Sunday, July 30, 2006

Israel and the Vile Frog

I’ve received several emails lately with the heading “shitty little country." They tell the story of a French diplomat who called Israel a "shitty little country" at a party hosted by the owner of the British newspaper The Telegraph. The emails then detail a list of Israeli accomplishments such as the following:

The Middle East has been growing date palms for centuries. The average tree is about 18-20 feet tall and yields about 38 pounds of dates a year. Israeli date trees are now yielding 400 pounds/year and are short enough to be harvested from the ground or a short ladder.

The rest of the list is even more impressive. Before blogging on stories like these I try to fact-check them at sites such as Well, on the main point, it is absolutely true that Daniel Bernard (the Frog) did call Israel a "shitty little country" at the party. The Telegraph reported that France's ambassador to London was replaced and sent to Algiers. It goes to prove Dennis Prager’s contention that there is a special place in hell for diplomats.

The other “facts” in the email were not so easy to check. Some were wrong. For example, one claim was that Israel's $100 billion economy is larger than all of its immediate neighbors combined. That claim is at least outdated since Israel’s GDP was $114 Billion in 2005. Moreover the comparison is false since Israel’s neighbors combined to generate a GDP of $151 Billion, comprised of Egypt ($93B), Syria ($26B), Lebanon ($21B) and Jordan ($26B). These numbers are available at the CIA World Fact Book.

Still, the comparison is impressive when you look at per capita GDP which is $24.6K in Israel versus $3.9K in Egypt and in Syria, $6.2K in Lebanon and $4.7K in Jordan. The living standard in Israel is 5 times the average of its neighbors.

Another claim is that Israel has the highest percentage in the world of home computers per capita. That is also untrue. The World in Figures 2006 by The Economist magazine lists Israel at 24 computers per 100 people while Europe and Japan are 38 and the US is 66. (Egypt is 3.)

Another claim is that Israel has the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world. The World in Figures lists enrollment in college, not degrees, with Israel (58%) ahead of Europe (54%) but behind the United States (81%). So this claim is unclear.

Other claims:

Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation by a large margin - 109 per 10,000 people --as well as one of the highest per capita rates of patents filed.

Israeli scientists developed the first fully computerized, no-radiation, diagnostic instrumentation for breast cancer.

The cell phone was developed in Israel by Israelis working in the Israeli branch of Motorola.

Most of the Windows NT and XP operating systems were developed by Microsoft-Israel.

Both the Pentium-4 microprocessor and the Centrino processor were entirely designed, developed and produced in Intel-Israel.

The technology for the AOL Instant Messenger ICQ was developed in 1996 by four young Israelis.

Israel has the world's second highest per capita of new books published.

All the above while engaged in regular wars with an implacable enemy that seeks its destruction, and an economy continuously under strain by having to spend more per capita on its own protection than any other county on earth.

I’m not sure about these claims (perhaps my readers can help) but found a disclaimer at Instapundit blog, one of my favorites. A reader called Tamar said:

“The cell-phone farce is laughable.... think Hedy Lamar and MIT.”

“Three (not four) of my neighbors did indeed invent the messaging systems used by ICQ, MSN, AOL, and Yahoo......they immediately fled to California so our 100% corrupt government would not steal their money.”

Israel has the world's second highest per capita of new books. “I work for an Israeli publishing house and that claim is bullshit! Most Israelis do not read much, and a full 40% are illiterate. We need help.”

So who is to know the truth? I do know that Tamar is wrong about the illiteracy rate which is less than 5% in Israel. He sounds like a malcontent… probably a socialist.

What is incontrovertible is that Israel is a marvel, simply because it exists. One must be in awe of the resilience and fortitude of such a small country, which is completely surrounded and grossly outnumbered by Muslims who wish to wipe it off the face of the Earth.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Flat or Round or Lumpy

It was at the Bangalore campus of Infosys Technologies, one of India's leading new high-technology companies. Infosys CEO Nandan Nilekani turned to his visitor and remarked: "Tom, the playing field is being leveled."

The simple words hit Friedman with the force of a revelation. "What Nandan is saying, I thought, is that the playing field is being flattened.... Flattened? Flattened? My God, he's telling me the world is flat! I scribbled four words down in my notebook: The world is flat."

By now this anecdote and its perpetrator have achieved celebrity status. Tom Friedman and his book The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century are the hottest items on the non-fiction bestselling list of 2006.

But was this observation a revelation, or was it commonplace knowledge among economists that only needed to be popularized? And of what practical value is it? What does it tell us about the future of world powers such as China, India, Europe and the United States that occupy such diverse spaces on this flat-round Earth?

What the fuss is all about is the simple process called globalization. Free trade leads to the emergence of a “global market -- a worldwide system of production and consumption that disregards national and cultural boundaries.”

But this concept was well known in the 19th century, made famous by Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto (1848): “The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst.”

Marx and Engels welcomed the development for the increasing wealth it produced but also because they believed it enabled humanity to overcome the divisions caused by nationalism and religion.

And it is not just the consumption side of the equation that is affected by globalization. Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations (1776) famously wrote that “the division of labor is limited by the extent of the market.” What Smith described were historical trends away from mercantilism and towards free trade that had been developing for many decades.

Though it is unarguable that the globalization trend has been progressing for at least three centuries, is it inexorable, and is it benign?

In Friedman’s view the free market brings with it most of the ingredients that make for a free and humanly fulfilling society. But Friedman shares Marx’s blind spots. They both believed that technological advances fuel economic development, and economic forces shape society. Both discounted politics and culture, nationalism and religion. Thus while globalization makes the world smaller (telegraphs, telephones, the Internet) and richer, it does not necessarily make it more peaceful or more liberal.

Which brings me to the second question: What does it tell us about the future of this lumpy world? In my Omnilore class, one of the topics we are studying is the growing power of China and India and their relationship to the United States. In my usual fashion I sent out a quickie poll to the brilliant PalosVerdesBlog readers asking their opinions. The questions were:

Which of the two countries, China or India, will be the bigger world power in 20 years? Will that country's power will be a problem for the US? Is there anything we should do about it?

The rapid response network produced 19 quickies. The answers to the first question were nearly unanimous: 18 for China, 1 unresponsive (more later). The rationale included the following:

India has a higher percentage of poor, they have a caste system, they are probably killing more babies at birth and, I believe, a much less efficient system than China. Democracy and free markets do not always add to more efficiency....maybe they do eventually but not at this stage of development.

China is becoming more capitalist and has many more people than we do!! They can get tons of cheap labor. They are putting over 230 golf courses outside Shanghai. They have learned that instead of killing girls that girls can work in the cities and send money home.

China, hands down. They are "westernizing" at a faster rate and have a better understanding of the need to "get there". I also think they have more natural resources.

China will win because we depend far too much on them for products. We depend on India as well but I don’t think their military is as mighty as China’s.

OK, China is the winner. So, what problems could China cause the US and should we do anything about it?

Biblically speaking, I believe China will be a major enemy to the world. The “kings of the East” who marshal a 200 million man army are not going to sit on the sidelines longer than they believe necessary. We must stop giving or selling them our secrets.

I think – and hope – that China will implode due to the younger generation getting more and more outside information via the internet and satellite dishes, and then rebelling against the old guard. There will be many Tianamen Squares, but ultimately the authorities will be unable to quell the rising tide of people yearning for freedom.

We should make sure there is some kind of balance of imports and exports between countries. And keep tabs on their production of nuclear weapons… close tabs. And send our kids to their country for education … bet they don’t have testing problems in China.


Spend money at home!! Keep USA strong. Have more babies – i.e. more American babies.

