“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

ag-r sponsors hate speech

Over at TalkAmarillo, the official Amarillo Globe-Republican-sponsored bulletin board, "unkown" continues to call Cindy Sheehan a "bitch" over and over and over. Sometimes he softens his language to "bit*ch" (seriously) when, I guess, his mother is reading over his shoulder as he posts.

Personally, I'm offended more by his utter lack of creativity than by his potty mouth:

UNKOWN: "Cindy Sheehan, the bit*ch is back."
SANE PERSON: Uh, can you dial that back a bit? She lost her son. Also, you're using demeaning, sexist language.
UNKOWN: "To [sic] strong a word? Then use the following: A mallicious [sic], selfish, difficult, unpleasant, complaining woman."
SANE PERSON: Can we talk about the issues?
UNKOWN: bitchbitchbitchbitchbitch

Until yesterday, almost every other thread on TalkAmarillo had been started by "Unkown" and condemned Sheehan as a "bitch". Most of these threads have been removed, but not all (lesson learned: start screen-shooting TalkAmarillo). I did not notice a significant difference in the content of the removed posts from the posts that the administrator left. This suggests two things to me:

  1. The Amarillo Globe-Republican is taking responsbility for the content of TalkAmarillo, but:
  2. The AG-R does not have a problem with Cindy Sheehan being referred to as a "bitch"; they just would rather not see that word too often. In other words the problem, for the AG-R is quantitative, not qualitative.
But of course the local paper approves of such language, as long as it's directed toward anti-war citizens. And if it offends you that "Unkown" uses such language, just remember: he's not the only one.


Question War - If you don't, who will?

Didn't have time to write Installment III of Sheehan's Stand. Instead, for those of you who missed it, here is the column I wrote for the Globe-News, published on 8/29.


Guest Column: It's time to bring our sons and daughters home

On Aug. 17, 50 people gathered in the gazebo at Memorial Park. They lit candles, spoke in subdued voices, drew into a circle.

It was a quiet, respectful candlelight vigil; not a demonstration, not a rally. Its purpose was clearly stated - to stand with Cindy Sheehan, the mother trying to learn for what "noble cause" her son Casey had died.

After 15 minutes of silent contemplation, I invited attendees to speak their hearts. Strong anti-war sentiments were offered. Heartfelt yearnings for peace were expressed. Comments were respectful and supportive toward the men and women asked to fight this war.

It was my place, and honor, to meet and speak with Jean and Dave Ries, who lost their only child in Iraq on Nov. 8, 2004. I asked them if they would like to speak. They declined, but at the end of the vigil chose to share their son David's story. Many people talked with them, some with hugs and tears. The Ries' presence was very much appreciated and respected.

As I listened and watched, I realized how we most respond to a human story. That's what Cindy Sheehan and her simple mother's question touched, which inspired 100,000 people to stand with her. And it was the Ries' story that added poignancy and reality to Amarillo's vigil.

Each human heart tries to make sense of loss in its own way. Weave together the stories of bereaved mothers and fathers, orphans and widows, mangled bodies and shattered minds and the cries of thousands, and we hold in our arms the shroud of a larger tragedy our collective heart struggles to understand.

Here is my heart's humble and broken reaction to this sad tapestry. The war should not have happened. Too great a price has been paid and nothing gained. It must stop. Now.

Getting out of Iraq now does not make meaningless the sacrifice of American troops. They answered duty as asked, as they pledged to do. I believe that most acted as honorably, as bravely and as morally as possible in a very bad situation in which they should never have been sent.

Look at where we are now. Almost all the predictions, decisions or actions made to wage war on Iraq proved wrong. We can only begin to write the end of this story by ending the war, supporting our sons and daughters by bringing them home alive, and then set to the task of healing them and our country.

For this, we should all light a candle and say a prayer.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Report from Crawford II

The white Ford F250 pickup gunned its engine, slowed down, gunned again as people hustled out of the way. Especially dangerous were the oversized side mirrors that stuck out from the truck almost at head level. It was about 7 in the morning. People were stirring, stretching, wandering toward the portapotties, brushing teeth and hair, shaving, greeting each other and the morning in the uninhibited way of a family starting the day. The truck driver appeared to be local. Maybe he lived down the road. I don't know. His disdain for us was clear, and his recklessness disconcerting.

The sun rose very red and it wasn't long before you could feel the heat and sweat started beading on your skin. We moseyed down to the triangle where Lee McElroy from Bisbee, Arizona, was serving breakfast for Food Not Bombs. Her gritty brew was in the best Texas camp coffee tradition. Thick slices of multigrain bread and coarse-ground peanut butter, pumpkin bread and oatmeal raisin cookies were laid out, free for the eating. A pallet with stacks of sacks of rice, potatoes and boxes of organic fruit and vegetables was next to her kitchen tent, ready to be turned into marching grub for the peace troops.

Folks milled around, visiting, eating, sharing stories from the day before and anticipations of what would take place at the rally and barbecue scheduled for the big tent at Camp Casey II. Several vehicles with War People drove up, realized where they were and executed three or four point turns trying to get out as fast as possible. My favorite was a Suburban with "Bush Knows Best" on the tailgate window, a great cultural reference to the 50s sitcom "Father Knows Best". Maybe there is something to George Lakoff's family theory. Another one declared "Osama Says: Thank You Cindy". Considering the excellent terrorist field laboratory that Iraq has become, and the ample opportunities for terrorist recruitment and training, thanks should actually go to George Bush. 'Course, these decent, patriotic War Folks are so darn humble - it's not like them to brag on the president like that.

We now entered into the state of grace known as waiting in line, a zen practice that would either lead you to enlightenment or insanity. We would soon have ample opportunity to practice - queing for shuttle vans, portapotties, and food lines. Few minded, and conversations were light, witty, pleasant, and interesting. Even though folks didn't agree on everything (like what was the young woman wearing a "Hilary In 2008" t-shirt thinking?), no one wanted argument or discord or to lose the focus of the Casey movement: For what noble cause did the 1900 die? And we were reminded also, again and again, that our practice was non-confrontation with the War People. Our tactic was to ignore them. Easy enough.

All shuttles hubbed at the Peace House in Crawford. We finally made it there, and waited until another shuttle for Camp Casey II loaded us up. It was a 15 mile drive through mostly pasture country, remnants of the old Blackland tall grass prairie, country squire ranchettes, some modest, some ostentatious. Abundant rains had turned the landscape green, and ratcheted the humidity to keep up with the rising temperature.

Just past a picturesque country church ("Bush's photo op church" a passenger quipped), a road bore east barracaded with a Secret Service checkpoint, leading to Bush's bike ranch. Next to it on the corner - Camp Casey II, a 1-acre patch of prairie offered by local hero Fred Mattlage, dominated by a massive tent that looks a little like Denver Airport with 8 peaked center poles, covering a quarter of an acre. Support tents and awnings surrounded it: headquarters, medic area, free speech tent, veteran's tent, a chapel, a shrine to the fallen, refrigerated trucks, a line of portapotties, kitchen tent.

Two hundred named crosses were arrayed at the entrance to the camp, adorned with flowers, candles, and boots. This has always been the focus of the Camp Casey movement, what Cindy Sheehan returns to, and what has become the unassailable strength of the movement.

All the noble causes have proved false. William Rivers Pitt explains Bush's stay-the-course, do-it-for-the-fallen justification for adding more crosses this way, "...because so many American soldiers have been killed, we have to keep sending American soldiers to get killed as a means of honoring the American soldiers who have been killed."

That head-spinning equation is what Cindy Sheehan wants to banish. And its why the thousands were showing up at Camp Casey II on this torrid and steamy Texas day.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Report from Crawford I

I spent the weekend at Camp Casey, along with a couple thousand other peace activists in solidarity with Cindy Sheehan. I'll post what I experienced in several installments. Photos will follow. Until then, check out this great collection of photos.

Also, visit Meet With Cindy, truthout's One Mother's Stand, and the Waco Tribune for good coverage, audio, video and more photos.


We arrived at the Peace House in Crawford at 10:30 Friday night. It was still buzzing with activity - registering arrivees like my son and me, people scurrying in and out of the house on missions, folks directing traffic, filling shuttle vans to Camp Casey I and II. I got my first inkling of the scale of the Camp Casey movement when we walked by a large moving van filled with pallets of bottled water. An army marches on its stomach, but it looked like we would wage peace with Ozarka water.

