Two Carnivals to Visit

Virgina Conservative has the Carnival of the Vanities here. We have a small post up this week, not perhaps our best written, but one on one of my favorite subjects and one I hope to revisit. VACon looks like a blog to check out often, too. You’ll want to read it all, of course, and you knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?

The Education Carnival is here. This is an interesting mix of perspectives.

One of the most puzzling entries to me was this one, where a school administration planned a parent volunteer appreciation dinner where the teachers served (gasp, horrors, and tragic swoons) the parent volunteers as wait-staff. I’ve grown up in a culture where church groups regularly hold events where the parents serve the teens a special appreciation dinner, and the teens do the same for parents, the elderly, their Sunday School teachers and youth leaders, and the youth leaders then turn around the serve the parents or the teens- in other words, a culture of humble, servant minded leadership. So maybe I’m just clueless, but I can’t see what all the angst is about. In fact, I’m not seeing much here other than a grandly patronizing attitude toward parent volunteers. Maybe somebody could explain it to me. Nicely, please.

Spunky has a post at the carnival- this one. It’s a very moving conversation with her 14 y.o. son. REading Spunky’s website reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to post about. She had a fantastic idea a while back for an online homeschool convention. I hope she does it again, it was really well done. You’ll want to bookmark Spunky, you will.

This entry looks like a special read, too. “Who were the teachers that truly made a positive difference in your life? Over at Tall, Dark & Mysterious, Moebius Stripper has a visit with the high school math teacher who helped inspire her to study math. That’s just one aspect of this excellent post. Don’t miss it.”
I think it’s important to remember that no matter how problematic the institution, and no matter how snarky some individuals within it (and homeschoolers have our share of snark producers), the teachers are not the enemy. I actually come from a long line of educators, people who love and loved their students. I have some very special teachers in my life, too, people I’d love to find and thank (Mr. Schmidt from Cabrillo High School, wherever you are, you were probably the greatest teacher I ever had. I saved all your hand outs and have used them with my own children). Sorry, sermon over. The above post is only partially about the great math teacher. It’s largely about why kids are doing worse in school. Good read.

You’ll also want to read the Education Wonk’s take on the Bible Banning Principal in Tennessee.

REally, it all looks very, very interesting and educational.=)

For those of you interested in building up your blog traffic in the hopes of pursuing larger dreams, submitting posts to the Carnivals really does seem to be one of the better ways of doing that (well, that and having content worth reading) short of getting an Insta-lanche or some such lucky break.

Using the Conservative Cat’s submission form is the easiest way I know to submit to the carnivals. And if you know of a carnival he doesn’t have up there, I imagine he’d love to get the details from you. Check it out.

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Gracious Living, Common Room Style

This post is from something I wrote several years ago after a particularly amusing teatime at our house. I wrote it to encourage a group of friends, because I thought our foibles might help them relax a little. Enjoy.

Dear ladies,

I want to share today’s teatime while it’s still fresh on my mind, and on the kitchen kitchen floor, and ground into the carpet…

As you know, we have six daughters. They love teatime. But our teatime is not quite what you might expect with six girls. Here’s how it went today:

3:00: Eight and nine y.o. are called in from playing outside so they can help prepare tea. Eight y.o. comes in dripping wet. They are building a house to play in out in the corner of the backyard. The 9 y.o. wouldn’t help in any damp spots because she hates to get wet. The 8 y.o. loves nothing better, so she looks like a drowning kitten, although perhaps a lot more cheerful than a wet kitten would.

They wash their hands until the water no longer runs brown. I could still plant radishes in the dirt remaining under their fingernails. We discuss what we are going to make for tea. Thirteen y.o. who is watching the baby turns her back on him to play with 2 y.o. Baby was pulling himself up to stand but is only six months old, so he lets go and plunges face first into the rockers of a rocking chair, cutting his lip.

