Too much candy
Usually I buy Halloween candy that I don't like, so I won't eat it myself,
but this year I bought chocolate coins and ghosts and Reese's peanut butter
cups, with Milky Ways for back-up. I had quite a few -- especially the
Reese's -- but it didn't matter. Trick-or-treat traffic was about one
third of normal. In particular, there was a dramatic drop in trick-or-treating
by Hispanic and black families from the low-income neighborhood close
by. In pre-anthrax days, they considered my neighborhood safer than their
own. Now, I assume, they don't trust strangers, however affluent, not
to poison their kids.
When I was a kid, we went trick-or-treating
without our parents, scared only of big kids who might tease us. We walked
to school without a parent, from kindergarten on. We literally played
in the street: I invented a game called "Blockade Runner" that
involved placing one's self in the path of a speeding bicycle so as to
stuff a football (bomb) in the basket. Was the world really that much
I'll have to take the extra
chocolate to "my" charter school, before I finish it off. --
ideas rise in the West
Andrew Sullivan points out
a provocative article in the leftish New Statesman. In "Lost
in the swamp of modernity," Peter Watson argues that all the
new ideas of the 20th century came from the West. The rest of the world
-- not just the Muslim world but Africa, Japan and China -- is intellectually
stagnent, argues Watson. Last year, he interviewed 150 scholars -- from
all parts of the globe -- for a book, "The
Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century.''
What shocked me were my
interviews with scholars of non-western cultures. Here, I am referring
not only to western specialists in the great non-western traditions,
but scholars who were themselves born into those traditions - Arab archaeologists
or writers, economists and historians from India and China, poets and
dramatists from Japan and Africa. All of them - there were no exceptions
- said the same thing. In the 20th century, in the modern world, there
were no non-western ideas of note.
There is no Asian equivalent
of, say, Darwin, no African Max Planck, no Arab Freud, no Japanese Picasso
or Matisse. When it comes to ideas, the modern world is a western world,
a secular world of democracies, free markets, science and self-governing
There are important Chinese
writers and painters of the 20th century; and we can all think of significant
Japanese film directors, Indian novelists and African dramatists. There
is a thriving school of Indian post-colonial historiography, led by
Gayatri Spivak. Distinguished non-western scholars and writers are household
names, at least in smart households: one thinks of Edward Said himself,
Chinua Achebe, Amartya Sen, Anita Desai, Chandra Wickramasinghe. But,
it was repeatedly put to me, there is no 20th-century Chinese equivalent
of surrealism, say, no Indian philosophy to match logical positivism,
no African equivalent of the French Annales school of history. Whatever
list you care to make of 20th-century innovations, be it plastic, antibiotics
and the atom, or stream-of-consciousness novels, it is overwhelmingly
Result: resentment of dynamic
Western culture, a desire to destroy what one's own culture can't create.
Why we fight
In a strong
speech to the Welsh Assembly on Oct. 30, British Prime Minister Tony
Blair asked Britons to remember why it's necessary to stand up to terrorists.
. . . they intend to
commit more atrocities unless we yield to their demands which include
the eradication of Israel, the killing of all Jews and the setting up
of fundamentalist states in all parts of the Arab and Moslem world.
So: we have a group of
people in Afghanistan who are the sworn enemies of everything the civilised
world stands for, who have killed once on a vast scale and will kill
again unless stopped. They can't be negotiated with. They refuse to
yield to justice.
And they have one hope:
that we are decadent, that we lack the moral fibre or will or courage
to take them on; that we might begin but we won't finish; that we will
start, then falter; that when the first setbacks occur, we will lose
They are wrong. We won't
We will not stop until
our mission is complete. We will not flinch from doing what is necessary
to complete it. We will not fail and we will do it all because we believe
in our values of justice, tolerance and respect for all regardless of
race, religion or creed just as passionately as they believe in fanatical
hatred of Jews, Christians and any Moslems who don't share their perverse
view of Islam.
They mistake our desire
for a comfortable life, living in peace, benign towards different races
and cultures, for decadence. It is not decadence. It is progress and
we will fight to maintain it.
Blair closes by saying that
bin Laden has hijacked Afghanistan (actually, he bought it from the Taliban)
and is trying to hijack Islam and the Palestinian cause too.
It reminds me of an Instapundit
reader's analogy: We now accept that U.S. fighter planes will shoot down
a hijacked U.S. airliner filled with passengers -- "innocent civilians''
-- if necessary to prevent greater loss of life. Afghanistan has been
hijacked. -- 10/31
I am among "the most prominent bloggers'' in cyberland, according
to "Sounding Off,'' an article in the Oct. 29 E-Commerce supplement
to the Wall Street Journal. That's blogger as in weblogger, as in a person
who maintains a regularly updated site for opinions and links to recommended
articles. As far as I can tell, Mickey
Kaus is the ur-blogger.
The 9-11 attacks, which have
made many people into news-and-comment junkies, have turned many sites
into "warblogs'' as Matt
Welch would say. Glenn
Reynolds directed me to Welch, who quotes warblogger Bjoern
Staerk on the effect of the Internet: "Something has changed,
fundamentally and permanently, when Americans surf to a Norwegian website
to read Saudi editorials about a war in Afghanistan. " Also check
out Patrick Ruffini.
He's 23. --
An Apple for the student
Palo Alto's an affluent, tech-savvy, education-worshipping town, but
even here people are complaining about a letter from Jordan Middle School
-- my daughter's old school -- urging parents to buy their sixth graders
a $2,000 Apple iBook. Buying the laptop is optional: The school has 48
iBooks for students to share. Still, parents resent feeling guilty --
or poor -- if they say "no" to a $2,000 hit in the family budget.
The program is now "on pause'' to sort out the equity questions.
The larger issue is whether
laptops provide $2,000 in educational benefits. Jordan
piloted the laptop program last year, giving free iBooks to 51 sixth
graders in two classes. Students and teachers thought the laptops were
useful. But how useful? At $2,000 per student, a class of 30 could fund
a second teacher, turning a lecture-and-recitation class into a seminar.
Oddly enough, Jordan parents
were rebuffed earlier this year when they offered to raise $120,000 to
class sizes for sixth graders. Equity problems again: Parents at the
other middle school in town didn't know if they could match Jordan's fund-raising.
There's little or no evidence
that adding computers to a classroom improves student learning. By contrast,
investing in teacher training, mentoring and collaboration time does pay
off. But it's not as sexy as putting an iBook in every lap. -- 10/30
Life with father
Welfare reform advocate Mickey
Kaus debunks the pessimism of Charles
Murray, who argues in the Washington Post that Dad's still missing
from low-income American families.
Let's see -- the proportion
of young black children living with married (not just cohabiting) parents
was 58 percent in 1976. It fell to 52 percent in 1980 and 42 percent
in 1985. By 1995 it had plummeted to 33 percent. In a mere five years
after welfare reform, it's back up to 41 percent, making up for almost
ten years of decline. Sorry -- the change may not last, it may not be
due to welfare reform, but it's not a "minor change."
Murray can't bring himself
to admit the black family's decline has been reversed, charges Kaus. Having
adopted "the lone-voice-of-truth
pose, it requires a perverse submersion of ego to admit they've come around
-- to admit you're not alone anymore, to admit that you've been proven
right." -- 10/30
Open minds at Yale
Last year's "Organization Kids" -- high-achieving, brown-nosing,
apolitical college students -- were blown out of their apathy on Sept.
11, writes David
Brooks in the Daily Standard.
I spent a day at Yale
this week and found the campus alive with debate. Students were generally
more supportive of George W. Bush and the war effort than their professors,
and there was a wide range of views. What's more, some of the middle-aged
academics seemed to be rethinking things. From what people told me and
from what I saw, professors were genuinely listening to students, not
only to figure out what the next generation thinks, but as a part of
a reappraisal of their own thinking. I got the impression of minds being
opened, of new facts and new ideas being considered.
Monthly article on "The Organization Kid" pictured elite
students as busy little academic climbers indifferent to ideas. At Yale,
he found students trying to talk about evil, and frustrated by relativism.
"These students were trying to form judgments, yet were blocked by
the accumulated habits of non-judgmentalism."
Conservatives remain out of
fashion, writes Brooks. But now '60s radicalism seems irrelevant too.
This isn't Vietnam. It requires new thinking.
