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Undernews For April 22, 2008

Undernews For April 22, 2008

FROM THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW
Washington's Most Unofficial Source
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Editor: Sam Smith

22 APRIL 2008

WORD

When enough people share a delusion, it loses its status as a psychosis and gets a religious tax exemption instead. - Ronald de Sousa

PAGE ONE MUST

GUN OWNERS LESS BITTER THAN NON-OWNERS

WALL ST JOURNAL - According to the 2006 General Social Survey, which has tracked gun ownership since 1973, 34% of American homes have guns in them. . . It turns out they have the same level of formal education as nongun owners, on average. Furthermore, they earn 32% more per year than non-owners. Americans with guns are neither a small nor downtrodden group. Nor are they "bitter." In 2006, 36% of gun owners said they were "very happy," while 9% were "not too happy." Meanwhile, only 30% of people without guns were very happy, and 16% were not too happy.

The gun-owning happiness gap exists on both sides of the political aisle. Gun-owning Republicans are more likely than non-owning Republicans to be very happy (46% to 37%). Democrats with guns are slightly likelier than Democrats without guns to be very happy as well (32% to 29%). Similarly, holding income constant, one still finds that gun owners are happiest. .

Many studies over the years have shown that a belief in one's control over the environment dramatically adds to happiness. Example: a famous study of elderly nursing home patients in the 1970s. It showed dramatic improvements in life satisfaction from elements of control as seemingly insignificant as being able to care for one's plants.

In 2002, [gun owners] were more likely to give money to charity than people without guns (83% to 75%). This charity gap doesn't reflect their somewhat higher incomes. Gun owners were also more likely to give in other ways, such as donating blood. Are gun owners unsentimental? In 2004, they were more likely than those without guns to strongly agree that they would "endure all things" for the one they loved (45% to 37%).

CLINTON READY TO 'OBLITERATE' IRAN, WITHOUT CHECKING WITH CONGRESS

JAKE TAPPER, ABC NEWS In an ad that began airing in Pennsylvania Monday morning, Clinton implies she is tougher than Obama. "Who do you think has what it takes?" the narrator asks in an ad depicting historical images of crises that presidents have had to deal with: Osama bin Laden, headlines about the stock market crash of 1929, long gas lines from the 1970s oil-shocks, images of the Cold War, Hurricane Katrina and soldiers. It features the first image of Osama bin Laden to be used in a TV ad this political season. "It's the toughest job in the world," says the ad's narrator. "You need to be ready for anything especially now, with two wars, oil prices skyrocketing and an economy in crisis.". . .

Clinton further displayed tough talk in an interview airing on "Good Morning America" Tuesday. ABC News' Chris Cuomo asked Clinton what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons.

"I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran," Clinton said. "In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them."

A HEALTH CARE SYSTEM THAT WORKS

MARY CLINE, ABC NEWS The World Health Organization has named the French health care system the best in the world. (The U.S. ranked 37th). It's physician-rich, boasting one doctor for approximately every 430 people, compared with a doctor for every1,230 residents in the U.S. (and French docs tend to charge significantly less). The average life expectancy is two years longer than the U.S. And while the system is one of the most expensive in the world, costing $3,500 per person, it's far less than the $6,100 spend per capita in the U.S.

I've had a unique opportunity to see both systems up close and personal: I had breast cancer in California nine years ago and a recurrence in Paris this year. I received excellent care in both places, though looking back now my California oncologist's office was a bit of a meat market - always packed with patients, from the seemingly not-so-sick to some a step from the grave - a time-consuming disadvantage of living in a much larger country with a lower doctor-to-patient ratio. My French doctors and nurses have been sensitive, skillful, caring - and not so harried.

But the biggest difference has been money. My top-level health insurance paid for most of my U.S. care, but it was often a struggle to shake loose the money. I was frequently stuck in the middle of disputes between the company and my hospital and doctors over "agreed to fees."

Continually dunned by the hospital for fees and facing multiple complaining phone calls to my insurance company, I sometimes simply caved in and wrote checks to cover bills that I knew were the insurance company's responsibility - part of a wearing-down strategy I was convinced was deliberate.

Here in France I have a green carte vitale - literally a "life card" or social security card that provides entree to the system. It's funded by worker contributions and other taxes. My husband (and our family) is covered through his work with a French subsidiary of a U.S. company, and so is everyone else; coverage is universal. The French are responsible for co-pays, but some 80% of them have supplemental private insurance to cover the co-pay. People least able to pay and those with chronic or serious illnesses often have the best coverage. . .

The effect of a system where hospitals and doctors don't worry about getting stiffed by a patient or an insurance company seems to be a far more relaxed, generous system. When my surgeon discussed breast surgery here, he suggested that I stay in the hospital five days. "Of course I can do it the American way, kind of an outpatient situation," he told me, apparently not wanting to sound unsophisticated. "But I don't like pain."

