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More Supression of Innovative Teaching!

[ 0 ] May 13, 2007 |

In light of this, I breathlessly await a lengthy diatribe form Mickey Kaus in which he argues for strengthening teacher’s unions so that they’re protected from having their innovation crushed by nitwit bureaucrats who don’t really know anything about teaching. [But he doesn't care about educational outcomes--he cares about union-busting!--ed.]

Mothers’ Day

[ 0 ] May 13, 2007 |

Today, we celebrate the women who grunted us into being, nourished us to maturity, soothed our wounds, comforted us in sickness, confiscated our drugs, embarrassed us in front of friends, and unintentionally promoted the array of neuroses from which only the sweet touch of death will release us.

Once a year, in recognition of their grace and beauty and martyrdom, we take time out to say, “Thanks, Mom, for squandering what could have been the most creative and productive years of your lives on us, your sniveling, unworthy children. I can’t believe we treated you so poorly when we were teenagers. Here’s a plate — the buffet table is over there. Go nuts.”

As always with holidays and birthdays, I’m late with cards and gifts and such, but I notice on my calendar that Fête des Mères is not celebrated in France and Quebec until May 27 le 3 juin, so I figure I’m OK for a couple of weeks. Thank goodness for the dilatory French and their belated toasts to motherhood.

"Just ‘Taking Care of Business!’"

[ 0 ] May 13, 2007 |

Last Tuesday’s episode of Veronica Mars was fine and all, but I’m really not convinced that we need to encourage over the hill musicians to play more stuff “from the latest album”.

Case in point, Roger Waters is a colossal asshole. At a tribute to the late Syd Barrett…

Gilmour, Mason and Wright performed Arnold Layne, the group’s first hit and one of Barrett’s best-known works. They then took part in a finale performance of Bike, from the band’s debut album, featuring all the night’s performers – except Waters.

Waters, a former schoolfriend of Barrett with whom he formed the band in 1965, played his own song Flickering Flame before the interval.

That’s right; not only wouldn’t he play a Syd Barrett song with the rest of Pink Floyd, but he took the opportunity to play a song from his latest crappy solo album. When I saw them back in ’94, Pink Floyd actually opened with Astronomy Domine… and only played, like, three songs from their latest crappy album.

On Turning a Corner…

[ 0 ] May 12, 2007 |

Between March 2003 and August 2006, there was never a period in Iraq in which Coalition casualties exceeded 2.5/day for each of three consecutive months.

Since September 2006, Coalition casualties have exceeded 2.5/day every single month. Barring a remarkable downturn in violence, May will be the ninth consecutive month at 2.5+.

Surge advocates have argued that higher casualties since February are evidence that the insurgency is coming out to fight; an increased tempo of operations leads to higher casualties, but hurts the insurgency more than the Occupation. Lost in this argument, however, is the fact that casualties were at a prolonged, historic high before the Surge even began.

Tank Destroyer Pr0n

[ 0 ] May 12, 2007 |

When I first met with the TAPPED folks in March, Adele Stan asked “How did you get into this security stuff?” That’s not quite the right question; I think that a lot of eleven year old boys are obsessed with military equipment. The better question is why I never stopped being interested in it…

God, I miss the Soviet Empire.

Teaching Thoughts

[ 0 ] May 12, 2007 |

You may have seen this article in which Theda Skocpol called for a greater emphasis on teaching at Harvard. MMF has interesting commentary. It’s always been strange to me–especially in disciplines with large numbers of undergraduate majors–how little emphasis is placed on teaching for advancement. (One would think, at least, that departments would strive for balance–some great teachers, some great researchers–but in many places it seems as if tenure cases are evaluated among similar criteria, with the latter getting much more emphasis. Of course, research is also much easier to evaluate.) One place where my experience is different than Aspazia is that I had a lot of mentors at grad school who were excellent teachers and put a lot of work into it–more than would be strictly justified by a purely material cost-benefit ratio–and I learned a lot from them. As an international student, I also benefited from more training and systematic feedback than a graduate student instructor usually receives.

See also A White Bear, who has interesting thoughts about the relationship between teachers and students and the language of contracts.


[ 0 ] May 12, 2007 |

Sorry, Rudy. If you’ve lost Ben Domenech, you’ve lost America.

Rudy Giuliani is an honorable man, and an inspiring man. He has been an exceptional leader. He saved New York City from more than one tragedy, and helped it recover from another. I personally have an enormous amount of respect for the man, and I believe we all owe him our respect. But to understand the gravity of his speech this morning at Houston Baptist University is to understand why Rudy Giuliani should never be the President of the United States.

Jesus, Ben. Did you smoke, like, four pipes full of earnest this afternoon? Ease up. Eat an orange or something. Shit.

And as for the rest of you, really — don’t bother Googling every third sentence in Ben-Do’s post, just in case . . . you know. I did it. It’s all Ben.

