SF Chronicle assures us that the story about the teacher who banned “God bless you” was just a tempest in a teapot *UPDATED*

I’m growing very fond of Jill Tucker, a “journalist” at the San Francisco Chronicle who gives me lots of meat for my blogging.  A couple of weeks ago, I looked at her incurious (some might say lazy) reporting about the decision the Oakland Children’s Museum’s made to cancel a controversial art show consisting of pictures that Palestinian children had allegedly drawn.  (I say allegedly because people more familiar with fakes than I think it is highly unlikely that real children created the pictures.)

Tucker ignored entirely the far-Left, anti-American, anti-Israel, antisemitic nature of the group sponsoring the show, and managed to make it sound as if these works were equivalent to Jewish children’s drawings and poems from Terezinstadt.  With few exceptions, those child artists died in Auschwitz’s gas chambers.  They didn’t shop at local malls or swim in Olympic pools.  And when doctors attended those Jewish children, their goals were malevolent, not humanitarian.

Tucker is at it again, this time with a report purporting to explain that the teacher who punished students for saying “bless you” in class had no anti-religious motivation whatsoever.  To give Tucker credit where credit is due, this story starts with good spin.  She announces, loudly and repeatedly, that the kids who received penalties weren’t exercising ordinary good manners when they said “bless you;” they were, instead, acting out solely to irritate their teacher:

It all started when high school health teacher Steve Cuckovich disciplined his freshman students at Will C. Wood High School last week for repeatedly disrupting class by responding to sneezes with a overenthusiastic chorus of “Bless You.”

The sneezer would then thank each giver of the blessing individually.

Cuckovich, as teachers have done since time immemorial, decided to nip that behavior in the bud by docking student grades for the offense.

See?  Totally innocent.  Naughty students; appropriately strict teacher.  Every one of us remembers those days from our own high school years.

How in the world, then, did this story become a world-wide kerfuffle?  Tucker knows who was at fault:  A busy-body parents and Fox News turned garden-variety classroom discipline into a Christian-outrage cause célèbre:

A parent saw the deduction and made a phone call – not to the teacher or the principal or even an elected official, said district Superintendent John Niederkorn.

And that’s about when Cuckovich found a local Fox TV news reporter in his classroom asking why he was banning “Bless you.”

Our good soldier Tucker describes the way in which religious zealots around the world (i.e., Christians) got their knickers in a twist merely because a teacher clamped down on disruptive behavior.  She explains carefully, with myriad quotations yet, that Cuckovich’s only sin was the fact that, in the heat of the moment, he punished the students for saying “bless you,” rather than focusing more generally on the fact that they were disrupting his class.

So far, I am totally with Tucker.  she’s right.  Absolutely right.  Her damage control is pitch-perfect.  Tucker starts singing badly out of tune, however, when confronted by Cuckovich’s own conduct immediately after the fact.  That was when he got the opportunity to explain in his own words what happened in that classroom (emphasis mine):

Cuckovich, however, inadvertently added to the controversy by explaining to reporters that he used the situation as a teaching moment, educating students on the origins of “bless you.”

It appeared to be an effort to reason with students before punishing them, but it added fuel to the religious fury.

“The blessing doesn’t really make any sense anymore,” he told the Sacramento Fox TV news affiliate. “When you sneezed in the old days, they thought you were dispelling evil spirits out of your body. So they were saying God bless you for getting rid of the evil spirits. But today, I said, really what you’re doing doesn’t make sense anymore.”

I love that Tucker-ish word “inadvertently.”  You see, the problem wasn’t what Cuckovich did.  It was that he explained what he did.  Tucker seems to find nothing unnerving about a public school teacher who lectures students about the fact that “God bless you” is an archaic throwback to a primitive time when people actually believed in God and evil, and then explicitly censors that term in his classroom.

So there you have it:  In Tucker-world, it’s always entirely accidental when a teacher displays religious hostility in a classroom.

