Scandinavian Headlines

Police get a grip on serial masturbator

Clearly I’ve been reading “The Local” – a website in English about Sweden. Enjoyable:

  • “manual labor”
  • “feeling his way around”
  • “holding his own”

There’re a lot of other interesting headlines about Sweden, too:

  • Lesbian compensated for prevented puppy purchase
  • Children banned from wearing multi-coloured clothes
  • Viking women had sexy style
  • Death notices get cute ‘n’ quirky in Sweden
  • Woman trapped in laundry room by irate neighbour

The Atlantic Monthly, January/ February 2008

The Atlantic has been heavy with neoconservative politics for several years now, and this issue is no exception.  The chief criterion the magazine uses in evaluating any political institution or proposal seems to be the degree to which it is compatible with control of affairs from Washington, DC.  If a system increases Washington’s power, it is good, if it restricts Washington’s power, it is bad. 

The cover story, “After Iraq,” spouts fantasies of partition, not only of Iraq, but of most middle eastern states.  A middle east redivided along ethnic lines will respond more predictably to initiatives from Washington than will a group of states, each of which must balance the interests of a melange of groups. 

In “First, kill all the school boards,” Matt Miller asserts that American education policy must be brought under federal control, a claim supported by arguments showing that only if the schools are controlled from Washington will Washington control the schools.  Our current system of “radical localism” presents us with these problems: “No way to know how children are doing”; “stunted R & D”; “incompetent school boards and unions”; “financial inequity.”  “No way to know how children are doing”- no way for whom to know?  How they are doing what?  No way for Washington to know how well they are doing what Washington wishes.  That local communities might have distinctive characteristics, that what children need to be able to do might depend on the local community of which they are a part, that their parents and other adults who live in those communities might know what’s best for their own children- these ideas are not mentioned.  “Stunted R & D”- that educational research will produce one set of ideas which are right for all schools everywhere is simply taken as a maxim.  That these ideas should be developed under central control is also taken as a self-evident truth.  “Incompetent school boards and unions”- this needs to be disambiguated.  At first blush, it looks like Miller might be complaining about “incompetent school boards and incompetent unions.”  However, he is actually attacking two targets- “incompetent school boards” and “unions.”  His complaint about the teachers’ unions is that they are all too competent and outgun the school boards.  Again, Miller simply assumes that an administration based in Washington would be competent.  “Financial inequity”- to be sure, there are huge financial disparities between districts.   This is certainly the weak point of any system of local control, and the selling point of any authoritarian proposal.  Strangely, it is also the point on which Miller spends the least time.      

The further the magazine gets from politics, the better it is.  An article on river surfing in Munich will catch anyone’s imagination.  Two television reviews, Caitlin Flanagan on the greatness of the Today show,  the obsolescence of the nightly news, and the fall of Katie Couric, and Mark Bowden on David Simon of The Wire, made me want to turn the set on.  A review essay by Virginia Postrel about the history of typefaces led me to bookmark – not that i’m really going to pay $12 to be able to type an authentic-looking Old West wanted poster, but she does bring out a real fascination in the art form.

Bow Tie of the Week