Sep 212007

I learned about this Civics quiz over at SCSU scholars.

I took the quiz while watching RTR Planeta for the first time in months.   Hmmm.  Now that channel features ads, it looks like.  Or is it a program about TV ads?   Hard to say when I can only understand 10 percent of the words.

Scored 60 out of 60 on the civics quiz.

I was a bit shaky on the question about bond purchases by the Federal Reserve, and also on the one, “Which author’s view of society is presented correctly?”   But I’m one of those people whose ability to answer multiple choice questions often exceeds his knowledge of the subject.

Sep 212007

The Daily Eudemon talks about the slippery slope:

New hero: A 72-year-old man with a wine purchase refuses to produce proof that he’s 21 years old. I understand the policy: “If we don’t card everyone, we end up on a slippery slope. Do we not card the 40-year-old? The 30-year-old? Eventually, we’ll end up making judgment calls and offending people. We might even discriminate!”

Well, deal with it in a rational manner. What the slippery slope chanters don’t realize is, everything is a slippery slope: Anything not reigned in with moderation can go too far. What the haters of discrimination don’t realize is, everyday life is full of discrimination: judgment calls, nuanced calls, irrational calls, emotional calls, reflex calls. People make simple decisions that are so complex in their formulation that we couldn’t flowchart them on movie screen, and 99% of people make these decisions just fine. The other 1% are the mentally addled, and they can’t hold down a job. If a person is mentally normal enough to hold down a job, he ought to be given the discretion to decide that a 72-year-old man is over age 20.

This reminds me of how school boards get all bureaucratic about behavior control. They come up with bureaucratic rules to apply district wide about “1st offense we do this, 2nd offense we do that,” or they come up with a zero tolerance policy about inappropriate touching and end up sending seventh graders off to jail for butt-swapping.

It seems that’s what we get when our schools too large and centralized. We can no longer trust teachers and principals to use their good judgment because they are beyond the social controls of the local communities. So we have no choice but to get all bureaucratic and formulaistic in the way we run the places.

As for the situation in the U.K., I blame it on the welfare-police state, for similar reasons. And I agree with the Daily Eudemon — the resistor is a hero.

Sep 212007

Another way to explain the latest revelations on the Hsu scandal:

Hsu was looking for people a) with lots of money to invest in his Ponzi schemes, and b) stupid enough and greedy enough to fall for them.

So where did he spread all of his bait? Among Hillary Democrats. He must not have expected that any Republicans would meet those criteria.

Maybe he needed to get out more.

Sep 212007

I’ve been campaigning for reform in newspaper journalism for years.  If a journalist receives an award from a group of fellow journalists, that should be grounds for instant dismissal.   These people should be writing and reporting for us, not for each other.

The incestuous nature of these journalism awards seems to be so much a given part of the profession that I had little hope my suggested reform would ever come about.  But now there is hope!

This is from the Best of the Web at

Takes One to Know One
A very entertaining Washington Monthly story on New York Times columnist Bob Herbert brings this comment from Andrew Sullivan:

My two cents: once I know the topic of a Herbert column, I can predict every single self-satisfied, self-righteous platitude that is about to come. He’s also a terrible writer–there’s no character to his prose, never a felicitous turn of phrase. He’s the kind of columnist who gets journalism awards. Even when he’s right he’s so insufferably self-righteous and humorless it’s a pain to read him. So I don’t.

Aside from the bit about journalism awards, has there ever been a better example of the pot denigrating the kettle?

If a good way to insult a journalist is now to say, “He’s the kind of columnist who gets journalism awards,”  I’d say big progress is being made!

Sep 212007

The WSJ continues to pursue the Hsu campaign finance scandal.   It now reports this about what Hsu was trying to accomplish.

Federal prosecutors said in a criminal complaint that Democratic fund-raiser Norman Hsu pressured investors to make campaign contributions through him in order to raise his public profile — then used his prominence to find more investors for illegal Ponzi schemes.

Link: Hsu is accused of Ponzi scheme

But why isn’t anybody asking the next question:  Why Hillary?

Contributors who are looking for some advantage usually hedge their bets by contributing to both parties.  Even a leftwing partisan like Steve Jobs tossed a $1000 bone to Republicans.   Bill Gates contributes to both parties.  So why did all of Hsu’s money go to Democrats, and such a large amount of it to Hillary?

It’s tempting to snark about the Ponzi aspects of Hillary’s ideas on social security or health care.  But really, what kind of reason would that be for Hsu to orchestrate so much money to be sent to her campaign.

If he’s looking for more investors, wouldn’t he want to find some rich Republicans to invest in his schemes?  And wouldn’t the way to do that be by donating money among Republican candidates, too?

Sep 192007

From the History News Network:

Tony Judt: Notes the downside to multicultural studies

The historian Tony Judt, a self-described “old leftist” and the director of the Remarque Institute at N.Y.U., which examines Europe and European-American relations, said undergraduates often arrive unprepared from high school and seeking courses “in what we might have thought of as the old-fashioned approach” — broad surveys. But many young professors aren’t interested in teaching outside their narrow specialties, nor are they generally prepared to do so. And colleges are loath to reinstate the core curriculums they abandoned in the ’60s. “Because we lack cultural self-confidence, we’ve lacked the ability to say, ‘This is a good book and should be taught, this isn’t and shouldn’t,’ ” said Judt, who was dean of the humanities at N.Y.U. in the early ’90s.