One's expectations rarely match reality, and the first casuality was my expectation of a massive tent city. No, they told us, only staff and organizers are staying at Fred Mattlage's 1-acre pasture called Camp Casey II. We were directed to Camp Casey I, where Cindy Sheehan originally drew the line and challenged Bush to meet with her and tell her for what noble cause her son died. They said prepare to sleep in the ditch. That was fine by me. It's where Cindy first made her stand.

Across the railroad tracks that bisect Crawford, we entered pro-war territory. We drove past a flatbed trailer with a large Libery Bell flanked by two huge tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. It's a very strange juxtaposition, meaning what? That American freedom is based on the commandments? Or that there is no separation of church (represented by the tablets) and state (the liberty bell)? Or maybe that they smoke really good s*&^ in Crawford? I concluded it mostly was an example of Texas-size kitsch, suitable for super-sized mantles or along side parade floats that feature a Jesus vs. Mohammed square-off.

We drove through thick still muggy air, the road winding darkly, trees right up to the side of the road. Wonderful damp night smells that reminded me of eastern Nebraska. Then, a few signs, posted in front of country squire mini-estates, little MacRanches with gates and big fences, Suburbans and Excursions in the drives, that told us this was still a pro-war zone.

Rounding a bend, another strange juxtaposition greeted us. On the left,lit by small solar-powered lights and candles in brown bags and stretching as far as my headlights reached, white crosses filled the ditch. It was Arlington South, 800 crosses, crescents and stars with the names of the fallen Americans on them. In the right ditch opposite the crosses, a snaking line of campaign-style yard signs, "Bush Country", "IM4W" and "Support The Troops" trailed off to the edge of my lowbeams. This was the entrance to Camp Casey I where Cindy's supporters were camped, and Camp [Un]Reality, where Bush War People stayed.

The crosses honored the dead, poignant in their simplicity, disturbing in their numbers, powerful and saddening. Across the road, the War People, choosing the cult of personality, celebrated the one man responsible for the crosses. The names of the dead looked across the asphalt to the name of the one who sent them to their deaths. I could hear what they were asking. It sent a shiver through me.

At a fork in the road a triangle, maybe a hundred feet on each side, like a No Man's Land, separated Camp Casey on the left and Camp [Un]Reality on the right, with two sheriff's cruisers parked in it. A half dozen War People sat under red, white and blue christmas lights surrounded by signboards. We bore left and a man greeted us dressed in desert fatigues, and directed us further down the lane. We rolled slowly through this strange village. Folks were strolling or in small groups huddled together. A diverse collection of tents, signs, flags, banners and vehicles stretched down the road, pitched and planted and parked in the ditches either side.

At the end, more than a half mile down the lane, a voice in the dark greeted us.

"Hey, Volvo. What year?"

"87" I answered.

"Ours too. This can be the Volvo camp. Just make sure you pull all the way off the road."

So we did, into the shoulder-high Johnson grass. We met and visited with our new neighbors, Paul and Lisa and their son, from outside Houston, and Cree and Bob from Galveston. We pitched tent, set up our camp chairs and then at last felt in full the weariness of the long drive, the oppressive humidity, the chiggers gnawing at our ankles, the constant sweat oozing from our skin, and above us the near-unbearable beauty of the stars.

Suddenly, coyotes erupted in full chorus from the pasture across the road, then behind us, now in surround sound, wild chortling, sharp-toothed barks and cries and yips. Down the twin ribbons of tents people laughed or howled back, and then we all settled into quiet, only the distant thump of a helicopter pulsing the thick air.

You Say You Want A Constitution?

Well, you know, we all want to change the world.

We are told that the new draft Iraqi consitution is the new noble purpose for which now 1,877 and counting young Americans have died. This is to say nothing of the Iraqis. But, as Middle East expert Juan Cole points out in his August 29 post, the document merits at best a grade of "incomplete". It is only "finished" in that they have stopped negotiating about it, and will probably vote today to put it to a popular referendum in October.

Given the way it was accomplished (by essentially giving up on convincing the Sunni negotiators), it seems impossible that the Sunni population will now vote to accept it (which, according to their interim law, they must). Even if, through intimidation or deception, it is formally adopted, the failure to gain acceptance by even accomodationist Sunnis means that it will not bring peace.

The document as written simply delays decisions on the really hard problems of federalism and the fate of the Baath Party. Its internal inconsistencies could well render the guarantees of civil liberties moot. If the constitution is not adopted, the only bandaid holding the country together will be American troops, who are widely despised.

So, you say you want a constitution? Well, you know you better free your mind instead.


Saturday, August 27, 2005

MAF Accomplishes Little in Amarillo

The following first-hand account of the pro-war caravan's (Move America Forward) stop in Amarillo was provided by Mavis Belisle, director of the Peace Farm. I have edited it, but have hopefully retained all the meaning.

The caravan arrived in Amarillo around 6 p.m. local time, about 2 hours later than planned because of a "gps malfunction" (they tried to head west from Albuquerque instead of east). They stopped east of town at the "Flying J" truck stop at I-40 and Airport Blvd. After time for the travelers to have a meal, they set up shop in the parking lot. There were about 40 people present, but several of those were clearly local, so our estimate is that about 25 people were actually traveling in the caravan. Among the local folks recognized at the event was a couple, Dave and Jean Ries, who also last week attended a candlelight vigil in support of Cindy Sheehan. The event began about 7 p.m., with a scratchy recording of "God Bless America." A bagpiper followed, though we have no report as to what he played. This was followed by some short speeches by parents of soldiers killed in Iraq. The only media observed at the event was a local tv station (KVII, ABC affiliate). Because of the time of their arrival, the story only played on the 10 p.m. broadcast. After their Amarillo stop, the MAF caravan proceded to Ft. Worth and Dallas for Friday events, after which they were scheduled to arrive in Crawford on Saturday to attempt to counter the action at Camp Casey.

In contrast, a local group, including some PTSers, called Question War Amarillo, staged a rally Thursday afternoon at about the time that MAF had intended to be here, supporting the question that Cindy Sheehan has asked: "For what noble purpose did my son die?" KVII also covered that event, and put about a one-minute segment on their 6 p.m. broadcast that was almost entirely dedicated to the Question War demonstration and included about 30 seconds of Amarillo resident Rick Todd describing his reasons for demonstrating. In the 10 p.m. broadcast, the presentation was more balanced. In addition to this coverage, MAF did succeed in getting an advance story published Wednesday in the Amarillo-Globe Republican. While prodigal son points out in a previous post that the article was balanced, it was hardly objective, in that it failed to point out who MAF really is.

All in all, I'd say that while local progressive activists could work to have more rapid response to such events, on balance Question War was more effective, at least in Amarillo, than was MAF. Score one for the good guys!


Thursday, August 25, 2005

This Vet Knows What Bush is Feeding Him!

Click HERE

The Conservative "Anti-Veteran's Family Movement": An Ongoing Series

UPDATE 8:30 AM: Read Cindy's latest post on dailykos. HERE

Then tell me that she does not support the troops or love her country like MAF implies.


So the "hate veteran's families first" crowd will (possibly) roll into town at 4pm today.

High five to the Globe-Republican's Greg Cunningham for a very well-balanced article on the Move America Forward Cindy Sheehan hater's bus tour 2005. Rare for that RNC rag.

Who is the group? A bunch of spontaneous grass roots Bush supporters? Uh . . . nope.

MAF was thought up by a Sacramento, CA. public relations firm headed by a vile Republican character assassin with BIG ties to the RNC. Sal Russo.

It was organized to have the appearance of a grass roots campaign for the recall that put Der Gropenfhurer in the Guv mansion. HERE

Who is the Melanie Morgan in the picture? A right wing wannabe Laura 'the unloved' Ingraham clone. Media Matters has pegged her on her lies and disinformation. HERE

I wonder if the parents of the dead soldiers riding with them know anything about the history of this group that showed the Swift Boat liars how to get up and running to smear a decorated war hero.

MAF has called Nancy Pelosi, "One of the worst examples of a 'Domestic Enemy' . . ." to give one example.