A few weeks ago, my daughter
told me about an argument with a friend who goes to ultra-liberal UC-Santa
Cruz. He was astounded by her support for U.S. military action. He'd never
met anyone who thought that way. She thought she'd lost a friend. But
the next day, he told her she'd made some good points. "I'll do some
more thinking,'' he said. -- 10/29
Good news: Saudis say we
can keep our democracy
Why did New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani reject $10 million and a "root
causes'' lecture, from a visiting Saudi prince? Here's the answer, as
translated by the Middle
East Media and Research Institute:
Mahmoud bin Abd Al-Ghani
Sabbagh, columnist for the Saudi paper Al-Riyadh, wrote . . . "Because
the governor [sic] of the Big Apple is a Jew, he refused [to accept
the donation] and caused a storm."'Giuliani said: 'The Prince's
declarations are grievous and irresponsible; these Arabs have lost the
right to dictate [to us what to do]. What we (America) must do is kill
6,000 innocent people.'" By Allah, I am amazed at your act, you
Jew; everything Prince Al-Walid said was true
If democracy means
a governor who is a homosexual in a city in which dance clubs, prostitution,
homosexuality, and stripping proliferate the U.S. can keep its
The editor of Al-Hayat Al-Jadida,
a Palestinian Authority newspaper, Hafez Al-Barghouthi explained, "New
York mayor Rudolph Giuliani . . . hides his first name, chosen for him
by his Italian father, so as not to remind the Jewish voters of the infamous
Rudolph Hitler. This is why he prefers to shorten it to Rudy."
You remember Rudolph Hitler.
He was the governor of Italy. -- 10/28
Why do they hate Professor
of dissent'' on college campuses has stifled conservative voices for
years, writes Stanley Kurtz in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Now
professors are under attack for anti-war-on-terror statements. And they're
finding that their disdain for the free speech of others is coming back
to haunt them.
If the professoriate was
diverse enough to allow for an authentic debate over the causes of the
war; if our tradition of free speech had not for years been under challenge
as a mere cover for the oppressive power of the social elites; if we
had not been so recently subjected to codes, written and unwritten,
in which sensitivity trumped free speech; then we would now have far
less to fear from the pent-up anger of students, administrators, or
the public over controversial comments about the war.
Kurt cites a Christian Science
Monitor article on the conflict between "'my country love it or leave
it' fervor" and "free speech and broad intellectual inquiry
into the root causes of September 11."
The implication is that
an inquiry into the root causes of the terror will end up saddling the
United States with responsibility for the attacks. But that reflects
only one intellectual position.
Scholars like the Princeton
historian Bernard Lewis and the Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington
-- old lions of a passing generation of scholars -- argue that the root
causes of the terror have more to do with the difficulties of harmonizing
Islamic culture with modernity than with any alleged transgressions
of U.S. foreign policy. But Lewis's and Huntington's work on Islamic
fundamentalism, although considered prophetic by many commentators in
light of the attacks and their aftermath, has generally been dismissed
within the academy as essentializing and neo-imperialist.
The quest for "diversity''
has left campuses "more intellectually and politically uniform than
ever," Kurtz writes.
If the country decides
that our colleges and universities have nothing to offer in this time
of crisis beyond one-sided analyses supporting a distinctly minority
viewpoint, then not only will our ethos of free speech be threatened,
but the academy itself may be caught up in a crisis of legitimacy. If
the radical professoriate wants its rights of free speech respected,
it will need to relearn the meaning of the freedom it is asking for,
and readmit to the academy thoughtful representatives of the very ideas
it has heretofore excluded.
The Foundation for Individual
Rights in Education, known as FIRE,
has a long list of attempts to squelch freedom of expression on campus.
Most involve professors taking hawkish stands in class or on their web
sites, and students and staffers accused of insensitivity for sporting
One of the most outrageous
At San Diego State University,
an international student, Zewdalem Kebede, overheard several other students,
speaking loudly in Arabic, express delight about the terrorist attacks.
Kebede engaged the students and, in Arabic, challenged their positions.
Kebede was accused by San Diego State University of abusive behavior
toward the four students. A University judicial officer formally admonished
Kebede and warned him that "future incidents [will result in] serious
disciplinary sanctions.'' -- 10/26
The SAT II achievement tests, coupled with high school grades, are
predictor of freshman success at the University of California, according
to a new UC
study. That will advance the UC president's campaign to drop the SAT
I -- the verbal and math aptitude test -- which the study found inferior
to the SAT IIs. Of course, using both tests, as the UC system does now,
is an even better predictor of freshman grades, but the difference is
Although the study found SAT
II scores don't correlate as closely with socioeconomic differences as
the SAT I, it concluded that using the SAT II alone wouldn't significantly
change the racial or ethnic mix at UC campuses.
UC requires applicants to take
SAT IIs in English and math and a third subject chosen by the student.
Some complain that Hispanic and Asian students gain an unfair advantage
by taking their third SAT II in their native language, jacking up their
scores without demonstrating learning ability.
If any foreign language score
is valid, then how the student learned that language is irrelevant. But
perhaps UC should require the third SAT II be in history or science. --
Alliance for stasis
are all alone'' -- except for Britain -- writes Tom Friedman in the
New York Times. I like his lead:
So let me see if I've
got this all straight now: Pakistan will allow us to use its bases Mondays,
Wednesdays and Fridays provided we bomb only Taliban whose names
begin with Omar and who don't have cousins in the Pakistani secret service.
India is with us on Tuesdays and Fridays, provided it can shell Pakistani
forces around Kashmir all other days. Egypt is with us on Sundays, provided
we don't tell anyone and provided we never mention that we give the
Egyptians $2 billion a year in aid. Yasir Arafat is with us only after
10 p.m. on weekdays, when Palestinians who have been dancing in the
streets over the World Trade Center attack have gone to bed. The Northern
Alliance is with us, provided we buy all its troops new sandals and
give U.S. passports to the first 1,000 to reach Kabul.
Every time I watch the evening
news there's a report on an anti-American demonstration in Pakisan. Thursday
night, the daily demo was played as a top story on both CNN and MSNBC.
Surely it's no longer news that some Pakistanis -- and many others in
the Muslim world -- side with the Taliban and admire Osama bin Laden.
I guess it's the surplus of TV crews stuck in Peshawar with nothing to
do but churn out footage of burning flags.
Let's get real. This is a war,
not a popularity contest. It's our war because our country was attacked.
We will do what we need to do to defend ourselves, and if some foreigners
don't like it, tough luck.-- 10/26
Non-citizens in arms
Some foreigners do like the U.S. Who's volunteering
to serve in the U.S. military? In New York City, legal immigrants
make up nearly 40 percent of Navy recruits, 36 percent of new Marines
and 27 percent of Army enlistees, reports the New York Times. Legal immigrants
make up about 13 percent of the city's young adult population. -- 10/26
"Don't trust anyone over 30'' went out of style a few years
before the baby-boomers turned 30. Still, I found it sobering to read
that former Rolling Stone Bill
Wyman is now 65, eligible for his Old Age Pension. -- 10/25
Home-schooling for Christians
Talbot calls home-schooling a "surprisingly vigorous counter-culture"
in her review of Mitchell Stevens' "Kingdom of Children" in
the November Atlantic. Home-schooling gives full-time mothers respect,
intellectual challenge and networking opportunities, as well as some freedom
from housework. In exchange, Christian parents have turned the "unschooling''
fad of hippie parents into a well-organized, heavily networked and rapidly
growing social movement.
Talbot concedes that home-schooled
kids do well academically and socially. Their families have higher-than-average
involvement in community activities. But she worries that
"home schooling will attract new recruits motivated mainly by disenchantment
with the quality of their public schools,'' rather than religious motives.
Why is this a problem?
For ideologically or religiously
motivated home schoolers, keeping their kids out of school is not a
consumer's whim; it's the exercise of a constitutionally sanctioned
right to guide their children's education in accordance with their most
deeply held beliefs. And in a democratic society only considerations
as profound as those are significant enough to outweigh the potential
harm of sectarianism. The decision to home school also represents a
complicated but reasonable compromise with the rest of us. Rather than
agitate to get Darwinism out of the public schools, for example, conservative
Christian home schoolers may opt to withdraw from them while continuing
(for the most part) to pay taxes that support those schools and to participate
in civic and political life. Moreover, as Stevens shows, home schooling
offers some conservative Christian women, whose values prevent them
from working outside the home, a measure of fulfillment and autonomy
that they might not otherwise enjoya social good in itself. If
the rest of us (people nursing vague beefs with the public schools,
people without a powerful religious or ideological justification) started
pulling our kids out of the schools, I doubt it would serve any social
good at all.
