Thursday, May 31, 2007

Immigration Bill Rates an “F”

In my analysis of the Illegal Alien Amnesty Travesty (a.k.a. the U.S. Senate Immigration Bill) it appears that my bottom line position was not entirely clear. Good friend Ken Sax: “I liked your blog, but I am a bit confused as to your position. Maybe I misinterpreted your statement during the last Moral Decisions Group meeting, in that you thought that the present bill approved by Kennedy, McCain, and Bush was a good one, and that you had read most of the main provisions.”

Ken’s right, my initial reaction to the Senate Bill was hopeful. At least there was a bipartisan group of Senators who were serious about improving the status-quo. The draft Bill contained elements of good policy: a border fence, increased border patrols, a tamper-proof ID, workplace enforcement, immigrant selection based on U.S. need, and an attempt to regularize the 12-20 million illegal aliens already here. As I said, the devil is in the details.

In my opinion the Bill lacks sufficient emphasis on security, but it could be fixed by appropriate sequencing. My first three priorities deal with security.

1. Construct a (double) border fence of no less than 700 miles in addition to the 300 miles of vehicle barriers.

2. Hire and train an additional 20,000 border control agents.

3. Create a tamper-proof ID card and implement the required infrastructure.

No other provision of the Bill should be effected until these security items are completed, whether it takes one year or three. The next steps deal with the 12-20 million illegal aliens here now.

4. Hire and train a sufficient number of deputies to conduct background checks on the 12-20 million illegals in a timely manner, say one year.

5. Take applications for Z visas that would allow illegals to remain in the country, but not receive government benefits.

6. Conduct background checks sufficient to weed out criminals and potential terrorists. Jail or deport them.

7. After the background checks are complete, issue tamper proof Z-cards that are required to hold a job.

8. Fine and/or jail employers who hire illegals not holding Z visas. Deport the illegals.

The fundamental question is whether a permanent Z-visa condition would be good or bad for the country. Victor Davis Hanson wrote today about “The Global Immigration Problem.”

“Given the social costs of illegal immigration, this is not a win-win situation of hooking up our available jobs with their available workers. Instead, it too often turns into a sort of cultural apartheid, where both unassimilated foreign workers and Western citizens are resentful of each other.

Employers may console themselves that they pay better than what the immigrants earned back at home. This might be true, but the wages are never enough to allow such newcomers to achieve parity with their hosts.

Naturally, immigrants soon get angry. And rather than showing thanks for a ticket out of the slums of Mexico City or Tunis, blatant hypocrisy can follow: The once thankful, but now exhausted, alien may wave the flag of the country he would never return to while shunning the culture of the host county he would never leave.

In the second generation, as we see from riots in France or gangs in Los Angeles, things can get even worse.

There is a final irony. The more Western elites ignore their own laws, allow unassimilated ethnic ghettos and profit from an exploitive labor market, the more their own nations will begin to resemble the very places immigrants fled from.”

It’s clear that immigrants who do not assimilate are not good for society and are frequently dangerous. Thus there must be a path to citizenship that has meaningful measures of assimilation for the holders of temporary Z visas. The Republican proposal for 200,000 more temporary workers per year (holders of the new Y visas) is brain dead and should be stricken from the Bill.

Bottom line, the present immigration bill is critically flawed and should not be passed without the increased security measures and with the Y visas.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Slavery Returns to America

“We fought a civil war to force Democrats to give up on slavery 150 years ago. They've become so desperate for servants that now they're importing an underclass to wash their clothes and pick their vegetables. This vast class of unskilled immigrants is the left's new form of slavery,” wrote Ann Coulter in her latest piece at Human Events Online . (Thanks to friend Barry C. for this lead.)

According to Alien Nation author Peter Brimelow, “There is recent evidence that, even after four generations, fewer than 10% of Mexicans have post-high school degrees, as opposed to nearly half of non-Mexican-Americans.” So you'll always have the maid. As New York mayor Michael Bloomberg said, our golf fairways would suffer without illegal immigrants.

Oops, Bloomberg is a Republican (sort of). Yes, Republican farmers in the Central Valley of California and in Senator Saxby Chambliss’ Georgia fields are all in favor of “importing a slave class.” If you want to know why President Bush’s approval numbers have plummeted into the low 30’s, it’s because mainstream Republicans (i.e. those who don’t work in Washington) are mightily pissed off about this illegal alien super-amnesty.

And they have the gall to deny that it is amnesty. If a burglar broke into your home and you captured him without blowing him away, then if you say “It’s OK, you can leave before I call the cops,” that’s amnesty. If, on the other hand, you say, “Hey, never mind the cops, what room would you like to sleep in, and please send for your wife and children, and I’ll build an extra bathroom for you guys, and you can go to my doctors, and when you get older you can have some of my Social Security, and you wont have to pay any taxes because your income will be below the federal minimum, but we’ll give you an earned income tax benefit of $3500, and… ,” well that’s something more than amnesty. That’s what my buddy Dave Young calls “super-amnesty.”

