Monday, April 19, 2010

Racist Tea-Partiers

If you read the New York Times or watch MSNBC you're probably quite convinced that the tea-party folks are total racists. Well, this video confirms it, if any further confirmation were needed. It features interviews with a number of tea-partiers holding forth on racial matters, and if you don't see and hear the bigotry dripping from their snarling redneck lips then you need to tune into Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann at MSNBC or read Frank Rich at the New York Times to get a racial sensitivity tune-up:

Oops, wrong video.



Bradford passes along a link to one of the best, most insightful essays on middle and high school social hierarchies I've come across. It's very much worth taking the time to read, especially if you're young or have children who are approaching their middle school years.

Written by a self-described nerd it first appeared in 2003 and is titled Why Nerds Are Unpopular. The author, Paul Graham, is funny and dead-on in his analysis of both the society that young people create in their schools as well as the problems in the schools themselves. Here's his lede:

When we were in junior high school, my friend Rich and I made a map of the school lunch tables according to popularity. This was easy to do, because kids only ate lunch with others of about the same popularity. We graded them from A to E. A tables were full of football players and cheerleaders and so on. E tables contained the kids with mild cases of Down's Syndrome, what in the language of the time we called "retards."

We sat at a D table, as low as you could get without looking physically different. We were not being especially candid to grade ourselves as D. It would have taken a deliberate lie to say otherwise. Everyone in the school knew exactly how popular everyone else was, including us.

My stock gradually rose during high school. Puberty finally arrived; I became a decent soccer player; I started a scandalous underground newspaper. So I've seen a good part of the popularity landscape.

I know a lot of people who were nerds in school, and they all tell the same story: there is a strong correlation between being smart and being a nerd, and an even stronger inverse correlation between being a nerd and being popular. Being smart seems to make you unpopular.

Why? To someone in school now, that may seem an odd question to ask. The mere fact is so overwhelming that it may seem strange to imagine that it could be any other way. But it could. Being smart doesn't make you an outcast in elementary school. Nor does it harm you in the real world. Nor, as far as I can tell, is the problem so bad in most other countries. But in a typical American secondary school, being smart is likely to make your life difficult. Why?

Graham goes on to claim, inter many alia, that too many schools exist simply as a place to put kids so that adults can be about their daily work, and that educating those kids is not much of a priority. I think he's right. I taught in a pretty good high school for thirty five years, and even in that institution education was near the bottom of the priority list.

No administrator would ever dream of actually admitting this to anyone, of course, but it was implicitly obvious in the fact that any and every other activity a student was involved in took precedence over what the student did in class. Whenever there was a conflict between some extra-curricular activity and the classroom, the student was dismissed from the classroom to participate in the other activity. Sports, student council, pointless field trips, play rehearsals - the list was almost endless - all trumped education. The tacit message the school sent students was that learning was what they were to do only when there wasn't anything that was more fun available for them.

As I was reading Graham's lament about how nerds just aren't interested in the popularity struggles which consume so many adolescents I was reminded of a girl I overheard a number of years ago who insisted that it was "very important to be popular because if you're not people won't like you." Maybe that's the sort of inanity nerds just want no part of.

But enough. Go to the link and read Graham. Savor the whole essay. If you consider yourself a nerd you'll love it, and if you don't you'll learn something.


No Plan B

This revelation in the New York Times should be a shocker, but it's not:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran's steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document.

Several officials said the highly classified analysis, written in January to President Obama's national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, came in the midst of an intensifying effort inside the Pentagon, the White House and the intelligence agencies to develop new options for Mr. Obama. They include a set of military alternatives, still under development, to be considered should diplomacy and sanctions fail to force Iran to change course.

Officials familiar with the memo's contents would describe only portions dealing with strategy and policy, and not sections that apparently dealt with secret operations against Iran, or how to deal with Persian Gulf allies.

I doubt anyone is surprised that this administration has no plan in the event that Iran develops nuclear weapons. The fact that both Bush and Obama have been unwilling to do anything serious to prevent the Iranians from achieving a nuclear arsenal plainly suggests that the United States is prepared to accept a nuclear Iran as a fait accompli.

Once Iran gets such weapons it will be only a matter of time before Turkey, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia insist on having their own nukes. It will also be only a matter of time until Iran slips a weapon or two into the hands of Islamic terrorists for use in either Israel or the U.S.

If President Obama fails to do anything efficacious to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons to unstable Islamic nations, it could be, perhaps, the most catastrophic foreign policy failure in history.