Better Voting

As the problems with voting mount, here's a simple list of what we need:

Legislation to have voting standardized, with verified voting machines, paper trails, independent audits.

Voting done in post offices, MVB's, and other government facilities, monitored by trained and well paid citizens, and done on Saturday/Sunday or on a special weekday holiday.

Votes should be counted and recounted as long as accuracy requires, and should not be reported until accurate and official.


Colin Powell--Patriot or Craven Opportunist?

In most mainstream media discussions about Colin Powell it is typically asserted both

(a) that he is the author of the "Pottery Barn Rule" meant to warn against putting troops amidst dangerous Vietnam-like circumstances and

(b) that he is a "good soldier" for the Administration and for that reason had held his views largely to himself until now.

Then his Presidential ambitions are discussed and his wife is often cited as a major reason he's not running.

I'd submit that there is another implication that no one usually mentions: that Colin Powell is an opportunist first and foremost.

Before you think me just a carping critic, ask yourself to whom Colin Powell proffers his primary loyalty: to the troops or the Administration? Can't choose? That's because his primary loyalty is to both--and that means, to Colin Powell. If Colin Powell was as resolute in his loyalty to American troops as much of Conventional Wisdom says he is, he would have spoken out or resigned as soon as he found out he had been deceived by the Administration (UN Speech) about the causus belli and the lack of pre-war planning.

For all his appearances of a statesman and a principled general, Colin Powell has been silent through revelation after revelation, and has done little to keep his supposedly cherished armed forces from sinking deeper and deeper into a Mideast quagmire. For what possible reason is he keeping his "powder dry" if not for his own benefit?

This latter fact both contradicts the mainstream media assertion that his either a virtuous leader or a viable candidate for the Presidency.


The Al Qaeda Anchor?

Is CNN now paying Al Qaeda's Anchor?

From Think Progress:

    Today (Aug. 11, 2006) on CNN Headline News, anchor Chuck Roberts discussed the impact of the foiled British terror plot with Hotline senior editor John Mercurio. Roberts asked Mercurio, "How does this factor into the Lieberman/Lamont contest? And might some argue, as some have, that Lamont is the al Qaeda candidate?"

Political contests, such as the one in Connecticut, involve debates about issues. That's normal. People decide which side has the better argument by voting. That's normal. But when pundits then choose to characterize the process with divisive labels, that's propaganda.

By this point, we expect Karl Rove and Dick Cheney and George Bush to take something like a primary and give it global terror implications. They seek only to win elections, not serve the whole public.

But this is not something we expect the media to do.

By his comments, some might argue that by injecting a straightforward American election with propaganda, Chuck Roberts is al Qaeda's anchor. Al Qaeda wants to intervene in American life; they want to turn us against one another and undermine the processes of democracy. Chuck Roberts is clearly assisting that effort.

Thanks, Chuck.

Now get some objective distance for what comes out of your mouth, stop repeating propaganda, or get the hell off the air.


What to call a professor

An interesting discussion about the title "assistant professor" has sprung out of a post I did at the Chronicle of Higher Education's Forum. That discussion is here


Relax Parents, Most Colleges are Highly Selective

Why do I write to the Times? They've published ten letters of mine, but none for a while. Where has our love gone?

Admissions dean JENNIFER BRITZ ("To All the Girls I've Rejected," March
23) need not apologize to parents for rejecting their daughters from her
selective college. Expectations are largely to blame, and that's a
shame. Middle class parents, and many media commentators, remain
convinced that success is highly correlated with college selectivity.
But as James Fallows and others showed in 2001, "the economic benefit of
attending a more selective school was negligible."

As a professor recently on both sides of the interviewing table, I can assure parents that there is
selectivity where it counts most: among college faculty. Competition for
faculty jobs is fierce, often with several hundred applications per job.
By forgetting this other type of selectivity, parents and guidance
counselors consign their children to both disappointment and an
unhealthy rat race at the same time.


Interdisciplinarity Through University Online Course Schedules

Here's a simple way to use existing technology that encourages building bridges for faculty and students.

It involves online course registration and course listing. When students look for a course in Communication, e.g., say on "Media and Political Communication" courses related to it appear under that course which students may also want.

So, on the web:


* See also [link: Philosophy of Media, Philosophy Department]

* See also [link: Speech in the Public Sphere, English Department]

My idea here has a simple rationale: people are interested in ideas first, disciplines second. Why should any student rest content with a COMM class if an English class more closely suits their interests? Universities should guide students through their course offerings in a way that pays homage to an intellectual path being explored rather than to a departments enrollment figures.

What's the technology involved? Every course is entered in the course catalog with keywords that will include other course titles. A student searches for a course and finds a main hit, but also sees suggested and related hits (say two at the most). Libraries use technology like this all the time, and so does Amazon.com. A student should never hit a dead end while searching for a course; they should have trails that lead elsewhere in the university, if possible.

What happens academically down the line? Departments start to see in their own course listings the relations between their departments and others that they did not see before; they see, for example, that someone in philosophy, biology, and history are all concerned with how scientific knowledge is communicated to the public--students and, more importantly, those three faculty, are made aware of one another. Interdisciplinary connections begin to be made organically, growing out of mutual interest. This leads, perhaps, to team teaching, panels, and cooperative grant proposals.

It's a small idea, but maybe a big payoff.