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Big Brass Blog is a group blog founded in February of 2005 by Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend and Melissa McEwan of Shakesville (formerly Shakespeare's Sister). The mission of this collaborative effort is to stand as the premiere forum where strong, enduring voices of Progressivism provide what liberal politics has been missing: the unapologetic, unrelenting voice of liberalism in the darkness visited upon our world by Right-wing extremists, their ruinous policies, and their hypocritical beliefs.

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28 March 2012

This sums up current America's Politicians and Business nicely! Spread it around!

by: Father Tyme



1. suppression of individualism and creativity.
2. impoverishment of artistic values.
3. impoverishment of moral values; a social structure based on self-interest and one-upmanship, rather than altruism.
4. fanatical ideology; often a corrupted form of a valid viable ‘trojan’ ideology which is perverted into a pathological form, bearing little resemblance to the substance of the original.
5. intolerance and suspicion of anyone who is different, or who disagrees with the state.
6. centralized control.
7. widespread corruption.
8. secret activities within government, but surveillance of the general population. (In contrast, a healthy society would have transparent government processes, and respect for privacy of the individual citizen).
9. paranoid and reactionary government.
10. excessive, arbitrary, unfair and inflexible legislation; the power of decision making is reduced/removed from the citizens’ everyday lives.
11. an attitude of hypocrisy and contempt demonstrated by the actions of the ruling class, towards the ideals they claim to follow, and towards the citizens they claim to represent.
12. controlled media, dominated by propaganda.
13. extreme inequality between the richest and poorest.
14. endemic use of corrupted psychological reasoning such as paramoralisms, conversive thinking and doubletalk.
15. rule by force and/or fear of force.
16. people are considered as a ‘resource’ to be exploited (hence the term “human resources”), rather than as individuals with intrinsic human worth.
17. spiritual life is restricted to inflexible and indoctrinare schemes. Anyone attempting to go beyond these boundaries is considered a heretic or insane, and therefore dangerous.
18. arbitrary divisions in the population (class, ethnicity, creed) are inflamed into conflict with one another.
19. suppression of free speech – public debate, demonstration, protest.
20. violation of basic human rights, for example: restriction or denial of basic life necessities such as food, water, shelter; detainment without charge; torture and abuse; slave labour.

23 January 2011

Concealed Carry Campus

by: Dark Wraith

State legislatures in Florida, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, Nebraska, and several other states are now considering passing laws to permit firearms to be carried on college campuses. Students and/or professors, depending upon the particular state and the specifics of the bill, might soon be allowed to have guns while on school property.

That's right: firearms on college campuses.

Welcome to the fun house otherwise known as the 21st Century (otherwise known as the insane asylum).

As a teacher at both a state university and at a regional community college, this presents considerable challenges to me in my role as one who is, in the words of Lee Iacocca, "...passing civilization along from one generation to the next."

Passing civilization across the generations begins with the mundane. Setting classroom rules is one of the very first steps. At the appropriate time, I will add a section to my class syllabi entitled, "Firearms: Appropriate Use," which will set forth rules of engagement with respect to when, where, and how sidearms should be the education technology of choice in student/professor interactions.

To those not in the profession of teaching, this might sound complicated, but the emergent nation of top-down hierarchical management in matters subject to government funding makes the job somewhat clearer (read, for example, my article, "On Modern Education"). The state in which I teach is now imposing specific standards on me in my community college courses as part of the pop-academia fad known loosely as "assessment standards" (the second-generation cripple of No Child Left Behind). I must obviously have the new section in my syllabi reviewed by the college administrators who properly channel state mandates; but the working language as I see it will be something to the effect that students who draw their firearms in class, in my office, or otherwise in my presence will be the subject of severe consequences. I'm thinking that those consequences will include harsh words like, "BAD student. BAAAAAD STUDENT!"

I am not entirely sure I can set grading policies on this matter, though, given that the state is now being fairly specific not just about grades, themselves, I issue, but also about the categories (and percentage allocations within those categories) I am required to use for determining grades.

