Archive for the ‘Just Thoughts’ Category

You can’t make this stuff up

Events, Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Aug 29 2007

Like something out of Kafka, the families of the trapped and likely dead miners in Utah are being denied the right to appoint the United Mine Workers as their representative in upcoming federal investigations. Not because this is a non-union mine, of course, but because the trapped and likely dead miners did not sign the forms themselves:

The federal agency tasked with investigating the Utah mine collapse denied a request by the families of six trapped miners that the United Mine Workers represent them in the probe of the matter, the union said Monday.

All six of the families had signed documents designating the union as their representative in the investigation, UMWA spokesman Phil Smith said. The Mine Safety and Health Administration told the union’s attorneys on Monday that the agency would not heed the request.

“MSHA requires that miners sign these papers, but the miners in question were unable because the are trapped inside the mine,” Smith said.

Of course, if the trapped miners could get out and sign the papers themselves, there wouldn’t need to be an investigation.

Quick question: When is $168K not enough?

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Aug 17 2007

I wish I had Tony Snow’s problem.

Financial Pressures Force Snow Departure (Washington Post):

White House press secretary Tony Snow said Friday he’ll leave before the end of the Bush presidency because he needs to make more money.

“I’m going to stay as long as I can,” he said without elaborating on a departure date.

Snow’s comment caught White House colleagues by surprise, and they said they could not hazard a guess about when he might leave.

The 52-year-old Snow, the father of three children, earns $168,000 as an assistant to the president but made considerably more as a conservative pundit and syndicated talk-show host on Fox News Radio. He was named press secretary on April 26, 2006.

White House press secretaries in recent administrations have found the speechmaking circuit to be lucrative once they’ve stepped down. Snow was eagerly sought by Republican audiences before the elections last year, and in a break with tradition he made a number of fundraising speeches for GOP candidates.

How much more moola does Snow need? Maybe we can all band together and chip in a few bucks apiece to help him along, or we could hold a bake sale. Better yet, how about we demand that Congress pass and the president sign a bill allotting a salary that will be able to support a press secretary and his or her family, because a low, six-digit income for spinning the administration’s lines just isn’t cutting it these days.

Gosh, just how does the rest of America get by on dual-income, five-digit incomes?

Some things just should not be made more efficient.

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Aug 15 2007

The death penalty, as one example, clearly fits this bill.

Gonzales to Get Power In Death Penalty Cases (Washington Post):
Rules Would Expand Fast-Track Authority

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, under political siege for his handling of the U.S. attorney firings and other issues, is to get expanded powers to hasten death penalty cases under regulations being developed by the Justice Department.

The rules would give Gonzales the authority to approve “fast-track” procedures by states in death penalty cases, enabling them to carry out sentences more speedily and with fewer opportunities for appeal if those states provide adequate representation for capital defendants.

Such powers were previously held by federal judges, but a provision of the USA Patriot Act reauthorization bill approved by Congress last year hands the authority to the attorney general.

Under the regulations, death row inmates would have six months, instead of a year, to file appeals in the federal courts, and federal judges would have less time to consider petitions in capital cases.

The proposed changes, reported yesterday by the Los Angeles Times, would hand new authority to Gonzales as leading Democrats and some Republicans have called for his resignation and questioned his truthfulness. Earlier this month, Congress gave Gonzales greater powers in overseeing the government’s warrantless wiretapping program.

The leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), asked Gonzales in a letter sent earlier this month to delay implementing the new death penalty rules until October at the earliest, “to guarantee adequate representation of death row prisoners before certification occurs.”

If our states and nation insist on having a death penalty for crimes, they better make damn well certain that every aspect of a conviction is thoroughly examined and considered between throwing those switches.

This isn’t so much about the person who committed the crime. It’s more about maintaining our integrity as a nation that professes to stand for liberty and justice, due process, and equal justice under the law. Executing those who are found out to have been innocent of committing a crime, even if as rare as hen’s teeth, completely violates that principle.

Add to that how the current Attorney General has a penchant for refusing to offer any information on almost anything he does at the Justice Department, and we have mapped a path for our nation to add summary executions to secret trials based on secret evidence. I’m not ready to see our nation go that route. Not now. Not ever.

(not) Dead (yet) Chicks Monday…

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Jun 25 2007

I really need to read these articles more closely:

Israel targets US lad mag market (BBC):

Israel has decided to reach out to young US men by publishing images of semi-clad female former soldiers in US men’s magazine, Maxim.

The pictures are part of a public relations drive to improve the image of the country within the US.

Maxim said it was “pleased” with the result of its collaboration with the Israeli consulate in New York, which came up with the idea.

But some in Israel have said that the images were not appropriate.

“We definitely have public relations problems, and I’m all for creative solutions,” Israeli lawmaker Colette Avital said.

