Friday, December 29, 2006

Governor Winter

Dr. Andy Mullins, the Co-Director of the Mississippi Teacher Corps, introduces Gov. William Winter and talks about the writing of the book "Measure of Our Days."

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Future...

Had an interesting talk with my cousin Brian Stone over Christmas. Brian is an Assistant Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning at Georgia Tech. I asked him what he thought would happen over the next 30 years. The answer: It doesn't look good.

In the next ten years he thinks there will be several more Katrina type storms.

In the next twenty years a significant food shortage, especially in Africa, which will result in mass starvation. This will fuel global conflict.

In the next thirty years, several rogue nations will have nukes and will have used them.

Happy New Year...

Photo of the Week

This is Dennis Shikwambi, my best friend while I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia. This photo was taken at a party at his Grandmother's homestead. You can see the traditional huts in the background...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

More Than A Woman...

From "The Office" (BBC Version), More Than A Woman followed by David "I sort of fused Flashdance with MC Hammer" Brent's interpretive dance:

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Monday, December 25, 2006

Links of the Week

I've written about The Wire previously. The fourth season, which ended this month, follows four kids through their eighth grade year in inner-city Baltimore. Here is an op/ed by a current Baltimore teacher that appeared in the Baltimore Sun.

The United States and torture.

Tchula is a small, Delta town. MTC has, in the past, placed teachers in Tchula, although it has been about five years. This story is a good example of the myriad of problems faced by a small, Delta town.

Does free will exist?

Our "leaders" can't tell the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite.

Peter Singer's article on poverty begins with this question: What is a human life worth?

The perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


The second application deadline (of four) for the Mississippi Teacher Corps was yesterday. For the first two deadlines we have received 477 applications total. At first glance it looks like about 30 of these are repeats so that gives us about 450 applications. So far, we are on pace to receive more than 800 applications for 25 spots.

Video of the Week

Gnarls Barkley, Crazy, Live, Top of the Pops

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Photo of the Week

Photo of the Week will be Peace Corps centric for the next month or so. I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1998 and 1999 as a secondary school teacher in rural Namibia. This is a photo of the sunset, taken from my doorstep, in the village of Tses (or, as the kids called it, T-Six). Every evening this was the view. The mountain in the distance is a dormant volcano...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Deb Raji on the Mississippi Teacher Corps

Here is first-year Deb Raji on the Mississippi Teacher Corps. Don't forget, the next application deadline is December 22nd. Apply online.

List of the Week: Best Michael Mann Films, Number One

"Last of the Mohicans." Like the other films on this list, the cinematography and music are outstanding. Every performance is well-done. Authentic all around. Great action and love story. There are several classic scenes, the best of which the run and escape. I couldn't find a clip of that on YouTube so here is another great scene:

List of the Week: Best Michael Mann Films, Number Two

Number two on the list is "Miami Vice." Came out this summer. I think a lot of people were expecting/wanted a "Charlie's Angels" type movie. Nope. Realistic as can be. No one even utters the words "Miami Vice," as no such department exists. The film is beautifully shot on digital, with a fantastic soundtrack. My favorite song from the movie is "One of These Mornings," by Moby.

The best scene from the movie is the trailer-park shootout:

List of the Week: Best Michael Mann Films, Number Three

List this week is of the three best Michael Mann films. Mann is one of my favorite directors.

Number three on the list is "Heat." "Heat" could have been a classic. Instead it is a near-miss. Pacino, who is my favorite actor, blows it. His performance is a little too hyper, a little too much "Scent of a Woman." Interesting note, they deleted a few scenes from the film of Pacino's character, Vincent Hanna, getting high on coke. Pacino crafted the performance around this, which, of course, explains why he is so hyper in some scenes. I don't know why they deleted the scenes, although my best guess is that the studios didn't want the "hero" of the film to be a cokehead. Anway, without that context the character of Hanna comes off as a little goofy in some scenes.

The second mistake is that DeNiro and Pacino are only in the film, together, for two minutes. Here is a three hour film, with the two best actors of their generation, and you only put them in one scene.

But the good far outweighs the bad. Music, cinematography, atmosphere are all outstanding. These are really the staples of any Michael Mann film. Performances, especially by Val Kilmer, Ashley Judd, and DeNiro are great.

And, of course, the legendary bank robbery/shootout:

Monday, December 18, 2006

Links of the Week

20 years ago, a group of lions and cape buffalo were stranded on a 200 KM island in the Okavango Delta. The result: Super-Lions.

From the TED Talk series... Fascinating talk by Sir Ken Robinson on education. The video is about 20 minutes, but Robinson is both incredibly intelligent and very funny...

Drop out of high school, lose your driver's license.

Mississippians killed in Iraq.

David Pogue on Net Etiquette.

Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach For America, on recruiting.

The Mississippi Teacher Corps deadline is December 22nd. Apply online here.

Meet one of our first acceptees for next year's class: Chimaobi Amutah.

The N word...

The N Word Part Two...

Chaos Theory, a simple, yet completely addicting game. My high score is 123.

Best World Music of 2006. Toure's album is outstanding.

A Bi-Partisan commission has released a report on education with some fairly radical (for the U.S.) suggestions. Here's a quote from the NYT: Among other things, the report proposes starting school for most children at age 3, and requiring all students to pass board exams to graduate from high school, which for many would end after 10th grade. Students could then go to a community or technical college, or spend two years preparing for selective colleges and universities.

For you education policy wonks, here is a paper on certification. The study includes TFA. I hope to do a similar study about MTC at some point. Thanks to alum Chris Wilkens for the paper. First sentence: We use six years of data on student test performance to evaluate the effectiveness of certified, uncertified, and alternatively certified teachers in the New York City public schools.

Mississippi's prison population keeps growing, most of it drug related. We've had a thirty year "War on Drugs" and what do we have to show for it?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Kermit Evans

Here's an email from one of our alumni, Lauren (Glas) Zarandona, who still teaches in Hollandale, about Kermit Evans, the young man who died in Iraq.

I tried calling you last Saturday after Kermit's memorial service. It was incredibly emotional. His parents and wife accepted bronze stars in his memory. It was a beautiful addition to a service honoring an honest-to-goodness hero. After reading your most recent blog I wanted to let you know about my connection with him, a connection that started at the Simmons High career fair in 2004.

It was my first year teaching. As I wandered around the career fair, I met Kervin Evans, Mr. Evans' oldest son and an agricultural researcher. I invited him to speak to my 7th grade math classes that afternoon. He was honored and did an awesome job. My students finally realized that math is used beyond the classroom, even by people from Holandale. In his excitement, Kervin asked his wife to take a picture of us together. A few months later, Kermit returned home from his first tour in Iraq. He saw the picture and teased his brother about the "cute young woman in the picture." Shortly after that, Kermit came to a banquet for Ms. Young and presented her with a flag that was flown in Iraq. While everyone mingled, he approached me and teased me about the photo. He also shared his wedding photos with me.

Meeting both men was like meeting up with long-lost relatives. Maybe a connection to the Delta is all that it takes to make you family with those who owe it for who they are. They make their home your home.

But even while "at home," I often feel frustrated. I wish that I better understood what my students need and when; sometimes all that I can do is teach them math (just a small part of my job). Other times (very rarely), I can do more. I, like the Evans' men, can make them family. Those are the best moments, the moments that inspire me to keep teaching.

Adryon on the Mississippi Teacher Corps

Excerpt from our Teacher Spotlight series. Today is Adryon Wong. Adryon is one of our first-year teachers in the Mississippi Teacher Corps.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Friday, December 15, 2006

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Myrlie Evers

Governor Winter on the dinner he held for Myrlie Evers, the wife of Medgar Evers:

Photo of the Week

This is a photo from my first year of teaching, 1998, in Namibia as a Peace Corps Volunteer. This is Aina Mukumangani, from the village of Engela, on the northern border of Namibia, about two miles from the Angolan border.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Public Schools versus Private Schools

Would you feel comfortable sending your children to public school in Mississippi today?

Racial Reconciliation

Former Mississippi Governor William Winter talked to the second-years on Saturday. Here is what he had to say about racial reconciliation (you can see more clips from the talk here and photos here).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

List of the Week: Top Four Erykah Badu Songs

My senior year at Amherst College I had a radio show on WAMH. I played R and B, mostly old-school as the early to mid-nineties were a terrible time for soul music. Really, there hadn't been much done since the 70's. The 80's and 90's were all about Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston and watered down Stevie Wonder. Great singers, but not much in the way of innovation. Then, around 1996 (I graduated in 97) some great neo-soul artists burst on the scene, people like D'Angelo, Tony Rich, Maxwell, and Erykah Badu. They set the stage for the late-90's explosion, headlined by Lauren Hill. This, in turn, set the stage for Alicia Keys, John Legend, India Arie, Joss Stone, and all the other emerging, great artists of today.

I remember finding Erykah Badu's first single, "Next Lifetime," amid the stacks of records in the WAMH station during senior year. So, in honor of Ms. Badu, here are my favorite Erykah Badu songs:

4. Your Precious Love. Erykah and D'Angelo cover the Marvin Gaye classic.

3. Tyrone. Originally ad-libbed live at a show in London.

2. Next Lifetime. I remember playing this over and over again during senior year.

1. In Love With You. From the "Mama's Gun" album. Five minutes and twenty-one seconds of perfection. Badu and Stephen Marley.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Links of the Week

Updated Mississippi Teacher Corps stuff:

Three Seniors, a documentary about three high school seniors that I am working on.

Governor Winter visited with Teacher Corps on Saturday. Photos here.

Second-year Ruth Kuhnau is an outstanding photographer.

MTC Wiki has been updated and organized.

Apply to Teacher Corps today. The next deadline is December 22nd.

Also, more on Kermit Evans, the Hollandale native and Simmons High graduate, who died in Iraq here.

