8.24.2002


...It is easy to say that America's current war is for our survival and prosperity, but we are fighting for our ideals as much as we are for our physical well-being, so this war is not solely about bin Laden and al-Qaeda, but about whether the idea that succored them, radical Islamic fundamentalism, will destroy or be destroyed by American ideals.

And it just gets better from there. The author, Bala Ambati, lists seven great things about American culture. By culture, I don't mean the materialistic, gaz-guzzling, hamburger snarfing, greed that liberals have whipped themselves into a frenzy over, I mean true American values (like those enshrined in this document). Values such as the supremacy of the individual, the belief that everyone should have equal opportunities, and the belief that everyone has guaranteed freedom of speech (and that is a value as well as a right). Here's another gem:

Our system is intended to discriminate among persons based on their character and deeds, not on features of identity they were born with, principles codified in the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and restated in the Civil Rights Act. These allow each citizen to dream the American Dream, the continual betterment of the material well-being of the individual and the country, a dream that has nourished entrepreneurship and progress.

Now go! Read the article.

(via Little Green Footballs)
Aww...it's a little Sandy Koufax!
Tresa McBee doesn't really bring to light any new facts in her latest column, but she makes her point brilliantly in comparing US policy on Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Essentially, McBee wonders why the US is so furious over Egypt's conduct with regards to Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the pro-democracy advocate, but is silent vis-a-vis the kidnapping of US women by Saudi parents (remember Pat Roush?). The money paragraph is this:

Because I wonder: Where has U.S concern been regarding U.S. citizens held hostage in one of the world's most oppressive regimes?

I refer, of course, to our friend and ally Saudi Arabia, the Islamic theocracy that permits no freedom, regards women as chattel useful only for breeding and promotes terrorism outside its borders so as to keep the corrupt House of Saud enthroned.
In response to Becky's posts:
1) Parents will always be parents. Nothing can be done to force them to distance themselves from their child's college application. The op-ed is awesome, but it's a hopeless gesture.

2) I think it's acceptable in English to write "the hoi polloi." Even though in Greek hoi is the article, in English, hoi is just part of the foreign phrase. Only Greek geeks like myself get riled up because we read "the the common people." And, for the record, my mother has some delusions about moving to "SoHa".

8.23.2002

This is one of the reasons I love New York. When someone I know who lives in "SoHa" (read it to get it) saw this, she decided to write an angry letter claiming that her neighborhood was already hip before the writer decreed it so. I just love the idea that a neighborhood can be in or out of favor with the hoi polloi.

(And, as Jay Nordlinger pointed out, "If anyone even dares write me that “hoi” means “the,” therefore you just can’t say “the hoi polloi,” I’ll block you from my e-mail for life. Just try me." Smart man, that Jay. Had a hard life growing up conservative in Ann Arbor, Mich.)
If only everyone understood this . (You need to be a member, and I know it is the Times, thank you very much.)
Oh boy. Here we go again. Let the Fisking begin:

Environmentalists argued that the best strategy now...was to protect communities. They said the thinning of limited areas immediately near homes and other property might be acceptable but that fires should otherwise be allowed to burn to restore forests to their natural state.

The problem with this strategy is that reality must intrude. How can one thin the forests around every rural home? Even to do so in area of high-risk is improbable. Although the concept of surrounding every home with a firebreak (an area of little to no brush with the aim of preventing a fire's spread) is wonderful, it's a ridiculously implausible idea. Even if such firebreak were able to be constructed, the maintence -- undoubtedly left to homeowners -- would be impractical.

“The forest policy of our government is misguided policy,” said Bush, who called for an end to the government’s “hands-off” policy in national forests...
...
“The new policy is classic doublespeak,” said Kenneth Kreuschu, 24, of the Cascadia Forest Alliance. “It has been shown time and again that more cutting leads to more fire. The new policy is a hoax.”

Love the Orwell reference there, Ms. Kreuschu. Let's get a few things straight. In nature, fire is needed. Natural forest fires do the needed task of clearing out unneeded undergrowth which chokes the roots of trees and acts like a weed. Fires spread as much as they are able to; a natural fire will last as long as it is able to find sufficient kindling. Unfortunately, due to the fact that people live in areas where forest fires typically burn, the government cannot let the fires burn unchecked. Therefore, in saving people's property, the government is doing the environment a disservice by checking the burn of the fires. This is where logging steps in.

More cutting does not lead to more fires. Quite the opposite, in fact. A "managed forest" -- the term used for a forest that has been selectively cut -- has a much lower chance of catching on fire because the dead wood and undergrowth has been cleared out. The logging companies play the role that the fire was supposed to.

