No attempted political smear like an old attempted political smear

March 30, 2012

This New York Times photo feature is making the e-mail and Facebook rounds of Republicans and anti-Obamaniacs:

Obama carrying Zakaria's book, in 2008 - NY Times photo by Doug Mills

Then-candidate Barack Obama carrying a copy of Fareed Zakaria‘s best-selling book on why America has an optimistic future, The Post-American World, on the campaign trail in 2008

Should have noted, it’s making the rounds yet again.

In the note I got most recently, the sender posted this — probably a copy and paste message:

This picture will stun you

If each person sends this to a minimum of 20 people on their address list, in three days,
all people in The United States of America would have the message.
I believe this is one proposal that really should be passed around.
________________________________________________________________

THIS WILL CURDLE YOUR BLOOD AND CURL YOUR HAIR

Description: cid:image001.jpg@01CCB96D.4D1AFD50

The name of the book Obama is reading is called: The Post-American World, and it was written by a fellow Muslim.

“Post” America means the World After America ! , Please forward this picture to everyone you know, conservative or liberal. , Democrat or Republican, Folks we need to be aware of what our president is thinking–or planning
We must expose Obama’s radical ideas and his intent to bring down our beloved America!

Oy.  Where to begin with the factual corrections?

First, Zakaria is not exactly a Muslim extremistHe was born in India, a secular nation which practices religious diversity by law, his mother a former editor of The Sunday Times of India, his father a member of the popular Indian National Congress, the party of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, and Manmohan Singh, to mention four famous Prime Ministers of India.

Fareed Zakaria, Editor, Newsweek International...

Fareed Zakaria, [then

Second, Zakaria is a highly-respected journalist with great experience in international affairs.  He’s a former columnist for of Newsweek, and was editor of Newsweek International (is that American enough?).  Currently he has a column in Time, and a regular slot on CNN, Fareed Zakaria GPS, after a program on PBS and assignments for ABC.  You probably know the man by sight, and he doesn’t scare you in your living room.

Third, it’s not about “after” America — it’s about life in the world after several other nations figure out the U.S. secrets to success (freedom and trade), and apply them to become, like the U.S., a world power.  Not the world “after America,” but the world after the domination of America and Pax Americana.  The note in the New York Times said:

Writing in the Book Review a few weeks ago, Joseph Joffe said about Zakaria’s book:

Zakaria’s is not another exercise in declinism. His point is not the demise of Gulliver, but the ”rise of the rest.” After all, how can this giant follow Rome and Britain onto the dust heap of empire if it can prosecute two wars at once without much notice at home? The granddaughters of those millions of Rosie the Riveters who kept the World War II economy going are off to the mall today; if they don’t shop till they drop, it’s because of recession, not rationing.

“Not another exercise in declinism.” Want to bet the people passing the photo around didn’t bother to read Zakaria’s book?  Heck, they didn’t even bother to check it out on Amazon, or Wikipedia.  Anyone who thinks this photo sinister clearly could use a good read of the book — if they can read.

Fourth, Zakaria’s book has an entire chapter on keeping the U.S. from falling into decline — it’s not a book to”bring down our beloved America,” but is instead a book aimed at doing the exact opposite.  Zakaria outlines how the U.S. can maintain influence and power in a world where superpower influence is problematic rather than an enormous advantage at all times, and a world where trade is better than war.

Fifth, The Post-American World got a lot of praise from conservative, Republican- and Libertarian-leaning people when it was published.  The pedestrian Wikipedia explained:

The Post-American World, at 292 pages long, was described as “a book-length essay”[5] and a “thin book that reads like one long, thoughtful essay”.[6] Written with an optimistic tone, it features little new research or reporting, but rather contains insights and identification of trends.[5] The reviewer for The Wall Street Journal described the tone as “infectious (though not naive) sunniness…but without Panglossian simplicity”.[1] The American Spectator reviewer noted that the prose had a journalistic style[7] while the reviewer for The Guardian noticed the writing sometimes displayed “news magazine mannerisms”.[8]

Zakaria’s view on globalisation was said to be similar to journalist and author Thomas Friedman.[9][10] Friedman reviewed The Post-American World and called it “compelling”.[11] The review in American Conservative compared this book with Rudyard Kipling‘s poems “Recessional” and “The White Man’s Burden“, both written at the height of British power and warning against imperial hubris.[12] The American Spectator review listed it as adding to similar themed books, comparing it to Oswald Spengler‘s The Decline of the West (1918), Arnold Toynbee‘s A Study of History, Paul Kennedy‘s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1987), and Robert Kagan‘s The Return of History and the End of Dreams (2008).[7] Kagan labeled The Post-American World as “declinist”;[13] however, Martin Woollacott of The Guardian labeled Zakaria an exceptionalist.[8] The Commentary review added the works of Samuel P. Huntington and Francis Fukuyama to the list of comparisons and suggested there is now a sub-genre of books that consider the decline or demise of American hegemony.[14]

Wall Street Journal, American Spectator, Commentary — any self-respecting, halfway well-read neo-conservative would have all of those sources on her desk today.

Having read Zakaria’s book should be an indication of American patriotism.  Dwight Garner’s comment at Art Beat, a blog of the New York Times, said the photo was a “stylish book-ad,” and he meant it as a compliment.  He closed off his note:

Anyone know what book John McCain is — or should be — carrying around?

