Monthly Archives: January 2007

Molly Ivins

She’s gone now, but I can only hope her voice lives on. 

I didn’t always agree with her, but that is the nature of the politics that I shared with her and still share with Jim Hightower.  We don’t have to agree on everything.

I’ll miss her writing.  I’ll miss her insight. 

Here’s to Molly!

My Lovely Students

Even though there have been some big bumps in the road this term, I’ve got to say that overall it has been fairly good so far.  My Level 5 Grammar class is progressing nicely.  While their other teachers have complained about them, I have had little trouble with them.  They are alert — despite mine being the first hour class — and have done well on their tests so far.  

One student in particular has surprised me.  I taught her in Level 3, and she struggled with the most basic concepts then.  At some point in Level 4 something clicked and she is now one of my top students.  She is the exception to the rule.  She has been here (in the U.S.) for a while and has only now had the opportunity to study English.  Much of her language ability contains what we call fossilization — poor structures used again and again and almost impossible to dislodge.  Whether is was from support at home or at school or adjusting to the rigors of an intensive course of study or sheer will, she has made a huge leap.  She is not typical.  Most students who fit her initial situation end up dropping out.  They are simply unable to make the adjustments.

My second group is almost wholly new to me.  One exception is  a student who left the program (unsuccessful the first time around — see above), but her circumstances are different this time.  The two of us didn’t really get along the last time she was in our program, but with the passage of time, we have come to understand one another.  Because she is more familiar with me, she now has the unfortunate notariety of being the only one to get many of my jokes and then laughs — it’s embarrassing for her at that moment, but I have reassured her that it is actually a strength.  She came to yesterday worried that she hadn’t gotten a perfect score on the last test in my class.  I told her truthfully that it was just one test and that she understood more of what I said than anyone.  By class time, she was back to her confident self.  On the flip side of that, in the same class, one student who failed the first test miserably and then got 10% more correct (but still failing) on the second test, made the effort to come to my office to convince me he will now pass.  I reminded him of my suggestion to him to work after class, and even though he hasn’t, he promised he would.  We’ll see.

Last is my Level 7 writing class.  Usually Level 7 students have senior-itis, but this time I might get lucky.  I had my first encounter with plagiarism today.  A student who had started late decided to skip the hypothesis-thesis-outline steps and simply sent me (I’m doing almost everything via email) *her* introduction to her research paper.  One search of one sentence later, she’s busted.  I seriously hate it when that happens.  I like this student and it really pained me to find that she hadn’t written what she sent to me as her own.  And it’s not the she didn’t know that sort of thing was not ok — we emphasize it from the earliest levels in writing classes.  It used to tick me off, but now it just pains me to have to look it up and let them know what I have found.

On the brighter side, these are the topics I am looking forward to reading about in the next 3 weeks:

  • a comparison of developing and developed countries
  • what HIV/AIDS treatments work
  • the relationship between Iran and the U.S.
  • the opinions of the Iraq war (domestic and international — by an Angolan)
  • the process of the Kyoto treaty
  • the effect of advertising on women (ending with the Dove campaign)
  • cold fusion — real or not
  • traditional Chinese medicinal cures
  • how the Holocaust happened
  • the effects of natural disasters
  • the effects of the illegal diamond trade
  • the future of mass-transit (seriously cool graphics and video for this one)
  •  different types of organ transplants
  • mysteries of ancient Egypt

Crap, that’s a lot of reading and correcting . . .

Crap, and that’s not the last.  I have a special student.  She needs intensive reading.  Yesterday, she cried and cried.  I have to build her back up almost every day.  Even though I thought I had gotten out of the personal tutorial business when I left Berlitz, I’m back there this term, with the added pressure of making a success out of someone I know won’t ever be able to complete our program.  *sigh*

Chris Baker — Wrong Again

Chris Baker has a non-blog over at the KTRH web site.  It’s where he posts his video of the day and copies and pastes stuff from World Net Daily, Free Republic, and sometimes the Houston Chronicle.  He’s deleted his non-blog at least twice and actually posted two emails I had written him on the very first day the non-blog was up.  (Since I had written the emails before he announced his non-blog in the first place, I asked him to remove them and he complied.) 

