9.21.2002

A Summers Day in September

To add something to Becky's earlier post on Larry Summers, I'm recommending everyone read this speech delivered by Summers at the Memorial Church at Harvard on Sept. 17.

Snippet:

I am Jewish, identified but hardly devout. In my lifetime, anti-Semitism has been remote from my experience. My family all left Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. The Holocaust is for me a matter of history, not personal memory. To be sure, there were country clubs where I grew up that had few if any Jewish members, but not ones that included people I knew. My experience in college and graduate school, as a faculty member, as a government official -- all involved little notice of my religion.
I bet Larry Summers isn't too popular with the Palestinian Liberation front at his university, but he's cool since the whole ROTC thing (for some reason, the article is mistitled, it's not about U Chicago) I've held him in higher respects. However, until Freshmen don't have to move in on Rosh Hashana, he's still in a bit of a spot. And I'm never applying there-- when I went, I didn't see any student who didn't have huge bags underneath his eyes or any student who didn't rush with that self-important Harvard walk.
Spent Childhood Reading HHGTG, Not Marvel

Just noticed that Philip Bowermaster of The Ace of Justice has given Ciceronian a permalink. Agimus gratias tibi.

Check out AoJ...Philip doesn't update nearly as often as he ought, but when he does, it's well worth reading.
451 Burned Books

September 21-28 is "Banned Books Week", according the ALA. Take a look around their website; it's got some really interesting info, like the most frequently challenged books.

I propose this for the blogosphere: every blogger read a book from the "other side" of the political fence. Libertarian? Go read Marx. Conservative? Pick up some Sontag. Communist? Milton Friedman's your man. This plan's not entirely in the exact spirit of "Banned Books Week" -- and you're all free to go read Harry Potter (#7 on the above list) -- but it's highly relavent to the overall spirit of intellectual freedom. Plus, we'll have some top-notch fisking going on all week.

For the record, I have read only 27 books on their list of most frequently challenged book (which I see now is only from 1990-2000). On their list of most frequently challenged classics, I've read 28. What are your numbers?

And would someone care to enlighten me as to why The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is number 72?

9.20.2002

Anglophile

The UK's foreign secretary has this to saw about inspections in Iraq:

'Iraq's Foreign Minister was not telling the truth when he said that Iraq is clear of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Iraq does retain the capacity to use chemical and other weapons of terror against its neighbours and its own people, as it has done before. By pretending this is not so, Iraq has reinforced the need for the UN Security Council to insist on intrusive inspections with an urgent timetable.'


(via the tremendous Cato the Youngest)
Eye down't yuntersand y wreedink naeds 2 b a pre...prer....reezon 2 gradulate. Eye ken ged elonk good w. out wreedink.

[ed.--read the next post to see what she is talking about. It makes sense...kind of.]
IIliteracy is Good, says School Board Member

John Hawkins has a wonderful post regarding the further idiocy of the public high school system. Apparently, someone who just got elected to the Des Moines school board doesn't think reading should be a prerequisite to graduate. Wow.

In New York State, the only state I have good info on, four years of English and Gym are required for a state diploma. (Even private schools have to abide by this, although they are exempt from most other requirments, like the Regents system of standardized tests). Anyone have info on other states/countries?

Public school is, as a general rule, badly run. Despite that, people manage to get good education, but it could be better. My darling mother used to be on the school board of my suburban town, and I've rarely seen her more stressed than when she would come home from board meetings.

For a long time, my town struggled with the issue of regionalization. The state school board wanted to merge my school district (high test scores, good college rates, fairly wealthy) with a neighboring town's (horrible scores, limited college attendance, poor). The state had already merged it with another nearby town, and, as a result, most of that other town now attends private schools. Additionally, the town with the bad school has a fair number of very wealthy residents (the town is divided in half by wealthy and, unfortunately, race), who also send their children to private schools. The state school board, rather than address the issue of funding, teaching, etc... in the failing district, decided that forced busing would be the perfect solution. Nevermind that two other groups had already "opted out" of this by seeking alternative education, and nevermind that no one in my town wanted it. This was the best solution the state could come up with.