Secular liberals may not much care for the particular forms of social
capital that evangelicals and fundamentalists build, but build them
they do. ..
Besides, Christian home
schoolers embody a coherent, living critique of mainstream education
and child-rearing that can be bracing, a model of carefully negotiated,
mildly irritating separateness, of being in but not of modern consumer
society. For the rest of us, the tensions that creates may be the most
useful thing about them.
It's nice that Talbot is sympathetic
to Christian parents, but I don't see why she's so dismissive of non-religious
parents who distrust the quality of their children's public schools. Surely
secularists can serve the social good and build social capital by giving
their kids a better education, networking with other secular home-schoolers
and embodying a critique of mainstream education. If they also turn out
well-educated, emotionally healthy, civically engaged young Americans,
where's the beef, vague or specific, with their decision to pull their
kids out of the schools? -- 10/25
Pride, not panic
Americans are feeling
good about their country and each other, according to survey done
from Sept. 13-27, reports the Washington Post:
Last month's terrorist
attacks triggered a broad surge in national feelings of pride, confidence
and faith in America and many of the country's key institutions, according
to a national survey released yesterday.
Cynicism and suspicion
are down while measures of patriotism and personal trust are up, according
to the survey by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the
University of Chicago. Two out of three Americans -- 67 percent -- agreed
that most people are helpful, an increase of 21 percentage points from
last year and the highest reading since the question was first asked
in the early 1970s. Nearly everyone -- 97 percent -- now said they would
rather be citizens of the United States "than of any other country,"
also up from 2000.
Compared to Americans elsewhere,
New York City residents reported more signs of tension, such as insomnia,
headaches and the desire to get drunk. New Yorkers shared the rise in
national pride and confidence.
Americans aren't panicking,
Agenda reports, looking at a variety of surveys:
Sixty percent of Americans
expect more biological or chemical attacks. "Yet even as more anthrax
exposures are reported daily, the number of people who admit that they
are hoarding antibiotics or buying gas masks remains in the single digits,
and isn't growing."
No polling data suggests widespread
or growing panic, Public Agenda says. "As the news broke about an
anthrax exposure at NBC News, Newsweek researchers on Oct. 11-12 asked
if people had personally taken any steps to protect themselves 'such as
trying to buy a gas mask or obtain antibiotics.' Six percent said yes.
When Newsweek asked the same question a week later (Oct. 18-19), the result
was still 6 percent. Other surveys fielded last week found even smaller
numbers: the ABC News/Washington Post poll found 5 percent had spoken
to a doctor about anthrax and 2 percent said they had actually bought
antibiotics. Gallup found only 3 percent who had tried to get a prescription."
In a Fox News survey, 56 percent
of respondents said news coverage of anthrax is "overhyped."
Attitudes about anthrax risks
are still in flux, says Public Agenda. Public support for U.S. military
action in Afghanistan remains steady at 90 percent. "Surveys over
the past month, both before and after the air strikes, have shown that
none of the potential drawbacks deters the public, with two-thirds or
more of people in favor of military action even in the event of a lengthy
conflict, a recession, or further terror attacks. In the overnight surveys
after the bombing began, 77 percent told Gallup they would still favor
attacks if ground forces were involved, and 65 percent in favor if Afghan
civilians were killed."
Meredith Dixon, one of Glenn
Reynolds' readers, puts it well in a response to Jonathan Yardley's
belief in a nationwide "gnawing, enervating sense
of dread." Dixon, who lives in West Virginia says what she feels
is "a keenly focused sense of cold fury.'' This is war, she writes.
"Dread's what you feel when you're helpless to oppose what's coming.
We're not helpless, so we're not afraid. We're angry."
Reynolds also passes on this
chain e-mail, which is making the rounds of Belligerent Women with a sense
Take all American women
who are within five years of menopause - train us for a few weeks, outfit
us with automatic weapons, grenades, gas masks, moisturizer with SPF15,
Prozac, hormones, chocolate, and canned tuna - drop us (parachuted,
preferably) across the landscape of Afghanistan, and let us do what
Think about it. Our anger
quotient alone, even when doing standard stuff like grocery shopping
and paying bills, is formidable enough to make even armed men in turbans
We've had our children,
we would gladly suffer or die to protect them and their future. We'd
like to get away from our husbands, if they haven't left already. And
for those of us who are single, the prospect
of finding a good man with whom to share life is about as likely as
being struck by lightning. We have nothing to lose.
We've survived the water
diet, the protein diet, the carbohydrate diet,and the grapefruit diet
in gyms and saunas across America and never lost a pound. We can easily
survive months in the hostile terrain of
Afghanistan with no food at all!
We've spent years tracking
down our husbands or lovers in bars, hardware stores, or sporting events...finding
bin Laden in some cave will be no problem.
Uniting all the warring
tribes of Afghanistan in a new government? Oh, please ... we've planned
the seating arrangements for in-laws and extended families at Thanksgiving
dinners for years ... we understand tribal warfare.
Between us, we've divorced enough husbands to know every trick there
is for how they hide, launder, or cover up bank accounts and money sources.
We know how to find that money and we know how to seize it ... with
or without the government's help!
Let us go and fight. The
Taliban hates women. Imagine their terror as we crawl like ants with
hot-flashes over their godforsaken terrain.
I'm going to write my
Congresswoman. You should, too! -- 10/25
Must Muslims be medieval?
Robert Wright makes some good points about Muslims
and modernity in his Slate column. Like the Christian and Jewish Bible,
the Koran can be interpreted to justify either tolerance or belligerence
to non-believers, Wright observes. Why did European Christians give up
slaughtering infidels and move to accepting religious diversity, while
Islam seems stuck in old-fashioned intolerance?
To me, the answer seems
simple: The predominately Christian nations have become more economically
advanced, more globalized, which naturally leads to a more cosmopolitan
outlook. It's impossible to do business with people while slaughtering
them, and it's pretty hard to do business with them while telling them
that they'll burn in hell forever. Modern global capitalism has its
faults, but religious intolerance isn't one of them.
In this view, the intolerance
of Islamic fundamentalists is a reflection not of scripture laid down
1,400 years ago, but of their sociological circumstances in recent decades.
Wright argues that Europe's
political fragmentation during the late Middle Ages and early modern era
allowed experimentation with various political and economic alternatives.
The winning formula turned out to be political and economic liberty.
The magic formula of political
and economic liberty has since spread across much of the world. Eventually,
I'm sure, it will prevail even in currently repressive Islamic states.
Unfortunately, the transition
could be wrenching. Though globalization is the long-run hope for Islamic
society, it is the short-run threat. Yes, market economies are the only
lasting cure for poverty. But the first step in the cure often strains
the bonds of tradition by moving people from rural, kin-based communities
into cities or shantytowns. And even decades after this initial dislocation,
when families have been pulled safely out of poverty, modernization
can still threaten the values of the deeply religious. Hence the paradox
of the two types of 9/11 hijackers: the poor, uneducated ones, and the
middle-class but alienated ones.
There is obviously a sense
in which the blame-Islam-first crowd is right, and Islam is part of
the problem. The attitude of Islamic fundamentalistsan abhorrence
of the non-Islamic worldconflicts with the logic of globalization,
and, sooner or later, something has to give. But if history is any guide,
what will give in the end is reactionary religion, not technological
progress. And the result will be, as it has been in the past, the evolution
of a more humane, tolerant faith.
Sullivan disagrees with Wright, arguing that the Koran is a lot keener
on killing or forcibly converting unbelievers than the Old or (especially)
New Testament, making Muslims more resistant to assimilation. -- 10/25
Dissidents in Iraq
have more to worry about than public disapproval, according to a U.N.
report on human
rights in Iraq, the equivalent of a study of snowballs in hell. One
phrase in the Associated Press story keeps coming back to me: "without
UNITED NATIONS -- Iraq's
citizens face arbitrary execution, religious persecution, torture and
forced relocation, a U.N. human rights investigator said Monday.
Andreas Mavrommatis of
Cyprus said in a report that he has also "received information
suggesting that persons who had allegedly insulted the president of
Iraq have had their tongues amputated without trial."
