Wednesday, October 31, 2007

On being correct, II

Multiple stories today that cover the spectrum of the government-sanctioned compulsory-attendance matriculation centers. First:
GISD moves ahead with threat to sue parent

By Rhiannon Meyers
The Daily News

Published October 31, 2007
GALVESTON — The public school district has officially demanded that parent Sandra Tetley remove what it says is libelous material from her Web site or face a lawsuit for defamation.

Tetley said she’ll review the postings cited by David Feldman of the district’s firm Feldman and Rogers. She’ll consider the context of the postings and consult attorneys before deciding what to delete.

Feldman said Tetley’s Web site — — contained the most “personal, libelous invective directed toward a school administrator” he’s seen in his 31-year career.

Feldman cited 16 examples of what he says are libelous postings. Half were posted by Tetley; the other half were posted by anonymous users.

The postings accuse Superintendent Lynne Cleveland, trustees and administrators of lying, manipulation, falsifying budget numbers, using their positions for “personal gain,” violating the Open Meetings Act and spying on employees, among other things.

Tetley said the postings were opinions only.

“Everyone deserves to have their opinion,” she said. “I don’t think they have a right to make me, or anyone else, take down criticisms of them off the Web site. They’re not going to force us to take off our opinions because we have no other place to go.”

From Tetley's web site:
Mr. Feldman, the School District, the Board and the Firm have unlimited funds with which to fight me. They’ve already spent thousands of dollars monitoring the website, discussing their options and bringing in Mr. Feldman himself for the dramatic presentation to the School Board. You can see the check registers on the GISD Board Book and request a copy of the legal bills through an Open Records Request. I’ve seen the individual line item attorney charges – they charge the district for monitoring this website. Nearly every day.

I believe this whole issue to sue me for gisdwatch is a reflection of the school board members' and of the superintendent's disdain for public dissent, criticism and open government. I strongly believe it is a direct attempt to stifle some of the most sharp and revealing criticism of their actions. I believe it is a direct attempt to stifle teachers and administrators from questioning their authority, alerting us to problems and to voice their distaste for the administration. No longer can the administration and board go unnoticed. They apparently do not like to be questioned on their actions. They apparently do not appreciate being made a parody but who does? But do each of us go out and sue someone for making fun of us or criticizing us or calling us names?

So this whole imbroglio will be worth watching if only to see how far the school district gets in suing someone for her opinions.

Next, a school forbids certain Halloween costumes:
Political Figures, Latex Among Items Banned For Various Reasons

(AP) There will be as many standards for Halloween costumes today as there are schools in Illinois. At West Elementary School in north suburban Glencoe, princesses and superheroes will walk the halls. But there will be no Richard Nixons or George Bushes.

This is because school administrators have banned costumes depicting political figures, calling them inappropriate for 8- to 10-year-olds.

Many schools prohibit costumes, while some elementary schools allow only preschool and kindergarten students to dress up. Masks are generally prohibited at schools that allow the bizarre on Halloween, as are fake weapons. Hatchets coming out of heads are also frowned upon.

At Naperville Central High School, latex is a no-no. There is a student and a custodian at the school with a life-threatening latex allergy.

Just par for the course at schools these days (including the accommodations for the two allergy sufferers). I do wonder, however, why schools don't just ban all holidays. Let the kids out for the federal holidays but ignore the secular and religious ones.

Looks like Russian schools have banned Halloween:
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow schools have been ordered to ban students from celebrating the cult of the dead, better known as Halloween, despite the widespread popularity of the imported festival to Russia.

Halloween is being forced underground because it "includes religious elements, the cult of death, the mockery of death," a spokesman for the city's education department Alexander Gavrilov said on Wednesday.

"It's not an attempt to block the celebration of this holiday completely, just in schools and colleges," he added.

Pumpkins and images of witches are widespread across Russia, with many bars organizing special fancy dress parties, despite the efforts of the Kremlin and especially the Russian Orthodox Church to curb enthusiasm for non-native festivities.

"This is destructive for the minds and the spiritual and moral health of pupils," said Gavrilov, saying the ban had been recommended by psychiatrists.

Of course, the experts know best what's good for us.

On to the next story:
Teachers' Muslim dress order


Published: 31 Oct 2007

Rufford primary school in Lye, West Midlands [England], was yesterday accused of making teachers dress up as Asians for a day – to celebrate a Muslim festival. Kids at the 257-pupil primary have also been told to don ethnic garb even though most are Christians.

The morning assembly will be open to all parents – but dads are barred from a women-only party in the afternoon because Muslim husbands object to wives mixing with other men.

Just two members of staff – a part-time teacher and a teaching assistant – are Muslim.

Yesterday a relative of one of the 39 others said: “Staff have got to go along with it – or let’s face it, they would be branded racist.

“Who would put their job on the line? They have been told they have to embrace the day to show their diversity. But they are not all happy.”

The day aims to belatedly mark Eid, the end of Ramadan.

Sally Bloomer, head of the school, insisted: “I have not heard of any complaints.

“It’s all part of a diversity project to promote multi-culturalism.”

Oh, gawd! Spare me! It'll happen in the U.S., mark my words.

And, finally:
N.Y. Students Stage Walk-Out, Protest Rats

Tony Aiello

NEW YORK (CBS) -- Hundreds of students walked out of a Rockland County High School Wednesday, voicing their concern about vermin, filling the school's athletic field and banging on the fence that surrounds it in protest.

Students at Clarkstown North High School claim the "three R's" have been supplemented with two more: roaches and rats. Some held signs reading, ""Clean North" and "Rams not roaches," according to the Journal News.