Maternity stays for a normal delivery are a minimum of five days, not the 48 hours mandated by U.S. federal legislation in 1998 after many insurance companies insisted stays be even shorter.. . .

There's no question you'll be treated in France. Everyone is. The nation pays the bills and the hospitals don't get stiffed. It's an all-encompassing cradle-to-grave system. My fear now is that I won't be able to even get insurance when and if I return to the states, much less be able to afford it.

LOCAL HEROES: SEATTLE TEACHER SUSPENDED FOR REFUSING TO GIVE STANDARDIZED TEST

PARENT EMPOWERMENT NETWORK Carl Chew, a 6th grade science teacher at Nathan Eckstein Middle School in the Seattle School District, last week defied federal, state, and district regulations that require teachers to administer the Washington Assessment of Student Learning to students.

"I have let my administration know that I will no longer give the WASL to my students. I have done this because of the personal moral and ethical conviction that the WASL is harmful to students, teachers, schools, and families," wrote Chew in an email to national supporters.

School District response to Mr. Chew's refusal was immediate. After administrative attempts to dissuade his act of civil disobedience had failed, at the start of school on the first day of WASL testing, April 15, Mr. Chew was escorted from the school by the building principal and a district supervisor. Mr. Chew was told to report to the district Science Materials Center where he was put to work preparing student science kits while district administration and attorneys consulted on an appropriate penalty for what was labeled, "gross insubordination."

Mr. Chew attended one hearing at Seattle School District Office, where he was accompanied by a Seattle Education Association representative. On Friday, April 18, Mr. Chew received a letter from Seattle School District Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson which began, "This letter is to inform you that I have determined that there is probable cause to suspend you from April 21, 2008 through May 2, 2008 without pay for your refusal and insubordination to your principal's written direction to administer the WASL at Eckstein Middle School."

During his weeklong struggle with the district over consequences, Mr. Chew was supported by allies throughout the state and nation. "Carl Chew is saying 'No!' to high stakes testing and a resounding 'Yes!' to student needs and to teacher professionalism," stated nationally renowned education activist and author Susan Ohanian of Vermont.

"There are many more teachers who are ready to follow suit. They just need an example and leader," states one Washington teacher.

Organizations and individual allies are now working to replace Mr. Chew's lost wages. "Though a minor gesture in response to your so much larger gift, I plan to contribute to your salary for the two-weeks the schools aren't paying," was the response of one colleague from Washington.

CARL CHEW On April 15 I refused to give the Washington Assessment of Student Learning to my 6th grade students at a Seattle Public Schools middle school. I performed this single act of civil disobedience based on personal moral and ethical grounds, as well as professional duty. I believe that the WASL is destructive to our children, teachers, schools, and parents.

It is important for me to note that my disobedient action was not directed at any individual. I love being a teacher; my students are fantastic; my fellow teachers collaborate with and help me every day in numerous ways; and my school administration has always shown a willingness to listen to and support the teachers. I understand that my action has caused people pain, and I am truly sorry for that, but I could no longer stand idly by as something as wrong as the WASL is perpetrated on our children year after year. . .

To my mind the measure of successful childhood is that each child learns about who she or he is and how the world works, gains an assertive and confident self image, and feels safe, well fed, and happy. Schools, along with parents and communities, need to contribute wisely to this goal. Unfortunately, the WASL creates panic, insecurity, low self esteem, and sadness for our children.

o It is written in the language of white, middle and upper class students, leaving all others behind.

o It is presented to children in a secretive, cold, sterile, and inhumane fashion.

o There is no middle ground--children either pass or fail--which leaves them confused, guilty, and frustrated.

o Numerous questions on the test are unclear, misleading, or lacking in creativity.

o It tests a very narrow definition of what educators know children need to become well-rounded human beings.

o The WASL is given at a prescribed time regardless of a child's emotional or physical health.

o A majority of teachers loath the WASL but feel unable to speak out freely against it due to their fears of negative consequences for doing so.

o Because administrators are constantly pushing to meet federal guidelines for yearly score improvements, their relationships with teachers can become strained and unpleasant.

o Administrators and teachers suffer under the knowledge that if they do not achieve improvement goals (measured by WASL passage alone) they can be sent to retraining classes, lose their students to other schools, or have their "failing" school handed over to a private company.

o Before administering the WASL teachers mandatorily sign a "loyalty" oath promising they will not read any of the test questions.

o Teachers feel devalued by the amount of time most of them have to devote to test practice and proctoring--upwards of four weeks for actual testing and many more weeks for WASL prep in many cases.

o Teachers feel used and depressed when, half a year after the test is given, they are presented with dubious WASL results--amateurish and misleading Power Point charts and graphs telling them next to nothing about their students' real knowledge and talents.

o Teachers' relationships with parents are compromised because they cannot talk freely with them about opting their child out or other WASL concerns.

o Parents have been shut out of this costly process.

o Most of them are misled by official statements about what the purpose of the WASL is.

