Lookism in the classroom
but pretty," my rant on the evils of graphic software in the
classroom, is posted on TechCentralStation.
Of course, if I weren't such
a technological dummy, I'd have figured out why my new template -- which
has a space for free-lance articles -- isn't publishing to the web site.
Where does the money go?
In the average California school district, only 54 percent of funds go
for teachers, books and supplies. Is the rest "bureaucratic bloat?''
Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub explains that it's
not that simple, analyzing the classroom-first proposal by gubernatorial
candidate Richard Riordan.
I did a Mercury News series
several eons ago trying to trace where the money goes in public schools.
It's very tough to track. A high budget for consultants may signify wasted
money on frills -- or a flexible way to pay for special services for high-need
students. Some administrative expenses are billed as counseling, and therefore
direct services to students, since principals and vice principals deal
directly with students. Schools with lots of poor kids qualify for lots
of extra money, but need more administrators to apply for the money and
track spending, especially if it's federal. It's a mess.
A key point Weintraub makes
is that much of the increase in education funding has gone to special
education and special programs for low-achieving students, not to classroom
instruction for the average kid. If schools focused on teaching reading
very, very well in the primary grades, many students wouldn't have special
needs later on. -- 1/31
The SAT verbal and math tests should be replaced
by a new test linked to what's supposed to be taught in California
classrooms, says a University of California faculty committee. UC President
Richard C. Atkinson suggested dumping the SAT I last year; he prefers
the SAT II achievement tests.
This won't do what the proponents
secretly want: Qualify more "underrepresented minorities'' for Berkeley
and UCLA. It won't relieve the test anxiety that ambitious high school
students face: They'll have yet another test to worry about. (Anyone who
applies out of state will still have to take the SATs.) Why not use the
statewide exam, which soon will be linked to state standards in math as
well as language arts? Or the state's exit exam? Or, if those standards
are too low, the Golden State exams for high achievers?
It's not as if the new UC test
would be radically different than the SATs. The leading candidates to
write the new test are the companies that make the SAT and the ACT college
exams. -- 1/31
Enduring war for justice
Bush's State of the Union speech (here's the text)
was politically effective. Very. But the important part is how he defined
our objectives. The president made the case for war against Iraq, Iran
and (with less emphasis) North Korea.
Our second goal is to
prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our
friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction.
That wasn't our goal before.
It is now.
Some of these regimes
have been pretty quiet since September 11, but we know their true nature.
That means we don't need a
9-11 link to justify acting in self-defense.
aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected
few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom.
Note "unelected few"
and "Iranian people's hope for freedom." This means we'll support
a popular rebellion in Iran.
Iraq continues to flaunt
its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime
has plotted to develop anthrax and nerve gas and nuclear weapons for
over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to
murder thousands of its own citizens, leaving the bodies of mothers
huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international
inspections then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has
something to hide from the civilized world.
Saddam, you're toast.
America will lead by defending
liberty and justice because they are right and true and unchanging for
all people everywhere. No nation owns these aspirations, and no nation
is exempt from them. We have no intention of imposing our culture --
but America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of
human dignity: the rule of law ... limits on the power of the state
... respect for women ... private property ... free speech ... equal
justice ... and religious tolerance.
Hear that, Saudis?
America will take the
side of brave men and women who advocate these values around the world
-- including the Islamic world -- because we have a greater objective
than eliminating threats and containing resentment. We seek a just and
peaceful world beyond the war on terror.
That's a pretty huge mission,
that just and peaceful world. I'm sure the anti-imperialist doves are
screaming about Bush's Pax Americana. It makes me nervous too. And proud.
Who was head militarist
in the Revolutionary Conflict?
New Jersey's revised history standards don't include the founding
fathers, reports the Washington Times. Washington, Jefferson and Franklin
aren't mentioned. Neither are the Pilgrims or the Mayflower. The word
"war" has been been replaced by "conflict" in the
Defenders say that teachers
will teach about George Washington without being told, but might skip
slavery opponents Theodore Dwight Weld and Angelina and Sarah Grimke,
who are specified in the draft.
However, it's not clear that
the basics of American history are being taught. Diversity mania and church-state
idiocy have warped the curriculum in many places.
Some states like Virginia
and Indiana also don't include the Pilgrims in their standards. In some
cases, the Pilgrims are referred to as early settlers, early Europeans,
European colonizers or newcomers, although most textbooks still call
"[The word] Pilgrim implies religion," said Brian Jones, vice
president for Communications and Policy at the Education Leaders Council
in Washington. "It's getting more difficult to talk about the Bible
and the Puritans."
New Jersey students may never
know that Pilgrims came to America seeking religious freedom, or that
a tree-destroying, slave-owning militarist killed enemy soldiers in the
Revolutionary Conflict to become the patriarch of his white male-dominated
country. -- 1/29
My first blog
Weekly Reader is 100 years
old, says QuasiPundit, who was inspired by it as a school boy.
We got it at Ravinia Elementary
too when we were in second grade. My best friend and I thought it was
stupid. We were inspired to start a rival newspaper called the Wednesday
Report, which we wrote, edited and (via mimeograph) published for four
years. I guess I always wanted to have my say. -- 1/29
Worst case scenario
Muslims are at the
mercy of ordinary Americans, complains the online Dawn, a Pakistani
publication. Since Sept. 11, immigrant cab drivers are experiencing "stress.''
The fear might seem silly
if it had not already come true. Sometime after Sept 11, a Bangladeshi
Muslim driver was arrested after arguing with a passenger who quizzed
him on his political views.
The passenger called authorities, who reportedly found irregularities
on some of the driver's identification documents. Friends have not heard
from him since and assume the immigrant is in an INS prison, says Haq.
It is the worst case so far . . .
A cab driver with a bad attitude
got caught with phony papers, based on a passenger's tip. And that's the
worse case so far.
Also on Dawn, an editorial
on "How to deal with
about "finger-pointing towards Pakistan in the aftermath of the Kolkata
killing," and "people so paranoid that they see a terrorist
lurking even in their own shadows."
I'm sorry, guys, but the finger
is pointing at Pakistan for very good reason; terrorism is not a figment
of the nervous nellies' imagination in India or the U.S. -- 1/29
After a trip to Guantanamo, Sen. Dianne Feinstein says she'd
rather do time in X-Ray than in U.S. alternatives. And she served
on a parole board, so she knows what prison conditions are like.
"Although this is
not a traditional prison facility, and it's been put up in 21 days,"
said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), "if I were either faced
with lock-down in San Quentin or Folsom, or even on the line with two
people in a smaller cell, I would rather be at Guantanamo Bay."
The story has Human Rights
Watch complaining about "chain-link fence enclosures.'' I've watched
lots of World War II movies; traditionally, prison camps are fenced. Do
the Geneva Conventions require barbed wire? Does international law now
demand white picket or redwood?
Oh, I guess he means the cells
are made of chain link. The culturally appropriate choice would be a concrete
dungeon. -- 1/29
Date with a Playmate
Here's a Cinderfella
story from the Orange County Register.
Senior Toby Hocking arrived
at his Foothill High School winter formal Saturday with Playboy Playmate
Petra Verkiak as his date - making his dad proud, his mom nervous and
school officials slightly edgy.
The pinup, who at 35 is twice Hocking's age, offered to take the teen
to his formal after she read his college entrance essay and was moved
Hocking is a straight-A clarinet player who sometimes fences -- not
exactly the fast track to popularity. He wrote about feeling like an
outcast - putting up with kids calling him "band-o." But then
one day, lying on his bed chewing his fingernails, he realized it was
up to him to turn his fortunes around, search out some friends and make
something of his high school years.
"I thought it was really deep," Verkiak said Saturday after
arriving at the boy's Tustin home in a black limousine. "And I
related to it."
Verkiak explained that she felt like an outcast when she was first named
Miss December 1989. Being a Playmate is a sisterhood, she said. And
at first, she felt like she didn't fit in. -- 1/28
the Geneva Conventions, says Mickey Kaus. They only work for conventional
wars, and that's so last century.
People who care about human
rights should stop squabbling about the Geneva Convention and start thinking
about what Geneva II should say. I assume torture would be out, but captors
would be allowed to question prisoners. Should prisoners who aren't in
a conventional military be given a military court-martial if they're charged
with an offense? There'd have to be a rule for when an unconventional
war is deemed over and prisoners allowed to go home. And what if they're
afraid to go home? Kaus is right. We need new rules to fit our conflicts.
Grief and greed
may be brewing against 9-11 victims' families who complain that they won't
money from the government's compensation fund. Under interim rules,
all families would get $250,000 for "pain and mental anguish,"
$50,000 for each surviving spouse and minor child and additional money
to compensate for economic loss. The average payment is expected to be
Among their main complaints:
that the $250,000 "pain and suffering" award is too low and
that many families whose loved ones had generous life insurance policies
and pensions would receive little or nothing from the fund.
Your Voice argues the "non-economic'' award of $250,00 is an
"insult'' compared to other settlements. Families
of September 11 also complains that high-earning victims' survivors
won't get enough; for compensation purposes, victims' income is capped
at $225,000 a year.
I agree with Hawspipe
that the 9-11 compensation fund has been underblogged. It's time to think
critically about what the nation owes, and doesn't owe, to the 9-11 families.
