Monday, August 30, 2004

The Sadness of Being Gay in America
I can't make myself develop any anger over the hypocrisy that is Rep. Schrock from Virginia, a conservative Christian Republican with a 90+% rating from the Christian Coalition who has just been outed and now dropped out of his race for a third term amid the controversy. Right now, I just feel sorry for him and every other gay American who's had their true identities so beaten up emotionally that their outlets of true expression have been narrowed to hidden scandalous corners of society.

There has been no confirmation from the Congressman, but apparently there are tapes of him seeking out men. Here's a story with a link that claims to be an audio file of just that. Of course I have no idea if it's really him--mainstream media has not picked up this element of the story yet--but that is the story making the rounds. If it's true (and there's no other explanation for him dropping out suddenly), my heart goes out to him and every other gay person who must reserve their personal lives to anonymous, or pseudonymous, whispers into a telephone. He doesn't live that way because it's fun, I feel sure. We can't continue to ask gay Americans to live just one honest moment away from personal and professional ruin.

But, couldn't he have voted on the side of gay rights even once?
The bar has been moved on "the war on terror." Like, moved so far Bush is not even trying to win anymore.
The Reverend Bill Clinton
He gave a "sermon" at Riverside Church yesterday. Here's the text.
I believe President Bush is a committed Christian. I believe that his faith in Jesus saved him. I believe it gave him a purpose and direction to his life. But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t see through a glass darkly and knowing parts just like the rest of us. That doesn’t mean that their positions are not subject to evidence and argument

Sunday, August 29, 2004

The goal: convincing more people to vote against George W. Bush, which means for John Kerry.
The Target: People who wouldn't have voted otherwise, or would have voted for Bush, or for Nader.
The Strategy: protesting in the streets near the Republican Convention.
The Danger: Compelling, accidentally, people who would have voted for Kerry to support the President instead in a reaction of solidarity with the President, and against the protestors.

Does it work? Could it work? How?

UPDATE: Protest picture/story here and here.
Article 19 Movie Review
Festival Express: ************ (12 out of 19)
A good but not great musical documentary chronicling the traveling festival that crossed (in more than one sense of the word) Canada by train in 1970.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Can we stop calling them the dream team now? I liked it better when college kids played. Even if they couldn't compete for gold, wouldn't it be more fun to watch them than professional cry-babys?
Reading the New York Times so you don't have to
Guess who conducted a 30-minute interview with the paper?
...he opened his palms and shrugged when an interviewer noted that new intelligence reports indicate that [North Korea] may now have the fuel to produce six or eight nuclear weapons.
Maybe he didn't understand the interviewers because they didn't say "New-Cue-lerr."
What did Albert Einstein wear when he opened his web site?
You can find out at

Looks like a site worth revisiting in October.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

That Might Be Insight
Excerpt of Lyrics from "Wearing a Raincoat", from They Might Be Giants' new CD: Spine.
Turning to drugs to help you sleep
Will only lead to sleep
And sleeping is a gateway drug to being awake again

Being awake is swimming around
In a lake of the undead
And the undead are like a bunch of friends
That demand constant attention

Demanding constant attention
Will only lead to attention
And once they have your attention
They use it to ask for attention
And once they have that attention
They use it to ask for attention
And once they have that attention
They use it to ask for attention
If you don't like TMBG, there's not much I can do for you, but if you are a fan, stick with this new one. After a less-than-inspired first listen, about half of it is really growing on me, and one tune may be stuck in my head forever. It only leaves while I'm asleep, so I need drugs to help me sleep, and turning to drugs to help you sleep will only lead to sleep...
Smackdown on Bob Dole
Former Nixon special assistant Noel Koch has his say.
Great Moments in Lawyer Crap
You may have heard that Ben Ginsberg (one of the stars of Florida recount cases) had to resign from the Bush-Cheney team when it was discovered that he also is the attorney for the Swift Boat Fabricators, after Bush et al assured everyone that there was no coordination or relationship whatsoever between the campaign and the nasty 527 (since that would be against the law). Ginsberg's explanation as to why this setup could never have been a problem (from Josh Marshall):
I was at the nexus of making sure (coordination) didn't happen. To suggest otherwise is flat wrong.
So, he was at the heart of the effort to make sure there was no coordination. You might even say he coordinated the effort between the campaign and the anti-Kerry group to ensure that no coordination took place whatsoever.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Back to School
First day back to class today, a shock to the system. The feeling for me is a strange mixture: of being (finally) at home while also completely uncomfortable. Sliding into the academic world over time has a kind of adolescent simmer to it. With each year, the inclination to identify more with my teaching colleagues than with my students grows more real. It is a denial on my part, I'm sure, of the true unease that comes with real, adventurous education. You know that sensation--of lying in wait, ready to be consumed by the next idea you read, the next text (music in my case) you study, and willing for it to turn you inside out if only it has the gumption to try.

So, why shy away from it now? It's not about age, not strictly, that's for sure. It's not about changes in music; that's too easy. And anyway, I never liked popular music of my own youth either. I think it's mostly about daily routine, a kind of spiral of forgetting that props itself up with the known, a routine that just can't stomach the capriciousness of wonder. So we start to define ourselves as what we know and what we have learned, forgetting the intense requirements of attention and openness; yeah, that's it - openness.

A year ago I found an essay by Rorty that I came back to today, that reminds me of my role, and indicates to me that it's not a relationship with my students that threatens to change, it is one with myself. How easy is it to begin to define ourselves by what we have learned and by our routines? We never used to do that!

Higher (non-vocational) education is about disclosing yourself, not your subject; at least, it's about disclosing that part of yourself that has found its truest expression of freedom and wonder (not knowledge and understanding) while lying in wait at your discipline's doorstep, ready to be turned inside-out. It's about admitting, at least implicitly, that the whole system can, and will, and must, ultimately be undone. College students don't need to be taught certain things and let go. Rorty says, "students need to have freedom enacted before their very eyes by actual human beings. That is why tenure and academic freedom are more than just trade union demands. Teachers setting their own agendas - putting their individual, lovingly prepared specialties on display in the curricular cafeteria, without regard to any larger end, much less any institutional plan - is what non-vocational higher education is all about." (my emphasis)

The best teaching isn't in the effective explanation, or even the probing question, though I'm pretty good at both of those in the classroom. The best education, at the college level anyway, is in building--no, allowing--a relationship of honesty with students, honesty about a truly continuing search for the sublime and a suspicion of convention. Like all self-disclosure, it is not without risk.

