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Friday, May 26, 2006

Biggest Step Is Mastery Of English

Jeff Jacoby provides some common sense and historical perspective on the suggestion to make English the official language of America. Mastering it is the gateway to opportunity. By providing people the easy way out to avoid learning it, will deny those people access to the good life. Jacoby calls it "empowerment".

In the body of Jacoby's essay, he provides a quote from Frederick Douglass (see one of his quotes in the EtTu Bloge masthead) that I reprint:

"What I ask for the Negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us ..... Everybody has asked the question, and they learned to ask it early of the abolitionists, 'What shall we do with the Negro?' I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature's plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!"

Read Douglas' autobiography. Douglass' master denied his slaves the right to learn to read and write. Hugh Auld explain to his wife about why she should not teach him to read. Auld explained that, "if you teach that nigger how to read, there would be no keeping him". According to Douglass: "I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty -- to wit, the white man's power to enslave the black man.... From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom." Douglass realized that there was power in learning to read.

The master's wife had initially begun the teaching prior to the prohibition. Douglass, around 8 years old or so, would spend his time with the white children. By challenging their knowledge of the alphabet, he would goad them into showing him the letters without their suspicions. He would rewrite them in private until he learned them. This technique developed into a complete mastery of reading and writing. He followed his natural inclination towards intellectual development.

Today, we seem to want to instill the desire to ignorance. Public school teacher training is dumbed down. Student testing in public schools are dumbed down. What passes as art is dumbed down. Political debate is dumbed down. Press understanding of complex issues is dumbed down.

What happened to Douglass upon his escape from slavery as an adult? He found his "wife" and married her legally. He moved to Massachusetts and used his background working in ship-building (this was his adult trade in Baltimore prior to his escape). He wrote and spoke extensively on abolition and sold it to many white Americans through the power of his eloquence. His message gained power because it was borne of a mastery of English---in a slave!!!

While Harry Reid sees an official English language as "racist", Americans largely disagree. Per Jacoby:

Despite such demagoguery, an overwhelming majority of Americans support making English the official language. The amendment condemned by Reid went on to pass the Senate, 63-34; but that actually understated the level of public support. In a Zogby International poll in March, 84 percent of respondents -- including 71 percent of Hispanics -- favored official English. The only reason English was never formally denoted the national language before now is that it was generally considered too obvious to need mentioning.

Frederick Douglass would certainly find this curious.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Dylan in Drag

While few of us guys could truly expect a bio-pic about us to star a Brad Pitt or Cameron Crowe (John Wayne or Charlton Heston in earlier times), what a bringdown to be played by a girl! Cate Blanchett is going to play Bob Dylan in an upcoming movie.

Not even a butch! A British girl at that! I'd take Peewee Herman over a chick!

New School Cowardly Lion

Ann Coulter also finds the New School student who derided McCain at the commencement speech to be a coward. She sees the speech as "toadying" to the audience. The student Jean Rohe is as brave as Sean Penn and George Clooney in espousing liberal-speak to the press, Democrat think-tanks and their Hollywood buddies.

Coulter writes:

If you want to find the cool, anti-establishment rebels who don't answer to "The Man" on college campuses today, you have to go to a meeting of the College Republicans. They are rebelling against at least 99 percent of their professors. Even the original '60s anti-war protesters were rebelling against at least 5 percent of their professors. Today's college liberals ape the beliefs of 99 percent of their professors and then pretend they're on-the-edge radicals.

Fewer Kids Spells Big Troubles

Analyzing the declining birth rates around the world, Robert Samuelson cannot pin down the reason. However we see countries that need a 2.1 birthrate to maintain population (absent immigration) carrying repopulation rates well below that. In Spain its 1.3, in Italy its 1.3, in Germany its 1.4, in Russia its 1.3 and Japan its 1.4 . USA is holding firm at 2.0.

What does this mean? I was taught from my liberal teachers that we had an impending population bomb and so reduced family sizes were good for the future. It is if you are saving the planet for rodents.