Easy Answers To Simple Questions

[ 0 ] May 11, 2007 |


Speaking of mature and honest public dialogue, I wonder if it would be possible for anti-choice conservatives to address the reality that, even in countries where abortion is illegal and there are strong cultural disincentives surrounding women’s autonomous choice regarding reproduction, women still get abortions, though in unsafe and often fatal conditions. And I wonder further if they could acknowledge that used to be the reality in this country pre-Roe and would be again in a post-Roe world. And, lastly, I wonder if they could then admit at long last that they simply don’t care if women who want abortions die in the process of getting them, so we can put this whole “pro-life” bullshit to bed once and for all.

No, no, and no. If there’s one thing that not only the “pro-life” position but abortion “centrism” depend on, it’s scrupulously ignoring how abortion law actually works.

This has been easy answers to simple questions.

Friday (Presidential) Cat Blogging

[ 0 ] May 11, 2007 |

Calvin Coolidge was a man of few words and even fewer emotions, but he loved the shit out of his animals. In addition to dogs, cats and birds, the stony Coolidge and his wife Grace owned pet raccoons (Rebecca and Horace), a donkey (Ebeneezer), a goose (Enoch), a wallaby, a pygmy hippo, and a bear among other beasts great and small. None of these, however, did the president adore more than his beloved cat Tiger (or “Tige”), a striking orange tomcat with black stripes who would drape himself around the president’s shoulders as Silent Cal wandered through the White House. Like Coolidge’s canine friends, Tige would rush to his master’s side when called.

In late March 1924, Tige disappeared from the White House during an ice storm. The president was greatly distressed the next morning when the cat did not respond to his customary greeting. A thorough search of the grounds turned up nothing, and for three days the Coolidge family fretted over the mysterious fate of Tige. On the evening of March 24, Secret Service agent James Hanley appeared on WCAP radio and appealed to the city to keep an eye out for a cat fitting Tige’s description. Scores of Washingtonians began calling the White House with reports of cat sightings and unhelpful offers to replace the lost cat.

To the nation’s delight, on March 25 a Navy captain named Benjamin Fink — pictured here — discovered Tige inside the Naval building, about 500 yards from the White House. Coolidge was overjoyed by Tige’s return and immediately had a collar made for him with his name and address on it.

Four months later, Tige disappeared for a second time and was never seen again.

(Image link)

Dude, it Just Sits There

[ 0 ] May 11, 2007 |

Although I understand that the commander of the USS Constitution does have some complicated duties, this must nevertheless be embarrassing:

The commander of the famed USS Constitution was fired from his post yesterday, two months before his two-year term expired, because the Navy lost confidence in his ability to command the 210-year-old ship, officials said.

Thomas A. Graves took command of “Old Ironsides” in July 2005 in a ceremony before hundreds of spectators who gathered at the Charlestown Navy Yard to watch the ship set sail.

Yesterday, a Navy spokesman said that Graves, who lives in Marblehead, was relieved from the post because the department had lost “trust and confidence” in him.

So, what do you think, maybe he allowed a Royal Navy officer to sneak aboard and steal our latest technology?

"A Solution In Serach of a Problem"

[ 0 ] May 11, 2007 |

A terrific article by Garrett Epps puts Karl Rove’s pressuring of US Attorneys to pursue bogus “vote fraud” cases into the larger (and highly consequential) context of the GOP’s vote fraud fraud. Epps also draws are attention to the Supreme Court’s endorsement of the GOP’s myths in a little-noticed opinion from 2006:

We can’t count on the U.S. Constitution to protect the election process. The Constitution does not explicitly protect the right to vote, and the conservative majority on the Rehnquist and Roberts courts has proved friendly to anti-turnout measures. As Mark Graber of the University of Maryland pointed out recently, the court echoed right-wing rhetoric about voter fraud in a little-noticed 2006 opinion allowing Arizona to implement its restrictive voter-ID law. “Voters who fear their legitimate votes will be outweighed by fraudulent ones will feel disenfranchised,” the court’s per curiam opinion stated. This is the argument that voter-restrictionists have fallen back on. There may be no voter fraud, but if people think there is, then we should tighten up anyway. That’s the argument used in Missouri (with support from the White House), where studies showed elections were mostly clean. As Graber noted, to restrictionists, “such a ‘feeling’ offsets the interests of voters who are disenfranchised by voter-ID laws by actually driving honest citizens out of the democratic process!”

One is reminded of the Bush v. Gore, in which the Court (as Ginsburg initially pointed out, although Scalia bullied her into removing the footnote) held that the fact that some people would have their votes “diluted” by other votes being counted was more important than the actual disenfranchisement of poor and African-American voters throughout the process (including by inferior vote-counting equipment that would be unconstitutional if Bush v. Gore was actually constitutional law.) So while, as Epps notes, the Missouri State Supreme Court prevented an atrocious voter-ID law that would have maintained Republican control of the Senate from being enforced in the 2006 elections, we should never forget that illegal disenfranchisement by the GOP put Bush in the White House. That Republicans have managed to conceal this while creating a mythical crisis of “vote fraud” is a remarkable and appalling achievement in Orwellian discourse.

[ 0 ] May 11, 2007 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson

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