Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Farm Pics From Merry Meredith

Thanks for the pics.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Closing The Door

Participation posts will be closed Monday morning.

Be done.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Evidence

The hallmark of intelligence is changing your mind when confronted with new information.

One researcher understands that simple principle, as pointed out by the Freakonomics blog.

Read the article and then think about how hard it is for most people to admit that they were wrong. In the comments section, write a paragraph about someone who admirably changed his or her mind. The topic doesn't matter - please analyze how new information led them to a new conclusion and why the chnage of mind was a good thing.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Last Doughboy

Read the followin g article by George Will. If Frank Buckles was visiting Harrisonburg and you were chosen to make the official greeting speech, what would you say? Write a paragraph or two in the comments section.

The Last Doughboy

By George F. Will
Sunday, May 25, 2008; B07

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Numbers come precisely from the agile mind and nimble tongue of Frank Buckles, who seems bemused to say that 4,734,991 Americans served in the military during America's involvement in the First World War and that 4,734,990 are gone. He is feeling fine, thank you for asking.

The eyes of the last doughboy are still sharp enough for him to be a keen reader, and his voice is still deep and strong at age 107. He must have been a fine broth of a boy when, at 16, persistence paid off and he found, in Oklahoma City, an Army recruiter who believed, or pretended to, the fibs he had unavailingly told to Marine and Navy recruiters in Kansas about being 18. He grew up on a Missouri farm, not far from where two eminent generals were born -- John "Black Jack" Pershing and Omar Bradley.

"Boys in the country," says Buckles, "read the papers," so he was eager to get into the fight over there. He was told that the quickest way was to train for casualty retrieval and ambulance operations. Soon he was headed for England aboard the passenger ship Carpathia, which was celebrated for having, five years earlier, rescued survivors from the Titanic.

Buckles never saw combat, but "I saw the results." He seems vague about only one thing: What was the First World War about?

Before leaving England for France, he was stationed near Winchester College, where he noticed "Buckles" among the names that boys had carved in their desks. This ignited his interest in genealogy, which led him to discover that his ancestor Robert Buckles, born in Yorkshire on May 15, 1702, arrived at age 30 in what is now West Virginia.

After Cpl. Buckles was mustered out of the Army in 1920 with $143.90 in his pocket, he went to business school in Oklahoma City for five months, then rented a typewriter for $3 a month and sent out job applications. One landed him work in the steamship business, which took him around the world -- Latin America, China, Manchuria. And Germany, where, he says, in 1928 "two impressive gentlemen" told him, "We are preparing for another war."

Behind glass in a cabinet in his small sitting room are mementos from his eventful life: a German army belt with a buckle bearing words all nations believe, "Gott Mit Uns" (God Is With Us). The tin cup from which he ate all his meals, such as they were, during the 39 months he was a prisoner of the Japanese -- because he was working for a shipping company in Manila on Dec. 7, 1941.

Widowed in 1999, this man who was born during the administration of the 25th president recently voted in West Virginia's primary to select a candidate to be the 44th. His favorite president of his lifetime? The oldest, Ronald Reagan.

Buckles is reading David McCullough's "1776." That date is just 18 years more distant from his birth than today is.

This Memorial Day, Buckles will be feted back in Missouri, at the annual parade and fireworks in Kansas City. Perhaps he will journey to Bethany, to the house on whose porch he sat at age 3, 104 years ago.

He was born in February 1901, seven months before President William McKinley was assassinated. If Buckles had been born 14 months earlier, he would have lived in three centuries. He has lived through 46 percent of the nation's life, a percentage that rises each morning when he does.

On June 28, 1914, an assassin's bullet in Sarajevo killed the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The war that followed took more than 116,000 American lives -- more than all of America's wars after the Second World War. And in a sense, the First World War took many more American lives because it led to the Second World War and beyond.

The First World War is still taking American lives because it destroyed the Austro-Hungarian, Romanoff and Ottoman empires. A shard of the latter is called Iraq.

The 20th century's winds of war blew billions of ordinary people hither and yon. One of them sits here in a cardigan sweater in an old wood and stone house on a rise on a 330-acre cattle farm. In this case, and probably in every case, the word "ordinary" is inappropriate.

World War One Veterans

Why Didn't We Listen to Their War Stories?

By Edward G. Lengel
Sunday, May 25, 2008; B03

The last known surviving U.S. veteran of what was once called the Great War, Cpl. Frank Buckles of Charles Town, W.Va., recently toured the World War I memorial in Washington. Accompanied by his daughter and an aide, the wheelchair-bound 107-year-old rolled around the small, temple-like structure, stopping occasionally to acknowledge the applause of the small crowd that had gathered to watch. He did not comment upon the memorial's unkempt appearance -- it has been neglected for three decades -- but noticed that it honored only veterans from the city. "I can read here," he said in a soft, barely audible mumble, "that it was started to include the names of those who were local."

No one, apparently, had told him that the United States has no national World War I memorial. Buckles later modestly accepted tributes from President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at ceremonies at the White House and the Pentagon, asking only that all of the recently deceased U.S. veterans of World War I be honored alongside him. It was little enough to ask, after nine decades of neglect.

As we observe Memorial Day, a hard truth remains: Americans haven't forgotten about the doughboys. We just didn't want to hear about them in the first place. The war's last and greatest battle involving U.S. soldiers, fought in the Meuse-Argonne region of eastern France during the autumn of 1918, sucked in more than 1 million U.S. troops and hundreds of airplanes and tanks. Artillery batteries commanded by men such as the young Harry S. Truman fired more than 4 million shells -- more than the Union Army fired during the entire Civil War. More than 26,000 doughboys were killed and almost 100,000 wounded, making the clash probably the bloodiest single battle in U.S. history. But as far as the American public was concerned, it might as well never have taken place. "Veterans said to me in their speeches and in private that the American people did not know anything about the Meuse-Argonne battle," Brig. Gen. Dennis Nolan wrote years later. "I have never understood why."

Back then, civilians justified their indifference by claiming that the veterans refused to share their stories. In reality, the ignorance was self-imposed. "The boys would talk if the questioners would listen," said one embittered ex-doughboy. "But the questioners do not. They at once interrupt with, 'It's all too dreadful,' or, 'Doesn't it seem like a terrible dream?' or, 'How can you think of it?' or, 'I can't imagine such things.' It shuts the boys up." Far from remaining silent, U.S. veterans wrote hundreds of memoirs, diaries and novels of their experiences. In Europe, Canada and Australia, such books were big business. In the United States, they went mostly unread.

World War I never made its way into U.S. popular culture. Movies, documentaries and miniseries about the Civil War, World War II and Vietnam are common, and trade publishers are always ready for new histories of Gettysburg or the Battle of the Bulge. But what about World War I? "Hollywood has not turned its gaze in this direction for decades," noted Gates. Since "The Big Parade" (1925) and "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1930), no significant movie has appeared about the U.S. experience in World War I. ("Sergeant York," from 1941, is a propaganda piece, and 2006's "Flyboys" is a silly excuse for special-effects wizardry.) Television offers similarly little, aside from the atrocious 2001 A&E movie "The Lost Battalion" and the 1996 PBS series "The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century," which gave only passing mention to the U.S. role.

Nowhere is our neglect of the doughboys more noticeable than on the battlefields themselves. Although memorials to the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and World War II are often swamped with visitors, the battlefields of the Meuse-Argonne remain unvisited and largely unmarked. They have changed little since 1918. The French churches and houses are pocked with bullet holes, and bunkers, trenches and rifle pits surrounded by rusty barbed wire, old equipment, shell fragments and unexploded ordnance are visible almost everywhere you look. During a recent visit to the wooded ridge in the Argonne Forest where the "Lost Battalion" fought German troops in October 1918, I kicked aside some leaves and discovered a spent rifle cartridge and a piece of a flare gun -- not something one would expect to happen at Gettysburg or Antietam.

