Sunday, July 29, 2007

Pick and Pan of the Week: American History

Pick of the Week

Why do high school students hate history so much? Author James Loewen argues it's because our presentation of the material is so sanitized, so heroificied (he made that word up!) that history becomes not the story of real events past, but rather an attempt to force a recitation of cherry-picked, or sometimes invented, facts. The author argues that every college professor, and several high school teacher, knows that history is about controversy, the clash of ideas, of tortuous opposing viewpoints, and yet the presentation of this information is so distorted as to make a realtor proud!

But worse, it may be racist. Loewen argues convincingly that there is an inherent tendency to ignore the contributions of non-whites and overplay those of Europeans, even in the face of tremendous historical evidence to the contrary.

As someone who loathed history in high school and now am discovering a love for it, I concur! So it does excite me to learn (not in this book) that, for example, that George Washington likely defrauded his fellow veterans of the French and Indian War to obtain their lands for dirt cheap - it doesn't diminish, in my view, his very important contributions to the America we cherish today, but does make him more human, and me more optimistic.

Pan of the Week

I have a confession to make - I did not finish watching this film. Actually I didn't even come close. Ken Burns is an acclaimed film maker, but sometimes I wonder if he had learned his trade from Communist propaganda training schools. All the criticisms from Loewen apply to this film. The last straw was when a discussion of slavery came on, and they somewhat brushed Jefferson's hypocrisy on this issue as somehow that he realized he was ahead of his times, and chose incremental change over substantial reform.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Real Estate Bloodbath

From American Public Media's program, Marketplace:

This year alone, [Cayahoga country treasurer] Rokokis expects 17,000 foreclosures in his county. He blames careless, even abusive mortgage lending. According to Cayahoga county statistics, just one lender, Argent Mortgage, has seen about 25 percent of its loans in Cleveland go under.

Countrywide Financial CEO Mozila seemed to be overstating things when he talked about the worst housing slump since the Great Depression, but stats like this make you sit up. And keep in mind Ohio is supposed to have one of the more "affordable" housing markets.

Incidentally, one of my friends in Arizona has been texting me about great deals she's been finding in the overheated (in more ways than one!) desert, including a 5 bed, 3 bath house for 189k! If there is a good news in this bloodbath, it might be that those of us who don't work on Wall Street may finally be able to find a place to live and own.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


If you're into politics, definitely check out the Candidates@Google forum, with videos on Youtube. Unlike the usual sound bite nonsense that you see on the TV channels, a candidate who has to talk for an hour has to get into the details. So, in this video, for example, Bill Richardson has to argue why he's for a cap-and-trade policy for controlling global warming rather than a carbon tax, the use of tax incentives to achieve policy goals, his health care plan or his energy policy initiatives, or of course, Iraq and foreign policy. I disagree with some of his ideas, as I did when watchhing Congressman Ron Paul earlier, but I know where they stand. And they educate you on fascinating aspects of public policy. Ron Paul may be perceived as a lunatic by many mainstream voters for his extreme conservative views, but his discussions of history and the constitution make you sit up.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Thank You, Lady Bird!

Yesterday was a gorgeous day, and I drove up the Shenandoah mountains with my windows down, I couldn't help but reflect on the contributions of Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson. The former First Lady, who recently passed, was instrumental in the beautification of the nation's capital and national highways. I confess having been raised outside the US, I knew little about Lady Bird - in fact, I didn't initially recognize her to be Mrs LBJ. However, her passing has made me ponder just how big her contributions to landscape beautification are. I don't know that road trips would be quite the same without the wonderful plantings and the limitations on billboards that Lady Bird was instrumental in bringing forth. Goodbye, Lady Bird, we'll miss you!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Book of the Day: All Over But the Shouting

The Pulitzer-prize winning journalist talks about his growth from Ricky of rural Applachia, born into poverty of an alcoholic father and a mother who did her damnest to do right by her kids, to become a famous (ok, he later became infamous, but that's another story) writer for the New York Times. This story will move you, make you laugh but also paint an incredible picture of what the rural South is. Ricky's honesty at times in unnerving, and sometimes finds a quest for your own true emotions that can at times be discomforting. A must-read!

Amazon link

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Quote of the Day: Chris Rock

Comedian Chris Rock about the over-hyped urgings of hypocritical stars:
I pray that this event ends global warming the same way that Live Aid ended world hunger.

Video Calls in Korea

Anyone else think the American cell phone industry sucks? It's one of the least innovative industries in this country, and when we do get a decent product, it comes with a fair bit of sticker shock! What precipitated this not-quite revelation on a Sunday morning was a news story that Korea's largest provider, SK Telecom would allow video calls between mobile phones and Internet phones. But what amazed me wasn't the technology (I for one would never really want to use a video phone), but the price tag - at W30 per 10 seconds (about 18 cents a min) it's cheaper than US cell subscribers pay for going over their minutes!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Outsourcing Child Care - Onion Alert!

People are always telling me to lighten up. Since I have trouble doing that, I'm outsourcing it to the Onion.

Report: Many U.S. Parents Outsourcing Child Care Overseas