3:15- I nurse baby to comfort him and tell 8 and 9 y.o. to go to plan B. Plan B is when the children figure out something that needs little preparation. They slice apples and spread Cheese Whiz over white tortillas and roll them up, slicing them into pinwheels. They poor Chex Mix into a china bowl. Voila. I think it’s Low Tea rather than High Tea, how about you?

3:30- The 15 y.o. supervises the 2 y.o. as the tot pours ingredients for homemade hot cocoa mix into a large tupperware bowl. The 2 y.o is so proud to be doing the pouring without any help. Finished, 15 y.o. goes to stereo to put in some classical music. Unsupervised, 2 y.o. begins spooning hot chocolate mix onto her mouth. Yes, onto her mouth. There’s so much around the outside of her mouth that I can’t imagine any of it made it to the inside.

3:35- The water comes to a boil. Tea or Hot Cocoa is ready. We gather in the living room. Oldest child pours out, her prerogative (she’s a Jane Austen fan). Hot water dribbles down the side of the new tea pot into a puddle on my Grandmother’s walnut table. No problem. I faintly request Tension Tamer Tea instead of Lemon Zinger…

3:36- Eleven y.o. makes a grab for some Chex Mix. 11 y.o. is allergic to wheat and cannot have the Chex Mix. She is also developmentally disabled, and her developmental disabilty has locked her in place in the Terrible Twos. Thirteen y.o. tries to make her return it. Glaring fiercely, 11 y.o. crumbles the handful of Chex Mix into dust rather than give it up. The dog cleans up the mess.

3:37-Baby switches sides for nursing.
3:38- 2 y.o. dips her apple slices into cocoa mix.
3:39- 11 y.o. tips cup over. Everybody but mom, baby, and 11 y.o. race for towels to clean up the mess.

3:45- We smooth our skirts and settle down like ladies. Except the 2 y.o., who lifts her skirt up to her armpits and settles down like the precious little hoyden she is.

3:46- Mom reads a chapter from Mathematicians Are People, Too, and then a page from Gary Maldaner’s Polite Moments (and not a moment too soon, it seems).

4:00- We refill our cups and clean up more spills and take more stolen food from the allergic 11 y.o. and sharply remind the two year old that we do not put our bottoms on the table, nor do we sit on Sister’s head if she asks us not to.

4:05- Mom now reads a few geography terms from a book called Geography, A to
. We went driving along Padilla Bay last weekend and we visited a small ocean life museum, so I choose ocean related terms. The 8 and 9 y.o. girls get out the blocks. The carpet becomes a body of water, the blocks are the land. I read the description of the geographical term first (a group of islands clustered in a wide expanse of sea or ocean), they lay out the blocks to show what they think I’ve described. Then we look at the picture together to see if they understood my description correctly and we say the correct name together (archipelago).

4:10- The two y.o. snuggles contentedly on the 13 y.o.’s head, having wheedled sweetly enough that the 13 y.o. martyrs herself on the altar of self sacrifice. Occasionally the 13 y.o. contributes a muffled comment. 15 y.o. keeps 11 y.o. occupied while she listens.

4:30 – Having covered five or six geographical terms, we are done. The water for tea is cool. We clean up, breaking only one other tea cup in the process. It’s alright, because I only paid fifty cents for it at a yard sale.

4:45- We keep cleaning up, because although we only illustrated five or six geographical terms, it seems to have taken up one box of Lincoln Logs, one box of Japanese waffle blocks, one box of regular wooden blocks, and a crate of Legoes. And while only about two pounds of hot cocoa mix were mixed up in the large bowl, approximately three pounds seem to be distributed about the person of a small 2 year old.

Did I mention we only have tea once a week?

Love (and hopefully laughs) from our house to yours. Relax, my loves, and enjoy your children. Methinks that it’s been too long since we’ve had tea here at our house. I think I’ve recovered enough to attempt it once more.

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A life philosophy

“…you wouldn’t sing secrets to a butcher in the street, you know.”

