Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I suspect FEMA will be on top of this one

Tsunami in South Pacific islands kills nearly 100
By KENI LESA and FILI SAGAPOLUTELE, Associated Press Writers
APIA, Samoa – A massive tsunami hurled by a powerful earthquake flattened Samoan villages and swept cars and people out to sea, killing at least 99 and leaving dozens missing Wednesday. The toll was expected to rise.

...[American Samoa] Gov. Tulafono said that because the closeness of the community, "each and every family is going to be affected by someone who's lost their life." He spoke to reporters before boarding a Coast Guard C-130 plane in Hawaii to return home. The plane, which also carried officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and aid, was scheduled to arrive at about 7 a.m. local time (2 p.m. EDT; 1800 GMT). The U.S. disaster agency said it was also preparing supplies stored in Hawaii for transport to the island chain.

Monday, September 28, 2009

"Tune in, turn on, drop out" remains popular

"Interventions pay for themselves," [CDRP Director Russell W. Rumberger] said, noting that the state will see $2 in savings for every $1 invested.

The latest iteration of the California Dropout Horror Story (rivaled only by the Texas Dropout Horror Story, which tends to involve creationists and chainsaws) is focused on correlations between high school dropout rates and juvenile crime costs. Not juvenile crime exactly, but the costs. That seems fair in the climate of a depressed economy, as it can get people's attention. For example, the story containing the pullquote above:
Dropouts costing California $1.1 billion annually in juvenile crime costs
Study finds that cutting the dropout rate in half would save $550 million and prevent 30,000 juvenile crimes a year. Law enforcement urges more dropout-prevention programs.

By Seema Mehta
September 24, 2009

High school dropouts, who are more likely to commit crimes than their peers with diplomas, cost the state $1.1 billion annually in law enforcement and victim costs while still minors, according to a study being released today.

The California Dropout Research Project at UC Santa Barbara found that cutting the dropout rate in half would prevent 30,000 juvenile crimes and save $550 million every year.

There are similar stories around the state right now. The similarities are possibly due to a nonprofit's letter that is making the rounds and getting law enforcement signatures-- as well as legislature attention. It's apparently one of those letters that a police chief or county supervisor would have to explain not signing. In any case, California has a relatively low-cost bill in the pipeline, Senate Bill 651, that would focus on dropout trends-- the kind of bill you'd think was already in existence.

The original research behind the stories (and the above chart that triggered my writing this post) is by UC Santa Barbara's California Dropout Research Project. I find this project of interest well beyond the immediate story. For example, I already knew the trend shown in the chart for African American students but appreciated their particular focus. Now that I've convinced my online colleague Prometheus 6 to add a "Research studies of the obvious" category I hope I won't have to apply it to this group.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Two fifths forward, one fifth back

Over the weekend I was fortunate enough to get a pass to the Carmel Authors & Ideas Festival, so I shoved other work aside and attended most of it. Just to get it out of my system (and because it's on topic) I want to comment briefly on Shelby Steele's few minutes of fame on Sunday morning as one of the speakers.

From my comments elsewhere you may be aware that I'm not a fan and I don't think he makes sound arguments, but I went to as many of the main hall events as I could, and I would have had to walk out in an obvious way to miss his portion. He was embedded on Sunday morning between Frances Dinkelspiel and Richard Lederer, a useful juxtaposition, as we needed Lederer's life- and language-affirming humor to recover.

There were no surprises, except perhaps Steele's lack of preparation for the specific audience. Oh, he had brought notes, but I had the distinct sense he was mentally phoning it in, as he wasn't really in tune with the program or what had preceded him over the previous day and a half. Y'see, most of the authors were around all weekend, mingling with the readers (that's us) and attending each others' presentations. The authors appearing later often adjusted their remarks accordingly, making it a very "organic" weekend. Steele was one of the several who basically showed up, made canned remarks, and quickly disappeared.

This is coming out to be mostly about the content of Steele's character and not the color of his remarks. Well, point taken. He didn't say anything I hadn't heard from him before. OK, one exception. He claimed that the Holocaust was worse than the genocide in Rwanda not because of the number of people killed, but because of the high state of the German civilization. Apparently the Germans should have known better. No argument on that, but he left the implication that Rwandans didn't or couldn't know better. I'm not sure where he was going with this except to give a broad outline of the kind of things he believed-- Western civilization good, others not so much.

