Archive for February, 2008
In the giant competition we know as â€˜the worldâ€™, Finland minds itâ€™s own business and does itâ€™s own thing. Come to find out, Finnish teenagers are way smarter than other teenagers of the world. This comes as an astonishing surprise to many people and has made news in the Wall Street Journal, that erstwhile chronicle of all things competitive.
High-school students here rarely get more than a half-hour of homework a night. They have no school uniforms, no honor societies, no valedictorians, no tardy bells and no classes for the gifted. There is little standardized testing, few parents agonize over college and kids donâ€™t start school until age 7.
Yet by one international measure, Finnish teenagers are among the smartest in the world. They earned some of the top scores by 15-year-old students who were tested in 57 countries. American teens finished among the worldâ€™s C students even as U.S. educators piled on more homework, standards and rules. Finnish youth, like their U.S. counterparts, also waste hours online. They dye their hair, love sarcasm and listen to rap and heavy metal. But by ninth grade theyâ€™re way ahead in math, science and reading â€” on track to keeping Finns among the worldâ€™s most productive workers.
What could it mean? How do they do it?
The academic prowess of Finlandâ€™s students has lured educators from more than 50 countries in recent years to learn the countryâ€™s secret, including an official from the U.S. Department of Education. What they find is simple but not easy: well-trained teachers and responsible children. Early on, kids do a lot without adults hovering. And teachers create lessons to fit their students. â€œWe donâ€™t have oil or other riches. Knowledge is the thing Finnish people have,â€ says Hannele Frantsi, a school principal.
Visitors and teacher trainees can peek at how itâ€™s done from a viewing balcony perched over a classroom at the Norssi School in JyvÃ¤skylÃ¤, a city in central Finland. What they see is a relaxed, back-to-basics approach. The school, which is a model campus, has no sports teams, marching bands or prom.
Hereâ€™s the thing. Children are built from the inside out. Societies are built from the ground up. Here in America we use the outside in and top down models, and thatâ€™s why our people canâ€™t string two thoughts together without assistance. Thatâ€™s why our society is crumbling before our eyes. Thatâ€™s why so many teenagers in American suffer from depression and stress. Americans are not allowed to BE.
Thereâ€™s a little saying, and I donâ€™t know where it comes from, but it goes something like this: Some people think they need to have what they want to have, so they can do what they want to do, so they can be who they want to be. In reality, you need to be who you want to be, and then you can do what you want to do, and then you will have what you want to have. The Finnish understand this, and they let their children develop from the inside out, and therefore they become intelligent, productive citizens. Viola!
In contrast, here in America and in many places around the world (in cultures competing with America), parents force ridiculous expectations onto their children to perform. They want their children to have resumes, to have experiences, to have skills, and to have knowledge, so they can get into the greatest colleges and grow up to be rich executives or movie stars. So the parents force all this activity onto their children, and the children are not allowed to be, to exist, to enjoy the holy freedom of childhood.
We donâ€™t have time for freedom. We donâ€™t have time for childhood. The â€˜bestâ€™ Americans inculcate their children from early on to strive. Learn to strive and get used to it because you can look forward to a lifetime of competition.
Parenting is very difficult, but our culture makes it even more perilous than necessary. If we didnâ€™t have such a cutthroat culture, perhaps we could let our children kick back a little. Perhaps we wouldnâ€™t spend big chunks of our family budgets on their extracurricular activities. They could go outside and learn baseball with the kids in the neighborhood instead of us spending money on Little League. But in order for this to happen we have to have neighborhoods, and we have to let our kids play outside instead of scheduling their every waking moment. The parents who currently do things like this are looked askance at as â€˜badâ€™ parents by the â€˜goodâ€™ parents who provide their children sufficient (paid) extracurricular enhancements.
Hereâ€™s what happens if you let your kid play outside. Hereâ€™s what people really think in America. â€œWhat are you, poor? Too poor to sign your kid up for dance/soccer/gymnastics/guitar/singing/theater/football/hockey/la cross? You slacker. Get a third job so you can put your kids in activities. Because if you donâ€™t, your kid will have no one to play with.â€ And thatâ€™s the truth. Middle class children will not have many friends unless their parents pay to put them in activities. Thatâ€™s how you meet other kids. You donâ€™t have to bother with working it out in the neighborhood anymore. You just find your people via paid activities, and that way you donâ€™t have to deal with the others.