The US Forest Service is a separate issue. It is undoubtedly a corrupt and mismanaged agency, but that does not mean that all logging permitted by it is an agent of the devil. (For a closer look at the Forest Service, read this book.)

A coalition of environmental groups said Wednesday that instead of thinning forests, the U.S. Forest Service should shift its top priority from suppressing wildfires to protecting communities.
...
Headed by the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society, the coalition proposed creating “Community Protection Zones,” with $2 billion a year over five years going to fireproof homes and remove hazardous fuels in those areas.

Why, why, why? This would be like a doctor seeing that someone had the flu, and instead of prescribing medicine to eliminate the virus, the doctor handed the patient a box of tissues. Fireproofing homes is a waste of precious money. If the Sierra Club would realize that "logging != evil devil worship," things would be a lot simpler. Fireproofing homes shouldn't be needed, because the government -- and the environmental groups -- should be working together to managed forests and prevent fires.

Logging -- and most environmental issues, for that matter -- have fallen victim to simplicity of communication. Few people understand that logging can be used to save forests; it's a complicated issue that few environemental groups care to explain, because it undermines their message of "humans should not touch the wilderness." We're playing a game of telephone, and the initial message might contain something about allowing commercial companies to manage and thing forest, but the final message -- having been helped along by groups like this one -- is undoubtedly something about how the government is going to chop down all the trees in the US and force baby seals to drink petrol.
I think I'm missing something. Perhaps it's that I'm American, but some of the names on the list of 100 Greatest Britons make absolutely no sense.

One of the names on the list -- right between Michael Faraday and Alexander Fleming -- is Guy Fawkes. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't he a terrorist? Didn't he try to, um, blow up the government? And this is one of the best Britons?

Knock him off the list and replace him with Benedict Arnold. At least Arnold was loyal to the King.

[UPDATE: Andrea Harris points out that Thomas Paine is another list member. This would be the Thomas Paine who wrote "Common Sense", a document widely believed to have swayed colonial opinion towards Revolution. A quote from the essay says: "But that [the British constitution] is imperfect, subject to convulsions, and incapable of producing what it seems to promise, is easily demonstrated." Yes, the British definitely have a thing for traitors.]

8.22.2002

I read that about the gay Palestinians in my print copy of National Review, and I just said "duh." One of the oldest arguments between Jewish culture and Muslim culture was that Jewish culture was more accepting, even 5000 years ago.

Because the world hasn't forced the P[alestinian] A[uthority] to tolerate gays, Palestinian homosexuals are increasingly seeking refuge in the only regional territory that does: Israel.

Read the article and remind yourself what the differences are between a rational democractic society and a war-loving totalitarian regime.
Could this mean that the RIAA is seeing the light of wisdom? They recently dropped a suit against various ISP (including those run by AT&T); the suit had originally been initiated because the ISPs were allowing their customers to access a Chinese site offering "a treasure trove of mostly American music for free." The RIAA dropped the suit because the site had been shut down.

I was hoping that the suit would have gone to court, because the opinion would have been a valuble addition to the debate over internet music. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like that will be happening. Something else will: out of court settlements.

The opposition to Berman's bill allowing the RIAA to hack P2P networks is growing, and possibly showing the RIAA that the court system will not be the answer to all their problems, even though it helped them shut down Napster.

What we will be seeing more of, I think, is the RIAA using its political clout -- and the constant threat of legal action -- to shut down P2P networks. It'd be smart of them to do such a thing; avoiding the court system means avoiding enforced transparency, which means avoiding major press coverage and the resulting antagonism of consumers. The RIAA needs to avoid publicizing its actions, and out of court settlements are one way to go.

The RIAA might not wise up, however, as this article seems to suggest:

"Most parents would be horrified if they walked into a child's room and found 100 stolen CDs...However, these same parents think nothing of having their children spend time online downloading hundreds of songs without paying a dime."

Yes, that's the answer! Sue an otherwise innocent high school student for using Kazaa! I'm sure that will make consumers love you.
Comments are back, but now the archives seem to have wandered off into the great cybervoid. Anyone know how to fix this?
Stanley Kurtz has an interesting argument regarding the "new and improved SAT." The College Board is revising their testing main-stay; students will soon be asked more advanced math questions, no analogies, and an essay question, similar to that featured in the SAT II Writing Test.

Kurtz' argument is as follows:

This hostility to differences in ability is the real reason for the change in the SAT....the opponents of testing will be emboldened to pick away at an SAT which will now be far more vulnerable to calls for dilution than the old. In the meantime, the most important tool we have for exposing the corruption of our inflated grading system has been completely destroyed.