“It never happened that I did so yet, to the best of my remembrance…but I might do it. A man can’t say what he might wish to do some day or another”

(from Our Mutual Friend, taken slightly out of context)

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A picture from DC

This is on the Iwo Jima memorial:
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The Unstraight Flush at Newsweek

We’ve written previously about the Newsweek mess here, here, and here.

Thanks to Hugh Hewitt, I read this blog this morning.

Jay Rosen says many wise and interesting things, and you will want to read the entire post. He has some wonderful suggestions for improving reporting. I hope the right people listen to him, because I yearn to be able to trust mainstream news sources.

For my purposes, I just want to focus on two or three specific points from his post here. To begin with, read this excellent summing up of the recently discredited Newsweek report:

The very difficulty of summarizing what the faulty report said tells us something vital about it. To wit:

Newsweek, which I will call S1 for our first level source, and for which we have names (Michael Isikoff, Mark Whitaker, John Barry) said that it had sources (S2) without names, who in turn said that other sources (S3) also without names, working as investigators for the government, have learned enough from their sources (S4), likewise unnamed, to conclude in a forthcoming report for U.S. Southern Command (finally, a name!) that unnamed interrogators (S5) dumped the Qur’an into toilets to make a point with prisoners (S6) who are Muslims but also not named.

We’ll find out more about the ‘reliable sources’ without names in a moment.

He also says,

“That doesn’t mean a charge like desecration of the Koran should never be reported. If United States policy is to show scrupulous respect for holy texts, then it matters if American policy is being violated. I don’t agree at all with La Shawn Barber: “Newsweek should not have reported it, even if true.” But I do agree that the possible consequences in being wrong–and being right–should have been factored in, driving the need for reliability up, up, up. But nothing like this happened at Newsweek.”

I also did not agree with LaShawn when she said that NW should not have reported the story whether or not it was true- if it had been true and they had solid confirmation, they should have reported it. They also should have provided context, such as, is it just one interrogator who has since been relieved of his duties, what the U.S. military policies are for treatment of the Koran and other books holy to their readers. They did not do this with the recent prison scandal at Abu Ghraib, where the context is rather different than the reporting of the story would lead readers to believe.

But at any rate, while the U.S. Military does have strict orders for how to treat the Koran and how to behave with respect to the standards of a host country, the U.S. media does not have a policy of showing scrupulous respect for texts holy to believers of some stripes. The press, as The Anchoress points out, didn’t seem so disturbed when a picture of Mary was surrounded by elephant dung, or when a crucifix was displayed immersed in urine. Those two things were ‘art,’ and part of what made them ‘art’ was the fact that they offended the sensibilities of certain people, therefore, creating an emotional reaction. Apparently, artistic and creative may be defined as offending people- but only if the offense as an act of creation offends the right people- Catholics, for instance. Those stories were reported in such a way as to be about censorship, idiotic rednecks, and free speech.

Allegedly fushing a Koran down a toilet is not artistic free speech merely because it offends the wrong people. It offends Muslims (especially those who blow up church buildings, oppress Christians, and who beat women for not covering their faces). Offending *those* people by disrespectflly handling an inanimate object in front of them is ‘torture.’
As Glenn Reynolds points out, to include such acts under the heading ‘torture’ is to make a mockery of those who actually have been tortured. By this definition, Bible believers in America have been tortured for decades by our popular culture.

But let us return to Jay Rosen’s post. Exactly what kind of sources did Newsweek rely on?

It appears that one of them was not really a source for the allegation but a Pentagon official who was shown the report and didn’t disconfirm it. From the New York Times account by Katharine Seelye:

In addition, the reporters, Michael Isikoff, a veteran investigative reporter, and John Barry, a national security correspondent, showed a draft of the article to the source and to a senior Pentagon official asking if it was correct. The source corrected one aspect of the article, which focused on the Southern Command’s internal report on prisoner abuse.
“But he was silent about the rest of the item,” Newsweek reported.

