Friday, March 12, 2010

Pakistan Bombs For Terrorism, New Texas Schoolbooks, Earmark This

David Brooks
Eugene Robinson
Joe Biden

"Political partisans always imagine the other side is ruthlessly effective and that the public would be with them if only their side had better messaging." - David Brooks
"Anyone who claims to be able to identify a potential terrorist by appearance or nationality is delusional. There's a reason all of us have to take our shoes off at the airport." - Eugene Robinson

A few days ago, an influential Pakistani cleric, Sheikh Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, issued a 600 page fatwa against those who would commit terrorism. It has sparked a lot of debate throughout the region, and this week the terrorists answered back, unfortunately aimed at hurting innocent civilians. There have just been two suicide bomber attacks, one this morning aimed at an army convoy near a crowded bus stop at the edge of a popular and busy bazaar. Several other bombs were set off in Lahore, and another severe one that injured 39 happened earlier this week. Makes me wish the pen really was mightier than the sword, or at least, fertilizer bombs.

The NY Times suggests some other reasons for the attacks that are more secular in nature: "Lahore is the biggest city in of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province. The attacks here this week seemed a direct challenge to the authority and effectiveness of the military, which recruits heavily in Punjab and has sought to move against militants in recent months in Pakistan’s mountainous and often lawless areas near the border with Afghanistan.

The surge in violence follows a Pakistani crackdown on militants linked to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, including the arrest of the Taliban’s No. 2 commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. No group immediately took responsibility for the latest attack on Friday."
Pakistani Taliban have also been regrouping in South Waziristan, where the Army had finished a campaign to wipe out their strongholds. Maybe next time the Army won't give notice of their advancement on radio and television first, just keep it to a couple of YouTube videos...

Meanwhile, the Pakistani Navy has been testing some new missiles and torpedos, aimed at impressing their arch-enemy, India. This paranoid saber-rattling between the two countries has been going on ever since Pakistan was formed, I think they are scared that India will demand they become part of their country once again because they are ruling Pakistan so poorly.  Of course, India feeds into and fuels the fire by tweaking their noses every once in awhile. Like the pact India just signed with Russia, allowing Russia to help upgrade their nuclear systems. And the ruler of Dubai went to India to check out the new Russian toys, to see how they compared with the US's technology. Oh, what a wonderful world...

"President Obama has signed a bill to increase tourism to the United States. Tourism is way down, which is surprising. You'd think people from foreign countries would want to come here to see where their American jobs originated." –Jay Leno

I can see that many future homework assignments in Texas schools will be asking students to research and point out the lies printed in their textbooks. In an 11-4 vote, the Texas Board of Education approved to include all of the 160 amendments emphasizing Conservative Christian beliefs and ways of thinking over all others: "After three days of turbulent meetings, the Texas Board of Education on Friday voted to approve a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the role of Christianity in American history and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light.

In recent years, board members have been locked in an ideological battle between a bloc of conservatives who question Darwin’s theory of evolution and believe the Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles and a handful of Democrats and moderate Republicans who have fought to preserve the teaching of Darwinism and the separation of church and state.

Since January, Republicans on the board have passed more than 160 amendments to the 120-page curriculum standards affecting history, sociology and economics courses from elementary to high school. The standards were proposed by a board of teachers." Because Texas buys so many textbooks from academic publishers, it used to be that what was put into their textbooks would influence children in other less populous states, but in this digital age most publishers can tailor the text to each state's needs. What this means in Texas is that Conservative Christians no longer have to keep their kids at home to be home schooled, now it will be the moderates, liberals, Jews, Hispanics, Asians, and Muslims who will invest in home schooling, leaving the public schools to wither and die from any Federal funding. when my sister's grandkids moved here to Colorado from Texas, they had a hard time academically, they were barely getting by. And they are smart kids. Now that they are back in Austin, they are getting all A's and B's, happily coasting along without really being challenged intellectually. Honestly, I now despair if they ever will go to college and find a way to better themselves. I think I will counsel them to join the Armed Forces... A set of national textbook standards is now being debated.

Why not let those Texans believe what they want to? Does it matter if a majority of people never pick up and read a book after they graduate from school? Maybe these will be the folks who will move to Costa Rica along with Rush Limbaugh after the health care reform bill passes. Then, you could go and visit on your next vacation, arrive at DittoHead Airport, drive down Oxycontin Drive to stay at the Kristol Arms Hotel, reading the occasional billboard plastered with the sayings from Chairman Newt... Of course the major flaw in this scenario is that Rush is not a religious man, he only worships money and isn't very generous with it, so I doubt that any evangelicals would seriously follow him anywhere after they got to know him in person...

Yesterday the House Appropriations Committee announced that it would no longer consider putting earmarks on legislative bills from any for-profit corporation. Not to be outdone, House Republicans announced that they would not propose any earmarks at all for one year, this election year...

Already lobbyists are trying to find ways around, since they also had over $1.7 billion in orders for earmarks last year from their clients: "Some firms talked of partnering with hospitals, universities and other nonprofit organizations in seeking federal money, an idea that Congressional officials said might not be allowed under the new rules. Others said they planned to become more aggressive about applying directly to the Pentagon and other federal departments and agencies, and not Congress, for grant money. Still others are warning their clients to diversify their financing sources and become less reliant on Washington." Earmarks are essentially no-bid contracts added onto a bill at the last minute by a Congressperson, usually in return for a campaign donation.

So far no members of the Senate have jumped on board the bandwagon, so there will be some conflict down the line, probably when the two appropriations bill have to be reconciled. I don't know what bitter experience Arizona had with earmarks, but so far the champions for getting rid of them have been John McCain and Rep John Flake, who was very happy with the current outcome. Many lobbying firms may dry up and leave town, especially the ones who only had defense contractors as clients.

We'll have to wait and see if these new rules will have any effect. One defense lobbyist says that earmarks gives transparency to a project, but there is no review process to evaluate if an earmarked project is a good one or a waste of taxpayer's money. We'll also have to watchdog the industry and see what dirty little tricks they produce to earn their billions in fees...

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