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Location: Great Boreal Deciduous Hardwood Forest, New England, United States

old dude, all hair, swell new teeth

08 May 2005

Support the No Sheep Left Behind Act

I don't like bumper stickers, I prefer to be a Man of Mystery, and as I drive by in my dark blue Toyota 4x4 pickup, people wonder: "I wonder what his Feelings are." For many years in my Karmann Ghia (just a VW bug with a lawn mower The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. engine, but in a spectacularly sexy body, the poor person's sports car), I had a MONKEY JUNGLE bumper sticker (the Monkey Jungle people put it on my car without asking while I was inside, but I didn't mind), so all the world knew my Feelings had something to do with a Monkey Jungle.

I guess I should say something about Monkey Jungle now. As a city human beings would enjoy living in, Miami has a lot of serious deficiencies, but Miami is the best place I've ever lived for sleazy low-rent honky-tonk tourist traps, which I am addicted to. Monkey Jungle was about as down-and-dirty a tourist trap as they come. You go in, you're in long tunnels of wire mesh, and 3,942,111 screaming little monkeys are crawling all over the tunnels all around you. You can buy peanuts and throw them through the mesh and of course the screaming monkeys go apeshit and scramble for your peanuts. Saying that Monkey Jungle helped educate people about the natural environment is like the Reagan administration contending that ketchup is a vegetable.

Toward the end of the tunnel path you get to the Unusual Sub-Human Primate Collection, about a dozen cages of various primates that aren't humans and aren't screaming little jungle monkeys.

I'll never forget the Mandrill. These guys are Not Adorable the way we prefer our zoo animals to be. Nor are they starkly, mesmerizingly gorgeous like big cats or birds of prey. The adult male Mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx) is about a third the size of an adult man, but of course most adult humans visiting Monkey Jungle aren't particularly in shape or superstrong, but the Mandrill is All Muscle, and mean, mean, and aggressive and nasty, and if he wasn't in a very strong cage rigged so you're about six feet away and can't get any closer, he would rip you apart. He hates being in a cage and he hates Homo sapiens (who put him in the cage) like total poison.

This is not like the scene where Diane Fossey lies down and takes a nap all nestled up with her gorilla friends.


Actually he is a spectacularly gorgeous animal, but none of his æsthetics are a human's idea of beauty, he is Beautiful Entirely On His Own Terms, with utterly no reference to our idea of pretty or cute or handsome. He is beautiful the way Geiger's "Alien" is beautiful.

He does care about how he looks, but only if you are a female Mandrill.

So I am standing in front of the Mandrill's cage looking at this startlingly interesting and unique animal. Leaning downward from my guard rail to his cage is a wooden trough. Six or seven seconds go by and I am just gazing at and admiring the Mandrill. He is looking back at me, but he is not admiring me. He wants to know why I am standing there and not rolling some goddam peanuts down the trough to him. He grabs his end of the trough and bangs it up and down violently and loudly and repeatedly, which startles me considerably, and immediately I roll some peanuts down the trough, and the Mandrill eats the peanuts and stops being violent and threatening. He does this for every visitor who pauses in front of his cage.

I want to take a break here. Think about the Mandrill in the cage and read this poem:

The Panther

by Rainer Maria Rilke
translation by Albert Ernest Flemming

His tired gaze -- from passing endless bars --
has turned into a vacant stare which nothing holds.
To him there seem to be a thousand bars,
and out beyond these bars exists no world.

His supple gait, the smoothness of strong strides
that gently turn in ever smaller circles
perform a dance of strength, centered deep within
a will, stunned, but untamed, indomitable.

But sometimes the curtains of his eyelids part,
the pupils of his eyes dilate as images
of past encounters enter while through his limbs
a tension strains in silence
only to cease to be, to die within his heart.

Der Panther
Im Jardin des Plantes, Paris

Sein Blick ist vom Vorübergehn der Stäbe
so müd geworden, daß er nichts mehr hält.
Ihm ist, als ob es tausend Stäbe gäbe
und hinter tausend Stäben keine Welt.

Der weiche Gang geschmeidig starker Schritte,
der sich im allerkleinsten Kreise dreht,
ist wie ein Tanz von Kraft um eine Mitte,
in der betäubt ein großer Wille steht.

Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille
sich lautlos auf -. Dann geht ein Bild hinein,
geht durch der Glieder angespannte Stille -
und hört im Herzen auf zu sein.

Aus: Neue Gedichte (1907)

* * * * * * *

Okay, I'm back. So anyway, MONKEY JUNGLE was the only bumper sticker I ever had, and I didn't even ask for it, but that was okay, I liked it on my Karmann Ghia.

It is very possible that you have been paying far more attention to the Bush administration's big thing about public schools, the No Child Left Behind Act, than I have. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have usually been controlled by the Republican Party since the Clinton administration, so when Bush was first elected (?) in 2000, he had a fairly easy ride getting most of his legislation enacted into law. In his first term, he made an enormous amount of noise about how he was going to fix the ailing, wheezing, failing public schools, and he called his Big Plans the No Child Left Behind Act. Mostly it seemed like a lot of noise to me, but as I said, I wasn't paying an enormous amount of attention. Promising to fix sick public schools is like promising nice weather and more money and a trip to Disney World -- who could object? So it passed, but I didn't really know much about any of its details.

Finally, about three years after it became the Law of the Land, I learned about One Detail of the NCLBA.

