Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Quote o' the Day

Donald Rumsfeld addressing the House Armed Services Committee recently said the following while attempting to avoid providing a firm count of the number of insurgents in Iraq:
I am not going to give you a number for it because it's not my business to do intelligent work.

Here's a Washington Post article containing this quote.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


Learning from the mistakes we never made

Recently The Daily Show commented on President Bush's 2005 State of the Union Address. I thought that the final exchange of this segment was brilliant.
Stephen: Yeah, I was never behind the preemptive strike thing. It made us seem weak, acting out of fear. But I will tell you this glorious army of compassion, great liberators bringing democracy to the world stuff, that is a rationale for war I could get behind...retroactively.

Jon: But, Stephen to say that in 2005 our goal was to liberate Iraq is convenient and not really what happened.

Stephen: Look, Jon. Should we have revised history sooner? Of course. And, I'm sure, in the future, we will. But for now the important thing is that we have already learned from the mistakes we never made.

The video for this segment should be available here.

I believe The Daily Show is dead on. I think it's wonderful that Saddam is out of power and that the Iraqis have held an election in which they had 3 orders of magnitude more choices on their ballots than the last time they voted, going from only "Yes to Saddam" to thousands of parties. However, I feel that the way the Administration has attempted to subtly shift the historical cause for the war in Iraq from eliminating WMDs and terrorism to liberating the Iraqi people is duplicitous because they have not truly acknowledged that they are attempting to make the shift because they simply have failed in their original goal.

It's vaguely like a weekend-warrior-remodeler who sets out to upgrade his bathroom and kitchen, but through his own ineptitude ruins the carpeting in three other rooms and causes structural damage to the walls of two other rooms. After recovering from the crisis, he throws an open house to show off his abode's new "open floor plan" which only slightly impinges on bather privacy and the "distressed antique hardwood floors" that happened to be under his ruined carpet, while claiming that he had designed it that way from the beginning, despite the unimproved kitchen. All that work must've cost him a fortune you'd say. He'd pan the topic, letting you know that while he was spent far more on the project than he earned, it was no big deal because he'd gotten a loan to cover the shortfall and he didn't count it against his regular budget due to extraordinary circumstances; plus when the rest of the bills came in, he'd just go back to the bank for another loan.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Follow the leader?

When I first began reading this letter to the editor, I thought it was surely another piece of great satire without context. Sadly, it slowly dawned on me that the author was dead serious when he wrote the piece entitled Just trust and follow the president on Social Security in which he wrote, Listen to the president, he's our leader. We should follow him rather than backbiting him.

The opinion piece tells us that we should support the President's proposal for no merit of its own other than the personage of the its author. Given the author's purported leadership role in the party, I hope that he does not believe such obsequiousness is requisite for inclusion in the Republican Party. Regardless of the similarity of a leader's party affiliation to your own, blindly following an elected leader's proposals is a terrible idea. To quote a former president:

To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.

Theodore Roosevelt

Also bothersome about the opinion piece is that it equates disagreeing with the President with attacking his person or character when it says that "We should follow him rather than backbiting him." The American Heritage Dictionary defines backbite as "To speak spitefully or slanderously about a person." The author seems to be saying that we can either agree with the President or we can call him names, but we cannot have a dispassionate, rational conversation in which we disagree while respecting each other. I understand how the author could've easily arrived at this conclusion by watching television pundits duke it out on a level which glorifies a playground bully's epithets.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


Conversation with Elizabeth's students

We've been having trouble with our furnace lately. The furnace repair guy has been swapping parts out for over a month to no avail. Today he called to say that he and the factory are out of ideas; the whole furnace goes. He would swap out our furnace for the identical model at no cost or would allow us to upgrade to a 10% more efficient furnace for $830.

I walked over to talk to Elizabeth at lunch about the merits of upgrading. While we were crunching the numbers on the whiteboard, her students for the next class began to filter in and both of our mobile phones began ringing in alternation. Because we were trying to finish up our computations before the next class began, we didn't answer our phones.

Once we'd finished, I headed back to work and Elizabeth turned to her students and exclaimed, "See what you have to look forward to in life?!?"

The exuberant eighth grade boys expectantly responded, "Cell phones?"

"No," she said, "Math. Lots and lots of math."

"Oh, that," they said, with a noticeable dip in zest.


First Amendment seen as harmful by a significant portion of high school students

This article on CNN reports on the results of a study of high school students' perception of the protections granted by the First Amendment. While the majority of the article is mewling from myriad corners speculating on the cause of this state of affairs and what can be done to rectify it, the real meat of the article can be had from these two excerpted paragraphs:

When told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.

Three in four students said flag burning is illegal. It's not. About half the students said the government can restrict any indecent material on the Internet. It can't.

Why do you think it is that a large portion of high school students don't value the protection of expression? I'd be thankful to hear any ideas you have.

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