“But there are enough beautiful and interesting things we can use to tap into this demographic than to show a half-naked woman in a magazine of this kind, considered pornographic.”

According to AP, the photo spread will include pictures of Israeli model Nivit Bash – who served in Israeli military intelligence – and former Miss Israel, Gal Gadot.

The Israeli consulate defended its decision, taken after research indicated that Israel meant very little to young US men.

“Males that age have no feeling toward Israel one way or another, and we view that as a problem, so we came up with an idea that would be appealing to them,” said David Dorfman, a media adviser at the consulate.

The photo feature, entitled “Women of the Israeli Defense Forces”, will be published in the July issue of the magazine.

Will someone over at the Anti-Strib please tell me again how low-brow sexism and rambo-esque militarism supposed to “improve the image” of Israel to the American population? I keep forgetting.

– – –
On another note: Hey, Tracy. I saw you interviewed in last week’s paper. When did you sell out and become pro-Strib?

Notes from my old metal desk.

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Mar 30 2007

It has been two months since I accepted a position with one of Minneapolis’ middle schools. During that time, I have played my role as librarian, technical repair, maintenance and troubleshooting, and taught my first class on media technology.

All-in-all, it’s been good, but the obstacles and hurdles… Oy!

From what I have heard, this school’s library and computer labs I run used to be staffed with five full-time people. Today, after four to five years of budget cuts, there are two: my assistant and myself. We are both, technically, part-time. In reality, however, we each put in a full-time effort. Although I am listed as a “point eight,” which means thirty-two hours a week, I can’t recall a week where I have worked less than forty. I am not complaining. My work is at a place where I can do good and I sleep well each night knowing that what I do will have benefits for our society somewhere down the road.

If I have any complaint, it is that my poor library and media center have been stuck in a time bubble. With year after year of budget cuts, we have lost our ability to keep our book stacks and magazine racks — the latter is a meager selection at best, these days — updated. Our computers are between three and five generations old; some are beginning to fail after years of intense use.

On my drive home, I flip through the radio dials and, all too frequently, wind up hearing some ignorant, bombastic blowhard railing against my school district in particular or against public schools in general. Of these mooks, our semi-homegrown resident right-winger Jason Lewis tends to raise my blood pressure the most. To him, I am a some kind of socialistic, lazy, inept, wheedler of his and Minnesota’s tax dollars. Well, to address his concerns, I am most certainly not lazy (I think I’ve lost five pounds since I started this job), nor inept (heck, I feel like an army cook who can make Spam look and taste like it came out of the kitchen of a five-star restaurant). Hell, Minneapolis is getting one heck of a deal with me on their payroll; paying me for thirty-two hours when I easily put in forty to fifty each week. Technical assistance from the private sector runs anywhere between fifty and one-hundred and fifty dollars an hour. My school gets my know-how for a song in comparison.

(What’s that? I didn’t address the “socialistic” part? Well, you can figure it out for yourself.)

Now that I have settled into a general pattern of my varied and constantly shifting responsibilities… maybe “pattern” isn’t the best term to describe things… I should be able to carve out a little time to put some life into my poor, little, comatose blog. Please hang in there, all three of my dear readers. Yowling should be yowling away soon.

Nothing odder than simultaneous sunshine and dark clouds.

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Feb 17 2007

Two weeks ago, I started working for a middle school in Minneapolis, taking the reins of the school’s Media Center; what we of my generation used to call “libraries” when all they had were books while those scratchy, worbly voiced 16mm films were still considered high technology and housed in a separate “A/V Center” along with those tape-and-still-film projectors with the annoying beeps to forward each frame.

I love the work and the endless variety of responsibilities. I am part librarian, part technogeek and troubleshooter, part stage manager, and part teacher of a class on media technology. It’s not my dream high school social studies position that I still longingly pine for, but I am definitely trending in the right direction.

Jumping into a new position in the middle of a school year is never easy — neither on the students nor the teachers who take such positions. My entry — and that of a couple of others who also recently joined the school — just happened to coincide with the start of a new quarter, which does smooth out many potential rough spots. I had the added fortune of meeting the person who I was replacing. She provided enough information to help me get started, and her assistant, who has been there longer than the last three or four people in my position as a Media Specialist, have made it possible for me to hit the ground running on the very first day.

When I stopped by to see the principal on my way out after my first day, she asked how everything went. I smiled and said, “Great. People were happy to see me. Students, for the most part, listened to what I had to say, and I have my very own desk to call my own.” Seriously, substituting’s lack of such mundane aspects of a person’s job satisfaction (save maybe for the first) or steadiness (as I have said before, imagine starting your first day of work, every day, in front of a less-than-appreciative audience that balks as the idea of having anything less than a “free day” while you try to get things done) can really wear even the most indefatigable spirit down.