In America, kids belong in activities. Thatâ€™s how we measure the quality of parenting. More is MORE.
But hereâ€™s the truth: less is more. Kids need to grow into themselves. Recreation is not always about playing a sport or learning in a structured environment. Kids need time to be outside, to play games (not video) with friends, to imagine, to be alone, to suffer through boredom and find things to do. By allowing our children to grow at their own pace instead of forcing the pressures of adulthood on them, we allow them to develop an actual personality. We allow them to be.
Sadly, we have a nation full of children whose growth has been deformed. Yes, children need to be pruned from time to time. If you know your children and pay attention to them, you can spot a wayward branch budding and pinch it off quickly. But so many people spend so much time making money to keep up their lifestyles that they donâ€™t really know their children. Too many children are like topped trees. Their natural grown patterns have been cut off, and the growth that replaces it is vigorous and ugly.
The forces behind this dynamic cannot be summarized quickly. Families now need multiple jobs to make enough income to pay bills, and I am not here to cast aspersions on people trying to provide stability. We live it too. But as a people we need to stop striving to imitate the upper classes. Itâ€™s a bad deal for working people to work and work and work so much to provide a lifestyle for their children to the point that they no longer have time to parent. It would be better for us to scale back our expectations. Our children would be better off. In any case, the economy will take care of this problem soon enough. Many children will soon have more time on their hands as their parents just simply decide they canâ€™t keep up, but some of them will not know what on earth to do with it.
The Israelis continue to escalate their killing spree. They have been bombing Gaza indiscriminately this week, killing 33 people in a 24 hour span, including babies and children. Go here to see a video and read about one of the infants murdered.
From The Guardian:
Four Palestinian children were killed while playing football yesterday as Israel hit back at the Gaza Strip with more than 10 air strikes, after Hamas militants escalated their rocket fire into southern Israel. The deaths follow that of a six-month-old Palestinian baby, who was killed the previous evening when Israel intensified its attack on Gaza after a 47-year-old Israeli man was killed by a Hamas-fired rocket.
The surge in fighting began after Israel killed five Hamas rocket launchers, prompting the group that rules Gaza to more than double its missile attacks into Israel’s neighbouring towns.
While Wednesday’s Israeli fatality was the first in nine months, rockets fall on the southern Israeli town of Sderot almost daily. In February alone, three Israeli children have been severely wounded, including one who lost his leg.
Or, to put it another way, the Qassam rockets have been falling on Sderot for a very long time, but they rarely cause injury. In the past month, they have severely wounded three Israeli children. As everyone knows, the rockets are ‘notoriously inaccurate’. That phrase has been linked to the Qassam rockets in perpetuity.
The Qassam rockets are notoriously inaccurate - Hamas launched 28 yesterday and only 10 landed in Israel - but there are growing fears that the militants are acquiring an arsenal with a longer range. Israel’s police said five foreign-made rockets similar to the kind that Hizbullah fired from southern Lebanon into northern Israel, triggering the 2006 war, landed in Ashkelon, a city north of Sderot. One of the rockets pierced the roof of an apartment building, but no one was hurt.
Just because Israel’s police ’said’ the rockets were ‘foreign-made’ and were ’similar’ to the ones that triggered the 2006 war with Lebanon, that doesn’t make it true. It also doesn’t justify Israel murdering innocent Palestinian civilians. Israel decided to start the war with Lebanon, and Israel decided to wage a completely asymmetrical war against the Palestinians. Our ‘Decider’, GWB, decided to start an illegal war against Iraq. Nations wage wars. It’s a decision. It doesn’t just ‘happen’.
So. What does Israel have to say for itself? Do they express any remorse for the innocent lives lost? No. They can only focus on their own deaths.
Public pressure is mounting on Israel’s government to stop the rockets, which have killed 13 since 2001. While visiting Sderot, the defence minister, Ehud Barak, said: “A solution to the Qassams will be found faster than what most people believe.” But Israel refuses to talk to Hamas, because the Islamist group refuses to acknowledge the Jewish state’s right to exist, will not renounce violence and refuses to adhere to previous peace agreements signed by Palestinian leaders.
Israel’s attempts to thwart the militants with an eight month-long blockade on Gaza has driven the population into deep poverty, but it has failed to stop the militants’ missile attacks. Pressure has been mounting for a harsher military response, yet the government is divided over how to improve the effectiveness of its military strikes. Some ministers are calling for a full scale invasion of Gaza.