They TRIED to get an anti-Farhenheit 9/11 movement going that failed to get ONE theater owner to cancel the showing of that movie.

MAF has been an astroturf sham from day one. They are the equivalent to modern patriot police. . . brownshirts are a more apt description.

Keith Olberman has these thugs' number HERE
(Thanks to Crooks and Liars)

The parents touring with them are grieving. Our fight is not with them. When they say that Cindy Sheehan does not speak for them, remember . . . she never has said she speaks for anyone but herself and Casey, who is dead and cannot speak for himself. HERE

She, a taxpayer, a citizen, someone whom BUSH IS AN EMPLOYEE OF . . . wants an answer to her question . . . what is the 'noble cause' her son died for.

Sounds pretty reasonable to us at PTS.

-Panhandle Truth Squad

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

who's gonna tell you when / it's too late / who's gonna tell you things aren't so great / who's gonna drive you home / tonight

Just in time for the fall semester at West Texas A&M, with the hordes of students commuting from Amarillo to Canyon and trying to get to class in six-and-a-half minutes.


The "Cindy Sheehan is a Lying B**ch" Bus Tour

Locals like to say that everyone in America passes through Amarillo, but nobody stops. (I got the I-40 blues...). Well, here's a group that has made Amarillo a destination, if only for a couple hours. Not that we should be welcoming this bunch with open arms.

OK. They call it the "Cindy, you don't speak for me" tour. Funny, doesn't that turn of phrase sound somehow familiar? Ya, the Republican spin cycle has been cranked into high gear in the desperate attempt to somehow change the subject from what John Stewart months ago presciently called "Mess o' Potamia."

The group, called Move America Forward, has "spontaneously" organized a group of pro-war parents of Iraq KIA's to tour the country, ending up in Crawford in a few days. They started off their tour yesterday (Monday) in Cindy Sheehan's home town, Vacaville, California. The AP filed this story, which seems to describe a group of folks who are just upset with Sheehan's message. But a little investigation reveals that, according to sourcewatch.org, Move America Forward is a wholly-owned creature of a Republican-connected public relations firm, Russo, Marsh and Rogers.

At their web site, Move America Forward provides a very professional itinerary for its spontaneous bus tour, complete with visits to local newspapers and tv stations along the route. They have also done their advance homework, contacting local media well in advance. Not exactly what you'd expect from jus' a bunch o' momz an' dadz with good hearts. The Amarillo Peace Farm received an inquiry today from a Globe-Republican reporter, requesting comment on this group, because (you guessed it, you sly dog) Amarillo is on their schedule. The itinerary is open to change, which is standard operating procedure for a professional political operation.

This phony baloney outfit is scheduled, as of this writing, to be in Amarillo late this Thursday, August 25, for what is billed as a "media appearance" from 4-6 p.m. Flash protesters, get ready. Let's give 'em a nice, polite but firm Panhandle welcome. We don't yet know exactly where they will appear, though a good guess is either in front of the Globe-Republican building or at one of the tv stations. Keep your eyes on this space for updated information. Meanwhile, a few nice, handmade signs with slogans like "Support the troops; bring them home" or "Stop Changing the Subject, George" or just "Speak To Her" would be appropriate.

It's time to get up from the keyboard and do something real, folks. It's important to be considerate, as some of these folks really did lose their kid, and those soldiers, marines and airmen deserve nothing but our deepest respect. But those who whipped the parents up into a fervor and sponsored this trip are Republican operatives who don't care who they use to prop up their ugly little war. If we let them pass without notice, we are shirking our duty as citizens.


Monday, August 22, 2005

Who Beat up Dave and Jean?

UPDATE: Wanna check out Cindy Sheehan yourself? GO HERE

An interesting apologetic LTE from Dave and Jean Ries in the paper today got me thinking.

They apparently attended the candlelight vigil Aug. 17th. in support of Cindy Sheehan. Their names were in the paper, with a pic of their car.

The LTE says that they were unaware of some things about the vigil . . .
1. That it was an anti-war rally.
2. That Cindy Sheehan said Bush was a "murderer".

They go on to apologize to, " . . . families of all fallen soldiers, all military families, active military personnel, our friends, co-workers, supporters, President Bush — and our son, who was killed in Iraq."

I wonder, can anyone shed some light on the Amarillo vigil? Anyone there? Was it an anti-war rally?

Futher . . . why apologize at all? They could have been there just to support Cindy. They have the right. ALL citizens have the g-damn right.

Furthermore, who told her it was an anti-war rally?

Further-furthermore, who told her what Cindy has said? Is it accurate?

Dunno . . . just sounds like they got sh*t-hammered by the angry right. Maybe at work, maybe in the neighborhood. The letter parroted MANY rethug talking points about Cindy and the anti-war movement.

These are grieving parents. They have paid the ultimate price. Leave 'em alone to do whatever they want.

PTS'ers, This shows how righties honor the families of troops. They beat them over the head with their "support the troops" ribbons.

Lastly . . . so frikkin' what if the rally WAS anti-war? What do you hyper-Christian WASP Republicans have against peace? Wasn't Jesus the "Prince of peace"?

-Prodigal Son

Dave Henry "Hearts" John Roberts

In this morning's Globe-Republican, Dave Henry the "Ghost Writer" comes right out and speaks truth.

"We aren't necessarily interested in the extensive digging into the background of U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, which includes everything but a DNA test."

"However, there is one aspect of Roberts' past that makes him a qualified candidate for the highest court in the land. Back in the 1980s, Roberts told Michael Jackson to beat it."


Yes, Democracy lovers everywhere, where to begin with this utter insult to the intelligence of Panhandlans?

Shorter Dave Henry:

'We' (Whoever the hell that is) don't really have an interest in any questions (Hey, isn't the AG-R a paper? anyhoo . . .) involving a potential nominee to the highest court in the land for a lifetime appointment, which apparently DOES means FOR LIFE or at least until someone notices the decaying form behind the bench.

No questions allowed about his disregard for your right to privacy. HERE

No questions allowed about affirmative action files missing from the national archives AFTER the Bushistas reviewed 'em. HERE

No big deal that he was a deputy for uber political asassin Ken Starr. HERE

No big deal that he told congress that he does not know if he is a member of the Federalist Society, but the Wash. Post found him on the leadership directory?! HERE

No biggie that he is a supporter of Operation Rescue? HERE

Never mind that he has said that Roe vs. Wade was "Wrongly Decided". HERE

Never mind that Roberts told tortured Iraq war vets (first one) who sued for reparations to kiss off. HERE

Nope, Roberts suggested that Reagan not write a letter in support of Michael Jackson. DING! DING! QUALIFIED!

But I have a question . . . is the AG-R still a frikkin' "Newspaper"? Why not lay out the facts and let the good people of the panhandle decide DAVE?

The above took me about 1 hour TOTAL to find on the internets, (Thanks to dkosopeidia, NYTimes, Wash Post, etc.)

-Prodigal Son

Saturday, August 20, 2005

What Is Conservatism?

I was cleaning up my bookmarks this morning and I happened across this link:
What Is Conservatism And What Is Wrong With It?

I remember reading this essay around election time last year. IMHO it is probably the clearest description of conservatism I've read. I may have posted it before, I don't recall.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

We are now getting almost 100 page views a day now. Wow!

A year ago we got 4/day. That is some serious growth, and so our vast editorial, research, and support staff wanna say . . . THANK YOU!

PTS beats up pretty hard on the Amarillo Globe-Republican, anyone out there want to start bustin' loose on the Lubbock Avalanche-Republican?

Send an email to: panhandletruthsquad@yahoo.com

Just a post 1X a week reporting on the righty stuff in that paper is all we need.

Also we need some great ideas on how to expand around the panhandle. Speak up in comments or email us.

-Panhandle Truth Squad

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Bell Weather

Chris Bell formally announced his candidacy for Governor of Texas last Sunday in Austin. I couldn't make the 20-hour round trip, and I doubt you could either, so here is the speech he delivered.

Those of you who were able to hear Chris last month when he was in Amarillo will recognize some of the lines of thought, but he has clearly refined his message and placed it in the context of a plan for governing. Bell has demonstrated that he is unafraid to speak plainly and take on entrenched interests, like insurance companies. He has tailored his message as one of competence and common sense problem solving.

