Ripped off: Still another student group!

The public school teachers in my town went back on duty today. Students won’t arrive till Tuesday, but the teachers were treated to inspirational speeches from administrators: “You have a unique opportunity . . . ,” “One of the most challenging and rewarding careers anywhere . . . ,” “Let me tell you a story about a lonely little girl who didn’t think she could do math . . . ,” “Think of a teacher who made YOU feel special . . . ,” etc.

Anyway, I arrived home feeling extremely inspired. Know what I mean? And I checked my email to find a long-time correspondent had sent me the latest findings from The Onion, on the subject of Students Who Just Don’t [Care]. I’ll bet that the masses of assembled teachers would have found great value in this video clip. Enjoy. (Warning: NSFS–Not Suitable for School)

Posted in American Society, Education | Leave a comment

THIS oughta piss you off

Whether you live on the right side or the left, this blog entry by Timothy Egan (NYT) should get you steamed. Under the title, “Building a Nation of Know-Nothings,” Egan says that John McCain won his primary battle but has lost his character, that “the flat-earth wing” of the Republican Party fervently believes lies about Obama, that astonishing segments of the party accept “fabrications that could be disproved by a pre-schooler”:

It’s not just that 47 percent of Republicans believe the lie that Obama is a Muslim, or that 27 percent in the party doubt that the president of the United States is a citizen. But fully half of them believe falsely that the big bailout of banks and insurance companies under TARP was enacted by Obama, and not by President Bush.

Take a look at Tuesday night’s box score in the baseball game between New York and Toronto. The Yankees won, 11-5. Now look at the weather summary, showing a high of 71 for New York. The score and temperature are not subject to debate.

Yet a president’s birthday or whether he was even in the White House on the day TARP was passed are apparently open questions. A growing segment of the party poised to take control of Congress has bought into denial of the basic truths of Barack Obama’s life. What’s more, this astonishing level of willful ignorance has come about largely by design, and has been aided by a press afraid to call out the primary architects of the lies.

Republicans ought to be offended that Egan says their most recent presidential candidate is now a sell-out and that the party is being taken over by fools; Democrats should be disgusted by how easily large segments of the “adult” population can be–perhaps WANT to be–duped.

Posted in American Society, Human Nature, Liberals and Others | 4 Comments

Women should be allowed to vote! (?)

Okay, it was 90 years ago.

An op-ed in the NYT by Christine Stansell commemorates the 90th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, Women’s Suffrage. Though I should have known, I had no idea how much resistance there was to the idea that a woman should be able to vote. The most persistent opposition occurred in the South. The story gets pretty dramatic:

Thirty-six of the 48 states then needed to ratify [the amendment]. Western states did so promptly, and in the North only Vermont and Connecticut delayed. But the segregated South saw in the 19th Amendment a grave threat: the removal of the most comprehensive principle for depriving an entire class of Americans of full citizenship rights. The logic of women’s disenfranchisement helped legitimize relegating blacks to second-class citizenship.

Female voters would also pose practical difficulties, described bluntly by a Mississippi man: “We are not afraid to maul a black man over the head if he dares to vote, but we can’t treat women, even black women, that way. No, we’ll allow no woman suffrage.”

Nine Southern states joined by Delaware forced ratification to a halt, one state short. Only Tennessee was left, and the opposition had good reason to think it would line up with the rest of the region. But after a nine-day special session in the heat of August 1920, a legislator pledged to the nays jumped ship — he later said it was because his mother told him to — and the 36th state was in.

That wasn’t the end of the struggle, by any means:

Even then, in several Southern states, die-hards went to court to invalidate the amendment, stopping only after the Supreme Court in 1922 unanimously dismissed their arguments.

In 1923 Delaware ratified belatedly to join the rest of the country, but the Southern states waited decades: Maryland in 1941, Virginia in 1952, Alabama in 1953. Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina came along from 1969 to 1971, years after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had passed. Mississippi brought up the rear, not condoning the right of women to vote until 1984.

Posted in American Society | 3 Comments

I just passed the Liberal Licensing Exam

It was simple, really. I clicked on Barry Ritholtz’s terrific website, watched a video clip of Jon Stewart making fun of Fox News, and laughed several times. The supposed topic was the “Mosque at Ground Zero” controversy, but . . . well, things fall apart, as they say.

It’s a Pass/Fail test, in essence. If you watch The Daily Show making fun of Fox and you’re offended, you’re a conservative. If you’re amused, you’re a liberal.

Posted in American Society, Liberals and Others | 3 Comments

“Waiting for Superman”: Fix our schools!

Thomas Friedman raves about a new documentary, “Waiting for Superman,” hitting theaters in late September. The film celebrates “better-trained teachers working with the best methods under the best principals supported by more involved parents.”

Friedman claims that “we know what works, and it’s not a miracle cure. It is the whatever-it-takes-tenacity of the Geoffrey Canadas [founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone]; it is the no-excuses-seriousness of the KIPP school (Knowledge is Power Program) founders; it is the lead-follow-or-get-out-of-the-way ferocity of the Washington and New York City school chancellors, Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein.” Not everyone agrees, of course, that “we know what works.” One of Friedman’s respondents, “taxpayer” from Illinois, asks, “Does anyone know how much of the SAT gap Rhee and Klein have managed to eliminate?” And others respond with a wide range of skeptical comments about obstacles, costs, long-term effectiveness, and so on.

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My new liberal idol

Introducing Elizabeth Fuller of Peterborough, New Hampshire. I don’t know her and never heard of her before today. But she wrote a damn good response to David Brooks’s latest op-ed column; links to both the column and her response are provided in my previous post, “Mental Flabbiness.”

I clicked on her name next to the comment she posted in today’s Times, and I found that Elizabeth has done a lot of commenting. It’s first-rate. It gets noticed. She receives very high reader ratings and editor ratings, and her views even get posted and disputed on decidedly non-liberal sites. If I knew how to contact her, I’d ask permission to post several of her essays in support of liberalism. For now, I’ll just paste in one paragraph from something she wrote on June 22 in response to another Brooks column

What do liberals want? We want a country that affirms all our citizens matter. We want conservatives to understand that the sort of welfare state they seem to fear so much is not what we would prefer either. We would love to see a world in which there was full employment and all workers received a fair share of the profits they helped to generate. We don’t like it, either, that so few of our citizens pay taxes not because they’ve used all the loopholes, but because they simply don’t earn enough money to do so and that the burden falls on the rapidly disappearing middle class and the wealthy.

Elizabeth, we need a whole lot of people like you!

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Mental flabbiness

David Brooks cautions against mental flabbiness in today’s NYT op-ed column. These days, he says, “we’re all less conscious of our severe mental shortcomings and less inclined to be skeptical of our own opinions.” He quotes part of a speech on “The Psychology of Human Misjudgment,” given by Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway:

“We have confirmation bias; we pick out evidence that supports our views. We are cognitive misers; we try to think as little as possible. We are herd thinkers and conform our perceptions to fit in with the group.”

We try to think as little as possible. Hmm. Let’s fight the good fight, AGAINST this human frailty. Whattaya say?

Warning: The David Brooks piece begins with several paragraphs from a first-person account of a “mastectomy without anesthesia,” performed in 1811. It’s extremely difficult just to read the account.

Posted in Human Nature, Liberals and Others | 1 Comment