Public schools are good, but they could be so much better. Bloomberg is right to seize control of the NYC public schools -- maybe now something will get done. Ditto for vouchers.

9.19.2002

Don't forget the best part of the McKinney saga: Jesse Jackson hopped on a plane from New York to Atlanta to denounce Denise Majette's aid from outside sources in the campaign. (Read it until it makes sense. You're all smart though, and should pick up on the wonderful hypocrisy of the good Rev.)
Codeword: Sensible

John Nichols seems to think that McKinney's defeat was not her fault. No, he doesn't blame the J-E-W-S, but rather the cross-over Republicans allowed to vote in a system "designed by southern segregationist politicians to insure that all white voters could coalesce to defeat progressive candidates." Perfect quasi-conspiracy theory for The Nation's quasi-blog.

He begins by lambasting the trend in America towards moderate, non-inflammatory politicians, focusing on Barr and McKinney, both of whom lost their primaries. Because I'm less familar with Barr -- and because Nicholes focuses on him less -- I'm editing mentions of him out of segments. I'm not trying to misrepresent the article. Nichols says:

McKinney...stretched the limits of the political discourse...with her suggestions that the Bush administration might have failed to counter terrorist threats in order to pump up profits for corporations to which members of the administration and their families were closely tied.

If by "stretching the limits," Nichols means "falsifying incendiary stories for publicity," then, yeah, McKinney did that. Already his argument is faltering; if this is the radical politics he wants to see, why doesn't he support a repeal of the libel laws?

He also cites that she was not hesitant to "accuse Bill Clinton, Al Gore, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney of racial and ethnic insensitivity." So, who was sensitive? I'm sensing a trend here: McKinney attacks everyone, regardless of the vercity of her claims. Politics are politics; going at the leaders of both parties like that is not going to ingratiate McKinney with the Washington leaders. And much as Nicholes would wish it otherwise, that's important in Washington, not just for getting re-elected, but for getting things done. What good is a congresswoman if all she does is spout radical ideas, thus alienating possible supports and eliminating opportunities to help her constituents?

He continues:

When McKinney...pushed at the barriers of our politics -- even when [she] pushed too far -- [she] gave voice in Congress to the conversations that really go on in America. Freed of the stifling constraints of poll-driven centrism, [she] made a representative democracy more genuinely representative of all the opinions seriously in play in the land. As such, [she]...developed national constituencies -- in July, for instance, McKinney was the only Democratic politician invited to address the Green Party's national convention, and she continues to be boomed by some in that party as a potential 2004 presidential candidate.

Two problems. First, a "national constituency" means nothing. Neo-Nazis have a national constituency, but they're not going to win any elections. Same with the Libertarian Party. Neither wins elections, but both have supporters in every state. Whoo-hoo that she was the only politician invited to the Green Party's national convention. The Green Party has how many supporters? Maybe a lot in Florida, but not the numbers needed to sustain a politician career (even if your name is Nader). McKinney seems to have been a bad politician, in the truest sense of the world. She pissed off party leadership, and then aligned herself with an small independant party, neither of which are winning strategies.

Additionally, I doubt that it's key for Congress to represent all the opinions in the land. Now, coming from a Nation writer, I realize that Nichols is referring to the disillusioned opinions of wacky leftist pundits. Most of the country are moderates -- far-left and far-right are the definite minority. The problem with trying to represent a specific opinion sector as a politician is that McKinney pigeon-holed herself. Yes, during the 1990's, it might have been good to have her in Congress, but the post 9/11 government is one of consensus, and McKinney stuck out. She had outlived her usefulness and lost the election; it's not the first time it's happened. She didn't lose because she was a radical, she lost because there was no more need for her. The two are intimately connected, but there's a distinction.

But Nichols doesn't think that McKinney lost because she was a useless commodity in the eyes of votes. In fact, it's everyone's fault but hers that she lost!