“We must prepare for escalation. A large, significant and tangible ground operation. We won’t flinch,” Barak said in a closed meeting, according to the Associated Press. “Israel will reach those responsible, hit them in operations, and Hamas will pay the price for its activities.”
But the interior minister, Meir Sheetrit, opposed a large scale ground operation, arguing that it would not put an end to the rocket fire. “This is the wrong approach and it won’t lead us anywhere. We won’t just go in and suddenly everything will be OK,” he said, according to AP.
Instead, Sheetrit advocated an increase in the number of targeted killings of Hamas operatives. “We must not let anyone involved in the shooting stay alive.”
Whatever the hell that means. Kicking it up a notch or two, some Israelis have actually used the term ‘holocaust’ to describe what the Palestinians ‘could bring on themselves’. No I’m not kidding.
An Israeli minister today warned of increasingly bitter conflict in the Gaza Strip, saying the Palestinians could bring on themselves what he called a “holocaust”.
“The more Qassam [rocket] fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves,” Matan Vilnai, Israel’s deputy defence minister, told army radio.
Shoah is the Hebrew word normally reserved to refer to the Jewish Holocaust. It is rarely used in Israel outside discussions of the Nazi extermination of Jews during the second world war, and many Israelis are loath to countenance its use to describe other events.
One can only hope they are loath to commit holocausts.
The minister’s statement came after two days of tit-for-tat missile raids between Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli army. At least 32 Palestinians and one Israeli have been killed since the surge in violence on Wednesday.
…”It will be sad, and difficult, but we have no other choice,” Vilnai said, referring to the large-scale military operation he said Israel was preparing to bring a halt to the rocket fire.
“We’re getting close to using our full strength. Until now, we’ve used a small percentage of the army’s power because of the nature of the territory.”
The psychopath will always blame the victim for ‘making me do it’. Just so, Vilnai describes how Israel is reluctantly but inexorably being forced by the Palestinians to smash Gaza into smithereens. “We have no other choice.” Of course, they can wait for better weather. They’ll use that time to put the finishing touches on their plans. But remember, they have “no other choice”.
Israel would not launch a ground offensive in the next week or two, partly because the military would prefer to wait for better weather, defence sources said. But the army had completed its preparations and was awaiting the government’s order to move, officials said.
Seriously. Sderot is just a ratty little village, but Ashkelon is a whole other pail of worms. Ashkelon has great sports facilities and a beach, and a population of 120,000. Israel can’t allow rockets to fall on one of it’s cosmopolitan centers. That would be out of bounds.
Until now, the Palestinian rocket squads have largely targeted Sderot, a small town near Gaza. Ashkelon, a big population centre only 25 miles from Tel Aviv, was caught unprepared, its mayor said on Friday.
“It’s a city of 120,000 people, with large facilities â€“ a huge soccer stadium, a basketball stadium and a beach. No one is ready for this,” Roni Mehatzri told Israel Radio.
Also please note the arrival of three US warships in the eastern Mediterranean, and a visit next week by the Princess of Darkness, Condoleeza Rice.
There were further indications that Israel was preparing for an offensive by sending confidential messages to world leaders, including the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, who plans to visit the region next week.
“Israel is not keen on, and rushing for, an offensive, but Hamas is leaving us no choice,” the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, told the senior figures, according to Israel’s mass circulation daily, Yedioth Ahronoth.
Security sources were quoted by both Israel Radio and army radio as saying a big operation was being prepared but was not imminent.
Right. “Because they have no choice.” That, my friends, is what we call a Big Lie. Make no mistake. When they start the next war, it will be a war of choice. They will start it when they choose, they will kill whoever they choose, they will take whatever they choose, they will say whatever they choose, and so on.
But you, Citizen, you don’t have to believe them. You can choose to see the Truth.
My colleague in Truthology, Liza Persson, has written an important piece describing how we have unwittingly allowed Bush and Cheney to fulfill their megalomaniacal dreams of a Unitary Executive.
There’s just one point I would like to stress, and that is the role played by the corporate media. Without a willing press, none of this could have been accomplished. The press has not exactly played the ‘unwitting’ role in all of this. On the contrary. They who have been trained to know better have abandoned their responsibilities to US in exchange for fame and fortune. Bob Somerby has been documenting the fall of our pampered press corps for years. As he has said many times, they have made a joke of our democracy. Bush and Cheney can thank the press for demurely looking away while they dismantled the Constitution.
