Dynamist Blog


Two local high school teachers have been put on administrative leave as punishment for showing their classes the video of Nick Berg's beheading. According to the Dallas Morning News report, they gave students who didn't want to watch the option to leave the room. Protective parents are outraged, and the DMN finds a psychology prof to say the kids will be scarred, and scared, for life. That may even be true, but does protecting teenagers from being upset justify shielding them from the realities of the world--or, to be more precise, does it justify punishing teachers who don't sufficiently shield them? It's not an easy question. The comments posted by DMN readers are definitely worth a read. (One student notes that even kids who didn't leave the room could put their heads down, which probably would have been my approach in those circumstances at that age. I have not, in fact, seen the video. I've tried but had technical problems that I don't entirely regret.)

Last week, the DMN editorial page published an edited still of a terrorist holding up Berg's head and an editorial about why it published the photo. Since the published photo was actually of a blurry masked person with a slightly raised arm and a big black rectangle, I'm not sure it had the effect the editors were at pains to justify.


All 24 episodes of The Jetsons just came out on DVD. I considered picking up the set, mostly for illustrative purposes (what "the future" doesn't look like), but quickly decided to save my 50 bucks. After all, I can't quote the show by sticking a still or a short clip in a PowerPoint presentation. And the entertainment value alone isn't worth the price of admission. Count me another sale lost to Hollywood's obsession with blocking the fair use that writers take for granted, whether we're quoting or being quoted.

On a related note, blogger Fred von Lohmann of EFF's Deep Links calls attention to recent congressional testimony:

The most remarkable testimony at last week's DMCRA hearings was that of former Congressman Allan Swift.

Swift was testifying as a private citizen, as a "home recordist." Basically, he's been making "mix tapes" for 54 years:

In that time, I have given friends many tapes, cassettes and now CDs containing "programs" I have created from my own collection of LPs and CDs. In that time, I have never made a straight duplicate of a record for anyone. If they ask me to, I tell them politely how easy is it to buy it on the Internet. In that time I have never charged a person a penny - even for the cost of the raw cassette or CD blank. It is just my hobby.


Hitting one of my Dallas hobby horses, blogger Alan K. Henderson speculates on the future of Love Field and the Wright Amendment. If you've never explored the Wikipedia, his link to the entry on Love Field is a good place to start.


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The Spirit of Ameria Blog reports that equipment donated to outfit seven Iraqi-owned TV stations has arrived at the Marine HQ in Ar Ramadi, Iraq. For more on what's planned, and photos of what's arrived, check out the blog.

In an email to SoA supporters, Jim Hake writes that "we have received a request originating from Major General Jim Mattis of the 1st Marine Division for 1,000 sewing machines to help Iraqi women earn a better living. This request is the kind of thing that can have an immediate impact on improving the conditions and aspirations of people in Iraq." They don't yet have anything about this project on their site, but it's the kind of less-flashy project that also deserves support.


I seriously doubt that A.P. reporter Jim Abrams is in the pay of the highway lobby, but judging from this propaganda masquerading as a news story, he might as well be:

It's legislation dear to the hearts of politicians: a highway spending bill spreading jobs and economic benefits throughout the country. But even such a popular measure can't get traction this year against a White House that insists the bill is just too much of a good thing.

"There's a deafening silence right now," Matt Jeanneret, a spokesman for the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, said in a recent interview. "It's a sad commentary on the state of political discourse."

Nearly eight months have passed since the last six-year, $218 billion highway and transit plan expired. Congress has approved three temporary measures to keep federal grants to the states at the old spending level while it struggles, without success, to come up with a new plan.

There's wide agreement that current spending is inadequate to deal with the nation's unsafe, congested and deteriorating transportation system. The Transportation Department has suggested a figure of $375 billion over the 2004-2009 period is needed.

There's also the formula, often cited in an election year where jobs are a prime issue, that 47,500 jobs are created for every $1 billion invested in federal highway and transit programs. [[Interesting sourcing, or lack of same.--vp]]

The White House, however, decided to make the highway bill its poster child for insisting that Congress end its profligate ways. It set a $256 billion ceiling on the bill while suggesting it might accept $275 billion if Congress could do it without increasing the deficit.

For more on highway investment, see my NYT column, coming on Thursday.


In a must-read LAT op-ed, the great Chuck Freund reflects on the killing of Nicholas Berg, the abuses at Abu Ghraid, and the responses to both. Here's a teaser:

What Zarqawi's friends do is butcher Berg--there's no other word for it. They don't use a sword or an ax; they use a knife. You can hear Berg screaming as Zarqawi's gang hacks at his neck and then pulls at his head until it comes off his body. They then hold his bleeding head in front of the camera. The tape is appalling not only for its utter bloodthirstiness but also for the total absence of simple human empathy.

Elemental empathy is a primary measure of civilization. The shame that Americans felt at the Abu Ghraib images is rooted in such empathy. Even in the dehumanizing context of warfare, which strains the empathy of all its participants, this is savagery.

But if this is a moment of comparative atrocity, the issue becomes whether the Zarqawi horror is capable of having any effect on the Abu Ghraib matter. The probable answer is that although the murder tape obviously doesn't make pictures of prisoner abuse any less disgusting or shameful, it does offer many of those who feel disgust and shame a different context in which to perceive those images.

Read the whole thing.


In his Fortune Small Business column, journalist-turned-family-business-operator Kevin Kelly explains how he went from pessimist to optimist:

Anyone who knows me accepts that consistency is not one of my attributes. Now, dear readers, you too can join that club. Just a few months back in this column--last October, if you must know--I dubbed myself "Alan Greenspan's worst nightmare." No matter how low interest rates fell or how robust my business, I insisted, I wasn't cranking up spending or hiring. Last summer I even canceled the purchase of a $500,000 printing press. I just didn't believe in the recovery. My pessimism so enraged one reader that he labeled me "gutless" and "spineless."

Well, I've grown a spine. I have now embraced the economic recovery with wild abandon. My family's $30-million-a-year plastic-bag-manufacturing company has spent close to $1 million on new equipment over the past few months and plans to fork over another $1.5 million before year-end. That's almost triple our 2003 capital spending. We're buying a new printing press at double the price of the one I nixed last year. Thanks to my new friend the Fed, I'm still financing the darn machine at around 5.5%. We're not just on the bandwagon, we're virtually driving it: Unlike so many U.S. businesses, we've hired new employees, expanding our workforce 10% in the past few months, to 120.

Why the change of heart? I listened more to my business than to my macroeconomic fears. For months I allowed the media drumbeat about the fragility of the recovery and my paranoia about industry overcapacity and cheap imports to drown out what I heard in my businessï¿the pulse of rising sales. Beginning in mid-2003, our sales growth hit as much as 50% year over year and averaged around 30%, thanks to an influx of new customers and increased business from existing accounts. As backlogs lengthened, customers got angrier about late shipments. I recognized that if I didn't expand, our hard-won growth could disappear overnight.


The LAT reports:

A growing global economy and a cheap dollar are making "Made in California" products a lot more popular.

Exports of California-manufactured goods increased 25% in the first quarter compared with a year earlier, according to government trade figures released Wednesday. Shipments to China, where demand is booming, jumped more than 70%.

California's export business fell harder than other states' during 2001 and 2002 because of the weakness in the technology sector. Now, rising global demand for computers, communications equipment and semiconductors is once again giving the Golden State an outsize share of the nation's shipments abroad.


Gordon Smith's of Venturpreneur blogs a striking example of the aesthetic imperative:

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