Saturday, May 14, 2005

Here is a story about a Connecticut charter school that is achieving great results with minority students by, suprise, focusing on learning and disciplining small stuff so that they don't get the big stuff.
The emphasis on discipline is combined with high academic expectations. All eighth-graders study algebra, and seventh-graders tackle works by Shakespeare and Toni Morrison.

Classroom walls are decorated with slogans such as "Education is Freedom," "Be a Star" and "Read, baby, read." All the students are dressed in blue shirts and tan trousers, except for one who has lost the "privilege" of wearing a standard Amistad shirt, and is wearing a white shirt instead.

"It's like real life," Toll said of the reward-and-punishment system. "Any society, including a street gang, provides its members with status symbols. In many cases, what is getting valued is drugs, sex and money. We have to control what is valued in society. To get these kids to learn, we have to get them to believe that it is cool to do well in school."

Amistad, Toll explains, is trying to turn the values of the street upside down. The school teaches students that it is "cool" to do your homework, "uncool" to be a bully.
Here is a lesson for regular public schools.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The EU Constitution isn't doing so hot in Holland.
Joseph Knippenberg defends Donald Kagan from Phillip Kennicott's attacks.
Check out The Attack Machine. He already has up a Robert Byrd ad that hits just the right note. If you know anyone in West Virginia, make sure they see this.
The Discovery Channel is going to run one of those 100 Greatest Americans things where the audience gets to vote on who is the greatest. They've chosen the 100 nominees by internet voting. So, the list is ridiculous. In addition to most of the Founding Fathers and famous people, people who are in the news or popular now also made the list.

Prepare to be annoyed that there are people in this country who would vote to put Ellen De Generes, Madonna, Tom Cruise, and Lance Armstrong on such a list. Even if you like these people, they don't rate up there on such a list. Neither do Arnold Schwarzenegger, Amelia Earhart, Hillary Rodham Clinton, or Laura Bush. And Barack Obama who hasn't done a thing yet except give a speech is on the list. It's just name recognition.

But the most infuriating thing is that John Edwards is on the list. The man was in the Senate for six years. Period. He is a losing candidate for Vice President. He has done.....nothing. At least Kerry didn't make the list.

But do people have no sense of proportion? If you have Abraham Lincoln and George Washington on a list, you don't include John Edwards unless you don't realize that the Great Awakening preacher was Jonathan, not John, Edwards.
I don't believe I'll cover this case when I cover the First Amendment cases in my classes.
This is why pundits should read the blogs, especially those on the other ideological side from themselves. Richard Cohen repeats the Democratic talking point on Judge Owen without betraying any cognizance of the fact that this talking point is an actual lie. Perhaps, he should read Powerline a bit more. I recommend this post and then, this post. Maybe, Cohen just needs a research assistant. Then he could stop himself from building a whole column based on a fictional movie and a fictional talking point.
The Washington Post reports on the conservative dinner for Tom DeLay last night. All you need to know about how reporters report on Tom DeLay is clear from the last line of the story.
On his way off the dais, DeLay wiped his cheek again -- whether tears or sweat was not clear.
Geeesh! Is that Dowd-writing-envy I sense?
Check out the new GOP ad on the Democrats as the "party of No." I like the use of classic rock music to make a political point.
Jonah Goldberg comforts Blue Staters that their Darwin fish are safe from the Christian hordes that are, apparently, threatening theocracy everywhere.
Charles Krauthammer explains why he is in favor of the GOP voting to say that judicial nominees cannot be filibustered. He doesn't think it's the "nuclear option" (odious term) but a restoration of the customs that have prevailed in the Senate until now.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist seems intent on passing a procedural ruling to prevent judicial filibusters. Democrats have won the semantic war by getting this branded "the nuclear option," a colorful and deliberately inflammatory term (although Republican Trent Lott, ever helpful, appears to have originated the term). The semantic device reminds me of the slogan of the nuclear freeze campaign of the early 1980s: "Because nobody wants a nuclear war." (Except Ronald Reagan, of course.)

Democrats are calling Frist's maneuver an assault on the very essence of the Senate, a body distinguished by its insistence on tradition, custom and unwritten rules.

This claim is a comical inversion of the facts. One of the great traditions, customs and unwritten rules of the Senate is that you do not filibuster judicial nominees. You certainly do not filibuster judicial nominees who would otherwise win an up-or-down vote. And you surely do not filibuster judicial nominees in a systematic campaign to deny a president and a majority of the Senate their choice of judges. That is historically unprecedented.

The Democrats have unilaterally shattered one of the longest-running traditions in parliamentary history worldwide. They are not to be rewarded with a deal. They must either stop or be stopped by a simple change of Senate procedure that would do nothing more than take a 200-year-old unwritten rule and make it written.

What the Democrats have done is radical. What Frist is proposing is a restoration.
John Podhoretz says that the Senate has become a place where Senators preen and then bully people who come before them as nominees. And the nominees are supposed to remain silent and take the character assassination.
In the midst of controversy, the Senate frequently uses its authority in appalling ways — by engaging in unanswerable character assassination. The assassination is unanswerable by definition because those whose characters are being assassinated are required by the dynamic of the Senate to behave respectfully toward those who are dragging their names through the mud.

There is something profoundly immoral about all this. Increasingly, it seems, strong-willed people with strong views must submit themselves to the humiliation of standing mute while they are excoriated for their life's work — and while senators and their staffs go hunting for personal dirt on them.

It's not a fair fight. It's a proxy fight. The nominees are often stand-ins for the administration whom the senators wish to bloody — as is the case with John Bolton and the Democrats.

Other times, a nominee becomes an occasion for a senator to perform a holier-than-thou tap-dance. Such was the case yesterday with John Bolton and the Republican senator from Ohio, George Voinovich, who insulted and attacked Bolton without ever having bothered to attend one of the committee hearings in which Bolton testified.

It was comic to hear Voinovich describe Bolton as a "bully" yesterday, because the only bullying in sight was being done by Voinovich — attacking somebody who can't attack back.

And Voinovich himself knows something about bullying. In 1995, when he was governor of Ohio, he had a temper tantrum at an airport because his plane was kept on the ground while Air Force One was in the sky.

He ordered his pilot to take off, screaming at air traffic controllers all the while and daring them to "shoot us down." In an unprecedented act, Voinovich was actually fined by the Federal Aviation Administration for his behavior.

He's still at it in the United States Senate. And why not? The Senate is paradise for bullies.
George Will writes that Paul Wolfowitz hates being called a Wilsonian. Good. I never liked the comparisons between Wilson's foreign policy and anything we were doing today. With Wilson, it was rhetoric unmatched by any grounding in reality, but accompanied by an arrogance that only he knew what was right for the world. Dismissing Bush or Wolfowitz implies arrogant utopianism. Wolfowitz firmly believes that democracy and private property rights can help fight the evils of dictatorships and poverty. And he believes that he has seen it happen in places like the Philippines.
``I can't tell you,'' Paul Wolfowitz says with justifiable asperity, ``how much I resent being called a Wilsonian.'' As he retires as deputy secretary of defense and becomes head of the World Bank, the man most responsible for the doctrinal justification of the Iraq War, and who has been characterized as representing Woodrow Wilson's utopian, rather than the realist, strain in American foreign policy, begs to differ. The question, he says, is who has been realistic for almost four decades.