His theme otherwise was to attempt to make the case that conservatives are unfairly stigmatized (his word) by nasty liberals who keep dragging down the conversation on current issues by bringing up historic injustices (e.g. racism) and associating otherwise fine citizens with them. I think that's a fair summary of his focus. He also blamed Great Society programs for just about everything he could: Welfare broke the black family. Busing broke the public education system. Etc. My eyes glazed over.

Now, you might think he set race relations back two steps just by being black and talking this way to the mostly white, somewhat tony audience. In a way, I think we only regressed one step. This was not a friendly, conservative audience à la the usual at Hoover Institution gatherings. I'd guess most of it wasn't that kind of conservative. Sure, everyone was well-dressed and well-spoken (like Obama on vacation) and skewed older, but there was only mild, polite applause when he was done. And there was some tension in the room.

And on the next break, after the well-scheduled Richard Lederer, two people came up to me separately, each somewhat appalled, to ask what I thought of Steele. I used the words disingenuous and ill-formed a lot and did not curse. Two others checked with me later.

Friday, September 25, 2009

This was a no-brainer but they could have messed it up

I'm thinking the Cal State system could have begged off, claiming state budget issues, but honorary degrees don't cost anything except for the printing and the refreshments. (Been there, and yes, call me anything but late for lunch.) One might ask why the system waited until 2009, as there really was no down side... anyway, I'm glad they got to it.

CSU Grants Honorary Degrees to Japanese American Internees

The CSU Board of Trustees voted unanimously to grant honorary bachelor's degrees to Japanese Americans who were enrolled at CSU campuses and forced to internment camps during World War II. The first degree was awarded Sept. 23, 2009 to Aiko Nishi Uwate, a Japanese American woman who was removed from San Francisco State University and sent to Gila River relocation camp in Arizona. The posthumous degree was accepted by Uwate's daughter, Vivian Uwate Nelson, a resident of Los Angeles County.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Oliphant in the room

There's a 1995 compilation of Pat Oliphant editorial cartoons, most of which could have been done this year. How quickly we forget. The book is Off to the Revolution (Andrews and McMeel, 1995). Let me point you to a few pages in my very first Google Books embed below.

For health care, Michael Jackson, and gun nuts around abortion clinics, see pp. 7, 18, 19, 21, 23, 28, 32. There are a lot of tragic Haiti cartoons (however you want to read that) in the book but not in the preview.

I can't see them saying no to THESE honorary degrees

CSU Trustees Consider Granting Degrees to WWII Internees

Honorary degrees may be issued to hundreds of former CSU students of Japanese ancestry interned under presidential order in the 1940s

Nisei students, interned during WWII, to receive honorary CSU degrees. Call 562 951-4723

(September 10, 2009) - The California State University Board of Trustees will consider granting hundreds of honorary degrees to former students forced from their academic studies due to the internment of people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Federal Executive Order 9066, clearing the way for military leaders to set up an "exclusion zone" which encompassed all of California. More than 120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants in this zone were forcibly relocated to camps.

By some historical accounts, nearly 250 Americans of Japanese descent were students attending CSU campuses when the order for removal was issued. Campuses established by 1942 include Chico, Fresno, Humboldt, Pomona, San Diego, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, San José and the California Maritime Academy. While records show some students went on to receive a university degree, many did not.

"Hundreds of students were removed from colleges and universities, forced to delay or abandon their dreams based solely on their ancestry," said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed. "The internment of Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants during WWII represents the worst of a nation driven by fear and prejudice. By issuing honorary degrees, we hope to achieve a small right in the face of such grave wrongs."

On September 23, 2009, the Educational Policy Committee will vote on conferring the honorary degrees. The item will then be considered by the full CSU Board of Trustees. All former CSU students whose studies were interrupted due to the internment may be eligible for the honorary degrees. Surviving family members may receive the honorary degree in recognition of a deceased student.

The California State University is asking for public assistance in identifying individuals who qualify for the honorary degree. Former CSU Students (or families of students) whose studies were interrupted due to the internment are urged to call (562) 951-4723,


IMF: We can only succeed in a world where others fail

Whether you prefer the IMF press release or the AP story that lifts from the press release, it comes out the same.

IMF Approves Sale of Some of Its Gold
Published: September 18, 2009
Filed at 6:12 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The International Monetary Fund approved on Friday the sale of a limited amount of its gold to help provide loans to poor countries and shore up its finances.

