November 14, 2003

Random thought of the day

Anyone else having these recurring mental flashes of Ann Margaret telling you how she's going to see to it that you suffer?

I'm going to turn the TV off now.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:43 PM

We call this "Democracy."

Via Chris: Lindsey Graham on the Democratic filibuster.

Graham also threatened to sue to change the Senate rules if Republicans can't break the filibusters, which most senators agree won't happen. "I don't see a way out," Graham said. "Nobody's going to change their votes."
Therefore, we shall change the rules to add a "we get to win" clause. (full article here)

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:47 AM

November 13, 2003

For Sweeps Week, Fox News goes for one-upmanship yet again

This was really dumb.

This was several times dumber.

So, CNN's planting questions meant to appeal to a "tech-savvy" audience while Fox News politely inquires if the very structure of Republican Democracy can be manipulated for a station interstitial. Waiter, can I have a News Channel, please?

Posted by August J. Pollak at 6:21 PM

Jumping in

While I too join with Oliver in not understanding the Right's obsession with Ted Rall, I also fail to understand the Left's obsession with Rall- or rather it's obsession with not liking Rall- as well. Much like Michael Moore, moderates on the Left bend over backwards to shrug off Rall like Zack Morris so desperate for that beautiful, shiny red jacket. Wow. I cannot believe I just wrote that.

I disagree with a lot of what Rall says. It's very easy too. I still like him, as both a person and an artist. And unlike a lot of people who find it appealing to do so, I'll defend Rall when he doesn't deserve it as well as criticize him when he does.

First of all, Rall the person. I've met Rall on multiple occasions, and I'll stand by the common statement that many on the Right really hate hearing because it destroys much of their invective: Ted Rall is a nice guy. He gets people at book signings who both like him and dislike him, and he treats them mostly cordially. (More on this later) His wife is one of the nicest people I've ever met, and frankly cartooning as a profession is hard enough as it is; having a significant other who actually supports who wholeheartedly on it is a fantastic bonus. (Mrs. Tomorrow is also very nice. And Peter Kuper has the most adorable daughter on the face of the earth. I am very confident about my future on the basis that, despite the stereotypes, cartoonists apparently get the chicks.)

So, understandably, the hatred of Rall is against Rall the writer/cartoonist. The problem is that there seems to be central sticking points his detractors focus on. To clarify, I'll point out that I do like Rall the person, as well as Rall the writer/cartoonist. However, I'll be the first to admit that doing this is, at many times, very hard. The reason is, as a writer/cartoonist, Rall has a slight problem in understanding the difference between "appearing satirical" and "appearing batshit insane."

What makes this hard for me to understand in the case of Ted Rall is that unlike many other writers and/or cartoonists, Rall has a variety of "tones" that could easily appeal to a wider range that the Right wishes to allow in their caricature of him. Michael Moore, for example, has a very limited range in appeal. Many moderates are uninterested in him. Rall isn't this generalized if you don't pick and choose which fraction of his work you've decided to hate.

Michele, for example, represents a large group on the Right (yes, for the sake of this thesis you're in this group, sorry) who hate Ted Rall for his weekly columns, mostly those post-9/11, and not as much his cartoons but rather one specific cartoon, the "Terror Widows" strip, which we shall henceforth refer to as "The Worst Way to Deliver an Opinion About Something Ever." We've seen this again in his most recent column, in which he's attempted to explain the reasons for Iraqi resistance in a really bad way.

The problem, as Michele's commentary shows, is that this column is very bad as an opinion piece. Not because it is offensive, but because it appeals to an audience of one person: Ted Rall. The fact is, Rall is factually correct about the viewpoints of the Iraqi resistance. The problem is that Michele doesn't notice this, because much more blatant is the fact that this looks like Rall is advocating killing American soldiers. It's a common mistake many artists make: thinking everyone will understand your point because you do. Of course you do.

The point of an editorial is supposed to be providing a convicing argument that the reader, especially one who disagrees with the writer's opinion of the issue, can consider. Rall provides no room for consideration in this article. He merely provides fodder for pro-war knee-jerk retorts such as "go look at the schools." This leads the debate nowhere.

