Saturday, December 10, 2011

Why Innovation Can't Fix America's Classrooms

Simple and Superb points in this piece from Marc Tucker at the Atlantic last week. Seriously. Our leaders have to get this notion out of their head that they/we know everything. We're losing on this one. Copy the countries that are winning. Like, "duh!" - sj

Forget charter schools and grade-by-grade testing. It's time to look at the best-performing countries and pragmatically adapt their solutions.

Why Innovation Can't Fix America's Classrooms
Dec 6 2011
by Marc Tucker

Most Atlantic readers know that, although the U.S. spends more per student on K-12 education than any other nation except Luxembourg, students in a growing number of nations outperform our own. But think about this: Among the consistent top performers are not only developed nations (Japan, Finland, Canada), but developing countries and mega-cities such as South Korea, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

Even if we find a way to educate our future work force to the same standards as this latter group -- and we are a very long way from that now -- wages in the United States will continue to decline unless we outperform those countries enough to justify our higher wages. That is a very tall order.

You would think that, being far behind our competitors, we would be looking hard at how they are managing to outperform us. But many policymakers, business leaders, educators and advocates are not interested. Instead, they are confidently barreling down a path of American exceptionalism, insisting that America is so different from these other nations that we are better off embracing unique, unproven solutions that our foreign competitors find bizarre.

Some of these uniquely American solutions -- charter schools, private school vouchers, entrepreneurial innovations, grade-by-grade testing, diminished teachers' unions, and basing teachers' pay on how their students do on standardized tests -- may be appealing on their surface. To many in the financial community, these market-inspired reform ideas are very appealing.

Yet, these proposed solutions are nowhere to be found in the arsenal of strategies used by the top-performing nations. And almost everything these countries are doing to redesign their education systems, we're not doing.

The top-performing nations have followed paths that are remarkably similar and straightforward. Most start by putting more money behind their hardest-to-educate students than those who are easier to educate. In the U.S., we do the opposite.

They develop world-class academic standards for their students, a curriculum to match the standards, and high-quality exams and instructional materials based on that curriculum. In the U.S., most states have recently adopted Common Core State Standards in English and math, which is a good start. But we still have a long way to go to build a coherent, powerful instructional system that all teachers can use throughout the whole curriculum.

The top-performing nations boost the quality of their teaching forces by greatly raising entry standards for teacher education programs. They insist that all teachers have in-depth knowledge of the subjects they will teach, apprenticing new teachers to master teachers and raising teacher pay to that of other high-status professions. They then encourage these highly trained teachers to take the lead in improving classroom practices.

The result is a virtuous cycle: teaching ranks as one of the most attractive professions, which means no teacher shortages and no need to waive high licensing standards. That translates into top-notch teaching forces and the world's highest student achievement. All of this makes the teaching profession even more attractive, leading to higher salaries, even greater prestige, and even more professional autonomy. The end results are even better teachers and even higher student performance.

In the U.S., on the other hand, teaching remains a low-status profession. Our teacher colleges have minimal admission standards, and most teachers are educated in professional schools with very little prestige. Once they start working, they are paid substantially less than other professionals.

Many of our teachers also have a very weak background in the subjects they are assigned to teach, and increasingly, they're allowed to become teachers after only weeks of training. When we are short on teachers, we waive our already-low standards, something the high-performing countries would never dream of doing.

All this leads to poor student achievement, which leads to even shriller attacks on the profession and more calls for stricter accountability -- and that makes it even less likely that our best and brightest will become teachers. And that leads to low student achievement.

Thirty years ago, Japan was eating the lunch of some of America's greatest corporations. Those U.S. companies who survived figured out how the Japanese were doing it--and did it even better. The most effective way to greatly improve student performance in the U.S. is to figure out what the top-performing countries are doing and then, by capitalizing on our unique strengths, develop a strategy to do it even better.

The apostles of exceptionalism say we need more innovation. But our problem is not lack of innovation. Our problem is that we lack what the most successful countries have: coherent, well-designed state systems of education that would allow us to scale up our many pockets of innovation and deliver a high-quality education to all our students.

Playing to our strengths makes sense. Ignoring what works, simply because it was invented elsewhere, does not.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It's Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers

Wow. This will never ever never get old. - sj

It's Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers
by Colin Nissan

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to get my hands on some fucking gourds and arrange them in a horn-shaped basket on my dining room table. That shit is going to look so seasonal. I'm about to head up to the attic right now to find that wicker fucker, dust it off, and jam it with an insanely ornate assortment of shellacked vegetables. When my guests come over it's gonna be like, BLAMMO! Check out my shellacked decorative vegetables, assholes. Guess what season it is—fucking fall. There's a nip in the air and my house is full of mutant fucking squash.

I may even throw some multi-colored leaves into the mix, all haphazard like a crisp October breeze just blew through and fucked that shit up. Then I'm going to get to work on making a beautiful fucking gourd necklace for myself. People are going to be like, "Aren't those gourds straining your neck?" And I'm just going to thread another gourd onto my necklace without breaking their gaze and quietly reply, "It's fall, fuckfaces. You're either ready to reap this freaky-assed harvest or you're not."

