More Competition for Girls in College Admissions

Girls are outnumbering boys in college admissions to many US colleges. While the good news is that girls are working hard and striving for the best education possible, the scary part for parents of girls (like me) is that this trend may make college admissions increasingly competitive for girls, while boys may not run up against a comparable level of competition. This Op-Ed in The New York Times by the Dean of Admissions at Kenyon College (and a parent of a high schooler heading for college and facing ugly rejection letters) spells out just how this trend is impacting colleges and college-age girls.

Thanks to Echidne of the Snakes whose post directed me to the New York Times article. She also points out that it is not the top level colleges that have this problem, as they are able to attract a large pool of male applicants. It is the second-tier colleges where this is a growing problem. As her post also details with a table, the disproportionately high number of women is even higher for low-income blacks and hispanics, suggesting that there is a significant dearth of men in these demographic sectors applying to second-tier colleges.

Barbara Bush: Donating or Hurricane Profiteering?

Barbara Bush donated an undisclosed amount of money to the Bush-Clinton Hurricane relief fund, and specified that the money must be used to purchase Ignite Software for Houston schools.

While charitable donations can be earmarked for a specific purpose, I have never heard of a charitable donation that is earmarked to be given to a specific business, whether owned by one’s next of kin or not.

Never mind that this is disgustingly self-promoting behavior for anyone, let alone a multi-million-dollar Presidential family. I question whether it is even legal. I would like to see the IRS review this situation and say that it is okay for a charitable organization to be required to use a donation to purchase the product of a specific company. That just seems plain wrong.

The Grossest Absurdities

“Where men are the most sure and arrogant, they are commonly the most mistaken, and have there given reins to passion, without that proper deliberation and suspense, which can alone secure them from the grossest absurdities.”

These words were written more than 250 years ago by the Scottish philosopher and essayist, David Hume. They still ring true today, as we daily bear witness to “the grossest absurdities� of men like Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, et al., who are “sure and arrogant� to a fault. What prompts this reflection is an article by Charlie Savage in yesterday’s Boston Globe entitled “Bush shuns Patriot Act requirement� (excerpt below). Though I can no longer profess surprise at anything the President or his minions say and do, I nonetheless am disturbed by what Savage reports and what it means to our frail democracy:

When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act’s expanded police powers.

The bill contained several oversight provisions intended to make sure the FBI did not abuse the special terrorism-related powers to search homes and secretly seize papers. The provisions require Justice Department officials to keep closer track of how often the FBI uses the new powers and in what type of situations. Under the law, the administration would have to provide the information to Congress by certain dates.

Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it “a piece of legislation that’s vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people.” But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a “signing statement,” an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.

In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law’s requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would “impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive’s constitutional duties.”

Bush wrote: “The executive branch shall construe the provisions . . . that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch . . . in a manner consistent with the president’s constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information . . . “

The statement represented the latest in a string of high-profile instances in which Bush has cited his constitutional authority to bypass a law….

Bush’s expansive claims of the power to bypass laws have provoked increased grumbling in Congress. Members of both parties have pointed out that the Constitution gives the legislative branch the power to write the laws and the executive branch the duty to “faithfully execute” them….

Bush’s signing statement on the USA Patriot Act nearly went unnoticed.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, inserted a statement into the record of the Senate Judiciary Committee objecting to Bush’s interpretation of the Patriot Act, but neither the signing statement nor Leahy’s objection received coverage from in the mainstream news media, Leahy’s office said.

Yesterday, Leahy said Bush’s assertion that he could ignore the new provisions of the Patriot Act — provisions that were the subject of intense negotiations in Congress — represented “nothing short of a radical effort to manipulate the constitutional separation of powers and evade accountability and responsibility for following the law.” (emphasis added)

“The president’s signing statements are not the law, and Congress should not allow them to be the last word,” Leahy said in a prepared statement. “The president’s constitutional duty is to faithfully execute the laws as written by the Congress, not cherry-pick the laws he decides he wants to follow. It is our duty to ensure, by means of congressional oversight, that he does so.”

Leahy, of course, is correct, but the sad and dangerous reality is that—Congressional grumbling aside—such oversight is not forthcoming, as partisan politics and special interests continue to lame the legislative branch. And thus our democracy falls prey to “the grossest absurditiesâ€? of corrupt and arrogant men. Unless…

We take action and take to heart the words of our founding fathers, who some 25 years after David Hume, wrote a modest document known as the Declaration of Independence. I encourage you to read it anew (here) and remind yourself of the “unalienable rights� to which we are all entitled and what actions are not only possible but necessary when faced with “a long train of abuses and usurpations� by tyrants of great power and arrogance.

Ben Domenech Resigns

I guess he decided to make it easy for them.

In the past 24 hours, we learned of allegations that Ben Domenech plagiarized material that appeared under his byline in various publications prior to washingtonpost.com contracting with him to write a blog that launched Tuesday.