All this doesn’t mean that I haven’t had some serious challenges along the way.

Part the first: Illness. Nothing says “welcome to our school” faster and with more fanfare than catching the latest bug sweeping though the student and faculty body. By the end of the first week, that tickle in my throat I felt blew up into a full-fledged nasty bug. By the middle of the second week, I felt I was among the Walking Dead. Let’s see; there was fever, coughing, soar throat, periodic total loss of voice (not good), fuzzy brain, aching muscles, and plenty of activity in the mucous membrane. Michelle would put me to bed at about six or seven only for me to get up and haul my diseased carcass back into the fray early the next morning. Only by yesterday, Friday, did I start to feel as if I had passed the nadir of the bug’s bite. The rest I needed to avoid missing work cost me in the time I wanted to map out the next few weeks for my class.

To my knowledge, teachers rarely, if ever, take days off for such illnesses, because it is far easier to work in such a state than it is to go through the tight channels to get a sub, figure up a lesson for that person, and do the inevitable damage control the next day that comes with an absence. I feel the same way. When a student said to me, “No offense, Mr. Moses, but you look like crap. Why don’t you stay home sick?” I told him that I hadn’t given the class my “don’t mess with the sub” talk yet and wasn’t about to in the middle of this bug.

All told, this last week was far from a loss. I got a lot of things done in spite of feeling like death warmed over. Still, I didn’t get to map out my strategy for the next few weeks as I had wanted to last weekend, which means having to do it this weekend.

Part the second: The big build up. Part of successful teaching is having certain abilities. Among the more important ones, teachers need to be able to let roughly ninety percent of the crap that flies their way pass by, otherwise the stress levels generated by trying to deal with every single issue that arises will increase the likelihood of an early, flaming burnout. As unfortunate as this may seem to the uninitiated, it is a necessary job survival skill because of the challenges we inevitably encounter that must be reckoned with. If teaching only meant showing up in a classroom for six hours a day to drone on endlessly about the subject you were hired to teach and give tests or assigning papers, everyone would want to be a teacher. Most teachers I know are nine-to-fivers of the calendar variety rather than the clock variety: They start early in September and work straight through to the end of May (or later), twenty-four-seven, with “breaks” that are more opportunities to grab a quick breath of fresh air and survey the situation than a short respite from one’s labors.

With my Week Number Three just around the corner, I can see the growing wave of things I’ll need to plan for and coordinate that are on top of the usual duties. Take the next round of standardized test dates, which will chew up a couple of weeks of time students could have spent learning in a classroom and an additional week or three to the teachers and administrators who have to figure out schedules, locations, and the usual unholy host of necessary contingency plans.

Those tests ain’t just gonna give themselves to the youngsters. Nope. No-sir-ee. The clock’s tickin’.

Part the third: Working on less than a shoe-string budget. Technically, I am working what is called a “point eight” position; it’s not quite full-time, but it’s close enough to make things both worthwhile and a pain in the patootie. Call it a “twilight full-time” position, if you will, because even though I get paid for thirty-two hours of work each week, I am already noticing that I haven’t worked less than forty each week so far and that trend will probably continue until the end of the year. These positions are just one the unintended consequences created by the continuous cycles of budget cuts Minneapolis and many other school districts have had to endure in the past five to six years.

I knew this discrepancy in the work-to-pay ratio would be the likely case before I signed on and I don’t particularly mind it myself. The upshot, however, is that my donation-in-time above and beyond my paid time is near the end of the rope of budget cuts that have zeroed out any line-items for new textbooks or school library books, updates to computer labs hardware and software, much-needed repairs to school facilities, sufficient support staff and administrators, and sufficient full-time classroom teachers to meet the manifest educational needs of a neighborhood’s children.

As I have started this new job, I have noticed that the one thing that hasn’t come up has been the purchasing of new or updated supplies and equipment. I, myself, am used to working on a budget that is effectively less than zero, but the needs of a school to teach children to be much more than merely successful standardized, “basic-skills” test-takers so that certain political leaders and critics of public education can get their self-righteous rocks off should not go unmet as they have in recent years.

So to Tracy at Anti-Strib, Swiftee, and all those other critics of the work I and many others commit to doing: If teaching is so easy and undemanding, why aren’t you money-grubbing materialists lining up to feed at the trough?

This weekend I have the time and a reasonably good state of health to plan out another few weeks down the road. That includes what to do with this blog I have raised from a wee, wrinkly kitten of zeroes and ones. I will continue to write and publish Yowling from the Fencepost, but I may ask some friends to add their two-cents from time-to-time to help me keep this blog’s content current. Stay tuned, and, in the immortal words of an old Bartles & James commercial, thank you for your support.