(Sidebar: the pro-war people really need to stop it with the "new schools" stuff. I swear to god, it sounds like Iraq suddenly has the most spectacular fucking education system on the planet because it's apprently the only thing I ever hear about what's good in Iraq. And to think, they did it without vouchers. Okay, that was obnoxious.)

This is what makes Rall different than Ann Coulter- the subject of the most common comparison, i.e. "Oh, Ted is just the Left's Ann Coulter." Bullshit. Ann Coulter bases her columns on non-facts she associates with the Left that may or may not have happened, coupled with generous portions of made-up-shit. Ted Rall blunts factual evidence in columns becaue he uses gimmicks that are so outrageous and misunderstood that the facts become irrelevant. If the Right wants to claim that Rall's a bigger asshole, fine, but I've yet to see non-ranting facutal evidence that Coulter's not exponentially less intelligent than him. Rall's problem is that he says things in an incredibly wrong way. Coulter's problem is that she just won't shut the fuck up.

The other major issue the Right uses against Rall is the Hellman lawsuit issue. I discussed this a while back when artist Tony Millionaire decided to get in on it. [Update: oh, wonderful. Pyra's last act before I dumped Blogger was to apparently remove the second half of the January archive. Fuck you very much, Pyra.] There is a major problem with this lawsuit that those who depict Rall as an asshole fail to note ever: Danny Hellman is an even bigger one.

I've met him, too. He's an asshole, okay? He's obnoxious, as equally self-serving and pretentious as Rall can be, somewhat disgusting, and hopelessly desperate for the attention this lawsuit brings. So please, people, drop the character issue in this thing.

Remember how I said Rall was "usually" cordial to people as shows? That's because there's a rare exception, that being Hellman's friends, who, for example, were at one point offered financial rewards by Hellman to disrupt Rall's lectures, and in one case physically assault him. This is the man you want as a poster child for some twisted concept of Free Speech?

And frankly, it's not Free Speech. It's fraud. It was a petty, insignificant form of fraud that Rall took way out of hand and made way too big a deal out of, but stop acting like Hellman did nothing wrong. He didn't like what Rall said about Art Spiegelman so instead of writing a rebuttal article he decided to act like ten times the schmuck Rall came off as in his Voice piece.

I maintain my previous analogy: Stop defending Hellman as an excuse to hate Rall in a new exciting way. Hellman's not a hero. He's a creep. This lawsuit is two sphincters arguing over who's the bigger asshole. Nothing more, nothing less. I will support any event in which we can just end the fucking thing by getting Rall and Hellman in a room, grabbing the ruler, measure their cocks and be done with it. (How's that for pornographic imagery, Michele? Excuse me, I need to call Dr. Ruth now about my psychological scarring.)

I had to take a break there for a minute because I forgot where I was going with this. Okay, got it. I mentioned Coulter before, and it's the same vein as Moore: there's really only one type of person who can enjoy Ann Coulter (insert joke here). I don't think Rall is like this. The biggest problem with Rall is that he's known mostly at this point in time for his weekly columns, which as a huge fan even I'll admit need a lot of work in the clarity department. However, before people decide that making a really big mistake with one strip means it's time to discuss your hatred of him twice a week, hint hint, they should consider the range of Rall's work.

And so, a quick guide from an admitted loony-left Rall fan:

If you hate everything Rall's done post-9/11 and can't stand hearing him talk about the war and how he thinks Bush stole the election anymore: Read Revenge of the Latchkey kids. It's pre-Dubya, and has loads of stuff on a much wider range of topics: prison systems, the legal system, divorce, economy, etc. The Right will like this part too: he doesn't treat Clinton that much better than he does George Bush.

If you're willing to give a leftist view of war reporting a try: To Afghanistan and Back is not only Rall's best work in my opinion, but the largest contrast from any of his typical columns. This was a travelouge Rall made when he ("why don't you go to Iraq and look" people take note) went to Afghanistan post-invasion and reported for the Village Voice on post-war conditions. Even if you don't like Rall's slant, it's a well-written (yes, well-written) piece that drops much of Rall's opinion (which seems to be the sticking point of anti-Rall arguments) for newsworthy observation.

