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Archive for December 2004

Starve the Beast: Pell Grants

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From the NYT today, two paragraphs down deep in "Students to Bear More of the Cost of College":

Painful though it may be, supporters of the new rules say, trimming
back on awards has its benefits, especially for future students.

and lawmakers on all sides have long agreed that the maximum Pell
Grant, currently set at $4,050 a year, is wholly inadequate given
today’s college costs. But, supporters of the changes say, unless there
is a serious effort to scale back the program, whose costs have been
exceeding lawmakers’ appropriations for it, Congress may never be in a
position to give larger awards to the poorest of students, who need
them the most.

This isn’t a bait and switch, right? I mean, don’t think I’m not thankful that you’re saving Social Security for us, and that I got such a proportionally huge-tax cut like you promised, and it makes me feel better that the War on Terror for Universal Freedom… that the War is almost over, right after Baghdad transitional government Falluja the elections come in January. But would it just be possible to get this in writing – the fact that the current Pell Grant rollback is only a stepping stone to a new and improved Pell Grant system, targetted at those who need it most???

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December 23, 2004 at 9:00 am

Posted in Politics

Wrong Time to Lose the Auto-Pen

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Tough week for Rummy… First this

In a statement first issued to Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper, Rumsfeld said he would begin signing the letters himself. Defense Department officials said Monday that Rumsfeld’s initial use of an automated signature machine, a tool commonly used by public officials for mass mailings, was only to assure that the families received their letters quickly.

..then this:

A guerrilla attack on a dining tent at a U.S. base in Iraq killed 19
American soldiers and three other people on Tuesday in the deadliest
strike on U.S. forces since last year’s war to oust Saddam Hussein.

Wrong time to get your auto-pen taken away, no? I’m sure he’ll soldier through all 19 signatures, though, since, as his Boss says, in full non-sequiturial aploom: "I know Secretary Rumsfeld’s heart."

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December 21, 2004 at 11:30 pm

Posted in Politics

Beijing Pizza Hut

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Salad_barBoing Boing has a post up on something that I saw in Beijing – have never seen anyone else mention it.

Wife and I, paralyzed with hunger in Beijing one day, actually ate at a Pizza Hut. (Actually… we ate at Pizza Hut a few times in China, OK… Leave me only, foodie dorks…)

Seated near the salad bar – not all that different from the salad bars at PH at home – we noticed something rather peculiar. Folks weren’t just calmly slopping their salads together as at home (mom always used to drop the choco pudding on top of it all – what’s up with that?)… No, they were building frigging pyramids of fruit and veg, towers obelisks of pineapple, etc… Thing is, everyone was doing it – just seemed to be part of the PH experience over there… Could help but laugh – folks would work in pairs, one supporting the plate, and the other building. Literally – no overstatement – they’d spend 20 or so minute on the whole thing.

Now I learn the secret – they’re only allowed one trip…

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December 10, 2004 at 11:09 pm

Posted in Places

The Schmitt Hits the Fan

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Excellent paper by Simon Critchley that I found at pas au-dela. The paper’s on the "Crypto-Schmittianism" of the Bush administration. (Short version of what this means: they know that politics is politics (i.e. is war), (here comes the "crypto" part) but they act as if the political is never political…

(My wife tells me that it was probably from a special faculty seminar
in the wake of the election that went on at the Graduate Faculty of the
New School…)

Not a Schmitt expert. But here’s my question – as Schmittianism ever not been crypto, even in Schmitt’s eyes? Was in an advocate of transparency in all of this?

(Funny – after all that’s been said about Schmitt – like Critchley’s paper, for instance – hard for me to call to mind the tone of the actual works. Is The Concept of the Political descriptive or pragmatic? Why does it have the shimmer in my mind of Machiavelli for the Modern Age.)

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December 8, 2004 at 11:42 pm

Posted in Politics

Arbeit Macht Frei

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Link: Steve Gilliard’s News Blog : We pay our slave laborers.

