Archive for August 2007

The First Day On The Job

August 25, 2007

Not technically, I actually started on Thursday, but all I did last week was run around getting paper work completed and spend the remaining time observing other teachers, especially the guy I’m replacing – the seventh grade US History teacher.

What I learned about him and the class which I will henceforth teach. One, he was very disorganized. Disorganized might be too generous. As evidence, I spent an hour and a half on Friday afternoon doing nothing but cleaning the crap he left off the desk. Two, he had no control over the kids, constantly issuing what would become empty threats if they did not be quiet, or do their work, or whatever. Three, and as a result of number two, the kids really liked him. They have not done anything productive yet this year.

Great situation, huh? I’m replacing a popular push over, and thanks to his disorganization, I do not have so much as a student roll, never mind any kind of educational plan for the year. So what am I going to do?

The organizing part won’t be too bad. I’ve already got a general plan for the next few months. The textbook is really great, and it has tons of supplements, which are scattered throughout the room. As I find them I’m sure I’ll be able to work them into the plans. Ditto the technology in the class.

As for the kids, well, they are going to hate me. I’ve seen them behave very well in other classes, so I know the reason for the chaos is not them. It’s a lack of discipline. I’m going to really hammer them. When they come to class Monday, for example, the first thing they’re going to get is a quiz on Friday’s material. I’m sure everyone will fail it, as I witnessed the complete lack of participation in the lesson when it was given, but they need to know right away that I’m not the old teacher and I mean business.

I’m gonna play the hard ass part, too. Full lawyer regalia, in fact I may not even take off my jacket. I’m not putting any pictures or personal touches on my desk. I’m going to call them by their lasr names (Mr. or Ms., of course). All they’re gonna get for an introduction is my name. And when I call on them to read or answer a question, I’m going to make them stand.

I don’t plan on staying that way. Eventually I’d like to interact with them in a more personal manner, and use more “fun” education techniques like AV stuff, group work, or games. But for now? This is my role model:


More On Criminalizing Dog Fighting

August 23, 2007

Jason Kuznicki at Positive Liberty reaches the same conclusion about criminalizing dog fighting that I did in these posts (though he says it much better): If anyone wants to cruelly kill their own animal, that ought to be their own business.

In addition to the reasons he provides, I’ll just say that my view is guided by the ‘ol “an eye for an eye” principle. Branding a human being as a criminal and putting that human in jail is infinitely worse than anything that human might have done to an animal. I’m not minimizing animals or the harm inflicted on them; rather, I have a very high view of humans and freedom.

A Man Without Principles

August 22, 2007

I know, he’s a politician, so that vice is present almost by definition, still . . .

The figurative yesterday:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, April is turning into the deadliest month in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad, and some people are comparing Iraq to Vietnam and talking about a quagmire. Polls show that support for your policy is declining and that fewer than half Americans now support it. What does that say to you and how do you answer the Vietnam comparison?

THE PRESIDENT: I think the analogy is false. I also happen to think that analogy sends the wrong message to our troops, and sends the wrong message to the enemy. Look, this is hard work. It’s hard to advance freedom in a country that has been strangled by tyranny. And, yet, we must stay the course, because the end result is in our nation’s interest.

And, literally, today:

The president, in his speech, said “one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like ‘boat people,’ ‘re-education camps’ and ‘killing fields.’”

Got it? Not like Vietnam, because Iraq is a success. Like Vietnam, because if we leave, the chaos will only get worse. I would say something about C students running the world, but I’d be guilty of grade inflation.

“Religion is the opium of the people”

August 21, 2007

The dealers are ready to sling it:

Could martial law ever become a reality in America? Some fear any nuclear, biological or chemical attack on U.S. soil might trigger just that. KSLA News 12 has discovered that the clergy would help the government with potentially their biggest problem: Us. . . .

If martial law were enacted here at home, like depicted in the movie “The Siege”, easing public fears and quelling dissent would be critical. And that’s exactly what the ‘Clergy Response Team’ helped accomplish in the wake of Katrina.

Dr. Durell Tuberville serves as chaplain for the Shreveport Fire Department and the Caddo Sheriff’s Office. Tuberville said of the clergy team’s mission, “the primary thing that we say to anybody is, ‘let’s cooperate and get this thing over with and then we’ll settle the differences once the crisis is over.'” . . .

For the clergy team, one of the biggest tools that they will have in helping calm the public down or to obey the law is the bible itself, specifically Romans 13. Dr. Tuberville elaborated, “because the government’s established by the Lord, you know. And, that’s what we believe in the Christian faith. That’s what’s stated in the scripture.”