Maybe there is a parallel in your life/profession; it feels like a pretty transferable feeling. Even if not, at least you know now, knowing me and my capacity to self-disclose, why I never sleep before or after the first day, when we get the chance and responsibility to start all over again, not unlike a first date. What other profession lets you--demands that you--do that so regularly?

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Misplaced Faith
I hope that any medical malpractice reform we must suffer will still allow you to sue witch doctors:
A Tanzanian who went to a witch doctor in search of the power to resist bullets and knife attacks died when ritual cuts made on his body proved fatal.
Too bad, that sounds like the kind of thing that might work. Maybe this is one of those you ought to see someone else do first.

No word on whether Bob Dole witnessed or sanctioned this injury.
DUH Award
Article 19 awards the DUH for last week's most outstanding Captain Obvious moment in the media to 2 deserving recipients (after a manual recount, it was still a tie):
1. Condi Rice on Hannity: "This President realizes that wars are fought by people." That President, really making progress isn't he?
2. In a shocker, this year's annual study of teen sex and drug use found that some young people, and slightly older people, tend to be be bad influences. Quite a change from 2003, when teen peer groups encouraged mostly civic participation and love of parents and siblings.

Slightly missing the cut were reports that fraternities and sororitities are popular at schools, that 5 year olds with glasses are sometimes teased, that winning a trampoline competition doesn't necessarily change your life.
Moral Cowardice
Far be it from me to question someone's moral character, much less the President's. So I'll let Josh Marshall do my dirty work for me, from the post of the day:
A moral coward is someone who lacks the courage to tell the truth, to accept responsibility, to demand accountability, to do what's right when it's not the easy thing to do, to clean up his or her own messes. Perhaps we could say that moral bravery is having both the courage of your convictions as well as the courage of your misdeeds.

As I've been saying here for the last couple days, the issue isn't that Bush ducked service in Vietnam. It's that he tries to smear other people's meritorious service without taking responsibility for what he's doing. He gets other people to do his dirty work for him. Again, that image of McCain calling him on his shameless antics and his look of fear, his look of feeling trapped.

The key for the Kerry campaign to make is that the president's moral cowardice is why we're now bogged down in Iraq. It's a key reason why almost a thousand Americans have died there. President Bush has set the tone for this administration and his moral cowardice permeates it.
When can I be a test subject?
Mice get all the breaks.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Civility, Christians, and Politics
In light of my mood over the weekend (see 2 previous posts), I thought it would be a good time to finally get around to this.

Our good friend Joel Snider has written a column on the topic of civility in public discourse. I don't really disagree with the heart of it, and it sounds like the kind of request for moderate tone in debate I would make myself, or at least try to make of myself, the last angry 2 days notwithstanding. But something about it leaves me uncomfortable. Here's a snippet:
Bitter words spoken during a campaign are not easily forgotten when the election is over. And I am not talking about words between candidates. Rather, I am talking about words between neighbors who supported different candidates.

This trend is embarrassing because some of the people who move us in this direction, some of the people who use this tactic, are also people who profess the most loudly to be Christians.

In my Bible, Paul says, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus." I have a hard time thinking many of the comments made are done "in the name of the Lord Jesus."

I doubt we can change the political process or the trend of the nation. But we can refuse to contribute to the decline of public discourse.
Insofar as what he's really saying, kindly, is that Christians can be the biggest dunderheads and jerks in public debate, and are making a mistake by, in the name of Christ, trying to score points emulating a ratings-driven media setting that rewards rhetorical aggression, I agree. The Crossfire/Hardball/Bill O'Reilly approach does indeed seem to ultimately make Hatfields and McCoys out of regular folks who have regular disagreements in a way that hardly epitomizes Christian empathy. Understanding the mindset of people you disagree with certainly works better if the goal is learning to love and communicate with them, rather than learning to tear them apart and discredit them.


Isn't there a danger of losing the Christian voice--that of compassion and responsibility for those who have the least--under a determination to argue public policy kindly? Sometimes, doesn't the prophetic voice of the church have to be loud and confident and forceful? And wouldn't it be nice if those who believe that vision has more to do with economic fairness and safety nets, commitment to non-violent solutions to international disputes, and good stewardship of the Earth spoke as forcefully as those who think being Christian is all about condemning homosexuality and outlawing abortion?

What if Dr. King had, in the name of agreeable neighborhoods, avoided confrontational language in arguing for civil rights, the way that moderate ministers have stayed away from offering a religious framework for welfare policy, or war-making? When was the last time you heard a minister argue for universal health care in a strong enough way that any news media would hear them and relay the message? When was the last time a legislator was afraid to cut taxes on the wealthy for fear of being pummeled by the parables of Jesus from his Christian constituents?

We don't always control what's done in the name of institutions we hold dear, or the arena in which they must be defended. For the last 30 years in this country, "religious issues" have been named and controlled by right-wing radical moralists, who have gained considerable political power in the process. It's true that most of the rest of the God-fearing church-goers, those not right-wing radical moralists, are turned off by strident debate. And it's true that the prevalence of strident debate in our society is not good for civil unity. But the legacy of the Christian voice in America will continue to be the spouting of dunderheads and jerks until ministers and proud Christians who care about important issues decide to join the debate, where it's happening, even if that requires a public denunciation of fundamentalists; denouncing them not just for how mean and power-hungry they are, and not just once they're crushing you, but for the mistaken substance and direction of their positions. They might have to be interrupted.

Can this be done without ever being remotely rude or caustic to get a word in edge-wise? These days, probably not. I have friends who don't even believe me when I tell them there are Southern Baptists who are not hateful Republicans. If word is going to get out, if reasonable Christian leaders are going to avoid the fate of being the proverbial unheard tree falling in the forest, they might need to learn an appropriate insult or 2, or develop the capacity to interrupt a creep every now and then.

I'm all for soft-spoken argument, taking the high-road, listening, understanding, empathy, reaching for common ground, and civil disputes among adversaries, but not at the cost of ceding all terms of debate, which is what most (white) ministers of good intention have done. Christians certainly need not exhibit the worst of the behavior, as many do, but I'm afraid that "refusing to participate in the decline of public discourse" will require refusing to participate in public discourse at all. And that's unacceptable.

