Sunday, February 17, 2008

Daily Roundup Feb 17, 2008

After the Read More! The NYT describes how young Egyptians without prospects in a dysfunctional society have sought solace in strict Islam. Marc Ruel Gerecht says the image of thousands of Jihadis thronging to Iraq is a myth. Susan Jacoby argues its easy to sell myths when nobody wants to know anything, even in America. The War on Terror is so yesterday. Make room for the Eco-Mom. Plus, up to 80 killed in Afghan bombing.


The NYT follows the life of an young man whose life, like many Egyptians, has hit a dead end. He's no longer young but can't become an adult, making him just the right recruit for radical Islam.

“I can’t get a job, I have no money, I can’t get married, what can I say?” Mr. Sayyid said one day after becoming so overwhelmed that he refused to go to work, or to go home, and spent the day hiding at a friend’s apartment.

In their frustration, the young are turning to religion for solace and purpose, pulling their parents and their governments along with them. With 60 percent of the region’s population under the age of 25, this youthful religious fervor has enormous implications for the Middle East. More than ever, Islam has become the cornerstone of identity, replacing other, failed ideologies: Arabism, socialism, nationalism.

It may be impertinent to point out that each of those nostrums -- Arabism, socialism, nationalism -- once enjoyed a vogue in Western intellectual circles. So now does Islam. But I doubt it will get Mr. Sayyid any further than the rest. What's left to try? Maybe freedom and enterprise. And that's the one thing poor Mr. Sayyid will ever be offered.


Gerecht makes some interesting observations about the global Jihad that wasn't.

"First, if we make a comparison with the Soviet-Afghan war of 1979-89, which was the baptismal font for al-Qaeda, what's most striking is how few foreign holy warriors have gone to Mesopotamia since the U.S. invasion in 2003 ... A second striking fact about Islamism and the Iraq war is that the arrival of foreign holy warriors is deradicalizing the local population -- the exact opposite of what happened in Afghanistan."

Josh Manchester probably put his finger on the reason. Islam's problem isn't America. It's with Islam. From Saudi Arabia to Britain to Pakistan, the so-called global Jihad has become a system for relieving the strains in societies which are beset by their own local devils. The dissatisfied youth go abroad to find the brotherhood that isn't there. They arrive with apocalyptic dreams in places like Anbar only to discover that people want good crops more than they want their heads lopped off. Maybe the reason so many "international fighters" are accused of going out and blowing themselves up as if suicide were an end in itself is because it is. What else do you go when even your dream turns out to be a fraud but trigger the detonator?

The universality of Jihad, like President Bush's reputed imbecility, may in large part be a media myth, created not just in Egypt but sadly, in Western capitals too.


And myths are easier to sell, writes Susan Jacoby in the Washington Post, in today's United States which is "in danger of losing our hard-won cultural capital to a virulent mixture of anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and low expectations".

As video consumers become progressively more impatient with the process of acquiring information through written language, all politicians find themselves under great pressure to deliver their messages as quickly as possible -- and quickness today is much quicker than it used to be. Harvard University's Kiku Adatto found that between 1968 and 1988, the average sound bite on the news for a presidential candidate -- featuring the candidate's own voice -- dropped from 42.3 seconds to 9.8 seconds. By 2000, according to another Harvard study, the daily candidate bite was down to just 7.8 seconds.

The gradual disappearance of exposition is probably why images have become so important. People now read a book by its cover -- why open it? -- and 21st century society ironically resembles the medieval when everyone wore the livery of his social station. People are their images. Nothing else matters. Jacoby continues in words which might have been crafted to describe Code Pink.

The shrinking public attention span fostered by video is closely tied to the second important anti-intellectual force in American culture: the erosion of general knowledge. ... That leads us to the third and final factor behind the new American dumbness: not lack of knowledge per se but arrogance about that lack of knowledge. The problem is not just the things we do not know (consider the one in five American adults who, according to the National Science Foundation, thinks the sun revolves around the Earth); it's the alarming number of Americans who have smugly concluded that they do not need to know such things in the first place.

I think the reason for this contempt for knowledge is that people in the West have become so insulated from the consequences of their own actions that they fail to see the value of knowledge at all. They are kept safe no matter what they do. If like Code Pink, you can do or think anything at all with the sun still coming up the next day, the birds twittering in the trees and the supermarkets still open, then you will do so. If Rowan Williams can propose sharia law and still wake up in Lambeth Palace the next day, then why not?

