Day By Day

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Good President [continued] -- Education

I well remember how, during the last administration, friends of mine who were professional educators would become almost incandescent when the subject of President Bush's educational reform, "No Child Left Behind", came up. Their contempt for him was boundless. It did no good to point out that the sponsor of the bill was Senator Kennedy [whom they cherished as a great friend of education] or that there was overwhelming public support for accountability, or that rises in expenditure on education had not been matched by gains in student performance for some time and something clearly had to be done. No, they were adamant in their insistence that Bush's reforms were ruining the educational system.

And they were wrong. Enough time has now passed to see the results of Bush's reforms. Writing in the New Republic, Jonathan Cohn notes that tests show that "Bush's vilified education law works".
NCLB’s vision of school reform may be blinkered, and [formerly failing schools] owe [recent] success as much to... gifted staff as... to any outside force. But, as even [hostile] educators admit, NCLB changed the way they taught and led them to reach some of the children who might have otherwise fallen behind.
In other words, score another one for Dubya. Once again he was right, and his critics were wrong. And even Democrats, like the writers at the New Republic, are forced to admit it.

More and more history is vindicating George W. Bush, but so deeply has the Democrat campaign narrative been embedded in our political culture that emerging truth is unlikely to have much impact on people's attitudes regarding one of our best and least appreciated presidents.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Public Sector Unions are Different

David Brooks explains why public sector unions are quite different from the old industrial unions.
[P]ublic sector unions and private sector unions are very different creatures. Private sector unions push against the interests of shareholders and management; public sector unions push against the interests of taxpayers. Private sector union members know that their employers could go out of business, so they have an incentive to mitigate their demands; public sector union members work for state monopolies and have no such interest.

Private sector unions confront managers who have an incentive to push back against their demands. Public sector unions face managers who have an incentive to give into them for the sake of their own survival. Most important, public sector unions help choose those they negotiate with. Through gigantic campaign contributions and overall clout, they have enormous influence over who gets elected to bargain with them, especially in state and local races.

As a result of these imbalanced incentive structures, states with public sector unions tend to run into fiscal crises. They tend to have workplaces where personnel decisions are made on the basis of seniority, not merit. There is little relationship between excellence and reward, which leads to resentment among taxpayers who don’t have that luxury. 
Divisiveness, resentment, fiscal crises, poor performance, unaccountability, corruption of the political process..., all these inevitably result over time from the establishment of public sector unions. Silent Cal knew this. So, too, did Reagan. We must learn from their example. 

UPDATE:

Jonah Goldberg explains why public employee unions should  be broken here.

Pascal Bruckner on "The Tyranny of Guilt"

Bruckner explains the terrible consequences of wallowing in collective guilt.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Latest in Evolutionary Science

Want to know the latest nuances in evolution theory? Why is "Ardi's" status as a human ancestor being challenged? Why is the "Out of Africa" narrative crumbling? How much of evolutionary "science" simply a reflection of sociological imperatives within the profession? Check out this dialogue between Razib Kahn and Milford Wolpoff and be informed.

Rummy Speaks Out

Here is video of Don Rumsfeld's interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell. It is classic Rummy. She hits him with every loopy left-wing theory about Iraq and he easily swats them down. She's an experienced interviewer, but he has her completely flummoxed. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Revolutionaries

Tina Rosenberg has a fascinating piece in Foreign Policy on CANVAS, a group of Serbian activists who have been training dissidents to foment democratic revolutions throughout the world. If her assertions are true, the wave of revolutions currently sweeping through the Arab world are far more closely coordinated than generally recognized and are part of a much larger democratic impulse affecting authoritarian regimes throughout the world. Their roots lie not in 1848, or in the collapse of the Soviet empire, or in the enthusiasms unleashed by President Bush's liberation of Iraq, but in Serbia in the late 1990's. I'm skeptical, but it's an interesting perspective.

Read it here.

