Castro joins the 9/11 conspiracy cluster

September 12, 2007

9/11 conspiracy nuts are vexing, partly because they don’t pay attention to rebuttals, for example Osama bin Laden’s claiming credit for the attack, partly because their internet output gives succor to Islamic terrorists who argue the U.S. has no justification for any anti-terrorist activity, and partly because it just hurts to see so much time and trouble wasted on silly ideas.

Fidel Castro has joined them.

Darrell’s Corollary of Godwin’s Law is that if posters in an internet discussion know to avoid the mention of Hitler to avoid their opponents’ invoking Godwin’s law, they’ll compare the actions to Stalin instead.

Now we’ll have to figure out the corollary for Castro.  You know it’s gotta be pretty silly for Castro to go back on his previous statements.  Maybe we should cut the man some slack — he’s very ill, after all.

What’s the excuse of the other 9/11 conspiracy fanatics?


Making history class interesting: A lesson plan

September 12, 2007

Getting kids to dive into history can be a chore — but a chore well worth the effort.

Here’s what it might look like, if the kids dive in:

ON the kind of humid summer day that sends visitors to Washington running for cool cover, not even free air-conditioning could lure more than a trickle of tourists into the art museums lining the National Mall.

But 35 miles south at the National Museum of the Marine Corps near Quantico, Va., visitors in a virtual boot camp tested their mettle against drill instructors and their marksmanship on an M-16 laser-rifle range.

Up the Potomac at Mount Vernon, crowds spilled onto a four-acre replica of George Washington’s working farm, while inside the Revolutionary War Theater the rumble of cannons and the cold prick of snow falling overhead lent verisimilitude to the re-enactment of his troops crossing the Delaware River.

And at the International Spy Museum in downtown Washington, visitors with $16 advance tickets snaked out the door as they waited their turn to practice fantasy espionage, complete with assumed identities, pen cameras, shoe phones and the kind of super-spy cars Q might have dreamed up for 007.

Admit it. Learning about history has rarely been so much fun.

You’re not close to Quantico, nor to Washington, D.C.?  How about you get your kids to invent a museum.

The New York Times collaborates with Columbia University’s Bank Street College of Education to produce lesson plans based on stories from the Times, every week day.

You may subscribe to get a lesson plan to your e-mail box every dayOr you can track them down at the Times’ website.

Below the fold, without editing, I list the lesson plan sent out September 10, as an example.  Sounds like a good day in class, to me.

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Update on Seeger: Critics dig deeper holes

September 12, 2007

It’s not exactly breaking news, but I probably should have caught it earlier — that Ron Radosh article in the New York Sun in which he noted Pete Seeger had condemned Stalin, ‘finally, after all these years?’ The article that made Instapundit exclaim it’s about time?

The New York Times noted that Seeger had made the confession in his book in 1993. Pete was probably too polite to embarrass his former banjo student, Radosh, with Radosh’s being at least a decade behind the times. But of course, the harpy right wing pundits can’t resist taking a swipe at Seeger anyway. I have to wonder whether earlier examples can be found.

Sour grapes articles were expectorated at NewsBusters, by P. J. Gladnick, Hard Country (which inexplicably extolls the virtue of Pete’s music and offers links to several videos of Pete’s performances), Andrew Sullivan (who even more inexplicably links to the NY Times article pointing out Seeger did it at least a decade ago), Dean’s World, Classically Liberal, Assistant Village Idiot (bucking for promotion?), Moonbattery, Mona Charen at NRO (who confesses to having it wrong in the 1970s, too), Dictators of the World, Jim-Rose.com, Synthstuff — whew! Here’s a pre-Radosh column sour grapes swipe from David Boaz in The Guardian.

See also The Philadelphia Inquirer, Walter Weiss, and the AP story in the Miami Herald. And this: The Peekskill riots?

To get the bad taste out of your mouth, see what Marketing Begins at Home has to say, and see the photos. And see this piece on the Highlander School.


Quote of the moment: Lessons of Vietnam, according to David Petraeus

September 12, 2007

I lift this completely from Chris Bray’s post at Cliopatria:

Wise Words

“The Vietnam experience left the military leadership feeling that they should advise against involvement in counterinsurgencies unless specific, perhaps unlikely, circumstances obtain — i.e. domestic public support, the promise of a quick campaign, and freedom to employ whatever force is necessary to achieve rapid victory. In light of such criteria, committing U.S. units to counterinsurgencies appears to be a very problematic proposition, difficult to conclude before domestic support erodes and costly enough to threaten the well-being of all America’s military forces (and hence the country’s national security), not just those involved in the actual counterinsurgency.”

David Howell Petraeus, The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam: A study of military influence and the use of force in the post-Vietnam era. PhD Dissertation, Princeton University, 1987. Page 305.

Dr. Petraeus is better known as Gen. Petraeus these days. Your assignment: Compare and contrast his statement from his dissertation with his testimony to Congress over the past two days. (Note the link above takes you to his actual dissertaion, in .pdf form.)


Fun history: Great blunders, literature division

September 12, 2007

People in literature are different from you and me.

University of Texas history professor David Oshinsky pulled back the curtain on some of the biggest blunders in the history of literature, in an article for the New York Times a couple of days ago: “No Thanks, Mr. Nabokov.”

He documents rejection letters that, in retrospect, perhaps publisher Alfred A. Knopf would rather had not been written — despite the fact that Knopf was enormously successful otherwise. For example, about a book on teen-aged angst:

In the summer of 1950, Alfred A. Knopf Inc. turned down the English-language rights to a Dutch manuscript after receiving a particularly harsh reader’s report. The work was “very dull,” the reader insisted, “a dreary record of typical family bickering, petty annoyances and adolescent emotions.” Sales would be small because the main characters were neither familiar to Americans nor especially appealing. “Even if the work had come to light five years ago, when the subject was timely,” the reader wrote, “I don’t see that there would have been a chance for it.”

Knopf wasn’t alone. “The Diary of a Young Girl,” by Anne Frank, would be rejected by 15 others before Doubleday published it in 1952. More than 30 million copies are currently in print, making it one of the best-selling books in history.

The goof examples roll out of the files:

Nothing embarrasses a publisher more than the public knowledge that a literary classic or a mega best seller has somehow slipped away. One of them turned down Pearl Buck’s novel “The Good Earth” on the grounds that Americans were “not interested in anything on China.” Another passed on George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” explaining it was “impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.” (It’s not only publishers: Tony Hillerman was dumped by an agent who urged him to “get rid of all that Indian stuff.”)

Thousands of high school students would agree with the difficulty of selling animal stories.

Oshinsky is working from the files of Knopf, recently donated to the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC) at the University of Texas, in Austin. University libraries push and shove each other to get troves of private correspondence, and the HRC has worked to get special grants to help things along. Sometimes these treasures lie buried in library archives. In this case, a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities helped fund the cataloging operation.

And Oshinsky, who won the Pulitzer for his book Polio: An American Story, has done a bit of history mining. The few nuggets of history gold he reveals in the newspaper will be “classic examples” of why authors, and students and people in the pews of a church, should keep trying in the face of adversity. You’ll see these examples in Readers Digest and inspirational speeches for years to come, count on it.

Literature teachers should find these quotes useful in comforting students who don’t like the classics they are assigned to read. Preachers will find them useful for a variety of reasons. Others of us will like them for the goofiness, and sheer acidity of harsh criticism that, often, proved wrong. We’re Americans; we like it when the underdog wins, and when the pundits get so exactly wrong.

More examples from Oshinsky’s article, below the fold.

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