End of Days

28 01 2011

A few weeks late, but I just can’t let Arnold’s time in office come to a close without allotting just a moment or two to remembrance of it.  I mean…come on.  Our governor.

Free, courtesy of the suckers at Wikipedia

I’m not lying when I say that Arnold’s tenure in office strongly shaped how I view politics today.  I’m confident that he and Bush are the two happiest ex-executives in America today.

Death Penalty

9 06 2009

After reading about Sr. Gallo’s not guilty plea this morning, I read a lot of angry diatribes.  While there are some interesting arguments for the severity of punishments for drunk driving, the death penalty itself is a pretty interesting concept.  I’m barely awake right now, but I like throwing things out there while I remember them.  Here’s a few of my thoughts on the subject:

-If you could not flip the switch, you can’t justify it being done.

-Can anyone truly call themselves a sinner saved by grace and then choose to send a sinner to hell (effectively)?

-People didn’t have to worry about these things when the earth swallowed up sinners by the thousands.

-Do harsher penalties really deter violence?  In gang-related scenarios, I tend to agree that they do.

-Is capital punishment for capital crimes appealing to our best or worst nature?  (that is, satisfying some lust for blood atonement or releasing the sinners to the depths of sin itself)

-I don’t want taxes increased for criminals’ sakes.  However, I’m also against California’s threat/statement that prisoners will have to be realeased (what?) in the near future because of overcrowding and budget constraints.

-People would steal less if it cost an arm.

-There would be a lot more one-armed people around if we still operated on that principle.

-Are florescent lights worse than death?  Yes.  Yes they are.

Tell Me Why This Shouldn’t Offend Me

30 05 2009

“Justice [Sandra Day] O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and a wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases.  I am also not so sure [sic] that I agree with the statement   I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

-Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor

I don’t really know where to start on this quote (pulled from the June 1-8 issue of TIME).  One the one hand, it’s pretty standard pratice these days to bash white males as being the bastion (eh?) of close-minded intolerance.   On the other hand, hearing a potential (and exceedingly probable) justice of the highest court in the land espouse this opinion really disturbs me.  Smarter people than I have demonstrated the fallacy (and danger) of thinking that WASPs are the worst people group in America, and I’ve learned to just accept that as a given in our Modern Society.  I’m not going to spew some harangue about how much this bothers me (too late), but I can’t shake the feeling that I need to shout at someone.

Leaders, hose ’em

16 04 2009

Go check out Bob Timmerman’s One through Forty-Two or Forty Three right now.  He’s writing book reviews of all the presidential biographies he can get his hands on, and it’s quite good.

What, you were expecting actual content?

Jackson Enraged

14 02 2009

I have to replace a picture of me (ME!) with a quote from Old Hickory?

Addressing the nullifcation of tariff laws by South Carolina, Andrew Jackon gave an impassioned oration about the value of the union.  I enjoyed this one:

Without union our independence and liberty would never have been achieved; without union they can never be maintained.  Divided into twenty-four, or even a smaller number, of separate communities, we shall see our internal trade burdened with numberless restraints and exactions; communication between distant points and sections obstructed or cut off; our sons made soldiers to deluge with blood the fields they now till in peace; the mass of our people borne down and imporverished by taxes to support armies and navies, and military leaders at the head of their victorious legions becoming our lawgivers and judges.  The loss of liberty, of all good government, of peace, plenty. and happiness, must inevitably follow a dissolution of the Union.  In supporting it, therefore, we support all that is dear to the freeman and the philanthropist.

The time at which I stand before you is full of interest.  The eyes of all nations are fixed on our Republic.  The event of the existing crisis will be decisive in the opinion of mankind of the practicability of our federal system of government.  Great is the stake placed in our hands; great is the responsibility which must rest upon the people of the United States.  Let us realize the importance of the attitude in which we stand before our country from the dangers which surround it and learn wisdom from the lessons they inculcate.

Another excerpt from the same book:

Six days later, the president named a postmaster for New Salem, Illinois, a twenty-four-year-old lawyer who had lost a race for the state legislature.  He was a [Henry] Clay man, but the post was hardly major, and Abraham Lincoln was happy to accept the appointment.