The government fund, which
comes from our taxes, not from Al Qaeda's treasury, was set up to speed
help to needy survivors and to shield the hard-hit airlines from liability
suits. (Those who don't take the money can sue, but the airlines' liability
If a bond trader's family is
getting $1.6 million or more from insurance and pension funds, why should
the taxpayers be obliged to give them even more?
Olmsted observes, the CIA man and the soldiers killed in Afghanistan
will get government insurance, but not million-dollar-plus checks. Most
families of murder victims get no federal compensation.
What has happened to these
people is terrible, but terrible things happen to people every day.
The government's job is to do what it can to ensure more people don't
lose family and friends to terrorists, not to recompense those that
Resistance is growing
to the proposal that the entire World Trade Center site be a memorial
-- a necropolis,
writes John Tierney in the New York Times (via Jeff Jarvis' 9.11
Memorial page). Grief shouldn't limit Manhattan's future as a vital
part of a growing, living city. -- 1/28
Gitmo is great -- by U.S.
all prisoners badly, according to the Brits. By comparison to what
American felons suffer, Camp X-Ray's inmates have it easy.
HE is woken at 4.30 every
morning, given a breakfast of powdered eggs, then left incarcerated
in a tiny space for the rest of the day and night. The cell is designed
to hold just one person, but there are four men sharing it.
The prison generates a number of mortal risks to health, not the least
of which come from the other prisoners, some of whom have Aids, tuberculosis
and other infectious diseases - never mind the abilty to inflict murderous
physical and sexual violence at any moment.
He's not Taliban or Al Qaeda.
Just an average American felon.
The Telegraph's analysis is
somewhat haphazard: Florida jails are "hellholes" because they're
not air-conditioned, make prisoners work and don't allow TV. Brutality
by guards and fellow prisoners is mentioned later.
In the U.S., many law-enforcement
positions are elective. "Politicians have to reflect what the voters
think on law and order: if they don't, they lose office." In Britain,
the "elite consensus'' decides issues of crime and punishment. Columnist
Mark Steyn calls this the "Euroweenie
class'' in a letter to the Telegraph. All those Britons who told pollsters
they think Camp X-Ray is just fine represent the other 90 percent of the
Of course, just because we're
more democratic doesn't mean U.S. prison conditions -- specifically, the
high risk of sexual assault -- are OK. We have a right to lock up criminals,
and even to deny them air conditioning, but not to let them torture each
I was thinking about John Walker
Lindh's desire for four
wives. The dumb cluck's probably a virgin, I thought, what with all
that fanatacism about "purity." And then I thought about
his likely fate in prison: He's more likely to be a wife than to have
one. This is not poetic justice. It's unjust for Tali-boy and everyone
else. -- 1/27
Adverse effects of hysteria
Accutane, a very useful drug for severe acne, is in trouble because that
suicidal teen-age pilot might have taken it. But, according to the autopsy,
didn't. According to Michael Fumento's Reason story, "Bumps
in the Night,'' teen-agers,
prime acne sufferers, are suicide prone; rates began soaring in 1952,
30 years before Accutane was introduced. Furthermore, even mild acne is
related to depression, which is linked to suicide.
Nevertheless, while the
overall rate of suicide in the general population is about 11.1 per
100,000; that of Accutane users, according to a Roche survey, is 1.8
per 100,000. There have been about 90,000 U.S. suicides since 1982 compared
to 167 FDA adverse reports for Accutane-related suicides.
In another Reason piece, a
grateful Accutane patient
explains how the drug cleared his skin and alleviated his depression.
I was so self-conscious
about my problem that I actually isolated myself -- even sleeping during
the day -- to avoid any social interaction. . . . (With Accutane) my
acne disappeared completely. It was so miraculous a change that for
the most part I have forgotten the poisonous role that acne once played
in my life.
What will happen if the
hysterics and the lawyers force yet another safe-when-taken-as-directed
drug off the market? More suicides by acne-scarred young men. And less
drug research. -- 1/27
The British media is still fussed about Gitmo. Here's the Telegraph:
DONALD RUMSFELD, the US
defence secretary, last night prepared to fly to Guantanamo Bay to meet
inmates of Camp X-Ray amid mounting uncertainty over their future.
Previously Mr Rumsfeld has spoken of his desire to see enemy soldiers
In battle. Rumsfeld said U.S.
bombing was intended to kill Taliban and Al Qaeda combatants. So now he's
a concentration camp commandant going to Camp X-Ray to look over his helpless
The "uncertainty'' is
not about whether the U.S. is going to slaughter the "detainees.''
It's about whether to build a permanent prison or to ship everyone but
Al Qaeda bigwigs back to their homelands after interrogation.
According to the Washington
Powell is pushing for POW status for most of the detainees. Perhaps
we'll do it post-interrogation. (POWs aren't supposed to be grilled, though
we should get some extra questions in lieu of not getting a rank or serial
number.) Under the Geneva Convention, we get to hold POWs -- without trial
-- till the war is over. When is the war over? When we say it's over.
Are California students really required to learn the Koran and pray
to Allah? The sensible Snopes.com
(via Ben Sheriff) explains the
complexities, blaming the school for insensitivity and the Christian critics
for seeking equal time for Christianity to be taught in public schools.
Assist Ministries is addressing
the wrong issue: This controversy shouldn't be about Islam vs. Christianity
or "our religion" vs. "their religion," but rather
about the appropriateness of any religious teachings in public schools.
Girls rule in school
School is tough
on boys, says an Education Week story summarizing the research on
male and female achievement. While girls have closed the math gap, boys
remain far behind in language skills. Boys are much more likely to be
disciplined and to be placed in special education, often for behavior
problems. -- 1/26
Not oppressed enough
Tim Blair tries to drum up sympathy for costume-oppressed sports
mascots, including the infamous "Sharkie'' of the San Jose Sharks.
I've been molested twice by Sharkie -- once at a hockey game, the second
time when he visited the San Jose Mercury News -- and I believe the plastic-headed
creep is not oppressed enough.
Imagine you are walking down an arena corridor when you're grabbed from
behind. You turn to confront your attacker. It is a giant shark grinning
at you. (To be fair, Sharkie has no other expression.) Oh, the disorientation.
At least, I saw him coming the second time.
It's time to stop coddling
hug-happy mascots! That shark needs a set of manacles, a surgical mask
(size XXXL) and a long vacation in a beach cabana. -- 1/25
Novelist Barbara Kingsolver is thinking about sueing critics of her Sept.
25 San Francisco Chronicle column, reports the Boston
Globe (second item) via Romenesko's
Gee, that sounds like a bad
idea. Kingsolver's beef is that the National Review Online, the Weekly
Standard and the Wall Street Journal left out the ironic question mark
at the end of this sentence: "In other words, the American flag stands
for intimidation, censorship, violence, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, and
shoving the Constitution through a paper shredder?"
In sense, Kingsolver's right.
She didn't say that the flag represents intimidation, censorship, violence,
etc. She blamed "patriotism." The column clearly implies that
there are two groups of Americans: The dissidents, who can't find it in
their souls to love killing, and the vicious, flag-waving, immigrant-bashing,
Constitution-shredding, warmongering patriots, who are out for blood.
Kingsolver surely had seen
polls showing that nearly 90 percent of Americans backed the war on terror.
Did she really think they were all bloodthirsty louts? Does she want to
convince a jury that she's owed an apology?
Sueing critics in the name
of free expression seems
to be a hot idea in the Bay Area. An artist has filed a $100 million lawsuit
against a Catholic group that criticized an exhibit including a defecating
pope and nuns. The part-Cherokee artist "charges New York's Catholic
League for Religious and Civil Rights and its president, William Donahue,
with libel" for criticizing the artistic merit of the Napa exhibit,
and suggesting the Long Ranger and Tonto as more suitable defecators.
The suit claims: "This
disparaging material is defamatory because the language hatefully characterizes
American Indians and California artists as a group worthy of hatred, contempt,
ridicule or obloquy."
Worthy of ridicule? Surely,
not! -- 1/25
Ken Layne wants the drugs
that enable Glen Reynolds to post to his blog every 10 minutes while writing
and allegedly teaching law, maintaining a marriage, raising a child and
sleeping. And clearing out the stuff that fell behind the old
It's not drugs, Ken. Think
cloning. Sure, they claim it's just a few sheep and some pre-embryonic
human cells, but think how much it would explain if secret cloning has
gone farther, creating two or more Glen Reynoldses. How can we singletons
Let the Instapundit Reynolds
deny it, if he dares, while Professor Reynolds teaches and Family Reynolds
redecorates his study. In Rallian
reality, the clones have been sent in already. -- 1/24
Bright lights, low prices
Bucher drop-kicks a hoity-toity
columnist whose sensibilities are offended by well-lit stores selling
a wide selection of inexpensive goods.
What is so distasteful
about a country whose prosperity allows its common workers to live "a
life that would have made the Sun King blink," as Tom Wolfe put
it in Hooking Up? Even if the masses are buying, don't faint now, lowbrow
goods, why is that such a burr in Mark Morford's bum? Does he think
everyone should shop at Pottery Barn? He disdains Tarjay's "faux-upscale...
formula," but I bet he scowls just as viciously at Restoration
Hardware shoppers. You get the feeling that nothing short of a meal
of grass in North Korea would make the guy happy.
