Friday, March 31, 2006

Danny Carlton has found a reason to be glad not to be a European. All I can say is eeuuuw! I know from the times I've been to Europe that the bathroom facilities left a lot to be desired for Americans used to different standards in public bathrooms.
George Mason is already reaping some of the rewards from its newfound fame.
"Our tours have tripled in size since the UNC victory and, in the past week alone, they are up four to five times from the regular size," says Andrew Flagel, dean of admissions. "We expect it will get very busy next week after we've won."
A man of confidence, I see.

I like that there is also a spillover effect of interest in the GMU's law school and the economics department. Brendan Miniter pays tribute here to how resourceful GMU has been in building up its economics department.

Apparently, this increase in applications for a college after it has a successful athletic season is called the "Flutie Effect" after the effect the Doug Flutie had on Boston College's admissions.
Yet Doug Flutie affected more than just college football scouts. He also made life a whole lot easier for BC's admissions officers, whose job is wooing top high-school students to Boston. In the year following the Eagles' dramatic victory, applications for admission to the private college jumped an astounding 25 percent. Potential students, it seemed, liked the idea of attending a school with a high-profile jock culture -- particularly one like Boston College, whose students had proven that they knew how to celebrate a big win.
The effect is not limited to athletic fame. I well remember that when Ronald Reagan was shot and brought to George Washington University's hospital, that I predicting to my husband (both of us did our undergraduate work at GWU) that the constant repetition of GWU in all the news reports would help admissions there. He thought I was crazy, but, sure enough, I read later that they had a bump up in applications the following year.

It may seem bizarre to pick a school because they're in the Final Four or because the President is treated in their hospital, but it apparently does do something to cause some kids to consider a school that they might not have thought of in the normal way of things.
Congratulations to Eduwonk. He and his wife just had twin baby girls. Mazel Tov!
Sorry for another weekend of light blogging. I'm off now to travel to Washington with the Quiz Bowl team to compete in an event sponsored by the World Affairs Council. Then, I think, I'll be done with Quiz Bowl competitions until the end of April.
Victor Davis Hanson is also thinking about the importance of assimilation for immigrants.
Americans recoil at the volatile ethnic enclaves in France and the Netherlands--and can understand how such tribalism could quickly escalate to sectarian violence in Iraq, the Balkans, and Rwanda. Unless we curb the present influx, return to the melting pot, and salvage a legal remedy from the present illegal disaster, what we saw this week may only be the beginning of something far more dangerous from both sides of this avoidable crisis.
I was watching Bob Greene on C-Span talk about his book, Fraternity, about getting to know the presidents from Richard Nixon to George H. W. Bush after their presidencies to find out what their post-presidential lives were like. What struck Greene (and me as I listened to him) about Jimmy Carter was how Carter was so obsessive about telling other people how to do things they knew how to do. He describes how Carter kept giving the Secret Service driver directions to where they were going even the guy knew how to get there and Carter kept acknowledging that the driver knew where he was going. But he kept giving him directions anyway. When someone asks to take a picture of Carter, he's giving the person directions on how to use his own camera! When he does a little 20 second tribute for a charity affair, he insists on looking at the playback on the monitor and then redoing it so he can move his chair a foot to the side and get a better background for the picture. He sounds very irritating to be around.

Hearing these anecdotes, you can see the same character trait that leads Carter to give other presidents advice on how they should be running their presidency even if it is all criticism and sometimes delivered from overseas. It is almost as if the man can't help himself.
This troubling and moving essay by Joy Jones ran on Sunday, but I'm late getting to all my blogging. She writes about how so many black people don't consider marriage as a goal or a possibility for them. It's something that white people do.
As I reviewed the situation, I realized that all the things I expected marriage to confer -- male companionship, close family ties, a house -- I already had, or were within reach, and with exponentially less drama. I can do bad by myself, I used to say as I exited a relationship. But the truth is, I can do pretty good by myself, too.

Most single black women over the age of 30 whom I know would not mind getting married, but acknowledge that the kind of man and the quality of marriage they would like to have may not be likely, and they are not desperate enough to simply accept any situation just to have a man. A number of my married friends complain that taking care of their husbands feels like having an additional child to raise. Then there's the fact that marriage apparently can be hazardous to the health of black women. A recent study by the Institute for American Values, a nonpartisan think tank in New York City, indicates that married African American women are less healthy than their single sisters.

By design or by default, black women cultivate those skills that allow them to maintain themselves (or sometimes even to prosper) without a mate.
The statistics that she cites are pretty startling.
The marriage rate for African Americans has been dropping since the 1960s, and today, we have the lowest marriage rate of any racial group in the United States. In 2001, according to the U.S. Census, 43.3 percent of black men and 41.9 percent of black women in America had never been married, in contrast to 27.4 percent and 20.7 percent respectively for whites. African American women are the least likely in our society to marry. In the period between 1970 and 2001, the overall marriage rate in the United States declined by 17 percent; but for blacks, it fell by 34 percent. Such statistics have caused Howard University relationship therapist Audrey Chapman to point out that African Americans are the most uncoupled people in the country.
Think of what this means for children. An overwhelming number of black children will never have the experience of a two-parent family. This is such a depressing fact and it relates to what Shelby Steele was talking about how so many of the miseries affecting poor blacks today stem from the lack of a family structure.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Jim Geraghty has been having a lot of fun going through the Democratic Security Plan. Keep scrolling down. As he says, you'll almost pull an optic nerve rolling your eyes.
Stephen Spruiell, John Hinderaker, and Scott Johnson all are very persuasive on how a New York Times reporter mischaracterized the hearing on the constitutionality of the NSA surveillance program. What a surprise that a reading of the actual transcript of the hearing would belie the New York Times reporting.
Peggy Noonan puts her finger onto something important in the debate over immigration. She says that we are assimilating immigrants economically and culturally, but not patriotically. It's a key difference. Read her description of what we used to teach our children and to believe and ponder on how it seems rather retrograde now.
But we are not communicating love of country. We are not giving them the great legend of our country. We are losing that great legend.

What is the legend, the myth? That God made this a special place. That they're joining something special. That the streets are paved with more than gold--they're paved with the greatest thoughts man ever had, the greatest decisions he ever made, about how to live. We have free thought, free speech, freedom of worship. Look at the literature of the Republic: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist papers. Look at the great rich history, the courage and sacrifice, the house-raisings, the stubbornness. The Puritans, the Indians, the City on a Hill.

The genius cluster--Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Madison, Franklin, all the rest--that came along at the exact same moment to lead us. And then Washington, a great man in the greatest way, not in unearned gifts well used (i.e., a high IQ followed by high attainment) but in character, in moral nature effortfully developed. How did that happen? How did we get so lucky? (I once asked a great historian if he had thoughts on this, and he nodded. He said he had come to believe it was "providential.")

We fought a war to free slaves. We sent millions of white men to battle and destroyed a portion of our nation to free millions of black men. What kind of nation does this? We went to Europe, fought, died and won, and then taxed ourselves to save our enemies with the Marshall Plan. What kind of nation does this? Soviet communism stalked the world and we were the ones who steeled ourselves and taxed ourselves to stop it. Again: What kind of nation does this?

Only a very great one. Maybe the greatest of all.
She's right about how we're not teaching this now - that "American exceptionalism is so yesterday." Kids giggle when I introduce the concept. They can't imagine thinking that America is special. I'm sure that there will be liberal commenters who will roll their eyes about the idea of teaching the United States is somehow somewhere special. All they see are the sins of our society, but nothing else.

And that is why these protesters will fly the Mexican flag over an upside-down American flag. They have no patriotic ties to this country so all they have is their ethnic pride.

I think that once we gave up the whole concept of the melting pot as something admirable, we gave up on assimilating immigrants. When we start celebrating everyone's ethnic identity, we start drawing lines of division between people. Add to that the effort to teach all the dross of American history and leave out anything that was patriotic, we sacrificed the possibility of maintaining that sense of patriotism that holds a country together.

UPDATE: Bruce Kesler at Democracy Project has some more thoughts about the interconnection between immigration and assimilation. I think both he and Peggy Noonan are highlighting what is at the foundation of the whole illegal immigration debate. Look at the recent riots among unassimilated immigrants in France and ponder what we're risking if we don't do more in our schools and through any sort of amnest program that we adopt to foster assimilation.

Third Wave Dave remembers what Teddy Roosevelt had to say about assimilation.
Scott Ott at Scrappleface perfectly captures the fecklessness of the UN so-called action against Iran.
Iranians Terrified by UN Resolution

By Scott Ott, Editor-in-Chief, ScrappleFace.com
News Fairly Unbalanced. We Report. You Decipher.

(2006-03-30) — The United Nations Security Council yesterday passed a resolution calling on Iran to halt uranium enrichment by the end of April or face the looming specter of a “virtual mushroom cloud” of additional Security Council discussions and resolutions.