But of course reality will not be denied in the long run. Sooner or later a society that keeps dipping into its legacy will find the ATM running on empty one day. A country which keeps electing politicians dedicated to appeasement into office will find the enemy at the doorstep at the last. On that day people -- even Code Pink -- will begin to learn again. The hard way.


Until that day of awakening, it's business as usual. People know what's really important. The NYT describes the latest trend: the EcoMom Party.

Move over, Tupperware. The EcoMom party has arrived, with its ever-expanding “to do” list that includes preparing waste-free school lunches; lobbying for green building codes; transforming oneself into a “locovore,” eating locally grown food; and remembering not to idle the car when picking up children from school (if one must drive). Here, the small talk is about the volatile compounds emitted by dry-erase markers at school. ...

The notion of “ecoanxiety” has crept into the culture here. It was the subject of a recent cover story in San Francisco magazine that quotes a Berkeley mother so stressed out about the extravagance of her nightly baths that she started to reuse her daughter’s bath water. Where there is ecoanxiety, of course, there are ecotherapists.

Can you really blame Obama for running on his Face? Or Al Gore for selling carbon credits? Maybe the fault is not with our leaders but with ourselves. They simply give us what we crave.


And though it's far less important than reusing the bathwater, the AP reports that "a suicide bomber penetrated a crowd watching a dog-fighting competition in the Taliban's former stronghold Sunday, killing up to 80 people in one of the bloodiest bombings since the regime's 2001 ouster. ... A prominent militia commander who stood up against the Taliban was killed in the attack and officials said he may have been the target. The bombing crumpled several Afghan police trucks and turned the field a bloody red."





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25 Comments:

Blogger Hope Muntz said...

Yeah, I read the jacoby article, too, but it struck me as the usual academic 'why are the kids reading comic books' sort of whining. In fact, it reminded me of Pauline Kael's famous comment about the American people after the election of Ronald Reagan: "How could they be so stupid?'

2/17/2008 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

“….the arrival of foreign holy warriors is deradicalizing the local population…”

Yep. That’s clear. Both Sunni and Shia are coming to the conclusion that they want no truck with the Islamonuts. That is likely to be the biggest long term impact of Operation Iraqi Freedom – Iraqis discovering that they like freedom, if only because it sure as hell beats the alternative. Now what do we do if the Iraqis decide that they need to go clean out the Islamonuts in the rest of their neighborhood? My suggestion would be: Cheer! Bet’cha the Left will call it “another failure of Bush.”

And as you point out recent captured documents in Iraq have the Al Queda leadership saying that they are distressed that so many of the immigrant Jihadists don’t want to fight but just go blow themselves up. Maybe it is that they hold the same opinion as Saddam Hussein, as he pointed at his American captors “Would you fight such men?” Or maybe, if they were inclined to fight at all, it would be back home.

“…anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and low expectations…” I can tell you where that comes from: the Black Ghetto Culture. “Acting too white” is a thought crime in that culture, and the decades in which billions of dollars for Aid To Families with Dependent Children effectively subsidized that lifestyle led to its export to other racial groups.

2/17/2008 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

I skimmed the bit about "The gradual disappearance of exposition".

That reminds me of something I saw on TV the other day. I guy was claiming that American's attention spans were getting shorter and shorter. I don't know if he had any evidence backing this up because I changed channels...

2/17/2008 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger newscaper said...

RWE said
"“…anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and low expectations…” I can tell you where that comes from: the Black Ghetto Culture. “Acting too white” is a thought crime in that culture, and the decades in which billions of dollars for Aid To Families with Dependent Children effectively subsidized that lifestyle led to its export to other racial groups."

As a resident of a southern city in which Federal court order cross-town busing for integration purposes was finally allowed to stop just ten or so years ago, and husband of an 18 year public school teacher, I can shed some firsthand light on this -- the fact is that busing the poor black kids away form their own neighborhoods (and parental involvement, what there was of it) had the opposite of its intended effect. The stated idea was to unequivocally end "separate but equal"(never really true back then anyway) which was a noble goal. However, the practical intent on the part of liberals, was to hope that white middle class (and even lower middle "working" class) values would "rub off" on the black kids from the rough side of town.

It might have worked fairly well too, except for one giant fly in the ointment -- between multi-culti do-gooder-ism and paralyzing fear of discrimination lawsuits by admin, teachers were effectively forced to lower academic and discipline standards for all. White kids saw the black kids getting away with it, and a significant portion decided to rebel in a similar manner. Again, exact opposite of the intended effect -- the 'hood rubbed off more on the white 'burb kids rather than vice versa.