As Shiloh says, the quality
in Wal-Mart et al. can be quite good, or good enough. I get lots of compliments
on my embroidered gray sweater set. It was on sale at Sear's. --
In my Jan. 23 New
York Times, Maureen Dowd sneers at "the Bushies,'' accusing them
of "vaingloriously posing'' for an Annie Leibowitz photo. I wondered
at "vaingloriously.'' They were just sitting or standing around;
Bush has his hands in his pockets. Someone must have had second thoughts.
In the online version of Dowd's column here,
the Bushies are "self-consciously'' posing. But the two words have
very different, nearly opposite, meanings.
Vanity is not the besetting
sin of George W. Bush. Compared to the previous administration, this is
Humble City. Big time. What really irritates Dowd is that the media --
Vanity Fair and Newsweek
-- are puffing the Bush team's competence and success.
In both versions, Dowd writes:
I hesitate to interrupt
the victory laps, the chesty posing, the passing out of medals. But
something in me really wants to know: Is the war over? Did we win it
or not? . . .
Administration officials talk out of both sides of their mouths: They
tell us we haven't won yet, but they keep strutting around as if we've
won. They advise us to be patient, that this is a messy fight for the
long haul. But wanting instant gratification, eager to milk the war
for political ads, they have declared it a big success.
If you really want to know,
here it is: The war is not over. We haven't won yet. We're still going
after Osama, Omar and their terrorist minions outside Afghanistan. But
we're winning. It's been pretty darned successful so far.
Karl Rove said voters once
again see the Republican Party as the strong defender of America, thanks
to the president's conduct of the war. So Dowd thinks Bush will give the
evil ones a pass, declare premature victory -- just like Daddy -- and
strut. But it's the short-attention-span media that keeps declaring victory
-- not the Bushies. --
reform is a smashing success, writes Mickey Kaus in Blueprint, the
Democratic Leadership Council's magazine. Caseloads have been cut in half;
2 million welfare recipients became workers since the law passed in 1996.
Child poverty is down, especially in black families.
Most important, welfare
reform appears to be provoking the sort of long-termcultural change
that was its primary purpose. The decades-long trend toward single-motherhood
and out-of-wedlock births, thought unstoppable, was in fact stopped
in the '90s.
Wendell Primus wants to boost
"work supports" -- reduced welfare payments, food stamps, child
care, health insurance -- for the working poor and immigrants. But, basically,
he agrees with Kaus that welfare reform is helping poor families do better.
That's a big shift from the dire predictions made in 1996. -- 1/23
Re-regulating charter schools
Teachers' unions are trying to "absorb" the charter school movement,
writes Michael Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency. He uses
union strategy reports to make his case.
"If we lose our grip
on the labor supply to the education industry, we will bargain from
a position of weakness,'' says the report (by the Pennsylvania State
. . . So how do charter
schools threaten the union's grip on the labor supply to the education
industry? Well, for starters, very few charter schools have unionized
employees . . .
There are four basic tactics
the union and its allies will use to accomplish their goal: regulate,
steer, rank and organize.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco
Chronicle is leading the anti-charter
bandwagon, after exposing a dubious home-study
charter school and another charter with multiple satellite campuses
that's accused of teaching
Islam, charging tuition, hiring felons and running up a $1.3 million
Clearly, some districts have
granted charters, taken their 3 percent rake-off of state revenues and
failed to provide oversight for distant satellite campuses. But the Chron
seems to be hyperventilating over a "shadowy new subclass of public
Why is it a scandal if a charter
rents part of a recreation center or a church? Where else can you locate
a small, new school, if there are no unused public school sites? And before
fussing over uncredentialed teachers, the Chron should report how many
uncredentialed teachers are employed by the regular old public schools.
Any new school will hire a lot of new teachers. And most new teachers
in California aren't credentialed.
Chron gets candidates for state superintendent to come out for more
regulations for charters with satellite campuses. The long-distance
charters are a problem. But the call for more regulation makes me nervous.
As Antonucci says, the independence of charter schools is always under
attack. -- 1/23
Go to Goyal
What does Ari Fleischer do when he can't face another Enron question?
He goes to a foreign correspondent who's sure to ask about something easy
-- like the India-Pakistan conflict. Dana
Milbank has an amusing story in the Washington Post. -- 1/23
Are kids being poisoned at school? I had my suspicions about the Washington
Post's story on schools
built near toxic sites. which is based on a study by a group called
Child Proofing Our Communities.
Hundreds of thousands
of children throughout the country are attending schools that were built
on or near toxic waste sites, putting them at increased risk of developing
asthma, cancer, learning disorders and other diseases linked to environmental
pollutants, according to a new study.
Schranck, who's actually dealt with school siting and toxic "brownfields,''
argues at sneakingsuspicions.com that the study is inflammatory and misleading.
In fact, the open space
thats needed for a school can be a good use for a Brownfields
initiative. At some former industrial sites, what I refer to as the
ones contaminated with a 19th Century chemical soup, the only effective
means of dealing with the parcel is to cap it with an impervious material.
Topsoil or other material can go on top of the cap, and the parcel is
then restored for other purposes, such as park space or other open space
needs. A school athletic field is not necessarily out of the question,
because of the impervious cap, and the areas former status as
a wasteland is returned something useful for the community.
The study "offered no
evidence of a direct link between the location of the schools and health
or developmental problems experienced by their students," but claimed
"a sharp increase in the number of children afflicted with asthma,
cancer, diminished IQs and learning disabilities during the past two decades.''
During the past two decades,
we've made a lot of progress on cleaning up the environment. Asthma is
up, despite improved air quality. Learning disabilities are poorly defined,
and vary with testing and reimbursement policies; most students now diagnosed
would not have been considered disabled in a previous generation. IQs
are rising slowly. Childhood
cancer rates are increasing for two types, acute lymphocytic leukemia
and brain tumors. However, this may reflect better reporting, says JunkScience.com:
The Journal of the National
Cancer Institute reports the increase in childhood brain cancer during
1973-1994 is due to changes in detection and reporting.The journal Cancer
reports "Since the early 1960s, the incidence of childhood cancers,
and in particular childhood leukemia, has remained relatively stable,
or if anything has risen in geographic areas where there are adequate
cancer registration systems."
Before, school districts are
burdened with more regulations and higher costs, why not study whether
kids at schools near toxic sites really do have more health problems that
comparable students educated farther from brownfields? In fact, there
is a study underway
of childhood leukemia and environmental exposure. -- 1/22
A Carl's Jr. commercial showing men examining a chicken in a futile search
for its ''nugget,'' is degrading
and demeaning to chickens, charges a group called United Poultry Concerns.
Just like Camp
X-Ray! -- 1/22
Derrill Bodley's 20-year-old daughter, his only child, died in the
crash of Flight 93. He traveled
to Afghanistan to meet with victims of U.S. bombing. Abdul Basir's
5-year-old daughter died when a U.S. bomb fell near their apartment building.
The two men met in Kabul to share their grief.
"We know [my daughter's
death] was an accident here," Basir said. "The attack on the
U.S. was deliberate."
So many Western deep-thinkers
seem incapable of understanding a distinction that was clear to an Afghan
father, despite his loss. The Los Angeles Times story goes on:
But no one in Kabul seems
angry at the United States. They were grateful for help in getting rid
of the Taliban. -- 1/22
I loved the Breen-Solent debate on housewifery but was too lazy to do
all the links necessary as the topic bounced through Blogdom. Besides,
I've got no husband and a cleaning lady, so I don't really qualify. Now
Moira Breen has provided the links.
Like with grammar and all
People pay a premium to live in Palo Alto because the schools are good.
Then they pay for Kumon math lessons, after-school Spanish or French and
now grammar tutoring. However, there's a who-will-guard-the-guardians
problem: An ad for grammar lessons for students 7 to 12 said: "Like
with music and sports, grammar is best learned through practice."
Teaching the basics of literacy
is an issue in Australia, too. In a 1997 Time South Pacific story, "Can
Dick and Jane read?,'' Tim Blair quotes educators saying that Punctuation
an spelin doesnt matter for poor kids
But defining literacy
so precisely is wrong, says Frank Crowther, associate professor of education
at the University of Southern Queensland: "The definition of literacy
changes. It's not the same in privileged areas as it is in disadvantaged
I'm writing a book on a charter
high school that promises to prepare students for college. Most are "disadvantaged"
Mexican-Americans or Mexican immigrants. Their parents rely on the school
to teach what their children will need to know. I dare any "educator"
to say to their faces that what's not good enough for privileged students
is OK for their kids. -- 1/21
Read about Weblogs
and the News with links from this page by J.D.
Lasica, who runs New Media Musings.
is mostly cultural, not political, writes Matt Welch. He is correct.
Journalists know they're supposed to be objective on political issues,
so they make an effort, though not always successful. But they tend to
take their class and culture biases for granted. -- 1/20
The great W
George W. Bush ranks third
in "greatness,'' just behind JFK and FDR, in a Zogby poll asking
the public to rate the last 12 presidents. While 63 percent think W is
great or near great, only 36 percent give the great/near nod to eighth-ranked
Bill Clinton, and another 36 percent rate him a "failure.''
