Saturday, July 30, 2005

Welcome back to the States, Dora! Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 29, 2005

A very good point:

U.S. neglecting weapon for next Cold War: Education
June 6, 2005 Monday
San Antonio Express-News
BY: David Smith

Oct. 4, 1957, the day the Soviet Union launched Sputnik and propelled the world into the space age, was described by many as the shock of the century. This technologic feat, coming at the beginning of the Cold War, sent shivers down the backs of our military, political and scientific communities.

The United States, yet to venture into space, had been out-maneuvered, and there was deep concern about our academic and scientific prowess.

President Dwight Eisenhower's science advisers warned that the Soviet Union's emphasis on science and math was providing an edge that couldn't be overcome if something wasn't done quickly. Eisenhower himself called training scientists and engineers "the most critical need of all ... People are alarmed and thinking about science, and perhaps this alarm could be turned toward a constructive result."

A sense of urgency permeated politics, business and the halls of academia, resulting in the kind of "constructive result" that Eisenhower envisioned. A bold new partnership was forged involving the federal government, private industry and colleges and universities.

The consensus was that colleges and universities, the incubators of scientific talent, had to be rejuvenated and bolstered. Universities and colleges responded by changing curriculum and adding laboratories and classrooms.

In 1958, Congress passed the $1 billion National Defense Education Act, which paid for student loans, scholarships and scientific equipment for public and private colleges. The act emphasized the study of math, science and foreign languages.

As a result of these and other improvements, the United States became the undisputed world leader in scientific advancement.

Despite impressive accomplishments, many would argue that almost 50 years after the launch of Sputnik, the United States is once again being challenged and surpassed in our institutions of higher learning.

State budgets have been cut, and the percentage of public dollars available for public universities and colleges has declined dramatically. Many public institutions are receiving less than one-third of their budget from state appropriations. While policy-makers and industry leaders are calling for increased access, colleges and universities are being forced to shift more costs to families and students.

At the same time, there has been a sharp decline in the number of Nobel laureates from the United States, a drop in the percentage of publications by top U.S. physicists in major journals and declines in the numbers of new U.S. doctorates and the number of scientific papers by Americans. One-quarter of industrial patents filed in the United States are now submitted by researchers in Japan, Taiwan and North Korea.

One cannot criticize our competitors in this global market. But one can ask why we are not aggressively addressing our shifting demographics and hunger for a labor force with skill sets that can only be realized through undergraduate and graduate education. This nation is witnessing a significant shift in the socioeconomic and cultural makeup of our future labor force. This new cohort of young talent is coming from families who have never had a graduate of a college or university.

These trends define no less of a challenge nor should they invoke any less fear than the launch of Sputnik. Sputnik was a wake-up call that galvanized the nation. The vision was clearly enunciated, and the public investment in higher education was forthcoming. The return on investment was a golden age of scientific accomplishment that transformed medicine, engineering, space travel and even passenger safety.

The question remains: Do we see as clearly as we did in 1957 our challenge and purpose? Will we stop the erosion in funding for colleges and universities? Could the "new Cold War" be a race to maximize human potential in this country and re-establish our leadership through a competitive and competent work force?

Failure to meet this challenge could force an epic confrontation in national policy that pits the exportation of jobs against the importation of labor. We can't afford to take such a risk. Our nation -- and children -- deserve better.

David Smith is chancellor of the Texas Tech University System.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

This is great!

Oedipus: The Movie

An 8-minute version, as performed by vegetables

Take a look at their Press Packet-- truly inspired!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Wisdom from a fortune cookie:

The best prophet of the future is the past.
Applebaum makes a very good point here-- thanks for sending this to me, Symi!

Think Again, Karen Hughes
By Anne Applebaum
The Washington Post
Wednesday, July 27, 2005; Page A21

Only two senators were in the room when Karen Hughes testified at her confirmation hearings. When it came time for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to vote on her nomination yesterday, she was easily approved. And thus with no discussion and no debate, Hughes takes over the least noticed, least respected and possibly most important job in the State Department. Her formal title is undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. In plain English, her job is to fight anti-Americanism, promote American culture and above all to do intellectual battle with the ideology of radical Islam, a set of beliefs so powerful that they can persuade middle-class, second-generation British Muslims to blow themselves up on buses and trains.

