August 31, 2003
"If the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it's clean, he has nothing, I will apologize to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush Administration again, all right?"
Bill O'Reilly, Fox News Commentator on Good Morning America, March 18, 2003
August 30, 2003
As part of their vocabulary quiz for me, students must write sentences that properly use words from the current vocabulary list. This results in some funny sentences sometimes:
Achilles' heel stopped the leaking of the drainage.
The voluminous is really loud on my radio.
August 24, 2003
What Happened 9/11
In case you haven't been keeping up, a cloak of misinformation and subterfuge has enveloped the investigations surrounding the happenings on 9/11. A lot of people are getting the impression the powers that be don't want the truth to be known. This article about the tireless efforts of four 9/11 widows is a great summary of what's going on.
In a nutshell: "Soylent green is people!"
August 23, 2003
The Paradoxical Commandments
I saw this posted on a fellow teacher's bulletin board and was impressed with how they capture the spirit of teaching and being human. They've been around, but are worth posting. More info
The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith
1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
10. Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
We are with child
This morning, Denise got a positive on her EPT. Don't stand too close, ladies, because I must be a paragon of fertility. We've only been trying for a month, and already my mighty warriors have breached the walls. Pics
Now, I must come to grips with the idea that I'm 35 and gonna be a father. I'm used to running to Fry's at a whim to buy computer stuff, which I guess now will be diapers and formula. Scary, but exciting.
August 21, 2003
Texas 11 and the Democratic Process
Just for the record, Tom Delay and his Republican minions' illegal attempt at redistricting in Texas needs to be explained by the Democratic side. This undermining of the political process is unprecendented and, sadly, part of the larger picture of the attempt by those on the right to consolidate their power.
August 18, 2003
I am writing to you from a hotel room in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I and 10 of my colleagues in the Texas Senate have been forced to reside for the past 20 days. If we return to our homes, families, friends, and constituents, the Governor of Texas will have us arrested.
I know, it sounds more like a banana republic than the dignified democracy on which we have long prided ourselves. We are effectively exiled from the state due to our unalterable opposition to a Republican effort -- pushed by Tom Delay and Karl Rove, and led by Texas Governor Rick Perry -- that would rewrite the map of Texas Congressional districts in order to elect at least 5 more Republicans to Congress.
You may not have heard much about the current breakdown in Texas politics. The Republican power play in California has obscured the Republican power play in Texas that has forced my colleagues and me to leave the state.
Recognizing that public pressure is the only thing that can break the current stalemate, our friends at MoveOn have offered to support our efforts by sharing this email with you. In it, you will find:
* Background information on how the situation in Texas developed;
* Analysis of what's at stake for Democrats and the democratic process; and
* How you can help by contacting Texas politicians, signing our petition, contributing funds, and forwarding this email!
The Republican redistricting effort shatters the tradition of performing redistricting only once a decade immediately after the Census -- making redistricting a perpetual partisan process. It elevates partisan politics above minority voting rights, in contravention of the federal Voting Rights Act. It intends to decimate the Democratic party in Texas, and lock in a Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. And Republican efforts to force a vote on this issue by changing the rules of legislative procedure threaten to undermine the rule of law in Texas.
We do not take lightly our decision to leave the state. It was the only means left to us under the rules of procedure in Texas to block this injustice. We are fighting for our principles and beliefs, and we can win this fight with your support.
Texas State Senator (Houston)
During the 2001 session of the Texas Legislature, the legislature was unable to pass a Congressional redistricting plan as it is required to do following the decennial Census. A three judge federal panel was forced to draw the plan. Neither Governor Rick Perry or then Attorney General John Cornyn, both Republicans, objected to the plan, which was reviewed and approved by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The 2002 Congressional elections, the first held under the new redistricting plan, resulted in a Congressional delegation from Texas consisting of 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans. However, five of the 17 Democrats prevailed only because they were able to win the support of Republican and independent voters. All statewide Republican candidates carried these five districts. Most experts agree that the current plan has 20 strong or leaning Republican districts and 12 Democratic districts.
Meanwhile, the 2001 redistricting of Texas legislative seats (which was enacted by the Republican-controlled Legislative Redistricting Board, after the legislature again gridlocked in its efforts) resulted in wide Republican majorities in both the Texas House and Texas Senate. Now Tom Delay has made it his priority to force the Republican-controlled Legislature to enact a new redistricting plan to increase the number of Republican-leaning Congressional districts. Republicans believe they can manipulate the districts to elect as many as 22 Republicans out of the 32 member Texas Congressional delegation. They achieve this by packing minority voters into as few districts as possible and breaking apart rural districts so that the impact of independent voters will be reduced and suburban Republican voters will dominate.