Hitchens struggle with the fact that he thinks unqualified, incurious,
George W. Bush is doing a pretty good job as president. -- 1/20
In early July, 2001, I finished an article for Reason on the San Francisco
school board's attempt to shut down a charter school run by would-be for-profit
Edison Schools, Inc. At the time, the school's test scores were improving,
after years of disaster under district control. Reason held the story
long enough for test scores to drop again, and for Edison's Philadelphia
ambitions to become a much hotter topic. But the damn thing finally is
in print, and on Reason's web site. Here's
"Threatened by Success'' and its sidebar, "Watching
the Numbers.'' -- 1/20
Birth of the blogs
I agree that weblogs are more likely to ride
the hippo than replace it. But it's got to matter that publishing
-- until now a rich man's business -- is open to anybody and his monkey.
(As long as bloggers post monkey pictures, grandiosity will not be a major
worry.) What happens when the price of a soapbox and a mega-megaphone
drops to $12 a year? I don't know. As I learned in my years of editorial
writing, only time will tell. But it bears watching.
Ph.D candidates will be writing
useless theses on the birth of the blog, I tell you. To help them, here's
an e-mail on the political history of blogging from Dan Hartung of Lake
I would say that Kaus
was indeed one of the first professional journalists to start a weblog.
Thanks to his association with Slate, it got much more publicity than
the weblogs that were started by mere web gurus, techies, and disaffected
HTML-friendly intellectuals. That led to more pundit-weblogs, which
are still sometimes called by the Slate name "me-zine." .
From the beginning, most blogs fit into a roughly generic liberal,
dovish, pro-Palestinian, Chomsky-loving catch-all, though most focused
on linkage rather than the me-zine style of punditry and commentary
that you've chosen. But there were always a few oddballs, and indeed
Jorn of Robot Wisdom calls himself a member of the "conservative
left" (what he calls the Responsible Party), and only after the
first 25 or so blogs did clearly libertarian voices appear, who represented
the long-present techno-libertarians in the geek world. That political
division may be one important reason why you (and others) may be unaware
of the mainstream world of blogs. A lot of well-read bloggers are also
members of sites like Metafilter, whose community provides them a base
for sharing sources and opinions (and infamously hounds libertarian
and conservative posters away, not out of excessive nastiness, though
that occurs, but mainly through sheer numbers).
Anyway, I started mine in 8/99, and I was approximately the first public
user of the Blogger software. There can't have been more than 100, and
possibly fewer than 50, weblogs who preceded me. . . . I puttered along
as a mainly link-oriented blog, with just a sentence or three of commentary
on each link, until 9/11 brought me into the warblogging world. . .
To me, the world of warblogs, as it overlaps with the world of libertarians
and similar political views, is actually a community off the beaten
path that isn't visited much by the Metafilter crowd -- I know, I'm
one of 'em -- and held many mysteries (there be Dragyns here). I've
been pleasantly surprised to find so much interesting discourse, and
I've noted before that some of the excitement of the warblog community
resembles the excitement of us early webloggers, when we were few and
trying new stuff every week. Hey! It's a poll! Look! It's a rotating
image! This guy lets you rate his posts!
Somehow, though, I almost never get included in wrap-ups like OJR's.
Maybe in Year Four. -- 1/20
Those three firemen who raised the flag at Ground Zero represented all
of us, writes Michael Graham in a Charleston CityPaper column,
"I saw three firefighters. And a flag.''
men. I saw Americans. I saw human beings react to an act of mind-numbing
inhumanity. They looked at the carnage and the wreckage and cracked
concrete and the collapsing walls and in the midst of that disaster
said to themselves: This place needs a flag.
Thats what I would have said.
I saw the flag, not waving or grandly unfurled, not even flying. But
Graham notes the plan -- now
abandoned -- to build a statue of the flag-raising but with one generic
white, black and Latino firefighter replacing the three inconveniently
white men who actually raised the flag. (Rather than pretending that one
third of firefighters are black and another third Latino, the New York
Fire Department might look at its recruitment and training policies.)
On display in the powerful
WTC photograph is the content of our character, our American character.
It is there for all who are not too blinded by their racism to see. When
I see that moment frozen in time, I dont see Dan McWilliams, George
Johnson, or Billy Eisengrein. I see myself, or at least the person I want
And you, whatever you look like or to whomever you pray, youre there,
too. -- 1/19
Neil Young's not the only song-writer
with a post-9-11
song, reports the Los Angeles Times. I like "Osama Yo Mama,''
though some may find it offensively upbeat, and Loudon Wainwright III's
song about a subway journey from Brooklyn Heights to Manhattan, past the
shuttered stations. -- 1/19
The endangered term paper
High school term
papers have been
replaced by creative writing, PowerPoint presentations and mini-dramas,
complains Will Fitzhugh in Education Week. State standards don't require
that students learn to research and write a term paper. And guiding students
through the process, and then reading their efforts, takes a lot of time.
. . . far too many high
school students never get the chance to do the reading or the writing
that a serious history paper requires. As a result, students enter college
with no experience in writing papers, to the continual frustration of
their professors. And the employers who hire them after collegethe
Ford Motor Co., for examplehave had to institute writing classes
to ensure that they can produce readable reports, memos, and the like.
Fitzhugh doesn' t mention my
bete noire, the poster. Many's the time I've driven out into the night
searching for poster board so my daughter could show put together a visual,
instead of writing an essay. OK, I'm a word person. But thinking through
an essay is a lot harder and more educational than slapping together some
pictures cut out from magazines on the belatedly purchased poster board.
In response to the "Rolling
jihad'' flap over role-playing Islam in public schools, reader Dave Dilatush
points out that students aren't actually learning anything; they're playing.
These are 7th-graders
we're talking about here; why are they being
taught using techniques more suited to 6-year-olds, like playing "dress
up" and rolling dice for the chance to declare Jihad? Good grief.
If I recall correctly--and I think I do, even though it was forty years
ago--when I was in 7th grade we were learning the fundamentals of
reasoned debate and the rudiments of writing proper research papers.
Reading is Republican
Phonics is a Republican plot, argues a profoundly stupid Nation
article. Stephen Metcalf talks to a few true believers in "whole
language.'' He rejects the National
Reading Panel's conclusion: Research shows systematic teaching of
"phonemic awareness'' is the most effective way to teach beginning
readers. He ignores the federal research done by Reid
Lyon at the National Institutes of Health. Then he concludes George
W. Bush doesn't like phonics because it works; he likes it because he's
"cozy" with McGraw-Hill, which sells textbooks based on the
research on how kids learn to read. (How dare they!)
is the same conservative constituency that loves testing even more moonstruck
by phonics? For starters, phonics is traditional and rote--the pupil
begins by sounding out letters, then works through vocabulary drills,
then short passages using the learned vocabulary. Furthermore, to teach
phonics you need a textbook and usually a series of items--worksheets,
tests, teacher's editions--that constitute an elaborate purchase for
a school district and a profitable product line for a publisher. In
addition, heavily scripted phonics programs are routinely marketed as
compensation for bad teachers. (What's not mentioned is that they often
repel, and even drive out, good teachers.) Finally, as Gerald Coles,
author of "Reading Lessons: The Debate Over Literacy," points
out, "Phonics is a way of thinking about illiteracy that doesn't
involve thinking about larger social injustices. To cure illiteracy,
presumably all children need is a new set of textbooks."
Well, no. Actually, they need
trained to use the research, instead of starry-eyed dreamers who think
kids will just naturally learn to read without being taught the basics.
Phonics is not a way of thinking about illiteracy. It's a way to teach
the basics of reading that's especially valuable for kids who don't have
educated parents at home to fill in for what the school skips. Phonics
isn't conservative or liberal. But if you want social justice, teach kids
to read. -- 1/18
To address Australia's penchant for "blandly literal" or "pointlessly
diminutive" names, Tim Blair
has announced the Australian Creative Names Project 2002. To be known
as "namey.'' -- 1/17
The bourgeois defense
Former Symbionese radicals, now middle-aged, middle-class parents, will
for the 1975 murder of Myrna Opsahl, shot by masked bank robbers. One
of her four children, Jon Opsahl, is bitter about the bourgeois
defense employed by one of the accused, formerly Kathleen Soliah.
"She was a wonderful
mother and helped us out in every way, and it was kind of the parallel
life that Kathleen Soliah assumed that was disturbing, how she participated
in a crime that took a life and then kind of assumed [that lifestyle]--and
to actually use that in her defense in some ways," said Opsahl,
who was 15 when his mother, Myrna Lee Opsahl, 42, was hit by a shotgun
blast at a Carmichael bank branch.
"Emily Harris was quoted in Patty Hearst's book as saying that
her death doesn't matter anyways, she was a bourgeois pig," Opsahl
said. "Those words have always kind of haunted us, because having
the killers, the known killers, never be held accountable kind of kept
ringing true, that her death didn't matter. -- 1/17
What's Israel got to do
Stryker isn't a libertarian, as far as I can tell, but here's his
response to Raimondo on why he supports Israel.
What's wrong with defending
democracy? The West, and its democratic ideals, is far superior to any
of the alternatives. Just ask those kids who tossed off the yoke of
Communism ten years ago. I would rather defend a democracy that makes
mistakes than defend a corrupt theocracy that's a mistake itself.
Reader Michael Wells -- one
of the few people in the English-speaking world not to have his own weblog
-- says Raimondo sounds like a former hardcore leftist, but not an isolationist.