There certainly are those who simply don't believe in common sense, and they'll be voting for Rick Perry. There are those who would like change, but labor under the illusion that they can have it while voting for a Republican. If not before, they will be disabused of that notion come primary time. There are also those who are so desperate for change that they'll throw in their lot with an itinerant musician who has offered only a few dirty jokes, instead of concrete solutions. As for Democrats, I have yet to see another candidate who has provided any reason to think they will either win or stand for anything. Therefore, as of this writing, I'm with Chris Bell.
I urge you to join me in giving Chris the boost that he needs to be competitive.

Read Chris' speech, and then jog right on over to his web site and contribute. It's not about a few people giving hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's about hundreds of thousands of people giving a few dollars each. It's up to us.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

candlelight vigil for cindy sheehan

Mavis Belisle of the Peace Farm has organized a candlelight vigil in coordination with the MoveOn.org campaign to support Cindy Sheehan. It will be at the gazebo in Memorial Park in Amarillo (Washington St. south of Amarillo College), beginning at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. If you can come, please click here to sign up. Feel free to bring signs of support, but keep them to the subject of ending the war in Iraq and support for the troops.

so much for that

My district gave us a good pay raise on their own this year, so I have nothing to complain about, right? Still . . .

A number of my colleagues in other districts received no raise or lower-than-usual raises. A lot of teachers commute, so that hurts when gas prices are what they are. A major irritant here is that legislators talked so much about giving teachers a raise during the thirteen bazillion special sessions. Than the teacher raise was disappeared from the bill at the very last minute. As a result, I'll bet you anything that the average citizen thinks we got a big raise this year from the state.

And the districts that did give teacher raises on their own-- and, probably, the districts that didn't-- based their actions on a belief that the state would probably end up giving all teachers a raise.

Love feeling appreciated. Love it. Be a good time for all you homeschoolers to get back on here and bash us some more.


Chuckles Aplenty

Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory

life is very short, and there’s no time

for fussing and fighting, my friend
I have always thought that it’s a crime
so I will ask you once again
try to see it my way . . .

If you need to do something to improve the health of your heart and/or your blood pressure, here are two hints:

  1. Eat a high-fiber diet
  2. Don't read talkamarillo.com
The chat bulletin board for the Amarillo Globe-Republican is a Llano Estacado Free Republic. It has traditionally been populated largely by the wingnuttiest of them all. A few brave progressives attempt to represent, but their efforts are largely futile. For their trouble, they are abused, harassed, and even banned from the board. (I'm serious; although this practice appears to have subsided some, I tried a series of experiments a while back in which I logged on to talkamarillo and posted liberal commentary. I took care to be very polite and abide by all rules. I was banned, over&over&over. And I'm not the only one.) They don't treat their trolls so nice over there.

The talkamarillo administrator can't keep us from lurking, however. What follows is some of what I found on a recent foray into the Belly of the Beast.
  • "unkown": (sic) Cindy Sheehan surely has better things to do
  • "west-texan": Dumb Liberals just don't ever get it. Her son VOLUNTEERED for military duty.She is only making herself look very bad and dumb by whining and acting childishly.She needs to act like a brave adult and accept and honor her son's volunteer choices and sacrifices in life, like the other families have, rather than making a nut-case spectacle of herself.From what I read, she and the rest of the nuts are going to be arrested for trespassing and creating a public nuisance . . . Calling Islam a religion is even a big stretch, because Islam is really a FASCIST CRIMINAL CULT and has lost any legitimacy it might have ever had.

  • "steveintx": Nobody has explained why she supported President Bush and his policies in the weeks following her sons death. The only thing we are now getting from Mrs. Sheehan now is what the socialists are telling her to say. Mrs. Sheehan needs to stop allowing herself to be used by these pukes. I feel sorry for her loss. She must remember that her son was doing something that he wanted to do [die? ed.] I noticed that Howard the Duck is supporting invading Iran. The Screamer has more rocks in his head than I thought. . . Newsflash, the president didn't declare war, He just presented the evidence he was given to the elected Congress then they declared war. . .
  • "RapMasterChop": MORON!! and for those fool on the left that talk of iran and the "ignored nuclear threat" who is the # 1.1 enemy of Sadam right behind the USA IRAN MORONS so Iran thumbs its nose at jOHN kERRYS EUROPE and builds nukes......so i guess Sadam would have just sat on his A$$ and done nothing huh......fools George Bush prevented iraq from going nuclear...and Libya to come clean....and syria to look over its shoulder the lib/dems would have let all 4 go nuclear!just like clinton and india and the pakis and north korea

On another note, here's a post from a citizen who might ordinarily be disposed to side with these lunatics.

"James": You still don;t get it. You like to use Liberal as an insult, but fail to apply it with any intelligence. My voting history for presidents:


I served 9 years in the Marines, a vetran of Desert Storm. I work for my money, came from a poor background full of hard working people. No one in my family has ever taken welfare, nor will we. We all view any able bodied person on the dole as scum.On the flip side, I care not what a person's race, gender, or what have you is. . . I judge people by their actions only. I am also an atheist. In many of the hard core, religious nut, racist people's eyes, this is enough to brand me "Liberal" . . . but all that does is show their ignorance of the word, and life in general. Disagreeing with piss poor military decisions like starting an unneccesary second war whent he first war is not progressing well is not liberalism, it is simple common sense. Now, West, you may address the points of the issue, or you may attempt once again to call me names that don't apply. Which shall it be? You might need to rub just a little of the rhetoric out of your eyes before replying.

I wonder how much of the talkamarilloan's hateful wingnut attitude turned him off and won him over to the forces of good without liberals ever lifting a finger. Maybe we should treat our trolls nicer! Hey, Curious Texan! We love you! Come over here, you big lug. Group hug!


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Hitchens, Sheehan and the Logic of Protest

I recently suggested that Christopher Hitchens was an example of a right-wing pundit who, at the least, argued facts and reasoning on their merits. He was to be contrasted with those of ill intent, like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly, whose whole M.O. is to decide upon their opinion first, and then organize some facts to provide an appearance of support for that opinion. I never intended to lionize Hitchens as someone with whom I agreed.

In an op-ed piece in Slate Magazine, Hitchens provides some technically correct analysis regarding Cindy Sheehan's protest, which nevertheless misses both the political logic of her action, and the illogic of the president's position regarding the underlying issue, namely Iraq. Hitchens chooses to argue at length about what Sheehan's real authority is for making claims either about the policy or for some of the president's time. The term he uses to describe Sheehan's point of view, piffle, seems an apt description of his choice of topics. That is, his criticism of Mrs. Sheehan is beside the point in several ways. As a strictly political matter, Sheehan indeed has authority, by virtue of her loss and the manner in which her son behaved, that Hitchens can only dream of. You can argue with her policy prescription, but that isn't relevant either. No one expects a mother from California to have a firm grip on foreign policy. We do expect that of the president, and her protest highlights the fact that he doesn't have a firm grip on much of anything other than how to savage his political opponents.


Monday, August 15, 2005

here we stand / like an adam and an eve

When I pulled the dvd The Privileged Planet from its Netflix sleeve on Sunday afternoon, the S.O. immediately informed me that she needed to call one of her friends. It was her way of saying that she didn't know if she'd be able to sit through it. I understood. I fully expected intellectual torment akin to sitting through a two-hour long scold by William Bennett. Still, I felt some responsibility to watch the fool thing. It was the latest salvo in the Intelligent Design crowd's War on Science. And Jay W. Richards, whom I had known years ago, co-wrote the book on which it was based.

Matter of fact, I feel a little late-adopterish encountering the year-old documentary at this late date. Butbutbut, the Amarillo Globe-Republican has also only barely touched on it, despite the fact that they could use it to highlight three of their most beloved story angles: 1) religion, 2) right-wing politics, and 3) the provincial, local-boy-makes-good angle. (Shrug.) So sometimes the AG-R isn't just crazy-religious, wingnutty, and provincial. Sometimes they're just incompetent.

At any rate, a major argument of The Privileged Planet runs thus: The earth is uniquely situated in the universe for scientists to make the discoveries they have made. Therefore, an "Intelligent Designer" must've created the earth in six days and rested on the seventh. Jesus Chr-- sorry, the (wink, wink; nudge, nudge) "Designer"-- set up the universe for us to make the discoveries we have made. Except, of course, the discovery of evolution.

