Molly Ivins

January 31, 2007

Molly Ivins died tonight. It’s really quite unbelievable, to me.

Here’s the Austin American-Statesman story, “Molly Ivins, queen of liberal commentary, dies.”

Here’s a tribute from Editor & Publisher.  And a recent interview with E&P.

Molly Ivins graphic, copyright Tim Porter 2001

Graphic by Tim Porter, copyright 2001

Carnival of Education #104

January 31, 2007

Gate to Boston Latin school

Median Sib hosts the 104th Carnival of Education. If you’re not reading these regularly, you’re missing a lot in education. Even more useful is checking out the blogs the selected posts come from. This week’s posts include pieces on science education in Florida, the misfiring of the intended incentive pay to Houston Independent School District teachers, standards under NCLB, and more.

And, as EduWonks suggests, one might learn more by perusing the 57th Carnival of Homeschooling at PalmTree Pundit — a couple of good geography teaching posts there.

It’s like this internet thingy is some information highway or something.

Image: Gateway to Boston Latin School, probably the oldest operating public school in America. Ben Franklin’s schooling was obtained at this school (probably in an earlier building!)

31st Carnival of the Liberals

January 31, 2007

Blue Steel’s hosts the 31st Carnival of the Liberals. Not nearly so stuffy as the conservatives, and certainly much less well represented in the blogosphere, the posts carry a better information-to-rant ratio than most blog carnivals.

Carnival of the Liberals #31

The Gospel about Millard Fillmore

January 31, 2007

Great title for a sermon, yes?

Does the sermon live up to the title?  The Rev. John Robinson preached the sermon on September 18, 2005, at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco — at least, that’s what it looks like from the sermon archives where I stumbled on the thing. Fillmore was a Unitarian, so that sect might take a bit of pride in his accomplishments.

One historian said of Fillmore: “He came to the Presidency by the only road available to a man of limited ability, the death of his predecessor.” He was accused of being both pro-slavery and abolitionist. It was said he did “not have courage” “but was just inflexible.” They accused him of having “no position except equivocation,” that he was “without personal earnest conviction, personal force, or capacity for strong personal leadership.” His general rating as a president has been, until recently, below average, way below. He is judged bad or poor in his religiousness by those who judge such things. He was rejected by the religious community of which he was a member. He was a Unitarian.

There are three reasons to tell the story of Millard Fillmore: First, he illustrates the on-going tension in our free religious community, between the prophetic and the practical – the privilege of moral purity and the necessity to make real world decisions. Second, he illustrates well how difficult it is to judge our contemporaries. And third, to help restore Millard Fillmore to his rightful place in history.

I wish the good Rev. Robinson had included footnotes with the sermon.

Nixon’s dead, but dirty tricks live on

January 31, 2007

Do I correctly recall that President Bush suggested Republicans and Democrats can work together?

How long ago was that?

Already the right-wing hoax machine is out in force (Swift Boat Veterans again?). A couple of people sent me the latest hoax against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, claiming she was advocating a 100% tax on incomes of the rich. To be really fair and accurate, we need to note the hoax has been circulating since at least October.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in her office

Pelosi didn’t say she favors a 100% tax. The e-mail circulating is a hoax., that grand internet ally for getting the story straight, has a debunking post up.

Here are a few of the victims of the hoax:

It’s almost painful to watch how quickly some people succumb to hoaxes like these. One hopes the perpetrators of the hoaxes get the same twinge of regret that Mencken got from the Fillmore bathtub hoax — but one may be hoping against experience.

So far as I can tell, no one who posted the hoax has yet corrected the post, or noted the error (in a few places, others have written in to note the hoax).

Memories of a one-room school

January 28, 2007

Not just one room, but one room populated mainly by one family and cousins. Dying Man’s Journal has some reflections on a Canadian one-room school.

Some of my students could use such a school. It would be very good for them.

I am reminded that we learn so much  more than just the subjects taught, while we are in school.  A good school provides an education for life.