Teen Pregnancy

Former Mississippi Governor William Winter talked to the second-years on Saturday. Here is what he had to say about teen pregnancy (you can see more clips from the talk here and photos here).

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Erica on Findng Out She Was Pregnant

Erica talks about the first person she talked to when she found out she was pregnant, from the film I'm working on: Three Seniors.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

List of the Week: Best Mamet Quotes

David Mamet is one of favorite writers and directors.

He's famous for "Glengary Glen Ross" and "The Untouchables" but, in the last nine years, he has written and directed some fantastic, little-known, films:

The Spanish Prisoner, a suspense film about the oldest con on the books;

The Winslow Boy, a drama bout a boy accused of lying;

State and Main, a comedy about a movie production coming to a small, Vermont town;

Heist, a, you guessed it, heist film;

Spartan, an action movie about a Delta Force soldier trying to rescue the president's daughter.

The last two, Heist and Sparten, are my favorite. They are flawless films.

Here are the top quotes from those films:


1) Indicate you heard me.

2) In the city there is always a refelection, in the woods always a sound.

3) You wanted to go through the looking glass. How was it? Was it more fun than miniature golf?

4) You're gonna leave your life or you're gonna leave the information in this room.

5) Ain't nobody here but two people in green.

6) You need to set your motherfucker to "receive".

7) "One riot, one ranger," you ever heard that?


1) My motherfucker is so cool, when he goes to bed, sheep count him.

2) Bergman: Don't you want to hear my last words?

Joe: I just did.

3) Everybody needs money. That's why they call it money.

4) I don't want you as quiet as an ant pissing on cotton. I want you as quiet as an ant not even thinking about pissing on cotton.

5) Love makes the world go round. Love of gold.

6) I tried to imagine a fella smarter than myself. Then I tried to think, "what would he do?"

7) Cute as a pail full of kittens.

8) She could talk her way out of a sunburn.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Links of the Week

Mississippi. 1950. In the dark of night a knock at the door. Three white men. With guns. The Clarion-Ledger article here.

ACLU picks Mississippi for investment. I've found that a lot of Mississippians, even those leaning to the left, have a skewed view of the ACLU as an "evil organization." This "evil organization" plans to address such topics as: racial profiling; felony disenfranchisement; and unfair treatment of hurricane victims living in government mobile units. Full disclosure, growing up in Baltimore my mother worked for the ACLU and my father served on the Board.

Deregulation of the trucking industry leads to: a decrease in training; an increase in accidents; an increase in profits; and an increase in political donations to the Bush admin.

According to this survey, Bush is the worst President ever.

Those of you who keep up with the Mississippi Teacher Corps know that I am a big believer in open source Web 2.0 ideas like wikis and blogs. Basically, I'm a big believer in having the organization (in this case the Teacher Corps) be as transparent as possible. If it was up to me we'd post the budget on the website. Anyway, great article about: the possibilities of wikis and blogs for the various U.S. spy agencies; the outstanding results from the trial runs; and the opposition of middle management and the old guard.

Speaking of wikis, the MTC Wiki is growing...

Do schools need Superintendents?

In Mississippi, 18.4% of the teachers are male. MTC is about 50/50 each year.

Governor Winter to Address MTC

In what has become an annual occurrence, former Mississippi Governor William Winter will speak to the members of the Mississippi Teacher Corps on Saturday, December 9th as part of Dr. Andy Mullins’ Leadership class. Dr. Mullins, the Co-Director and Co-Creator of the Mississippi Teacher Corps, served as Special Assistant to the Governor from 1980 to 1984. Dr. Mullins was part of the fabled “Boys of Spring,” a group of young staff members pushing for educational reform. Gov. Winter’s signature act was the Mississippi Education Reform Act of 1982, which, among other things, created kindergarten for all Mississippi children. The Education Reform Act also opened the door for alternate-route teacher certification, which in turn, led to the creation of the Mississippi Teacher Corps in 1989.

“Year in and year out, Governor Winter is far and away everyone’s favorite speaker,” said Dr. Mullins. “We are honored that he takes time out of his busy schedule each year to come and spend time with the Teacher Corps students.”

Dr. Mullins recently published a book collecting Governor Winter’s most memorable speeches and writings, titled “The Measure of Our Days.” “The book has sold out of two printings,” said Dr. Mullins. “Governor Winter and I have been traveling all over the country doing signings and readings. It has been great to see old friends.”

William Winter served as Governor of Mississippi from 1980 to 1984. Here is an excerpt from Dr. Mullins’ preface to “The Measure of Our Days.”

The noted author, David Halberstam, called William Winter his favorite politician and personal hero. In his dedication address for the William F. Winter Archives in and History Building on November 7, 2003, Halberstam said:

I believed for a long time that America would not be whole until Mississippi became part of it, and you [Winter] more than any other politician are the architect of the new Mississippi and the new America… What made you special as a politican was in the end something elemental in all of our best politicians-a faith in the nobility of ordinary people, and a belief that if spoken to with candor and decency, they can rise to the occasion. It is nothing less than the most basic premise of a working democracy. Have faith in the people and their better nature. You understood the importance in this state, of the special burden of the past, and the responsibility to the future and again and again in your decisions, and blended mercy and compassion and a sense of justice against the harsher pressures of immediate political necessities.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


MAEP is the funding formula for Mississippi public schools. It has rarely been full funded. Gov. Barbour isn't fully funding MAEP this year. Find your school district here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ole Miss Police Officer Killed in the Line of Duty

I'm not sure why this story hasn't gotten more media attention. Robert Langley, a University of Mississippi police officer, married with four kids and just back from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, was killed after pulling over a high, drunk, fraternity student, Daniel Cummings, for a DUI. Cummings took off and the Langley was dragged from the vehicle.

Cummings, 20, is in jail on charges of capital murder. His family has hired local, legendary lawyer Steve Farese, a poor man's Johnnie Cocharn who has a knack for getting wealthy kids off. Farese's cell phone jingle: Bad to the Bone.

List of the Week: Best Books of 2006

As December is right around the corner here are the three best books released this year:

1) The Blind Side by Michael Lewis. Lewis, of Moneyball fame, is an outstanding writer. In The Blind Side he writes about a white, Christian family in Memphis that adopt an African-American teenager named Michael Oher. Oher has been raised by the streets, but the effect of his new family is amazing. The story takes place in the context of the rise of the West Coast offense in football, and thus the value of a quarterback and a left tackle to protect the quarterback's blind side from players like Lawrence Taylor. Fascinating read by a gifted author.

2) Chasing Ghosts by Paul Reickhoff. Paul was a year behind me at Amherst. Very good guy. Also, I'm sure, the only Amherst grad to fight in Iraq. Paul was a Platoon Leader in Baghdad, and now runs Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the largest veterans group for these two wars. A first-person look at the war in Iraq.

3) No Excuses. A look at high performing schools in low-income areas. The findings: All were charter schools. Schools had extended day and school year; nothing interrupted instructional time. Principals could hire and fire at will. They spend a lot of time examining the KIPP schools, started by two TFA alumni.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Links of the Week

I've changed the title of Monday's weekly post from "Articles of the Week" to the more appropriate "Links of the Week." The weekly schedule is:

Monday: Links of the Week

Tuesday: List of the Week

Wednesday: Misc.

Thursday: Photo of the Week

Friday: Misc.

Saturday: Video of the Week

As soon as I figure out how to post this schedule in the sidebar I will.

And now, without further ado, the Links of the Week:

What are the odds of dying?

Darfur. I wrote about this a few days ago... At the start of his first term George W. Bush received a memo about the genocide that ocurred in Rwanda while Clinton was President. Bush scribbled on top of the memo, "Not on my watch." Well, it is happening on his watch. In the NYT article I've linked to (you'll need Times Select) Kristof writes about the incredible heroism and sacrfice he has witnessed in Darfur:

"Invariably, the most memorable stories to emerge from genocide aren’t those of the Adolf Eichmanns, but those of the Anne Franks and Raoul Wallenbergs. Side by side with the most nauseating evil, you stumble across the most exhilarating humanity."

Of course, like Rwanda, all of this is happening on our watch.

Harriet Brown writes about helping her daughter cope with anorexia. "I stood in the middle of the kitchen and thought of how our lives had shrunk to the confines of these four walls. The counter and sink were piled high with dirty plates, ice cream tubs, glasses and pans. Between shopping, cooking, eating with Kitty, spending time with Lulu and going to work, my husband and I had no time for cleaning, much less anything else. Suddenly I was filled with fury. I grabbed a dish and smashed it on the linoleum, where it broke into half a dozen pieces. I broke another, and another, and another. There were so many things I couldn't fix or make right, so many feelings I couldn't handle."

Great article on the black/white and rich/poor achievement gap. The writer does a good job of presenting all sides. As I've written before, I feel that if MTC ran our own charter school in the Delta, if we had the kids from pre-K to 12th grade, we would be one of the highest achieving schools in the state.

Why the U.S. loses "Small Wars."

Finally, on a lighter note, Microsoft's new music player, the Zune, is a mess.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Natural Po-Lice

As I've stated before The Wire is my favorite TV show. Many critics consider it the greatest television show of all time. Don't believe me, go here. The Wire is currently finishing up its fourth season on HBO. The producers will only make one more season. And then, like Keyser Soze, it's gone.

Here is one of my favorite scenes from the first season: Detectives Bunk Moreland and Jimmy McNulty working a murder scene using nothing but variations of the F word. Not for sensitive ears...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Photo of the Week

Second-Years Aaron Thompson and Huong Long study for Dr. Dougherty's Ed Research course...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

On God... Redux

I posted on God and the Bible a few days ago. The post seems to have drawn a lot of attention so I'm reposting here with the various comments. Enjoy...

A friend of mine and I have been debating the Bible, speficially Exodus.

Here is Chapter 21 in Exodus, the chapter immediately following the "Ten Commandments."