It requires every public high school in America to provide the names, addresses and phone numbers of every one of its high school juniors and seniors to recruiters for the U.S. military. They can balk -- as this school district in Bennington, Vermont did -- but it costs. I think this school district forfeited about $150,000 a year in federal school funds for refusing to turn over the kids' names to the recruiters. That's a lot of textbooks and computers and after-school programs. Nearly every other public high school in the USA just turns over the information to the recruiters, and waits for the federal check. If a parent makes a special trip to the high school before the kid becomes a junior, mom or dad can make a special request to keep his/her kid's information confidential.

Well, okay, I have been paying attention. Mostly the NCLBA is the nail on the coffin for public education. It won't help public schools and it won't help the End User, who are the kids in the public schools. It's a bunch of hot air and empty promises that make Bush sound like the Savior of the Public Schools.

But it does insure that No Child Will Be Left Behind when we're having a war like Iraq/Afghanistan.

So anyway, SWMBO is a lot more Bumper Sticker Friendly for her car than I am for my truck. She sees my empty bumpers and from time to time offers me a bumper sticker that she feels will be appropriate and will reflect the household's feelings about this or that. I grunt and nod, but somehow the sticker never gets on my bumper.

Until now. SWMBO is a very skilled and accomplished fabric craftswoman, and is very close to the process all the way, occasionally, from the birth of the lambs who eventually get sheared to make the wool which she spins to make my sweaters. (She knows the names of the sheep whose fleece eventually became my wonderful sweaters.)

So a few months ago she handed me a bumper sticker:


and I liked it and stuck it on my truck. If you want sweaters, or you want to eat some absolutely delicious lamb chops, the No Sheep Left Behind Act is for you, the way the No Child Left Behind Act is for you if you want your kids to fall for a bunch of bizarre lies and bullshit by a flock of sleazebag predatory recruiters for the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.

And now you can read about The Only Detail I know about the No Child Left Behind Act:

* * * * * * *

Mother Jones magazine
December 2002

No Child Unrecruited:
Should the military be given the names
of every high school student in America?

by David Goodman

Sharon Shea-Keneally, principal of Mount Anthony Union High School in Bennington, Vermont, was shocked when she received a letter in May from military recruiters demanding a list of all her students, including names, addresses, and phone numbers.

The school invites recruiters to participate in career days and job fairs, but like most school districts, it keeps student information strictly confidential. "We don't give out a list of names of our kids to anybody," says Shea-Keneally, "not to colleges, churches, employers -- nobody."

But when Shea-Keneally insisted on an explanation, she was in for an even bigger surprise: The recruiters cited the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's sweeping new education law passed earlier this year. There, buried deep within the law's 670 pages, is a provision requiring public secondary schools to provide military recruiters not only with access to facilities, but also with contact information for every student -- or face a cutoff of all federal aid.

"I was very surprised the requirement was attached to an education law," says Shea-Keneally. "I did not see the link."

The military complained this year that up to 15 percent of the nation's high schools are "problem schools" for recruiters. In 1999, the Pentagon says, recruiters were denied access to schools on 19,228 occasions. Rep. David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana who sponsored the new recruitment requirement, says such schools "demonstrated an anti-military attitude that I thought was offensive."

To many educators, however, requiring the release of personal information intrudes on the rights of students. "We feel it is a clear departure from the letter and the spirit of the current student privacy laws," says Bruce Hunter, chief lobbyist for the American Association of School Administrators. Until now, schools could share student information only with other educational institutions. "Now other people will want our lists," says Hunter. "It's a slippery slope. I don't want student directories sent to Verizon either, just because they claim that all kids need a cell phone to be safe."

The new law does give students the right to withhold their records. But school officials are given wide leeway in how to implement the law, and some are simply handing over student directories to recruiters without informing anyone -- leaving students without any say in the matter.

"I think the privacy implications of this law are profound," says Jill Wynns, president of the San Francisco Board of Education. "For the federal government to ignore or discount the concerns of the privacy rights of millions of high school students is not a good thing, and it's something we should be concerned about."

Educators point out that the armed services have exceeded their recruitment goals for the past two years in a row, even without access to every school. The new law, they say, undercuts the authority of some local school districts, including San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, that have barred recruiters from schools on the grounds that the military discriminates against gays and lesbians. Officials in both cities now say they will grant recruiters access to their schools and to student information -- but they also plan to inform students of their right to withhold their records.

Some students are already choosing that option. According to Principal Shea-Keneally, 200 students at her school -- one-sixth of the student body -- have asked that their records be withheld.

Recruiters are up-front about their plans to use school lists to aggressively pursue students through mailings, phone calls, and personal visits -- even if parents object.

"The only thing that will get us to stop contacting the family is if they call their congressman," says Major Johannes Paraan, head U.S. Army recruiter for Vermont and northeastern New York. "Or maybe if the kid died, we'll take them off our list."

© 2002 Mother Jones Magazine


Blogger Joana said...

These are not bumper stickers, but poo-flags. Absolutely amazing, if like me you feel we are in for 4 years more of this shit, just download the poo-flags!!..and USE them ;)

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

oh dear I have been worried about my language on Vleeptron, and now I see my worries had a good basis, I have taught dispicableteacher to talk like I do. But anyway I shall check out these #%^#(!# pooflags and maybe they'll end up on my Toyota.


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