Friday, September 29, 2006

The hazards of attending school in the United States

So if you were the parent of a child who attended an American school, which of these incidents would you find most threatening to the health, safety, and moral development of your child?


A seventh-grade geography teacher who refused to remove Chinese, Mexican and United Nations flags from his classroom was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday by Jefferson County officials who were concerned that the display violates the law.


Art Teacher Loses Job After Kids See Nude Sculpture
Children Were On School-Approved Field Trip

FRISCO, Texas -- An award-winning Texas art teacher who was reprimanded after one of her fifth-grade students saw a nude sculpture during a trip to a museum has lost her job.

Or this:
Student and Gunman Die in Colorado High School Standoff

DENVER, Sept. 27 — A gunman and a teenage girl he had taken hostage in a high school southwest of Denver both died Wednesday as a SWAT team stormed a classroom in an attempt to save the student and the man opened fire, shooting her and then himself, the police said.

Summing up:
- Display of flags from countries other than the United States in a geography classroom: Not OK, treasonous, unpatriotic, anti-American.
- Exposure to nude sculpture while on a school-approved field trip to an area art museum: Not OK, shocking, morally degenerate, disgusting.
- Easy access to guns for any crazed lunatic off the street: OK, no problem.

May I take this opportunity to publicly give thanks yet again because I and my daughter live in Slovenia and not America. Thank you.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Hedgehog habitat

Every night for the past week or more the dogs go all hysterical out in the yard during for their pre-bedtime (and sometime middle of the night, in Oli's case) bathroom break. Apparently my yard is prime hedgehog habitat. They don't know quite what to make of the funny little creatures, but the general rule of thumb seems to be: when in doubt, surround the intruder and go into a barking frenzy.

Fortunately, so far neither dog has done this.

(Yes, that's an Australian shepherd--two actually. You can read more about them, and the hedgehog, and sheep, here.)

And since we're on the subject of wildlife habitat, I can report after a late afternoon stint of sawing wood that my woodpile is--or was--home to scorpions and spiders. Haven't encountered any snakes yet, but I often see specimens of Anguis fragilis when I'm mowing.

Update: After signing out of webmail and getting ready to shut down for the night, I scanned the headlines at and stumbled across this little news item from Serbia. For the benefit of non-Slovene speakers, here's a rough translation of the lede:

In Serbia, impotence treated with a hedgehog

Kragujevac - A 30-year-old man from the environs of Kragujevec, Serbia, has barely survived massive hemorrhaging from his penis after a local healer encouraged him to have sexual intercourse with a hedgehog.

I hope the hedgehog is all right.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Drnovšek profiled in the New York Times

Has anyone read Drnovšek's book? Is it really a "New Age thumb sucker"?

September 9, 2006
The Saturday Profile
Slovenian President Finds Peace and Wants to Share It

THE best-selling book here right now, a New Age thumb sucker called “Thoughts on Life and Awareness,” is predictably full of platitudes about “finding our inner balance, peace and integrity and then transferring this to our surroundings.” Dedicated readers, and there seem to be many, can also consult the blog and advice column by the same author, who happens to be the president of Slovenia, Janez Drnovsek.

For well over a decade he has been at the center of Slovene politics, first as prime minister and then as president, a cool and reserved politician best known for his expertise in controlling inflation. But seven years ago, he was stricken with cancer of the kidney, which he says he survived only after rejecting conventional medical treatments and adopting a vegetarian diet, fasting and natural remedies. He says he was transformed by the experience, suddenly emboldened to speak his mind on all sorts of topics, from advice to the lovelorn to peace in Darfur.

He has frequently criticized the government and the Roman Catholic Church, and started a raft of initiatives that his advisers say they can barely keep up with. Above all, he believes he has found “a higher consciousness,” and now wants to share what he calls his “positive energy” with the rest of the world.

Mr. Drnovsek (pronounced der-NOW-shek) has not seen a doctor in a year and a half. Though questions were raised about his health after he fainted during a ceremony in June, he maintains that he has fully recovered, and that he is now obliged to help others.