The sprouting of freedom through the fissures in the concrete of dictatorships began, he recalls, in Greece, Spain and Portugal in the mid-1970s. This, he believes, disturbed Soviet leaders, and should have: It called into question the realism of ``realists'' who, he says, ``were factually wrong'' in dismissing the possibility of undermining the Soviet regime with pressures short of force.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

I won't have to share a hometown with John Edwards anymore. He's selling out and moving to Chapel Hill. They can have him.
Alas, another progressive hero is about to bite the dust. The sale is not a precursor to Edwards liquidating his worldly possessions for redistribution among the proletariat, but, rather, simply a fundraiser for the country estate currently being constructed for him on a 100 acre plot in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Is it just me or is anyone else surprised there are 100 contiguous unpopulated acres in Chapel Hill? Must be a "who you know" thing.) That's right, faster than you can say "plantation," Mr. Edwards is building himself one.

It's a good thing his mill worker father taught him "the value of a hard day's work," because even with shrubs, that is a lot of lawn to mow. This will be ameliorated somewhat by the fact that the Edwards family also plans to sell their Raleigh home. But they will hold on to their Wilmington area beach house. After all, man cannot live on 100 acres alone.

Nevertheless, before anyone gets the wrong idea and start thinking being a sappy, spoon-deep politician with nice hair is the only occupation that pays better than being a ruthless, client and venue shopping trial lawyer...Well, it just isn't like that. Edwards is a working stiff again with a new job heading the University of North Carolina Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, which plans to explore "innovative and practical ideas for moving more Americans out of poverty and into the middle class."

The first lesson, I suppose, is that one way to escape the tyrannical socioeconomic prison George W. Bush has fashioned and get to the promised land where normal folks relax on their 100 acre plots with periodic beach house breaks -- the "other America," as it were -- is to get some university to pay you to study poverty. For real poor people this should be a cinch; a real work-from-home opportunity.
(Link via Lorie Byrd)
If you sometimes regret that we don't get to hear a real filibuster when the senators babble on in order to kill time, then you should listen to Robert Byrd in full ramble mode go on and on and on. Radioblogger has put up the audio. Listen and see what the Book of Esther has to do with judician nominations. Apparently Bill Frist is Haman and will be executed on Haman's gallows. That is what Byrd calls "Hamanizing." Yup, one day the Republicans will be in the minority again and then the Democrats can hang Frist. Is it acceptable nowadays to threaten metaphorical violence on a fellow Senator?

Yes, we are far, far from the days of Daniel Webster and Henry Clay on the Senate floor. There really should be an expiration date on these guys.

Will West Virginia really return this bloviator to the Senate for another six years? If I were the GOP in WV, I would have TV ads and every day I would just run clips of Byrd babbling on and on. The man is Loony Tunes.
Max Boot reminds us of all that Stalin did to help Hitler and how ruthless Stalin was against his own people during the war.
The history airbrushed out of this week's celebrations includes the Soviet role in the rise of Germany. In the 1920s, the Soviets aided Germany's illegal rearmament, helping to develop the tanks and warplanes later used against them. In 1939, Stalin concluded a nonaggression pact that allowed Adolf Hitler to launch his blitzkrieg against Poland, France and the Low Countries. Stalin's share in the spoils was the Baltic states, Finland and parts of Poland and Romania.

For the next two years, the Soviet Union's raw materials helped fuel the Nazi war machine despite a Western blockade. Stalin was so enamored of his comrade in crime that he refused to credit overwhelming evidence of a looming German attack on the Soviet Union. When it began on June 22, 1941, the Soviets were caught with their britches down.

The best Red Army units were foolishly positioned on the unfortified frontier, where they were overrun. Though the Soviets had a numerical advantage, the quality of their forces had been compromised by a purge of the officer corps. Partly as a result, the Red Army folded like an accordion early in the invasion. Resistance did not stiffen until winter, when the Wehrmacht was on the doorsteps of Leningrad and Moscow.

Stalin was ruthless in rallying support for the war effort. Surrender was declared to be treasonous. Anyone suspected of defeatist or counterrevolutionary sentiments was shot or sentenced to hard labor. During the siege of Stalingrad alone, 13,000 were executed. Though a million inmates were released from prison camps for military service, many more were consigned to the gulag during the war. Millions died at the hands of NKVD secret police.
So, when we remember the Soviets' role in fighting Hitler, let's remember the entire story.
Gosh, I love NRO. They keep innovating and adding new attractions that make it worth visiting several times a day. It's like hanging out with a bunch of very intelligent and fun people who happen to love talking about the same things I enjoy reading about. And now, they've made it even more splendiferous by adding a new feature - a legal blog about the judicial nominations and Court decisions. Go check out Bench Memos. It's a bit more political than Volokh, but both blogs are great fun for a non-lawyer like myself to read. There are several posts worth linking to at Bench Memos, but I'll let you discover them yourselves.
Reliapundit makes a good point comparing Bush's two UN nominations: John Danforth and John Bolton.
Do you sense a little jealousy on Bill Gates' part here? Gee, he does seem to be having a few envy issues lately, doesn't he?
A study shows that mothers carrying sons do better on some memory tests than mothers who carried daughters.
Mothers pregnant with boys may be less forgetful than those carrying girls, Canadian researchers said on Tuesday.

The researchers said they found evidence that women who gave birth to boys consistently outperformed moms of girls in tests that specifically taxed memory in areas of listening, computational and visualization skills.
What an amazing result. Do you think that this is Nature's way of preparing them for the task ahead? Perhaps, they'll have more need of those skills than mothers of girls will have.

Or maybe that is just my bias as the mother of two girls.
Robin Williams is suing an impersonator who has pretended to be Williams to get money from unsuspecting people. Why does he need to sue? Isn't that a criminal act?

Reelcobra has a much funnier take on the story.
Jim Lindgren links to a fascinating study entitled "The Illusion of Devil's Advocacy: How the Justices of the Supreme Court Foreshadow their Decisions During Oral Argument" by Sarah Shullman and reported by Tony Mauro that tries to show, with a small sample of Supreme Court cases, whether there is any correlation between the number of questions the Justices ask to each side in oral argument and the eventual outcome of the case.
Shullman's article, in The Journal of Appellate Practice and Process, reports on oral arguments in 10 cases she observed during the October 2002 term. As she watched, she tallied the number and tenor -- helpful or hostile -- of all the questions asked by all the justices. Then a student at Georgetown University Law Center, Shullman is now an associate at Steel Hector & Davis in West Palm Beach, Fla.

After seven of the 10 cases she studied were decided, Shullman looked for correlations -- and found them. In all of the cases, the justices in aggregate asked more questions, and more hostile questions, of the party that ultimately lost the case. The model of the devil's advocate -- peppering the side you favor with tough questions -- did not appear prevalent enough to derail this conclusion.