Why would the IMF need to sell gold in the first place?
In recent years, some countries with thriving economies managed to pay off their IMF loans ahead of time, reducing income the IMF derived from loan interest and putting a strain on its finances. The IMF is expected to be running a deficit of $400 million in 2010.

Strauss-Kahn instituted some belt-tightening measures when he took over in 2007 by reducing staff amid suggestions the organization was becoming increasingly irrelevant because of its shrinking loan portfolio.

Friday, September 18, 2009

David Brooks and His Glorious Eternal Blinders; or, Jogger Revelations

Upon reading his September 17 NY Times column, I immediately thought, David Brooks is professing such ignorance of race matters he is (1) a split personality, (2) lying, or (3) wearing blinders. Then I realized I couldn't be the first to come up with that, so I googled "david brooks" and blinders. Then I searched again, adding -blinds to reduce the references to window coverings and the "other" David Brooks. Sure enough, plenty of instances floated to the top.

Apparently people have for some time been accusing Brooks (the columnist) of the specific sin of going through life with blinders firmly in place. Is there room on the bandwagon for one more?

In his latest, Brooks describes jogging in Washington, DC, between the September 12 "tea party" protests (his quotes) and the Black Family Reunion Celebration. He apparently caught on to the difference by noting "mostly white" at one, and "mostly black" at the other.

When he stopped at the, uh, black end, there were some white people (to him, obvious tea party protesters, since they couldn't possibly have black relatives) buying lunch from the food stands and listening to a rap concert. He took note of the lack of tension. Based on his own media immersion, I suppose he expected some. But he missed the point. Let me sum it up: food and entertainment.

Teabaggers are fine with black folk providing food and entertainment. The people running the food stands were fine with money coming in for church coffers and non-profits (might I add, especially considering the source?). I will go out on a limb here and suggest the same teabaggers would not have been fine with the same black folk in a counter-protest, just as they are apparently not fine with a black President.

Supplementary material:

Daily Kos addresses the Brooks "jogger revelations" column with a bit more vitriol, as is their wont.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Congresswoman defies Pelosi, deals with elephant in room

It's official: Laura Richardson (D-CA) is my candidate for role model of the week.
Concerns of Black House Members Helped Spur Rebuke of Wilson
By James Rowley and Brian Faler

Sept. 16 (Bloomberg) -- A plea by California Representative Laura Richardson that House Democrats respond after Republican Joe Wilson shouted “you lie” at President Barack Obama last week helped spur her party’s leaders to action...

It was “the elephant in the room that we had not dealt with,” and “I didn’t think it was OK to think it would go away,” she said yesterday in a telephone interview after the House vote.
As reported in the same article, Nancy Pelosi and Michael Steele seem to have a rare instance of bipartisan agreement.
...Noting that the South Carolina lawmaker had apologized, Pelosi told reporters Sept. 10 that “it’s time for us to talk about health care.’’

...Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, in a statement, called the Democrats’ rebuke “a stunning example of hypocrisy.” Steele, the first black to head his party, said the Democrats “don’t want an apology. They want a side show” to deflect attention from the health-care debate.[”]
I don't have all the ground rules for the blog set in stone, but I'm seriously considering a zero-tolerance policy against Michael Steele. The above was just too silly. Your opinions welcome.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Under the circumstances, I'll yield the floor for the first time

Didn't think I'd do it this soon, but the remarks are by a former President with street cred on the issue of what white Southerners have to say about race. Hat tip to Prometheus6.

Friday, September 11, 2009

British PM passes the ultimate Turing test

I went back and forth with this for about 0.68 seconds, but it's on topic if I'm to live up to my charter. Also, Brown sets a new benchmark for how politicians should say they're sorry if they're gonna say it at all, a necessary lesson after Congressman "Joe" Wilson's pseudo-apology the other day.

PM's apology to codebreaker Alan Turing: we were inhumane
Caroline Davies
The Guardian, Friday 11 September 2009

Gordon Brown issued an unequivocal apology last night on behalf of the government to Alan Turing, the second world war codebreaker who took his own life 55 years ago after being sentenced to chemical castration for being gay.