Presumably, President Bush selected Hughes for this task because she was very good at running his election campaigns. And indeed, in the testimony she gave last week to a nearly empty room, she sounded like she was still running an election campaign. Like Hillary Clinton, she said she wanted people around the world to know that she would be "listening" to them: "I want to learn more about you and your lives, what you believe, what you fear, what you dream, what you value most." Like Jesse Jackson, she deployed alliteration, alluding to the four "E's": "engagement, exchanges, education and empowerment."

Unfortunately, Hughes's most important constituents aren't going to respond to engagement and empowerment, let alone exchange and education, unless the latter involves those flight schools where they don't teach you how to take off or land. It has become clear in Iraq, if it wasn't already, that what we call the "war on terrorism" is in fact a small part of a larger intellectual and religious struggle within Islam, between moderates who want to live in modern countries, and radicals who want to impose their extreme interpretation of sharia , or religious law. So far, most of the money, and most of the "public diplomacy," has been channeled to the radicals. Consider, for example, an extraordinary report published this year by the Center for Religious Freedom, a division of Freedom House, which surveys more than 200 books and pamphlets collected at mosques and Islamic centers in U.S. cities. Most were in Arabic. All were published by the Saudi government or royal family, and all promote the extreme form of Wahhabi Islam found in Saudi Arabia. The books reflect contempt for the United States, condemn democracy as un-Islamic, and claim that Muslims are religiously obliged to hate Christians and Jews. Most insidiously, the documents denounce moderate Muslims, especially those who advocate religious tolerance, as infidels. If a Muslim commits adultery or becomes a homosexual, one pamphlet -- published by the Saudi government's ministry of Islamic affairs -- advises that "it would be lawful for Muslims to spill his blood and take his money."

I am citing this study not merely to finger the Saudis, but also to show what we are up against. The Saudi king's own Web site boasts of his support for mosques and schools in Lagos, Islamabad, Madrid, Buenos Aires and elsewhere. A friend reports recently seeing a new Saudi mosque in Kosovo. We have to assume that the materials found in the United States exist in all of those places, too.

To fight these ideas, friendly state visits from Laura Bush will not suffice. Neither will more Britney Spears songs for Muslim teenagers, which is what we play on U.S.-funded Farsi and Arabic radio in the Middle East. Instead, we need to monitor the intellectual and theological struggle for the soul of Islam, and we need to help the moderates win. This means making sure that counter-arguments are heard whenever and wherever Muslim clerics and intellectuals are talking, despite the impact of Saudi money.

The United States has engaged in a project like this once before. In the 1950s and '60s, the West European left was also bitterly divided, with social democrats on one side and pro-Soviet communists on the other. We backed the social democrats. CIA money was used, for example, to found Encounter, a small but influential magazine whose editors promoted not just pro-Americanism but also the principles of democracy and capitalism, largely through allowing both sides to argue their cases.

I concede that the analogy is not exact, that the present case is far more difficult and that we have a long way to go. At the moment, the State Department probably spends more money denying visas to moderate Muslim scholars than it does funding magazines for them to write in. The traditional tools of public diplomacy -- American libraries, Fourth of July parties, "citizen ambassadors" -- are uniquely unsuited to the task of encouraging debate within Islam as well. But Hughes has nothing to lose by dropping the four "E's," going back to the rest of the alphabet, and thinking way, way outside the box. Judging by Bali, Madrid, London and Sharm el-Sheikh, not to mention New York and Washington, whatever we're doing right now, it isn't working.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

That's one cool (and cute) cat! Posted by Picasa
Trying to figure out what happened to my comments widget-- bear with me and I'll see if I can get the new blogger comments widget working here...

Sunday, July 24, 2005

No reason for this poem-- I've just really liked this one.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

By T.S. Eliot

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
It is perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
. . . . .
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
. . . . .
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while, 90
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”
. . . . .
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.