o Many of them do not realize that they have the right to opt their children out of testing with no consequences, though in practice schools have illegally put inappropriate pressure on parents and children who have opted out.

o Many of them do not realize that teachers are, in many cases, not allowed to discuss any reasons why they might want to opt their child out. (Teachers in California went to court to secure the right to inform parents of their right to opt their children out of that state's testing.)

o Like children, parents suffer from the same feelings of guilt and unhappiness when their children fail.

o Parents are not informed that the test is biased, culturally insensitive and irrelevant, and not a real measure of anything.

o The WASL graduation requirement has kept thousands of families from knowing whether or not their students will be allowed to take part in graduation ceremonies and celebrations--the culminating reward for 13 years of public school attendance and achievement-- with friends and families.

o While schools are generally underfunded, Washington will spend a projected $56 million in 2009 to have a private corporation grade WASL tests. These tax dollars are needed right in our schools providing more teachers, smaller classes, tutors, and diverse educational experiences for our students.

o While the federal government requires that school districts use high stakes testing to qualify for federal dollars, tests are not fully funded by the federal government.

o WASL is one of the most difficult tests used to fulfill the federal requirements, with one of the highest failure rates.

o Instead of safe, exciting, and meaningful places for our children to spend half of their waking hours, schools have become WASL or test mills bent on churning out students who are trained to answer state-approved questions in a state-approved manner.

o Most, if not all, teachers will agree that assessment is vital. Wise teachers know that assessments which are also learning experiences for students and teachers are the best. The WASL categorically is not a learning experience.

o I believe that individual students are entitled to their own learning plans, tailored to their own needs, strengths, and interests. Teachers know it is definitely possible to do this in the context of a public school. The WASL categorically treats all children alike and requires that they each fit into the same precise mold, and state-mandated learning plans based on WASL scores fail to recognize individual strengths of students.

o Passing the WASL does not guarantee success in college, placement in a job, a living wage, or adequate health care.

o WASL will decrease the high school graduation rate. Thousands of students who have completed all other requirements and passed all required classes will be denied diplomas because of WASL failure.

o High-stakes testing has not proven beneficial to students, teachers, schools, or communities.

o When I was a teacher at Graham Hill Elementary in Seattle, a number of my students received their WASL scores to find that they had "failed". When I looked at the notices being sent to their parents I saw that each student had come to within just a few points of actually passing and that their scores were well within the grey area, or "margin of error," for the test. The "test scientists" aren't sure whether the student passed or failed, yet the school tells the student he or she failed. These students cried when they saw the results.

o When I first started teaching, Graham Hill could afford Americorps tutors, numerous classroom aides, and had money for fieldtrip buses and ample supplies. By the time I stopped teaching there, Americorps was gone, there were no classroom aides except for parent volunteers, and everything else was in short supply. . .

o No one ever asked me or any of the teachers I know whether high stakes testing was a good idea. In fact, we teachers are made to jump through seemingly endless hoops to prove our worthiness to be professional, certificated educators. Public school teachers are responsible for the educational lives of over a million students in Washington State, yet, in the end, no one actually wants to listen to what teachers have to say about what is best for the students in our care.
REALITY CHECK: POLITICIANS AND THE DRUG WAR
DRUG WAR CHRONICLES - With the Democratic Party presidential contenders offering little more than tepid reforms on the margin of drug policy and the Republican nominee largely promising more of the same old drug war, people seeking radical reforms in US drug policy are looking beyond the two major parties. . .
While conservatives and libertarians interested in drug reform have the Libertarian Party, for liberals and progressives, the Green Party comes closest to a palatable drug policy. In its most recent social justice platform, adopted at the 2004 national convention, the party calls for -- among other things -- repealing "Three Strikes" laws and mandatory sentencing, an end to asset forfeiture for unconvicted suspects, a moratorium on prison construction, the decriminalization of victimless crimes including marijuana possession, the legalization of industrial hemp, and "an end to the war on drugs."

"Law enforcement is placing too much emphasis on drug-related and petty street crimes, and not enough on prosecution of corporate, white collar, and environmental crimes," said the platform. "At the same time, we must develop a firm approach to law enforcement that directly addresses violent crime, including trafficking in hard drugs. Violence that creates a climate of further violence must be stopped. Police brutality has reached epidemic levels in the United States and we call for effective monitoring of police agencies to eliminate police brutality."

While the Green Party platform has its contradictions -- it calls for marijuana decrim and an end to the drug war, but also defines selling drugs as "violent crime" -- it is miles ahead of the major parties on drug policy. And the current crop of Green Party presidential candidates appear to be ahead of the party platform.

Former Democratic Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney looks to be the front-runner for the party nomination at this stage, primarily because of her high name recognition and national reputation. On her web site, McKinney says bluntly, "We want to end the war on drugs now!". .

"This is a big issue for Cynthia, especially as it impacts communities of color and regarding the prison industrial complex," said John Judge, a McKinney press spokesman. It's also a big issue for other Green candidates. . .