What do you bet that every Court reporter will now be using this method to predict the outcome of cases? And, I further predict that the Justices won't like their oral arguments to be reduced to a simple numerical prediction and will try to adjust their questioning technique accordingly.

This little look at Justice Kennedy is illuminating.
Parenthetically, we know from other sources -- most recently the Blackmun papers at the Library of Congress -- that Kennedy, more than other justices, is prone to changing his mind after oral arguments. For Kennedy, the oral argument is not the final act of the play. He is a notorious brooder. Kennedy's classic metaphorical mélange, first uttered to journalist Terry Carter as he deliberated abortion rights in 1992, still reverberates: "Sometimes you don't know if you're Caesar about to cross the Rubicon or Captain Queeg cutting your own tow line."
Well I would say that Justice Kennedy recently has cut hisown tow line. Perhaps, he should brood a little less and stop reading international opinions.
David Brooks thinks that the tide has shifted in John Bolton's favor because, through testimony, it has become clear that Bolton was arguing on the basis of policy to defend the President's policies against those in the State Department or elsewhere who opposed them. That was his job.
The other thing the transcripts reveal is that many fights over clearing speeches were not about intelligence - they were about policy. The speech-clearance process was the policy-making process. Often when Bolton was pushing back at his colleagues, he was trying to defend the president's policies from dissenters at State.

For example, Larry Wilkerson believed that America's Cuba policy was "the dumbest policy on the face of the earth," as he told GQ. He disagreed strongly with the idea of imposing sanctions on arms proliferators, as he told Senate investigators.

So when he challenged Bolton, Bolton would bend on most matters, but not on policy.

As Wilkerson himself told the Senate investigators: "There were some problems, on a number of occasions, with Under Secretary Bolton's proposed remarks. I found him to be, at that point, basically receptive to my changes that were culturally sensitive. ... I did not find him to be receptive when we talked about policy changes, fundamental policy changes in his speeches."

That's because Bolton's job was to stand up for the president's policies.

The momentum has shifted on the Bolton nomination because John Bolton turns out to be a more complicated figure than earlier portrayed. It's become clear that earlier tales of him chasing women down hallways are unreliable. It's become clear that while he's abrasive, he is professional. If Senator George Voinovich reads these transcripts before he votes, I'm sure Bolton will be confirmed.
I just doubt that Voinovich is doing the due diligence that is required of the thoughtful senator he aspires to be.
Who knew that purple was heavier than white?
Peter Hannaford looks at the possibilities behind blogging and the Pajama Media organization that some enterprising bloggers are creating. I don't think blogs will replace the MSM but I do believe that they will become a more and more common auxilliary to reading the news for many people. Just as people now turn to the editorial pages to see what the pundits say about the news, they'll turn to the blogs to see what bloggers are saying about the news and the pundits.
My daughter links to this remedial grammar test by Mark Goldblatt and why she was incredibly lucky to have been taught grammar.

Goldblatt's point is that schools are not teaching grammar. This is so right. Grammar is out and so is spelling. I remember sitting through orientation when my younger daughter was in Kindergarten and being told not to correct her spelling when she wrote things since that would stifle her efforts at writing if she always had to stop and worry about how words are spelled. I ignored that, but also realized that we had enter a whole new world of teaching. Gone are the spelling rules that bedeviled many students' days. And grammar was reduced to a few worksheets. Then they go back to reading and discussing their opinions of stories. Everything is about expressing your own opinion. Oh, and creative writing. Lots of having the kids write their own poetry instead of reading the classics of poetry. I'm always amazed to get Quiz Bowl students who haven't read classics like "The Road Not Taken," "Stopping by the Woods," "Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree," "Paul Revere's Ride." The list goes on and on.

And spelling is nightmare. Some of my best students are spelling neanderthals. I have so many pet peeves about mistakes. Kids can't get straight spelling homophones such as "its" and "it's" or "they're, their" and "there." I see those mistakes all the time, and yes, I see them a lot on the Internet. Oh, there's another one that drives me up a tree. How come kids today never seem to learn that "a lot" is two words and there is no such creature as "alot"? I even see some kids who extrapolate that there must be such a word as "alittle." Perhaps in a hundred years there will be at the rate we're going. Here's another spelling rule that doesn't seem to be taught: y changes to i when you add an ending. So, I get papers full of mistakes such as "tryes" or "activityes." And these are mistakes from my AP students! I don't have time to teach grammar or spelling. I usually write a note in the margin and say something like "Ack! Please learn the difference between affect and effect before you graduate and enter college." How come kids can learn the difference between Teddy Roosevelt's approach to big business and that of Woodrow Wilson or any other myriad details from American history but can't manage the difference between those two words?

Katie is so right that the only kids who can understand grammar are those who are learning it in their foreign language classes. Suddenly they understand the difference between a subject and direct object and why we have two words "I" and "me" in English. When I taught French and Russian and got to that lesson, I would have to stop and spend a day on teaching the concept to them in English grammar so they could learn the rules in a foreign language. And Russian is a case language so they also had to differentiate between direct and indirect objects. They had no clue in English.

Ask any high school teacher and you'll hear very similar rants. I'm not sure what goes on in elementary school classrooms, but I'm sure that grammar and spelling aren't making a big appearance.
Chris Tune blogs about the California Academic Decathalon, an academic tournament in which schools compete across the board in all areas of study. From what I'm aware of, this is a very strenuous event and it tries to be very inclusive in that teams must have a variety of students on the team with different levels of GPA - it can't be only straight A students. You have to find some B and C students, so teams search out those brilliant, yet slacker kids that seem to crop up in every school. Apparently, the teams from Los Angeles keep winning and others don't like that. It just doesn't seem fair that some teams work harder than others. The deal here is that the topics are given out a year ahead of time, so a dedicated coach and team can start working over the summer. Other teams can't do this so perhaps the whole competition is unfair. Yup, competition must be unfair if those who work harder succeed year after year. Can't have that, can you? Why, it might teach kids that you only succeed through hard work and your own efforts and who would want kids to learn such a difficult lesson?
Robert Novak thinks that a lot of the opposition to John Bolton is related less to his stand on the UN and his supposed difficult personality than a play by those on the Left who oppose the administration's policy on Cuba and Castro.
Reich's appearance was not the only mishap for the anti-Bolton campaign. Jamie Miscik was part of the CIA's left-of-center cadre as DDI (deputy director of intelligence), until the new CIA director, Porter Goss, got her resignation in March. Miscik was supposed to confirm that Bolton had harassed and damaged NIO (National Intelligence Officer) Fulton Armstrong by being asked how Armstrong was affected by Bolton's attempt to remove him from an assignment.

"In your opinion," asked Foldi, "did the NIO suffer professionally as a result of this?" Replied Miscik: "No, not over this. No." Foldi: "Over anything else?" Miscik: "Yeah, I think there are some other issues there that I can't go into." That undermined the attack on Bolton based on Armstrong's grievances.