Iran immediately called the non-binding resolution “a terrifying deployment of words that threatens our women, our children and our peaceful way of life.”

The measure, which carries no consequences for non-compliance, nevertheless contains active verbs, challenging vocabulary and deliberate punctuation that pose a “clear and present danger” to the people of Iran, according to an unnamed spokesman for the Islamic Republic.

“The brutal thugs on the Security Council have us over a barrel,” the Iranian source said. “Our people are filled with fear. We are at the mercy of the United Nations.”
The Boston Herald has up the picture of Antonin Scalia flicking his chin at the reporter. Now, the only dispute is over whether he uttered an obscenity in Italian. The photographer says he did; the reporter says she didn't hear it. I think that the photo will end up as a screen saver.
GOP Vixen summarizes what sounds like spot on satire on South Park. The show "Smug Alert" reairs tonight at 10 pm, so if you like South Park humor (which I do) this sounds like a good one. Anything that ridicules the arrogant smugness of George Clooney, Hollywood, San Francisco, environmentalists et al sounds worth watching.
Today is the 25-year anniversary of the assassination attempt on President Reagan. I'm sure that all of us who are of a certain age can remember where we were when we heard the news. Think of how early into his presidency this was and how history might have changed that day.
How ironic to have Madeleine Albright be a spokeswoman to excoriate the Bush administration for incompetence in foreign policy.
Madeleine K. Albright, who served as secretary of state in the Clinton administration, was among the speakers at the Democratic rally.
"I have never seen such rank incompetence as I have seen now from the Bush administration," she said.
Mrs. Albright referred to a recent White House gathering of former secretaries of state at which she said she told Mr. Bush, "Things were not going well in the Middle East, we were worried about Russian regression, there are four times the number of nuclear weapons with North Korea, and Iran knocking at the door, and no one is looking at or talking about Africa and Latin America."
And what did the Clinton administration do to forestall nuclear weapons in North Korea? Didn't she go over and toast them? And what about terrorism? Does she think we've forgotten that the plans for 9/11 were hatched on her watch while we sent a few missiles after Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein and then decided that that was enough. And what does she think Democrats would have done differently about Iran? Would they have avoided military action in Iraq, but have taken it in Iran? Or would Latin America not have gone socialist under their watch?

All the Democrats have now with their self-vaunted security plan are a bunch of goals. Do they think they're impressing anyone with their pledges to capture Osama? And do they think that the terrorists would all fold up and go home if we killed Osama?
I wonder how the British like Bill Clinton sticking his nose into their internal politics.
Gordon Brown's ambition to be the next Prime Minister has been boosted by Bill Clinton, who praised his handling of the British economy after both men crossed a union picket line to attend a conference at the Guildhall in London.

The former US President told his British audience to "lighten up" because, whatever their criticisms of Labour, the UK is better governed than America. He even joked about the Blair-Brown rivalry, saying both men deserve equal respect.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Here are the four possible ways that a French employer can fire an employee. Imagine trying to run a business with these restrictions.
On a lighter note, here's a story on how the increased desire that Americans have for Caesar salad has radically changed the lettuce industry. Think of how Romaine used to be a specialty type of lettuce and now it's a huge part of the market.
Check out the Carnival of Homeschooling.
Justice Scalia explains Italian hand gestures to the Boston Herald.
“Your reporter, an up-and-coming ‘gotcha’ star named Laurel J. Sweet, asked me (o-so-sweetly) what I said to those people. . .,” Scalia wrote to Executive Editor Kenneth A. Chandler. “I responded, jocularly, with a gesture that consisted of fanning the fingers of my right hand under my chin. Seeing that she did not understand, I said, ‘That’s Sicilian,’ and explained its meaning.”

In his letter, Scalia goes on to cite Luigi Barzini’s book, “The Italians”: “ ‘The extended fingers of one hand moving slowly back and forth under the raised chin means: “I couldn’t care less. It’s no business of mine. Count me out.” ’ ”

“From watching too many episodes of the Sopranos, your staff seems to have acquired the belief that any Sicilian gesture is obscene - especially when made by an ‘Italian jurist.’ (I am, by the way, an American jurist.)”
I guess we should have known that "it was Barzini all along."
Remember those pictures of flooded school buses in New Orleans? Well, now you can buy one of them on eBay.
This is too much. First the Scientologists go after South Park and now they are getting ready to keep Katie Holmes from making any noise during labor. Apparently, former science fiction writer thought it was traumatic for the baby to hear the mother moaning or screaming in childbirth.

And, on top of that, they aren't supposed to make any medical tests OR talk to the baby in the first week of life. Just why it would be wrong to talk to a newborn is beyond me but then maybe I'm just a Thetan under the power of Xenu.
Ace contrasts who actually is welcome in San Francisco. This is how one assemblyman responded to a Christian Youth Rally.
The two-day rally, called "Battle Cry for a Generation," was intended to guide young people away from a popular culture that organizers say glamorizes drugs, violence and sex.

Ron Luce, whose Texas-based Teen Mania organization put on the event, said it hopefully would inspire a "reverse rebellion" against corrupting influences such as MTV and the online meeting hub, MySpace.com.

The rally, which also will visit Detroit and Philadelphia, featured religious rockers, speakers and the debut of what Luce called a Christian alternative to MySpace.com — at advance ticket prices of $55 and walk-up prices of $199.

....A Battle Cry invitation had made plain the symbolism of gathering at "the very City Hall steps where several months ago, gay marriages were celebrated for all the world to see."

Barricades separated Luce's crowd with counterprotesters about 6 feet away who said the Friday and Saturday event amounted to a "fascist mega-pep rally."

Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, told counterprotesters that while such fundamentalists may be small in number, "they're loud, they're obnoxious, they're disgusting and they should get out of San Francisco."
So, they oppose loud Chrisitians. But, check out Ace's site for the type of gathering that several city officials including former Mayor Willie Brown found acceptable to attend a few years ago.
Here's a beautiful story of the type of things that our soldiers in Iraq are doing all the time with little fanfare.
An Iraqi family just set the noon meal on the table when some unexpected American visitors knocked on their front door.

Marines from Company I, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment delivered a brand new pediatric wheelchair to the family of a disabled little girl in the town of Al Hasa, March 16. They are on duty in Iraq with Regimental Combat Team 5.

“We knew we had to help out in some way,” said Staff Sgt. Charles Evers, a platoon commander for Company I. “We don’t have a miracle cure, but we can at least give her a new wheelchair.”

The girl’s condition came to the company’s attention in January, during a routine patrol of the area. When her family brought her outside, Marines saw she had an old, rusty wheelchair, built for an adult.

“The girl was injured in a car accident two years ago,” said Evers, 27, from Lewiston, Idaho. “When we were there the first time, her father showed us x-rays of her spine. It’s actually separated.”

The girl’s parents, brothers and sisters greeted the returning Marines with smiles and hello’s even before they presented the new wheelchair.

“They seemed pretty happy about it,” said Cpl. Matthew Rivera, a squad leader. “When we first came in they looked surprised. Then we brought in the chair and their faces lit up.”

Moments after the Marines presented the gift, the girl’s father lifted her out of the old chair, placed her in the new one, shook the platoon commander’s hand, and said “Thank you.” He was so overjoyed, he repeated twice more.

The Marines left the home almost as quickly as they arrived, boarded amphibious assault vehicles and returned to Camp Smitty.
Sharon Stone proves, once again, why we don't look to celebrities for great wisdom on politics.
The 'Basic Instinct 2' star - who has thought about getting into politics herself - feels the former First Lady will have to tone down her hotness before entering the White House.

The 48-year-old revealed: "I wouldn't get involved in politics at the moment, but maybe in a few years' time.

"I think Hillary Clinton is fantastic, but it's too soon for her to run for President. A woman should be past her sexuality when she runs.

Stone added: "Hillary still has sexual power, and I don't think people will, accept that. It's too threatening."
Hillary? Sexual power? Yup, it was so powerful that her husband had to escape it and fool around with all sorts of women all throughout their marriage.

But you can see that the explanation is all ready if Hillary runs and doesn't win. It will be all those Neanderthal men afraid of her sexual power. Of course, many of those same Neanderthals who wouldn't vote for Hillary would vote like a shot for Condi Rice.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Two economists at George Mason University, Alexander Tabarrok and Peter Boettke explain what the school's economics department (home of Nobel Prize winners) and its basketball team have in common.
From the 1960s into the 1980s, a small university such as GMU could hire conservative and free-market thinkers of true genius for the same kinds of reasons that, in the mid-1960s, a middling school like Texas Western University could recruit some of the best basketball players in the nation, so long as they were black, and win the 1966 NCAA championship. Conservative and free-market economists were so undervalued that GMU could afford the best of them.

Today, blacks are no longer undervalued in the market for basketball players, and neither are free-market economists undervalued in the market for university professors (even if free markets remain undervalued in the world at large). As a result, the George Mason economics department must work ever harder to pick winners.