Carving orange pumpkins sounds like a pretty fitting way to ring in the season. You know what else does? Performing a all-gourd reenactment of an episode of Different Strokes—specifically the one when Arnold and Dudley experience a disturbing brush with sexual molestation. Well, this shit just got real, didn't it? Felonies and gourds have one very important commonality: they're both extremely fucking real. Sorry if that's upsetting, but I'm not doing you any favors by shielding you from this anymore.

The next thing I'm going to do is carve one of the longer gourds into a perfect replica of the Mayflower as a shout-out to our Pilgrim forefathers. Then I'm going to do lines of blow off its hull with a hooker. Why? Because it's not summer, it's not winter, and it's not spring. Grab a calendar and pull your fucking heads out of your asses; it's fall, fuckers.

Have you ever been in an Italian deli with salamis hanging from their ceiling? Well then you're going to fucking love my house. Just look where you're walking or you'll get KO'd by the gauntlet of misshapen, zucchini-descendant bastards swinging from above. And when you do, you're going to hear a very loud, very stereotypical Italian laugh coming from me. Consider yourself warned.

For now, all I plan to do is to throw on a flannel shirt, some tattered overalls, and a floppy fucking hat and stand in the middle of a cornfield for a few days. The first crow that tries to land on me is going to get his avian ass bitch-slapped all the way back to summer.

Welcome to autumn, fuckheads!

(click here for original post on McSWEENEY'S website)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

First the Creation Museum, now this: Ark Encounters Theme Park

Megan Carpentier's take on this is ... well, not sure what it is. All I know is, I couldn't stop laughing for a while. Check it out. Click on title of this post for the original Raw Story piece (and corresponding links). And next time you're in Kentucky, you can enocunter it in person! sj

Top 5 suggested attractions for the Ark Encounters Theme Park
By Megan Carpentier
Wednesday, August 10th, 2001

Between a 30-year property tax break, a county development grant and a 10-year package of state tax incentives, the Ark Encounters theme park seems set to open on time and under budget in 2014. The project, which is partially owned by the same people that brought us the Creation Museum, promises visitors a full size ark, a replica of the Tower of Babel (no word as to whether it will be felled regularly) and a petting zoo.

But what else might be in store? We had some ideas.

1. Can You Spot Your Daughter-In-Law?
Fun for the extended family! Inspired by the story of Judah, Tamar and Onan in Genesis 38, female visitors are invited into a room and given historically-accurate prostitutes' clothes. Once veiled, they are placed with similarly-dressed re-enactors by a shrine and encouraged to hit on their male relatives. Those who manage to escape with their father-in-laws' belts win (a.k.a., avoid a public burning)! In a comedic note, any men caught masturbating are struck by God's Lightning (TM).

2. Die Like An Egyptian
Inspired by the plagues God sent to torment the Egyptians in Exodus 7-11, visitors must make their way through an obstacle course that includes: swimming a river of "blood"; traversing a range filled with frogs, flies, lice, locusts and dead livestock; being sprayed with a substance designed to induce hives in all that encounter it (lancing the boils at the end got too messy!); a trail on which they are pelted with balls of ice as thunder crashes overhead; and a pitch-black room the leads to the exit. Eldest sons are then chloroformed to simulate death and the entire family is de-loused before exiting into a "desert paradise." (Please note: Jewish guests will be led straight to the desert after a brief wading excursion.)

3. When Is It Rape?
In this girl's-only exhibit, women are schooled on the finer points of Deuteronomy 22. After surviving ritualistic shaming for the sin of wearing pants (Deuteronomy 22:5), ladies are offered a range of dresses and skirts for purchase before continuing on to the Two Doors Of Decision. Women who choose one door are led to a field (22:25); those who choose the other are led onto a historically accurate street (22:23 and 28); all women are then "discovered" by a strange man who will attempt to put them in sleeper holds. Those who scream get to advance to the "wedding chapel" with their assailants, where they are reunited with male relatives; those who don't are pelted with rubber "stones" and forced to exit the park. Childcare services will be provided to families whose daughters don't pass, so they can continue enjoying the attractions while their daughters think about what they've done.

4. Wrestling With Angels
One of the most popular attractions at Ark Encounters, male guests are encouraged to doff their clothing to wrestle with the park's "angels" in a secluded room, away from friends and family, to experience the joy that Jacob did while wrestling an angel in Genesis 32:24-30. In order to preserve the verisimilitude of the experience, guests are paired exclusively with superhumanly attractive young men in the best physical condition, oiled so as to make it more difficult to win the wrestling match, and led to darkened rooms designed to look like a riverfront beaches. The match is ended when the "angel" touches the hollow of each guests' thigh: guests are encouraged to limp back to their families as Jacob himself did.

5. Cast Away
As Ark Encounters is no common theme park, the exit itself is an encounter with our Biblical past. Like Adam and Even before us, guests -- because who among us is not a sinner? -- are cast out from the park at the end of each day, as recounted in Genesis 3. Forced to walk over super-heated pavement three miles over a field filled with thorns and thistles, with dust and dirt whipped into the air with industrial fans, our guests will finally reach the parking lot three miles from the gate.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

without question, a clusterfuck.

