Archive for July 2009

My Life According to The Flaming Lips; Or, This Sucky Blog is Still Alive

July 30, 2009

I did this on Facebook with NOFX, but the Flaming Lips version is, at least to me, a lot more entertaining, so I did it again.

And no, I’ve not totally abandoned the blog.  It’s summer – I have better things to do (like melt, apparently).  Anyway…..

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Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. Pass it on to some people you like and include me. You can’t use the band I used. Try not to repeat a song title. It’s a lot harder than you think! Repost as “My Life According to (Band Name)”.

Pick your Artist — The Flaming Lips

Are you a male or female?: This Here Giraffe

Describe yourself: You Have To Be Joking

How do you feel right now?: Pilot Can At The Queer Of God

Describe where you currently live: Hells` Angels Cracker Factory

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell

Your favorite form of transportation: Approaching Pavonis Mons By Balloon (Utopia Planitia)

Your best friend is: Guy Who Got A Headache And Accidentally Saves The World

You and your best friends are: Free Radicals

What’s the weather like: Death Valley `69

Favorite time of day: The Last Drop Of Morning Dew

If your life was a TV show, what would it be called: Lightning Strikes The Postman

What is life to you: On Fire

Your last relationship: Psychic Wall

Your fear: Evil Will Prevail

What is the best advice you have to give: Love Yer Brain

Thought for the Day: Everything`s Explodin`

How you would like to die: Out For A Walk

My soul’s present condition: Unconsciously Screamin`

My motto: The Train Runs Over The Camel But Is Derailed By The Gnat

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Hess Meeting

July 21, 2009

As I mentioned earlier on this blog, I was one of the people who scheduled a meeting with the new Superintendent of the LCSD, Rob Hess.  That meeting happened earlier today – I was nearly, but not quite, the 100th person to meet with him.  Given that he’s been on the job for about 20 days, I’m impressed.

Our meeting touched on a lot of stuff, including the role of blogs in the recent history of the LCSD, but the main thing I wanted to note here is that while he didn’t dislike the idea of being interviewed – far from it, actually – we didn’t manage to completely work out the logistics.  I’ll be continuing to work on it, though – and if it happens, you can expect to see it after the school year starts.  I might come back to some of the other topics of our meeting if circumstances warrant.  In the meantime, I’d encourage everyone to keep coming up with questions.

One final note:  He’s more than willing to meet with more than 100 people.  If you have anything to say, or just want to talk to him, schedule a meeting.  The district’s phone number is 451-8511.

California reaches a tentative budget deal

July 20, 2009

I don’t have a lot to add to this, but I do have a few things:

After resolving their major education dispute Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders hope to finalize a budget deal today that closes California‘s $26 billion deficit with spending cuts, accounting shifts and revenues from local governments.

State leaders have agreed on a general budget framework and gave attorneys and budget aides time Saturday to draft a bill, sources close to negotiations said.

The first thing is essentially this, so I’ll link and quote:

This is the way California ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper. With a failure of leadership so complete, so total, as to leave the state bereft of hope for its future.

What Calitics is getting at, I think, is the dismantling of the so-called welfare state in California.  The state is cutting its support for human beings so harshly that people are going to die as a result.

Not only that, but since California’s something like the seventh-largest economy in the world, this is far more significant than just about any other state doing this.

Pair that with the idea that as goes California, so goes the nation, and it would seem like we’re in for rough times.  However, there is a decent counterargument to be made:  Congress, unlike California’s State Assembly, doesn’t require a 2/3 majority to pass tax increases, it doesn’t have the same set of spending limitations, and, well, Barack Obama is not Arnold Schwarzenegger.

That last bit is pretty important, I think, and while I don’t want to discount the role that California’s messed-up state government has played in all this, I think the difference between Obama and Schwarzenegger is a relatively strong counter.

But I can’t shake the feeling that this event is also structural – the result, ultimately, of globalization, increasing resource competition and modern American politics colliding.  And that means if the makeup of the White House and Congress change, we could easily see the same thing on the national scale (Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security, anyone?).

As much as it would be interesting from a political science perspective – people have been asking what comes after the so-called welfare state for some time now – it would be a disaster from the perspective of human health and human suffering if this is what came after.

If only Ezra Klein got a dose of radical politics….

July 16, 2009

He makes a good point here:

Is it worth being disappointed about that? Sure. But legislation cannot be understood in a vacuum. The place to change the tax argument isn’t in final days of health-care reform. It’s in the intervening years when Republicans are attacking the very idea of taxation. Any given piece of legislation is only as good as the political culture that’s produced it. Right now, our political culture isn’t that good. The question is whether legislators are getting the best plausible outcomes out of a badly compromised process.

