Your hosts in the Hall of Super Justice:

Conservator: The Red-Blooded, Blue-Collared American Hero
Captain Capitalism: Valiant Protector of a Free Market
Libertaria: With her Bureaucratic Shrink Ray
The Dynamic Uno: A Lone Force Against Idiotarian Evil
Senator Stupendous: Mild-Mannered Page by Day

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: The kids in third period AP Government and Politics class had a good laugh over this from USA Today:
The latest draft of the [Bush administration's "Greater Middle East"] proposal says ''change should not and cannot be imposed from the outside.''

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: Every time I read an article (link via A&L Daily) about Christianity, deism, and the Founding Fathers, I look for reference to the so-called Jefferson Bible, which is the most convincing evidence I've seen of Jefferson's lack of faith.

Jefferson's "cut-and-paste" gospel makes no reference to any supernatural activity (i.e. virgin birth, resurrection, afterlife) and includes only the moral teachings bits.

The line between deism and Christianity is not quite as blurry as many modern Christian supporters of the Founding Fathers may believe.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: When talk at work (at a public library in North Carolina) turns to politics, I get a chance to hear the political opinions of people who aren’t political junkies, that is to say, the opinions of the people who will actually decide the coming election. Getting the political temperature of the man on the street is both refreshing and discouraging. Here’s what people are saying outside the blogosphere:

Scott: High school senior, planning to enlist in the Marines after graduation.

Nick Berg was warned. He was offered a free ride home, and he was the only one in his hotel who rejected offers of military guard. They told him that if he went out in the city by himself, something would happen, and something happened.

Afghanistan was justified, because they attacked our country, but Iraq was just going too far, I think. That’s my opinion.

Julie: housewife, two young kids.

My husband thinks that we should just carpet bomb a city or two, and that would fix everything. I don’t think that makes any sense.

I don’t understand why we went there, what made us think that we could win this war like another war. We can’t win with the military, because these people have been raised that the way to get to heaven, they purpose for life, is to kill an infidel. It’s a war of opinion, and no matter how many troops or bombs we put in there, it’ll just be a waste of money. It’s their whole culture, and we can’t fight that the way we’re fighting things now.

Those people who were tortured, they were violated, and they’re going to feel like that for the rest of their lives. No amount of money is going to fix that. If Bush thinks he’s getting reelected, he’s wrong. No one’s going to reelect him after something like the torture pictures.

Cheryl: librarian.
I don’t really keep up with things, but when I saw what they did to Nicholas Berg, I . . . just an emotional reaction, I want them to use a bomb. One of the really big, long ones. The Sea of Iraq.

Mary: librarian.
I sympathize with the Iraqi people, but what I want is for those Iraqi clerics, the religious leaders over there, to stand up and condemn terrorism. Until they do that . . . well, they really need to stand up, because they’re the ones in control over there.

Helen Rittelmeyer: I took the AP test in Comparative Government yesterday, and to study for it, I've been watching Prime Minister's questions on C-SPAN2.

"Question time" on May 5, for the first twenty-five minutes, was filled mostly with questions on weighty issues like the war in Iraq, health care, and education reform.

Then came Bob Blizzard (Waveney), who had something even more important to talk about:
Now that there are record numbers of teachers in our schools and an unprecedentedly high level of pupil achievement, may we think about those who ensure that our children can cross the road safely to get to school? Will my right honorable Friend pay tribute to school safety crossing patrol officers, who do such valuable work in looking after our children? Is he aware that some of them are little better off than they would have been had they stayed on benefits, which could be rectified if they received a higher level of earnings disregard? Will he look into that so that our lollipop men and women can be rightly rewarded?

At least Blizzard could be understood, which is more than I can say for some of the Scottish MP's whose accents render their quesitons incomprehensible to American ears.

Video available at C-SPAN.org.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: The education crisis in Zimbabwe is, apparently, now over.

That's good, because it was getting pretty silly, and uncomfortably familiar.

The story is that the government ordered 45 private schools to be shut down and their principals and teachers arrested because they had raised their fees without government approval. (Law in Zimbabwe requires that any private school fee increase greater than 10% be approved by the government.) School leaders, however, claim that the Education Ministry is slow to grant permission for hikes.

