Nov 25, 2007

Plain Language Independence [LINK]

My latest letter to the Glob:

To achieve energy independence, Burton Klein insists that one of the measures we absolutely must not consider is "drilling for more oil anywhere in the 50 states." The only way I can make sense of this statement is to assume that the phrase "energy independent" doesn't mean what it clearly says. Perhaps a phrase like "energy conservation" or "energy reduction" wouldn't be so "plain language independent."

Nov 14, 2007

A Lesser Writer, Toiling in the Shadow of a Modern Master [LINK]

Today's letter to the Globe:

I don't expect I'll read anything funnier today than Christopher Busa's letter defending Norman Mailer's legacy. Responding to Thomas Gagen's criticism that Mailer's 1957 essay "The White Negro" glorified violent criminals, Busa declares such criticism inappropriate so soon after his death: "a pen is not a knife to stab someone when he is down." That imagery, plus the characterization of Mailer as a beloved "family man," might have been a wise choice had Mailer not actually stabbed one of his wives with a pen knife.

Nov 13, 2007

How Not to Save Racial Preferences [LINK]

Today's letter to the Globe, concerning a Massachusetts busing program:

Richard Kahlenberg makes a solid argument that to withstand legal challenge in the wake of recent Supreme Court rulings, Metco should reorient itself to base eligibility on income rather than race. He provides ample reason not to be concerned about the tiny minority of low-income whites who might attend suburban schools as a result.

I'm puzzled why he would then go on to advise Metco institute a two-tiered system using income as the first test and race as the second. Yes, it may conceivably survive swing vote Justice Kennedy's requirement that racial categorization be used only as a secondary alternative, but it begs the question of why such a racial test would be necessary in the first place. If Metco is to be worthy of survival, why must it be based on race in any way? Why should there be any mechanism, primary or secondary, that would keep poor white students from slipping through the cracks?