Friday, April 28, 2006
Monday, April 24, 2006
I'm overseas this week and very engaged, so blogging will be light. No worries, though. Reader Anna DeMarinis sent me the post below. Other guest posts are welcomed via email.
Today's Globe has a letter to the Editor from Linda Greyser (Candidates and school choice) that is very interesting. She muses about her Utopian vision where all children are compelled to attend public schools. What the Globe failed to disclose was that she is a public school flack. Here is her resume, which I found by Google search:
Linda L. Greyser is Associate Director of Programs in Professional Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she is responsible for the intellectual content of the School’s professional development programs for K-12 educators. She has dedicated over 25 years to public education -- as teacher, curriculum leader, administrator, and school committee member. Linda has worked at the state and local levels on major issues of reform and educational policy, most recently as a member of the
Here is my reply letter [to the Globe], which won't get published, I am sure:
The Globe should have been more honest in revealing that Linda Greyser (Letter, 04/23/06) is an advocate of public (government) schools, instead of trying to pass her off as some concerned, idealistic Mom. Ms. Greyser’s Utopian vision of government schools falls short precisely because it misses a basic economic truth. Monopolies are bad. A government monopoly on education would result in even higher prices and mediocre output, just like every other monopoly. Today, the education “free market” means that parents get to choose, and they choose private or parochial schools, or home-schooling, all of which are documented to be superior to what passes for education in the government schools. If Ms. Greyser’s vision were to come true, our education system would resemble the local and state responses to Hurricane Katrina in
Anna DeMarinisI would add that Greyser's letter crudely mischaracterizes what Lt. Governor Kerry Healy actually said about her own school choices. See this.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
I still believe as strongly as I did 35 years ago that the most important way to support our troops is to tell the truth. Patriotism does not belong to those who defend a president's position -- it belongs to those who defend our country, in battle and in dissent. That is a lesson of
Fair enough, Mr. Kerry. But where does this distinction place you? Below are your own words – the exact words with which you began your Senate testimony in April, 1971. You gave this testimony under oath and in front of a national TV audience. You used this testimony to launch your own political career in
Were you telling the truth?
If what you said then was not the truth, then why should anyone believe you now? Rather, we should suspect you of acting as one of many (again using your words) “politicians in
“I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.
It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in
They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, tape wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country...I would like to talk to you a little bit about what the result is of the feelings these men carry with them after coming back from Vietnam. The country doesn't know it yet, but it has created a monster, a monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence, and who are given the chance to die for the biggest nothing in history; men who have returned with a sense of anger and a sense of betrayal which no one has yet grasped.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Lexington School Superintendent Paul Ash is in the news again. Last year Ash had an irate parent arrested for trespassing on school grounds. The parent was irate because his kindergarten son brought home from school a “diversity book bag” that included a book with drawings of same-sex couples.
This year a parent from the very same elementary school is irate because a teacher read a book about a gay wedding entitled “King & King” to a 2nd grade class as part of a lesson.
The parent is upset because:
''By presenting this kind of issue at such a young age, they're trying to indoctrinate our children. They're intentionally presenting this as a norm, and it's not a value that our family supports."
Superintendent Ash takes cover behind the robes of the
While parents have the option to opt out of sex education, Ash notes that this does not enter the curriculum until 5th grade. The Globe story by
“…I want my kids to be in an environment where they can talk about values and talk about perhaps values in a way that you can't always do in a public school setting,”
Three days ago Reilly expressed outrage at Healy’s attitude:
''Somehow the perception is that the kids in public schools are not learning the values that they should be learning. . . .Public schools reinforced the values of our home -- hard work and respect for differences, teamwork."
Will Tom Reilly now rush to the defense of Mr. Ash?
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Boston Globe editorials are often fine examples of moral equivalence, but exceptionally so today. After describing the horror of a young Israeli mother who was blown apart in a restaurant in the sight of her children and husband we read [emphasis mine]:
The abstractions of
It is in the nature of a vendetta that both sides try to justify as retaliation acts that otherwise would stand as sheer murder. The code of the blood feud assumes that every member of the enemy's camp may be slain in the name of avenging the honor of one's own clan, tribe, or nation.
Apparently that is how a Globe editorial writer describes Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. Even this might represent progress. After the horror of Beslan, the Globe Op Ed page spent far more ink criticizing Putin than the terrorists who held hundreds of children hostage and then slaughtered them with bullets and bombs.
It is more disturbing to see accuracy papered over by an abdication of judgment on page 1 of the Globe. Here the same event is relegated to a corner item pointing to an inside story. Furthermore an event where a suicide bomber blows up 9 civilians in a restaurant is not headlined as a terrorist attack but as a “fatal blast”. Fatal blast? If somebody left the restaurant’s gas stove running by mistake, it might accurately be called a fatal blast, but not this.
Moral equivalence is a pandemic in Globe editorials, and today the Globe newsroom is also showing symptoms.
