Monthly Archives: February 2009

Out of Town


Flying out to Southern California to visit the in-laws this afternoon. My wife is having her Seemantham, which is a Tamil Hindu ritual and blessing performed when a woman is pregnant with her first child. We fly back to NYC on Monday morning. I would like to spend a few more days out there but I have to get back to work.





This has been a good week. My hit meter has recorded over 100,000 hits since I started blogging in June of 2007 and I broke my record for the highest number of hits in a day. The previous record was set by this post on Ron Paul and the Paulistas (Remember him? It seems like it was only yesterday.). I am approaching 10,000 hits per month which is far cry from the few hundred I was receiving when I started. So this is a note of thanks to my regular and new readers and especially to those who post comments (you know who you are).

A big congratulations to Simply Jews for reaching 500,000 visitors on Sitemeter. As Snoopy mentions, a lot of blogs get more hits in a day, “but for a microblog it’s a milestone.” While it is a far cry from 500,000, I feel the same way about my 100,000 hits.


International Zionist Conspiracy Terminates Joel Kovel



At least that’s what the loony left would have you believe. The reality is much less sinister. Kovel’s contract at Bard ended and he was let go due to lack of funds and poor student evaluations.

Inside Higher Ed reports:

In his letter, Kovel argues that his position at Bard deteriorated as his opposition to Zionism grew and became more public. He cites his various public statements as well as the links of Bard’s president, Leon Botstein, to Israel. Botstein is musical director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and Kovel’s letter cites as problematic a visit by the orchestra to Bard’s campus in which the national anthems of the United States and Israel were played. (While Bard does have ties to Israel, it notably has ties to Palestinian higher ed that may be deeper than those of most institutions, just this week announcing a series of joint programs with Al Quds University.)

A Bard spokesman declined to comment on the situation, citing the confidentiality of personnel actions. But an evaluation of Kovel, which he released, suggests that his “long and productive career” at Bard has been problematic of late. The evaluation notes an increasing number of student complaints about Kovel’s lack of organization, which he has previously explained by saying that he likes his courses to focus on current material.

Kovel isn’t the only instructor who was fired in this round of cuts. Here is a Bard student commenting on what is happening in other departments:

I am a student at Bard College. I’m a dance major, and really, I don’t think he’s being treated any differently than MANY of the non-tenured professors at Bard right now.

The exact same weekend, the dance department let go two of its part time professors who had been working there for 20 years. That’s two professors out of a total of six in the department. And the two let go were some of the favored in the department overall. Same goes for the theater department, who let go one of their favored professors.

Now, I’m not saying that Joel Kovel’s nonrenewal has nothing to do with politics. I just think it’s important to know that many other professors with no political issues with President Botstein were fired at the same time.

In case you an unfamiliar with Kovel, he is a psychiatrist, professor of Social Studies and an author of numerous books including White Racism, A Psychohistory (1970), Red Hunting in the Promised Land (1994) and most recently, Overcoming Zionism (2007), which is published by far-left Pluto Press.

After the University of Michigan Press halted distribution of Overcoming Zionism, the standard anti-Zionist authors and organizations expressed their outrage. I blogged about the University of Michigan Press’ decision to end their partnership with Pluto Press here. Kovel and Pluto Press editor David Castle founded the Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism (CODZ) to “defend the principle of free speech on debate over Israel.” Israel is the focus of undergraduate and graduate courses, seminars by organizations on the left and right and demonstrations (pro and con) on college campuses across the United States. Organizations like CODZ do not support free speech, they want to control the debate.

Ron Radosh has an excellent post regarding Kovel. Here is a bit:

[W]hen Bard College announced that it was firing Professor Joel Kovel,  his followers and supporters immediately tried to mount a campaign claiming that Kovel had been dismissed from his position because of his open and impassioned attack on Israel and his argument that Israel should be replaced by a unitary secular state made up of both former Israelis and Palestinians. Kovel himself wrote a statement about his termination in which he writes that, “If the world stands outraged at Israeli aggression in Gaza, it should also be outraged at institutions in the United States that grant Israel impunity.”