That is the most revealing fact I have come across so far, because it is very clear how much weaker didn’t disconfirm is when compared to alternatives like “Colonel Jones said…”

Did he confirm it?
No, but he didn’t disconfirm it.

Oh, so is that confirmation?

Well, he would have warned us, I think.

Right, right. He would have warned us.

When I say “thin” that is the kind of thing I mean.

By this standard, any of us could have been a source for the Newsweek story because we could not confirm the story, neither could we ‘disconfirm’ it. Twenty thousand people work in the Pentagon. The Headmaster and some of our offspring took a tour of the Pentagon when we were in D.C. last week. They say it’s like a town, and you only would need to leave to go home to see your family- otherwise, all the amenities are available. It has a larger population than our county. An awfully large percentage of those 20,000 people must be unaware of everything that happens there and could also have been available for ‘not disconfirming’ the story. I have a friend who works in the Pentagon. I could ask him questions he couldn’t answer and then say that he didn’t disconfirm my story. When Jay says ‘thin,’ I think we should be picturing something wispy as an old cobweb. A tatty, dusty, dirty old cobweb.

Jay explains the situation behind each of these unnamed sources, S1, S2, etc. You’ll want, as I’ve said, to read the whole thing.

S2 is one who really interests me. He’s one of those 20,000 people working in the Pentagon:

Source Level 3 are the (unnamed) “investigators probing interrogation abuses.” They are the ones who will compile the report for U.S. Southern Command. What Newsweek’s sources “had” was simply a prediction about what these people would be putting in their report. (Whitaker in a piece Newsweek ran Monday: “Our original source later said he couldn’t be certain about reading of the alleged Qur’an incident in the report we cited, and said it might have been in other investigative documents or drafts.”)

Newsweek knows who this is, and this is the only one of their sources that they can give a name to. I want S2 outed. I want to know his motives for passing on information he had so little knowledge of. I want to know who he is. I also wonder about his clarity of mind. I imagine he reads many reports. For all we know, he could just be an admin troop, a typist. Maybe he reads so many reports he gets the details mixed up.

I’m thinking of a report I heard on NPR yesterday. According to NPR, a review of the logs at Gitmo found only one incident of a Koran in proximity with a toilet- in that case, a detainee tore pages out of the Koran and flushed them down the toilet in a protest attempt to block up the toilets. Is it at all possible this S2 read that report and jumbled it in his mind with the SouthCom report?

S6 is also an interesting source:

Source Level 6, also unnamed, are the prisoners for whom the alleged action would have been intended– a special class of witness.

Yes, well, S6- hardly reliable, given the Al Queda Training Manual instructions for prisoners (thanks to Grayhawk):


1. At the beginning of the trial, once more the brothers must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by State Security [investigators] before the judge.

2. Complain [to the court] of mistreatment while in prison.

I say that this also makes another source a bit dicey, those defense lawyers and others representing the prisoners. All their information is hearsay, after all, and it all comes from S6- those prisoners who have been instructed to lie about being tortured and mistreated.

See Grayhawk of Mudville for more.

5. Are Newsweek’s reporters unaware of the Al Queda manual? They don’t seem to have exercised any scepticism about reports from prisoners.

4. Since when is an absence of ‘disconfirmation’ to be taken for solid confirmation?

3. Shouldn’t somebody at Newsweek have wondered about the liklihood that the interrogation process would include flushing a Koran in order to convince a Muslim witness to talk? Wouldn’t that have precisely the opposite result?

deuce. What happened to the vetting process we are assured distinguishes Mainstream Media from the heavyweights in the blogging world? We have here half a dozen unnamed sources, and the only one of them with whom reporters actually spoke to can only attest to reading something about a Koran, a toilet, and a flushing somewhere, sometime in some report, but he doesn’t remember for sure which report. Maybe he read it in Al Jazeera.

Ace. Torture is something done to one’s person. It is not something done to inanimate objects.

Looks like Newsweek is a straight flush to me. We already do not subscribe. What about you?

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