Or we could save manpower and just taint the water supply with Soma: “All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects.”

Vick To Plead Guilty

August 20, 2007

Two comments about the plea.

One, if I was a Falcons fan, I’d probably be pretty happy.

The team was never going to succeed with Michael Vick as quarterback. Too talented for his own good, thus far he has failed to do the work necessary to be an NFL quarterback, instead relying on his amazing natural skills, with the result being mediocrity. Sure he can run, but his job is to throw, and he does not do that very well at all. Check out his career stats. In six seasons, he’s never thrown for three thousand yards, once he reached twenty touchdowns (exactly twenty) and his career passing efficiency rating is 75.7. For perspective, on the all time list, Vick’s rating puts him between Stan Humphries and Wade Wilson. And he isn’t getting better, his rating last season was also 75.7. While his arm and his speed get him into a bunch of highlights and land him a bunch of endorsements, his overall mediocre play has made the Falcons a mediocre team.

But Vick’s talent is so great, the team’s investment in him so high, and the “ooooh, ahhh” factor so heavy, that in spite his actual performance, he would have remained the QB for the foreseeable future. Hence, unless he radically changed his habits – which if he hasn’t done yet, after six years in the league, he probably won’t ever do – the team would have remained mediocre. Now, though, forced to play this season without a QB – well, with Joey Harrington – they’ll stink their way to a high draft pick and maybe be able to start to build a real team, rather than the supporting cast for SportsCenter highlights.

Now the second comment. In this previous post and its comments I already expressed my opinion that dog fighting should not be a crime. Now, for the sake of argument, I’ll grant that it ought to be a crime. But it still should not be a federal crime. I’m not even going to make the constitutional argument; by this point the law is pretty settled that sneezing inside your own house could somehow affect interstate commerce and therefore justify federal regulation. All I’m going to say is that even though congress can federally criminalize dog fighting, congress ought not to do so.

Like it or not, the federal government has a limited amount of resources: Money, buildings, people, time. The country, though, has lots of problems. If congress tried to regulate everything – as it has been doing for the last seventy years – congress will spread its resources too thin to do any good for anyone. Hence, if congress actually wants to solve problems, they can’t regulate everything; they’ve got to prioritize.

In my opinion, what someone does inside a state with their dogs ought to be really low on the list. Why? Two reasons.

First, I think the state in which the fighting occurs is perfectly capable of stopping it. In fact, local officials, equipped with local knowledge, would probably be better at finding out about dog fighting than some far removed federal law enforcer.

Second, and more importantly, if the state in which it occurs does not stop the fighting, that will have minimal impact on other states. That Mike Vick fought dogs in Virginia has absolutely no impact on me and my dog in Louisiana. In other words, dog fighting isn’t like pollution. If, for instance, Greedy Oil Company decides to save money by dumping its waste products into a river and the state in which Greedy Oil Company resides won’t do anything about it, every other state along that river will suffer the consequences of the dereliction. If, however, Virginia had decided not to prosecute Mike Vick, nothing changes for me in Louisiana.

In short, the federal government cannot be a solution to every problem. It only has so many resources, and if it throws the resources at everything, nothing will get done. Much better to limit federal intervention to situations in which it is really necessary. In my opinion, those are situations in which states can’t solve the problem themselves, or when a state’s failure to act will harm another state. I don’t see either of those criteria met in the case of dog fighting. None of this is to belittle the barbaric nature of dog fighting. Just to say that the federal government is not the best solution to the problem.

Race Problem, What Race Problem?

August 19, 2007

Where in the world would anyone ever get the idea that southerners in general and Louisianan’s in particular are still a bunch of sorry racists?

Today’s paper, maybe? Specifically, the comments to this story in today’s S’port Times about declining enrollment in one of S’port’s black schools. Thus far, there are only five comments. They  start with this invitation:

The reasons are in front of your face. No one wants to say it because they will be tagged as a racist.

And that tag is justified:

Why do the children of black families earning more than $70000 a year do worse academically (and have lower I.Q’s) than the children of whites and asians earning $10000 or less per year? Haitian blscks have been free of any white yoke since 1806 yet Haiti has evolved to be the armpit of the world. In contrast japan was bombed flat during WWII and has no natural resources, is now one of the most affluent countries.
The mean I.Q. of Haiti is less than 80, that of japan greater than 100. if the iq test is somehow flawed, then come up with a test for geared towards blacks and make whites take it along with blacks and see what the scores are. ill bet if you teach poor people from vietnam or korea for a short time they will test better then poor blacks who have been here longer. it’s genetic not financial.