If you are a Christian it seems to me that, from this chapter, you have to agree that either:

1) The Bible is not the literal word of God


2) God condones slavery.

To quote from Exodus, Chapter 21:

Verse 1 (remember this is immediately following the commandments): These are the rules you shall lay before them.

2: When you purchase a Hebrew slave, he is to serve you for six years, but in the seventh year he shall be given his freedom without cost.

7: When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go free as male slaves do.

26: When a man strikes his male or female slave in the eye and destroys the use of the eye, he shall let the slave go free in compensation for the eye.


Anonymous said...
The Bible is way too complicated a text to be evaluated in such a simplistic manner. Theologians have spent lifetimes over centuries plumbing its depths. The short and simplest answer to your crude analysis: The Old Testament was not intended to be followed as law by Christians - Christians are not to follow it. It was meant for the Jews, and was meant to apply to them for only the time until He was to come to earth and fulfill His plan. Jews have stuck to using it, but that was not His intention, as Christians see it. The Old Testament can be used for background or insight into the meaning of the New Testament, b/c the New Testament sometimes refers back to it, but it's not to be used as law applicable to Christians.

9:47 PM
Ben Guest said...
So it is not the literal word of God?

5:24 AM
Anonymous said...
It is the word of God. I really don't know how adding "literal" to this makes any difference, one way or the other. What is says is what He means, but as with any complex text rooted in history, it takes learning and contemplation to really understand it - to really understand what He means. It would be foolish to just sit down without either this learning, or guidance from those who've done such learning (hence the priest or minister interpreting the gospel reading each Sunday for his flock), and attempt to understand the text's meaning. It is the word of God, but it takes learning and contemplation to understand it. In any case, with regard to the Old Testament from which you quote, it doesn't much matter - it's not a directive for Christians, as I've already noted. It's been superseded for Christians by the New Testament.

8:38 AM
Ben Guest said...
What is so complicated about "When a man strikes his male or female slave in the eye and destroys the use of the eye, he shall let the slave go free in compensation for the eye." That seems pretty straightforward to me.

8:56 AM
Anonymous said...
Exactly - it seems straightforward TO YOU. The fact that you see this statement plucked out of the Bible as uncomplicated and straightforward is precisely the reason you need the aid of scholars (or church tradition as well in the case of Catholics) in interpreting the text's meaning for you. The Bible means what is says, but it takes insight and study to understand what it says. You're using your uninformed interpretive methods to read the text, and that will lead to faulty understanding. Context, time and circumstances, changes in language and meaning, among many other factors, play into figuring out the meaning of the text. A little prayer might help as well, to seek His guidance, to ask for the "gift of ears" to hear what He means to tell you. I'm guessing you're some form of secularist or agnostic, someone who tries to understand religion, faith, and God from a faulty worldy perspective, and relying entirely on his puny human brain (and everyone's is puny - a full-on child of the "Enlightenment" which really was in many ways just man returning to the darkness of the cave. And again, in your debate with your friend, you seem to be attempting to tar Christians with clearly un-Christian positions, or to debunk the Bible as guidance for Christians. But again, the Old Testament is not meant as such guidance for Christians. The New Testament is. So . . . even if you were to succeed in your task of getting your opponent to either support slavery or refute the authority of the Old Testament, it would be a pointless victory, because neither position would be relevant to Christianity. Debunk the Old Testament all you want, but if that's what you're doing, you'd be debunking Judaism.

1:23 PM
Ben Guest said...
Again, what is so complicated about the lines I've quoted. In Verse 1 God is quite clearly saying these are the laws I expect you to obey. In Verse 26 one of the laws is: if you beat your slave and knock his eye out, you should let him go. Now' I'll admit that I'm no genius, but this isn't Toni Morrison or James Joyce. The language is clear and straightforward.

As for my own beliefs, I am an atheist. I think the Bible is a nice bedtime story, nothing more.

1:40 PM
Anonymous said...
I enjoy our occasional debates on your blog, but your argumentation strategy is baffling - you simply repeat your early question multiple times in response to multiple answers to that question. You did the same thing in your odd point about education spending: "If money doesn't matter, why do rich people spend so much on their children's schooling?". I and others provided you responses to that, but your response to our responses served not as an answer to our reponses or a refutation thereof, but a stubborn repeat of your initial question, even after it was answered multiple times. Here, again, the line you quote in and of itself is a mere assemblage of words, but must be taken in context and considering multiple factors to really understand its meaning - that's what makes it complicated. Continuing to repeat the question and the quote does not advance your argument. And again, your underlying point was to get your friend to say either the Bible's not to be taken literally, or the Christian God condones slavery. And once again, the Old Testament does not apply to Christians as a directive, so you might as well be quoting from "Ulysses" and putting your Christian friend on the spot about its contents. Ulysses is about as relevant as law to Christians as the Old Testament is. Again, God may be saying these are the laws we are to obey, but he's speaking to the Jews. Talk to a Jew and debate him/her about whether he/she believes those things.

And I hope you don't mind an observation about you personally, but your atheism (or other godlessness) has been obvious to this sometime reader. You seem a bit of a lost soul, unclear who you are in this world and your proper role in it, and you seem to put much energy into knocking down long standing institutions that have served mankind well and serve important purposes and that we diminish at our own peril, the institutions of faith being the most important among these. I hope you find your way back to your God-given faith, if indeed you were blessed with one. If not, I hope you seek out one for yourself. It's necessary for a life of meaning, which from your past and current activities you seem to find important to pursue. The essence of human life is faith in God; all other truly purposeful pursuits are necessarily directed toward serving Him, either directly (as in the priesthood, for example) or indirectly (by serving others). All other pursuits are merely killing time. Your teaching would serve much more meaning for you if you had in mind that your educating children were a form of serving God. Good luck to you.

4:02 PM
Passerby Reader said...
I see that the reason you repeated your question is likely because you didn't feel that it was sufficiently answered the first time. "Anonymous" suggests that he never had a teacher when he didn't pick up on that. I'm just a passerby reader, but have encountered far too many "Anonymous'" to not say something. His Christian education runs very deep and I would even venture to say that a lot of his words are his own, and he's truly internalized many of the teachings of Christianity. But he's so adamant and pushy. Of course one would expect him to believe that his side of the argument is correct (or he wouldn't be arguing it) but the way he argues it puts others on the defensive. There is an art to getting your message across in a way that someone who opposes your point will at least consider it. Discussions versus arguments. And to actually contest something that he said: how closeminded of him to think that the thing that gives his life meaning must be the only thing that can give a person's life meaning.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Club Ebony

Club Ebony is for sale. I think Elizabeth and Anderson should buy it.

List of the Week: Best Bond Films

In honor of Casino Royale here are the five best James Bond Films:

5) For Your Eyes Only. The first Bond movie I ever watched in the theaters. Great poster.

4) The Spy Who Loved Me. Greatest Bond opening ever. Ski chase that ends with a parachute jump off of a mountain. Could only find it in Italian, but here it is:

3) Dr. No. The one that started it all.

2) From Russia With Love. The second one. Great villains and chase at the end.

1) Goldfinger. The third film and the blueprint for all subsequent Bond films. After Spy Who Loved Me this is the best opening sequence.

Even though my top three are all Connery films Roger Moore is my favorite Bond.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Articles of the Week

Should the US bring back the draft? I think so.

Fascinating article on AIDS in Africa, an epidemic that is ravaging a country. Having taught in Namibia (in Southern Africa) from 98 to 2000 this is a topic that always hits close to home. The article is by an economist, and she takes evaluates the problem from an economist's eye. Money quote: "It (AIDS) won't disappear until poverty does."

The black/white education gap still exists and, in some cases, is growing, despite what the President says. Key quote is towards the end: "Edwin E. Weeks Elementary School in Syracuse was singled out for narrowing the gap between black and white students. Dare Dutter, the principal, credited a prekindergarten program and a school health clinic that helped keep poor students from missing class."

How come we haven't stopped the genocide in Darfur? First Paragraph: Early in his first term, President Bush received a National Security Council memo outlining the world's inaction regarding the genocide in Rwanda. In what may have been a burst of indignation and bravado, the president wrote in the margin of the memo, "Not on my watch."

One of my four favorite authors (the others are Hemingway, David Simon, and Alan Moore) gave a talk at Politics and Prose today.

Friday, November 17, 2006

On God...

A friend of mine and I have been debating the Bible, speficially Exodus.

Here is Chapter 21 in Exodus, the chapter immediately following the "Ten Commandments."

If you are a Christian it seems to me that, from this chapter, you have to agree that either:

1) The Bible is not the literal word of God


2) God condones slavery.

To quote from Exodus, Chapter 21:

Verse 1 (remember this is immediately following the commandments): These are the rules you shall lay before them.

2: When you purchase a Hebrew slave, he is to serve you for six years, but in the seventh year he shall be given his freedom without cost.

7: When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go free as male slaves do.

26: When a man strikes his male or female slave in the eye and destroys the use of the eye, he shall let the slave go free in compensation for the eye.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Where does genius come from?

Is greatness born or can anyone, with hard work, achieve greatness?

Surprisingly, the answer is hard work.

The article is How to be a Genius.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

List O' The Week: Best Places to Eat in Oxford, MS that No One Knows About...

Last week's list was the best places to eat in Oxford.

Now, for the best places to eat in Oxford that you have never heard of (what can I say, I'm a food connoisseur):

8. Chaney's Drug Store. Next to Blockbuster. The spot for ice cream.

7: H2O. Healthy Chinese on University Ave across from Sonic.

6. Handy Andy's. Local hangout. Always crowded. North of the Square, across from Sears. I always get the turkey/bacon melt. Great burgers and BBQ sandwiches as well.

5. Crossroads. BBQ joint on College Hill Road, about five miles outside of Oxford on the right.

4: Citgo. Located at Four Corners, right before the Square. Authentic African cuisine.