Why we need to study history

January 27, 2007

Do we want to prevent future genocides?

Then we need to study history.

I came across this article from the Azeri Press Agency, noting the death of historian Eric Feigl, who “disproved” the story of the Armenian genocide.

Amazing.  Is there an official association of voodoo and bogus historians?

(Here’s a collection of Los Angeles Times pieces about the Armenian genocide and current events around it, including the murder of a reporter who argued for Turkey’s recognizing the events.)

Molly Ivins “still not dead”

January 27, 2007

Texas newspaper columnist Molly Ivins fights cancer in an Austin area hospital. Molly Ivins

Editor & Publisher:

Her assistant Betsy Moon says she may be able to go home Monday. She adds that those close to Ivins are “not sure what’s going to happen, but she’s very sick.”

The 62-year-old columnist had taken an earlier break from her syndicated column, but resumed writing earlier this month.

Last October she had suggested this headline to an E&P interviewer: “Molly Ivins Still Not Dead.”

Ivins’ column carries a strong defense of traditional American liberalism, the love for education, home, family and a good story. Fiercely dedicated to getting the story right when she was a beat reporter (I encountered her when she covered the Rocky Mountain area for the New York Times), Ivins contributed some of the best stories on politics over the past three decades that I have read her work.

Heal up, get back to work, Molly.

Also see:  “A ‘troop surge’ is not acceptable to most Americans,” Bangor (Maine) Daily News, January 17, 2007

Tip of the old White House scrub brush to Virgotext.

Teacher incentives demotivate Houston teachers

January 26, 2007

Advocates of using pay to improve teacher performance grow excited over the addition of federal money to supplement local district pay incentives. But maybe they shouldn’t.

Contrary to other provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), there is little research to demonstrate that paying a few teachers more will improve student performance. Cheapskates looking for quick solutions advocate pay incentives, though, and some districts have plunged headlong.

Houston is reaping the whirlwind at the moment. Incentive pay went out earlier this week, and disparities showed up immediately.

The Houston Chronicle’s columnist Rick Casey very briefly explains in today’s edition:

It would be appropriate, in a way, for Houston teachers who are upset that they didn’t get bonuses to protest by calling in sick.

Or by stamping their feet and crying.

Or by holding their breath until they turn blue.

It would be appropriate, in a way, because it would be an immature response to an immature accountability system.

I’m not being snide about HISD’s bonus formula, despite some of the anomalies that have been identified, including no bonus for a teacher whose entire class passed the TAKS test nor for a teacher who had been recognized as bilingual teacher of the year.

There are several articles available on the payout, the way the plan is structured, and the problems. I understand the Houston Chronicle also has a web site featuring details of the payouts, including teachers by name, and amounts paid.

This is a great de-motivator. Who thought this through? No one.

Other sources:

Guess who said it: Quote for the day

January 26, 2007

The first step to maintained equality of opportunity amongst our people is, as I have said before, that there should be no child in America who has not been born, and who does not live, under sound conditions of health; who does not have full opportunity for education from the kindergarten to the university; who is not free from injurious labor; who does not have stimulation to ambition to the fullest of his or her capacities. It is a matter of concern to our government that we should strengthen the safeguards to health. These activities of helpfulness and of cooperation stretch before us in every direction. A single generation of Americans of such a production would prevent more of crime and of illness, and give more of spirit and progress than all of the most repressive laws and police we can ever invent — and it would cost less.

Who said it? Who prescribed such a “socialist” plan for our children? John Dewey?  Hillary Clinton?  Answer below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Slowdown for study

January 25, 2007

Posting will be light this weekend — I’m off to Pasadena, California, for a Liberty Fund seminar on the “Hoover-Roosevelt Conversation,” regarding the debates between Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt between 1928 and 1945.  Good fun, great company, hoped-for good stuff for future lesson plans.

But little time for blogging (and who knows how well the connections work).