I'm not saying that's what Joel is saying. But that is the discomfort I am left with after reading his piece, and thinking about everyone trying to get along. I'm afraid that by the time reasonable church leaders of good will get done waiting for the civility bandwagon to fill up, the church will have lost all claim to relevance in truly important ethical battles, if they haven't already (slippery slope?). I have already begun assuming we'll have to fight on without them, and doesn't it sound like he's already given up on "changing the political process or the trend of the nation"? I hope I'm wrong.
Yes, this is a continuation of the previous post, but it cannot be helped. I'm dumbfounded by the turn of the Presidential campaign: so sick that the news is dominated by disputes over what Kerry did or did not do, deserved or did not deserve, when he was in Vietnam. There is so much at stake in this election, and no one has talked about any of it--even in their surface, cover-yourself, conventional politician's way--for 2 weeks. The media is so very culpable in this development. The right-wing is obsessing, Clinton-style. And the blogopshere and mainstream media have followed their lead.

The Boston Globe hits on one important reality of the double-standard at work:
IMAGINE IF supporters of Bill Clinton had tried in 1996 to besmirch the military record of his opponent, Bob Dole. After all, Dole was given a Purple Heart for a leg scratch probably caused, according to one biographer, when a hand grenade thrown by one of his own men bounced off a tree. And while the serious injuries Dole sustained later surely came from German fire, did the episode demonstrate heroism on Dole's part or a reckless move that ended up killing his radioman and endangering the sergeant who dragged Dole off the field?
Will we have to, again, wait a year before major newspapers do mea culpa stories again, admitting their complicity in this diversion? It is maddening that this foolishness, brought on us by Veterans with mis-placed anger, exploited by the campaign of an incumbent President who, along with his VP, did everything he could to avoid the harrowing danger that Kerry pursued as a young man.

I remain convinced that virtually all of the charges should be totally irrelevant to the present campaign, even if they were true. But here is yet another compelling piece, written by another who was there on the day most in question, backing up Kerry's version of events: A Veteran for Truth. As far as I am concerned, the contention that Kerry was not being shot at when he rescued Jim Rassmann has been totally discredited. There should be a special circle of Hell reserved for any journalist who continues to allow that question to be raised by those who have been undone, just because it's controversial and makes for lively debate; could they be more irresponsible??

Whether that circle will be slighter hotter, or slightly cooler, than the one now awaiting Bob Dole is up for debate.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Fighting Back
At this point, it's nice to see Kerry putting the "Swift Boat Veterans" and the Bush campaign on the defensive [UPDATE: Edwards is doing it too.]. If the media are going to obsess over this irrelevant nonsense, we might as well not give Rove a free pass. The Kerry camp is taking it even farther than I would have guessed: they've followed up the hard-hitting speech from yesterday by filing a complaint with the FEC.

Team Bush is responding like they always do when someone takes them on: calling him crazy. McClellan used the phrase "lost his cool" or some variation 3 times in today's press gaggle, and Republican Campaign chairman Marc Racicot says Kerry looks wild-eyed. I think they only have 2 pages in their playbook.

Am I missing something essential in my belief that none of this matters? I mean, take the swift boat Republicans at their word. Suppose Kerry exaggerated the danger he faced when he pulled Rassmann out of the water, and even fled first before coming back. Suppose his action reports were filled with puffed-up accounts of his team's exploits, and his purple-heart-yielding incidents were less than deserving. And suppose he even actively considered using his military service for future political purpose. I don't, for one, believe there's been any credible evidence for any of that, by the way, but let's just suppose for the sake of argument that it's so.


What, he's the first candidate for President to ever self-aggrandize, and in his twenties? The Vietnam War was a horrible disaster for nearly an entire generation of young American men. It was a travesty foisted upon them by a government and a Pentagon that got us into a foolish war that wasn't worth fighting, lied to keep us there, and then abandoned its Veterans upon their return, as if it was their fault. Being there at all was an indisputable risk to these kids' lives (Here are the B's....unbelievable). As far as I'm concerned, any medal any of them could have received from the military, after what was done to them physically, emotionally and mentally just in being sent there, was pretty weak payment indeed.

If building up yourself and your team to receive more medals actually took place, even if the purpose was getting the hell out of there as fast as possible and/or making yourself look like a bigger hero than you were, who the heck cares, especially now that we know what a dishonorable war it was on the part of those that put us there?? And most of all, who could criticize Kerry for this in support of Bush, in light of the President's service decisions at the same time? If Kerry's actions at age 25,26,27 are going to be the focus of the campaign, why not at least compare to what Bush and Cheney were doing with themselves at those ages?

To be sure, I'm not for a second believing that the charges against Kerry are indeed true (see especially updates at the bottom of this post about the mounting evidence that Kerry's detractors are not telling the truth). I'm just perplexed that they've seen so much attention, given their irrelevance even if they were true. And I'm also not saying that the most evil, vicious of American soldiers in Vietnam (and I'm sure there were some, though a very relative few) are worthy of being honored, but I don't hear even his detractors accusing Kerry of that.

The worst part of all of this is that Bush's record as President and both of their plans for the next four years are getting lost in this 30+-year-old debate. I'm sure that's part of the point of Bush's not criticizing the group and re-inforcing his own statements that Kerry's service was honorable, urging the debate to focus on plans for the future. He would certainly win political points for staging that kind of leadership, but clearly not more than he would lose by having the focus return to his record of failed policies. Maybe by putting Bush on the defensive on this issue, he can be cornered into having to do just that. Or it will be perceived as desperation on Kerry's part, a fear that people are buying this nonsense. It's a gamble, this fighting tactic, but we don't need this all-negative, all-defensive run-up to the Republican Convention.

And, oh yeah, where's the backlash against negative campaigning that we always hear is so central to the non-partisan, undecided middle??

UPDATE: More evidence is growing that this group is really all about payback for Kerry's anti-war statements to Congress. They don't seem to have a clue about his service. They just want to harm him. The Washington Post has that story.

UPDATE2: Even more are speaking up that the Swift Boat group are just plain liars, angry about Kerry's congressional testimony, which itself is worth a read, and Atrios posts it here. Another commander happens to be a copy editor for the Chicago Tribune who wished to never think or speak about the horror of Vietnam again. Watching the lies about Kerry has compelled him to speak up, in a lengthy piece to be published in the Sunday Tribune. Story and preview here. (sorry reg. reqd.)

[Note: You can still nominate your Captain Obvious for the DUH award in the previous thread...I'll hold off on the award until Monday. Maybe we'll get more.]

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Calling Captain Obvious
UPDATE: Extending the DUH nomination period through the weekend. Even if you don't have a nominee, be sure to comment on your favorite(s).

Trying something new, after a suggestion from the comments last week. This thread is for nominations for the coveted prize to be awarded late Friday afternoon known as the DUH. The Damn Useless Hooey award (or the Dumb Understatement...something starting with H) will be given to the most foolish or funny we-already-knew-that article, report, statement, whatever. Award will be determined by consensus, unless disagreement forces me to rule with an iron hand.