3. Dixieland BBQ. Located on University Ave. in the strip mall with Big Star and Subway. Best pulled pork in Oxford. Get it with the slaw and beans.

2. B's BBQ. Located in the Shell Service Station on Lamar, by the Days Inn. Best BBQ ribs in the state, done Hawaiin style. Fallin' off the bone. You will crave these for the rest of your life.

1. The Mexican Tienda. Half a block north of Handy Andy's on the right. Doesn't even have a name. It is just a Mexican store with a counter in the back. No English spoken. Order the pork torta with avacado. Thank me later.

Class Size

Classes should be no more than 15 students. Here's the research. Don't let anyone tell you class size doesn't matter.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Are you rich?

So, just how rich are you?

Articles of the Week


In World A you make $110,000 and others earn $200,000.

In World B you make $100,000 and others make $85,000.

Which world do you choose? Why living in a rich society makes us feel poor...

First-year Chris Caputo is featured in this article about overcrowded schools in Jackson.

"Everyone is worried about kids and guns, right? So why don't they go after the gun manufacterers and gun dealers instead of people who make video games?" The answer here.

Where do teachers rank in a poll of prestigious jobs? Has the prestige level improved or decline in the last 29 years? The answers may surprise you.

"On Sept. 11, 2006, the fifth anniversary of the terror attacks that devastated our nation, a man crashed his car into a building in Davenport, Iowa, hoping to blow it up and kill himself in the fire." Find out the rest here...

Blogging resources...

Hollandale is offering a free fitness center, on-site, for their teachers and staff.


I started as the Program Manager of the Mississippi Teacher Corps in July of 2003. Since then, I've recruited three classes.

Here are the overall attrition rates for the program, by years removed from college:

Total Number of Participants: 73
Attrition: 8
Attrition Rate: 11%

Participants right out of college: 47
Attrition: 4
Attrition Rate: 8%

Participants out of college for one to two years: 16
Attrition: 3
Attrition Rate: 19%

Participants out of college for more than two years: 10
Attrition: 1
Attrition Rate: 10%

While the data shows that participants right out of college have the lowest attrition rate the sample size is too small to draw any firm conclusions...

How to Improve Public Schools...

Here is an email from my cousin Mark (courtesy of my Aunt Betsey), who is an investment banker in Chicago:

I went to a conference at Kellogg last week and one of the keynote speakers (there were several) was Arne Duncan, CEO of the Chicago Public School (CPS) System.  I am really embarrassed at how little I knew of his story.  I will give you a quick background and my notes from his talk. 
Arne grew up on the south side of Chicago (he is white) in Hyde Park.  This is a beautiful part of the city that includes the University of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry.  However, it is surrounded by some of the worst poverty in the city.  Arne’s Mom created a program where kids came to her after school and received tutoring to make up for what then had been dubbed the “worst public school system in the nation.”  After participating in the program Arne became one of the tutors.  Arne graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1987.  He was co-captain of the Harvard basketball team and an Academic All-American.  He went to Australia to play professional basketball from 1987 to 1991.  He moved back to Chicago in 1992.
After starting a separate education initiative in Chicago, Arne went back to his Mom’s program (his Mom is still running the program today 40 some years later) and ran a 6 year experiment.  He took a class of kids that just graduated sixth grade and stayed with them using his Mom’s program all the way through high school.  The class in front of Arne’s had a high school graduation rate of only 33%.  Arne’s class the next year had a graduation rate of 90%!!!!!!!!!  Think of the impact he made on just those kids.
He then helped to start a magnet school in Chicago.
Next, he was recruited to join CPS.  This was a very difficult decision because he had spent his whole life fighting against CPS and all of its’ problems.  However, he had the vision to see 2 important things that gave CPS a chance:
In 1995, Mayor Daley took control of CPS.  This point simply cannot be over-emphasized.  Unanimously, all critics saw the move by Daley to be political suicide.  How could he possibly take that mess into his realm?  Duncan saw the credibility it would give CPS to get the resources and commitment it so desperately needed (for example, access to the Police Department).  He said several times there is no way he would have joined CPS if Daley had not made this move. 
The second point is not as important, yet it is still critical.  The CPS board is appointed not elected.  He compares notes to CEOs of other major urban school systems and they have a very difficult time getting anything done because board members are voting for separate agendas instead of working together as a team.  In the last 5 years, the CPS board has 0 non-unanimous decisions.  He has a good relationship with the teachers union (see below) but he doesn’t want them on his board.
Duncan joined CPS in 1998 and became CEO in June 2001.  He first set out on a path to make improvements in 3 areas:
Literacy.  The scores were so bad when he came in the kids even scored lower on the word problem portions of math exams because they couldn’t read the question.  This was a major initiative to get kids to read better.
Increase the talent pool.  At times this has created conflict as more talented individuals move into the system but the conflict leads to better decisions for the kids.
There are no good schools without good principals.  They have tapped into places like Kellogg to teach their principals how to act like CEO’s. 
Major recruiting initiatives have increased the number and quality of potential applicants.  In recent years, applications for open teaching positions have gone from 9,000 to 20,000.
The goal is to make Chicago the mecca for people that want to be serious about education.
Baby boom retirements creates a huge opportunity to increase talent.
Increase the number of kids that get education starting at 3 and 4 years old.  Most kindergartners that come to CPS had no pre-schooling.  Many didn’t know the front from the back of a book, literally.  Eighth grade test scores are better than 3
grade test scores because so many kids had to play catch-up.
Separate notes:
Renaissance 2010 – Program to open new high quality schools by 2010.  The new schools in the system are highly successful while the controversial closing schools have had about 10% of their population at the median test levels or higher.
Central office has changed its’ mindset from the “schools work for us” to “we support the schools.”
One Kellogg graduate joined CPS and is working on a government grant that would give the system funds to create a “pay for performance” opportunity.
Give top schools more flexibility by removing bureaucracy while mandating exactly how probationary schools spend their money so CPS has more confidence in their results improving.
“Our job is to fight for children and worry less about parents and bureaucrats.”
Don’t let kids move through the system without hitting minimal standards.  This was a crucial mistake in the past.
Close poor performing schools.
Two key issues:
1 Honesty.  Focus on making sure there are safeguards and we are hiring the right people so that funds are used for the right reason.
2 Create a culture where people are comfortable challenging each other.  Creates better outcomes.
Lessons learned:
“When you know something is not the right fit, make the tough call.”
Find ways to celebrate success.  The system has 5 straight years of increasing test scores.  People need to be rewarded and thanked.
Take care of each other.
Give people the sense of importance of their work.  This is a:
Civil rights issue
Social justice issue
More notes:
North Lawndale in Chicago has received millions in grant money to better the neighborhood over the years and has absolutely nothing to show for any of that money.  The reason is that the education system never changed.
New Orleans.  The tragedy wasn’t created by hurricanes or levies braking, those just revealed the tragedy that was already there.  Officials have contacted Duncan about New Orleans and he has told them they can rebuild structures but unless they rebuild the school system effectively it will all be for naught.
He has a good relationship with the teachers union.  The leader of the union was a great CPS teacher.  She has no desire to protect bad teachers.  They can now fire any teacher in their first 4 or 5 years without cause.  There is no seniority.  If a school is closed jobs are not guaranteed.  Retention of the good teachers is the biggest issue.
High schools improvements have not kept pace with elementary school improvements.  The biggest issue for the high schools is that they need to get harder.  Kids are not adequately prepared when they graduate.
Stay focused.  CPS has declined grants that don’t fit within the strategy to which they have committed.
Learn lessons from the successful schools.  Louise Alcott (where Meredith did her student teaching) has dramatically increased their capture rate (percent of kids eligible to go to the school that actually go there).
Arne Duncan is just a young guy who grew up on the south side of Chicago.  He is not eloquent, but as you listen to him you are bombarded with all of these issues he understands so clearly.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over

From The Onion, January 17, 2001
Issue 37•01

Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over'

WASHINGTON, DC–Mere days from assuming the presidency and closing the door on eight years of Bill Clinton, president-elect George W. Bush assured the nation in a televised address Tuesday that "our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over."

President-elect Bush vows that "together, we can put the triumphs of the recent past behind us."

"My fellow Americans," Bush said, "at long last, we have reached the end of the dark period in American history that will come to be known as the Clinton Era, eight long years characterized by unprecedented economic expansion, a sharp decrease in crime, and sustained peace overseas. The time has come to put all of that behind us."

Bush swore to do "everything in [his] power" to undo the damage wrought by Clinton's two terms in office, including selling off the national parks to developers, going into massive debt to develop expensive and impractical weapons technologies, and passing sweeping budget cuts that drive the mentally ill out of hospitals and onto the street.

During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years.

"You better believe we're going to mix it up with somebody at some point during my administration," said Bush, who plans a 250 percent boost in military spending. "Unlike my predecessor, I am fully committed to putting soldiers in battle situations. Otherwise, what is the point of even having a military?"

On the economic side, Bush vowed to bring back economic stagnation by implementing substantial tax cuts, which would lead to a recession, which would necessitate a tax hike, which would lead to a drop in consumer spending, which would lead to layoffs, which would deepen the recession even further.

Wall Street responded strongly to the Bush speech, with the Dow Jones industrial fluctuating wildly before closing at an 18-month low. The NASDAQ composite index, rattled by a gloomy outlook for tech stocks in 2001, also fell sharply, losing 4.4 percent of its total value between 3 p.m. and the closing bell.

Asked for comment about the cooling technology sector, Bush said: "That's hardly my area of expertise."

