Saturday, May 31, 2008

Robert Jensen

On the future:

There is no easy route to a different future. In our laziness and greed we have narrowed the range of our choices and eliminated too many options for us to pretend there are easy solutions. I can’t predict the future, but I am relatively certain that the future will be hard. There is sorrow in coming to terms with all of this, but sorrow is not the same thing as despair. Sorrow need not lead to paralysis; sorrow isn’t the end. Sorrow is simply a part of life, which can help us understand where we’ve been and in what direction we must move.

My two cents on the Shimmin recall

Honestly? I'm not terribly surprised it's happening.

And I could go either way on its value. I think I have said before that I think Shimmin could be a good board member with a little more experience and time to reflect (and without Alexander and Wineteer around).

Politically, I think this is a smart move on the part of CARES. Let's look at some assumptions and relevant facts:

1) Alexander and Wineteer seem unlikely to survive the next election. Mounting a recall effort for more than one person would be significantly harder than for just Shimmin. Simply running candidates for the open seats seems the smart move.

2) Shimmin has a lot longer left in her term than either Alexander or Wineteer. CARES gets the most bang for their buck this way.

3) A recall is actually risky. If it fails, I can't see Shimmin, Wineteer and Alexander (and their supporters) being anything but emboldened. Considerably. Personally, I don't want a bolder Rick Alexander.

I had more, but they've escaped me for the moment. Bottom line: Not a bad move on the part of CARES, but not without risk. I'm certainly to see what happens.

Anyone else got a take on this they'd like to share? Leave yours in the comments.

Save the drama

I'm getting really, really tired one specific type of comment I keep hearing from pro-Shimmin folks. It goes something like this:

Someone makes a comment along the following lines: 'Ms. Shimmin's vote to do X (usually suspend Robinson or approve the PIE contract) was a very poor vote because it failed to take into account the law (or other relevant fact regarding the situation).'

Nowhere is it mentioned that the vote was anti-Robinson. It's usually a criticism of Shimmin based on the lack of apparent good reason for her to have voted the way she did.

Another commenter, or perhaps IE, respond with something like this: 'I see that the pro-Robinson crowd can't deal with it when Shimmin doesn't vote with them/now that she's thinking for herself, the pro-Robinson crowd can't take it/etc.'

There's a small problem here. The second comment, the comeback, does nothing to address the point made in the first comment - namely, that a specific vote of Shimmin's is problematic not because it opposes Robinson, but because it fails to follow the law, be in the best interests of the district, or just make any sense (see, for example, approving the PIE amendments).

I would really like to see a principled defense of anyone's voting to approve the PIE contract or suspend Robinson that doesn't rely on some sort of "but you're just a pro-Robinson tool" argument (update: Or an appeal to secret information). I haven't been able to think of one myself - in fact, as I have stated, I think those votes are pretty indefensible on the merits.

Remember: I don't necessarily agree with Robinson's policies. I just think there are obvious and available ways of changing those policies that are both legal and democratic. That's maybe my biggest problem with this whole situation: That Wineteer, Shimmin and Alexander are using just about the worst, least democratic processes possible, and that doing so is hurting the district.

So, go ahead: Enlighten me. And for f*ck's sake, stop claiming that all opposition to Shimmin is due to her refusal to blindly follow Robinson. It's insulting to be told what I believe.

Geez, Sesame Street really does teach us about life

Found via profgrrrl, this was a question on a Sesame Street character quiz:

22. Alas, you are about to be marooned by yourself on an island. Which of these things would you rather have a lot of when you arrive?

A) Rice
B) Hope


Friday, May 30, 2008

Recall initiated against Lebanon school board member

Wow. Talk about your Friday afternoon info dump:

The Lebanon Citizens Alliance for a Responsible Education System (CARES) announced Friday that it will initiate a recall of Lebanon School Board member Debi Shimmin.

“The members of CARES and this community feel betrayed by Ms. Shimmin. She has broken almost every promise she made during her campaign," said CARES president John Kennedy. "Her votes have been consistently irresponsible and potentially unlawful and will ultimately lead to more litigation against the Lebanon School District. We feel we have no choice - Ms. Shimmin must go before more damage is done.”

More later.

OSU plans to cut Italian language classes

From the Gazette-Times:

Italian and other foreign language courses are popular at OSU and many have waiting lists, said Brad Dennis, the chief business officer for the College of Liberal Arts, which includes foreign languages.

Classes with high demand might be cut, Dennis said, because in the university’s budget model, tuition dollars don’t flow directly to the courses that students take.

“This is so ridiculous. It shouldn’t have to be this way. That’s the whole frustration,” Dennis said. “There is a total disconnect (between) where the students want to take classes and where the budget is to support it.”

Mark McCambridge, university vice president of finance and administration, said the university budget model is complicated, because there are expensive classes, such as science courses, and inexpensive courses, such as physical fitness classes. He added that most other departments have been able to operate within plan.