This is a true story about discovery and evolution.

Jay W. Richards, Senior Fellow and "philosopher" at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, grew up in Amarillo. I knew him when we were in Junior High. We both attended First Presbyterian Church downtown. I hung out with him and Chris-the-organ-prodigy when the First Pres youth choir travelled to Europe in 1981. Obviously, the church and most of its congregants were rather well-off. I was the only kid from the east side, and I've long assumed that Jay and Chris must've been the geekiest of the rich kids; otherwise, they never would've hung out with the likes of me.

And there was this Church Slut on that European Vacation. Her name was Donna. In the evenings, Donna would sa-shay out of her room in nothing but an Izod Lacoste polo extending just -- barely -- to her upper thighs.

So one morning Chris and Jay and I were walking back to the Chateau we were staying in near Geneva. This European trip had introduced many of us to Switzerland's and Germany's more, um, relaxed attitudes toward teen drinking and Chris had noticed something the previous night. "So," he said to Jay. "You had a beer last night."

"What?" Jay said. "Well, just a little bit. Someone gave it to me. I drank half a bottle. Not even that much. A sip, really."

"Hm," Chris answered. "Well, Don-na came downstairs this morning and told me"-- here Chris began to sa-shay back and forth and mimic Donna's voice-- "'You know what Jay and I did last night?'"

"What? No!"

"'He sure was good,'" Chris mimicked.

Jay was way totally flustered. "What? No. I've never done anything like that. I mean I only had a little beer. I don't remember-- I've never--"

And Chris grinned the wicked grin he generally reserved for the times when he'd kicked everyone's ass at the Greater Southwest Music Festival. "Yeah, you don't remember, that's too bad. A guy wants to remember his first time."

It was an obvious lie, and I was kind of surprised at how ashamed Jay acted. Poor guy. That shame could well have been avoided if he had only then known the philosophic trick he would discover much later in life. If only teenage Jay had understood adult Jay's circular Privileged Planet argument about how we make the discoveries that we make because the universe is set up for us to make them.

It's a convenient theory, and it might have been helpful to Jay as he thrashed guiltily about on that Swiss morning in the early 1980s. Don't worry, Jay, an Ultimate Someone set you up to "discover" the things you discovered. The German beer, its ready availability to teenagers, the church floozy naked beneath her alligator shirt: all were planned by an "Intelligent Designer".

It's easier, of course, but something's lost in that scenario. I mean, even the Garden of Eden myth gives us humans some room to throw our own party our own way.


Saturday, August 13, 2005

Cindy Sheehan Update

Some of our fellow Texas bloggers have been doing a bang-up job of sharing information about what's really happening at Camp Casey. Pink Dome has been on the ground almost from the beginning. Common Sense had a great first-person post. Greg Wythe has a thoughtful, if somewhat contrary post that is worth reading. One of the best comes from Dave Haigler, Chairman of the Taylor County (Abilene) Democratic Party, who visited Cindy on Friday, and took lots of pics. It's good because it mostly allows the scene to describe itself.


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Teaching Ain't For Sissies, part deux

When I read the guest column by Pat Neusch on the Amarillo Globe-Republican Opinion page on Sunday morning, I immediately told the S.O. that we should watch for the reaction. I expected it to go nuclear. The columnist wrote about homeschooling, and while I found the column to be far more balanced than I would have been, my experience is that the homeschool crowd doesn't take well to criticism of any kind. Perhaps it's the isolation and lack of opportunity to interact with others to develop social skills.

I personally related to the column because I have experienced the situation Neusch describes, from more than one perspective:

I watched as the parent marched out of the administrator's office followed by her "problem child." The parent had decided that the public school system had not met her son's needs, so she would school him herself at home.
As a teacher, I've signed withdrawal forms for students who were now going to be homeschooled. When I worked in the social services bureaucracy, I frequently encountered food stamps and AFDC (as it was then) clients who were allegedly homeschooling their children.

I've yet to meet anyone in either context who was qualified or capable of homeschooling and who was actually doing so. As Neusch points out
Neither the state not the Texas Education Agency requires homeschooling families to submit curricula for review or approval. . . Who, then, will hold parents to the same high standards that are required of public and private educational institutions?
Standards are actually required of both public schools and their students. In Language Arts classes, for example, students are required to do their own writing, and they learn what plagiarism means.

So I was surprised at the specific form that the homeschool crowd's criticism of Neusch took. Beverly Hernandez, who operates a homeschool website, wrote a column of her own claiming that Neusch had plagiarized and misrepresented her. She refers to the portion of the column that I describe as "more balanced than I would have been." In this section, Neusch states that
Beverly Hernandez . . . tells parents to consider the following before making the homeschool decision
and then offers up several bullet points. Although Hernandez states that
including nine paragraphs [the bullet points] from my article crosses the line of fair use and enters the copyright infringement realm
it's pretty clear that the major bullet points are Hernandez's while the commentary below is Neusch's opinion and commentary. Hernandez herself misrepresents Neusch's column when she states that whole paragraphs of her work were included; they weren't.

Hernandez further alleges that Neusch misrepresented her article in several places. She quotes Neusch and herself (it's generally best to avoid people who quote themselves extensively, but again, perhaps this is a result of the isolation of homeschoolers):
[Neusch] "Hernandez . . . informs parents that homeschooling is usually difficult and shouldn't be taken lightly."
From my article:
"Making the decision to homeschool is usually very difficult and not one to be taken lightly."

Riiiiight. Back before sampling became socially acceptable, Vanilla Ice defended his use of a lick from Queen's "Under Pressure" by saying "Their song goes da-data-da-da-da-da-duh. My song goes da-data-da-da-da-da-duh-ching!." No one could hear the difference between the two songs, and I doubt many can hear the difference between Neusch's paraphrase and the actual words Hernandez said. At the risk of misrepresenting her, I think she's trying to say that educating kids isn't difficult, but deciding where to educate them is. That statement is, of course, absurd. But the word "decision" is the only "ching!" that separates Hernadez's words from the paraphrase.

Although the bullet points are clearly Hernandez's and the commentary below Neusch's, Hernandez further states

It is clear that the author is trying to use my article to deter parents from homeschooling their children. The rewording of my article by Ms. Neusch steers away from the intended spirit of my article and takes on a whole new twisted meaning that I don't agree with or appreciate.

Well, it is obvious that Neusch has reservations about homeschooling. Most of us who work around schools, particularly in Texas where homeschools haven't been regulated, monitored, or improved since the Wild West, have such reservations. Neusch's article was an opinion piece and she could have just ranted. Instead, she provided and responded to the other side-- to a fault, in my opinion. She quoted and credited the other side's own arguments and got accused of plagiarism for her trouble.

It's obvious that Ms. Hernandez has trouble distinguishing between new technology and the "real" world, since she also took Neusch to task for not including a "link" in a printed column. Many kids have similar problems today, and that's why we have to spend a lot of time in classrooms discussing reliability of web sites. We also discuss plagiarism extensively since many kids see no problem with cut-and-pasting entire articles from the Net and presenting them as their own work.

Ms. Neusch certainly did nothing of the kind; I can only conclude that Ms. Hernandez might do well to spend some time in public schools learning what plagiarism and fair use is and what they are not.

I do not know either Pat Neusch or Beverly Hernandez personally. Good luck finding either column on amarillo.com; neither is available at this writing. I have print copies of both; e-mail me at PTS if you need scans.


Teaching Ain't For Sissies

I noticed a comment on a previous post from guile, who, of course, also has a blog. I don't know why I have a sneaking suspicion that guile isn't a Panhandle resident, but I found the blog interesting. This post was amusing, and may bring back memories for some of you teaching types.

I found it interesting because it describes an almost archetypal confrontation between George Lakoff's alternative world views, the nurturant parent and the strict father. What can get these two to recognize value in each other's frames of reference? Hmmm.


Pulling Your Lege...Apart

Well, there's a week left, and this time it seems that the story of the 79th Texas Legislature will end as a trilogy. For those of you reading the Globe-Republican, you may be surprised to learn that the Lege is still in session, since their "coverage" of the special session has been, well, a wee bit understated. This is actually the second such special session, called by the Governor with great huffing and puffing after the regular session ended in a train wreck back at the end of May, over what was supposed to be the year's signature issue, school finance reform.

