written before the latest arrests in Britain, our government's reaction is exactly what bin Laden hopes for. Mindless and meaningless increases in airport security costing more money and further undermining our ability to move freely and easily.
Four analysts--Mueller, of Ohio State; Lustick, of the University of Pennsylvania; plus Veronique de Rugy, of the American Enterprise Institute; and Benjamin Friedman, of MIT--have written extensively about the mindlessness and perverse effects of much homeland-security spending. In most cases, they argue, money dabbed out for a security fence here and a screening machine there would be far better spent on robust emergency-response systems. No matter how much they spend, state and federal authorities cannot possibly protect every place from every threat. But they could come close to ensuring that if things were to go wrong, relief and repair would be there fast.
Fallows talks about the effects of the perpetuation of a constant state of war to create a constant level of fear. Mueller writes that "the creation of insecurity, fear, anxiety, hysteria, and overreaction is central for terrorists."
We will probably always be the target of attacks, attacks on the scale of Oklahoma City, the Unabomer, the Tylenol poisonings, the D.C. area snipers, the anthrax mailing, school shootings, and so on. But we need to stop looking at attacks by Islamic al-Qaeda wannabes as part of a "global war" and start dealing with them like we dealt with the above. When we link every attack or attempted attack or plotted attack as stemming from al-Qaeda, we only strengthen bin Laden's reputation.
Every parent knows that sometimes the best way to deal with misbehavior is to ignore it. Fallows suggests something similar. Not that we should ignore the al-Qaeda wannabes, but neither should we overreact. Overreacting just gives the terrorists what they want.
Instead we should declare victory in the War on Terror, and start implementing strategies that will actually make us all safer. Such as focusing on the threat of loose nukes. Such as resuming our search for bin Laden. Such as focusing more resources on securing Afghanistan. Such as doing what we can to improve our image in the Muslim world.
After American troops brought ships, cargo planes, and helicopters loaded with supplies for tsunami victims, the overall Indonesian attitude toward the United States was still negative, but some 79 percent of Indonesians said that their opinion of America had improved because of the relief effort. There was a similar turnaround in Pakistan after U.S. troops helped feed and rescue villagers affected by a major earthquake. But in most of the Muslim world, the image of American troops is that of soldiers or marines manning counterinsurgency patrols, not delivering food and water. "The diplomatic component of the war on terror has been neglected so long, it's practically vestigial," a Marine officer told me. "It needs to be regrown."
Mostly, however, Fallows believes that we need a leader who will "keep the dangers in perspective." Unlike the ones we have now, who use every incident really or manufactured, as an excuse to spend more money, increase the level of fear, and undermine our basic rights and freedoms.
And my final thoughts: Of course they use every incident to try to increase the level of fear, since that is how they hope to stay in power. We must find a simple way to explain all this and to make it clear that Bush's "War on Terror" is not only being used as political manipulation, but it is actually increasing our danger from terrorists. Or so it seems to me.
Friday, October 28, 2005
God Bless Us Everyone.
Sunday, September 04, 2005
In St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, just south of New Orleans, victims of the hurricane are still waiting for food and water and for buses to escape the floodwaters, Melancon said. And for the entire time Bush was in the state, the congressman said, a ban on helicopter flights further stalled the delivery of food and supplies.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
-- Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004.
For more on how the War in Iraq cost us New Orleans
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING ON JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS
We respect the diligent, conscientious efforts, to date, rendered to the Senate by Majority Leader Frist and Democratic Leader Reid. This memorandum confirms an understanding among the signatories, based upon mutual trust and confidence, related to pending and future judicial nominations in the 109th Congress.
This memorandum is in two parts. Part I relates to the currently pending judicial nominees; Part II relates to subsequent individual nominations to be made by the President and to be acted upon by the Senate’s Judiciary Committee.
We have agreed to the following:
Part I: Commitments on Pending Judicial Nominations
A. Votes for Certain Nominees. We will vote to invoke cloture on the following judicial nominees: Janice Rogers Brown (D.C. Circuit), William Pryor (11th Circuit), and Priscilla Owen (5th Circuit).
B. Status of Other Nominees. Signatories make no commitment to vote for or against cloture on the following judicial nominees: William Myers (9th Circuit) and Henry Saad (6th Circuit).
Part II: Commitments for Future Nominations
A. Future Nominations. Signatories will exercise their responsibilities under the Advice and Consent Clause of the United States Constitution in good faith. Nominees should only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances, and each signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgment in determining whether such circumstances exist.
B. Rules Changes. In light of the spirit and continuing commitments made in this agreement, we commit to oppose the rules changes in the 109th Congress, which we understand to be any amendment to or interpretation of the Rules of the Senate that would force a vote on a judicial nomination by means other than unanimous consent or Rule XXII.
We believe that, under Article II, Section 2, of the United States Constitution, the word “Advice” speaks to consultation between the Senate and the President with regard to the use of the President’s power to make nominations. We encourage the Executive branch of government to consult with members of the Senate, both Democratic and Republican, prior to submitting a judicial nomination to the Senate for consideration.
Such a return to the early practices of our government may well serve to reduce the rancor that unfortunately accompanies the advice and consent process in the Senate.
We firmly believe this agreement is consistent with the traditions of the United States Senate that we as Senators seek to uphold.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Very pleasant trip, indeed. the biggest news is that I'm pregnant again. Baby is due at the end of the year. We will offiically be outnumbered. Everyone is hoping for a girl, even though everything I have already is for boys.