Kovel goes on to actually accuse Bard of firing him because he believes that it is the role of an educator to criticize the injustices in the world, and that Bard’s failure to not oppose Israel’s occupation and aggression makes it an accomplice in the perpetuation of Israel’s “state violence.” Since he implies that Bard defends both Zionism and Israel ( he points out that its President Leon Botstein is musical director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and that when it played at Bard the group performed both the Israeli and American national anthems) he argues that the worse Israel’s behavior, “the more strenuous must be the suppression of criticism.” His major point: Bard College “has suppressed critical engagement with Israel and Zionism, and therefore has enabled abuses such as have occurred and are occurring in Gaza.”

As for Kovel’s record at Bard, I have learned from sources that among other things, he used only his own books in the courses he taught. And as for his scholarly record, his publications include books like Red Hunting in the Promised Land:Anticommunism and the Making of America, which was published by Basic Books in 1994.  I have read that book by Kovel, and on the basis of his analysis and argument, I would have hesitated in appointing anyone who wrote such drivel to teach in the humanities, when his own field is that of psychology, and who had previously been a Professor of Psychiatry at Albert Einstein College. In this volume, he uses his psychological credentials to essentially argue that those who oppose communism in the United States- the anti-Communists- were essentially mentally ill.

You can find Kovel’s statement at numerous lefty blogs including this one. The vast majority seem to agree that Bard is an outpost of the Zionist colonial project and many think it is a conservative school. This shows how far out these people are. Bard has closer relations with Palestinian institutions of higher education than most colleges in the U.S. and a conservative school would not have a position in the department of social studies, let alone a chair in the department, named after communist spy Alger Hiss.

More at Harry’s Place and Solomonia.

Radical Nuts Arrested in California, On the Loose in Greece



[Nothing radical about these California mixed nuts.]

I haven’t posted anything on radical nuts for a while. Here are a couple of items. The first concerns the animal rights extremists I posted about back in August of 2008. I read that the FBI picked up a suspect named Nathan Pope shortly after the firebombing but did not charge him for the crime.

A recent press release (February 20, 2008) from the Department of Justice reports University of California Berkeley Police officers, Joint Terrorism Task force members and F.B.I. agents arrested Pope (26), Adriana Stumpo (23), Maryam Khajavi (20) and Joseph Bundenberg (25) for “terrorizing University of California Researchers.”  The report continues:

The arrests stem from a series of threatening incidents beginning in October 2007:

On Sunday, October 21, 2007 a group of approximately twenty people, including Mr. Buddenberg, Mr. Pope, and Ms. Stumpo, demonstrated outside a University of California Berkeley professor’s personal residence in El Cerrito, California. The group, some wearing bandanas to hide their faces, trespassed on his front yard, chanted slogans, and accused him of being a murderer because of his use of animals in research. The professor told police he was afraid, and felt harassed and intimidated by the extremists.

On Sunday, January 27, 2008, a group of approximately eleven individuals, including Mr. Buddenberg, Mr. Pope, Ms. Stumpo, and Ms. Khajavi, demonstrated outside the private residences of several University of California Berkeley researchers over the course of the day. At each residence, extremists dressed generally in all black clothing and wearing bandanas to hide their faces marched, chanted, and chalked defamatory comments on the public sidewalks in front of the residences. One of the researchers informed authorities he had been previously harassed and the incident had caused him to fear for his health and safety.

On February 24, 2008, five to six individuals including Mr. Pope, Ms. Stumpo, and Ms. Khajavi, attempted to forcibly enter the private home of a University of California researcher in Santa Cruz. When her husband opened the door, a struggle ensued and he was hit by an object. As the individuals fled, one yelled, “We’re gonna get you.” The professor and her husband both told the FBI they were terrified by the incident.

On July 29, 2008, a stack of flyers titled “Murderers and torturers alive & well in Santa Cruz July 2008 edition” was found at the Café Pergolesi in Santa Cruz. The fliers listed the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of several University of California researchers and stated “animal abusers everywhere beware we know where you live we know where you work we will never back down until you end your abuse.” The investigation connected Mr. Buddenberg, Mr. Pope, and Ms. Stumpo to the production and distribution of the fliers.