Essentially, Kurtz is saying that by caving in to the complaints of the UC crowd, the College Board has violated the sacred sanctity of the test, which is now open to further critique and revisions.

His argument makes sense, but his proposed remedy is far too messy. It is true that the College Board has embarked down what will undoubtedly be a long road of proposed revisions, but that's nothing new. The test was recalibrated in the mid-90s, and there is constant tweaking and modernizing of questions. What Kurtz overlooks, I think, is the possibility that the road the SAT has embarked on will be a loop, bringing the College Board trustees back to where they started.

The intent of the College Board -- increasing the difficulty of the test -- is admirable, but they are trying to do too much. By raising the bar for both math and writing, they are not only diluting the sanctity of the test, but the goal of the test. As Kurtz says, aptitude is a dirty word, and it seems the College Board is trying to separate itself from it. That is the wrong aspiration.

However, the College Board has a good theory. Because so many teachers teach to the test, the College Board has not insignificant power over the national high school curriculum. By changing the focus of the test from analogies to writing ability, they are encouraging teachers to, in turn, change their teaching plans. This is the correct aspiration.

How to reconcile the two? How to test aptitude, writing ability, and math skills?

Easy. And all the tools are in existence.

The College Board should, for a beginning, recalibrate the SAT to its original level of difficulty. Eliminate the 90's scoring scale, which inflated mid-range scores. Secondly, recommend that colleges require -- in addition to the SAT -- the SAT II Writing and Math (IC or IIC). Doing so would test aptitude, writing skills, and math ability, and would do so much more cleanly than the muddled new SAT would.

Kurtz says: "In short, a measure of aptitude, balanced with a measure of achievement, provides a college with the information it requires to draw up a total picture of a young and still developing student"

If the College Board were to present to colleges and universities the three test smorgasbord, it would draw a picture of both aptitude -- for the "diamond in the rough" students -- and achivement -- for those students who have had the opportunity to learn the skills.

Unfortunately, this testing smorgasbord would also result in a significant number of average scores. Is the College Board brave enough to stand up to the apologetic liberals and admit that there is an inequality in the intellegence levels of high school students?

I think they are brave enough, but we'll have to wait and see how drastically grades are inflated on the new SAT.

8.21.2002

As usual, Glenn Reynolds has an excellent point in his article on attitudes toward airline security measures.

The post-Sept. 11 air security system has been all about appearances. It’s the bureaucrats’ effort to fool the American public into feeling safe via cosmetic measures that create enough inconvenience to fool the gullible into thinking that all that hassle must be making them safer. That’s what has people angry. It’s not that the air security program is ineffective, and it’s not that it’s a big pain. It’s that it’s both at the same time.

I've only flown four times since 9/11 -- all flights to and from New York and Chicago -- so I've not had sufficient exposure to the airports to be completely ticked off, but I've no great desire to do it again. I've flown El Al enough times to know what effective, professional security should look like, and what Norm Mineta has implemented certainly ain't it.

We were flying out of Newark airport late on a Thursday evening, headed for Tel Aviv. A storm was delaying the plane, and all the passengers were being kept in the terminal until it was deemed safe to board the plane for takeoff. The problem? If we were delayed for too much longer, we were going to get into Tel Aviv after Shabbas had begun. Naturally, the Orthodox Jews were getting very agitated, and started berating this poor, Hispanic desk clerk in Yiddish. A middle aged El Al employee quite firmly shut them up (I learned later he was the pilot of the plane, and had previously flown a military jet in one of the wars. Impressive). Can you see something like that being dealt with as professionally by a Delta employee? I didn't think so.
You knew this was coming. The Iraqi ambassador to Berlin is blaming the hostage crisis on the CIA and/or Mossad (the Israeli intelligence agency known for the pinpoint accuracy of its attacks):

BERLIN (August 21, 2002 3:50 p.m. EDT) - Recounting the five hours he was held hostage by gunmen, Iraq's acting ambassador said Wednesday that he is convinced his captors were either Israeli or American agents whose goal was to raise German support for a U.S. attack on Baghdad.

Given the way the five men handily disabled embassy security systems and rewired a gate to enter the grounds, Shamil Mohammed said they could not have been ordinary Iraqi dissidents as they claimed.

"It was a good and well planned action and these people were not politically motivated, they are mercenaries, they are gangsters," Mohammed told The Associated Press. "I think you can ask the people in Washington or London or Tel Aviv about it - it was either CIA or Mossad."