They will be a problem for us as they are a lot more unscrupulous, generally speaking, than India. Plus they have some of our problems, Korea for example.
The powers that be in China don't worry about other people, or even their own people. We should build bigger and better "star wars" defensive systems.

An armed Japan would be immensely useful.

China has the military might and the incentive to use it in order to secure the resources needed to sustain its economy with its 1.25 billion people. Meanwhile the U.S. will likely decline due to the mediocre public educational system and preoccupation with clashes abroad, primarily the Muslim world.

Not so, since we are already heavily invested there and more company investments are in the works.

It seems there is a near-consensus that China will be a danger to the US and that we should: buy American, have more babies, don’t cooperate militarily, build and deploy star wars and arm Japan. Not a bad list.

I’m a bit more optimistic. First, I’m not ready to concede that China will be the next world power ahead of India. The English language gives India a huge advantage even in the networked age. Have you ever seen a Chinese language computer keyboard? Democratic, non-aggressive India is far more flat-worldly than China, and I think those are advantages – although I don’t discount the advantage of central control when you want to get things done in a hurry. Our friend China Jim says that one day the Chinese mayor decides he wants a road and a coal burning power plant in a particular spot, the next day they are tearing down houses and beginning construction.

Second, I tend to agree with Friedman and Marx that the habit of free trade builds interdependences that are likely to overcome nationalistic tendencies. The US buys 21% of China’s exports and 22% of India’s (also 23% of Brazil’s, 25% of Japan’s, 26% of Europe’s, 70% of Venezuela’s and 89% of Mexico’s). Those numbers provide a certain leverage that some call soft power. A strategic triangle composed of China, India and the US would be a powerful force against terrorist actors and states, to control the spread of nuclear weapons and to combat problems such as the supply of energy and global warming.

Third, I don’t worry at all about the economic competition from China or India. Every decade there is a nouveau power that is going to eclipse us in the world marketplace. First it was Great Britain, then Germany, then Japan and lately the European Union. Competition is good, it gets the American juices flowing –- and we always win!

Finally, what about the person who answered the poll but did not vote? I called it unresponsive, but you be the judge of this reply: “I want a quickie, not a quickie poll … LOL.” I am suspicious that this person did not take our business as seriously as SHE should. But let’s forgive HER.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Lessons from the Left

(graphic from Blackfive)

Rosa Brooks is a law professor, la times columnist and consultant to the Open Society Institute founded by wacky lefty George Soros. Today Brooks has some foreign policy lessons for the US government.

Lesson One: Although there's a time and place for military force, technological military superiority is no guarantee of success. In Iraq, military superiority is no match for a determined foe on fire with religious or nationalist zeal. [It seems that Ms Brooks thinks we’ve lost or are losing the war in Iraq.]

Lesson Two: If you can't defeat your enemy militarily, you need to take away his motivation to fight. But you don't have to love your enemy to recognize the benefits of talking to him and taking his concerns seriously. [blah, blah, blah -- Make talk not war.]

Lesson Three: Imperfect solutions are better than none at all. Condoleezza Rice thinks a cease-fire in Lebanon would be premature because it wouldn't resolve the conflict's "root causes." It's sweet that she's so interested in root causes, but sometimes you've got to start small. [Isn’t it charming when feminists like Brooks condescend to superior women who don’t share their lefty views?]

Lesson Four: If we want to build a safer long-term future, we need to start giving those root causes more than lip service. It means revamping U.S. foreign policy to dramatically increase our focus on foreign aid, disaster relief, conflict prevention, humanitarian interventions, peacekeeping, reconstruction, economic development, public health and environmental challenges, …. [mo money!! -- but not for Israel -- give it to the UN.]

Got it?? Rosa’s four point plan to make us safe: (1) Stop the war in Iraq. (2) Talk to al Qaida and Hezbollah. (3) Stop the war in Lebanon too. (4) Give lots of money to terrorists and everybody else in the undeveloped world. Let’s examine the lefty plan point by point.

Brooks advises us to stop the war in Iraq because we can’t win. She overlooks the obvious fact that the US military already won the war against the Iraqi military – it was a cake walk. We also brought the country together for national elections and helped the Iraqis create a constitution and a government.

What’s left is an insurgency that we are helping to put down. It's not easy since terrorists hide among civilians. Some day the terror cells in America may begin wreaking havoc, but the last thing we’d do is give up. Right, Rosa??

Brooks thinks that talking with al Qaida is the key to peace. Talking with Hitler (Stalin, Mao, Ho) worked so well. Appeasement has never worked and it never will. But lefties, like maniacs, keep trying the same old things expecting different outcomes.

Brooks thinks that talking with Hezbollah (and Hamas) is the key to peace in Lebanon (and Palestine). Yasser Arafat was a good talker, for a murderer. Are you seeing a trend here?

Finally, (and this one is my favorite) Rosa figures the key to the benefits program is to give the bad guys, and the poor everywhere, money, lots of money. Apparently the aid we gave for tsunami relief, drugs and money for AIDS prevention, food for the starving, and on and on is not nearly enough.

Surely, if we offer money to Osama bin Laden, a multimillionaire, he will suddenly begin singing Kumbaya and hugging his sworn enemies. (That includes you, Rosa.) Israel’s existence? –- no problem. Sure.

Rosa should go back to school and leave foreign policy to Condi and the grownups.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Education and SB 1437

About a year ago the great Thomas Sowell wrote (“Dogma Versus Reality”) about the education of teachers. An opinion poll among professors of education, the people who train our public school teachers, is “very revealing as to what has been so wrong for so long in our schools.”

One question asks should teachers be conveyors of knowledge who enlighten their students with what they know? Or should teachers see themselves as facilitators of learning who enable their students to learn on their own?

Ninety two percent of the professors of education said that teachers should be facilitators rather than engaging in what is called directed instruction -- what we used to call just plain teaching. This theory has remained the prevailing dogma in schools of education all through the years when test scores stagnated and real inflation-adjusted spending on education skyrocketed.

Sowell asks: “What is more important in math, that children know the right answers to the questions or that they struggle with the process of trying to find the right answers? Among professors of education, 86 percent choose struggling over knowing.”

“This is all part of a larger vision in which children discover their own knowledge rather than have teachers pass on to them the knowledge of what others have already discovered. The idea that children will discover knowledge that took scholars and geniuses decades, or even generations, to produce is truly a faith which passeth all understanding.”

I wondered during the “New Math” craze how the average student was going to discover the product of 7 and 12 without memorizing the multiplication tables. Forget about multiplication, have you seen the deer-in-the-headlights look that comes over a cashier when s/he needs to make change without the cash register telling how much?

The other Ed School dogma that has been a disaster for public education is the focus on feelings over learning. My Zone Bridge partner Maggie tells me that she just attended a workshop on “Focused Learning” where the teachers were told that student performance depends on IQ (25%), Life Experiences (25%) and Self Confidence (50%). Apparently hard work and quality instruction are no longer considered important.

The legislation contained in California
SB 1437 is another spectacularly bad example of educational social theory run amok.

Senate Bill 1437 expressly prohibits textbooks, instructional materials, and school-sponsored activities from “reflecting adversely” on transsexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality. For example, instructional materials could not only say “a husband and wife,” but must include “two wives who are married lesbians.”

SB 1437, Sec. 1 states: “No teacher shall give instruction nor shall a school district sponsor any activity that reflects adversely upon persons because of their race or ethnicity, gender, disability, nationality, sexual orientation, or religion.”

Note the use of gender rather than sex and the addition of sexual orientation. Gender includes trans-sexuality and transvestitism while sexual orientation adds bisexuality and homosexuality, that must not be adversely reflected. Why trans-sexuality, transvestitism, bisexuality and homosexuality need to be reflected or discussed at all is a mystery to me.

