Sunday, September 30, 2007

A response to Mr. Spoon

This post began as a comment to this post below, where Spoon and I are having one of our spirited disagreements. I post it here rather than there because of (a) its size, and (b) it's such a good discussion, I wanted to call more attention to it and perhaps get more of you in on the conversation. Join in--it's fun.

Spoon--

You know I respect you, but I don't follow your logic here one iota. Here's what I think I see you saying (and correct me if I'm off):

DEFINING THE PROBLEM: The problem is that members of both parties (and I'd argue that, unless and until the candidates disavow their tactics, MoveOn represents the Democrats in the same way that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth represented the Republicans) no longer value exchange, debate, or even thought. They only value their own dogma. Anyone who dares to go against it, no matter how conscientious or reasoned their disagreement, is either a traitor, a moron, or both.

For lack of a better word, we'll call the tactics of these dogmatic namecallers "uncivil simplemindedness."

Okay, uncivil simplemindedness is the problem. Republicans used it in 2004 to win, and we're all paying for it now.

THE SOLUTION: You're saying that by using the same tactics to win a "decisive, back-breaking victory," Democrats will solve the problem of uncivil simplemindedness.

I disagree. I believe that such a victory PERPETUATES the problem. Your wish for a lefty Karl Rove only increases the amount of dogma and uncivil simplemindedness out there. And should the Dems achieve their victory that way, our democracy will be no better off. Sure, the guys in power would agree with you and me more often, but the democracy would be as sick and sad as ever--we'd merely replace dogmatic simplemindedness of one flavor with dogmatic simplemindedness of another.

To put it another way, Karl Rove and Lee Atwater are morally wrong no matter which party they represent.

Or to put it a THIRD way, I'll quote the Who: "Meet the new boss...same as the old boss."

As for me, "I won't get fooled again."

Semi-related question: Who would you rather have representing you? A conscientious guy who does his research and thinks things through, but sometimes will disagree with you? Or a dogmatic simpleton who shuns research, ignores any facts presented by those who disagree with him, but agrees with your party's dogma every time?

I'd rather have the thoughtful researcher than a lapdog--ten times out of ten. Would you?

And if so, why crucify Rep. Baird for what is clearly a thought-out stand? We both disagree with him, but does that make him a bad guy or even a bad Democrat? If a thoughtful guy who disagrees with Baird on the war comes forward, Baird will likely lose my vote.

But if someone who kowtows thoughtlessly to MoveOn crap and generic namecalling comes forward, I'd happily return Baird to the Capitol--even if I agreed with the hypothetical new candidate about what to do from here in Iraq. I'd rather have a hundred of him than even one lapdog.

And great comments, by the way. You bring numbers and thought to the table--which is exactly what we need at the forefront in an election cycle. But, alas, nobody gives a shit about actual facts. We'd rather declare a moral high ground while acting every bit as bad as what we attack.

Incidentally, this exchange's thought process has me reconsidering who to support for President...maybe. I have to sort it through.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

You didn't think you could do it...

NFL commercials are currently pointing this out. I don't have the words exact, but I have the modifiers correctly misplaced:

"Hundreds of kids got to have an assembly at their school with real NFL players...and you could be one of them!"

Awesome! I can be a real NFL Player! (I hope to God I get to be a holder. I'm both slow and weak, so that's the only place to put me.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

My party has lost the moral upper hand

I've been really bothered by the rhetoric surrounding Brian Baird, the man who will soon be my US Representative.

Baird was one of the strongest anti-war voices in '03, and he was drowned out. He maintains that the invasion still never should have happened. However, he subscribes to the Pottery Barn theory now, genuinely believing that we need to stick around until the people on the ground are safe.

Regular readers here know that I disagree. I'm a cut-and-runner, and after listening to Baird, I still am. I haven't yet heard anything our troops can do to prevent a massive sectarian/tribal bloodbath upon our exit. Given that I think this will happen about ten minutes after we leave the place, I don't see how sticking around is worth one more American life. Delaying a tragedy isn't worth our troops' blood (although preventing one would be).

But I am absolutely sickened by the loudest portion of my party, who is absolutely lambasting Baird. (For instance, check out Jim's play-by-play of a recent Baird town meeting in Olympia. Baird received a similar reception in my soon-to-be-hometown of Vancouver a couple of weeks earlier.)

Back in 2004, when we re-elected the worst president in American history, I was absolutely crestfallen. I dislike our President for a lot of reasons, but there are a few I want to foreground here.

First, I can't stand the way that Bush insists on sticking to his side dogmatically, even to the point of ignoring (or not seeking) another side to anything he believes passionately. Joe Wilson, Hans Blix...if it didn't agree with him, he wasn't interested.

Second, I hate the way that he sets up the rhetoric so that anybody who disagrees with him becomes the bad guy. Cheney even suggested that a vote for Kerry was a vote for another terrorist attack. I was disgusted by it then, and I'm disgusted by it now.

