Monday, July 30, 2007

Shockingly Positive Article on Iraq

Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack have published a shocking editorial in the New York Times (here).

These two (especially Pollack who I follow more closely) have been against the war, and more importantly heavy critics, from the beginning. Today, they are reporting success on the ground in Iraq that cannot be ignored unlike the normal garbage at National Review/Weekly Standard.

They credit the new strategy in Iraq for reaching out to Iraqis on a local level (Pollack has criticized the administration for prosecuting a centralized war incapable of reaching out to locals in The New Republic previously), spurring local economic development through initiatives such as microloans, creating a more diverse Iraqi military, and raising U.S. troop moral levels.

It is saddening to think of the way the war was fought from the beginning. We wasted all this time, boat loads of money, and thousands of lives waiting for a coherent strategy. Sad.

Geopolitical Setback for U.S. in Japan

The Liberal Democratic Party's electoral loss in Japan is a big blow to the U.S.'s geopolitical position in Asia, because President Shinzo Abe has been a bright spot as our ally.

His willingness to support the U.S.'s battles is admirable, but his push to amend the constitution would have strengthened our hand in the region. Currently, their constitution only allows the maintenance of a military for defense. Heavy spending over the years has built a military as capable as any in the world (I have seen their Navy personally and it is capable of a lot more than defense) and President Abe wanted to reserve the right to use it.

The thrashing that LDP took at the polls will not only make Abe a lame duck (and according to this article he will be pressured to resign), but it will nix any future talk about changing the constitution. His successor would have to be mentally ill to pursue such a course after this election. Thats a setback for us because A free Japanese military would have assisted the U.S. in containing China through the mere implicit threat of force. China knows they could not compete with the Japanese military, more specifically their Navy, which would make them think twice about ill advised conquests.

Maybe next decade.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Rapist goes free because he doesn't speak English

I am too busy to write about how crazy this is but the details speak volumes.

A Liberian man was set free in Maryland because the court could not find an interpreter for his African language. The man raped and repeatedly sexually molested a 7 year-old girl.

You did not read it wrong. He was simply set free.....

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Charter School Progress

The education issue may be vast, but the solution is simple: competition.

Charter schools are a great way to challenge the government's monopoly on education with competition. This article is a good story about how the status quo is being challenged in Los Angeles by Steve Barr. Coincidently the article also contained the quote of the day:

“If the district doesn’t work with me, I’ll compete with them and take their kids”

This is exactly the intended attitude. Schools should be competing for kids. The schools producing the better students will receive more students while failing schools will be driven out of business. Mr. Barr is competing head-to-head with the government monopoly and, by this account, winning.

He is winning for two reasons. First, he is tenacious, even willing to "steamroll" competition. Most people don't associate this style temperament with education but they should. It is what drives innovation in every other successful industry and education is an industry like it or not.

Secondly, he has worked with the establishment. As the article states, the charter school movement is often associated with with the anti-union movement and resisted by the establishment. Mr. Barr took a very different tact. Instead he welcomed unionization. The contracts nixed tenure but gave the teachers more flexibility in how they structure their classes. Predictably the older teachers still resisted the change, but the younger teachers have embraced it. He also involved parents and the community at-large. The charter school movement there seems to be just that, a movement, instead of an isolated school opening.

Good for him. Hopefully other charter schools will adopt Barr's unorthodox style. We will all be better off if they do.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Why is Prostitution Illegal?

With Senator Vitter back in the news today, I though this would be a good time to say what must be said about prostitution: it should be legal.

The United States has some of the strictest anti-prostitution regulation/enforcement anywhere in the world outside of the Middle East. Why? Moralistic impulse. I have never understood why one individual cannot pay another for sexual acts. While it may give us a nice little 'holier than thou' buzz to condemn it, condemnation accomplishes nothing.

Actually, I would argue the opposite. Because prostitutes must deal in the black market, they are a diffuse shadowy bunch. Why is that important? It is important because it attracts a criminal element. The lowly ranks are populated by the drug and disease infested dregs of society. If it were legal it could be regulated and contained.