Samuelson explains that US higher rates are:

American fertility is roughly at the replacement rate, 2.1 children per woman. Nor does the U.S. rate merely reflect, as some think, a higher rate among Hispanic Americans. The fertility rate is 1.9 for non-Hispanic whites and about 2 for African-Americans, reports demographer Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute. What explains the American exception? Eberstadt cites three differences with Europe and most other advanced countries: greater optimism, greater patriotism and stronger religious values. There's some supporting evidence. A survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago asked respondents in 33 countries to react to this statement: ``I would rather be a citizen of (my country) than of any other.'' Among Americans, 75 percent ``strongly'' agreed; among Germans, the French and Spanish, comparable responses were 21 percent, 34 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

The problem is when the population has too few people of working age to support the over 65 retirees. Ben Wattenberg in "Fewer" says that while in 2000 one in six people were over 65 in Germany and Japan, in 2050 the projection is the ratio will be one in three over 65. Has anyone ever visited Boca Raton?

I suspect that the cradle-to-grave protection provided by these low birth countries is a major factor in low birthrates. As the government has replaced family as elder-care provider, as women have devoted more time to their jobs, and as societies have allowed for alternative family arrangements (see divorce), then people wonder what is the need to put forth so much effort and money in raising children. As all of you parents of young children know, High School Musical comes out on DVD this week. For those of you with no idea what that means because you have no children, it is the Disney phenomenon that will generate enough income to keep many third-world countries afloat for years. When you do not have children (or close nieces and nephews) you are saved the regular "must have" purchases such as this DVD.

While it costs money that you could more easily spend on yourself, I must requote from Samuelson's essay the following comment by Adam Smith:

``The chief part of human happiness arises from the consciousness of being beloved.''

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Frank Calls Out Republican Hypocrites

Barney Frank chastised Republicans for their opposition to a proposed 6% cut in sugar subsidies. He is right.

I am disgusted by Republicans who spout off free market this and that but place tariffs on imports or approve subsidies to rescue some beloved industry or business. the free market does not protect business from competition. These subsidies, especially regarding sugar (and I am against them for ethanol as well), hurt all Americans.

Frank said:

Mr. Chairman, I am here to confess my reading incomprehension. I have listened to many of my conservative friends talk about the wonders of the free market, of the importance of letting the consumers make their best choices, of keeping government out of economic activity, of the virtues of free trade, but then I look at various agricultural programs like this one. Now, it violates every principle of free market economics known to man and two or three not yet discovered.

So I have been forced to conclude that in all of those great free market texts by Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek and all the others that there is a footnote that says, by the way, none of this applies to agriculture.

I would hope Frank would actually read Hayek and von Mises and take their philosophy to heart in all appropriations bills he is involved with.

Thanks to Club For Growth for that tip.

Teachers Not Being Taught

Per National Council on Teacher Quality education schools are not teaching new teachers "effective reading". Kate Walsh, NCTQ President says:

Most colleges and universities are "either turning their backs on the science or have abdicated their responsibility to prepare teachers to be effective teachers of reading.

With a child in kindergarten in a public school, I can vouch for that first-hand.

One of the expected but scary discoveries was:

Teacher educators make too few demands on their students. Research papers that encourage or require aspiring teachers to present anyone’s perspective other than their own are a rarity. In a randomly selected subsample of 75 syllabi, only eight (11 percent) courses required any sort of research paper. Most writing assignments generally call for the students’ own feelings and observations. The most common assignment is a "literacy memoir," which asks students to reflect on how they themselves learned to read as young children.

Further, no effort to develop practical application of knowledge is evident. Students rarely have to demonstrate their knowledge by writing and delivering lesson plans that apply the tools of reading instruction in a classroom setting.

Many professors place more emphasis on keeping their courses fun than on learning.

Read more at the link above. Thanks to Joanne Jacobs' blog for this item.

Photo ID Is Disenfranchising?