Neither the other Green Party presidential contender, Jesse Johnson, nor the Nader campaign responded to Chronicle requests for information on their drug policy positions. Johnson's campaign web site does not mention drug policy, nor does Nader list it among his "Twelve Issues that Matter in 2008," although his web site says it is open for more issues and he has embraced drug reform in past campaigns.

FREEDOM BEAT

ARIZONA LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE APPROVES BILL THAT WOULD BAN STUDENT ETHNIC GROUPS

MATTHEW BENSON, ARIZONA REPUBLIC Arizona public schools would be barred from any teachings considered counter to democracy or Western civilization under a proposal endorsed by a legislative panel.
Additionally, the measure would prohibit students of the state's universities and community colleges from forming groups based in whole or part on the race of their members, such as the Black Business Students Association at Arizona State University or Native Americans United at Northern Arizona University. Those groups would be forbidden from operating on campus.

The brainchild of Rep. Russell Pearce, the measure appeared as an amendment to Senate Bill 1108, which originally would have made minor changes to the state's Homeland Security advisory councils. The House Appropriations Committee approved the new proposal on a 9-6 vote.

Pearce, a Mesa Republican, said his target isn't diversity instruction, but schools that use taxpayer dollars to indoctrinate students in what he characterized as anti-American or seditious thinking. The measure is at least partially a response to a controversy surrounding an ethnic-studies program in the Tucson Unified School District, which critics have said is unpatriotic and teaches revolution.

SB 1108 states, "A primary purpose of public education is to inculcate values of American citizenship. Public tax dollars used in public schools should not be used to denigrate American values and the teachings of Western civilization."

For schools that violate the anti-Western-teachings provision, the bill provides the state superintendent of public instruction with the authority to withhold a portion of state funding.

Rep. John Kavanagh, a member of the Appropriations Committee, said he hopes the measure helps return cultural studies in the state's schools to a "melting pot" model.

The result, said Rep. Pete Rios, would likely be a chilling effect on public instruction regarding diversity and other cultures. "There's nothing wrong with being bilingual, bicultural," said Rios, a Hayden Democrat. "I like Mexican music. I like Elvis Presley. I'm bicultural. What's wrong with that? I think kids, students, need to learn about their culture."

MID EAST

CARTER GETS ABUSE FROM AMERICAN POLS AND MEDIA

PHILIP GIRALDI, ANTI WAR Poor Jimmy Carter. All he wanted to do was talk peace. But all he got was the shaft, from the Bush administration, the secretary of state, the Israeli government, the mainstream media, and the presidential candidates. . .

Most discouraging were the comments from Barack Obama, who has been widely seen as a possible agent for change in U.S. foreign policy. Speaking to a group of American Jewish leaders gathered in a Philadelphia synagogue, he criticized Carter, saying, "Hamas is not a state, Hamas is a terrorist organization. They obviously have developed great influence within the Palestinian territories, but they do not control the apparatus of power." As Obama has frequently evinced a willingness to enter into discussions with nearly everyone and Hamas is actually a political party representing most of the Palestinian people and constituting a majority in the national parliament, the parsing is curious. If holding the position of prime minister after a democratic election is not controlling "the apparatus of power," it is not clear what the litmus test might be. Obama also went on to describe his friendship for Israel with obligatory effusiveness, saying that "he would make sure that it [Israel] can defend itself from any attack," though again the word choice was interesting, as he did not pledge the U.S. to go to war on behalf of Israel, as John McCain and Hillary Clinton have done.

Carter was also lacerated by the U.S. media, which did not report the visit in detail except to criticize it. The Washington Post's neocon-dominated editorial page was the most strident, denouncing Carter for embracing Hamas' terrorists. According to the Post, Hamas engages in "deliberate targeting of civilians," such as the Israeli town of Sderot, which "suffers daily rocket attacks." The Post seems unaware of Israeli targeting of civilians when it can't find an actual "militant" to kill. The relentless barrage on Sderot using crude, homemade rockets reportedly killed only one resident in the past year, a worker from Ecuador. Hundreds of Palestinians, mostly civilians and including many children, have been killed in Israeli reprisals during that same time period. . . .

Investor's Business Daily outdid the Post, opining that "Our worst ex-president honors the memory of Yasser Arafat while hugging Hamas-cidal terrorists. Instead of embracing terrorists, Jimmy Carter should be laying wreaths at the tombs of their victims." Benjamin Shapiro, writing for Townhall.com, put it slightly differently: "Jimmy Carter is an evil man. It is painful to label a past president of the United States as a force for darkness. But it is dangerous to let a man like Jimmy Carter stalk around the globe cloaked in the garb of American royalty, planting the seeds of Western Civilization's destruction." Rep. Joe Knollenberg of Michigan is so angry about Carter that he is proposing legislation blocking any federal funding for the Carter Center, saying that "America must speak with one voice against our terrorist enemies," while Rep. Sue Myrick of North Carolina has called on Condi Rice to revoke Carter's passport. The new head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Howard Berman, complains that Carter holds "warped" views on the Middle East. Berman, who is a strong and vocal supporter of Israel at all times and under all circumstances, apparently believes that his own views are just fine.