I don’t doubt that Cuckovich was legitimately irritated by genuinely bad behavior from his students.  Had Cuckovich limited himself to explaining the ancient origins of a commonly used phrase, while reminding students that disruptive behavior is always subject to penalty, there would have been no story.  What makes the whole story newsworthy, and Tucker’s spin silly, is the fact that Cuckovich launched into what amounts to a “God is dead” lecture to justify his decision and then took the extra step of explicitly prohibiting the phrase “God bless you.” You begin to get the feeling that this guy is an atheist (which is perfectly okay, as I’m periodically one myself), and that he wants to pass that belief-less system on to his health class students (which is not okay).

As it is, even thought I’m an intermittent atheist and periodic agnostic myself, I’m willing to take all the blessings I can get.  We live in a tough world, and there’s a lot to be said for a little good feeling coming from both those around us and, assuming he’s not dead, from God himself.

God bless you!


UPDATE:  I got the following comment.  Assuming that the author of the comment is who he says he is, it certainly deserves to be raised up to the level of the post itself:

Steve Cuckovich is my father-in-law, so I am speaking from experience that this had nothing to do with religion. He is not an atheist (not that there would be anything wrong if he was), sent all 3 of his kids to Catholic school, and has attended church most of the Sundays of his life. He is open to the views of others, including his Jewish son-in-law (me), and has been a dedicated and caring teacher for nearly 40 years. He teaches many freshmen and sees it as important to teach them that it is not always appropriate to blurt things out, such as at a wedding or a funeral or, yes, even in the middle of a classroom lesson, particularly if the purpose is create a distraction, which is clearly what was the case in this instance. The Chronicle has been the most accurate reporting on this whole issue (or really non-issue), although even they had things wrong. This is an example of Fox News taking one quote out of context (the one about evil spirits, which has nothing to do with the reason for the “ban”) to create a false religious scandal. Nearly every news story thereafter has repeated this out-of-context statement, which has led to hate mail and a lot of emotional turmoil for the family of a great man and excellent teacher.

The narcissist always sees things reflected through his own prism *UPDATED*

This is Obama, the guy with moobs and a poochy gut:

This is Obama, the guy who looks like granny on a bicycle:

This is Obama, the guy who throws even worse than I do:

Given who and what Obama is — a guy who’s never worked hard physically or mentally — it’s no surprise at all to hear him say that America is soft.  A malignant narcissist sees everything through his own prism.  What he said, folks, is a gentle poke at himself, which is about the maximum in self-criticism you’ll ever hear from a narcissist.

It’s also no surprise that, with Obama in the White House, Vladimir Putin is spending more time than ever having macho pictures of himself publicized:

Putin understands that, while America may not be soft, her leader certainly is, and those contrasting images have a resonating propaganda value.

UPDATE:  The Anchoress has a different take.  She thinks Obama is hard as nails — when it comes to his Leftism.


What Obama’s election meant

If you need one, here is an excellent reminder that the majority of registered voters were the ones who put Obama guy in office.  It wasn’t a ballot box coup, it was a cultural coup.

Let’s hope that the voting majority does a bit better in 2012 — and that whomever they elect validates their faith.

By the way, there’s a new organization that is working to make sure that we don’t repeat the same mistake and reelect the guy.  Check out The Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama.

“San Francisco overrun by anti-capitalist protestors”

My post caption is the headline the protestors dreamed of.  Zombie has the reality.

Looking at the apathy on display in San Francisco, and comparing it to the furious protests during the Bush era, made me wonder if we can’t come up with some viable alternative energy source by tricking these yahoos into believing that Bush is back in the White House, and then harnessing the rage they immediately generate.

Stoner wisdom

A friend told me a very funny, and apt, story that I want to pass on to you.  It came about because, while he was talking about one thing, I interrupted him to raise another subject that seemed pressing at the time.  When we’d worked through that second subject, I apologized for bringing up something irrelevant to his main point, and encouraged him to pick up where he’d left off before I interrupted.  Before he did, he told me a story:

Back in the hippie era, he and some friends sat around smoking pot and talking.  Someone said something that ruffled my friend.

“That’s irrelevant,” he objected.

A perplexed stoner asked “What do you mean irrelevant?”

My friend answered “It has nothing to do with what we were talking about.  It doesn’t add to the conversation.”

The stoner had the perfect riposte:  “Man, we were talking about everything.  When you’re talking about everything, that means nothing is irrelevant.”

