Update on torture

by Ted on October 1, 2004

Katherine has a significant post on the potential legalization of outsourcing torture. Opponents of the provision include the American Bar Association, the 9/11 Commission, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch. This isn’t over.

The office of Edward Markey has sent a letter to President Bush on the provisions of the bill in question. UPDATE: The whole letter is below the fold. Here it is in .pdf form.

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Minority Achievement and Involuntary Therapy

by Harry on October 1, 2004

As Dave explains, I’ve spent part of the week getting embroiled in local affairs. Our school district devoted another in-service training to the Courageous Conversations program; every employee (except the many who took sick days) had to participate. Dave’s own experience reflects pretty accurately the experiences I’ve had related to me. It’s a kind of involuntary therapy session — the kind of thing that my friends who used to be in obscure Maoist organizations report having gone through regularly. The pretext is a concern with minority underachievement, which the District regards as being caused by institutional racism, on which the day’s conversation focused. You might expect that a focus on institutional racism would look at the racism in the criminal justice system and the labor market, which deeply affect the prospects of minority males and, presumably, therefore indirectly effect their aspirations and marriageability (with predictable consequences for family structure). But: no mention of these things. It is all about the racism inherent in the schools, and particularly in the attitudes of teachers.

Prompted by one very pissed off, but honest, left-wing, and good, teacher, I wrote an op-ed for the local paper, simply arguing that the focus is misplaced and suggesting some rather dull measures which, unlike involuntary and inconsistent therapy for school employees, have a good track record of slightly raising the achievement of low income and minority students. I have to admit I was nervous about doing it, both because the racist teacher theme is popular, and because lots of people don’t like open criticism of the District for wasting resources, because that creates an atmosphere in which voters are les likely to vote for tax raises. But I’m pissed off with the District for wasting resources, both because enough waste creates a perception of waste, and because I think the achievement of low-income and minority students should be the most urgent priority of our education system; and programs like this not only have no benefits, but give ammunition to those who don’t take it seriously as a priority.

In fact the response so far has been unremarkable: a nice note from a School Board member thanking me for writing it, and a series of emails from random people expressing their own feelings. I have, though, heard from a reliable source that the program was opposed internally by the main person responsible for equal opportunities and minority achievement. The Superintendent has not commented.

Food across the blogosphere

by Eszter Hargittai on October 1, 2004

We mostly mention and link to political and academic blogs on CT. But there are whole worlds of other blogs out there. One such world that I like to visit whenever I get the chance is the food and recipe blogosphere. This week, Chocolate and Zucchini is celebrating its first birthday, congrats! That blog has come a long way. It has been mentioned in various media outlets across the globe. Its author, Clotilde, is throwing a birthday party this week in Paris (her home base) and has even opened up a forum for C&Z readers to discuss all topics related to cooking, baking, restaurants, etc. The wonderful images with which she illustrates her posts add that much more to visiting her site (and it’s all licensed under a Creative Commons License). Reading C&Z always makes me wish I had more time to cook and bake.

Another food blog I visit on occasion is Foodgoat, which takes food discussion to another level including comments about new food products on the U.S. market. And today I found C’est moi qui l’ai fait! through C&Z, another blog sure to get me inspired in the kitchen. My own modest contributions are on a recipe page I compiled mostly made up of some Hungarian specialties. I owe all that knowledge to my Mom who didn’t succeed in getting me excited about cooking while I was still living at home, but who has been a source of inspiration (and much helpful information!) an ocean apart. She is quite the cook and even has a cookbook out in English about Hungarian cooking (written in her “spare” time while continuing her first-rate scientific career). The recipe section, by the way, is one of the most popular parts of my site through search engine referrals (yeah, well, I’d like to think people are interested in my research, but I can’t blame them for preferring to cook a good chicken paprikash instead). I have also started to document good restaurants in Chicagoland.

In my part of the world, the weather is getting chillier and various fun holidays are approaching so I anticipate spending more time cooking and baking (although my upcoming travel schedule may challenge me on that). This is a good time to take stock of relevant blogs out there. I invite you to post links to your favorite food and recipe blogs (and other sites) here.

A distorting mirror

by John Q on October 1, 2004

We’ve all heard about the US embassy in Baghdad, with its thousands of employees, advisers in every department, and capacity to instantly countermand any decision made by the Allawi government. But until now, I’d never given much thought to its opposite number, the Iraqi embassy in Washington. It turns out to be a kind of funhouse mirror image, as indicated in this story in the Washington Post which discusses Allawi’s tour and the ghostwriting of his speech

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and British Foreign Service officials also helped Allawi with the text and delivery of his remarks, said administration officials who were involved. The State Department and officials elsewhere in the government took the lead in booking Allawi’s interviews. Administration officials said that the Iraqi Embassy in Washington consists of just a few officials and has only a dial-up Internet connection, so was incapable of preparing for the high-profile tour.

One might think that with the IMF and World Bank located in Washington, not to mention the US Congress, the Iraqi government might feel the need for a more substantial presence, and that a few million of the billions of dollars supposedly allocated to reconstruction might have been used to establish it, if only for PR purposes. But obviously these institutions negotiate directly with the US Administration. Why talk to the monkey when the organ-grinder is right next door?

More on the speech from Mark Kleiman


by Ted on October 1, 2004

I watched the debate with my friend Rob “Get Donkey” Humenik. Afterwards, I thought that I’d better get home and start rooting for the home team, but… it looks like Kerry did just fine without my little squeakerbox.

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Laura promises that next week will be devoted to a really interesting-looking blog conference on Work/Family issues. She says

bq. Here’s the tentative schedule for the event:

bq. Monday — General Topics Related to Parents and Mothers and Work. What skills has you gained as a parent that will carry over into the world of work? Describe your typical day. Do you feel your work at home is undervalued by society and by the workplace? What obstacles have you faced in holding a job and having a family? What is your childcare situation? In an ideal world, what percentage of time would you spend with your kids and what percentage with work? Is parenthood too hard today?

bq. Tuesday — Parenthood and Academia. What obstacles have you faced as an academic trying to balance family and work? For the singles, are we a big bunch of whiners? What changes could be made?

bq. Wednesday — The Guys. What balance of housework/childcare have you arranged with your spouse? For the women, are the guys doing their share? What problems do stay at home dads face?

bq. Thursday — Feminism and Politics. What’s the big deal about having a career anyway? For younger women, were you disappointed that other women never told you how difficult it would be to have it all? Knowing what you know, what advice would give young people? What political and social changes would you like to see? Is Sweden a good model? Are women their own worst enemy?

bq. Friday — I’m not sure. Something fun, like telling the story of how your kid stuck breakfast cereal up his nose.

Go and enjoy yourselves there next week. For my part, I’m just glad that it wasn’t this week, in which work/family issues have kept me almost completely from thinking about work/family issues (if you see what I mean) or even from looking at Laura’s blog till now. I’ll fill you in on the bits that don’t have to do with the cat’s idiotic fight with next door’s dog (very expensive) later.