The frighteningly familiar part is this: the government of Zimbabwe says that fee hikes at the schools were racist. The only reason for the private schools raising the price of education, they say, was to keep black students out. That's why they ordered the schools closed. To stop the racists.

For myself, I think that 580% inflation in Zimbabwe is a much better explanation, and most teachers and students at the 45 private schools agree.

Making accusations of racial discrimination for political purposes? Who does Mugabe think he is, Tom DeLay?

The New York Times has given this story only a couple of blurbs in its daily World Briefing (right next to, no joke, a story about the death of Max, the South African crime-fighting gorilla), maybe because we get enough of this problem at home. Complaints that high college tuition is what keeps economically disadvantaged students from going to college continue, and so do the accusations of racism in the education system, accusations that lead to affirmative action policies and silly essays claiming that affirmative action in university admissions allows white students at Ivy League schools to "understand themselves to be there on merit because they didn't get there at the expense of black people." (On behalf of all the white students admitted to Ivy League schools this year, then, thank you. I, for one, was really worried that I had stolen those points on my perfect SAT scores from the black kid next to me, and that all those A's I got were simply to perpetuate teachers' racial stereotypes. It's a load off my mind.) People in America and Zimbabwe both seem to see schools as being either diverse or racist, when, in fact, schools that are true meritocracies (America, in a perfect world) or admit purely on ability to pay (Zimbabwe) are sometimes neither. In any case, saying that a private school discriminates against poor people is like accusing Harvard of discriminating against stupid people.

Maybe Zimbabwe should just do what Rwanda has done and outlaw ethnicity altogether. Maybe America should do the same.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: Brian Weatherson over at Crooked Timber responds to this New York Times quote about Massachusetts and the death penalty . . .
One of the major recommendations is raising the bar for a death penalty sentence from the normal legal standard of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” to a finding of “no doubt about the defendant’s guilt.”

. . . by explaining that, finally, philosophers might be good for something:
When you deliberately omit a qualifying phrase, it is clear you mean to include things that don’t satisfy the qualifier. E.g.

A: Are there any enrolled students in X’s seminar?
B: There are no students in X’s seminar.

In this case, B’s claim clearly means there are no students, enrolled or not enrolled, in X’s seminar. So when Massachusetts deliberately drops the qualifier ‘reasonable’ from the standards, they clearly mean to say that the standard of guilt is that there are no doubts, reasonable or unreasonable, about the defendent’s guilt.

And that’s where the philosophers come in. We may not have many practical uses, but we can come up with unreasonable doubts at the drop of a hat. Are you sure the defendent intentionally killed the victim? Well, are you sure there are such things as intentions at all? Indeed, are you sure that other people exist? Are you sure you’re not a brain in a vat? Or being deceived by an evil demon? On the most plausible young earth creationist story I know, the earth was created as is when I woke up this morning, which would seem to tell against the guilt of all those accused of crimes before today.

One commenter put it best, saying that the new standard of proof is "like the famous amplifier volume control that goes all the way up to 11."

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: David Brooks gets in on the sex-as-economics analysis act that's, clearly, been around for a while.

Helen Rittelmeyer: The Supreme Court heard oral argument in Rumsfeld v. Padilla only just last week, but already other countries are learning from our example.

Thailand, specifically through Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Sihasah Phuangketkeow, is defending the military action (dare we call it a massacre?) against Muslims in the southern provinces by saying, "We expressed regret for the high death toll, but it was an action that had to be taken given the fact that the operation took place in such a swift manner."

General Sunthorn Kraikwan might as well have been citing Ex Parte Quirin when he said, "The militants had a clear intention to stock up firearms for their separatist operations. This is a serious matter. It's a threat to national security." A threat to national security from teenagers and young men, the overwhelming majority of which were armed with only machetes, and some thirty of which were inside the Pattani mosque when they were killed by rocket-propelled grenades.

The Thais are defending the killing of, among others, an entire Muslim village soccer team, by saying that they were "Islamic militants" with "ties to Al Qaeda," but have not offered any evidence to prove this claim. Replace "Islamic militants" with "enemy combatants," and, hey, is there an echo in here?

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