Friday, September 18, 2009

Things That Piss Me Off

There's a couple of them this morning. First, this:

ACORN offices across Texas are temporarily halting the bulk of their work, following the lead of other chapters nationwide, as they retrain workers and make sure proper policies and procedures are in place to avoid any improper activity.

The Fort Worth office is at least temporarily closed, as the state chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now studies whether to fund reopening the local office, a choice not likely to be made easier by Congress’ move Thursday to halt even more funding for the group.

"We have an obligation to make sure that we take all the precautionary steps to make sure our staff is doing the job right," said Ginny Goldman, statewide head organizer for the Texas ACORN. "Outside consultants who are experts are working to make sure all of our staff is up to par.

"We’re proud of the work that we’ve done, and we will continue the work," she said. "We have no secrets. We are open for business."

That's thanks to a couple of douchebags dressed like clowns who decided it would be their mission in life to catch an ACORN employee doing something stupid, and our typically cowardly Democrats in Congress who are so eager to punish themselves before the Republicans get around to doing it that they might as well be wearing latex suits. From Wikipedia, here's a short description of exactly what ACORN does:

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is a community-based organization in the USA that advocates for low- and moderate-income families by working on neighborhood safety, voter registration, health care, affordable housing, and other social issues.

As you probably know ACORN was the source of endless attacks by right-wingers during the campaign last year. They saw "voter registration" and "community organizing" and figured both were a handy way to get to Obama, so they had a field day with it. Of course given it's purpose, ACORN works with a lot of minorities, and giving minorities a hand is something that's just plain unacceptable to the right-wing. Fred Clark at Slacktivist has his own opinion about this attitude:

Rep. Wilson attends the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C., and every time he goes there with his family he has to recite those words: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." How can he possibly reconcile that with his rabid anti-immigrant views? Having those views, how does he even manage to speak the very first word of this prayer?

Think of Wilson and the rest of the "take back America" crowd praying this prayer in tens of thousands of nominally Christian churches across the country. Think of them praying this prayer on behalf of "their" country: "Forgive America its trespasses as America forgives those who trespass against it."

If those are the conditions -- and they are -- then we're screwed. Our own words, our own prayers, condemn us.

Wilson and the tea-baggers have to realize this. They have to hear this every week, to listen to themselves saying it, listen to their own voices inviting and invoking their own damnation. Praying this prayer must be for them like those monks in Monty Python's Holy Grail who carry wooden planks and smack themselves in the face after every phrase of every chanted prayer.

Maybe that explains why these people are so miserably unhappy, why they're so disproportionately angry, so wrong-headedly certain that they deserve to be jealous of those luck-ducky illegal immigrants like Miriam in the story above. Those desperately poor immigrants may have no access to care they can hope to afford, but at least they can hope to be forgiven. Wilson and the tea-baggers know that they, due to their own prayers, never can be.

I'm not much for psychoanalyzing other people's idiotic beliefs and motivations, but Clark may be onto something. Or at least, I can think of no better explanation for why anybody on Earth would be jealous of the poor and downtrodden for all unfair handouts they get from the government.

Also, yesterday the Texas State Board of Education solicited testimony in regards to the planned revision of standards for textbooks that Texas children use in schools:

Neil Armstrong, Daniel Boone, the state capitals – and even Christmas. All are going back into the state curriculum standards for social studies, State Board of Education members decided Thursday.

Meeting with several writing teams for social studies in all grade levels, the board asked for several revisions in the first drafts laying out the new standards for history, government and other social studies courses in Texas schools.

Many of the requested changes were for historical figures who were deleted from the standards by the writing teams because they were no longer considered as relevant or to make room for individuals who were added.

When some board members questioned why former Secretary of State and four-star Gen. Colin Powell was being dropped from the standards for elementary grades, they were told that former President Ronald Reagan was being substituted for Powell. That ended the questions.