But wait, school activities that might be deemed to “reflect adversely” on trans-sexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality could include prom kings and queens, boys basketball, girls synchronized swimming. Furthermore, showing videos depicting the traditional family or man-woman relationships would reflect adversely on other genders or sexual orientations as would omitting sex-change material in sex education class.

Because parental units are gender-specific, married couples or a family with a father and a mother could be prohibited from textbooks because their inclusion “reflects adversely.” Under SB 1437, Mom and Dad will be referred to as sperm doner and sperm receiver and school curriculums throughout California, in every grade K-12, would have to portray transsexual and bisexual “parents” as normal.

Recall that
AB 606 tells school districts what pro-trans-bi-homosexual textbooks they must use. SB 1437 is even more specific as it dictates what California schools may not use (anything “reflecting adversely” on trans-sexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality by promoting traditional families).

In the amended version of the bill, the author Senator Sheila Kuehl (D) now openly and specifically requires positive portrayals of transsexual, bisexual, and homosexual lifestyles in ALL curriculum, for children as young as kindergarten.

SB 1437 continues the campaign of the Ed Schools and liberal politicians to replace traditional learning with social engineering.

The governor is doing a phone poll. If you care about families, call 916-445-2841.

The phone recording will ask:

a. If you want this message in english?: yes, press 1
b. Is this in regards to a legislation bill? yes, press 1
c. Is the bill sb 1437? yes, press 1
d. Are you in favor of this legislation? NO, press 2

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Military Matters

Grandson Johnny Walton has arrived in Kuwait preparing to return to Iraq with the Army 82nd Airborne:

“I'm in KWT and getting ready to start training again. The heat's not as bad as I remember, but it's still hot. Figured I'd let you know I was all right and when something begins to happen I'll let you know. Tell Nana I said hi. I Love You. John.”

This tour is planned to last a full year. Let’s hope the Iraqis are in charge well before then. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (Iraq Will Be a Graveyard For Terrorists) sounds determined to fight the war against the Islamo-fascists to the bitter end.

Thanks to the generosity of Karen Wickline, Erin Lamonte, Dori Medina and Jill McNamara we now have a supply of soccer balls to send to Brian in Djibouti (and cash to pay for the shipping.) You guys are the BEST. Brian must send us some pictures of the Little Guy and his buddies playing soccer. I figure that in the 2022 World Cup they will be beating up on the US team.

PalosVerdesBlog has a new reader stationed in Guantanamo, Cuba and I am just delighted. At his request I will not reveal the brave soldier’s identity, but hope that he stays in touch. He says that PalosVerdesBlog and Little Green Footballs are two of his favorites. Beef jerky (thanks to Lori Ernster) and books are on the way to Gitmo.

Speaking of Little Green Footballs, the blogmeister Charles Johnson lives in Palos Verdes. Compared to LGF, I’m just a pipsqueak. I was just there and was one of 3194 online visitors. The site had 123,332 visits yesterday.

Charles has excellent pieces every day. Here is one about Nobel Peace Prize laureate Betty Williams.

Speaking to an audience of schoolchildren at the Earth Dialogues forum in Brisbane, Australia, Williams said she would “
love to kill George Bush.”

“I don’t know how I ever got a Nobel Peace Prize, because when I see children die the anger in me is just beyond belief.” Her young audience at the Brisbane City Hall clapped and cheered.

Another piece in LGF relates the conspiracy theory propounded by Sheldon Drobny the founder of Air(head) America. Drobny says the anti-Semitic and/or anti-Israel posts erupting out of the liberal blogosphere must be a plot.

Probably masterminded by Karl Rove.

Because true “liberals” would never hold such opinions.

Gotta be a plot.

“I came to the conclusion that the hostile comments about Israel on these liberal blogs are not coming from true liberals. Most of the anti-Semitism comes from racism and most of the racism I have experienced has come from the far right, not the left.

“So my conclusion is that the bloggers who violently hate Israel and see it in black and white terms are not really liberals. They may even be anti-Semites, but they are not representative of the liberal community that was so active in achieving racial and ethnic equality. It is a contradiction for a true liberal to be an anti-Semite.

Furthermore, I would not put it past the right wing to flood the liberal blogs with hateful criticisms of Israel to advance a perception that liberals are anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. And I see Karl Rove’s fingerprints all over this.”

Sheldon “the brain” appeared on the Dennis Prager show and admitted that his statement was “tongue in cheek.” Seems it’s just too much for a far left Jew to admit that the Jew-hatred in the world comes from leftists as well as Muslims. Cognitive dissonance is what it’s called.

LGF expounds on anti-Israel insanity bubbling up from Daily Kos, the heartbeat of the lefty blogosphere:
Daily Kos: Does Israel Have a “Right to Exist?”

This is what the left thinks about Hamas. Daily Kos: In defense of violence?

“Palestine is under the brutal occupation by a racist regime which treats non-Jews as second class citizens. Every illegal invader is a legitimate target, whether roaming the streets or sitting in “settlements”. The Palestinians have every right to use the tactics of guerilla warfare to drive the invaders out.”

In closing, it is to our peril if we ignore the words of “my struggle” embraced by both the Nazis – “Mein Kampf” – and by the Islamists – “Jihad.” Hitler meant what he said and so does Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Allowing Iran to develop a nuclear bomb is to put that bomb in the hands of Hezbollah.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Progressive Conservatism

It happened during a break at a recent Omnilore class following a particularly heated argument about the use of torture to extract life-or-death information from terrorists (See “Friends” 7/11/06). Someone commented that opinion polls show that Republicans and conservatives are substantially happier than liberals and Democrats (libdems). “So, what about it?” he asked, pointedly! Apparently I did not look very happy.

“It’s true,” I shot back, “and it’s because we have all the good ideas.” - silence - I then explained that liberals used to have good ideas, they were the reformers, but now the conservatives are the true progressives. The neocons have become the procons (progressive conservatives).

Another classmate who just heard the last part beginning with liberals said “I hate it when people use words like liberal to accuse us of things -- why can’t you use progressive?” Well,… it’s like I just said, the libdems are no longer the progressive party.

And lest I be accused of making sweeping generalizations (although that is the essence of intellectual discourse) I’ll be quick to point out that not all who call themselves conservatives are progressive. Take Pat Buchanan, for example, that poster child for old fashioned, shortsighted conservatism, who never had a progressive thought in his life. Buchanan is surely not a procon, nor is he associated with the mainstream of Republican or conservative thought. George Bush and his main people (Cheney, Rummy, Condi, Hastert, …) are the standard bearers for the procon movement.

Perhaps a bit of history is in order, to explain how the liberals lost their way and how the procons came to be the mainstream of the Republican Party.

During the 1950s and 60s the libdems turned mushy on the existential threat of the time. The New Left concluded that Communism was here to stay, that the Soviet Union was the permanent counterweight to American power, and maybe that wasn’t so bad after all. They blamed the continuation of the cold war and the arms race on the liberal establishment of JFK, Johnson and Humphrey.

They mobilized behind clean-Gene McCarthy and, in 1972, managed to take over the Democratic Party and nominate George McGovern for president. Their policies on the cold war and the economy were now 180 degrees from where the Party was only a decade earlier. To borrow a phrase from George Orwell (concerning the American opponents to engagement in WWII): “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that; no ordinary man could be such a fool.” Indeed, the rationale for the New Left movement was developed by academics and pacifists.

In reaction to that defeatist (Better Red than Dead ), Stalin-loving, anti-American philosophy of the New Left, a large number of liberals and soft commies (Trotskyites) abandoned the libdems and started the new-to-conservatism (ie neoconservative) movement. Norman Podhoretz describes the wrenching transition in his fascinating memoir “Ex-Friends.”