What this blog needs is a set of vibrating duck butts

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Dec 08 2006

For that person on your Holiday gift-giving list who has everything:

Nothing sends a better “all is clear” signal to flying waterfowl than the sight of feeding ducks. And these new Quiver Duck Butts are the easy, effective way to mimic that behavior. They sport a Quiver Magnet H20 permanently mounted in a durable, lifelike closed-cell foam decoy body. Simply turn it on, toss it into your spread and get ready to shoot. The Quiver Magnet creates realistic feeding movement that produces ripples on the water’s surface. Weighted keel with anchor attachment. Requires two AA batteries (not included). Batteries are easily accessible.
Available: Mallard Drake, Mallard Hen.

Lights. Camera. Captions!

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Nov 12 2006

Have away, friends:

Allow me to get things rolling:

  • The bolts that were here when the doctor brought me to life have been removed for some time now, but I still get phantom pains.
  • And now, I shall use my incredible psychotelekinetic powers to make everyone write exactly what I want you to write… … … Damn. Must concentrate harder…
  • Hey everyone. Watch me make my head explode.
  • And then, the president had a suggestion about what I should say about that, and I thought, “My god. He really is that stupid.” I then told him not to try to do my job for me. It’s hard enough making up stuff on my own.

The rest is up to you. Have fun.

Never would have guessed.

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Oct 31 2006

The Associated Press tells us what we already knew, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be emphasized:

Millions Spent on Negative Political Ads (New York Times-AP):

So far this campaign, the political parties have exposed voters to nearly $160 million in ads attacking congressional candidates. How much spent painting a positive image? About $17 million.

That’s just over $1 of nice for every $10 of nasty.

The message ingrained in such a disparity in numbers: Don’t vote for a candidate; vote against the opponent.

Negative ads are the coin of the realm in politics. With one week left in the campaign, voters will continue to be bombarded on television, in the mail and over the phone as political strategists make their closing arguments to a shrinking pool of those who haven’t made up their minds.

Under the terms of a 2002 campaign finance law, these messages are independent expenditures that the parties can undertake only if they do not coordinate with the candidates they are seeking to help. This type of spending by the parties on congressional campaigns is 54 percent higher than it was for the same period in the 2004 campaign season, according to data compiled by the Federal Election Commission.

It is also decidedly more negative. In 2004, the parties spent about $6 on ads in favor of congressional candidates for every $5 spent opposing candidates.

At this point, Republicans have spent $87.5 million to oppose candidates and Democrats have spent $72.6 million. But the edge on negativity, according to independent analyses of the ads, goes to the GOP.

There are seven days remaining in the campaign season. Hang in there, everyone. Your teevee broadcasters will be back to trying to sell you cars that parallel park on their own, real estate scams that don’t require any of your money, and colon-clearing miracle drugs-that-aren’t-drugs-but-“natural-supplements.”

That last one begs the question: If you put a negative campaign ad and one of those colon-clearing drug commercials back-to-back, will they cancel each other out? Someone should apply for a science grant to study that one.

Not me, though. I have had enough of all that crap (…and you have probably had enough of this scatological humor).

I never had tactical relations with those words.

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Oct 23 2006

Bush doesn’t want to stay the course anymore.

The Big Muddy (Washington Post):

With just more than two weeks to go before a mid-term election that promises to be in large part a referendum on the war in Iraq, President Bush and his aides continue to muddy the debate by trying to redefine their terms on the fly.

The most obvious example came on Sunday, when ABC News broadcast an interview in which Bush denied he had ever advocated staying the course.

Here’s the text of the interview, which was conducted on Wednesday.

Anchor George Stephanopoulos was asking Bush about comments from James A. Baker III, who has said that the independent commission he co-chairs is pursuing alternatives to “cut and run” or “stay the course” in Iraq.

Said Bush: “Well, listen, we’ve never been stay the course, George. We have been — we will complete the mission, we will do our job and help achieve the goal, but we’re constantly adjusting the tactics, constantly.”

White House counselor Dan Bartlett used almost the exact same words this morning on CBS News’s ” Early Show “: “It’s never been a stay the course strategy.”

But as the liberal Think Progress blog so definitively pointed out yesterday, Bush repeatedly has described his strategy in precisely those terms.

“We will stay the course.” ( 8/30/06 )

“We will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq.” ( 8/4/05 )

“We will stay the course until the job is done, Steve. And the temptation is to try to get the president or somebody to put a timetable on the definition of getting the job done. We’re just going to stay the course.” ( 12/15/03 )

“And my message today to those in Iraq is: We’ll stay the course.” ( 4/13/04 )

And so on.

With “stay the course” polling poorly, what Bush and Bartlett apparently are trying to do is get credit for the fact that the tactics in Iraq have and will continue to change, while at the same time insisting that their overall strategy and goals remain unchanged — and sound.

Haven’t we impeached presidents for lying about lesser matters?