Third, I positively cannot stand name-calling of good Americans. John Kerry laid his ass on the line in Vietnam, and the whole Swift-boating bullshit and the way that the Republican party absolutely dared to question Kerry's patriotism--well, it still makes my blood boil.

My party--the Democratic party--fought against all of this.

And now, in the Baird situation, my party has abandoned all of these principles. Suddenly, with Baird, we have become the moral equivalent of the Bushies in 2004.

Let's take a look at how we've become all three things we hate.

First off, Baird didn't arrive at his position lightly. His obvious preference is to have never invaded Iraq to begin with. But we're there, and since we're on the ground, Baird decided he needed more information about what to do now. Therefore, rather than golfing or raising money back home over a vacation, Baird went to Iraq himself. This is precisely what I want all of our politicians to do--I sincerely wish they were all this conscientious. Wouldn't it have been nice if Republicans had done this in '02 and '03? While there, Baird saw stuff on the ground that led him to believe that pulling out is a bad idea, and even to favor the surge. He talked to people more expert than him. He made an effort to learn about the situation to help him reach a conclusion. This exact behavior, I thought, was what we fought for in '04.

And for this--letting his interpretation of evidence impact his policy--he is being nailed to the wall.

It is now my party--not the other one--who is saying: "Don't bother seeking evidence. Just let me stick to my dogma."

The second point, that my party sets up rhetoric to make all who disagree with them into the bad guy, is patently obvious to anyone who reads the town-hall play-by-play Jim wrote. Nobody wanted to learn about a complex issue. One questioner even walked away before Baird could respond to his question. "I don't want a response," he said. "I just came here to tell you to go to hell."

Is there a difference between saying "If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists" and saying "If you're not with us, you're with the warmongerers"?

Nope.

Third, my party is now attacking the patriotism of people whose devotion to our nation should be beyond reproach. John Kerry busted his ass for our nation, and people who haven't been within 5000 miles of an enemy bullet had the gall to attack his commitment to America in the cruelest ways possible. Anyone calling Kerry unpatriotic had damned well better get their butts in harm's way for our country first.

The exact same principle applies to MoveOn.org calling General David Petraeus "David Betray-us." I'd like to see some evidence that he did something other than look at a complex situation and reach a conclusion different from Democratic dogma. Frankly, calling a 30-year military veteran a traitor equates us with this woman--and that's not a place I want to be (or ever thought we would be). There are many numbers on both sides of the issue. I'd like an analysis of them rather than bullshit name-calling of a guy who has been in Iraq a hell of a lot longer than I have.

Because I disagree with Baird, I'd look closely at anyone running against him from either party. But I am deeply saddened at how hypocritical my party has become. They want me to love their dogma more than I love evidence, analysis, and legitimate debate. But my dedication to cool, reasoned disagreement and careful consideration of issues has me defending Baird here.

This issue has become like the abortion issue to me, because I'm finding I hate everyone on both sides of it. But, after '04, I feel that my party is not only guilty of all of the sins of the Bushies, but also of hypocrisy for letting themselves sink to their level.

The Democratic Party has become the thing it hates, and that's a political tragedy of the highest order.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I have at least

two good-sized blog posts I want to do. But I can't right now...the killer commute means less time to grade, and I'm way behind on both major essays and acculumulated piddly-shit assignments. Blogging, alas, is way, way on the back burner.

I'm not quitting, and I'm not on hiatus. Don't give up on me. But things will be sporadic at best here until we can sell the damn condo and finally buy our home in the 'Couv. I'm hoping it'll be soon...the realtor says two different people have come back for a second look at the place.

Maybe this weekend I'll be able to get my two posts on here. Or maybe I'll just catch up on sleep.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Briefly checking in...

I'm digging out of diagnostic introductory essays. Don't think I've joined the Blog Graveyard...I'll get to it, but the commute combined with the workload combined with last weekend in Vegas combined with this weekend with parents in Bend is putting blogging on the back burner.

Two things:

1. I need to work on grabber introes. Here's a first sentence that is somehow mesmerizing: "In the world today, whether it may be local or international, there are several topics discussed." This is an AP Comp student, and she's not alone. I have a lot--LOT--of work to do with the advanced kids. More on that in a future post.

2. I'm trying a new tactic in the survive-the-damn-afternoon-commute challenge. Today was my first nap-on-the-floor-of-my-classroom day...but more interestingly, I'm trying to use the commute to catch up with friends. I'm utilizing my hands-free device and calling all the people I wish I could be talking to anyway. So much more fun than sports radio.

So much to blog about! I've got posts in my head about Brian Baird (in support, believe it or not), David Patreus (who's name I haven't looked up for proofreading purposes), Bill Belichick, and the shift from a very affluent to a less-than-affluent high school. But there's just not a minute to do them well, so they likely won't be done at all.

How are y'all doing?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

TRP's Fearless 2007 NFL Predictions

With the M's dead, it's time to move on. I have made my predictions, which will be used as the basis for at least one actual Las Vegas wager...

and here they are.