Saw this recently on Greg Hagin's tumblr blog, Blisstortion (which is awesome), a quote from a Mother Jones piece. Sums it up quite nicely. - sj
"Republicans got the tax cuts they wanted. They got the financial deregulation they wanted. They got the wars they wanted. They got the unfunded spending increases they wanted. And the results were completely, unrelentingly disastrous. A decade of sluggish growth and near-zero wage increases. A massive housing bubble. Trillions of dollars in war spending and thousands of American lives lost. A financial collapse. A soaring long-term deficit. Sky-high unemployment. All on their watch and all due to policies they eagerly supported. And worse: ever since the predictable results of their recklessness came crashing down, they’ve rabidly and nearly unanimously opposed every single attempt to dig ourselves out of the hole they created for us."
Here's the whole/short piece, from Mother Jones: What if You Held a Class War and No One Showed Up?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Can't we all get along?"

I couldn't have said it better myself - although I sure have tried lately! on title of story for original piece and additional links. - sj

LeBron James, the Most Hated Athlete in America
by Buzz Bissinger
June 14, 2011

I was listening to the press conference of Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra Sunday night after the team’s humiliating loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the National Basketball Association finals. I knew of the media’s perverse obsession not only with the dismal play of LeBron James but also with James himself. I still thought the first question at least would have something to do with the Mavericks and how well they had played.


The first question was about James. The second question was about James. The third question was about James, all of them in the same vein of what went wrong with him and why had he been so lousy in the Heat’s six-game losing effort. The Mavericks? The who?

It was like that all through the finals for James, constant and withering criticism of his play, constant dissection of every comment and every body movement. Anthony Weiner’s sexting? James made him do it. The crumbling economy? Bankers were only taking James’ advice. Rick Santorum running for president? It came to him in a dream where James said, “You’re the chosen one, Rick. Not me.”

Starvation. Drought. War.

James. James. James.

He truly is the most hated athlete in all of sports.

Which is absurd.

In the 24-hour news cycle that brings out the starving rats feasting on instant analysis, everything James did was a portent of his being an arrogant assoholic.

Did you see that smile? What about the way he bent down to tie his shoelace? And how about guzzling from the water bottle during a timeout as if he was the only one who was thirsty? What a selfish bastard.

The rats ate up every crumb, regardless of the significance. The goal was to maliciously condemn him, and to that extent the media rats got their wish:

He is Public Enemy No. 1 of the tear-down culture in which human foible,

click here for rest or article

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cold Cave's new record

Cold Cave's new record, "Cherish the Light Years" will be released in a couple of weeks (April 5th), but band/label was/is cool enough to email those following them on various social networking sites/blogs, songs from the record (if not all) to stream on their respective sites, blogs and share on facebook. A few weeks ago I heard what I believe to be the first single from this record, "The Great Pan is Dead" and I like it a lot. Haven't heard another note off the record yet, however. If you haven't heard what these men & women are capable of yet, check out this song/video from their last record, "Love Comes Close." Positively fabulous. - sj

Friday, March 4, 2011

It's a Tea Party World - You Just Live In It!

clik on title of this post to take you to original post (if cliking on this pic isn't big enough). Tom Tomorrow is STILL the man!

Scott Walker's War on Equality

This is a must read. This might be the best article I've read recently, regarding what's going on in various states throughout this country, and what the Republican/Conservative/Tea Bag voters, and city/state and congressional legislator's master plan really is (and it's in full effect, as we speak, brothers and sisters - just ask a teacher!). Schweber is obviously well-informed and his analysis deadly accurate. Take FIVE minutes and read this. If you click on the title of this entry, you will see the original post, along with the 2 or 3 links he has in article, and also (by clicking on his name) the rest of the blog posts he writes regularly for HuffPo. Every one is awesome! (oh, the post directly after this one on this blog is just as awesome!) - sj

Scott Walker's War on Equality
by Howard Schweber, Associate Professor of Political Science and Law, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Originally posted on Huffington Post: March 2nd, 2011 11:07 AM

"The American system of public education is the greatest mechanism for social and economic mobility in the history of the world." I wish I had said that. Actually, it was my friend Tim. Tim is a conservative Republican. Let me clarify that. At various points in his life Tim has been a professional conservative Republican, with credentials that make Scott Walker look like an over-promoted Boy Scout. Among other things, Tim was the Chairman of California College Republicans, a member of the CA GOP State Executive Committee, and a GOP nominee for state Assembly. In other words, there is nothing liberal or Democratic about recognizing the fact that an assault on public education is an assault on equality.

I do not mean to minimize the extent of inequalities in American education that Jonathan Kozoll and Jennifer Hochschild have so ably documented. And Wisconsin is no different. Since 1993 the state has employed an insanely complicated system of "tiered" state and local funding that numerous analyses show has resulted in money being funneled toward wealthier districts and away from those most in need. The poorer districts in Wisconsin are already operating on a shoestring. But despite all its defects, it remains the case that in America, and specifically in Wisconsin, publicly funded education is a powerful equalizing force, almost the only one left.

Scott Walker's budget seeks to change all that. The budget that Walker unveiled on March 1st contains cuts to education that will devastate Wisconsin's traditionally fine system of public schools, including specific provisions that end state funding for Advanced Placement courses and "science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs," among many other things. There is a great deal to be said about those cuts and their likely consequences, but the cuts in state funding are actually not the most disturbing part of Walker's budget. What is even more disturbing is this: Walker's budget mandates a 5.5% cut in per-pupil local education spending, approximately $550 per pupil. This has absolutely nothing to do with balancing the state budget: it doesn't save the state a dime. This rule specifies that overall education spending must decline regardless of the wishes of the residents of a local district. No district will be permitted to maintain even its current level of property tax-based funding for education, let alone increase that tax to offset state cuts.

