30 April 2008

Voter ID Law Upheld

It’s good to hear that there is common sense on the US Supreme Court. This week, the Court upheld a voter ID law in my home state of Indiana. The law requires voters to show some form of government ID prior to voting. If that can’t be accomplished, a person can fill out a provisional ballot and come back within ten days with a valid ID. What’s more, Indiana offers free picture IDs for folks who don’t drive. It seems like a no-brainer. Six of the Supreme Court justices thought it was a no-brainer as well.

While dissenting views on the court claimed that voter the ID law would, according to Justice Souter, “[deter] poorer residents from exercising the franchise.” I guess he didn’t hear the whole free picture ID portion of the case. Justice Souter also claimed that “[a] state may not burden the right to vote merely by invoking abstract interests, be they legitimate, or even compelling”. I’m not sure where the right to vote comes from. I don’t believe there is one. Be that as it may, having a valid ID is not a burden for anyone, regardless of income, education level, or age. Considering it a burden is itself invoking a disputable, abstract concept – the idea that it is the burden of the state to prove a voter is who he says he is.

There is no right to vote. Voting is both a privilege and a responsibility. It is far from unreasonable to expect citizens to bear the responsibility of proving they are who they claim to be in order to exercise their voting privilege. Thankfully, six of the nine Supreme Court Justices judged the Indiana voter ID law in the same manner.

Limited Government

Limited government is the subject of the March ’08 issue of Imprimus. Charles R. Kesler gives a sound defense of limited government. It’s not a long piece, and it is a must read for anyone concerned with our seeming tendency toward unlimited government and entitlements (and “rights”, for that matter).

I highly recommend Imprimus to anyone who likes good brain food. A link to the Imprimus home page is here.

29 April 2008

Throwing a Flag at Obama

A yellow flag, that is. Fifteen yards for “you gotta be kidding me”. Or better, to use a hockey reference, a five-minute major for bull (which is, incidentally, not a penalty in hockey).

Senator Obama now says, according to numerous sites (CBS News for this one), “I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened by the spectacle that we saw yesterday…what became clear to me was that he was presenting a world view that contradicts what I am and what I stand for.” What was said over the past few days by Mr. Wright didn’t differ much from what has been reported before Mr. Obama’s “historic” speech on the matter – which oddly turned into a speech on lots of things.

Then, Mr. Obama claimed quite clearly and distinctly near the beginning of his race opus, that he could “no more disown [Mr. Wright] than I can disown the black community”. Mr. Obama then went on to make all kinds of excuses for Mr. Wright’s behavior and views. Or perhaps Mr. Obama was making excuses for what he had heard from some news report might be Mr. Wright’s views. After only twenty years in Mr. Wrights congregation, are we really to believe that this was all news to Mr. Obama?

I don’t think so.

If Mr. Obama did not know what his pastor’s views were on a wide range of subjects, then he was either hopelessly naïve or posing for political expedience. Or, he really does share Mr. Wright’s views. Mr. Obama would have the electorate believe that he was naïve. Not a sound quality for a potential president. That Mr. Obama did not speak out about his complete disagreement with Mr. Wright – the same man he could not disown just a month ago – suggests something else.

I agree with commentary on tonight’s “Special Report” program on Fox News. What Mr. Obama is really upset about is Mr. Wright calling him out for being a politician – one who does what is politically expedient. And I find myself in the odd position of agreeing with Mr. Wright on just that matter. As days go by and events transpire, Mr. Obama is an empty suit – or worse, one filled with who knows what – spewing platitudes of “hope” and “change”, but who is really just seeking power.

27 April 2008

Ayers and Education

The more I read about William Ayers, the less I care to know more about him. Like most folks outside of the Chicago area, I thought Mr. Ayers’ big thing in life was perpetrating terrorism as a Weatherman. Recently, though, I’ve learned about his role in teacher education at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

According to an article in the City Journal, Ayers promotes a syllabus that demands teachers “be aware of the social and moral universe we inhabit and” and to “be a teacher capable of hope and struggle, outrage and action, a teacher teaching for social justice and liberation.”

Strange. I’ve always thought that being a teacher was about giving students the tools of language and logic with which to practice life-long learning. And while teachers must be aware of social and moral norms of their society (many of which, I dare say, would not equate to those of Mr. Ayers), these do not – and should not – lead to struggle, outrage, or action by the teacher.