If you think I’m being unfair, consider this one:

the race is
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,dumb as rocks, and there’s not much that can be done about it. and believe it or not..i feel for them and the hand full that can do, believe me, will do..

Of course I’m not saying that all southerners are racists. That would be simplistic and stupid. But it’s just as stupid to pretend that we don’t have a race problem anymore.

Taliban Training Center Comes To Louisiana

August 17, 2007

It’s only the American version, but still:

Louisiana College in Pineville plans to announce today its desire to open a “biblical worldview” law school with classes starting in 2009.

Louisiana College President Joe Aguillard said the school will fill a “niche” in Louisiana to train defenders of conservative Christian values in the courtroom and politics.

The new law school would fall in line with other Christian conservative law schools, such as the late Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University School of Law and televangelist Pat Robertson’s Regent University School of Law, both in Virginia.

A few points here.

One, I agree with LSU Law’s dean, that if this is what those LC folks want to do, well, good for them:

LSU Law Center Chancellor Jack Weiss said Louisiana College has a right to fill a niche if it perceives one exists.

“The truth will emerge from a multitude of tongues,” Weiss said. “If there are different perspectives on law, so be it.”

Two, if I was a prospective student, I’d like to know what the “biblical worldview” of contracts, or tax, or secured transactions, or business organizations, or civil procedure, or trial advocacy, or intellectual property, or legal research, or torts is. I’d also like to know what I am supposed to do with an education in the bible’s version of law. How would the Bible’s view on interest rates, for instance, affect my ability to represent clients in the banking industry?

Finally, if I was a prospective student, I’d also want to know why I should trust my education to a school headed by someone who could say something as ridiculous as this:

Aguillard said the law school will “unashamedly embrace” the nation’s “biblical roots”

That is nonsense.

For starters, there’s a good case that the entire idea of a revolution is anathema to the Bible, which states of authorities:

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 

I’m not saying that the revolution was contrary to the Bible’s teaching; just that there is no way the Bible was the origin of ideas about rebellion. The proponents of revolution may have squared the idea with the Bible, but it was a post-hoc endeavor. The ideas originated somewhere else.

The extra-Biblical origins of the revolution should not be surprising, because most of the founding fathers were at most soft deists; people who folks like Aguillard would condemn as false christians, just as the right wing of his day condemned Thomas Jefferson as an infidel.

More importantly, even if the founding fathers were hard core fundamentalists like Aguillard, the true “root” of our country – our constitution – is a thoroughly secular document.

Prior to the United States, and in accord with Romans 13, governments everywhere were viewed as established by God. Even most of the state constitutions invoked deities. With all these examples of reliance upon heaven in the minds of the founders, what does our constitution recognize as the source of its authority? Not the God of the Bible or any other deity:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We take these words for granted now, but at the time this was a shocking departure from all other known governments.

The preamble isn’t the only godless potion of the document; there is no god anywhere in the constitution.  Check out the presidential oath of office, for example, another place religious clap-trap would be expected:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

No mention of Bibles upon which to swear, or even a “so help me god.”

What space the Constitution dedicates to religion is used to separate religion from civil government: No religious tests for office, no establishment of religion, guaranteed free exercise of religion. Sure, most of the people who lived in the country at the time of ratification were Christians, but the government created by the constitution is secular.

If anyone wants extra-textual evidence that the United States has a secular origin, consider the Treaty of Triploli, approved unanimously by the Senate in 1797:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

As further non-textual evidence, during the time of ratification, many of the opponents of the constitution complained that it allowed for a non-Christian government.

In a New York newspaper, expressing fear that prohibiting religious tests would allow the election of:

“Ist. Quakers, who will make the blacks saucy, and at the same time deprive us of the means of defence–2dly. Mahometans, who ridicule the doctrine of the Trinity–3dly. Deists, abominable wretches–4thly. Negroes, the seed of Cain–Sthly. Beggars, who when set on horse back will ride to the devil–6thly. Jews etc. etc.

A report from the Massachusetts state ratifying convention:

Major LUSK…passed to the article dispensing with the qualification of a religious test, and concluded by saying, that he shuddered at the idea that Roman Catholics, Papists, and Pagans might be introduced into office, and the popery and the inquisition may be established in America.