It's difficult, but I've been a college teacher for 30 years, so I'm sure I'll craft workable solutions that maintain the quality of instruction, the appropriate number of students who pass (so the school will keep its revenue stream up), and the overall ambiance that is the hallmark of my classrooms.

As the bonus, of course, I can maintain my own sense of grim cynicism while laughing my way through the expansive graveyard that is this remarkably self-destructing Empire in its twilight.

Am I the one to change the course of history? Of course not. I'm the problem.

You see, I'm the teacher.

Cross-posted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · ·
13 March 2010

President New Age Authoritarian

by: Dark Wraith

Obama and his fistAfter pandering to a failed school district and its failed parents for firing the teachers, President Obama and his thuggish Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, want to "overhaul" the No Child Left Behind abomination of the previous administration. What this means is more testing-testing-testing and more pointing the fingers at the educators instead of at the parents and the administrators, especially the parents, where the whole child as a learner actually starts and ends.

Heaven forbid our New Age Neocon President would tell the parents to get off their fat, lazy asses and do their jobs, and Lord knows his Chief Bully in charge of the Education Department isn't about to tell his comrades in the fancy suits running school districts into the ground to actually construct schools that foster learning and not rote compliance and penetrating fear.

No, it's better to terrorize the kids with ridiculous, "zero-tolerance" (for being human) policies and terrorize teachers with mass firings for trying to do something with children of self-indulgent parents who expect everyone (including the government) and everything (including brain-sucking pharmaceuticals) but themselves to do the work of making their children ready to learn and capable every day of doing so.

Go for it, Mr. President. Maybe all the failed parents like Sarah and Todd Palin and the tens of millions of others who want someone to blame but themselves will vote for you in 2012.

I won't, but that's just because I'm one of those failures of a teacher the system is purging, right?

Cross-posted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · · · ·
24 February 2010

Wednesday Morning Stupid

by: Debra

Today's stupid award goes to Michael Barone and his idiotic column in the Washington Examiner.  Not content with lying about what the American people want, he slanders Europeans by portraying them as helpless victims because two world wars were fought on their ground.  Perhaps it's because almost every family lost at least one male member, and usually more, during those wars that helped them realize that everyone deserves a chance to live a healthy life after they are born whereas those who are against health care for everyone believes that right solely belongs to proto-humans.  Once they are born they are to fend for themselves.

I am perfectly capable of understanding the ins and outs of health insurance, but not everybody has the time or the vocabulary to understand the fine print that prevents them from getting treatment or finding out after the fact that that whatever they needed to get well is not covered.   And the insurance carriers depend on this.

When one is sick, one usually wants to get better or at least know why they don't feel well.  What they don't want to do is fill out endless reams of paperwork, produce identification, pay their copay and then have to justify their problem.  That was supposedly the theory behind HMOs.  Health care without any hassles.  What a concept.

Today has a runner up and surprise, surprise, it is also in the Examiner.  Being a military brat and attending schools either on base or just outside of it, I had to say the Pledge of Allegiance whether I wanted to or not.  I hated it and thought it had very little use except to give the teacher more time to take attendance and assemble the day's lesson.  When you recite it every day of the school year for six or seven years, it ceases to have meaning and becomes a chore.  If you asked most kids to explain every line, they can't do it.  I used to look enviously at the seniors in high school because they were given the option of sitting it out.  When I became a senior, I sat it out.
For two days in late January, a Roberto Clemente Middle School student refused to stand for the pledge and remained silent in her chair, according to details released Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and confirmed by a Montgomery schools spokesman.

The teacher first threatened detention and sent her to the counselor's office, according to the ACLU. When the same incident occurred the following day, the teacher called on a school security officer to escort the student to the counselor's office again.

"The law is crystal clear that a public school cannot embarrass or harass a student for maintaining a respectful silence during the Pledge of Allegiance," said Ajmel Quereshi, an ACLU lawyer.

When the student's mother approached school administration for guidance, an assistant principal recommended the student apologize for her "defiance," according to the ACLU.
Saying the pledge doesn't mean a thing since actions speak louder than words and since I joined the Army two days after graduation, I think I'm pretty patriotic.  I was willing to lay down my life to defend American citizens right to freedom of speech, or the right to be quiet.