Marci Deal, social studies coordinator in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district, quickly cooled off one controversy that erupted when the writing team for sixth grade initially recommended that Christmas be dropped from a list of holidays of the major religions in a world cultures and geography course.

"My mother called and asked me, 'What happened to Christmas?' " Deal told the board, referring to the negative reaction to the writing team's proposal.

Indeed, what happened to Christmas? Children only spend about a month each year learning about it in great detail. Peter Marshall, the right-wing hack installed as one of the "expert reviewers" who we've written about before, got his licks in yesterday as well:

He got things started with a rousing 10-minute tour through a Christian-centric version of US history.

"It is obvious beyond contradiction that [the founders] structured American government on the natural rights of mankind, which they firmly believe were the gift of God," he said.

Asked by an African-American board member about his objection to the inclusion of Thurgood Marshall in the textbook standards -- Rev. Marshall called the jurist not "a strong enough example" -- Rev. Marshall responded: "He's known primarily for that one very important Supreme Court decision."

And he seemed to draw a hard distinction between historical figures who are minorities and historical figures who are sufficiently accomplished for inclusion.

"My plea simply is again, with the hundreds of historical American people, I think it's very important to emphasize to children character," he said.

"I'm concerned about the modern trend of just identifying people as members of groups -- whether minority groups or whatever," Marshall said.

Well specifically, minority groups. Because it's axiomatic that the great historical figures are all white. Never mind that that's entirely the result of the fact that until recently, whites wrote the history of our nation. As I'm sure you're aware, none of this is about a "fair" reading of history, of accomplishments and people that are interesting and informative to the kids of all races who attend schools in Texas (many of whom are minorities.) It's about right-wingers shoving the traditions they value down the throats of everybody else's kids, while whining about how the great white men of American history are "maligned" by not being studied in enough detail. Nevermind that those great white men include Rush Limbaugh, or Newt Gingrich. No, it's not about politics at all.

The board won't approve of new recommendations until sometime next year. So, we have that long to slap some sense into them.

As an antidote to all this extreme stupidity, here's the very smart Daniel Larison. I don't always agree with him, but when I do there's little I enjoy more than watching him methodically pick apart atrocious right-wing arguments. Bonus win for Larison, for shooting down a particularly ridiculous sports analogy:

In an otherwise unremarkable column about the instant morality of sports, Henninger made the following preposterous claim:

Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to let a prosecutor investigate CIA interrogations that were ruled inbounds years ago is like a baseball commissioner reversing a hotly disputed World Series home run. Fans everywhere would burn down the stadium.

This is bizarre in a number of ways. Henninger isn’t even using the correct sports analogy. In this case, the analogy would have to be some kind of action that had once been illegal but was permitted under a looser interpretation of the rules. You would then have to have some regulating authority declare later on that the new interpretation of the rules was basically invalid and that the old rules had always applied, opening the door to some kind of retroactive penalties. The closest comparison I can think of is when the NCAA voids the wins of coaches involved in recruiting violations, which is an appropriate disciplinary action for cheating college programs and exactly the kind of strict enforcement of rules that Henninger is implicitly rejecting in his criticism of Holder.

In practice, there are rarely dangerous actions in any sport that were once banned but are now permitted. In American football, the trend has been towards tighter and tighter restrictions on what defensive players can do to receivers and quarterbacks. There really is nothing in the sports world that directly compares to investigating the torture regime, because there is no professional organization that started allowing routine violent abuses during games. You have never heard NFL officials claim that there need to be more crippling tackles on defenseless players to preserve the game of football. Of course, contests premised on fairness cannot reasonably be compared to practices that are by their nature gross injustices against human dignity, but that doesn’t bother Henninger. The very thing that Henninger finds attractive and worthwhile in the instant and mostly reliable morality of sports (which apparently does not apply to teams from Massachusetts) is what he plainly does not want to have applied when it comes to national security, and what is most striking is that he isn’t even aware of the contradiction.

All of which is basically a very articulate way of saying "shove that in your pipe and smoke it."

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