You see what I mean.
The death toll allegedly caused
by sanctions against Iraq was quoted as 500,000 until recently, but has
suddenly, inexplicably tripled to 1.5 million. I believe the exact number
is zero. On the other hand, the death toll caused by Saddam Hussein's
brutality, warmongering and venality -- he's reselling the oil-for-food
imports to outfit his palaces and army -- is staggering. Well over a million
Iraqis, I should think. That doesn't count the dead Kuwaitis, and possibly
some U.S. postal workers and a photo editor, as well. -- 10/23
Yes, I've put an Amazon link on the site to see how many people are willing
to put their money where their eyeballs are. So far, the money is rolling
in. I've hit double figures: $10! -- 10/23
Spite the devil
Pitts has another excellent column. He quotes reader Brenda Knapp
as saying she'll go up in high-rises if only out of spite. `I will continue
to fly. I may be hijacked by terrorists, but I will not be hijacked by
fear.'' Pitts writes:
Amen. Because sometimes,
it's necessary to plant your feet, to draw a line, to say this far and
no further. Necessary to stand in defiance. Not to put too fine a point
on it, but this is such a time. In a sense, it has been for years. We
just didn't notice before.
In other words, our anxiety
stems not so much from the fact that we're suddenly at war, but from
the fact that we suddenly realized we've been at war for years. . .
. What else did it mean when they bombed our embassies in Africa, blew
a hole in our ship in Yemen, destroyed an apartment building full of
Americans in Saudi Arabia?
We are at war, have long
been at war, with people who hate everything we stand for. And it is,
notwithstanding the horrific sight of airplanes plowing into skyscrapers,
a war fought less in physical dimensions than emotional ones. Our enemy
can't win unless fear makes us falter. We can't win unless it makes
The point being that fear
itself isn't the issue. Rather, the defining question is: What will
we do in the face of that fear?
I'm doing my bit. I just made
my first post-September plane reservations. It's an optional trip, too.
I can't say that I feel all that nervous about it. If postal workers can
do their jobs without succumbing to anthrax panic, I can get on a plane
without getting the vapors.
Psychologists -- the kind quoted
in newspapers -- predict a wave of post-traumatic stress cases caused
by fear, uncertainty and grief. My problem is unexpressed rage. - 10/23
I want my Internet!
I don't know when you'll read the Oct. 22 postings. My Internet service
has been out all day. PacBell's recorded message says only that they're
working on the problem. Yes, I had plenty of offline things I could have
done today. I actually did some filing and balanced my checkbook. (To
the nearest $10.) I called Information for a phone number instead of looking
it up online. I'd almost forgotten about Information. But I WANT MY INTERNET
ACCESS! NOW! -- 10/22
Who buys candy in October?
The FBI is investigating
why someone bought large quantities of candy at discount stores in New
Jersey. I know these are troubling times, but if buying candy in bulk
in mid-October is suspicious, a lot of us are in trouble.
Update: The candy buyer was
a wholesaler buying from Costco for resale. That's fairly common. But
he had dark skin and an accent. -- 10/22
The feds are kicking in $5 million for a new system for credentialing
new and experienced teachers. It will use standardized tests to measure
knowledge of the subject they're teaching and classroom skills. (I'm not
sure how you do the latter with a written test.) Veteran teachers "also
will be judged on the basis of their students' achievement, documented
over a period of time," reports Education
Week. That's revolutionary.
If catches on, the tests could
be used to license prospective teachers who aren't coming out of education
schools and could be a portable credential for teachers move from one
state to another
The American Board for Certification
of Teacher Excellence is a project of the National
Council on Teacher Quality, which is a project of the Thomas
B. Fordham Foundation. Fordhamites believe that subject-matter knowledge
and verbal ability are key factors in teacher quality, while ed-school
courses are basically a waste of time. (That's also the view of a new
report by the Abell
Foundation in Baltimore.) Basic skills tests for teachers are way
too basic, they say. They like merit pay, and differential pay for teachers
with hard-to-find skills. (Paying a physics teacher more than a phys ed
teacher with the same seniority is another revolutionary idea in education.)
Fordhamites also dislike the
National Board for Professional Teaching
Standards for granting master teacher status based on how teachers
teach (using videotapes and teaching portfolios) rather than on how well
are learning. The American Board is an anti-establishment challenge
to the National Board, and apparently one with friends in Bush's
Education Department. -- 10/22
Fight for the right
I just watched parts of the
"Concert for New York City.'' Odd to see old rockers leading
cheers for cops and firefighters. Richard Gere said he hoped the desire
for revenge would be replaced by a feeling of compassion for others. The
audience booed, and he quickly dropped the subject. Paul McCartney, whose
father was a fireman during the Blitz, closed with "Let It Be,''
and then with an encore of the song he wrote on Sept. 12. Mostly it's
a repetition of the line: "I will fight for the right to live in
freedom.'' The audience loved it.
The FBI has found an anthrax
letter at the New
York Post postmarked Sept. 18. The handwriting and enclosed threat
are just like the ones mailed to NBC (postmarked Sept. 18) and Sen. Tom
Daschle (postmarked Oct. 8). The letter was never opened; it was placed
in a bag of suspicious mail after the Oct. 12 infection of Tom Brokaw's
assistant. So, did it take three weeks to get from New Jersey to New York?
Or does the Post not open its mail, even when there's no anthrax scare?
An editorial assistant there was infected, which suggests the terrorists
got frustrated and sent a second letter. -- 10/21
Brother in arms
In a Washington Post story on young people planning to enlist
in the military, there's a familiar name: The family of Amadou Diallo,
mistakenly shot and killed by New York police officers in 1999, came from
Africa for the trial and stayed. Diallo's 17-year-old brother plans to
join the Army Reserves, train as an information analyst, and then attend
New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Abdoul Diallo, a high school
senior, was horrified by the Sept. 11 attack, he told the Post. "I'm
Muslim. I don't like bin Laden. He's crazy, and I don't like the way he
portrays Muslims. His main mission is to kill as many Americans as possible,
and that's completely wrong.'' -- 10/19
Duty and honor
McCain gave an eloquent speech Oct. 9 at the U.S. Naval Academy. (Thanks
to Andrew Sullivan for the
First, McCain said the U.S.
must "keep our nerve" in the face of new attacks and more casualties.
We should use no more
force than necessary, but no less than necessary. Fighting this war
in half measures will only give our enemies time and opportunity to
strike us again. We must change and change permanently the mindset of
terrorists, those who give them sanctuary and support, and those parts
of Islamic populations who believe the terrorist conceit that they will
ultimately prevail in a conflict with the West, that America has not
the stomach to wage a relentless, long term, and, at times, ruthless
war to destroy them.
McCain goes on to talk about
national greatness, and the honor of service to a nobler cause than one's
In America, our rights
come before our duties, as well they should. We are a free people, and
among those freedoms is the liberty to sacrifice or not for our birthright.
We no longer have military conscription. Nor do we need it because we
can rely on the patriotism of more than sufficient numbers of Americans
to defend willingly the liberty of us all. Yet early in life, you have
grasped a great truth: that those who claim their liberty but not their
duty to the civilization that ensures it live a half-life, having indulged
their vanity and self-interest at the cost of their self-respect. The
richest man or woman, the most successful and celebrated of our citizens
possesses nothing important if their lives have no greater object than
themselves. . . .
Our enemies have never
had the strength to take our freedom from us. They have taken innocent
life. That is the limit of their power. And awakened to their threat,
we will destroy that power too.
. . . And as their last
hour approaches they can ask an all-loving God for mercy. But don't
ask us. We bring justice, not mercy.
Grief and honor
The New York Times' daily "Portraits of Grief'' -- brief obits
for each of the 9-11 victims -- truly are remarkable, as Jennifer
Foote Sweeney writes in Salon. I can't imagine what it's like for
reporters to write these day after day, trying to sum up life in a few
paragraphs, trying to do honor to each of the victims.
Joseph Stalin said, "A
single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." The
New York Times is fighting that cynical logic, day by day, life by life.
Charles Paul Freund, a Reason magazine editor, explains the psychwar
potential of the rumor (see "Psych 'em out," below), that
Osama bin Laden is an Israeli agent. Already, many Muslims believe that
the Mossad, Israel's intelligence service, must have planned the 9-11
attack to turn the U.S. against Islam.