Turning to the subject of the environment, Bush said he will do whatever it takes to undo the tremendous damage not done by the Clinton Administration to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He assured citizens that he will follow through on his campaign promise to open the 1.5 million acre refuge's coastal plain to oil drilling. As a sign of his commitment to bringing about a change in the environment, he pointed to his choice of Gale Norton for Secretary of the Interior. Norton, Bush noted, has "extensive experience" fighting environmental causes, working as a lobbyist for lead-paint manufacturers and as an attorney for loggers and miners, in addition to suing the EPA to overturn clean-air standards.

Bush had equally high praise for Attorney General nominee John Ashcroft, whom he praised as "a tireless champion in the battle to protect a woman's right to give birth."

"Soon, with John Ashcroft's help, we will move out of the Dark Ages and into a more enlightened time when a woman will be free to think long and hard before trying to fight her way past throngs of protesters blocking her entrance to an abortion clinic," Bush said. "We as a nation can look forward to lots and lots of babies."

Soldiers at Ft. Bragg march lockstep in preparation for America's return to aggression.

Continued Bush: "John Ashcroft will be invaluable in healing the terrible wedge President Clinton drove between church and state."

The speech was met with overwhelming approval from Republican leaders.

"Finally, the horrific misrule of the Democrats has been brought to a close," House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert (R-IL) told reporters. "Under Bush, we can all look forward to military aggression, deregulation of dangerous, greedy industries, and the defunding of vital domestic social-service programs upon which millions depend. Mercifully, we can now say goodbye to the awful nightmare that was Clinton's America."

"For years, I tirelessly preached the message that Clinton must be stopped," conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh said. "And yet, in 1996, the American public failed to heed my urgent warnings, re-electing Clinton despite the fact that the nation was prosperous and at peace under his regime. But now, thank God, that's all done with. Once again, we will enjoy mounting debt, jingoism, nuclear paranoia, mass deficit, and a massive military build-up."

An overwhelming 49.9 percent of Americans responded enthusiastically to the Bush speech.

"After eight years of relatively sane fiscal policy under the Democrats, we have reached a point where, just a few weeks ago, President Clinton said that the national debt could be paid off by as early as 2012," Rahway, NJ, machinist and father of three Bud Crandall said. "That's not the kind of world I want my children to grow up in."

"You have no idea what it's like to be black and enfranchised," said Marlon Hastings, one of thousands of Miami-Dade County residents whose votes were not counted in the 2000 presidential election. "George W. Bush understands the pain of enfranchisement, and ever since Election Day, he has fought tirelessly to make sure it never happens to my people again."

Bush concluded his speech on a note of healing and redemption.

"We as a people must stand united, banding together to tear this nation in two," Bush said. "Much work lies ahead of us: The gap between the rich and the poor may be wide, be there's much more widening left to do. We must squander our nation's hard-won budget surplus on tax breaks for the wealthiest 15 percent. And, on the foreign front, we must find an enemy and defeat it."

"The insanity is over," Bush said. "After a long, dark night of peace and stability, the sun is finally rising again over America. We look forward to a bright new dawn not seen since the glory days of my dad."

Friday, November 10, 2006


Have you ever wondered what the view from Mount Everest would look like?

In 360 degrees?

Go here...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

List O' The Week: Best Places to Eat in Oxford, MS

1. L and M's

Italian. For the big spenders, although they have reasonable lunch prices. The fixed price dinner ($45) is the best. If you don't get the fixed price be sure to order the cured meat and cheese tray.

2. Yocona River Inn

The best steaks in town (although Yocona is actually about 10 miles outside of Oxford). BYOB. Menu changes weekly. Be sure to get the Yocona sauce on your steak.

3. Ajax

Great prices, great food. Diner atmosphere. My favorite is the meatloaf with fried eggplant and sweet potato casserole.

4. Petra

Greek place. Never seems to be crowded so I don't know how long it will last. I always get the Petra wrap, a combination between a gyro and chicken souvlaki. The fries are fantastic and the desserts (tiramisu and baklava) are perfect.

5. Taylor Grocery (see photo)

15 miles south of Oxford in the tiny town of Taylor. Good country food. Buffet is $5. Best day to go is Friday lunch for the catfish plate with fries and hushpuppies.

6. Phillips Grocery

Best burgers in the state.


I'm going to attempt to stick to a regular blog post schedule:

Mon: Interesting Articles

Tues: List

Wed: Misc.

Thurs: Photo of the Week

Fri: Misc.

Sat: Video of the Week

Monday, November 06, 2006


Two good articles on AIDS in Mississippi here and here. The first one will break your heart and lift your spirits at the same time.

An Exit Strategy for the War on Drugs. As Carver says in the first episode of The Wire, "Why do they call it a War on Drugs? Wars end."

What is The Wire? The greatest television show in the history of the medium.

Don't believe me?

Go here.

52 Lives and 2.3 Billion...

Krugman's column from Friday: The third paragraph is key...

As Bechtel Goes

Bechtel, the giant engineering company, is leaving Iraq. Its mission — to rebuild power, water and sewage plants — wasn’t accomplished: Baghdad received less than six hours a day of electricity last month, and much of Iraq’s population lives with untreated sewage and without clean water. But Bechtel, having received $2.3 billion of taxpayers’ money and having lost the lives of 52 employees, has come to the end of its last government contract.

As Bechtel goes, so goes the whole reconstruction effort. Whatever our leaders may say about their determination to stay the course complete the mission, when it comes to rebuilding Iraq they’ve already cut and run. The $21 billion allocated for reconstruction over the last three years has been spent, much of it on security rather than its intended purpose, and there’s no more money in the pipeline.

The failure of reconstruction in Iraq raises three questions. First, how much did that failure contribute to the overall failure of the war? Second, how was it that America, the great can-do nation, in this case couldn’t and didn’t? Finally, if we’ve given up on rebuilding Iraq, what are our troops dying for?

There’s no definitive way to answer the first question. You can make a good case that the invasion of Iraq was doomed no matter what, because we never had enough military manpower to provide security. But the lack of electricity and clean water did a lot to dissipate any initial good will the Iraqis may have felt toward the occupation. And Iraqis are well aware that the billions squandered by American contractors included a lot of Iraqi oil revenue as well as U.S. taxpayers’ dollars.

Consider the symbolism of Iraq’s new police academy, which Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, has called “the most essential civil security project in the country.” It was built at a cost of $75 million by Parsons Corporation, which received a total of about $1 billion for Iraq reconstruction projects. But the academy was so badly built that feces and urine leak from the ceilings in the student barracks.

Think about it. We want the Iraqis to stand up so we can stand down. But if they do stand up, we’ll dump excrement on their heads.

As for how this could have happened, that’s easy: major contractors believed, correctly, that their political connections insulated them from accountability. Halliburton and other companies with huge Iraq contracts were basically in the same position as Donald Rumsfeld: they were so closely identified with President Bush and, especially, Vice President Cheney that firing or even disciplining them would have been seen as an admission of personal failure on the part of top elected officials.

As a result, the administration and its allies in Congress fought accountability all the way. Administration officials have made repeated backdoor efforts to close the office of Mr. Bowen, whose job is to oversee the use of reconstruction money. Just this past May, with the failed reconstruction already winding down, the White House arranged for the last $1.5 billion of reconstruction money to be placed outside Mr. Bowen’s jurisdiction. And now, finally, Congress has passed a bill whose provisions include the complete elimination of his agency next October.

The bottom line is that those charged with rebuilding Iraq had no incentive to do the job right, so they didn’t.

You can see, by the way, why a Democratic takeover of the House, if it happens next week, would be such a pivotal event: suddenly, committee chairmen with subpoena power would be in a position to investigate where all the Iraq money went.

But that’s all in the past. What about the future?

Back in June, after a photo-op trip to Iraq, Mr. Bush said something I agree with. “You can measure progress in megawatts of electricity delivered,” he declared. “You can measure progress in terms of oil sold on the market on behalf of the Iraqi people.” But what those measures actually show is the absence of progress. By any material measure, Iraqis are worse off than they were under Saddam.

And we’re not planning to do anything about it: the U.S.-led reconstruction effort in Iraq is basically over. I don’t know whether the administration is afraid to ask U.S. voters for more money, or simply considers the situation hopeless. Either way, the United States has accepted defeat on reconstruction.

Yet Americans are still fighting and dying in Iraq. For what?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Thursday, November 02, 2006

After the Storm...

Good article in today's NYT about a struggling high school in New Orleans. I'll cut and paste the article here (at great personal risk) for people like Uncle Coy, right-wing nutjobs too conservative to pay for the Times Select access.

After the Storm, Students Left Alone and Angry

NEW ORLEANS, Oct. 31 — John McDonogh High School has at least 25 security guards, at the entrance, up the stairs and outside classes. The school has a metal detector, four police officers and four police cruisers on the sidewalk.

In the last six weeks, students at McDonogh, the largest functioning high school here, have assaulted guards, a teacher and a police officer. A guard and a teacher were beaten so badly that they were hospitalized.

The surge hints at a far-reaching phenomenon after Hurricane Katrina, educators here say. Teenagers in the city are living alone or with older siblings or relatives, separated by hundreds of miles from their displaced parents. Dozens of McDonogh students fend largely for themselves, school officials say.

“They are here on their own,” Wanda Daliet, a science teacher, said. “They are raising themselves. And they are angry.”

The principal, Donald Jackson, estimated that up to a fifth of the 775 students live without parents.

“Basically, they are raising themselves, because there is no authority figure in the home,” Mr. Jackson said. “If I call for a parent because I’m having an issue, I may be getting an aunt, who may be at the oldest 20, 21. What type of governance, what type of structure is in the home, if this is the living conditions?”

In a second-floor cosmetology class, two of the six girls said their parents were elsewhere.

“I don’t get to talk to her as much as I want,” one girl, Tiffany Mansion, 16, said as she looked down.

Her mother is in Little Rock, Ark.

In the lunchroom, a shy 18-year-old who was asked whom he went home to in the evenings, said: “Nobody. Myself.”

His parents are in Baton Rouge.