My rambling blog has just been rescued from irrelevancy.

Dear Government, Please keep your cotton-pickin’ fingers out of my business *UPDATED*

When I was a little girl, one of the refrains in my life was “get your cotton-pickin’ fingers out of that.”  I didn’t mean to be destructive.  I was always certain I could make things better.  I had bald Barbies, because I was pretty sure I could make their hair look better.  I had misshapen stuffed animals, because I thought I could fix stuffing defects.  My generous destructive tendencies didn’t stop with my own stuff.  Cameras lost lenses, appliance knobs got jammed, and the food my mom was cooking got ruined.  I thought I was “fixing” things.  My parents knew that my cotton-pickin’ fingers were wrecking havoc.

I was a little girl, and had an excuse for my ill-fated attempts to improve things.  What’s the excuse our government has for continually interfering with things in which it has no business?  And even worse, what’s the excuse of citizens who keep demanding more interference from the government?  I don’t want Washington to “fix” the economy.  I want it to back off.  Let people who know something about business, about supply and demand, about capital, about finances, about consumers, and generally about the facts on the ground, be the ones who fix business.  All that government offers, whether Democrat or Republican, is stupid good will and cotton-pickin’ fingers.

After I expounded on this theory to my sister, she asked, “What should government do?”  I started the usual list:  National Security, Epidemic and Pandemic Control (as opposed to telling people what to eat or how much to weigh), Transcontinental Road and Bridge Building and Maintenance (not “intercontinental,” but “transcontinental”) — basically, things in which it has an interest.

Take national security, for example.  Government definitely has an interest in national security.  That’s one of its biggest jobs and, more importantly, it’s not a job that can be handled competently by states or individual citizens.  Because the government is very goal oriented when it comes to national security, it tends to do it efficiently.  Sure, there’s waste and graft and corruption, but on the whole, as long as the political will is there, our national security system does its core job very well, whether its our men and women in on foreign battle fields, or our information gatherers here at home.

People confuse the main national security goal with the often beneficial by-products it produces.  A classic example is to support a demand that the government fund science by pointing to the huge surgical strides Americans have made during every war since WWI, or to the far-reaching scientific and technological innovations flowing from NASA.  But what they forget was that, in each case, the government had a bigger goal than better sutures or a computer chip.  The government was not trying to improve surgery but was, instead, trying to keep its troops alive so that they could fight and win.  And up until Obama turned NASA into a Muslim outreach organization, it’s purpose was to help us beat the Soviets in the Cold War. That its technology benefited the private sector was great, but that wasn’t the government’s job.

Problems always arise when government tries to micromanage things in which it has no interest.  Government is neither a consumer nor a business, so when it meddles in the marketplace, it does so without any coherent goals, strategies or tactics.  It’s inefficient because it can be inefficient:  as long as things are sort of moving in one direction or another, there is no specific outcome the government is heading towards.

The same holds true for science:  Nowadays, the government tries to pick scientific winners or losers, depending on the political flavor (and trendy Hollywood star) of the day.  As ethanol, biofuels and Solyndra show, the government has an uncanny knack for backing the wrong horse.  Because government spends our money using a mystical and poisonous combination of politics, bureaucracy and corruption, its decisions are unrelated to practical realities.  It’s the marketplace that should be investigating the best way to reduce pollution, whether that means increasing fossil fuel outputs and cleaning emissions, or finding entirely new energy strategies.  Because government as an entity has no responsibility for science qua science, it shouldn’t pretend — at great taxpayer expense — that it does.

And that, my children, is your sermon for the day.

UPDATEBiden’s Solyndra speech pretty much makes my point.  This Jim deMint article does too.

Rosh Hashanah Watcher’s Council edition

Since I am non-observant, I am not doing anything special today, despite the fact that today is a special day.