Thankfully, I’ve never knowingly read one of Mr. Ayers’ teacher preparation text books. It is more than sad that too many have. Sad and dangerous. The “liberation” that Mr. Ayers pushes is nothing of the sort. What Mr. Ayers would have students (and teachers) liberated from is personal accountability, as all personal woes are the result of social injustice.

For a good read of education lessons and prescriptions for change, try an article by Chester E. Finn, Jr. in the Wall Street Journal. His view of the road ahead with regard to education reform does not revolve around liberation or social justice. Mr. Finn comes to some concrete conclusions which are, to say the least, logical and realistic. What’s more, Mr. Finn’s conclusions do not appear to cost more money nor do they advise universal panacea.

Post Script: For more on the Ayers / Obama relationship, an opinion article from the Boston Globe and another from Hugh Hewitt on Townhall.

Meet the Protestors

Originally posted on the American Thinker website.

It is no big surprise that there have been protests after the New York police officers in the Bell case were acquitted. There will be more, Mr. Sharpton assures the world. Indeed, there will be. And it is instructive to look at just what groups are supporting the protests. Thanks to the internet, finding out this information is quite easy.

First, one has to find pictures of the protests. That's as easy as a Google search for news images. One recurring photo from Reuters which I found in the Sydney Morning Herald, calls for the city to "Jail Racist Killer Cops" - never mind that some of the cops were the same race as Mr. Bell. The interesting thing really is at the bottom of the sign. It is the web address of the organization giving material support to the protestors. In this case, it's the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

Thankfully, the reader doesn't have to go very deep into the PSL's website to figure out the group's stance on matters. If the picture of Che Guevara on the top left corner of the front page doesn't give it away, the columns in support of China (oddly clothed in the double-negative "oppose the anti-China campaign") are clear indicators of the group's politics. Oh, and there's the coverage of the Winter Solider proceedings as well - in video format.

It would be instructive to find out just how many of those protestors know whose banner they are carrying. My guess is that most of them have no clue that they are walking advertisements for socialists. But as Orwell so aptly illustrated in Animal Farm, the crowd doesn't necessarily know how - or in this case, what - to read.

25 April 2008

The Company One Keeps, Part II

I expect this will become an ever-growing series. Frontpage is reporting that Hatem al-Hady, once chairman of the KindHearts “charity”, is a fundraiser and friend of the Obamas. KindHearts “was closed by the US government in February 2006 for terrorist fundraising and all its assets frozen.” KindHearts is a spin-off of the Holy Land Foundation, which was also closed by the feds and whose key players were charged with multiple counts including providing material support for terrorists.

As far as KindHearts goes, the Treasury Department press release claims:

“In addition to providing support to Hamas in Lebanon, KindHearts reportedly provides support to Hamas in the West Bank.”

“KindHearts founder and president Smaili told a Texas-based associate that his organization was raising funds to support the Palestinian Intifada.”

“Mohammed El-Mezain, who coordinated KindHearts' fundraising, is a former [Holy Land Foundation] official indicted by a federal grand jury in Dallas, Texas on charges of providing material support to Hamas.”

So through al-Hady, Obama has links to folks who fund terrorists. More terrorists. Don’t’ forget about the FARC article from last month. And his willingness to meet without preconditions with Ahmadinejad. And his two-step regarding Mr. Carter’s ego-centric diplomacy-of-one with Hamas. And his long friendship with Mr. Ayers, the former and still unrepentant Weatherman. And his 20-year attendance in the pews of Mr. Wright.

It all adds up to a man – Mr. Obama – who was anointed without being vetted. Obama-maniacs swooned over his smooth manner and the media largely ignored any and every non-slogan aspect of his candidacy. Now the Democrat party may well be stuck with someone who is wholly unelectable.

With the kinds of company that Mr. Obama keeps, one wonders what kinds of advisors he would have as president. An Ayers? A al’Hady? What is awfully scary is that our country may end up stuck with a man who is quite suspect. Our country might end up with a president who really does want to fundamentally change our country – and not for the betterment of what regular Americans call freedom and liberty.