Again, this is a provision that does not save the state a dime (not to mention making a mockery of the idea of local control.) To mandate cuts in local spending on top of cuts in state spending is astonishing. Do the math (and thank your math teacher): cuts in state funding plus cuts in local funding equals the end of all those "special" programs. In poorer districts the effects will be even more extreme; here is an excellent analysis by Andre Reschovsky (LaFollete School of Public Affairs) of the distribution of economic effects across districts.

But never mind the poor districts for a moment. What's going to happen in the wealthier districts? I find it hard to believe that Wisconsin Republicans (let alone Democrats) will want to send their children to schools that offer no AP classes or advanced courses in math and science, not to mention drug education programs, language programs, and K-5 enrichment programs. And in fact, that's not likely to happen. Instead, what is likely to happen is a whole new level of inequality.

The first thing that is likely to happen is that families who can afford it will flee the public schools; Walker's budget is the best advertisement for Wisconsin private schools that could be imagined. One local private school in the Madison area reports double the number of inquiries compared with a year ago -- and that was before the budget was unveiled.

And there's another solution: privatize public education. That's what happened in Seattle. Years ago, confronted by deep cuts in education spending, local districts established private foundations. Alumni and current parents contribute money which is then spent in the district. One of the most successful is Roosevelt High School in Seattle: they boast the only full time drama program in the state, funded by private spending. Here's the web site for Roosevelt's private foundation. The list of current grants covers a range of items, including Chemistry textbooks. The school's principal is on the Board of Directors. Now take a look at the names on the Advisory Board: the name "Nordstrom" gives you some idea of the socioeconomic profile of the district. As for other districts that cannot sustain a private foundation? They'll just have to do without Chemistry textbooks. And Washington's shortage of funding for public education is nothing compared to the scenario that Governor Walker is unleashing on Wisconsin.

The budget that Governor Walker announced today cannot be described by any of the usual terms. This is a budget that is targeted like a guided missile, and its target could not be more clear: Governor Walker wants to destroy the state's system of publicly funded education and replace it with charter schools (teaching certification not required), private schools, and private funding.

This would be shocking anywhere -- in Wisconsin it is inconceivable. Let me tell you something about Wisconsin. We like to think we are not just another state. At the University of Wisconsin we talk a lot about "the Wisconsin Idea," the idea that we have a specific mission to serve the public of our state in the tradition of the land grant colleges. Every semester I have been here I have met at least one student who has told me that he or she is the first person in their family to go to college. Those students are the best thing about teaching at a public university. They are what public education is all about. They come from small towns in the northern part of the state, often from families that operate farms or small businesses in their communities. They leave here and they go on to become lawyers or scientists or teachers, or to start businesses of their own.

This is what the Tea Party's capture of the Republican Party has brought us. Right here in Wisconsin we are sounding the death knell for the single greatest mechanism of social and economic mobility that the world has ever known.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Union is the measure

What a great @#$%^&* piece by Mark Sumner. Straight. Up. (click title for original post)

Union is the measure
by Mark Sumner
Sun Feb 20, 2011

There's a word in the very first line of the Constitution of the United States that describes the instrument through which freedom is held. It's a term for people acting in concert to secure their liberty and hold those rights against any opponent. That word is union.

From its founding, the story of this nation has been the story of union. It is the story of two centuries spent in building up the ability of ordinary citizens to treat with wealthy, powerful, politically connected entities. That story contains instances of tragedy. Thousands died in the struggle, many thousands more suffered poverty or were outcast from communities. But the story of union also contains far-reaching triumphs. Every paid vacation, every weekend, every overtime dollar, every protection from arbitrary dismissal and unfair treatment, everything that makes your working life tolerable, came because people stood together in union at risk to their own livelihoods and often their own lives. Some of those laws exist only because workers stood in union when not only corporations but their own government attacked them not just with guns, but with bombers. They paid the price. You reap the benefits.

When we talk about "the greatest generation" that brought the nation through World War II and built America into a post-war powerhouse, we're speaking of a population where nearly a third of workers were union members. It's no coincidence that the peak period of growth and progress coincides with the peak period of union membership. When people act in union, there's nothing they can't accomplish. When people cannot join in union, when everyone must face the powerful alone, all rights are nothing more than words.

Whether in a union of states and nations or a union of workers and citizens, only by working in concert can rights be wrested from oppressors and held against despots. That's why tyrants quake at the sound of union. That's why the right to act in union is the ability that the downtrodden most desire and authorities first attack. Union is the measure of freedom.

The outlawing of independent unions is the clearest and most consistent marker of despotism around the world. When Gaddafi seized control of Libya in 1969, his first speech proclaimed the end of labor unions. No sooner had he secured control of Cuba than Fidel Castro banned the ability of unions to strike or to bargain over salary and benefits, saying such demands were detrimental to "the national economy." In Colombia today, right-wing militias work together with corporations to keep down costs and demands for decent working conditions in the most effective way they know–they execute union leaders.