Memorials erected in the 1920s by veterans' organizations are scattered around the battlefield, but many have fallen into decay. Others are carefully maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission but receive few visitors. Romagne, the largest U.S. military cemetery in Europe, contains the graves of more than 14,000 doughboys. Located on the site of an old German stronghold in the Meuse-Argonne, it centers around a Romanesque chapel, overlooking rows of crosses and Stars of David on a gently sloping hillside. No U.S. military memorial is more welcoming to visitors; the site enfolds you with a feeling of reverence and peace. The superintendent, Joseph P. Rivers, gladly takes visitors -- he says he gets about 25,000 every year -- on a tour of the cemetery, pointing out individual graves and telling stories of the soldiers buried there.

But on a typical summer day, when the gravestones at World War II's Omaha Beach echo with the squeals of busloads of teenagers shipped in from Paris, Romagne remains deserted. For the most part, the only visitors are British, French, Belgian and German; and it is they, not Americans, who lay flowers on the graves. (So much for French ingratitude.) Gordon Morse, a freelance journalist from Virginia visited the cemetery on Armistice Day in 2006 and was asked to read the presidential proclamation. "I got the job by default," he said. "There were no other American visitors available."

I recently asked the hosts of a Charlottesville radio talk show on war and remembrance why Americans seemed so uninterested in World War I. It all boiled down to circumstances, they answered. The United States wasn't in the fight for long and suffered relatively few casualties. Then the Great Depression intervened, followed by World War II, and people naturally forgot old sorrows. There must be more to it than that, I protested. World War I was hardly a forgettable conflict; during six months in 1918, 53,513 Americans were killed in action -- almost as many as in Vietnam, and over a much shorter period of time. Perhaps, I suggested, Americans simply found trench warfare too depressing. Annoyed, the hosts cut me off with a flippant remark. As the receiver clicked, I could not help feeling that they had helped prove my point.

Historian David McCullough has said that all teachers of history should be trained storytellers. But there are some stories that Americans would rather not hear. If war tales aren't thrilling, readers and armchair Napoleons aren't interested. The Civil War and World War II seem to lend themselves to good storytelling, as long as one avoids the ugly, depressing bits. They appear to have clear beginnings and endings, with dramatic heroes and villains. They move. World War I, by contrast, with its images of trench warfare and mustard gas, is not so easy to manipulate in a marketable manner. Popular historians consequently avoid it. As one trade publisher recently told me, World War I has "poor entertainment value." Attempts to discuss it, even with avid students of military history, often end with the same comments that veterans heard back in 1919: "It's all too dreadful," and so on. So powerful is this perception that even genuinely exciting stories -- those of Medal of Honor winners Charles W. Whittlesey, Alvin C. York, John L. Barkley and Freddie Stowers -- are ignored.

We should step back and think for a moment about what this says about Americans as people. Do we honor our veterans for all their sacrifices, or do we care only if they can tell us a good story? And who, then, is guilty of ingratitude?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

For Jake

Is this the kind of training you get at the dojo?

Dead Parrot Update

I previously linked to a Monty-Python themed analysis of Clinton's campaign.

Here is the sketch that the writer was riffing on*.

Added bonus: The Spanish subtitles make this educational!

* Yes, Aleina, I know that I ended a sentence with a preposition. But the meaning, as it says in "If You Catch and Adjective Kill It," is clear. And, as Winston Churchill said, rearranging a perfectly fine sentence to comply with an arbitrary rule, is "nonsense, up with which, I will not put."

Why We Study History

So we don't get humiliated on national television.

This is nine minutes long but well worth the time.

Dude, you got smacked down.

Why We Study History

So we don't look like idiots when we become producers over at Fox News.

The Stressful Year Is Almost Over

From Mr. Antonicola:

How accurate is this portrait?

Article reprinted below for educational purposes

High School's Worst Year?

For Ambitious Teens, 11th Grade
Becomes a Marathon of Tests,
Stress and Sleepless Nights
May 24, 2008; Page A1

FARMINGTON, Conn. -- Jennifer Glickman, a 17-year-old high school junior, gets so stressed some days from overwork and lack of sleep that she feels sick to her stomach and gets painful headaches.

A straight-A student, she recently announced at a college preparatory meeting with her mother and guidance counselor that she doesn't want to apply to Princeton and the other Ivy League schools that her counselor thinks she could get into.

[In class]
Casey Kelbaugh/WpN for The Wall Street Journal
Jennifer Glickman, 17, is a straight-A student, but some days she says she gets so stressed from overwork that she feels sick to her stomach and gets painful headaches.

"My mom wants me to look at Ivy League schools, but my high school years have been so stressful that I don't want to deal with that in college," says Ms. Glickman. "I don't want it to be such a competitive atmosphere. I don't want to put myself in this situation again."

High school has long been enshrined in popular culture -- from the musical "Grease" to television shows like "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Friday Night Lights" -- as a time of classes, sports and overwrought adolescent drama. But these days, junior year is the worst year in high school for many ambitious students aiming for elite and increasingly selective colleges -- a crucible of academic pressure.

Almost two-thirds of middle- and upper-middle-income high school students in the San Francisco Bay Area told researchers that they were "often or always" stressed by schoolwork, according to a series of surveys of 2,700 students conducted last year by Stanford University researchers.

More than half the students reported that they had dropped an activity or hobby they enjoyed because schoolwork took too much time. More than three-quarters reported experiencing one or more stress-related physical problems in the month prior to the survey, with more than 50% reporting headaches, difficulty sleeping, or exhaustion. About 9% said they had illegally used prescription drugs like Adderall or Ritalin to stay up and study; 25% said they used stimulants like Red Bull or No-Doz.

"On the surface, these kids look like the most privileged group in the world," says Madeline Levine, a psychologist who has been working with the Stanford study. "But their parents know there is something wrong. They are not getting the basic sleep they need, the basic food they need."

How did 11th grade become such a grind? High school has long been a painful rite of passage. And heavy workloads are typical for elite-college-bound kids in countries such as Japan, South Korea and France. Teachers and principals say homework in the U.S. started increasing in the 1990s, when national concern over falling test scores prompted the introduction of more standardized tests, increasing pressure on high schools to toughen their curricula.

Demographic Surge

The increasing competitiveness of college admissions -- fueled by a demographic surge in the number of teenagers that is expected to crest next year -- advanced preparation for applying to college to junior year from first semester of senior year. Guidance counselors, parents and college-admissions officers now urge students to start taking advanced-placement courses -- often with a minimum of 90 minutes of homework a night -- in junior year, as well as to start building a portfolio of extracurricular activities and community-service projects to bolster their applications.

High schools, too, have became more competitive, vying for top rankings on lists of the "best" high schools by encouraging students to take advanced-placement courses, a common measure of high school excellence. More than 60% of the students at Farmington High, a public school in this middle- and upper-middle-class bedroom community near Hartford, take at least one advanced-placement course; 80% of all students go on to four-year colleges.

Faced with such pressures on their kids, some parents find themselves in the paradoxical position of urging their high school children to work less and play more.

Tim Breslin, principal of Farmington High, recently talked to his own daughter -- a junior at a different high school -- about cutting back some of her activities and classes. These include advanced-placement history and English, voice lessons, mock trial competition, vice president of student council, jazz ensemble, an SAT preparation course, crew and a boyfriend.

"I asked her: 'Do you think you can drop something?' " says Mr. Breslin. "She said 'no.' "

Ms. Glickman is a talkative, outgoing girl with an easy laugh and an open manner. She thinks about becoming an elementary-school teacher or maybe going into international relations. "I love politics," she says. Like most teens, she enjoys spending the occasional Saturday at the mall and going out to Chili's and Ruby Tuesday with friends. She attended the prom last weekend. But she also likes renting a movie and watching it at home with her mother. (Her father passed away in 1993. Her older sister attends New York's Colgate University.)

"When you talk to her, she is very mature and self-aware," says Ms. Glickman's guidance counselor, Sheilah McConnell. "But she can be silly as much as serious."