AFC WEST

Chargers 12-4
Broncos 9-7
Chiefs 6-10
Raiders 4-12

AFC NORTH

Bengals 11-9
Ravens 9-7
Steelers 8-8
Browns 4-12

AFC SOUTH

Colts 11-5
Texans 7-9
Jaguars 7-9
Titans 6-10

AFC EAST

Patriots 13-3
Bills 9-7
Jets 6-10
Dolphins 5-11

NFC WEST

Rams 9-7
Seahawks 9-7
49ers 8-8
Cardinals 6-10

NFC NORTH

Bears 11-5
Packers 8-8
Lions 6-10
Vikings 3-13

NFC SOUTH

Saints 10-6
Panthers 9-7
Buccaneers 5-11
Falcons 3-13

NFC EAST

Eagles 10-6
Cowboys 9-7
Racial Epithets 7-9
Giants 6-10

PLAYOFFS: FIRST ROUND
NFC: Eagles beat Panthers, Cowboys beat Rams
AFC: Colts beat Ravens, Bengals beat Bills

SECOND ROUND

NFC: Bears beat Cowboys, Saints beat Eagles
AFC: Patriots beat Ravens, Chargers beat Bengals

CHAMPIONSHP GAMES:

Patriots beat Chargers, Saints beat Bears

SB XLII: Patriots 38, Saints 13

Or, the short version:

I like the Broncos, Ravens, Steelers, Titans, Jets, and Seahawks a little less than most people do.

I like the Bills, Rams, Bengals, and Eagles a little more than most people do.

This information plus 85 cents will get you a Pepsi.

In the too little, too late department...

As DMZ at USS Mariner humorously reports, Rick White has been let go by the Mariners.

I guess he was only around to see if my blood pressure could handle it.

It couldn't.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Your new teacher: Mr. Schilling

Kids arrived today. I'm a little uncertain about one of my classes (a particularly rambunctious group of sophomores that will require some time and effort to break in), but the other four will work out just fine. But today had a little bit of a rough patch to it.

I love the first day of school. I love the fresh start of it all, for me and for students. And I always buy a fresh set of clothes to wear. It's simply a cool day. Today: an avocado shirt, chocolate brown pants, new tie, and brand-new oxblood loafers.

I have first period prep, and walked around a bit to get mail, do an errand for the teacher next door, and the like.

Man, those shoes are tight. Yow. I bought the high size for me, but these...well, they're rubbing.

Walking became too uncomfortable, so I sat down in my room and checked out my foot.

My right ankle was bleeding into my sock. Fortunately, my sock was brown already, so it wasn't visually embarrassing.

I hobbled to the health room and grabbed a couple of bandages. I cleaned myself up and applied said bandages. But I couldn't put the shoe back on. It just hurt too damn much.

So I taught the whole day with one shoe on and one shoe off.

I'd introduce myself, go over a few basic expectations, and say "Hey, do you have any questions about me or who I am?" Without exception, students asked: "Why do you have only one shoe on?"

I told them the whole sad saga. I let them know that a lesser man would be in the hospital receiving transfusions...perhaps even lapsing into a coma. But me? I care too deeply. That's why I was there teaching.

They rolled their eyes.

Good start to the year.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Alma Mater

I won't make fun of my Michigan alum sister, because, in all honesty, I root for Big Ten schools (except Ohio State). But what a cool upset that was. Seriously.

I don't think Kenyon would win a game in Ann Arbor, but they did set school records for points and yards in its opener--beating Grinnell 70-35. They scored the 70 points in spite of suffering 16 penalties for 115 yards. Damn. They could have had 85 points.

I've got to admit that this would be a fun team to watch play. If only there were a way to get to Gambier this fall before stud QB Rafael Sanchez graduates...Oh well. I'll just listen on the internet.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Prepared.

I'm all prepared for class to start on Tuesday, which means I'm taking the actual Labor Day Weekend to relax.

It also means I get to prepare the Massive Fantasy Football Draft Spreadsheet.

Two years ago, my wife joined our league. She likes football a little bit...but she likes spreadsheets a LOT. She prepared a huge, multicolored, multidataed sheet, flew down to Vegas for the draft, and proceeded to win the championship in her inaugural campaign.

I was impressed. So I focused extra-hard on my spreadsheet last year, and whattaya know, I won it all.

So this year, in an effort to defend my title, I have outdone myself.

I have procured four separate FFL publications. Two of them I trust more than the third, and the fourth just looks like it's an outlier. So I've input their rankings into a spreadsheet and calculated a Weighted Average Player Ranking by position, with the trustworthy sources worth double and the bizarrely-weird source worth only half.

I then have input projected stats from a couple of sources and figured Projected Point Totals for our league.

What I need to decide before printing out the final list on Friday is which--the average ranking or the total points--is the more trustworthy way to rank. Maybe I weigh them 50/50. Yeah! Rank all players by total points, then re-rank by average ranking, then take the average of the two for the Really Significant Final Ranking.

OK--I'm delirious. It's time for bed.