• Dec. 18, 2003 | 4:10 PM ETGOOD NEWS FROM THE SCHOOLS I've commented on a lot of bad school-related developments, like the Goose Creek disaster, in the past. And there are plenty of those to comment on. Just recently, a high school girl at Clay-Chalkville High in Alabama was suspended for taking a Motrin to relieve menstrual cramps, for example. I wish that this were evidence that the principal and school board were on drugs, but sadly, I feel that these people are actually exercising their native mental capacities to their fullest. . . .But it's not all bad news. Though we persist in treating teenagers like babies even as school administrators hide behind stupid rules to avoid taking an adult level of responsibility thmselves, the school systems have somehow failed to ruin all of their charges. You can see evidence of that in a recent bit of heroism in an Atlanta-area high school, where students saved a teacher's life by wrestling her deranged, knife-wielding ex-husband to the ground when he attacked her. Here's my favorite bit from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution' report of the event:Nimesh Patel, 17, was taking a nap after finishing his final when he heard screaming and the scampering of fleeing students. He saw his teacher trying to fend off her assailant."I froze there for a second. Me and a couple of other guys grabbed him and threw him to the ground and basically sat on him until the cops came," he said.Several other students helped Patel subdue the attacker. They included Austin Hutchinson, 16; John Bailey, 16; Andy Anderson, 17; Matt Battaglia, 17; and Scott Wigington, 17.As Hutchinson saw the man pull the knife, "I thought I could run like the rest of the people or I could help," the student said. "It's just not right leaving her there."The school system thinks that kids this age aren't smart enough to take an Advil. But they're smart enough to put their lives on the line when circumstances demand it. Would a roomful of school administrators do any better?
• Dec. 16, 2003 | 3:52 PM ET
MORAL IDIOTSWhy am I inclined toward libertarianism? It's because I figured out long ago that many of the people who run most big institutions are -- and I want to put this in the nicest possible way -- idiots. Today brings more proof.Consider the town of Cleburne, Texas. Just a couple of days ago, a middle-school student was stabbed. But what's the top law-enforcement priority there? Apparently, it's keeping married couples from getting sex toys:A Texas housewife is in big trouble with the law for selling a vibrator to a pair of undercover cops. . . . Joanne Webb, a former fifth-grade teacher and mother of three, was in a county court in Cleburne, Texas, on Monday to answer obscenity charges for selling the vibrator to undercover narcotics officers posing as a dysfunctional married couple in search of a sex aid.The law is pretty obviously unconstitutional in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas, but that's not the point. The point is that the town fathers -- perhaps viewing such devices as competition? -- chose to send people with guns to arrest Ms. Webb. This looks to me like proof positive that taxes in Cleburne are too high, and that a round of law-enforcement layoffs would do some good -- or that the town fathers have a misplaced sense of priorities, to put it mildly.Perhaps they're just champions of traditional values -- but if so, they should note that another traditional American value involved tarring and feathering overreaching officials and running them out of town on a rail. Nowadays we mostly just make fun of them on the Internet, but if they'd like to turn the clock back, well...Meanwhile papal envoy Cardinal Renato Martino is expressing sympathy for Saddam Hussein, saying that photos of him getting his teeth checked shouldn't have been shown. As blogger Rob Hinkley notes, "And what is the treatment that the Cardinal finds so distressing? They looked at his teeth! Oh, the inhumanity. Looking at his teeth... that's almost as bad as smashing his teeth out and then electrocuting him, right?"I wonder if the Vatican will come to the defense of Joanne Webb. Well, no. Actually I don't wonder at all.
• Dec. 15, 2003 | 11:44 AM ET
THE DICTATORSHIP FALLS
Saddam's captured. That's a big story -- and military blogger LT Smash has a roundup of blog commentary that's worth reading. But that's not the dictatorship I mean.
I'm referring to the dictatorship of the Big Media, which is losing its stranglehold over news. Here's just one example.
Last week, there were huge anti-terrorism and anti-Saddam demonstrations in Iraq. But they hardly got any coverage in the mainstream media. The New York Times gave them one short paragraph, buried in a story about something else. The Washington Post didn't cover them at all. Neither did most of the big TV networks. (You can see Reuters' raw video feed here). But American blogger Jeff Jarvis had sent a digital camera to Iraqi blogger Zeyad, who reported on the demonstrations and posted photos on his weblog. Lots of other bloggers picked up on this (links here, here, here, and here) and Roger Simon (last link) observed: "Do you think for one moment that if thousands had been marching for Saddam... for the fascists... excuse me "insurgents"... it wouldn't have been front page news? I don't. What's going on?"
But the story got out. And in fact, it got picked up. Amazingly -- a week after Zeyad got his digital camera, and just a few days after the protests -- The Weekly Standard gave over two pages of its front section to Zeyad's reporting. (It's in their print magazine, and on their website here.
Just a few years ago, this would have been a non-story in the United States. Now, it's a huge embarrassment for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the other Big Media operations that were scooped by an Iraqi dentist with a $200 digital camera. And not just scooped -- shown up for having what are, at best, rather skewed priorities in their reportage.
They'd better get used to it.
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