Saturday, November 24, 2007

300 dead by taser in the U.S. this year alone

...this is the last one, I promise. But I felt a need to at least post the link.

This is why I despise tasers and police-state tactics.

This needs to stop.

Chris Matthews does something right

Normally that guy is pretty insane, especially when it comes to gender. This time, he gets one right. This is in regards to asking why anti-abortion activists don't seek criminal penalties against women who get abortions:

MATTHEWS: It just seems like you make a basic political judgment that would blame the doctor, when, in fact, these doctors don‘t go door to door offering people abortion services. The person who wants the abortion goes to a doctor and has the procedure done by the doctor. Yet you put the onus on the doctor. It just seems to be the strangest way to enforce a law.

Follow the links and check out the other guy's defense.

It's pretty telling.

I'm done posting for now. Promise.

h/t Hullabaloo.

NYT's "100 Notable Books of the Year"

I might have to take a closer look at this.

... what's with all the prices? I hope those are just for the hardcovers.

Australia's Howard is out

Good frackin' riddance. That guy is incredibly racist. Everything I saw come out of his government was Bush-lite and/or neoliberalism 101. Plus, he'd been PM for 10 or 11 years or so (way too long, in other words).

I hope Rudd is better, especially on Aboriginal issues.... but I doubt he will be. My experience with Australia is that there's still an incredible amount of blatant, conscious racism there.

Hopefully it was just the people I met.

Update: Howard lost in both ways - he lost his seat and his party lost. Yay!

Friday, November 23, 2007

DH: Alexander amends motion re: firing Robinson

I have one question: Did Meadowbrook know about his misreading of the statute beforehand, or did he really find out when the DH ran the story the first time?

Either answer's not good - the former means that he was playing politics in a bad way, and the latter means that he's not all that good at his job (or that he was in such a rush to get the request in before the break and while Robinson was gone that he didn't take the time to do all the research he should have).

On the other hand, apparently the complaint is very straightforward, far more straightforward than Alexander has been at board meetings:

In the complaint, Alexander says he wants to move that the board not renew the superintendent’s contract under ORS 342.513 “unless that action would violate” the contract.

The suit also says that Alexander is worried that if he goes ahead with such a motion, Robinson will sue him and anyone who votes for it. He is concerned, the suit says, “in part because Robinson sued plaintiff in this court last year ... for alleged contract violations.”

I'm disappointed. He gave away the game - not only does he say he wants to get rid of Robinson by any legal means (having discovered that he does not, in fact, have the power to do so illegally), he throws in the irrelevant sop about being sued (and the DH falls for it - by merely noting that Robinson eventually dropped the suit, it does not acknowledge why he filed or why he dropped, reasons that I file under the category "important context.")

Rick's running out of tricks, I think. He'd better hope he can manufacture a crisis again soon. Maybe it's time for Josh to step up to the plate...

LTE on Williams' Column

[Sometimes I capitalize post titles and sometimes I don't. I wonder why.]

Anyway, there is a letter to the editor in the DH responding to Ben Williams' Young Voices column.

An excerpt from the letter:

In closing, I must summarize that at least one student has been able to overcome the lack of leadership within our school structure and has been able to rise above the leadership of our school system. Mr. Williams, I commend you and will be voting for you when you run for school board, or who knows, one day come back as our superintendent.

Let's just say that I think Mr. Gestrin's letter is unintentionally funny. It actually makes me wonder if he knows the student in question.

Get Off My Lawn Or I'll Shoot Edition

Of course it's Hering. Who else would it be?

I'll keep this short - I have better things to do:

The same issue has come up in Oregon in connection with public schools. A Medford teacher challenged her school district’s policy that barred her from being armed on school grounds. She went to court and lost, but she’s appealing. Now the school district plans to ask the Oregon Legislature to amend the law in order to give school districts explicit authority to enforce such policies. The question would be how. Metal detectors? Regular pat-downs?

Yes, actually. Apparently Hering is unaware that some schools actually have metal detectors and bag searches.

I always thought that being an editor meant that one actually researched the editorials they wrote.

There's also this:

Another is that people who have met the requirements for a permit to carry a concealed weapon are, as a general rule, more law-abiding and responsible than your average individual in the population at large — and certainly more so than the criminal who just ignores the law.

Really? Evidence, please. I hear this all the time from gun advocates, but I have never seen a single scrap of evidence for the claim that people with concealed weapons permits are safer than those without. My experience is completely contradictory to that - the craziest people I know are also the ones who carry concealed.

Hering really shouldn't be in the business of printing - or writing - evidence-free assertions based on unsupported (and frankly ridiculous) beliefs. It's not becoming of a newspaper editor.

The History Boys

Picked this film up at random this evening and watched it with two friends.

It was amazing.