Ms. Glickman typically wakes up at 6 to get ready for a school day that begins at 7:30 a.m. The night before, she packs her lunch -- usually a bottle of water, a ham-and-cheese sandwich, and a treat like Scooby-Doo fruit snacks. The cafeteria at Farmington High School offers a wide selection of dishes. But Ms. Glickman's packed schedule doesn't have time for a sit-down lunch because one of her elective classes, chorus, meets at lunchtime. Her chorus teacher lets the kids quickly grab lunch out of paper bags in the back of class.

Hours of Homework

As she moves from class to class, the demands of being a junior pile up. Honors Spanish -- 30 minutes of homework a night. Advanced-placement English -- 30 to 90 minutes a night, depending on which books or documents the class is studying. Honors pre-calculus -- another hour of homework. Honors biology -- 30 minutes more. At the end of the day comes Ms. Glickman's favorite class and her toughest -- advanced-placement history, with two hours of homework a night, including reading and regular essays.

Total: an average of four-and-a-half to five-and-a-half hours of homework a night.

"Sometimes at school I will stress out when I start adding up everything I have to do tonight," says Ms. Glickman. She typically goes to sleep at 11:30 p.m., though sometimes she needs to stay up later to finish a project or study for a big test. "There's not a lot of sleep going on," she says. Her 98 average ranks near the top of her class, school officials say. "I need to put in all the effort possible," she says. "If I get a grade back that I don't want, I say, 'Why didn't I work harder?' "

As Ms. Glickman heads off to a study hall, a group of juniors gathers in a conference room to talk about the pressures they face. Many are taking two or three advanced-placement courses, playing sports and spending time on after-school activities.

"Sometimes you don't know whether you are doing things because you want to or because it looks good on your résumé," says Daniel Jin, who is taking four advanced-placement courses, plays lacrosse, is on student council and involved in an after-school community-service program. "You have to be careful you're not doing things just to get them on your college application."

Kevin Putney has a brother at Dartmouth. He says his brother finds college less pressured than junior year of high school. "I know that my parents -- they want me to be happy. They would like me to get out more," he says. "But with all the work I have I can't get out as much as they would like."

Students say that while parents may tell them to have more balance in their lives, they also feel pressure from parents to excel. "If you get good grades, your parents let you do things -- a car when you get a license, a later curfew," says Kelsey Darch, who has gotten both.

Todd Darch, Kelsey's father, says that getting his daughter a car means less driving for him as well as "a reward for good grades and good behavior." He says he only asks that his daughter "put her best effort forward. If her best effort meant a C in a course, that would be fine."

"Every week or so my Dad sends me a text message: 'Do what others won't today so you can do what others can't tomorrow,' " says Jordan Haviland. "My parents have been so good to me, I feel like I would be letting them down if I didn't get into an Ivy League school."

Mr. Haviland's father, Timothy, says he doesn't press his son to get into a certain college, although he suspects Jordan does feel pressure because his older brother goes to Harvard and his older sister to Brown.

"I think he probably wants to keep up," says Mr. Haviland, who works for an investment company. "These kids put a fair amount of pressure on themselves. They read the papers and go on the Internet and they see how many students are applying to some of these schools."

Some students say that pressure comes from inside themselves as much as it does from parents. "The whole game is who is beating [whom]," says Spencer Noon, looking across the table at Mr. Jin with a smile. "In the end, if I don't get into Harvard and Dan Jin does, I will be upset."

Keeping Up

Mr. Breslin, the principal, says Farmington High sometimes reschedules tests and other events if students complain the pressure is too great. But he doesn't favor suggestions by some parents that the school limit the advanced-placement courses or activities that students participate in.

"We try to make it so kids make thoughtful choices about what they are doing. But if a student says they want to take an AP course or five AP courses, and their parents support them, it is very hard to limit that student," says Mr. Breslin. "They don't want to experience all this pressure, but they feel that in order to keep up with everyone else they have to."

Classes for Ms. Glickman end around 2:30 p.m., but her day isn't even half over. Typically she spends two hours after school working on the school newspaper, where she is news editor. She also volunteers for a program that works with disabled students and helps them participate in sporting events.

She used to play volleyball freshman and sophomore year but stopped because "it was just for fun."

"I knew junior year was going to be pressured," she says. "I like volleyball but if I played it, the practices would mean I would have four hours less for homework." Also, she says, "colleges don't want to see you do 10 things. They want to see you doing three things passionately."

Since March, Ms. Glickman, like many of her classmates, has been attending an after-school SAT preparation course designed to boost scores for the important test in the fall. That means she doesn't get home until 9:30 p.m. two days a week to begin her homework -- interrupted by occasional forays onto Facebook to chat with and instant message friends.

When she went to a party on a recent Saturday night, she got home at 11:30 p.m. and did homework until 2 a.m. She slept in until 11:30 a.m. the next day.

"Over the weekend you have to choose," says Ms. Glickman. "Do you go out or stay home so you can get your homework done? You can never do an all-day thing."

Time for Bowling

Maria Glickman, Jennifer's mother, grew up in New York, attended Catholic school and was the first in her family to go to college, commuting to New York's Pace University. "I loved high school. It was more carefree," says Maria Glickman. "We worked hard. We had a lot of fun. There was a lot more time to just enjoy ourselves -- going ice skating, going bowling. I don't get that sense from kids today. They don't seem to find as much enjoyment in high school as I did."

While Maria Glickman says she urges her daughter not to work so hard and that "getting a B is OK," she also has been encouraging her to look at Ivy League schools including Columbia and Princeton.

At a meeting in late February to kick off the college-application process, both her mother and Ms. McConnell, her guidance counselor, suggested that Ms. Glickman consider some Ivy League schools. Ms. Glickman is adamant: She wants a school that she thinks will be challenging but less pressured. She's interested in the College of William and Mary, American University, or Boston College, though she recently added Brown to her list. During vacation in April, Maria Glickman suggested stopping by Princeton on a family trip "just to see the campus," but her daughter said no.

"She said she doesn't want so much pressure in college -- she wants to enjoy her four years," says Maria Glickman, who says she supports her daughter's decision. "I want her to find a place where she will be happy and comfortable."

Ms. Glickman recently started a project in her "Personal Wellness" class. The assignment: change one aspect of your daily health routine to reduce stress, and keep a journal of your progress.

Ms. Glickman's goal: Getting more sleep by making sure she goes to bed at 10 every night. A friend of hers, another junior, tried the same goal recently and couldn't do it -- too much homework.

"I am really going to try," says Ms. Glickman with a laugh. "We'll have to see."

Monday, May 19, 2008

V-AP Party

Ripple Effect?

Friday, May 16, 2008


Congrats to Tucker, Joy, Ellen, Liz, Elana, Jessy, Wendy, Karl and Jake for making honors choir.

I'm glad some of my singing ability has rubbed off on you.

The Ripple Effect of Nixon

I wish that I'd seen this article before I talked about Nixon's Southern Strategy mobilization of the Silent Majority fracturing the New Deal Coalition.

I also wish I'd known one of those tidbits before I had the side conversation with Tucker about Fox founder Ailes - I knew the "fair and balanced" Ailes was a Republican operative; I had no idea how ugly some of his previous political activies were.

Read the article and then make a comment: To what extent does fear and/or hate drive our elections today?

Article reprinted below for educational purposes.

Divide and Conquer
We all know Nixon was nasty. A stunning new book argues that he was also the grandfather of today's politics of hate.
By Evan Thomas Newsweek Web Exclusive
May 9, 2008 Updated: 10:25 a.m. ET May 9, 2008

On Aug. 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, guaranteeing African-Americans the right to participate in the political process. Five nights later, Watts, the mostly black neighborhood of Los Angeles, erupted into rioting. For four days angry, young men ran wild, looting and torching buildings, shouting, "Burn, baby, burn!" LBJ was stunned by the hatred of the rioters. "How is it possible after all we accomplished?" the president cried in anguish. "How could it be? Is the world topsy-turvy?" The 1960s were supposed to be a new Age of Reason—"These are the most hopeful times since Christ was born in Bethlehem," Johnson declared as he lit the White House Christmas tree after winning in a landslide election in 1964.