FWIW, my wife's school, which our 4th grade son attends, is today about 40% black, but the kids come from the nearby neighborhoods and as [more] homeowners, have better values. In a very large county-wide system, it is regularly in the top three for performance (not counting the handful of cherry-picking magnet schools).

2/17/2008 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger newscaper said...

As to that idiot Jacoby...

The lion's share of "dumbing down" has taken place at the hands of *liberals* in control of the schools at all levels who think that failure is unfair (particularly with objective proof), and disproportionate failure is de facto proof of institutional or unconscious racism, at the very least.

Additionally, higher ed and the academy are digging their hole deeper WRT the public, correctly, due to their obvious general moonbattery.

If she's concerned abotu amti-intellectualism, Jacoby should first suggest that the "intellectuals" try to be worthy of some respect.

P.S. I'm a university instructor, albeit in a concrete field.

2/17/2008 06:19:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

A country which keeps electing politicians dedicated to appeasement into office will find the enemy at the doorstep at the last. On that day people -- even Code Pink -- will begin to learn again. The hard way.

No they won't. Those who learn will survive. Others will simply die.

2/17/2008 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

newscaper nailed it. The inability of our kids to focus on tasks that require reading and thinking derives from decades of a dumbing-down of educational standards. This was a planned process, but there were most certainly other factors and processes at work that fed into it or were themselves feedback mechanisms derived from "the equality of outcomes" ideology.

2/17/2008 07:03:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Newscaper: I was going to mention the role of Teacher’s Unions but thought I had already gone on too long. It is the natural urge of all unions to try to make the jobs of their members easier – to get paid more for less work. Pretty soon they are not doing anything at all, ala the UAW and their mandated “Job Banks”, which pay unneeded workers to sit around and play cards.

Add to that the fact that – face it – the Education departments of our universities and various governments alike are jokes because of the people in them – and you get the inevitable results.

As you describe, the Civil Rights movement led to the destruction of our schools. Black or other minority kids that misbehaved could not be disciplined or even controlled because Civil Rights Activists made every single disciplinary measure a huge political issue. The teachers then took the totally egalitarian approach that if they could not discipline one they could not discipline any.

As I said in one piece over at The Space Review, this business of urging that we launch manned missions into space in order to encourage kids to study math and science is a joke. There are great reasons to go into space but that is not one of them. That approach is like blaming GM’s losses on the customers that buy their cars, not the management and the unions where the real blame lies.

2/17/2008 07:19:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Compare and contrast:

Home and Garden Television. Many gay couples featured. "Make it pop" often repeated. No real knowledge imparted.

History Channel. Particularly "Dogfights" or "Human Weapon" which detail manuevers exactly, why they work, the advantage, and disadvantage. Decision making under extreme stress.

Part of the dumbing down and emphasis on "feelings" is the feminization of America and the West. Based on the view that there are no real threats.

2/17/2008 07:32:00 PM  
Blogger newscaper said...

rwe,

re: the detrimental effects of teachers unions, it's not so much looking for less work but rather making it nearly impossible to get rid of incompetent or burned out tenured ones. "Less work" could be said to show up in the push for expensive reduced teacher-pupil ratios, but that's as much for the fact it results in more teacher jobs.

For the teachers already in there, the lower numbers merely help compensate for the increased amount of bureaucratic BS required per student, as well nonsense that periodically rears its head like inappropriate "mainstreaming", excuse me, "inclusion" (the latest trendy PC term) special ed kids into regular classrooms -- and these aren't the marginal cases either. To the extent these kids gain something (and many do) its never weighed against the negative impact on the rest of the kids.

One of the biggest things my wife, and the other good teachers like her still inthe trenches bitch about, are all the freakin' bureaucrats downtown who spent one or tow years in a real classroom before going tinto admin, who think they're the experts when it comes to pulling the most godawful impractical, stupid BS out of their arses in terms of "programs".

It's even worse than the business world where mgt types tpp insulated form the realities of the work are always jumping on the latest stupid ass mgt fad just to mark their territory and look good to their peers (and BS the stockholders one more quarter). It may take a while, ut at least in the corprate realm the shit usually catches up with 'em.

Not so in education.

More background - I spent 12 years in electronics manufacturing in a company that slowly went down the tubes while upper mgt seemed to make lots of money no matter what. Hell, they made even more money when one of them -once in a blue moon -- got the boot.
Yep, education is even more screwed
up. The best superintendent we had in ages, successful on all counts, got the boot this past year purely because he didn't kowtow to the School Board enough. The idiots then of course had to pay out his contract, with extra $$ too, adn then find a new guy, less qualified, and pay *him* a nice up front bonus to sign since they're getting a rep as trigger happy.