23 April 2008

Ethics in War

I recently got an email with an important article attached. The article, “When Teaching the Ethics of War is Not Academic”, is by a professor at the US Naval Academy. His thoughts on morality, the warrior code, and fighting a morally reprehensible enemy are all important ideas not only for those in the military, but for all Americans. Whereas some would prefer an America bitterly divided against itself – and thereby render the country less powerful, less influential – I think most Americans would prefer a strong, confident country that is defended by a militarily and morally strong warrior class.

As always, your feedback is welcome.

More Inconvenient Truths

Just when I worry that the “Global Warming / Climate Change” crowd has really gained significant influence among everyday folks, a Gallup poll comes out to suggest otherwise. From Fox News: “On this Earth Day 2008, a new Gallup Poll finds that only about one-third of Americans say they worry a great deal about global warming — roughly the same percentage as in a similar poll 19 years ago.” So much for all of the movie madness, IPCC papers, and celebrity appeal.

And just for the record, the number one environmental problem according to poll respondents is water pollution. Didn’t I just mention that in a recent post? Alas, water pollution doesn’t have the far-off apocalyptic appeal of “climate change”, so it doesn’t warrant Gore’s millions.

And speaking of Mr. Gore, it seems that his “documentary” has at least one demonstrable bit of fiction in it. His “documentary” used computer generated shots right out of the movie The Day After Tomorrow (which is itself a preposterous film). Of course, the Oscar for a documentary will not be taken away despite the fact that Mr. Gore’s movie is not a documentary at all. A documentary, by definition, should “[recreate] an actual event, era, life story, etc., that purports to be factually accurate and contains no fictional elements.” Now, that definition doesn’t seem to fit Mr. Gore’s bit of fiction, does it?

20 April 2008

The Company One Keeps

Much has been made – and for good reason – of the kinds of folks that Senator Obama associates with. The Jeremiah Wright issue, the Rezko link, FARC (all of which I’ve written about before) will at some point demand more substantial answers than Mr. Obama has given to date.

And with Mr. Obama’s comments in San Francisco, it appears that perhaps…just perhaps…more folks are taking notice of his doublespeak. Michael Barone takes a good look at this. Victor Davis Hanson does as well.

The Ayer’s link is still coming to the foreground and may do serious damage to the presumptive Democrat candidate. Association with a known and unrepentant terrorist should not, I would hope, result in a net positive for any presidential candidate. It sure hasn’t worked out for former president Carter.

Ready for College?

From EdNews, an article out yesterday discusses the issue that somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 percent of graduating high schoolers are not prepared for college English. The article asks an interesting question:

Why should students, who jump all the required hurdles, in Massachusetts, Texas and California (and elsewhere) to be awarded a high school diploma in a graduation ceremony, find, when they enter the college to which they have been accepted and for which they believe themselves to have been academically prepared, that 37% or 46% or more of them, are judged not capable of college-level work and must enroll in remedial courses in order to (again) earn a place in college?
I’ll give two answers. First, the expectation that most students need to get a college education is misplaced. When asked why most (or all) students need to get a college degree, two reasons which are generally given are higher individual income and that it produces a more rounded individual. Both are somewhat false arguments. Income does not equal a happier or more moral person. Becoming well rounded does not require sitting in a university classroom for four years after high school – rather it is a product of life-long learning. The bottom line is that most high school graduates do not need to go to college; most would probably be better off educationally and financially attending vocational training. That they do go to college is more a result of money.

The economy of colleges and universities is, I believe, the reason why most high school graduates are expected to go to college. More students equal more income for colleges, and students’ buying power is heavily subsidized by student loans. That income is supplemented by direct and indirect government subsidies in the form of tax breaks and tax exempt endowments. If students have to take remedial courses in order to be prepared for the work, then that is all the better for the college.

If we teach our students how to think logically and how to convey those thoughts, then students will be prepared to be life-long learners. If that road then leads them to college, all the better. They will be fairly well prepared for it. If it doesn’t, they are still apt to be life-long learners. That (as the article mentions) students are too often pushed to emote (even in math and science classes) rather than think critically belies a problem with overall approaches toward education. All students emote – it’s easy. The easy is the enemy of learning and it will not prepare students for life-long learning, let alone college.

19 April 2008

A Possible Teacher Exodus?