It baffles me how so many people believe that repetitively saying something shows respect. I wonder how many of the people who believe that the girl should be punished have said the pledge since they graduated. I'll bet it isn't many and that most of them don't remember the words, have never served in the Armed Forces and believe that by wearing a stick pin or have a yellow ribbon on their car that they are patriotic.

The Stupid of the Day
13 February 2010

From the Wraith-o-pedia...

by: Father Tyme

I wanted to ask you this on your show but, as usual, we went tangential.
I had an old philo prof who told me that - "We all have not only the privilege of success...but the RIGHT of failure."
Everyone (the all-knowing media pundits who for some reason never explain it?) keeps saying that banks are too big to fail; that we can't let Wall Street fail. ( I guess they're privileged!)
So how about an economics 102 lesson in a hundred words...what REALLY would happen if the banks and/or Wall Street "failed", and how would we recover?
I would venture that only 1 or 2 out of 10,000 (unless they were your students) have any idea of the consequences.
OK, it's your blog. Use as many words as you want!

(I MAY, copyright that title. But I could be persuaded to sell it. Say, for an A+?)

· · ·
01 February 2010

College Students Take (Another) Economic Hit

by: Foiled Goil

Education is not filling a pail but the lighting of a fire.
~William Butler Yeats

Education aims to give you a boost up the ladder of knowledge. Too often, it just gives you a cramp on one of its rungs.
~Martin H. Fischer

Coast-to-coast double-digit college tuition hikes:
State budget deficits contribute to higher education costs

As students around the country anxiously wait for college acceptance letters, their parents are sweating the looming tuition bills at public universities.

Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.
~G.K. Chesterton

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.
~John Dewey

19 July 2009

Retro Ed

by: Anna Van Z

I once had a science teacher in college who used to finagle some of us education students into taking groups of kids on field trips to the desert. I figured he probably just enjoyed tormenting us, but it did lead to extra credit, so off we'd go with a busload of squirmy elementary school students. Naturally we'd go over all the important safety rules with them ahead of time, but they'd just sit and stare blankly at us, like we were speaking Japanese.

Then we'd get off the bus and the kids would scatter like cockroaches - reaching into holes and under rocks, jumping into deep washes - generally doing the opposite of whatever we had instructed. How it was that no one actually died on those trips is beyond me.

But it was so cool to see how excited these kids were! They just wanted to see and find out about everything. I don't think some of these kids had ever been out of their barrio before, and it was great facilitating that kind of energy. Nerve-wracking, but fun. They asked endless questions, and noticed everything. These excursions also taught us aspiring teachers many things — among those was the awareness that higher-level learning usually occurs through hands-on, engaged participation. And it's often messy.

A few years later, those kinds of moments became the sole remaining pleasure left for me in teaching. Forces that included approval-seeking politicians, the radical right, corporate interests, and government agendas converged to create a dumbed-down, de-funded educational system that emphasized packaged learning units and regurgitation. It's a public school curriculum that's been largely stripped of those pesky critical thinking skills and civics discourse, and instead loaded down with an endless series of standardized tests, and the preparatory activities preceding them. This continues to be sold to a gullible public as "accountability" and "performance." High test scores in a school district often mean the difference between getting needed funding or not. Often it determines how much the teachers are paid. Parents shop for areas with the best schools, believing that test scores = learning, and a quality education.

What I don't hear being discussed is the fact that there are many components of the learning process that can't be quantified, tested, or engendered by a particular software program. That reality is not a popular one among administrators and politicians these days, and teachers generally end up going along with the prescribed paradigm - and whether it's just because they need the job, or because they still want to work in education and do what good they can, they inadvertently become part of "the system." And for the most part, no one in the public schools or in education seems to be initiating this badly-needed dialogue.