The flyers were distributed days before the firebombing of the homes of two researchers employed by the University of California, Santa Cruz. These attacks are still under investigation by the FBI. However, all of the individuals will be charged under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act which states:

whoever uses or causes to be used any facility of interstate commerce for the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise, and in connection with such purpose, intentionally places a person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury to that person or an immediate family member, or conspires or attempts to do so, by a course of conduct involving threats, acts of vandalism, property damage, criminal trespass, harassment, or intimidation, shall be imprisoned for not more than five years.

The Animal Liberation Press Office (ALPO) released this somewhat contradictory statement:

The irony is, that by targeting legal protesters, federal and state authorities are inadvertently encouraging more illegal direct action on behalf of non-human animals. One has only to look at the increased number of actions of economic sabotage, vandalism and live animal liberations over the last 2 years to realize that LEGAL activists are being increasingly driven into clandestine and anonymous actions, morally justified but illegal actions which are rarely punished.

As a supporter of direct action, the Animal Liberation Press Office is pleased at the increase in actions by the Animal Liberation Front and other clandestine groups; the increase is expected to continue as long as authorities persist with their heavy-handed abuse of legal protesters. In today’s climate, it appears that it’s less risky by far to engage in underground activities then in legal pickets.

ALPO is essentially arguing society should allow thugs to intimidate scientists or else activists will engage in more extreme behavior. Furthermore, they openly support criminality. This is what extremist activism is all about. Accept their warped vision of reality or face the destruction of your property and possibly serious injury or even the loss of your life.


Moving overseas to Greece, radical leftist terrorist wackos Sect of Revolutionaries have claimed responsibility for shooting a police station earlier this month and are turning their attention to journalists, capitalists and other “prominent Greeks.” The day after the Sect’s attack on the offices of Alter TV, Athens police “discovered a car bomb abandoned outside Citibank offices in Athens, which contained enough explosives to crumble a four-story building” (ERT News).

Athens News notes:

The group claimed it had been “unlucky” not to kill a police officer during a predawn attack two days earlier against the police station in the western Athens suburb of Korydallos, in which three assailants in hoods and helmets opened fire and threw a handgrenade that failed to explode. Nobody was injured.

“Our aim was to execute them,” the statement said of the police officers, adding: “They were lucky… We were unlucky… Next time they will not have luck on their side.”

The group also vowed to target other prominent Greeks.

“To those who are already wondering why we chose some random policemen and not a high-ranking official, a prominent journalist, a state functionary or at least a capitalist, we answer that their turn will come,” the statement said.

Police spokesman Panayiotis Stathis said on February 4 that authorities were taking the statement seriously and that the group seemed to be following the methods of the Revolutionary Struggle extremists who shot and seriously wounded a riot policeman last month.

“It seems to be genuine; it’s a group that has not appeared before but the methodology seems to be the same as that of Revolutionary Struggle,” Stathis said.

Sixteen 9mm bullet cases, believed to be from a German MP5 submachine gun, were found by police at the scene and are being tested to see if they match bullets used in known Revolutionary Struggle attacks. Police authorities are also studying closed-circuit television footage from the area.

Although the anti-authoritarian rioting sparked by 15-year-old Grigoropoulos’ death subsided before Christmas, attacks on police targets have increased.

Media reports are contradictory with some claiming this is a new group and others suggesting the Sect may be related to another organization, Revolutionary Struggle. You might remember Revolutionary Struggle from their attack on the American embassy in Athens back in 2007. Another group calling itself the Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei has claimed responsibility for seventeen firebombings across Athens.

What Crisis in Guadeloupe?



[The general strike in Guadeloupe has been completely off the radar screens of American media outlets. Labourstart is the exception.]

After a one-month general strike, the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe has descended into riots and civil unrest. French authorities have called for calm after Jacques Bino, a union activist, was caught in crossfire between armed youths and police in the capital Pointe-a-Pitre.