Ironically, Carter is the one U.S. president who has actually done considerable good for Israel, not just for the hard-line right-wing politicians lately much beloved in Washington, having brokered the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt. He has been an honest if sometimes overly sanctimonious spokesman, recognizing that Israel is creating an apartheid-like system on the West Bank, something that the Israeli media is free to say but which is taboo in the United States.

POLITICS

LIBERAL AL FRANKEN FACES OPPOSITION FROM PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRAT

FROMA HARROP, REAL CLEAR POLITICS [St Paul] will be hosting the Republican National Convention starting Labor Day. In the interests of showing Republicans a good time, the Minnesota state legislature voted to let bars here and in Minneapolis stay open until 4 a.m. during the convention. The closing time is now 2 a.m. But the very Democratic St. Paul City Council voted against extending the bar hours, which may have reflected a reluctance to stretch the rules for Republicans as much as for drinking. Council member David Thune put it memorably, "I got 8,000 people who live downtown who don't want a bunch of Republican lobbyists puking on the streets.". . .

Of more lasting importance to the nation is the bruising race between Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and his likely Democratic opponent, Al Franken. National Democrats have targeted this race as one of four in which they have a decent chance of knocking off a Republican incumbent -- and thereby gaining a working majority in the Senate. Other vulnerable Republicans are John Sununu of New Hampshire, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Susan Collins of Maine. . .

Complicating matters, the liberal Franken now faces a credible challenge from the left. Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, a professor of Justice and Peace Studies at the University of St. Thomas, here in St. Paul, is running for the nomination and doing surprisingly well in the state's liberal corner. At the Democratic convention in Olmstead County, he tied Franken by scoring nine delegates. And in Mower County, Nelson-Pallmeyer won 50 percent of the delegates against Franken's 20 percent. The state convention takes place in early June.

Franken is most everybody's idea of a liberal, but Nelson-Pallmeyer seems to have edged to the comedian's left. He wants all American troops out of Iraq in six months, while Franken wants the soldiers withdrawn, but "responsibly." Nelson-Pallmeyer endorses a national single-payer health plan, while Franken wants states to develop their own universal plans.

DON'T CRY FOR ME, ARKANSAS

Nostalgic moments from the Clinton years

CHRISTOPHER MATTHEWS, 1999: What is Bill Clinton's motive in life? What is his driving force? I've never located it. I've tried to.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: He's a hollow, empty, miserable narcissist and nihilist who doesn't exist when the attention of others is switched off. Imagine what the home life is. We can make a rough guess, 'cause this is one guy who uses his own daughter as a stage prop, and his wife lets him, when he's telling filthy lies in the public domain. But he has no friends. He has a few cronies, but no one comes to dinner. Dick Morris is the nearest he had to a real friend. Can you imagine that for a man? When he's not - when the lights are switched off and when the applause or the canned laughter...

MATTHEWS: What's there?

HITCHENS: Nothing. Not a thing. He's just a hollow...

MATTHEWS: I hear upstairs he's alone every night.

HITCHENS: He's a hollow, empty, wretched and hateful... If he wasn't president one could feel sorry for him. He clearly needs a lot of help, but trying the therapy that makes all his problems into ours hasn't worked. Presidential therapy hasn't worked for him. Power therapy hasn't worked for him. He should try something else.

IDEA MILL

THE LIFE OF AN ALGORITHMIC MAN

GARY WOLF, WIRED - Twenty years ago, [Piotr Wozniak] realized that computers could easily calculate the moment of forgetting if he could discover the right algorithm. SuperMemo is the result of his research. It predicts the future state of a person's memory and schedules information reviews at the optimal time. The effect is striking. Users can seal huge quantities of vocabulary into their brains. But for Wozniak, 46, helping people learn a foreign language fast is just the tiniest part of his goal. As we plan the days, weeks, even years of our lives, he would have us rely not merely on our traditional sources of self-knowledge - introspection, intuition, and conscious thought - but also on something new: predictions about ourselves encoded in machines.

Given the chance to observe our behaviors, computers can run simulations, modeling different versions of our path through the world. By tuning these models for top performance, computers will give us rules to live by. They will be able to tell us when to wake, sleep, learn, and exercise; they will cue us to remember what we've read, help us track whom we've met, and remind us of our goals. Computers, in Wozniak's scheme, will increase our intellectual capacity and enhance our rational self-control.

The reason the inventor of SuperMemo pursues extreme anonymity, asking me to conceal his exact location and shunning even casual recognition by users of his software, is not because he's paranoid or a misanthrope but because he wants to avoid random interruptions to a long-running experiment he's conducting on himself. Wozniak is a kind of algorithmic man. He's exploring what it's like to live in strict obedience to reason. On first encounter, he appears to be one of the happiest people I've ever met. . .