Judt also denounces the balkanization created by interdisciplinary ethnic studies programs. Multiculturalism “created lots and lots of microconstituencies, which universities didn’t have the courage to oppose,” he said. “It’s much more like a supermarket — kids can take pretty much any courses they like: Jewish kids take Jewish studies, gay students gay studies, black students African-American studies. You no longer have a university, but a series of identity constituencies all studying themselves.”

If he’s an “old leftist,” maybe it isn’t my imagination that there once was a time when the left was not intellectually bankrupt.

It’s bad enough that premature specialization takes place at the college level, but you see high schools trying to play college and do the same thing. That’s a subject for another day, though, because there is something else to mention — something that the HNN article didn’t say. The article is excerpted from a NYT article, “Revisiting the Canon Wars,” by Rachel Donadio. Here’s an item that caught my attention:

But Fish thinks humanities professors bear some blame for their diminished standing. He’s at work on a new book, “Save the World on Your Own Time,” which argues that academics should teach, not proselytize. In his view, “the invasion of political agendas” into the classroom in the ’60s and ’70s was “extremely dangerous,” since it meant classrooms could become battlegrounds for political demagoguery.

So on the one hand you have the National Association of Social Work saying you can’t become a professional unless you proselytize, and this Fish guy saying not while the kids are still in college, at least. I know which side of the argument I’m cheering for.

Sep 182007

Is this supposed to be reassuring?

AP Interview: Clinton on health care

WASHINGTON – Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that a mandate requiring every American to purchase health insurance was the only way to achieve universal health care but she rejected the notion of punitive measures to force individuals into the health care system.

“At this point, we don’t have anything punitive that we have proposed,” the presidential candidate said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“At this point”? That sounds ominous.

If she wanted to be reassuring, she’d explain how she’d institute safeguards that would keep such punitive measures from ever being enacted, no matter who sits in the Oval Office.

But there is a reason I find it impossible to say “welfare state” without also saying “police state.”

Sep 162007

I’ve added The Main Adversary to the blog list here.

It started with an item in The Weekly Standard that came in today’s mail. It’s a Scrapbook item titled, “Hsu’s on First“. The Washington Post says “Some fundraisers with legal issues slip through campaigns’ vetting.”

In another words, The WP morphs it from being another Clinton Scandal into something about campaign finance in general. Next thing you know, instead of going after the crooks they’ll say the thing to do is shut down the first amendment harder than McCain-Feingold so people like Hillary Clinton will not be forced to take illegal campaign contributions to finance attacks on those who criticize her.

That also got me to thinking about the general lack of curiosity in the major media about WHY Hsu and/or whoever was financing him was motivated to provide all this money. And that got me to thinking about other lack of curiosity items, such as the shooting of Paul Joyal back in March. That one sure dropped off the radar screen in a hurry, despite the super-lame explanations given by the local authorities.

So I looked to see if there was any recent news. The most recent mention I found was in the blog of a Mark Newgent, who is a conservative running for Baltimore City council. Newgent didn’t have any more news on Joyal, but there are some other things in his blog, including an insightful analysis of the foreign policy statements of Ron Paul. I’ll probably end up voting for Paul. He avoids a lot of the usual libertarian goofiness, but on foreign policy he’s not a lot of improvement. Here’s Newgent:

Paul believes that we should not have an interventionist foreign policy because it invites blowback. That is his position, ok fine, but he never offers an alternative to the historical examples or the present day issues that complicate his simplistic view. It is like the peaceniks during the Vietnam War who sang, “all we are saying is give peace a chance.” That’s right, that’s all they were saying. They did not offer any arguments as to why giving peace a chance would have benefited the United States in Southeast Asia, furthermore look at the human tragedy that happened when peace was given a chance. Ron Paul is doing the same thing. Instead of peace, it is isolationism. Paul never offers a solution other than empty platitudes about the intent of the founding fathers. That is all fine and good, but it is not an argument. Paul never, makes an argument past stating his position of preaching non-interventionism in foreign policy and urging the GOP to return to its isolationist past (look how that turned out). Paul and his supporters spout their nonsense then sit back as if saying they have ended the argument, when at best, all they’ve done is start one.

And there’s more good stuff over there, too.  A young politician who knows all about Whittaker Chambers can’t be all bad, even if he knows how to think and write.

Sep 142007

Remember those people who kept criticizing Bush for his unilateralism, for going it alone when the rest of the world was going Kyoto, for going to war alone without making sure everyone loved us, first?   You can google “Bush unilateralism” to get your fill of examples.

Now we have a case where Bush didn’t go it alone, where he tried to cooperate with other countries:  (WSJ, Sep 13, “Mexican Roadblock”)  Clinton was the unilateralist on this one.

Under the 1993 Nafta accord, Mexican trucking companies should have been delivering their loads to U.S. destinations for more than a decade by now. But since the Clinton Administration banned Mexican trucks in 1995, they have had to offload their cargo at the border and transfer it to Teamster trucks, raising costs for U.S. consumers.

In 2001 a Nafta arbitration panel ruled the U.S. ban on Mexican trucks violated the treaty and granted Mexico the right to retaliate. The Bush Administration crafted the pilot program to open the market and at the same time address safety concerns. The program would allow limited cross-border trucking in both directions, with inspections required. The Teamsters sued, but even the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied their request for a stay. So the Teamsters turned to Congress, which is now obliging under the whip of North Dakota protectionist Byron Dorgan.

Now it’s the Bush-haters in Congress who want the U.S. to go unilateralist.

And next time the question is asked, “Why do they hate us?” we know where to look for an answer.