Nominate as many as you like in the comments, up until the award is announced late tomorrow. Summarize the essence of (or quote if it's just a statement) the Hooey, and if it's something you find on the web, please give an address so we can all go read it. It's a weekly award, so only those things that were reported/said/published this past week qualify. No quotes from Abe Lincoln or whatever.

If we like it, we'll do it every week.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

"The Pet Goat" reviews removed at Amazon
You will remember that "The Pet Goat" was the book President Bush was reading with kids when told that the country was under attack. Reader reviews of it have been taken down from the Amazon site, but thanks to the beauty of the Internet, you can still read them here. (via Hadit at DailyKos)
More Logic Nerdism (Nerdity? Nerdology?)
I'm not alone! Kevin Drum hates the constant slippery slope "arguments" like I do. He misnames his menace the "reductio ad absurdum" which is a close cousin of the slippery slope fallacy. Many sources cite them as one and the same fallacy. I was taught that technically a reductio ad absurdum is a technique (not always a bad one) that demonstrates, by assuming an argument's premise(s) to be true, that they lead to absurd, untenable positions. When your technique is based on sound reason, you can indeed successfully refute an argument using a reductio ad absurdum. When you're full of crap and trying to scare people, and your "reductio" has no justification, you are guilty of the slippery slope fallacy.

Please, somebody slap me.
Retiring GOP Congressman Turns Against the War in Iraq
Why can't Kerry just say directly what Rep. Bereuter is saying now to his Nebraska constituents:
"I've reached the conclusion, retrospectively, now that the inadequate intelligence and faulty conclusions are being revealed, that all things being considered, it was a mistake to launch that military action," Bereuter wrote in a letter to constituents in the final days of his congressional career.
"Knowing now what I know about the reliance on the tenuous or insufficiently corroborated intelligence used to conclude that Saddam maintained a substantial WMD (weapons of mass destruction) arsenal, I believe that launching the pre-emptive military action was not justified."
I think it's even Kerry's position, though he would have still voted to authorize force "if necessary, as a last resort"; he doesn't think launching the pre-emptive war we did was justified either. But he just doesn't seem willing to say it directly.

Fareed Zakaria thinks Kerry's "nuanced" position is the right one, even though his statement that he would have still voted to authorize force if he knew then that there were no weapons is a "lie."

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Why No One Likes Catholic Bishops, Part 396
I saw a brief bit on this while flipping by Keith Olberman's show, but didn't know it was the same bishop trying to invalidate communion for pro-choice Democrats that is now condemning an 8-year-old girl to Hell for having an illness (via Atrios and the General):
An 8-year-old girl who has a rare digestive disorder and cannot consume wheat has had her first Communion declared invalid because the wafer contained none.
Is it not enough that bishops get to decide whose magic hands are necessary to deliver communion to you? They have to have a single kind of magic bread as well? The priests are godly enough to turn the bread into the very body of Christ, but the diocese believes their powers have disappeared if there's no wheat? All this time I thought the Church was the active ingredient in transubstantiation....

We can only hope this emotional trauma has happened upon a child (and a family) strong enough to, one day soon, steel her jaw, fill her lungs with a deep breath of self-assured confidence, and truly know in her heart that if there is indeed a God, She/He loves her without reservation, and will smile with omnipotent approval while she tells Bishop Smith where he can stick the nearest stalk of wheat.

Shame on the whole sorry, phony lot of them.
Charter Schools Fail, but that's not the point
It is tempting to point to new test results showing charter school students trail average test scores in every category as evidence that the experiment is a mistake. Not surprisingly, these numbers were not exactly shouted with fanfare:
The findings, buried in mountains of data the Education Department released without public announcement, dealt a blow to supporters of the charter school movement, including the Bush administration.

The data shows fourth graders attending charter schools performing about half a year behind students in other public schools in both reading and math. Put another way, only 25 percent of the fourth graders attending charters were proficient in reading and math, against 30 percent who were proficient in reading, and 32 percent in math, at traditional public schools.
But we should not play that game right into their hands. Does this information make proponents mistaken in one of their main tenets about allowing parents to choose schools? Yes. But the argument that charter schools will be an educational failure is secondary. Even if they produced an increase in test scores, charter schools drain public school resources and ultimately can threaten constitutional provisions separating church and state. Charter schools aren't as inherently dangerous as voucher programs, depending on how they are structured, but once our loudest argument becomes about test scores, all public-school-detractors have to do is increase theirs. In general, charter schools fail many other important hurdles than just--for now--that one.

See more about charter schools from People for the American Way here.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Half-Assed Anarchists
I for one am glad for their decision, but there are going to be some guilt-ridden anarchists come November 3, once they realize they've committed the sin of participating in their government, as many of them discussed doing at a recent anarchists convention convergence. Even though they don't believe in government, even anarchists are just too upset with Bush and the Iraq War to not vote against him. It seems to me that an anarchists convention is in fact the perfect place--maybe the only place--for an anarchist to properly announce solidarity with governmental process. Some anarchists couldn't wrap their brains around that kind of commitment:
"Ultimately, those who are voting are either bad anarchists or not anarchists at all," said Lawrence, a "Californian in his mid-40s" who declined to give his last name. "No one can represent my interests. We reject political professionals."
Irony feedback head explosions to follow.
John the Baptist Found?
I have to admit, I don't really care too much whether the conclusion drawn by biblical archaeologist Shimon Gibson is true. There's still plenty to be fascinated by in finding a cave brimming with 2,500-year-old artifacts, evidence of some kind of ritual/religious cleansing exercise, and the cave drawings and carvings of those who wished to leave notice of their existence and activities:

The explorers uncovered 28 steps leading to the bottom of the cave. On the right, a niche is carved into the wall - typical of those used in Jewish ritual baths for discarding the clothes before immersion. Near the end of the stairs, the team found an oval stone with a foot-shaped indentation - about a shoe size 11. Just above, a soapdish-like niche apparently held ritual oil that would flow through a small channel onto the believer's right foot.
Now, if only we knew a biblical scholar to tell us all what to think about this...
From the files of Homer J. Simpson
The good news is that nuclear reactor operators at the University of Wisconsin have gotten a pay increase, since--you know--protecting that kind of thing is pretty important. The bad news (besides the fact that we have a nuclear reactor at the University of Wisconsin) is buried near the end of this NYT story from yesterday:
The reactor operators are paid $10.50 an hour. They recently got a raise to that level, said Dr. Corradini, because someone discovered that campus file clerks were paid more than the reactor operators.
Who knew that Mr. Burns was setting the going rate before?