But Watts was just the beginning: in dozens of cities, race riots (so severe in Detroit in 1967 that the president had to send in the 82nd Airborne); LSD-dropping college students calling cops "pigs" and taking over college-administration buildings; Yippie leader Jerry Rubin telling kids they needed to be prepared to "kill your parents." By the end of the decade Johnson was in exile, and America, it seemed, had become a strange dystopia, decadent and almost prerevolutionary in its feverish discontent.

The establishment press had been flummoxed by it all. In 1966, the pundits were sure that the Republican Party would pick a reasonable, moderate candidate, someone with a little Kennedyesque charisma like Gov. Nelson Rockefeller of New York, or maybe New York City's attractive young mayor, John Lindsay. None of the pundits imagined that Richard Nixon, the sweaty, shifty-eyed loser to JFK in 1960, could take the GOP nomination. "It simply couldn't be Nixon," writes Rick Perlstein, whose sprawling, vivid "Nixonland" is the best book written about the 1960s since George Plimpton and Jean Stein published "Edie," their oral-history collection about Andy Warhol's "it" girl, in 1982. The Walter Lippmanns and Joe Alsops and all the Harvards of the Georgetown set were stuck in their own "echo chamber," writes Perlstein. "They were men who hardly noticed the ideological ground shifting under their feet."

Nixon understood. Full of bitterness about his hardscrabble youth, he knew how to exploit the bitterness of others. At Whittier, the small California college attended by Nixon, the smoothies and swells had formed a club called the Franklins. The campus Big Men were envied--but they were also resented, Nixon perceived. So he formed his own club, of strivers and nerds, called the Orthogonians. Nixon knew that there were many more natural Orthogonians than Franklins at Whittier—and before long he was elected student-body president.

Nixon was the ultimate striver. At law school they called him "Iron Butt," but he still got turned down by all the white-shoe law firms on Wall Street. As a politician, he told a friend, he would do anything, make any sacrifice, to get where he wanted to go. "Anything," he said. "Except see a shrink." Nixon's base was the "silent majority," the vast mass of white middle-class Americans who felt threatened by the tumult of the '60s. As the Democrats' New Deal coalition of rich and poor collapsed, he was able to "co-opt the liberals' populism, channeling it into middle-class rage at the sophisticates, the well-born, the 'best circles'—all those who looked down their noses at 'you and me' (a favorite phrase of Ronald Reagan's, who was both a student and a teacher of Richard Nixon)," writes Perlstein.

Nixon's mean streak was never far from the surface. Running for the U.S. Senate against Helen Gahagan Douglas during the Red scare of the early 1950s, he promised chivalry: "I am confronted with an unusual situation. My opponent is a woman … There will be no name-calling, no smears, no misrepresentations in this campaign." Then he promptly called her "pink right down to her underwear." He won the election but earned a reputation as "Tricky Dick." He learned to be a little more subtle. In 1967, as the cities burned, he wrote a guest editorial for U.S. News: "If Mob Rule Takes Hold in U.S.—A Warning From Richard Nixon." He chastised a generic "professor" who, "objecting to de facto segregation," ends up turning youth into insurrectionists. The professors needed to draw the line, set an example. One-upping the scholars, Nixon quoted Chaucer: "If gold rust, what shall iron do?"

Profane and paranoid in his private rants, Nixon played the statesman in public, denouncing racism and intolerance. He was content to have demagogues like Alabama Gov. George Wallace rage at "pointy-headed intellectuals, swaydo-intellectual morons tellin' [regular folk] how to live their lives." Wallace's raving "made Nixon look respectable when he couched the same sentiment in four-syllable words," writes Perlstein.

Nixon's media coach during the 1968 campaign was a young TV producer named Roger Ailes. When Ailes was putting together televised panel shows, highly contrived to "meet the candidate," he hit on a clever idea for a citizen panelist: "A good, mean, Wallaceite cab driver. Wouldn't that be great?" suggested Ailes. "Some guy to sit there and say, 'Awright, Mac, what about them n----rs?' Nixon could then abhor the incivility of the words, while endorsing a 'moderate' version of the opinion." Perlstein reports that "Ailes walked up and down a nearby cab stand until he found a cabbie who fit the bill."

As president, Nixon never got over being unloved by the press and the Georgetown crowd, and he seethed if he sensed his own staff going soft. The White House taping system recorded his railing about the press: "I don't give the bastards an inch!" He complained about his staff, "Goddamn it, they're people who, they're in Washington, the Establishment's brainwashing them, they're reading the Washington Post, the weekly newsmagazines … And they get sort of discouraged and so forth, they don't realize that that is the time to get tough, to kick the guys"—he shouted at the top of his voice—"in the BALLS! That's what they won't do. That's what I always do."

So it went in Nixonland. Perlstein ends his story with Nixon's overwhelming re-election in 1972. He only begins to tell the Watergate saga, the Greek drama of how Nixon was consumed by his own envies and dreads (and brought down by some true Franklins, men like Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, Harvard '43, and Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, Harvard '34). "How did Nixonland end? It has not ended yet," are the final words of Perlstein's 748-page book. Roger Ailes, of course, went on to create Fox News—"fair and balanced"—which routinely afflicts and outmaneuvers the old establishment press. Today's Red State-Blue State divide is a legacy of the '60s, argues Perlstein.

He is persuasive—up to a point. Voters in this election year will have a powerful sense of déjà vu when they read "Nixonland." But history never repeats itself exactly. Hillary Clinton has been exploiting white working-class fears of "the other" with subtle (and not-so-subtle) innuendoes and brandishments. But what kind of Orthogonian is a woman who went to Wellesley and Yale Law School? And Barack Obama may speak with the smooth self-assurance (and, occasionally, edge of disdain) of a Franklin. But he is black and grew up feeling like an outsider. The fact that a woman and an African-American are vying for the presidency suggests the '60s produced something more positive than riots and druggie be-ins.

One thing never changes. As Ross Douthat recently noted in The Atlantic, politicians have been scaring voters since the election of 1800, when Thomas Jefferson was painted as a secret agent of the French Revolution. If John McCain wants to, he will be able to stir up old fears and suspicions against the Democrats in the November election. Or maybe he will remember how, in the 2000 election, he was smeared by Republican operatives who learned their dirty tricks from the master.

Reagan Part Deux

Eugene Robinson argues that Bush has ended the Reagan revolution.

Perhaps my modification in the face of Wilentz's analysis was premature.

Article reprinted below for educational purposes.

The GOP's Ideas Deficit
By Eugene Robinson
Friday, May 16, 2008;

The Reagan era in American politics is about to end, and we have George W. Bush to thank for its demise.

In this respect, it doesn't matter who wins the Democratic nomination or even who wins the general election in the fall. I was going to try to write this column without using the word "paradigm," but already I've failed: Regardless of who takes the oath of office in January, the paradigm that reigned for nearly three decades -- the notion that government is useless, if not inherently evil -- is no longer operative.

All three of the remaining presidential candidates propose a far more activist role for government. Even John McCain, who tells conservatives that he's a Reagan disciple, proposes far-reaching government action on issues such as climate change, high energy prices and the mortgage crisis -- problems that are supposedly better left to the cruel genius of free markets, according to the old paradigm that Bush has pushed to absurd extremes.

It took a leader of the Decider's uncommon gifts to kill the philosophy he worships. To be fair, there is one area in which he has been the most proactive of presidents, to our nation's lasting discredit: Violating the basic rights of citizens and noncitizens alike in the name of his "war on terrorism."