There's a good reason why governments and corporations alike show trepidation when people are able to organize. Union is effective. For all the pretty speeches and all the ham-handed threats, the signal that the Iron Curtain was finally rising didn't come in Berlin or Washington, D.C., it came in the shipyards of GdaƄsk, when men dared to wave the flag of an independent union. Want to determine where governments are actually concerned about the rights of their people? You only have to look at how free people are to organize for a cause. Without that, no other rights matter. With it, all other rights will follow.

The First Amendment to the Constitution enshrines a number of freedoms including religion, speech and the press, but this amendment should not be read as a random list of disconnected items. Everything in it directly depends on the liberties held out in the closing words: the ability of the people to peacefully assemble and to petition for redress. When the Constitution extends the right of assembly, it's not just giving us the right to gather together for no purpose. What's protected is the right to join together in common cause, and to seek as a group to move institutions that would not respond to individuals acting alone.

The American dream—the dream that an average citizen can enjoy a decent life, raise a family, and hope for the future—was created in union, sustained by union, and is dependent on union. That dream stands on a knife edge. Already the forces that oppose union have torn away the hopes of many Americans. As union membership has fallen, decent pensions have disappeared. As union membership has fallen, health care costs have increased. As union membership has fallen, pay for workers has stagnated. As union membership has fallen corporate profits—and executive pay—have soared. The decline of union is the birthplace of inequity.

At this moment, the same forces that have ripped union away from most workers are acting against those few who still share the ability to speak with a collective voice. They want to wreck this last bastion, burn it down, stomp it, bury it, extinguish it forever, so that they can sleep safe knowing their power will not be challenged. They want to erase the work of two centuries, turn the American dream into a subject for nostalgia, and make the Bill of Rights into a sheet of paper.

That is what's on the line in Wisconsin.

Nothing has changed since the time that first line of the Constitution was written. Union is not just a means to oppose tyranny, it is the only means.

....the storming of the Wisconsin Statehouse.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Kanye, dude. Great new record, but your lyrics have gotten even worse, yo!

a comment I made on a website earlier today, in lieu of "proper review"...

In case you're wondering, the new Kanye West record is very good, like all his records (the first 3 are great). I repeat: very good. the problem I have w/ giving this one "great" status, however, is his juveni...le lyrics/assertions/allusions are the worst they've ever been on any records; and there a lots of them on this one. they're just finally annoying me. since day #1 he's had a certifiable 'wack' style (one of the reasons many don't like him, and I do), and truth be told, has never strung together a complete record w/out some amount of weak-azz/bad lyrics. but the music/beats/vocals/songwriting/production and even good lyrics always overshadowed those. once again, the songs/vocals/guest contributions/beats & arrangements are off the charts/great on this new one. but it's littered w/ more bad/weak/immature lyrics than ever before. so many, it gets in the way, for me. was kind of hoping he'd get better in that regard. plus, Jay Z's on it (still), who's terrible, as usual.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Our Great Sin - by Devin Coldewey

I just came across this today. It's fabulous. Have no idea who Devin Coldewey is, but i like him immediately. sj

Our Great Sin
Devin Coldewey
Feb 1, 2011

I recently watched, like many of our readers, the interview (1, 2) with Mike Daisey regarding the conditions under which Apple products are made in China. And at the risk of fomenting conflict with Mr. Daisey, I would like to editorialize on the topic in slightly broader and harsher terms.

Actually, it’s not that I disagree with the man, exactly. It’s that he doesn’t go far enough, and in doing so conveniently avoids requiring himself or anyone else from doing anything but being concerned. If you’re going to take on ideas like globalism, corporate responsibility, and cross-cultural morality, you don’t get off that easy. You can’t establish a predicate like “the way our lifestyle is made possible is immoral” and somehow avoid unpleasant conclusions.

The “great sin” isn’t Apple’s, or any one of the other major international corporations that use Foxconn or similar megafactories. And it isn’t Foxconn’s either. It’s clearly, inescapably, ours.

Now, I’m not going to get all Das Kapital on you. The idea here is simpler and closer to home than some grand idea of political and economic metatheory. The basic fact is this: an “ethical” iPhone would be too expensive. That’s literally all there is to it (replace iPhone with your device of choice). Everything follows from our own unwillingness to pay for the true cost of a device. People want a better world, but they don’t want to pay for it. Nothing new there, really.

To pretend otherwise is plain hypocrisy. The question is whether we are willing to take responsibility for our own immorality? We’re too cheap to care where our goods come from. Admitting to anything less is ridiculous.

There are three primary responses when confronted with incontrovertible proof of your own immorality:

Claim moral status and adjust actions
Claim moral status and justify actions
Claim no moral status and continue actions

There are precious few who will take door number one. It means giving up nearly everything that makes up the life of a first-world citizen. Very little in the way of consumer electronics, cars, and other status symbols is manufactured ethically. Door number one is abandoning the pleasant inequality inherent to the modern world. Can we be expected to do that? I guess it depends entirely on what we expect from ourselves, so I’m going to guess that no, we won’t be doing it.

Door number two is where you’ll find most people. I’m not sure how one does it, but you can apparently take the moral high ground while continuing the actions you condemn. Politicians have no trouble doing this, but their airport-bathroom dealings aren’t usually public (public information, rather). And millions of people will buy bottled water while deploring the state of the third world, and not feel the hypocrisy leaking from every pore. Last year everyone made a lot of noise over the supposed iPhone 4 suicide. The outrage was quickly forgotten and everyone became angry instead at Apple for a design flaw in the device. Easy come, easy go.

click HERE to see original piece and finish reading article (including the link to video interviews Devin is responding to). you'll be glad you did.

