Dec 31 2008

The demise of the university

Category: education,higher education,societyharmonicminer @ 10:43 am

Victor Davis Hanson

Until recently, classical education served as the foundation of the wider liberal arts curriculum, which in turn defined the mission of the traditional university. Classical learning dedicated itself to turning out literate citizens who could read and write well, express themselves, and make sense of the confusion of the present by drawing on the wisdom of the past. Students grounded in the classics appreciated the history of their civilization and understood the rights and responsibilities of their unique citizenship. Universities, then, acted as cultural custodians, helping students understand our present values in the context of a 2,500-year tradition that began with the ancient Greeks.

But in recent decades, classical and traditional liberal arts education has begun to erode, and a variety of unexpected consequences have followed. The academic battle has now gone beyond the in-house “culture wars” of the 1980s. Though the argument over politically correct curricula, controversial faculty appointments, and the traditional mission of the university is ongoing, the university now finds itself being bypassed technologically, conceptually, and culturally, in ways both welcome and disturbing.
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Dec 30 2008

Every freedom has its limits

Category: Bush,Islam,religionharmonicminer @ 10:43 am

Bush: ‘I am a lowly sinner seeking redemption’

I have found that faith is comforting, faith is strengthening, faith has been important. … I would advise politicians, however, to be careful about faith in the public arena. …In other words, politicians should not be judgmental people based upon their faith. They should recognize — as least I have recognized I am a lowly sinner seeking redemption, and therefore have been very careful about saying (accept) my faith or you’re bad. In other words, if you don’t accept what I believe, you’re a bad person.

And the greatness of America — it really is — is that you can worship or not worship and be equally American. And it doesn’t matter how you choose to worship; you’re equally American. And it’s very important for any President to jealously protect, guard, and strengthen that freedom.

A nice man to the last of his presidency, President Bush misses the point.

It DOES matter how you choose to worship, if that involves celebrating violent jihad. The President used the term “Islamofascist” only a couple of times in his presidency before the state department wimps recoiled in horror from the truth, and begged him not to say it anymore.  Too bad.

The president has acted, all too often, as if he doesn’t need to talk the talk, but only needs to walk the walk. 

In context, I can’t fault his handling of most aspects of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars; not that he’s been perfect (far from it!) but his positions and actions have been reasonable, and the tendency to see clearly in hindsight shouldn’t blind us to the failure of most people to predict what has actually happened.  The wars still needed to be fought, and he fought them.  Simple as that.

But I can and do fault his use of “diplo-speak” because it has left the American people very confused.  The president had a hard time getting his message across via the media, and seems to have just given up near the end of his first term, as far as convincing the populace of the rightness of his policies. 

The problem is not that, “If you don’t accept what I believe, you’re a bad person.”  The problem is if you think you faith gives you the right to kill me because your religion isn’t mine, too.

Christianity and Islam are not morally equivalent religions.  They do not equally teach peace.  They do not equally teach justice.  The pretense that they are alike in some significant way “under the surface” is a deadly one.

So while I cherish religious freedom, I think we need to keep clear eyes on those who would use that very freedom against us.

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Dec 29 2008

We don’t need another FDR, and can’t afford one

Category: economy,Obamaharmonicminer @ 10:00 am

In The Forgotten Man, Amity Shlaes makes it clear that Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s policies did not reduce the Great Depression’s unemployment rate, despite FDR’s success at convincing the public that he had made their lives better, master of politico-speak that he was.  Quite the reverse is true; the more the government intervened, the worse things got, and there seemed a direct connection between trade-strangling tariffs, high taxes, the diversion of economic power out of market driven activity into government programs, and unemployment.  Now, Thomas Sowell makes similar points, with a nice concise statement about the history of unemployment rates after the 1929 stock market crash, and asks if we’re headed for Another Great Depression. The entire article is worth reading, and it’s a quick read. The key graphs:

The rise in unemployment after the stock market crash of 1929 was a blip on the screen compared to the soaring unemployment rates reached later, after a series of government interventions.

For nearly three consecutive years, beginning in February 1932, the unemployment rate never fell below 20 percent for any month before January 1935, when it fell to 19.3 percent, according to the Vedder and Gallaway statistics.

In other words, the evidence suggests that it was not the “problem” of the financial crisis in 1929 that caused massive unemployment but politicians’ attempted “solutions.” Is that the history that we seem to be ready to repeat?

The stock market crash, which has been blamed for the widespread suffering during the Great Depression of the 1930s, created no unemployment rate that was even half of what was created in the wake of the government interventions of Hoover and FDR. [emphasis mine]

Politically, however, Franklin D. Roosevelt could not have been more successful. After all, he was the only President of the United States elected four times in a row. He was a master of political rhetoric.

If Barack Obama wants political success, following in the footsteps of FDR looks like the way to go. But people who are concerned about the economy need to take a closer look at history. We deserve something better than repeating the 1930s disasters.

There is yet another factor that provides a parallel to what happened during the Great Depression. No matter how much worse things got after government intervention under Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, the party line was that he had to “do something” to get us out of the disaster created by the failure of the unregulated market and Hoover’s “do nothing” policies.

Today, increasing numbers of scholars recognize that FDR’s own policies were a further extension of interventions begun under Hoover. Moreover, the temporary rise in unemployment after the stock market crash was nowhere near the massive and long-lasting unemployment after government interventions.

Barack Obama already has his Herbert Hoover to blame for any and all disasters that his policies create: George W. Bush.