Whatever damage Bolton did to Armstrong professionally could not even compare with Reich's testimony that the analyst's work was considered sub-par throughout the national security bureaucracy. That fits complaints I have heard from Reagan administration officials about Armstrong's left-wing bias on Western Hemisphere questions in general, but particularly on Cuba.

Cuba is the theme that runs through the ordeal of John Bolton. The Dodd-O'Connell team's indictment of Bolton is based on taking issue with his accusations that Castro is building a biological warfare capability. Col. Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, who has suddenly emerged as a Bolton-basher, in May 2004 called U.S. sanctions against Castro the "dumbest policy on the face of the earth."

A few Republican senators appear really to accept the fiction that they are jurors in a fair trial who should slowly make up their minds about Bolton. In truth, the Democrats are in a full attack mode, while their staffers try to collect ammunition. Otto Reich performed another selfless service in showing up and trying to expose the sham.

When will we have the GOP as well organized for their views (or are they their views?) as the Democrats are? The GOP always seems to be surprised that the Democrats are organized and have their talking point all set to go. Doea that party caucus do anything? Are there staffers who prepare their own memos to Senators to get ahead of the Democrats at any point? It rarely seems so.

It's enough to make me wonder if it is merely a question of incompetence.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

David Hill, a GOP pollster, explains why poll questions on the filibustering of judges are so problematic. People don't understand the issue and the pollster must then explain it to them in a short introduction to the real question. This is the problem of salience in polls. If the issue isn't important to people, their responses are not all that meaningful. Thus, it becomes crucial that the issue is explained to them in a very informative, yet neutral way. I imagine that that could happen in some best of all possible worlds, but for a complicated issue like this, don't expect it. Hill points out that Gallup had two possibilities of phrasing the question. See if you're surprised at the one chosen.
In his own introductory analysis, Newport [the editor of the Gallup Poll] sensibly describes Republican efforts to change the filibuster rule: “This would mean a simple majority vote (rather than the current 60 votes) would end floor debate on a nominee, clearing the way for an up-or-down vote to confirm or reject the nominee.” It’s a shame that Newport’s polls didn’t use language like that. His poll question said instead: “As you may know, the filibuster is a Senate procedure which has been used to prevent the Senate from passing controversial legislation or confirming controversial appointments by the president, even if a majority of senators support that action. A vote of at least 60 senators out of 100 is needed to end a filibuster. Do you favor or oppose the use of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate?”

Newport needs to answer some questions himself. Why is the filibuster presented solely as a bulwark against controversy? Where is any mention of majority rule? Where is the reference to “an up-or-down vote?”

Gallup and other polls also confuse voters by simply asking whether Americans “favor or oppose” the filibuster. It is well-known by researchers that many poll respondents get confused whenever they are asked to react to negative concepts such as filibuster, recall, rescission, veto, etc. This confusion is why you see so many Republicans favoring the filibuster rule (43 percent in Gallup’s poll) and Democrats opposing it (31 percent). This is the most solid, data-based evidence that the filibuster polls are not to be taken seriously.
You could just as easily frame a question by saying, "As you may know, the filibuster has been used historically to block civil rights legislation. Today the Democrats are using the filibuster to block Bush's judicial nominees. Do you support or oppose the use of the filibuster?" That wouldn't be a fair framing of the question either, but it would have as much historical validity as the question Gallup did choose. Gee, who is against blocking controversial legislation? Of course, they didn't mention that much of that "controversial legislation" involved banning discrimination against blacks. Puts a whole different spin on this sacred right that the Senators all love so much when they're in the minority, doesn't it?
Anne Applebaum agrees that Bush was speaking quite appropriately in criticizing Yalta while in the Baltic states.
Both left and right would do better to stand back and think harder about how important it is for American diplomacy, and even Americans' understanding of their own past, when U.S. presidents, Republican or Democrat, admit that not every past U.S. policy was successful -- which, by any measure, Yalta was not. Since the end of the Cold War, historical honesty has become more normal everywhere in the West, and rightly so: We aren't, after all, trying to withstand a Soviet propaganda onslaught, and we've grown more used to thinking, at least some of the time, of our national disputes as evidence of the authenticity of our democracy. To put it differently, apologies are something that democracies can do, at least occasionally, but that the Chinese or the Syrians always find impossible. Infallibility nowadays is something that only dictatorships claim.

Both left and right should also consider contexts more carefully. Certainly the president's speech last weekend did not sound personal, as if he were apologizing to feel good about himself. It did not mention Roosevelt by name or wallow in Cold War rhetoric. On the contrary, Bush went on afterward to talk about the democratic values that had replaced Yalta, and to draw contemporary lessons. The tone was right -- and it contrasted sharply with the behavior of Russian president Vladimir Putin, as perhaps it was intended to. Asked again last week why he hadn't made his own apology for the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, Putin pointed out that the Soviet parliament did so in 1989. "What," he asked, "we have to do this every day, every year?"

The answer is no, the Russian president doesn't have to talk about the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe every day -- but during a major, international anniversary of the end of the war, he clearly should. And no, the U.S. president does not have to talk about Yalta every year, but when he goes to Latvia to mark the anniversary of the end of the war he should -- just as any American president visiting Africa for the first time should speak of slavery. No American or Russian leader should appear unpatriotic when abroad, but at the right time, in the right place, it is useful for statesmen to tell the truth, even if just to acknowledge that some stretches of our history were more ambiguous, and some of our victories more bittersweet, than they once seemed.
Scott Johnson at Powerline points to the fact that the infamous three-fifths clause in the original Constitution was put in by Northerners who didn't want the South to have a larger representation in the House of Representatives and Electoral College by counting their slaves as complete human beings. Johnson rightly refers to the great book, Vindicating the Founders by Thomas West, which discusses this issue and several other criticisms people have of the Founders.

One factoid that Johnson leaves out is that the fraction three-fifths originated in the Articles of Confederation to determine population for purposes of assessing the financial portion that each state would contribute towards running the government. Since each state in the Confederation had only one vote in the Congress, population didn't matter for representation. For this financial purpose, the positions were reversed. The North wanted to count the slaves as complete people so that the South would have to contribute more money. The South didn't want to count the slaves. After some haggling, they settled on the fraction of three-fifths. When a similar argument came up in the Constitutional Convention concerning assessing population for purposes of representation, the regions switched sides, and compromised using the same fraction that they had grown used to during the Confederation period. So, the Northern representatives weren't motivated by any benevolence towards slaves but by a desire to increase their own influence in the new government.
Five Nobel laureates in economics plus over 400 other economists support reforming Social Security and including private accounts.
Former Spook has the draft list of base closings. As he notes, it will be very interesting to see how effective politicians were in lobbying to preserve their state's bases.
David Horowitz explains what one student had to do to get an A in a political science class at an elite university. I believe the story and find it so depressing. When I grade a student's paper whose views I disagree with, I try to bend over backwards to make sure that I'm grading the paper honestly and not letting my views influence me. If it still deserves a poor grade, I make sure that I have substantive reasons that I can point to show why they earned that grade. I bet the great majority of teachers and professors do the same. At least, I hope that this is an anomaly. If you know otherwise, let me know.
This is hilarious. Joe Scarborough has egg all over his face, so to speak.
In one of the stranger mea culpas from a major US news outlet in recent years, the commentator, Joe Scarborough, a former congressman, acknowledged on Friday that the governor's purported lunar outburst on the nationally syndicated radio show of Howard Stern was actually a spoof.