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Weekend Iraq Reader: Hell in a Handbasket
Let's not forget: securing peace, or at least stability, should have been part of the plan from the beginning. The treachery that US troops and Iraqi citizens now face from anti-American insurgents (which Fred Kaplan in Slate notes is only another way of saying "citizen" in some parts of Baghdad) was a more-than-foreseeable outcome. This lineup of bad news marks either a total failure to plan, a pre-war vision completely at odds with reality, or both. There was never any question about our ability to bomb the country all to hell and remove their dictator; this was always going to be the hard part right? And yet that realization seems to have played no part planning or decision-making process leading up to the war.

UPDATE: US-trained Iraqi soldiers are refusing to fight in Najaf (via Kevin Drum)--"I'm ready to fight for my country's independence and for my country's stability," one lieutenant colonel said. "But I won't fight my own people." "No way," added another officer, who said his brother - a colonel - quit the same day he received orders to serve in the field. "These are my people. Why should I fight someone just because he has a difference in opinion about the future of the country?"

1. Truce talks in Najaf fall apart--"The fighting in Najaf has set off the most serious challenge yet faced by the Allawi government in the seven weeks since it took power, with the return of sovereignty to Iraq. It confronts American military commanders with a widening series of attacks that have spread to a dozen or more Shiite towns and cities across a 300-mile swath of territory south of Baghdad. . . . As the talks imploded, fresh convoys of Sadr supporters were arriving in Najaf from the cleric's main stronghold in Sadr City, the sprawling Baghdad slum that is home to two million Shiites, and from cities as far south as Basra, 200 miles away."

2. Professor Juan Cole remarks on the US bombing of Samarra--"I don't understand how they expected to inflict any significant damage on the guerrilla resistance if they announced the air raid before hand (which they must have, if the civilians mostly left). Is this symbolic warfare-- the buildings are being punished for having housed insurgents? The US military looks more like the Israeli every day. And, doesn't anyone besides me mind our military bombing a country that we occupy? How is that not a contraventions of the Geneva Conventions?
You can't bomb buildings in a city without wounding or killing innocent civilians. The bombs turn windows and bricks into a kind of shrapnel and send them flying into the eyes of children and the chests of women. The radical Islamists in Samarra (if that is what they are) may be bad guys, who blow up innocent civilians, too. But there has to be a better way."

3. Slate's Fred Kaplan takes the long view and believes there may be no solution--"The Marines could readily defeat the insurgents in Najaf, but only at the great risk of inflaming Shiites—and sparking still larger insurgencies—elsewhere. In the Sadr City section of Baghdad, as U.S. commanders acknowledge, practically every resident is an insurgent."

Friday, August 13, 2004

The Department of Unnecessary Science
Why is it news that rats become addicted to cocaine, just like humans?

In the next issue of Science: Gravity keeps dogs on the ground too, just like us!

UPDATE: Maybe as a treatment program, we can send the drug-stricken rats to Australia for some rest and rehab. It could be as good for them as it was for the Argentine ants, now flourishing in the laid-back outback.

UPDATE 2: I read this earlier this morning, but really it fits into this trend of new-reports-declaring-stuff-we-already-knew: Bush's tax cuts favor the wealthy and shift the burden to the middle class. What, has casual Friday turned into "common knowledge" Fridays for journalists and scientists?
"Ownership" ad smushed to bits
Paul Krugman shows why he's a New York Times columnist and I'm not, highlighting the real problem with Bush's ownership ad, particularly the President's last phrase--"I understand if you own something, you have a vital stake in the future of America." Krugman pounces:
Call me naïve, but I thought all Americans have a vital stake in the nation's future, regardless of how much property they own. (Should we go back to the days when states, arguing that only men of sufficient substance could be trusted, imposed property qualifications for voting?) Even if Mr. Bush is talking only about the economic future, don't workers have as much stake as property owners in the economy's success?

But there's a political imperative behind the "ownership society" theme: the need to provide pseudopopulist cover to policies that are, in reality, highly elitist.
Just think, had he backed off the tax cuts for the wealthy, kept his eyes on Osama with a little more early persistence, and let the UN lead in the move to bring down Saddam, Bush could have kept the budget in better shape, and maybe captured both tyrants by now, and would be cruising to an easy re-election. Listening to mis-guided advisors obsessed with Iraq, and those committed to supply-side economics, has for some reason become more important. That's why he's going to lose.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Porter Goss
[UPDATE: Kevin Drum has more scary stuff about Porter Goss.]

You know how "Bork" became a verb to describe what happens to a judicial nominee when facing stiff opposition to the Senate? I'm thinking maybe "Goss" is also on its way, it will mean screwing up your own chances, as in "I think that guy Gossed himself."

If you haven't heard, Bush's CIA nominee unknowingly (because he's a fool, I guess)talked to Michael Moore's producers on camera for Fahrenheit 9/11, saying among other things, that he could never get a job in the CIA, because he's not qualified:
"I don't have the language skills. I, you know, my language skills were romance languages and stuff. We're looking for Arabists today. I don't have the cultural background probably," Goss is quoted in an interview transcript.

"And I certainly don't have the technical skills, uh, as my children remind me every day: 'Dad you got to get better on your computer.' Uh, so, the things that you need to have, I don't have."
If they don't actually have him on video, then he can just claim they made it up, which of course isn't true, but it might get him through. The guy's name has been bandied around for weeks. Moore played it perfectly and waited until he actually got nominated. Beautiful. I hope they still go through with the hearings; I'd pay to see those.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Last-minute party switcher being taken to court
Alexander the in-grate waited until the last minute to try and change his party affiliation, a strategy he admitedly thought of himself, to keep other Democrats from stepping in. If you're like me, your immediate reaction was "that shouldn't be allowed." Turns out, it's probably not. A true patriot is taking him to court and it would seem that the law is on his side.

So now, Alexander has lost his staff, the 70,000 bucks he has agreed to return to Democrats, since he effectively spit on their contributions, and he's being pressured to return the money donated for his 2002 run. His whining that this backdoor, last-minute rug-pull maneuver was one of courage and not cowardice is repulsive hilarious. He would have fit in just fine with the GOP, wouldn't he? But perhaps now he can't even be a candidate any longer.

Atrios has the story, and the legal mumbo-jumbo. It's good.

My question is if he's truly booted from the race, is there any chance Democrats can put someone up? Or are they relegated to a write-in campaign? There was already another Republican running so their side wouldn't be blank.

All conservative Democrats must be faced with a primary opponent. You never know what can happen.