Today the crucial watchdog function of our democracy, what’s left of it, resides in the alternative media and the blogosphere. The job should not have fallen largely to citizen journalists and bloggers, but it has. We are not looking away, we are looking right at these bastards. We are watching what they’re doing and writing it down. Maybe they’ll take us away someday. It wouldn’t surprise me. So please support those who spend their time and effort, in most cases without compensation, to find out what’s going on and who bring the word to you. To follow current events and attempt to make sense of it all is a labor of love. Love for you, people.
The UN released a report this week that stated the obvious: the occupation causes Palestinians to respond with violence, ‘terrorism’ if you will.
A report commissioned by the United Nations suggests that Palestinian terrorism is the “inevitable consequence” of Israeli occupation and laws that resemble South African apartheid â€” a claim Israel rejected Tuesday as enflaming hatred between Jews and Palestinians.The report by John Dugard, independent investigator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the U.N. Human Rights Council, will be presented next month, but it has been posted on the body’s Web site.
In it, Dugard, a South African lawyer who campaigned against apartheid in the 1980s, says “common sense … dictates that a distinction must be drawn between acts of mindless terror, such as acts committed by al-Qaida, and acts committed in the course of a war of national liberation against colonialism, apartheid or military occupation.”
The man speaks truth, but note the Israeli reaction. This Dugard, he is ‘enflaming hatred’ between Jews and Palestinians.
!!!! (eyebrows arching)
I see. Apparently we are to believe that the violent, murderous Israeli occupation doesn’t inflame hatred. It’s just the vicious people like Dugard who insist on talking about it who keep causing all the trouble. Look at what he says!
While Palestinian terrorist acts are to be deplored, “they must be understood as being a painful but inevitable consequence of colonialism, apartheid or occupation,” writes Dugard, whose 25-page report accuses the Jewish state of acts and policies consistent with all three.
He cited checkpoints and roadblocks restricting Palestinian movement to house demolitions and what he terms the “Judaization” of Jerusalem.
As long as there is occupation, there will be terrorism, he argues.
“Acts of terror against military occupation must be seen in historical context,” Dugard says. “This is why every effort should be made to bring the occupation to a speedy end. Until this is done, peace cannot be expected, and violence will continue.”
Well…actually…that makes perfect sense. I would go so far as to say that it is obvious, and self-evident, and plain as the nose on your face, etc.
Israel’s U.N. ambassador in Geneva slammed Dugard’s analysis.
“The common link between al-Qaida and the Palestinian terrorists is that both intentionally target civilians with the mere purpose to kill,” Itzhak Levanon said. “The fact that Professor Dugard is ignoring this essential fact, demonstrates his inability to use objectivity in his assessment.
“Professor Dugard will better serve the cause of peace by ceasing to enflame the hatred between Israelis and Palestinians, who have embarked on serious talks to solve this contentious situation.”
That’s very rich. We have here a case of complete projection of Israel’s behavior toward the Palestinians (intentionally targeting civilians with the mere purpose to kill) as well as a blatant lie (serious talks, blah blah blah).
Israel has a bone to pick with Dugard because, unlike the corporate media, which constantly and consistently tells Israel’s side of the story, he has focused only on the Palestinian side. This makes him ‘one-sided’, and therefore he is not credible. However, anyone who is ‘one-sided’ for the Israeli position is by definition credible. That’s how that works, you see. Oh and by the way, Israel refused to allow Dugard on a fact-finding mission on it’s 2006 Gaza offensive, evidently because he can not be relied upon to see the correct ’side’. So I bet that means he doesn’t even know what he’s talking about…or something.
I first read Dmitry Orlov a few years back, back in the days when I was still staggering under the weight of The Truth. I had not yet learned to carry the grim future on my shoulders. During the intervening years I have learned to balance the heavy burden with hope, so that now the yoke across my back weighs a great deal, but I can carry it because it’s balanced. And so I plod on. This requires a daily, perhaps obsessive need to follow current events, because at any given moment the situation can spiral out of control and the burden of the grim future can become unbearably heavy such that I can no longer balance it. By keeping my fingers on the pulse of our world, I tell myself that I can adjust my counterweight, hope, accordingly and constantly, and thereby continue to balance the powerfully burdensome weight of the world on my shoulders. I treasure those who labor under the yoke with me. I pray for those whose weight we drag behind us, that they may come to their senses, step forward and help us before it’s too late. I understand the phrase “carrying the weight of the world on one’s shoulders” in a way that I never did before our communal life began to unravel. Now it’s clear to me that the only way to carry the reality of our world is with humility, hope and constant vigilance. Whether we accept this yoke and embrace it willingly, or whether circumstances force it upon us, that is the question.