Some interesting statistics are out from Sam Houston State University, as reported in an article in the Dallas Morning News today. In short, here are the interesting points (only slightly reworded from the article for grammatical purposes):

1. 44 percent of teachers are seriously thinking about quitting their teaching jobs.
2. [The average teacher] puts in 13.4 hours a week at home doing additional schoolwork.
3. 21 percent cited low salaries [as]… why they are considering leaving the profession.
4. 42 percent cited poor working conditions as…why they are considering leaving the profession.

The troubling result cited above concerns poor working conditions. While I was unable to find a more detailed report of the 2008 findings, I was able to dig up those from 2000. The important number: “Fifty-seven percent [of respondents] say their worst problem is discipline.” While I realize that I’m not on exactly firm logical ground here, it stands to reason that the 42 percent in 2008 who cited “poor working conditions” would probably include poor student discipline as a reason for those working conditions. They may, indeed, cite student discipline as the major reason.

I would say that, given the above, that by in large, teachers as a whole are not the problem with education – at least in the state of Texas. Surely, there are individual cases of teachers who simply do not do the job. That is true of every profession.

However, education is somewhat unique in that the “customer” – the student – is also the “product”. If the student chooses regularly to damage himself, then the “product” will be seriously flawed; the student will not have learned what is required of him. What’s more, individual students have an effect on each other. Destructive students do not only damage themselves, but also create flaws in the students around them.

What is a teacher’s responsibility with regard to such determined self-destructive “products”? Indeed, the increasing expectation is that all students, regardless of motivation, must be “learned” by the teacher. (I purposefully do not use “taught” here.) Increasing focus on teachers “learning” their students will not result in better educated students. Students can be taught, but they must learn, essentially, on their own. Or, to quote Dr. Seuss, “You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.”

By placing the responsibility for learning primarily on teachers, our public school system exposes a serious flaw within itself. It assumes that every child is equally receptive of learning, is equally motivated, and is equally capable. That 44 percent of Texas teachers are “seriously thinking about quitting” reveals, perhaps, just how serious those in the profession see that flaw.

17 April 2008

Food or Fuel?

I read the following on Boortz’s website and I just had to post it here. The source is the Telegraph, a Brit paper / website.

“The UN says it takes 232kg of corn to fill a 50-litre car tank with ethanol. That is enough to feed a child for a year.”

Just so the reader won't have to do any math in public, that's 511.5 pounds of corn to produce 13.2 gallons of ethanol.

Granted, I’m not really happy with the source there (the UN), but the statistic is quite intriguing. The false dilemma here is: do we drive or do we eat? The real question is how might the West best fulfill its energy needs? Does it make sense to use food to produce fuel? And, as an extended question, how much land should be devoted to “growing” fuel? What is lost and what is gained by taking food from its common purpose – feeding life – and using it to feed objects?

The Telegraph article has it right when it says, “world intelligentsia has been asleep at the wheel. While we rage over global warming, global hunger has swept in under the radar screen.” Global warming is the messiah…I mean the most important thing! In my previous post about pollution in China, a comment From Jack N. made essentially the same point. He commented, “Water pollution is old news…Circa 1970's I believe…The do-good\environmental wackos have cleaned up\protected all the water sources on the planet!”

I say beware of the environmental soup du jour. Beware even more when it appears that everyone, even those who ought to know better or who are usually quite skeptical, jump on the scientifically suspect bandwagon. Very little good will come of it.

16 April 2008

US is Not #1 (in CO2 Emissions)!

Monday, BBC News reported that China has become “the world’s biggest polluter” according to a study by the University of California. This is no real surprise. It was going to happen at some point. The research also “warns that unless China radically changes its energy policies, its increases in greenhouse gases will be several times larger than the cuts in emissions being made by rich nations under the Kyoto Protocol.” No surprise there. And to think that the US was, and is, criticized for not signing Kyoto, largely because the process did not include rapidly industrializing countries like China.

The crazy thing here – and there’s always at least a little bit of madness when it comes to “global warming” – is that the US might get tagged to help alleviate the pollution caused by rapid industrialization in China. “The Chinese - and the UN - insist that rich countries with high per capita levels of pollution must cut emissions first, and help poorer countries to invest in clean technology” (emphasis added). This is said due to the US having higher per capita pollution levels than China. But given populations, China would have to inject three times more pollutants into the environment to match US pollution levels. That won’t happen; I truly hope China never has three times the pollution levels of the US!