Back in March, I described the school funding proposals and their sources, so I won't rehash that here. What has now happened is that the legislature has decided that this job is just too hard to do. What they really mean by that is well described in this Dallas Morning-News column by William McKenzie. In simple terms, as I've suggested previously, the ideological perspective dictated by Republican electoral politics is utterly inconsistent with good governance. In the case of school funding, the way that has played out, as McKenzie puts it, is to pit the anti-taxers against the fix-the-school crowd. Many of the latter in Texas are Republicans who are beginning to wonder why.

They are Republicans because for years, they took Republican leaders at their word when they were told that they were for fiscal responsibility, less intrusive government and good management. They are now struggling to reconcile that belief with the unfolding reality that Republican leadership really favors unprecedented spending and borrowing, more intrusions into personal privacy, lower taxes only for those who don't need it, corruption on a grand scale, and utter mismanagement of everything from the war to local schools. On both the national and state levels, that has many real conservatives in open rebellion.

Those conservatives are, over time, going to face a choice between trying to reclaim a party that has left them behind and jumping ship. As I've argued before, I think the majority are going to wind up jumping, and the school funding issue could be the one that tips the scales. Why? Because this is a philosophical litmus test for the regressives. So the politicians who have thrown in their lot with the crowd that believes we have an exclusively Christian nation (never mind that Jesus didn't believe any of their malarky) are not going to abandon positions favored by that constituency. That's why Gov. Mo' Fo' is going to stay with the anti-taxers (and probably win the Republican primary doing it). At the same time, for non-ideologs the first priority of state government should be schools.

And so one of our regressive leaders, Speaker Craddick has already promised that the House won't be party to any school finance reform that doesn't lower taxes, especially on the hard-pressed wealthy. Craddick has made perfectly clear that if he can't get his way, he is prepared to just go home. Especially telling is the remark by his press secretary, Kathy Walt, "You don't win wars by waving the white flag." Like so many regressive remarks, it begs the question "who is the enemy?"

Well, Mr. Speaker, I'd prefer for the sake of our kids that you would fix our schools, even though that probably means raising some taxes. But, if the sine die has already been cast, then, to coin a phrase, bring it on.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Good for a Laugh

Bush Vows To Eliminate U.S. Dependence On Oil By 4920

Helllooo, callin' Lubbock!

We have neglected our sister city to the south and their paper, the Avalanche-Republican, until we had enough folks sitting our around our campfire.

With our hits nearing 17, 000 in just one year (WHOA!), it's time to reach out to our neighbors to the south.

So . . . if you or anyone you know would like to start posting 3-5X a week about Lubbock and what's a' happenin' there, email us at panhandletruthsquad@yahoo.com.


-Panhandle Truth Squad

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

turn the page

Based on the name ("Elwood N. Stein") of the writer and the tone of the letter to the editor on yesterday's Opinion page, I'm going to assume that it was the work of a senior citizen dismayed by the pace of change in recent decades and not the rantings of a raging bigot filled with hate. If I were drunk, and accommodating, I'd say thash okay.

Only I'm not, and it's not. But I will try to be gentle when I explain why.

Stein's thesis was reminiscent of "all the same ol' clich├ęs" that frustrated Bob Seger in the classic rock staple. Seger sang in the voice of the redneck watching his long-haired rock-n-roll self come into a diner: "Is that a woman or a man?". Stein's version went thus:

Even today, when I see people of the same sex holding hands, I wonder who is the mom or the pop. If I were adopted by Sam and Pete, I would like to know which is which.

Stein longs for a long-ago time when his

mother kept house and raised six children, four boys and two girls. [The] father brought home the groceries.
So you can see that Stein's problem goes far beyond gay couples. I'm straight, and it was pretty clear that Stein also had a problem with me.

Because I'm a single father. For the past eleven years I've "kept house . . . cooked and kept [my son] clean," all the things Stein puts in the "mom" column.

And it's not just us screw-ups with alternative lifestyles like gayness and divorce. I have a friend who is married to his first and only wife; they have three children. He's a vice-president at a local bank; she's a nurse. Because of her work schedule, I frequently see him alone at church on Sunday mornings with a baby around his neck and two kids hanging off him.


Is he the mom or the pop?

I'm terribly sorry, Elwood, but the world has changed for all of us: mom, pop, straight, gay, red, yellow, black, and white. Modern parents couldn't live within your carefully proscribed division of labor even if we wanted to. And we don't.


double, double toil and trouble

Prodigal Son e-mailed to ask if I wanted to post on this morning's AG-R Ghost editorial that defended the Emperor W's plans to spend five weeks on vacation in Crawford.

There's fish in them there barrels! I suppose Prodigal wants me to call attention to the fact that the Emperor has spent more time on vacation than any head of state did back when our country still had presidents. With this vacation he will shatter Reagan's record of 335 days spent on vacation during his eight years in office. And Bush still has 3 1/2 years (or three more five-week August vacations) left!

Or maybe he wants me to remind readers that we just passed the fourth anniversary of the infamous "Bin Laden determined to attack in U.S." memo received while-- yes-- W was on vacation. Giving the lie to the Ghost's contention that the Emperor is still working.

But school's about to start, and I have to get back in English teacher mode. So, a grammar assignment: Diagram or explain the following ghost-written sentence from this morning's editorial. It's more than a double negative, obviously, but what exactly is it?

No president is never not the president.
What on Earth does it mean?

Hey, Ghost: I got an English class for ya right here.


Sharp and the serpent's tooth

A couple of comments from this morning's Austin American-Statesman:

A former aide to John Sharp has launched a Web site encouraging the Austin resident to seek the Democratic nomination for governor next year, although Sharp said he hasn’t peeked.
“Haven’t had the guts to look at it,” Sharp said.
Right. And from Perry:
Luis Saenz, Perry’s campaign director, called Sharp the “candidate of the week for Democrats. First Chris Bell, then Kinky Friedman, who knows? Could be Strayhorn next week.”
Saenz needs to read Texas Monthly. Kinky's getting a better reception from Republican groups than he is from Democrats.


Governor Goodhair: $50 mill to my Pal$

Texas taxpayers. . . suckers! HERE

Perry gave $50 million from a taxpayer financed slush fund overseen by the Guv to some good buddies and campaign contributors.

The heavy lifting was done by an aide to Kevin Brady (R-crook, The Woodlands) who owned stock in the company until it started to smell and his Chief of Staff "says" he donated it to charity.

Ok . . . anyone from the Texas press want to actually look to see who he donated it to rather than just take the congressman's word for it?

Anyone want to know how come Guv. Goodhair has control over $300 MILLION OF YOUR MONEY with no oversight?

-Panhandle Truth Squad

The Heartland Knows Boolsheet

Ft. Wayne, IN paper calls America out on it's lathargic, ignorant a**.

"These losses are on you.

Fourteen Marines died in Iraq last week when a roadside bomb exploded near their AAVP7A1 troop carrier. Designed to travel through surf, traverse, hit the beach and carry troops inland at maybe 20 mph, it was definitely not designed to withstand the most-effective weapon in the insurgency's arsenal.

And that's on you.

U.S. Marines, 500 miles from the Persian Gulf, are being bused around in lightly armored amphibious landing vehicles. And you won't get off your ass and raise hell."

Read the rest HERE

(BTW, for those folks who emailed last time I posted this pic . . . it's the spelling. Dead giveaway for Republican base. I'm just sayin' . . .)

-Prodigal Son

Monday, August 08, 2005

summer's end 2005

By the early years of the twenty-first century, many had concluded that Freudianism had (speaking in the passive voice so necessary in those years) "been discredited." But many also still spoke in the pop psychological vernacular of the previous century, and they knew that their "inner child" was, like the Freudian model of the mind, tripartite. The inner elementary-school-age child, like all children, was on the one hand a raging traditionalist, on the other hand a raging moralist, and on the third hand, a raging individualist. And, not merely Freudianism but also Darwinism had been ravaged. After Intelligent Design, science was also in ruins. Rationalism itself was on its last legs. So a fourth hand was possible in the tripartite model, and thus one's inner child spoke also as the Class Clown.