During the regular session of the Texas Legislature, Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives exercised an unprecedented parliamentary move to prevent the House from passing Tom Delay's redistricting plan. While Democrats are in the minority of the House of Representatives, the state constitution requires that at least 2/3 of the House be present for the House to pass a bill. Because it was clear that the Republicans would entertain no debate and brook no compromise in their effort to rewrite the rules by which members of Congress are elected, the Democrats were forced to break the quorum to prevent the bill from passing. Because the Republican Speaker of the House and Governor called on state law enforcement officials to physically compel the Democrats to return, the lawmakers removed themselves to a Holiday Inn in Ardmore, Oklahoma -- outside the reach of state troops(1). In there effort to apprehend the Democrats, Tom Delay officially sought the help of the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Justice.
The House Democrats (nicknamed the "Killer D's", based on an earlier episode in Texas history in which a group of Democratic state senators called the "Killer Bees" broke the quorum in the Senate over a similarly political stalemate) succeeded in stopping Delay's redistricting plan during the regular session, returning to Texas after the legislative deadline had expired for the House to pass legislation. However, because the Texas Legislature meets in regular session only every two years, the state constitution gives the Governor the power to call a 30-day special legislative session at any time between regular sessions. Despite statewide protests from Texas citizens who oppose Tom Delay's redistricting plan, the Governor has called two special sessions(2) already this summer to attempt to force the legislature to enact a new plan.
The first called session expired in a deadlock, as 12 of 31 Texas Senators(3) opposed the plan. Under Senate rules and tradition, a 2/3 vote is required to consider any bill on the floor of the Senate, giving 11 Senators the power to block a vote(4). The Republican Governor and Lieutenant Governor then determined they would do away with the 2/3 rule, and called another special session, forcing 11 Democratic Senators to break the quorum and leave the state.(5) These Senators have spent the past 22 days in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The Governor has indicated he will continue calling special sessions until the Republican redistricting plan is enacted, despite the fact that the Republican-controlled Texas Supreme Court recently rejected the Governor's writ of mandamus filing to compel the Senators to return to the Senate. Meanwhile, eleven Democratic state senators are exiled from their state, unable to be with their families, friends, and constituents, for fear of being arrested as part of a partisan power play by Republicans. In the most recent indignity, Republican Senators voted to fine the absent Democrats up to $5,000 per day, and to revoke parking and other privileges for their staffs as long as the Senators are away.
What's at stake
At stake, on the surface, is whether Tom Delay will succeed in exploiting Republican control of the Texas Legislature to add to the Republican majority in the United States Congress. But deeper issues are also at stake.
* If the Republicans succeed in redrawing the Texas Congressional lines to guarantee the election of five to seven more Republicans, it will ensure that Republicans hold the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives for the entire decade and will likely result in Tom Delay becoming Speaker of the House.(6)
* The Republican advantage would be gained by removing many African American and Hispanic voters from their current Congressional districts and "packing" them into a few districts that already have Democratic majorities. The voting power of these minority voters would be dramatically diluted by the Republican plan, in contravention of the federal Voting Rights Act. If the Republicans succeed, over 1.4 million African American and Hispanic voters will be harmed. It would be the largest disenfranchisement of minority voters since the Voting Rights Act was passed.
* Redistricting exists for the purpose of reapportioning voters among political districts to account for population shifts. The purpose of this reapportionment is to ensure a roughly equal number of voters in each district, to preserve the principle of "one man, one vote."(7) For this reason, redistricting has always been conducted immediately following the U.S. Census' decennial population reports. Tom Delay now proposes a new redistricting plan two years after the Census report simply because Republicans gained control over the Texas Legislature in 2002 and now have the power to enact a much more Republican-friendly plan than the one drawn by the federal courts two years ago. This is an unprecedented approach to redistricting, one that subordinates its original purpose of ensuring the principle of "one man, one vote" to the purpose of perpetual partisan politics. Redistricting, in this model, would never be a settled matter, and districts would constantly be in flux depending on the balance of political power in the Legislature.
* The Texas Legislature has traditionally been defined by a spirit of bipartisanship and cooperation. This issue has polarized the legislature in a way that threatens to destroy that tradition. The Republicans have effectively exiled their Democratic counterparts in a power play that makes our state look more like a banana republic than a dignified democracy. The arbitrary decision to discard the 2/3 rule in the Senate sets a precedent that undermines that body's tradition of consensus and cooperation. The deployment of state law enforcement officials to apprehend boycotting legislators erodes the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government, and diminishes legislators' ability to represent their constituents as they see fit. The unilateral Republican effort to penalize Democratic Senators and their staffs
What is needed
The Democratic Senators currently in Albuquerque have two critical needs. The first is to generate increased public awareness of the situation. By all reason, every day the Senators are out of the state this story should get bigger. Instead, news media have gradually lost interest in the story. The California recall has dominated the attention of the national media, and the Texas media has largely lost interest in the story -- out of sight, out of mind. Without public attention to this story, the Republicans have all the leverage -- if it does not cost them politically, it costs them nothing(8) to continue calling special sessions until the Texas 11 are forced to come home.
