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Programming note:

Light posting over the holidays.  Also, abnormally wistful, sanguine stuff.  After the New Year, expect a return to godfuckingdammit what is the government DOING? Don’t worry, it’ll be back.

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Inspiring holiday stuff

Gainesville State School is located 75 miles north of Dallas, next to a town of 15,000.  It was originally a girls’ school, but became co-ed in1974 and eventually all-male in 1988.  The school offers courses in agriculture, horticulture, welding, and business in addition to the standard high school curriculum.

Gainesville State is also a maximum-security youth prison facility.  Incoming students are an average of three years below grade level in reading and four years behind in math, and less than 30% will return to High School upon re-entry into society.

The school has a football team.  Lacking adequate practice time, space, and equipment, the Gainesville State Tornadoes are understandably lousy.  Up against prep school teams with involved parents, endless resources, and home field advantage, Gainesville scored a total of two touchdowns en route to a miserable 0-8 start.

Kris Hogan is head football coach at Grapevine Faith, a Christian school located just outside Dallas.  The Grapevine Lions are high priests in the Texas Football Temple (services Friday evening like Jews).  The Lions made the state title game in 2007, and returned this season with a strong 7-2 record.

Coach Hogan decided to do a good turn for the boys from Gainesville.  With the overmatched prison team on the schedule for the season finale, Hogan emailed team parents and fans requesting that half the group cheer for the visitors.  “Here’s the message I want you to send,” he wrote: “You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth.”  Faced with understandably confused parents and players, he stuck to his concept:  “Imagine if you didn’t have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you.”

Hogan’s commitment converted the unbelievers.  Some 200 hometown fans, approximately half the crowd, sat in the visitors’ bleachers cheering for Gainesville State.  Additionally, for probably the first time in football history, the road team was met with a spirit line, banner to run through, and dedicated cheerleading squad.

Other schools have done things for Gainesville, including providing the students with meals and small gifts.  However, no one had ever given them a cheering section.  It meant a lot more than some trinkets or a snack.  As a Tornadoes lineman explained:  “We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games.  You can see it in their eyes. They’re lookin’ at us like we’re criminals. But these people, they were yellin’ for us! By our names!”

This wasn’t The Longest Yard. Gainesville was severely overmatched, and Faith went up 33-0 to start the game.  Eventually, however, Gainesville managed two touchdowns on the day on which three of their players had been cut from the team; released from prison.

The score didn’t matter.  In another football first, the head coach of the losing team was doused with Gatorade:

I know people who teach in the prison system, including both maximum-security adult prisons and facilities like Gainesville for youth offenders.  Sadly, adult offenders including those serving lifetime sentences often have better access to educational programs than seventeen-year old first-time offenders who should still have their whole lives ahead of them.  In New York State, this is partly the understandable legacy of Attica and partly due to the fact that D.O.C.S. is its own agency whereas underage offenders are folded into the Office of Children and Family Services.  (I’d be curious if anyone has had any experience with other states; feel free to post in the comments.  New York is actually regarded as one of the best prison systems in the country for adults, in terms of rehabilitation, security for both prisoners and staff, and a relative lack of gang activity.)

The boys on the Gainesville squad are not unrepentant thugs, not inherently violent kids, not the simple stereotypes too often assigned to convicts.  Only those who have served at least half of their sentence, passed all of their classes, and maintained spotless behavioral records are allowed on the team.  Gainesville State head coach Mark Williams explained the importance of seeing his players in human, humane terms:

“A lot of these kids don’t have hope because they’ve taken a wrong path, somebody’s told them that they’re going to be negative,” he said. “They’re not negative. They were very positive tonight. They were just like the other kids.”

After four quarters of football, the winning players greeted their parents and friends while the losing team returned to their bus under watch by a dozen armed guards.  Before the game, and ten minutes from the final whistle, the Gainesville State Tornadoes were faceless statistics in America’s best growth industry.  For 60 minutes, as Gainesville superintendent Gwan Hawthorne put it, the boys “[felt] like any other high school football team.”

A winless season never ended so well.

(For more on this story, see Rick Reilly’s detailed account and the Waco Tribune‘s local coverage.)

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There are many things I love about Barcelona: the Sagrada Familia, their tastier-than-American McDs, the Catalan nationalist, the shopping. My god, the shopping. My little yankee heart did back flips at the sight of a topshop next door to my hotel and damn near exploded when I counted not one, not two, but four Zaras within spitting distance.

It seems another of my darling Spanish retailers Mango is setting up shop in the Kurdish city of Arbil, making them the first international retail brand to set up shop in post-invasion Iraq. It won’t be their usual assortment of liquid leggings and lively print mini dresses inspired by Penelope Cruz, however. They’re working with Zuhair Murad to create spiffy cover-ups so that none of their customers are harassed over immodesty.

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Readers of the Times could be mistaken for thinking it’s 1992.  What with Ross Perot back in action and a Bush leaving Washington, you can practically bust out the House of Pain.  Sir Thomas Friedman, bearer of the Mustache of Understanding and inspiration for the eponymous Friedman Unit (FU), takes this nonsense to its logical conclusion:
Op-Ed Columnist

China to the Rescue? Not!