Opponents of prostitution normally cite the spread of diseases as one of the reasons for making it illegal, but legalization would lessen the threat. Having a license regime could force prostitutes to be tested for STD's and AIDS. No paying customer in their right mind would contract a partner without this license because their risk of disease would be multiplied dramatically. Bordellos would be placed in designated areas (similar to strip clubs in red light districts) removing the need for 'street walkers' and 'pimps'.

It may be tough to look at the issue systematically because of Americans immediate impulse to take a moralistic stance, but the logic is undeniable. 'Prostitution is bad, therefore it must be illegal' is a horrible argument but it works on election day.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007

Cure for World Aids Epidemic

Although I have castigated Zimbabwe in the past, it is high time to congratulate them for making a large step forward in curbing the aids epidemic here.

It's not only the prices of bread and eggs that are out of control in Zimbabwe, land of 4,000 percent inflation. For the man inclined to cheat on his wife, these are trying times. Keeping a mistress, visiting a prostitute or even taking a girlfriend out for beers is simply becoming too expensive, men say.

But their strain is Zimbabwe's gain in its fight against AIDS. Alone among southern African countries, Zimbabwe has shown a significant drop in its HIV rate in recent years. A major reason, researchers say, is the changing sexual habits of men forced to abandon costly multiple relationships.

"Those extramarital relationships, they're getting tough to sustain," said Thomas Muza, 37, who is struggling to support his wife and a mistress on the shrinking value of a math teacher's paycheck.

So to you Zimbabwe I say congratulations. This story has spurred me to wonder how long the Gorite eco-socialists will take to implement similar policies to curb "global warming" or "climate change" or whatever its called today.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Senator Webb Gives a Good Example of How Not to End the War

Note to Senator Webb: You are not the president and Congress is not the Executive branch.

In a 56-41 vote, Webb's amendment would have required troops in Iraq to have time at home equal to time served in theater. While it is a clever attempt to end the war, it is not the province of Congress to control the military. Congress has one true constitutional avenue to end the war: cut off funding. Anything apart from a cut in funding is simply an attempt at usurping power.

I understand the Democrats desire to end the war. Their attempts are simply a reflection of their constituents demands, but that doesn't mean they should do so in a way which will would alter forever how the U.S. engages in warfare. Imagine if congress could have voted on the storming of Normandy, or island hoping in the Pacific? It would have been a bureaucratic nightmare.

The bottom line is that if Jim Webb and his friends on the hill wish to end the war they should have the political courage to simply cut off funding. If they fail they should try again. Then again who ever let the pesky constitution get in the way of a good idea.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Quote of the Day

"The same people who think it was wonderful that the Warren Court forbade government to assign children to schools on the basis of race think it is terrible that the current Supreme Court has recently stopped local governments from assigning children to schools on the basis of race."

Thomas Sowell

Trade Gap with China is Positive

This may sound counterintuitive, but the trade gap with China is not so bad. Most people believe that it is a negative because they long for an age when products were "Made in America". The longing is based more on nostalgia than economics. Was working in sweatshops for peanuts really the good old days? I say no. Let the low wage, low skilled work go overseas to places where they have the people to fill those jobs. We don't need them here. We have a service based economy which relies more on skills and education.

Secondly, the trade gap misses many knowledge based products. Is a student who comes to an American university and then returns home an export? Yes. Is that counted? No. The same scenario holds true for medical treatment, and some research and marketing (among others). This may account for a small percentage but it is worth mentioning.

Thirdly, our ability to import extremely large quantities exhibits economic strength, not weakness. It is because of our great wealth that we are able to buy in such large quantities. Maybe an analogy will help make the point. Using the logic that the trade deficit is bad then one would also have to believe that a lawyer who lives in a big house with several cars, and a boat is in a bad position because he is buying more than he is selling. He is producing no physical product and only sells his knowledge and abilities. His surplus of products shows his economic strength.