Grand question.  I’ll wager McCain knows the book, if he hasn’t read it.

But what about Mitt Romney?  I’ll wager he didn’t bother to read it.  Rick Santorum?  Surely not.  Newt Gingrich probably read it quickly, over-analyzed it, found some minor issue of historical interpretation to disagree with, and pronounced it not worthy of actual citation.

The people who try to raise fears with the photo?  They probably don’t read newspapers, don’t have library cards, and they hope to hell you’re too busy updating your Facebook profile to know anything at all about reality and world history.  Would they send the photo around if they had Clue #1?

Sixth, the book came out in 2008.    Even the paperbacks are in new editions with revisions, it’s been out so long.

How desperate are the Obama-obsessed folk?  They’re so desperate they are recycling hoaxes from 2008.  Worse, they find people willing to be hoaxed all over again, forgetting they got hoaxed back then.

Voter identification?  How about a voter sanity check?  Given a choice, a sane person might say “let illegal aliens vote, instead” — they know more about America and what makes it great than the perps of this hoax.

Is it significant that Zakaria has not been shy about criticizing serious policy errors promulgated by Republican candidates for president?  Nah.

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CNN special on “fixing” education in the U.S.

November 6, 2011

I get press releases in e-mail:

FIXING EDUCATION is Focus of New “Restoring the American Dream” FAREED ZAKARIA GPS Primetime Special

Restoring the American Dream – FIXING EDUCATION Debuts Sunday at 8:00pm ET and PT

TIME Magazine Companion Story “When Will We Learn?” Hits Newsstands Friday

American primary and secondary education were once envied by much of the world, but over the last few decades U.S. students have fallen behind – while students in other countries have benefitted from improvements to their educational systems.  CNN and TIME magazine’s Fareed Zakaria interviews innovative and creative leaders working on solutions to fix what ails American education in his November primetime special, Restoring the American Dream – FIXING EDUCATION, on Sunday, Nov. 6 at 8:00pm & 11:00pm ET & PT, and for a companion TIME magazine cover article, “When Will We Learn?” that hits newsstands Friday.

Time Magazine cover for November 4, 2011

Time Magazine cover for November 4, 2011, featuring Fareed Zakaria's story on education reform

PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment, ranks 15-year-olds for basic skills achievement in 65 industrialized nations.  In the latest PISA rankings, the U.S. ranks 15th in reading, 23rd in math, and 31st in science.  Zakaria guides viewers through tours of what is working in education in countries with high rankings – to South Korea where students have more classroom time; and Finland , where professionalization of the teacher workforce has improved educators – in order to mine ideas for what could put U.S. education back on the right track.

Featured in the special are:

  • ·Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, whose foundation has donated $5 billion dollars to schools, libraries, and scholarships tells Zakaria that the single most important determinant in the quality of a student’s education is the teacher.  The Gates Foundation is the leading source of private money for education in the U.S. .
  • ·Salman Khan,< founder of the Khan Academy , an educational organization that provides free, self-paced tutorials and student assessments online.  Khan’s famous podcasts have delivered more than 83 million free lessons in math, science and other topics, and he tells Zakaria that customizing education can improve learning through leveraging how students learn differently.  He thinks it would not be that difficult to teach all American students this way.
    • NYU Professor, former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education, and author (The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, 2010) Diane Ravitch has spent a lifetime in education policy analysis and has seen education reforms come and go – and harm students.  Ravitch supports a rigorous national curriculum and tells Zakaria that standardized testing, charter schools, and modeling public education after business models have politicized American education and degraded schools for a generation.
    • ·Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, in Washington, now leads StudentsFirst, a nonprofit aimed at education reform through, among other measures, ending teacher tenure and supporting charter school alternatives to traditional public schools.

A FAREED ZAKARIA GPS Special:Restoring the American Dream – FIXING EDUCATION – debuts Sunday, Nov. 6 at 8:00p.m. and 11:00p.m. ET/PT on CNN/U.S.  It will replay on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 8:00p.m. and 11:00p.m. ET/PT on CNN/U.S.  Preview available here: Fareed Zakaria and Brooke Baldwin discuss what makes a great teacher.

Fareed Zakaria’s TIME magazine cover story, When Will We Learn? hits newsstands Friday, Nov. 4.

So the Time story is already out (home delivery has already occurred in many cases).

If you’re interested in this special, you may want to record it yourself — CNN tells me no DVD will be available.

I have AT&T cable, so we don’t get CNN, which is reserved for the high-cost, not-teachers-salary package.  Somebody tell me how it goes.

Zakaria thinks solidly and well on a number of topics, especially where comparison with foreign nations is made.  Ravitch was struck with an epiphany on testing and the No Child Left Behind Act over a year ago, as described in the press release.  She came to see that testing sucks rigor out of classrooms, instead of instilling rigor as we discussed 30 years ago in the education reform movement.

What in the world can Michelle Rhee add to this discussion?  From the press release it looks a lot like the “balance” fallacy makes the show suffer:  Journalists think they need a contrasting view, so when Euclid tells a writer that 2+2=4, the journalist seeks out others who have different opinions, and prints those opinions no matter how stupid, insipid, or dangerous they may be.

Let us keep hope alive.

See also at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:


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