Random Bits

23 05 2010

Yet another extended failure to post. As is my custom in such instances,  I will now post a few odds and ends in lieu of making a more coherent narrative on a single topic. Lack of coherence, thy name is Archvillain.

THAILAND

This story has never received a lot of attention here in the US- or the western world in general, for that matter. There are several explanations for this, from media incompetence to thinly-veiled public disinterest in the affairs of “brown people”. I happened to run across a blog by someone actually on the ground in Thailand, who does a very good job of analyzing and explaining the “troubles” over there. Please read this blog.

I’m conflicted. The current government is technically illegitimate, because it came into being in the aftermath of a military coup. On the other hand, the current government is far less corrupt than any previous Thai government, and was democratically elected. The US has dealt with similar governments in other countries, some of which were much worse, in the past. Since it isn’t my country, I’m going to leave it to the Thais to work out. The fact the people like S.P. Somtow are involved gives me hope that things will turn out better than they are.

THE WAR ON DOGS

Apparently, the police in this country can’t spell. They’re supposed to be fighting the “war on drugs”, but they seem to have morphed that into the “war on dogs”. Here are a few links to show you what I’m on about.

Note that these are all fairly recent acts. Couple these events with the tendency of police to completely screw up the relatively simple matter of getting the right address when serving warrants, and every dog owner in the country should be getting on the phone to his local, state, and federal legislators to stop the carnage. Too many innocent people, nonviolent offenders, and even cops are getting killed as a result of this idiotic “war on drugs”- to say nothing of the wanton butchery of family pets. Politicians are fond of claiming that you have nothing to fear if you’ve done nothing wrong. This turns out to be a heaping pile of bullshit, like most political claims.

Just ask yourself how you would feel if the police raided your home by mistake and shot your dogs to death.

CHAIN LETTERS

Back in the days before email (yes. I AM that old. Get off my lawn!), people used to get letters in the mail claiming a wide variety of really unlikely things and urging the recipient to pass the letter on. This practice was swiftly and easily adapted to email, and now these bits of nonsense are roaming around the web, infesting in-boxes with their drivel (and occasionally with malware). The only reason this continues is because people are invariably stupid enough to believe the lies and distortions of truth without checking into the matter.

Case in point: I received one of these nonsensical emails from a friend of mine. Never mind what it was about, I could tell right away it had the disagreeable odor of bullshit about it. So I spent a grand total of five minutes doing a little online research. The only sources for the “information” in the email were all deeply whackjob “newspapers”- the same ones which claim that aliens from outer space are impregnating our women, for one ludicrous example. Next, I did a little Google searching for the facts underlying the story. I found lots of information from a variety of sources- both in and outside the US- which directly contradicted the fearmongering in the email. I forwarded this research to my friend, with a gentle reminder to do some fact-checking before becoming outraged.

As consumers of information, it is our responsibility to do our own fact-checking. Find out the sources of the information and do a little digging of your own. You’ll be a lot better informed, and will also develop skills which are universally useful.

TAKES-ASS

Whoo boy. I lived in Texas for several years. Despite the greyhound-size  mosquitoes, the debilitating heat and humidity, and the presence of herds of obstreperous christian zealots, I rather liked the place.

As I’ve previously discussed, Texas is one of the country’s largest purchasers of school textbooks (only California is larger). This gives Texas an inordinate amount of influence over what textbook publishers put into their products. That influence is even greater this year, because California’s budget apocalypse prevents that state from buying textbooks for several years. This means that whatever standards Texas sets for textbook purchases are likely to be adopted by publishers- who are understandably unwilling to print a different textbook for every state.

Enter the Texas Board of Education, a nominally independent group who determines the educational standards for all textbooks purchased in Texas. Since few people pay much attention to the actions of this group, the Governor and his religious cronies have managed to pack the Board with christian supremacists. Here is the result.

Ignoring the recommendations of experts, professional educators from far and wide, and any trace of objectivity, the religious fuckwits on the Board have decided to re-write history on their own terms. Gone is any notion that the Founders were adamantly opposed to mixing religion and politics. Thomas Jefferson is all but redacted. The existence of slavery in this country is being de-emphasized. Worst of all, gone is the fact that a majority of the Texas patriots who fought Mexico for Texan independence were Mexicans themselves.

Thankfully, the people of Texas (who aren’t all religious zealots with axes to grind) have become so alarmed at the rabid fanaticism of the current Board that many of them have been invited to go away and not return. Unfortunately, the damage will have been done by the time the new Board is seated.

Here’s an idea for the publishers: Make standards textbook templates and post them online. States can purchase these boilerplate textbooks as needed, with whatever local modifications they choose. Publishers will no longer have to juggle the competing standards of various special-interest groups, and states won’t be subject to the religious hypocrisy of a small group of fanatics. Everyone wins.

Except the students in Texas, of course. They’ll find out the hard way that their public education diplomas are literally worth less than the paper they’re printed on.

Current status: Vexed

Current music: Come Dancing by the Kinks

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