In brief, a useful antidote
to the "Mossad did it" story is a counter-version, circulated
surreptitiously, that agrees that the Mossad did it to make Islam look
bad and to foment conflict against Muslims, adding only that Osama bin
Laden is the Mossad's knowing agent. Sound absurd? It is absurd. But
millions of people already believe the absurd. If you can't beat absurdity,
you counter it with a more useful version.
Would bin Laden fit the
role? In fact, he's set himself up for it. The act he has committed
is considered heinous and unacceptable by millions of Muslims, which
is why they want to blame it on Israel; if they thought the murders
praiseworthy, they wouldn't seek to transfer the guilt. Furthermore,
bin Laden and his spokesmen have repeatedly praised the murders in their
videotaped statements, promising more in Islam's name.
If you want to win twisted
hearts and minds, use twisted means, Freund concludes. -- 10/17
Smart and socially adept
Home-schooled kids outscore school-taught students on standardized tests
and college-entrance exams. Home-schoolers dominate national spelling
and geography bees. But how are they in the "works well with others''
category? Just fine, says a report released by the Fraser
Institute in Vancouver. Home-schoolers are happier, better adjusted
and more sociable; virtually all participate in two or more outside-the-home
activities each week such as field trips and music lessons.
Parents who teach their children
at home are better educated than average, and less likely to be single
parents. And, pretty much by definition, they pay a lot of attention to
their children. It shouldn't be surprising that their children do well,
though the oddball stereotype persists.
A recent Time
cover story admitted that home-schoolers aren't isolated weirdos but worried
whether they'll grow up to be good citizens.
Thomas Jefferson and the
other early American crusaders for public education believed the schools
would help sustain democracy by bringing everyone together to share
values and learn a common history. In the little red brick schoolhouse,
we would pursue both "democracy in education and education in democracy,"
as Stanford historian David Tyack gracefully puts it. Home schooling
forsakes all that by defining education not as the pursuit of an entire
community but as the work of one family and its chosen circle. Which
can be great. Despite some drawbacks, there are signs that home-schooling
parents are doing a better job than public schools at teaching their
kids. But as the number of kids learning at home grows, we should pause
to wonder: Better at teaching them what? Home schooling may turn out
better students, but does it create better citizens?
Yet public schools seem so
tentative about teaching shared values or a common history -- Madison,
Wisconsin can't handle the Pledge of Allegiance -- that it's hard to see
how red brick is the essential building block of democracy.
Time also worries that home-schooled
kids are missing out on childhood because they're not as bratty as other
kids. And -- horrors! -- they set up their own play dates.
In 1992 psychotherapist
Larry Shyers did a study while at the University of Florida in which
he closely examined the behavior of 35 home schoolers and 35 public
schoolers. He found that home schoolers were generally more patient
and less competitive. They tended to introduce themselves to one another
more; they didn't fight as much. And the home schoolers were much more
prone to exchange addresses and phone numbers. In short, they behaved
like miniature adults.
Which is great, unless
you believe that kids should be kids before they are adults.
Home-schoolers don't learn
to cope with peer pressure, getting into trouble or the "terrifying
and liberating'' experience of riding a school bus, Time warns. It doesn't
even mention the character-building lessons taught by bad cafeteria food:
How can kids who've never eaten mystery meat loaf understand democracy?
Psych 'em out
If we have to worry about white powder, let's make the terror boys
a little nervous too. My favorite ideas from Glenn Reynolds' psychological
warfare page were posted on Oct. 14:
OSAMA BIN LADEN is actually
Jewish and works for the Mossad. His mission is to get many Muslims
killed. He has done this everywhere he has been: Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan.
The Mossad, with his help, keeps close dossiers on all his followers
and supporters and will assassinate them all at a moment of his choosing.
NEW U.S. BIOLOGICAL WEAPON: The United States will retaliate for any
biological or chemical attack with a new virus that attacks the protein
coats on sperm cells bearing the "y" chromosome, which differ
biochemically from those bearing the "x" chromosome. All Americans
have already been secretly vaccinated against this. Unvaccinated males,
once infected, can only father daughters. 30% of those infected become
incurably impotent. -- 10/16
Anthrax vs. flu
Fumento, always sensible on health threats, explains why you should
forget about stocking up on Cipro and get your flu shots.
I find myself going with bizarre
speed from fear -- It's biochemical warfare! -- to boredom -- Oh yeah.
That anthrax thing again. In the modern era, it took only a few days for
anthrax-by-mail to seem normal.
Of course, I no longer work
for the editorial pages of a major metropolitan daily newspaper. I don't
have a boss whose title is "editor." Cranks, kooks and genuinely
crazy people like to write letters to editors and editorial pages. The
woman who opened all the mail -- she could diagnose schizophrenia from
the handwriting on the envelope -- sometimes got nervous about bulky letters,
especially in times of political tension. On occasion, she called the
FBI about letters with credible death threats. Or the Secret Service,
if the president was the target. She retired a few months ago, and I doubt
she's regretting it. -- 10/15
Playing with fire
I used to think I was a nice person, but not any more. Here's a photo
of a Pakistani who set
himself on fire trying to burn an American flag.
A small group of people stand
at a corner across from Stanford University and Palo Alto High School
holding signs that say "Stop the War'' and similarly simplistic slogans.
They are longtime peaceniks for whom nothing changed on Sept. 11.
This war is not ours to stop
-- except by defeating the terrorists so thoroughly they can't attack
us again. By "defeating thoroughly" I mean killing them. Sure,
it means giving them what they claim they want. But we're a big-hearted
people, we Americans. Let's oblige them on this suicide thing.
San Jose Mercury News editors
cruelly assigned Patrick May to fly around the country for three days
assessing the mood
of airline passengers. May writes that passengers consider themselves
"amateur sky marshals. For these citizen soldiers, returning their
seat to its upright position has become a patriotic act."
There's plenty of support for
Glenn Reynolds' theory about bellicose
soccer moms. May meets a businesswoman who practiced karate kicks
before the flight, and a "soft-spoken mother of three'' who dreams
about attacking skyjackers. "I twisted their heads and broke their
necks.'' A stewardess says everyone is running through drills in their
heads. ``I think most
people feel there's no way we're going to sit there and let someone crash
our plane.'' A woman flying to San Jose does a spot-check for the "most
wanted'' terrorists but says she's at peace. ``A life lived in fear,''
she says, ``is a life half-lived.''
Reynolds' InstaPundit includes
a message from Janis Gore, who tells men of all religious beliefs and
If you threaten to interfere
with the life, liberty or health of my mother, my sister or her daughter,
my brothers' wives, their mothers, sisters and daughters, my mother-in-law,
or her daughters or granddaughters, or Mr. Reynolds wife or daughters,
or Ms. Virginia Postrel or Ms. Joanne Jacobs, or an inspiring schoolteacher
escorting a promising student on a National Geographic trip, I reserve
the right to blow your balls off.
To the soldiers in the
field: AIM LOW!
I appreciate the thought. Indeed,
I've been having similar thoughts myself. -- 10/14
I've never been good with Halloween costumes and crafts but this year
I know how to terrify: All it takes is a sprinkle of sugar, salt, sand,
baking soda, talcum powder -- or confetti from a greeting card.
Anthrax hysteria broke out
on a United flight from Chicago to San Jose Saturday when a passenger
told a crew member that a man had "dispersed a powdery
substance in the ventilation system,'' AP reported. Passengers and
crew were held aboard the plane for three hours after it landed; the suspect
was taken off the plane, stripped of his clothing, washed down with detergent
and dressed in a vapor-trapping hazardous materials suit. It turned out
he'd accidentally spilled some confetti from a greeting card.
Yes, these anthrax-by-mail
attacks are spooky. And it's hard to believe a homegrown nut just coincidentally
happened to be brewing up a bunch of spores at the same time foreign nuts
were planning the 9-11 attack. (Anthrax
-- especially the inhaled kind found in Florida -- is not the sort of
thing that grows in the back of your refrigerator.) I think it's a good
bet this is another scheme of Bert's new best friend, possibly with
So what are we going to do?
Shut down air travel again till we can build confetti scanners? Hand search
for talcum powder as well as nail clippers? Tell Customs officers to stop
searching for weapons and go back to looking for white powder? Give Osama
a big laugh?