“They’re cutting the little people is what it is,” said Courtney Lindstrom, a junior majoring in public health management.

Methinks there's something wrong with the funding model.

Don't get me wrong - I don't think every class should turn a 'profit'. That would be problematic for a whole host of reasons. But I do think that if OSU is cutting things with waiting lists, things that are needed to graduate, then, frankly, the model is broken.

Also of note: McCambridge's comment is a useless non-sequitur. It explains or justifies nothing. In other words, it's typical McCambridge.

Maybe in my free time I'll look at the Resource Allocation Model used by OSU and see if I can figured it out. I've heard for a long time it's biased away from the liberal arts.

Free time. Right.

Also: Kyle Odegard had two stories in today's issue. That's some kind of record, right?

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Wow. This is a well-written editorial that manages not to demonize anybody, but instead raise semi-decent (but obviously unresearched) concerns.

I'm amazed.

... of course, I think Hering is passing over any possible short-term upsides to being taught in two languages, but hey. All things considered, I'm just happy he admits that learning Spanish is a good thing.

Presidential Chest-Thumping

Is this postmodern? A sign that Bush is, indeed, a Boomer?

Or is he just an overgrown frat boy?

Six Degrees of Wikipedia

I could lose a lot (more) time playing with this.

If anyone gets five or more clicks, let me know. I could only get four.

The (televised) press is broken

"...the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

[LCSD] Rick's next proposal? (Yes, that's a joke.)

From a comment on a story about a middle school considering drastically reducing electives:

Also some teachers are not there to teach our kids, they want vacations and weekends.

Riiiight. Because everyone knows teachers don't do anything over the weekend or during the summer. That syllabus? It practically writes itself...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Obsidian Wings

I can't get over how fantastic the picture in the upper left and the line below the blog's title are on this page. Have a look.

Monday, May 26, 2008

To be filed under 'reasons I'm not asleep'

I've found that as I get older, it's much harder to simply sit in awe and wonder at the world, to just be and experience the world as fully as possible without trying to interpret or change it.

Sometimes - like now - I connect that difficulty to all that I learned in college (and all the supposed explanatory power that came with it), and I miss feeling like the world is a magical place. I've been feeling that absence a lot lately, it seems.

Of course, this could also be related to a severe lack of time to reflect. I tend to need a lot of that.

Addendum: I've never met anyone who I can identify as sharing quite the sense of hope/wonder/absurdity/cynicism, paired with an overriding sense of the need for justice, towards the world that I do. I'd like to meet that person.

Currently listening to: Lucero, The National, Murder by Death, Tina Dico.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

[LCSD] Possible Ethics Violation?

It's nice to be in one's mid-20s. Lots of one's friends are still in school learning interesting things. Look what a conversation I had led to me looking for and finding:

Rule 4.2 Communication with Person Represented by Counsel

In representing a client or the lawyer’s own interests, a lawyer shall not communicate or cause another to communicate on the subject of the representation with a person the lawyer knows to be represented by a lawyer on that subject unless:

(a) the lawyer has the prior consent of a lawyer representing such other person;

(b) the lawyer is authorized by law or by court order to do so; or

(c) a written agreement requires a written notice or demand to be sent to such other person, in which case a copy of such notice or demand shall also be sent to such other person’s lawyer.

In other word, a lawyer cannot speak directly to someone who is represented by another lawyer unless one of the exceptions applies; instead, they must speak to the person's lawyer.

That's from the Oregon Code of Professional Conduct. You know, the one that applies to lawyers... like Jay Jackson.

If, as has been alleged, Jackson really sat down and wrote the amendments to the PIE contract with Josh Wineteer, then it sure looks like Jackson violated this part of the code in regards to Paul Dakopolos, the LCSD legal counsel, doesn't it?

Heck, if that's true, then think about all those contacts between Alexander or Wineteer - arguably clients of Paul Dakopolos - and Jackson that occurred without authorization, written permission, prior consent, or a court order.

I am not a lawyer. I don't know that what Jackson did is a violation of anything other than plain ol' ethics. I don't know if this part of the Code applies to organizations like the LCSD or only individuals. But Jackson could be in a world of hurt on this one. In fact, I would not be surprised if the words 'lost' and 'license' were used in the same sentence here soon.

The Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct can also be found in PDF form here.

[LCSD] Unanswered Questions

Way back in early December of 2007, I wrote this:

One other possibility [regarding the then-upcoming contract negotiations] is that Alexander will try and micromanage the contract, or at least give directions to the negotiating team that undermine the interests of the district.

I got the name wrong - turns out it was Wineteer and not Alexander - but wow. Writing the amendments sure counts as micromanagement in my book, to say nothing of the content of the amendments that Josh and Jay Jackson wrote.