Majette took advantage of a corrupt campaign finance system that allows a candidate who is unable to garner support at the grassroots in her home district to collect money nationally. And a good deal of Majette's national money did indeed come from supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's hardline policies -- just as a portion of McKinney's money came from supporters of Palestinian rights. But Majette's fund raising success...also benefited from the determination of Democratic Leadership Council types, good-old-boy southern conservatives such as U.S. Senator Zell Miller, D-Ga., and the business interests they represent to cleanse the Democratic party of outspoken critics of corporate abuses and free trade policies such as McKinney and Hilliard.

Was there anything McKinney liked? Israel, the past two Presidents and VPs, the leadership of both parties, whites, Northeners, free trade...the list is endless. But that's besides the point. Nichols is looking at this with blinkers on. Majette was able to market herself nationally -- although McKinney is supposedly the one with a "national constituency" -- and raise enough money to defeat the incumbant. McKinney got money from the Palestinians, Majette got money from the Jews. Both were out-of state. McKinney even got money from out-of-state Arabs during her term; Reynolds has a few postings about this (look through his archives). And money doesn't make the election; it certainly helps, but mostly for the name recognition. As an incumbant -- I believe McKinney had a highway named after her -- McKinney already had the name recognition. Money helped Bloomberg, but he wasn't running against an incumbant (Mark Green was largely unknown until the election).

Nichols draws two other false conclusions. One is that Majette's money came from Jewish hardliners, which it didn't. Much of it came from moderate, liberal Jews who were rightfully appalled by McKinney. Another is that the DLC wanted McKinney out because of her criticisms of corporate abuse. I'm not sure that the DLC, even if they wanted McKinney out, they had much to do with the election, as they have a "hands-off" policy with regards to primaries. Anyway, where was the Black Congressional Caucus? I'm not all too familiar with them, but is there a reason they didn't work harder to drum out the black vote for McKinney? (anyone have more info on this)

And lastly, we get to the "racists":

Majette, who like McKinney is an African-American woman, also took advantage of political processes designed by southern segregationist politicians to insure that all white voters could coalesce to defeat progressive candidates in Democratic primaries. Georgia law allows Republicans to vote in Democratic primaries, and they did so in droves in the McKinney-Majette race. While African-American Democrats turned out in tepid numbers, the Atlanta Journal Constitution noted that "a swarm of Republicans" took Democratic primary ballots. "The Republicans made a difference (in defeating McKinney)," explained the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the longtime Southern Christian Leadership Council leader who now heads the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda, a civil rights group. "They provided the margin (for Majette), which is unethical." Lowery is right; had Georgia primary voting been limited to party members -- as is the case in most American states -- McKinney might well have won.

I don't doubt that that is the explanation for open primaries, but that alone isn't responsible for her defeat. Democrats -- especially black Democrats -- didn't show up to the polls. Anyway, the point is somewhat moot, as, if the Republicans were such an influence in the primaries, they would have just defeated McKinney in the actual election. Again, Nichols tries to pin this on everyone one else, quickly passing over the mention of "tepid numbers," to go on to blame Republicans for voting. Hey, it's democracy, and you have to vote be to be heard!

With regards to Nichols original point that Congress is becoming increasingly moderate, I agree, but I don't think that it's a conscious effort on anyone's part. The left is in disarray. It's unable to mobilize anything with regards to Iraq; it can't stand up to Ashcroft; it had little hope of winning the White House in 2004, and minor hope of winning any sort of Senatorial majority in the fall. People like Majette -- moderate, sensible, not tainted by the Clinton-era -- might be to key. The Dems need to field a sensible team; rhetoric like McKinney's is painfully outdated. And it's time people like Nichols realized that and stopped blaming everyone else. Introspection hurts, but the Democrats need it.

9.17.2002

Oh yea. And if you go dissing John Adams again? I'll beat you with my copy of The Federalist Papers. Hard.
Jesse Jackson...the originator, calculator, not-self-hater, race-baiter? I wouldn't worry.

9.16.2002

It's Almost Too Easy...