If you simply want to read comics an avoid a lot of the political stuff altogether: My War with Brian and The Worst Thing I've Ever Done are, like Rall or not, pretty decent graphic novels. I don't recommend 2084 in this field because that's obviously much more political. But I especially recommend these books to the crowd that favors the "Rall's a shitty artist" argument. He's not. 99% of you who say that just don't like him and pathetically think it's a good insult, and I'm hard-pressed to believe that you can read these books and go "well, he sucks." Come off it. And example of an artist who sucks is me- see, unlike Rall, a company that specializes in figuring out which cartoons is appealing doesn't pay me to make them.

Now, after all that, if you still just want to hate every single aspect of Ted Rall, then I really can offer only one more query: if you have, with no chance of change, decided that Ted Rall is a self-serving attention-needy whelp, then why in the hell do you obsess with him so much? I loathe every aspect of Ann Coulter; I don't write a post about her every fucking week. I certainly don't go after her like some high-school level clique-snit. Just because I hate Ann's latest column doesn't mean I need to point out she has horrible shoes or something. Saying Rall's a bad artist or has a bad legal sense is irrelevant to disagreeing with his views on the war in Iraq.

Making the central issue of your life about how you find Ted Rall to be insignificant seems a bit off. If you really, really, REALLY hate him that much and refuse to believe you'll ever change your mind, then why keep talking about it? You're simply sharing one of Rall's key flaws: an unintentional tendency to preach to the choir.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 3:31 PM

Ladies and Gentlemen, the most pathetic attempt ever. Of the week.

It's come to this, folks.

Some US generals believe the well-organized attacks on US-led occupation forces in Iraq are part of pre-war planning by ex-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and his generals, it was reported.

"That's why you see so many of these arms caches out there in significant numbers all over the country. They were planning to go ahead and fight an insurgency, should Iraq fall," the man responsible for combat operations in Iraq's lower Sunni Triangle added.

That's right, folks. We're all just ridiculous for suggesting that it was United States that just merely entered a war devoid of any factual basis for their military strategy. Instead, the real reason we've let a few hundred men die in our complete failure to prove Iraq was a threat to anyone lies in the mastery of Saddam Hussein, whose ingenious plan to undermine American invaders included such daring gambits as having his two sons killed and losing control of an entire goddamned country, you dipshits.

What makes this new low in refusing to accept that (gasp!) we might have made the teensiest of mistakes in the planning for the war (as well as the rationale, the expectant outcome, its finances, but who's counting) is that fact that the United States- as opposed to militant Iraqis- are now advocating some myth that the phantom of Saddam Hussein is some military mastermind who has overcome the might of U.S. intelligence with some kind of six-month advance guerilla strategem. Excuse me for unpatrioitically questioning the U.S. Department of Defense, but doesn't saying stuff like this motivate Saddam loyalists as opposed to, well, statements that don't make the former dictator look like a fucking genius?

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:27 AM


ZIM goes DVD Spring 2004.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:46 AM

Linky linky

Mah inbox 's gonna 'SPLODE!

Aimee Woznick with more info on the Congressional Education Oversight Thingee (not official title.) Valgeirsson Gmsli on Bush's fiscal policy. Don Macfarlane on a whole mess of stuff. Orwellian Times on a whole mess of Bush-related stuff.

And finally, this fucked-up shit for no good damned reason.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:32 AM

Man who kills kittens now being a total pussy

Atrios has been noting some actions by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist that's infinitely more entertaining than his 30-hour whineathon. (By the way, kudos to the Republican Party for this bold move, the world will surely take note what with the popularity one usually expects from C-SPAN at four in the morning.)

This was a screenshot Atrios took from Frist's official web page asking users to vote on whether or not judicial nominees should have a straight up-or-down vote.

Later, Frist is caught lying on his government-operated website about cookies, claiming they're not collected. This is of course a suprise to the cookie downloaded onto your computer when using the vote system. Oops.