But I’ve strayed from the Democrats, those “great lovers of the downtrodden -- the downtrodden trimming their hedges – who pretend to believe that their gardeners' children will be graduating from Harvard and curing cancer someday.” The Democrat business leaders at Apple Computer and Microsoft (and throughout the high tech industry) have something in this bill for them too.

“America takes in roughly 1 million legal immigrants each year. Only about 30,000 of them have Ph.D.s. Why on earth would any rational immigration policy discriminate against immigrants with Ph.D.s in favor of unskilled, non-English-speaking immigrants?” Exactly, says Steve Jobs, send us your downtrodden computer engineers and mathematicians, because some of the work just can’t be outsourced to India, as much as we’d like to do just that.

Hysteria aside, it is sadly true that our colleges do not graduate enough highly qualified scientists, engineers and mathematicians to fill the jobs that need to remain here. When I was managing in industry, we were frustrated in our attempts to find qualified Americans and wound up going to China and India to bring in engineers, who we always described as “unique multi-facetted geniuses” in order to satisfy the immigration authorities.

Even the K-12 teachers have figured out that unbridled illegal immigration is destroying the public school system. On the website Teachers.Net, a public school teacher writes about the chaos at her school due to “cheap tomatoes.” Here are a few excerpts.

I am in charge of the English-as-a-second-language department at a largesouthern California high school which is designated a Title 1 schoolmeaning that its students are in the lower socioeconomic and income levels. Title 1 schools are on the free breakfast and free lunch program. When Isay free breakfast, I'm not talking a glass of milk and roll -- but afull breakfast and cereal bar with fruits and juices that would make aMarriott proud. The waste of this food is monumental, with trays andtrays of it being dumped in the trash uneaten. (OUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK)

I estimate that well over 50% of these students are obese or at least moderately overweight. About 75% or more DO have cell phones.

The school also provides day care centers for the unwed teenage pregnant girls (some as young as 13) so they can attend class without the inconvenience of having to arrange for babysitters or having family watch their kids. (OUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK)

I have had to intervene several times for young and substitute teacherswhose classes consist of many illegal immigrant students here in thecountry less then 3 months who raised so much hell with the femaleteachers, calling them putas (whores) and throwing things that theteachers were in tears. Free medical, free education, free food, daycare etc., etc., etc. Is it any wonder they feel entitled to not only bein this country but to demand rights, privileges and entitlements?

A third-world culture that does not value education, that accepts children getting pregnant and dropping out of school by 15 and that refuses toassimilate, and an American culture that has become so weak and worriedabout politically correct that we don't have the will to do anythingabout it.

There’s more, but you get the idea.

Closing out with the Democrats, law abiding citizens and centrists are beginning to see Hillary for the giant two-faced albatross that she is. Even Hollywood is abandoning her. But for those who are still addicted to Hillary care - a.k.a. “The Hillary Ambivalence Syndrome” - The “Half Hour News Hour” offers this remedy:
OxyClinton. Enjoy!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Rating the Immigration Bill

In a remarkable display of bipartisanship, the Senate on Monday voted for cloture on an illegal alien (immigration) bill that few Americans like in its entirety (the New York Times poll notwithstanding). The “Grand Bargain” addresses an issue that all Americans agree needs to be fixed. As usual, the devil is in the details.

And, oh, what details. The 300+ page bill is readable by lawyers with a masochistic bent (Our friend Hugh Hewitt spent the weekend reading the “McCain jam down.”) and pundits like Steven Colbert who hired a Mexican immigrant (who did not need to press 2) to read it for him. Colbert reports that the fiery border moat with the fireproof dragons was nowhere to be found. So much for border security.

Now down to business. Key components of the “compromise” include:

1. Immediate amnesty for 12-20 million illegal aliens who will get legal status for residence and jobs.
2. New flows of 200 thousand temporary foreign workers each year.
3. Mandatory workplace verification.
4. Enhanced border enforcement.

The driving force for the bill is an odd coalition of big-government Democrats and big-business Republicans. Democrats argue that the welfare state requires liberal immigration policies. Today there are only 3.3 workers for every retiree. With the 77 million baby boomers beginning to retire, we need to bring in 900,000 immigrants a year so that when the last of the boomers retires in 2030 there will be 2.2 workers for every retiree – barely sufficient to keep the system from collapse. And, of course, Democrats count on most of the immigrants joining their Party.

Big business Republicans want the cheap workers to keep profits high. But at what cost? Tom Sowell dispels the myth of the illegal “doing work that no American would do” and making a positive economic contribution.

Every aspect of the current immigration bill, and of the arguments made for it, has Fraud written all over it. The first, and perhaps biggest, fraud is the argument that illegal aliens are “doing jobs Americans won't do.” There are no such jobs. Even in the sector of the economy in which illegal immigrants have the highest representation -- agriculture -- they are just 24 percent of the workers. Where did the other 76 percent come from, if these are jobs that Americans won't do?

Furthermore, the argument that illegal agricultural workers are “making a contribution to the economy” is likewise misleading. For well over half a century, this country has had chronic agricultural surpluses which have cost the taxpayers billions of dollars a year to buy, store, and try to get rid of on the world market at money-losing prices. If there were fewer agricultural workers and smaller agricultural surpluses, the taxpayers would save money.