Blaming something on the CIA because it was "a good and well planned action" is somewhat counter-intuitive (Q: How do we know the CIA wasn't involved in the Kennedy assasination? A: Well, he's dead, isn't he?). If this was sponsored by the CIA, which I doubt, then it was a dirty, foolish move. We need to be fostering democratic opposition of the sort that will establish and maintain a solid republican government in Baghdad, not the sort of opposition which will storm foreign embassies.
I adore Jewish humor, even though most of it is of the variety that's funny within the community, but obnoxious when told by a Gentile. My dad sent me this rather amusing e-mail:

The Roots of Jewish Eating Disorders

Rosh Hashanah -- Feast
Yom Kippur -- Fast
Sukkot -- Feast
Simchat Torah -- Keep feasting
Month of Heshvan -- No feasts or fasts for a whole month.
Hanukkah -- Eat potato pancakes
Tenth of Tevet -- Do not eat potato pancakes
Tu B'Shevat -- Feast
Fast of Esther -- Fast
Purim -- Eat pastry
Passover -- Do not eat pastry
Shavuot -- Dairy Feast (cheesecake, blintzes etc.)
17th of Tammuz -- Fast
Tisha b'Av -- Keep Fasting
Begin Again

Personally, I think it's less to do with the actual fasting/feasting (though all our holidays seem to center around food) and more to do with the effect that has on the chef, AKA the women of the household. Have you seen how chaotic it gets in the kitchen during every holiday? My family's already going crazy over what to cook for Rosh Hashanah.
Ha ha. You forgot to mention that your dear friend Mr. McDougall is Canadian. Did you expect anything else?

I'm so upset about Cynthia McKinney's loss that I may have to buy her a one-way plane ticket to Riyadh, where she would be stoned to death upon exiting the plane with no male escort.

Don't even talk about Arab News. It's a waste of a news service.

PS. In case you're wondering why Sarah makes all the good points and I just make the funny comments, it's because she's at home and I'm out all day. Plus, I hate the internet, and don't sit in front of my computer when I could be doing other things. Like, now for instance...
Wait, I thought the Times was anti-Israel. But now Arab News is claiming the opposite.

Or was it that the Times was anti-Iraq...or was it anti-Iraq War.

I'm so confused. I cannot keep track of the various type of biased reporting in the New York Times.
Someone goofed over at Cadbury's marketing department.

I'm disgusted...how dare they try to exploit the conflict over Kashmir to sell more chocolate. That'd be like someone using the patriotism after 9/11 to sell cars!

How dare they...
Yay. If things keep going in this direction we won't be hearing from Cynthia McKinney (D, Saudi Arabia) for much longer.

[UPDATE: Yes, it looks as if McKinney has definitely lost. That's L-O-S-T for those of you who can't spell (don't laugh, her father thinks people have trouble spelling "Jews").]

8.20.2002

Mr. McDougall is just begging for someone to Fisk his article (I consider him to be "begging" because it took me a moment to realize he wasn't joking).

And so it has come to this. Your once-great nation has fallen into madness, an affliction of mass denial that brings shivers up the spines of millions outside your borders.

Why does he feel the need to call us "once-great"? Is that to imply that is argument is, so to speak, nothing personal? I take issue whenever someone says we're "once-great", because no one has ever said when we were so great. I can't be anytime before the Civil War, because we were still exploiting hapless Africans then. And it's probably not during Reconstruction, because of the utter mess Andrew Johnson made of it. The 1890s are pretty much out because of the rampant corruption (Ida Tarbell and The History of the Standard Oil Company). Maybe the early 20th century, except we were in our colonization/Teddy Roosevelt phase then (A Man, a Plan, a Canal). Then we fell into isolationism and WWI, when we rescued Europe's sorry bums from the horrors of the trenchs. After WWI would be nice, except we were still into expansionism with the Open Door Note and the horrid US assumption that because we were so totally awesome, our companies would conquer everything, if allowed to expand unchecked. The roaring 20s -- which themselves fed the American idea that we are the best country -- led into the Depression. The Depression essentially led to WWII, which led to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I don't imagine Mr. McDougall likes Cold War (or post-Cold War) America much. So, when exactly were we so great?

A dubiously constituted government pursues war at will anywhere on earth, discussing nuclear options that become points for cheerful chatter over lunch. Your military and intelligence agencies employ terrorist tactics around the globe even as they insist that such tactics are necessary in the fight against terrorism.

First of, our government is not "dubiously constituted." What happened in Florida is over, and to bring it up in an attempt to discredit Bush is nearly childish (scratch that, it is childish). Our government has enjoyed high approval ratings since 9/11; it has had authority imbued in it by the earned approval of its constituents. Florida, I've noticed, is only brought up with Bush is being critized. No one says: "Thank god for Florida, look at what a great job Bush just did!". Stop exhuming antique arguments.