Freeman Dyson on Science

Writing in the New York Review of Books one of the greatest scientific minds of the past century argues:


The public has a distorted view of science, because children are taught in school that science is a collection of firmly established truths. In fact, science is not a collection of truths. It is a continuing exploration of mysteries. Wherever we go exploring in the world around us, we find mysteries. Our planet is covered by continents and oceans whose origin we cannot explain. Our atmosphere is constantly stirred by poorly understood disturbances that we call weather and climate. The visible matter in the universe is outweighed by a much larger quantity of dark invisible matter that we do not understand at all. The origin of life is a total mystery, and so is the existence of human consciousness. We have no clear idea how the electrical discharges occurring in nerve cells in our brains are connected with our feelings and desires and actions.

Even physics, the most exact and most firmly established branch of science, is still full of mysteries.... Science is the sum total of a great multitude of mysteries. It is an unending argument between a great multitude of voices. It resembles Wikipedia much more than it resembles the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Dyson has come in for a lot of criticism, and was subjected to a classic New York Times hatchet job, lately because he has resisted the orthodox position on global warming, but his view of the nature of science is far superior to that of his critics. Read the whole thing here


The Silk Road at Penn


If you are in Philadelphia next month you might want to check out a wonderful exhibit at the University Museum. "Secrets of the Silk Road" is a wonder to behold. Unfortunately a featured element of the exhibit, the "Beauty of Xiahoe" has been removed at the request of the Chinese government. The problem: the "Beauty" [pictured above] is quite obviously caucasian and is visual evidence of the fact that the ancient inhabitants of Western China were not Chinese, something that the current regime wants to suppress.

There is a lecture series that accompanies the exhibit. Some of these are already online and can be viewed here.


Monday, February 21, 2011

American Manufacturing

Most Americans are strongly convinced that America's manufacturing sector is in steep decline, largely because businesses are shipping production overseas. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Jeff Jacoby explains:


There’s just one problem with all the gloom and doom about American manufacturing. It’s wrong.
Americans make more “stuff’’ than any other nation on earth, and by a wide margin. According to the United Nations’ comprehensive database of international economic data, America’s manufacturing output in 2009 (expressed in constant 2005 dollars) was $2.15 trillion. That surpassed China’s output of $1.48 trillion by nearly 46 percent. China’s industries may be booming, but the United States still accounted for 20 percent of the world’s manufacturing output in 2009 — only a hair below its 1990 share of 21 percent.
....

In fact, Americans manufactured more goods in 2009 than the Japanese, Germans, British, and Italians — combined.

American manufacturing output hits a new high almost every year. US industries are powerhouses of production: Measured in constant dollars, America’s manufacturing output today is more than double what it was in the early 1970s.
So why all the gloom and doom?

The reason is that manufacturing jobs are disappearing, but that is not due to globalization. Rather it is a result of productivity gains resulting from technological innovation. American manufacturers these days can produce more stuff with fewer workers than they did in the past. Moreover they are producing far more sophisticated things than they were in the past. The old, obsolete labor intensive factories are gone or going, but they are being replaced by high-tech production facilities.
A vast amount of “stuff’’ is still made in the USA, albeit not the inexpensive consumer goods that fill the shelves in Target or Walgreens. American factories make fighter jets and air conditioners, automobiles and pharmaceuticals, industrial lathes and semiconductors. Not the sort of things on your weekly shopping list? Maybe not. But that doesn’t change economic reality. They may have “clos[ed] down the textile mill across the railroad tracks.’’ But America’s manufacturing glory is far from a thing of the past.
This is an important distinction that has to be made clear before the public can have a rational and informed discussion on the state of the American economy. Too bad that unscrupulous politicians choose to obscure and distort, rather than to clarify, the real issues at stake.

Read the whole piece here.


"Silenced Cal"

Amity Shlaes, who is writing a book on him, outlines the argument for considering Calvin Coolidge to be one of the greatest of American presidents and explains why "liberals" have worked so hard to erase the nation's memory of just how good he was. Read it here.


Friday, February 18, 2011

The Anti-Tolkien

A Russian scientist and Tolkien fan decided to write an alternative version of "Lord of the Rings" told from the side of Mordor. It has been around for years, but because of copyright limitations was not available in English until recently. Now an English translation of the Russian original is available for free online. You can download it here. Sauron as an enlightened ruler? Interesting.