From American Lion, by Jon Meacham

In Defense of the Union

4 02 2009

I’m currently reading American Lion, a biography of President Andrew Jackson.  It called to my attention one of the greatest speeches by one of the greatest orators America has ever seen.  Daniel Webster happened to pass by the Senate during a debate about South Carolina, nullification, and state’s rights.  The next day, he spoke in response to Robert Hayne, who had given a stirring and engaging defense of South Carolina’s inclination to propagate open disdain (if not outright rebellion) for the government, which had passed new tariff legislation lately that met with widespread disgust.  Anyway, I’ll spare you from further background information, as its better read in its context anyway.  While Webster disagreed with Jackson on almost everything, and quite vehemently, these two men were undoubtedly united in their thinking about the importance of keeping the union intact.

Webster closed his argument thusly:

I have not allowed myself, Sir, to look beyond the Union, to see what might lie hidden in the dark recess behind. I have not coolly weighed the chances of preserving liberty when the bonds that unite us together shall be broken asunder. I have not accustomed myself to hang over the precipice of disunion, to see whether, with my short sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss below; nor could I regard him as a safe counselor in the affairs of this government, whose thoughts should be mainly bent on considering, not how the Union may be best preserved, but how tolerable might be the condition of the people when it should be broken up and destroyed. While the Union lasts, we have high, exciting, gratifying prospects spread out before us and our children. Beyond that I seek not to penetrate the veil. God grant that in my day, at least, that curtain may not rise! God grant that on my vision never may be opened what lies behind! When my eyes shall be turned to behold for the last time the sun in heaven, may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on States dissevered, discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood! Let their last feeble and lingering glance rather behold the gorgeous ensign of the republic, now known and honored throughout the earth, still full high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their original lustre, not a stripe erased or polluteddd, not a single star obscured, bearing for its motto, no such miserable interrogatory as “What is all this worth?” nor those other words of delusion and folly, “Liberty first and Union afterwards”; but everywhere, spread all over in characters of living light, placing on all its ample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land, and in every wind under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every true American heart, – Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable!

Parting of the Ways

26 11 2008

As the country prepares to welcome an historic president, it is also doing its best to send a formal farewell to its current one.  While President Bush achieved new lows in approval ratings at home and abroad, President-elect Obama prepares to be welcomed into the masses’ waiting arms.

I have to say, though, that I’ve never seen known such a level of unadulterated hatred for an outgoing president.  Even when President Clinton left office after all of his wacky hijinx, I remember a distinctly obvious level of restraint among even his greatest detractors.  Perhaps it is simply the ramifications of President Bush’s decisions that have drawn this new level of ire, but there’s a large part of my political psyche that winces every time I hear vitriol spewed upon the name of our sitting president.  In fact, I worry that this election has signaled the dawn of a nastier era of political commentary than ever before.  And really, that’s something to lament no matter who you rooted for 22 days ago.  To offer up a real observation for once, I think that politics have become too much like a sports arena:  People rarely change their allegiances, no matter what evidence may come their way; People would prefer to favor a professional who is good at playing the game rather than someone they actually like; Most notably, people can rarely discuss their views with those of different opinions without resorting to churlish arguing.

Perhaps we should just accept it and start wearing jerseys…?


On a more peripheral note, the approaching of a super-majority in the Senate makes me long for the 2F’s rather interesting original plan for the presidency.  I mean, come on — if the popular vote is really as important as everyone in 2000 said it was, why not give it even more power?

Case: Just In

4 11 2008


Derek Webb gives his perhaps more-than-melifluous tones a try in the world of political decision-making, with mixed results.

The basis of the argument, however, manages to intrigue me to some degree.  I suppose my main issue would be with the fact that the most important votes you ever cast will probably not be for something as black or white (bam!) as the presidency, but for local measures and county politicians.  But then, those things aren’t sexy on any kind of large scale, so it may be a while before a serious enthusiasm permeates the halls of your local city council chamber.

Enduring the Endearment

9 08 2008

As China continues to ignore the Darfur atrocities, (even going so far as to revoke Joey Cheek’s visa) it’s hard to get excited about the Olympiad this year.

Every moment of the opening ceremonies was hard to swallow to some degree — isn’t this all celebrating the country that continues to oppress and silence those who dissent? More people than ever before watched thousands of Chinese citizens put on the most extravagant opening fanfare ever conceived, but the only thing that sticks in my mind is a short clip of Bush and Putin leaning over and talking animatedly. I wonder what about.