Notice that he objects
to "the complete isolation of the US from its Arab friends and
allies." He just hates Israel. And bloggers. And anyone who disagrees
with him. (He apparently failed to notice the general blogger support
for Turkey and Jordan.) Regarding Israel, my own view is that it has
a fair amount of warts, but is basically sane and civilized, whereas
places like Saudi Arabia and Iraq are beyond salvage. As an ally, they
(Israel) have been at least as good as, say, France. In any case, they
couldn't possibly be evil enough to deserve the vitriol that the various
Arab groups, or Justin Raimondo, spew at them.
reports a Sept. 28
Raimondo column calling for "retribution swift and sure'' against
the terrorists -- but not against Iraq, Iran, Syria, etc.
A military response to
the devastating attack on the WTC and the Pentagon is not only appropriate,
it is required: as many pro-war correspondents have pointed out, especially
the ostensible libertarians, military defense is, arguably, the one
legitimate function of government.
Now, I'm confused. Raimondo
has no fight with warbloggers unless he thinks they all want to invade
peaceful Muslim countries to advance the Zionist bid for world domination.
Actually, I think there's considerable disagreement in Blogdom on how
to defend the U.S. from its enemies. And the dreaded Blog Take-Down Squad
hasn't savaged anyone for going wobbly on the invasion of Iraq. Which
nobody would be contemplating if not for the fear that Saddam is brewing
a chemical or biological or "dirty nuke'' attack on the U.S. It's
not about Israel. It's about us. -- 1/17
Here's more from World
Net Daily on teaching Islam in California. The story explains the
As for the simulated jihad
(Principal Nancie) Castro explained, "There was a dice game where,
depending on the role, they had to do various things like answer a quiz
bowl question or read a trivia fact. One roll had them roll for the
highest number and called it a jihad."
This is offensive to some Christian
parents. I bet it's offensive to Muslims as well. -- 1/17
You will become Muslims
Schools are teaching
the Muslim religion -- not merely history -- complain Christian parents
in California. Protests have spread from Byron to San Luis Obispo.
Islam takes more teaching than Christianity because students know a lot
less about it. But it doesn't help to have students read the Koran in
class, when no teacher would assign reading from the Bible, pretend to
be Islamic warriors on jihad or assume Arab names. Or to send home hand-outs
that tell students: "From the beginning, you and your classmates
will become Muslims. Dressing as a Muslim and trying to be involved will
increase your learning and enjoyment." -- 1/16
Antiwar.com is anti-warbloggers
Justin Raimondo tries to outblog the warbloggers in an Antiwar.com
column, but lacks the analytical skills and wit to pull it off. It's
not worth a detailed response but it did raise a question in my mind.
Antiwar.com opposes U.S. military
action -- apparently, even in self-defense -- because of its libertarian
isolationism. It's also rabidly anti-Israel. I've noticed that warbloggers
are strongly (but not rabidly) pro-Israel. Here's
a question for libertarian warbloggers: What's the connection? Is it because
Israel is a Western country? A democracy? Because we were attacked by
Islamic militants and our enemy's enemy must be our friend? Or do you
think it's just a Raimondo peculiarity -- a Gays for Buchanan thing --
that he makes excuses for Arab leaders and condemns Israel?
points out that Raimondo's column runs in Pravda.
I think it's because Antiwar.com was opposed to U.S. intervention to help
the Muslims in Kosovo; Russia sided with the Serbs, their fellow Slavs.
Campus Diversity Fraud,'' John McWhorter argues eloquently (via The
Occasional) for holding blacks to the same academic standards as others
in college admissions.
The point here isnt
moral but logical: black students will only reach their full potential
if the affirmative-action safety net is withdrawn and theyre required
to strive for excellence. . . . To elevate diversity over true excellence
condemns black students to mediocrity and is, quite simply, racist.
Famous, but not rich
For years, my San Jose Mercury News column ran on the Knight Ridder wire.
It added value to the wire's package of columns, but I was paid nothing
extra for it. I got fame, but no fortune.
Reader David McIntyre says
that will be the fate of money-hungry bloggers: We may build brand identity
but nobody's going to buy a cow when they can get milk for free. His example
is, gulp, Salon.
i think the bloggers expecting
to get paid for their postings have got the
business model wrong. given that there's a plethora of bloggers out
why should i pay even a microcent for content if i can get it elsewhere
free? most surfers are looking for a combo of info and entertainment,
that's abundant on the web. have you seen Salon since they tried charging
for content via subscriptions? the content and readership have gone
downhill, and their stock isn't worth a dime.
i doubt if you can make a profit on advertising, either. i don't think
anyone on the web is getting by on ads.
i think that blogging works best as a complement to big media and feeds
parasitically off it--it's a way of journalists and intellectuals promoting
themselves as a brand. andrew sullivan's much more well-known now than
before as.com started, and as a result he can sell more books, articles,
lectures, etc. . . . if anyone's going to make $ off
blogging, it'll be AOL which buys the rights to the most popular bloggers
and then restricts their content to aol subscribers.
Another reader says readers
don't care about Inside Blogging, so stick to commentary. I say: We bloggers
care! Let us whine and dream a little. -- 1/15
Some day my links will come
They're here. Finally, I nagged my brother into creating a links page.
And labeling the archives of QuickReads as "archives." I figured
everyone else is redesigning so it's the least I can do. And the most
I want to do. Actually, as soon as my Reason article on the Edison Schools
fight in San Francisco is online, I'll put up a link to that. --1/14
Money, money, money
Solent has a whole page on micro-payments, including a link to Clay
Case Against Micro-payments.'' Numerous bloggers write in to discuss
their lust for lucre -- or their fear that money will corrupt the free
spirit of blogging.
Postrel says micro-payments won' t happen. She's a Shirkyite -- and
an expert on the future. However, she links to an Arnold
Kling essay suggesting readers might pay to access a "club"
with original work by affiliated bloggers and annotated links to interesting
material elsewhere they might otherwise miss.
Most of the articles that
you are able to read when you join a club may be freely available without
joining the club. What your membership fee would give you is better
access to individual authors, as well as to indexing tools and cross-reference
tools. Some of these tools would be provided by community members, as
in the Amazon book lists.
The raw content is not what you are paying for. The haystack is free.
But if you want help finding the needle, you have to join the club.
Virginia also deflates the
ego-bloat afflicting bloggers of late. -- 1/14
Scientists say Antarctica
is cooling. But that doesn't contradict global warming theory. My
theory: Scientists don't know what's going on. -- 1/14
James Lileks' latest Screed takes on modern
art, and its desire to shock the bourgeoisie -- who don't care --
while taking their money.
Nowadays, art that prompts
controversy usually has one thing in common: its bad.
Bad in conception or bad in execution, and frequently bad in both.
Lileks offers two guidestars:
a. If art contains shit,
we should take it at its word.
b. Whatever point youre trying to make, you can generally make
it without shit.
Lileks hated the Swiss cheese
towers proposed as a World Trade Center memorial, and fears the design
chosen will be "some monstrous abstraction of timid sentimentality
and impotent grief."
Perhaps it lacks the bravura
that Lileks seeks, but I'd vote for a memorial that uses the ruined, twisted
framing that stood for weeks over the ruins. Maybe with a reflecting pool
around it and a tower rising behind it. -- 1/14
Conspiracy in poetry
Bloggers are very diverse. One writes his weblog in verse. Via
Damian Penny, I discovered
Will Warren's UnremittingVerse
site with poetry by Warren and others. His latest is very good -- as poetry
are funny things: the wackier they
sound, the more likely they are to be true.
Its always those big clown-nosed conspiracies,
The ones way out there in the wild blue,
Dropping loose screws and tooting calliopes,
That are just the ones most likely to be true.
If a theory features blueberry ragout
And some Nixon clones growing in a tank
In a secret Nazi outpost in Peru,
You can step right out and take it to the bank.
When its all about a submarine that sank
After finally finding Nessie in her loch,
To ensure some Spanish admiral kept his rank,
It could absolutely never be a crock.
And yet I cant get round a stumbling block:
One wacky theory isnt worth two cents:
If it were proven true, oh! what a shock:
That Rall could write a sentence that made sense.
Folk Song Army breaks ranks
Remember the Tom Lehrer song?
We are the Folk Song Army.
Every one of us cares.
We all hate poverty war and injustice.
Unlike the rest of you squares.
Folk Song Army was hit hard by the Sept. 11 attacks, reports the San
Jose Mercury News. Some have been shocked into silence. Others have broken
Tom Paxton, composer of
many anti-Vietnam songs, including ``Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation''
and ``The Willing Conscript,'' has so far written one song about recent
events, a piece about firefighters called ``The Bravest.''
He's not out for blood, but he thinks the United States must respond
to the terrorist attacks and Osama Bin Ladin.
``I think we have to find that man and stop him, because he's not done
with us. If we were to do nothing, it would not bring peace. It would
simply postpone the next World Trade Center,'' said Paxton, a former
New Yorker who now lives in Alexandria, Va. ``While this is going on,
I think I'd rather just not turn into some kind of Republican, but just
Of course, a few folkies are
singing the same old tune.
Dave Rovics of Cambridge,
Mass., is one of the few writing blistering songs about current events
and playing them for audiences. He wrote one about a dying firefighter
that points out there are brave firefighters in Afghanistan, too.
To be picky on the fact thing,
I don't think there are any firefighters -- brave or otherwise -- in Afghanistan.