“I am trying to help the people,” he said in an interview in his offices in Ljubljana. “I would say it’s a result of my own personal development. I have developed my awareness. I can help people, I think, because they are finding themselves down the road I have passed some time ago.”

Frequently smiling, and looking relaxed but older than his 56 years, Mr. Drnovsek outlined how overcoming the “formations,” as he called the cancer that at one stage had spread to his lungs, changed his personality. “This disease that I have overcome in the last few years — certainly it can have an impact,” he said. “You realize that life could be really short. Before, I was concentrated on pragmatic issues as prime minister. But then I was able to establish some distance. I think that I should do a little more to help the others.”

He says he no longer feels he has to hold back on issues that others consider too delicate. “I don’t have to make a compromise, just to say what is right,” he said.

Rather than live in his official residence, Mr. Drnovsek stays in a village on a mountain half an hour’s drive from the capital. He says that he lives on fresh vegetables and bread that he bakes himself, and that he periodically fasts for as long as eight days at a time.

In January, he resigned from his political party and formed a group called the Movement for Justice and Development, a platform for his new political and moral vision. He has a blog on the group’s Web site, in which he comments on topics as diverse as microlending, Jesus Christ, herbal medicine and the responsibilities of public office. “Someone in power should be a person who wishes it the least; a person who is honest, and who is aware of all the traps and the huge responsibility of authority,” he wrote in one entry. “Such a politician will work for the people, for the municipality, the state and humankind.”

MR. DRNOVSEK’S frankness has made him one of the most popular figures in the country. Last Christmas, his popularity surged when a woman surprised him with the revelation that he had a 19-year-old daughter, from a relationship they had in the 1980’s. The disclosure only added to his popularity, as father and daughter were publicly united for the first time.

“I think that after this personal struggle, people saw that he was someone like them, and because he can share things with them,” said Tina Horvat, an editor with Jana, the woman’s monthly magazine that publishes his advice column. “If presidents of other countries would be like him, it would make the world a better place.”

But it is the application of the president’s new vision to world affairs that has courted the most controversy, and not a little ridicule.

Last October, he began a campaign to resolve the future of the disputed province of Kosovo, now administered by the United Nations. His proposal — to give the province conditional independence from Serbia — angered both the Albanian and Serbian sides in the dispute, and prompted the Serbs to cancel an official visit by Mr. Drnovsek to Belgrade.

This year he has made repeated suggestions about ways to solve the conflict in Darfur, going as far as inviting the leaders of the rebel factions and the Sudanese government to a peace conference in Ljubljana. None came.

In August, an envoy Mr. Drnovsek had sent to Sudan — Tomo Kriznar, a prominent Slovene human rights advocate — was sentenced to two years in prison by a Sudanese court for entering the country illegally. Mr. Kriznar, who was trying to draw up an agreement among rebel groups that were not yet parties to an existing peace deal with the Sudanese government, had crossed over the border from Chad without a visa. After intervention by the Slovene government and the European Union and a letter from Mr. Drnovsek, Mr. Kriznar was pardoned Sept. 4 and set free.

“People are suffering more and more,” Mr. Drnovsek said. “So I thought that I had to do something, and Tomo Kriznar also thought I had to do something.” Mr. Drnovsek’s handling of the affair prompted calls for his resignation from a right-leaning magazine, Mag. Diplomats deplored what they said was the amateur nature of his initiative and the damage it did to Slovenia’s reputation. (His five-year term ends in December 2007, and he said in June that he would not seek re-election.)

THE Sudanese affair does seem to have cut into his political support. But he shows no signs of curtailing his role as a peacemaker. “Did the whole international community make progress, with so many hundreds of diplomats who are paid for this?” he asked. “Nothing, neither in Darfur nor in Kosovo. Nothing.

“That’s why I started my initiatives, hoping perhaps I can move things. But one should be surprised why the whole international community isn’t more efficient, in any case, and not why I’m not.”

Still, the affair has raised questions about his judgment. “I am not sure how much the president knew about Sudan,” said Ali Zerdin, deputy editor of Mladina, a weekly magazine. “It was definitely naïve to expect that such a complex problem would be solved with the power of positive thinking.”