An investigation into these allegations was ongoing, and in the interim, Domenech has resigned, effective immediately.

When we hired Domenech, we were not aware of any allegations that he had plagiarized any of his past writings. In any cases where allegations such as these are made, we will continue to investigate those charges thoroughly in order to maintain our journalistic integrity.

Plagiarism is perhaps the most serious offense that a writer can commit or be accused of. Washingtonpost.com will do everything in its power to verify that its news and opinion content is sourced completely and accurately at all times.

We appreciate the speed and thoroughness with which our readers and media outlets surfaced these allegations. Despite the turn this has taken, we believe this event, among other things, testifies to the positive and powerful role that the Internet can play in the the practice of journalism.

We also remain committed to representing a broad spectrum of ideas and ideologies in our Opinions area.

Jim Brady
Executive Editor, washingtonpost.com

It’s nice to see some journalistic integrity being expressed here. Thanks, Jim Brady!

Feingold The Censurion

It would appear that Senator Russ Feingold’s efforts to have President Bush censured for authorizing warrantless surveillance on American citizens is about as welcome among his colleagues as a gift basket of rotten fruit from Jack Abramoff. Most members of the majority party—that would be the Republicans for those of you who have been slumbering these past 5 years—have responded with disdain or self-righteous anger. Most members of Feingold’s party—that would be Democraps, of course—have responded with Jello-like enthusiasm. And lukewarm Jello at that. Well, at least Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, seems supportive, as reported in an Associated Press article by Frederic J. Frommer:

“This feels like some attempt at accountability,” Stewart told Feingold, D-Wis., at the end of the senator’s appearance on the Comedy Central show Wednesday night. “And that’s what I really like about it.”

“And so I appreciate that, and I thank you for it,” Stewart added. “And I hope that your colleagues let you still eat at the lunch table.”

Stewart poked fun at the tepid response that Feingold’s proposal has generated on Capitol Hill. So far, only two senators, both Democrats, have signed on as co-sponsors.

“A lot of your Democratic colleagues are reacting as though you’re Jack Abramoff and you have a casino you want to talk to them about,” Stewart joked, referring to the disgraced lobbyist.

Feingold, who has accused his Democratic colleagues of “cowering,” said it was important for the party to show some backbone.

“How many times are we going let George Bush and (Vice President) Dick Cheney say, ‘You guys don’t support the troops. You’re not patriotic,’ and let them push us around?” asked Feingold, whose appearance was via satellite from Milwaukee. “We have to stand up to them.”

Stewart played a clip from a recent news conference of House Majority Leader John Boehner, in which the Ohio Republican said of Feingold, “Sometimes you begin to wonder if he’s more interested in the safety and security of the terrorists as opposed to the American people.”

After the audience groaned, Stewart asked, “How long have you been working with the terrorists, and are they nicer than they seem?”

“Oh no, they’re a bad bunch,” Feingold said, laughing.

Feingold conceded that a member of his own family questioned the proposal.

“My daughter called me up and said, ‘Dad, what are you doing? This thing hasn’t been done since the 1830s,’ so it takes some explaining,” Feingold said.

“That’s what I like about you, senator,” Stewart said. “You’re kicking it old-school.”

For a more serious take on the reactions to Feingold’s censure move, I refer you to an editorial by John Nichols in The Nation entitled “Censuring Censure.� If you want to take action, I refer you to the following MoveOn.org petition page: http://political.moveon.org/censure/. A new century calls for a new censure.

Media Matters Calls for WaPo to Fire Ben Domenech

I can’t pretend to know who Ben Domenech is — I just read his new blog, Red America, at Washingtonpost.com today for the first time. But, given the number of strikes against him right now, including new allegations of plagiarism from his college newspaper days, and the fact that he is already apologizing on his WaPo blog for calling Coretta Scott King a Communist, I’m willing to bet that the editors at The Washington Post are seriously considering David Brock’s request in the letter below.

James M. Brady, Executive editor, Washingtonpost.com

Leonard Downie, Executive editor, The Washington Post

Boisfeuillet Jones Jr., Publisher and chief executive officer, The Washington Post

Donald E. Graham, CEO and Chairman of the Board, The Washington Post Co., Chairman, The Washington Post

Caroline Little, CEO & Publisher, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive

Dear Messrs. Brady, Downie, Jones, and Graham, and Ms. Little:

I write today to request that you terminate Ben Domenech’s employment and affiliation with the Washington Post.

We appreciate the value in news outlets such as yours offering readers a wide range of opinion and insight, so we do not take this action lightly.

We did not call for Domenech’s firing when the Post revealed that it had hired a conservative blogger, even though the Post does not employ any liberal counterpart to Domenech.

We did not call for Domenech’s firing when it became clear that he has scant journalism experience but is, rather, a partisan Republican political operative with no place in a news organization.