Secondly, war is always turned into "cheerful chatter." During peacetime, it's the only way war can be spoken of; any other type of discussion is out of place. Just because, I hasten to add, the chatter is cheerful doesn't also mean it's shallow or mindless. If anything, the fact that people are discussing it "over lunch" is encouraging; it means people are listening and know what's going on in the world.

This cheerful chatter doesn't mean action will be taken. I recall a film about the Korea war which featured clips from television programs at the time. One of them was a debate on some talk show; the guest suggested that we "bomb the hell out of those Reds" so "our boys" can get on with life. Another clip featured chipper music playing along to a cartoon of a plane flying over a map of Korea dropping atomic bombs on all the cities. It's not American attitude, it's human tradition. An article in Rolling Stone's 9/11 issue spoke about Pakistan's nuclear capabilities; apparently they have huge monuments to the bomb which are lit at night. Parents regularly pose their children in front of them for a lovely Kodak moment.

Your constitution is a shambles thanks to "national security" measures resulting from what might well be U.S.-government-sanctioned terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C., covert provocations designed to justify a malevolent, poisonous, oil-based military economy.

Our constitution is nothing of the sort. The great thing about a written constitution is that it’s written. No one’s taken an eraser to it or anything. At the moment, you have a point: the government has been infringing a bit too closely on our constitutional liberties. But, I promise you this, if this becomes a habit, people aren’t going to tolerate it, and Bush will find himself unemployed in 2004. To say it’s in “a shambles” is pure inflammatory rhetoric of the type we, sigh, have to put up with because of that damned Constitution.

If you honestly believe that the US government sponsored the 9/11 attacks to promote the corporate welfare of the Carlyle Group, there isn’t much I can say to you. Why don’t you go down to Georgia and vote for the only Senator who agrees with you?


As I write these words, you support a nation run by a convicted murderer by the name of Ariel Sharon who with impunity is carrying out war crimes as cruel and horrendous as those of other sadistic tyrants in history. And you say, in your utter cynicism, 'When will these Palestinians bring this war to an end?'

Our utter cynicism? Arafat reportedly stole billions of dollars in international aid money. Whenever the Palestinians try to come to a consensus amongst themselves, they are unable. Why? Because Hamas doesn’t want to rescind its goal of eliminating all of Israel – and all Israelis. Isn’t that something to be a bit cynical about?

One of the remarkable things about Israel – as opposed to Palestine – is that it is not “run” by Sharon. Sharon leads the government, a democratically elected government comprised of multiple parties (Israel has a true multi-party system). Sharon has the Knesset to rein him in; he has many, many Cabinet members to coerce him into changing his tactics; he has a nation full of free media sources to discredit him to the world. Sharon is no dictator. Arafat is.

With your government's support, crooked multinationals like Monsanto buy up the world's water supplies, and take possession of the world's vegetation through Frankenstein technology already known to cause illness.

“Known to cause illness”? What illness? In all my research into GM crops – crops such as golden rice, which supply needed vitamins to millions of people – I’ve heard very few examples of ones that caused illness, and all those examples were of things being taken off the market, precisely because of the safety tests designed to catch such things.

The potential inherent in GM crops is immense, and the risks are minor. Admittedly, the risks are present, but they shouldn’t frighten us away from utilizing a new technology. Where would we be if we ran away every time science looked “scary”?

You are a nation of suckers, America, to be bled dry of your hard-earned pay through outrageous bank schemes, Wall Street rip-offs and fake government budget grabs. Your Pentagon cannot account for trillions in lost dollars.
Does this bother you? Not in the least.

Okay, so the military establishment has some work to do. No government is perfect, and, thank god, our military hasn’t had much major work to do in which it would need such supplies. No real war has put our military to the test, which is part of the reason our Pentagon is so bloated. I’m not advocating a war for that reason; I’m reminding you why our army is somewhat pathetic.

“Wall Street rip-offs”. Hm. Market forces – you know, those things that drive capitalism – are largely impersonal. The reasons behind their fluctuations are much more complex than the election of one man over another; they’re larger than even the holy pronouncements of Mr. Greenspan. Some notable persons on Wall Street were corrupt, but most weren’t. I’m disappointed in you, Mr. McDougall; you’ve fallen for all the media hype of the corruption on Wall Street. Wall Street, at the moment, is no more or less corrupt than is has been since it was founded. It’s just that, at the moment, the government has ripped the scab off the wound to clean it out and has, in the process, attracted flies who were too busy to notice it before.