The second critical need is funding. The cost of hotels, meeting rooms, staff support, and public relations efforts is mounting. In addition, the Senators must defend themselves legally against Republican efforts to compel their return, while also filing legal claims against the Republican power play. The Senators are actively raising money for the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus Fund to offset these costs and prepare themselves for a stay of indefinite duration in Albuquerque.
1. A recent Department of Justice investigation chronicled Republican state officials' illegal attempts to use federal resources -- including anti-terrorism resources from the Department of Homeland Security -- to compel the Democratic lawmakers' return. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A51520-2003Aug12.html for a news report on the Justice Department investigation, or http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/special/03-08a/final.pdf for a copy of the complete Justice Department report.
2. At a cost to taxpayers of over $1.5 million per session.
3. House Republicans passed a redistricting bill in the special session despite an outpouring of public opposition in hearings across the state. All 12 Democratic state senators opposed the plan, along with Republican state senator (and former Lieutenant Governor) Bill Ratliff.
4. The "2/3 rule" requires the Senate to reach broader consensus on difficult issues than a simple majority vote. It is a combination of official Senate rules and tradition. The rules of the Senate require a 2/3 vote to suspend the "regular order of business" to consider a bill that is not the first bill on the Senate calendar. By tradition, the Senate has always placed a "blocker bill" at the top of the Senate calendar, so that every bill requires a suspension of the regular order of business to be considered. The process requires compromise and consensus to achieve a 2/3 majority on each bill. One Texas insider has said that the 2/3 rule is "what separates us from animals."
5. In fact, the Governor and Lt. Governor attempted to "surprise" the Senators by calling the second special one day early and "trap" them in the Senate Chamber. The Senators were able to escape the Capitol with literally minutes to spare.
6. Republican party activist Grover Norquist, head of the Washington D.C.-based Americans for Tax Reform, was quoted as follows in the August 17 Fort Worth Star Telegram: "Republicans will hold the House for the next decade through 2012 if Texas redistricts…It depresses the hell out of the Democrats and makes it doubly impossible to take the House and probably depresses their fund raising…Anything that helps strengthen the Republican leadership helps DeLay become speaker someday if he wants it."
7. Established in the landmark case Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962)
8. Notwithstanding the millions of dollars it is costing taxpayers.
August 16, 2003
It's So American...
...to build multi-million dollar schools and then not supply them with everyday things like phones in the classroom or teacher work areas. Or paper. Or lecterns. Or printer cartridges. Or any of the other hundred things needed to educate the young.
The sad thing is teachers themselves pay for these things because they know that supplies have never and will never materialize. Collectively, the millions of teachers across the nation subsidize the property taxes of homeowners too shortsighted to see the connection between taxes and services.
I read somewhere that teachers spend an average of $448 every school year on supplies. Do the math. In Texas: 274,000 teachers (stats here) X $448 = $122,752,000. And most of us pay property taxes, too.
You're welcome, Texas.
August 15, 2003
Today, after logging on to the school network for the very first time, I checked my email to find a message from the computer department welcoming me and telling me who to contact if I had trouble logging on or checking email.
Think about that.
August 14, 2003
News Flash: We're getting screwed
When I was in my 20's, newsmagazines and other pop culture media latched on to the idea that my generation, Generation-X, were slackers and self-centered. I always thought we instinctively accepted the idea that America had peaked and we were not going to experience the same standard of living that our parents did, so why fool ourselves? Enjoy what you can, while you can, when you can.
Well, after reading this article, I not only am sure that the "good ol' days" are gone; I'm sure it's much worse . The Boomers, dear brothers, are taking us to the cleaners, and we don't even know it. We're fighting their wars, running their computers, populating their cubicles, and now, shouldering their debt.
Plant Some WMDs, for Goodness Sakes!
I was predicting some months ago that the Bush administration would at least plant evidence of WMDs to save face after its lies to foment war, but I guess the political crassness and disregard for world opinion with which the D.C. branch of Halliburton operates has reached hubric proportions. They don't have enough respect for us to at least plant one or two fake WMDs to help ease our conscience. Instead, we're stuck knowing we're being slowly subsumed into an Orwellian groupthink of "Iraq=Al Quaeda, Saddam=Osama, War=Peace, 2+2=5" because the alternative, to admit our government is arrogantly lying, is unimaginable to most people and fracturing to our national psyche.