I don't want to give away any plot information, but here are three things that were raised during the film:

1. Student-teacher relationships, including power dynamics.

2. Pedagogy, specifically modern vs. postmodern understandings of truth, history, and literature.

3. Masculinity, male adolescent development, and sexual identity.

It plays out against the background of a British grammar school with wonderful, if incredibly understated (stereotypically British?) writing and acting - as it would turn out, the cast of the film is the same as the cast of the play the film was based on. It also shares the same writer and director as the play.

Anyway, the thing that impressed me the most was the way in which the film treated everyone with compassion.

Go see it.

Alexander wastes everyone's time - again

LT has already posted on this, but I want to point something out that I noticed while reading the dead tree version of this story:

Alexander is asking the court to interpret the contract in light of an Oregon statute, ORS 342.845, that states school boards “may elect not to extend the administrator’s contract for any cause the school board in good faith considers sufficient.”


Alexander disagrees and is asking for a ruling saying that the law allows boards to end contracts for any “good faith” reason and without having to first make a job evaluation.


Shannon Priem, communications director of the Oregon School Boards Association, said OSBA agrees. She cited definitions under ORS 342.815 that specifically state superintendents are not included in the definition of “administrator” for dismissal purposes.

This seems pretty clear-cut, actually, which is unsurprising. Meadowbrook and Alexander are still playing spaghetti: Throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. So far, they've had no real success.

Also, what do we think Alexander will use as a 'good-faith' reason? And how much will Robinson get when he sues Alexander?

Will Robinson be forced to sue the school district to get the rest of his pay and/or clear his record? How does that help the district's students.

However, what was raised for me when reading the story for the first time was the larger issue of the rolling three-year contract that Robinson and most other Superintendents get.

My understanding is that such contracts are tantamount to job or financial security (buying out the remainder of the contract being one way to end a super's employment without waiting for the contract to end), and they allow a Super to work without the immediate possibility of the current year being their last. However, unless school boards can fire without cause, I don't see why a rolling contract is necessary. Well, unless a board can fire a Super without cause.


Buy Nothing Day

Found here; follow the link for the full image, which is much larger and more interesting.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

LHS student's 'Young Voices' column

I debated whether or not I wanted to post on this for a few reasons. While I've decided to, I'm keeping it short:

I'm glad that Mr. Williams, as a student, wrote the column he did. I hope it gets the issue more attention, since most of the voices speaking so far have little or no ties to the school or school district.

I wish more students would speak up as to how they feel about what's going on.

My Thanksgiving Prayer

My aunt said grace at Thanksgiving. It was pretty standard.

Here's my slightly modified version, the one that ran through my head on my way home:

Dear Lord, thank you for clearing this continent of brown people. May you expand your work to the rest of the world so that we may continue to enjoy our bounty of cheap, mass-produced crap (including the food you make available to us at your holy temple of Wal-Mart).

Oh, and please leave Mexico and part of Asia - we need some brown people left to make all that stuff for us.


Have I mentioned I really don't like this holiday, even though it's the only time of year I eat stuffing or cranberry sauce?

Note: This is not a rejection of my aunt's recital, but of the context in which it takes place.


Played a game earlier tonight with two other folks, both of whom have been victorious against me before.

I scored 505; neither of them scored above 214 - meaning my score was more than theirs combined.


Probably, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't really pleased with the outcome.

TAP's Courtney Martin on the absence of youth activism

She says it's all gone to college campuses and that there is a downside:

Today's youth activism is largely enacted within the gated fortresses of higher learning. Students are overwhelmingly and often motivated by applying to law school or resumé-building. (How do you think they got into these undergraduate institutions in the first place?) They funnel their outrage into weekly club meetings and awareness campaigns that look good on paper -- activities that convey to future employers and institutions that they are socially involved and aware but not at odds with the system. Students seem to join sanctioned, existing clubs, rather than launch their own radical actions, without much resistance or critical questioning. Perhaps they've been socialized to accept the status quo, but even more, I believe they simply don't have the time or energy to start innovative revolutions from scratch because they are so busy taking standardized tests and building their resumés with internships and assistantships.

I agree with this.

I think a lot of what makes this column on the mark is the absence of risk-taking on the part of "youth."

This, of course, includes myself.

The corollary to that is that the risks are seem, relatively, much higher. Getting a 'good' job with a record is much harder - even if that record is simply a record of radical activism. As well, the legal risks are generally much higher, and with the explosion of local police using police-state tactics, the literal, physical risks are much higher. Finally, I think the assumption that there is either a government-provided social safety net or a safety net of people willing to help a person out is gone. Certainly the social safety itself has been shredded these last two decades.

On the other hand, Martin seems to conflate 'real' or 'radical' activism with 'highly visible and disruptive' activism. They aren't always the same thing, and even though there is a certain value in simply disrupting an unjust system in order to draw attention to it (see also MLK, Rosa Parks, sit-ins, etc), sometimes it's better to fly under the radar.