The strike and demonstrations were organized by the Collective Against Exploitation (LKP), a coalition of unions and leftists and began on January 20 with an immediate goal of increasing wages for low-income workers by 200 euro (£177) per month. The UGTG (General Union of Guadeloupe Workers) is the largest organization in the LKP.

The demands and grievances of the strikers have expanded over time to include a call for ending the domination of the economy by domination of the economy by “Bekes,” or local white families that trace their roots to the colonial landlords and sugar plantation slave owners of the 17th and 18th centuries. By some estimates these families own 90 per cent of the island’s wealth including productive land, food distribution networks, and many stores and shops.

Christiane Taubira, a French member of parliament for the overseas department of French Guiana on the south American continent notes:

“A caste holds economic power and abuses it.” She warned Sunday that the situation in Guadeloupe was “not far from social apartheid” but added that “the leaders of the LKP are not anti-white racists.

“They are exposing a reality,” she told Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

Rama Yade, the only black minister in President Nicolas Sarkozy‘s right-wing government, said that over and above the problem of the cost of living, there is “a problem with the distribution of wealth” on the islands.

The social discord is “exacerbating” racial tensions, she said.

“Guadeloupe, it’s ours, Guadeloupe, it doesn’t belong to them,” is the chant heard at recent protests on the island, with a similar refrain heard on Martinique, both referring to the Bekes.

That antipathy was heightened by recent remarks by one of Martinique’s richest men, Alain Huygues-Despointes, which scandalised many here.

Huygues-Despointes, a white, said in a documentary screened on French television late last month that one reason for avoiding inter-racial marriage was that he wanted to “preserve his race.”

Reuters reports:

The French government will make a new wage offer to unions on Guadeloupe where riot police have struggled to maintain control, a month into a general strike that is paralysing the Caribbean island.

”Mediators have come up with a proposal which I am going to approve and which will be submitted to employers and the unions,” Prime Minister Francois Fillon told French radio RTL on Thursday.

”This allows us to get very close to the financial goals of the workers.”

The alliance behind the protest movement, LKP, blames the government for letting the dispute drag on until frustrated young people beyond the control of LKP turned to violence.

They have blocked roads, torched businesses and cars, and looted shops this week.

While the government had offered numerous concessions to the protesters, it had until Thursday rejected their key demand, that it lower business taxes to give companies some room to increase workers’ pay by the desired 200 euros.

With discontent simmering in mainland France as well, Paris was wary of creating a precedent in Guadeloupe that it would have to extend to the mainland.

The proposed settlement would not involve cutting business taxes but would bring forward the implementation of a new benefit for low wage workers and unemployed people, according to Yves Jego, the minister in charge of overseas territories.

More from AFP:

Strike leaders in Guadeloupe agreed to resume negotiations after an offer from the French president aimed at ending weeks of protests on the Caribbean island.

But Elie Domota, leader of a coalition of unions and leftist groups that launched the strike on January 20, did not call off the strike after French President Nicolas Sarkozy offered millions of euros in new subsidies.

“At the moment, the proposals seem particularly vague to us,” Domota said after meeting with the island’s prefect, Nicolas Desforges, and two French government envoys.

Domota, leader of the Collective Against Exploitation (LKP) coalition, said negotiations that had been officially suspended for a week would resume Friday at 1900 GMT.

A Domota confidant, Jean-Louis Nomertin, was not impressed by Sarkozy’s offer. “Nicolas Sarkozy did not say anything,” he said.

Sarkozy announced earlier more than half a billion euros in new subsidies for the Caribbean island, a tourist destination that suffers from the highest unemployment rates and most expensive living costs in France.

“Today we have a duty to listen to our fellow citizens and we have, at the same time, the duty to ensure the rapid return of civil order,” he said after holding crisis talks in Paris with lawmakers from the Caribbean.

He promised to fly to Guadeloupe to inaugurate a three-month exercise to gather opinions on how to reform mainland France’s relations with its overseas departments, former imperial outposts that now enjoy full political rights.