Describing Turing's treatment as "horrifying" and "utterly unfair", Brown said the country owed the brilliant mathematician a huge debt. He was proud, he said, to offer an official apology. "We're sorry, you deserved so much better," Brown writes in a statement posted on the No 10 website.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Naughty, naughty

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) has already apologized for calling President Obama a liar during the latter's speech to Congress Wednesday night. Fine. But it would have been smarter not to do it in the first place. Below is a screenshot from his home page at

Oh, and as with certain equally-credible plumbers, apparently his name's not really Joe.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

When you're handed Van Jones, make lemonade

The Van Jones resignation continues to rub me the wrong way, as I posted over at P6. Let me be a bit parochial-- I'm biased in favor of Jones because of his former James Rucker/Color of Change connection, only two degrees of separation here in central California. I understand that people who work for Obama are supposed to be more respectful to the opposition than Rove and Cheney were, so Jones had to go.

Of all the post-resignation Van Jones stories, the one that whines the least is this one from AlterNet:

5 Reasons Why Van Jones and Progressives Are Better Off with Jones out of the White House
By Don Hazen, AlterNet. Posted September 7, 2009.

Here are the reasons, long version at the linked article.

1. Now He's a Household Name
2. He's Been Rescued From Obscurity [meaning an obscure wonky job]
3. He's the Leader Progressives Need
4. He Has a Renewed Charge to Speak the Truth
5. He Can Provide Real Vision and Organizing Framework

Oh, and the story that seemed to generate the most illiterate, racist comments per column-inch was Zennie Abraham's blog at

The column I would have written as my second post

Bob Herbert thinks before he writes, as I am reminded by his September 7, 2009 column, "It's Time to Get Help."

He sums up the American "nervous breakdown" and makes it look easy, mentioning health care, Van Jones, public schools, the twin wars, and black unemployment. None of this is going away just because August (the media's silly season) is over. (All emphasis mine in the below.)

Nearly 15 million Americans are unemployed, according to official statistics. The real numbers are far worse. The unemployment rate for black Americans is a back-breaking 15.1 percent.

Five million people have been unemployed for more than six months, and the consensus is that even when the recession ends, the employment landscape will remain dismal. A full recovery in employment will take years. With jobless recoveries becoming the norm, there is a real question as to whether the U.S. economy is capable of providing sufficient employment for all who want and need to work.

The other issue that hit home for me was our denial about the two wars in progress. I was reminded of this before I read Herbert's column, by the continuing "roll call" of the dead that we have now accepted as normal at the end of newscasts such as PBS's News Hour.

We’ve also been unable or unwilling to face the hard truths about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the terrible toll they are taking on our young fighting men and women. Most of us don’t want to know. Moreover, we’ve put the costs of these wars on a credit card, without so much as a second thought about what that does to our long-term budget deficits or how it undermines much-needed initiatives here at home

Monday, September 7, 2009

Why We're Here

Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons.
--United States Constitution, Article I, Section 2

The overall theme of The Other Two-Fifths is that each of us is a complete person and deserves recognition as such. This has always been true. But compromises since before America's founding have set in place a system that deludes us into questioning the premise. An early compromise was codified at the national level in Article I, Section 2 of the U. S. Constitution. (You may have another starting point that works better for you.)

Periodically, we go through the motions of justifying our full personhood as if a previous generation had never brought up the matter, had not survived slavery and Jim Crow, had not fought and died in wars expecting full citizenship on their return, had not marched, had not done whatever they had to do to allow us the luxury of seeking a better way. It's that time again.

Over the past year or so, the extraordinary delusion that is American race relations has returned in an unusual form. This time, we have a veritable Janus of a delusion running rampant. We have people who simply cannot bring themselves to accept that an African-American, Barack Obama, is President of these United States. We have people who believe that Obama's election is the end of the beginning, and that a post-racial era is not only possible but likely.

This blog is probably not the place to reconcile the above two views-- or any variations that arise. But we are in a transition of some kind, and I hope to explore that. TOTF will be a "safe space" for Black and other "minority" views in the sense inspired by Prometheus 6. (Don't lie on, about, or to us, thanks very much! There are places for that.)

P6 gets kudos and hat tips for supporting my apprentice posting and commenting, which will continue over there. Any good habits reproduced here are his doing (such as: snarky titles; hyperlinked phrases with each word going to a different site; references to mythology, from Homer to Stan Lee). Any bad habits I carry over are my own. I'll be moderating for a while as I figure out permissions and such, but I anticipate quick turnaround.

Finally, anything that interests me personally but seems beyond the purview of TOTF will appear on its companion blog, The Joshua Fit.