Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Steve Novick Gets Slashdotted

He'll be interviewed, but I'm not sure what the difference is:

Not many candidates for the U.S. Senate are 4'9" tall and only have one hand. But Oregon Democrat Steve Novick qualifies on both counts -- and uses them as pluses in his TV ads. Like this one, where he shows why he's the best beer-drinking partner among all the candidates. Or this one, where it's obvious why he's for "the little guy." Also, as far as we know, he's the only candidate this year for any major office who has his own brand of beer. And his online campaign manager is a major Slashdot junkie, too, which is certainly in his favor. But will humor and oddness get Steve into the Senate? We don't know. So ask him. In fact, ask him anything else you'd like about campaigning and politics. He's promised to respond, and seems like the kind of guy who will give interesting answers, at that. (Please follow Slashdot interview rules, as always.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

[Flashbacks] A familiar name in a surprising place

From the story on a reopened restaurant in Lebanon:

However, Dorothy Geil, who went by her nickname Dottie, died of cancer in January at age 59 and the restaurant closed soon afterward. Dispute over ownership of the restaurant followed.


Other partners in the new venture are Richard Geil and Harold Rodney-Geil.


I know where I'm eating next time I visit the folks.

... adding, this reminds me of sleeping on the 8th (I think it was 8th) floor balcony of an apartment building open to the ocean on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. That was awesome, and feel free to ask outside the confines of the blog if you are curious enough to have the reference explained.

[Hering] But for that one key fact...


Democrats in the U.S. House evidently want to punish phone companies that complied with federal requests to check phone records in the investigation and prevention of terror attacks. That will be remembered in any further investigation of this sort: If you cooperate with the feds, you might get in legal trouble later.

I don't know what you read, but here's what I saw: A Republican National Committee press release reprinted with his name on it. That's pathetic.

Hering omits the fact that the issue is really about granting retroactive immunity to telecom companies for anything they did in the wake of 9/11. That's the difference between the Senate and House bills on the issue - the House bill allows for the possibility that telecom companies should be punished for breaking the law. (They could have said 'no' to whatever it was the Feds asked them to do. Seriously. It was an option that other companies, such as Google, took.) The only potential punishment at stake here is what will happen when the actions of U.S. phone companies come to light and the law discovers what they did, and frankly, that seems eminently fair in this situation.

I don't know about you, but I always thought Hering was a law-and-order kind of guy. There's an internet saying that seems to fit here: IOKIYAR (It's Okay If You're A Republican). Apparently that extends to completely subverting the rule of law.

Yet here we have Hering:

But all the companies did was cooperate with efforts, albeit flawed ones, to keep the United States safe.

I'm not even going to mention the gross oversimplification and distortion there. Let's skip back in time and make the same argument circa, say, 1946:

"But all the companies did was cooperate with efforts, albeit flawed ones, to keep Deutschland safe."

The structure of the argument is the same: That if someone believed that what they were doing was for the greater good, then it's justified.

I hope the analogy makes clear how bankrupt a defense that is. By that definition, many - even most - of the atrocities committed during war would be acceptable, as would, say, Ted Kazynski's bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Heck, let's go for the Godwin's law two-fer. The Nuremberg Defense, from Wikipedia:

"The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."

Even if the U.S. Government had ordered telecom companies to do what they've allegedly done, under this condition, that does not count as a defense.

Why is Hering defending them? Why is he suggesting that not giving blanket immunity without understanding what happened is a bad thing?

Good to know partisan politics trumps facts, the truth, the strength of an argument and even the law on the editorial page of the Democrat-Herald.


Immediate Update: A commenter on the DH website gets at one of the core issues:

It is rather unfortunate that it did not get them in a whole lot of problems later- when someone asks for my phone records, the proper response is: where's your warrant?

Unless, Hasso, you want to repeal the fourth amendment...

[Krugman] What's the biggest crisis facing America? If you said Iraq, you're.... wrong?

The first and last paragraphs from Paul Krugman's latest column:

Four years ago, an academic economist named Ben Bernanke co-authored a technical paper that could have been titled “Things the Federal Reserve Might Try if It’s Desperate” — although that may not have been obvious from its actual title, “Monetary Policy Alternatives at the Zero Bound: An Empirical Investigation.”


I used to think that the major issues facing the next president would be how to get out of Iraq and what to do about health care. At this point, however, I suspect that the biggest problem for the next administration will be figuring out which parts of the financial system to bail out, how to pay the cleanup bills and how to explain what it’s doing to an angry public.

All that stuff between the two paragraphs is really interesting.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

[LCSD] The Superintendent's Evaluation - Scores and Comments

My astrologer divined the results of Robinson's evaluation* and I'm putting the results online. I'm not doing this to bash either Robinson or the board, but to get the information out there so people can see it firsthand.

*You can safely assume this is not true.

That said, I think it's incredibly important to understand the following two things before taking a look at the evaluation.

1. Comments are, inevitably, shorthand for specific things that have happened, and as a result, the comments will likely mean something different (and far more significant) to both Robinson and the board members than they might to me or you.

2. There is certainly a verbal portion to the evaluation, which means that the written comments are not (I would think) the only feedback Robinson received.