Sarkozy said 580 million euros (736 million dollars) would be put aside for action to raise living standards in the overseas departments.

Listen to a Radio France Internationale report here.

Thanking Attorney General Eric Holder



It’s been a rough month for President Obama. He’s found it increasingly difficult to find qualified candidates to fill his cabinet who pay their taxes. His Stimulus Program passed and the stock market responded with a precipitous decline. But the hardest blow to the veneer of our 30-day old “post-racial” presidency was Attorney General Eric Holder claiming America was a “nation of cowards” when it came to discussions of race.

Holder’s general point is Americans of all colors, ethnicities, and creeds should be more free and open in their discussions of race. Most Americans would agree with that statement. But I think Holder is implying something more specific. There are two interrelated claims at the core of Holder’s argument. First, most Americans have been unwilling to address the history of racial discrimination in the United States. Second, most white Americans are unwilling (or unable) to address their bias against non-whites.

As to the first claim–Americans are not addressing the history and legacy of slavery and racial discrimination–I suggest Mr. Holder step into a high school or college history class. I receive a virtually limitless stream of textbook catalogs and I have yet to come across a survey of American history that does not address slavery. Most surveys of twentieth century American history mention the civil rights movement. Times have changed from when history classes focused exclusively on “dead white males.”

Heather McDonald (City Journal) adds:

Leave aside for a moment Holder’s purely decorative call for a “frank” conversation about race. The Clinton-era Conversation also purported to be frank, and we know what that meant: a one-sided litany of white injustices. Please raise your hand if you haven’t heard the following bromides about “the racial matters that continue to divide us” more times than you can count: Police stop and arrest blacks at disproportionate rates because of racism; blacks are disproportionately in prison because of racism; blacks are failing in school because of racist inequities in school funding; the black poverty rate is the highest in the country because of racism; blacks were given mortgages that they couldn’t afford because of racism. I will stop there.

Not only do colleges, law schools, almost all of the nation’s elite public and private high schools, and the mainstream media, among others, have “conversations about . . . racial matters”; they never stop talking about them. Any student who graduates from a moderately selective college without hearing that its black students are victims of institutional racism—notwithstanding the fact that the vast majority of black students there will have been deliberately admitted with radically lower SAT scores than their white and Asian comrades—has been in a coma throughout his time there.

Charles Blow articulates the second claim–whitey is racist–in a recent NYT op-ed:

[M]ost whites harbor a hidden racial bias that many are unaware of and don’t consciously agree with…In tests taken from 2000 to 2006…three-quarters of whites have an implicit pro-white/anti-black bias. (Blacks showed racial biases, too, but unlike whites, they split about evenly between pro-black and pro-white. And, Blacks were the most likely of all races to exhibit no bias at all.)

I’m not sure how wide or deep Mr. Blow has researched these issues but the 2007 Pew Research Center polls paint a much different picture. Pew found African-Americans to be the most prejudiced racial group in the United States, exhibiting higher rates of negative opinions towards fellow African-Americans than whites. Pew found the percentage of white Americans who hold negative views of African-Americans is about eight percent.

Linda Chavez summarized the findings of the Pew studies last year in her presciently titled article, “Let Us by All Means Have an Honest Conversation about Race” (Commentary, June, 2008). Of course Ms. Chavez was condemned as a racist for writing:

[T]he New York Times notwithstanding, the black-white racial divide is no longer the great fault line in American politics. To the contrary, the virtual disappearance of white racial hostility in America is the salient background reality that, skills and talent aside, explains the extraordinary success of Barack Obama’s own candidacy for the highest office in the land…

A single statistic tells the tale. As against the 10 percent or fewer of American whites who hold negative views of blacks, the same mid-1990’s survey of intergroup attitudes cited above registered over three-quarters of blacks holding negative views of whites. To be sure, not all studies report such negative findings; nor do pollsters try, at least directly, to measure black attitudes toward whites as frequently as they do the reverse. But the handful of surveys that have indirectly probed black attitudes reveals a depressing and, as we shall see, indicative pattern.