This story today about the record trade deficit with China will no doubt increase calls for protectionist measures which will surely hurt our economy. I wish I could blame this all on the Democrats, after all they are the worst economic demagogues, but many Republicans are going wobbly. I believe that the debacle of a war in Iraq will only increase public support for isolationist policies. This is very unfortunate but regrettably predictable.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Another Defector

Senator Domenici is the most recent addition to the GOP revolt over Iraq. He joins Voinovich and Lugar in just the last week.

This is slightly surprising. I thought they would have waited until the September report. After that they would be able to use it to 'prove' that progress in Iraq is too slow (or whatever else they want to 'prove'). While I am no fan of the Iraq situation, I am miffed by lack of a plan by the defectors. They make empty pronouncements about funding the troops and denounce timetables but what are they for? I haven't heard any coherent plan from them, and definitely not from the Democrats either.

Regardless how we got into Iraq, we cannot simply pull out. In short, it would be a recklessly irresponsible move. Some semblance of order, however slight must be established. What does that mean? It means that an Iraqi citizen can go to the market without wondering if he will return. It means that there is an agreement, however tenuous, which allow for a form of power sharing and oil wealth distribution. It means that foreign terrorists with a singular goal of instability are mostly driven out or contained. It does not mean that Iraq must look like a mini-America, which was the major problem from the beginning. Actually i would argue that is what got us into this mess, but that is another story for another day.

Regardless, exit will not be pretty. It will most likely look like a post-civil war Lebanon. Several groups involved in an uneasy power sharing agreement where each side distrusts the other. Such an arrangement will be fragile and easily disturbed. Read this for a more in depth analysis.

As is life. It is not pretty but its what we will most likely leave. Anything less is unacceptable.

The real problem I have with the defectors is their lack of vision. Actually I take that back. They do have a plan. They plan on winning re-election in 2008. But when it comes to an issue such as this there should be more than politics at play. The world is watching and we will either be more damaged than we already are diplomatically or we will reserve some semblance of legitimacy.

You can't be against the 'war' and be for an alternative.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Quote of the Day

"[The] promise [from the Brown v board of education decision]-- a colorblind society -- has been traduced by the "diversity" exception to the Equal Protection Clause. That exception allows white majorities to feel noble while treating blacks and certain other minorities as seasoning -- a sort of human oregano -- to be sprinkled across a student body to make the majority's educational experience more flavorful."

George Will

The never ending haircut

A story in the Washington Post today reveals that John Edward's infamous $400 haircut was actually a third of what he once paid. The self styled poverty pimp actually paid $1,250 for a cut in 2004.

His styalist to the stars, Joseph Torrenueva, would charge Edwards for airfare and hotel when he traveled outside of California. Torrenueva charged $1,250 for the 2004 session because he missed two days of work to fly out to meet Edwards in Atlanta.

There is no need to insert a punchline. This guy is ridiculous and a horrible politician to boot.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Quote of the Day

"before every American boy gets out of high school, he should take a punch to the face. You take one punch, Dobler says, and you learn that you can handle pretty much anything, that nothing hurts as much as you might think"

From former NFL lineman Conrad Dobler (once named the dirtiest player in the NFL) in an ESPN article.

Monday, July 2, 2007

English Update

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander introduced an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill which will restrict funds for anti-English lawsuits.

The amendment passed 15-14 late last week. His amendment was prompted because of a case in Massachusetts where the EEOC filed a lawsuit against the Salvation Army which was forcing its employees to speak English on the job.

If a business can't tell its employees what language to speak on the job then what can it do? Can it tell the employees to work? I'm honestly not certain of the answer. Speaking the same language as the customers is integral for an organization to conduct business. Isn't this common sense? Two employees speaking another language while on the job is more than inefficient, its also rude. The Salvation Army didn't surprise these employees wither with a new rule. They posted the regulation and gave the employees a year to comply.

If that is discrimination then I need to re-learn what the definition of discrimination. I should probably take that back before I land myself in a Hillary Clinton re-education camp in 2010 or so.