GMU remains an underdog in both basketball and economics. But Coach Larranaga has a plan to succeed in the long term and so do GMU's professors. Click here to read about how GMU is seeking out different new kinds of undiscovered geniuses.

The odds are still against GMU on the court and in classrooms. Neither in basketball nor economics is GMU a top-10 school. We cannot match the endowment of a Harvard or Stanford. Building with the odds stacked against you is difficult, but GMU proves it can be done. Look for undervalued assets, eschew political correctness, and take the long view. But don't try to imitate Mason. The opportunities Coach Larranaga found will dry up. A small economics department today is more likely to succeed by assembling a quality group of socialists than free-marketeers. Bring it on! We're ready to play.
Free market economics and gutsy, talented basketball players: what more can you ask for?
Archaelogists think they've found the palace of Ajax from the Iliad. Cool.
It's good to know that I'm not alone in having my blog deleted and someone else take over my URL. Blogger did the same thing to the official Google blog!
The Google Blog was unavailable for a short time tonight. We quickly learned from our initial investigation that there was no systemwide vulnerability for Blogger. We'll let you know more about what did happen once we finish looking into it.

Update: We've determined the cause of tonight's outage. The blog was mistakenly deleted by us (d'oh!) which allowed the blog address to be temporarily claimed by another user. This was not a hack, and nobody guessed our password. Our bad.
Gulp. You can't go around deleting yourselves. It gets just too existentially weird.
John in Carolina has discovered who was Molly Ivins' real target in her criticism of non-journalists expressing opinions.
I'm finally catching up on some of my magazine reading and just finished The American Enterprise's marvelous interview with Shelby Steele. He said more things in the space of a few pages that made me want to cry hosannas than anything I've read recently. Here are a couple of samples.
TAE: You say many things in black America have not improved as they should have since the 1960s. What do you think happened?

STEELE: Here we were a people who, during the civil rights movement, took charge, fought out a peaceful revolution, and won against a society in which we were outnumbered ten to one.

We won a personal victory, then turned right around and put our future in the hands of the larger society. To understand that, just consider another theoretical option. What if, in 1965, every black person had left America and started a new nation? We would have put all of our energy into education and development - because we'd have had to become competitive with this huge American country. We would have focused on hard work and conservative values. There's no doubt that our new nation would have had conservative politics.

But we didn't leave America. We were smack in the middle of a society that knew what it had done to us before. There was a profound amount of guilt. We knew that guilt was there, and we had a U.S. President who was reeling backwards, putting the responsibility on whites to make things up to us, promising to end poverty. We bought into that, and it made us weak. We bought into precisely the opposite of what we should have done.

Our real problem was a lack of development. We weren't educated. We weren't competitive. And so rather than really tackle those problems within our group, we just kept saying, "Well, you guys haven't given us a good enough school yet. You haven't given us good enough this, or good enough that." We had this wonderful excuse.

....TAE: So freedom is the keystone?

STEELE: The great promise of the United States of America lies in the wonderful interplay between individual freedom and individual responsibility. That's the secret of our greatness; it always has been, and it always will be.

That's why I hate to see identity politics come in, because then we're evaluated on the color of our skin, or the group we're supposed to belong to. If America loses that, then we're in trouble.

Freedom is the most wonderful thing there is, but it's also a burden, a responsibility, a struggle. When I was growing up, it was made clear to me that life was going to be exactly what I created of it. Today's blacks don't have that idea. Because of white guilt, we excuse failure in our black communities.

I look at black people and say, the thing you just don't see is that you are absolutely free. There's no excuse any more for not doing well in this society. People from other countries with language barriers and every other problem can come over here and thrive in a single generation—and you can’t because you don’t yet know how to be responsible in freedom.

No one wants to say the problem with black America is a lack of responsibility for ourselves. If you say that and you're white, you're going to be called a racist. If you say that and you're black, you're going to be called an Uncle Tom. But that's the truth.
Read the whole thing.
Poor David Gregory. Being Chief White House correspondent isn't what it used to be. The press briefings don't yield much news unless you mean Gregory throwing a hissy fit at Scott McClellan. They're cooped up in cramped quarters all day waiting for the White House to throw them some doggie biscuits. So, Gregory has had to look for something more, er, substantive to do.
At 35, Gregory has become the alpha dog of the White House press corps, assuming a new level of fame after his confrontation with White House spokesman Scott McClellan after Dick Cheney's hunting accident. But Gregory is building a career much broader than the briefing room.

He's turning up on "Today" with greater frequency. "He's on the top of his game at the White House," says NBC News prexyprexy Steve Capus. "Where he goes remains to be seen."

Gregory says, " 'The Today Show' is an interesting mix of hard news and lighter fare. You have to be pretty versatile to handle all of that."

On March 20, instead of the president, Gregory was grilling the so-called "Real Housewives of Orange County," in advance of their cable debut on NBC U-owned Bravo.

"Your husband wanted you to get breast implants and you complied?" Gregory asked, putting the screws to self-described "trophy wife" Kim Bryant.
Yup, it's just one step from screaming about Cheney's hunting accident to asking women about their breat implants.
Ankle Biting Pundits has his own info on why Andy Card is leaving the White House. It's to help someone else to get into the Oval Office. I bet he could also just be sick of the long, stress-filled hours.
Thomas Boswell thinks that George Mason's run to the Final Four is the greatest moment in Washington sports history.
There have been greater achievements. As wonderful as reaching the Final Four may be, it's not the same as winning the Super Bowl, the World Series, the NBA title or the NCAA basketball championship, all of which have been done by local teams. Of course, if George Mason wins two more games, all that will have to be reevaluated, too.

However, for shock impact, for underdog glory and for the inspirational value of watching perfect team play, George Mason has already knocked the socks off anything that has happened around here in the last 50 years. I've been a Washington sports fanatic since the '50s as a kid and worked in the Post's sports department since 1970. In my book, nothing's close. How about the decades before that?
And the rush is on to buy stuff with the GMU logo. I can remember when I was at graduate school at UCLA in the late 70s and I traveled to the Soviet Union how great in demand any paraphenalia with the UCLA logo was. Wouldn't it be cool to see people in places like China or the Middle East wearing the name of that defender of individual liberties, George Mason, on their chests?
Babalu Blog and Fausta have organized a Blogburst in support of Cuban journalist, Guillermo Fariñas Hernandez, who is on a hunger strike to protest Fidel Castro's denial of access to the Internet to Cubans.
Guillermo Farinas Hernandez is an independent journalist in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. The bravery it takes to do that, and his prospects in those conditions, are not good. But he has gotten into further trouble with Castro’s goons for trying to tell the outside world about the nightmare inside Cuba through the Internet.

Castro’s security men have deprived him of his lone window to the world, which is the Internet. For that, he’s on the 57nd day of a hunger strike, saying he is willing to die to get Internet access. He has no other means of telling the world what’s happening in Castro’s monstrous tyranny. And he must do it.
Think of how access to the Internet provides a a window on to the world and how such access can challenge tyranny. You can go here to sign a petition in support of Fariñas.

And then ponder why the American media isn't covering a fellow journalist who is willing to die to protest for the freedom to communicate on the Internet.
Stuart Rothenberg doesn't buy the Democratic storyline on running anti-Iraq war veterans this year.
In district after district, Democratic insiders preferred to recruit established political figures who already demonstrated that they could run effective campaigns, raise money and appeal to voters. Only when they couldn’t did they turn to Iraq War veterans.

After all of these arguments, maybe you think that I don’t believe that any of these veterans can win. If you think that, you are wrong.

Duckworth could win, and lightening could strike one of the other districts where Iraqi veterans running this year. But if they win, it will be because they are the Democratic nominees in a year when a Democratic wave sweeps across the country, not because of their status as Iraqi veterans. This year, it is far better to be a Democratic nominee in a competitive district than an Iraq War veteran running anywhere.

Finally, the national media once again deserves plenty of criticism on the way it has covered the candidacies of Iraq veterans. Too many journalists (some of them from as far away as France and Japan) jumped on the story – how those reporters and television producers love “telling a story” – without considering whether the Democratic spin was true.


UPDATE: Democracy Project has some more on this subject.
Cheers to the FEC for this decision.
Commissioners said the new rule also specifically changes several other FEC regulations to make it clear that internet activity, such as blogging, e-mail communications and online publications, is not covered by the campaign law.

For example, the rule says individuals can use union or corporate computers or other electronic devices for political activity, as long they do it on their own time and are not coerced to engage in such activity by the union or corporation.

Bloggers would be entitled to the same exemption from the campaign finance law that newspapers and other traditional forms of media receive.