At approximately the same time last year, Charles Johnson (The American Scholar, Summer 2008): The End of the Black American Narrative noted:

[D]espite being an antique, the old black American narrative of pervasive victimization persists, denying the overwhelming evidence of change since the time of my parents and grandparents, refusing to die as doggedly as the Ptolemaic vision before Copernicus or the notion of phlogiston in the 19th century, or the deductive reasoning of the medieval schoolmen. It has become ahistorical. For a time it served us well and powerfully, yes, reminding each generation of black Americans of the historic obligations and duties and dangers they inherited and faced, but the problem with any story or idea or interpretation is that it can soon fail to fit the facts and becomes an ideology, even kitsch.

This point is expressed eloquently by Susan Griffin in her 1982 essay “The Way of all Ideology,” where she says, “When a theory is transformed into an ideology, it begins to destroy the self and self-knowledge….No one can tell it anything new. It is annoyed by any detail which does not fit its worldview….Begun as a way to restore one’s sense of reality, now it attempts to discipline real people, to remake natural beings after its own image.”

I think AG Holder’s use of language was inflammatory and inaccurate. If there is any cowardice taking place, it is due in large measure to the pressures of living in a politically correct era where heated discussions of race can result in dismissal from work, suspension from school, and, at the extreme, prosecution for committing “hate crimes” in court. At the same time I want to thank Holder for opening the door to a frank and public discussion of race in the United States. For liberals that means no more political correctness, no more hypocrisy, and no more resorting to general accusations of rampant white racism. For conservatives that means recognizing the structural inequalities in education, health care, housing and legal representation that continue to exist in America.

The always eloquent John McWhorter states things much more lucidly than me in his recent post, “Defining ‘Nation of Cowards’ Down“:

[I]f Holder were really interested in a “conversation” on race, he would understand that America is engaged in one year-round. The claim that America “doesn’t want to talk about race” is hardly uncommon, and has a dramatic tang. However, take the past few years: Don Imus, Michael Richards, Jena, and of course, the coverage of Barack Obama’s campaign, which included white reporters diligently smoking out whites who insisted they wouldn’t vote for a black President.

A Martian observer–or a modern Tocqueville–would readily see that America was rather obsessed with race. Certainly we are an America ardently “conversing” about it year-round. What Holder wants is not a conversation but a conversion.

This idea of a “conversation” (conversion) on race forever just out of reach is interesting in an intellectual sense. However, all evidence is that the only conversation that’s going to happen already is. It is a sometimes messy exchange, conservative and liberal going head-to-head, gradually settling on a centrist position.

Read More:

Transcript of AG Holder’s remarks here.

Linda Chavez responds to Holder.

Ta-Nehesi Coates (The Atlantic): Eric Holder’s Boring-Ass Speech on Race

Peter Wehner (Contentions): Holder’s shame

Do College Students Deserve an A for Effort?


[H/t to Michelle Cottle who blogs at TNR’s The Plank.]

Ms. Cottle writes:

There’s a wicked little piece in today’s NYT about how college students’ somehow, somewhere along the way came to believe that if they put in the effort then they automatically deserve a high grade, regardless of the actual quality of their work.

The article cites research into the subject. For instance:

A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that a third of students surveyed said that they expected B’s just for attending lectures, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading…

The way my students are evaluated is clearly articulated on the syllabus for the class. For example, attendance and participation, quizzes, exams, presentations, and homework all contribute a certain percentage of points which are totaled to calculate the final grade.

I have never seen a syllabus that states 50%, let alone 100% of your final grade for the course will be based on how many lectures you have attended and how many readings you have completed. Reading and attending class is the first step in earning a grade in a class, not the last.

As Professor Marshall explains in the NYT article:

I tell my classes that if they just do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements, that they will earn a C,” he said. “That is the default grade. They see the default grade as an A.

Janus provided this comment at The Plank:

This simultaneous lower and raising of expectations is rampant, and extraordinarily damaging. I think I first noticed it in elementary school, when I actually bothered to read the grading scale and noticed that a C is, and I quote, “average.” Strange, that, when I was told over and over again that a C is basically a dismal failure.