The economic implications were examined exhaustively by Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation. Continuing to import a low-skilled population under family-based immigration will cost the welfare state far more than the immigrants' contributions to the economy and government. Rector argued that low-skilled immigrants are costly to the welfare state at every point in their life cycle, and are very costly when elderly. Just the millions of illegals already here will, if given amnesty, cost an average of $10,000 per year in various entitlements (Social Security, food stamps, Medicaid, housing, etc.) Cumulatively, the cost of the current illegals amounts to more than $2.5 trillion (for 12 million) or as much as $4 trillion (for 20 million) over 30 years.

We can forget about the solubility of Social Security and Medicare.

Another cost is purely societal. Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute offers this wake-up call to sentimentalists who cling to “the myth of the redeeming power of Hispanic family values, the Hispanic work ethic, and Hispanic virtue.”
From 1990 to 2004, Hispanics accounted for 92 percent of the increase in poor people. Only 53 percent of Hispanics earn high school diplomas, the lowest among American ethnic groups. Half of all children born to Hispanic-Americans in 2005 were born out of wedlock -- a reliable predictor of social pathologies.

And while we have millions of immigrants waiting to come to the USA legally, the Senate bill sends the message that these immigrants would be better served by violating our laws, rather than by following them.

Internal enforcement is another huge problem.

Illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. before Jan. 1, 2007, would be able to register for “Z visas” and continue to live and work here. Section 601(h) of the new bill explains how to handle applicants for the Z credentials. An alien who files application for Z-nonimmigrant status shall, upon submission of any evidence required under paragraphs (f) and (g) and after the Secretary has conducted appropriate background checks, to include name and fingerprint checks, that have not by the end of the next business day produced information rendering the applicant ineligible.

The government gets one-two days to check them out… and then they may work legally, may leave the country and return and may not be detained for immigration purposes… all before even one more mile of fence is built or a workplace verification system is constructed.Everyone knows the federal government simply lacks the ability to conduct millions of background checks on the illegal aliens who will be regularized by the law.

Border security is problematic.

The proposed bill authorizes the hiring of Border Patrol agents until 20,000 are on staff, the construction of at least 300 miles of vehicular barriers and 360 miles of double fencing and the end of “catch and return.” The draft bill calls for an increase in border patrol agents of not less than 2,000 in fiscal year '07, 2,400 in '08, and 2,400 more in each fiscal year through 2012, for a total of 14,000 over six years. But of course appropriations are not bound by this direction: authorized doesn't mean funded.

The proposed border fence is 390 miles less than the 750 miles that was authorized over a year ago. Hugh Hewitt asked Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff how much of the 750 has been constructed. After a lot of hemming and hawing the Secretary finally admitted than the strict answer is zero, but that 75 miles are under construction and should be finished by September. At that rate the proposed 360 miles will take another 3-4 years –- if the funds are appropriated. There is a serious credibility problem when it comes to security.

I’ve heard two broad approaches to the illegal immigrant issue and the Senate bill, one from George Will and one from Hugh Hewitt.

George Will says we should concentrate on border control and workplace enforcement facilitated by a biometric identification card issued to immigrants who arrive here legally. Treat the problem of the 12 million with benign neglect. Their children born here are American citizens; the parents of these children will pass away.

Hugh Hewitt takes a more centrist approach recommending that the bill be modified to mandate that the entire fence will be built before any Z visa issues, that the Border Patrol be dramatically expanded before any Z visa issues, detailing the expansion in the staffs of the DHS and FBI charged with processing and investigating the Z visa applicants and declining to extend to any illegal alien from “countries of special interest” any status whatsoever.

I’m inclined to lean Hugh’s way if only because politics is the art of compromise and the amended bill would be vastly better than the status quo.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Americans Move Out

We hear and read a lot about the polarization of America: Democrats versus Republicans, the culture wars between liberals and conservatives, the religious right versus the secular left. Now we find that people are voting with their feet.

Dave Young sent me an article by Michael Barone from the WSJ that deals with “
The Realignment of America.” In large numbers, Americans are now moving out of, not into, the “Coastal Megalopolises” while immigrants are moving in. Since 2000, the old coastal cities (Boston, NYC, Washington, Miami, San Diego, LA, San Francisco..) have experienced an outflow of native born Americans averaging 650,000 per year balanced by an inflow of immigrants, many of them illegal.

Where are the Americans going? It’s not to the suburbs. The outflow is moving to heartland cities across the nation: Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Orlando, Charlotte, Phoenix, Tampa, California's Inland Empire, Sacramento, Austin, Raleigh, Nashville, Richmond, and the big winner, Las Vegas, with a whopping 19% domestic inflow. These are economic dynamos that are driving much of America's growth, with much less economic polarization and a higher percentage of traditional families than in the “Coastal Megalopolises.”

Barone predicts some profound political ramifications. Democrats, who decry the widening economic gap in the nation, are in charge of the cities where the gap is widening most visibly. They live in “exquisitely decorated Park Avenue apartments and Beverly Hills mansions with immigrant servants passing the hors d'oeuvres.” Meanwhile the Interior Boomtowns voted 56% for George W. Bush in 2004 and states dominated by the Boomtowns (Texas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Nevada) are projected to pick up 10 House seats in the 2010 Census. Good for the GOP, but not good for the nation.