Now, that's just an honest mistake, I'm sure. But, you can't be too forgiving of "mistakes" when Frist "mistakenly" renamed the choices in the vote without resetting the vote total.

Now, a lesser man might suggest some kind of, you know, metaphor or something about the head of the Senate Republicans tampering with votes, but unlike Mr. Frist, I'm not the most petty man on the face of the earth.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 1:15 AM

November 12, 2003

New comic - "We still want to argue about it. Really."

Large Format - 800px, 100K

Small Format - 600px, 60K

I love people like Hesoid to death and all that, but how the Nader argument is still apparently interesting to people less than a year before the next election is beyond me.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 1:02 AM

Fonzie goes Denim

Hello to all you out there watching The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and a special hi there to tonight's guest John Kerry, who looks absolutely ridiculous dressed like that.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:28 AM

Ummm.... take two?

Bush issues Veteran's Day vow to "finish mission" in Iraq.

Have we renamed Deja Vu in the cafeteria yet?

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:02 AM

November 11, 2003

Scary if true

Friends and readers alike have been forwarding me this e-mail. I'm very unaware of any of this, having not heard about it in the news at all. But, of course, as you'll see, it's one of those things that wouldn't make the news by its nature. If anyone knows more about it, or with more verification, feel free to let me know.

As many of you who know me well will soon realize, I have become a political activist for the first time in my life. I am not here to rant, but to inform you on current legislation that is being debated in the House of Representatives.

The legislation in question, H.R. 3077, will rewrite the Title VI legislation that has provided FLAS money to many of us and that also funds the various area-studies centers in our universities. In particular, the legislation proposes the creation of an �advisory board� that may severely impact universities by dictating the curricula taught, course materials assigned in class, and the faculty who are hired in institutions that accept Title VI funding. It gets worse. The U.S. House of Representative�s Subcommittee on Select Education Hearing on "International Programs in Higher Education and Questions about Bias" on June 19, 2003 ( hearings/108th/ sed/ titlevi61903/wl61903.htm) begins with an opening statement by Representative Phil Gringrey that includes the following passage: �we are here today to learn more about a number of programs that are authorized and funded under Title VI, which are some of the oldest programs of support to higher education. These programs reflect the priority placed by the federal government on diplomacy, national security, and trade competitiveness. International studies and education have become an increasingly important and relevant topic of conversation and consideration in higher education... However, with mounting global tensions, some programs under the Higher Education Act that support foreign language and area studies centers have recently attracted national attention and concern due to the perception of their teachings and policies.�

Testimony provided by Dr. Stanley Kurtz (available from the link above) portrays areas studies centers as hotbeds of unpatriotic anti-Americanism. Dr. Kurtz focuses, in particular, on post-colonial theory and the work of Edward Said�s Orientalism in which �Said equated professors who support American foreign policy with the 19th century European intellectuals who propped up racist colonial empires. The core premise of post-colonial theory is that it is immoral for a scholar to put his knowledge of foreign languages and cultures at the service of American power.� (quoted from Kurtz�s statement found at hearings/108th/sed/titlevi61903/kurtz.htm)

Kurtz asserts that the rampant presence of post-colonial theory in academic circles, with its bias against America and the West, has produced a corps of professors who refuse to instruct or support (with FLAS grants) students interested in pursuing careers in the foreign service and/or intelligence agencies. Kurtz comments that: �We know that transmissions from the September 11 highjackers [sic] went untranslated for want of Arabic speakers in our intelligence agencies. Given that, and given the ongoing lack of foreign language expertise in our defense and intelligence agencies, the directors of the Title VI African studies centers who voted unanimously, just after September 11, to reaffirm their boycott of the NSEP [National Security Education Program], have all acted to undermine America�s national security, and its foreign policy. And so has every other Title VI-funded scholar in Latin American-, African-, and Middle Eastern Studies who has upheld the long-standing boycott of the NSEP."

The answer, Kurtz proposes, is to create an oversight board that will link Title VI funding to students training for careers in national security, defense and intelligence agencies, and the Foreign Service. How effective was Dr. Kurtz�s presentation? The committee not only believed everything Dr.Kurtz claimed, they even implemented most of his suggestions, including the "advisory board."