Wisconsin Updates

Anyone interested in following the ongoing events in Wisconsin as public employees unions revolt against the new governor's budget plans should visit Ann Althouse's site [here]. She is based in Madison and is updating and offering shrewd observations on the ruckus.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thinking About JEB

John Miller makes the case, based upon his solid track record as Florida governor and his performance since leaving office, for seriously considering Jeb Bush as a Republican candidate for president in 2012.

Check it out here.

We could do a lot worse. Chris Christie is getting all the headlines, but in many ways Bush's term of office in Florida prefigured what Christie is doing now.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I Wonder How This Is Going to Affect TV Coverage of the Arab Revolt

CBS TV Reporter Sexually Assaulted in Cairo
(CBSNews)  

On Friday, Feb. 11, the day Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a "60 Minutes" story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy.
In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently in the hospital recovering.

I wonder what they would have done if CNN's Anderson Cooper had proudly proclaimed himself to be gay.

"The People" are not always the heroic masses you think they are.

Check out this response by liberal/left scholar and MSM commentator, Nir Rosen. Absolutely disgusting!

Barak Obama Explained




What interests me about this is that not long ago I heard many of these very same arguments from a former high-level Washington bureaucrat.

Tunisia Update -- Voting With Their Feet

Tunisians are voting with their feet on the results of the "Jasmine revolution". AP reports:
LAMPEDUSA, Italy (AP) - A month after massive protests ousted Tunisia's longtime dictator, waves of Tunisians are voting with their feet, fleeing the country's political limbo by climbing into rickety boats and sailing across the Mediterranean to Europe.

More than 5,000 illegal immigrants have recently washed up on Italy's southern islands - an unintended consequence of the "people's revolution" that ousted autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and inspired the uprisings in Egypt and beyond.

European powers cheered when Tunisia's 74-year-old ruler fled into exile in Saudi Arabia on Jan. 14, but the fallout a month later has tempered their enthusiasm. It has also exposed a dilemma for western countries that allied with repressive leaders in North Africa seen as bulwarks against extremism, and now must build new diplomatic relationships in a still-uncertain political climate.
This is precisely what Prof. Ferguson was warning when he appeared yesterday on MSNBC. The smug assertions by the hosts that the Egypt crisis was a triumph for the Obama administration were far too early and were unwarranted. The situation is still quite uncertain and very bad things could easily happen and there are many reasons to believe that they will. Young people are very good at tearing things down. They aren't very good at building things up. 

The fact that people are leaving post-revolutionary Tunisia in droves points up the uncertainty of the situation. By the measures applied by the MSM Tunisia's bloodless revolution was a complete success, driving out a corrupt and authoritarian leader. But what is to replace Ben Ali? We don't know. And the economic problems that contributed mightily to the revolutionary situation have not been addressed. That is why so many Tunisians are taking to their boats and moving north. They are not fleeing political repression. They are worried about the future and are seeking refuge in the relatively stable lands to the north.


Monday, February 14, 2011

George Shearing RIP

From AP:


NEW YORK – Sir George Shearing, the ebullient jazz pianist who wrote the standard "Lullaby of Birdland" and had a string of hits both with and without his quintet, has died. He was 91.
Shearing, blind since birth, died early Monday morning in Manhattan of congestive heart failure, his longtime manager Dale Sheets said.

 Read the full notice here.

Here he is playing his greatest hit, Lullaby of Birdland



Aaaaaaaahhhh, thats nice!

Obama the Inept

Niall Ferguson unloads on our hapless young president in this week's Newsweek.


“The statesman can only wait and listen until he hears the footsteps of God resounding through events; then he must jump up and grasp the hem of His coat, that is all.” Thus Otto von Bismarck, the great Prussian statesman who united Germany and thereby reshaped Europe’s balance of power nearly a century and a half ago.

Last week, for the second time in his presidency, Barack Obama heard those footsteps, jumped up to grasp a historic opportunity … and missed it completely.

In Bismarck’s case it was not so much God’s coattails he caught as the revolutionary wave of mid-19th-century German nationalism. And he did more than catch it; he managed to surf it in a direction of his own choosing. The wave Obama just missed—again—is the revolutionary wave of Middle Eastern democracy. It has surged through the region twice since he was elected: once in Iran in the summer of 2009, the second time right across North Africa, from Tunisia all the way down the Red Sea to Yemen. But the swell has been biggest in Egypt, the Middle East’s most populous country.