One's traditionalist inner child was scandalized when the circulars advertising back-to-school specials began appearing in the local paper in mid-July, since she hadn't had to start school until after labor day and had been released before Memorial Day and had learned three times as much as these kids today. The raging moralist inside was deeply offended at the mere volume of the advertising circulars which had long ago entirely supplanted any real news. And the individualist was trying to decide if it was worth going out to buy school clothes on Tax-Free Weekend when one would have to circulate among the legions of the Great Unwashed. The individualist hated the Great Unwashed.

Naturally, the moralists had long been attempting to convince us that Tax-Free Weekend was a Grand Injustice, anyway, what with all the millions of dollars in potential income that the state was merely throwing away and the Lege wholly unable to settle on a means to finance public education. What's more, it wasn't like anyone really saved money, at least not anyone human. WalMart&Penneys&Target&Mervyns used to have even better Back-to-School specials back in the day, the traditionalists reminded us. Now they didn't have to; the government did it for them. Tax-Free Weekend was obviously just a way to funnel money to the massive homovorous corporations.

And, again, it didn't really matter. Back-to-school specials or no back-to-school specials there would be no Back to School, not this year, not with the Lege completely impotent to pass a school finance bill. Even worse, the traditionalists among the inner children of the Lege had not been able to force schools to stay closed until after Labor Day each year. As the final 30-day special session drew to a close one got the feeling that the Legislators were tossing paper airplanes across the chambers and watching bootleg DVDs of Dukes of Hazzard on their laptops. The extent to which the House had simply Given Up was made manifest when Speaker Tom Craddick-- in full Class Clown at the end of May mode-- suggested that Representatives simply vote to adjourn three days early. His Press Secretary went for the sympathy jugular by pointing out that the Speaker would not get to go on his scheduled Alaskan fishing trip if the Lege was still in session.

And what a sacrifice that would be! The latest energy bill did not include the wholesale destruction of Alaska yet, and Alaska's globally warmed climate hadn't approached that of Phoenix-- yet-- but most now believed that the opportunity for Alaskan wilderness excursions was passing like the window for getting an increasingly rickety Space Shuttle launched or landed. And if the window for school financing was similarly passing-- well, Craddick's constituents would surely understand that a man must fish. I mean, weren't they Christians?

Well, some weren't. There was always, for example, the self-styled Texas Jewboy, Kinky Friedman. The Kinkster hovered close to the capital, at least as long as the bars on Sixth Street were open, and they always were. When Kinky got roaring drunk on whiskey and putrid cigars he would scream in a Shakespearian drawl "a pox on both your houses"-- and many Democrats appeared in a mood to cooperate with the Kinkster's apocalytic vision. There were those Democrats, for example, who had proven that the days of "Draft[insert outsider candidate's name here].com" were oh-so-2004. Those Democrats had replaced such grassroots activism with the "Draft[insert failed and dreadful dull insider candidate's name here].com" model. Yes, the Worst Case Scenario for Texas Democrats had arrived. John Sharp might really be running this time. And the fifth type of inner child, the rebellious li'l shit, was poised to reap the benefits. At least the li'l shit's named Kinky, not Thomas, Friedman-- though one is sometimes hard-pressed to see a difference.

Meanwhile, far, far away from Texas a trend that had begun here reached the East Coast. Long ago, the Amarillo Globe-Republican had axed its Books page and utilized their administration contacts to send the page's 2000-year-old editor, Mary Kate Tripp, to Gitmo. The AG-R Publisher was well aware that his readers were a congealed mass of illiterate troglodytes whose bookshelves consisted of The Conscience of a Conservative, The Way Things Ought to Be, and Treason-- and that the Republican Party could instruct its minions to purchase those books without the help of the AG-R, which paper, after all, needed the pages for yet more advertising. That act of brazen anti-intellectualism-- the coming of inner child number six, the slow reader-- went unnoticed on the Llano Estacado, but it was only a matter of time before the Washington Post would print a scathing review by Marianne Wiggins of John Irving's latest book. When Irving cried foul, noting that Wiggins was the ex-wife of his buddy Salmon Rushdie-- with whom he often attended U2 concerts-- WaPo recanted. The editors claimed they didn't know that Wiggins had been married to Rushdie.

And the Great Book of the Annals of American Literary History slammed shut amidst a mungo dust cloud. Didn't . . . know . . . ? Rushdie's not incidental to the literary history of the last quarter of the twentieth century. Matter of fact, he's not exactly incidental to an understanding of the War on Terror. Wiggins was his wife when the fatwa was declared. The American media are the seventh inner child: the gossipy tattletale. And they didn't freaking know?

It was like saying you didn't know about Scott's wife Zelda when you cracked the joke about the loony bin.


Cindy Sheehan: Profile in Courage

Cindy Sheehan, mother of a killed soldier in Iraq, is doing something simple . . . trying to meet with Bush. HERE

That's all.

An American mother of a dead vet wants a few minutes with too-stupid-to-tie-his-shoes, who lied America into war, and who we pay $1, 123 A DAY and who is currently on vacation FOR FIVE FRIKKIN' WEEKS.

Want to send her some encouragement? A few bucks?

Snail-mail your postcard or letter to:

Cindy Sheehan
c/o Crawford Peace House
9142 5th Street
Crawford, TX 76638-3037

Bush is a coward. He has yet to attend ONE miltary funeral for his Iraq boolsheet. Help Cindy be heard. Help us ALL be heard.

It would not hurt to send a letter to the editor of the Globe-Republican either.

-Panhandle Truth Squad

Saturday, August 06, 2005

All in All, You're Just Another Brick in the Wall

In Regressive Republican America, Pink Floyd is the order of the day. Teachers are the enemy. Students are political pawns. The ayatollahs reign supreme. Yes, we've been preaching this message for years. But, is America awakening? The evidence is partly anecdotal, and partly inconclusive, but there is hope.

Do what your mother told you to do. Stand up straight. Speak the truth. Don't ever give up.


Friday, August 05, 2005

son of spacedark speaks

(The following post is by my son, age 11, who wishes to be known by the nom de blog "Roswell". I edited some very minor grammatical issues (comma splices, e.g.), but the post and opinions are his. The only thing I would add is that, as a teacher, I have learned to pick my battles with kids. The battle he describes is not one I would have chosen if I ran the zoo. --SPACEDARK)

Surely they had to expect this with all the teenagers there. The new skatepark in Amarillo has been graffitied, and now the city is closing the park down to clean it off. They may notice it but the skaters don't seem to mind it, and isn't that all that matters? If the skaters don't care why should the city? It doesn't cost them money if it's there. It's the skater's who are using it not them. It seems to me that if it's not offensive to anyone or gang related they they should keep it there. And most likely it wasn't a skater that graffitied it, it was someone who doesn't care about the park and doesn't care if the skaters get punished, so they're punishing the wrong people every time they close it down.


PTS needs a new look.

Anybody out there an html guru? Or do we even need to change?

Atrios has never changed his blog that I know of, neither has bartcop.

So . . . whadda ya'll think?


Creationi. . .er . . . Intelligent des . . .er . . . 42

When asked if Shrub supports Creationism, now coined "Intelligent Design", he said the other day, ''I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."

So . . . anyone else find it interesting that the the guy who travels around the country not allowing those with different schools of thought to come to his 'town hall meetings,' now wants to force others to be exposed to different schools of thought on anything?

-Prodigal Son

BTW, A little Douglas Adams there in the title for you fans out there!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

War Preznit

Shrubster by the numbers:

  • 49 - the number of vacations that Bush has taken since he was inaugurated in 2001.
  • 5 - the number of weeks that Bush will spend on vacation, starting yesterday. It is the longest presidential vacation in at least 36 years.
  • 319 - August 3, 2005 was the 319th day Bush has spent on vacation since his 2001 inauguration.
  • 20% - the fraction of Bush's presidency that he has spent on vacation.
But it's hard work ya see . . . SOURCE

Laziest President ever.

-Prodigal Son

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Why'd They Do That?

We all know that on Monday, President Bush did an end run around the Senate known as a "recess appointment". In that case, he used it, contemptuously, to install at the United Nations arguably the least appropriate person ever to be our ambassador there. Yesterday, with slightly less fanfare, he used the power again. It is worth asking where that power came from. Unlike many of the acts of government, this particular one comes straight from the United States Constitution, Article II, section 2, clause 3.