The anthrax attacks have killed
only one poor man, who didn't know what hit him till it was too late to
be treated effectively. Now that we're on the look-out for anthrax, that
This is supposed to be the
home of the brave. So let's act like it. -- 10/14
Patriotism under fire
is controversial reports the Los Angeles Times:
A small but staunch minority
of parents, teachers and students is standing up to denounce the new
boosterism. The pledge of allegiance is alienating, they say. "The
Star-Spangled Banner," too hawkish. And the lessons on America,
land of freedom and justice? Jingoism. Propaganda. "I don't think
the schools should have any role in teaching patriotism, because everyone
defines it differently," said Phoebe Rosebear, a Wisconsin mother
of two. . . .
By emphasizing unity,
they say, it makes dissenters look like dangerous kooks. The pride-in-America
rhetoric tends to close out criticism. And no matter how much individual
teachers may praise the value of diversity, said black Democratic Nebraska
state Sen. Ernie Chambers, "Patriotism always converts into racism
and discrimination against people who are not 'Brand A' white Americans."
Or, as Wisconsin educator
Gabriel Chavez put it: "Nationalism tends to create that us-vs.-them
mentality, no matter how you teach it."
The school board in Madison,
the pledge, objecting to "under God,'' and insisted that "The
Star Spangled Banner" be played only in an instrumental version --
no militaristic lyrics. Under heavy fire, the board retreated.
In Britain, the National Union
of Teachers thinks the traditional "Land
of Hope and Glory'' is too "triumphalist'' for students to sing
in wartime. New lyrics call for music to bring the world closer together;
the old lyrics called for a "mightier" British empire. -- 10/12
In defense of courage
William Ian Miller, author of "The Mystery of Courage," defends
revenge in a Salon
interview: "Letting someone know that you are not to be messed
with is a very good thing to do for rational reasons. And that's what
Miller, a University of Michigan
professor, also takes a hit at " a certain kind of cowardice that
masquerades as high moral principle. I don't want to say sympathy and
fellow feeling is not a good thing. It is -- I'm loaded with it myself.
But sometimes, it's the veneer we put on cowardice." -- 10/11
Something works in LA schools
Good news and Los Angeles schools don't normally go together. But reading
scores for the city's first graders have shot up to the 56th percentile.
For LA Unified, above average is great.
Superintendent Roy Romer credits
the structured, phonics-based Open Court reading program, adopted one
year ago, reports Richard Lee Colvin in the Los Angeles Times.
More than 60% of the district's
first-graders are still learning to speak
English, but even their rank in reading rose from the 33rd percentile
nationally to the 48th percentile in one year. Those students have been
taught mostly in English because of Proposition 227, the 1998 measure
that ended bilingual education. Romer declined to speculate on the impact
of that change on students' scores. The reading scores for African American
students also rose sharply, from the 45th percentile to the 55th percentile.
Most of the district's
elementary schools adopted the Open Court reading
program for kindergarten and grades 1 and 2 a year ago. The district
invested in an intensive teacher-training program and also hired 300
coaches to help teachers monitor their lessons and their students'
progress. -- 10/11
America's history first
"How vigorously should American teachers wave the flag?'' asks Jay
Mathews in the Washington Post. And how much stress should they put
on teaching about other cultures?
I have watched a lot of
high school history classes over the last 20 years. Perhaps there was
a time when teachers insisted that America was always right, but in
most places such jingoistic tendencies are long gone. The kind of educators
who gravitate toward social studies are the least likely to paint the
blackboard red, white and blue.
They try hard, in many
cases with remarkable success, to explain the complexities of world
politics and economics, and how our imperfect country has affected global
change. But in their conscientious effort to put this nation in context,
many of them risk obscuring the importance and rightness of American
Mathews is right about the
waning of traditional patriotic lessons. All those books debunking the
"lies'' your teacher told you must be unintelligible to anyone under
40. They think the Boston Tea Party was about pollution in Boston Harbor
and insensitivity to Native Americans. If they've ever heard of the Boston
However, he's nicer than I'd
be about the "remarkable success.'' The fact is that few high school
teachers know much about the complexities of world politics and economics,
much less about the history of Islam, Arabia or Afghanistan. And if we
ask them to be instant experts, we're going to get a lot of misinformation
cribbed off the Internet.
Mathews goes on: "Having
seen anti-Americanism abroad first-hand, I know its roots are often not
in poverty and ignorance, but in the power-lust and fanaticism of political
organizations for which the word 'evil' is accurate and appropriate. I
dont hear anyone trying to explain the anti-Americanism of Hitler
and Stalin anymore, and the bunch who flew into the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon are just like them."
Good point. But count on teachers
to push the poverty angle, and softpedal evil.
In a Dallas speech, Lynne
Cheney, former chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities,
said teachers should focus on "the ideas and ideals on which our
nation has been built," and avoid implying "that the events
of Sept. 11 were our fault, that it was our failure to understand Islam
that led to so many deaths and so much destruction."
Cheney was responding to the
deputy chancellor for instruction in New York City schools, Judith Rizzo,
who told The Washington Post: "Those people who said we don't need
multiculturalism, that it's too touchy-feely, a pox on them. I think they've
learned their lesson.
That pox isn't anthrax, I hope.
No more skyjackings
The good news is that passengers
and crew members subdued a crazed man who stormed the cockpit of a
plane heading from Los Angeles to Chicago. From Sept. 11 on, the security
team on every flight includes every (non-terrorist) passenger.
The bad news is that Edward
Coburn was able to get into the cockpit -- even though his father had
alerted the crew to his son's mental breakdown. The Chicago
About three hours into
the 31æ2-hour flight, the father warned flight attendants his son had
told him he was going to make a run for the cockpit. Soon after that,
Coburn bolted toward the front of the airplane and crashed through the
cockpit door, falling forward and flailing and yelling that its pilots
"are going to kill us all," the complaint stated.
The planes captain
pushed Coburn away, according to the complaint. It added that the first
officer struggled with the man, the off-duty pilot grabbed him from
behind and other passengers rushed forward to help get Coburn out of
He got close enough to the
captain to be pushed away? How about a rush job on those stronger cockpit
doors and locks. --
Islam's jihad for the soul
Read an eloquent article from The Observer by Iraqi exile Kanan Makiya,
Islam's Ku Klux Klan." (Thanks to InstaPundit
for finding this.)
He writes about the price Muslims
and Arabs will pay for "continuing to wallow in the sense of one's
own victimhood to the point of losing the essentially universal idea of
human dignity and worth that is the only true measure of civility."
In the five-page letter
left in a suitcase in the car-park of Boston's airport, this passage,
giving guidance to the hijackers in case they should meet resistance
from a passenger, appears: "If God grants any one of you a slaughter,
you should perform it as an offering on behalf of your father and mother,
for they are owed by you. Do not disagree among yourselves, but listen
and obey. If you slaughter, you should plunder those you slaughter,
for that is a sanctioned custom of the Prophet's, on the condition that
you do not get occupied with the plunder so that you would leave what
is more important, such as paying attention to the enemy, his treachery
and attacks. That is because such action is very harmful [to the mission]."
This is not Islam any
more than the Ku Klux Klan is Christianity. No concessions can be made
to either mindset which have more in common with one another than they
do with the religions they claim to represent. . . .
But it is now up to Arabs and Muslims to draw the line that separates
them from the Osama bin Ladens of this world just as it was up to Americans
to excoriate, isolate, outlaw, imprison and eventually root out the
members of the Klan from their midst. . . .
Muslims and Arabs have
to be on the front lines of a new kind of war, one that is worth waging
for their own salvation and in their own souls. And that, as good out-of-fashion
Muslim scholars will tell you, is the true meaning of jihad, a meaning
that has been hijacked by terrorists and suicide bombers and all those
who applaud or find excuses for them. To exorcise what they have done
in our name is the civilisational challenge of the twenty-first century
for every Arab and Muslim in the world today. -- 10/9
Among the economic victims of the 9-11 attack are thousands of single
parents who'd left welfare for work at hotels and restaurants. It's better
to lose a job than to never have held one in the first place. But some
states may need to ease the qualifications for unemployment insurance
to cover low earners and keep the laid-off from bouncing right back on
"Critics of the new welfare
system have often warned that it would fail in a faltering economy,''
writes Jason DeParle in the New
York Times. Certainly, welfare reform faces its first major challenge.