The Taliban let all municipal services go down the drain to focus on propagating
virtue and whipping vice.
The firefighter song is a big
hit. But Rovics performs ``International Terrorists,'' which portrays
U.S. foreign policy as terrorism, "only for the furthest-left of
audiences." -- 1/12
Playing the jihad game
As part of a three-week unit on Islam, public school students in Byron,
California were assigned to memorize portions of the Koran, pray
to Allah and play a "jihad game'' with dice. Oy vey.
The course mandates that
seventh-graders learn the tenets of Islam, study the important figures
of the faith, wear a robe, adopt a Muslim name and stage their own jihad.
Adding to this apparent hypocrisy, reports ANS,
students must memorize many verses in the Koran, are taught to pray
"in the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful" and
are instructed to chant, "Praise to Allah, Lord of Creation."
Christian parents complain
the school doesn't teach Christian prayers and beliefs. That's because
Byron school officials know that Christianity is a religion. They think
Islam is an exotic culture, so it's kosher to teach its practices and
beliefs in school. Like celebrating Chinese New Year.
Gosh, I wish there was more
about the jihad game. I'd love to know how it works. Roll a seven and
the infidel-killer goes to heaven? -- 1/12
Specially bad education
Special education is expensive, bureaucratic, rapidly growing and
counterproductive, writes Herbert
In 1982, the National
Academy of Sciences contended that psychological classifications are
unreliable and that special programs often do little good and sometimes
do harm. Subsequent research has shown that the present classification
systems misleadingly suggest that as many as 80 percent of all school
students require special programs, which cost about 2.3 times more than
Yet studies show that mildly disabled students do no better in regular
classrooms because what they need is betternot special or differentiatedteaching.
Moreover, spurious diagnoses stigmatize children, give them a debilitating
excuse not to learn, and lead to their segregation from other children.
Walberg suggests special education
charters: In exchange for relief from federal and state rules, charters
would have to show students are learning. Currently, there's no accountability
in special ed: If the kids don't learn, the disability gets the blame.
Or they're simply not tested. -- 1/11
hell on charter schools
If parents don't like their school district in Hawaii, they can move --
to the mainland. The whole state is one giant state-run school district.
Now there's some competition from charter schools -- 22 have started --
but the One Big District is trying to choke
the charters, writes Cliff Slater in the Honolulu Advertiser.
The state Department of Education,
which is also the Board of Education, gives charters only $2,997 per student
compared to $7,000 per student in regular public schools. The missing
$4,000 is for DOE services, many of which the charters don't want. (If
more than half of funding really is spent at the state level, it's no
wonder Hawaii's public schools are so poor.)
The state DOE won't credit
teachers with seniority if they teach in a charter school.
And charter students can't
play sports with regular public schools. -- 1/11
Crazy, mixed-up parents
of crazy, mixed-up kid
I'm feeling even sorrier for Charles Bishop, the teen suicide pilot. While
some try to blame his acne
medication, the answer is a lot closer to home. Apparently, suicidal
adolescence runs in his family.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -
The parents of a 15-year-old pilot who crashed a small plane into a
Tampa skyscraper had attempted suicide as teen-agers, according to newspaper
reports at the time.Charles Bishop's mother, Julia, and father, Charles
Bishara, entered into a suicide pact after they were denied a marriage
license because they lacked the proper paperwork, the Malden (Mass.)
Evening News reported in 1984.
After they failed to kill themselves
with carbon monoxide, Charles Bishop's mother, then 17, stabbed his father,
then 19, with a butcher knife. He was supposed to take the knife and slash
her wrists. Instead, he asked her to call an ambulance.
They married two years later,
after their son was born, but divorced when he was still a baby. Charles
Bishara had "little if any contact'' with his son.
So the kid was abandoned by
his weird, depressive father and raised by his weird, depressive mother.
Yeah, it must be the acne medicine. -- 1/10
It's not that small a world
"Six degrees of separation'' isn't just pop culture. It's based on
a study by Stanley Milgram, a Yale psychologist, who wrote that any two
individuals are linked by an average of six acquaintances. Only Milgram's
unpublished data shows nine
degrees of separation between 30 percent of not-so-random people,
says Judith Kleinfeld, a University of Alaska professor. According to
the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Mr. Milgram's experiment
-- commonly referred to as the "small-world method" -- entailed
randomly selecting people to send a folder to a target person unknown
to them in a distant location by first mailing it to someone they thought
might know the target. The process was then repeated until the target
received the folder. According to Ms. Kleinfeld's research, the selection
process was anything but random, drawing participants through advertisements
and purchased mailing lists, a practice that she asserts would cull
mostly high-income and highly connected people.
Even under conditions as favorable to the theory as these, Ms. Kleinfeld
reports that on average only 30 percent of the folders in Mr. Milgram's
experiments -- and in most replications of the small-world method --
ever reached their target, and then through an average of eight people
(or nine degrees of separation).
Kleinfeld's findings will appear
in the next issue of Psychology Today, which published Milgram's six degrees
article in 1967.
He rested the theory entirely
on the instance of one folder that made it from a Kansas wheat farmer
to its target, the Boston wife of a divinity student, in four days and
through only two intermediate links.
Kleinfeld says we believe in
six degrees, despite scanty evidence, because we want to. It feels safer
to feel connected. -- 1/10
Big heels in the sky
My daughter flew from San Francisco to New York and New York to London
without making the headlines. Despite her lack of resemblance to an Al
Qaeda terrorist, her shoes were checked twice. (They do have huge heels
that could pack a lot of plastic explosive.) A waste of time, but I'm
not complaining. At 75, Rep. John Dingell doesn't fit the profile either
and he had to drop his pants to prove his artificial hip is not an AK-47.
Allison made it to Oxford,
where she'll serve as ReadJacobs' foreign correspondent. -- 1/10
Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens are winning the war about how
to think about the war, writes Ron
Rosenbaum in the New York Observer. He has some interesting things
to say about Sullivan's round-the-clock, instant response mode.
What gives him an edge
in impact and reach over Mr. Hitchens (and just about everyone else)
is the way hes turned his political Web site (Web zine, Web log,
online diarywhatever you want to call andrewsullivan.com) into
a powerful weapon of nonstop, 24/7, omnipresent total-surveillance panoptican
punditry. Using his political Web zine (a form pioneered by Mickey Kaus
in his witty Kausfiles.com), hes done more than just frame the
debate; hes dominated it, smothered it with an overwhelming energy
and forcefulness that allows him to riddle his opponents with ceaseless
real-time hectoring and invective and polemic. . . .
It was only after Sept. 11 that I began surfing the Net heavily, but
I quickly became cognizant of the way the Sullivanian Total Presence
method of dominating the debate worked. The preemptive midnight Times
Op-Ed frame game he plays, for instance: Im a habitual early riser,
but by the time I log on at 5 a.m., I often find that Mr. Sullivan has
been hard at work in the minutes after midnight, when the Times edition
for the next day first comes online, giving him a chance to digest,
spit out, spin and frame whatever the Times Op-Ed columnists say in
such a way that his spin will be available and often read before the
regular Times e-mail delivery to media in-boxes appears.
Thus, many in the media will read Thomas Friedman or Maureen Dowd or
Paul Krugman through the preemptive-strike lens that Mr. Sullivan has
already framed them in.
Layne says that he invented the Internet. No, he invented the weblog.
Whatever that is.
This filthy site began
in March 1999 -- that's four years ago, Jacobs! -- as a place to store
my journalism and columns and daily bits after Tabloid.net had its two-year
Wouldn't that be going-on three
years ago, Ken?
Solent describes what I agree would be the ideal system for compensating
bloggers -- micropayments per read. If only someone would just invent
it, please. -- 1/9
Structural linguistics was required for a degree in English at Stanford.
I put it off till my last semester; finally I had to take the class. It
consisted of uncritical worship of Noam Chomsky. I kept disrupting class
by asking questions: Why do we believe this is true? Just because Chomsky
says so? How do we know he's right? Why is this class required?
After a month, the professor
suggested I do an independent study and take the class pass-fail. The
implicit but unstated deal was that he'd pass me if I promised never to
show up in class. I wrote a computer program in Basic that "wrote"
pornography by assembling appropriate (or inappropriate) nouns, verbs
and adjectives. It was a worthless as porn and programming and showed
no knowledge of structural linguistics whatsoever. But I hadn't come to
class, so I passed.
Now, via Instapundit,
I have discovered the Chomskybot,
a program that generates nearly intelligible prose in the style of the
Great Noam. It is a more sophisticated version of my Basic porno program.
Perhaps I was on to something in 1974 and quit too soon. -- 1/9
of the World'' (with unspellable name) cheers the demise of the New
York Times' special section, "A Nation Challenged.'' Citizen especially
dislikes the "mawkish" sentimentality of "Portraits of
Grief,'' mini-obits of Sept. 11 victims.
I think less gush, more
gray, more solemnity, less minihagiography would have conferred infinitely
more dignity on the dead than the saccharine-and-molasses thumbnail
sketches that were inflicted on us every morning.
I imagine a reporter calling
up the bereaved and asking: What will you remember about your late husband,
your daughter, your father, your sister? And then: So, what were his bad
qualities? Surely, she didn't have a smile for everyone.