Remember, for every protest you've seen - from the civil rights era through the current debacle in Iraq - there has been a tremendous, tremendous amount of organizing done behind the scenes. A good protest or march is the expression the members' sentiments as well as the amount of work that's been done - it's not always and end unto itself.

h/t JAO.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It's so obvious that homophobia is built into masculinity, etc. etc.

From a WSJ article:

Mr. Iwanyk, 32 years old, first suspected that his TiVo thought he was gay, since it inexplicably kept recording programs with gay themes. A film studio executive in Los Angeles and the self-described "straightest guy on earth," he tried to tame TiVo's gay fixation by recording war movies and other "guy stuff."

"The problem was, I overcompensated," he says. "It started giving me documentaries on Joseph Goebbels and Adolf Eichmann. It stopped thinking I was gay and decided I was a crazy guy reminiscing about the Third Reich."

Notice how the logical progression created by the TiVo leads from "gay stuff" to "manly stuff" to fascism?

TiVo must have an advanced degrees in gender studies.

Or perhaps Mr. Iwanyk is thinking like a well-socialized man. Rationality leads to irrational outcomes, or something.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Stereotypical Ambivalence

I find this site funny, but I'm not sure why.

At first glance, it seems I shouldn't.

The one about lefties is pretty frackin' great.

Being Tough

Because everyone knows that men who ask for help are really just pansies:

LEXINGTON, Ky. - A soldier facing his second tour of duty in Iraq said in a jailhouse interview he was at a hospital seeking mental help when he was arrested in the middle of the night for allegedly being absent without leave.

Spc. Justin Faulkner insists his superior officers at Fort Campbell knew about his mental problems but refused to provide adequate treatment.

On Thursday, Faulkner checked into a Lexington VA hospital, where doctors told him they wanted to keep him until Monday for observation. Police showed up at the hospital shortly after 2 a.m. Saturday to take him to jail.

"It's humiliating, degrading," Faulkner, 22, of Stanton, said in an interview Monday with The Associated Press minutes before his release from the Fayette County Detention Center. "It's made me lose respect for the military. To come and arrest me at the VA, it wasn't like I was trying to hide, trying to run. I was getting help. I am being punished for getting help."

Do you get it yet, America? There is no nobility in this. None.

Via Dohiyi Mir.

Reinforcing the Dominant Paradigm, Special Sexism Edition

Because lord knows not a single American was gay before the 1960s...

From another of those blasted books:

A man on the frontier with a family needs a woman, and so, within a year, Thomas Lincoln married Sarah Bush Johnston, who had three children of her own.

This in a chapter supposedly about Abraham Lincoln's early years.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Another Story on Oregon Native Mascots

From a friend in Forest Grove:

Athletic Director Wymon Smith is Shoshone Indian.

Assistant Principal Jim Smith’s heritage is linked to the Algonquin, Chippewa and Assiniboine tribes.

Each administrator is proud of his ancestry, and both want to keep the Braves as Banks High School’s mascot.


“There’s nothing wrong with Chiefs, Warriors, Indians or Braves,” insisted Jim Smith. “It’s not about names. It’s about how people treat each other. I’m totally in support of keeping things the way they are.”

That's a common argument against changing the mascots: "I'm Native and I say it's OK!"

I have to wonder what the lives of the two men mentioned in the article are like. Are they often visually identified by others as Native American? Were they raised in a traditional fashion, or, frankly, as white people?

In any case, I don't think the "I'm Native and OK with it" argument is a good one. The strongest argument against Native mascots, as far as I can see, is that such mascots maim the dignity of Native people. End of story.

The student body president pulls out another time-tested argument:

“If it were offensive or if it had discriminatory undertones, I’d find it logical,” he said. “But we’re not making (Native Americans) look bad in any way.”

Why does he get to decide? I've been over this what seems like a million times in the last month or so - members of the oppressing class do not get to decide what counts as oppressive or not. At the very least, that's fixing the match. It's also extremely marginalizing.

See also this comment from an '89 Banks High School graduate named Jeremy Larsen (Hey! A local paper that has comments! Imagine that!):

School mascots are about pride, unity and belief in our kids' belief in school and community nothing more. [Italics added]

That same comment has been made quite a bit in the context of the appearance of black facepaint at OSU. It's just as wrong in the one place as the other.

Again, why do people that look and/or sound awfully white always seem to get to determine the parameters of what counts as racist or offensive (or at all)?

It's much harder to acknowledge someone else's pain at some cost to oneself than it is to simply write others' pain off as illegitimate, I know. But it's incredibly important for white folks to do nonetheless.