Dmitry Orlov has outlined a wise counsel here about what the future holds. Please read the whole thing. We who spend a lot of time with alternative news can get sidetracked into dark alleys devoid of all hope and light. But we have to keep carrying hope, and not just a little, but a LOT. I’m talking about buckets full. It’s the only way to counterbalance the darkness. Without hope, we will fall swiftly to the bottom, living like animals but without their nobility.
If you can’t have hope in God, have hope in your fellow human beings. Some of us will not disappoint you. Be one of those people with us by carrying a little hope. Not the dementia of denial, but true hope that we can still pull it together as a people, as Americans, when life as we know it collapses.
Here’s a little news for you that I’m sure they accidentally forgot to report on World News Tonight:
Some senior US military commanders are prepared to resign if President Bush orders a military strike against Iran, a new report says.
â€œThere are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,â€ The Sunday Times quoted Monday a source with close ties to British intelligence .
â€œThere is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible,â€ the source added.
If proven true a revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented because ‘American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,â€ said a Pentagon source.
Robert Gates, the defense secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders.
Iran has announced that in face of any aggression it will respond like a ‘tsunami’.
How about if, instead of quitting, they stayed and said, “NO.” Wouldn’t it be better to stay and defy the psychopaths? Because if they just up and leave, Bush will find some other underlings to step forward, take their places, and carry out the orders. If they stay, on the other hand, what’s Bush going to do about it?
You know, we have long passed the point where symbolic gestures like resignations have the power to stop the crazy psychopathic behavior of our insane leaders. It takes more than that. It takes active resistance. I appreciate the Generals’ alarm, but they need to care less about preserving the niceties of military protocol and more about the niceties of preserving a semi-habitable planet.
I find this very interesting. We all know how the military loves their dramatic project code names (Operation Desert Storm) and their mysterious, stern acronyms (CENTCOM, NORAD). Oh yah. It’s all very clubby, isn’t it?
I think it’s juvenile. Click through to see the secret club patches. I bet they have secret handshakes, too. Maybe it’s me, but I look at this stuff and I think it must be appealing to seventh grade boys, and of course, the grown men wearing the secret patches on their secret vests as they use US taxpayer dollars to conduct their super secret black ops.
To people who laugh at the crazy conspiracy theorists interpreting the seeing eye and the pyramid, etc. as actually symbolic, please note the devil, stars, tiger, lightning bolts, rainbows, Omega, etc. on this tiny selection of secret patches.
Is it too much to ask for some adults in charge?
Originally published 2/26/08.
Here’s a petition in opposition to HR 1955 and S 1959, aka the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007. This act would take any citizen doing their due diligence by reading alternative news, following current events, understanding that our government is lying and committing horrific crimes in our names and with our tax dollars, getting outraged and talking about it, etc. etc. etc., and magically turn such a concerned citizen patriot into a ‘homegrown terrorist’. Viola!
You see, the truth is radical, meaning it is really, really fucked up to the extent that most people will feel like their head is going to explode and their chests will cave in as they comprehend the monstrous lies we’ve been fed and the horrific crimes we committed against innocent people as a result of the lies. In reality our American lives, past present and future, are a horror show. Therefore, if/when you learn the truth, you will become radicalized. Once you get over the shock, you will be pissed off like you’ve never been pissed off before. You will realize that you, your children, and your grandchildren have had your futures destroyed, intentionally, by insanely greedy psychopaths. I am not exaggerating. And to make matters worse, you will understand that you have participated and supported the destruction of millions of innocent people around the world. All this very bad news will not make you happy. Indeed, you will want some people held accountable. You will demand accountability.
Now of course, the people who told you all these lies know this, and your unpleasant reaction to the truth poses a little problem for them. So you see, this HR 1955 act will prevent all that dreadful ugliness by quickly labeling you a terrorist and facilitating your speedy removal to some kind of detention facility at the next opportunity (aka pre-scheduled terrorist attack).
(brushing hands together) There! Problem solved! That was easy!
Originally published 2/25/08.