As a student at the Poznan University of Technology in western Poland in the 1980s, Wozniak was overwhelmed by the sheer number of things he was expected to learn. . . The most important challenge was English. Wozniak refused to be satisfied with the broken, half-learned English that so many otherwise smart students were stuck with. So he created an analog database, with each entry consisting of a question and answer on a piece of paper. Every time he reviewed a word, phrase, or fact, he meticulously noted the date and marked whether he had forgotten it. At the end of the session, he tallied the number of remembered and forgotten items. By 1984, . . . Wozniak's database contained 3,000 English words and phrases and 1,400 facts culled from biology, each with a complete repetition history. He was now prepared to ask himself an important question: How long would it take him to master the things he wanted to know?

The answer: too long. In fact, the answer was worse than too long. According to Wozniak's first calculations, success was impossible. The problem wasn't learning the material; it was retaining it. He found that 40 percent of his English vocabulary vanished over time. Sixty percent of his biology answers evaporated. Using some simple calculations, he figured out that with his normal method of study, it would require two hours of practice every day to learn and retain a modest English vocabulary of 15,000 words. For 30,000 words, Wozniak would need twice that time. This was impractical. . .

Wozniak takes an almost physical pleasure in reason. He loves to discuss things with people, to get insight into their personalities, and to give them advice - especially in English. One of his most heartfelt wishes is that the world have one language and one currency so this could all be handled more efficiently. He's appalled that Poland is still not in the Eurozone. He's baffled that Americans do not use the metric system. For two years he kept a diary in Esperanto.

Although Esperanto was the ideal expression of his universalist dreams, English is the leading real-world implementation. Though he has never set foot in an English-speaking country, he speaks the language fluently. "Two words that used to give me trouble are perspicuous and perspicacious," he confessed as we drank beer with raspberry syrup at a tiny beachside restaurant where we were the only customers. "Then I found a mnemonic to enter in SuperMemo: clear/clever. Now I never misuse them."

HEALTH & SCIENCE

QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT SAFETY OF ASTRO-TURF

STATELINE Bills in Minnesota, New Jersey and New York would bar the installation of additional artificial turf until those states complete health and environmental studies on the ground-up tires used for the increasingly popular surfaces. Bills in California and Connecticut call for studies to determine the health and environmental effects of synthetic turf. A proposal in New York City would rip out all the existing artificial fields as well as ban new ones.

The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission gave a boost to those concerned with safety when it announced approval of a study on lead levels released from artificial grass. The study is in response to a request from New Jersey state health regulators who closed fields at The College of New Jersey in Ewing and Frank Sinatra Park in Hoboken after samples of synthetic turf showed high levels of lead, a known neurotoxin. .

At the current growth rate, the turf council estimates that more than 124 million square feet of artificial turf will be installed in 2009, as the industry targets athletic fields at the more than 45,000 colleges, high schools and middle schools in the United States. Most of the synthetic turf varieties now being used use crumb-rubber from waste tires, sometimes mixed with sand. . .

Grassroots opponents across the country charge that synthetic turf may cause more environmental damage than real grass, and they raise concerns that children are being exposed to harmful chemicals.

BOOKSHELF

THE BIG SQUEEZE

Steven Greenhouse

STEVEN GREENHOUSE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE - Some people ask me why I called my new book, "The Big Squeeze." The answer is simple: The nation's corporations have been squeezing workers every which way in their drive to push down labor costs. This, unfortunately, has left the nation's workers (and consumers) weakened and weary even before we feel the full brunt of a recession that will inevitably mean unemployment and lower paychecks for many Americans.

This squeeze has taken one especially disturbing form: many corporations have cut costs by violating wage-and- hour laws. Managers at Wal-Mart, Pep Boys and Family Dollar, told me that they secretly erased hours from employees' time records because of fierce pressures to minimize costs. At many companies, managers strong-arm employees into working off the clock; hourly employees who clock out at, say, 5 p.m., are ordered to work an hour or two extra unpaid. Swift & Company, Smithfield Foods and Wal-Mart each employed, directly or through contractors, more than 1,000 illegal immigrants, who often accept lower wages than native-born workers.

In my research, I found that many companies also squeeze workers by treating them with a shocking lack of dignity. A Wal-Mart cashier in Kansas City told me that managers were so stingy about bathroom breaks that some cashiers ended up soiling themselves. RadioShack had the gall to fire 400 workers at its Fort Worth headquarters by e-mail, the message saying, "Unfortunately your position is one that has been eliminated." Corporate executives told Myra Bronstein, a software engineer in Seattle, that as long as the company did well and she worked hard - she put in many 14-hour days - she would have a job. But one day the company suddenly fired Bronstein and 17 other engineers, telling them that if they wanted any severance pay, they had to spend the next four weeks training the workers from India who would be replacing them.

