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Skewed Values System

The world as I see it.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Sowing the Seeds of Mediocrity 

Via The Corner, the Seattle Times is running a story about the Nashville, Tennessee school system's recent aversion to the time-honored tradition of posting an honor roll.

After a handful of parents complained about the potential ridicule that their children would face should they not make the list, the school system - fearing litigation- has abruptly discontinued it. Also being considered for termination are notoriously polarizing events such as academic pep rallies and spelling bees.

The school system's lawyers cite a law from the 1970's - rarely applied in this context - that requires the permission of the student before releasing any of his or her academic information. As the law is being interpreted, even hanging a student's work in the hallway is considered an invasion of privacy.

But this really isn't about the law. Catastrophically, the only thing being protected here is the right to fail privately at the expense of those who actually did their homework. Rather than motivating their children to overachieve, these parents have chosen to make academic victims of them. Rather than helping their children to make the honor roll, they took it away from those who deserved it.

These parents may have succeeded in sheltering their kids from reality for the time being, but this will surely hurt them in the long run.

As for the school system - get a backbone.
# posted by Longshanks 

Friday, January 23, 2004

Microsoft Losing Contracts - Linux Share Gaining 

According to Bloomberg today, Microsoft's customers are increasingly reluctant to renew long-term contracts for its Windows operating system, citing security concerns. The value of its long-term contracts declined almost 5% from September to the end of December.

At the same time, sales of Linux are growing at a faster rate than Windows. This is most likely understated, since Linux is distributed free, and there is no practical way to measure the number of desktop users and small businesses that have switched.

Since this is my first technology-related post, I should crystallize my position on the Windows vs. Linux issue. Windows is, as they say in London, shite. Linux is, as IBM so boldly and elegantly relates in its new ad called "The Future is Open", the future.

Lengthy, evangelical post to follow...

# posted by Longshanks 

Thursday, January 22, 2004

"Cockamamie" 

This is the word Maureen Dowd uses in her column - no doubt with the aid of a thesaurus - to describe the President's claim that we went to war in Iraq alongside a real coalition.

As Morpheus would say, "What is 'real'? How do you define 'real'?"

Apparently, if your coalition doesn't include France, it just isn't real enough to satisfy her definition.

What about Spain, Italy and Poland? Those are real countries, right?

Nope.

According to her, they're just part of the "gaggle" of countries that "swaggering sheriff" Bush has rounded-up to make himself feel good.

Great Britain? "Poodle."

Japan? "Lackey."

What if Russia were to join the coalition, but not France and Germany? Would it be real then?

You'd think people would abandon this argument after the beating it took during the SOTU. Not Maureen.

She also pokes fun at the phrase "program activity" - as in weapons of mass destruction-related program activity. She doesn't know what a program activity is - because she asks her readers what it is - and she wonders whether Americans would have been supportive of a war to "go get program activities."

OF COURSE!

If Iraq has a program in place to produce VX gas - you know, the stuff that makes your face boil off - and they are engaged in activities that aim to weaponize it and let it "slip" into the hands of some Al Qaida psycho for use in the NYC subway, is that a reason to invade the country?

YES!

The idea that a WMD program activity is somehow less threatening than actual WMD is just, well, cockamamie.
# posted by Longshanks 

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

"the practice" and The Patriot Act 

Apparently, Peter Jennings has chosen to pad his contract by moonlighting as a contributing screenwriter for the popular Sunday evening show.

For two weeks in a row, the writers have interrupted perfectly good storylines to take a jab at the Patriot Act. Why, you ask? This is supposed to be a crime drama, not a political opinion show, right?

Sadly, wrong.

The more egregious of the two episodes was aired two weeks ago. The story starts out with the murder of a cop. Two yeuts (sorry, couldn't resist) are apprehended in close proximity to the crime scene, one forcibly via a gunshot to the shoulder. In their quest to avenge their downed partner, the cops deny Yeut 1 access to both medical and legal assistance and proceed to torture a confession out of him in the E.R. While in a state of delirious pain, presumably due to the metal instruments the cops have shoved into his gunshot wound, Yeut 1 gives up his buddy, Yeut 2. Knowing this is all inadmissible in court, the ethically-challenged D.A. then uses the confession to coerce Yeut 2 to implicate Yeut 1.