Kickspit Underground Rock Festival!!!

just watch.

for those in the dark, Saturday Night Live is back to it's awesome form, the last several years.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I drank 763 beers last year. how many did you drink?

As 2009 came to a close, out of nowhere, I had this thought: “I wonder how much beer I drank this year?” Too many, probably, I guessed. A day or two after I had that thought, I happened upon this article detailing how heavy drinkers, as well as just moderate drinkers of beer, have significantly higher risks of developing multiple cancers, such as esophageal, stomach, colon, liver, pancreatic and lung. Sobering, to say the absolute least:
“In general, the odds increased in tandem with the men's lifetime alcohol intake…with several cancers, men who drank at least one beer per day tended to have higher risks than those who drank on a regular, but less-than-daily, basis….when it came to esophageal cancer, for instance, men who drank one to six times per week had an 83 percent higher risk than teetotalers and less-frequent drinkers, while daily drinkers had a three-fold higher risk.”

Just one beer per day? A six-pack per week? Whoa. It’s not like I want to live forever, but I’d prefer to maximize the one life I have on this planet (if it’s not too much effort), and spend my old and alone years suffering in as little pain as possible.

“So,” I thought, “It’s simple: I’ll cut down in 2010, keep track of how much beer I actually drink, and then at the end of the year, I’ll take stock. If need be, I’ll cut down even more, in 2011.”

The very next thought I had was, “I need an easy way to keep track of every beer I drink in 2010. Perhaps there’s an app for this?” Sure enough, there was. Took me 4 seconds to find it. It’s called “Beer Counter.” Brilliant!

So in the first several minutes of 2010, with the press of a finger, I tapped on miPhone, entering the first beer I drank that year. Then another. And another.

I kept track of every single beer I drank last year, whether I was at home, out for dinner, at a rock show, a sports event, out of town, or hanging at a friend’s house. Every single one.

I finished my 763rd beer, as the clock struck midnight, ringing in 2011. That’s an average of 2 beers a day; 15 beers a week; or 64 beers a month. It’s roughly 32 cases a year. I also took pictures of every case of beer I bought. Here are just a few:

A few days into this year, I decided it would be awesome if I could decrease my beer intake from last year, by around 25%. This seemed like a do-able goal, I thought, and I’d be building on the previous year’s decrease.

Well, I’m just finishing my 47th beer right now, 31 days in. That’s just 1.5 beers a day – right on target!

I’ll check in with y’all this time next year for an update…

I always knew she was the cool one...

After dozens of agonizing and horrific generations of Bush family members, one of them finally - mercifully - breaks the mold and does something compassionate, reasonable, positive, and with people's best interest in mind.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ghandi, Stephen Colbert, Jesus Christ, & the GOP.

Stephen Colbert is one of the greatest comedians, simplifiers and messengers of my generation. This video proves it. Here are two quotes from this 4-minute clip.

"If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy and then admit that we just don't want to do it."

"Jesus was always flapping his gums about the poor, but not once did he call for tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Romans."

(damn embed code is broken from Colbert site, so all I can do is link it for now; click HERE, nonetheless, and watch. it kills!)

Perhaps Mahatma Ghandi said it best:
"I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.
Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

John Kerry Serves Up a Reality Check

From a Crooks and Liars post on Jan 16th. I know it's long, and no, it's not required reading. but it is very good. click title of this post for original piece, and worthy links.

John Kerry gave a speech last week at the Center for American Progress that should become the marching song for every liberal in this country. He was clear: The last 10 years have cost us too much, and if the hyper-partisan tone doesn't change to one of true concern for the direction of this country, we will cede any chance to lead to others.

He hits it all: Infrastructure, energy, debt, climate change. Every point. The one that hit home for me was when he talked about where we might have been, had Bush and the Republicans not unwound progress made during the Clinton administration.

Here's an example. We talk about how the Clinton tax rates generated a surplus, but we stop there. We don't talk about the fact that if the Clinton tax rates had remained in effect, the entire national debt would have been paid off by 2012. Imagine what a difference that would have made in today's dialogue. And more importantly, why aren't we hammering this home every single time one of those self-righteous Republican buffoons stands up and talks about how our national debt is killing the country?

Kerry points out that we would be at a point where our financial position would be at it's strongest point ever. What would that have meant when (or if) the bottom fell out of the economy? Most assuredly, we wouldn't have to be speaking of debt retirement and austerity.

We need to start going there. This shouldn't be swept under the rug. I can't recommend this highly enough. Take an hour out of your day and watch Kerry's speech. He really hits hard on the cost of NOT investing in the country and how it puts us behind on a global basis every single day.

Check out this headline from January 26, 2000, just 11 years ago:

Consumer Confidence Hits an All-Time High; Jobs Called 'Plentiful' : Clinton Sees An Early Payoff of U.S. Debt

Compare it to today's headlines (this one, from the Wall Street Journal, one of the biggest tax-cut pimps):

U.S. Ran $80 Billion Budget Deficit in December

I think we need to give Republicans full credit for everything they did for to us. We should be at least as loud as the anti-hcr folks are, and we should repeat it every single day in public, especially to anyone who still thinks Republicans are fiscally responsible.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Packers at Eagles today!!! ...predictions, analysis, babble

"YEEE-HAHH!!!" Any day the Philadelphia Eagles are playing in the post-season is a great day! Here's what else I'm thinking...