As my nationalism continues its battle with my conscience, I struggle to perceive China in a better light. Every image on Friday night seemed to speak, often literally, about replacing the old image of China with a new one; I heard the new message, but I don’t know if I will ever stop seeing the old messenger.

One of my friends was in China last year for some very low-key missions work. In every email he sent me, words and phrases that even hinted at Christianity had to be filtered and couched in such terms so as to make them innocuous. God was “father” and evangelizing was “sharing.” To the average Chinese citizen, Tiananmen Square was a place where “some bad people did some bad things.” Of course, these beliefs are due in large part to the fact that they are unable to even look up the protests on the web at all. Many reporters at the Games this year who have encountered the same preventative measures have received little response from a government that had formerly promised to drop all of its restrictions for the Games.

Of course, as Joey Cheek well knows, promises are easy to make when you don’t have the whole world watching to make sure you go through with them.

If you need me, I’ll be cheering for Lopez Lomong. (Thanks to Jesse over at Magnolia Mountain for this one.)

Why I Can’t Trust California

21 01 2008

Thursday evening, I attended a Superintendent Forum for the Norwalk/La Mirada Unified School District. Aside from being the only male, I was also the only person under the age of 35 in attendance, which meant that whenever the superindent was speaking, she made sure to make eye contact with me so I would feel like she valued my attention.

Hey, fine by me. I had to go as part of my journalism internship, and I was trying to absorb all the information I could so as to report as accurately as possible.

As disturbing as that sounds, the frightening part came when the budget was discussed. Try to stay focused as the mire thickens, would you?

So, because California’s economy is in the tank thanks to years of overspending and mysterious drains on our services, education in the K-14 range (Kindergarten through Community College) is being slashed along with everything else this year. Badly. Let’s see some numbers:

K-12 will see a net 2.4% cut in revenue limit funding, but most categorical programs will see the full allotment of a 6.5% cut. This includes everything from field trips to special education to instruction materials to transportation. In fact, the majority of California schools already have or are considering doing away with bus rides for all but special education children.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. We’ll keep seeing more of the same cutbacks on music equipment, athletic programs, before- and after-school programs, food services, etc.

Food services are an especially painful cut, with the meal reimbursment rate being slashed by two cents. (this is huge, as the schools have always done everything possible to maintain high nutrition and food service standards.) Fruit and Vegetables are going to become less fresh and more scarce, even with all the incentive programs put in the place within the last decade. There just isn’t any money.

However, the bad news becomes cold irony when it comes to attendance levels. Each school is paid by the state for their Average Daily Attendance, regardless of how many students are enrolled. (so THAT’S why mom always forced me to go to school) However, it gets sticky because former bills that impose severe financial penalties for larger class sizes are not affected by any of the new legislation. For example:

Class size ranges from 20.45 to 20.94 are penalized (in the N/LA USD) $4,004, or 20% of their class stipend. Class sizes from 20.95 to 21.44 are penalized $8k/40%, and 21.45 to 21.84 $16k/80%. Anything above 21.85 students per classroom get hit with 100% penalties, as well as other class penalties if the state deems it necessary.

Unfortunately, the schools make their money from students attending. If funding is slashed, they certainly want more kids to come to increase their cash flow–but this is simply not feasible with the above penalties looming over their heads. As it is now, La Mirada is already putting children on the waiting lists that live within a few miles of the schools for fear of drawing the ire of the state. It’s a catch-22 with some serious teeth.

-End information dump-

So after these and other doomsday items have been addressed, the superintendent then brings up perhaps the most jaw-dropping issue yet.

Most of the schools have advisory/suggestion boards that parents can join in an effort to become more involved with their children’s education. However, there have been recent problems with parents being unable to participate because they do not speak English. So, because this is deemed an invalid reason for turning parents away, our impoverished public schools are now hiring interpreters (where volunteers cannot be found) to allow these parents to participate. One of the moms at the forum commented that it seems a little ___notallowedtosaythatingrandma’shouse___ that people who are already draining resources from the government without paying taxes are now forcing the schools to pony up for interpreters. I don’t feel completely entitled to comment on this aspect of the situation, but I think the situation itself raises enough questions.

Doom and gloom is easy enough to propogate right now, but we should “try to pull together” as the superintendent said. (She also said it is important to avoid internecine squabbles during these cutbacks, but no one knew what that meant either.)

Suffice it to say, I know what state’s public education program my kids will not be enjoying in the coming years.