It’s also a non-blog because it has no archives — I guess you could do a search at the top — and so this little non-post that I’m linking to probably won’t be there in a couple of days.  Baker links to an article in the Chronicle about a terribly brutal attack in Iraq earlier this month.  (Bob Schieffer spoke about the attack and the issues surrounding the characterization of it by the U.S. military on Face the Nation last Sunday.)  He starts off like this:

The Silence is Deafening
Am I the only person noticing?

He then snips his copy and paste of the Chronicle article after the first paragraph to insert this:

What happened to all “concerned” human rights activist who are outraged (and still whining) about the treatment of prisoners? Four Americans were kidnapped and instantly murdered and not one word from any of these phony rats. It’s all one sided, Americans are kidnapped and killed and it’s George Bushes fault. Terrorist in custody are interrogated and roughed up and there are legions of activist, lawyers and sadly members of the US Congress who will trample each other in a race to get in front of a camera to blame George Bush. Traitorous skunks every one of them.*

I’m not going to pull apart Baker’s argument because, frankly, it’s pretty clear, and he’s made it before and will make it again.  He knows what he is doing.  Mostly, I think he writes and says things like this to make a splash for his radio program and to rile up those who are willing to take the bait.

I’m fairly certain that Baker must be aware of this article in WAPO today.  If he’s not, then he should inform himself before going off on his name-calling binge.

Just before Christmas, an Army captain named Brian Freemancornered Sens. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) at a Baghdad helicopter landing zone. The war was going badly, he told them. Troops were stretched so thin they were doing tasks they never dreamed of, let alone trained for.

Freeman, 31, took a short holiday leave to see his 14-month-old daughter and 2-year-old son, returned to his base in Karbala, Iraq, and less than two weeks ago died in a hail of bullets and grenades. Insurgents, dressed in U.S. military uniforms, speaking English and driving black American SUVs, got through a checkpoint and attacked, kidnapped four soldiers and later shot them. Freeman died in the assault, the fifth casualty of the brazen attack. This is the impact Freeman’s death had on Dodd and Kerry:

“This was the kind of person you don’t forget,” Dodd said yesterday. “You mention the number dead, 3,000, the 22,000 wounded, and you almost see the eyes glaze over. But you talk about an individual like this, who was doing his job, a hell of a job, but was also willing to talk about what was wrong, it’s a way to really bring it to life, to connect.”

“When I returned from war, almost 40 years ago now, I stood up and spoke from my heart and my gut about what I thought was wrong,” Kerry said on the Senate floor last week as he recounted his meeting with Freeman. “I asked the question in 1971: How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? . . . I never thought that I would be reliving the need to ask that question again.”

The “silence” Baker describes in his title is only due to the fact that he refuses to listen.  Is he the only one noticing (the silence)?  I think so.  But it’s his own fault.

Tom Freeman was the second person honored out of 17 tonight at the end of The News Hour.

At the end of Baker’s copy ‘n paste non-post, he gets in another of his favorites:

Terrorist (sic) slaughter innocent (sic) and let the Bush bash begin.

The Radical Islamist (sic) and their Communist/Marxist allies are using a willing American media to destroy your will to survive.

Many of our members of congress are helping.

Do you feel that way?  How is your will to survive faring these days?  Mine is quite strong, as is my drive to do all I can to support a sane plan for Iraq and Afghanistan — a plan that will make the sacrifices of Tom Freeman and all of the people I see each evening at the end of the news result in far fewer dying in those two countries.

*Ahhh, yes, the traitor thing again — perhaps it’s not so bad in Baker’s mind, since he only used an adjective.

Points Post Because I’m Really Bad at Titles

First, from the National Review — any surprise? — another flimsy slur against Jimmy Carter.  Click throught the links and you will find it is to my *favorite* net paper of record:  World Net Daily.  Like all gossip rags, it relies on the he said something was written by someone and good Jonah takes it as fact.  I bet Bill Bennett wishes he hadn’t been on vacation when that one hit.

