Jul 292008

According to Gary Kasparov, Barak Obama said this in Berlin:

“[W]e must reject the Cold War mindset of the past and resolve to work with Russia when we can, to stand up for our values when we must.”

Did he really say that? If so, which Cold War mindset does he mean? There were lots of mindsets during the Cold War, some of them vehemently opposed to each other. Were they all so wrong? Every last one of them?

And what kind of talk is that about standing up for our values when we must? When we must? Must? Why not do it when we can? Why not do it even when it’s difficult? I like the idea of working with Russia at every opportunity where we can, but Obama’s wording leads one to think he’d be willing to do it at the expense of our own values.

Without all the campaign money he has, shouldn’t he be able to hire a speechwriter who could check these things before he says them aloud?

Jul 272008

Conservatives should have figured this out long ago. Instead of whining about Supreme Court rulings, ignore them. That’s what the District of Columbia is doing. The Supremes upheld the right of citizens to keep and bear arms, so the government is now putting new restrictions on that right so as to render it meaningless.

Democrats (and George Bush) have long understood that the laws are meant for other people. Gas taxes too high? Democrats assume that when they’re on partisan political business, they are doing the Lord’s Work and don’t have to pay them. When they’re caught, it’s no big deal.

Of course, maybe this only works if you have the mainstream media to cover for you. And it also helps to have the economic might of government workers and NGOs on your side.

Jul 232008

I learned from Postmodern Conservative that one of my favorite columnists, Robert Novak, is alleged to have hit a pedestrian with his car and then tried to leave the scene.

As a long distance bicycler and bicycle commuter, I want to see dangerous driving behavior punished.  Maybe it was my imagination, but on my ride home from work tonight an oncoming white monster pickup wanted to play chicken with me.   I just pointed my bike directly back at him until he got back in his lane and roared off as loudly as he could.   We don’t need that kind of crap on the roads.    On the other hand, it’s no worse than the recklessness with which people are pushing so-called universal health care with no regard to the consequences for our civil liberties.   That behavior needs to be punished, too.

BTW, Novak would still be one of my top favorites even if he had to write his column from a jail cell, which perhaps he should be doing.

Jul 222008

The lead story in the pulp (paper) edition of today’s WSJ is “Kazakhstan Corruption: Exile alleges new details.”

It’s an amazing story. No, the corruption itself isn’t amazing. What’s amazing is that two WSJ reporters wrote all those words without once mentioning Bill Clinton. They mention Frank Giustra the Canadian businessman who is buddy to both Bill Clinton and to President Nazarbayev. They mention Nazarbayev, of course. He is the one whom his former son-in-law ratted on for the WSJ. But nothing was said about Clinton’s controversial appearance with Nazarbayev in September 2005.

The New York Times reported on the 2005 meeting this January. Blogs such as the Roberts Report speculated on who was getting what out of the deal. One possibility is that Nazarbayev got the appearance of U.S. support for his re-election campaign. Clinton, of course, got a pile of cash for his chariitable foundation.

The WSJ article says the new allegations of corruption complicate the U.S.’s efforts to improve relations with Kazakhistan. But no mention of the complications caused by a former president lending our country’s prestige to a corrupt leader?

If we don’t care about that, what difference does the rest of it make?

And besides, Canada’s show trials have given that country a pretty poor human rights record, yet I don’t see newspaper articles saying it will complicate our relations with that country. And George W. Bush is busy selling out Taiwan to a country with a much worse human rights record than Taiwan’s.

It makes one wonder what the point of that article was, anyway.

Jul 202008

This is one of the best blog discussions I’ve ever seen: WSJ Health Blog: Do Pre-Meds Really Need that Year of Organic Chemistry?

There are some excellent points, pro-and-con, that apply to a lot more than just pre-med education. I’ve been involved in some of these same arguments in debates about curriculum change in our local K-12 school district.

My antenna picked up a bad signal when I saw these words from the academic dean of Harvard’s med school: “[The curriculum] could be more focused on hypothesis generation and solving problems rather than doing the rote exercises that were there in the old textbook.” Whenever educators start talking about rote learning vs problem solving and critical thinking, you can be pretty sure they’re getting ready to dumb down the curriculum and that if they have their way, students will be less equipped to solve problems than before.

Most of those commenting are MDs. The closest I came to their profession was when I took microbiology in a class full of pre-med students 30-some years ago. I am not a person who can say whether the full year of organic chemistry should be replaced with something else. Times and academic disciplines do change and curricula need to adjust. It could well be that the year of organic chem should change. But if the reason for making the change is to replace rote learning with problem solving, I’m pretty sure I’m against it.

