by AndrewMc | 2/19/2010 12:01:00 PM
Whew! It's been a while. Between the weird pressure of preparing for the new semester, and a new job (well, a new job within an old job), and a few other things, I've been absolutely slaughtered.

Lucky you; I'm back. And Friday Ramblings are, too. Follow me.

Conservatives will tell you there's no right to privacy. What about this?

According to the filings in Blake J Robbins v Lower Merion School District (PA) et al, the laptops issued to high-school students in the well-heeled Philly suburb have webcams that can be covertly activated by the schools' administrators, who have used this facility to spy on students and even their families. The issue came to light when the Robbins's child was disciplined for "improper behavior in his home" and the Vice Principal used a photo taken by the webcam as evidence. The suit is a class action, brought on behalf of all students issued with these machines.

That's just ridiculous. And I'm wondering who the Einstein was who sat down with the IT people and said "Oh, by the way, set the laptop up so I can look into the students' houses when I want to."

If true, that's about as stupid as it gets.

There was a time when the United States actually prosecuted people for this sort of thing.

Nowadays we apparently don't think it's a crime.

I'm sorry, but are you kidding me? Female genital mutilation in Iraq? The look on her face says it all.

Disgusting. Even more disgusting that it's occurring in a country we've occupied for all these years.

Here's something interesting, as reported at IHE and Huffington Post:

Someone is making a documentary that is apparently highly critical of the late Senator Edward Kennedy. It will be from the same producer—a man with close ties to prominent conservatives—who makes the series 24.

Some liberal historians are angry, and have begun a website to petition the History Channel not to air the program.

I understand their issue. If the History Channel airs the programs, it will be seen by millions of people, especially college students. We'll spend years, if not decades, trying to correct the misinformation out there. In some ways, the History Channel is becoming the first draft of history.

Funny thing is, while that website asks for signatures on a petition, and for monetary donations to the cause, I couldn't find anywhere that it actually links to the offending script in order to allow readers to decide for themselves whether or not the script is as offensive as they claim.

Those folks may be right, but there's no way I'm signing a petition or giving you money if I can't see what it is you're objecting to.

You know what I like about South Carolina? There's never any shortage of teh crazy.

South Carolina will no longer recognize U.S. currency as legal tender, if State Rep. Mike Pitts has his way.

Pitts, a fourth-term Republican from Laurens, introduced legislation earlier this month that would ban what he calls “the unconstitutional substitution of Federal Reserve Notes for silver and gold coin” in South Carolina.

If the bill were to become law, South Carolina would no longer accept or use anything other than silver and gold coins as a form of payment for any debt, meaning paper money would be out in the Palmetto State.

Shades of nullification, eh?

Want to know why history matters? Look no further than this article in the New York Times Magazine. It's frightening.

[Texas School Board member Don] McLeroy moved that Margaret Sanger, the birth-control pioneer, be included because she “and her followers promoted eugenics,” that language be inserted about Ronald Reagan’s “leadership in restoring national confidence” following Jimmy Carter’s presidency and that students be instructed to “describe the causes and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.” The injection of partisan politics into education went so far that at one point another Republican board member burst out in seemingly embarrassed exasperation, “Guys, you’re rewriting history now!” Nevertheless, most of McLeroy’s proposed amendments passed by a show of hands.

The one thing that gives me some kind of cold, cold comfort is that state budgets are so bad right now that school boards may turn to more online sources, and away from publishers. The influence of the Texas School Board may simply hasten that, leaving Texas as even more of a backwoods, Neanderthal relic of pre-modern thinking.

Here's a nice piece on the history of slavery at Mammoth Cave.

Just as the punditocracy begins to whine that we're killing too many terrorists, and therefore ruining the war on terrorism . . . .

. . . . hold on. Seriously?! Am I really reading that Obama's version of the War on Terror(™) sucks because he's killing them? The only thing more screwy than that is that Democrats aren't on every single talk show saying "You're kidding, right? They don't want us to kill terrorists? Who's side are they on, anyway?"

OK, anyway. Where was I? Oh yeah.

Just as the punditocracy begins to whine that we're killing too many terrorists, and therefore ruining the war on terrorism, we hear of some major victories.

A top Taliban commander in Pakistan has been captured (which might have been lagniappe), as has another in Oman, and another in Pakistan.

This adds to many others killed in various kinds of strikes. And it seems to be working.

As if college being more expensive wasn't hard enough, now it's becoming harder to get a loan.

Well, if they can't get a loan to go, perhaps there are other incentives for the nation's increasingly-endangered male college students.

In all seriousness though, more people are paying attention to the increasing gender gap in colleges.

This is moderately funny.

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) – In the wake of his comments about the earthquake in Haiti, televangelist Pat Robertson has become a “public relations nightmare” and a “gynormous embarrassment to me, personally,” God said today.

Except that the "ironic interviews with god" genre has already been done so well, that even now it's a hard act to top.

OK, this is good news on the progressive front:

Washington, D.C. – Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, praised an independent committee at the Department of Defense for adding emergency contraception (EC) to the list of medications made available to servicemembers overseas. Approximately 350,000 women serve in the military or depend on military facilities for their health care abroad.

But I have to say, when this is the good news we're celebrating—that we'll graciously allow women to purchase contraception—we're probably losing the battle.

There's a difference between climate and weather.

The proliferation of free online courses is an interesting trend.

Beer of the week:

You haven't heard of Brew Dog beer? Not surprising. Their beers are mainly available in the UK, and even there are premium beers, and not widely available in the U.S. I've had their Paradox Imperial Stout and the Hardcore IPA.

I enjoyed both. But the article about their Sink the Bismark beer at Huffington Post really caught my eye.

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Blogger AndrewMc on 2/19/2010 12:55 PM:

TEsting comments tool


Blogger Ahistoricality on 2/19/2010 1:52 PM:

Comments work!

The laptop surveillance thing is going to be huge: there's no way that's legal, not to mention the potential for harassment, embarassment.... that's stalker behavior, frankly.

Don't get me started on FGM in Iraq: add it to the anti-homosexual killings, the assassination of academics and other signs that we were nuts to go in there in the first place and have done ourselves nothing of credit.


Blogger AndrewMc on 2/19/2010 3:16 PM:

Absolutely to the FGM thing. It's an absolute horror.

Comments are working, but they don't seem to appear correctly under "peer review."

As for the laptop cameras, it's something straight out of "Criminal Minds" or something. Incredible.


Blogger Unknown on 2/24/2010 7:47 PM:

The peer review sidebar is gone for good.

Unfortunately, there's no good replacement unless you move the blog to New Blogger.


Blogger AndrewMc on 2/26/2010 8:22 AM:

Arg. Well, that may have to happen. I've been bouncing that idea around anyway. I've mostly avoided it for reasons of time. But the "Peer Review" part is critical, so this may be the straw.