Phil Clark sent me a follow-up article “The Coming Great Divide in American Political Culture” by J.R. Dunn. (in The American Thinker). The demographic trends indicate that “we're headed for an even more serious social schism between the heartland and the coastal metropolises. The heartland (along with smaller cities and towns on the coasts) will be comprised of melting-pot Americans, the coastal cities a bewildering melange of immigrants from all points of the compass, topped with an exceedingly thin layer of ultra-wealthy natives.” Think Beverly Hills and Los Angeles.

Unlike all previous immigrant influxes, today’s political correctness and multiculturalism remove all reasons for immigrants to adapt to their new country. With no particular pressure to fit in, the new immigrants will cling to their traditions, worldviews, and customs, many conflicting with ours and with those of other immigrant groups. The result will be Babel.

The Senate compromise crafted today by Ted Kennedy and John McCain is yet another nail in the coffin for e pluribus unum.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Belle of Badgag

Here is an update from our friend Lt. Col. Dave (Big Mac) McCarthy, on the left, beginning with a letter of recommendation written by an Army Special Forces Colonel (John) who is a legend in the Special Forces community for his work in Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq and who served with Dave in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Lt Col David "Big Mac" McCarthy is dark, wild and very, verrry different. He is an incredibly intelligent and articulate person of excellent breeding and education. His father was a USMC veteran as well and, other than having a son that became a lawyer, he was proud of his offspring. Dave not only is an excellent USMC Officer of some repute within the SF community, he looks like a Marine (the guy exudes professional Marine Corps bearing). He is the kind of man who (again, other than the lawyer thing) you would be proud to call friend. I am honored to include him among my personal Brothers-In-Arms. He is a good shot (as any good Marine), he is as loyal as an old hound dog (which his facial features strongly resemble), and he is unflinchingly brave. All those (true) glowing accolades having been recited, he is a dark creature whose wildness is barely held in check by his strong self disciplined will. “Big Mac” is a warrior.

Those who know and love Dave agree that he is different. A tiny example:

“Yes, I know the city I'm in is spelled ‘Baghdad’ but I refuse to write it that way, opting to write it as ‘Bagdad.’ I suppose it's kind of similar to the way I refuse to say ‘Venti’ or ‘Grande’ or whatever the heck else Starbucks thinks is chic - I will always say ‘Large, medium or small.’ With Starbucks and with Bagdad I'm probably just spiteful.”

Gotta love the guy! In Dave’s honor, I’m spelling it Badgag! Back to Dave:

Because I mentioned that I had attended a morning brief with General Petraeus, some people have asked if I know him or what he's like. I hope I didn't give the impression that he and I are drinking buddies or that we have meetings; the truth is that he has meetings and in some of those meetings I am one of about 50 or more people attending. Usually the Army SF Colonel I work for attends, but occasionally I have to. I say "I have to" because I'm not a big fan of meetings, or of sitting in front of a computer, or of having to go to the Palace where the Battle Update Assessments (BUAs) take place; I would much prefer to be out in Bagdad with the men. When I'm out in one of the Bagdad neighborhoods or somewhere else in Iraq I feel very alive; my senses are heightened. Part of that feeling alive is because Enthusiasm is a leadership trait, and part is because I like adrenaline. By the way, that's why I never submitted a promotion package for full Colonel: I would much rather be a Lieutenant Colonel in the field with the men than a Colonel behind a desk having to go to meetings (not to imply that the Marine Corps would have promoted me even if I had submitted a package, which is o.k. - it's in line with "I wouldn't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member).

Getting back to General Petraeus, bottom line: No, I don't know him. However I can tell you from having been in meetings he has held, that he is not only incredibly intelligent, he is also very personable and has a great sense of humor. BUAs take place in what's called the JOC - that's the Joint Operations Center, pronounced "Jock". The JOC is an amphitheater in one of the big rooms of one of the palaces and on each level of the amphitheater going all the way around are work stations, each with three computer screens and three telephones; each one for a different function. At each work station there is a representative of one of the different sections of the war fighting machine: Ground Operations, Air Operations, Medical, Legal, Logistics, Weather, Intelligence, etc, etc, etc; even the chaplain's office has a liaison officer/chaplain in the JOC. It's sad though because he is the one who has to put a damper on things when he addresses the JOC and talks about a soldier or Marine who was killed in action; I usually get misty-eyed when he talks about the family of the fallen hero, especially when that family includes young children. If I weren't in the JOC I'd be crying like a baby when I hear those talks (Remember, I'm a big rough, tough Marine on the outside, and a big marshmallow on the inside).