During my early years of college, my mother gave me an old book of hers that ended up having a real influence on me, and impacted how I viewed education in general. The book was Teaching as a Subversive Activity, and it was written by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner. The first chapter is titled Crap Detecting, and it describes concisely the issues underlying this current problem in public education. I haven't seen other copies of this book in quite some time, although I still have my own well-worn original. It's disappointing that even though this book was first published way back in 1969, the issues are still so similar. This is not progress.

It's unlikely that the quality of K-12 public education will ever improve — unless parents become willing to question the purpose and goals of standard operating procedure in the schools, and not simply allow the corporate-political class to define for us what the issues actually are. For starters, anyway.
I'm not exactly holding my breath...
11 May 2009

Hmmm...speaking of free speech...

by: Anna Van Z

Jim Corbett is a California teacher who was subject to federal legal action for supposedly violating the First Amendment's establishment clause by disparaging Creationism. This is his response:

Over 2,000 years ago Socrates faced a court for refusing to recognize the gods acknowledged by the state, importing strange divinities and corrupting the young. The judges sent Socrates to his death. He accepted the sentence of the court and committed suicide by drinking a cup of hemlock.

The only virtue for Socrates was "knowledge." He reached it by questioning the most deeply held beliefs of his students by which I mean all of Athens and ultimately all of us. What troubled the Athenians about Socrates, however, was not listed in the charges. His crime was that he prompted people to think.

His provocations exposed the Athenians' shallowness of belief and mindless deference to myth. Socrates was judged because he was successful in provoking his students "examine their lives." [his words]Those who guard the myths must try and strike down any who teach young people to think and question, because myths often shrink in the light of reason, draining power from those in authority who benefit from belief.

There are thousands of teachers who agree with Socrates that, "[t]he unexamined life is not worth living." Every teacher who makes a student think takes the risk that he will be attacked by parents and others who see themselves as guardians of cherished political and religious myth. The teachers willing to take that risk should be rewarded, not punished. After the verdict, the Athenian court asked Socrates what his punishment should be. He responded that he should get free meals at the Pyrataneum, a celebration hall for Olympian athletes. Socrates went on to explain that those who passed judgment were not harming him, but rather themselves. He said, by killing him they corrupted their own souls and revealed the weakness of their own belief. A true believer does not fear that a few questions can undo years of parental teaching. Those who would "protect" students from self-examination have little faith and great fear.

Chad Farnan, the boy who sued me, was an average student, who admitted under oath that he did not do the required reading for the class. If Chad's lawyers, the "Advocates for Faith and Freedom," and his parents were actually concerned with protecting the boy, why didn't they simply come to me and ask me to explain my comments? Neither they nor the Farmans ever expressed concerns to me nor to any administrators before they came to school with attorneys and reporters in tow to drop a lawsuit on the desk of Tom Ressler, our principal. Read the rest...
26 April 2009

Secret memo revealed!

by: Father Tyme

Gothic? Nay!
From Adam Smith's Vault...
I've uncovered the REAL picture of the Institute where our esteemed Wraith teaches!


You WILL learn economics!
16 February 2009

The Dark Wraith Audio Lecture Series: Marketing

by: Dark Wraith

This lecture is from a class for students who have declared intention to major in business but have yet to take any business courses. The purpose of the course is to teach these students about business thinking, business subjects, and business decorum, among other things. Lectures are interspersed with presentations by representatives from professional organizations inside and outside the college, business professionals from a variety of industries, and those with important knowledge of matters like resume preparation, proper business attire, and success in interviewing for internships and career positions. In my role as professor, among other objectives I have in preparing these young people for their subsequent business courses and their jobs, I must enculturate them to business. When I lecture, it is often to the purpose of getting them past diffuse, popular, and general thinking about business matters.

Duration: 00:37:55
Size: 34.7 Mb

The Dark Wraith invites readers to enjoy this particularly enlightening lecture.

· · · ·
27 January 2009

Reading Is Fundamental

by: Debra

Reading is a hobby of mine.  It has gotten me through some of the worst moments of my life and it was a savior during my childhood.  The library was where I went to escape the world and discover it at the same time.  When I walked into the room at my ten year high school reunion, everyone said "look, it's the girl with the book!"  I'd read so much that I didn't recognize hardly anybody.