If one of your fundamental beliefs is that collective action is a bad idea, and another is that greed is good, then it’s going to follow that a) taxation in general is bad, and b) the government can’t possibly do anything right, and you’re going to support or oppose various political and policy proposals accordingly.  Therefore, changing the underlying beliefs is far, far more important than passing any individual piece of legislation.  You want to change the playing field so the legislation doesn’t face principled opposition in the first place (if you can call greed a principle).  I am glad Klein is getting the connection between what he calls political culture and specific political moments; it’s a realization that all sorts of people on the moderate left could use.  It’s not that hard to get when you don’t share the underlying political beliefs in the first place to draw the connection between those beliefs and specific policy or legislative or political proposals.

I’d like to interview Superintendent Rob Hess

July 15, 2009

As part of Superintendent Hess’ transition into the Lebanon Community School District, he’s offered up something like 100 meetings for community members and others on a first-come, first-scheduled basis.  Each meeting, as I understand it, is 30 minutes in length, and it’s his way of getting to know the community.  It’s a good idea.  I signed up for one, for early next week.  If you know me you can probably guess what I want to talk about:  Blogs!  And the internets!  And stuff!

But I want to do something else, too, if Hess is willing:  I’d like to offer him an interview, with the un- or minimally-edited results to be posted on this blog.  And not a short, on-the-spot interview, either; a longer, in-depth interview, one that’s pre-arranged, and that I can record and transcribe.  Not only that, but if he’s amenable, I’d like to solicit questions and topics for the interview from the five people who still read this blog – to crowdsource the questions, if you will.  I have some ideas of what I would ask, but I bet there are plenty of topics and issues that you’d like to see addressed by Hess.

So, internets, what do you say?  Should I ask the Super for an interview?  And if so, what should I ask him?  Leave your answers in the comments.

Reporting on Lebanon’s Pregnancy Alternatives Center

July 15, 2009

There’s a story in the LE this week about the rebuilt Pregnancy Alternative Center reopening:

The Lebanon Pregnancy Alternatives Center has been rebuilt from the ground up after a fire last December destroyed the building.

I blogged a bit about this when it was first burned down:

Something like the Lebanon Pregnancy Alternatives Center doesn’t seem to provide birth control or even mention abortion, much less abortion referrals, as an option on their website (which I will not link to).

What I noticed this time about the story in the LE was this:

The center is described on the group’s website as a “nonprofit, volunteer-based, Christian organization dedicated to helping women through unplanned pregnancies.”

Tracy described the center as a “medical clinic to serve women who want to find out if they are pregnant.”

Actually, it’s more accurate to say that I noticed what was not in the story:  An accurate description of the services the center provides – or fails to provide.  I think this is a problem.  Why?

Put yourself in the shoes of a teenager or legal adult who finds herself in need of reproductive health services, be they access to birth control, an abortion, or counseling on an unplanned pregnancy.  She happens to see the Express story and remembers the PAC – but doesn’t know what kind of services they provide.  She goes there, and finds out that they can’t (or won’t) do what she asks, which turns out to be refer her to an abortion provider – something that is not mentioned on their website as a service, and in fact is only mentioned in a negative context at all.  So the person visiting the PAC is not given a full range of reproductive health options, and is in fact almost certainly steered in one or two specific directions.  That’s not cool, and neither is the Express omitting that information from their story.  They owe it to their readers to provide a more complete picture of what the PAC does, and what kind of agenda it has.


Whales

July 12, 2009

Whoa:

I asked Frohoff at one point if, given both the dark past of human-whale interactions in those lagoons and what we’ve now come to know about whale intelligence, there could possibly be some element of knowing forgiveness behind their actions. She took a deep breath and widened her eyes, making it clear that she wanted to be very careful about how she answered such a question.

“Those are the kinds of things that for the longest time a scientist wouldn’t dare consider,” she said. “But thank goodness we’ve gone through a kind of cognitive revolution when it comes to studying the intelligence and emotion of other species. In fact, I’d say now that it is my obligation as a scientist not to discount that possibility. We do have compelling evidence of the experience of grief in cetaceans; and of joy, anger, frustration and distress and self-awareness and tool use; and of protecting not just their young but also their companions from humans and other predators.

It’s a long, long article, but worth the read.  And if nothing else, check out the final few paragraphs.