The Senate immigration bill did not contain Mitch McConnell's suggestion of a picture ID as a requirement in order to cast a vote in federal elections. Somehow such a requirement is an overwhelming burden. This is reported today:

But Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., likened the proposal to a poll tax or a requirement for voters to pass a literacy test. "Now is not the time and this is not the place to consider an amendment that may disenfranchise a million or more poor, minority, disabled, and elderly voters -- all of them American citizens," he said.

Huh? Anyone wish to explain that one?

Much Of The Problem Of Illegal Immigration Is Government

Thomas Sowell, in the 2nd of his, thus far, 2-part series on today's disingenuous immigration debate in Congress, asks why both the borders and amnesty must appear in the same legislation? He opines that if we close the borders, we will be able to see exactly what is the efficacy of that solution and then we can tackle what to do with the remaining illegals within our borders. However, the reason both issues are tied into one package is clear.

Who would lose anything by this separate consideration of the two pieces of legislation? The country would not lose anything. Neither would the illegal aliens already in the country. The biggest losers would be politicians. They could no longer be on both sides of the issue by voting for a package deal but would have to stand up and be counted on border control.

William Buckley compares the plight of American blacks with Mexicans and sees a marked difference:

Several questions of vital interest need to be pondered. When will the liberal interventionists looking about for a new class to sponsor ring in with affirmative action for Mexican illegals? Whip up the kind of concern shown for blacks in the past 50 years? Granted, there is the emotional factor, here missing. The great effort made to help American blacks was reasonably fueled by the historical indebtedness felt for a people who had been uprooted from another continent and brought here to serve as slaves in the land of the free.

The Mexican illegal has no properly formulated brief against the America he entered athwart American laws. He might curse his relative burden: He came into a land where they speak another language. That disadvantage translates into lower-paying jobs requiring only manual skills, and his immobility stems from the need to send money home for relatives to eke out life in a country straitened by the impositions of left-welfarism.

It is because Mexico is such a terrible structure that private effort and entrepreneurialism is unrewarded. Mexico wantonly exports its citizens and then criticizes America for defending itself.

No one but the libertarians sees the inherent cause of the problem. It is the corruption of the Mexican government that squanders/steals the country's oil fortune while providing little opportunity for its citizens. It is a classic socialist example (and keep an eye out for the other socialist countries of South America over the next few years as they nationalize businesses and head down the path of despotism and penury).

What is ignored is the costs of socialism that tends to create the next series of problems which are then likely solved by more socialism. Look at how socialism in the provision of public education spawns correctives that increase government involvement---No Child Left Behind, higher property and local taxes---with minimal improvement if no continued decay.

On a more mundane matter, look at the simple government intrusion of the enforcement of seat belt laws. Whether one wears them or not (and I wore them before they became mandatory) should be an individual's decision. The harm is to oneself. But, the supporters say, the increased injury becomes the state's and the other citizen's burden!

Walter Williams responds:

Each of us owns himself, and it follows that we should have the liberty to take risks with our own lives but not that of others. That means it's a legitimate use of state power to mandate that cars have working brakes because if my car has poorly functioning brakes, I risk the lives of others and I have no right to do so. If I don't wear a seatbelt I risk my own life, which is well within my rights. As to your statement 'Lack of safety belt use is a growing public health issue that . . . also costs us all billions of dollars every year,' that's not a problem of liberty. It's a problem of socialism. No human should be coerced by the state to bear the medical expense, or any other expense, for his fellow man. In other words, the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another is morally offensive.

The problem-solvers skip past the government created boulder in the way. Because we force everyone to assume the responsibility for other's conditions, created by the "victim's" irresponsibility or accident, then anyone's injury becomes our problem.

Williams quotes John Stuart Mill from his treatise "On Liberty:

"That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil, in case he do otherwise."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Like A Tired Old Uncreative Virgin

Soxaholix.com nails it in their comic strip conversation about Madonna's cliched stage show where she climbs up on a cross. They feel her street cred would be enhanced if she chose to pick on Islam rather than Christianity. The 2 Bosox fans say the following:

Doug: These days, fucking around with Christian iconography is about as edgy as buying a "Speak Truth to Power!" t-shirt at Wal-Mart.

