Except for the gulags, genocides and one-party rule, Communism was just dandy

The Guardian’s Neil Clark is a last-minute entrant for Useful Idiot of the Year:

No one questions that Havel, who went to prison twice, was a brave man who had the courage to stand up for his views. Yet the question which needs to be asked is whether his political campaigning made his country, and the world, a better place.

Havel’s anti-communist critique contained little if any acknowledgement of the positive achievements of the regimes of eastern Europe in the fields of employment, welfare provision, education and women’s rights. Or the fact that communism, for all its faults, was still a system which put the economic needs of the majority first.

The audacity of naivete

Christopher Hitchens asks some tough questions of the activists, including author Alice Walker and Gaddafi lackey Cynthia McKinney, participating in the Gaza “flotilla.”

It seems safe and fair to say that the flotilla and its leadership work in reasonably close harmony with Hamas, which constitutes the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. The political leadership of this organization is headquartered mainly in Gaza itself. But its military coordination is run out of Damascus, where the regime of Bashar Assad is currently at war with increasingly large sections of the long-oppressed Syrian population. Refugee camps, some with urgent humanitarian requirements, are making their appearance on the border between Syria and Turkey (the government of the latter being somewhat sympathetic to the purposes of the flotilla). In these circumstances, isn’t it legitimate to strike up a conversation with the “activists” and ask them where they come out on the uprising against hereditary Baathism in Syria?

Hitchens notes that the Hamas regime in Gaza “became the only governing authority in the world—by my count—to express outrage and sympathy at the death of Osama Bin Laden.”

Teachers never to blame

The Daily Beast’s Diane Ravitch takes Secretary of Educaton Arne Duncan to task for suggesting poor teachers contribute to low test scores.

Apologists like Ravitch seem incapable of admitting bad teachers even exist. “Behind the teachers’ rage and skepticism is the fact that Duncan has time and again said that ‘bad’ teachers cause low test scores, refusing to recognize (as he did, belatedly, in his letter) that low test scores are primarily caused by poverty and lack of family support,” writes Ravitch.

It’s not the teachers’ fault. It never is. Accountability is for other occupations.

I’m not arguing that teachers are solely responsible for our average, at best, public education system (14th among developed countries). And I agree that testing is over-emphasized.

But it’s hard to be sympathetic when the teacher’s unions refuse to take any responsibility.