"There will be no second class citizens among members of the media," Toner said.
Charles Krauthammer takes on Francis Fukuyama. It is not a fair fight. First, Fukuyama told a blatant lie. A lie about Charles Krauthammer. You don't wanna be doing that especially when there is plenty of evidence that what you're saying is a lie. Then Krauthammer takes up the substance of what Fukuyama is peddling.
For Fukuyama to assert that I characterized it as "a virtually unqualified success'' is simply breathtaking. My argument then, as now, was the necessity of this undertaking, never its assured success. And it was necessary because, as I said, there is not a single, remotely plausible, alternative strategy for attacking the root causes of 9/11: "the cauldron of political oppression, religious intolerance, and social ruin in the Arab-Islamic world -- oppression transmuted and deflected by regimes with no legitimacy into virulent, murderous anti-Americanism.''

Fukuyama's book is proof of this proposition about the lack of the plausible alternative. The alternative he proposes for the challenges of 9/11 -- new international institutions, new forms of foreign aid and sundry other forms of "soft power'' -- is a mush of bureaucratic make-work in the face of a raging fire.
It must be hard to recover from having once predicted the "end of history" and that ideology would no longer figure in the world's struggles a decade before 9/11. But this book is not going to help in the recovery process. All it will do is get Fukuyama lots of kudos from those who enjoy bashing so-called neoconservatives.
Sadly, Lyn Nofziger has passed away. Next to Reagan, Nofziger was my favorite guy from the Reagan era. I enjoyed his crumpled clothes, humor, Mickey Mouse ties, and loyalty to President Reagan. His memoirs of his time working with Reagan in California and in Washington was a fun read filled with behind-the-scene anecdotes and his honest assessments of some of those who surrounded Reagan. All the obituaries mention his ability to laugh at himself and others.
Asked why he was leaving the White House, Nofziger replied, "I don't like government, it's just that simple." He denied as "99 percent untrue" a report he'd quit because of his exclusion from the president's innermost circle.

His determined irreverence extended to the Reagans.

"I'm not a social friend of the Reagans," he told an interviewer. "That's by their choice and by mine. They don't drink enough."

Bombay gin, outrageous puns and fierce loyalty to Reagan and conservative Republican principles were Nofziger hallmarks. His caustic wit made him a favorite among some reporters who covered Reagan as governor and president and on his various campaigns.
If you want a feel for his kind of truth-telling laced with humor, check out his website/blog. Here is a sample:
Rarely is a person elected to high office solely because he or she is the most able, the most qualified, the most fit. There are too many other factors involved: The quality and numbers of the opposition, the make-up and turnout of the electorate, the issues, the ability of the candidates to appeal to the voters, money, the ability and enthusiasm of those running the campaign. Lastly, but maybe most important, everything else being reasonably equal, elections are won by the candidates who make the fewest mistakes.

None of this has much to do with how a person will run his office once elected and that is the mistake most peple make; they think and expect the person they elected will be the same having won your vote that he was when seeking it.. It never happens. Not with Arnie Shwarzenegger, not even with Ronald Reagan. You’re expecting too damn much if you expect this.

Looky.

Things, once you get on the inside, are always a lot different than they appeared to be when you were on the outside. Nothing is as simple, nothing is as cheap and for darn sure, nothing is as solvable.

It’s no longer a case of “I will do this or that” but rather a case of “Howcome those s.o.bs in the legislature keep screwing up what has to be done?”

It’s no longer a case of fulfilling campaign promises but one of dealing not with what you said you’d do but dealing with what has to be done.

Politics is always a game of tradeoffs. A legislator can stand firm, knowing he has the support of his fellows. A egovernor or president has to get something done which means making a deal, giving a little to get a little.

Issues come up after a person is elected (Nine-Eleven for instance) that are unexpected, that may call for breaking campaign promises.

I am just scratching the surface here—books can and have been written on the subject—but one more thing needs to be said.

Ambition! The most important thing to almost all politicians is to get reelected. For term-limited governors and presidents it’s to leave behind a legacy. These are more important than principles or promises. When you see a governor or president flip-flopping on a major issue it’s because he thinks it’s to his political advantage to do so. It makes no difference if he’s wrong if he thinnks he’s right. It makes no differenc if he breaks your heart or a few others if he thinks it’s for his long term good. You think what he’s doing is stupid; you know it’s dishonest. Maybe so. But will it help get him re-elected? Will it send him into the history books as a great man? Nothing else matters. Which is why you and I and others who care and believe are left frustrated and in tears. Regardless, this is and always will be life in a political democracy and anyone who expects anything different is living in a dream world..
So true. We need more people like that in politics today, but I'm afraid he was one of a kind, as was Ronald Reagan.

Monday, March 27, 2006

I guess that the UPI doesn't speak Sicilian. They were quick to report that Justice Scalia had given the finger in response to a question.
Justice Scalia flips the finger in church
BOSTON, March 27 (UPI) -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia startled reporters in Boston just minutes after attending a mass, by flipping a middle finger to his critics.

A Boston Herald reporter asked the 70-year-old conservative Roman Catholic if he faces much questioning over impartiality when it comes to issues separating church and state.

"You know what I say to those people?" Scalia replied, making the obscene gesture and explaining "That's Sicilian."


Except that is apparently not what happened. Perhaps the UPI reporter wasn't even there and was just confused by the report from the Boston Herald and cribbed the story without verifying it on their own. Here is the Herald's story and note their stern disapproval.
Minutes after receiving the Eucharist at a special Mass for lawyers and politicians at Cathedral of the Holy Cross, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had a special blessing of his own for those who question his impartiality when it comes to matters of church and state.

“You know what I say to those people?” Scalia, 70, replied, making an obscene gesture under his chin when asked by a Herald reporter if he fends off a lot of flak for publicly celebrating his conservative Roman Catholic beliefs.

“That’s Sicilian,” the Italian jurist said, interpreting for the “Sopranos” challenged.

“It’s none of their business,” continued Scalia, who was the keynote speaker at yesterday’s Catholic Lawyers’ Guild luncheon. “This is my spiritual life. I shall lead it the way I like.”

The conduct unbecoming a 20-year veteran of the country’s highest court - and just feet from the Mother Church’s altar - was captured by a photographer for the Archdiocese of Boston newspaper The Pilot, whose publisher is newly minted Cardinal Sean O’Malley.
I wonder what the Archdiocese has done with that photograph.

But now AP comes to the rescue to give us another version of the story.
Justice Scalia gives a sign, but no finger

SUPREME COURT Was it obscene -- or just Sicilian?

A spokeswoman says Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia used an Italian hand gesture after a reporter asked him a question outside a church service Sunday.

The Boston Herald reported that it was an obscene gesture, which led to some reports that Scalia used his middle finger.

A spokeswoman says Scalia used a "hand off the chin gesture," which Italians commonly use to show displeasure. Scalia used the gesture after being asked if he had to deal with much flak about his conservative Roman Catholic beliefs.
CNN is buying the Supreme Court spokeswoman's version.
The Boston Herald reported Monday that the justice made "an obscene gesture under his chin" -- which prompted some online reports that Scalia had used his middle finger.

Untrue.

"It was a hand off the chin gesture that was meant to be dismissive," Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

Scalia, 70, is Italian and known for wisecracks in and out of court.

The sign he used in Boston is frequently used by Italians to express displeasure with someone -- from mild to deep irritation. It is done by cupping the hand under the chin and flicking the fingers like a backward wave.


I wonder how many of these reporters were actually there. Do a whole crowd of them regularly follow Scalia around when he's attending mass and giving a speech? Has anyone talked to the Herald reporter to clarify which gesture it was? And have they interviewed linguists and experts on Italian hand-gestures to get the true nuances in meaning of this mysterious gesture? Is it obscene or just dismissive? After all, reporters are supposed to be good at that sort of thing, according to Molly Ivins. Let's get to the bottom of Gesturegate.

Personally, it always seemed pretty improbable to me that Justice Scalia would go around giving the finger in response to a question in front of the church, reporters, a photographer, and presumably the parishioners on the scene. The man is not stupid.

Link via John at Stop the ACLU.
I'm not much of a sports maven, but is there anything more exciting than George Mason's entry into the Final Four? I haven't seen this excitement for an underdog team since NCSU's 1983 Cardiac Pack. Todd Zywicki captures what there is to love about GMU's team.

And what a nice side benefit it is that people are getting a nice little lesson on the man that Thomas Jefferson called "the wisest man of his generation." It was Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights that was the model for the Declaration of Independence. See if any of this rings a bell.
Section 1. That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

Section 2. That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants and at all times amenable to them.

Section 3. That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration. And that, when any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community has an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.
Compare that to the Declaration of Independence and you'll see why Jefferson admired Mason so. (Of course, they were both borrowing from John Locke.)

And it was George Mason's insistence that Virginia not ratify the Constitution unless there were protections for individuals against encroachments by the federal government was instrumental in finally convincing the Founders to include the Bill of Rights in our Constitution.