I am, however, doing something nice today, even if its not religious.  I’m reading my Watcher’s Council submissions:

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

Non-Council Submissions

Obama just can’t get things right when it comes to those pesky janitors

Obama is having a bad week when it comes to Joo . . . janitors.  After his mispronunciation faux pas (which was probably the innocent act of a mental stumble bum, but which sounded appalling coming from Obama, who has proven hostile to Israel and the Jews), he’s now issued a Rosh Hashanah message that’s sure to offend.  Here’s the message:

And here’s Keith Koffler explaining why, peculiar accent aside, Obama put his foot in his mouth again:

The insult is this:

Around the world, a new generation is reaching for their universal rights.

By this he means the “Arab Spring.” Just as he did in his Passover greeting, Obama is using a Jewish holiday to tout the struggle of people who, by and large, hate Jews.

It’s a tribute to how little this supposedly worldly man understands about other cultures that he could possibly place the Arabs and the Muslims into a Jewish New Year greeting.

You should read Koffler’s entire post, ’cause it expands on this point.

I’ve said it before of Obama, and I’ll say it again:  What a maroon.

The only exercise that’s ever shut me up *UPDATED*

Have you ever heard of Tabata intervals?  They are reputed to be the best cardio exercise there is.  The deal is to do hard cardio for 20 seconds, and then take a 10 second break.  Then repeat for several intervals or several minutes or until you collapse in a sodden, breathless, immobile heap on the ground.

Tabata intervals are on my mind right now because of a post at Castra Praetoria, in which America’s First Sargeant, writes about using Tabata intervals for PT with his company.  He’s very creative.  Read the post.  I promise that you’ll enjoy it (especially the part about looking good naked).  Aside from looking good naked, Am’s 1st Sgt. reminds us why we put the guys through Tabata hell:

The bottom line is we conduct PT in order to make our bodies harder to kill. Never mind the idea of being fitter and stronger than your enemy. Fit, healthy bodies tend to survive being shot, blown up, infected, and other rough treatment. It’s only natural the Corps would develop a culture of physical fitness within its ranks.

I’ve actually done Tabata interval training at the dojo.  It has the distinction of being the only type of training we’ve ever done that has rendered me speechless.  No matter what else we do, and how tired I get, I can still force words out.  But not after Tabata intervals.  I am done, completely done, when that training wraps up.

Trust me when I tell you that, if our Marines can do Tabatas and still talk, they can do pretty much damn well anything.

UPDATE:  With exquisite timing, the New York Times writes about an exercise “talk test.”

Teachers are the hardest working people in America?! Really?

My Dad was a teacher, and he worked like a dog.  Of course, back in the day, he got a salary that was only slightly above poverty level, so his hard work wasn’t really the teaching itself.  Instead, it was all the private lessons he gave on the side.  He put in as many hours teaching private lessons as he did teaching in a classroom.

Daddy’s classroom year was about 10 months (he taught summer school too), six hours each weekday, plus about two hours of homework a night.  In addition, though, all year-long, 11 to 12 months a year, he taught private lessons that provided desperately needed money for ordinary life expenses.  During the school year, these added another 30 or so to his work week, and then he’d teach private lessons a straight 40 hours a week during winter break and when there was no summer school.

If you’re wondering who was taking all these summer and winter break private lessons, it was Japanese families who hired Daddy.  In the Bay Area, the Japanese companies would rotate executives through their American offices.  These families wanted their Japanese born children to optimize their American educational experience for the 1-4 years they’d spend in this country.  Daddy was fortunate enough to hook into this network, garnering hours and hours of work from diligent, respectful students who applied the Asian ethos to their after school and holiday studies.

I don’t think teachers nowadays are forced to work quite as hard as my Dad did.  And even if they are, are they really the hardest working people in America?  Per the National Journal Twitter feed, Obama says they are:

I think Obama’s statement (which I’ve indicated with an arrow) might come as a surprise to a few other Americans.  Examples of surprised Americans are, first and foremost, our military serving in Afghanistan and Iraq (and at home too); road crews laboring in the summer sun (or the winter cold); police offers in Oakland, South Central L.A. and Detroit; truckers; farmers; lawyers who, bless their greedy little hearts, routinely put in 80 hours per week; etc. Feel free to add your own jobs ideas to the list of hard-working Americans.

Yes, many teachers work very, very hard, and many have challenging jobs.  But Obama’s pandering statement that they’re “working harder than just about anyone these days” made me throw up just a little, in my mouth.