Mmmmmm... speaking of the PIE contract, I also asked these questions once upon a time:

Interestingly, Mr. Wineteer's amendments are not simply a list of changes to the text. Some of them (at least 1, 2, 9 & 10) are simply instructions regarding what to change. In those cases, what is the process by which the changes will be included in the actual contract? Who will write the new language? Who has to sign off on it? Where in the contract will the new pieces of language be located? Does passage of the motion mean that Robinson is now obligated to negotiate the terms laid out by Wineteer, or is there some other process that will be used to include the new material? Does passage of the motion mean that negotiations are over?

I have yet to hear an answer to these questions. Rumor has it that no one else really knows the answers, either.

Firing from the hip is a good way to fuck your enemies up, it's true. Combine that with the fact that Debi, Rick and Josh seem to view the school district officials - you know, the people who are officially tasked with running the school district - as their enemies... well, don't say I didn't warn you.



HBO's showing their dramatization of the 2000 post-election fiasco this evening. They were kind enough to send me a screener, but ultimately I just couldn't watch it. I even kept turning off CNN today when they were showing clips.

That whole saga was just really traumatic. It was my "holy shit everything is really screwed up" moment when I suddenly realized that all of our elites - politicians, supremos, and especially the media - did not deserve the modest naive faith that I had given them. I'm not saying that I lacked any cynicism about the various institutions before, but just watching the media piss on our Democracy over that time period was incredibly jarring.

This is pretty much exactly what happened to me. It was a little more stretched out than that, taking place from roughly November 2000 to the summer of 2002, but my normal cynical attitude towards humanity felt like it turned to sheer terror for a few years there at the possibility that all the horrendous shit I was reading about was really happening and that the national media - the gatekeepers, the professionals, the (supposedly) sane ones - were practically leading the charge off the cliff.

Almost seven years later, having been proven largely right (which is not a good thing when you're a one-stop Doom 'n Gloom Shop), I'm a little amazed I'm not a black pit of cynicism. Or insane.

Stare too long into the abyss and all that.

Compare and Contrast

Hering in October 2007:

“This government does not torture people,” the president said again last week. Of course not. But if the world thinks we do, we are losing the battle for hearts and minds — the most important battlefield in this prolonged war.

Hering today:

For years, there has been a public argument about the use of torture in the terror war. (Whether we employ it; whether it might be justified.) Now we have new answers, and they make unpleasant reading.

The Office of the Inspector General of the

U.S. Department of Justice has reviewed how FBI agents were involved in or observed “harsh” interrogations of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and in Afghanistan and Iraq. In general, it found that the hundreds of FBI agents engaged in this work did not abuse prisoners but that they heard of and saw plenty.

Abuse is too mild a term.

“A few FBI agents,” the summary says on page xxii, “reported other harsh or unusual interrogation techniques used by the military at GTMO. These incidents tended to be small in number, but they became notorious at GTMO because of their nature.

“They included using a growling military dog to intimidate a detainee during an interrogation; twisting a detainees’ thumbs back; using a female interrogator to touch or provoke a detainee in a sexual manner; wrapping a detainee’s hand in duct tape; and exposing a detainee to pornography.”

Other techniques the FBI heard about or saw included sleep deprivation, blindfolding or “hooding” prisoners, exposing them to strobe lights and loud music, keeping them in isolation for long periods of time, and chaining them in painful positions, sometimes to the floor, for hours at a time.

In one interrogation described in the report, prisoners were chained in a kneeling position while an interrogator poured water down their throats. (A footnote makes the point that this was not the same as waterboarding, but the footnote does not say whether it was not as bad or worse.)

The gist of the report is that these techniques were illegal for the FBI to use, but that they had been authorized for military personnel by the Department of Defense until, acting on complaints, the harsh techniques were again disapproved.

One telling element of the review: The FBI believes that another way of interrogating people, by building rapport with them, works much better and faster than the harsh techniques that the Defense Department authorized for a time.

Inflicting physical pain and psychological terror on prisoners is what the movies teach us we might have expected two or three generations ago from dictatorial and totalitarian regimes. Our motives are different, but this report from the Department of Justice confirms that our techniques in some cases were just as brutal.

Regardless of the outcome, the history of our struggle against terrorism will be marked by that regrettable fact. (hh)


While I'm glad Hering addressed the issue, he managed to do so in amazingly weasel-like fashion. Notice how, in comparison with pretty much every other editorial he writes, no one is to blame for this? And how no one is directed to take responsibility? Or that he describes the U.S. practice of torturing people as a "regrettable fact"? It's not even a condemnation, for fuck's sake.

Jeebus, Hering. Even I thought you'd summon a little more outrage than this. This editorial reminds of the little boy who has to apologize after being caught red-handed and does so, but in an oh-so-sullen manner: He's obviously feeling humiliated, but he's not mature enough to openly own up to his mistakes.

I actually expect better than this from Hering.

Fox News Guest Jokes About Killing Obama, Laughs

Excuse me?

Can we pull our collective heads out of our collective asses yet?


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