An amended House Resolution, H.R. 3077, proposes to create an International Education Advisory Board, with appointed members from homeland security, the Department of Defense, and the National Security Agency, �to increase accountability by providing advice, counsel, and recommendations to Congress on international education issues for higher education.� (Quoted from the Sept. 19, 2003 press release of Congressman John Boehner, committee chairman, press/press108/09sep/ hr3077psub091703.htm

The full resolution of H.R. 3077 can be found at cgi-bin/query/zc108:H.R.3077

H.R. 3077 was amended in subcommittee and this amended resolution elaborates on the composition and role of the International Education Advisory Board (see especially pages 16-24). The amended H.R. 3077 can be found at markups/108th/ sed/hr3077/917main.htm

Click on the link that says �Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute� which will download an Adobe Acrobat pdf file. This amended H.R. 3077 has been sent to the full committee, which met on Thursday, September 25 at 11:00 AM to discuss the resolution before sending it to the House of Representatives.

Just in case you think that I have lost my marbles or that I am over-reacting, the Higher Education and National Affairs newsletter, published by the American Council on Education, and available at includes the following comments on H.R. 3077 (page 1, continued on page 4): "House Republicans intend for H.R. 3077 to build on existing international and foreign language studies Title VI programs, adding what many in the higher education community believe is unnecessary federal oversight through a new International Education Advisory Board." Federal international education programs were the focus of a House subcommittee hearing in June, during which one witness testified to a strong �anti-American� bias in many college and university international departments which he claimed could possibly undermine American foreign policy. ACE presented opposing testimony (see washington/international/Hartle.Testimony.pdf) As a subcommittee press release asserted, this advisory body would be created in consultation with homeland security agencies in order to �increase accountability by providing advice, counsel, and recommendations to Congress on international education issues for higher education.�

Higher education leaders oppose this board on the grounds that the powers it is granted are so broad that they put institutions in danger of losing control over their own curricula, hiring practices, and other aspects of their international programs.� In short, it seems that the House of Representatives is about to regulate the courses and content that we, as future professors, will teach in colleges and universities. The possibility that someone in homeland security will instruct college professors (with Ph.D.s) on the proper, patriotic, �American-friendly� textbooks that may be used in class scares and outrages me.

This morning, this was news to me. If this is new to you and if you feel as equally scared and angered that the government may censure your future academic career, then I urge you to: 1) distribute this message to other professors and students in area studies; and 2) write a handwritten letter (in ink) to your local congressmen and to John A. Boehner, Chairman of the Full Committee on Education and the Workforce at the following address:

John A. Boehner
1011 Longworth H.O.B
Washington, DC 20515

Please refrain from emails and typewritten or computer printouts as these are often ignored in Congress as being mass-produced by special-interest groups. Write in ink, in legible penmanship, and let your voice be heard.

Michael Bednar
Department of History
The University of Texas at Austin

Amy LevineDepartment of Anthropology
Cornell University
261 McGraw Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853

Posted by August J. Pollak at 4:15 PM

Like father, like... oh, never mind

The Memory Hole was kind enough to host a copy of George Bush (Sr.) and Brent Scowcroft's Time article from March 1998 about invading Iraq:

While we hoped that popular revolt or coup would topple Saddam, neither the U.S. nor the countries of the region wished to see the breakup of the Iraqi state. We were concerned about the long-term balance of power at the head of the Gulf. Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different--and perhaps barren--outcome.
Time has not only removed this article from their online archives, but according to TMH the website actually omits the existence of the article from the online version of the original issue's table of contents. I'm sure that's just a really funny conicidence.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 3:45 PM

November 10, 2003

"Gosh, your Holiness, if it weren't for it being illegal, immoral, and unethical, that's a great idea!"

The U.S. branch of the Catholic Church decided today that they should just flat-out indicate that they do understand the concept of seperation of church and state; they just choose to not care about it.

The nation's Roman Catholic bishops said Monday they are considering whether to recommend sanctions for Catholic politicians who favor policies contrary to church teaching on abortion and other issues.

Bishop Joseph Galante, a task force member, said some dioceses already ban from church property elected officials who support abortion rights.