North Carolina delegate Henry Abbott summed up the fears of those who opposed the Constitution:

The exclusion of religious tests is by many thought dangerous and impolitic. They suppose that if there be no religious test required pagans, deists, and Mahometans might obtain offices among us, and that the senators and representatives might all be pagans.

Aguillard gets mad at courts, while his fundamentalist ancestors got mad at the constitution, but the complaint was the same: Other religions are treated equally with Christianity! That’s because the constitution did not create a Christian nation, it does not have “biblical origins.” Most of the people in the country may have been Christians, but the document which created the country treats all religions equally.

Hiding Yourself

August 16, 2007

Yesterday we got a letter from our realtor in B’ham. He had discovered that the house needed some minor, but emergency, work. Good realtor that he is, he found someone to do it, paid for it so as to get it done asap, and then sent us a copy of the receipt along with a copy of the check he’d written to pay for the work. We then reimbursed him. We noted, though, that his check was in his and his partner’s name.

Not a business partner, but a life partner. Now we knew from the first time we met him that our realtor was almost certainly gay. We also like him. He’s a good realtor, but also just a fun person. The first meetings we had with him at our house lasted a couple of hours each, mostly because the conversations often wandered. Every other time we’ve seen him has also involved pleasant conversations. So when we looked at the check we both thought it was weird that he’d never mentioned his partner.

Why not? Well, I’m not going to ask him, but my guess is that if you’re gay, even today, the best business practice is to keep it to yourself. Never mind the folks who explicitly despise homosexuals, how many times have you heard someone say “I don’t mind the gays, as long as they don’t go flaunting it around everywhere?” If you’re a gay business person, you never know when you might be dealing with someone like that. Best to just hide yourself, then.

I know, I know, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. But over the next day or so, pay attention to how many times you mention your significant other in a conversation. Then think about having to censor those references in every conversation. I’m not the world’s most romantic guy, still, that would make even me feel like fraud.

Louisiana Legislature Gives Unrestricted Funds To Local Mosques

August 15, 2007

Yup. $120,000.00 of our taxes given to Shreveport and Bossier Muslims with no requirements or limits as to the use. Read all about it here, and here.

I’m sure, though, that this is the kind of wasteful spending we can expect Bobby Jindal to eliminate.

Fashion Nazis – In Shreveport – Literally!

August 15, 2007

Hard to put into words exactly how stupid this is:

Youngsters and others who participate in what could be called a fading fad and a fashion faux pas might want to get their belts ready.

Shreveport City Council is expected to discuss an ordinance amendment concerning sagging pants when it meets today. The amendment being proposed by Councilman Calvin Lester would make it unlawful for any person to appear in public wearing pants below the waist that expose skin or undergarments.

My first thought was, wow, can you say “latent racism?” But Calvin Lester – a former criminal defense attorney! – and fellow fashion nazi Mayor Cedric Glover, are both black. Still, I guaran-darn-tee you that the only people who will ever be harassed over this ordinance are young black males. Old guys whose guts are so huge that their belt crosses their thighs? Not going to be an issue. Carpenter cracks? Nope. This is an open invitation for selective enforcement.

And what a great idea that is! Let’s give a group of people who are generally distrustful of the police – young black men – one more reason to fear being harassed and unfairly treated. Amazing.

What purpose does this serve, anyway? I’m not the most imaginative person in the world, but I can’t think of even one way this benefits the public. Sure, some of the folks on that council don’t like saggy pants, but so what? It annoys me when I watch the Today Show and see Matt Lower with his coat unbuttoned, or when I stand behind a guy in a wife beater while in line at the grocery store, and let’s not even get started on women’s clothes. What justifies outlawing the baggy pants but none of the other fashion mistakes? Or are both proper subjects of criminal laws? Could a city council really pass an ordinance prohibiting navy socks with black pants?

And if how you and I dress is the proper subject of criminal sanctions, well, we sure as heck don’t live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Why stop at clothes? I think it’s disrespectful to go to the store without having showered, so how about an ordinance prohibiting b.o.? Or fines for shaggy hair? What about people with craggy, hairy, stinky feet who wear flip-flops? Lock ’em up, I say.

Now I know all of our local leaders are too wise to pass any of my ridiculous suggestions. My point, though, is that if they have the power to ban baggy pants, they have the power to pass all the examples in my parade of horribles. I don’t know about you, but I much prefer living in a country where city leaders can’t pass laws like this, rather than one in which I just have to trust that they won’t.