Obits of regular people always
dwell on the positive. And I don't see how you could get a balanced portrait
of each victim in three paragraphs. -- 1/8
Creation of BlogWorld
I thought Mickey Kaus was the
ur-blogger. Nope, e-mails [email protected]
In fact, people have been
weblogging since the mid-to-late 1990s. Dave Winer's Scripting
News site has been going since at least 1997. Steve Bogart's NowThis.com
since 1998 or so. My weblog started in mid-1999.
Medley sent me to Rebecca Blood's
of weblogs, written in September of 2000. Blood says Jorn
Barger came up with the name "weblog'' in 1997.
The original weblogs were
link-driven sites. Each was a mixture in unique proportions of links,
commentary, and personal thoughts and essays. Weblogs could only be
created by people who already knew how to make a website. A weblog editor
had either taught herself to code HTML for fun, or, after working all
day creating commercial websites, spent several off-work hours every
day surfing the web and posting to her site.
So maybe Kaus was the first
weblog of political and social commentary? Political commentary by a low-tech
journalist? Political weblog linked to media site? Probably none of the
At any rate, BlogWorld is larger
and more diverse than I'd imagined. There are non-libertarian, dovish,
anti-Israel, Chomsky-loving bloggers out there! -- 1/8
Animals aren't people
Ringling Brothers is fighting back against animal
rights nuts who want to shut down the circus.
Wisdom (which ought to know) observes:
Message to the PETA-philes:
If God didn't want us to eat animals, he wouldn't have made them out
Judging by the blogback, the
Party (the Know-Somethings?) is speciest. Only idiotarians are incapable
of distinguishing between animals and people.
This is the key difference
between anti-idiots and idiotarians: We like to make distinctions. Idiotarians
can't tell X (animals, targeting civilians, requiring burqas, etc.) from
Y (people, trying to avoid civilian casualties, allowing bikinis, etc.).
Leaving on a jet plane
I put my daughter on a plane this morning. Or, at least, I saw her make
it through security. (The lines weren't bad at all.) She's flying to JFK
and then to London. If they can't strip-search everyone on her flight,
which they can't, I hope they do common-sense profiling. (An agent ransacked
her grandmother's carry-on bag when she flew from Portland to SFO last
week.) This may be inconvenient for young men traveling alone, especially
if they carry passports from terror-exporting countries or look like they
might be Arabs. I'm sorry, guys. But we don't know what these bozos will
try to do next. And none of them are 20-year-old red-headed females or
75-year-old grandmothers. -- 1/8
Crazy mixed-up kid
Charles Bishop, the 15-year-old who left a pro-Osama note in his suicide
Cessna, was a patriotic
flag bearer who wanted to join the Air Force, says AP.
The youngster's journalism
teacher at East Lake High School, Gabriella Terry, said that her class
discussed the attacks on Sept. 11 and that they saddened Charles Bishop.
"He told me he wanted to join the U.S. Air Force because he wanted
to do something good for his country," Ms. Terry said.
He also told people he was
reports the Tampa Tribune. And his long-absent father is named Charles
Bishara. That's an Arab name.
Why did the kid do it? I think
he felt pseudo-terrorism would link him to his father: He wanted Daddy,
not Osama. Not that it's likely his father is a terrorist. Just a jerk.
Bush will sign his education bill today. It includes nearly $5 billion
over five years to fund effective reading instruction. That is: teaching
phonics systematically as the first step to reading fluency. This is the
part of the bill that will make the most difference.
Special education costs have
skyrocketed because children who can't read well are labeled "learning
Staples blames bad reading instruction, specifically the failure to
teach phonics. -- 1/8
were prepared to lose our lives'
A team of 10 Green
Berets calling in air strikes are credited with killing 1,300 Taliban
and Al Qaeda fighters, destroying 50 tanks, anti-aircraft guns and artillery
pieces. The soldiers thought there was a good chance they wouldn't survive
the mission. They went in anyhow. I don't understand why men volunteer
for Special Forces. But I'm glad they do. -- 1/8
Happy aniversary to me,
I'm declaring this the official first anniversary of readjacobs.com
and QuickReads. I didn't date the stuff when I started, so I'm not really
sure. But my last day of print media employment -- ah, that weekly paycheck
-- was Jan. 3, 2001. So I think QuickReads was in business this time last
I was imitating Mickey
Kaus and Andrew Sullivan;
Virginia Postrel started
a few weeks earlier but I didn't know about her site till I'd started
mine. I think. I don't think there was anyone else out there doing what's
now called a weblog. Maybe Joshua
Micah Marshall, though I wasn't aware of him till much later. It's
just amazing what's happened in the last year, most of it in the last
three months. -- 1/7
\Wisdom on the trot
James Lileks' Screed,
a cousin to his Bleats mezine,
does yet another Salter
desalination. There's some wonderful writing (and thinking) here:
This war, she has reminded
us, is part of a huge, complex, global situation - the codewords
Salters crowd uses when they run their wisdom around like show
dogs at Westminster. . . .
she means the Tangled Roots of Muslim Rage - the poverty and despair
that drives sociopathic millionaires to kill Dominican prep-cooks in
the World Trade Center so he can get down to the real work of slaughtering
Jews and reasserting the Ottoman hegemony. That is complex. Charlie
Mansons plan of starting an apocalyptic race war by fusing Beatles
lyrics and celebrity stabbings was complex, too. -- 1/7
Unmaking of a dove
Bjorn Staerk shreds the pathetic arguments of a would-be
pacifist -- himself, four years ago, trying to dodge the Norwegian
draft. That's the military draft -- they do have one -- not a poorly insulated
1997 Bjorn: The
practical consequences of me refusing to join military service is that
humans get to live. In case of a war where Norwegian soldiers participate,
fewer would die on the battlefield than if I had participated. The fact
that these people may belong to the "enemy" is, from my moral
point of view, irrelevant. To me it is more important that I save life.
2001 Bjorn: An excellent example of how a humanitarian facade may
conceal a complete disregard of actual human beings. For instance, the
actual humans killed defending an open, democratic society, because
I am too much of a coward to do anything about it. The fact that both
alternatives, fight and kill your enemy or stay away and kill your friends,
are bad, does not mean that one isn't better - much better - than the
Staerk says he wrote the 1997
letter under the influence of a huge Chomsky download. -- 1/6
Best of the Web's Homelessness
Rediscovery Watch puzzles me. They reprint Mark Helprin's prediction:
"If George W. Bush becomes president, the armies of the homeless,
hundreds of thousands strong, will once again be used to illustrate the
opposition's arguments about welfare, the economy, and taxation."
Then they excerpt a story on the homeless.
What does this prove? Unemployment
is up. Presumably more people are in need of food and shelter. It's not
bias to cover the needy -- if the stories place homelessness in context.
Best of the Web doesn't critique the accuracy of the stories it quotes
in the Rediscovery Watch.
Kaus does, and in the process validates the Rediscovery argument.
Kaus analyzes a graph (not online) with a New York Times story
on rising demand for shelter beds in Minnesota. The graph shows a steady
increase in Minneapolis shelter use since 1986 -- from 500 beds to 3,000.
The number rises during
bust years and rises during boom years. It rises during Republican years
and rises during Democratic years. It rises before welfare reform and
after welfare reform. ... Just looking at this chart, it's hard to blame
any particular national policy change for the rise in homelessness.
The chart does fit with the leftish explanation that blames rising urban
rents (since they go up in good times even faster than in bad times).
On the other hand, it also fits with the right wing explanation that
Say's Law is at work here: as more beds and services are offered to
the homeless -- and as their provision becomes routinized and destigmatized
-- more people consciously or unconsciously wind up claiming them. --
A cure for Vietnam Syndrome
Not all San Francisco liberals are knee-jerk America-bashers. David Talbot's
of a Hawk'' in Salon (free) explains why he supports U.S. military
action in Afghanistan -- and Kosovo and Kuwait.
There are inevitably times
when the darkest powers of the human heart find the means and opportunity
to threaten not just the world's peace but its sense of decency. And
while international coalitions or U.N. peacekeeping forces would, in
a better world, be the best way to respond to these explosions of evil,
the sober truth is that -- from Kuwait to Kosovo to Kabul -- only the
United States has demonstrated the force and the will to do so effectively.
Talbot loves America's polygot
cities for their vitality, not just their ethnic diversity. He writes
of "jostling'' streets of "naked ambition and soaring dreams.''
. . . All it took for
me was one look at the burning New York skyline to know that America
was worth fighting and dying for.
Die-hard doves seem to think
that pro-war patriotism must be mindless, vengeful and crass. Talbot shows
why they're wrong. -- 1/6
Odysseus, Hamlet and Laverne
Robert Wright, a veteran teacher, questions the teacher shortage.
Why aren't recruiters wining and dining him, if he's such a rare and valuable
commodity? He also wonders about the quality of new recruits to the profession.
I was in a graduate class
at SJSU for English teachers and the professor asked us what stories
had turned out to have meaning for our lives. The first student to respond
to this question said, "Laverne and Shirley, because, they went
out on their own and did things their way." -- 1/5
Al Qaeda's first military
Beret was killed in fighting near Khost. He is the first U.S. serviceman
killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan. -- 1/4
Dreher's review bitches 'bout da kitsch in Cornel West's rap
CD, giving ample examples of why Harvard
should have given the self-puffing prof a one-way ticket to Princeton.
West deploys his vocabulary
much as a 13-year-old girl deploys Kleenex in her training bra: to obscure
the embarrassing fact that there's not much there.