UPDATE: The DCCC has it covered as well, and links to Article 19!
"Ownership" Ad, response #1
My brother and I have shared many yucks watching the President's new TV ad called "ownership," one of the biggest bunches of hilarious nonsense crap you will ever hear. I think Bush must have written it himself. Here's the text:
I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message. One of the most important parts of a reform agenda is to encourage people to own something.
Can encouraging people to "own something" even count as a reform agenda? Encouragement like clapping? Or saying "you go, girl"? What kind of agenda is this? What kind of reform? Apparently a (any? his?)"reform agenda" has "parts"; and of them, one of the "most important" is "encouragement." Oddly enough, I own stuff. Most people own "something." What good is that sentence? Thankfully, he clarifies:
Own their own home, own their own business, own their own health care plan, or own a piece of their retirement.
Those last 2 he just threw in because "home" and "business" aren't enough "somethings" to make a very healthy looking list.

I don't know about you, but my barriers to owning a home, much less a business, have really nothing to do with lack of encouragement. What people could use to help them own homes and businesses are better paying jobs, the promise of help(i.e., money, not encouragement) providing benefits to their employees, fully-funded pell grants to help their kids go to college, fully-funded federal mandates to keep their counties and states from going broke and raising property, business and sales taxes, plus tuition rates. And that's just what white people need. African-American and Latinos could also use a little oversight that punishes notoriously racist banks and lending agencies that keep them from getting decent loans in the first place.

As for health care plans, most people would settle for owning a policy that covers them and their kids. I don't even know what "owning a health care plan" means. The people that do have a policy could stand to own a lower deductible, own a little dental/eye coverage, and own a premium that's not as expensive as their mortgage payment.

As for owning my retirement, I just hope the Social Security and Medicare funds are still in place when I need them. If Bush would stop raiding those trusts to fund wars and tax cuts for people that already own stuff (toooons of stuff), that would make me feel much more empowered than playing the stock market (badly) with it. That lockbox is sounding pretty good right about now isn't it?
Reforms that trust the people, reforms that say government must stand on the side of people. Because I understand if you own something, you have a vital stake in the future of America.
I'm sorry, I must have missed it...what reforms exactly are we talking about? Is he actually proposing....anything? Other than that it's cool to own...something? Hasn't he had 4 years of his brand of "reform agenda"? You can watch the ad here (scroll down to "latest tv ads")
"Ownership" Ad, Response #2
Mr. President,
I recently saw your new campaign ad, "ownership." I would like to take part in your offer. You are right that it will make me feel much better about my stake in America! If I understood correctly, I can choose between owning a home, a business, a health care plan, or a retirement plan. Owning a home would be nice. Are the homes you are offering in decent neighborhoods? Also, I am renting my kitchen appliances right now, so please include those in my home (and I'll need a pretty big yard if possible) if I choose that option.

Owning a business really sounds vague. Do I get a real decent business like a Mrs. Winner's or Krystal? If it's one of those crappy infomercial kind of businesses I think I'll pass. Please be more specific with what kind of business I can own.

Owning a health care plan sounds great, but do you mean I get my own insurance company? Or just get to control one of their plans? My idea for a health care plan is one that provides all the food a person needs. Food's a part of health care, right? Unlimited beans, bread, peanut butter, eggs and milk for a starter. Maybe that will be the name of my health care plan that I own. But it sounds like a lot of paperwork. Like you, I'm not so good with the words (or numbers!) So I will probably pass on the health care plan.

Also my ideas for owning a retirement plan are mainly that there should be a lot more sex. I think if retired people had more sex, they would be healthier and happier. Maybe we could bring some younger people in to try to spice things up (in return for a tax credit, or college tuition break of course). That would be my retirement plan anyway.

Thanks for the offer! I'm leaning toward the home right now. Please send more info. Thanks!
"Ownership" Ad, Response #3
Shorter version of the Ownership Ad:
Black people really clapped when I talked about owning homes and stuff earlier, but I'm not sure why. I thought it would be smart to have a TV ad saying that owning stuff is cool.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The FCC Song
Tuesday afternoon relief. A song by Eric Idle, dedicated to the FCC. I think it's a few months old, but I'm just now finding it. It's not work-safe, unless you work at an especially cool place. If you work at a radio station, clicking this link, just might cost you a quarter of a million dollars.
DNA exonerates another death row inmate
They had DNA testing seven years ago, right? Why couldn't they have used it when Ryan Matthews was on trial at age 17? Prosecutors are the ones with all the money. Don't they want to know if the person they're sending to death row really did it?
Pet Peeve
A "slippery slope" is the name of a standard fallacy. It is a failure in reasoning, an error one commits in argument. You are guilty of it when you maintain that one occurrence/state would or will lead to another (usually more serious and clearly undesirable) event without arguing for why it would do so, and often skipping over many obvious necessary steps in between that would not necessarily follow. The "slippery slope" is generally a lazy scare tactic that is, by definition as a fallacy, unreasonable. It is a "where will it stop?" appeal that is recognized by logicians as an error.

You may not, for example, claim that promoting stem cell research will lead to the "divorce" of science and ethics. That is a bad argument. You will fail every logical reasoning class with it. And the words your instructor will write over your attempt are "slippery slope." They are the name of your failure.

So if you're trying to sneak one by, the last thing you want to do is to use that very name as the vehicle for your bad argument. Why do so many people use "slippery slope" as if that phrase describes something logical and truly scary that helps their point, when it is the very title for their faulty reasoning? White House spokesman Scott McClellan arguing against the danger of stem cell research: "It's important that we not go down a dangerous, slippery slope where we divorce ethics from science."

There is no demonstrated slope between the two. Certainly no slippery one. It makes me crazy. Let's not use the phrase "slippery slope" unless we're accusing someone else of being guilty of it in their own rhetoric. Tell them their failure has a name, and that is it. It is "dangerous" only in arguments, not in real life. You can read more about it, and other fallacies here. Don't even get me started on using the phrase "begging the question."

Monday, August 09, 2004

Vote on new Moveon ads
Filmmaker Errol Morris (Fog of War; Fast, Cheap and Out of Control; The Thin Blue Line) has made a series of 17 testimonial commercials for moveon's pac, featuring Republicans who supported Bush in 2000 but will not this November. They will show the highest rated of them during the Republican National Convention. You can view and vote on which are the most effective, here.
Party Comparison
Check out the front page of the Republican Party website:

Then look at the DNC site:

One's a little more obsessed with the negative, wouldn't you say?