I read mostly fiction and what few biographies there were on women, but preferred science fiction from a very early age.  Somehow, I had this stupid belief that the future was going to be better, that we would be living in space and be getting ready to humanly explore outside the solar system and that we would have met or seen evidence of another space faring race by this point in my life.  I had originally planned to spend my fortieth birthday on the moon we had landed on 26 years before.

I totally get why aliens haven't contacted us, I wouldn't get into a cage with a lion either.   I've often wondered why we think we can successfully attack a vehicle that came from an obviously superior system, but I guess kneejerk reactions will prevail.  Personally, I'd rather take a chance and find out what they wanted before I tried to dissect them.  But I digress.

Reading is fundamental.  It really is.  If you have the ability to read you can learn just about anything., including how to make things.   You may not be able to do everything you read, but it stimulates the mind and enables you to imagine something similar or allows you to explore the world of another person.   The ability to read has taken me to countries I've never physically visited and met people I would never meet on the street. 

In fourth grade it was a requirement to learn how to use the school library.  The Dewey Decimal system was explained and it was suggested that successful book reports and essays could be done with what was available if one was willing to use the service.  I preferred the base library because it was bigger and had more fiction available.  It as where I hid out after being kicked out of Sunday School for asking what they determined to be a heretical question (I didn't think that if you lived off of Patagonia (it was the sixties)and had never seen a white man or heard of the Bible that God would send you to hell because you hadn't heard of Jesus Christ) and while I waited for church to start so I could be honest and tell my dad I went to church every Sunday.

As I grew older (twenties) I started buying books.  By the time I had moved away from the San Fernando Valley, Crown Books had expanded its scifi section in three different stores.  For really interesting books I went to Change of Hobbit in Santa Monica (not there any more) and that unfortunate trend is continuing in both schools and state budgets.

Having access to city libraries as schools cut back on everything that makes learning interesting is crucial for inner city and rural children to expand their imagination, to teach them that Wikipedia isn't everything and being able to feel a book in your hands and have your eyes track the words and paragraphs helps to reinforce that more than one person has information on any given subject.  It shows them a future that is possible and that they can be a part of it. It can help make up for the deficiencies in the school system.

As much as I love the internet, and I do, I also belong to the local library and check out books for when I don't want to watch a movie, I want to have quiet time, don't want to type and still be entertained.  If Abraham Lincoln thought reading was so important that he was willing to do it by firelight, we should be expanding access for our kids to more authors, more information and let's face it, more organization.  Numbers or letters, they both work at the library.

Goodbye Mr. Updike, I wasn't one of your faithful readers but you gave so much to others that the literary world will definitely miss you.  Thank you for your contributions and the pleasure your brought to so many.


· ·
24 January 2009

If Only I Had Learned To Drive A Forklift

by: Debra

Predicted by who?  The former crew without a clue or those that sucked up to them?  What part of a worldwide global economy didn't they understand?  For the last few years there has been a consistent tone in America and that spread to the rest of the world. 

There has been a massive dichotomy between what we are told to achieve in order to get ahead and then there is the reality that we have worked our way in to a corner where our workforce has no work and few, if any, prospects in sight.  The little people (taxpayers) have known for years that gravity works on everything except money.  And once money stops flowing upstairs, the world grinds to a halt.

We were told that education would help stave off poverty, but now with student loans and no jobs to repay them, some of us are now poorer than we would have been is we hadn't tried to improve on what was already working.  Lately not a day goes by that it doesn't cross my mind that learning to drive a forklift in the Army woulld be of immensely more use to me now than being able to repair guidance control systems from thirty years ago.  My brother, a former Naval officer, uses his skills too.  Not.

Worst of all, now that we finally have experience, we have too much of it.  Throw in the Masters and we intimidate the crap out of people.  Now we are overqualified  and have the papers to prove it.  Just like millions of others who believed the American Dream. (current as of 11/08, before the numbers got really bad).