The boom years -- employers would give just about anybody a chance --
are over. However, there's reason for hope, DeParle writes. "Others
argue the safety net is stronger than the one it replaced. Many more job-seekers
have recent résumés. They also have expanded access to child
care and transportation. State bureaucracies have gotten better at helping
the poor find work."
The Wall Street Journal also
ran an Oct. 8 story on the impact of lay-offs on people at the low end
of the economic ladder. But I can't figure out their registration system,
so I won't link to it.
In the non-welfare category,
things aren't too rosy either. My brother was laid-off last week, giving
him time to make improvements to my web site. (While he job-hunts, he
plans to hire out his services as a home technology consultant, setting
up computer systems, advising on what to buy and designing web sites.
Hire my brother!) My sister, a contract tech writer, is out of work. Her
husband's company is about to announce lay-offs. And I'm not exactly raking
in the big bucks. Or the small bucks, for that matter. The only member
of the family who's securely employed is my daughter, who has two part-time
jobs. -- 10/9
The majority may know something
Just because 94 percent of Americans disagree with you doesn't mean you're
right, observes Jonah
Writers in The Nation,
the Village Voice, Salon and elsewhere love to refer to themselves as
"dissidents" as if the majority opinion were somehow corrupt
or totalitarian. It is difficult for them to comprehend that maybe,
just maybe, their dissent isn't morally or intellectually superior,
it's just wrong. After all, "dissident" is a morally neutral
term. Osama Bin Laden was a dissident in Saudi Arabia. David Duke has
the same claim to the adjective as Ralph Nader or Leonard Peltier. If
you steadfastly insist that 2+2 is a banana you may be a dissident,
but you shouldn't wait by the mailbox for your Profiles in Courage award.
Isn't it possible
just possible that the majority of Americans are right and the
dissidents are wrong? -- 10/9
A record-breaking 91 percent of Harvard's class of 2001 was graduated
with honors. Patrick Healy explains in the Boston Globe how Harvard's
standards have slipped. Professor Harvey Mansfield fought back by giving
students an official grade -- an A or B -- and the grade they'd really
deserved, including the now obsolete Cs and Ds. -- 10/8
America's jihad against
It's started. We're dropping food on the Afghan people, bombs on Taliban
military targets. Will the terrorists strike back? They may have struck
even before the bombs fell, trying to spread anthrax.
Yet there's been no panic. Americans aren't "filled
with fear'' as Osama bin Laden claims. President Bush asked us to
be "calm and resolute," and we are.
An amazing 94
percent of Americans supported the U.S. military action in an Oct.
7 poll. Jonathan
Alter of Newsweek dispatches the appeasers in the remaining 6 percent:
"Talk about ironic: the same people always urging us to not blame
the victim in rape cases are now saying Uncle Sam wore a short skirt and
asked for it."
Alter argues the "shallow
left'' has crossed the line between "explaining terrorism and rationalizing
After World War II our
leaders saw that the punitive Versailles peace treaty following World
War I had helped pave the way for Hitler. So we tried the generous Marshall
Plan instead and it worked. But that came later. Only a fool would have
given credence to Hitlers grievances, however legitimate a few
of them were, while we were fighting him.
And none but a fool would say, as the novelist Alice Walker did in The
Village Voice, that the only punishment that works is love.
Weve tried turning the other cheek. After the 1993 World Trade
Center bombing we held our fire and treated the attack as a law-enforcement
matter. The terrorists struck again anyway. This time the Munich analogy
is right: appeasement is doomed.
America Firsters grasped
this point after Pearl Harbor and the isolationists ran off to enlist.
So why cant Blame America Firsters grasp it now? Al Qaeda was
planning its attack at exactly the time the United States was offering
a Mideast peace deal favorable to the Palestinians. Nothing from us
would have satisfied the fanatics, and nothing ever will. Peace wont
be with you, brother. Its kill or be killed.
In his videotape, bin Laden
complained about what happened "80 years ago'' (the break-up
of the Ottoman Empire, the British mandate in Palestine) and in Andalusia
500 years ago (Catholic Spaniards took the province from the Muslims).
Virginia Postrel explains
the significance of the latter.
Andalusia was Muslim Spain,
which in its Golden Age nurtured learning, trade, and (by the standards
of the day) religious tolerance. But according to at least some Muslim
interpretations of history what looks like greatness to the West
was really a form of weakness. Prosperity and pluralism led to lax practice
and division among Muslims. Lax practice and division led to brutal
reconquest by militant Christianity. Bin Laden and his followers have
a 500-year-old grudge, and what they've learned from history impels
their actions today.
Remember the Brezhnev
Doctrinethat no communist country should ever go non-communist?
That doctrine motivated the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to prop up
the Soviet-backed regime there. Now we have the Bin Laden doctrine,
that no Muslim territory should ever become non-Muslim. To become pluralist
is to take the first step toward becoming non-Muslim. And to permit
such a change would be to repeat the "tragedy of Andalusia."
In this context, the world must inevitably be split into "the camp
of belief and the disbelief." There is no middle ground, and no
room for tolerance. --
studies debunk bilingual education,'' reported the U.S. Education
Department -- in 1981. Education Week's retrospective of 20-year-old stories
included reporting on a series of federal studies: "The federal government
should stop focusing on bilingual-education programs to help non-English-speaking
students because there is little evidence that those programs work.''
A review of more than 300 studies
found only 25 that met
standards" in examining transitional bilingual education (TBE) programs
for effectiveness. "Of those 25 studies, only 11 reported any positive
effects of TBE in comparison with other approaches, according to the research
paper. But the few studies of 'structured immersion' (in English) uniformly
showed positive program effects, the paper found." -- 10/7
Thanks to Stuart Buck for
featuring Mark Steyn's very funny -- and on the money -- column on the
ever-breeding use of "breeds.''
. . . every abstract
noun is carrying on like Anthony Quinn on Viagra. Instability breeds
resentment, resentment breeds inertia, inertia breeds generalities,
generalities breed clichés, clichés breed lame metaphors,
until we reach the pitiful state of the peacenik opinion columns where,
to modify the old Eyewitness News formula, if it breeds it leads.
If I were to say "Mr.
Scroggins breeds racing pigeons," it would be reasonable to assume
that I'd been round to the Scroggins house or at least made a phone
call. But the "injustice breeds anger" routine requires
no such mooring to humdrum reality, though it's generally offered
as a uniquely shrewd insight, reflecting a vastly superior understanding
of the complexities of the situation than we nuke-crazy warmongers
"What you have
to look at is the underlying reasons," an Ivy League student
said to me the other day. "Poverty breeds resentment and resentment
I said. "And what's the capital of Saudi Arabia?"
Steyn points out the "culturalist''
bias: "the non-Western world is apparently just one big petri dish
full of mutating cells, eternally passive, acted upon but never acting.''
The U.S. is responsible for everything that happens around the world (if
bad). Non-Westerners are responsible for nothing, not even their own actions.
Poor little things, they can't help themselves.
Welfare reform benefit
The birth rate for welfare mothers is down by 30 percent in Washington
state, reports the Seattle
Times. It's now well below the statewide birth rate. (Thanks to Kausfiles
for spotting this.)
"Without ever dictating
family-planning choices, case managers push contraception and the benefits
of smaller families to the state's poorest residents,'' reports the Times.
"In 1994, 60 women out of 1,000 had a child while on public assistance.
Last year, the rate was 42 out of 1,000 for women on welfare."
Washington doesn't cap welfare
payments; recipients who have another baby while on welfare get more money.
But case workers provide information on contraception, starting with the
application process, and try to get women thinking about the consequences
of adding another child. A woman who's already home full-time, and with
no prospect of a job, may not see a downside in having another baby. A
mom who's juggling child care so she can get to job training or a low-wage
job is a lot more interested in birth control. -- 10/5
Not Bartlet's finest hour
It took guts for "West Wing" to turn out a special terrorism
episode, but the result was awfully preachy, and didn't get at the central
issue facing our real president: How do you respond to an attack on our
country by a run-and-hide enemy? I didn't hate the episode as much as
who called it "mawkish, preachy, trite, boneheaded, ridiculous on
logical principles." Or Joan
Walsh, who called the episode, self-important, nauseating, narcissistic
and icky. -- 10/4
Time to learn
Only a third of California freshmen passed both the English and math
sections of the new graduation
exam last spring. Why there's so much weeping, wailing and gnashing
of teeth is a mystery to me: They have three more years of education,
and nine more chances at the test, to earn a passing grade. Some 64 percent
passed the English portion, which means don't have to take it again; 44
percent passed in math.
from immigrant families) and whites did best; among Hispanics and blacks,
about half passed in English, one fourth in math.