Mr. Jackson said many parents whom he had spoken to were in Baton Rouge, Houston or elsewhere. “That’s the question that’s buzzing in everybody’s heads,” the McDonogh curriculum coordinator, Toyia Washington Kendrick, said. “How could you leave your kids here, that are school-age kids, unattended?”

The answer is as various as the fragmented social structure, which the hurricane a year ago made even more complicated. Some students describe families barely functional even before the storm. Others say pressing economic necessity has kept parents away.

Rachelle Harrell was living in Houston, working as a medical assistant and trying to pay off a $1,300 electricity bill in New Orleans. But she yielded to her son Justin and his cousin Kiante, both 16, and sent them back to New Orleans on a Greyhound bus while she stayed in Texas.

The decision anguished Ms. Harrell, 36, even though Justin was being picked on in Houston and yearned to return to McDonogh. Justin; his sister, Eboni Gay, 18; and Kiante set up housekeeping in Ms. Harrell’s old house in the Algiers neighborhood. A monthly check from his mother and a job at a fast-food restaurant helped make ends meet.

Ms. Harrell anticipated the inevitable question.

“ ‘Why are your children at home, and you’re in Texas?’ ” she asked. “Well, I’m trying to get home. It’s just crazy. But my kids know my situation. When school started, I had to work a couple of more weeks, because I had that light bill.

“It’s like, ‘Oh my God, is everything O.K.?’ I couldn’t even sleep at night. O.K. Lord, if anything happens, I’m going to be seen as such a bad mama, and I’m a hundred miles from home.”

Last week, she left her job in Houston and returned to New Orleans — for good.

If the causes are complicated, the consequences seem evident to school officials: a large cadre of belligerent students, hostile to authority and with no worry about parental punishment at home.

Since McDonogh reopened nearly two months ago with enrollees from 5 of the city’s 15 high schools, the students have committed six “very serious” assaults, Mr. Jackson said.

A young man suddenly bent over in the milling crowd waiting for a bus after school. The police were handcuffing him, for smoking marijuana, a school official said.

In the halls, students jostle one another and laugh on the way to class. In some classes, students strain attentively toward the blackboard.

But there is tension. The storm overturned their world, teachers and administrators say, destroying houses and scattering families.

“They’re rebelling against authority,” Ms. Daliet, the science teacher, said. “You ask them to do something, they have an attitude.”

In the lunchroom and in the corridors, students are ordered to tuck in their shirts. Many just grin in response.

“When you have guidelines at home that reflect guidelines at the school, it’s a seamless transition,” Mr. Jackson said. “But when it’s not there, you deal with a student who’s genuinely, ‘I don’t care, I’m going to do what I want to do.’ ”

Fights break out daily. About 50 students have been suspended; 20 have been recommended for expulsion.

Of the 128 schools in the city, fewer half have reopened. The state took over many of them after the storm. That change, hailed at first as a bright beginning, has proven to be partly stillborn, as teachers, textbooks and supplies came up drastically short in the state-run schools.

The McDonogh library has no books. State officials, fearing mold, threw out all of them.

Rundown before the storm, the school buildings are now even more battered. The stalls in a girls’ restroom have no doors.

Recrimination and finger pointing have been ample, and state officials are on the defensive.

“The same way other residents are calling it quits, teachers are no different,” Leslie Jacobs, a member of the state school board, said. “The teacher shortage is real. The book shortage is real. We have a labor shortage. There is a shortage of bus drivers. The whole food-service industry is short of workers.”

Mr. Jackson is a smiling, purposeful presence, friendly but firm, upbraiding youths for slovenly dress and pursuing others along for slacking in the halls. At every turn, it can seem, an omnipresent security guard or police officer speaks to teenagers, searching for weapons or admonishing for back talk.

As a group milled on the street corner of the three-story 1911 brick building, a guard called out from the steps: “He’s taken his shirt off! They’re getting ready to fight!”

Three burly police officers quickly went up Esplanade Avenue to break up the clash.

Mr. Jackson conceded that the scale of the unrest had taken him aback.

“I knew it would happen,” he said. “I had some forewarning. But I didn’t know it would be of this magnitude. We’ve seen things that really shouldn’t occur in a school.”

Several weeks ago, a teacher was “beaten unmercifully” by a ninth grader enraged at being barred from class because he was late, Mr. Jackson said. The teacher, hospitalized, has not returned to work. The student was arrested.

An 18-year-old knocked a guard unconscious. The police charged him.

The reputation for violence, first acquired through a shooting in the gymnasium in 2003 in which a young man with a rifle killed a student in front of 200 others, has grown.

Three weeks ago, a group of students summoned reporters to the school to complain about the many officers.

“We have a lot of security guards, and not enough teachers,” Maya Dawson, 17, said.

Jerinise Walker, 15, added: “It’s like you’re in jail. You have people watching you all the time.”

Mr. Jackson said the time had not come to reduce security.

“When we get our students to respond in a different way,” he said, “then I can back off. We’re trying to train our students to resolve conflict, and that’s something they haven’t been able to do.”

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Teacher Pay Raises

As regular as the sun and the moon are teacher pay raises in an election year. Basically, Barbour is trying to buy off the teachers by not fully funding MAEP.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Great Idea

Great Idea from Teaching in the 408

To quote:

I burned a CD with two tracks: 1) The Imperial March from Star Wars, and 2) the London Something Choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus. As we work on killing Evil Run-Ons, I ask for the thumbs-up, thumbs-down for each sentence and then blast one of the two tracks. I've done this maybe 482 times in the last week and I still haven't gotten tired of it.

Monday, October 30, 2006


Here are some recent articles that have caught my eye:

Iraq is no Vietnam.

This one is for Ann, Ten Reasons why corporal punishment doesn't work.

Kevin Tillman, brother of Pat Tillman, and a US Army Ranger.

Tiny Courts of New York.

Part One and Part Two of a fascinating interview with former Baltimore Chief of Police Eddie Norris. After serving as top cop he did six months in federal prison.

What it takes to be great...

Doonesbury's War

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Teacher Quality

Article by State Supt. Hank Bounds on teacher quality. He writes "Student success depends on quality teachers."

I agree. How do you get more quality in teaching? Easy. Raise the incentives for people to go into teaching.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Here are my favorite Chuck Norris facts:

When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.

Outer space exists because it's afraid to be on the same planet with Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris has two speeds. Walk, and Kill.

There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of animals Chuck Norris allows to live.

Two Down

Teacher Corps has lost another first-year teacher, our second in two months.

I hope, at some point, "Blue Shirt" will post about his reasons for leaving.

As for posting about people who have left the program, it is not that I want to point fingers at them or make them feel worse than they already do, but I do want to be as honest as possible about how difficult the program is. I don't want to hide the fact sometimes people leave. Teaching in a critical-needs school district is incredibly tough. The flip side is, it is also incredibly rewarding.

Here is a copy of one of the flyers we use when recruiting:


Employees for growing, complex enterprise in a highly regulated industry. Must stay focused on core business despite disparate stakeholder demands, uncertain funding, critical labor shortages, and politically charged environment. Must be highly skilled at dealing with sensitive and divisive issues that may jeopardize relationships, health, and/or career. Must be able to withstand intense scrutiny of professional and personal life. Typical workday: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., plus weekends. College education required. Pay significantly below market rate. Future of nation at stake.


Alan Moore on Iraq

Here is Alan Moore's piece on the Iraq war, complete, uncut, and referenced in the previous post.

Here's a joke: What do you call an eight-year-old Iraqi kid with no arms, surviving family members, or unblackened skin below his waist? I don't know. I was shouting at the TV and I didn' t catch his name. Don't worry if you don't get it. We'll no doubt be telling it again in another dozen years or so. And still not getting it. It' s the repetition that grinds us down. All this Groundhog Day shit. The history classes of the twenty-second century, assuming that we can be bothered to hold one, will hate us for doing everything twice and messing up their grades. "So which Bush was Gulf War II again? Was that the wimp or the chimp?"

The British have been running this bayonet-porn loop for more than a millennium, since the 1090s and the first Crusades, waged to safeguard holy Christian sites (which, being also Muslim sacred places, were not actually threatened in the first place) rather than for Freedom and Democracy, although strangely enough the invading forces were even then led by Franks. Back then, those territories blocked England's access to the Silk Road, but that wasn't why we were going to war. It was those Christian monuments we were concerned about. Richard the Lionheart addresses his men with that Tony Blair weasel-in-a-slaughterhouse look in his eyes: "Look, okay, I know there's always a conspiracy theory, but I can honestly say this is not about silk."

Fast forward to the early twentieth century and we find Britain still stoically putting the Mess into Mesopotamia. While Johnny Arab had helped us out against the evil Turk, we now needed his oil to lubricate the gears of burgeoning British industry, and that necessitated a regime-change. Thus we liberate the area, and set it on its proper path towards Iraq and Ruin.

Forty years later, with Britain still running the country, we have Winston Churchill proclaiming that he has no serious objection to RAF aeroplanes bombing rebellious Kurd natives with poison gas. As with so many great cultural high points like, say, concentration camps, chips, or colonialism, you'll fi nd that the British are usually ahead of the curve.

Around about this time, during the 1930s, Prescott Bush had made the family fortune through his business deals with the Third Reich (he was even able to make a gift of Hitler's dinner service to the Skull &Bones fraternity), these carried out enthusiastically and profi tably right up to the afternoon in 1942 when Roosevelt screwed the pooch by making trade with Nazi Germany illegal. This, no doubt, came as a great relief to Winston Churchill, with England having been at war against the Reich since 1939, and the American diplomats in London urging him repeatedly throughout those years to take the side of Germany.