Returning Fallujans will face clampdown
By Anne Barnard, Globe Staff — December 5, 2004

FALLUJAH, Iraq — The US military is drawing up plans to keep insurgents from regaining control of this battle-scarred city, but returning residents may find that the measures make Fallujah look more like a police state than the democracy they have been promised.
    Under the plans, troops would funnel Fallujans to so-called citizen processing centers on the outskirts of the city to compile a database of their identities through DNA testing and retina scans. Residents would receive badges displaying their home addresses that they must wear at all times. Buses would ferry them into the city, where cars, the deadliest tool of suicide bombers, would be banned.
    Marine commanders working in unheated, war-damaged downtown buildings are hammering out the details of their paradoxical task: Bring back the 300,000 residents in time for January elections without letting in insurgents, even though many Fallujans were among the fighters who ruled the city until the US assault drove them out in November, and many others cooperated with fighters out of conviction or fear.
    One idea that has stirred debate among Marine officers would require all men to work, for pay, in military-style battalions. Depending on their skills, they would be assigned jobs in construction, waterworks, or rubble-clearing platoons.
    "You have to say, ‘Here are the rules,’ and you are firm and fair. That radiates stability," said Lieutenant Colonel Dave Bellon, intelligence officer for the First Regimental Combat Team, the Marine regiment that took the western half of Fallujah during the US assault and expects to be based downtown for some time.
    Bellon asserted that previous attempts to win trust from Iraqis suspicious of US intentions had telegraphed weakness by asking, " ‘What are your needs? What are your emotional needs?’ All this Oprah [stuff]," he said. "They want to figure out who the dominant tribe is and say, ‘I’m with you.’ We need to be the benevolent, dominant tribe.
    "They’re never going to like us," he added, echoing other Marine commanders who cautioned against raising hopes that Fallujans would warmly welcome troops when they return to ruined houses and rubble-strewn streets. The goal, Bellon said, is "mutual respect."
    Most Fallujans have not heard about the US plans. But for some people in a city that has long opposed the occupation, any presence of the Americans, and the restrictions they bring, feels threatening.
    "When the insurgents were here, we felt safe," said Ammar Ahmed, 19, a biology student at Anbar University. "At least I could move freely in the city; now I cannot."

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December 6, 2004 at 10:04 am

Posted in Current Affairs

Think I’m Finally Starting to Get It

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Matt Yglesias, linking to a Sullivan post, discusses here the "’secret sin’ theory of politics."

People become social conservatives because they worry that without the
long arm of the state holding them back, they would instantly turn into
degenerates. Or, at least, "red America" is disproportionately
interested in state enforcement of traditional sexual norms because
these are actually the areas most plagued with sex-related social
pathologies. It’s an idea that can be turned around. According to the
"secret sin" theory, people become liberals because they worry that
without the long arm of the state reaching into their pockets, they
would instantly turn into selfish bastards who never lift a finger (or
spare a dime) for the poor. And, indeed, it’s true that the red states
are more charitable than the blue ones.

And then today, this astounding passage in the Times’s How to Sell a Candidate to a Porsche-Driving, Leno-Loving Nascar Fan.

The data also yielded unexpected insights. One of the shows most popular with Republicans, especially Republican women ages 18 to 34, turned out to be "Will & Grace," the sitcom about gay life in New York. As a result, while Mr. Bush was shoring up his conservative credentials by supporting a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, his advertising team was buying time on a program that celebrates gay culture.
The Bush team broadcast commercials 473 times on "Will & Grace" in markets across the country from Jan. 1 to Nov. 2, according to the Wisconsin project. (The Kerry campaign broadcast commercials 859 times on the show.)

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December 6, 2004 at 9:23 am

Posted in Politics

The New York Times > International > Asia Pacific > China’s Textbooks Twist and Omit History

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Thank God we live in a free country. In China, it seems, they aren’t even honest with themselves about the difference between defensive and offensive wars.

From today’s Times: China’s Textbooks Twist and Omit History.

Most Chinese students finish high school convinced that their country has fought wars only in self-defense, never aggressively or in conquest, despite the People’s Liberation Army’s invasion of Tibet in 1950 and the ill-fated war with Vietnam in 1979, to take two examples.

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December 6, 2004 at 9:06 am

Posted in Politics