We did not call for Domenech’s firing when his first post consisted of little more than sneering insults of his readers, describing progressives as “shriekingâ€? and “unhingedâ€? — exactly the sort of personal insults Brady has previously declared unfit for use by readers describing Post employees in the comments section of the Post’s blogs. The double standard inherent in the Post publishing Domenech’s vitriolic attacks on readers, while repeatedly denouncing readers’ criticism of Post employees, troubles us, but did not cause us to urge Domenech’s dismissal.

But, with each hour bringing new evidence of Domenech’s racially charged rhetoric and homophobic bigotry, the time has come for the Post to end its ill-conceived relationship with Domenech. Examples of Domenech’s views include:

In a February 7, 2006, post on RedState, Domenech wrote that he believed people should be “pissedâ€? that President Bush attended “the funeral of a Communistâ€? — referring to the funeral for Coretta Scott King. As you know, labeling the King family “communistsâ€? was a favorite tool of the racists who opposed them.

In another RedState post, Domenech compared “the Judiciary� unfavorably to the Ku Klux Klan.

In still another RedState comment, Domenech posted without comment an article stating that “[i]t just happens that killing black babies has the happy result of reducing crime” and that “[w]hite racists have reason to be grateful for what is sometimes still called the civil rights leadership” because black leaders “are overwhelmingly in support” of abortion rights.

In yet another, Domenech wrote that conservative blogger/journalist Andrew Sullivan, who is gay, “needs a woman to give him some stability.�

Domenech has also been caught at least once apparently fabricating a quote. A June 20, 2002, Spinsanity.org entry demonstrated that Domenech made up a quote he attributed to Tim Russert in order to defend President Bush.

In a post on RedState.com, Domenech once agreed with a commenter who called Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin “an embarrassment to the saner heads at the paper.�

It is time for “saner headsâ€? to prevail. Will The Washington Post honor its history as one of America’s most respected news organizations — or will it stand with Ben Domenech, tacitly endorsing his assault on Coretta Scott King, his offensive suggestion that a gay man “needs a woman,â€? and his fabrication of a quote?

America is watching.

Sincerely,

David Brock
President & CEO
Media Matters for America

No Abstinence From Political Patronage

This week, in The Washington Post, Thomas B. Edsall reports on how “millions of dollars in taxpayer funds have flowed to groups that support President Bush’s agenda on abortion and other social issues. Under the auspices of its religion-based initiatives and other federal programs, the administration has funneled at least $157 million in grants to organizations run by political and ideological allies.� Edsall goes on to cite numerous examples of organizations and programs that have received funding from the Bush administration.

Not surprisingly, a goodly (or is it godly?) amount of these grants have subsidized initiatives in abstinence education that seek to encourage adolescents and young adults to eschew sexual activity (i.e., Just Say No To Sex). Often, such initiatives—coming as they do from faith-based organizations—appear to lack the thoroughness (and thus the effectiveness) of more traditional, per se, programs in sexuality education. Research strongly suggests that abstinence-only programs are problematic in many ways. The Journal of Adolescent Health recently published a “position paper of the Society for Adolescent Medicine� that confronts this very issue. An excerpt from its summary follows:

Providing “abstinence only� or “abstinence until marriage� messages as a sole option for teenagers is flawed from scientific and medical ethics viewpoints. Efforts to promote abstinence should be based on sound science. Although federal support of abstinence-only programs has grown rapidly since 1996, the evaluations of such programs find little evidence of efficacy in delaying initiation of sexual intercourse. Conversely, efforts to promote abstinence, when offered as part of comprehensive reproductive health promotion programs that provide information about contraceptive options and protection from STIs have successfully delayed initiation of sexual intercourse. Moreover, abstinence-only programs are ethically problematic, being inherently coercive and often providing misinformation and withholding information needed to make informed choices. In many communities, abstinence-only education (AOE) has been replacing comprehensive sexuality education. In some communities, AOE has become the basis for suppression of free speech in schools. Abstinence-only education programs provide incomplete and/or misleading information about contraceptives, or none at all, and are often insensitive to sexually active teenagers. Federally funded abstinence-until-marriage programs discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth, as federal law limits the definition of marriage to heterosexual couples.

Schools and health care providers should encourage abstinence as an important option for teenagers. “Abstinence-only� as a basis for health policy and programs should be abandoned.

So the $157 million dollar question is: How exactly are these funds being spent? On programs based on sound science or based on religious/moral beliefs? And are the grantees and the Bush administration adhering to regulations governing the separation of church and state? There is plenty of reason to be skeptical and concerned. Perhaps the President and his conservative followers would do well to put aside their Puritan queasiness about sexuality and instead focus on more substantive issues, such as abstaining from war, domestic spying, and political corruption and patronage. That sort of abstinence would certainly make my heart grow fonder.