...to make Jesse Jackson look like a complete loony. But it's fun, so here goes (from the Washington Times):

The Rev. Jesse Jackson yesterday told about 600 Michigan State University students that America's democracy was 37 years old, not 200-plus, and that "democracy as we know it did not begin in Philadelphia, where a bunch of white men wrote the laws."

"These men's wives were not allowed [to vote], these laws were made at a time when only white men had the right to vote," Mr. Jackson said, noting that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the commencement of "true democracy."

Yes, John Adams forgot the ladies. But that doesn't make Colonial America all bad. That "bunch of white men" wrote the laws that eventually allowed someone like Lincoln to be elected, who was able, under those laws, to write the Emancipation Proclamation.

And what about that? Why isn't that when democracy started? Or when Lee surrendered? Or when Amendment 15 allowed blacks to vote (way back in 1870)? And, if we talking about women, why not in 1920, when women (white and black) got the right to vote?

Oh, probably because that's too far back in history for most of Jackson's followers to remember. And I doubt Jackson can capitalize on his "involvement" with those acts, like he capitalizes on his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement.

"America is a great nation," Mr. Jackson continued. "But we only represent 6 percent of the world. English is a great language but it is a minority language Jesus didn't speak it. We are a great nation, but we have to be of service, we do not have to be superior.

If we're on the topic of the UN and English supremacy, may I point out that the UNGA conducts its meetings in English? And that most documents in the UN are written in, ah, English? We could use Mandarian, because more people speak that, but we use English, because the US and UK's economies are the strongest in the world. It could be argued that English is used solely because the UK and the US were founded members, but I don't see China motioning to change the language.

And I'd bet good money that Jesus didn't speak English because there was no English at the time. He did, most likely, speak Latin, Hebrew, and probably a smattering of Greek. Imagine the conniptions Jackson would have if someone suggested we use Latin because Jesus spoke it.

The event here was poorly attended after student organizers predicted a crowd of 6,000. The group provided 2,000 free tickets to students and booked the arena area of the center, which has a capacity of 15,000.

Why am I not surprised. He's a buffoon; no one in the right mind would want to here him speak. At least Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky have some marginal academic value.

Mr. Jackson also disparaged the nation's economic order, using the university's labor force as an example. "You see them out there every day, planting flowers, keeping the place clean," he said. "But they are the working poor. And the cost of a loaf of bread is the same for them as it is for anyone else."

The labor force at Michigan State University is unionized, with all employees making above the minimum wage.

I doubt Jackson knew that last bit. What, exactly, would he rather have? No one keeping the place clean? What sort of order could replace the current free market system? Communism just makes everyone equally poor; socialism ditto; totalitarianism makes everyone poor but the ruler...

Ah, it must be that gun-slinger we have in the White House. Get rid of him and I'm sure Jackson will think everything is a'okay.
With all my bashing of the Times yesterday (scroll down), I fell somewhat compelled to point out the good qualities which occasionally show themselves on its pages. This article is one of the good qualities. It's about the Iraqi mission to the UN, located on the Upper East Side (across the street from Bloomberg's apartment). Here is the homepage of said mission (fairly interesting reading).

I must have walked past that mission countless times; it's right near the 79th crosstown bus, which I take fairly often. I, somewhat biased, assumed that the office (which displays the Iraqi flag) was home to some sort of radical Islamist group. Suppose, in way, I was right.
I don't know how cool you all think this is, but I am going to buy an IDF T-shirt with my name on the back in Hebrew. Not only that, but the website sends care packages to soldiers or kids in the hospital if you spend more than 15 dollars there. It's nice, and the site talks about how Israel could use the money. So it's making me glad.