The format is as follows: There are nine standards. Each board member evaluates the superintendent on each standard, giving him a score ranging from 0 to 4:

0 = Unacceptable
1= Needs Improvement
2= Good
3 = Excellent
4 = Outstanding

The scores are then averaged. Each board member also has the opportunity to leave written comments for each standard. All the scores and comments are compiled into one document, which is considered the collective board's review.

I'll probably comment on the evaluation in a few days. For now, the scores and comments - all of the comments - for each of the nine sections are below.

Standard 1: Leadership and District Culture

Score: 1.6/4

Comments: 1) SBAC is good; 2) Reach out more to all stakeholders

Standard 2: Policy and Governance

Score: 1.8/4

Comments: 1) Has a broad working knowledge of school governance; 2) Greater attention to detail regarding legal matters

Standard 3: Communications and Community Relations

Score: 0.8/4

Comments: 1) Increased attendance at special events (high school graduation, etc.); 2) Improvement in communication in the District

Standard 4: Organizational Management

Score: 2.4/4

Comments: 1) There is a solid functioning infra-sructure

Standard 5: Curriculum Planning and Development

Score: 1.8/4

Comments: 1) Some board members have concerns about SAS testing

Standard 6: Instructional Leadership

Score: 2.2/4

Comments: 1) Beyond LHS and use of Technology are good [sic]; 2) Greater Diversity of programs/High School Curriculum Concerns [sic]; 3) High School Administration need to be Centralized [sic]

Standard 7: Human Resources Management

Score: 1.4/4

Comments: 1) There are too many teacher grievances; 2) The mentor program is functioning well; 3) Would like to see teacher turnover decreased

Standard 8: Values and Ethics of Leadership

Score: 1.4/4

Comments: 1) Would like Superintendent not to speak ill of the Board

Standard 9: Labor Relations

Score: 1.4/4

Comments: 1) See Standard #7; 2) Less top down more bottom up management

Uh, what: Politics in the Age of Electric Kettles*

I've shared most of what Lindsey Beyerstein has written recently regarding Spitzer's resignation, but this one is a doozy.

Beyerstein has been following this case with a pretty ferocious level of attention. I won't be surprised if this blows up in DoJ's face because of her persistence.

She notes:

Sources: Lawyers for Spitzer negotiate possible plea deal

5:32 PM EDT, March 11, 2008

Lawyers for Gov. Eliot Spitzer are negotiating a possible plea deal with federal prosectuors stemming from his alleged involvement with a prostitution ring, sources said.

Several sources said that the one serious bargaining chip that Spitzer has to possibly avoid being charged with a serious felony, such as money laundering or avoiding federal currency rules, is to work out a deal in which he would give up the governorship. In return, prosecutors would assure him that he only would have to plead at most to a misdemeanor or even less and be in effect guaranteed that he would not have to go to prison. [Newsday]

If the foregoing is true, you could describe the same scenario another way: Federal law enforcement approached the sitting governor of New York and threatened to charge him with felonies unless he resigned his office.

The spin is that Spitzer used his office as a bargaining chip, but it takes two parties to negotiate. It doesn't matter who made the opening bid. If it's true that the feds offered anything in exchange for Spitzer's resignation, we have proof that this was a political sting all along.

I am a little surprised here. So many people are working under the assumption that the Bush DoJ has been thoroughly corrupted (and with good reason) that I would have expected more lefty bloggers to have pointed this out by now. What's up with that?

.. and in case, it's not obvious, what Beyerstein is suggesting is that a federal agency used its clout to force a sitting governor to resign. That's not how the law is supposed to work (the law should care about innocence and guilt and ignore whether or not a person holds office entirely), and if that's still not clear, I'd suggest that this is an indicator that you've accepted full politicization of federal agencies all the way to a subconscious level.

Slowly boiling frogs and all that.

*Not really a reference to anything, but I couldn't think of anything else.

[Games] Peggle's Designers Get Tired


[Modern American Culture] TwistyFaster On Funeral Homes

I.... it's just such good writing:

But nothing in my education or upbringing could have prepared me for our encounter with the Funeral Director. I almost spontaneously combusted when this specimen materialized out of the Stygian mist. The dude was the ne plus ultra, the transcendental essence, the Platonic ideal of funeral directors. He was still. He was shadowy. He was bloodless. He was creepy. He wore an ill-fitting suit made of larceny and doom.

[Snark] "Why, you’d almost think this election actually means something"

From Grace Nearing at Scriptoid:

Dear Obamaniacs and Clintonistas:

Shut the fuck up. Or, as the inestimable Wolcott puts it, spare me the rhetorical emo.

Your choice for president is going to either (a) win or (b) lose. And life in the United States will go on, albeit with higher gas prices, higher oil costs, more housing foreclosures, lower real estate prices, a lower dollar, and fewer jobs.

There will be no universal healthcare.

There will be no comprehensive integrated national mass transit system.

There will be no comprehensive integrated energy policy incorporating fossil-based and renewable energy sources.

Click the link to read the rest.

Needless to say, I agree with Grace, and I'm not even following the race that closely. Seriously, people: This happens every four years, and while it does have some level of importance, the ability of a single person - even the POTUS - to create substantial change is dwarfed by the million-headed hydra of profit or megacorporatheocracy or whatever Twisty Faster calls it.

That's not to say what Obama's been doing isn't impressive, in some way. But what's impressive is not what he's doing on a policy level, it's what he's doing to create a movement. Big difference.

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