2/17/2008 09:19:00 PM  
Blogger Papa Ray said...

Slightly off topic, but on target is what is going on in Tucson right now.

This is number 3, in a series written by this same writer.

Read it and weep.

Papa Ray

2/17/2008 09:22:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Top clinical psychiatrist says Liberals are mentally ill.

(well, that almost goes without saying -- jeez, just look at their results.)

But anyway, the doc says Liberalism is the political attitude that results from adolescent-stage arrested development.

OK, so what arrested all the development?

The comments above are right on and name many of our development-arresting situations. But what developed these situations?

We did. Even those of us non or even anti-Liberal, as obviously, duh, we've stood by and watched it happen. When did SAT scores peak and turn down? I'm thinking that was one signal call to action -- but we didn't act -- as the numbers showed year after year.

Well, whatever else our current fix may be, it is surely what happens when individuals who need to act, don't. Those individuals will wind up sharing a culture in deep sh*t, which is precisely what we are sharing now.

The only thing saving our bacon is the folks in the military, which as an organization is culturally a meritocratic throwback to an earlier America which contained adults.

Now we have three candidates, one of whom will soon be our next president, and two of whom have no clue whatsoever as to what is right and/or wrong with the culture, the economy, the military, foreign policy, domestic policy, the past, the future, or any damn thing at all other than how to operate their ascensions to political offices from which we will stand by and watch them wreak more and greater havoc on the fundamental principles which made the nation strong enough in the first place to allow vast numbers of its people to merely opt out of ever having to think.

But never fear, this will self-correct. But it will have to bottom out first. Wonder what the bottom will look like?

2/17/2008 11:34:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

My wife was the sole dissenter in an education class way back in the 70's on the issue of "inclusion."

Her concern for the effect on good students had already been excluded from the conventional wisdom of the educational elite.
(Described by Sowell as the bottom of the bottom of the barrel in terms of academic achievement.)

Recently saw a survey of 40 some countries in which the US students scores were better than only two:
Mexico and Turkey.
Dropout rate before graduation is 50% in Los Angeles, and 75% in Detroit

---

A few threads back there was some discussion of Jihadis passports, and such.
Three Afghans arrested in Indian airport with fake Mexican passports.

Hmmm. Now what could Afghan nationals who don't speak Spanish want with Mexican passports? It boggles the mind! Maybe they were hoping to make their way to Mexico City for conferences with Mexican leaders on improving Afghan/Mexican relations. Or maybe they were hoping to craft a new brand of Afghan/mariachi world music. Or maybe...

"Three Afghan nationals held at Nedumbaserry Airport," from United News of India (thanks to the Jawa Report.
---

Don't know if this has come up before, but we're currently paying Mexico 1 BILLION DOLLARS TO BUILD A FENCE.
...on THEIR Southern Border.

So, even tho this govt "knows" fences don't work, and that Govt says we'd be evil to construct a fence...
oh, nevermind.

2/18/2008 01:43:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Papa Ray, read the Tucson link, and could hardly believe my eyes. To be a high school educator, and to exploit that position to year after year indoctrinate defenseless adolescents, to exploit the authority granted by schoolboards and the job protection guaranteed by teachers' unions, in order to systematically, programatically, glorify the world's worst sort of political deviants & criminals, to rationalize (and on what basis but racist identity group solidarity?) murderous tyranny and the deliberate wastage and enslavement of the lives, liberty, & property of generations of people, must, must, be as crippling to a child's mental & emotional health, and his/her prospects of personal achievement in normal society, as any other form of child abuse, and as such is beyond outrageous, in all ways but formally criminal, and utterly inexcusable.

Where are Tucson's parents? Or any adults at all? Where is the local media firestorm that would result from, say, glorifying and calling for a Nazi revolution?

Seriously--have we all gone mad?

2/18/2008 01:56:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

A Night at the Primaries

...Now, if the prominent newsman on screen will obey my email asking him to stop pronouncing “pundit” as “pundant,” I will, in my column, give him full credit. Or as he would say, “credant.”