9.15.2002

Um...right. About the whole "I'm on staff at this blog too...really!" thing. I've just been madly busy. I've found that in between school and soccer and reading Slander, I've just not had the time. I'll try. Oh, and the story that I bet you've been sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for goes as follows:

We're sitting in my History class Wednesday afternoon, talking about the Quaker Meeting when the people start talking about what they did afterwards. One girl I'm constantly sparring with, she being much too leftist for my taste, says something like "It should have been all day or there should have been more." Someone chimed in "In my next class, the teacher let us sit on the field and talk." I, glutton for punishment like always, said "I had a class the next period, and I liked it. There was something nice about moving on. It showed that even though September 11 [I HATE the phrase 9/11-- it's crass. Do they want Pearl Harbor day to be PH Day? I didn't think so.] was terrible, it's not the be-all-and-end-all." Well, we sat in silence for, about 15 seconds while the class detected an intruder into its liberal fortress. The girl was shocked, and expressed her displeasure. My favorite part was that because of the round table in the classroom (for fostering discussion, not question and answer history) I was sitting facing everyone, while I felt like a heretic in front of Torquemada. It sure was odd. I stil love New York, however. Where else can you buy a "Rolecks" for....ten dollars!
That's it from me today; I'm off to the father's for supper, and then Kol Nidrei at BJ in Manhattan.

I wish you all an easy fast.


For on this day atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you from all your sins; you shall be clean before the Lord.
Leviticus (Vayikra) 16:30

TimesWatch Part V -- Tony Soprano, A Conservative?

The Times seems to be suggesting it.

At first glance, one might suppose that Tony was postmodern relativism personified — a vicious mob boss who resorts to psychotherapy in order to become a more effective criminal. But though he goes through the motions of introspection with Dr. Jennifer Melfi, he remains deeply skeptical of the anything-goes therapeutic culture that she represents. Instead, he longs for the simpler, less ambiguous America of his youth, a land of stoic men, supportive women and clear-cut rules of behavior.

In an article that is an advertisement for Stanley Fish, the reporter attacks the moral certainty of Tony Soprano, and appears to be drawing some connections to modern-day American.

Viewers could write off his moralism as purest hypocrisy. But he is no moral relativist. He really is trying to do the right thing, according to his lights. He is looking for what is truly good and bad, and surely it is at least as fair to see him as a symbol of man's divided soul, tainted by sin yet capable of goodness.

The reporter then comes to the a semi-strange conclusion:

Because Tony is a criminal, we do not take his values seriously, but we still identify with his belief in them, sighing guiltlessly for the lost world of moral certitude. No one could possibly call him a good man, but we know he could be a whole lot worse, so we regard him sympathetically in spite of his evil ways. After all, he's only doing what he thinks he has to do — just like us.

That's the spirit! Moral certitude is bad, because who are you to say that you're right? Look at Tony Soprano, he "kills people with his bare hands," and yet he thinks that he's acting as morally as he can. Look at the danger inherent in anything but moral relativism. Please, spare me you lectures on the benefits of post-modernism.

Oh, and this ought to get Rod Dreher mad:

It is no coincidence that in addition to being a moralist, Tony is explicitly religious...

Because those Catholics, you know, they're always so damn sure that they're acting morally. Shame, shame on them.
TimesWatch IV -- But If the Army Does It, It's Bad

While Purdy is off writing how people are just fine with Hussein possessing chemical weapons, Rick Bragg and Glynn Wilson are busy writing how some folk in Alabama are worked up over a plan by the Army to destroy some arms containing nerve gas -- described by the reporters as "the most inhuman weapons ever devised."

Admittedly, the Army's plan sounds sketchy, but the utter hypocrisy revealed by the moral inconsistencies in these two articles is appalling

TimesWatch Part III -- They Couldn't Find a Warblogger?

They're at it again. Personal interviews from the trenches on what the public really thinks about Iraq. In an article entitled Looking for the Elusive Two-Thirds Who Want War With Iraq, reporter Matthew Purdy goes up to Fishkill, NY to hunt down that 66% percent. What does he find?

What the hell do you think he found?

Mr. Sohan interrupts lunch preparations. "I'm a staunch Republican," he says, "and I want to see more proof." Mr. Sohan, 55, has three sons and says, "I don't want my sons doing what I did — without having the support of the country, without a clear intent."

If not the woman with the flowers, surely the soldier with an M-16 outside West Point's visitors' center wants war. "I hope not," he says. "A lot of innocent people would be killed."