August 11, 2003
Entering Arlington ISD
Everybody wants a piece of ya when you're new to the district. Teachers new to the profession start a week early, while teachers new to the district start a couple of days before the rest of the faculty, apparently so we'll be even more tired than the veterans before the kids appear. The 10,000 names, numbers, and procedures thrown our way stop being absorbed by my brain after the morning Coke wears off and my J.Lo sized butt goes numb from sitting for three hours at a stretch in the auditorium seats designed for the elusive average-sized human.
On the other hand, the impressive thing about AISD is how "with it" they are. Everyone exudes pride in AISD and elation at your choice of employment in the district. It's uncanny. The competition for teachers in the metroplex has apparently caused them to go out of their way to make new teachers feel welcome, which, in all seriousness, is good for the ego. It's gonna be a good year.
August 05, 2003
The Wonder of It All
Our society's obsession with the portrayal of death, especially violent death, in the media is a product of the compression of time in our modern, data-driven world. We experience our daily lives mostly at a survival level, barely able to keep up with the inflow of information from TV, phones, road signs, advertisements, etc. But we instinctively know that there is more to the mind and life than the daily drudgery of work-sleep-eat.
To feel alive, we must be constantly reminded that we are mortal, that death is inevitable and, in many cases, painful. Only in this way can our inundated consciousness verify to itself its own existence. The hunger to be alive and appreciate the mere fact of existence paradoxically feeds the need to vicariously experience death on TV and in the movies for a society moving much too quickly to reach this level of consciousness by more peaceful and contemplative means, such as meditation or religious experience.
We therefore choose the easy way--the smelling salt of the mind, if you will--to jar ourselves into a temporary state of appreciation for the simple fact that we exist at all. Only those lucky enough to be more attuned to the magic of the daily business of living--artists, poets, priests, that weird lady who owns the flower store--get to the end of their lives knowing that to be alive is not an intermittent experience, but a minute-by-minute, day-by-day focus on the wonder and beauty of it all.
August 03, 2003
Goodbye, Siemens Dematic
After three years as an IT guy and Design Engineer creating simulations for airport baggage-handling installations, I'm leaving a well-paying, predictable, and secure job to re-enter the teaching field. Insane? You tell me. I hope next summer when I'm reading this again I don't regret the move.
I think I just got tired of feeling that my job and life in general was seriously lacking the meaning and purpose I felt during my previous seven years teaching. Pics
Read on for the email I sent to my boss to explain myself after he recruited me away from IT with promises of riches and women.
From: Davis Bryan M
Sent: Thursday, July 24, 2003 9:51 AM
To: Berryman Michael D
Subject: let me explain myself
I feel obligated to explain why I'm leaving at least to you because of your generosity and belief in me.
First of all, I'm not leaving because I'm unhappy with anything about working conditions. I like working with everyone around me, and I feel my job has a purpose within and benefit to the company. I also feel I have the respect of most everyone I've worked with. It's not because of anything I think the company or coworkers can improve.
It's about a deep-seated lack of meaning and purpose in my life. In seven years of teaching, I never got up one day thinking I didn't want to go to work. Teaching was something that was intrinsic to who I am and how I believe the world needs to be. I never doubted the nobility and value of what I was doing, and, getting paid peanuts, never considered money to be the primary reason I went to work.
I imagine you feel betrayed by me after having gone through the trouble of hiring me away from MIS and providing a generous raise. To that I can honestly answer that I, at the time, intended to remain with ABO and eventually program controls one day. Great pay, challenging work, relaxed environment--what's not to like? My left brain was happy.
But, unfortunately, my right brain wasn't. My idealistic and philosophical side just isn't satisfied working in the logical world of computers and engineers. The need to try to make the world a better place and help young people reach their full potential just holds too much of a draw for me to stay away, no matter how emotionally and physically draining I know it to be. So, here I am, feeling like I'm abandoning friends but knowing that the move is a necessary one for my well-being and sanity. I thank you for believing in me and hope that I get invited to next year's July 4th party. I'd hate to think that I'm leaving with bridges burning behind me.
bryan m davis  embrace your contingent existence  Orwell was an optimist
The August 2nd LAN Party was, as usual, a festival of frags and unhealthy food. Angelo the Crazy Italian showed up, and Todd brought a case of Sechs (beer), which everyone had too much of. The new Latitude 600m laptop I went deeply into debt to purchase performed flawlessly. I highly recommend this pooter to anyone interested in a light, high-performance notebook computer. Pics