Of course, some of the team members at Mason's namesake university might need a little tutorial themselves.
In fact a pop quiz was quickly administered to Skinn and Butler. Who is George Mason?

"Didn't he sign the constitution?" Butler asked. "And he was president, right?"

Skinn rolled his eyes. "He was not president," Skinn said. But who is he? "I think he had something to do with the constitution," Skinn said. "I should know more."
And it's nice to see this university get a little recognition. Perhaps it will help their admissions. As Jon Saraceno wrote in USA Today,
What do you think makes recruiting students to campus easier, two Nobel Prize winners and a ranked law school ... or a Final Four team?
Maybe people will pause as they cross the 14th Street Bridge (whose real name is the George Mason Bridge) and stop at the George Mason Memorial there in the shadow of the memorial of the man who cribbed Mason's words in the Declaration of Independence.
Jay Cost has a post up at the RCP blog ridiculing a Boston Globe story on the 2006 congressional races in the Northeast. First, he notices that their map accompanying the story inidicating which districts the DNC is targeting misidentifies some of the districts. He then points out how the reporter failed to mention the difficulties that the DNC had in recruiting quality challengers for these targeted districts. Finally, he observes what this sloppiness in reporting says about how reporters cover elections in general.
This Globe story is unique in its sloppiness, for sure. It is hard to mistake Luzerne, Pa for Pittsburgh, Pa. I do think, however, the mistake with the map is indicative of the general problem that major news outlets have with covering these races: everything looks the same to them. From the Globe's perspective, PA 11 and PA 18 are indistinguishable. Nobody in the Globe's bureau knew enough about either district to pipe up and say, "Hey! Ya got that wrong, pal!" Similarly, nobody knows enough to comment intelligently on whether the Democrats stand a reasonable shot in any of the districts in question. They are just ignorant of the nuances of this topic.

The media's response to this information problem has not been to send a copy editor out to pick up a copy of the 2006 Almanac of American Politics and spend some time researching the districts. The response, rather, has been to develop what I would call The 2006 Template for when Bush's Numbers are Down. You take one party's spin about the election as the baseline for the story. Quote the DCCC at length, toss in a quote from a professor at some local school, toss in another quote or two from nervous Republican-types, and you got yourself a story about '06!

When Bush's numbers go back up, you just use the handy 2006 Template for when Bush's Numbers are Up. This time, you take the RCCC's spin as the baseline. Quote a bunch of Democrats who think their party is blowing it worse than Chamberlain at Munich, toss in a quote from a professor at some local school, and you got yourself a story about '06!

Apparently, it is asking too much of reporters covering the congressional races to actually learn a thing or two about the races that they are covering before they report on them. All we can expect is either of these templates and a failure to distinguish Southwestern from Northeastern Pennsylvania. We must be satisfied with the press using partisan spin as the foundation for unquestioning, vacuous, factually sloppy stories about the election.
I wonder if these are some of the same crack reporters whom Molly Ivins was discussing when she was extolling the special skills that reporters have in covering a story.
The Smoking Gun posts the travel requirements given to hotels that were housing Vice President Cheney and Senator Kerry during the 2004 campaign. You can contrast the one-page document for Cheney with the most demanding request being that the televisions be preset to Fox News with the four-page menu suggestion list for housing Kerry and his ever-so-charming wife. Just which man seems more determined to have everything just the way he likes it?
Star Parker exposes a major fallacy of No Child Left Behind. Students at failing schools are supposed to be able to transfer to a better-performing public school. But the agent for giving those students that information is the failing public school. And then there aren't successful public schools nearby for the kids to transfer to.
A 2004 report issued by the General Accounting Office found that there were more than 3 million children nationwide in failing schools and eligible to transfer to better performing schools. Yet, only around 1 percent has transferred.

Despite the central importance to No Child Left Behind of allowing kids in failing schools to transfer, a number of factors make its efficient implementation an unlikely bet.

Because NCLB only provides the option to transfer to another better performing local public school, the universe of educational alternatives is, at the outset, severely limited. This reality is further exacerbated by the fact that the failing schools are overwhelmingly in poor inner city areas. The likelihood of a good alternative nearby public school, with space available, is slim.

According to a study in The New York Times a few years ago, Baltimore had 30,000 kids in failing schools and 194 places in better schools in the district; Chicago, 30,000 kids and 1,170 places; Los Angeles, 223,000 kids, zero available places.

Layered on top of this clear and perhaps fatal flaw of NCLB is the fact that alignment of rights and responsibilities is engineered for failure. The same school management that produced the failing schools to begin with is the management responsible for telling families that the school is failing and giving them good information and advice on transferring out their kid. And it is to this same management to which one must turn with complaints (as we must do with ours in our legal filing).
Unless some sort of voucher system that would allow students in such failing schools to transfer out of public and into private schools, the provision in NCLB is meaningless. There probably aren't enough spaces in private schools right now, but if the option were available, those schools would open up. Some of them would be failures, but some would be successful. And students and their parents would have a choice. Think of those numbers: 223,000 kids in Los Angeles in failing schools and no option for them at all. Almost a quarter a million kids that the public schools are failing. How long can we be satisfied with such numbers?
John Fund is a bulldog on the story of the Taliban spokesman at Yale. Today he looks at some Afghan women who bravely defied the Taliban by being educated in secret. Friday's Wall Street Journal told us about a program, the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women, to urge American universities to establish scholarships for women who braved torture, mutilation, and death to educate themselves under the Taliban.
These women require no remedial classes, by the way. They come prepared, many having huddled in basements secretly imbibing what information they could from male relatives or having lived in Pakistani refugee camps to gain access to schools. Not one of them has a GPA below 3.5.

Arezo Kohistani, now attending Roger Williams, tells us that she had planned to major in journalism. But she changed her focus when several reporters were assassinated in Afghanistan during her first semester. Stories like this remind us that her country has a long road ahead. The graduates of the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women will surely help to speed it along the way.
What amazing candidates these women are for scholarships to American schools. They want to return to Afghanistan after their education to improve their own society. If universities were truly concerned about diversity there would be a lot more on the list of schools setting aside money for these scholarships. The contrast with Yale and their proud admittance of a Taliban spokesman couldn't be more stark.

Kitchen Table Math Blog compares the statistics on these women getting educated underground during the Taliban's rule and now in Pakistan refugee camps with the number of California college freshmen needing remediation.

The president of Yale is going to have to decide soon whether to accept the Mr. Taliban into the regular undergraduate program at Yale. John Fund has some advice for him.
But a Yale official tells me that Mr. Levin has wrested control of the decision as to whether or not his school's prize diversity catch will be admitted as a sophomore next fall away from the admissions office. He will now make the final call.

While he ponders that choice, he could also dust off Ms. Nirschel's 2002 letter and perhaps reconsider her suggestion that another truly worthy Afghan student be admitted. Ms. Rohbar, the aspiring physician, may be someone he could invite over for a chat. After all, she lives only four miles from his office. On days when she doesn't have homework, she is free after around 6 p.m., when her shift as a clerk ends.
Perhaps some feminist groups would also like to contribute to the cause of educating Afghan women.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Claire Berlinski has an essay looking at the riots in France and what they are really about - the future of a socialistic system that can't sustain itself but while it lasts benefits the elites and damages the poor and the immigrant population there.
"It's us they hurt," added the second man. By this he meant immigrants and their children, particularly the residents of France's suburban ghettos, where unemployment runs as high as 50 percent. And, of course, he was right, as everyone with even a rudimentary grasp of economics appreciates: If employers are unable to fire workers, they will be less likely to hire them. It is now almost impossible to fire an employee in France, a circumstance that disproportionately penalizes groups seen by employers as risky: minorities, inexperienced workers and those without elite educations, like the outraged man sitting beside me.

This is the second time in four months that France has been seized with violent protests. And in an important sense, these are counter-riots, since the goals of the privileged students conflict with those of the suburban rioters who took to the streets last November. The message of the suburban rioters: Things must change. The message of the students: Things must stay the same. In other words: Screw the immigrants.

The issue at stake is not, of course, the CPE, which in addition to being unknown in its effects would apply only to a two-year trial period, after which employees would still, effectively, be guaranteed jobs for life. The issue is fear of a real overhaul of France's economically stifling labor laws. While some of the suburban hoodlums have joined in these protests -- after all, a riot is a riot -- it is clear that unless this overhaul proceeds, the immigrants are doomed. If so, last year's violence will seem a lark compared with what is coming.
They have established a system that will inevitably fail unless it is modified. But there are so many in the middle and upper class who benefit from the system that they are willing to take to the streets to protest any modest bow to rationality that the government might take. The government seems powerless before both the rioting poor and the rioting middle class students. This is what happens when a nation ignores the principles of basic economics and votes in such policies as guaranteeing that no one can get fired from a job but everyone is guaranteed elaborate benefits. Remember this situation when you hear politicians spouting demagogic proposals that promise benefits that can't be sustained in the long run. We have enough problems with the IOUs that we've for Social Security and Medicare. We're not in the streets yet, but if we continue refusing to face reality, that will come.