Earlier, at my voting place, I silently reminded myself that a guy in front of me wearing an earflap hat wasn’t necessarily a dope…just before he said, in a friendly voice,
“Funny, isn’t it? To think that at this time tomorrow we’ll have a new president.”
I nearly dropped my “The Informed Voter” pamphlet.
---
Excerpts from Mr. Cavett's original interviews from the 1970s, courtesy of 'The Dick Cavett Show' collection.
Mel Brooks (1970)

Latest post is an interesting one on Fischer:
Was It Only a Game?
Among this year’s worst news, for me, was the death of Bobby Fischer.

Telling a friend this, I got, “Are you out of your bloody mind?
He was a Nazi-praising raving lunatic and anti-Semite. Death is too good for him.”
He did, indeed, become all that.
But none of it describes the man I knew.

2/18/2008 02:08:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2/18/2008 02:23:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

There's a three million dollar home for sale in the ads adjoining Papa Ray's cited article.
...obviously an ideal breeding ground for young socialist revolutionaries.
---
The Parents are out to lunch, comfortable in their self-delusions about the goodness of Modern Public Schools.
The continued grade promotion, dumbing down of tests, and artificial score inflation are helpers in this.

2/18/2008 02:24:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

i do believe that essay on Bobby Fischer is the finest thing Dick Cavett has ever written (haven't actually read anything else Dick Cavett has written, but that piece is about as good as it gets so my belief is probably safe). Ear flap cap suffrage, so sweet (if a tad quaint looking forward), as Bobby Fischer won no games via his level of admiration for say a rook or a pawn or a knight's size shape or sculptural line.

2/18/2008 02:35:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

that three million dollar house is probably what comrade schoolteacher has his eye on. come the revolution, see, it'd be dandy to do the people's work from inside of, and the revolutionary price so reasonable and all, just two 7.65 mm AK47 rounds.

2/18/2008 02:41:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

And if they have kids?

2/18/2008 03:18:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

In loco parentis for real.

2/18/2008 03:23:00 AM  
Blogger Randy said...

Can you really blame Obama for running on his Face? Or Al Gore for selling carbon credits? Maybe the fault is not with our leaders but with ourselves. They simply give us what we crave.

I honestly don't mean to insult you, but...duh! I was just talking politics & entitlements (social security, medicare, & medicaide) w/ a colleague last week and said, "I don't think the electorate can really blame one party or the other for our dismal state of affairs...the electorate put them in power. We have an entitlement crisis and we are gleefully skipping down the same path as Europe by choice."

2/18/2008 05:33:00 AM  
Blogger Triton'sPolarTiger said...

Buddy Larsen said...

Papa Ray, read the Tucson link, and could hardly believe my eyes. To be a high school educator, and to exploit that position to year after year indoctrinate defenseless adolescents, to exploit the authority granted by schoolboards and the job protection guaranteed by teachers' unions, in order to systematically, programatically, glorify the world's worst sort of political deviants & criminals, to rationalize (and on what basis but racist identity group solidarity?) murderous tyranny and the deliberate wastage and enslavement of the lives, liberty, & property of generations of people, must, must, be as crippling to a child's mental & emotional health, and his/her prospects of personal achievement in normal society, as any other form of child abuse, and as such is beyond outrageous, in all ways but formally criminal, and utterly inexcusable.

Where are Tucson's parents? Or any adults at all? Where is the local media firestorm that would result from, say, glorifying and calling for a Nazi revolution?

Seriously--have we all gone mad?

Well said, Buddy - and to think, people still question Mrs Triton's and my decision to keep our kids the hell away from govt schools.

2/18/2008 08:13:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Netscaper: The points you raise caused me to recall a couple of things. About 10 years ago I was in a small meeting that included a local man who had been named as Teacher of The Year – as in for the entire U.S.

He said “Do you know how I got to be Teacher of the year? Well, the education bureaucrats hit you with all of these mandatory reports and required actions and so forth and I simply ignored them. I just did what I thought was right and what my students needed. That’s how I got to be Teacher of the Year.”

A few years ago a friend of mine said that a teacher who was living next door to him was complaining about the same thing – and was wondering where all such requirements come from, especially all those that are related to minorities. I pointed out to him that in my experience the Civil Rights and Minority Affairs offices are always staffed almost exclusively with minorities. We are talking self-licking ice cream cone here.….

2/18/2008 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Re the "journalist" decrying the poor education of Americans: This journalist herself is a product of the lowest IQ segment of the college population. Were she not, she might step back and realize that the Media had HUGE self-interest in first-rate education, that would produce a nation of sophisticated news-consumers. Sadly, they have been cheerleaders for Big Education as it death spirals. And their would-be readers are watching Jerry Springer and playing video games.

2/18/2008 05:35:00 PM  

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