Otherwise, he has interpreted Reagan's small-government mandate as an excuse -- or an instruction -- to abdicate government's most fundamental responsibilities. Anyone who wants to argue this point need simply remember the "heck of a job" our government did in handling the devastation from Hurricane Katrina.

Almost every day, there's more evidence that 2008 is turning into one of those watershed years in American politics -- 1980, say, or 1968, or even 1932. You can start with the fact that the Democrats are poised to nominate the first African American major-party candidate for president.

Even more telling, though, are the polls showing that soaring numbers of Americans believe the country is heading in the wrong direction -- more than eight out of 10, according to a new Post-ABC News poll -- and that Bush's popularity has fallen to historic lows.

The grinding occupation of Iraq is only partly responsible for the nation's discontent. Decades of government inattention have allowed chronic problems to grow and fester and putrefy and . . . well, we'll abandon that metaphor lest it turn into something that no one wants to read over breakfast, but you get the idea.

It turns out that Americans don't want their leaders to simply shrug, as George Bush shrugs, at the fact that 47 million citizens do not have health insurance. It turns out that Americans don't want their leaders to simply tsk-tsk, as George Bush tsk-tsks, at the wrenching economic dislocations that stem from globalization.

It turns out that if government declines to adequately regulate or even monitor the financial system, unfettered markets can make catastrophic blunders. When Joseph Schumpeter wrote admiringly of how capitalism was buffeted by the "perennial gale of creative destruction," I doubt he was talking about exotic mortgage-backed securities so complicated that nobody really understood how much risk was being undertaken, or by whom. I also doubt that families facing foreclosure are much comforted by being told that they're playing an essential role -- that of loser -- in classical free-market theory.

Evidence suggests that Americans are tired of a government that is slavishly beholden to a rigid do-nothing ideology -- and that they're ready to punish the president's party for its ineptitude and lassitude. Republicans have gone 0 for 3 in special elections this year for House seats, most recently losing a Mississippi district that gave Bush a landslide 62 percent margin in 2004. What a difference four years can make.

Throughout the year, the Democratic primaries have drawn far more voters than the Republican contests. Democratic coffers are brimming, and the party is bringing in millions of new voters. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are glamorous and exciting candidates, but this Democratic surge isn't all about them. It's also about the Republican Party's utter exhaustion. Since Ronald Reagan's first term, Republicans have set the nation's ideological agenda. This was true even during the Clinton years. But it's not true now.

Party leaders speak of the need to refurbish the "Republican brand." The problem goes far beyond packaging, though. It's not that the box needs to be more colorful; it's that the ideas inside have long since gone stale.

Algebra and Taxonomy

I'll have to share this with Turner.

Heh. So is pig emo, goth or scene?

California: Gay Marriage

California's decision on gay marriage is here.

Essentially, the majority ruled that even though California's domestic partnership rights very closely approximated equality, that keeping seperate names was inherently unequal. Their legal reasoning reads like a summary of AP court cases - Plessy, Brown, Lawrence, Loving. They address full faith an credit, contractual expectations, federalism, and unenumerated rights.

This is good news for those who support equality - it probably moves up the date of a Supreme Court ruling based on Brown and Loving by 5 years.

But it is bad news for Obama - by placing gay equality back on the public radar, the California court will re-energize demoralized culture warriors. A majority of Americans favor denying rights to gays and many of them will vote on that issue. McCain has already said that judges ought not to be making these rulings in contradiction of public and legislative will.

Oh how I wish a reporter would ask McCain if this reasoning applied to Brown as well! That would be an interesting response!

The McCain stance also calls to mind the New Deal political cartoon that condemned the Supreme Court's invalidation of the National Recovery Adminstration.

Please note that it appears McCain himself is not really anti-gay marriage - he has publicly said that we should leave the issue to the states (as have Clinton and Obama) - which in reality is support for gay marriage because state recognition triggers the full faith and credit clause, the Defense of Marriage Act nonwithstanding. However, Republicans facing a difficult electoral landscape would be insane to reject a strategy that propelled them to victory in 2008.

Wilson v. Turner: The Plagiarism Smackdown

Let's Get Ready to Ruuuuuuuumble!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Jacksonian Democracy

Robert Samuelson speculates on voters' reaction to a truth teller. Read the article and make a comment: Would you vote for Samuelson's truth teller? Why or why not?

Truth Serum on The Trail
By Robert J. Samuelson
Wednesday, May 14, 2008; A19

It's been a blast, this presidential campaign. A great story, full of drama. But no one should think it's been honest. With the possible exception of Iraq -- a matter that compels candidates to face real issues -- the campaign has been an exercise in mass merchandising. Candidates make alluring promises (to "fix the economy," "defeat special interests" or "achieve energy independence") and offer freebies to voters (more tax cuts, health care, college aid). Complete the sale: That's the point.

There's a vast gap between the country's problems and the candidates' agendas and rhetoric. The candidates dissemble because they believe that Americans don't want the truth. It would be too upsetting.

They're probably right. Let's imagine what a candidate inoculated with truth serum might say. This gauges the distance between what Sens. Clinton, Obama and McCain are saying and what they should be saying. Here's the abbreviated stump speech:

"Fellow Americans, I know you worry about the economy. So do I. But, frankly, if you elect me, I won't do much about it. It's a $14 trillion economy. Every three months, 7 million Americans change jobs. Presidents aren't powerful enough to steer this colossus. Sure, we can pass 'stimulus' programs, but if we overdo it -- as we did in the 1970s -- we will make the economy worse. Believe me, presidents would prevent recessions if they could.

"What we can do is preserve an economic climate that favors long-term growth. That means holding down the tax burden to maintain incentives for work and investments. We're already running a $400 billion or so deficit; some broad-based tax increases may be needed. This will disappoint conservatives, who think no one should pay taxes, and liberals, who think only the rich should pay them. But we must also cut spending, because, unless we do, the future tax increases will be crushing.

"Of necessity, spending cuts should focus on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. These programs are projected to grow from about 45 percent of the present budget to 70 percent over a couple of decades. Paying for that exclusively with taxes would be devastating for the economy and our children. Paying exclusively by cutting other programs would gut vital government services. I admit that raising eligibility ages for baby boomers and cutting some benefits are unfair. People should have received more warning. But our politicians have so dawdled that
there's no warning time left.

"We've also dawdled on energy. No one likes $125-a-barrel oil. Last year, we paid an average price of $64 a barrel for imports. Some blame the oil companies, but the truth is that we're all to blame. Americans like cheap gasoline and big vehicles. Nothing was done to dampen consumption. Meanwhile, Congress restricted new oil and gas exploration on environmental grounds. So, demand rose and supply fell. In 1985, we imported 4 million barrels of oil a day; now that's 12 million.

" 'Energy independence' is a fraud. We simply use too much foreign oil. All we can do is limit our dependence by shifting to more-efficient vehicles and increasing domestic production. But these measures will take years and have only modest effects. The same is true of global warming. Without major technological breakthroughs, making big cuts in greenhouse gases will be impossible.

"Finally, let's discuss poverty. Everyone's against it, but hardly anyone admits that most of the increase in the past 15 years reflects immigration -- new immigrants or children of recent immigrants. Unless we stop poor people from coming across our Southern border, legally and illegally, we won't reduce poverty. Period. That doesn't mean we should try to expel the 12 million illegal immigrants already here -- an impossible and morally dubious task. Many families have been here for years; many have American children. We need a pragmatic accommodation: assimilate most people now here; shift future immigration to the highly skilled.

"Vote for me. I'll tell the truth."

Of course, our hapless candidate would be dismissed as misinformed, offensive, possibly racist and, of course, unelectable. People say they value candor, but in practice they don't. Almost all our major national problems require patience: the capacity to take somewhat painful actions now to avoid greater future pain. In an ideal world, elections would help move public opinion toward such policies.

But that doesn't happen. Politics is mostly about immediate gratification -- about offering up convenient scapegoats and instant solutions for voters' complaints, even if the villains and promises are often false. We in the media bless this process by treating much of the self-serving rhetoric with undeserved seriousness. Is it any wonder that our genuine problems persist year after year and, in the end, foster public cynicism?