Notice that I just admitted you were right on two points? The details of your argument carry some weight – the stock market ain’t perfect, but no one’s saying it is – but your conclusion – that America is a hell because we aren’t perfect – is so laughably absurd and emotionally skewed that I can’t even call you a leftist scholar, a title I’ll even deign to give Noam Chomsky.

These very same money men are the ones who, through unmonitored and unrepresentative world committees, are driving countries like Argentina into hopeless debt and social upheaval. These greedy overlords are creating strife and suffering on a scale too tragic for words in nation after nation. Just look at Africa.

“Unmonitored and unrepresentative world committees”? How is that America’s fault? We’re not Tranzis, and the US only carries the largest share of the IMF and World Bank because we have the biggest pocketbook, not because we agree with the premise upon which the EU and UN are based.

The idea that you blame the chaos left in the IMF’s wake on “greedy overlords” just shows how paranoid you seem to be. It’s the choked bureaucracies of these organizations – choked by countries other than America – which cause such chaos.

And I’m looking at Africa. I’m looking. I’m looking. I’m looking. What exactly should I be finding? That, despite billions of dollars in international aid, Africa is still chaotic, and the US is still helping?

For the most part, your congressional representatives are nothing but swine gathering at the corporate troughs. Your president is a white-collar thug, a hypocrite who through his actions celebrates war, repression and greed even as he gives lip service to peace, freedom and justice.

Bush is not a “white-collar thug,” despite the repeated claims of those who cannot get their minds out of Miami-Dade. He was, at times, a stupid businessman who relied on his connections, but he was never a crook. Bush’s only problem with Harken was that he failed to file paperwork, something the SEC itself admits happens regularly.

If Bush celebrates war – and I question your use of the word celebrate – he does so only because it furthers freedom and democracy. Bush rightly was proud of the Afghanistan war because it sent a entire terror network running and brought attention to a problem – Islamic fundamentalism – which could destroy us all in its madness. And if and when we go to war against Iraq or Saudi Arabia, he should be proud of that as well. Routing out dictatorial regimes whose modus operandi is the destruction of everything America stands for is something to be proud of. Peace is great, but there are times when war is needed. Would you have called yourself a pacifist on D-Day? Could you have stood in London during the Blitz and said that you would not pick up arms against those trying to kill you? No, Iraq has no launched an attack on us yet, but will you move to Tel Aviv and bet your life that you won’t be infected with anthrax?

You don’t get America, Mr. McDougall, and that’s a crying shame. We’re such a lousy country, yet millions of immigrants pour in yearly. We’re so legally and morally bankrupt, and yet the ideas contained in our Constitution (the finest in history) are still philosophically sound.

Every single generation has its doomsday prophets, and every single generation has those who claim America will fall, topple under its own weight. It’s yet to happen, and the only thing I see differently in the future is Islamic fundamentalists who would kill me on sight for being a Jewish female (currently clad in a t-shirt!).

Perhaps you ought to move to America and see just what makes us so great to so many people.
Why is anyone shocked by this? Afterall, 26% of the resolutions passed by the group related to Israel's actions in the territories. This is the group that provided a forum to so-called Syrian diplomats wishing to spew forth nonsense about the blood libel. This is the group that, six years later, allowed the PLO to allege that Israel intentionally infected 300 Palestinian children with HIV.

Gadaffi as head of the Commission on Human Rights? Maybe someone, somewhere, will now realize the complete hypocrisy of this group.
Becky, my point is not whether it is better to teach high schoolers about abstinence as opposed to birth control, my point is that a teacher is responsible for teaching the full picture, not some neutered version of the facts. In any regards, teachers should not teach morals to students; they should teach the facts, teach their own interpretation of the facts, teach the students how to come up with their own fact-based theories, but should not teach students what are the "right" and "wrong" interpretations.

The problem with those government-sponsored, church-run programs is that they teach sex-ed...colored by their belief that if you disagree with their teachings, you are a sinner destined for hell.
Did you ever GO to Health class? Just seeing the old bat is enough to make you want to never have sex. In fact, it's enough to make you want to kill yourself because you don't want to grow old and look like her. (True, smoking 3 packs a day will cause you to look older, but eeew.)

I believe abstinence is the right thing to teach to teenagers, not because of my religion or anything, but because I believe it is better and easier to teach to kids than "safer" sex. If you taught kids that sex with a condom was safe, chances are, those kids would graduate sooner to sex without any protection than kids who were taught abstinence.

PS. The "R" in "SAFER" stands for: respect, responsibility, risk, and rubber. That's right, RUBBER. I stopped paying attention 30 seconds into that lesson.
Compared to this, the concern that school vouchers would breach the church/state line is small pittance.