Published: December 20, 2008

The prominant pundit on all things has unearthed the 1992 Word of the Year.  (The ADS lists are actually fascinating:  “snail mail” did succeed, “ethnic cleansing” earned its stripes immediately, and “Munchhausen’s syndrome by proxy” made Law and Order.)  He’s taking us back to a more innocent time, a time before 9/11 and unspeakable Nirvana covers, a time when men were men and sheep were nervous.  I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone use the Gingrich-era Wayne’s World negation.

Friedman could have gone with “China: PWNED,” or some variant on “fail,” both of which are at least marginally more current.  But he didn’t.  Why?  Because Friedman is dope, that’s why.  Because Friedman is da bomb, all that and a bag of chips.  From now on, that’s Thomas WaterfallsFriedman to you.

(Drop some retro slang in the comments, win an Ace of Base cassette.)

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The now-ubiquitous shoe-hero alleges a severe prison beating as the case reverberates through the Iraqi Parliament.  Meanwhile, the American media jerks itself off laughing about those ungrateful A-Rabs.  Either way, someone’s gettin’ paid.  The previously anonymous “Model 271,” a standard-issue black leather Oxford, is flying off the shelves of its Turkish maker.  Orders have skyrocketed in the past week, with the company taking full advantage of the situation:

“Five thousand posters advertising the shoes, on their way to the Middle East and Turkey, proclaim “Goodbye Bush, Welcome Democracy” in Turkish, English and Arabic.”

Serdan Turk, general manger of Baydan Shoes, praised the outgoing president:

“Mr. Bush served some good purpose to the economy before he left.”

Now, if someone would just hit Cheney with an American-made car.

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For the very special Maoist in your life:

“Maoart paintings integrate with virtuosity real people’s faces into faithfully reproduced propaganda posters. Based on a photograph provided by you and a poster of your choice, an artist renders you as a socialist hero.”

Seriously, check it out.  For 200 bucks, you pick a model poster and send in a headshot from a similar angle as your intended character.  Within three weeks, the artists will paint you a faithful revision of the original starring you as the proletarian hero.  The website notes that the paintings are done by “freelance professional Chinese artists selected for their portrait skills and their ability to reproduce the propaganda poster styles,” adding that they “do not commission “painting factories” and their salaried artists.”  Here are some samples of regular ol’ white folk rendered as Chinese Communist icons:

It’s all inclusive: Chinese-language slogans, industrial or agrarian background, etc.  But if it’s out of your proletarian price range, consider a simple movie or DVD.  Especially one reviewed by the Maoist International Movement (MIM).  They’re very sweet on Harry Potter…

“Harry Potter: The Prisoner of Azkaban” is almost the best we can expect from bourgeois liberalism’s films for children. It’s pointedly anti-fascist–giving the boot to eugenics in the opening scene, where Aunt Marge talks about the parents of Harry Potter in a disparaging way as reflecting on Harry…

…and give a limited endorsement to Star Wars:

“There was not much to complain about politically in the first installments of “Star Wars,” which was both anti-fascist and anti-imperialist. The role of Black characters and the “Red Guard” in the key battles did not go unnoticed at MIM. In this movie, we learn that democracy is the preferred government of the “good guys” of the Republic.  Although the characters’ endorsement of democracy is rather shallow like the current understanding of democracy in the united $tates, the movie itself offers slightly more analysis of democracy.”

(Yes, that’s “united $tates.” stet.)

Maoists, however, utterly hated Spider Man 2:

“There is a lot of confusing shit going on in this movie. By the NYSDCJS and NYPD’s own figures(1), grand larceny, grand larceny auto, and murder, will be about 20% of reported crimes in New York City in 2004, and the majority of these reports will not be due to the actions of the illegal bourgeois Mafia, who metaphorically figure prominently in the adventures of such comic action heroes as Spider-Man and Batman. MIM has said that “Spider-Man: The Motion Picture” (2002) has some redeeming value on the basis of its depiction of asexuality, but it cannot ignore the fact that “Spider-Man’s” Amerikan flag-waving fans are cheering for something that in the real world would be called “capitalist police repression.”

This is an important point. Communists do not support pig repression, much less the pig-wanna- be, labor-aristocrat vigilantes who think themselves heroes when they are gunning down the Third World proletariat at the Mexico-united $tates border, or the self-styled “community” pigs who “police” Asian, Black and Latino youth street organizations. If the bourgeoisie want to sic their thugs on each other, MIM would not get in the middle of this fight, but it does not support pig repression in the abstract when Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) has his knee-jerk reaction every time he hears a police siren. If Spider-Man had any (spider-) “sense” at all, he would fight the police repression under which gold miners work in Azania and China to produce the gold coins stored in the vault of the bank that is robbed in the movie.”

Want more?  MIM has literally hundreds of these.  So this holiday season, “Smelt a lot of good steel and accelerate socialist construction.

*Preemptive note to rightist trolls:  None of the above represents an endorsement of Maoism.

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A good friend of mine, who knows her stuff upsidedown and backwards, criticized the tone of the incoming U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on issues of poverty and humanitarian relief.  Her argument, including a link to Rice’s article, can be found here.  It’s worth reading, but I strongly disagree with it.  I was going to post my counter-argument as a comment on her blog, but it was a bit long and I had no other content for today, so I’ve put it here instead.  So go check out her argument, and here’s my response: (more…)

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