But it does make one wonder why an industrialized country, namely the US, would subsidize pollution reduction processes of another competing country, namely China, when the latter clearly has the money to accomplish pollution reduction itself. I suppose the “warm” answer is that because the US buys Chinese goods in such quantity, the US should also subsidize Chinese efforts against pollution. That answer presupposes two things: that dollars flowing east for trade are not, in effect, subsidies, and that the Chinese are interested in fighting pollution at all.

And lastly, from what I’ve read, the study only looks at carbon emissions. I’d be more interested to know about all types of pollution comparison between the US and China. It is telling that the demon of “global warming”, CO2, whose true effect is still unknown (excuse my blasphemy) is the focus of global studies and global news. Industrial waste in water supplies does not get a mention. I’ve heard anecdotal evidence of gross water pollution in industrializing countries, but I don’t have any hard facts. Perhaps that is where real news is at. But what do I know. I’m not a journalist.

13 April 2008

More From the Mouth of Obama

I couldn’t let the whole weekend go by without commenting on the growing strangeness that is Senator Obama’s self-declared beliefs. Not long ago the electorate learned of his long-term, deeply felt relationship with Jeremiah Wright. Then there was an off-hand comment about not wanting his daughter “punished with a baby” if she were to get pregnant as a teenager.

Now comes comments from Sen. Obama about bitter voters in Pennsylvania. Per an AP report:

The Huffington Post Web site reported Friday that Obama, speaking of some Pennsylvanians' economic anxieties, told supporters at the San Francisco fundraiser: "You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years. ... And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

What I find interesting here is not what others have called Mr. Obama’s condescending and elitist tone. What is interesting is his belief that the root cause of views he apparently doesn’t support is economic. One could reason, based on Mr. Obama’s statement, that if certain jobs had not be “gone now for 25 years” in Pennsylvania – or anywhere – that residents would not “cling” to ideas like the right to bear arms and religious conviction; they would not be single-issue voters.

Because, it seems, that everything has an economic root cause for the politician Obama, the electorate can reasonably expect him to attempt to change the economic workings of the US so that the economic root causes are alleviated. This almost certainly means economic redistribution, more restrictive trade policies and bigger government.

What Mr. Obama misses is that people have deep seated feelings about the right to bear arms, religion, and immigration and trade policy because they think about them a great deal. Voters don’t “cling” to these issues; they have concerns about these issues regularly. The issues themselves are important.

Perhaps it is easier and politically safer for candidate Obama to put all of these potentially explosive issues under an economic umbrella. Perhaps this is because the last time Mr. Obama discussed hot-button issues – religious belief and race relations – his true beliefs were shown to be more than unpalatable to the general public. Given the latest dose of the inner Obama, I wouldn’t be surprised or unhappy if he dropped even further in the electorate’s estimation. I’m not saying that he’s a bad or evil man. What I am saying is that, based on his beliefs, as far as I can decipher them, he should not be president of the United States.

Post Script: For an excellent take on the Obama verbal two-step, here's a Victor Davis Hansen artcile worth reading.

11 April 2008

What $440 Million Supports

If there is one compelling argument that the United Nations is just plain broken, it is the farce that is the United Nations Human Rights Council. It is the successor to the UN Commission on Human Rights. The Commission was dismantled, in part, because the Commission’s member states did not guarantee human rights for their own populations. Indeed many of them did not recognize basic human rights for their own populations. The Commission itself also had a habit of focusing its attention and condemnations on Israel while almost entirely avoiding all other nations’ records.

That the Council might be a serious reformation of the Commission was a long shot at best. That the Council didn’t really, to the outside casual observer, change a thing is not all that surprising. That the West doesn’t see the UN structure as a serious liability to Western representative democracy is puzzling.

The Council has taken, time and time again, special focus on the actions of Israel while either completely ignoring or giving lip service to abuses elsewhere, like Sri Lanka, Darfur, and to actions of groups like Hezbollah and various Palestinian elements.