UPDATE: John Hawkins has an interview with Claire Berlinski. Note this exchange.
John Hawkins: In the book, you said that anti-Americanism seemed to be at least in part, a religion substitute for many Europeans. Can you elaborate on that idea?

Claire Berlinski: Certainly. The phenomena to be explained are the irrationality and the ardor of European anti-Americanism. Irrational, because entirely disproportionate to any real faults in American society. Of course America has flaws, and no, it is not lunacy to point them out. But in poll after poll, you see substantial numbers of Europeans, non-trivial numbers, who believe the September 11 attacks were staged, yes, staged, by an oil-hungry American military-industrial complex to justify its imperialist adventures in Iraq. In Germany, 20 percent of the population believes this. In France, a book arguing this case was a galloping bestseller. Now that is bughouse nuts. Totally bats in the belfry. Then the ardor: "My anti-Americanism," wrote one columnist in the British Telegraph, "has become almost uncontrollable. It has possessed me, like a disease. It rises up in my throat like acid reflux, that fashionable American sickness." If only we could harness all that outrage and transform it into a non-polluting energy source! You see this kind of thing all the time in the European press. (Meanwhile, if the French, say, wipe out the entire Ivorian air force, do you see protestors on the streets chanting "No blood for cocoa?" What a question.) When you have these two phenomena together-irrationality and this curious passion, this fervor-it seems reasonable to conclude that you are in the presence of something like a cult. So you consider it, sociologically. What role does this ideology serve in the European psyche? One answer: It fulfills many of the roles once played by the Church. It offers a comprehensive-if lunatic-answer to the question, "Why is the world the way it is, and why is there evil in that world?" It provides a devil to excoriate and then to exorcise. There is community and belonging in anti-American activism, ecstasy in protest. Again, a form of Christian heresy, and no more lunatic, surely, than anything the Cathars believed, if also no less.
The New York Times Magazine has a story on Michael Steele's candidacy to replace Paul Sarbanes as senator from Maryland. The title tells you the tone of the piece.
Why Is Michael Steele a Republican Candidate?
There is that whole marveling tone as if the author is observing a circus performer and just can't figure the whole act out. The reporter dismisses Steele as not being any sort of usual candidate because all he's been has been Lieutenant Governor in a state where the Lt. Governor doesn't have much clout. So, apparently, the only thing Steele has going for him is his race. The reporter can't pin him down on policy proposals. Gee, does that bother the New York Time with other candidates like Bob Casey, Jr. in Pennsylvania? Or, for that matter, most Democratic incumbents running today?

What Steele has going for him is what seems to be a firmly grounded set of beliefs about individual responsibility.
What Steele had to offer, as a candidate, was personal biography, his inspiring life story: childhood in a poor section of Washington; college at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore; then three years studying for the priesthood at a monastery, where he wore the long white tunic of the Augustinian order before deciding that his call to service lay elsewhere. His mother had worked in a laundry, making the minimum wage; his stepfather drove a limo. His parents weren't educated themselves, but they valued learning and made sure the homework in their household got done. Steele's only sibling is Monica Turner, a Georgetown-educated pediatrician (as well as an ex-wife of Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight champ).

....One of Steele's strengths is his comfort in his own skin. He doesn't change who he is depending on the audience. He does not pretend to be a Republican who just happens to be black. He will refer to a black woman as a sister — in his pronunciation, a "sistuh." At one point he said to me, "Education and economic development — if you get those two bad boys right, then you're somewhere."

He said, as we talked in his office: "I'm black. I'm a Republican. I'm a father, a husband, a former seminarian."
Each time I've heard him, I've been impressed with his ability to express his message in uplifting and inspirational language. It's a message that should have appeal if it gets heard. And what the article makes clear is that Steele is getting heard. He's spent the past four years traveling around the state and appearing at all sorts of groups. That may well pay off. And the Democratic primary has ticked off a lot of blacks in Maryland who were offended at the Democrats seeming to crown Benjamin Cardin, a white Congressman, in the primary race against Kweisi Mfume, the former Congressman and head of the NAACP. If Cardin wins the primary, there may be some black Marylanders who are disgruntled and stay home or who even vote for Michael Steele. That's a Democratic nightmare. And if Mfume wins the primary, there may be some moderate Democrats who won't support him against Steele. The dynamics are tricky.

It shows why the Democrats have been all paranoid over Steele's candidacy. The article goes into the whole Oreo-pelting incident at one of his 2002 speeches. I know that several left-wing blogs have made a whole issue out of trying to deny that this incident took place. Here's Steele's response.
The Oreos incident has been an off-and-on story for several years. An Ehrlich aide claimed that the cookies were "thick in the air like locusts," almost certainly an exaggeration. News accounts told of the cookies being "hurled" and Steele being "pelted." Democrats have charged Steele with inflating the episode to score political points, and some have privately hinted that maybe it never happened at all. When I asked Steele about it, he leaned over and spoke slowly and directly into my tape recorder to make his point. "It happened. I was there. O.K.?" He said he did not see the Oreos in the air, but when he got up, noticed them at his feet when he stepped on one and heard a crunching sound.
Whether that story did or did not take place, there is no denying what Charles Schumer's staffers did in illegally accessing Steele's credit report. That incident only gets one line in the New York Times story. You can just picture what play it would have gotten if it were GOP Senate staffers going after Barack Obama's credit report. Every time Schumer sticks his nose in front of a microphone, he should be asked about that.

Steele seems like a formidable candidate. And when you put him together with Lynn Swann in Pennsylvania and Ken Blackwell in Ohio, you can see why the Democrats are trying with all their might to portray these candidates as tokens pulled out of Karl Rove's bag of tricks. Note that Karl Rove's name appears twice in the first sentence of this story. At what point would that attitude to intelligent candidates who just happen to be both conservative and black seem so insultingly denigrating that it will back fire on the Democrats? Maybe not this year, but I predict that there will come a point that reporters will no longer report on a black Republican candidate as if he's a trick pony put forth by a masterful GOP magician.
What a hoot to find out that President Putin plagiarized his PhD thesis from a work published by Americans. I like this little cultural comment on the tag of the London Times story.
While plagiarism has come to be regarded in America as a fatal blot on any US politician’s copybook — Senator Joe Biden has never recovered from allegations that he stole sections of a 1988 speech by Neil Kinnock, the former Labour leader — the issue is not taken especially seriously in Russia, which is second only to China as a producer of pirated copyright goods.
Yup, Americans just have different standards on honesty and copyright protection. What a surprise.
Tom Elia wonders at Molly Ivins' revealing statement that only reporters have the necessary background to write opinion pieces. Apparently, they are the only ones with the skills to get at facts. Forget trained lawyers, economists, or historians. Those are negligible skills, according to Molly Ivins, compared to interviewing witnesses at a traffic accident. That statement speaks quite a lot about why reporters like Ivins so resent bloggers.
Bloggers are not news-gatherers, but opinion-mongers. I have long argued that no one should be allowed to write opinion without spending years as a reporter -- nothing like interviewing all four eyewitnesses to an automobile accident and then trying to write an accurate account of what happened. Or, as author-journalist Curtis Wilkie puts it, "Unless you can cover a five-car pile-up on Route 128, you shouldn't be allowed to cover a presidential campaign."
Perhaps that explains some of the coverage we get of politics. Reporters go out and interview a Democrat and a Republican about something. They disagree. The reporter writes up their comments and that's it. No attempt to figure out to go beyond the talking points and to figure out anything about the veracity of the talking points. Or if, as usually is the case, there is a smidgeon of truth in each statement, to figure out what else may be going on. Perhaps you need more than the experience of interviewing eyewitnesses to a car accident to be able to do that.
Well, I'm back from my Civil War field trip. Sorry about not posting. I couldn't get the hotel Internet connection to work and I'm not techie enough to figure out what the problem was.

We had a great time. We spent four hours touring the battlefield with a great licensed battlefield tourguide. As far as I'm concerned, that is the only way to go. For a relatively reasonable price - $200, he came on the bus with us and guided us around the battlefield, tailoring his talk to the role of North Carolinians in the battle. Our guide, Tim Smith, has written a well-reviewed book on Devil's Den and I think that was the highlight for the kids to climb around on those boulders while he talked about the fighting there. Four hours was just not enough.

Then the next day we went to Pamplin Park in Petersburg. If you are a Civil War buff with children, this is a great location to visit. The Museum of the Civil War Soldier has lots of interactive exhibits. You listen to an MP3 recording of a selected soldier's letters and diaries about his wartime experiences as you look at lifesize dioramas of life as a soldier. Then there are demonstrations on Civil War life by an interpreter as well as demonstrations of loading a rifle. The kids got marched around and practiced making a charge on the fieldworks. This is where the breakthrough battle on April 2, 1865 occurred that marked the end of the campaign for Petersburg. I think younger kids than high schoolers would especially enjoy this museum and there is a lot more to see than at most battlefields which may just look like a big field to kids.