Citing a British newspaper, Scarborough had quoted Schwarzenegger on the air as saying: "If we get rid of the moon, women, those menstrual cycles are governed by the moon, will not get (pre-menstrual syndrome). They will stop bitching and whining."

Scarborough chided Schwarzenegger for insensitivity, saying: "Hey, governor, way to make 50 percent of California's voting population turn frigid towards you.

"I don't know how it works in Austria, but let me tell you something, friend. Jokes about such matters, (are) not laughing subjects to women in America."

It turned out the remarks Scarborough attributed to the Austrian-born governor were actually made by a Schwarzenegger impersonator who regularly appears on Stern's show as part of a running call-in gag.

It's not good when former Congressmen, the British media, and MSNBC's crack research staff get taken in by such an obvious spoof. It was Howard Stern, for gosh sake!
I love these polls that the Pew Research Center puts out periodically to see where people stand on issues and what the divide is between Republicans and Democrats. I often give the questions to my students and have them see how their personal results square with the nation at large. Sometimes, kids think that everyoen thinks the way they do and then they're amazed to find out it is not so. I know that I was like Pauline Kael in 1972 and thought that everyone was voting for McGovern because I didn't know other kids who supported Nixon, or at least were willing to admit to doing so. Here's one interesting finding.
"Voters inclined towards the Republican Party are distinguished from Democrats by their personal optimism and belief in the power of the individual," the poll states.
Perhaps, we're optimisitc because our guy is in office. But I think it is something deeper than that. Conservatives believe that people can do things on their own if no barriers, particularly government barriers, are put in their way. Liberals are more likely to believe that people need government help in so much of their lives from choosing the best school for their children to choosing how best to save money for retirement.
Jonah Goldberg takes on those who are criticizing Bush for criticizing the settlement at Yalta.
The history is debatable. Schlesinger's emphasis on the word "diplomacy" is revealing. He writes, "It was the deployment of armies, not negotiating concessions, that caused the division of Europe." But the concessions at Yalta were possible because America chose to let Stalin occupy Eastern Europe. If, for example, General Patton had had his way, much of the occupation wouldn't have been a fait accompli. Schlesinger & Co. argue that Yalta was a concession to the necessities of reality. I wonder if FDR's defenders think tougher diplomacy is similarly pointless regarding, say, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank? Israel has it now, so that should settle the issue.

It's ironic: Liberals celebrated Bill Clinton's numerous apologies for America's Realpolitik "mistakes" during the Cold War as a sign of great statesmanship. But when an apology reflects poorly on the mistake that basically launched the Cold War, they bang their spoons on their highchairs about any attempt to tarnish FDR's godhood.

This raises the larger moral point. After a war to end one evil empire, we signed a piece of paper accepting the expansion of another evil empire. And it happened at Yalta.
I agree with Bush and Goldberg. I don't really blame the presence of Alger Hiss and am willing to say that FDR was not at the top of his game in February, 1945, a couple of months before his death. He certainly doesn't look healthy in the pictures from there. But he should have known that Stalin wasn't going to allow free elections in eastern Europe while Soviet troops were on the ground there. And to pretend as some have said that there was nothing wrong with the Yalta Agreement; it was just that Stalin broke his word about allowing free elections betrays a certain naivete that historians should beware. It's the job of leaders to know if they can trust the person they're making such agreements with. Stalin was not such a man.
Walter Williams explains how not to be poor. And it has nothing to do with race. He also points out that black children of two-parent families have the same chance of being poor as white children in that situation. The determining factor is the family situation. And that affects everything from how those kids will approach school, to what they'll be able to do when they leave school at whatever age that may be.
The civil rights struggle is over, and it has been won. At one time, black Americans did not have the same constitutional protections as whites. Now, we do, because the civil rights struggle is over and won is not the same as saying that there are not major problems for a large segment of the black community. What it does say is that they're not civil rights problems, and to act as if they are leads to a serious misallocation of resources.

Rotten education is a severe handicap to upward mobility, but is it a civil rights problem? Let's look at it. Washington, D.C. public schools, as well as many other big city schools, are little more than educational cesspools. Per student spending in Washington, D.C., is just about the highest in the nation. D.C.'s mayors have been black, and so have a large percentage of the city council, school principals, teachers and superintendents. Suggesting that racial discrimination plays any part in Washington, D.C.'s educational calamity is near madness and diverts attention away from possible solutions.

Bill Cosby had the courage to speak out against individual irresponsibility. Surely those who profess to have the best interests of blacks at heart should be able to summon the courage to do so as well.

It's not often we learn something new about an event almost 400 years ago. But, here is a fascinating story about the remains of someone who was buried at Jamestown. Researchers are hoping that these are the remains of Bartholomew Gosnold, the primary mover behind the settlement at Jamestown. Read the rest of the article for a little history lesson. Or, as my daughter says, "move over John Smith; Bartholomew Gosnold is the new hotness."
Chester at Adventures of Chester is live-blogging Operation Matador, the Marine operation that is taking place near the Iraqi-Syrian border. Most interesting.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

