The Spine

An 1895 8th Grade Final Exam: I Couldn't Pass It. Could You?
November 28, 2010

An old pal from Brandeis—Sheldon Gray—has a knack for the ironic. He's very well educated, and so am I. But I don't know whether we could pass this test, from 1895 in what looks like a little red schoolhouse in Salina, Kansas, at all. Let alone with flying colors.   Shelly sent on this object lesson in educational theory and in educational financing.  Try it: What it took to get an 8th grade education in 1895... Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an 8th grade education? Well, check this out.

Andre Geim, Nobel Laureate In Physics: “Israel Has Several Characteristics Which Result In An Especially High Proportion Of Less-Stupid People.” Wait A Minute, Please.
November 28, 2010

I've been in Israel already for six weeks on my teaching gig at the Bialik-Rogozin School, a K-12 in a poor neighborhood, perhaps the poorest neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Almost half the pupils are children of foreign workers, some of whom—but only some—are at peril of deportation because their parents' and/or their own documents have expired or were illegal (i.e., forged) in the first place. Still, the school is an incandescent place, with excited learning and sweet, sweet behavior.

Abracadabra: A Brand New Arab Identity Via Andy Warhol, The Guggenheim, And Frank Gehry
November 27, 2010

The most intriguing and intricate cultural history I have read is Simon Schama’s The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age. There are many lessons in it, one of them that enormous wealth brings both opportunity and confusion, even—surprise!—also deterioration. This was what finally happened to Holland, and it happened also to Spain and Venice—three of the once richest and most powerful polities of Europe.

Protect Cyber Dissidents And Promote Peace In The Middle East
November 26, 2010

I'd never heard of until yesterday when I received an e-mail from the organization detailing more than a few instances of the repression of men and women who use(d) the web to spread free discussion of issues  that routinely provoke the boot on the human face.  The organization focuses on the Muslim world where the struggle for civilization is being waged under the most horrific conditions.

Jimmy Carter, Korean Communist Dupe
November 25, 2010

The former president has been gulled once again, this time by the 
Communist regime in North Korea, a very brutal system of control, 
indeed. It's not the first time that the Kim dynasty has taken him 
in. But it is the ex-president at his most outlandishly doltish. Take the column Carter published this week in the Washington 
Post. It argues the good intentions of the dictatorship with regard 
to nuclear weapons.

Lessons of Hate At Islamic Schools in Britain
November 25, 2010

That's how the New York Times titled an article by John F. Burns whose by-line certifies not only the absolute truth of the report but also its importance. (Reuters distributed a dispatch on the same subject on its press service.) The story actually originated in a 30 minute B.B.C. "Panorama" television documentary about curriculum content in 40 part-time Islamic schools in Great Britain. And you can bet that the B.B.C. would have preferred to walk away from the project.

Common Sense Principles On The Future Borders Between Israel and Palestine
November 25, 2010

Frankly, I doubt that many Palestinians have dealt with this matter.  After all, everything is sacred to the Arabs, including places without any historical or religious resonance at all. Alas, Israeli politics are also sufficiently mercurial that the system is all but barred from focusing on the matter as well. In any case, an Israeli geographer and planner, Elisha Efrat, has written in this morning's Ha'aretz a design in principle for a land settlement of the conflict. It is not a solution to everything.

A Sex Scandal To Relieve The Torpor of Current Politics
November 24, 2010

Personally, I believe that Silvio Berlusconi is the best prime minister that Italy has had in years. And certainly the most interesting. Now, being the Italian p.m. is not exactly an honor, given the number of them who've served in the office, especially since the collapse of the Mussolini dictatorship during the Second World War. But Cavour was the first premier of the United Kingdom of Italy, and he was certainly a distinguished intellectual. On the other hand, he died in 1861, two and a half months into office.

Obama's Foreign Policy Needs A Reset
November 23, 2010

What the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl actually wrote was that "Obama's foreign policy needs an update." Diehl is correct. He is correct in characterizing the president's concern with the New START treaty as much out of date, although I am in a lackadaisical way for it. I suppose much like Deihl himself. But it is an obsession of the president's perhaps because, as the columnist points out, this is the issue with which Obama grew up and made his public debut.

Maybe You’re Accustomed To Reeling When Reading John Bolton’s Opinions. I Don’t.
November 23, 2010

More on the North Korean advance in its nuclear strategy. Not unsuspected but much ignored. And the truth is we've been ignoring Pyongyang's mad and aggressive moves in the atomic arena for years. Even under President Bush. And President Clinton. The current administration has made some angry sounds. But John Bolton, the best ambassador to the United Nations we've had in decades, doesn't believe they augur what we'll do.