So it should come as no surprise that the Commission’s next special investigator of Israel is Richard Falk. Mr. Falk has compared Israel’s actions against Palestinians in Gaza to those of the Nazis (which, incidentally, is the fallback criticism of choice when no serious argument is ventured). According to the BBC:

Speaking to the BBC, Professor Richard Falk said he believed that up to now Israel had been successful in avoiding the criticism that it was due.

Professor Falk said he drew the comparison between the treatment of Palestinians with the Nazi record of collective atrocity, because of what he described as the massive Israeli punishment directed at the entire population of Gaza.

He said he understood that it was a provocative thing to say, but at the time, last summer, he had wanted to shake the American public from its torpor.

One wonders that Mr. Falk might proclaim once he takes his position on the Commission in order to “shake” the world from its apparent “torpor” with regard to Israel’s horrific, unprovoked oppression of Palestinians.

But if the ever-growing, shameful legacy of the Commission’s focus on Israel isn’t enough to persuade, there is the recent resolution made by the Commission concerning “religious defamation.” The resolution, according to the International Herald Tribune, “refers frequently to protecting all religions, the only religion specified as being attacked is Islam, to which eight paragraphs refer.” With that as a background, the IHT reports that “[t]he resolution ‘urges states to take actions to prohibit the dissemination ... of racist and xenophobic ideas’ and material that would incite to religious hatred. It also urges states to adopt laws that would protect against hatred and discrimination stemming from religious defamation.”

All of that sounds like a resolution supporting implementation of international thought police courtesy of a UN body. That the resolution specifically singles out Islam for protection – not Judaism, Christianity or any other religion – is more than an offhand sleight. It is an extension of historical railing against Israel and, by extension, the West.

According to a recent AP report, the US is scheduled to pay 22% of the UN’s $2 billion annual budget. That’s $440 million in dues to an international institution which cannot even think about living up to its own charter. That money might indeed be better spent elsewhere.

09 April 2008

Looking Toward China

Back in February, I wrote the following (which I did not put on the blog):

Over the weekend [of 10 February], the Daily Mail reported that athletes from the UK will be required to sign an agreement that they will not badmouth Chinese human rights violations and other political issues during the upcoming Olympics. New Zealand and Belgium have done the same. Other countries “including the United States, Canada, Finland, and Australia” will not require the agreements; athletes from these countries can presumably say anything they choose.

This brings up issues of free speech and the proper place for political speech. It seems to me that, if an athlete were so inclined as to speak out against human rights violations in China, that athlete would be wise to use the Olympics as a sort of fact-finding trip. No doubt that Beijing will have its best face on, but there are crack in any façade. Find the cracks, snap a photo (since just about every electronic gadget has a camera now), snap a ton. Surely Chinese handlers won’t be able to stop every gaze on the not-so-pretty in their country. Then the athlete can come back home and analyze what was discovered. Then make a statement, with evidence found during the trip. All the while, the politically active athlete can still enjoy his or her “right to compete at the Olympics regardless of (insert non-relevant prejudice here)”.

This seems sensible to me. Why the Olympics, or any other sporting venue, is a place for individual political statement is really strange to me. At some point, I thought that political statements, in a vocal sense, would begin and end with chants of “U-S-A…U-S-A!” or singing a national song. Political statements of a more personal nature can be made on private time in a country that really does support freedom of speech responsibly.

After writing that, I got a particularly insightful response, which said in part that,
[t]here will be no visible human rights violations anywhere near Olympic sites…There are civil disturbances out in the sticks, by the tens of thousands a year. But people are not being whipped in the streets in Beijing. And how do you take a picture of the fact that no gatherings not controlled by the government are allowed?

Good points, indeed. Which is why, at the time, I didn’t put the post out.

Since then, the Chinese have done quite a job on Tibet. There are some calling for boycotts of at least the opening ceremonies. President Bush has said rather flatly that he can go to China and talk about human rights violations, specifically the lack of religious freedom. He says he’ll do that “prior to the Olympics, during the Olympics and after the Olympics”.

What the Tibet situation does is it highlights for all those who care to give interest that the Chinese are not interested in bending to international opinion. They will do it – whatever it is – their way. What’s more, most nations will not give a whit what China really does. Sure, protest. Sure, cause an uproar. The noise will die down and bumper sticker will fade.