My husband has a great rant on John Kenneth Galbraith.
The Washington Times reports that Frist will use Priscilla Owen's nomination as the vote to break the Democrats' filibustering. This makes perfect sense since their filibustering objections to her are totally baseless.
But most appealing, Republicans say, is that the very cases for which Justice Owen has been most strenuously attacked are rulings that are overwhelmingly popular with American voters.
Democrats' primary line against Justice Owen has been several cases in which she argued that the teenagers involved were not mature enough to bypass a Texas law requiring them to notify a parent before having an abortion.
"Her record to date is not only predictive of a judge who is personally anti-choice, but one who is willing to rewrite the law in accordance with those beliefs," said a position statement released by NARAL Pro-Choice America. Senate Democrats then went after her, describing her as "far outside the mainstream."
Finally, it will be a pleasure to see the argument about facts rather than just name calling. Maybe when people hear the reasons why Democrats call her extremist and out of the mainstream, people will start to wonder if those words mean something different like .... agreeing with the majority of the American people on an issue like parental notification.
Also coming to her defense are Texas Democrats who know her.
"They don't know the woman. They've made no effort to get to know her, and they're not treating her fairly," former Texas Supreme Court Justice John Hill said of his fellow Democrats in the Senate.
Justice Hill, who admonished senators on both sides of the aisle for maligning judicial picks, said the portrayal isn't "the Priscilla Owen I know."
"She's a conservative person and her view of the law is probably from a conservative orientation, just like a liberal judge will decide cases from a liberal orientation," he said. "But she tries to follow the law as it's been decided or as it's been interpreted. That's just been a bad rap against her."
Republicans were particularly outraged when Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat and a member of the Judiciary Committee, referred to Justice Owen and other Bush nominees as "neanderthal."
"Ted Kennedy doesn't know her," said Darrell E. Jordan, a Republican and a former president of the Texas Bar Association.
"Anyway, didn't Ted Kennedy have to cheat to get out of law school?" he said, referring to Mr. Kennedy's 1951 expulsion from Harvard for cheating on an undergraduate Spanish exam.
Judge O'Reilly, the Texas Democrat, wasn't as hard on Mr. Kennedy, but called his description "unfair."
"She's a very thoughtful and studied woman," she said. "Sure, she's a conservative, but she's the opposite of neanderthal."
The Republicans have not done a good job defending these nominees and have let them hang out there with these insults. I still regret that they never fought for Miguel Estrada. The objections against him were even more lame. They couldn't criticize him for anything specific so they just demanded that he turn over memos from when he worked in the Clinton Solicitor General's office. When he cited confidentiality, something supported by every Solicitor General from both parties, the Democrats leapt on that and said they would filibuster him. If they ever do stop these filibusters, I hope Bush nominates him again.
E. J. Dionne seems appalled that Republicans act like politicians and want to cement their control of the Congress. All the things that he criticizes the GOP for resembles something that the Democrats have already done. You could turn his whole column around and write it from the conservative point of view of Republicans criticizing Democrats for things that they did or said in the 90s. Let's face it. Whichever party is in power wants to increase and solidify their control. Neither party operates out of altruism towards the other side. And each side has "an interlocking directorate of politicians, lobbyists, fundraisers and interest groups." It's not just the GOP. If Dionne thinks otherwise, he is incredibly naive for an old Washington hand and should turn in his pundit license.
Thomas Sowell explains why income redistribution is not the big cause that will ignite the poor.
The general public has never been as worked up about "income distribution" as the left has. Nor is this due to any deeper understanding on the left. On the contrary, liberals and other leftists have constantly misconceived the issue.

Differences between people in different income brackets tell you absolutely nothing about who those people are or how long they have been in those brackets. Most Americans who are in the bottom 20 percent in income at one point in their lives are in the top 20 percent at some other point.

They usually start at the bottom and work their way up, with a few blips up and down along the way. The more affluent the country becomes, the less those transient statistical differences really matter, except to those with the money, the leisure, and the inclination to adopt indignation as a way of life.

John Hawkins has some very good advice for new bloggers. I agree with all of it. It might explain why there is no picture of me on my blog. I'd add one more piece of advice. If you send out e-mails to other bloggers asking them to link to you, don't beg and don't be surprised or depressed not to get a reply. Some bloggers are very busy and are getting a lot of those requests every day. I try to link to those that have something original and interesting to say, but I don't always respond. It doesn't mean that I don't want to get those e-mails, just that my time is limited.

Monday, May 09, 2005

If you're visiting from the future, this is where you should hang out Saturday night.
Thank you very much to Thomas Lifson for his kind words about my school's rating in Newsweek's Challenge Index as #9. It's been very exciting at our school with most of the local news channels coming out to see what was going on at our little charter school.

I have a few doubts about how the study is conducted. Jay Mathews doesn't use private schools or schools like North Carolina School of Science and Math or Thomas Jefferson High School of Alexandria, VA which have a selection procedure for their students and only choose high-scoring students. But those are excellent schools and would probably rank very high on the index. Here is Jay Mathews' FAQs for explaining his system. I understand that Mr. Mathews is looking for schools where every student is encouraged to take challenging classes and achieve as much as they possibly can. And that certainly describes our school.
So in that sense, the index shows what he is seeking. It also helps that last year we had a slightly smaller graduating class and a big junior class. Those juniors and also the sophomores took a lot of AP tests. Now the juniors are seniors and we have a larger graduating class. Our rank will sink a bit next year because of that anomaly. However, we still will have kids taking over 520 AP exams in a school with only about 500 kids in the school. I have over 30 10th graders who will take the AP Government and Politics test on Wednesday. We encourage willing kids to take the AP course instead of the regular civics class. I would recommend that other schools do that and substitute the more challenging AP class for regular classes. I've had great success with 10th graders. The kids will benefit; you'll have a blast teaching the class; and your Challenge Index will climb!
Robin Shepherd writes very well of the futility of trying to compare Hitler and Stalin as to which one was worse.
But to say the two systems were similar is not, of course, to say that they were identical. There is no exact parallel in the Soviet past to the Nazis' industrialized slaughter of 6 million Jews in World War II. Neither is there an exact parallel in the Nazi experience to the peacetime slaughter of entire social groups such as the 10 million Ukrainian peasants whom Stalin had designated as class enemies in the 1930s and dispensed with in mass deportations, mass executions and history's largest artificial, state-orchestrated famine.

It is in considering such examples that honest men and women get a sense of the futility of trying to compare the horrors of the two systems. What would the words "better" or "worse" really mean in such a context? What sort of moral apparatus could we use to form a judgment?

People are drawn into the debate for a variety of reasons. Some are just incapable of living in a world without superlatives. There must be a "biggest." There must be a "best." There must, therefore, be a "worst." The world is simpler that way.

What is sad, however, is that so many people are ignorant of the atrocities committed under communism. Hitler, they all know about. Stalin they think of as a dictator. Perhaps a brutal one. But the scope of the killings under his rule doesn't register with them. I once had a bright 7th grader say to me, "Sure Stalin was a dictator, but he did a lot to modernize his country." If there were a chapter in her weak little history textbook that covered the gulags and the state-induced famine under Stalin just as there was a chapter on Hitler and World War Two perhaps the message would get through. You don't even need a whole chapter - but a few pages at least.
David Folkenflik of NPR has a fluffy little piece of how FOX News is very snarky when responding to criticism, often issuing phony messages of sympathy and wishing FOX's critic well. For example,
But even when the network isn't being nice, the wishing well sometimes makes an appearance anyway. In January, CNN founder Ted Turner, speaking at a convention of television programming executives in Las Vegas, rambled on about Fox News, seemingly equating its tactics with the Nazi's use of propaganda. Fox quickly shot back with this line:

"Ted is understandably bitter, having lost his ratings, his network, and now his mind. We wish him well."

Well, which is worse? Comparing your rival to Nazis or responding with a sarcastic "well wishing" comment. I thought it was a clever riposte: concise, incisive, and amusing. Ted Turner probably had an esprit d'escalier moment wishing that he had said something equally clever.

But what is the point of this little piece? That FOX, instead of going into a fierce diatribe against its critics responds with sarcastic politeness? Or is the point that FOX was founded by tough guys like Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch who know how to play the game. Of course, the fact that they're conservatives insures that they are the source for a new level of viciousness in journalism that I'm sure never existed before.
There's a reason for this, and it can be found in the DNA of Fox News.

Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes was also the mastermind behind the marketing strategy of the winning presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon in 1968 and George H.W. Bush in 1988.