Did McCain Attack Brown v. Board?

Tueting's defintion of an "activist judge:" A judge who makes a decision with which the speaker does not agree.

Article reprinted below for educational purposes.

High Court Caricature
By Ruth Marcus

Wednesday, May 14, 2008; A19

The court stepped in, summarily overturning laws in 16 states. Tossing aside evidence that the constitutional provision was never intended to apply to the situation at hand, the court instead looked to what it grandly described as the "broader, organic purpose of a constitutional amendment."

Another example of "unelected judges" demonstrating "little regard for the authority of . . . the states" and "even less interest in the will of the people"? Of judges, unconstrained by constitutional text or history, turning to " 'emanations' . . . and other airy constructs the court has employed over the years as poor substitutes for clear and rigorous constitutional reasoning"?

The case is Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 ruling in which a unanimous Supreme Court found that state laws prohibiting interracial marriage violated the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. The decision has been on my mind recently because of the death this month of Mildred Loving, the African American woman who dared to marry a white man and try to live with him in Virginia. Last week, I happened to listen to C-SPAN's riveting rebroadcast of the oral argument.

A few days before that program, John McCain delivered the tired broadside, quoted above, against activist judges. As my car radio crackled with the tinny voice of Virginia's lawyer urging the court not to usurp the state's "legitimate legislative objective of preventing the sociological and psychological evils which attend interracial marriages," I could not help but recall McCain's critique.

I'm not suggesting for a second that the presumptive Republican nominee opposes interracial marriage or disagrees with the ruling. My point, rather, is that the debate over the role of the judiciary deserves a far more nuanced approach than McCain's caricature of "the common and systematic abuse of our federal courts by the people we entrust with judicial power."
"I disagree with Senators Clinton and Obama that federal judges should be able to legislate from the bench," says a petition on McCain's Web site -- as if his Democratic opponents have made that outlandish claim to judicial power.

The world he sketches of liberal Judges Gone Wild is largely imaginary. The freewheeling jurisprudence of the 1960s has tempered, if not vanished. That's not surprising: Seven of the nine Supreme Court justices are Republican appointees, as are about 100 of the 166 appeals court judges.

Indeed, the supposed distinction between activist liberals and color-inside-the-constitutional-lines conservatives is not only phony but often backward. In its first 200 years, the Supreme Court struck down fewer than 130 acts of Congress; in the past 13 years, it has overturned more than 30, including a piece of McCain's signature campaign-finance law. This behavior is hardly the "humility" McCain argues should be restored to federal courts.

Last year, the court told school districts that they could not adopt voluntary integration plans that use race as a factor in assigning students. Talk about legislating from the bench. I don't recall McCain complaining then that the court was intruding "on policy questions that should be decided democratically."

And, notwithstanding Justice Antonin Scalia's recent admonition to "get over it," the court's intervention in the 2000 Florida recount was the ultimate in judicial aggrandizement. To quote McCain, "A court is hardly competent to check the abuses of other branches of government when it cannot even control itself."

McCain's bill of particulars against activist judges was particularly unimpressive. He assailed one justice for stating "that he was basing a conclusion on 'my own experience.' " This was John Paul Stevens this year questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty -- and then, respecting the importance of precedent, voting with the majority to uphold lethal injection.

McCain derided Anthony Kennedy's 2005 opinion invalidating the death penalty for juveniles because it invoked international law (although it wasn't the basis for the ruling) and relied on gauzy tests such as "evolving standards of decency," the court's touchstone in capital cases.
But the Framers wrote the Constitution with expansive language that invites, even demands, interpretation and judgment. And the Constitution assigns the court a deliberately counter-majoritarian role, to protect the individual against the excesses of the majority. McCain need look no further than Loving for an example he would no doubt find justified.

As Richard Posner, a Reagan appointee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, writes in his new book, "How Judges Think," the Supreme Court, especially when deciding constitutional cases, is inevitably "a political court"--no matter if its members choose not to acknowledge, even to themselves, that uncomfortable fact.

So when should judges intervene, and when should they abstain? Where the Constitution speaks in general terms, what is the right way to apply its lofty phrases? And what is the proper degree of deference that should be accorded a president in selecting judges, and the proper scope of congressional questioning?

These are important matters for general election debate. Instead, McCain serves up red herrings -- or, more precisely, red meat -- for his still-skeptical base.

Monty Python: Hillary Clinton

For my Monty Python fans, today's Washington Post has a riff on the classic parrot sketch.

Optional post.


Frans De Waal

Frans De Waal, an eminent primatologist, has a guest post over at Freakonomics. I highly recommend his "Inner Ape." In his questions and answers, he references one of the statistical techniques I used during the Reaganomics lecture. Coooool.

Excerpt reprinted below for educational purposes. Full article here.

Q: Is yours the lab that did the grape vs. cucumber study? The monkeys got either a grape or a cucumber for doing a task …

A: Yes, together with Sarah Brosnan, we did a study in which capuchin monkeys received either a grape or a piece of cucumber for a simple task.

If both monkeys got the same reward, there never was a problem. Grapes are by far preferred (as real primates, like us, they go for sugar content), but even if both received cucumber, they’d perform the task many times in a row.

However, if they received different rewards, the one who got the short end of the stick would begin to waver in its responses, and very soon start a rebellion by either refusing to perform the task or refusing to eat the cucumber.

This is an “irrational” response in the sense that if profit-maximizing is what life (and economics) is about, one should always take what one can get. Monkeys will always accept and eat a piece of cucumber whenever we give it to them, but apparently not when their partner is getting a better deal. In humans, this reaction is known as “inequity aversion.”

I actually don’t think the response is irrational at all, but related to the fact that in a cooperative system, one needs to watch what kind of investment one makes and what one gets in return. If your partners always ends up getting a greater share, this means that you’re being taken advantage of. So, the rational thing to do is withhold cooperation until the reward division improves.

This holds an important message for American society which is becoming less fair by the day.
The Gini-index (which measures income inequality) keeps rising and is now more in line with that of third-world countries than of other industrialized nations. If monkeys already have trouble accepting income inequality, you can imagine what it does to us. It creates great tensions within a society, and we know that tensions affect psychological and physical well-being. Some attribute the dismal health statistics of Americans (now #42 in the world’s longevity ranking) to the social frictions of an unfair society (see Richard Wilkinson, 2005: The Impact of Inequality).

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

For Aleina and Jake

Is Jake secretly Harold Bloom?

Mind you, I don't agree with professor Bloom. But he seemed apropos to the whole debate.

Soft Power

The junta (vocabulary words are cool!) ruling Myanmar refuses to let America (and the world) help their starving citizenry in the wake of a devastating cyclone.

They are afraid that their citizens will find out that other countries have so much stuff that we can afford to just give it away. Perhaps, the citizens might think, the American system of capitalistic democracy is a better way to organize society.

Our efforts to find a way to save the Burmese victims is a good illustration of the "City Upon A Hill" humanitarian impulse of American foreign policy.

Anne Applebaum says we should "go around the generals."

Read Applebaum's essay and then make a comment outlining what you would do if you were President of the United States.

Article reprinted below for educational purposes.

Go Around the Generals
By Anne ApplebaumTuesday, May 13, 2008; A15

They are "cruel, power-hungry and dangerously irrational," in the words of one British journalist. They are " violent and irrational," according to a journalist in neighboring Thailand. Our own State Department leadership has condemned their "xenophobic, ever more irrational policies."

On the evidence of the past few days alone, those are all accurate descriptions. But in one very narrow sense, the cruel, power-hungry, violent and xenophobic generals who run Burma are not irrational at all: Given their most urgent goal -- to maintain power at all costs -- their reluctance to accept international aid in the wake of a devastating cyclone makes perfect sense. It's straightforward: The junta cares about its own survival, not the survival of its people. Thus the death toll is thought to have reached 100,000, a further 1.5 million Burmese are at risk of epidemics and starvation, parts of the country are still underwater, hundreds of thousands of people are camped in the open without food or clean water -- and, yes, if foreigners come to distribute aid, the legitimacy of the regime might be threatened.