In each case, the president faced stark alternatives. He could try to catch the wave, Bismarck style, by lending his support to the youthful revolutionaries and trying to ride it in a direction advantageous to American interests. Or he could do nothing and let the forces of reaction prevail. In the case of Iran, he did nothing, and the thugs of the Islamic Republic ruthlessly crushed the demonstrations. This time around, in Egypt, it was worse. He did both—some days exhorting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to leave, other days drawing back and recommending an “orderly transition.”
 
The result has been a foreign-policy debacle.
Devastating analysis. Read the whole thing here.

Basically, the problem with Obama's foreign policy is the same as with his domestic programs. He just doesn't have a clear understanding of the goals or the mechanisms of government. Nothing in his background prepared him for governance -- certainly not the elite education he received -- and when confusion inevitably results he, as he did in the Senate, simply votes "present". His instinct is to straddle, to shift responsibility away from himself, and to studiously avoid the hard work of acquiring a significant understanding of the issues with which history presents him. Even when he has a clear goal, as in the case of establishing a national health system, he turns the whole matter over to others [in that case Congressional Democrats] who pursue their own ends, not his. This is a man who cannot, or will not, take charge. Prof. Ferguson has his number.

Here is Ferguson explaining his position to a largely hostile audience on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" show.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy




Sunday, February 13, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Liberal Foreign Policy Explained

Don't Tangle with Sarah

and expect support from conservatives.


That's the lesson Rick Santorum learned this week when he attacked Sarah Palin. Here's how the audience at CPAC responded. They stayed away from his presentation in droves. Rick has become the "nowhere man" of the convention.

HT to William Jacobson

The Future of Carthage

Richard Miles has a piece in the Guardian on attempts to recover the heritage of ancient Carthage, and how they have been frustrated by the corrupt government of former Tunisian leader, Ben Ali [here].


We recently visited the site of Carthage and the problem is quite apparent. This first picture is of the outer harbor of Carthage. As you can see it is ringed by mansions housing the nation's elite.


And here is the famed circular Carthaginian war harbor with the Byrsa hill in the background. On the Byrsa there is a relatively small excavation illustrating the nature of the old settlement, but although the area has long been declared a UN World Heritage Site, it has been overbuilt by elite residences housing family and political allies of Ben Ali. In the process an immense amount of the nation's cultural heritage passed into private hands/  Now that the regime has been overthrown archaeologists have new hopes that much of that heritage can be reclaimed.


Saturday, February 05, 2011

Sarah Palin Honors Ronald Reagan


Sarah Palin speaks at the Young America's Foundation ceremony honoring Ronald Reagan. It's a good speech, well worth listening to.





British Sense and Sensibilities

The politically correct insanity that has gripped so much of the Western world is slowly but surely coming to an end as leaders begin to realize that government embodying the diverse imperatives of multicultural relativism is unworkable. David Cameron recently made some interesting remarks on the subject:

David Cameron has criticised "state multiculturalism" in his first speech as prime minister on radicalisation and the causes of terrorism.

At a security conference in Munich, he argued the UK needed a stronger national identity to prevent people turning to all kinds of extremism.

He also signalled a tougher stance on groups promoting Islamist extremism.

The speech angered some Muslim groups, while others queried its timing amid an English Defence League rally in the UK.

As Mr Cameron outlined his vision, he suggested there would be greater scrutiny of some Muslim groups which get public money but do little to tackle extremism.
Ministers should refuse to share platforms or engage with such groups, which should be denied access to public funds and barred from spreading their message in universities and prisons, he argued.

"Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism," the prime minister said.


...

"Let's properly judge these organisations: Do they believe in universal human rights - including for women and people of other faiths? Do they believe in equality of all before the law? Do they believe in democracy and the right of people to elect their own government? Do they encourage integration or separatism?

"These are the sorts of questions we need to ask. Fail these tests and the presumption should be not to engage with organisations."