Again, forget ideology -- Ailes is bringing the toughness of those campaigns to an industry whose public face is more often bureaucratic.

Fox News is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which also owns combative tabloids like the New York Post and the London Sun.

And Murdoch's tabloids know well that there's an audience eager to see blood sport among journalists as much as anywhere else.
So responding to your critics is now "blood sport"? Huh?
Jack Kemp puts the economic smackdown on Paul Krugman.
Christopher Hitchens has an excellent essay explaining why the abuses at Abu Ghraib do not rise to the level of being compared to Guernica in the Spanish Civil War as some modern artist has done. The comparison is ludicrous. Hitchens pulls it all together in a great ending.
There's also something indecent about any comparison of this with the struggle of the Spanish Republic. If Fallujah is "Guernica," then the U.S. Marines are Herman Goering's Condor Legion. If Abu Ghraib is "Guernica," then the U.S. Army is a part of the original "Axis" between Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco. I wonder if any sympathizer of this view would accept its apparent corollary: that the executions and tortures inflicted by the Spanish Communists—crimes now denied by nobody, though Picasso excused them at the time—axiomatically discredit the anti-fascist cause? And this distortion of the record is all the more extraordinary, since a much more natural analogy is close at hand. Gen. Franco's assault on the Spanish Republic—an assault that claimed to be, and was, a rebel "insurgency" against the elected government—consisted of an alliance of fascist parties, religious extremists, and Muslim fighters. It was led by the frightened former oligarchy, and its cause was preached from the pulpit, and its foot-soldiers were Moorish levies from North Africa and "volunteers" from Germany and Italy. How shady it is that our modern leftists and peaceniks can detect fascism absolutely everywhere except when it is actually staring them in the face. The next thing, of course, if we complete the historic analogy, would be for them to sign a pact with it. And this, some of them have already done.

Here's a heartwarming story.
At A Constrained Vision my daughter looks at different methods of teacher merit pay. There are negatives for each proposal. It seems like an easy thing to do since, in most schools, most everyone knows who is good and who isn't. Teachers hear what the kids say and know how to filter out complaints that are based on just complaining because a teacher is tough and legitimate complaints about incompetence. Most parents can do the same thing. All the kids know.

It is just hard to convert these vague impressions of quality into objective numbers. I sure wouldn't want to use my impression of the teacher down the hall for anyone's salary.

As my daughter says, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Every system has its faults, but would still be better than only paying people based on longevity or whatever lame education classes they've taken.

I agree with Marie Gryphon that if we had more school choice and saw parents voting with their feet, so to speak, by leaving or moving towards good schools, we could use that to evaluate the schools as a whole and thus, put pressure on principals to make sure that the teachers were performing up to snuff.

Or have small schools, like my charter. The teachers don't have tenure and so when it is clear that a teacher is not performing at the level the school would like, they're let go. There is no teacher down the hall shirking his or her job because he or she got tenure and knows that, as long as no one gets hurt in the classroom, the job is safe.
Philip Klein wonders how our modern cast would respond to the Whiskey Rebellion and Washington's calling out the militia to attack the rebels.
The president's opponents seized on the crisis to revive questions about the rationale for the War of Independence, renewing criticism that colonial intelligence overstated the threat that was posed by the British monarchy.

"This is exactly what I've been telling people all along," said Josephus Kerry, whose intention to seek the presidency in 1796 is somewhat of an open secret. "When he was a general, Washington misled the colonies to war without a plan to win the peace."

Others were more emphatic in their criticism, especially Michael Morbid, whose blockbuster pamphlet "Fahrenheit 1776" alleges that the War of Independence occurred because the British government backed out of secret plans to build a beer pipeline from Massachusetts to Virginia.

"People seem to forget that in the 1750s, Washington was fighting alongside the British in the French and Indian War," Mr. Morbid said. "It was only after King George III put the kibosh on the pipeline project that things changed."

He added, "From the top down, this Administration is rife with ties to big beer. It's no coincidence that the vice-president's cousin is Sam Adams."
It's very cute. Read on.
Brent Bozell takes on the idea that conservatives are taking over PBS and turning it from its balanced view into a conservative outpost.
According to the Prowler, Harry Reid's reference to Bush as a loser is status quo for top Democrats. That's how they refer to him in private and all the time before small groups such as the group of teenagers Reid was talking to. Great.

I think Bush would be happy if they just continued to misunderestimate him. They can call him a loser all they want and he can keep defeating them. Now they know how Republicans who would call Clinton all sorts of names and then go out and lose to him felt.
The New York Times has had a committee looking at how to improve its credibility. Besides trying to limit the number of anonymous sources and saying that they want to separate fact from opinion, most of their worries seem to be regarding public perceptions. THey want to answer their critics and defend their writers more. In other words, when conservatives accuse them of bias or distorted reporting, they'll retort "Not so!" and that will be that. DOn't expect major changes.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Media people always deny that there is any bias in how they report the news. Well, how would they respond to these observations by Rich Galen?
Tom DeLay's (R-TX) for the most part, been tarred with the actions of aides and associates. These transgressions have been labeled as ethical violations by the House Majority Leader, Nancy Pelosi.

But in discussing the problems of the House Democratic Whip (the number two guy on the Dem side) the Baltimore Sun describes the failure of Hoyer to report who paid for his junkets as "technical mistakes in reporting trips paid for by industry groups, think tanks or other private entities."

Notice any difference in tone, there?

Then there's the issue of the Sainted Junior Senator from New York.

It seems that a fundraising event in Los Angeles which benefited the Senate campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham was modestly in violation of every law ever considered regarding Federal campaigns and Hillary's "former campaign finance director," David Rosen is going to trial next week.

The San Francisco Chronicle, however, goes to great pains to point that that:
"Though Clinton hasn't been linked to charges that the gala's cost was vastly underreported, she is a top target of Republicans who are scouring for ammunition against one of their top targets in next year's elections - and perhaps the 2008 run for the White House."

Yep. It's all the GOP's fault.

Finally, an above-and-below the fold "Week in Review" piece in the NY times by Mullfave reporter Anne Kornblut looks askance at the fact that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is "defying political gravity" and has the support of a vast majority of House Republicans.

Ms. Kornblut writes "Almost every Republican in th House owes Mr. DeLay something - a job, a piece of legislation or a large campaign contribution."

For extra credit, compare and contrast this with the New York Times' breathlessly fawning obit of how House SpeakerThomas "Tip" O'Neill won a vote on limiting outside income of Members:

The Speaker had a great voice in their committee assignments, the scheduling of floor action on bills, the disbursing of campaign money and the small favors that can make or break a Congressional career. Mr. O'Neill called in his chits.