Now, since the late nineteenth century, Millennialist Christians had been lobbying the British Parliament to create an Israeli homeland in Palestine, their reasoning apparently based on Biblical prophecy rather than on political or humanitarian considerations. If the prophecy of God's Chosen People coming to a home within the Promised Land was fulfi lled, this would presumably be followed by, successively, the Second Coming of Christ and the Apocalypse. And you have to admit, they were pretty much on the money, except for all that second coming shit.

When the Second World War ended with its spectacular unveiling of the world's first genuine weapon of mass destruction, the momentum to create a Jewish State had become considerable. Taking advantage of advances in technology and thus media coverage that war had brought, a group of Zionist freedom-fighters (including in their ranks a young Menachim Begin) bombed a British Army Canteen in the area. The way in which this drew world media attention to what would be an ultimately successful cause quite clearly created the modern concept of, uh, freedom fighting, and gave all subsequent freedom fighters an excellent workable model to follow: blow stuff up and get on television.

Of course, it turned out that the Land Without A People wasn't seen in quite that light by, well, the Palestinians, as an example. This led to all sorts of trouble, but within a couple of decades, Israel had the cushion of a number of Pro-Western regimes that had been established in the area, such as that of much-missed torture impresario the Shah of Iran. The oil, not that this has ever been about oil, was relatively safe.

Then Jimmy Carter somehow wins the ?76 elections, appoints clean-up crusader Stansfi eld Turner as head of the C.I.A. and subsequently halts clandestine C.I.A. cash payments to Iran's mercenary Ayatollahs, made on the understanding that the clerics would ignore the torture and imprisonment of ordinary Muslims, and would leave the Shah alone. Naturally, that went down real well, and by 1979 the Shah had been deposed, fundamentalist Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was in charge of Iran and had taken an plane- full of American hostages to show he meant business.

Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, it was around this time that the Western powers found it in their best interests to support the military government of handsome forty-two year old Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq. He may have been a psychopath and murderer, but at least he wasn't an Islamic fundamentalist, and he was our psychopath and murderer, just like President Marcos had been "Our son-of-a-bitch" in the Philippines, and Slobodan Milosevic was the Balkan we could do business with.

During the inevitable Iran-Iraq War, we helpfully supplied Saddam with the munitions and the poison gas he used on the Iranians. In fact, that's how we can be so certain that Saddam has hidden weapons of mass destruction like, say, anthrax or Sarin gas: Donald Rumsfeld (whose company was selling these aforementioned commodities to the Iraqi dictator until just before the first Gulf War in 1991) was thoughtful enough to keep all the receipts.

But while Johnny Iraqi had helped us out against the evil Iranians, it now looked like he might be thinking of acquiring all his country's oil wealth for himself, along with that of neighboring Kuwait. We were fairly certain about this last point, since according to several reports, Saddam's minions had been in touch with Madeline Albright at the U.S. State Department regarding whether the U.S., as a valued ally and weapons-provider, would have any objection to such an invasion. The State Department didn't say no.

Which brings us to the first Gulf War, courtesy of former C.I.A. operative and Nixon- booster George Herbert Walker Bush.

After staging what amounted to a brilliantly media-managed Arms Fair in the region (where after all most prospective arms-customers were conveniently situated) , Bush senior seemed to lack the necessary resolve to finish off Saddam Hussein's regime, perhaps because of his most senior military advisor's firm assurances that such a move would almost certainly lead to the Iraqi leader, with nothing to lose, launching weapons of mass destruction at Israel and precipitating "Armageddon in the Middle East". Interestingly, the same advisor, whose views are believed to be identical with those of Bush senior, made exactly the same point when advising against the current Iraqi conflict, but presumably the younger Bush, possessing even less of "the vision thing" than his father, was not persuaded. Cue one thousand points of light over Baghdad.

The elder Bush had not, it turns out, been the first to offer other Middle Eastern powers relief from the widely- despised Saddam. Accomplished American-trained freedom fighter and millionaire heir to a Saudi builder, Osama Bin Laden, fresh from having successfully repelled the evil Soviet Union from Afghanistan at the request of the U. S., apparently tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Saudis that his growing band of Mujahedin freedom-fighters, AI Qaeda, could remove Saddam if only permitted to base themselves within Saudi Arabia. Perhaps mindful of how difficult it might be getting rid of AI Qaeda after such a conflict was concluded, the Saudis declined and instead placed their trust (disloyally, it seemed to the grudge-prone Bin Laden) in America. With retrospect, you can see how this carefully-balanced, teetering pile of megalomaniacs was beautifully set up, and only needed one disaster to be escalated into almost unbelievable catastrophe.

That disaster happened at the 2000 U.S. elections, which many of us might have mistaken for an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard if only there'd been a little banjo music playing in the background. Elected by the slenderest, some would say actually non-existent majority, George Walker Bush the younger obviously needed something to make him appear legitimate if he was to hang onto office long enough to accomplish all that his corporate backers required of him. Surrounding himself with enthusiastically pro- war figures such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld (who'd been recommending an invasion of Iraq to safeguard oil supplies since 1998), Deathrow Dubya announced during the early months of his administration that the time had come to wage a war on Terror, taking in such rogue states as Afghanistan and Iraq.

Afghanistan was, at that time, the Bush administration's first priority. A pipeline through Afghanistan with which the estimated thirty trillion dollars' worth of oil remaining in the former Soviet Union could be pumped to the Gulf, reducing the United States' worrying dependence on Arab resources, was a favored option by the U.S. oil corporations in the 1990s. Clearly, such hopes were dashed by the emergence of the strongly anti-U.S. Taliban regime during the decade's later years, and just as clearly it would have been against International Law to overthrow a country's leadership simply because they didn't comply with American commercial interests.

At this point it was recalled that former anti-Soviet Mujahedin hero Osama Bin Laden was believed to be residing, with his AI Qaeda cohorts, in Afghanistan. The U.S. had semi-legitimate reasons for wishing to pursue Bin Laden, since he had, after all, been behind that first terrorist bomb at the WTC, and also behind the attacks on America's African embassies. Accordingly, during a diplomatic summit taking place over the Summer of 2001 and subtitled "Brainstorming Afghanistan", American diplomats communicated with the Taliban using the intermediary of Pakistan, informing them during the informal "phase two" period of the meeting that the U. S. would be launching a War Against Terror sometime in September, invading Afghanistan for the purposes of unearthing the AI Qaeda leader. This information was presumably passed on to Osama Bin Laden by his contacts in the Taliban and, unsurprisingly given that the Pentagon war-machine has promised to descend upon him in September whatever he did or didn't do, it seems he opted to get his retaliation in first.

Following the Twin Towers attack, with the war on Afghanistan successfully underway, Dick Cheney retired from his executive position at the company engaged in building nuclear plants in North Korea, just in time for George Bush Junior to announce his rogue-state shopping list, the Axis of Evil, with Iran and North Korea right there following Iraq. Mind you, on taking up the office of Vice President, Dick "The Man of a Thousand Faces " Cheney also declared that he was not currently being paid by Iraqi reconstruction contract winners Halliburton. This was technically true, but only due to Cheney's new arrangement with the company where, for tax reasons, they'd agreed to only pay him every six months.

With the Afghani war wrapped up in its half-assed, inconclusive way and Saddam next in the Bush administration's sights, we were assured that any attack on Iraq would be only engaged in for the purposes of ridding Saddam of whatever nuclear, chemical or bio-weaponry he still possessed. This was definitely not about oil, whatever those cynics who pointed out all the American main player's links with energy corporations, or the fact that Condoleezza Rice actually has an oil tanker named after her, might suggest.

Then, during those months the U. S. and U. K. required to get sufficient forces for invasion to the Gulf, when they pretended to give a shit about what Hans Blix found or didn't find, in face of the continued non-discovery of a clearly smoking warhead, they changed tack and made the Saddam regime's supposed links with AI Qaeda and other terrorist organizations the focus of their self-justification. It was suggested that old weapons lying around in Iraq could fall into the hands of terrorists, although why any would-be terrorists would look for raw materials in Iraq, the world's most heavily monitored country, when there's pounds of the stuff going for a song out in the wilds of the largely bankrupt former Soviet Union is anybody's guess. The touted AI Qaeda linkage also disappears before the simple fact that Saddam Hussein is a secular leader, while AI Qaeda are a bunch of headcase Islamist fanatics sworn to depose the hated unbeliever from his seat of power, or else wait for the coalition of the willing to do it for them.

As the long-established start-date for the war approached with no clear evidence for its necessity having emerged, the coherence and authority of the United Nations turned out to be its first casualty. This venerable institution was cast as a laughing stock purely for its refusal to state that black was white upon America's say-so. The arguments and evidence served lukewarm by the coalition were a laughable, moronic embarrassment (like that British Intelligence document detailing Saddam's WMDs that Colin Powell seemed so impressed by, and which turned out to have been mostly copied from a graduate thesis written by a Californian student more than ten years earlier), but for anyone to actually laugh or to point this out was spun by the Bush administration as equivalent to a bunch of smug and snooty French intellectuals pissing on the dead of the Twin Towers while eating snails and taking Jerry Lewis seriously. Apparently, you' re either for us, or against us. This means, effectively, that unless we are all willing to accept every word that comes from the mouth of former cokehead, allegedly recovered alcoholic and corporate fraudster George W. Bush as literally God's own truth, then we must expect to be regarded and treated as actual members of AI Qaeda.

The WTC plane-bombings, for the Bush administration that provoked them in the first place, failed conspicuously to prevent them and then shamelessly exploited this awful human tragedy for the advancement of its own shitty little agendas, have become the sacred touchstone of this proposed "War without end." Any previously unthinkable political action can be instantly validated by the magic words 9-11, in much the same way as Ariel Sharon's government in Israel can make horrific moral and humanitarian issues simply vanish by mentioning the Holocaust. The logic seems to be that if anything sufficiently dreadful has ever been done to you in the past, then you have complete license to do dreadful things to everyone else, forever. This, of course, is a logic that would set serial killers from bad homes free to kill as they pleased, would even provide them with the necessary chainsaws and electrical tape. It is a logic that states "Monstrous things have been done to us, so therefore its okay to behave monstrously." It is George Bush's logic, and also that of Osama Bin Laden. Or any four-year-old boy, for that matter. As a result of following this logic, it seems that since the September of 2001, America and Israel have been competing against each other in a breathtaking downhill slalom from the moral high ground, squandering public sympathy as if neither nation ever expected to have further need for such a thing.