Bush finally gave an interview to Public Radio, albeit the interviewer was Juan Williams — a fixture on Chris Wallace’s Fox News Sunday.  Clearly W can’t give up the Fox connection even now.  Here’s one part I found infuriating:

MR. WILLIAMS: By the way, in the speech, you spoke about the Democrats. You said, you congratulated the Democrat majority. And I notice your prepared text said Democratic majority. I surely think that you know that for the Democrats, they think when you say Democrat, it’s like fingernails on the blackboard. They don’t like it. They like you to say Democratic.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah. Well, that was an oversight then. I mean, I’m not trying to needle. Look, I went into the hall saying we can work together and I was very sincere about it. I didn’t even know I did it.

MR. WILLIAMS: OK.

PRESIDENT BUSH: And that I did, I didn’t mean to be putting fingernails on the board, I meant to be saying why don’t we show the American people we can actually work together? There is a lot of politics in Washington – in my judgment, needless politics. And it’s almost like, if George Bush is for it, we’re against it, and I – and if he’s against it, we’re for it. And the American people don’t like that.

And I’m going to tell you some big issues we need to work on. One is entitlements. Your grandchildren are going to grow up with a Social Security system that is broke unless we do something about it. Now, I understand how hard that is. I mean, it’s—But the solution can be done. But it requires a lot of political, you know, capital to be spent. And there is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I’m sorry it’s the case, and I’ll work hard to try to elevate it. So the idea that somehow I was trying to needle the Democrats, it’s just – gosh, it’s probably Texas. Who knows what it is. But I’m not that good at pronouncing words anyway, Juan.

No, W, it’s Rush Limbaugh and every other partisan hack.  It’s not Texas.

Lastly, tonight the News Hour explained about the whole “Clinton campaign is out to get Obama” Fox News commentators’ nonsense.  Having heard the man who ran the story on Hannity the other day, in this instance, the News Hour didn’t go far enough in exposing the idiocy of that flap.  One of the guests did say that Fox had apologized.  I’m too lazy to go look it up, but am certain it was more of a cya.

There are a couple of videos that I want to share — each at either end of a spectrum.  The first is, sad but infuriating — watch about midway — it shows the essential W, along with crazy Pam.

The second is much more disturbing.

Carter’s Hope for a Debate Works

I bought Palestine: Peace not Apartheid last December, and that was a month after its initial release.  It is still at #9 on Amazon, and   on the NYT Bestseller list.  In the first interview I heard about the book (on the News Hour) Carter said that he wanted to spark a debate and, hopefully, the peace process, too, that had been largely ignored in the six years of the Bush administration.  Rice’s latest feeble attempts notwithstanding, Carter hasn’t succeeded in pushing the Bush administration (but that’s a tall order even for the majority of the American people to do, much less one man — no matter how pragmatically correct are his assertions).

Nevertheless, Carter has gotten people talking about and reading about the situation in Palestine.  He has also taken pot-shots from all sides and still been able to stay on his main point.  I’ve read several articles since I heard the interview Carter gave on NPR last week, and I’d like to share three of them.

The first two are from Tom DeLay.  Remember, he has the ideas, but someone else writes his *blog* and with that disclaimer, I offer these two posts of *his*.  First is the “Carter gets all his money from Arabs” post.  Tom wants Carter to come clean about the finances and asks if the money the Cater Center receives influenced Carter’s views.  I think the commenters on that post pretty much make the point I would — pot/kettle — but I would go one further.  Carter would have written this book with or without there being a Carter Center.  I’m actually not even sure Tom came up with the *idea* part of this post.