The first cut, "The
Journey," serves as a thematic overture. "Let the word go
forth here and now that the struggle for freedom is still alive and
the story of that struggle is still being told," the preacherly
West bellows, like Moses from the mountaintop. "We begin with guttural
cries and wrenching moans and visceral groans and weary lament and silent
Ears talk? -- 1/4
The new federal education bill calls for the elimination of uncredentialed
teachers in four years. Can't be done, say California educators and
This year, 42,000 of the
state's 301,000 public school teachers had emergency teaching credentials;
that number is expected to balloon to 65,000 in the next two years .
Schools in poor neighborhoods have an even harder time attracting qualified
teachers. In some cases, more than half of all teachers in a school
are on emergency credentials, according to a study released last month
by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning in Santa Cruz.
Eliminating emergency credentials
isn't really a good idea: These waivers allow talented people with needed
skills a quick entree into teaching. (Of course, plenty of less-talented
people teach with emergency credentials too.) The more critical issue
is that low-income, minority students are much more likely to be taught
by untrained, inexperienced teachers than middle-class students.
Equalizing the percentage of
uncredentialed teachers -- which means not letting teachers use their
seniority to request an easy teaching assignment -- would help. But ultimately
schools in poor neighborhoods have to create teaching conditions that
will persuade new teachers to stick with it. Currently, huge turnover
rates mean that last year's novice teachers don't stay long enough to
get good. Smart people don't like to bang their heads against the wall
year after year. -- 1/3
Sometimes, a sweater is
just a sweater
Bjoern Staerk unearthed
an odd column by Naomi
Klein, who seems to think everything -- the Cold War, Islamic terrorism,
computers -- is about shopping. Which --unlike evil -- is evil.
In her world, nobody wants
a new sweater without ineptly darned holes in it. No, we sheeplike consumers
go to the mall in search of mythical grandeur, ideological victory, metaphor
and meaning. Not a navy blue crew neck on sale.
During the Cold War, consumption
in the U.S. wasn't only about personal gratification; it was the economic
front of the great battle. When Americans went shopping, they were participating
in the lifestyle that the Commies supposedly wanted to crush. When kaleidoscopic
outlet malls were contrasted with Moscow's grey and barren shops, the
point wasn't just that we in the West had easy access to Levi's 501s.
In this narrative, our malls stood for freedom and democracy, while
their empty shelves were metaphors for control and repression.
But when the Cold War ended and this ideological backdrop was yanked
away, the grander meaning behind the shopping evaporated.
Leaving us with a wide choice
of goods at affordable prices.
takes on Klein's "mythic narrative'' argument, which equates lofty
aspirations with homicidal lunacy.
What a bore she is. She
absolutely refuses to take any pleasure at all from being on the side
of Good against Evil. She can't find anything good to say about religious
fanatics, so she makes fighting a good cause itself a suspicious act.
One of the advantages of growing up a nerd is that our subculture, with
the apocalyptic battles of Fantasy and the galactic perspective of SciFi,
has a moral compass branded so firmly into it the relativism of people
like Klein stand out like a suit at a hacker convention. Of course it
is dangerous to live your own myth, (Klein should watch the Babylon
5 episode Comes the Inquisitor for a discussion of the subject), but
so is being blown up by terrorists. -- 1/3
America or death
On the (unlinkable) Wall Street Journal op-ed page, Bret Stephens writes
about a visit to his Jewish grandfather's birth place, now in Moldova.
If the family had stayed, they'd have been murdered by the Nazis or their
Romanian pals or by Stalin; at best, his grandfather would have survived
World War II and lived for 38 years under an oppressive Communist regime.
Instead, they came to America, which gave them freedom and life.
That's my family history too,
only it was the Ukraine and Belarus. Growing up in the '50s, with Hitler
and Stalin a recent memory, I was very aware that my grandparents and
parents probably would have died -- and I never would have been born --
if the family had stayed there. In America, we were free and prosperous
citizens. There, we'd be dead (poison gas, firing squad, starvation, cold,
disease, etc.) or, at best, enslaved to the state.
That's why I get so sick of
kneejerk anti-patriots, America-bashers and whiners. If you can find a
better country -- where did Alec Baldwin move to? -- bon voyage. Adios.
Don't let the door hit you on the way out. -- 1/2
Off Tamiscal High's reunion
John Walker's alma mater, Tamiscal High, took heavy criticism when AP
quoted the principal as saying she's "proud'' of Tali-boy. Now (via
AP says principal Marcie Miller was misquoted:
She's proud of other Tamiscal students, not of Tali-boy, who left the
alternative school before she arrived.
``I never met John, so
I never would have said that I am proud of him,'' she said.
In fact, Lindh's decision to volunteer for Osama bin Laden's cause is
``opposed to everything I've devoted my life to,'' Miller said. ``My
brother is a Gulf War hero, I come from an extremely patriotic family,
my father's a veteran and I find this appalling, that I'm being cast
as a villain who's proud of anything John Walker Lindh has done since
he left our school in January of 1998.'' -- 1/2
Julie Vu is the Bay Area's first
baby of 2002, beating out Joseph Elijah Castro by one second. It's
the typical first-baby story in the San Jose Mercury News, complete with
Yet there's more to it than
cute: Julie's dad is absent; her single mom, who has no high school diploma,
was laid off in March from an assembly job. Joseph's parents are unmarried
17-year-olds. His father is not in high school, though he's studying "landscaping
and roofing skills" in a vocational program. That is: He's training
for work normally done by uneducated, unskilled, undocumented, underpaid
Years ago, a colleague told
me the Trentonian, where he'd worked, had stopped doing first baby of
the year stories because they had to wait till Jan. 3 to get a baby born
to married parents. At the time, people thought it mattered.
The parents have good intentions
and, more important, financial and emotional support from their families.
Maybe Julie and Joseph will do OK. I hope. -- 1/2
You can be a teen-ager past the age of 30, according to a Washington Post
story on extending
For those who study adolescence
as a stage of life, treat it as a disease, sell to it as a market, entertain
it with songs and shows that make it seem the greatest time of life,
it is growing and growing, providing ever new opportunities for grants,
fees, jobs and changing how we think about kids.
The Society for Adolescent Medicine, a physicians' organization, now
says on its Web site that it cares for persons "10 to 26 years"
of age. A National Academy of Sciences committee, surveying programs
for adolescents, discussed extending its review to age 30. (To which
one committee member and mother of three gasped, "Oh my God, I
hope not.") The MacArthur Foundation has funded a $3.4 million
project called Transitions to Adulthood, which pegs the end of that
transition at 34.
I learned that the average
adolescent has received four times more toys than the previous generation.
Also, the average age at which Italians move out of their parents' home
Americans need no encouragement
to emulate Peter Pan. But I can sympathize with those who want to deny
the adulthood of their children.
My daughter, who's 20, came
in the house on Dec. 31 and yelled (I thought): "Are you ready to
see your granddaughter?"
"No!'' I said. After a
millisecond of dread, I asked her to repeat herself.
She pointed to her hair and
make-up, done up for a New Year's Eve party. "Are you ready to see
your glam daughter?''
To be honest, I'm not ready
for that either. But I will cope. -- 1/2
I finally read the James Bennett piece on
weblogs in Anglosphere (English-speaking cyberspace): He thinks we're
I think we bloggers are on
the cutting edge of something, but I'm not sure what. We've created an
international salon to discuss ideas, trade jokes, critique the established
media and fight for truth, freedom and justice.
But it relies on unpaid labor.
I'm averaging $30 a week in Amazon donations, despite tripling the number
of visitors since September. And with all the new, excellent blogs out
there, I keep spending more time reading blogs and less time in activities
for which I conceivably might earn money. I can't tell you guys how often
I vow to cut back, stop reading, stop blogging, write the damn books.
How long can we keep this up?
And, by the way, for those
who say I should add individual links: Is there a quick way to do this
in Dreamweaver? Remember that I'm twice the age of a Norwegian blogger,
and very close to my no-new-tricks limit. Can't you just scroll down to
find the damn item? I'm trying to write a book! Two books! -- 1/1
Iran and Saudi Arabia are complaining that U.S. media bias since Sept.
11 is hurting Islam's image as a religion of peace. Christopher
a long look in the mirror.
According the Associated
Press, both countries, "pledged to confront the Western image of
Islam and to make known that the religion stands for peace and justice,"
and called on non-Muslims, "not to hold Islam responsible for actions
and practices which are very distant from the spirit of Islam and its
The Editor, a Christian, would like to jump in at this point and hope
that if the Christian Church in all its manifestations the world over
were ever confronted by mass murderers who quoted the Bible and believed
themselves to be good and devout Christians, that its first concern
would not be the Church's "image." The Editor would hope,
in such a case, that the Church would engage in a long and intense reflection
on how such individuals could have arisen in its midst. The Editor also
wonders why, if Islam's principles are so "lofty" and its
doctrines are so "noble", so many southern Sudanese animists
and Christians have been killed or enslaved by its northern Sudanese
Or why Muslim militants in
Indonesia are blowing up Christian
This gets right at what I've
been thinking: If Islam-the-religion-of-peace has been highjacked by fanatics,
as President Bush keeps telling us, why aren' t Muslim leaders fighting
to reclaim their religion, like the passengers of Flight 93? -- 1/1