The take away:  the unemployment rate did not take off UNTIL the government programs designed to create employment using market interventions of various kinds.  We are now in the same “zone” as the economy a year after the 1929 crash, with very similar unemployment rates.  If the government tries to use sledgehammer economic interventions to “fix” it, things are likely to get worse, not better.

The American public seems to be looking for an economic savior, having lost faith in itself and in markets (as if the current crisis was caused by markets, rather than government meddling in them). If President-elect Obama continues to position himself as another FDR, and acts like it in his policies after he’s in office, better tighten your belt. We’ll be in for a hard, long slog.

Will the decades distant result be another entitlement program started with good intentions, based on economic assumptions that no longer apply (if they ever did), and now requiring larger and larger slices of the GDP?  (Think Social Security.)

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Dec 28 2008

What global warming? It’s getting colder.

Category: global warmingharmonicminer @ 10:56 pm

Yet another brilliant scientist of worldwide repute who thinks anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is a complete scam.

Add his name to these.

The global warming economy-busters who ignore the opinions of these brilliant scientists have no shame, and no credibility.  “The debate is over” …  heh.  One way to end a debate, of course, is to lock all those who disagree with you out of the room.


Dec 28 2008

What will Obama do to forestall a nuclear Iran?

Category: Iran,national security,Obamaharmonicminer @ 10:43 am

A couple years ago there were speculations in many quarters that George Bush would not allow a nuclear Iran. I read more than one column suggesting that he would take military action against Iran’s nuclear program, sometime before the end of his presidency, especially if a Democrat was elected. That seems less and less likely, based on any reasonable reading of the tea leaves. If he still plans such a thing, it is the best kept secret of his administration.

So, what will Obama do to stop Iran from getting the bomb? Make no mistake: if Iran has the bomb, the world is changed, hugely. When Iran has the bomb, we won’t know which terrorist organization has been given the bomb. We won’t know when or if Iran plans to destroy Israel, even at the price of the enormous retaliation that would follow. Iran will surely shake its nuclear stick at Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, et. al., and Iran probably has, or will have soon, missiles capable of reaching large parts of Europe.  Within 10-20 years, it is likely to have missiles that can reach the USA.

Even more concerning, if terrorists got a nuke from Iran and destroyed a US city, how would we prove the origin of the nuke? Would our response be paralyzed?

Continue reading “What will Obama do to forestall a nuclear Iran?”

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Dec 27 2008

Once again, music saves the day!

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 9:10 pm

MP3 player lights rescuers’ way to missing skiers – Yahoo! News

Swiss rescue officials say they have found two missing skiers after spotting the light from their MP3 music player.

Dec 27 2008

AP reporting of Israel’s attack on Hamas

Category: Hamas,Islam,Israel,mediaharmonicminer @ 8:06 pm

AP has done worse in its reporting, though this report has some of the usual weasel wording, calling Hamas terrorists “security forces” and so on. And the AP report puts this very interesting bit in paragraph ELEVEN, after reporting on the carnage.

Militants often operate against Israel from civilian areas. Late Saturday, thousands of Gazans received Arabic-language cell-phone messages from the Israeli military, urging them to leave homes where militants might have stashed weapons.

I would have thought such an interesting paragraph might have been, say, paragraph two, because that would have made the story more sequential.  Instead, we hear a great deal about the attack and its consequences, and only then do we hear about Israel’s attempt to reduce civilian casualties with warnings before the attacks.  But at least the AP mentioned it.  It usually does not, though this is common Israeli practice.

Once again, the lie of any moral equivalence between Israel and terrorist Palestinians is made very clear.  I’m actually surprised that the AP admitted that Hamas terrorists (called “militants” by the AP) operate from civilian areas.  At least the AP saw fit to include Israel’s warning messages to civilians who were perhaps not directly involved in Hamas’ terrorist activities.

Can anyone recall ANY similar warning ever given to ANY population, Jewish, Islamic, European, American, whatever, when Islamist terrorists are preparing an attack?  Of course, the whole point of such attacks is usually to kill civilians.  And when they attack American military targets, they wouldn’t need to warn civilians anyway, because American forces do not use civilians as “human shields.”

Israel’s major aims are two-fold: to kill Hamas leaders and terrorist personnel, and also to destroy weapons, bomb, and missile caches.  Israel has no designs on Palestinian civilians who are not attacking it.

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Dec 26 2008

Exporting California

Category: government,societyharmonicminer @ 10:18 am

It used to be common to see signs in California, bumper stickers, etc., that read, “Welcome to California. Now go home.”

This was back in the days when Americans from all fifty states were moving to California in record numbers, not just coming for vacations. Californians were fearful of losing the quality of life that they cherished, because of the enormous influx, and so the signs were quite popular. If you live in California, you haven’t seen one of those signs lately, have you?  In the current politically correct environment such a sign would not be seen as being aimed at Americans from other states.  Rather, it would be seen as being aimed at illegal aliens from our wannabe 51st state, just south of the border.
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Dec 25 2008

Merry Christmas!

Category: Uncategorizedamuzikman @ 1:20 am

May God be with you and yours as we celebrate the birth of Christ.

Dec 24 2008

Christmas prayers

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 10:37 am

Cynics consumed with Bush hatred will not be able to stomach this editorial, but there is some truth here that pretty much never gets told in the major media. Read it all.

This Thursday morn, Julie McPhillips will awake to the great hope that is Christmas Day. And amid her joy for the Savior born of woman in a Bethlehem stable, she will offer two prayers.

The first will be for her son, Lt. Brian McPhillips, killed in action in April 2003 as the First Marine Division fought its way into Baghdad. The other will be for the man on whose orders Lt. McPhillips was sent to Iraq: George W. Bush.

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