The second of the two remarks the fact that some of the people on the board of directors of the Carter Center left in protest.  As part of an article I will link to a little later, Tom’s writer fails to note that it was 14 of 200 and so I would think Carter probably expected that.  Compare the two “Tom” posts together — criticize Carter for accepting money from Arabs and then writing a book that makes the Israeli supporters on his board angry enough to quit.  To Tom’s writer’s point of view, that seals it — Carter is biased, and therefore he must be torn down.  (Nevermind that Tom and co. haven’t been right about Carter for over 30 years . . .  don’t even get me started on global warming . . .)

The third one is more comprehensive and evenhanded than Tom’s trifles and reminded me of a time when I was politically active in a different way than I am now, but to the same purpose.  It’s a piece from the Guardian by Ian Williams.  There’s a lot of there there, so I’d suggest reading it, but what touched me was the point — current because of the movie and one of my students has it as her research paper topic — about the diamond trade.  In the article, Williams (having pointed out that Carter only writes the word apartheid three times in the text) states:

His third use of the A-word is the most interesting. Rabin had just returned from the apartheid state, and described to Carter “the close relationship Israel had with South Africa in the diamond trade … but commented that the South African system of apartheid could not long survive.”

Israel’s sanctions-busting trade with the racist state helped it to survive longer than it would otherwise have done. And Israeli collaboration on arms programs may have gone beyond missiles and planes as far a joint nuclear test, with a pariah regime whose antecedents were Nazi sympathizers. If apartheid is such dreadful concept that we can’t use it about Israeli polices, where were Carter’s critics when Israel was the mainstay of the apartheid regime in South Africa?

Here’s my hope:  When I was in my teens and twenties, I reminded everyone I encountered that Nelson Mandela had been in prison for longer than I had been alive.  At the time, I had little hope Mandela would ever be released.   We now live in a world where Mandela was not only released, not only became the leader of his country, but where, thinking back I could hadly hope, he is considered a world statesman.  Carter is on his way there — to that place in world history.

Every time I write about Carter, I think of someone and hope for the best for him.  He fought for our country, worked for our security and influenced and refined my thoughts on the Israeli/Palestinian peace process.  Always, my best wishes and my willingness to help is there, along with my gratitude and appreciation.

The Dead-enders

I’ve thought about this a lot this past week, having had something of a little battle (remember — it’s just comments on a blog) with the crowd at Protein Wisdom. 

 In listening to right wing radio and trolling on right wing blogs, I have found that none of them respect anyone but their own.  One question I hear over and over again is, “how old are you?”  The implication is that your argument is childish.  Time and again, the respondent aswers much as I would, with the truth, an age that is considered by all adult.  I’ve never heard that question answered in a way that the host can’t insult the speaker.  If that is not enough, then the, “What do you do for a living?” is asked. 

 It doesn’t matter what one does — it is always denigrated — either up or down — depending on the caller’s/commenter’s orientation.  I cannot tell you how many times my ability to teach has been denigrated by those who disagree with me politically. It’s all they can do, I guess.  Just as Gallagher denigrated a tax attorney by shouting “are you an ambulance chaser?” before listening closely enough to hear that the caller was a tax attorney, and then turning on tax attorneys and claiming that the caller was yelling and not himself, is a more and more common occurence.

Dead-ender Jeffy theatens me through my employer.  Here’s what Jeffy won’t post — a response to his assumptions about Iraqi students I have taught:

Jeffy:  Uh huh.  So they were all Ba’athists then?  Or did they just like Saddam’s mustache.

No, they refused to hold what they called “the Sadam flag” in the mixer we organized.  I heard why.  Just for your information, I have an Iranian student presently in the same situation.  She wants to do everything she can to stop her country from getting attacked, much like my Iraqi students.

Jeffy: Well, I have your email.  I’ll just pass it along to a few Iraq expats.

Or you could use it to interact with me — not that I think you would have the courage to do so.  You are big on making something out of nothing.  Give them my email, I will respond.  I won’t block their responses or send then to junk mail.

Jeffy: After all, you’re eager to learn from international students, yes?  Maybe a few conversations with them (I had some when I was teaching—and my experience, evidently, was far different from yours) would help knock that smirk off your face.
 
I am quite confident in my profession and quite accomplished.  I learn from my students every day, as they do from me.