Funding education on the grounds that they intentionally withhold information is morally corrupt. The entire idea of education is -- at least, should be -- that teachers provide students with enough facts to come up with their own conclusions. Teachers should guide students, but never tell students "This is what to think." I don't mean to imply that teachers should stick only to facts, but they should provide enough facts for students to come up with cogent arguments of thier own. There is be nothing wrong with funding sex-ed programs run by churchs, as long as the programs give the full picture. (The health teacher at my high school taught "SAFER" sex, saying that the only true safe sex was no sex. Clever.)

This argument in education theory is echoed in the debate over what to teach on 9/11. One teacher quoted in the article simply says: "The truth is always good." The NEA plan is a lousy, stupid idea, not because it seeks to blame America in the grand tradition of Noam Chomsky, but because it seeks to sugarcoat everything. I can understand censoring a lecture given to elementary school children, but beyond that, well, facts are facts. There is a reason why, in America, the truth can never be libelous. I wish I could hear this lecture:

James McGrath Morris, a 12th-grade social studies teacher from Springfield, said his lesson plan will try to explain why America was attacked by tracing the rivalry among the three Western religions with the most adherents — Islam, Judaism and Christianity — and noting that the terrorists were Muslim.
"These are all aspects of the facts," Mr. Morris said. "My lesson plans will not skirt the issues."

The NEA is doing its students -- and itself -- a great disservice by promoting a lesson plan that hides the truth in a pathetic effort to goad schoolchildren into blindly adhering to the NEA-sponsored political platform.

What would people think if the NEA's plan was the opposite? "NEA Creates Lesson Plan Urging Teachers to Highlight Religion of 9/11 Terrorists" Imagine the media stir that would have caused.
Forget high gas prices, this is the real danger of Saudi influence. Does anyone doubt where the money supporting the northern states of Nigeria comes from, if not the Nigerian government?

8.19.2002

A quote from an article in the London Times:

While Mr Mugabe appeals to the outside world for food, the 2,500 or so white farmers who are left have been forbidden from planting crops. They have watched helplessly as the war veterans and their hangers-on have invaded their farms, slaughtered their cattle and poached the wildlife.

“It’s the paradox in Zimabwe today,” says Peter Rosenfels, under siege at his farm near Bulawayo. “While the Government carries a begging bowl we, the producers of food, are being criminalised. Zimbabwe once fed the region. Now we can’t feed ourselves.”

Another article in the New York provides more information on the eviction of white farmers. (Interesting question: who is the victim groups in this situation? The landless blacks, or the white farmers being attacked by the oppressive government?)

Mugabe is busy implementing murderously racist tactics and starving his opposition party. He isn't that original; controlling the food supply in order to control the vote supply is not a new tactic. What is shocking, however, is that the UN hasn't done much of anything, except give him some food to dangle in front of his citizens. Why haven't they called an Emergency Special Session to deal with this dreadful starvation crisis?

Oh, right. They only have Emergency Special Sessions to deal with Israeli human rights violations in "the territories". Silly me, I forgot that.

(London link via Glenn Reynolds)

8.18.2002

Bill Thompson responds to criticism of his original article. I respect Thompson for recognizing the stir his article caused (even if his responding article is somewhat self-congratulatory). However, his responding article does not deflect criticism, it simply gives more ammunition to those of us wishing to hand him the dunce cap.

His original article was based on the premise that the Internet needs to be regulated in a way that more closely reflects "real" national borders; he deplored the internet's current state of affairs, and lamented that American internet hegemony, which forced everyone online to "swallow US values."

The follow up article, published by The Guardian, Thompson says:

The internet, 20 years old next year, is at a critical point in its development. It can either remain in the hands of the technologists and the geeks or become absorbed into our society as a key aspect of our daily lives. In order for this to happen it must, like television, telephony or motor cars before it, be regulated and controlled in the public interest.

What confounds me -- and what I think the critical flaw in the argument -- is this phrase "public interest." Thompson repeatedly returns to this concept as a central facet of his argument. Allow me to play Bablefish for a moment: public interest means European interest. In his response, Thompson himself says, “we need a network based around European traditions, serving European interests and subject to European law.”

Serving European interest, in Thompson’s world, means creating an internet based around the idea that because laws serve people, the internet would better serve people if it were regulated by individual governments. Doing so would protect individuals from being forced to comply to the US values laid out in the Constitution and uploaded to the internet (curiously, Thompson never discusses in depth any “US value” beyond our guaranteed freedom of speech.)