Sunday, August 08, 2004

The Bush Doctrine regarding domestic priority
from a Rumsfeld radio interview conducted in the Windy City:
...change the name of Chicago to “Chicagostan,” I’d probably get here more often.
Yes, if the major oil fields needed a pipeline through the mid-west I'm sure they'd get lots of attention there. Until then, deal with the loss of manufacturing jobs on your own.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Obama's a real environmentalist
Salon writer went looking for cracks in the integrity of Barack Obama's liberal credentials on the environmental front, and found none: (subscription or free day-pass req.)
His efforts on behalf of the environment have been so consistent and comprehensive, in fact, that LCV and the Sierra Club endorsed Obama in his bid for Congress this year over half a dozen other Democrats competing in the primary. Last month, the LCV named him a 2004 Environmental Champion, one of 18 sitting and prospective members of Congress to receive the award.

Obama is "by far one of the most compelling and knowledgeable politicians on the environment I've ever sat in a room with," Mark Longabaugh, senior vice president for political affairs at LCV, told Muckraker. "I've been playing national politics for more than 20 years and I quite literally can't remember one person I've met -- even on a national level -- who was more in command of facts, more eloquent, and more passionate on these issues than Sen. Obama."
If you have "on demand" digital cable, you can watch Democratic Convention speeches now, including Clinton's and Obama's.
Controlling the Conversation
Nobody's talking about the economy, despite its growing limp and the fact that Bush's goals/forecasts from only 6 months ago have been off, terribly.

Nobody's talking about Iraq anymore, despite the virtually unwinnable situation it would seem to be for the US.

Nobody's talking about Afghanistan anymore, where President Karzai is in the process of legitimizing Taliban leaders as a last-ditch effort to save any hope of stability amid Taliban raids and attacks on governmental and election workers.

Instead we're talking about terrorist threats here, how we're not safe, according to the President, and whether or not Kerry is a true war hero or a fraud.

How do they manage to always control the terms of debate? Economy isn't sensational enough for the media; the only way the press knows how to discuss Iraq is in political terms, about Kerry's votes authorizing war and denying 87 billion dollars. And Afghanistan is just so 2002 they've lost interest.
Article 19 Movie Reviews
The Manchurian Candidate: ******** (8 stars out of 19)
Maybe I was in the wrong mood, but I thought it came too close at times to that treacherous border between serious and silly.

The Village: ************ (12 stars out of 19)
Many genuinely surprising events throughout, and some truly tense/scary moments, and plenty of conversation topics when it's all over. Still I was left with a bit of an empty feeling about it...about 7 stars worth.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Instapundit links second-hand to this report, giving him a chance to smirk at John Edwards' 2-Americas vision. The state of Georgia is a place, the argument goes, where there is no longer a serious haves-havenots division by race because minority buying power has "more than doubled" there in the last 14 years.

Of course, that's only in real dollars. You may not be surprised to learn, if you actually look at the report, total buying power in all of America more than doubled over the same period. Duh. Of course total minority buying power is going to increase in dollars so long as the population continues to grow. And indeed, population growth is surging among minorities in Georgia as well. The question should be: has minority buying power, in terms of market share, increased at the same rate as population percentage? And let's keep in mind that minorities were already behind (I know, even in a progressive state like Georgia?!). So, are they catching up?

I did a little quick math. Market share among African-Americans in Georgia, according to this report, grew from 16% to 20.2% in that time period, the second best gain of any state. The problem is that black population increased from 27% to nearly 30% in the same period. True, market share is gaining on population, that's the good news, but at the present rate of growth (if GA could sustain that high level of performance),African-American market share won't catch up to population percentage in Georgia until about the year 2046, when both reach about 40%. That's real progress, huh Glenn? I guess we can call off the concern about an opportunity gap among African-Americans in Georgia...tell them they need wait only 42 more years to reach equality.

And that's in one of the best performing states in this regard. In all of America (which is really Edwards' concern: 2 Americas, not 2 Georgias), according to this report, African-American market share has reached 8.4%, while population sits at 12.47% Taking the rate of growth of each from the last 4 years as a marker, African-Americans can look forward to having a buying power equal to their population share between the years 2144 and 2148. That's right. In 140 years. That puts us right now at about half-way to economic equality from the Civil War.


And even that leaves aside the fact that Edwards' "2 Americas" is not especially about race (most poor people are white), it's about wide gaps of opportunity. I'd say this report, far from questioning the validity of that idea, proves one measure of Edwards' accuracy without a doubt. A little more actual reading, a little less snarky speed-posting, and mighty Instapundit might be a bit less annoying. Why did I use to like reading him?
Guess Who?
Personally, for the last 25 years I have always stayed one step away from partisan politics. Instead, I have been partisan about a set of ideals: economic justice, civil rights, a humane foreign policy, freedom and a decent life for all of our citizens. This year, however, for many of us the stakes have risen too high to sit this election out.
It is through the truthful exercising of the best of human qualities - respect for others, honesty about ourselves, faith in our ideals - that we come to life in God's eyes. It is how our soul, as a nation and as individuals, is revealed. Our American government has strayed too far from American values. It is time to move forward. The country we carry in our hearts is waiting.
Beautiful. Once you see who it is, and what he's promoting, do you think the danger of backlash makes this effort worth it? I worry, but then that's what I do.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Terror Warnings
If there is a specific terrorist threat against financial buildings in NY and DC, I sure want them to tell us, and to take actions to try and thwart it. But the administration has a tough sale to make because of past politicization of the security issue. We'll call it the "consider the source" rule.

Howard Dean was right on when he talked to Chris Matthews:
This is a disturbing pattern in this administration that we see again, and again, and again. And, yes, any administration has the opportunity to manufacture news, and the question is, not is there a terrorist threat or not, there clearly is, not whether al Qaeda presents a danger to these five buildings, yes, it clearly does. What of the timing of the release of this news? Why are we getting news that’s three years old and that we had access to three weeks ago? Why are we finding that out on the Sunday after the Democratic National Convention?
When will they learn? They could have given the information over 2 weeks earlier, or at least made it clear that this scary research is 3 years old. In other words, contrary to the clear signals they sent, there's no particular reason to suspect this week over any other week. After a couple of days of slamming Dean (from not just Cheney, but Lieberman and Kerry himself) for questioning the integrity of the political wing of the White House, the Governor's skepticism is gaining more and more traction, as this new headline from Reuters shows: "Credibility Cloud Hangs Over US Terrorist Warnings"
Remember the article on Norah Jones' appeal that we discussed here a while back? The same author, Jody Rosen has a review of the new Prince CD, Musicology, in The Nation. I love Prince, even though he lost me a little over the last half a dozen years. Somehow this review manages to both hail the new recording as a masterpiece, and criticize it for not being worthy of him. But's an interesting take on this moment in a great musician's career, and on Prince's place in the shifting pop music climate.