In the end, China will probably best be moved by tying human rights considerations to economic and trade considerations. Tying Chinese interest in money to greater openness is worth a shot, though it will take many years to do much of anything. But then again, most things that are difficult take time.

07 April 2008

Random Monday Thoughts

The United Nations is a joke, and a tired one at that. The AP reports (IHT article) that, “Arab and Muslim countries defended Tuesday a resolution they pushed through at the United Nations to have the body's expert on free speech police individuals and news media for negative comments on Islam.” Welcome the international thought police. It would serve the reader well to know that the UN Human Rights Council was meant to replace an actively anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian human rights board. The change was in name only. Which begs the question: if a body is demonstrably unable to reform itself, what is to be done? Should the US and other Western democratic republics fund this body?

An example of a possible human rights violation that the UN Council might want to look into involves thugs attacking students and teachers at a high school in Sydney. Students were injured – thankfully none seriously – and property damaged. No word on the identity of the five attackers who were arrested, which makes one wonder if there’s something about their identities that, well, might make the PC-inclined squirm at whole episode. Incidentally, there are serious anti-gun laws in Australia. Thugs will always find weapons, baseball bats and machetes included.

Senator John McCain has said that his economic policy regarding the home lending crisis would be more “hands-off” than his Democrat rivals. "It is not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they are big banks or small borrowers," McCain said, according to the Seattle Times. And this is the guy who says he doesn’t know much about economics? That might really be a plus for him, and good for the country. More and more government intervention is not the answer.

General Petraeus will report before Congress this week. There will be more grandstanding and moaning from Congressmen who oppose the war in Iraq. Senator Clinton may say, again, that she has to suspend disbelief to listen to the General (if she can make it past the sniper fire). Sen. Reid and Speaker Pelosi will doubtless claim that they know more about war fighting and peacemaking than the good General. An electorate grown weary of bad news from Iraq may look for some more signs of hope, or reasons to leave and let the house (of cards?) fall. If Iraq has only one far reaching political effect, I hope that somehow we as a country come to a recognition of and agreement on the process for going to war; one which makes this continual “looking backward” less politically expedient.

That being said, I hope that General Petraeus’ testimony to Congress and to the people can be heard unvarnished and unhindered by political opportunism.

Thanks to the Chicago Blackhawks for a great season. In recent years, what can be called meaningful hockey – playing for a playoff spot – has been over after the first 2-3 months of the season. That Blackhawk fans were still talking about the playoffs as a possibility in early April was just fantastic. And thanks to new owner Rocky Wirtz, all games will be televised in the local Chicago area next year. Again, just fantastic.

05 April 2008

What Is “Climate Change” About?

I have to ask myself the above question every time I see an advertisement or a news story that claims that I – me, the singular person – can help “solve” climate change; I can “save the planet”. Is it a call for me, the individual, to internalize what Al Gore has made into his own pseudo-religion? Can I, the individual, be a mini-messiah, following the lead of the uber-green messiah Gore?

The thing is that when science and money collide, some fishy things happen. Mr. Gore has recently spearheaded a new “climate change” ad campaign to the tune of $300 million. The website associated with this campaign has an interesting logo – a “we” in a green circle, but the “w” is actually an inverted “m”. Me, we…all the same; me/we as part of the crowd, one of the self-chosen ones. Buy in. It only takes a minute to save the planet. All for the low price of $300 million.

When I see that price tag, I have to consider what would motivate a person or a group to spend so much money on something that cannot at this time be (really) proven and despite all evidence to the contrary. (I realize, as well, that the previous statement makes “climate change” sound even more like a religion, at least to a cynic.) The reason, I believe, must be either that there is more money in the prescribed “solution” or that there is a big power grab afoot. Or both. Carbon trading and offsets equals cash. Mr. Gore serving as a “climate czar” in an Obama administration equals power. Both are probably in the $300 million equation.

Yet there is recent evidence of temperatures edging lower. (Same evidence, different outlet – for those who are Fox News adverse.) What does this mean? Well, to the unscientifically inclined person like me, it seems the core message is one that leads away from manmade global warming. Sorry, “climate change”. There’s more to the climate changing than Mr. Gore and his followers would want us to believe. Perhaps $300 million can keep the blinders on.