Not that I’m against problem solving, but because I’m in favor of equipping students to do it. And the way you do it is usually NOT by sitting down and teaching students how to solve problems as an isolated skill, isolated from the drudgery of obtaining basic knowledge.

So I stuck my nose in and commented:

Nah. Every profession needs a good, old-fashioned flunk-out course with marginal relevance to the profession. If nothing else, it weeds out those people who have no patience for irrelevance.

I was hoping to get people to think about the nature of “relevance.” The person who is interested only in what’s obviously relevant to getting the job done is not the person who is going to pick up on the seemingly irrelevant clues that are needed in dealing with difficult problems. (I heard way too much about “relevance” back in the 1960s, and could go on and on about it.)

And rote learning is never mere rote learning. But opposition to rote learning is usually anti-intellectualism in thin disguise.

Well, I don’t know if any of these MDs were responding to me, but there are certainly a lot of them who have great insights on what it really takes to learn how to solve problems. There are discussions on medicine as a profession vs medicine as a trade, and much more. Their comments are worth reading and re-reading by anyone who cares about education.

Jul 202008

From a book I’m reading:

It was a “voluntary” tax in the sense that people controlled how much they paid by how much they consumed.”

No, I’m not reading a Neil Boortz book about the Fair Tax.  I’m reading “The Whiskey Rebellion : Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution,” by Thomas P. Slaughter (1986).   The statement above is in Chapter one, in a description of the much-hated British consumption taxes of the 18th century, usually known as interior taxes or excise taxes.  The British government was arguing the same way Neil Boortz does.

Jul 182008

I hate it when somebody else makes these calls before I think of them, but this one I missed.

CNN some time back:  “Sen. Barack Obama’s victory Thursday in critical Democratic Iowa caucuses indicate voters saw him as a candidate of change

Richard H. Collins (whoever he is) at townhall.com:  “Barack Obama is running on a platform of Hope and Change™ but the only clear change seems to be in his policy positions.”

Jul 162008

James Kirchick of the New Republic writes in The Weekly Standard about “The Democrats’ Popularity Fetish.” He rightly points out that Obama’s cavalier attitude towards free trade and towards meeting with dictators is hardly going to make America popular outside our country.

But he closes by questioning whether we should be all that concerned about “global opinion.”

Conservatives have long liked to sneer at global opinion, and it’s true that popularity shouldn’t be our first priority. They don’t really need encouragement in that attitude by Kirchick.

But I say we should care about others’ opinions. GWB would have done well to at least respect it. If Stalin cared enough about world opinion to hide his crimes from view, shouldn’t we care about it, too?

But it’s interesting that the same Democrats who lecture us about how we need to take foreign opinion into account have a remarkably insular view of the economy.


Here is a press release from Nancy Pelosi in September 2003, complaining that Bush missed a chance to get a United Nations mandate re Iraq.

And here is the same Nancy Pelosi in her blog, talking as though the universe ends at the U.S. border. She blames high oil prices on “two oilmen in the White House.”

HT to Ann Coulter who hit a bullseye:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, or as she is called on the Big Dogs blog, “the worst speaker in the history of Congress,” explained the cause of high oil prices back in 2006: “We have two oilmen in the White House. The logical follow-up from that is $3-a-gallon gasoline. It is no accident. It is a cause and effect. A cause and effect.”

Yes, that would explain why the price of oral sex, cigars and Hustler magazine skyrocketed during the Clinton years. Also, I note that Speaker Pelosi is a hotelier … and the price of a hotel room in New York is $1,000 a night! I think she might be onto something.

Is that why a barrel of oil costs mere pennies in all those other countries in the world that are not run by “oilmen”? Wait — it doesn’t cost pennies to them? That’s weird.

Jul 162008

It looks like Congressional Republicans aren’t completely worthless, after all. From the WSJ:

The Bush administration’s hastily arranged strategy to stabilize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac came under siege on Capitol Hill, as Republicans tried to slow it down and Democrats moved to marry it with a program the White House has threatened to veto.

They have some redeeming social value, at least for the moment. But I am reminded of the bad old days of the Clinton administration, when Republicans would on issue after issue threaten to do the right thing, but cave under pressure just after they made as many enemies as possible for threatening to do it. That way they could also make enemies for doing the wrong thing, and reap the worst of both worlds.

It’ll be interesting to see if this one follows that old pattern.