Which brings us back to the current Iraqi conflict, the way in which it has rolled inexorably into being despite the glaring lack of proof for its necessity, despite the condemnation of the world's religious leaders and the previously unimaginable millions worldwide who marched against the war in February. Because, in a way, it's actually true when they say that this war is not about oil... or at least, not entirely about oil. It is, as they say, an "effects-based campaign." Part of its major intended "effect" must presumably be to terrify other potential enemies into submission by convincing them the world's last Superpower/first Ultrapower has fallen into the hands of a shrieking, masturbating lower primate and is now constantly a hair's-breadth away from going absolutely foaming fucking mad and killing everybody. It almost makes you long for the cosy and nostalgic days of the Nixon/Kissinger "Madman" ruse. I mean, say what you like about Richard Nixon, but he was at least enough of a human being to know that he was wretched and cursed, and to writhe and lie in order to conceal his shame. George W. Bush, on the other hand, has been Damned so long it looks like Saved to him. Being blissfully unburdened by moral considerations, anyone questioning the ethics of his administration will he met with that same half-amused, half-genuinely puzzled look in those remarkably closely-spaced eyes. Clearly, we don't get it. He's the President of the United States. He can do whatever the fuck he likes. Isn't that what the job's all about? Doesn't it say that in, oh, the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence or one of those other pieces of ass-wipe that he means to read if he ever finishes The Very Hungry Caterpillar?

Another effect of this effects-based strategy is presumably to intimidate and stifle opposition back home in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave itself. Buy a "Give Peace a Chance " Tshirt and prepare to take your next shit blindfolded in Camp X-Ray. So that's the Free taken care of. And by occasionally giving the electorate another squirt of Orange Alert, George "The Omen II " Bush can apparently reduce the Brave to sitting at home in their Hefty XXL Haz-chem suits with the windows taped up. As for any hold-out mouthy liberal celebrities, with the noble exception of Michael Moore, they can probably be convinced that discretion is the better part of valor, if only by taking a peep at the hate-mail received by poor old Martin Sheen for portraying an American President who is unlike George Walker Bush (This last point frankly confuses even keen America-watchers such as myself. I mean, I saw The Dead Zone, and I' ve got to say that I thought Sheen really had that dot-eyed fundamentalist fuckwit down.)

Perhaps the most important effect is the message sent to the rest of the world, which would seem largely to be the announcement of a new age of American unilateralism. (As one senior U. S. military source said regarding the real reasons for a war on Iraq, "We did it because it was doable.") If America decides that the assassination of foreign heads of state is now permissible, whatever international law might have to say on the subject, then that's just how it is. If America decides that it will stand alone in not recognizing the new International Criminal Court in The Hague then America has the military power to insist upon that stance, and it seems that military power has it all over that moral authority stuff that used to be so much of an issue. Might turned out to make right after all. Bullies everywhere punch first the air and then their wives in celebration. And of course, having made it plain that America no longer feels that it needs friends or allies amongst the world community, this tends to put the burden of responsibility for the relationship upon those increasingly nervous former allies themselves. The question becomes not "How much do we genuinely like America?" but "How scared of them are we? Wouldn't it be better to be inside the American tent and pissing out?"

This would certainly seem to be the position that Tony Blair has taken. Swearing allegiance to George Bush and his policy makers, Blair has obviously been prepared to alienate most of his own party, the greater part of the British population and a disturbingly large section of his former friends in what we laughingly refer to as "the European community". That's how important it was to him. He would echo every pronouncement from the Oval Office, and then would express his deep indignation at the way in which most of the world's people continued to see him as "Bush's poodle." One can only imagine how cross he'd be if the phrase "Bush's cock- puppet" achieved similar currency.

Now, though, with the seeming collapse of any organized Iraqi resistance and the apparent disappearance of Saddam Hussein and most of his Ba'ath party inner circle, it seems that any moral considerations that existed before or during the war have been somehow retroactively neutralized by this ambiguous, heavily qualified victory. The Hawks feel vindicated. They showed all those peaceniks that they could invade Iraq after all, and seemingly fail to remember that the debate wasn't about whether they could, but whether they should. Wasn't there some stuff about weapons of mass destruction that Saddam would be sure to deploy if he had nothing left to lose? Weapons that even the highly motivated, specially-created-to-retroactively- justify-the-war "US-movic" forces have thus far failed to find any sign of. A minor quibble. Let's gloss over it and get on with the victory parades and the award ceremonies. George and Dick, having been conveniently occupied elsewhere during that Viet Nam thing, finally get to take part, albeit from a safe distance, in a real, honest-to-gosh war. Tony gets a special Ellis Island medal, and perhaps a decoder ring. The Iraqi people get their freedom and democracy, although that means that the Shi'ar majority will almost certainly vote in an Ayatollah, and reject America. Or at least, they will if that big demonstration in Karbala chanting "No to America, No to Saddam! Yes, yes, Islam!" the other day was anything to go by. The Kurds get Kirkuk. The Turks get cross. AI Qaeda and Islamic Jihad, get a free recruitment drive. And I guess we'll just have to wait and see how many Tim McVeighs or John Mohammeds (both Gulf veterans) came home from the war with a party in their head this time round.

This, in many ways, whatever it sounds like, is a best-case scenario in that it makes the fairly unreasonable assumption that the "War in Iraq" was that three or four weeks of blowing our own people to bits in green-tinted pillhead night vision sandstorms that we' ve all just seen on television, and that it's over now. This assumes that the U. S. is not going to get pinned down, for years or perhaps decades, as an occupying force in an area largely hostile to its presence and already fraught with explosive religious tensions. It assumes that when the older British troops in this conflict ventured the opinion that Iraq could turn into "another Northern Ireland," all they meant was that there would be more Guinness theme- bars and that you could maybe dye the Euphrates green on St. Pat's Day. (Actually, to be strictly fair, there are significant differences between Iraq and Northern Ireland. One of these is that Ireland is relatively isolated in the midst of the cold and wet North Atlantic, whereas Iraq is slam in the middle of the hottest, driest political tinderbox in the world. Do the math, as they say.)

And meanwhile the world is gradually divided into Terrorists and Crusaders, white stetsons and black turbans. We have a war whose aims are so flexible and ambiguous that it could keep running for decades, simply hopping from rogue state to rogue state, designating new enemies as required if it ever looks like the wheels are going to fall off our current Axis of Evil. This is the world that we consider an appropriate gift for our children, and for their children. And when they look up at us with wide eyes and ask how we got rid of all those weapons of mass destruction, we'll tell them that we developed a marvelous Massive Ordnance Air-Burst device specially to do just that. Imagine their little faces: Shock. Awww.

So, Islam good, America bad, is that what we' re saying? Of course not. Islam is a noble and humane faith that unfortunately suffers from having no clear earthly chain of command, with a resulting vulnerability to self- appointed holy men who may wish to lead Islam into terrible conflicts, often against itself. Islam is one of the most important wellsprings of world culture, and if it wishes to preserve its considerable integrity into the foreseeable future, it needs to get its own house in order and do its best to isolate any dangerous crackpots who do not represent the ordinary, peace-loving average Muslim (much the same thing could of course be said about Christianity and Judaism. Islam hardly has a monopoly on blinkered sectarian fanatics whom we'd all be better off without).

How about America, then? Aren't all of us snooty European liberals anti-American these days? Of course not. Who told you that? What, we're anti Duke Ellington, Tom Waits, Herman Melville, Jackson Pollock, Chester Himes, Emperor Norton, Patti Smith, Tex Avery, Dorothy Parker, Edgar Allan Poe, Orson Welles, Billie Holliday, Raymond Chandler, Kathy Acker, Edwin Starr, Nina Simone, Raymond Carver, Paul Robeson, Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, Emily Dickinson Lou Reed, Wilhelm Reich, Thomas Alva Edison, Jimi Hendrix, Captain Beefheart, William Burroughs, Emma Goldman, Jack Kerouac, William Faulkner, Walt Whitman, Spike Lee, Allen Ginsberg, John Waters, Matt Groening, The Sopranos, Robert Crumb, Damon Runyon, Woody Guthrie, Edward Hopper and all the thousands of other wonderful people who express what the gigantic, unruly, thundering heart of America is really all about? No. You're a great country, but you (and the rest of the world) got Bushwhacked. A spooky little clique who for some considerable while contented themselves with being part of America's un-elected Shadow Government have now stepped boldly up into the footlights, where they feel (perhaps correctly) that they can now do or say whatever they want, and that nobody can or will do anything about it. They' re ready for their close-up, Mr. DeMille. There is no longer any need for secrecy or shadows. Covert wars were so last century, don't you think? This is 2003, and they can be as overt as they like, dividing up the millennial pie with the fuhrer's silverware.

As for the rest of us, if we're all not very careful, we could get dragged into a ruinously destructive and avoidable ongoing sprawl of war with the Islamic world, a culture every bit as astonishing and important as our own. A culture with which an exchange of information rather than missiles would surely be to the greater benefit of all concerned. Let's have a bit less cheap Shock here, and a bit more genuine Awe. Or at the very least, if we can't manage Awe, simple Respect. Respect for others, and, even more importantly, respect for ourselves. There hasn't been much of it around lately, between the Freedom Fries and the Friendly Fire.

So, you: give 'im 'is country back.

And you: smarten yourself up a bit.

Peace out.