As I'm sitting here listening to machinegun fire and explosions in the distance I'm reminded of the fact that I had mentioned that there are generally 140 attacks daily in Iraq, and 60 in Bagdad. For clarification, those numbers are only major attacks or complex attacks. If the figures were to include every rocket or mortar attack, every I.E.D that detonates and every incident of sniper fire or small arms fire you can bet that the figures would be in the thousands, probably the tens of thousands. Although not every attack is written into the statistics, almost every attack has some horrible consequence. Earlier today there was a sniper attack - just one round fired - where an Army full Colonel was hit; the bullet entered the Colonel's lower back, exited his groin, took off one of his testicles and entered the other side of the groin before stopping in his thigh. Although that attack was not major or complex, I'm guessing that to the Colonel it was significant.

I finally caved and am wearing blackened rank insignia. You may recall that I said I'd never wear it, that I'd always wear silver oak leaves. Well, I'm wearing the blackened stuff. I wasn't ordered to wear it, which is what I had always thought it would take me to switch from silver to black; it was that the men finally got through to me that they were genuinely concerned about me being a bigger target than I already am. Sometimes when we’re under fire and I was being particularly targeted I half-expected them to shout out "YOU SEE SIR . . . IT'S THAT DAMNED SILVER OAK LEAF!!" They asked to speak to me about it, and they were very sincere in our discussions about their concern for my well-being. I decided that my aversion to blackened insignia wasn't worth them fretting about my wearing a big target on my chest (the silver Oak Leaf), so I switched. The smiles on their faces made the wearing of the blackened insignia, despite my distaste for it, worth it.

I'll see if I can't get someone to take another photo and you can compare the two photos - with silver and with black; see if you think I'm a lesser target now. When you see the photo note that I added a Marine Corps Eagle, Globe and Anchor to the ensemble; surely I'm now the Belle of the (Badgag) Ball.
Speaking of silver, I always carried a silver rosary ring in my pocket, perhaps thinking that it counter-acted the silver oak leaves and other things that put me in more danger than I otherwise would be in (things like the fact that my head sticks up higher than the rest of the men). I'll continue to carry it even though I switched to blackened insignia since we're never really “safe” here - last night I was almost knocked out of my cot by a mortar landing really close by. It's funny (not Ha-Ha funny, but interesting funny) that although I carry the rosary ring I don't use it: as with the camera shutter release, since my fingers are more useful on a trigger than on the rosary ring I don't get to say too many Hail Marys and Our Fathers, at least not on the ring - you can be sure they're going through my head. You know the old saying: there are no atheists in a foxhole.

I don't know if the newspapers back in the states are running this human interest story; it's bittersweet: A soldier rescued a dog here and had written to his family - parents and fiancée - about the dog, which he and his unit adopted as a mascot (yes, it's against regulations to keep mascots, but sometimes you just gotta look the other way). Tragically, the soldier was subsequently killed in action. His family wanted the dog as a remembrance of the soldier, since because he had no children the dog was their link to the soldier. The family contacted their congressman, who contacted the Department of Defense, who contacted the Department of the Army, who contacted Multi-National Force Iraq, and right now, as I am writing this, an order is being staffed to have the dog retrieved from up north and brought to the nearest Forward Operating Base where it will be transported to a place where it can be examined, vaccinated and ultimately flown back to the States to give to the family. You just know that that dog will be the most pampered and loved dog in America.

Well, that's about it for this “Greetings from Bagdad” message. Please take care and be well. You are in my thoughts and in my prayers.
Dave (McCarthy, LtCol, USMC, 1 ea.)

I’ll close this post with a video about remembering our troops, sent to me by my good friend Linda Henson (Shortyks1 on Zone Bridge). Lizzie Palmer who put this YouTube program together is 15 years old.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Local Inanity, Global Insanity

At their last two regular meetings, the Rancho Palos Verdes City Council took dauntless stands against violence and air pollution. At least that’s what they told themselves.

Just one day after the Virginia Tech shootings, the RPV Council endorsed the “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” campaign, in order to create an America free of gun violence. Of course, illegal guns are, well… illegal, and this vacuous motion does not make them any more illegal. One councilman was not happy about joining in support of a nationwide legislation without seeing the complete legislation, understanding it, making sure that it is not brought to us under false cover. Still, the motion was passed unanimously.

This is just one part of the larger Brady anti-gun campaign that aims to eliminate or severely curtail gun ownership in America. Interestingly, the brave anti-gun movement is out of step with mainstream Americans who appreciate the benefit of guns for sport and home defense. The fastest growing gun-owner demographic is single women.

Liberal legal academics have finally come to see gun ownership as a right guaranteed by the Constitution, the right position long understood by conservatives. The New York Times reports that in March, for the first time in the nation’s history, a federal appeals court struck down a gun control law on Second Amendment grounds. Liberal law professor Laurence Tribe (Harvard) said he had come to believe that the Second Amendment protected an individual right. “My conclusion came as something of a surprise to me, and an unwelcome surprise,” Professor Tribe said. “I have always supported as a matter of policy very comprehensive gun control.”

Does anyone know the last time a shooting homicide was committed in Rancho Palos Verdes? The City Council would have more effect on the homicide rate by fencing off the Oceanside cliffs.