Jeffy: And my name is Jeff.  If you can’t get it right, don’t comment here.  Or rather, go ahead, but then I’m going to start comment at the University of Houston-Downtown.

You can start comment at UHD, but where?  Such a silly one :)

My Afternoon with Norton/Symantec

I downloaded the tool to check if it is running ok — actually took two hours.  It told me no, no problems, I checked further.  There is a fix for the problem I have.  Didn’t work.  I went to the next step.  Downloaded IE7.  The IT types at UHD said don’t do it, but I don’t trust them, so I did it.  Funny, my old ISP is still providing this window through which I connect with the world, even though I deleted them completely.  Ticks me off.  My current ISP makes claims about speed that it never delivers.  I wonder if they — all of them invovled in this mess called the internet and those who get you to it aren’t just marketers of a sort.  My web broser will always say that it is powered by my old service provider — because it can and because my security software won’t let me change it.

Before leaving work today, I had known what I would write about.  Because of internet assholes, I spent the afternoon diddling with my machine.  It’s crap all the way around.

Catching Up on 24 — State of the Union

I have never watched an episode of 24 without one particular person.  This season, he wasn’t available to watch the first 5 hours live with me, so I taped it.  We watched the first two hours last week and the next three tonight.  I wasn’t sure about watching the 5th hour — having had a minor dinner set back — who knew that raw potatoes turn brown overnight (I do now).  I agreed to watching the firth hour (third tonight) and got overly excited about the idea (mine) that Donald Sutherland might make an appearance as Kiefer’s dad.  Having seen the preview for next week, I am now a little disappointed.  The only reason I even watched Kiefer do anything in the first place was because of his father.  (I own Eye of the Needle.)  The one little thing that I picked up on that I’m pretty sure of now is that Kiefer’s character’s brother’s son is Kiefer’s character’s son.  (That tedious sentence is to make sure that it is clear that I understand — IT IS A TeeVee PROGRAM. 

I taped the State of the Union off the radio while watching 24.  I did stop watching the taped 24 episodes long enough to see how Bush treated the new Speaker of the House live.  He did ok.  It was probably a thrill for him to pronouce her father’s name correctly.  I’ll listen to it some time tomorrow.

 Oh, and it seems that something happened in FB (Farmers Branch) today.  I’ll write about that tomorrow.  I doubt that what passed yesterday will make much difference in the end.

Barney Frank’s “Grand Bargain”

Tonight on National Business Report, Alan Blinder, Partner in Promontory Financial Group and former Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve gave a commentary:  “It’s time for a Congressional compromise between Democrats and Republicans, accommodating the interests of business and labor unions.”  In it he discussed Barney Frank’s “grand bargain” that is part of an overall package of legislation — detailed in this Bloomberg article.  He’s basically offering both business and labor somethings they want, while telling both sides to compromise on points like wages, health care, more freedom for union organizing, sensible immigration reform, and fast tracking trade agreements.

Of course, this has great potential to be successful now with divided government, and the way it is all connects together could make compromising much easier that at any time in the last six years.

I’m hopeful.

Michael Berry and the Kidnapped Boys

I’m watching America’s Most Wanted and didn’t hear any of the points Michael Berry brought up with respect to the kidnapped boy.  There was nothing about how — possibly — the boy didn’t like his home life with his parents — nothing about how the boy lived with the man now charged with kidnapping — all Walsh had to say was about how grateful the parents were to have their son home and how other parents are worried about their missing children.

I read earlier this week how Bill O’Reilly had said something similar to what Michael Berry had.  Michael Berry is a city official — the mayor pro-tem — and yet he can broadcast over public radio waves his thoughts on how a kidnapped boy might have not liked his parents.

 I’ll remind anyone I can of this when the man runs for mayor. 

UPDATE:  Berry will take solace in this article — at least the first part — and will most likely disregard the last part.  I’m certain that this article  will let both Berry and O’Rielly off the hooked for what they said. . . . for some.  As for me, they are both doing what conservatives do — blaming the victim.