“I, having been a liberal of the old style myself, participated in the conversion to radicalism, and it was when I lost faith in the teachings and practices of the radical “church” that I also lost all the friends I had made as a radical communicant.”

Irving Kristol was the godfather of the neoconservatives, the group of former leftists who came to realize that good and evil really did exist, and that the Soviet Union was evil. Norman Podhoretz became the influential editor of Commentary magazine and Kristol’s wife, Gertrude Himmelfarb, was the historian in residence. They and liberals such as Ben Wattenberg and Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson joined forces with William F. Buckley, Henry Kissinger and others to form the intellectual foundation of the neoconservative movement.

Anyway, the neocons became great supporters of Ronald Reagan, something of a neocon himself, still sporting the scars from his battles with the Communists – “liberals in a hurry” - in the Screen Actors Guild. The neoconservatives backed Reagan to the hilt in his cold war with the Soviets. After a few years in the background, they have become prominent backers of the latest existential fight with Islamo-fascism.

But the Progressive Conservatives are not just grown up neoconservatives. While the neocons are largely one-dimensional in their passion for defending America, the procons are for spreading liberty and they add a plethora of progressive policies.

In foreign policy, Reagan and Bush43 take the position described by author Paul Berman in his book Terror and Liberalism: "Freedom for others means safety for ourselves. Let us be for freedom for others." Reagan’s strength led to the downfall of the “Evil Empire” while Bush is confronting the “Axis of Evil.” Millions are free as a result.

Procons led by Newt Gingrich and his “Contract with America” convinced Bill Clinton (after two vetoes) to support welfare reform, arguably the best thing that has ever been done for the welfare-class.

The procon Milton Friedman and, recently, John Stossel, lead the charge for school choice, the only kind of choice that libdems oppose.

It is the President who is passionate about home ownership and fixing the Social Security and Medicare systems. The libdems care more about handouts than ownership, and are happy to raise taxes ad infinatum in order to pay for unfunded entitlements. They can’t wait until we are just like secular-socialist Europe.

So what are the libdem’s big, progressive ideas? They seem to favor the right of gays to marry, the right of a woman to abort a child even at birth, the right of atheists to prohibit any mention of God in public places, the rights of criminals and, especially, the right of government to take our money and our property to fund their pet projects.

JFK wouldn’t recognize these guys, most especially his brother Teddy.

Ps. Podhoretz points out that the neocons had their counterparts in Europe, notably the prolific polymaths Paul Johnson in England and Jean-Francois Revel in France. I am reading Revel’s intellectual tour de force Anti-Americanism; it is excellent.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Never Again

Shortly after 9/11, Senator John McCain’s brother Joe wrote about the Jewish State that was under continuous attack from Hammas terrorists. Following are some excerpts from that article that seem ever more pertinent in the present difficulty.

"Can Israel Survive?" Don't worry about it. It relates to something that Palestinians, the Arabs, and perhaps most Americans don't realize -- the Jews are never going quietly again. Never! And if the world doesn't come to understand that, then millions of Arabs are going to die. It's as simple as that.

Throughout the history of the world, the most abused, kicked-around race of people have been the Jews. Not just during the holocaust of World War II, but for thousands of years. They have truly been "The Chosen People" in a terrible and tragic sense. A few lowlights:

In 70 A.D. the Romans decided on an early "Solution" to their Jewish problem. Jerusalem was sacked and reduced to near rubble and Jewish resistance was pursued and crushed by the implacable Roman War Machine. Thus began The Diaspora, the dispersal of Jews throughout the rest of the world.

In the late 1200's Edward I of England (affectionately known as 'Edward the Hammer') borrowed money from the Jews to finance imperial ambitions in Europe. Then, rather than pay back the debt, Edward simply expelled the Jews. After a time, he invited the Jews back to their English homeland, borrowed more money, then he expelled them again.

Then the Nazi Holocaust -- the corralling, sorting, orderly eradication of millions of the people of Moses. Not something that other realms in other times didn't try to do, by the way, the Germans were just more organized and had better murder technology.

Well, now the Jews have a homeland again, a place that is theirs. And if it comes down to survival of its nation, its people, they will fight like no lioness has ever fought to save her cubs. They will fight with a ferocity, determination and skill that will astound us. The Jews will not go quietly again.

Dennis Prager explains that the Middle East conflict is difficult to solve, but easy to understand. The Arab and other Muslim enemies of Israel want Israel destroyed. That is why there is a Middle East conflict. Everything else is commentary.

In 1947-48, the Arab states tried to destroy the tiny Jewish state formed by the United Nations partition plan. In 1967, Egypt, Syria and Jordan tried to destroy Israel in what became known as the Six-Day War. Six years later, in 1973, Egypt invaded the Israeli-held Sinai Peninsula, a war that ended in nearly all of the Sinai still in Israel's hands.

In the last year of the Clinton administration, Israel offered PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat about 97 percent of the West Bank in exchange for peace. Instead, Israel got its men, women and children routinely blown up and maimed by Palestinian terrorists after the Palestinians rejected the Israeli offer at Camp David.

Now the Israelis have to contend with Hezbollah terror from Lebanon, funded and aided by Iran and Syria. The great danger in the Israeli-Hezbollah war is not that it might escalate, but that it might not. Some fear the government of Ehud Olmert lacks the stones to take advantage of a rare opportunity. The usual suspects have said the usual things about Israel's "disproportionate" response to the kidnapping of its soldiers and the rocket attacks on its cities. But this time, many seem just to be going through the motions. (Jack Kelly, “Will Israel Drop the Hammer?”)

In the midst of war and destruction, writes Jules Crittenden, there is a reason for hope. Something remarkable is happening. Even as the Middle East is erupting into open warfare, we may be witnessing a rare watershed moment in history, approaching the fall of the Berlin Wall in its significance. Israel, in response to the abduction of its soldiers and bombardment of its cities, has reoccupied Gaza and is pounding Lebanon and the bases of the Iranian-backed terrorist group that holds Lebanon hostage.

The world's remarkable and unprecedented reaction? Israel is justified.

Most astounding was Saudi Arabia calling Hezbollah's attack on Israel, unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts, a position shared by Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Crittenden, again: Largely Sunni Muslim Arab nations are alarmed by non-Arab, Shiite Iran's increasingly aggressive efforts to dominate the Middle East. The Palestinian cause is no longer an acceptable fig leaf for power grabs and indiscriminate violence as it has been used by Iran, Syria, Palestinian extremists, and not least al-Qaeda.

The Arab and Muslim world seems to be awakening from its centuries-long darkness, for the first time seeing the light provided by freedom and mutual respect. America and Israel, the big and little satans to the reactionaries in Iran and Syria, with some help from scattered friends, are embarking on a crusade to rid the world of tyrants.

With world opinion coming around, I was curious what PalosVerdesBlog readers thought about the Israel-Hezbollah conflict. Thus I sent out a quickie poll with the question: Should Israel continue its war against Hezbollah, or stop fighting?

Thanks to my readers, I received 30 responses within 24 hours. The overwhelming opinion was to continue the war (28 yes) while only 2 wanted Israel to stop. Many of the comments were insightful.

Let's see...I am surrounded by nations that detest my existence and have openly expressed their desire for my annihilation. These nations (afraid to confront me directly) support both financially and politically terrorist organizations whose sole purpose is to destroy me as a sovereign nation. One of those organizations stealthy crosses my border and kills 8 of my soldiers and takes 2 prisoners. What to do? What to do?

What kind of a question is that? Israel has no choice - it's about survival.

Appeasement, as history has shown, is not a viable alternative but a sign of weakness and that's the illusion motivating Israel's enemies. The job at hand is long overdue and must be brought to its conclusion.