The other local inanity was the vote by the RPV Council to endorse the “US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement” also known as the “Cool Cities” pledge. By signing the pledge, RPV effectively ratified the Kyoto Protocol, thereby agreeing to reduce citywide carbon dioxide “pollution” to 7 percent below levels set in 1990 by the year 2012, or something like that. One councilman expressed concern as to the degree of commitment that the city might find itself in. “It's one thing to make a statement that you're in support of something; it's then another thing to go out and wage a complete commitment to incur costs and do studies. We did not do that part, but we wanted to show our support for the concept of what Cool Cities represents.”

Is this inanity, or what? The motion passed 3-0.

RPV now joins Seattle and the State of California in setting a goal to reduce pollution that is not pollution (Tell it to the trees.) and our action will have not the slightest effect on local or global temperatures. But it sure feels good. According to the UN climate commission, avoiding the horrors of global warming (assuming the climate models are right) will cost on the average of 3% of world GDP per year. In 2006 dollars that’s 3% of 45 Trillion dollars or $1.3 Trillion. (or $400 Billion from the USA).

I have an idea. There is at least one councilman who is an avid biker. He is known to consume more than his share of oxygen and produce more than his share of carbon dioxide pollution while pumping his two-wheeler. Give it up, Tom, save the Earth.

Fortunately, the local inanities are merely annoying examples of useless government interference. On the global level, however, the bad ideas verge on insanity. Here is a fun example.

Children are bad for the planet! John Guillebaud of the Optimum Population Trust says that “the greatest thing anyone in Britain could do to help the future of the planet would be to have one less child.” The effect on the planet of having one child less is equivalent to reducing a family's carbon dioxide output by 620 round trip flights a year between London and New York. The EU average is currently 1.5 children per family, but the Professor says “rich countries should be the most concerned about family size as their children have higher per capita carbon dioxide emissions.” He has not yet suggested mass suicide.

On that note, Paul Watson, president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society warns that mankind is “acting like a virus” and is harming Mother Earth. Watson has called humans a disease (the “AIDS of the Earth”) and wants the population to be reduced to less than 1 billion people. To the Sea Shepherds, saving the whales is more important than saving 5.5 billion people.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

And the Winner Is?

Al Qaeda. The House Democrats Intelligence Authorization bill includes a provision directing an assessment of the effects that climate change has on national security. Intelligence panel Chairman Silvestre Reyes, Texas Democrat, said the climate-change study is one of several shifts his party has made to intelligence policy. He described the idea as “cutting edge.”
Muslims are now required to pray at least once daily facing Washington, DC.

In the GOP debate on Thursday, the winner was … any Republican… well, maybe excepting Ron Paul. But any of the other nine in the debate would make a much better president than anyone on the Democratic side. The amazing thing was that the Republican candidates would agree to debate on MsNBC with that Democratic attack hound Chris Matthews as moderator. In true journalistic spirit, Matthews asked a series of “Have you stopped beating your wife?” questions, such as:

>> Governor Huckabee, in light of the scandals plaguing the current administration and its allies, which mistakes have you learned not to repeat?

>> Senator Brownback, what’s with your party and all this corruption?

>> Do you think Scooter Libby should be pardoned?

>> Governor Gilmore, is Karl Rove your friend? Do you want to keep him in the White House if you get elected President.

>> Governor Thompson, how many American soldiers have lost their lives in the Iraq war and how many have been injured to date.

>> Mayor Giuliani, has the increased influence of Christian conservatives in your party been good for it? If a private employer finds homosexuality immoral, should he be allowed to fire a gay worker?

>> Senator Brownback, will your personal religious beliefs influence your foreign policy thinking.

>> Congressman Tancredo, do you have a plan to solve the shortage of organs donated for transplant?

The remarkable thing is how well the GOP candidates handled these biased questions. Here are a few of my favorites.

>> A recent NBC poll shows that just 22 percent believe this country is on the right track and 55 percent of Americans say victory is just not possible in Iraq. Why shouldn’t they have a president who will listen?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, if you wanted to have a president who just followed the polls, all we’d need to do is plug in our TV and have it run the country, but that’s not what America wants. It’s not what America needs.

>> Fred Thompson said that Iran has already committed acts of war. Do you agree? And secondly, as part of that, what’s your trip wire for a U.S. strike in Iran?

SEN. MCCAIN: My greatest fear is the Iranians acquire a nuclear weapon and give it to a terrorist organization. The tripwire is that if they acquire these weapons -- our intelligence tells us that this is a real threat to the state of Israel to other states in the region.

>> Is it worth moving heaven and earth, spending billions of dollars, just trying to catch Osama bin Laden?

MR. ROMNEY: Of course we get Osama bin Laden and make sure he pays for the outrage he exacted on America. But I don’t want to buy into the Democratic pitch, that this is all about one person. Because after we get him, there’s going to be another and another. This is about Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the worldwide jihadist effort to try and cause the collapse of all moderate Islamic governments and replace them with a caliphate.

>> Governor Romney, what do you dislike most about America?

MR. ROMNEY: Gosh. I love America. America for me is not just our rolling mountains and hills and streams and great cities, it’s the American people. And the American people are the greatest people in the world. What makes America the greatest nation in the world is the heart of the American people -- hard-working, innovative, risk-taking, God-loving, family-oriented, the American people.