In one respect, the Philadelphia Eagles dug their own grave by flat-out choking against the Vikings two weeks ago. Instead of resting this weekend w/ a BYE, hosting the Bears next weekend, then needing just one more win to punch their ticket to the SBowl, they now have to win this weekend's very tough game at home vs. Green Bay, travel to Chicago and beat the Bears, then beat Atlanta to make the SBowl; their current scenario made at least two to three times more difficult by getting run over by the Vikings.

But here is the other view: well before the season started, the entire city was collectively resigned to an 8 or 9-win season, and a "let Kolb take his lumps year." Look what actually happened: Kolb goes out w/ a concussion in week #1, and Michael Vick, now the every week starting QB for the first time out of prison, undeniably kicks ass the entire season. Just kills it. I like Kolb; both as a person and as a QB (although I still can't tell how good he's going to be), but he's no Mike Vick, and it's safe to say we wouldn't have a post-season game if Kolb was our starting QB all year. Mike Vick was on fire this season, and has carried this team all year. So in a way, we’re playing with “house money.” This team exceeded every expectation this year ALREADY; will it even hurt if we lose today?

Oh, side note: spare me the "Tom Brady is the MVP" assertions. While Tom Brady - and Brian Bellicheck for that matter - is again (sigh), having a phenomenal and a "just another day at the office" year, Michael Vick is the MVP of this league. The only thing that might stop the various writers/judges/voters of the multiple MVP awards given out each year from awarding Vick those accolades, is the fact he's a recent convicted felon, guilty of extremely despicable and depraved acts. But on the field, he truly has done more for his team than any one person in the NFL has, including Tom Brady.

But I digress...

Let it be said, I do find this weekend's game against Green Bay the Bird's biggest obstacle to the Superbowl. For various reasons - that I can hopefully think about more on Monday - I don't see any other matchups on their path to the Big Game being as difficult as this one. At absolute best, I see this game as a coin flip, with the most realistic, best-case scenario for the Eagles, being a last minute field goal or game-winning TD, perhaps on an interception return to seal the deal as time runs out. Andy Reid, Vick, McDermott, and the rest of the Eagles need to do everything right to win this game. If they don't do everything right, they need to get one or two big breaks that go their way, similar to the ones they got vs. the Giants a couple weeks ago (Giants punting to D. Jax, getting the onsides kick, an INT at the right time, a Special Teams TD, etc). Conversely, I don't think Green Bay needs to do 'everything right' or 'catch a break or two' to win. They just need to keep playing the way they've been playing. If Eagles do that, they'll lose. Let's not forget, for 52 minutes of that last Giants game, the Eagles were outplayed on every side of the ball, and our coaches were taken to school. It wasn't even close. Green Bay are definitely better than the Giants (they beat them soundly, 45-17, the day after Christmas). But I don't see a Green Bay blowout by any stretch; In No-Limit Hold 'em terms, I'd say Birds have about "9-outs, twice," or a 36% chance of winning.

Why not more of a chance? well, let's see...

Green Bay has been playing better than us, plain and simple. They've won 7 of their last 10 games, and the last two they lost were because Aaron Rodgers was on the sidelines w/ a concussion. If he was in, they’d have won 9 of their last 10 (and finished the season w/ a record of 12 -4). Even w/ their back up in, a few weeks ago, they gave the Pats a run for their money in New England, losing to them just 31-27 (that’s a win if Rodgers played). The Eagles have won 6 of their last 10 (though I’m sure they would’ve beaten the cowpatties last week if their starters played), but have given up 24 points and more in 7 of them. They beat Dallas by only 3 in week #14; with the exception of the ‘almost-miracle’ 8 minutes of play at the meadowlands, they looked terrible; and against the Vikings (a bad Dome team) at home 2 weeks ago, they played their worst game of the season (perhaps the last couple of seasons). This is to say nothing of Andy Reid/Morningwheig forgetting how to coach/adjust/call plays the entire game.

I looked at team stats, rankings, etc; generally speaking, the teams are evenly matched. Birds are 2nd & 3rd in yards per game and points per game, respectively. Green Bay’s defense is 5th in points against per game, and 2nd in points against per game. Something obviously will give there… However, the Eagles defense has been inconsistent all season, and after 16 games is 21st in the league in giving up points. Packers are 9th in scoring, averaging 24 points a game (Birds are averaging 27). Packers defense is 5th against the pass, Eagles are 14th against the pass. Both of these teams pass all the time. But the Eagles defense, and especially their secondary has looked downright abysmal the last several games: Sean McDermott (defensive coordinator) has not been able to call a good game, and the secondary players have looked slow and out of position at every turn.

The key question for our defense is whether or not the Eagles can get to Aaron Rodgers. And they need to do it w/ their front 4, or maybe a 5th rusher. All-out blitzes are out of the question, because Rodgers is one of the best QB’s in football (I’d put him 4th, in a tie w/ Phillip Rivers, after Manning, Brady & Brees), and combined with their super-deep & talented WR/TE corps, our secondary is nowhere near good enough to handle them on their own (man to man). If we can rush, put pressure on Rodgers, and at the same time cover all their pass-catchers effectively, we can win (we need to double-team Greg Jennings most of the time). The good thing is, we don’t need to be that concerned w/ their run game; it’s not that good. They can run, they just don’t usually need to.