Keep going until Hezbollah is no more. Cease-fires only allow them to rest and re-arm.

The responsibility for innocent Lebanese lives rests entirely with Hezbollah and not Israel.

If Israel is disarmed, the result will be a complete genocide of the Jewish people. If Hezbollah is disarmed, the result will be peace. (Bill O'Reilly)

America is wise to support our friend Israel in the Middle East, one of the few we have. I'd also like to see the US support the fledging government of Lebannon.

Israel is acting as our ally, and I would hope they can eradicate both terrorist groups. The U.S. should provide as much material and financial support as possible to achieve that goal.

The real force behind all of this is Iran. Iran is in an aggressive mode of expanding its sphere of influence, and this is Not A Good Thing. In fact, the war in Iraq has devolved into a proxy war between the United States and Iran. Iran will continue to bleed us in Iraq until events and public opinion overcome us and we leave Iraq in helicopters off the rooftops a la Viet Nam. So, I think we should foreclose that horrible endgame and confront Iran directly.

What BRILLIANT readers!!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Rules for Life

There’s an email floating around the web about a speech by Bill Gates to Visalia, CA high school students. The email consists of a list of rules that they did not and will not learn in schools. Though Gates is not the source, the rules are great.

Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it.

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $40,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone, until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping - they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. You have to do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one

The real list included three more rules that are not being circulated. From Snopes these are:

Rule 12: Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic. Next time you're out cruising, watch an 11-year-old with a butt in his mouth. That's what you look like to anyone over 20. Ditto for "expressing yourself" with purple hair and/or pierced body parts.

Rule 13: You are not immortal. (See Rule No. 12.) If you are under the impression that living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse is romantic, you obviously haven't seen one of your peers at room temperature lately.

Rule 14: Enjoy this while you can. Sure parents are a pain, school's a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you'll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now.

You're welcome.

This list is the work of Charles J. Sykes, author of the book Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, Or Add.

I borrowed the book from our fantastic library ( but could not find the list. Snopes says it has appeared in newspapers under Sykes name (and on the internet but attributed to Gates).

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Let’s Spend that $25 Billion

I advanced the proposition that the United States decides to spend an additional $25 billion per year to help the world and asked how we should spend the money on the following list of problem areas: clean water, climate change, communicable diseases, education, financial instability, governance and corruption, malnutrition, migration, trade barriers and stopping wars.

The responses were interesting. Greg wrote: Are you really giving in on this debate??? Your messages have been so persuasive. Gary: I guess this 1 % for ten (problems) is what passes for a clever stratagem in conservative circles. Steve: Global warming is systematically dismissed by the current administration as some sort of communist conspiracy by a bunch of bleeding hearts. David: Here's a novel thought.... How about we DON'T spend it??? Instead, use it to pay down the debt. Mel: I do not think this is the right approach. Of course, it is going to cost us taxpayers a lot of money, but doing little or nothing would cost far more. Anony: With the exception of war, no conservatives believe in funding any of the above. Haya: We need to be safe. Steve, again: I would opt for using the money to fight global warming, because it potentially overshadows everything else.

At Starbucks there were two votes for clean water, one for malnutrition, one for neutron bombs. Then the two (female) votes for clean water changed to population control. I must say, this was not an entirely satisfactory exercise. But that’s OK, it was only meant to get you thinking about decisions and priorities. Too often people want to solve all the problems at once without calculating costs and wind up doing nothing good.

Other smart guys and world leaders have done this exercise and come to a set of priorities based on rigorous cost/benefit analyses.

In May 2004, eight of the world's leading economists, including four Nobel Laureates, and thirty of the world's top specialists within the ten problem areas gathered in Copenhagen. The experts identified 38 solutions that were estimated to cost far beyond $1,000 billion to achieve. Thus the panel was asked to assess what to do with an amount that might reasonably be spent by the most advanced countries.

What would be the best ways of advancing global welfare, and particularly the welfare of developing countries, supposing that an additional $50 billion of resources were at governments' disposal?

The expert panel assessed that the best and most promising solutions were the following four.

1. Disease: HIV/AIDS prevention,
2. Malnutrition: providing micronutrients
3. Trade: trade liberalization
4. Disease: combating malaria

Below these were five Good projects (5. Malnutrition: new agricultural technologies, 6. Water and Sanitation: small scale water technology, 7. Water and Sanitation: community managed water supply and sanitation, 8. Water and Sanitation: research on water in food production and 9. Governance: lowering the cost of starting a business); four Fair Projects (10. Migration: lower barriers for skilled workers, 11. Malnutrition: improve infant and child nutrition, 12. Malnutrition: reduce prevalence of low birth-weight, 13. Disease: scale up basic health services) and four Bad Projects (14. Migration: guest worker programs for unskilled workers, 15. Climate: optimal carbon tax, 16. Climate: Kyoto Protocol, 17. Climate: value-at-risk carbon tax).

Note that the proposed solutions to climate change were ranked at the bottom of the list. The numbers were compelling: $1 spent preventing HIV/AIDS would result in about $40 of social benefits, so the economists put it at the top of the list (followed by malnutrition, free trade and malaria). In contrast, $1 spent to abate global warming would result in only about 2 cents to 25 cents worth of good; so that project dropped to the bottom.

On June 16-17, 2006, ambassadors from eight countries (China, India, Pakistan, Tanzania, Thailand, the United States, Vietnam and Zambia) addressed the same set of problems and were presented with a set of global projects passionately argued by experts in those fields. Here are the ambassador’s top nine prioritized opportunities.

1. Communicable Diseases: Scaled-up basic health services
2. Sanitation and Water: Community-managed water supply and sanitation
3. Education: Build schools
4. Malnutrition: Improving infant and child nutrition
5. Malnutrition: Investment in technology in developing country agriculture
6. Communicable Diseases: Control of HIV/AIDS
7. Communicable Diseases: Malaria
8. Malnutrition: Reducing micro nutrient deficiencies
9. Subsidies and Trade Barriers: Optimistic Doha (50% liberalization)

The top four were basic health care, better water and sanitation, more schools and better nutrition for children. Averting climate change came in 27th (Kyoto) and the last three (38, 39, 40th) were various carbon taxes.

The ambassadors thought it wiser to spend money on things they knew would work. Promoting breast-feeding, for example, costs very little and is proven to save lives. It also helps infants grow up stronger and more intelligent, which means they will earn more as adults. Vitamin A supplements cost as little as $1, save lives and stop people from going blind. And so on.

For climate change, the trouble is that though few dispute that it is occurring, no one knows how severe it will be or what damage it will cause. And the proposed solutions are staggeringly expensive.

I must say that the economists and the ambassadors (supported by the scientists) did a commendable job; they were largely in agreement. Hundreds of millions of poor people are in dire need of basic health care, nutrition, clean water and education. By the time we take a tenth of a degree off the projected global temperature increase many of these people could be dead.

It is the height of hubris to spend billions on climate control in the name of the world’s poor while allowing them to die of preventable maladies. It is a common liberal failing.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Djibouti - Gitmo - Iraq

From Brian of Djibouti:

Here is a picture I took this morning at the orphanage. This little guy is my favorite kid. He always helps clean up and kind of runs the show. He is wearing some of the clothes that were sent from the US. Thanks for all of the things that you have sent, it makes a difference…and in case anyone wanted to know, Yes he is up for adoption!

Thanks again

We have already started collecting soccer balls for the little guy and his friends. Thanks, Jill. And this from Karen:

I'm so excited.. I found Nike soccer balls, on the net of course,..three, delivered de-flated to my door this friday! ..regulation, size 5, a good soccer ball ( I never knew this much about soccer balls before today!). I'll drop them by Starbucks this Saturday to you for shipping, Bill?..or shall I send them direct?..either way, I'd like to help pay for shipping on your package to Djibouti.