Mike: Seriously. If Madonna really wanted to create a stir she'd skip the cross and the crown of thorns bullshit and get up on the stage in a see-through burqa and start dry humping one of her gay dancers impersonating the Prophet Mohammed.

Doug: You know, Madonna is so old and washed up, I'm surprised the Yankees haven't signed her to a long term contract.

Mike: Yeah, she and Redneck Randy could sit around watching old VHS tapes of their greatest moments last Century.

Sorry For Doing What I Thought Was Right

The McCain heckler made an apology. As reported in the NY Daily News:

"I said, 'I'm really sorry I had to do that.' And he said, 'Oh, it's all right, I understand,'" Jean Sara Rohe told the Daily News yesterday.

That is as contrite as Cynthia McKinney was when she apologized a few days after hitting a congessional security cop.

If "you had to do it", then you are not sorry.

Using Logic For A Change

Dennis Prager analyzes the superficiality of liberal thought by listing all of the key words that substitute for articulation with liberals:

Here is a list of terms liberals apply to virtually every idea or action with which they differ:
Racist Sexist Homophobic Islamophobic Imperialist Bigoted Intolerant

And here is the list of one-word descriptions of what liberals are for:
Peace Fairness Tolerance The poor The disenfranchised The environment

I suggest that whenever someone attempts to discuss an issue, they be prohibited from using any words that end in "phobic" or "ist". Just by following this rule, speakers will have to provide statements that actually pose a logical argument.

Monday, May 22, 2006

McGovern Defends Walmart!

I began to wonder if people from a certain side of the ideological debate could learn some basics of economics. And then you read this quote from George McGovern in today Los Angeles Times (yes, the Los Angeles Times).

Many of my friends will consider this view heretical. But it is based on stark reality...

It can be galling to hear companies argue that they have to cut wages and benefits for hourly workers — even as they reward top executives with millions of dollars in stock options. The chief executive of Wal-Mart earns $27 million a year, while the company's average worker takes home only about $10 an hour. But let's assume that the chief executive got 27 cents instead of $27 million, and that Wal-Mart distributed the savings to its hourly workers. They would each receive a bonus of less than $20. It's not executive pay that has created this new world.

I understand the attraction of asking business — the perceived "deep pockets" — to shoulder more of the responsibility for social welfare. But there are plenty of businesses that don't have deep pockets. And many large corporations operate with razor-thin profit margins as competitors, both foreign and domestic, strive to attract consumers by offering lower prices.

The current frenzy over Wal-Mart is instructive. Its size is unprecedented. Yet for all its billions in profit, it still amounts to less than four cents on the dollar. Raise the cost of employing people, and the company will eliminate jobs. Its business model only works on low prices, which require low labor costs. Whether that is fair or not is a debate for another time. It is instructive, however, that consumers continue to enjoy these low prices and that thousands of applicants continue to apply for those jobs.

He may go the way of Joe Lieberman for voicing some common sense on the market, pricing and wages.

Thanks to Donald Luskin for the link and quote.

She's A Brick House

How about this? Lionel Richie is the biggest thing in Iraq. According to reporter John Berman of ABC News, who has spent almost a full year over the past 3 years in Iraq, many Iraqis do the hustle when they hear "All Night Long". Berman writes:

Grown Iraqi men get misty-eyed by the mere mention of his name. "I love Lionel Richie," they say. Iraqis who do not understand a word of English can sing an entire Lionel Richie song.

There is no word on whether President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has The Commodores on his iPod.

Politely No to John Edwards

And I watch the liberal talk shows on Sunday morning. I saw the interview by George Stepanopolous of John Edwards. Per ABC News online:

Edwards endorsed the Kennedy-McCain approach to immigration -- "earned citizenship" and increased border protection. He suggested raising the minimum wage, expanding the earned income tax credit, and strengthening organized labor as the keys to a better economy. His main focus these days, however, is education.