>> Would the day that Roe v. Wade is repealed be a good day for Americans? We’re looking for nuance here.

MR. HUCKABEE: We are a culture of life. We celebrate, we elevate life. When hikers on Mount Hood get lost, we move heaven and Earth to go find them. When coalminers in West Virginia are trapped in a mine, we go after them because we celebrate life. This life issue is not insignificant, it’s not small. It separates us from the Islamic fascists who would strap a bomb to the belly of their child and blow them up.

>> Mrs. Reagan wants to expand federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Will that progress under your administration?

MR. ROMNEY: It certainly will. Altered Nuclear Transfer, I think, is perhaps the best course.

>> Embryonic. Embryonic.
MR. Romney: Altered Nuclear Transfer; we do not have to kill.

>> Senator McCain, do you believe in evolution?

SEN. MCCAIN: I believe in evolution. But I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset that the hand of God is there also.

>> Seriously, would it be good for America to have Bill Clinton back living in the White House?

MR. ROMNEY: You have got to be kidding!

REP. HUNTER: You know Bill Clinton cut the U.S. Army by almost 50 percent. In this war against terror, he’s the wrong guy to have in there.

MR. GIULIANI: It would mean that we were back on defense against terrorism, given Senator Clinton’s recent positions.

And here is my absolute favorite.

> Governor Romney, what do you say to Roman Catholic bishops who would deny communion to elected officials who support abortion rights?

MR. ROMNEY: I don’t say anything to Roman Catholic bishops. They can do whatever the heck they want. Roman Catholic bishops are in a private institution, a religion, and they can do whatever they want in a religion.

> Do you see that as interference in public life?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, I can’t imagine a government telling a church who can have communion in their church. I can’t -- we have a separation of church and state; it’s served us well in this country.
Matthews simply does not understand the First Ammendment.

Contrast these reasoned answers with the responses of the Democratic contenders at their debate.

>> What would you do if two American cities were devastated by terrorist attacks?
SEN. OBAMA: I’d worry about the first responders.

>> From whom do you get your moral guidance?

MR. EDWARDS: Hmmmm……


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Home Front

Dave McCarthy, our favorite Marine Colonel, sent this picture to complement his “Baghdad Update” (4/29/07). With Dave are his wonderful wife Carrie and the “loveable monkeys” Connor and Trevor.
Several readers have asked for Dave’s contact information. Here is his email
and here is his snail mail address

APO AE 09342

Dave asked me to please let people know that he can't always reply in a timely manner. He loves cookies and prayers: “As for cookies or anything else, we are always VERY appreciative of anything and everything that people want to send, and everyone here always shares everything, which is good because some guys never get mail. Please let people know that I - we – truly appreciate the prayers; I personally am a very big believer in the power of prayer. Just be sure and pray not that I'll come home safe or even that I'll come home at all, just that God's Will be done.”

The Post Office provides boxes (roughly 12x14x3.5 inches) that they will mail to our troops for $8.10 no matter the weight. They arrive in about two weeks.

As a follow-up to yesterdays post (“Sensible Education Reform”), I have a suggestion for Recommendation 1: Reduce the barriers to entry into teaching for those without traditional teacher certification. Hire former soldiers.
The Troops to Teachers program is a source of quality teachers for America's schools. John Gantz, Department of Defense, Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) asks:

“Can a tough crusty old no-nonsense Marine Corps Sergeant Major be an effective teacher in our public schools? How about a retired infantry Army Lieutenant Colonel, or an Air Force Special Operations Senior Master Sergeant, or a former Navy submarine commander? Some within the public education community raised concerns about the suitability of career military personnel as teachers. These military veterans, the critics said, would be too rigid, too demanding, inflexible, harsh, and their approach to teaching would be totally incompatible with the needs of today’s students.”

But there are almost 9,000 military veterans who have successfully made the transition from uniform to the classroom and proven the critics wrong. A recent study titled “Profile of Troops to Teachers” conducted by Emily Feistritzer, President of the National Center for Education Information, concludes that Troops to Teachers brings to public education “exactly what the nation has identified it needs”:

• More men
• More minorities
• Teachers in high demand areas – inner cities
• Teachers in high demand subject areas – special education, math, science
• Well educated teachers
• Competent teachers
• Teachers who believe all children can learn
• Teachers who value high standards for themselves as well as for students
• Committed teachers
• Teachers who plan to stay a while

Another study conducted by William Owings of Old Dominion University sought to determine the effectiveness of Troops to Teachers. Among the findings:
• Principals overwhelmingly (over 90%) reported that “Troops” teachers are more effective in classroom instruction and classroom management/student discipline than are traditionally prepared teachers with similar years of teaching experience.
• Principals stated (89.5%) that “Troops” teachers have a positive impact on student achievement to a greater degree than do traditionally prepared teachers with similar years of teaching experience.
• “Troops” teachers teach in high poverty schools, teach high-demand subjects (special education, math, and science), plan to remain in teaching as a career, and increase the teaching pool’s diversity.