More ominously, several politicians and at least one doctor have raised questions about whether diet and positive thinking really have cured Mr. Drnovsek, particularly after his fainting spell in June. “I’m no prophet,” wrote Tine Velikonja, a retired surgeon who said he had spoken with the president’s former doctors. “But I can say for certain that if Drnovsek insists on his vegetarian diet, he will not walk this earth in 2007.”

Friday, September 08, 2006

I get what I want (sometimes)

My T-shirts have arrived. "We will not be silent", in English, Arabic, and Farsi.
"We Will Not Be Silent" is a statement attributed to a student-resistance movement in Nazi Germany called The White Rose. It is a statement of purpose, intended to inspire acts of resistance and dissent against a corrupt government that abuses its power, and abandons the rule of law.

All of us who believe in our freedom and that of others, and are against a policy of war, torture and lies, cannot afford to be silent.

You can order yours here.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Chicken blogging

Courtesy of Elizabeth, we have a transcript of Hillary Clinton's interview with the chicken pictured in the previous post:

Chicken: Why won't you debate Jonathan Tasini before the Democratic Primary?

Hillary: Frankly, if I'm forced to disclose my positions, I'll lose votes in New York State.

Chicken: Why do you support the U.S. occupation of Iraq?

Hillary: Because I'm beholden to the same corporations as the Bush administration.

Chicken: Why don't you support Medicare for all, like Tasini does?

Hillary: Because I get more health care lobby money than any other senator except Santorum.

Chicken: Why do you support NAFTA and other trade policies that send jobs overseas?

Hillary: I was on the board of Wall-Mart for 6 years. I know what's good for the corporations.

Chicken: But what about caring for the people?

Hillary: I care about the people in the boardrooms.

Chicken: Why did Rupert Murdoch and other Republicans give you a fundraiser?

Hillary: Because I am a Republican.

Chicken: No, you're running against Jonathan Tasini in the Democratic primary on September 12th.

Hillary: I've been a Republican since I worked for Goldwater in 1964.

Chicken: Whatever. But I know what you really are.

Hillary: What?

Chicken: CHICKEN!!!!

(Hillary runs away, chased by Chicken)

Meanwhile, Hillary votes in favor of dropping cluster bombs in heavily populated areas. She wants the United States to continue supplying such munitions without restriction to Israel, which dropped hundreds of them on Lebanese towns and villages, most of them in the last days of the conflict before the cease-fire took effect. They continue to kill and maim, especially children.

What was the title of that book of hers again? "It takes a cluster bomb to kill a child"? Something like that.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Surprise, surprise

The New York Times editorial board endorses Hillary Clinton in the senate primary. They explain why:
[I]t is hard to imagine [Clinton's opponent Jonathan Tasini] working well in a large body of egotistic and generally conservative politicians.

They also cite Clinton's name recognition (thanks to the constant promotion by the Times and other corporate media outlets, as they ignore Tasini) and her obscene amounts of campaign money (thanks to corporate lobbies) as reasons to support her, even as they point out that "she has hardly been a profile in courage... Mrs. Clinton’s biggest flaw is her unwillingness to risk political capital for principle. That is not to say that she lacks principles, but whenever her moral convictions become politically inexpedient, she will struggle to find a way to cloak them in vague rhetoric or deflect attention with a compromise that makes the danger go away."

This seems like a good time to share a letter from Tasini supporter Bill Strzempek, written in reponse to an August 21 Times editorial reproaching Clinton for refusing to debate Tasini. The Times did not see fit to print it, but I do:
It is brazen hypocrisy for the Times to complain on its op-ed page that Hillary Clinton "has successfully ignored" her progressive opponent, Jonathan Tasini, when the Times is guilty of the same thing. To read your pages one would think only Connecticut has a Democratic primary. Rather than displaying crocodile tears over the lack of debate between Tasini and Clinton, you might instead provide your readers with in-depth coverage of their opposing views on Iraq, healthcare, NAFTA, workers' wages, corporate donations to politicians, gay marriage, and Walmart, just to get started. Or you could sponsor a debate between the two yourselves.

Your call for debate does not absolve you from your responsibility to provide equal coverage of both candidates in your pages.