Tip O'Neill playing the game: Good. Tom DeLay playing the game: Bad.
Isn't that what party leaders are supposed to do?
I haven't seen Kingdom of Heaven, but Tom Smith's review settles the matter for me. Perhaps this is the movie's deeper message.
It's hard not to see this as a metaphor for how Hollywood sees US foreign policy. Everything would be fine if we would just not provoke the Mohammedans, but for inexplicable reasons, the bad guys in power have to provoke them. At that point, the most that can be hoped for is honorable surrender to the powers of the non-West, who after all have the cooler clothes, better climate, and vastly superior interior decorators. But there is honor in surrender, because it's all about saving the people. It's not so bad not being King and Queen; you get to ride off into the horizon, as if on a camping trip.
Joan of Arcadia is a rather sweet, innocuous family show. The premise is a bit dopey but it's harmless. You might even look at it as a nice change from the usual attitude towards religion on TV. The show's creator, however, sounds like much more the typical Hollywood type who looks at religious people as a danger to democracy.
THE premise of "Joan of Arcadia" is fantastical but straightforward: in a modern-day version of the Joan of Arc story, a high school girl starts talking to God. But watching the first season of the family-friendly, politically moderate show - which is to be released on DVD on Tuesday - offers a surprise: how much the perception of religion's place in America has changed since the show's debut. Barbara Hall, the show's creator, said in a recent telephone interview that CBS bought the show in 2002 when public discourse about spirituality seemed more gentle: post-9/11 prayer services rather than heated debates over "The Passion of the Christ."

"It was before we lived in a theocracy," she said. "God wasn't quite as controversial then as he is now."
Oh, come on now. We do not live in anywhere approaching a theocracy. You want to know what a theocracy is. Read up on Afghanistan before the fall of the Taliban. Read up on the government in Iran. Do people not know anything about history or about life in other places in the world? Do they not know what words mean? Or does it just sound like a nice word to throw out there to show that even though you created a show about a girl who talks to God, you're still hip enough to be upset about the same things that upset Maureen Dowd?
If you're unaware of the type of group-think that goes on in teachers' unions, read about the backlash that one veteran teacher is facing from her colleagues just because she taped a commercial supporting Governor Schwarzenegger's education reform plan. Apparently, her words can be discounted because she is....gasp!....a Republican!
Stone's prominent position in promoting the governor's agenda has drawn scorn in her hometown school, where she regularly receives derogatory notes and the cold shoulder.

Nevertheless, Stone makes no apologies nor does she back off her unflinching endorsement of Schwarzenegger's controversial spending, tenure and merit pay proposals.

But Franchini, executive director of the Torrance Teachers Association, said the governor's plans would hurt students if left unchecked, and he suggested Stone's status as a player in South Bay Republican Party politics motivated her unpaid pitches on the radio and in newspaper ads.

And I suppose that there are absolutely no teachers who are active for Democrats in California. Is it an illusion that a high fraction of the delebates [Oops - delegates] every four years to the Democratic convention are teachers? Should their opinions be ignored simply because they are political activists?
This does not seem the kind of headlines that an aspiring Senate candidate wants in his hometown newpaper.
Pattern of abuse claims at NAACP kept quiet

Mfume, supporters deny any impropriety at office
Maybe Julian Bond should start worrying about the atmosphere towards women in the NAACP instead of hurling insults and Nazi references at George Bush.
David Brooks notest that Bush has called the Democrats' bluff and, to mix a metaphor, they've blinked.
Over this time, Democrats have been hectoring President Bush in the manner of an overripe Fourth of July orator. The president should be summoning us to make shared sacrifices for the common good. The president should care for the poor, and stop favoring the rich. He should make the hard choices and impose a little fiscal discipline on government.

Sometimes you had to walk through Democratic precincts in a gas mask, the lofty rhetoric was so thick. But now we have definitive proof that they didn't mean it. It was all hokum.

Over the past few weeks, the president has called their bluff. By embracing the progressive indexing of Social Security benefits, the president has asked us to make a shared sacrifice for the common good. He's asking middle- and upper-class folks to accept benefit cuts so there will be money for the people who are really facing poverty.

He has asked us to redistribute money down the income scale. Why should programs for children and families be strangled so Donald Trump can get bigger benefit checks?

He has made the hard choices. By facing up to the fact that there are going to be benefit cuts, he's offended Newt Gingrich, Jack Kemp, the supply siders and other important Republican constituencies.

So how has the St. Francis of Assisi wing of the Democratic Party responded to Bush's challenge? Does it applaud him for doing what it has spent the past years telling him he should do? Of course not.

Brooks attributes their reaction to the problem of being the opposition party. All they can do is oppose. I don't think that is true. There is pleny of room out there for other ideas. Ronald Reagan didn't become president because all he could do was oppose Jimmy Carter. He had ideas of his own. The same thing for Margaret Thatcher. That is the model opposition parties should follow.
Jay Mathews of the Washington Post and Newsweek has out his new list of the top high schools in America based the number of students taking Advanced Placement exams divided by the number of seniors graduating. Read the FAQs here. My little charter school ranks ....#9. I don't know how valid his ratio is, but it is a marker of good things going on at the school and I'll take the good news with a smile.
Hugh Hewitt solicited ideas to fill in the blank in this sentence and he got some very funny ones.
"Harry Reid calling George Bush a loser is like ___ calling ____ a ____." E-mail your suggestions to hugh@hughhewitt.com.
John Tierney answers his critics about his column from last week comparing the benefits from our Social Security system to the money that his Chilean friend gets from his private account. He makes the exact same point that Charles Krauthammer made yesterday. (You think that NY Times columnists read Washington Post columnists?) Anyways, it is such an important point that it bears repeating and repeating until the Energizer Bunny runs out of juice.
In theory, there is a trust fund to cover this shortfall. When Congress sharply raised Social Security taxes in the 1980's, the idea was to generate surpluses during the baby boomers' working years that would finance our retirement. Instead, Congress spent our money, leaving the Social Security trust fund with a file cabinet full of i.o.u.'s in the form of Treasury bills.

It's not a problem now, because for the next few years the baby boomers' taxes will provide an annual surplus for Social Security of about $100 billion, allowing Congress to dole out the extra money for its favorite causes, like farm subsidies and weapon systems and West Virginia buildings named after Robert Byrd. But in four years the surpluses start declining, and they turn into deficits around 2017, when Congress must begin repaying those i.o.u.'s.

By the time I'm in my 70's, the Social Security shortfall will force Congress to find new taxes or make spending cuts that are more than half the size of the Pentagon's budget. If I make it to age 88, there will no more i.o.u.'s left in the trust fund, so everyone's benefits would have to be cut by 27 percent.

Faced with the grim math, President Bush offered a progressive compromise last week to Democrats: protect the poor while moderating the growth of benefits for higher-income workers. Democrats refused to bite, denouncing his "cuts" without offering a plan of their own, and members of both parties wondered why any politician would jeopardize his party's chances in 2006 by tackling an unpleasant future problem.

You can call the Democrats irresponsible obstructionists, but they're just following the first rule of politics: get re-elected. It's the same rule followed by the politicians from both parties who have spent the baby boomers' retirement money. Why set aside money for 2017 if it could be used to woo voters and campaign contributors for the next election?

I can't protect my pension against political risk, but Pablo can