Twisted. Disturbing. Good episode.

The firm takes on Yeut 1 as a client and the plot moves along predictably, with the usual histrionics over the bogus confession, the torture, the trampling of the constitution, etc. We all want the innocent client to win.

However, Eugene's nostrils are flaring a little more than usual. He seems really pissed about something. We'll just have to wait and see.

The answer comes during his closing statement. He's justifiably upset about the torture of his client, as well as the unprofessional behavior of the D.A.'s office. But his silk boxers are really twisted up about - you guessed it - that damned Patriot Act. He claims the country is fast becoming a police state, and he pleads with the judge to do the right thing. He loses.

The message is reinforced during the last moments of the episode when Eugene, defeated, confides in Ellenor. She tells him that he needs to keep fighting. If not for men like him, the Bush administration would surely succeed in stripping us of all of our civil liberties.

Sigh. Can't I just watch TV?

Okay, let's take a look at this. Torture by police officers is certainly illegal, but the entertainment industry's glorification of it is nothing new. On shows like NYPD Blue, Sipowicz frequently dishes-out a "tune-up" to uncooperative suspects, and many will remember this line from the movie Dragnet: "Well, Muzz, I guess it's just you...and me...and your balls...and this drawer."

Was the Patriot Act behind the actions of these fictional cops? Of course not. If the Patriot Act were repealed, would fictional TV cops stop roughing-up suspects? Nope. The audience enjoys it too much.

As a matter of fact, in another episode of "the practice" called "Home Invasions," Bobby asks the detective to "look the other way" when they arrest the pervert who's been videotaping Lucy in her apartment shower. The detective agrees. He lets Bobby slap the guy around a little before stepping in. Eugene watches. Where was Eugene's outrage back then? I guess, in that case, he thought torture was okay.

In yet another episode of "the practice", named "Public Servants," D.A. Helen Gamble orchestrates the fatal police shooting of the man suspected of executing fellow D.A. Richard Bay. After she falsely warns police that he typically carries a weapon and is very likely to use it, they are all too anxious to yell "gun" and open fire after spotting what later turns out to be a cell phone. No outrage there either, huh Eugene?

And let's not forget Lindsey's ordeal with the psychopath stalker, William Hinks. He scares her too much, so Bobby has him killed. Then Bobby gets acquitted.

Or what about Lindsey's other ordeal with the psychopath cannibal, Lawrence O'Malley. He scares her too much so she shoots him. Dead. Then she gets acquitted.

Outrageous, but we loved every minute of it.

These criminals definitely had their civil liberties violated. In three of four cases, they were outright murdered! Where was the outrage? Where was the Patriot Act? But you see, it was cool, since they were the bad guys. As soon as an innocent guy gets roughed-up, it's a police state!

Well, it is during an election year.
# posted by Longshanks 

What Can a Woodchipper Teach Us About Managing Our Finances? 

You don't know, stupid? Okay, I'll bring you up to speed. Pieces of information (like stock market news) are like the big, unmanageable trees that you (the pathetically unequipped customer) cut down in your back yard. When you feed them through the gaping maw of the chipper (that's Wachovia), they are transformed into tiny, useful pieces of wood (investment recommendations) that you can use to make mulch for your garden (portfolio).

See how easy it was?

The beauty of these ridiculous "Uncommon Wisdom" ads is that you can create one from just about anything. Go ahead, give it a try...
# posted by Longshanks 

Friday, January 09, 2004

Britney's Contribution to the Gay Marriage Debate 

Britney Spears' recent booze-induced nuptials, and subsequent post-hangover annulment, have become a bullet point for gay marriage proponents.