What isn't so obvious is: why did they word it that way? The phrasing clearly dictates that such recess appointments will end at the conclusion of the current Congress. In this case, that means in January, 2007. One can do a quick search of documents related to the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention, and determine that the original idea had been to have appointments made by the Senate, itself, but that compromises were reached intended to limit the power of the Senate. Ain't that a yuck? But I haven't located any reference to discussions about the specific wording of this clause. Clearly, they could have limited recess appointments to the time during which the Senate was in recess. Possibly (and this is just speculation), it was considered that many appointments, like ambassadors, would be outside the United States, and given the available transportation of the time, it would be impractical to call them back only a month or two later.

There's a lot of scholarship out there. So, who knows the answer? Who can do a better google search? Inquiring minds want to know.


Analyze This!

A terrific, objective analysis of yesterday's results in the Ohio-2 special election can be found here. I think it well encompasses the discussion in the previous post, and adds some more excellent points. More discussion? Rant on.

Hack Attack

Paul Hackett kicked some serious ass in Ohio yesterday. If it can happen there it can happen here. What can we learn from his campaign and how do we apply those lessons to running Dems in the Panhandle? An initial observation I have is that Hackett's success was largely in part to the support he received from the internet community. His campaign needed money, the call went out to the net and the money came in. It was average schmoes like us that made that happen.

What do you think?

my hometown

Jennifer Wilson's article on TEA ratings ("Ratings dishearten educators") in this morning's AG-R is fine as far as it goes. But it's also way locally focused and doesn't really address the larger problem.

Here's the gist:

Many Panhandle school districts saw their accountability ratings dip in 2005, according to data from the Texas Education Agency.

Educators say difficult math and science Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests, combined with tougher test standards, caused the drops.

The trend also held true for much of the state.

Wilson then goes on to report the ratings of some local districts and the reactions of their administrations. Which is all very interesting.

The irony is that although Wilson work so hard calling up all those people, she could have improved her reporting without working so hard.

It would have been nice, for example, to have read that 94 schools were rated unacceptable in 2004, and that number increased to 375 in 2005. The number of unacceptable schools quadrupled. That's news.

Of course, it also raises a lot of questions about the success and motivations of the Bush-led "reforms" in Texas-- reforms that have now been instituted nationally with No Child Left Behind.

So, Jen, you've written half a good article. When do we get to read the other half?


you don’t know where your interest lies

At first, I was tempted to blame Walter Williams for the nightmarish headlie slapped over the Amarillo Globe-Republican reprint of his latest column. I assumed the words of the headlie (“Real torture is listening to leftist abuse claims”) must appear somewhere in that column.

But they don’t.

There’s a lot of bad reasoning, faulty analogies, and typical right-wing obfuscation in his column, but at least Williams doesn’t compare fellow citizens who speak out and express opinions to torturers.

That comparison was left for the AG-R headlie-writer to make.

At one point, Williams invokes the tired Republican line that any comparison of present or future events to Nazi atrocities belittles the Holocaust. Anytime we say “we don’t want to behave as Stalin or Pol Pot would have” we’re somehow disrespecting the victims of those dictators.

It’s an odd line of reasoning, but we hear it all the time now from politically correct Republican opinion-makers. And if it were true, wouldn’t it also demean victims of torture to equate their sufferings with listening to a fellow citizen speak his mind?

Are AG-R headlie writers allowed to read columns before they slap headlies on them?


someday we'll live on venus / men will walk on mars / but we will still be monkeys / down deep inside

Oh, my.

Still, as has been pointed out, Bush didn't exactly endorse Intelligent Design Theory; he just said ID should be taught because "people ought to be exposed to different ideas". All right, y'all there in the back of the classroom- Prodigal Son and Demophoenix is it? stop giggling. What's that? Doesn't read newspapers? "People on [his] staff" tell him "what's happening in the world"?

That's enough of that.

Listen: I know I'm screaming into the void, but sometimes you just gotta. And right now I'm screaming as a high school teacher.

When we teach core subjects to teenagers, we're not teaching specific information so much as a kind of "muscle memory" of the mind. We're practicing abilities more than teaching knowledge. For example, I teach junior and senior English. When we read Hamlet or Huckleberry Finn or Walt Whitman's poetry, I don't delude myself that students will remember these classics, hold them in their hearts, and quote them to their army buddies like Charles Winchester on M*A*S*H.

Instead, we practice reading these books together in the hope that kids will learn how to read the classics; that they will begin to understand how to enjoy a production of Shakespeare or approach a classic American novelist; that they will at some point be able to sit down by a roaring fire and dig a poem.

Lookit, there are two schools of thought regarding what comprises an educated person.

The first school is that of E.D. Hirsch, Jr. Hirsch's book Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know induced major parental guilt throughout North America as we entered the final decade of the twentieth century. Hirsch listed vast itemized pages of data that he claimed we all should know. According to Hirsch, every adult American should know approximately 5,000 things. Not so bad, you think? Surely you know 5,000 bits of data?

Problem is, you gotta know what Hirsch thinks is important. For example, by the first grade you should be able to recite the Iroquois myth "Why the Owl Has Big Eyes".

Don't know the Iroquois myth? Oh, dear. But perhaps you know "Puss-in-Boots" or "The Princess and the Pea" or the other 20 stories, 42 rhymes, 13 sayings, and 13 myths and fables Hirsch recommends Americans know before second grade?

Albert Einstein's view of intelligence was apprently slightly easier to achieve. Einstein is reputed to have had trouble remembering his own phone number. When asked about this he supposedly said "I never memorize something that I can look up."

This story may well be apocryphal, but it makes a good point, especially in our information age. I can easily google Iroquois myths. What I can't google is the ability to read, to critique, to evaluate, to induce and deduce.

Which is where the "muscle memory" comes in. The muscle memory of my discipline involves understanding concepts like plot, audience, dramatic irony, metaphors, and symbolism. The muscle memory of science classes involves the scientific method.

And that's why Intelligent Design is not appropriately taught in science classes. It didn't arise from the scientific method. A scientific theory can always be tested. It can be falsified. Accordingly, it must make testable predictions. What is the scientific theory of ID? What are the testable predictions of ID? What observations could falsify it?

Einstein gave us the twentieth century; E.D. Hirsch gave us a best-selling book. The scientific method gave us microwave ovens, modern medicine, the moon landing, and computers. Religion gave us Dante, some wild music, and some killer art. Both have fantastic track records, but they shouldn't be taught in the same class.

Look, you want Creationism in the schools? Fine. Bring the myth of Adam and Eve to me; I'll gladly teach it in literature class alongside the story of the Great Green Arkleseizure.

But it ain't science.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

AG-R Ghostly Voice Lies to Public: Part 476

This AM's column by the 'ghost' at the Amarillo-Globe-Republican is just boolsheet, starting with the headline "With US Senate in recess, Bush tires of playing games"

Go read it BEFORE you get breakfast, or the dry heaves will get ya.

Really Mr. Ghost? Bush is tired of those big meanie Democrats?

You mean, Bush did not drag his feet on releasing general documents about this dipsheet? HERE

No mention from the Ghost that even some Republicans think Bolton is foul: "I am truly concerned that a recess appointment will only add to John Bolton's baggage and his lack of credibility with the United Nations." — Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio HERE

No mention of the fact that Bolton LIED to the senate about testifying in Plamegate? HERE

No mention of the fact that Bolton has no respect, nor good intentions, for the body in which he now represents America. VIDEO HERE

Plus Bolton got booed as he was going into the UN. VIDEO HERE

Noooooo. Bolton is all sunshine and wildflowers. And those big meanies would not let President Bunnypants (R-Lied nation into war) get his way.

You know what to do. Please write the paper. Keep it under 100 words

Email your letter to: john.kanelis@amarillo.com

Ask why the paper would endorse someone who lied to the senate for a position Adlai Stevenson once held.

-Prodigal Son

Update: Compare the crass neo-con a** kissing the AG-R did today with the principled stance it took in 1998 on Richard Holbrooke's nomination, held up by Rethugs for 13 MONTHS. HERE

Also notice that Holbrooke was approved UNANIMOUSLY by the senate foreign relations committee.