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Friday, August 18 2017 @ 05:51 AM CDT

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Three Years Ago: Re-engaging the world

On December 27, 2006, I posted:

I haven't been posting much lately--ever since the November election in fact.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, I really didn't have much to say.  Second, college basketball season was starting and that always provides me with a huge distraction (and, much entertainment) during the late fall and winter months.

But, with Christmas now behind, I'm beginning to re-engage with the world, and so to post my thoughts here.

The biggest thing I notice is how little changed with the U.S. election results.  The Jihadist threat remains, although Ethiopia is in the process of demonstrating in Somalia that the Jihadists have a very, very vulnerable glass jaw, should they be opposed determined resistance.  Of course, we know this, but our problem has always been that our resistance to Jihadist fascism is anything but determined.  The laughable Iraq Study Group report is a classic example of feckless appeasement.  We shall see if it is remembered in the same breath as Chamberlain's "peace in our time" prelude to a world war.

Elsewhere, Iran and Syria continue to make trouble.  Iranian agents have been detained in Iraq, and bombs and weapons of undisputed Iranian origin are routinely found in Iraq.  Yet, no one in power is willing to call Iran to account for these acts of war.  Syria and Hezbollah continue to work to destabilize Lebanon.  So far, the world is letting them do it.

Israel continues to send stronger and stronger signals that it will not tolerate a nuclear Iran.  Nobody is listening.

Meanwhile, the scandal-ridden Democrats are set to take power in Congress.  Too bad that nobody wanted to focus on Murtha, Jefferson, Hastings, and the rest of the corrupt Democrats, being so focused as they were on sending the corrupt Republicans home.

So, maybe it's time to get back to those Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVD's, House, Dr. Who, and Battlestar Galactica on TV, and those rascally Jackrabbits and oh so orange Lady Vols basketballers.  There's only so much "realism" you can take in one dose.
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Three Years Ago: Hope for the future

On November 8, 2006, I posted:

I hope the Democrats, now back in power in Congress, will grow up, sober up and start seriously engaging issues from Iraq to Social Security.  I hope they do not squander the next two years with a crippling anal examination of every aspect of the Bush Administration, but instead will want to move forward, keep this country safe, and fix the entitlements mess for which they are largely responsible.

I hope the Republicans ponder the fruits of abandoning the small-L libertarian smaller-government, lower-taxes, individual-empowerment philosophy which was central to their taking over Congress in 1994, and rededicate themselves to being the reformist party that brought them to power in the first place.

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Three Years Ago: ACORN is sooooo busted!

On October 18, 2006, I posted:

If you're in Missouri, you know that the Democrats have a nice political machine going on over there in St. Louis. One of the big cogs in that machine is a group called ACORN. This group represents on its donation page as being a "charitable organization" but is in actuality a partisan political action organization. (OK, the national ACORN is a partisan outfit, but state ACORN chapters are technically non-partisan--and if you believe that's how it really works, you'll believe almost anything as long as it has "Bush Lied" attached to it. Which, sadly, seems to describe a large, vocal, and influential segment of Americans today.)

St. Louis' Gateway Pundit links to a Democratic-leaning St. Louis blog, Pub Def, which is tearing the cover back on ACORN's shady dealings. The deal: hire lower-income people to go out and shake the trees for Claire McCaskill votes.

Note to Democrats: This works a lot better if you actually pay those folks you hire to do your dubious Get-Out-The-Vote effort.

One big question: What are the links between ACORN, the Missouri Democratic Party, and the Claire McCaskill U.S. Senate campaign? Click on this link to see the Pub Def video, showing the unpaid ACORN workers saying that their get-out-the-vote campaign was called Project Victory 2006. As both Pub Def and Gateway Pundit note, this is (oddly enough) the same name under which the Missouri Democratic Party is running it's "coordinated campaign effort:"
We are pleased to introduce Project Victory 2006, the Missouri Democratic Party's coordinated campaign effort for this election year! We are excited about this year's campaign and expect that our field effort will be incredibly strong and well-received. We are proud that more than 75 percent of the Project Victory's staff members either are from Missouri or attended college in Missouri, and we expect this to be a tremendous asset.
There's coordination, and then there's Democratic coordination, which apparently includes not paying poor people that you've hired (by a "non-partisan" front group for a radically partisan national organization) to pound on doors campaigning for your candidates.

You can pick what part of this scandal offends you more--non-partisan groups engaged in blatant partisan political behavior, or the spectacle of Democrats telling poor people to get out the Democrat vote for money, and then stiffing them.

Oh, right, Mark Foley was a gay pedophile-wanna-be. Never mind. Meanwhile, how are those sweetheart real estate deals going, Senator Reid?

If you're bound and determined to vote against the Republicans, you really should open your eyes to who you'll be voting FOR.

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Three Years Ago: Question Authority!