That's precisely right. No polity can tolerate the activities of groups that seek to destroy or seriously undermine its essential values and forms. Anglo-American liberalism is based on specific sets of values and its representatives should proudly and determinedly assert those values and strenuously resist attempts to undermine them. It is good to see that PM Cameron has finally shown a willingness to embrace the core values of his nation's political culture. Sense is finally beginning to be asserted against the welter of conflicting sensibilities, and often destructive sensibilities that the multicultualists seem to treasure.

Read about it here.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Haters


The "Climate of Hate Blog" Required reading. Absolutely! It documents who the real haters are.Warning, you have to have a strong stomach to view what passes for sophisticated humor or political commentary on the Left.

Check it out here.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Lies of the Left -- Sarah Palin: Truthteller

James Taranto writes:
Americans never bought the bill of goods that Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and their supporters in the formerly mainstream media tried to sell. A good deal of the credit goes to Sarah Palin, for coining the phrase "death panel" in an August 2009 Facebook post.
Four months later PolitiFact.com, a project of the left-leaning St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, named the phrase "lie of the year":
Her assertion--that the government would set up boards to determine whether seniors and the disabled were worthy of care--spread through newscasts, talk shows, blogs and town hall meetings. Opponents of health care legislation said it revealed the real goals of the Democratic proposals. Advocates for health reform said it showed the depths to which their opponents would sink. Still others scratched their heads and said, "Death panels? Really?"
In truth, PolitiFact was more vulnerable to the charge of lying than Palin was, for its highly literal, out-of-context interpretation of her words was at best extremely tendentious. What she wrote was this:
The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
Palin put the term "death panel" in quotes to indicate that she was using it figuratively. She was not lying but doing just the opposite: conveying a fundamental truth about ObamaCare.

So the lying Left branded the truth-teller as a "liar" and the MSM swallowed the lie uncritically. Just another day in liberal-land.

Read the whole piece here.


"Kill the Bastards"

A frightening view into the "Progressive" mindset.




Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Samuelson Speaks Sense

Public discussion of the current economic crisis quickly resolved itself into competing morality tales and universal finger pointing. That is to be expected in mass media driven democratic political culture. But the blame game has obscured the deeper, and much more disturbing, lessons that should be drawn from our current predicament. He writes:
In some ways, the boom-bust story is both more innocent and more disturbing than the standard explanations of blundering and wrongdoing. It does not excuse the financial excesses, policy mistakes, economic miscalculations, deceits, and crimes that contributed to the collapse. But it does provide a broader explanation and a context. People were conditioned by a quarter-century of good economic times to believe that we had moved into a new era of reliable economic growth. Homeowners, investors, bankers, and economists all suspended disbelief. Their heady assumptions fostered a get-rich-quick climate in which wishful thinking, exploitation, and illegality flourished. People took shortcuts and thought they would get away with them. In this sense, the story is more understandable and innocent than the standard tale of calculated greed and dishonesty.


But the story is also more disturbing in that it batters our faith that modern economics—whether of the Left or Right—can protect us against great instability and insecurity. The financial panic and subsequent Great Recession have demonstrated that the advances in economic management and financial understanding that supposedly protected us from violent business cycles—ruling out another Great Depression—were oversold, exposing us to larger economic reversals than we thought possible. It’s true that we’ve so far avoided another depression, but it was a close call, and the fact that all the standard weapons (low interest rates, huge government budget deficits) have already been deployed leaves open the disquieting question of what would happen if the economic system again lurched violently into reverse. The economic theorems and tools that we thought could forewarn and protect us are more primitive than we imagined. We have not traveled so far from the panic-prone economies of 1857, 1893, and 1907 as we supposed.
Finally, he notes that the simple pursuit of prosperity holds within itself the seeds of its own destruction. This is not to assert some simplistic Marxist belief in the "contradictions of capitalism" but to point out that prosperity is not, and cannot be, a permanent condition. Booms create busts.

There is much more to Samuelson's essay. It's worth reading in full. Check it out here.

Discussing Obamacare With A Liberal

Saying Stupid Things

An Arab response to how Egypt is being reported in the Western media. There are a lot of people saying really stupid things on the air.

Read it here.