Friday

If and When

Assume the UN inspectors find and dismantle Saddam's chemical, biological, and burgeoning nuclear capabilities. Does that mean they got them all? (No.) What if they don't find materials or evidence? Does that mean they're clean? (No.) Absent military action, which would rest on the not so unfair premise that Saddam is guilty until proven innocent, will this problem be any closer to being solved in a year?

Thursday

Is There a God?

Tough question after September 11th, and for some reason relatively small tragedies like this and this confuse me even more.

Class Action

Call it a lesson in the soft bigotry of low expectations: lawyers for six minority high school seniors in Massachusetts are filing a federal lawsuit, claiming the MCAS exam violates the constitution. You know, the part about how government shall make no law creating standards of success or failure.

Only minorities qualify because this is an equal protection claim. So white kids who are bad test takers will have to wait for the next wave of litigation. But it's likely the teachers' union -- which represents the professionals responsible for raising the kids' scores -- will be supportive then as they are now. "It is a flawed test. It should not be used as a determination for students getting a high school diploma nor be used to make life decisions for high school students," says the union president.

Just wait. The next flawed system to be targeted will be equally arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory, and demoralizing: grades.

The Waiting Room Waiting Room

Waiting times for health care in Canada are way up.

Killing Us Softly

Right-wing governments increase suicide rates, say two scientific studies. There are lots of cheap jokes to make here -- both about the apparent bias of the study and about right wing governments themselves. (Apparently in the studies "right-wing" simply means conservative, not oppressive or dictatorial.) But the theory raises interesting questions: does the win-or-lose culture of societies built on personal responsibility rather than entitlement -- societies with fewer social services and smaller safety nets -- lead to defeat and despair? Or is this just a trick of making correlation appear to be causation? Could it be that right wing governments are reacting to errors made by left-wing regimes that made people depressed in the first place? Would some claim this is this survival of the fittest in action? Social science is a bitch.

Tuesday

One Party, Over God?

An intriguing Public Interest essay on the widening gap in party affiliation between religious and secularist Americans.

You Can Have Your Cakewalk

I only saw the first part of the 9/11/02 Clinton Letterman appearance, andone comment bugged me. Letterman -- who is, by the way, a very solid serious interviewer with more passion and edge than, say, Stephanopoulos, asked about taking out Saddam. I can't find the transcript, but Clinton said something like, "I'd be shocked if it took a week." That's irresponsible, isn't it? Is he just chest-beating or setting expectations so high that Bush & co. can't meet them? I think we're going to have to go to war against Saddam, but a week is a ridiculously lowball estimate. Sounds like some brazen Terry Bradshaw Superbowl prediction. Desert Storm took much longer and we were beating back an army in an open space, not trying to eradicate an entrenched government -- and an individual -- from a city. I'll admit that I don't know the first thing about military planning or the propensity of the Iraqi army to defect (many expert types say it's high) and therefore can't predict how long that will take with any confidence. Why don't others show a little humility?