The exam is required for the
class of '04, but there's a move afoot to delay. The state should hang
tough. Students will meet the standards if they know it matters.
In the language-arts portion,
students must write two essays and answer multiple- choice questions;
they're judged by 10th grade standards. The math questions -- all multiple
choice -- include basic algebra, which is supposed to be taught in 8th
grade but often is not. -- 10/4
Total war on pacifists
Michael Kelly's "Phony
pacifists'' column takes no prisoners. (Ann
Coulter wishes she could write this well.) He starts out with a dire
threat from a pacifist reader: If Kelly doesn't recant, he will face "the
dread Series of Letters." Then Kelly gets nasty.
Two propositions: The
first is that much of what is passing for pacifism in this instance
is not pacifism at all but only the latest tedious manifestation of
a well-known pre-existing condition: the largely reactionary, largely
incoherent, largely silly muddle of anti-American, anti-corporatist,
anti-globalist sentiments that passes for the politics of the left
these days. The second is that, again in this instance, the antiwar
sentiment (to employ a term that encompasses both genuine pacifism
and an opposition to war rooted in America-hatred) is intellectually
dishonest, elitist and hypocritical.
That the antiwar sentiment
is in general only a manifestation of the larger anomie of the reactionary
left is clear. The first large antiwar demonstration was held last
weekend in Washington, and the most obvious fact about it was that
this protest against war was planned before there was ever any thought
of war. It had been intended as just another in the series of protests
against globalism that have been serving as a sort of kvetch basin
for all sorts of unhappy people who like to yell about the awfulness
of "Amerika" or international corporations or rich people
or people who drive large cars or drug companies that test their products
on bunny rabbits or life its own unfair self. . . .
Kelly goes on to point out
that "Osama bin Laden has told us by word and action" that he's
at war with the U.S. and its way of life, and will keep on attacking us.
Pacifists don't really want to live in a country whose laws and policies
are dictated by the Taliban. But they know they won't have to: Someone
else will fight "so that they may enjoy the luxury of preaching against
fighting." -- 10/3
Rushdie gets it right
Read the wonderful piece by Salman
Rushdie in the Washington Post.
Terrorism is the murder
of the innocent; this time, it was mass murder. To excuse such an
atrocity by blaming U.S. government policies is to deny the basic
idea of all morality: that individuals are responsible for their actions.
is not the pursuit of legitimate complaints by illegitimate means.
The terrorist wraps himself in the world's grievances to cloak his
true motives. Whatever the killers were trying to achieve, it seems
improbable that building a better world was part of it.
The fundamentalist seeks
to bring down a great deal more than buildings. Such people are against,
to offer just a brief list, freedom of speech, a multi-party political
system, universal adult suffrage, accountable government, Jews, homosexuals,
women's rights, pluralism, secularism, short skirts, dancing, beardlessness,
evolution theory, sex. These are tyrants, not Muslims. (Islam is tough
on suicides, who are doomed to repeat their deaths through all eternity.
However, there needs to be a thorough examination, by Muslims everywhere,
of why it is that the faith they love breeds so many violent mutant
strains. If the West needs to understand its Unabombers and McVeighs,
Islam needs to face up to its bin Ladens.)
United Nations Secretary
General Kofi Annan has said that we should now define ourselves not
only by what we are for but by what we are against. I would reverse
that proposition, because in the present instance what we are against
is a no-brainer. Suicidist assassins ram wide-bodied aircraft into
the World Trade Center and Pentagon and kill thousands of people:
um, I'm against that. But what are we for? What will we risk our lives
to defend? Can we unanimously concur that all the items in the above
list -- yes, even the short skirts and dancing -- are worth dying
The fundamentalist believes
that we believe in nothing. In his world-view, he has his absolute
certainties, while we are sunk in sybaritic indulgences. To prove
him wrong, we must first know that he is wrong. We must agree on what
matters: kissing in public places, bacon sandwiches, disagreement,
cutting-edge fashion, literature, generosity, water, a more equitable
distribution of the world's resources, movies, music, freedom of thought,
beauty, love. These will be our weapons. Not by making war but by
the unafraid way we choose to live shall we defeat them. -- 10/2
Free to reject free speech
Ann Coulter is too bellicose for The National Review, reports Howard
Kurtz of the Washington Post. The conservative journal, not known
for pacifist tendencies, decided to drop Coulter as contributing editor
after she followed one fire-breathing column --
"We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert
them to Christianity" -- with another calling for airport passport
checks for "swarthy
males'' but not for blondes from Connecticut.
Coulter's syndicated column
is carried by several Web sites and 50 newspapers. On Bill Maher's "Politically
Incorrect'' show, Coulter accused National Review Online of having "censored"
her by refusing to run the "swarthy males'' column, Kurtz reports.
She called National Review editor Rich Lowry and his staff "girly-boys."
It's not censorship, says Jonah
Goldberg, editor of NR Online. It's "editorial judgment." I
don't think he responded to the girly-boy charge.
Goldberg's right. Coulter can
write whatever she pleases. Editors don't have to run it, if they think
it's stupid, crazy, racist or whatever. That's why they make the big bucks.
Academics are also complaining
about censorship, notes NR Online's John J. Miller and Ramesh Ponnuru
Red Herring." Citing a Chronicle
of Higher Education story, they mention a University of Texas journalism
professor, Robert Jensen, who wrote in the Sept. 12 Houston Chronicle
that the U.S. had "engineered attacks on civilians every bit as tragic"
as the Sept. 11attack that killed nearly 6,000 people. "The
university administration has done nothing to Jensen he hasn't
been fired, placed on administrative leave, or told to clean out dormitory
bathrooms on Saturday mornings. Instead, something far worse has occurred:
He's been criticized."
In other words, professors want the right to say "anybody who blows
up the Pentagon gets my vote.'' That's free speech. But if someone calls
the prof unAmerican, that's censorship. Gee, if America is that evil,
why isn't "unAmerican" a compliment?-- 10/2
America the Beautiful
journal explains why she loves
America. Here's an excerpt:
I love this country.
I do. I love it the way I love my family. I didn't have any choice
in the matter, and they drive me crazy sometimes, and there are things
I could do without, but it's made up of a lot of good people who have
accomplished some amazing things, and who come together and support
each other in times of difficulty.
I love this country
because for every inevitable jerk who hasn't learned the difference
between a Muslim and a terrorist, there are hundreds, if not thousands,
of people who try to live the dream of judging people not by the color
of their skin but by the content of their character.
I love this country
because it works to correct its mistakes, from abolishing slavery
to giving women the vote, using grassroots efforts from the Underground
Railroad to the lunch counter sit-ins.
I love this country
because I can't move to France and become a Frenchwoman, but people
can come here from every country in the world and become an American.
Because there are so many people, despite the hyphenations and the
racist jerks who get far too much press, who really do believe that
we ARE all AMERICANS.
I love this country
for its ideals. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion and expression,
freedom to be and do whatever you want.
And for every flaw
this country has, there are people working to fix it. They're squabbling
over how to do it, of course, but the thing they have in common is
that they want to make it better.
Thanks to InstaPundit
for spotting this.
Talking isn't healing
can hurt disaster survivors, warns Ronald Bailey in Reason Online. He
quotes Richard McNally, a Harvard psychology professor, who says most
studies show no benefit from "critical incident stress debriefings,''
an increasingly popular therapy. Two recent studies show survivors do
worse if they're urged to talk about the traumatic details, usually
in group sessions right after the disaster. "The counseling seems
to be impeding recovery," McNally says.
The federal government spent
$4 million on this therapy, known as "critical
incident stress management" after the Oklahoma City bombing, Bailey
reports. It's supposed to open up the wound for cleansing. Instead, it
seems to just open the wound and keep it open.
Library review of research on pyschological debriefing of trauma victims
found no short-term relief. One year later, the debriefed victims faced
a significantly higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder. "There
is no current evidence that psychological debriefing is a useful treatment
for the prevention of post traumatic stress disorder after traumatic incidents,''
reviewers concluded. "Compulsory debriefing of victims of trauma
should cease." -- 10/1