The biggest squeeze has been on wages and benefits. During the economic expansion that began in November 2001, corporate profits soared, while productivity per worker rose more than 15 percent. Nonetheless, hourly wages for the typical worker have inched up by just 1 percent since then, after inflation, while median income for working-age households has fallen nearly $2,400 to $54,726 since 2000, according to the most recent Census Bureau report on poverty and income.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, employee premiums for family-health insurance coverage have doubled in seven years, rising by $1,650 on average. And the number of Americans without health insurance has jumped by 8.6 million since 1999, to 47 million. Many young people just starting work are finding it surprisingly tough, because entry-level wages have slid since 2001, after inflation, while the percentage of entry-level jobs offering health or pension coverage has fallen as well.

For millions of Americans, the up escalator toward the American dream has stalled, although those at the very top have thrived. Income for the middle-fifth of Americans has risen a modest 21 percent since 1979 (largely because both spouses, taken together, are working far more hours than before). Meanwhile, income for the top 1 percent has more than tripled. One study found that the top 1 percent has 22 percent of all reported income, up from 9 percent in 1980. The top 1 percent earns more after tax than the bottom 40 percent of Americans. Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury secretary and Harvard president, has calculated that if income inequality had remained unchanged since 1979, the bottom 80 percent of Americans would be earning $670 billion more per year - or $8,000 more per household.

ORDER

BREVITAS

Dr. Philip Coyle III, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense and Director of Operational Test and Evaluation in the Department of Defense from 1994-2001, the longest-serving Director in the 20-year history of that office. . . oversaw the testing and evaluation of over 200 defense acquisition systems and is currently the Senior Advisor to the Center for Defense Information. Coyle testified [at House hearings] that there's no operational criteria whatsoever established to determine if [a missile defense] system is successful; the White House, Pentagon and Missile Defense Agency give misleading information about the performance and perceived threat; the tests that have been done don't demonstrate effectiveness against the most basic decoys and countermeasures or realistic operating conditions; the costs are "open-ended and there is no end in sight"; and the system undermines diplomacy as well as arms control and non-proliferation objectives. "Decoys and countermeasures are the Achilles Heel of missile defense," Coyle said. "If an enemy uses decoys and countermeasures, missile defense is like shooting a hole-in-one when the hole is going 17,000 mph and the green is covered with black circles the same size as the hole. The defender doesn't know which target to aim for." - Nation

Four credit card victims were ordered to sign waivers allowing their creditors to release their private financial records to the public before they could testify before the House Financial Services Committee. The consumers had flown in from across the country to share their stories at a hearing on the Credit Card Bill of Rights, but credit card companies insisted-and Republicans and Democrats agreed-that it would only be fair to release documents like credit scores and a list of recent purchases in order to rebut the consumer's claims. "Fair is fair," Congressman Spencer Bauchus (R-AL) barked, as he defended the absurd request. Ultimately, the consumers didn't testify, but one invitee, Steven Autrey, released his prepared statement, which slams creditors for their abusive and predatory business practices - Consumerist

Daniel Strachman, a former hedge fund consultant and author of several books including "The Fundamentals of Hedge Fund Management," was skeptical of raising taxes on hedge fund managers, saying they should be rewarded for taking huge risks. Most managers have their own money in their funds and suffer massive losses when their investments go bad. "It's clear somebody has to win and somebody has to lose," he said. "It's not pretty at all because people say, 'Oh my God. Look how much money these guys are making while people are losing their homes and are complaining about the cost of eggs and sugar.' But so what? We don't live in a society that is pretty all the time. That's why it's capitalism." - Wash Post

Ed Rendell, Mayor of Philadelphia, April 1997 -I would like to thank the Nation of Islam here in Philadelphia, to thank you for what you stand for and what you stand for all the good it does to so many people in Philadelphia. And if there is anybody out here. . . who doesn't know, this is a faith that has as its principles, the family. This is a faith that doesn't just talk about family values, it lives family values. This is a faith where men respect their women and children and they manifest that faith by staying in the home with them. This is a faith that doesn't just talk about being against drugs but is out there every single day and night fighting against drugs. This is a faith that just doesn't talk about the value of education, it imbues in their children and schools that education is the way to opportunity.

VA CONCEALED VET SUICIDE DATA

BUSH REGIME INSISTS TRAVEL INDUSTRY TAKE FINGERPRINTS OF FOREIGNERS

SIGNIFICANT MINORITY LOSING GROUND IN LIFE EXPECTANCY

A COLLECTION OF STUPID QUOTES THAT HELPED GET US INTO THE IRAQ WAR

BRITAIN TURNS INFO FROM ITS TRAFFIC SPY CAMS OVER TO U.S.