For example, he said that under church law, Catholics who have a direct role in an abortion can be excommunicated.

Moral theologians would have to decide whether a Catholic politician who votes for abortion rights facilitated the procedure and should therefore be excommunicated, said Galante, coadjutor of Dallas.

In other words, the Catholic Church wants their rules to say that, even though politics and religion are in no way connected (because that would, you know, require Churches to- gasp- pay taxes and stuff like that) all Catholic politicians should vote based on... that's right... what the Catholic Church tells them too.

Now, one with a dash of cynicism might note that this concept technically constitutes extortion, not to mention whatever law ("connnz-terrrr-TOOOOOO-shun?") might be out there that says, umm, you can't demand that a politician votes a certain way or anything. But, lest we forget, the Catholic Church is infallible. Which probably explains why they're so upset that members of their secret club have the audacity to form opinions contrary to what the Pope tells them to have.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:11 PM

What she said

Civil rights attorney Constance L. Rice on Dean and the Confederate Flag non-issue:

As a death-penalty lawyer with a Nazi-tattooed Aryan Nation client, I've known a few whites who defend the Confederate flag as the symbol of slavery that it is. Almost all other white Southerners now reject any defense of slavery but some cling passionately to the flag as if it were the only white buoy in a sea of lost identity and vanishing heritage.

Are they in abject denial? Yes. Do I find many Southerners aggressively ignorant about slavery? Yes. Do I find the Confederate flag an obnoxious symbol of slavery? Yes. But I find the Third World poverty of poor American children a more obnoxious symbol of today's slavery.

My point here is move on. This family feud about a symbol is not resolvable at this time. But more important, we don't have to resolve it to get to the more important mission of rescuing this country from the merry band of corporatists and robber barons at its helm right now.

So, Dr. Dean, get the interracial sophistication that's needed to carry out Dr. King's vision of the grand alliance, and get it quickly. As much of a minefield as it presents, talking about the Confederate flag, poverty and race is crucial for our country's future as a multiracial democracy.

I think denial and self-delusion about the connotations of the flag are among the largest issues circulating around the flag debate. Much as a conservative calls it the "Democrat Party" knowing full well it's a deliberate attempt to insult Democrats, the typical "defending heritage" argument about the Confederate flag is a shrouded insult to the minds of people who are uncomfortable around it.

The idea that Southern whites are somehow going to eventually make black people see the flag for something other then what they see it as now is the height of ignorance. The idea that a region of the country notorious for its deep-rooted refusal to adapt will suddenly agree to accusations that they're all racists (and they're not) is equally ridiculous. It's time to start caring about things that mean a lot more to your daily life than a friggin' flag. Like George Carlin said, "leave symbols to the symbol-minded."

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:37 AM


"Going Dennis Miller" and "Involuntary Rallaction" are now part of the Wingnut Debate Dictionary.

Oh, "santorum" was added too. Which is awesome.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:24 AM
Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:42 AM

November 9, 2003

Messing with Texas

So many e-mails about my post in which I basically said everyone in the South is an idiot- I had no idea people would be upset!- that they make up the whole of the Weekend Mailbag. Here's a few of them, apologies for those that didn't get reprints or replies, as always, only so much time in the day.

From Donald Deeley:

I'm surprised at your surpirse over the Texas Board of Education. The real shocker is that they approved books that taught evolution-only. Texas was notable in the news a few years ago for the state board outlawing all books and ideas that implied evoultion at all. Any anti/non-creationist ideas could not be taught. No evolution, paleontology, astronomy (3 billion light years away? but the earth is only 6500 years old!), genetics etc. etc. etc. (Doonesbury did a strip detailing all the many facets of science GWB had to disbelieve on the basis of him being a creationist. They are legion.) That ruling probably led directly to the folks who were on this board running, getting elected and saying, essentially, "fuck no!" to the creationism crowd.

