Saturday, May 10, 2008

Venezuela's new school curriculum

NPR (audio), Global Voices

Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, is currently attempting to ramrod a new school curriculum into place, one that, unsurprisingly, is focused primarily on creating "young patriots," by which he means citizens who support him and his social policies.

The program, opposed by many Venezuelan parents as an attempt to indoctrinate their children, glorifies Latin American socialist revolutionaries, teaches that capitalism is a tool to subjugate the common people, and blames the United States for Venezuela's ills. Private schools would also be required to follow this curriculum under the plan.

This is an outrage against individual liberty and academic freedom. The place of an education system, particularly one that is publicly funded, should be to teach students factual information, not to feed them propaganda designed to make them loyal to the current ruler and to stir up hatred against that ruler's perceived enemies (in this case, the United States). Of course, it has been plain for some time now that Chavez has no interest in actually maintaining civil liberties in his country; quite the opposite, he aims to become a socialist dictator. He's already well on his way, nationalizing entire industries left and right, most recently the cement industry. He is unfit to lead, and one can only hope that his people will realize that before it is too late.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Hezbollah tries to take over Beirut

BBC, Reuters

The terrorist group Hezbollah has launched an all-out assault on the government of Lebanon, seizing the western half of Beirut, attacking pro-government and anti-Syrian media outlets, and firing rocket-propelled grenades at ministers' homes and government offices.

Hezbollah also happens to lead the minority opposition in the government. That they respond to political problems within a government they are a part of with violence against that government is incredible, or would be if they didn't have a history of it. They have thrown aside all pretense of caring for the Lebanese people, as though they hadn't already during their recent conflict with Israel.

The Bush administration has stated support for the Lebanese government, but the support Lebanon needs right now is the absolute crushing of Hezbollah as a fighting force. They have thoroughly demonstrated that no other measure will keep them from using terrorism as their first resort in political disputes.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Indiana's Primary Elections

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was a precinct inspector for the Indiana primary on May 6. I'm sorry this report was not written on the 6th as I'd promised; I was held up for so long at the courthouse afterwards that all I wanted to do was go to bed.

Setting up the polling station was simple enough; the biggest problem was the fact that the legs didn't want to stay in their sockets on one of the voting machines. The same machine caused problems later in the day because it had a dark spot on its screen that made it hard to see one of the ballot entries.

It is against Indiana election law to campaign within 300 feet of a polling place. When I arrived at the polls, there were campaign signs stuck all over the ground outside the building; I had to remove and confiscate them when the polls opened. After that, though, there were no further problems with electioneering.

After that, the day was mostly long and boring. Voter turnout for my precinct was about 35%, which is high for a primary in this state, since we usually don't matter for the presidential election.

Since the Supreme Court upheld Indiana's law requiring photo identification at polling places in order to vote, my job mostly consisted of asking for ID at the front door. Voters kept cracking jokes about being illegal immigrants and/or having fake ID, but other than that, it went off without a hitch in my precinct. (Some nuns in South Bend were turned away for not having proper ID; I'm not clear on whether they were permitted to fill out provisional ballots as is required.)

There was one interesting thing: With the exception of the presidential ballot (for some reason, Huckabee, Romney, and Paul are all still on the ballot) all the Republicans ran unopposed. They didn't have enough candidates to go around, apparently; they were not contesting the judge's seat, and were only running two candidates for the county council (when the ballot allows voters to vote for three).

Voting was busiest at the end of the work day, as expected, but it trickled off well before closing time. We had one voter at the end of the polling time; there was nothing like the rush we were told to expect before closing.

All in all, it was a good day, and a new experience. I'd do it again if asked, though I couldn't resist informing the Democratic chairwoman of the irony of her choosing me to do it afterwards, so I don't know if I'll be asked again.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Indiana primary coverage tomorrow

Tomorrow I'm going to write a report on the Indiana primary from the perspective of a precinct inspector and post it on this blog. I won't be able to do ongoing updates, since I won't have Internet access at the polling station, but I will keep notes and write a full account. Watch this space tomorrow night.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Well, I'm a poll inspector now

With only a few days' notice, I've been tapped to be a poll inspector for the Indiana primary on Tuesday. The precinct they've put me in charge of is a small one, but this is still an incredible responsibility. I have the voting machines in the trunk of my car as I write this; I'm responsible for their security from now all the way until I turn them in at the end of Election Day.

I'm deeply honored to be entrusted with this, but it's funny at the same time. I was called by the head of the county's Democratic Party Committee to do this because my mother is on the committee; I suppose she assumed everyone in the household was also a Democrat. I am, obviously, not, but it doesn't matter; I'm committed to the integrity of the electoral process and will execute my duties to prevent voter fraud and other shenanigans the very best of my ability, and that's all the job requires. It's just highly ironic that the Democrats would unknowingly tap a Protest Warrior to run the polls.

It's also kind of unnerving that so little security goes into choosing who will run the polls; it would have been easy for them to have asked someone who is both less than principled and has a stake in the primary. I suppose we're simply fortunate that they did not... this time.