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.