I'm always a bit amused, and can identify somewhat, thinking of what the target audience is for an article like this one, bringing together as it does a praise of grinding funk with sentiments like: "Here is a great big snarl of artistic neurosis that Harold Bloom could appreciate." Is he trying to get the Harold Bloom fans to listen to Prince? Or the Prince fans to read Bloom? Or just speaking to those that already straddle that fence?

Anyway, if you are interested by Prince, Rosen's piece is a nice read. Here's a snippet:

Musicology's title track is a shamelessly note-perfect James Brown pastiche, an "old school joint/4 the true funk soldiers" that centers on a rhetorical question: "Don't u miss the feeling/Music gave ya/Back in the day?" With its horn stabs, cracking snare drum and percolating bass line straight out of "Sex Machine," "Musicology" is designed to stoke nostalgia for that allegedly better, nobler musical era, and to set up another question, Prince's big punchline, a dig at hip-hop, delivered with a gruff harrumph over a stop-time: "Take ur pick--turntable or a band?"

As a marketing ploy, Prince's newfound nostalgia makes some sense. For the past several years, r&b has been overrun by earnest young singers, wielding tattered copies of Stevie Wonder's Innervisions and Fender Rhodes electric pianos, who revive, with varying degrees of skill and slavishness, the sound of 1970s soul. After a decade in the commercial wilderness, Prince may have decided that neo-soul was good business. After all, he's capable of disappearing into the studio for an afternoon and churning out a period piece that young stars like D'Angelo, Erykah Badu and Alicia Keys would labor over for weeks.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

New Voters, Old Hype?
I've heard the "voters will come out of the woodwork" argument before and been disappointed (think Dean in Iowa). Michael Moore is pushing this take as well: the idea that more people are engaged than before and that polls looking for "likely voters" miss a ton of people that will sway the election: new voters, previously disaffected voters, etc. In the end, the polls seem to come pretty close, and I don't expect them to miss by much when it's all said and done, even though those arguments sound nice.

Still, reports like this, even though the numbers are relatively small in the big scheme of things, are encouraging and make me think polls at least aren't likely to be wrong in Bush's favor (from the Miami Herald, via Alternet):
Heber Siri, a Uruguayan immigrant in South Florida, will become an American citizen later this month. And as soon as the ceremony is over, he will register to vote. "That's why I'm becoming a citizen," Siri, who works at a Coral Gables car dealership, said. "I want to vote."

Siri, 55, will be among the 9,000 new citizens who will recite the oath of allegiance in two large naturalization ceremonies Aug. 10 and 11 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Nationwide, more than 40,000 immigrants are expected to become new Americans in August.

They're part of a surge of immigrants in South Florida and across the United States who plan to become citizens in coming weeks -- many of them driven by the desire to be eligible to vote in time for the presidential election.

Federal statistics show that almost half a million immigrants have sought citizenship between October and May, 32 percent more than in the same period last fiscal year.
Some Florida immigrants may be voting Bush, but I have to believe that most new citizens will be overwhelmingly Democratic.

Everywhere I look, with every group I volunteer to help, people are registering new voters--it's the standard progressive-group activity. And yet I don't think I've heard a single comprehensive story about any notable increase in registered voters. Have motor voter laws made registering to vote so easy that registration drives aren't really needed or successful? I assume that if the voter rolls were shooting up, somebody would have noticed, and people would be talking about it...

Monday, August 02, 2004

Absent a record to run on, Bush-Cheney '04 is going to try and Gore-ify Kerry over the next month. I'm afraid it will work, but it's disgusting. How do we counter this:
President Bush's campaign plans to use the normally quiet month of August for a vigorous drive to undercut John Kerry by turning attention away from his record in Vietnam to what the campaign described as an undistinguished and left-leaning record in the Senate.

Mr. Bush's advisers plan to cap the month at the Republican convention in New York, which they said would feature Mr. Kerry as an object of humor and calculated derision.
Nice of them to live up to our expectations.
Lamar(!) Proposes a Voucher End-Run
Everywhere they come up for a public affirmation, voucher programs are being voted down by citizens. We are just not willing to drain public school monies for private school promotion.

So Senator Lamar Alexander is seeking a new way around this public relations problem, proposing a "Pell Grant for kids" program. No Child Left Behind coffers, which are already severely under-funded by our President and Republican congress, despite its significant federal mandates, would under this idea be handed out to low and middle-income families in $500 increments for educational use, costing the federal government $12 billion in education funds.

The Senator paints a pretty picture, of parental coalitions pooling their money and presenting it to principals for the funding of an after-school program, or new math tutor (Hey, isn't that the kind of thing we elect School Boards to do?). But we know the motive here: subsidizing private-school tuition, setting up a middle-man to allow the government to fund religion indirectly, and ultimately gutting public education altogether.

I think it's a terrible idea. Tell Senator Alexander what you think.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Anti-intellectualism, starting in the White House
I just read an interesting piece by the esteemed Dr. Henry Louis Gates in today's NYT about the responsibility of black leaders/adults to talk to black kids about the choices they will make (a la Bill Cosby's recent controversial remarks), in light of the beautiful vision of Barack Obama. The essay includes bits from a conversation between the two of them.
Making it, as Mr. Obama told me, "requires diligent effort and deferred gratification. Everybody sitting around their kitchen table knows that."

"Americans suffer from anti-intellectualism, starting in the White House," Mr. Obama went on. "Our people can least afford to be anti-intellectual." Too many of our children have come to believe that it's easier to become a black professional athlete than a doctor or lawyer. Reality check: according to the 2000 census, there were more than 31,000 black physicians and surgeons, 33,000 black lawyers and 5,000 black dentists. Guess how many black athletes are playing professional basketball, football and baseball combined. About 1,400. In fact, there are more board-certified black cardiologists than there are black professional basketball players. "We talk about leaving no child behind," says Dena Wallerson, a sociologist at Connecticut College. "The reality is that we are allowing our own children to be left behind." Nearly a third of black children are born into poverty. The question is: why?
The jaded fear of intellectual pursuits and curiosity is a widespread American blight. One thing's for sure: kids aren't born with this lack. Adults show the way. And while a single President can't turn that sort of thing around (if they could, then the eminently curious Clinton would have inspired it), having a brain-dead leader, bragging of his barely average literacy, can't help. I love that Obama mentions that anti-intellectualism now starts at the top.