Johnny is in our prayers, also.. what can we send him?
Love in Jesus,

From a new friend Eric at Gitmo:

I enjoy your blog, it is well-written and thoughtful. I am a naval officer stationed at Gitmo. I mostly agree with your writing, but stopped when I read this:

If you want a short-hand reminder of theJudeo-Christian value system just look at any US coinwith its three sayings: In God We Trust, Liberty and EPluribus Unum. The fundamental American belief in God,the Creator of Judeo-Christian values, means that ourvalues are universal, good for all peoples at alltimes. Hindus, Muslims, secularists and atheists havediffering opinions - that is their right - but they are wrong.

My quibble is the slap at the Hundus. I see their value system as comparable to ours. I have listened to and read stories of Hindu Saints essentially giving the Hindu version of the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule, the Ten Commandments, the Bill of Rights, etc. are all cornerstones of our value-system. Hindus have a smiliar version. Perhaps, the idea of Polytheism is a sticking point, as many point to this as backwards. Really, Hindus are not polytheistic in the broad sense. They say"God is everything" and endeavor to see Him in everything. God takes many forms, but it is always God. How can something not be God, a Hindu might ask. Someone who is evil/violent might be labeled as someone in a low vibration or someone who is not aware that he/she too contains the spark of God. (The goal of Hinduism is to worship God and strengthen this connection/spark to Him.) I wanted to write you to express how much I respect the Indian culture and the Hindu value system. They have an enormous population with different economicresources than us. But they are in no way to be lumped in with the Muslims. Keep up the good work. I enjoy reading your blog.

Very Respectfully,

My reply to Eric:

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I have to admit that I know little about Hinduism and that I threw in the reference only to make the point that the Judeo-Christian value system is superior to all others. Replace Hindus with American Indians or secular Christians if you wish. It is the unique combination of the Jewish belief in the one all-powerful Creator and the laws of the Old Testament plus the Christain dedication to spreading the word of God and liberty for all men that is so powerful.

Did you see Senator Allen last week? His brother Greg lives here and is a friend of mine.

Eric replies:

Thanks for your personal message and the forwarded email from John McCain's brother. It was very interesting. I just missed Senator Allen last week by ten minutes in the galley. He had lunch with a friend of mine. He is certaintly someone to watch. Dick Durbin was here at the same time. (A non-event in my book.)

Take care,

The unforgivable crime is soft hitting. Do not hit at all if it can be avoided; but never hit softly. -Theodore Roosevelt

This statement from TR certainly rings true in our Iraqi war and in Israel's fight with Hezbollah.

Grandson Johnny is leaving for Iraq (second tour) on Monday. I hope he will let us know his address by the end of next week. Many are already collecting things for Johnny and his fellow troops.

Thank you, Dear Friends.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

HOT at the Greek Festival

So the Starbucks group was gathered at the Greek Festival last Sunday and the table for twelve was, quite uncharacteristically, covered with water bottles. It was HOT! After consuming several bottles of Greek beer and a few bottles of Angelo's wine, talk naturally turned to… global warming.

Sweet Julie who moved to a ranch in the Inland Empire told us about her olive trees that are blooming a second time this summer due to the heat. Don’t tell her that the globe is not warming. Just look at the heat map of the US, nearly every city is coded RED. OK, OK… I give up – global warming is real.

In my ongoing debate with Mel, I am ready to stipulate that the UN IPCC report is correct. The globe has warmed by 1 deg. F (0.6 deg. C) over the last century and, if we do nothing to avert the problem, atmospheric CO2 emissions will double by 2100, the temperature will rise by 2.1 deg C and the sea level will rise by 20 inches.

Will this be a problem? Of course it will, even for a Northern Hemisphere country like the US. But lower Manhattan and southern Florida will still be above water and, hopefully, New Orleans will be rebuilt with this in mind. One can hope.

When we think about solutions to global warming, it is clear that we are acting like citizens of the world. What is the best thing we can do for the Southern Hemisphere peoples who will experience water and food shortages, increased malaria and other problems? (I’ll leave the Europeans to take care of them selves. They think it might be very cold over there. Go figure!) But global warming is not the only issue facing the poor in the undeveloped countries. They already have water and food shortages, malaria, HIV AIDS and many other serious problems. So let’s be serious and consider a set of reasonable proposals.

Imagine that the US government could be convinced to increase our federal budget by 1% in order to help the world with global warming and other problems. Thus, what should we do with an extra $25 billion per year? Here is a list of problem areas; how much would you like to spend on each?

1. clean water
2. climate change
3. communicable diseases
4. education
5. financial instability
6. governance/corruption
7. malnutrition
8. migration
9. trade barriers
10. war

Remember, if you spend the entire $25 billion on climate change, then there is nothing left to spend on malnutrition or averting war. What do you think?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Smell the Barn, Brian

For all his friends, here is the latest from Brian of Djibouti. Note, Brian needs footballs (er.. soccer balls) for the kids. I'm sure we can do that for them.


Another couple of weeks have passed here in Djibouti. We have started to ‘smell the barn’ as our CO says. We have seen the news articles about our replacements, and we are anxiously awaiting their arrival. This has been an unprecedented week as I worked more this week than other week since I have been here. We have lots of Marines out on their 96 hour passes, and most of the platoons are short more than a few guys.

My platoon got the rest of today off and a few of my buddies and I went out to town for some chow. The food is pretty good, we eat steak and fries for about 9 bucks which is a steal in Djibouti city, as a 2 year old beer normally costs us 6 bucks. As you can see by my plate on the right, I had to have some limes to make the meal complete (sorry picture is dark).

I'm really beat, but coffee, red bull and monster energy drink help make up the difference. The job here is still pretty demanding, and the Navy has taken over. At the end of the day I would much rather have the Marine Corps in command of the base, but the Navy is pretty happy to have us here and is still supporting us.

I am still standing the same post as I have since we got here, it’s the busiest post on the camp, and most days it’s a hand full. We deal with all incoming personal into the camp, including US personal, KBR (Kellogg Brown Root), foreign/host country nationals and vehicle traffic. I have been keeping up with business as usual with the amount of interdictions of prohibited items coming on base.

I spent about 10 hours at the orphanage this week. All of the things you have been sending have been a big help. Most of the kids are too young to remember, but we hope that Americans in the future will be looked on with a positive light.

Djibouti is a small place, and even smaller when it comes to global politics. Last week I had the opportunity to work with some people from the US State Department. A couple of fellow Marines and I helped distribute books written in English to schools in the area. The Embassy provided the books, the Navy Seebees made book shelves; the Marines sorted and distributed the books. It was a great experience dealing with the State Department people, they are great Americans that pick up and move their lives in the service of their country about every two years.

I also got to help with a boat project our company has been working on. I spent a few house driving around the countryside trying to broker a deal between the Djiboutian police, a local school, a tribal chief, and the Marines for a old boat to transform into a jungle gym. The tribal chief was a really nice man, about 75 years old, and walked with a cane. Everywhere we went he was well respected. We met with all the parties involved and we still haven’t been able to secure a boat for the project, but hopefully soon we will get it done.

I have only one special request for this e-mail. Of the kids I met this week all of them play soccer like it’s a lifestyle, but they can't get a decent soccer ball to play with. If someone can come up with a soccer ball or two even used I would greatly appreciate it. I can inflate a ball if it is sent un-inflated.

Next week my buddies and I are going to visit the older kids orphanage, we hear its more work than the babies but we know we can make a decent impression on them.

I again want to thank all of you who have sent packages to the kids and to me. Thanks for everything!

Hope all is well with all of you!