Subverting Reinforcing the Dominant Paradigm

From a chapter titled "Red Scare" in a book students at work were reading today:

In that same postwar time, there were also some anarchists in America. Anarchists don't believe in government at all. You don't have to be very smart to realize that anarchy doesn't work. But, when the anarchists looked around and saw poverty, war, and evil, they thought that this was the fault of governments. Some may have really believed that the answer was to do away with all governments. A few tried to do that by setting off bombs intended to kill government leaders. That, of course, was criminal behavior. Newspapers made big headlines of the bombs. Many Americans were frightened....

That was the entirety of the chapter's mention of anarchism - except for the blurb on Sacco and Vanzetti, who, according to the book, "may or may not have been guilty."

The book series was A History of the U.S.: War, Peace, and All That Jazz by Joy Hakim. Specifically, it was Book #9, Page 35.

The treatment of communism was almost as silly and just as shallow.

There was no mention of the Progressive or Labor movements at this time, or of the Socialist movement.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, this is an idiotic representation of anarchism.... but that's what reinforcing the dominant paradigm is all about. Not only does the author lump the huge variety of existing anarchisms together, she implies the old "anarchy means chaos" bit by not acknowledging any other form of organization besides the "government" (and without further context or definitions, when written in a history book for high schoolers, that means "American-style government").

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Good LTE in the GT

...Ms. Novak basically defends the continued use of these mascots simply because the majority of people feel that there is no problem. For example, she mentions that 15 high school students “identified” as Native American said that they had no problem with Native American nicknames. However, it could be that these students were not willing to confront the entire school of white peers on something very controversial.

The above quote is from a CHS high school student, in a letter printed in the Gazette-Times.

She recognizes the effect of peer pressure and how it's related to the mascot issue.

Good for her.

Civic Journalism

I knew this would come up sooner or later in the context of both the Lebanon situation and the Daily Barometer, so I want to take a second and introduce the idea of civic journalism, also known as public journalism.

Specifically, I was prompted by this comment at LT's blog by Express reporter Larry Coonrod, speaking for himself about the role of journalists:

Our job is to fairly and accurately report the facts surrounding the issue and let our readers make up their own minds.

This is, in a sense, absolutely uncontroversial. It is orthodox to journalism. It's an idea that has, in no small amount, defined an era of journalism, from roughly WWII onward. Implicit in this comment is a belief in the ability of journalists to be neutral.

That idea also happens to be problematic. The world has changed significantly in that time, as has humankind's understanding of ourselves and our societies. That idea, however, has not changed.

I am thinking of Howard Zinn's book (and DVD) You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train.

The world today is a moving train. No question about that.

As I wrote about the Barometer situation:

Journalists, like everyone else, bring to work with them the sum of their experiences and their values – and are therefore not the neutral or objective actors that ancient media theory hold them to be.

This, of course, holds just as true for the Lebanon Express and Albany Democrat-Herald as it does for the Barometer.

No one can completely remove themselves and their values from their work. Every decision made about what to cover, and how, and who to ask for quotes, and where to do research - all of those reflect in some sense both professional values and personal values.

If journalists are no longer the neutral, objective actors they used to be, if they must take a position, then what position should they take?

Enter Civic Journalism:

The civic journalism movement (also known as public journalism) is, according to professor David K. Perry of the University of Alabama, an attempt to abandon the notion that journalists and their audiences are spectators in political and social processes. In its place, the civic journalism movement seeks to treat readers and community members as participants. With a small, but growing following, civic journalism has become as much of an ideology as it is a practice.

I actually think that the DH and also the Corvallis Gazette-Times are doing a good job of opening themselves up to the public in some ways (see the community forums of the DH and the 10-part series on Corvallis at the GT). It's harder for a smaller paper like the Lebanon Express to do so, but I'd like to see it nonetheless.

Then there is the Daily Barometer. Of all of the aforementioned newspapers, the Baro needs to be the most responsive to the community, and needs to allow for the most engagement on the part of its readers.

Needless to say, it is not. In fact, I would go so far as to say the Baro is digging its own grave in the long term if it refuses to acknowledge the nature of its own existence and instead pretend it's somehow removed from the community. That position is increasingly untenable.

I understand the desire for editorial independence (though the Barometer does not have it even by their own definition). But opening up the paper's internal workings/production process to readers (and staff!) and increasing community participation does not have to undermine that independence - as long as the integrity of the editorial staff is solid. Right now, of course, the integrity of the editorial staff is under question.

What is the Barometer going to do to (re)gain credibility among its audience?

How is the Express going to envision its own role in the slow-motion meltdown of the Lebanon School Board? How is the community going to view the Express?

Civic Journalism provides good answers to those questions.


Dap has served his purpose.

Too many people know my identity anyway, and I'm tired of not being able to write about whole sections of my life.

So that's over.

My name is Dennis.

Most of you already knew that.

With any luck, not a whole lot will change about this blog.

Carry on.

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