Blackton adds:

I have to be honest, in my University classes I essentially seek to achieve an average of 80 on my exams, and year in an year out I average in the high 70’s, that is for the students who attend class and do the work. Granted I am teaching English, which is not rocket science or statistics. I could not last as a teacher if I failed everyone, as much as possible I teach to the level of the class and not to the level of the material.

At the baccalaureate level, a “C” should signify more than average work. It should denote the minimum level of proficiency expected of someone with a B.A. If a student is not meeting that level of proficiency—and that means the “level of the material”—than that student should receive less than a C.

Other methods of evaluation cheapen the value of the B.A. and the educational experience in general. It also hurts these students in the job market. If that means fewer students take my classes, good. I would rather have 15-25 than 30-50. The experience is better for my students. We need to encourage greatness, rather than mediocrity, in our students.

JHildner sums up what a lot of educators have to deal with:

The reason kids view the educational process as a system to be gamed — with plagiarized work, Ritalin-fueled cram sessions, outraged emails arguing a grade — is because they have never been taught *at home* the *value* of what they’re doing other than obtaining a piece of paper that can get you to the next level.

In fact, the parents might not even perceive much value themselves.  Many adopt an adversarial posture toward teachers, as in, How dare you affect my kid’s life with your grade?  Who the hell do you think you are — you *public employee*?  Contempt is more common today than ever, and schools and acedemic institutions find that fulfilling their missions in even the most basic sense is an uphill struggle.

Now, I don’t really think that the younger generations are populated by soulless shits, but I do worry a great deal about what strikes me as the pathetic state of our educational system even in relatively ideal locations.  And the problem I see most accutely isn’t overpaid, lazy professionals — although they exist — but a lack of proper support at home, a lack of serious partnership between schools and parents, and a collective community-wide cluelessness as to what education is and what it should be.

Presidents’ Day Weekend Gluttony and Blog Miscellany



[Prime rib, an American favorite]

My brother-in-law was in town for a few days while my wife and I were in Puerto Rico. He was taking care of our dog and looking after the apartment. He was also here to celebrate passing the exam to get his architecture license (congrats, bro!) and had a good time doing NY stuff like seeing a play, visiting museums and having dinner at some nice restaurants.

We took him to Ennio and Michael which is a nice Italian spot in the Village. It seems like we end up eating there at least once when guests come to visit. The service is good without being pretentious and the food is consistently on point. The rack of lamb is delectable. It is supposedly a “special” but it has been on the specials menu for at least seven years. I order it every time.


[Bull Moose Room at Keens Chophouse]

The standout was Keens Chophouse near Harold Square. It is definitely out of my budget but a great place for a celebratory dinner. We ate upstairs in the “Bull Moose Room” away from the noise of the larger dining room and the bar. Brother-in-law (call him Bil) and I started with a dozen oysters on the half-shell. Wife had the crab cakes. The oysters were a mix of east and west coasters, from small Kumamotos to larger blue points. All were pristine and clean without a hint of grit. The crab cakes were a bit on the small side, but they were deliciously sweet and contained very little bread crumb, egg or other ingredients binding the crab together.

For the entree, my wife had the Dover Sole. Bil and I shared a “king’s cut” of prime rib (medium rare) and a lobster. When they brought out the prime rib we were shocked by the size of the chop. We each had a hunk of prime rib on our plate that looked close to three or four inches thick, red in the center and delicious. The Dover Sole was filleted and the lobster was cracked and divided at table-side.  Nice and buttery. The only item which was not excellent was the creamed spinach. Nothing wrong with it, it just didn’t measure up to the greatness of everything else on the table.

I was totally stuffed after all that food but Bil insisted on ordering the hot fudge sunday and an Armagnac for the two of us. You could have rolled all three of us home at that point.

It is a holiday weekend in the U.S. (Monday off for Presidents’ Day) and I thought it would be appropriate to bbq. I barbecued a chicken for us meat eaters and a veggie burger for my wife. She made some potato salad which is always excellent. We also had a green salad.