There are two concerns I have with our offense (versus their defense). The first, is the same issue I’ve had w/ Reid since I’ve first heard of him: will we run the ball enough? For all intents and purposes, the answer is always ‘no.’ Somehow we’re 5th in the league in yards rushing per game, which is awesome, but we still don’t run enough. That ranking is due primarily to LeSean McCoy’s talent, and rushing attempts when we’ve already had a lead, I’m sure of it (I can’t remember if we’re even in the top half of the league, in rushing attempts).

Now look, Green Bay’s defense is 5th in the NFL against the pass. They’re 19th against the run. We’re 5th in the league in rushing, and for the first time in Andy’s career, his dream of passing to set up the run is actually running! What would YOU do, pass or run against them? Exactly. We need to RUN against them in this game; early and often, even if it’s not working right away! Run, run, and run some more. THEN, try killing them w/ the pass. But Andy Reid TRULY does hate running the football. He doesn’t see the value in it, and he doesn’t commit to it. I’d say he’s actually committed to running the football somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 to 6 games, in his 12-years here. Anyone remember a time when the Eagles ran three running plays in a row? Me neither. Running makes Andy Reid sick to his stomach. But he needs to be comfortable with being sick in this game.

The second concern I have is whether our coaching staff can do it’s job and find out a good enough way to a) keep Vick from getting pummeled like he has been as of late and b) give him enough time to throw. The aforementioned running will help out a lot. How about having a bunch of screens ready to go, like they did not do during the Vikings matchup? How about two-tight end sets, or an extra blocker?

I am confident the Eagles will pass with some degree of proficiency/success, perhaps with a lot of success. I am confident Vick will have a very good day running/scrambling/passing; I expect him to have a great game. I expect the crowd to be insane. But that won’t be enough to win.

In closing, we need to score a lot of points, somewhere in the neighborhood of 27 to 30, to win. If our defense can keep the Packers to 25 points, I think we’ll win. The way to do it, against this Green Bay Packers team, is to get pressure on Rodgers rushing only 4 or 5 players; run the football with some consistency EARLY in the game, and protect Vick, giving him enough time to throw and work his magic.

Then the road to the Superbowl begins in earnest.

If you want it this way…
Pack O vs Birds D: edge to Pack.
Birds O vs Pack D: even
Coaching: even.
Special Teams: even.
Home field, crowd noise & “Mojo”: edge to Birds

Final score prediction:
Packers 34
Eagles 26

...oh, and the over/under on Morningwheig/Reid passing on 2nd and short (1 or 2 yds to go) or 3rd and short, when they should be running, is 4.5; a hair lower than usual.

40% of Americans still believe in creationism!

Seriously? Yep. Seriously.

A new Gallup poll, released Dec. 17, reveals that 40 percent of Americans still believe that humans were created by God within the last 10,000 years. This number is slightly down from a previous high of 47 percent in 1993 and 1999.

Another 38 percent of respondents believe that humans have evolved from more basic organisms but with God playing a role in the process.

A mere 16 percent of respondents subscribed to the belief of "secular evolution": that humans have evolved with no divine guidance. However, this number has nearly doubled from nine percent of respondents in a poll from 1982.

The poll also revealed that beliefs in creationism and evolution are strongly related to levels of education attained. When results are narrowed to those with college degrees, only 37 percent of respondents maintain beliefs in creationism. Meanwhile, the belief in evolution without the aid of God rises to 21 percent.

With regards to political affiliation, a majority of Republicans (52 percent) subscribe to creationist beliefs. This is compared to only 34 percent among Democrats and Independents.

Views on human origins vary based on church attendance. Of those who attend church on a weekly basis, 60 percent believe in creationism while a mere 2 percent subscribe to "secular evolution". These numbers are flipped among those who rarely or never attend religious services. In this group, only 24 percent believe in creationism while 39 percent believe in evolution without divine guidance. This represents the only subset of data reported where "secular evolution" beats out creationism.

"Say it ain't so, Sal!"

Sal Paolantonio is dead to me. he should be dead to anyone who considers themselves a philadelphia sports fan. not that he was ever great at reporting on, writing about, or analyzing philly sports, but now he's just embarrassing us. it's not that he just willfully misreported the truth (to the rest of the country), rather he did it just to make headlines on ESPN. in my neighborhood that's called a sellout.

I had to rewind my shitty comcast HD box (my 4th one in the last calendar year - HOLLA!), to make sure I really heard Sal say what I thought I heard him say on ESPN earlier tonight (I'm not paraphrasing, these were his precise words): "The Eagles offensive MVP this year is not Michael Vick. It's LeSean McCoy," as he led into a story about the Birds/Packers matchup later on Sunday.

Wow. He is either dumber than Howard Eskin and Tony Bruno combined, or he hasn't watched the Philadelphia Eagles this season. I've met the guy and talked to him before. I liked him. Now, I think he sucks ass. Sorry, it's just I expect a tad bit of objectivity when it comes to my sports consumption, especially coming from Philadelphia reporters who are from here.