· ·
09 November 2008

Remembering Carl Sagan

by: Foiled Goil

"To live in the hearts we leave behind is to never die."

~ Carl Edward Sagan

November 9, 1934 — December 20, 1996

"The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends on how well we know this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky."

~ Cosmos
The Pale Blue Dot

[ 3:31 ]

"Education on the value of free speech and the other freedoms reserved by the Bill of Rights, about what happens when you don't have them, and about how to exercise and protect them, should be an essential prerequisite for being an American citizen — or indeed a citizen of any nation, the more so to the degree that such rights remain unprotected. If we can't think for ourselves, if we're unwilling to question authority, then we're just putty in the hands of those in power. But if the citizens are educated and form their own opinions, then those in power work for us. In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness."

~ The Demon Haunted World
Chapter 25, "Real Patriots Ask Questions"

18 October 2008

Clothing Is Not Optional

by: Debra

Safety and discipline.  Wow!  And here all this time I thought kids went to school to learn.  When I first started high school way back when, they had a dress code for girls.  We weren't allowed to wear pants unless it was raining.  Mornings were almost always overcast in Lompoc so we would go to school in pants and say that we thought it was going to rain.  Fortunately for us they lifted the ban on pants.  As soon as it got warm we started wearing hot pants, I think the male teachers really liked those.

Dress codes are supposed to reduce violence and bullying by taking style differences out of the equation, according to the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Since the Clinton administration, the Education Department has encouraged schools to go further by adopting uniforms, saying they promote safety and discipline.

Ah yes, the schools are no longer trying to educate youth and prepare them for the real world, they are doing their best to turn out little automatons that aren't capable of independent thought and obey without question.  No wonder we keep falling behind the rest of the industrialized nations in math and science.  If you don't learn how to reason and trying to express your individuality is banned so that everyone is exactly the same,  it makes it very hard to think for yourself.  Which I guess is the point.

And in Gonzales, Texas, near San Antonio, parents are considering legal action over a new policy that requires students who come to school dressed inappropriately to either go home or put on a school-provided prison-style jumpsuit — one actually made by Texas inmates. Police had to restore order at a recent school board meeting where parents heatedly complained about the new policy.

“You’re punishing the children,” Gracie Mercer, mother of a Gonzales student, told board members. “You guys aren’t concerned about their education.”

Officials rebuffed the critics and said the policy would stay in place.

“We’re a conservative community,” Deputy Superintendent Larry Wehde said. “We’re just trying to make our students more reflective of that.


But sometimes, school officials will admit they’ve gone too far. That’s what happened in Fresno, Calif., last month when administrators at Dos Palos High School apologized to Jake Shelly, a sophomore whom they forced to change into a shirt bearing the words “Dress Code Violator.”

Jake’s proscribed apparel? A T-shirt sporting the American flag. The Dos Palos-Oro Loma Joint Unified School District’s dress code prohibits “shirts or blouses that promote specific races, cultures or ethnicities.

Yup, that's the ticket, indoctrinate them young.


03 October 2008

How Stupid Are These People?

by: Debra

Cheez n' rice! Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!  Parents are petitioning to have yoga classes removed from the curriculum because they feel it violates the boundaries between church and state.  I almost choked on my tea when I read that.  I'll bet if they wanted to teach a bible class this wouldn't be an issue. 

When I was in college at Cal Poly I took a yoga class and it was scheduled right before my calculus class.  For the weeks of midterms and finals all we did was stretch, breathe and relax.  The benefits to me were shown when I took the tests.  I would look at the questions and instead of panic setting in, I was able to recall quite a bit more than my studying had indicated and I passed the course.  Religion was never brought up in yoga class, either at school or at the gym.  The sole purpose was to get exercise at the same time as restoring good blood flow to the ligaments and tendons.
"People have made it a religious war, and it's not a religious war. We are basically concerned parents, saying we don't want our children participating in something that could cause them more stress and confusion," Lucid said.
Honestly, this country is getting dumber by the second.  It's a good thing Lucid is his name, because lucid he is not.


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