Unfortunately, Purdy ran into some people who actual think Hussein is a bad guy. But no fear, he neutralizes them with a familiar tactic: turn them into a rabid conservative.

Thomas Kirk, a carpenter from North Carolina touring West Point, says Rush Limbaugh convinced him that Hussein was an urgent threat.

Got that? It's all Limbaugh's fault. Get him off the radio -- he's brainwashing Americans into thinking that a military dictator with many WMDs and a desire to see us burn like Sodom and Gommorah is a potential source of danger.

And then, following the liberal idea that veterans are the best judge of current foriegn policy, he quotes some vets, like Jim Chirico:

What about the risk of unleashing international mayhem? He worries about his grandson, a marine, but says: "I'm an old man, I've lived my life. Selfishly, I say it doesn't bother me."

To which Purdy snappishly writes:

Finally, the gung-ho spirit!

Really Mr. Purdy, is that tounge-in-cheek comment the best thing you can come up with? Jonah Goldberg is wittier in his sleep than you are on the front page of the Times.
TimesWatch Part II -- Alaska All Over Again

I'm not even going to read the article, but here's a blurb from the front page:

Global Warming Omitted
For the first time in six years, an annual federal report on air pollution does not have section on global warming. The decision was made with White House approval.

Here's a novel explanation for that: global warming doesn't exist.
TimesWatch Part I -- Wait, Who's Acting Legally?


[American Family Radio] knocked two NPR affiliate stations off the local airwaves last year, transforming this southwest Louisiana community of 95,000 people into the most populous place in the country where "All Things Considered" cannot be heard.

In place of that program — and "Morning Edition," "Car Talk" and a local Cajun program called "Bonjour Louisiana" — listeners now find "Home School Heartbeat," "The Phyllis Schlafly Report" and the conservative evangelical musings of Mr. Wildmon, whose network broadcasts from Tupelo, Miss.

The Christian stations routed NPR in Lake Charles under a federal law that allows noncommercial broadcasters with licenses for full-power stations to push out those with weaker signals — the equivalent of the varsity team kicking the freshmen out of the gym.


It's that horrible? The Evil Evangelicals are taking over NPR "translator stations," low-budget stations that relay the signal of other, bigger stations. According to the article, "The Federal Communications Commission considers them [the translator stations] squatters...anyone who is granted a full-power license can legally run them out of town."

Read the entire article, because the issue is fairly complex, but this is the essence: American Family Radio, along with many other independant Christian stations, have been rapaciously snatching up the rights to broadcast on the lower FM signals (typically between 81.0 and 91.1 megahertz). Previously occupying these signals were public radio -- like NPR -- translator stations, which had chosen to operate on the cheaper translator system rather than apply for full-power FCC licenses.

In the Times' own words:

The two public radio stations heard in Lake Charles, for example, were caught napping as American Family Radio maneuvered over several years to bump them off the air.


So, who's at fault? If you need to ask that, you aren't familiar enough with Raines' view on news reporting.

For many of NPR's 273 member organizations, the legal and administrative costs of competing against religious broadcasters are sponging up millions of dollars that they might otherwise spend on news and other local programming.

Get that? If it weren't for the Evil Evangelicals, the public radio stations could run better programming! Rather than focus on why the public radio stations were "napping," the Times focuses on how this harms public radio, and suggests rather overtly that the E.E.'s were targetting the -- obviously quite poorly run -- secular stations. The article opens with this:

"He detests the news that the public gets through NPR and believes it is slanted from a distinctly liberal and secular perspective," said Patrick Vaughn, general counsel for Mr. Wildmon's American Family Radio.

Here in Lake Charles, American Family Radio has silenced what its boss detests.

Even from reading the article carefully, I can tell that detesting the liberal slant of NPR wasn't what motivated American Family Radio: it was the fact that the signal was cheap, available, and legal, something the Times tries so hard to downplay.

Welcome to the Free Market; I hope the people in Lake Charles, LA like listening to radio-broadcast "conservative evangelical musings."