Here is where US and European values differ. Thompson – a European socialist – believes that a select few should decide what is best for the masses. In his mind, it is the job of EU judges to regulate the internet, allowing people to benefit from its gems, and protecting them from its evils (these judges will, obviously, be using a moral compass of their own devising). His hyperfocus on the First Amendment reveals his progressivist nature: he does not think that individuals should be allowed to self-regulate the material they receive via the internet. Americans, on the contrary, believe that individuals – many of whom are semi-intelligent – are the best ones to regulate the internet. The US is not trying to establish a hegemony over the internet; the US simply unleashed its citizens on the web. Millions of US individuals established their hegemony over the internet, a hegemony which is, unsurprisingly, based on US rights (especially free speech).

I’m not shocked that Thompson felt a need, in the conclusion of his follow-up, to remind readers that he believes in democracy. What he essentially is saying is that the internet should be taken from individual control and given to governments because they know best. By saying, “We need to build our borders online and offer our citizens protection within those borders,” Thompson is showing his utter contempt for the common citizen who is incapable of fending for himself, incapable of protecting himself from the horror of US constitutional law.

Any decent American should take affront at his article not because it demeans the value of our constitution, not because he labels our Founding Fathers a bunch of“rebellious slave-owners”, but because he demeans the value of each individuals intelligence. By desiring a supra-national governing body (the EU) to supplant the so-called hegemony of millions of American nerds, Thompson is striking at the foundation of American society: the individual reigns supreme.
Ipocrite-hay. The building will be wonderful, and there will be a fireplace. Plus, I enjoy battlements. They remind me of the week I spent playing soccer at West Point. Then, I felt I had to read this book . And, in case you're wondering, that is the same guy who wrote this piece in the Times.
RANDOMNESS:

1) I've added a new link to the list; it's a very nifty blog. Check out the post entitled "Just Throw a Dart".

2) Bad Building Project of the '90s: The school Becky and I attend is about to complete a really big building project (presumably in time for us to return to school in September). The administration decided they needed to update the building by gutting it and rebuilding the entire area (it shares a building with the library and theater). Now, I've seen the plans and I've heard eyewitness accounts, and everything screams "UGLY!". It's hugely overblown. The first thing visitors see is one particular corner, which now has an elegant brick entryway flanked by...towers. There are towers -- with battlements -- on my school. I can imagine what a visitor will think:
"Honey, is this the right place?"
"I think so."
"It's just, um, I think this might be the armory. See?"
"Maybe they have a bad history with the Gauls. I hear the neighbors don't like them much."

This is a classic example of how the soaring markets of the 90s encouraged instuitutions to overbuild. I can understand wanting to plan for buildings which would be modern in 40 years time, but the architectural style chosen for the project is visually overwhelming. The links between the overbearing style and the overconfidence in the market are obvious. Anyone else have similar examples?

On the bright side, the new library is supposed to be heavenly. Big reading room with windows! Enough tables for all! Yay!
Becky, I agree with you completely about the ethics of the SAT. The problem, however, is that not everyone does. There are discrepancies in the test scores of various ethnic groups, and males regularly score higher than females on the mathematics section. Some people look at the problem and think that the problem must lie in the test, not the students. Ergo, all sorts of compensations are being made (like eliminating the analogies).

In theory, the test is a wonderful idea. We need, as you said, "a comparison between those who are apt and those who are not." What we don't need is another politicized education tool.
I, elitist that I am, am a strong believer in the ethics of the SAT. It is just what it purports to be-- a "Standardized Aptitude Test." (For those of us that enjoy sleeping late, it also stands for "Saturdays Are Torture" but that's besides the point.) The test would not exist unless we needed to have a comparison between those who are apt and those who are not. I also don't believe that the SAT is unfair to people in less wealthy areas because I feel that in areas where people are expected to achieve more, more should be achieved. Yea, I'd prefer not to take the test, but I'd rather take it than hear some arguments about how it is unfair.
In short, some are apt. Some will achieve more than others. Social Darwinism at its finest.

The gormless drive for a 100 per cent pass rate in this exam is the result of two separate but conspiring forces. The first of these is the egalitarianism of the old Left, according to which nobody must be allowed to fail. The profound urge to deny, in defiance of all common sense, the reality of failure, has turned the old "gold standard" of the A-level into something completely different..


...education is meant to be for the benefit of individual youngsters, not to satisfy the ideological yearnings of politicians.


I'd love to hear something like this said of that devious testing standing, the SAT. Alas, we have yet to conquer our flawed politically correct tendencies and admit the obvious: some people are stupid and will test badly.

The Prime Minister is privately hoping that Saddam Hussein can be toppled without a war, but has told friends he does not intend to be a "fair weather friend" to President Bush.

More European leaders should take Blair's stance. We, as a nation, shouldn't be tolerant of nations standing by us only when there's nothing to stand for.