Needless to say, with all this gluttony and carousing I have not had much time to blog. My drafts are piling up. The UK has banned Dutch MP Geert Wilders from entry*, anti-Semitism is on the rise in Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, and I still haven’t finished my post on the 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.

In the meantime here are (more than) a few selections from around the Web:

Airforce Amazons: Iraq parallax

Bob from Brockley: A Bundist comments on history as it is being made (interesting comment thread)

But I am a Liberal! On Iraqi elections

Contentious Centrist: Blocking the hole in the wall

Don’t Trip Up: Let Everyone Speak (on Geert Wilders)

Elder of Ziyon: AP wakes up about Hamas murder spree (better late than never)

Engage Forum: Nick Cohen and John Mann on Anti-Semitism (on the left)

Long War Journal: Pakistan concedes Mumbai attack executed from its soil

Martin in the Margins: Blaming the messenger? (More on Mr. Wilders)

Modernity Blog: On Saudi Trade Unions (a commendable effort)

Small Wars Journal: Postcard from Mumbai

A Secondhand Conjecture: Abrogation of the Soul (On Chavez and the US State Department)

Simply Jews: The toxic forces or what is happening to the Israeli left

Sultan Knish: One Man with Courage Makes a Majority (The Sultan provides an idealist perspective on collective action)

Michael Totten: A dispatch from the border with Gaza (long, but worth the time)

Gil Troy: Is Obamania Stopping Us from Questioning Obama’s Competence?

Your Friend in the North: Piss off, Blondie (Still more on Mr. Wilders)

ZWord: Can Fatah Retake Gaza?

I added the Jawa Report and Zionist Conspiracy to my blogroll. Not sure why I lagged on that for so long.

*Why has the UK banned Mr. Wilders while the speech of those who threaten UK citizens with violence is protected?

C-SPAN Presidential Survey


C-SPAN has released the results of their Second Survey of Presidential Leadership. From the Survey website:

Fifty-eight historians from across the political spectrum who contributed to C-SPAN’s year long series, American Presidents: Life Portraits participated in C-SPAN’s survey. They rated the 41 men who have served in the White House on ten different qualities of presidential leadership. Results of this survey, overall rankings and each president’s scores in individual categories, are being released by C-SPAN to coincide with the February 21 observance of President’s Day…

The cable public affairs network was guided in the survey effort by a team of four historians and academics: Dr. Douglas Brinkley, Director of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans; Dr. Edna Greene Medford, Associate Professor of History, Howard University; Richard Norton Smith, Director of the Gerald R. Ford Museum and Library; and Dr. John Splaine, Education professor, University of Maryland.

The four survey advisors devised a survey which asked participants to use a one (“not effective”) to ten (“very effective”) scale to rate each president on ten qualities of presidential leadership: “Public Persuasion,” “Crisis Leadership,” “Economic Management,” “Moral Authority,” “International Relations,” “Administrative Skills,” “Relations with Congress,” “Vision/Agenda Setting,” and “Pursuit of Equal Justice for All”. And, to reflect the changing role of the presidency over the course of US history, the advisory team chose as the tenth category, “Performance Within the Context of His Times.”

The survey was sent by mail in December to 87 historians and other professional observers of the presidency whose work contributed to C-SPAN’s 41 week biography series, American Presidents. Fifty-eight agreed to participate. Survey responses were tabulated by averaging all the responses in any given category for each president. Each of the ten categories were given equal weighting in the total scores. Overseeing the tabulation were Robert Kennedy, C-SPAN CFO and Dr. Robert Browning, a political scientist who serves as director of the C-SPAN archives.

The surveys provide an interesting snapshot of how a particular president is viewed at a particular time. For example, President George W. Bush is number 36 on the list. Will his position rise over time or decline? Back when the first poll was taken in 2000, President Clinton was ranked 21st. Today he has risen to 15th, placing him ahead of John Adams, James Madison, and John Quincy Adams. Time will tell with Bush as well.

Survey results here. Comparison between 2000 and 2009 is here. A list of historians who participated in the survey is here.