The State of the Union is still very much alive

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 8.28.31 PM“Rumors of my death have been highly exaggerated,” Mark Twain is supposed to have said after one news story reporting it.

Actually, he didn’t. He wrote a brief, dull note telling someone they had confused him with a cousin. Someone else made it better.
Continue reading The State of the Union is still very much alive

Turning 50: The tragedy of Tonkin Gulf

Tonkin Gulf They came in from the west: three North Vietnamese patrol boats, halting five miles from the USS Maddox. The Maddox fired first. One Vietnamese boat launched a torpedo. Then the boats raced away, strafed by U.S. jets. One boat sank.

So, at least on the first day there was a battle. A few nights later President Lyndon Johnson was on TV, describing two attacks, reassuring Americans we “seek no wider war,” and asking Congress for the power to take “all necessary measures” against “open aggression on the high seas against the United States of America.” A year later, we had almost 200,000 troops in Vietnam. Continue reading Turning 50: The tragedy of Tonkin Gulf

Brat — The protesting Protestant?

dave brat There’s an early Philip Roth story about a bunch of Jewish kids in Hebrew school trying to figure out whether Jesus lived or not.

“The Catholics,” Itzie Lieberman says, “they believe in Jesus Christ, that he’s God.”

Lieberman, Roth adds, “used ‘the Catholics’ in its broadest sense — to include the Protestants.”

I confess, when I was a kid in a largely Jewish town, I was similarly confused. I think I have it straight, now. But I was confused again this week, reading about Dave Brat’s surprising primary election win over Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA)… Continue reading Brat — The protesting Protestant?

More Alice Deals? There’s a better deal

Image-for-Alice-Deal-School The concern over why we’ve fallen behind other countries seems reasonable. How can U.S. students test behind those from 33 countries? Behind Croatia!

But that’s not because all American schools fail. It mostly reflects the dismal results by Hispanic/Latino and African-American students — especially African-Americans, whose results in that test would have put them 54th. White kids (15th) and Asian-Americans (4th) do fine. Overall, American white kids finish ahead of Germany and Australia. Not a disaster.

African-American scores are, though. And in Washington, with the biggest white/black achievement gap of any city in the country, you’d think we could find solutions. Continue reading More Alice Deals? There’s a better deal

Teaching The Vietnamese How To Write Speeches

vietnam I’m giving a workshop for diplomats on speechwriting, with material I’ve used dozens of times. But this first day hasn’t gone well in Hanoi.

Yes, Hanoi, capital of Vietnam, the country that once consumed me and my friends, then mostly left our minds in 1975, shortly after Marine helicopters lifted the last refugees and Americans off the roof of the US embassy. The country that in the past four decades has tripled in population, reduced poverty, and, not without missteps, created a nimble hybrid of communism and capitalism that’s brought 6 percent economic growth a year since 2000. Continue reading Teaching The Vietnamese How To Write Speeches