But it's bigger than that. The board of eduation in Texas picks the textbooks that will be used for the whole state. When Texas picks a book, that can make or break a text book publisher. They'll change the content of their books to be more marketable in Texas and, since it's too expensive to print up specialized volumes for each state, make every copy of their text throughout the nation palatable to Texas (or whatever state is the most anti-evolutionary. They can't afford to alienate too many states). And the Christian Right knows this. So they pack the school boards with their people. And no one realizes how big a deal it is because they think it's just some petty beauracracy and not this ideological assault on their children, their children's future and their children's ability to think critically. Thus I return to my initial point: I'm surprised that you're surprised. I'm also surprised at your take on it. Celebrate man, our side won! Kind of.

Because I take issue with something else you say in your post. You say in your post after the sky-fairies, "a theory which, although like evolution[-]a theory." Don't let them convince you of this! Evolution is a theory, theory being a scientific term meaning a hypothesis proven correct under so much and so varied scientific testing that it is now generally accepted as fact. Theory, when referring to science, means fact. Like the germ theory (germs cause disease, and it is called "The Germ Theory") or the theory of gravity. The "sky-faries," and let's call it what it is, creationism-the belief that all life on earth started with a talking snake in a tree, is not a theory. It's not even a hypothesis or guess because there's no way to disprove it through experimentation. So if it's not a guess, what is it? Idle rambings, a story, an allegory, who cares? Whatever it is, it is NOT science and thus is in no way, in fact could never be, a theory. So don't say it's a theory. I know, outside of science theory means hypothesis which is broad enough outside of sciene to include creationism, but we're not talking outside of science. We're talking the very basis of modern science. So please don't call creationism a theory, don't give them that inch. They'll take far more than a mile.

Via Margaret Lyman:

Weird as it is to live/teach in Texas, I think you jumped to a bit of a conclusion about the textbook issue. It's not that evolution has not been taught in Texas schools before, but that it has been under siege from the beginning, and will continue to be under siege for the foreseeable future. I have to hope that creative (pun intended) and committed science teachers like the ones I had growing up will likewise continue to manage to present the truth.

I graduated from high school (in a decidedly weird'n'twisted suburb of Houston) in 1972. I don't recall now whether it was in Biology I or II that we "formally" studied evolutionary theory (as opposed to it simply being an underlying premise of well-nigh every bit of biological information I ever encountered). I do recall that there was a requirement that "alternative explanations" had to be presented. (I don't know whether that was a state requrement or a district requirement. More later on the nature of my school district.) My biology teacher presented the "alternative" to evolutionary theory by bringing in copies of the Jehovah's Witness pamphlet on Creation. The pamphlet contained unintentionally hilarious line drawings of Adam and Eve in the Garden -- Adam sported a neatly-trimmed beard, and Eve had a very attractive blonde ponytail. A few pages later was a line drawing of a Ubangi woman with lip stretcher. Hmmm -- the pamphlet contained no "alternative explanation" of how blonde Eve's descendant might end up looking so distinctly -- different. I really think the opportunity to see the two explanations side-by-side, so to speak, clarified my own thought processes. (In case it's not obvious, I find evolutionary theory to be a beautiful, elegant, inspiring, and spiritually-fulfilling explanation of this wonderful universe. I don't see what the "Creationist" fuss is about (well, really, I do, because of course I grew up around these people, but saying it's about them having shrivelled, fearful, possibly-totally-unconsciously-Satan-influenced souls is just so Mark Morford.)

About my school district vs. Texas educational guidelines... I never actually thought about whether some of the weirdnesses came from the State Board. My town was just so supremely bizarre that I naturally assumed all of the strangeness originated locally. A few points:

1) School prayer. Until I reached high school I think I recall always having a prayer over the loudspeaker every morning. Sometime during my high school career we switched to a "thought for the day" and a"moment of silence", I assume because the likelihood of somebody suing the pants off the district just became too great to be ignored. But you'd better believe that "thought for the day," if not taken from the Bible, was pretty darn close. Note that this was many years after the Supreme Court ruling on prayer.

2) Peace sign. By order of the school board, posted in every classroom in my high school was a Xerox sheet detailing negative "facts" about the Satanic origin of the peace symbol. Flashing the peace sign (finger V) could get you suspended.