"Fatal blast" indeed!
Monday, April 17, 2006
Monday’s Boston Globe features a story profiling the personal school choices made by 5
The lone candidate whose income places him in the middle class (State Attorney General Reilly) used the public schools and tries to make hay with Kerry Healy’s explanation that:
“…I want my kids to be in an environment where they can talk about values and talk about perhaps values in a way that you can't always do in a public school setting, and I want uniforms and I want a very structured environment for my kids."
The Globe story also gives too much ink to a lady identified as “a
Here the advocate succeeds admirably in getting her organization’s point of view printed:
''Private schools don't revolve around preparing kids for standardized testing and teaching them to regurgitate facts. They teach them problem-solving and nurture their creativity and teach them art and music, but for some reason, [
The ‘Brookline mother’ quoted in this story is identified elsewhere on the web as a ‘policy analyst’ for an organization devoted to changing the state’s public school testing requirements. Surprise, surprise.
Later the story has a sweet nugget of statistical information:
Nearly half of the white children who live in Boston attend private schools rather than city schools, according to a 2003 study by the Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research at the State University of New York at Albany.
This half of parents choosing private schools would exclude all the parents of white students at the majority white
Mandatory school testing is a remedial measure designed to provide some statewide comparison of student achievement and thus (perhaps) a measure of local school performance. It is in place because some schools were clearly failing, and it serves a valid purpose in eliminating the “
'The fact that four out of the five candidates send their kids to private schools is a reflection of trends in our society -- the increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots,"
Income inequality is a straw man. Are we to eliminate it? Good luck. Rather the issue here is whether public schools will be improved by giving greater power to parents or to professionals (and by default to their monopoly union). Many
Saturday, April 15, 2006
What could be a more apt story for Good Friday than the Globe’s page 1 report of a sentencing hearing in Suffolk Superior Court. Here a young girl paralyzed by a stray bullet fired by her thug neighbor forgives the man who hurt her. The young girl’s mom has a profound grasp of Romans 8. “We’re not victims here; we’re victors” she is quoted, echoing the words of
As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Saturday’s Globe has another front page story covering the reaction of Bostonians ranging from Hizzonah to a number of other ordinary folk. One reaction struck me in particular [emphasis mine]:
Sitting inside Nadine Unisex Salon a few blocks away, customer Sofia Ambrose said the girl has yet to begin to understand how much she has lost. ''When she becomes a teenager, she's going to really see what she's missing," Ambrose said. ''For a 5-year-old girl to just forget about herself and forgive him, that was very emotional for me to watch."
No, of course she doesn’t appreciate the scope of her loss. How could she or anyone for that matter? But the remark seems to assume that forgiveness is a one time event instead of a daily practice. How sad that these most familiar words of Jesus Christ are not often recognized as pointing to our need to practice forgiveness daily. Forgiveness is our daily bread in the spiritual sense.
…Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us…
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
The use of busses and temporary voting centers was envisioned in 2005 by Iowahawk, who wrote this hysterical parody about a November 2004 bus caravan sponsored by a Chicago AFSCME local that featured a whirlwind tour of nearby swing state
Political reality challenges the imagination of anyone writing parody, even Iowahawk.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
The crisis continues over
''gave me a mission, and this mission, I will lead it to the end"
Villepin’s quote is humorously evocative of the famous statement by General Gallieni, who saved
J’ai recu le mandat de defender
Ce mandate je remplirai jusqu’au bout.
Paris 3 Sept. 1914
I have received a mandate to defend
This mandate I will carry out to the end.
Gallieni was charged in 1914 with protecting
Villepin, on the other hand, is charged with defending a new law from thousands of French student demonstrators. The law represents an attempt to liberalize
Today, as in 1914, transportation out of Paris may be the key to French victory. Saturday’s Globe reports that the demonstrations may fizzle as the students leave
Perhaps Villepin’s evocation of General Gallieni is fitting.
Gallieni's Statue in Paris
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Surveys cited by the study said white adolescents in the
''What's missing in the media are the three Cs. Rarely is there a commitment, contraceptives, or consequences," [lead researcher] Brown said.
Surprise, surprise! Any old scold of the pre-Vatican II Catholic church would have told you that right off. Google shows this story spreading all over the world press with 133 stories listed in Google News today. The original seems to be this story from Reuters.
Effective product placement, HBO style
Unintentionally illustrating the same point about sex-saturated media is the Living/Arts section of today’s Globe that features this picture in 20 column-inches of color above the fold. The photo comes from HBO – a superb example of product placement – and is a promo shot from HBO’s new polygamy-themed show named ‘Big Love’. The money paragraph of the Globe article on the show asks:
…the root of the trouble; the more ''Big Love" takes pains to prove how mainstream the Henricksons are, the more distant the family seems. Every potshot at suburban life brings another logical problem: Why would they live on a densely populated street, where the neighbors are bound to notice? But the emotional mysteries strike most at the gut. Bill is held up as a gem, kind and loving and eager to please, but he's a sensible woman's nightmare. He lives out a base male fantasy and gets away with calling it faith.