My grandson Johnny is leaving for his second tour in Iraq this Saturday. Thanks to Lori, I already have lots of beef jerky to send him.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Aspen Ideas for Education

I have been railing on the public education establishment for its dismal performance and promoting the idea of vouchers as the best (only) solution. Now it appears that the liberal intelligentsia and Democratic politicians, even, are starting to take notice.

At the Aspen Ideas Festival, an event at the left-leaning Aspen Institute, there was the glimmering of the realization that we do know how to improve education, and, politics aside, it is not even that difficult, explains Clive Crook, in the National Journal.

Not that things haven’t been tried. In America - as in Britain - the past 25 years have seen a torrent of educational reforms and school systems have been deluged with cash. Per-pupil spending in the United States is way up. Everything has been tried, it seems. And, apparently, nothing works.

Crook notes that measures of achievement in schools have flatlined for years. American high school students are among the poorest performing in the developed world in math and science. And if you measure education productivity by national test scores divided by real per-pupil spending on education, school productivity has declined by more than 40% since 1970. This is at the same time that worker productivity has soared.

Only with a monopoly could so much money be spent on so many bad ideas with such poor results for such a long time.

For example, an educational theory called "whole language" reading was adopted in the US (and Britain). The new teaching method abandoned the old-fashioned phonics-based approach ("a is for apple," "c is for cat") as repressive and inconducive to children's instinctive creativity. Children should not be taught to read; they should discover reading. The children taught, or not taught, that way are now young adults, in many cases their entire education blighted, struggling to make their way in the world. Businesses such as Hooked on Phonics filled the void left by the schools and prospered. The non-educators did the same harm to my daughter and her classmates with “New Math.” Sad to say, Hooked on Math was not available then.

Crook makes the point that in a competitive school system, some schools might have tried these revolutionary techniques, but they would have done badly and been quickly found out. The market would have rejected a dud product. Only in a state-monopolized culture could such a folly be perpetrated nationwide and then, in the face of mounting evidence of failure, persist for decades.

Crook and I say that there is an easy method for improving education: competition among schools. Americans take competition for granted, assuming that competition is vital to ensure the highest standards in almost any kind of endeavor. But some things -- such as education and health care -- are deemed "too important" to be left to the market, too important to be thrown open to competition. This makes no sense. Some things are just too important to be sheltered from competition. Education is one.

Charter schools are better than public schools and vouchers let low-income parents opt out of failing public schools. But, even more important, under pressure, the public schools get better. Amazing! Who would have guessed? A charter school opens, or a voucher program gets started, and before you know it, the neighborhood public schools are offering extra classes after school, Saturday morning openings, new tutoring and mentoring schemes. Why didn't we think of this before?

Unfortunately, school systems in this country are run to protect the interests of producers (teachers and educational bureaucrats), not consumers (parents and children). That is what happens when you declare something "too important to leave to the market." Please, no more hand-wringing about how hard it is to fix education. If anybody truly wants a solution to the problem, it is there in plain sight.

Before closing, I’d like to point out what the unionized educators were worrying about at their annual convention in Orlando last week. The National Education Association’s "Legislative Program for the 110th Congress" reveals that the NEA supports:
-- reproductive freedom
-- a nuclear freeze
-- a moratorium on capital punishment at the state and federal levels
-- U.S. participation in and financing of the United Nations and related bodies
-- a progressive tax system and, was there ever a doubt
-- restoring the estate tax.

How a nuclear freeze relates to high student dropout rates or dismal reading and math test scores is a mystery left unexplained.

Friday, July 14, 2006


What can happen when you leave your little boy alone in the bath room.

I’m not sure about the authenticity of the above picture. After all, another little boy was entered into the Apricot festival’s Little Mr. Apricot contest by his mother. Mothers seem capable of anything! Appropriately, for a boy, the newly-crowned, 4-year old Matthew Burgos raised his middle finger to the crowd! What a man! Little Matthew lost his title of Little Mr. Apricot for making the obscene gesture at the crowd watching the pageant in Patterson, Calif. The town is still abuzz.

Dennis Prager talked about the The War Against Boys, a recent book by Christina Hoff Sommers. He believes, and I believe, that manliness is being squished out of little boys in schools and in society. Sommers is appalled at the educational establishment's efforts to moderate boys' aggressiveness and other elements of their masculine nature. Dennis tells of his little boy tackling his friends when they came into the Prager house. Hi Jimmy, tumble, rumble…. gotcha ….give up? My John did the same thing, it’s what boys do. But grammar school teachers will have none of it. No dodge-ball either.

There are consequences. In a report written for the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, Sara Mead notes that vast numbers of boys are doing poorly in school; more boys than girls drop out; girls have higher aspirations and take more rigorous academic programs; and that the number of boys diagnosed with disabilities has exploded in the past 30 years.

From the time they are young, boys are far more likely than girls to be suspended or expelled, or have a learning disability or emotional problem diagnosed. As teenagers, they are more likely to drop out of high school, commit suicide or be incarcerated.

I believe, with Prager and Sommers, that what is being seen as a boy problem is actually maleness itself, with the noisy, energetic antsiness and high jinks of young boys now redefined as a behavior problem by teachers who do not know how to handle them.

The end results are horrible. Reading scores of 17-year-old boys have gone down in the past decade, hitting an all-time low in 2004. Our colleges are now 57% female. For every 100 women who earn a bachelor's degree, just 73 men get one.

The gender differences are not uniform. In the highest-income families, men attend college as much as women, according to the American Council on Education. But young men from low-income families are the least represented on campus, and the gender gap has been widening, especially among low-income whites and Hispanics.

Judith Kleinfeld, a University of Alaska professor has created the Boys Project (, a coalition of researchers, educators and parents to address boys' troubles.

Hoff Sommers notes that we are strikingly better at educating young women than young men. Boys need our attention.

In a recent book called Manliness, Harvey Mansfield, Professor of Government at Harvard University, presents the first comprehensive study of manliness, a quality both good and bad, mostly male, often intolerant, irrational, and ambitious. Our gender-neutral society does not like it but cannot get rid of it.

Manly men in their assertiveness raise issues, bring them to the fore, and make them public and political, they prefer times of war, conflict, and risk, and bring change or restores order at crucial moments.

Manly men are needed in times of danger and at times of business. Let’s be careful not to stomp out manliness.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

My Friends

I was among friends last night, many of whom I do not yet know. I attended the speech at St. John Fisher church by the great Dennis Prager, and was fortunate to sit in the front row between Marie Alessandra and Bill Kuretich and two seats from Father Ted Fisher. Anthony Lubega was there as was Carolyn Heyn and other friends, but I felt as though the packed hall was full of friends since we all share a fundamental value system.

Dennis spoke about the moral superiority of America’s Judeo-Christian values that made us great but are under attack from without and within.

If you want a short-hand reminder of the Judeo-Christian value system just look at any US coin with its three sayings: In God We Trust, Liberty and E Pluribus Unum. The fundamental American belief in God, the Creator of Judeo-Christian values, means that our values are universal, good for all peoples at all times. Hindus, Muslims, secularists and atheists have differing opinions – that is their right – but they are wrong.

America was the only nation founded on Judeo-Christian values and has been largely faithful to its roots. Values, like other important ideas, have consequences and our values have led to the most powerful, most successful country in history and the country that has done the most good for mankind.

Prager warned that secular leftists in America and Europe oppose our values and that the outcome of the resulting culture war is still in doubt. The anti-American-values crowd needs to bad mouth America, since admitting America’s greatness would validate our value system.

Liberty, a gift from God, is the right of all men. Yet there are governments and cultures that don’t share that belief. They are grotesquely wrong, and it is America’s obligation to work for the spread of liberty around the world. The American founders and presidents of both parties have believed in that principle and President Bush has made it the centerpiece of our foreign policy. Universal liberty is a basic Judeo-Christian value.