On October 13, 2006, I posted:

Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal, noting (once more) the intellectual intolerance of the Left:
What is most missing from the left in America is an element of grace--of civic grace, democratic grace, the kind that assumes disagreements are part of the fabric, but we can make the fabric hold together. The Democratic Party hasn't had enough of this kind of thing since Bobby Kennedy died. What also seems missing is the courage to ask a question. Conservatives these days are asking themselves very many questions, but I wonder if the left could tolerate asking itself even a few. Such as: Why are we producing so many adherents who defy the old liberal virtues of free and open inquiry, free and open speech? Why are we producing so many bullies? And dim dullard ones, at that.
Most reasonable folks on the center/right of the political agenda (and I'd hope to be included in that number) are desperate for a level of intellectual discourse with those on the left that rises above mindless angry sloganeering and outright suppression of speech, as happened recently at Columbia University. 

Is there intelligent life on the Left?
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Three Years Ago: Is multiculturalism good for society?

On October 10, 2006, I posted:

The banners of "diversity" and "multiculturalism" have been held high for decades as goals to be assiduously striven for by right-thinking people everywhere. From the painfully ham-handed diversity of Star Trek: The Next Generation to the chirpy happiness of Sesame Street, we are fed a daily diet of messages saying diversity is in and of itself a good thing, with the implicit and unquestioned belief that those who question the relentless march of diversity are the worst kind of bigots.

Now comes this Belmont Club article, highlighting a Financial Times article discussing a new study by Harvard professor Robert Putnam, author of the popular book Bowling Alone. His new work casts doubt on the social desirability of diversity and multiculturalism.

From the Financial Times article:

The core message of the research was that, "in the presence of diversity, we hunker down", he said. "We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it's not just that we don't trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don't trust people who do look like us."

Prof Putnam found trust was lowest in Los Angeles, "the most diverse human habitation in human history", but his findings also held for rural South Dakota, where "diversity means inviting Swedes to a Norwegians' picnic".

When the data were adjusted for class, income and other factors, they showed that the more people of different races lived in the same community, the greater the loss of trust. "They don't trust the local mayor, they don't trust the local paper, they don't trust other people and they don't trust institutions," said Prof Putnam. "The only thing there's more of is protest marches and TV watching."

Richard Fernandez (Wretchard) of the Belmont Club then comments:
But if Putnam is correct, then one of the central tenets of multiculturalism — that it brings people together if they simply "respect" each others differences — immediately requires qualification. In fact, it becomes entirely conceivable that the multiculti program is actually the driver behind many of the tensions which are now rising in places like France, the Netherlands and the UK.

Tribalism is programmed deep into the human animal. That's why it's World Problem #1.

Different political systems deal with this tribal urge in different ways. One reason why totalitarian governments keep springing up is that they are brutally effective in suppressing the tribal urge internally, in large part by directing the tribal urge outward toward external enemies.

This is also why pure democracies almost always collapse. Democracy is fundamentally unable to manage the tribal urge. The biggest tribe always winds up in power and then begins to impose its tribal customs and mores on the minorities. If the Majority decides it is undesirable for the minorities to ever regain power, a pure democracy can quickly devolve into a totalitarian state--we see it over and over and over again throughout history, from the Romans to the Third Reich.

We can try to pretend that humans don't have this tribal urge, or recognize the wisdom of the American Founding Fathers in promoting a federal republicanism and a careful separation of powers between a central government and soverign State governments. This provided a structure within which different self-selected "tribes" can interact. This I think is what Benjamin Franklin meant when he famously replied to the question "what have you given us?" with "A republic, madam, if you can keep it."


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Three Years Ago: House of (Republican) Morons

On September 30, 2006, I posted:

So you've heard about Florida Representative Mark Foley's disturbing e-mail quest for a (male, underage) Congressional page.

The troubling part is this paragraph:
House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Washington Post last night that he had learned this spring of inappropriate "contact" between Foley and a 16-year-old page. Boehner said he then told House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). Boehner later contacted The Post and said he could not remember whether he talked to Hastert.
This spring?  THIS SPRING?  You, John A. Boehner, and you, J. Dennis Hastert, are MORONS.  You should have thrown Foley to the wolves as soon as you found out about it.

Have fun being in the House Minority, idiots.

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Three Years Ago: Higher education must change

On October 4, 2006, I posted:

That's the conclusion of a commission report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education to justify the department's existence and justify a budget increase. . . um . . . er . . . (cough, cough)

The purpose of the Commission is to consider how best to improve our system of higher education to ensure that our graduates are well prepared to meet our future workforce needs and are able to participate fully in the changing economy. To accomplish this purpose, the Commission shall consider Federal, state, local, and institutional roles in higher education and analyze whether the current goals of higher education are appropriate and achievable.

Oh, that's OK then. Let's look at the recommendations:
1. Every student in the nation should have the opportunity to pursue postsecondary education. We recommend, therefore, that the U.S. commit to an unprecedented effort to expand higher education access and success by improving student preparation and persistence, addressing non academic barriers and providing significant increases in aid to low-income students.

In other words, fix the high schools. Most high schools are places where learning sometimes occurs despite the efforts of the teachers and the school administrations. Public K-12 education is drowning in money, political indoctrination, empire-building, turf battles, and occasionally muddleheaded good intentions. Those teachers who truly want to teach are smothered by their administrations and the entire misguided primary and secondary education system. We need to return to teaching reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to teach a kid to read and write. It does take caring and competent teachers, and lots of them.