Cases of rat sightings have been widespread of late. According to football player Steven Jean-Baptiste, when he took his shoe out from his locker, three big roaches crawled out.

Another student used a camera phone to snap a picture of a rodent outside the high school door.

The district, located just north of New York City, removed three dead rats, including a decomposing one that was crawling with maggots, at the high school's annex building, officials said.

Wednesday, hundreds of kids cut class to protest the grotesque conditions.

"The problem of roaches at North High School is decades long and from my understanding, it's probably the most resilient life species that exists on the face of the earth," said Clarkstown Superintendent, Margaret Keller-Cogan.

"Students need to stop leaving sandwich crusts and french fries lying about. This does attract critters and other things on the floor. One thing we can do is pick up the garbage and simply throw it out," Leonardatos said.

Students however, say the vermin issue is so vexing they'll protest at the school board later this month.

It's bad enough when the kid brings home a cold from being at school. But what if he brings home bubonic plague instead?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Recent commentary: likeable politicians

Who's your favorite public official?

(published 29-Oct-2007, Appleton Post-Crescent)

In school I thought that one of the female Congresscritters might be worth admiring because there's no way she could be worse than her male counterparts. I've always liked Mike Ellis, ever since we used a couple sound bites of his back in my radio days for our annual blooper tape. But that probably isn't the best reason for liking a public official. I also like and support Congressman Ron Paul, even to the extent of being one of the people that hold up those "Ron Paul for President" signs you see on highway 41. Judging by the ratio of thumbs-up to other, less congenial hand gestures I've seen, lots of other folks like him, too. The guy makes sense, he's intelligently consistent, his voting record is Constitutionally superb, and he tells it straight. His Texas constituents have re-elected him nine times. I'd love for us to elect him as President.

Friday, October 12, 2007

You don't think environmentalism is a religion?

Then consider what erstwhile Vice President Al Gore said upon being notified that he had won this year's Nobel Peace Prize:
We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity.

It isn't political at all! Why haven't I gotten the message? It must be that my spirit is suffering a moral dilemma or conflict or something. The Vice President says so!

Actually, as P. J. O'Rourke put it so piquantly, I've had an epiphany. I've achieved regime satori. And I just remembered that the Nobel committee gave the Peace Prize to Yasser Arafat in the early 90's. (Arafat, by the way, is still in stable condition in a grave in Ramallah.)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"Serious scientific inaccuracies, political propaganda and sentimental mush"

It took a British judge (stories in the Times of London, New York Times, and Agence France Presse) to utter those words describing parts of erstwhile Vice President Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth". He said those words when handing down his ruling that the movie could, indeed, be shown in 3500 British secondary schools, but that
the Oscar-winning film should be accompanied by government guidance notes and to distribute it without them would breach education laws prohibiting the promotion of unbalanced political viewpoints.

That quote is from the Agence-France Presse story on the ruling.

Judge Michael Burton noted 9 inaccuracies that would require those "government guidance notes":
The inaccuracies are:
  1. The film claims that melting snows on Mount Kilimanjaro evidence global warming. The Government’s expert was forced to concede that this is not correct.
  2. The film suggests that evidence from ice cores proves that rising CO2 causes temperature increases over 650,000 years. The Court found that the film was misleading: over that period the rises in CO2 lagged behind the temperature rises by 800-2000 years.
  3. The film uses emotive images of Hurricane Katrina and suggests that this has been caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that it was “not possible” to attribute one-off events to global warming.
  4. The film shows the drying up of Lake Chad and claims that this was caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that this was not the case.
  5. The film claims that a study showed that polar bears had drowned due to disappearing arctic ice. It turned out that Mr Gore had misread the study: in fact four polar bears drowned and this was because of a particularly violent storm.
  6. The film threatens that global warming could stop the Gulf Stream throwing Europe into an ice age: the Claimant’s evidence was that this was a scientific impossibility.
  7. The film blames global warming for species losses including coral reef bleaching. The Government could not find any evidence to support this claim.
  8. The film suggests that sea levels could rise by 7m causing the displacement of millions of people. In fact the evidence is that sea levels are expected to rise by about 40cm over the next hundred years and that there is no such threat of massive migration.
  9. The film claims that rising sea levels has caused the evacuation of certain Pacific islands to New Zealand. The Government are unable to substantiate this and the Court observed that this appears to be a false claim.

Believe me, I am no fan of government, and the thought that school children would need "government guidance notes" is repellent to me. But British law is different from American law and the kiddies in the British public school system there are going to be treated to government guidance whether they like it or not.

Mr. Gore has his Academy Award. He has the ear of the enthusiastic mainstream media. Now he has well-wishers that placed a full-page ad in the New York Times containing an open letter to Mr. Gore urging him to run for President. The letter contains the following, shall we say, heartfelt statement:
America and the Earth need a hero right now — someone who will transcend politics as usual and bring real hope to our country and to the world.

I'm afraid I have to excuse myself. I feel somewhat indisposed...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

An excellent on-line Presidential preference quiz

USA Today has put together a superb interactive preference quiz for the 17 Republican and Democratic Presidential candidates still in the race. "Superb" because after you answer each of the 11 questions you can see which candidate falls in line with your answer. Here's a snapshot of my own results:
There are sliders provided for you to weight the results based on any of seven factors: the Iraq War, health care, immigration, global scare-mongering (that is to say, anthro-centric / anthropogenic global warming), etc. You may then determine which candidates are really more in line with your way of thinking if you downplay certain factors and emphasize others.

For those that like grids more than graphs, this site gives you that as well:

Ron Paul is my man!