Especially foreigners in large numbers, using high-tech vehicles that don't exist in Burma, distributing cartons of rice marked "Made in the USA" or even "UNDP," of course. All natural disasters -- from the Armenian earthquake that helped bring down the Soviet Union to Hurricane Katrina, which damaged the Bush administration -- have profound political implications, as do the aid efforts that follow them. The Burmese generals clearly know this.

Hence the "logic" of the regime's behavior in the days since the cyclone: the impounding of airplanes full of food; the initial refusal to grant visas to relief workers or landing rights to foreign aircraft; the initial refusal to allow American (or, indeed, any) military forces to supply the ships, planes and helicopters necessary for the mass distribution of food and supplies that Burma needs. Nor is this simply anti-Western paranoia: The foreign minister of Thailand has been kept out, too. Even Burmese citizens have been prevented from taking food to the flood-damaged regions, on the grounds that "all assistance must be channeled through the military." The result: Aid organizations that have workers on the ground are talking about the hundreds of thousands of homeless Burmese who may soon begin dying of cholera, diarrhea and other diseases. This isn't logic by our standards, but it is logic by the standards of Burma's leaders. Which is why we have to assume that the regime's fear of foreign relief workers could even increase as the crisis grows, threatening the regime further.

If we fail to persuade the junta to relent soon -- despite what I hope are assurances that Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders and the U.S. military will bring only food, not regime change, much as we all might like to see it -- then we have to start considering alternatives. According to some accounts, the U.S. military is already considering a variety of options, including helicopter deliveries of food from ships and supply convoys from across the Thai border. The U.S. government should be looking at wider diplomatic options, too. The U.N. Security Council has already refused to take greater responsibility for Burma -- China won't allow the sovereignty of its client to be threatened, even at the price of hundreds of thousands of lives -- but there is no need for any country to act alone. In fact, it would be a grave error to do so, since anything resembling a foreign "invasion" might provoke military resistance.

Unfortunately, the phrase "coalition of the willing" has been forever tainted -- once again proving that the damage done by the Iraq war goes far beyond Iraq's borders -- but a coalition of the willing is exactly what we need. The French (whose foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, was a co-founder of Doctors Without Borders) are already talking about finding alternative ways to deliver aid. Others in Europe and Asia might join, too, along with some aid organizations. The Chinese should be embarrassed into contributing, asked again and again to help: This is their satrapy, after all, not ours.

Think of it as the true test of the Western humanitarian impulse: The international effort that went into coordinating relief after the 2004 tsunami has to be repeated, but in much harsher, trickier, uglier political circumstances. Yes, we should help the Burmese, even against the will of their irrational leaders. Yes, we should think hard about the right way to do it. And, yes, there isn't much time to ruminate about any of this.

Tips For (Other People's) Exams

Ryan, I think your "brother" answered this one:

Reaganite Commencement Address

Fairness, idealism and other atrocities
Commencement advice you're unlikely to hear elsewhere
By P.J. O'Rourke May 4, 2008

Well, here you are at your college graduation. And I know what you're thinking: "Gimme the sheepskin and get me outta here!" But not so fast. First you have to listen to a commencement speech.

Don't moan. I'm not going to "pass the wisdom of one generation down to the next."

I'm a member of the 1960s generation. We didn't have any wisdom.

We were the moron generation. We were the generation that believed we could stop the Vietnam War by growing our hair long and dressing like circus clowns. We believed drugs would change everything -- which they did, for John Belushi. We believed in free love. Yes, the love was free, but we paid a high price for the sex.

My generation spoiled everything for you. It has always been the special prerogative of young people to look and act weird and shock grown-ups. But my generation exhausted the Earth's resources of the weird. Weird clothes -- we wore them. Weird beards -- we grew them. Weird words and phrases -- we said them. So, when it came your turn to be original and look and act weird, all you had left was to tattoo your faces and pierce your tongues. Ouch. That must have hurt.

I apologize.

So now, it's my job to give you advice. But I'm thinking: You're finishing 16 years of education, and you've heard all the conventional good advice you can stand. So, let me offer some relief:

1. Go out and make a bunch of money!

Here we are living in the world's most prosperous country, surrounded by all the comforts, conveniences and security that money can provide. Yet no American political, intellectual or cultural leader ever says to young people, "Go out and make a bunch of money."(Tueting note: Russell Conwell did!) Instead, they tell you that money can't buy happiness. Maybe, but money can rent it.

There's nothing the matter with honest moneymaking. Wealth is not a pizza, where if I have too many slices you have to eat the Domino's box. In a free society, with the rule of law and property rights, no one loses when someone else gets rich.

2. Don't be an idealist!

Don't chain yourself to a redwood tree. Instead, be a corporate lawyer and make $500,000 a year. No matter how much you cheat the IRS, you'll still end up paying $100,000 in property, sales and excise taxes. That's $100,000 to schools, sewers, roads, firefighters and police. You'll be doing good for society. Does chaining yourself to a redwood tree do society $100,000 worth of good?

Idealists are also bullies. The idealist says, "I care more about the redwood trees than you do. I care so much I can't eat. I can't sleep. It broke up my marriage. And because I care more than you do, I'm a better person. And because I'm the better person, I have the right to boss you around."

Get a pair of bolt cutters and liberate that tree.

Who does more for the redwoods and society anyway -- the guy chained to a tree or the guy who founds the "Green Travel Redwood Tree-Hug Tour Company" and makes a million by turning redwoods into a tourist destination, a valuable resource that people will pay just to go look at?

So make your contribution by getting rich. Don't be an idealist.

3. Get politically uninvolved!

All politics stink. Even democracy stinks. Imagine if our clothes were selected by the majority of shoppers, which would be teenage girls. I'd be standing here with my bellybutton exposed.

Imagine deciding the dinner menu by family secret ballot. I've got three kids and three dogs in my family. We'd be eating Froot Loops and rotten meat.

But let me make a distinction between politics and politicians. Some people are under the misapprehension that all politicians stink. Impeach George W. Bush, and everything will be fine. Nab Ted Kennedy on a DUI, and the nation's problems will be solved. But the problem isn't politicians -- it's politics. Politics won't allow for the truth. And we can't blame the politicians for that. Imagine what even a little truth would sound like on today's campaign trail: "No, I can't fix public education. The problem isn't the teachers unions or a lack of funding for salaries, vouchers or more computer equipment The problem is your kids!"

4. Forget about fairness!

We all get confused about the contradictory messages that life and politics send.

Life sends the message, "I'd better not be poor. I'd better get rich. I'd better make more money than other people." Meanwhile, politics sends us the message, "Some people make more money than others. Some are rich while others are poor. We'd better close that 'income disparity gap.' It's not fair!

"Well, I am here to advocate for unfairness. I've got a 10-year-old at home. She's always saying, "That's not fair." When she says this, I say, "Honey, you're cute. That's not fair. Your family is pretty well off. That's not fair. You were born in America. That's not fair. Darling, you had better pray to God that things don't start getting fair for you." What we need is more income, even if it means a bigger income disparity gap.

5. Be a religious extremist!

So, avoid politics if you can. But if you absolutely cannot resist, read the Bible for political advice -- even if you're a Buddhist, atheist or whatever.

Don't get me wrong, I am not one of those people who believes that God is involved in politics. On the contrary. Observe politics in this country. Observe politics around the world. Observe politics through history.

Does it look like God's involved?

The Bible is very clear about one thing: Using politics to create fairness is a sin. Observe the Tenth Commandment. The first nine commandments concern theological principles and social law: Thou shalt not make graven images, steal, kill, et cetera. Fair enough. But then there's the tenth: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's."