Once given the basic tools, our needs to teach kids how to think (NOT, emphatically not—what to think). Students need to learn how to critically process information, how to look into issues, how to engage in intellectual dialogue with their peers. This also doesn’t require a lot of money. Once again, all it takes is competent, caring teachers and a classroom free from unnecessary distractions.

Of course, should we actually decide to educate our children, the introduction of masses of intelligent, reasoning, eloquent, and intellectually demanding college freshman will be a nasty shock to some college professors. But that’s a good problem to have.

2. To address the escalating cost of a college education and the fiscal realities affecting the government's ability to finance higher education in the long run, we recommend that the entire student financial aid system be restructured and new incentives put in place to improve the measurement and management of costs and institutional productivity.

This is, of course, a money grab. Basically, government is supposed to pour more money into the student aid system (and, therefore, into the colleges and universities) in hopes that something good will happen. Let’s think about that for a minute . . . more money into the system will reduce cost increases.

Someone needs to go back to economics class.

There’s some handwaving about reducing the regulatory burden on colleges and universities, while simultaneously monitoring “productivity and efficiency”. Yeah, that’ll reduce costs.

3. To meet the challenges of the 21st century, higher education must change from a system primarily based on reputation to one based on performance. We urge the creation of a robust culture of accountability and transparency throughout higher education. Every one of our goals, from improving access and affordability to enhancing quality an innovation, will be more easily achieved if higher education institutions embraces and implements serious accountability measures.

Yeah, right. The Ivy League schools are different from the rest of higher education in only two ways: 1) their reputation as “elite” schools, and 2) their enormous endowments. Can you see any scenario where Harvard and Yale will de-emphasize “reputation” as a recruiting tool?

4. With too few exceptions, higher education has yet to address the fundamental issues of how academic programs and institutions must be transformed to serve the changing needs of a knowledge economy. We recommend that America's colleges and universities embrace a culture of continuous innovation and quality improvement by developing new pedagogies, curricula, and technologies to improve learning, particularly in the area of science and mathematical literacy.

Well this must be good, it has the phrase “knowledge economy” in it. Also, the Demingesque “continuous innovation and quality improvement.” It’s all good. (I think my cynicism is starting to overflow. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for "continuous innovation." I just find the concept very amusing when applied to the current higher education bureaucracy. Let’s move on . . . )

5. America must ensure that our citizens have access to high quality and affordable educational, learning, and training opportunities throughout their lives. We recommend the development of a national strategy for lifelong learning that helps all citizens understand the importance of preparing for and participating in higher education throughout their lives.

See my comment for #1. People who know how to learn will keep learning, in spite of the best efforts of the education establishment.

6. The United States must ensure the capacity of its universities to achieve global leadership in key strategic areas such as science, engineering, medicine, and other knowledge-intensive professions. We recommend increased federal investment in areas critical to our nation's global competitiveness and a renewed commitment to attract the best and brightest minds from across the nation and around the world to lead the next wave of American innovation.

Another money grab. What they won’t do is redirect Federal money from, say the National Endowment for the Arts or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to the National Science Foundation. They’d do this if they were really serious about increasing competitiveness in “science, engineering, medicine, and other knowledge-intensive professions.” Any bets on when this will happen?


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Three Years Ago: J'accuse

On September 23, 2006, I posted:

Bill Clinton says that the Bush Administration "didn't try" to get Bin Laden in the eight months prior to the 9//11 attack:
"But at least I tried. That's the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now," Clinton said when asked whether he had failed to fully anticipate bin Laden's danger. "They had eight months to try, they did not try. I tried. So I tried and failed."
Sure, Bill. And Gore's ill-conceived Florida chad fiasco (did you know that not a single actual vote count or recount in Florida in 2000 showed Gore ahead?), the sabotage of the transition from the Clinton to the Bush Administrations, and the general attitude of surly anti-Bushism from the out-of-control CIA and State Departments had nothing whatsoever to do with the Bush Administration's difficulties taking over anti-terrorism operations from the Clinton Administration.

You know, at some point the finger-pointing has to stop. But it's obvious that the Democrats generally and Bill Clinton in particular never learned to share in pre-school. If they don't have control of the ball, they want to make sure no one else has it, either.

You don't like Bush. We get it. But in your inchoate rage against the current sitting President, your fevered opposition has spilled over our national borders to be eagerly consumed by the likes of Ahmadenijad, Chavez, bin Laden, and the reactionary enemies of freedom and liberty throughout the world.

Does the phrase "aid and comfort to the enemy" ring a bell?

Think about the "comfort" part for a while, in the context of the Iranian President's and the Venzuelan lunatic's comfortable anti-Americanism rhetoric in New York this week.

It might have been about Bush at one time. It isn't any more. You have made George W. Bush the Alfred Dreyfus of our age, guilty mainly of not being a radical leftist. To you, this is treason, and nothing else, not even patriotism, matters.

J'accuse.