John Gantz concludes: The success of the program is due solely to the fact that “Troops” teachers are highly effective in the classroom. Through Troops to Teachers, military personnel are able to continue their service to the Nation on the front lines in public school classrooms throughout America.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is looking for retiring or separating members of the Armed Forces, Coast Guard, Reserves, and National Guard to teach Math, Science, English or Special Education. Officers and enlisted troops holding a bachelors degree with expertise in these subject areas may qualify for the Troops for Teachers program. Servicemembers and veterans who are interested in learning more about opportunities with LAUSD should
click here to fill out an application.

The Department of Defense provides a $5K stipend to qualified participants to help pay for teacher certification programs (a waste). An additional $5K is available as an incentive to attract more individuals to schools serving a high percentage of disadvantaged students.

Schools should be eager to access this supply of men (Over 80% of “Troops” are men), minorities (40%), teachers of critical need subjects of math, science or special education (50%) and teachers willing to accept positions in schools serving disadvantaged students (67% of the “Troops.”)
Tell your School Boards about this great program.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sensible Education Reform

It is a pleasant surprise whenever I find a liberal public institution making a sensible policy proposal. Thus the report of the Hamilton Project, associated with the liberal Brookings Institution, caught my eye. (It was even written up today by Nicolas Kristof in the New York Times -- another surprise.)

“Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job,” written by Robert Gordon, Thomas J. Kane and Douglas O. Staiger, makes several specific recommendations for K-12 education reform:

Recommendation 1: Reduce the barriers to entry into teaching for those without traditional teacher certification. There is no reason to limit initial entrance into teaching to those who have completed traditional certification programs or who must take such courses in their first years on the job (like my friend Bob G.).

Recommendation 2: Make it harder to promote the least effective teachers to tenured positions. School districts have very good information about a teacher’s effectiveness after two or three years on the job and should base retention decisions on that trial period.

Recommendation 3: Provide bonuses to highly effective teachers willing to teach in schools with a high proportion of low income students. Today, the lowest achieving teachers are clustered in the poorest schools where students are most in need of effective teaching.

While there is a severe shortage of science and math teachers, the potential supply of technical workers (engineers, lab technicians, etc) who might enter teaching is thwarted by the credentialing requirements. Recent evidence demonstrates that teacher certification is a poor predictor of teacher effectiveness. Data from 150,000 students in 9,400 classrooms in the Los Angeles Unified School District (yearly from 2000 through 2003) show that there is no statistical difference in achievement for students assigned to certified and uncertified teachers.

If one examines the course curriculum of teacher’s colleges, this result is not surprising. Heather MacDonald in The Burden of Bad Ideas explains why Johnny’s teacher can’t teach. It’s because Teacher Ed schools worry more about stamping out racism in aspiring teachers than about test results. In fact they worry about “Anything But Knowledge”: self-actualization, social adjustment, following one’s joy, multicultural sensitivity,… “ABK” was born in the anti-intellectual fervor following WWI when progressive educators such as John Dewey decided that schools needed to prepare students for life by providing life knowledge as opposed to traditional knowledge.

They decided that kids needed to learn “critical thinking skills” rather than spelling, the multiplication tables or any facts at all. When teachers dismiss actual knowledge, you have to replace it with something, and the Ed schools favored “constructed knowledge.” I have mine, you have yours, Johnny has his, and it’s all just fine.

They promoted “child-centered schools” where the kid became the decision maker relegating the teacher to the role of advisor (a much easier gig). Teachers were taught disdain for report cards and objective tests in favor of “meta-cognitive thinking.” At all costs teachers must avoid “teaching to the test.” It sounds like discredited folderol, but professors of education, “like aging vestal virgins, still guard the progressive flame.”

Returning to the Hamilton Project report, effectiveness varies substantially among certified teachers and also among uncertified teachers. And those large differences are evident even after adjusting for the obvious socioeconomic and educational factors such as baseline test performance, race/ ethnicity, family income, gender and so on.

While certification status was not helpful in predicting teacher impacts on student performance, teacher ranking during their first two years of teaching does provide a lot of information about their likely impact during their third year and beyond. The average student assigned to a teacher who was in the bottom quartile during his or her first two years lost on average 5 percentile points relative to students with similar baseline scores and demographics. In contrast, the average student assigned to a top-quartile teacher gained 5 percentile points relative to students with similar baseline scores and demographics. Therefore, the average difference between being assigned a top-quartile or a bottom-quartile teacher is 10 percentile points. Furthermore this 10 point delta is cumulative growing to 20 points in two years, etc.

Many measures might be used to assess teacher performance including principal evaluations, parent evaluations, classroom observations, and the number of times a teacher is absent. However, measures of outputs and performance rather than credentials would need to be used.

We hear a lot about the critical need to reduce class sizes. An experiment in Tennessee of classroom size reduction found that schools could improve achievement by half as much—5 percentile points—by shrinking class size in early grades. But class size reduction of the magnitude considered in that experiment is expensive: shrinking average class size from twenty-two to sixteen students per class would require a 38 percent increase in the number of teachers and the amount of classroom space in those early grades.

Progressive doctrine has severely damaged our educational system. It is time to bring teaching into the twenty-first century where competition drives improvement and over-regulation is the enemy of progress.