Monthly Archives: February 2011

Students Should Be Glad I’m a Slow Grader

Those high-stakes grade-school standardized tests with essays on them? The ones that determine schools’ and sometimes students’ futures? Like, for example, Florida’s FCAT? The grading may be shoddy and arbitrary.

Read the exposé by Jessica Lussenhop, Inside the multimillion-dollar essay-scoring business: Behind the scenes of standardized testing.

Posted in Etc | Comments Off on Students Should Be Glad I’m a Slow Grader

What Counts as News, and What Counts as Important

This will be a one-day story: Report: U.S. Has Wasted Tens Of Billions Of Dollars On Contractors In Iraq And Afghanistan.

A new report from a bipartisan commission set up to scrutinize the unprecedented use of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan concludes that the United States has wasted tens of billions of the nearly $177 billion that has been spent on those contracts and grants since 2002.

The report, titled “At What Risk? Correcting Over-reliance on Contractors in Contingency Operations,” said its estimate may even understate the problem because it may not take into full account ill-conceived projects, poor planning and oversight by the U.S. government, as well as criminal behavior and blatant corruption by both government and contractor employees.

“For many years,” the report says, “the government has abdicated its contracting responsibilities – too often using contractors as the default mechanism … without consideration for the resources needed to manage them.”

But the political rhetoric will continue to be about reducing the number of government workers, instead of the logical thing, which would be to increase them in order to reduce (note that I did not say “prevent”) this sort of ripoff.

Not invading foreign countries also helps.

Posted in Politics: US | Comments Off on What Counts as News, and What Counts as Important

Procrastination Prediction Vindicated

A month ago I noted that I’d requested the Miami-Dade Library’s copy of Procrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do About It Now, but I made this prediction:

Unfortunately, it seems there is only one copy in the collection and it is checked out. Given the sort of person this work likely appeals to, I am not hopeful that it will be returned any time soon.

The MDPLS only lets you check out books for a month at a time, so even if the person who has it had checked it out the day before I put in my hold request, it’s got to be overdue now. And I still don’t have it.

Posted in Completely Different | Comments Off on Procrastination Prediction Vindicated

How’s That War Going?

A few days ago the New York Times was the home of happy headlines about the war in VietnamAfghanistan. But that’s so yesterday.

News (2/21/11): Midlevel Taliban Admit to a Rift With Top Leaders

Recent defeats and general weariness after nine years of war are creating fissures between the Taliban’s top leadership based in Pakistan and midlevel field commanders, who have borne the brunt of the fighting and are reluctant to return to some battle zones, Taliban members said in interviews.

Op-ed (2/20/11): The ‘Long War’ May Be Getting Shorter

IT is hard to tell when momentum shifts in a counterinsurgency campaign, but there is increasing evidence that Afghanistan is moving in a more positive direction than many analysts think. It now seems more likely than not that the country can achieve the modest level of stability and self-reliance necessary to allow the United States to responsibly draw down its forces from 100,000 to 25,000 troops over the next four years.

The shift is most obvious on the ground. The additional 30,000 troops promised by President Obama in his speech at West Point 14 months ago are finally in place and changing the trajectory of the fight.

Today (2/25/11), not so much:

U.S. Pulling Back in Afghan Valley It Called Vital.

After years of fighting for control of a prominent valley in the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan, the United States military has begun to pull back most of its forces from ground it once insisted was central to the campaign against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The withdrawal from the Pech Valley, a remote region in Kunar Province, formally began on Feb. 15. The military projects that it will last about two months, part of a shift of Western forces to the province’s more populated areas. Afghan units will remain in the valley, a test of their military readiness.

While American officials say the withdrawal matches the latest counterinsurgency doctrine’s emphasis on protecting Afghan civilians, Afghan officials worry that the shift of troops amounts to an abandonment of territory where multiple insurgent groups are well established, an area that Afghans fear they may not be ready to defend on their own.

Time for more psyops aimed at the media

Posted in Politics: International | 1 Comment

US Uncut Rally in Boca on Saturday at 5pm

US Uncut, the copycat of the phenomenal UK Uncut, is having rallies all over the US on Saturday, including one in South Florida at 5pm Saturday, February 26th at the Boca Raton Bank of America, 21060 Saint Andrews Blvd, Boca Raton, FL, 33433. Here’s the map version.

I have to go to a Law School event Saturday evening, so I’m going to miss this, but I would love to hear from anyone who goes about whether there was a decent turnout and what it was like.

Posted in Econ & Money, Politics: US | 2 Comments

Today’s Required Reading

Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators — Rolling Stone.

I remember back in Vietnam that some officers were said to believe that the Senate was the real enemy. But I doubt any of them went this far.

Posted in National Security | 1 Comment