The argument goes like this: How can you prohibit mature, monogamous, responsible homosexuals from enjoying the spiritual, emotional, and legal benefits of the institution when heterosexuals seem to have no problem making a mockery of it?

John Derbyshire of National Review details the argument as it was related to him by a homosexual email correspondent, and admits that "the guy has a debating point." He then proceeds with a rebuttal that, in my opinion, doesn't hold water.

He draws an analogy between marriage and the vote-counting process in an election. On each side of the analogy, there are three parts: (1) the institution, (2) acts of "chicanery" and (3) the outsiders that you would let in by loosening controls over the institution rather than tightening them.

On the one hand you have (1) the election process, (2) chicanery in the counting of votes and (3) the "felons, foreigners, lunatics, and minors" that you would welcome by loosening controls over the voting process, rather than tightening them - specifically during periods of such chicanery.

On the other hand you have (1) the institution of marriage, (2) episodes like Britney's and (3) the gays you would let in by loosening controls rather than clamping down on the quality of people to whom you extend the benefits of the institution.

First of all, what the hell does chicanery in the vote-counting process have to do with the people who cast the votes? If my vote for George Bush is covertly slipped into the trash bin by a radical liberal who somehow got a job inspecting chads in Florida, does that mean we have a problem with the voters? Of course not. We have a fraudulent chad-inspector.

Okay, okay. I'm the numbnuts who can't use a voting machine (stick-stylus-in-hole), but you see my point, right?

By the way, are you sick of the word chicanery yet? It's kind of like Homer Simpson when he keeps saying "Hawai-ee" over and over again and Chief Wiggam finally puts his foot down and tells him to "Quit saying Hawai-ee!"

Anyway, so I guess what he's trying to say is that we already have straight dunderheads like Britney Spears cheapening the concept of marriage, so we couldn't possibly let all those gays in, too. I mean, come on, they're like the felons, foreigners, lunatics, and minors of marriage.

Sorry Derb, but this is pretty much what you're saying.

Don't get me wrong. I wish I could click my heels together and make all the guys be interested in girls, and all the girls be interested in guys. I wish I never had to go to a party and stand three feet away from two grown men engaged in a full-on, moaning, groaning, tongue-wrestling grope-fest.

But life didn't turn out that way, folks! These people came hard-wired to fall in love with the same gender. Saying that they can't exhibit the same devotion, tolerance, and fidelity that hetero couples do is like saying you can't put condiments on a turkey burger like you can with a normal hamburger because, well, it's made of goddamn turkey!

Listen, I love NRO, and I enjoy reading Derbyshire. I, too, am troubled by the sheer "purposelessness" of Britney's 55-hour marriage, and the message it sends to her pre-teen fan base, but the gay marriage tie-in is just plain weak.
# posted by Longshanks 

Thursday, January 08, 2004

MoveOn.org Sighting 

No joke. I was just in the Kinko's on 3rd Avenue in Manhattan waiting for my fax confirm. Why was I faxing from a Kinko's? Don't ask. Anyway, the clerk ambles over to the counter with a finished pile of goodies for the rainbow-scarfed patron that was standing next to me. Included in the pile was a 2'x2' sign for "Bush in 30 Seconds" and a stack of MoveOn.org "Staff" stickers.

What I was looking at, for those of you lucky enough not to have heard about this, were the trappings of the upcoming winners' ceremony for the "Bush in 30 Seconds" internet movie contest. Thoughts rushed through my head of knocking him unconscious - Austin Powers style - and making off with the goods. But, unfortunately for those of you with a flair for that kind of thing, the two Bud Lights I had on the Metro North bar-car were not enough to nudge me onto the slippery slope to mahem.

The final tab - $136.11 - paid for with an accompanying scowl that could only belong to someone who thinks the President is a Nazi.
# posted by Longshanks 

Bush is a lesbian! 

It took someone like Maureen Dowd to dig deep and find the courage to say what everyone knows is the real reason behind President Bush's recent surge in popularity - he's a gay woman.
# posted by Longshanks 

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