It was a great trip and I'm so glad to live close enough to be able to take a class to these locations.

One footnote that the guide at Pamplin Park mentioned. The battle that took place there where the Union finally broke through the Confederate line around Petersburg only took 15 minutes. But more men died in that battle than have died in three years in Iraq. Whatever you make of that fact in light of the debate over the war in Iraq, you have to just stand back in horrified awe at the spilling of men's blood during our Civil War.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Blogging will probably be light for the next couple of days. I'm leaving in a bit to take my class on the Civil War to visit Gettysburg and Petersburg, VA. The hotel is supposed to have an Internet connection, so if the kids behave, I might get some time later on.
So, would you like Congress to exercise more fiscal discipline and cut the deficit? My students in AP Government would too. They're working right now on trying to balance the budget using this budget simulation. Their task was to try the simulation first only making reasonable cuts that they thought they might be able to get through Congress and get reelected having done. To no one's surprise, they weren't able to cut much from the deficit. Then I let them have their fun and cut what they'd like to cut. They're having a good ol' time. I just heard one kid say, "The old people are getting nothing! And I'm glad." Another kid cut all militiary expenditures 100%. They found out that they could get a surplus if they cut Social Security entirely or if they eliminated all military spending. But, otherwise, if they tried to be reasonable, guess what? It is very hard to cut the deficit.

Try it yourself. Figure out your own ideal budget and then see what that does overall to spending. And then try to figure out if you could get any of those cuts through Congress. You'll probably echo one of my students who said "Cutting the deficit is hard, Mrs. Newmark." Yup. Lesson learned.
Isaac Hayes and Scientologists should have known better than to take aim at South Park for ridiculing their religion. Targets of satire never improve their image by trying to shut down the satire. And with such comedians as Trey Parker and Matt Stone who have demonstrated that they don't respect any of society's icons, it was to be expected that they would have their revenge. They have put together a new episode poking fun at Hayes and Scientology through a new thinly disguised cult standing in for Scientology. And their fans have stuck back vowing to boycott Tom Cruise's new movie, Mission Impossible III.
"South Park" fans have struck back, threatening to boycott Viacom's upcoming Tom Cruise flick "Mission: Impossible III" until Viacom's Comedy Central puts back on its schedule the show's Scientology spoof episode the network yanked last week.

Meanwhile, Comedy Central and the show's creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, hoped to placate the angry mob (as if) with a hastily thrown together season-opening episode in which Chef is brainwashed by "a fruity little club" whose members travel the globe having sex with children.

Celebrity Scientologist Isaac Hayes, who had provided the voice of Chef, South Park's beloved school cook, since the show started, announced early last week that he wanted out because he had discovered "South Park" pokes fun at "religious communities." Two days later, Comedy Central yanked the scheduled rerun of the "Trapped in the Closet" episode that skewered Scientology and its most famous member, Tom Cruise.

The response to Hayes's exit was last night's slapped-together 10th-season opener, "The Return of Chef!" The producers sliced and diced lines Hayes had recorded in previous seasons to produce Chef's new lines for the episode, a Comedy Central rep told The Post's John Maynard.
As Michael Gove writes in the London Times, what Scientology needs is more ridicule.
The whole climate in which religion is discussed has chilled notably in the past few months. After the Danish cartoon controversy, the momentum is with those people who use their particular, narrow faith to silence other voices. If you doubt that’s so, just ask why no British newspaper felt that it could reproduce those cartoons. And reflect on why the British and American governments had to apologise for the offence caused. What were governments doing saying sorry for the independent actions of free citizens? Bending before a very ill wind.

When the House of Commons debated the Religious Hatred Bill, the argument was made that criminalising what one said about faith would have a chilling effect on debate overall. And, even without the law having been passed, one section of our community has succeeded in just that aim.

I’m sure that Trapped in the Closet is wildly offensive. I certainly hope so, anyway. Because the one thing that Scientologists need more than anything else is ridicule. A religion founded by a science-fiction writer in the 1950s which invites its followers to believe in an inter-galactic tyrant called Xenu and offers them the chance to control time itself by becoming “Operating Thetans” deserves nothing less.
Come on, if you can't make fun of that, what can you?
The Detroit schools are experiencing a sick-out by the teachers who are upset over the deal that the teachers' union negotiated for teachers to give back some money to the school district to save the district from its own deficits.
Some 53 Detroit elementary schools were closed this morning after nearly 800 teachers called in sick for classes.

The closings were announced about 15 minutes after the 7:30 a.m. start time at Pasteur, Dixon, Carleton and Barbara Jordan schools. While some children were loaded back on school buses for a trip back home, others had to wait at school for parents or guardians to pick them up.

School officials had estimated Tuesday that as many as 1,500 teachers planned to protest because they are lending the district five days' pay at the same time principals could see their salaries rise from 4.7 percent to 10.6 percent.

On Tuesday, Detroit teachers lent the first of those five days' pay, a part of a one-year contract it reached with the financially struggling district.

Principals argue their increase isn't a raise because they took a 10 percent pay cut in the last school year, and administrators say they need the pay boost to keep and attract principals.
Teachers should never use their contract disputes to punish the students. That is unconsciencable.
George Will revisits the ludicrous decision of the Florida Supreme Court that struck down the state's voucher program because it determined that the legislation violated the provision in the state's constitution to provide a uniform education.
But Florida's Supreme Court fulfilled the desires of the teachers unions, and disrupted the lives of the 733 children and their parents, by declaring, in a 5 to 2 ruling, that the voucher program is incompatible with the state constitution. Specifically, and incredibly, the court held that the OSP violates the stipulation, which voters put into the constitution in 1998, that the state shall provide a "uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education."

The court wielded the first adjective as a scythe to cut down the OSP. It argued that the word "uniform" means that the state must utilize only public schools in providing "high quality education."

This even though many public schools are providing nothing of the sort; the public school that Octavia would have to attend were she not at Archbishop Curley has been rated a failing school for three consecutive years by the state . And even though the state can continue to utilize private schools for educating some disabled students. And even though, by the court's reasoning, it is unconstitutional for the state to use the OSP to help Octavia receive a fine education at Archbishop Curley, the constitutional mandate about "high quality education" requires consigning her to a failing school. And even though there is no evidence that the drafters of the constitution's language or the public that ratified it thought it meant what the Supreme Court now says it means -- that in providing quality education, the state must enforce a public school monopoly on state funds. Actually, the legislature's committee that drafted the "uniform" language rejected a proposal to prohibit vouchers.

The court's ruling was a crashing non sequitur: that the public duty to provide something (quality education) entails a prohibition against providing it in a particular way (utilizing successful private educational institutions). The court's ruling was neither constitutional law nor out of character, and it illustrates why the composition of courts has become such a contentious political issue.
As George Will points out this was a weak and dishonest ruling. They seized on one word to strike down a program because of their ideological objections to it rather than because anyone could, in good faith, argue that the requirement for a uniform education means that Florida children should be stuck in schools that the state has labeled as failing. I hope that Jeb Bush and the Florida legislature will amend the Florida Constitution to make the voucher program pass this new hurdle. As Will concludes,
It is stirring to see the quiet tenacity of people whose lives are disrupted by other people's political struggles. When Octavia and her mother -- and David Hill, 14, a ninth-grader, and his parents, and several other parents and relatives of students -- recently gathered around a table at the school to discuss the end of the OSP, there was no rancor. The children and parents at the table were black. None were Republicans. The NAACP, as usual, is in lock step with the Democratic Party, which is in lock step with the teachers unions. But the people at that table spoke only words of gratitude for the school -- its small classes and respectfulness. All displayed the dignified patience that ordinary people often display when they are buffeted by the opaque storms of politics.
When will the NAACP see that the people they claim to represent are more interested in getting their children a decent education than they are in supporting the teachers union's grip on public schools?
Hugh Hewitt interviewed Christopher Hitchens on the radio yesterday and Hitchens makes some interesting points.
CH: Well, I object to people like Michael Moore for example, or Ramsey Clark being referred to as...in the New York Times as anti-war activists, or anti-war campaigners. They're not anti-war at all. For one thing, they're not pacifists, particularly not Ramsey Clark. For another, they've declared that they believe the beheaders and jihadists and the blowers up of Mosques and mutilators of women and so forth are a liberation force or an insurgency. Michael Moore even said they were the modern equivalent to the American founding fathers. So in that case, fine. George Galloway's the same. Many of them are. They're not really against the war. They're not anti-war, but on the other side in the war for civilization, and they should be called out on it and given their right name.

HH: Do you believe that there are leaders in the Democratic Party in Congress who also belong to that caucus?