I disagree with him on his views of what benefits the economy:

1. Minimum wage hurts lower income workers from entering the workforce and forces employers to use alternate means of production when the labor cost exceeds its production.

2. Expanding earned income tax credit--- just cut income taxes period.

3. Strengthening organized labor. No it drives up the cost of products with no quality improvement. Does Edwards think that organized labor has helped US car manufacturers?

4. Education--- Does the organized public education structure provide a quality product? We seem to be paying more for less achievement.

5. On strengthening border protection and "earned citizenship", I agree with him though I do not know his exact proposal.

I'll give him that last issue. 1 out of 5 with the 4 being complete economic disasters. No, politely I must say No.

Disagreeing Uncivilly

While rapt in readings of economic theory as explained by Austrian and free market economists, enjoying history books and daily reviews of today's conservative editorialists, I also read the NYT online during the week and pay money in order to receive the NYT at home on weekends. I am asked by my wife why I pay money to an institution with which I largely diametrically disagree. I answer that I need to read the opinions (as they can be found both in the op-eds and the news reporting) of liberals so I know where they are and where they are going. I cannot hole myself into a like-minded cocoon as so many people do. I may be turned off to the politics of the enlightened entertainment elites and not spend money for concerts and movies. But I still need to hear and read the opposing views to better hone my analytical skills and maybe be persuaded to their viewpoint or suggestion.

The same openness to opposing ideas is not shared by the Left. Reporting on John McCain's commencement speeches and the rude receptions he received at the New School and Columbia University in NYC, I see that Allan Bloom was correct about the "Closing of The American Mind". The closed minds of the Left will not provide Democrats a better chance at the White House in 2008 as Kerry and Gore look to move to Hillary Clinton's left on issues like Iraq and the war against terror. The national elections will still be decided by the 40% in the middle.

The WSJ points out how an unknown challenger to Joe Leiberman, Ned Lamont, received enough delegates to take a shot at the Connecticut Senator. The WSJ writes about the rise of this newcomer against a highly-credentialed Democrat:

Their vehicle is Mr. Lamont, a rich Greenwich businessman who decided to run after the Senator wrote an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal supporting U.S. policy in Iraq. Mr. Lamont--who was featured in our Weekend Interview on May 13--needed 15% of the delegates to get a place on the primary ballot, but in the event rolled up 33%.

That's a remarkable showing against a three-term incumbent who as recently as 2000 was on the party's national ticket and ran for President in 2004. "They are saying this war was a mistake and bring the troops home," Mr. Lamont declared. Mr. Lieberman will still be favored to win the primary, but angry-left activists around the country will now descend on the state and the fight may well turn vicious.

The left's larger goal is to turn the Democratic Party solidly against the war on terror, and especially against its Iraq and Iran fronts.

The Left as represented by college graduates deserves the benefit of our understanding that youth always think they know more than their elders. That in holding their views, they see themselves as uncluttered with self-interest. They are more genuine, more profound.

They may not have heard McCain's speech amidst the shouting and sloganeering. One point he made was:

Americans should argue about this war. It has cost the lives of nearly 2,500 of the best of us. It has taken innocent life. It has imposed an enormous financial burden on our economy. At a minimum, it has complicated our ability to respond to other looming threats. Should we lose this war, our defeat will further destabilize an already volatile and dangerous region, strengthen the threat of terrorism, and unleash furies that will assail us for a very long time. I believe the benefits of success will justify the costs and risks we have incurred. But if an American feels the decision was unwise, then they should state their opposition, and argue for another course. It is your right and your obligation. I respect you for it. I would not respect you if you chose to ignore such an important responsibility. But I ask that you consider the possibility that I, too, am trying to meet my responsibilities, to follow my conscience, to do my duty as best as I can, as God has given me light to see that duty.

That is what is lacking. A belief that one's opponent has the same genuine interest as you but is offering a different solution.

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