As I said last year, global warming became – or rather was transformed into – “climate change” specifically to hedge the bet that the earth’s temperature would continue to rise. It hasn’t, but Mr. Gore and his band of believers got ahead of that game rhetorically. As long as the climate does in fact change, they can be perceived as being in the right. That our climate will indeed change ad infinitum, Mr. Gore can kick the “climate change” can around all he likes because every phenomenon fits his “theory”.

And as I’ve mentioned before, politicized science creates far more problems than it can ever solve. Mr. Gore’s politicized pseudo-science-religion is not about solving problems. Indeed, it appears to be a money and power grab; a maneuver made all the more effective by the now-established manipulation of language, the result of which is “climate change”. Up or down, Mr. Gore is calling the game, and he has $300 million on the table.

02 April 2008

Punishing Gaffe

I had to pick my jaw up off of the floor today when I stumbled across (on the American Thinker website, corroborated elsewhere) a comment made over the weekend by Senator Obama. He reportedly said:

"I've got two daughters, 9 years old and 6 years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby."
There are comments all around about the anti-life attitude of this comment. There are folks saying that Sen. Obama really is an advocate of on-demand abortions. I have a different take.

Sen. Obama would not want his daughters to be “punished” because, as we have seen from the senator already, all things are forgivable in the temporal world. A child would be a “punishment” because a child would be a lasting effect of a poor decision on the part of the parties involved – in the hypothetical case of Sen. Obama, one of his teenage daughters and some guy. No need for all of that if the “problem” can be solved, so to speak, more antiseptically.

I’m not one to claim omniscience, especially when it comes to a morally and ethically challenging topic like abortion. But I do believe that it can be said without doubt that a man who hopes to be the next president of the United States ought not view a child, planned or not, as a punishment. That equation is loaded with meaning. In the coming days, if this comment by the senator makes the news, there will be attempts to equivocate its meaning and the belief that underlies it. Please remember that words have meaning.

01 April 2008

Growing the Wrong Skills the Wrong Way?

This morning, I found an article from last week (through Boortz’s website) in which AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson says, "We're having trouble finding the numbers that we need with the skills that are required to do these jobs.”

And while Mr. Stephenson says, "We're able to do new product engineering in Bangalore as easily as we're able to do it in Austin, Texas," not all of the jobs his company has trouble filling are necessarily high-tech engineering jobs. According to the article, “many international companies have ‘outsourced’ technical and customer support workers.”

My question is, then, what skills need to be taught locally (read: in the US) so that our children can enjoy the benefits of relatively secure jobs? And really, I’m not being sarcastic here. There is absolutely nothing wrong – indeed there’s a lot right – with jobs involving technical support, help desk services, and the like. Sure they aren’t glamorous by any stretch of the imagination, but most jobs aren’t anyway.

The skills that might want to be pushed more are simple: reading comprehension, writing with clarity and purpose (and the slew of skills that undergird writing), math performance sans calculator, and proper, courteous behavior. These really aren’t too much to ask from a student who has 12 years of opportunity to achieve them.

What is not needed in great quantity is what I call “identity education”, which begs a student to define who they are, how they feel, what is important to them, etc. This type of education runs counter to the idea that students must learn (as they must) a certain foundation of knowledge. It certainly aims counter to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. And what’s more, there’s not a lot of marketability in “identity education” except for marketing the idea to others.

What is needed (I think Mr. Stephenson would agree here) are high school graduates who are trainable (they can comprehend spoken and written material), who can communicate (with numbers and words without constant supervision), and who have a developed – even somewhat minimally – sense of self accountability. And yet, numbers are published today showing that “three out of 10 US public school students do not graduate from high school, and major city school districts only graduate one out of two students, according to a study released [1 April 2008].” Somewhere, there is a serious disconnect – or rather, there are serious disconnects.

At some point, there will be a realization that the paradigm of education which is adhered to like toxic glue is damaging our country. I don’t pretend to have the answers; indeed, I do not believe there is one answer. So much of education today is “one size fits all” thanks to over-inflated notions of equality. For a very recent review of some “outside the box” approaches of how to run schools – individual schools – here’s an article from the Hoover Institute on how three different charter school types have brought about meaningful change. It is a bit of a read, but it is quite enlightening. And guess what? Each school’s approach is different! Now there’s an idea: meaningful diversity.