Flags at full staff at sundown; mourning for Ford ends

January 25, 2007

Flag at Gerald Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery

Sundown January 25 marks the end of the 30-day period of mourning for President Gerald Ford, during which flags in the United States are flown at half-staff.

Flags retired at sundown should be quickly hoisted to the peak of the staff, and then lowered soberly. If a flag is lighted or otherwise authorized for 24-hour display, it should be hoisted back to the peak of the staff at sundown.

Tomorrow, January 26, flags should be posted at full staff, as usual.

See also:

Quote of the Day: FDR’s Four Freedoms

January 24, 2007

Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered the State of the Union speech for 1941 on January 6.  Eleven months and one day later, Japan attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. I have been fascinated by Roosevelt’s clear statement of the freedoms he thought worth fighting for, especially considering that most Americans at that moment did not consider it desirable or probable that the U.S. would get involved in the war that raged across the Pacific and Atlantic.

FDR and Churchill, August 9, 1941, aboard U.S.S. Augusta

Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, August 9, 1941; aboard the U.S.S. Augusta, in the Atlantic. Library of Congress.

Here is an excerpt of the speech, the final few paragraphs:

I have called for personal sacrifice, and I am assured of the willingness of almost all Americans to respond to that call. A part of the sacrifice means the payment of more money in taxes. In my budget message I will recommend that a greater portion of this great defense program be paid for from taxation than we are paying for today. No person should try, or be allowed to get rich out of the program, and the principle of tax payments in accordance with ability to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our legislation.

If the Congress maintains these principles the voters, putting patriotism ahead of pocketbooks, will give you their applause. Read the rest of this entry »

State of the Union

January 23, 2007

Clay Bennett cartoon, Bush at SOTU

Clay Bennett cartoon, copyright Clay Bennett. Bennett is the editorial cartoonist for the Christian Science Monitor and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for his editorial cartoons there.

Tonight President Bush delivers his State of the Union speech to Congress. State of the Union speeches are increasingly the only time we get to see presidents live, and that may lead to the extreme crabbiness about the speech Ed Brayton shows over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. It’s a Constitution-required exercise (Article II, section 3), though the prime-time television broadcast and other pomp and ceremony are not mentioned.

Section 3. He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper; he shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers; he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and shall commission all the officers of the United States.

In our history as a republic, presidents have done everything from just sending the details in a letter to Congress to the current pageant. My recollection is that Richard Nixon gave the first prime-time speech — before that the speeches were given during the business day, and not broadcast live — and that Ronald Reagan was the first president to give all of his SOTUs in the evening. (I’m very willing to correct that information if you have better details.)

And while they have occasionally made history, such as Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 SOTU (the “four freedoms”), my fondness for the events is mostly personal. Read the rest of this entry »

Belgium breaking up? Who gets the beer?

January 22, 2007

Town Hall in Leuven, Belgium

Town Hall in Leuven, Belgium; image from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Did I really miss this last month?  A television  network in Belgium, RTBF, started out the morning reporting on the breakup of Belgium.  Rather contrary to the rules of hoaxes set up by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre, no mention of a dramatization was made for at least a half-hour.

And of course, it was all a hoax.  The network said they wanted to generate discussion about how Belgium works, etc., etc.   Not everyone was happy with the kickoff to discussion.

I have no particular dog in that fight, though I’m fond of Belgium.  My wife spent a year studying in Louvin (Louvain, Leuven) (before I knew her), and we have wonderful photos.  My own business trip to Brussells was less than 24 hours, though we conducted our business in lightning fashion and were able to spend the evening in a wonderfully lit historic square sampling several brands of beer — okay, many brands.  We all made it to the Oh-Dark-thirty airplane home the next morning (some in better shape than others).

It’s always an eye-opener to learn how little most people know about the country, though it plays a huge role in the European Union, in NATO, and in the history of the 20th century, especially World Wars I and II.

Now it appears even Belgians don’t know whether their nation would break up or not.  Jacques Brel is no longer alive and well.


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