‘Taking pains to prove how mainstream they are’? ‘Base male fantasy’? Hmmm. We’re being highly judgmental here, are we not?
The author sounds more than a little prejudiced against a historically common form of marriage that has deep roots in many cultures and is widely practiced today within Islam, though it remains illegal in our country (at least until it comes before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court). Contrast this with gay marriage – now being posited as a constitutional right by its proponents and by our creative courts though not by most elected officials – which compared with polygamy is a very small and recent social experiment.
For reference, the new HBO show has prompted opinions on the normalization of polygamy by several columnists, notably Krauthammer, and Katherine Kersten in the Star Tribune, and this Washington Times story dating back to December 2005.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
Page A4 has a story about a government that is promoting gambling in spite of its growing role as a social problem. NOT
Vietnam's age-old gambling habit is spiraling into a worrisome national addiction, as a prospering economy tempts bettors to up the ante…
And concludes with this:
As in Western countries, efforts to control runaway gambling may be hampered by mixed messages. The government promotes its own national lottery as virtually a civic duty, under the slogan ''The Lottery is Useful for Both the Country and the Individual Family."
''You should play the lottery every day," said lottery vendor Nguyen Si Vinh. ''If you are married with children, lottery money will be used to build schools and parks for them. If you are not, they will be used for public works for the community."
Saturday’s Op Ed pages have two columns about economics and they trend from bad to worse.
Worse is William Pfaff's column about the economic demonstrations
The earlier model [of capitalism] said that corporations had a duty to ensure the well-being of employees and an obligation to the community (chiefly but not exclusively fulfilled through corporate tax payments).
That model has been replaced by one in which corporation managers are responsible for creating short-term ''value" for owners, as measured by stock valuation and quarterly dividends.
What is short-term about a market valuation of a stock, especially in this era when it can be hedged? Keep digging, Bill!
The criticism currently made of Europeans who resist reform is that their policies block managers from downsizing and outsourcing jobs in order to add value to the corporation.
Uh, no. The criticism is that these inflexible labor policies discourage hiring.
…this European unrest signals a serious gap in political and corporate understanding of the human consequences of a capitalist model that considers labor a commodity and extends price competition for that commodity to the entire world. In the longer term, there may be more serious political implications in this than even
It might prove prophetic, and pigs might fly, too. More likely it will just prove to be reactionary, Luddite, and obtuse rather than prophetic. Leave it to the Globe to publish 16 column-inches of this tripe.
Robert Kuttner does slightly better than Pfaff, but his argument is weak. He does recognize that:
…the supply of jobs is not static. As immigrants enter the stream of commerce, they generate economic activities and jobs.
This revelation puts him ahead of the French demonstrators and William Pfaff. But Kuttner argues that:
…prices of commodities that make us middle class are rising much faster than inflation generally: housing, college education, health care, and also child care. These very rapid price increases are offset by falling costs of consumer electronics, basic food, and clothing, creating misleadingly low inflation measures.
Some prices will rise more than the overall rate of inflation, while others will rise less. In Kuttner’s view:
[During] the years 1991-2002, households in the middle fifth of the economy increased their incomes (not adjusted for inflation) by 41 percent. Inflation during that period, as measured by the government's Consumer Price Index, went up 33 percent. That implies real living standards rose by a not very impressive 8 percent during more than a decade.
But hold on. During the same period, housing, healthcare, education, and child care went up 46 percent, or more than incomes. We cannot afford the big things we need and comfort ourselves with gadgets. The cheaper laptop, plasma TV, and GPS screen in your car make it appear statistically that living standards are not falling as much as they are.
This sound like ‘junk economics’. The increase in housing is skewed by high-priced regions like the Northeast and
Sadly, both these Op Ed columns point again to the generally 3rd rate content of the Globe Op Ed page. Want to read a quite perceptive column about the French demonstrations? Forget the Globe. Instead try reading Amity Shlaes’ superb Bloomberg column contrasting the French demonstrators with the recent mass demonstration in
The LA students are marching on behalf of illegal immigrants, whom they don't want to see criminalized. The LA protest also contains an implicit message about jobs, the opposite of the French one. ``Welcome those immigrants. I'm not worried about my job, or security. I'm willing to share.''
Watching all this you might conclude that
But what causes the difference? The answer has nothing to do with the influence of television, or the protestors' religion, or their individual biochemical profiles. It has rather to do with the economic growth that the children of developed nations view as their birthright. Growth forgives, and it makes people more forgiving. Especially when they expect more growth in the future.
Amity Shlaes, like Mark Steyn or Charles Krauthammer, is a 1st-rate columnist. It’s too bad that Globe readers see only one of these and only rarely, and instead are pummeled with so much that is mediocre.