WHAT THE CANDIDATES WILL LOOK LIKE IN FOUR YEARS

READER COMMENTS

NOTE: You can post your comments on any of the above stories by going to our Undernews site and searching for the headline. Once posted, a copy is immediately mailed to the Review and we pick some of the most interesting to publish here. http://prorev.com/indexa.htm

FACT CHECKING THE INFALLIBLE

I was confused by your comment-less inclusion of the 2006 article from the Daily Mail in today's Review. Are you still digging up old dirt on the Pope? Which is fine, of course, except that this article is not primary source material about the main dirt of all, this top-secret document attributed to the current Pope. Do we have a leaked copy or are they all still locked up in a bishop's safe somewhere? Have you seen the BBC special referred to in the article, and if so can you tell us its sources for these very damning allegations, as the Daily Mail article does not? I have to say, the Daily Mail article, down to getting the name of the Pope wrong (it's Joseph, not Thomas), reminds me of those anonymous emails that circle the globe saying Obama is a Muslim or that Target hates Christmas. Lots of heat and very little light.

This pretty much proves that the most evil men in the world are the leaders. We have Bush, we have Ratzinger, we have the old men of the Chinese dictatorship, etc., etc. We've got to find a way out of the basic paradox of power: the only people who can be trusted with it are those who don't want it; any who seek it are too dangerous to be allowed near it. - Fool of Eris

Last week Ratzinger tried to blame the child molestation on the general corruption of all of society. He seems to be willing to say anything that meets his needs for disavowing responsibility.

HEMP STORE OPENS IN DC

Can we please get some hemp clothes that don't look like something a stereotypical stoner would wear? Why is it that the only hemp clothes I come across are bong theme t-shirts or ugly ponchos?

Buy hemp fabric and make your own clothes, or employ a local seamstress to sew them. I make clothes with hemp cloth and they wear out very slowly and can take more washings and stay nicer then any cotton garment I've ever made. I've seen nice hemp clothes like jeans and button down shirts, but you need to look a little harder to find them. I think the main reason that many hemp clothes are ugly ponchos and bong themed t-shirts, is that many people still think you can get stoned smoking a t-shirt, and that leaves hemp products rather stigmatized.

ATT EXEC: INTERNET MAY BE OVERLOADED BY 2010

This read like the Internet is sponsored by a bunch of philanthropists. These "private investors" are making a huge profit off their investment, in addition to amassing a wealth of marketing and personal information about individual users.

MERCURY AND THE NEW FLUORESCENT BULBS

I did a simple test in my home. I have lived in my house for 5 years. I moved in with normal incandescent bulbs. After 4 years in this house we had several burn out and replaced them with compact fluorescent bulbs. Now on year 5, the compact fluorescents have already burned out. So I guess I am beginning to question the outrageous price difference especially when I looked to recycle them and found out that they had mercury in them. I can't begin to guess how many of these are heading to our local landfill. We live in Oregon and the rainfall will make this go into the local watershed quickly and I can't imagine the end result in 30-100 years. I guess I better stock up on incandescent bulbs.

MULTITASKING WORSE ON IQ THAN POT

In the most home school communities, both secular and religious, the hourly bell is a major reason for choosing home schooling. Teaching kids to change activities to a bell teaches kids that everything they do is of the same value. Nothing is worth spending more time on, children are not taught to deeply learn a skill or fully explore a new topic, they are taught to just do the work that is assigned, and be ready for the next bell. A great indoctrination for wage slavery.

Schools in the US are more about indoctrination and having a working class of mediocre literacy, not the education our young people. Running schools by the bell enforces this. It's bad for kids and it's bad for the teachers. Nobody learns well under that pressure, even the best student is not reaching their potential by schooling by the bell.

SERIOUS DECLINE IN EUROPEAN BIRD MIGRATION

Folks should learn what they can do to help migratory birds, like creating nest sites, keeping a bird bath full of water in summer, and if you feed wild birds, keep feeding, because those birds at your feeder plan on it being there as a food source. I keep small brush piles in my back yard, because migratory birds, butterflies, and solitary bees all makes homes in them.

THE DEMOCRATIC RACE

The constant attacks by the Clinton camp have decreased the lead Obama once had in national polls and insured that John McCain will win the presidency. That being the case, activists need not be distracted by the "contest" between the two centrist Democratic ninnies and instead focus on getting the gutless, spineless Democrats in Congress to enact progressive legislation: eliminating the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy, mortgage relief, universal health care, eliminating funding for the mercenaries in Iraq, no more trade pacts, financial regulation of banks and brokers, environmental action - Dick

SPITZER

Spitzer was his own downfall. He knew he had enemies and he arrogantly and recklessly engaged in illegal prostitution. I am glad he is gone. Wayne Berman did New York a service. Spitzer was failing as governor of NY. His approach was so divisive and arrogant he was achieving nothing as governor. Hooray the man is one out of my life! The faster they rise the harder they fall. I see a crater where this bozo fell off the pot. - Beth Boyle, New York.

THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW
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Editor: Sam Smith

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