Here are God's basic rules about how we should live, a brief list of sacred obligations and solemn moral precepts. And, right at the end of it we read, "Don't envy your buddy because he has an ox or a donkey."

Why did that make the top 10?

Why would God, with just 10 things to tell Moses, include jealousy about livestock?

Well, think about how important this commandment is to a community, to a nation, to a democracy. If you want a mule, if you want a pot roast, if you want a cleaning lady, don't whine about what the people across the street have. Get rich and get your own.

Now, one last thing:

6. Don't listen to your elders!

After all, if the old person standing up here actually knew anything worth telling, he'd be charging you for it.

Morning Smack Down

While I was getting dressed this morning I turned on the 5:00 Anderson Cooper show on CNN.

And I giggled.

The following exchange took place in a panel discussion of the Democratic nominating race:

Obama supporter: Obama's combination of upper-class highly educated whites and African-Americans hasn't been achieved since the Republicans ended slavery*.

Joe Klein: Actually, the last time the upper-class highly educated whites and African-Americans were combined was by McGovern.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sign Ups Open

May 30: Cold War

Do not sign up until I have posted a message that Maddie and Weston are solid.

Limit of five people. Make sure that everyone in your group can meet together and all be present for the review.

May 29: WW II

Do not sign up until I have posted a message that Maddie and Weston are solid.

Limit of five people. Make sure that everyone in your group can meet together and all be present for the review.

May 23: Sectionalism and Civil War

Do not sign up until I have posted a message that Maddie and Weston are solid.

Limit of five people. Make sure that everyone in your group can meet together and all be present for the review.

May 27: Reconstruction and Gilded Age

Do not sign up until I have posted a message that Maddie and Weston are solid.

Limit of five people. Make sure that everyone in your group can meet together and all be present for the review.

May 28: Progressivism, WW I, and Depression

Do not sign up until I have posted a message that Maddie and Weston are solid.

Limit of five people. Make sure that everyone in your group can meet together and all be present for the review.

May 20: Revolution

Do not sign up until I have posted a message that Maddie and Weston are solid.

Limit of five people. Make sure that everyone in your group can meet together and all be present for the review.


Maddie and Weston, fill in your group members in the comments.

May 22: Early Republic

Do not sign up until I have posted a message that Maddie and Weston are solid.

Limit of five people. Make sure that everyone in your group can meet together and all be present for the review.

May 21: Constitution

Do not sign up until I have posted a message that Maddie and Weston are solid.

Limit of five people. Make sure that everyone in your group can meet together and all be present for the review.

May 19: Colonial America Sign Up.

Do not sign up until I have posted a message that Maddie and Weston are solid.

Limit of five people. Make sure that everyone in your group can meet together and all be present for the review.

SOL Review Leadership Assignment

For your only major grade of the last six weeks, you will lead one morning review session.

You will lead a 45 minute Powerpoint review of key information from one portion of the SOL essential knowledge.

Each Powerpoint should contain:
A minimum of 30 slides with visuals: Cover the material in an interesting way.
Complete coverage of all essential knowledge in your portion of the SOL document.
I will take an electronic copy of the Powerpoint for posting to the web, so the Powerpoint should have enough information to stand alone with commentary.
With commentary, your review session should last 45 minutes.

The Virginia SOLs can be found at this site:


Monday, May 19: Colonial America (SOL pages 2-9)
Tuesday, May 20: Revolution (SOL Pages 10-16)
Wednesday, May 21: Constitution (SOL pages 17-22)
Thursday, May 22: Early Republic (SOL pages 23-30)
Friday, May 23: Sectionalism and Civil War (SOL pages 31-41)
Tuesday, May 27: Reconstruction and Gilded Age (SOL 41-52)
Wednesday, May 28: Progressivism, WW I, and Depression (SOL pages 53-60)
Thursday, May 29: WW II (SOL pages 61-74)
Friday, May 30: Cold War (SOL pages 75-87)

There are nine groups, so you will work in groups of five.
You may sign up (as a group) online at the blog – first come first serve*. Before you sign up, you must have all five members of your group AND everyone in your group must have checked availability to show up. If, after signing up, you realize that you can’t come that morning, YOU must find someone to switch with you – and this may be difficult after people have started working.

* Maddie and Weston have first dibs because they will have to work around the governor’s school schedule.

After your review session, you will fill out group evaluation forms to let me know how much work each person shouldered. There will be a group grade with appropriate deductions for any freeloaders – not that we would have any.

The honors kids will arrive at 6:45 AM on the day of your review – you should probably arrive at 6:30 to get set up.

First Amendment In School

Mr. Vass forwarded this article to me.

Read the article and use the comments sections to reflect on what you would have done if you were the school principal.

(Article reprinted below for educational purposes.)

3 suspended for not standing for Pledge of Allegiance
By PAUL WALSH, Star Tribune
May 10, 2008

Three small-town eighth-graders in Minnesota were suspended by their principal for not standing Thursday morning for the Pledge of Allegiance, violating a district policy that the principal now says may soon be reworded to protect free speech rights.

"My son wasn't being defiant against America," said Kim Dahl, mother of one of the students, Brandt, who attends Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Junior High School in northwestern Minnesota.
Brandt told the Forum newspaper in Fargo that Thursday's one-day in-school suspension, "was kind of dumb because I didn't do anything wrong. It should be the people's choice."

Kim Dahl said the "punishment didn't fit the crime. If they wanted to know why he didn't stand, they should've made him write a paper." She said her son has been declining to stand all school year, offered no reason for sitting and was not obligated to explain his actions.

The school's handbook says all students are required to stand but are not required to recite the pledge. The same is true for all four schools in the district, a school official said.

"These three [students] didn't, and they got caught," said Mel Olson, the district's community education director. He said he backs the punishment, "being a veteran and a United States of America citizen, absolutely." Olson served in the Marines in Japan during the Vietnam War.

The head of the Minnesota American Civil Liberties Union said that the school's actions against the students are unconstitutional, and his office informed the district of that today in a strongly worded letter.

"The school can't do that; that's illegal," said Chuck Samuelson, the civil liberties group's executive director. "Wow."

Samuelson said that numerous U.S. Supreme Court rulings dating to the 1940s say in "well-settled constitutional law" that "students who refuse to participate in the pledge cannot be punished for refusing to participate."

Samuelson said he's surprised that any public school district would have such a pledge requirement, given that state law allows for students and teachers to decide not to participate. Most states have the same "opt-out" provision.

In St. Paul, said district spokesman Howie Padilla, "Students can respectfully not participate in the Pledge of Allegiance." Minneapolis schools treat pledge participation the same way.
Colleen Houglum, the principal who suspended the three, acknowledged in a statement late this morning that the policy requirement that " 'all students will stand' may need to be modified to address the protection of the individual's form of expression."

Kim Dahl said Houglum called her this morning and informed her of the possible accommodation. "I think they are handling it quite professionally," Kim Dahl said, adding that Houglum told her that school officials "are taking some steps to take the [suspensions] off their records."

That possible shift was met with disappointment from Olson. While he said he'll fall in line with whatever change may occur, "I still have my beliefs."

Earlier today, Olson said that a "very nice announcement" was made at the start of the junior high school day reminding the students that they must stand for the pledge.
Houglum said that all students this morning were "involved in some fashion" during the pledge, adding that no additional suspensions were needed.

However, the family of 14-year-old Bishop Edens told the Forum that he was suspended from school today (Friday) because he wouldn't stand for the pledge, but he was quickly invited back once Houglum said a policy change might be needed. Edens had said Thursday that he would sit in support of the other three.

"Our social studies teacher led the pledge, and that was kind of a nice change of pace," Houglum said.

Kim Dahl asked Brandt why he has been remained seated all school year, but "he didn't have an answer ... he doesn't get in trouble; he's just a normal 13-year-old."

As for today, she told Brandt to take his cell phone with him to school and text her should he run into trouble again. "I said you should probably just stand if you're not protesting something."