Smart Talk, Aug. 20 

Big dog Blue Dog


U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, a leader in the Blue Dog revolt against the Obama administration's health legislation, is invariably described in press accounts as a leader of “fiscally conservative” Democrats. Right.

The Wall Street Journal put the lie to that recently with exposure of an expensive congressional junket in 2008 by a luxury Air Force jet that touched down in Australia for snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, New Zealand, Antarctica and some decompression at the Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki. Both Ross and his wife enjoyed the freebie. The Journal put the cost of the 10-member junket at $500,000, but that's probably conservative given the difficulty of putting a real figure down to government planes and special treatment in such difficult destinations as Antarctica. The junket, to educate members of Congress on climate change, had no discernible impact on Ross, a champion of the environment-poisoning coal-fired power plant proposed for his congressional district.


Beat this


A New York Times article reported recently that students with disabilities receive corporal punishment in states where it is allowed more often than students without disabilities. Arkansas remains a leader among the 22 states that still allow corporal punishment (even though none of the school districts in Pulaski County, the state's most populous, allow it). Only Mississippi paddles a greater percentage of its students, 7.5 percent to 4.7 percent. Arkansas paddles students with disabilities disproportionately — 6.5 percent of disabled students in Arkansas received corporal punishment in the year studied.


Bill Clinton reads – both books and blogs


Los Angeles Times book blogger Carolyn Kellogg was surprised and pleased to get a hand-written note from former President Bill Clinton, commenting on a blog item she'd written July 4 about Clinton's voracious and eclectic passion for reading. Who knew he read blogs between rescuing North Korean captives, fighting AIDS, etc.?

Clinton provided Kellogg with a list of books he'd been reading lately. Perhaps emulating his reading might make you presidential stuff, too. Clinton's list:

1. Steven Johnson's “The Invention of Air” and “The Ghost Map,” esp. No.1.

2. Tom Zoellner's “Uranium.”

3. Malcolm Gladwell's “Outliers,” his best book.

4. John Bogle's “Enough.”

5. Selden Edwards' “The Little Book.”

6. Richard North Patterson's “Eclipse.”

7. Andrew Greeley's “The Cardinal Sins” (now almost 30 years old).




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