CH: No, I can't say that I do think that. I mean, maybe Cynthia McKinney, who is not exactly a leader. She seems sometimes to talk in a sort of MoveOn.org manner, but no, I think that we're far from that in this case. I think what you have there is again, a sort of fatalism, the feeling that if you can say a war is unwinnable, you've also said it's wrong. In other words, that you would desert the side you were on if you thought things were going badly. That's a moral degeneracy of a different kind.
Hitchens then talks of what unnamed media person said to him - that he's suddenly wondering if the media and perhaps the Democrats are giving the terrorists in Iraq the impression that all they have to do is hold on untilthe Bush administration is out of office and then we'll be out of there. So, the terrorists know that all they have to do is keep up a level of violence for the next two and a half years and then the U.S. will leave under a new Democratic president and they'll have free rein in the place. Is that the message that Democrats really want to be sending?
Lorie Byrd has a column up today at Townhall pondering why the media has suddenly become interested in how the military in Iraq feels about the war.
I don't recall a poll taken of the troops during the Clinton administration to find out how they felt about the operation in Mogadishu. Maybe somebody did take one, but the 99.999 percent disapproval number they got was just more than the media could stand to report. I don't recall a bunch of polls being touted loudly by the media in the Clinton years letting us know how many of the troops respected their commander-in-chief. Certainly polls of the military were done during the Clinton years, but if they were, they were not featured prominently on my nightly newscast. I wonder why that is.

I asked Matt of the excellent military blog Blackfive for his take on the recent efforts of those in the media to determine how the troops feel (Military blogs, referred to as milblogs, are the weblogs maintained by individual members of the military and often include their personal accounts of their experiences in the field, sometimes even including pictures from war zones).

Matt had this to say about the sudden interest in polling the troops, “No one polled my troops about doing a tour in Bosnia or whether we supported the mission. No one asked me if I thought my unit should be involved in El Salvador in the 80s or Iraq in 1991. Would I rather have been drinking a beer, sitting in the bleachers of Wrigley Field? Of course. But there was a job to do and it was mine to complete.” He went on to say that instead of polling the troops on their feelings about Iraq, the media would do better to focus on providing more complete and truthful reporting of what the military is doing there.
Well, we know why the media is suddenly interested in their feelings - they think it fits a storyline that they want to tell. Lorie reminds us of how the New York Times edited the words found on Cpl. Jeffrey Starr's computer after he was killed in Iraq to make it seem like he was against the war instead of including the complete message which showed how he was in favor of the mission there.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Yesterday, H.W. Brands revisited the only time in which the Senate censured a president and what happened then. In 1834, Henry Clay spearheaded a censure motion against Andrew Jackson for Jackson having withdrawn the government's money from the National Bank without Congressional approval. Jackson's actions were a disaster both for the National Bank and for the nation's economy. Although, Clay and his supporters had the numbers to pass the censure motion, they gained little from it and when the Democrats regained control of the Senate, they expunged the censure from the record.
Clay thought he had won a great triumph. But the 1834 midterm elections returned control of the Senate to the Democrats, as the Jacksonians were called by then. And the Democrats refused to let the censure issue rest. Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, who had once shot Jackson in a street brawl (the president still carried bullet fragments in his shoulder) but eventually became the president's most devoted partisan, campaigned incessantly against the censure and all who had voted for it. His efforts helped make the retiring Jackson the focus of the 1836 presidential election, bringing voters out in force for Van Buren, Jackson's uncharismatic protégé.

The Democrats celebrated Van Buren's victory by voting to expunge the censure resolution from the records of the Senate. As Jackson, old and ill, prepared to leave Washington for the Hermitage, his plantation near Nashville, Benton choreographed an elaborate ceremony in which the original handwritten journal of the Senate from 1834 was carried into the chamber and the Senate's secretary, after drawing bold black lines around the censure resolution, wrote across it, "Expunged by order of the Senate."

Benton retrieved the secretary's pen and sent it to Jackson as spoils of victory, while Henry Clay was left to mutter against the "foul deed which, like the blood-stained hands of the guilty Macbeth, all ocean's waters will never wash out." Clay continued to pay for his temerity: in 1844, even as Jackson declined toward death, Clay lost his third (and final) race for the presidency to another Jackson protégé, James K. Polk.
Though, I wouldn't say that Polk lost in 1844 because of the censure motion. He lost because he tried to weasel on the big issue of the day: the annexation of Texas.

However, this history of Jackson and the censure demonstrates why the Founders didn't put various levels of disapprobation into the Constitution. Otherwise, we might have censure motions everytime we have divided government. If a president's opponents think that he has done something illegal, the Constitution provides a procedure for that occurrence. If they don't think that they can get an impeachment measure through the House, perhaps that is a measure of the weakness of their argument. If it were as open and shut as liberal commentators claim that the President's warrantless surveillance of people communicating with Al Qaeda then even Republican House members would be up in arms. Those guys have to get elected every two years and they wouldn't sacrifice their reelection chances to support a president who they believe broke the law.

But a censure motion is just a gesture. It has no substance. Any gesture that can be erased whenever the other party gains control of the Senate is worthless. I was against the idea of a censure of President Clinton for the same reason. I would tell those supporters of Senator Feingold's motion what Andrew Johnson said, "Impeach and be damned!" But don't fiddle around with the nothingburger of a censure motion.
Cheers to Torie Clark and to CNN for clarifying a standard line from the Democrats about General Shinseki's retirement as Army Chief of Staff. Shinseki retired and his replacement was named early. Later he testified before Congress on how many men he thought would be needed on the ground in Iraq in the forthcoming war. Afterwards, Democrats, including John Kerry, conflated these two events to say that the Pentagon fired Shinseki because of his testimony. Torie Clark was on Wolf Blitzer's show yesterday and clarified that his retirement was announced months before his testimony and the two were not at all connected as Paul Begala had been spouting off about. Wolf Blitzer did some fact-checking and scored one for Torie Clark and zero for Paul Begala. Stephen Spruiell has the transcript and video.
Students' uncertainty and the ease of the common application have combined to increase the number of colleges that students apply to. It is getting more and more common for students to apply to a double-digit number of colleges; some are applying to over 20 schools. Wow. How do these kids make decisions when they'll only have a few weeks in April to make up their minds? Those poor guidance counselors who have to handle all the paper work for all of those applications.

In another trend, both colleges and secondary schools are seeing an increase of over-involved parents.
Educators say the shift in parental engagement coincides with the rise of the millennial generation, kids born after 1982.

"They have been the most protected and programmed children ever -- car seats and safety helmets, play groups and soccer leagues, cellphones and e-mail," said Mark McCarthy, assistant vice president and dean of student development at Marquette University in Milwaukee. "The parents of this generation are used to close and constant contact with their children and vice versa."

Academics say many baby boomer parents have become hyperinvolved in their children's lives for numerous reasons. There is the desire to protect youngsters from a tougher and more competitive culture. And there is the symbolic value of children.

"It was just about 20 years ago that we started seeing those yellow 'Baby on Board' signs in cars, which arguably had little to do with safety and a lot to do with publicly announcing one's new status as a parent," said Donald Pollock, chairman of the Department of Anthropology at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

"I imagine that parents who displayed those 'Baby on Board' signs are the ones who are now intruding themselves into the college experience of those poor babies 18 years later," he said.

"There are a lot of things I can't control," said one Bethesda mother who asked not to be identified because, she said, her daughter would be mortified. "Terrorists, the environment. But I can control how my daughter spends her day."

Teachers and principals in the early grades began noticing changes in parents in the 1990s. Parents began spending more time in classrooms. Then they began calling teachers frequently. Then came e-mails, text messages -- sometimes both at once. Today schools are trying to figure out how to take back a measure of control.

Some parents who once had unlimited access to classrooms or school hallways are being kicked out, principals say. Teachers are refusing to meet with parents they consider abusive, some say. A number of private schools have added language in their enrollment contracts and handbooks warning that a student can be asked to leave as a result of a parent's behavior. Some have tossed out children because their parents became too difficult to work with.
I'm ambivalent about these responses. Sure, I've encountered parents who were abusive to teachers about how their kids had been graded or disciplined. But those parents were the real minority. Mostly, I'm thrilled to have parents write me about their kids' work. If I can't defend a grade a kid has gotten, I'd be a sorry excuse for a teacher. Mostly, the parents I am involved with are just ones who are concerned that their children are doing poorly and they're looking for ways to help. And that is wonderful. Kids who have involved parents are lucky indeed. I don't like this approach that some schools seem to have that parents are a nuisance. But that isn't how they feel when they turn to the PTA for money for the schools.

For colleges, that is a different story. However, with all the stories we hear of drunken bacchanalias at colleges and all the money that parents have to pony up to pay for college, they probably feel perfectly justified in trying to find out what their kid is doing at that expensive college they sent him or her to.