3) Xenophobia. This wasn't just a WASP suburb, it was a WASB suburb (Baptist). I'm not knocking Baptists, per se -- my point is that it was a monoculture -- there was no institutional understanding of the value of diversity -- religious, cultural, racial -- none. I remember asking my World History teacher in tenth grade why we weren't studying Asian history (it was in the book), and she replied it had nothing to do with us (!).

4) James Robison and other certifiably dangerous kooks. James Robison came from my suburb, as did the man who gave his own son cyanide in his Halloween candy and the woman who took out a contract on the mother of her daughter's rival for the cheerleading squad.

The beautifully ironic thing about evolution is that monocultures are weak and likely to succumb to any random attack. Biodiversity leads to strong, healthy ecosystems. I believe diversity of opinion leads to strong, healthy minds. A plant grown in a greenhouse has a weak stem. Only by being buffeted by the wind will it develop the necessary toughness. I choose to see the attacks on reason from the religious right as being God's* way of toughening the minds of reasonable people.

From "mconners":

Okay, I can't fault you for your embellishments, as you run a weblog, and half of those seem to be nothing but embellishment. But I do have to remind you that Texas has also produced Bill Hicks, Richard Linklater, Too Much Coffee Man, The Church of the Subgenius, Molly Ivins, and Jesse Custer, who I feel deserves mention despite being a fictional character. And Williams Street, who I know you're familiar with, operates out of Georgia.

Of course, this could just be a case of the universe trying to balance itself out.

From Paul Mitchum:

The textbook battle in Austin is far from new. Since Texas and California buy the most textbooks, the economics of publishing demand that students throughout the US end up with pretty much whatever TX and CA school boards want. The infiltration of TX school boards and the dept. of education by creationists and those promoting �intelligent design� has been ongoing for quite some time. The situation is similar in CA, too, and it�s hard to make the argument that CA is a southern backwater. :-) Anyway... The strategy by the anti-evolutionists is to get elected in these key states and thereby force the issue on the rest of the country.

If Texas is populated by, as you say, �absolute ignorant morons,� then this strategy would have worked long ago, don�t you think? :-)

Austin itself is a fairly progressive place, surrounded by lots and lots (and lots) of, shall we say, more rural attitudes. Don�t let the story you cited, which is about the State board of education, reflect on Austin specifically. The board is comprised of elected officials, by region. One must wonder which region McLeroy is from. Note also that the anti-evolutionists were outvoted. Reason prevails, at least in this instance.

Spot on about Dean and the need to get southerners on the Democratic (or at least, non-Republican) bandwagon. What�s really needed is a policy that spells more free (well, relatively free) money for poor state governments, the opposite of the Bush/Republican approach. That�d win more votes than simply characterizing all southerners as having gun racks and battle flags in their pickup trucks.

From Michael Martin:

I have lived in Texas all my life and Houston for 99% of that time. So, I have had plenty of exposure to southerners, although Texas is sometimes not exactly considered to be southern and is therefore more advanced than most southern states, i.e. - Alabama or Mississippi... but don't believe that.

Yes, a vast majority of Texans are indeed the stupidest creatures on the face of the Earth. Houston is a big-city kind of city. To find cattle you need to drive practically out of the county and oil wells you can find down around Galveston. So, it's not a "cowboy" town. But that doesn't stop the hicks from wearing cowboy boots or driving massive pickup trucks capable of crossing swift moving rivers. You never know when you might need to uproot a tree stump or wrangle a calf! Yee-frickin-ha.

This is a city where a few elections ago we passed a bond to build a new stadium with taxpayer money, the stadium was later given to a local corporation whose name starts with an "E" and has been in the news, hint hint. That same year a bond to give more money to public schools did not pass. So, you see where the priorities lie.

The difference between Texas and the ol' south states is that Texans actually tend to be educated, so they have no excuse for their stupidity. In the south, the problem is poverty and the GOP has used this as a hot button issue to get po' white folk to vote for 'em. So, I totally understand the meaning of Dean's statement. These people need to have the veil lifted, so to speak. They need to be shown that they are being taken for a ride. I hope Dean can do it.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 1:28 PM