America has long been a cultural melting pot – e pluribus unum – yet lefty multiculturalists do not share that value, preferring e pluribus pluribus.
Cultural separation will destroy the unique American creed but that is the objective of some among us.

Dennis spoke of the objection on the left to the imposition of any social distinctions: good vs evil, morality vs amorality, men and women … none of these are distinguished by the moral relativists. To them one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. To them, who are we to impose child porn laws on the internet. How dare we suggest that men and women have differing interests and talents or that men should marry women? You have to be a college graduate to have the lefties' advanced views.

In the Q&A session, someone asked whether Dennis was pessimistic about America’s future given the culture war, suspecting that he was. Dennis admitted that he was becoming more and more pessimistic before 9/11. However, the 9/11 attack on America had the effect of clarifying the issues. We can no longer pretend like Bill Clinton did that the Islamists are not our enemies. In 20 years time when we look back, some of us were concerned with terrorism and others with Algore’s global warming. One side will be right.

Clarity is more important than agreement to Dennis. Thus, in the aftermath of 9/11 the sharp divide between the left and right in America - on issues from abortion to public education to socialism to support of Israel to fighting the forces of evil - are clearer than ever. Your friends will be those who share your views on those seminal issues.

Thank you, Dennis.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Our grandson Johnny (left) and friend Chris visited with us for the last few days on their round-the-country tour. These best friends served a tour of duty with the Army 82nd Airborne Division, Wolfpack Command, in Iraq. When they return on Saturday to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, John will ship out for another year in Iraq, while Chris goes to intelligence school. Both young men expressed concern about being split up – their friendship is very important to them. I encouraged them to just stay in touch - their bond of friendship forged in tough and dangerous times would persevere.

That conversation got me thinking about friends, old and new. I realized that, in addition to their shared war and obvious compatibility, John and Chris also share a common set of beliefs. They believe that what they are doing in the military service is right and good and honorable.

In the latest issue of Commentary Magazine, Joseph Epstein talks about the prominent neo-conservative Norman Podhoretz and his 1999 memoir Ex-Friends. Describing his separation from once close liberal friends, Podhoretz explains that friends can disagree about a lot of things, but only provided the things they disagree about are not all that important to them. The ties between people that are forged of ideas, by virtue of sharing a common culture, writes Podhoretz, do not necessarily rest on personal affection. When shared beliefs and personal affection are combined, the friendship is darn near indestructible.

Many friendships that are not founded on fundamental beliefs go asunder when things get tough. Epstein recounts the split between long time friends Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell over WWI, when Wittgenstein wrote to Russell: I can see perfectly well that your value judgments are just as good as mine, and deep-seated in you as mine are in me, and I have no right to catechize you. But, for that very reason there cannot be any real relation of friendship between us.

When John and Chris left I went off to my Omnilore Great Decisions class where the subject was human rights in an age of terrorism. The first question we addressed was: Are there certain circumstances in which torture is justified? One of us answered that if you capture a terrorist who has planted a nuclear bomb in America, torture should be used, if necessary, to find the bomb. Others disagreed, saying - How can you be sure that the terrorist knows where the bomb is?

Another posed the case where your daughter has been buried alive and the kidnapper tells you she has only one hour of air left, but will not tell you where she is. Checkmate, I thought. But no, several said we are humans, thus torture is never justified. You’d let your daughter die said the first? That is a stupid hypothetical, said the second. But the question asked for a circumstance - what is your answer?

Finally my frustration surfaced and I offered a real life circumstance involving my grandson. The next time they capture a terrorist planting a roadside bomb in Iraq, I hope they use rough measures, if needed, to find out where else the bombs are planted. Terrorists have no human rights, none, as far as I’m concerned.

The Omnilore folks who would confer US Constitutional rights to terrorists when coercive force could save innocent lives – well there cannot be any real relation of friendship between us.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Good Ideas

So the Earth is getting a little warmer, probably, and the global warming warriors want us to cripple the world economy to avert some theoretical impending disaster. Before I present some better ideas, let’s look at a few of the predictions a bit closer.

If we do nothing, no Kyoto or any other CO2 emission control program, the IPCC climate models predict a 2.1 deg. C temperature rise and a 50 cm (20 inch) sea level rise by 2100. If we spend a Trillion dollars a year, 400 Billion dollars from the US, then we could reduce the increases to 1.4 deg. C and 44 cm sea level rise. Rather expensive, don’t you think?

How about that sea level rise? Well it turns out that the sea level has been rising for most of the current interglacial period, on the average of 1.8 mm (0.07 inch) per year for at least 8,000 years. That means the sea level rises about 18 cm (7 inches) per century and the total increase has been 1,440 cm (560 inches) in the 8000 years. And what about the scary 20th century, you ask? Well the sea level rose approximately 7.5 inches, and the IPCC reported that no significant acceleration in the rate of sea-level rise during the 20th century has been detected. Ah, the understated elegance.

So the sea level has been rising 7 inches per century for 80 centuries, but now, suddenly, it’s going to rise 20 inches this century. Maybe! And could we really do anything about it? The climate models say not much, and the Artic Climate Impact Assessment says it would take over a thousand years to stop rising, even if we put the brakes on Carbon emission.

But so what if it does continue rising? Some places where people have no business living are going to lose some beachfront property. The 27 atolls of the Maldives in the South Pacific where the maximum elevation is 7.5 feet above sea level are going to become smaller and some of the 300,000 Maldivites will likely have to move. Rebuild parts of New Orleans on higher ground. This is not rocket science.

The more dire prediction is that perhaps 250 million more people will become at risk for contracting malaria according to the House of Lords report. Of course, over a million people a year, mostly African children, have been dying of malaria since the ban on DDT has been in effect. Perhaps the liberal environmental groups will see fit to remove their objections to DDT if millions more are at risk.

So what should be done?

First, realize that carbon emissions are not going to decrease, or even slow down the increase, during the 21st century. China is building coal burning power plants at a furious rate, bringing one on line every week, and will continue doing so for at least the next ten years. Together India and China will outstrip US emissions in the next decade. Africa is next. The major industrialized nations are backing away from Kyoto and the US won’t touch it with a long pole.

Next, adopt a scientifically sound and fiscally responsible program for switching from fossil fuels to new technology. The end game is President Bush’s Hydrogen economy -- based on Hydrogen-Oxygen powered cars with the Hydrogen produced by electrolysis using electricity supplied by nuclear power plants. In fifty years cars could be emitting water vapor while the power plants generate zero emissions.

The key is the nuclear power industry which needs to be encouraged to build a few hundred power plants. France already produces 76% of its electrical power from 56 nuclear plants. (I just hate trailing the French!) Tax breaks and a substantial reduction of red tape will be needed, as well as research to drive down the cost of nuclear from its roughly 50%-75% premium over natural gas power.

In the near term there are several sensible steps; here are some suggested by Gregory Benford in the 7/06 issue of NewsMax magazine. Reforestation is the simplest way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Trees love the stuff. Next, Geritol the oceans which already absorb 40% of the fossil fuel emissions due to plankton growth. What is needed to stimulate much more plankton growth is a supply of iron dust. Scientist John Martin who thought of this solution said: Give me a tanker of iron dust and I’ll give you another ice age. Another idea is to change the fuel mixture of commercial jet planes to produce a stream of water vapor that, when diffused, will reflect sunlight back into space. Or we could seed the stratosphere with submicron metal or silicate dust to the same end. Physicists at Stanford and Livermore Lab are already working on this last idea.

There are so many good technological ideas that will help without bankrupting the world’s economies.