Archive for April, 2008

The Wright stuff

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

The Reverend Jeremiah Wright has become famous after some of his sermons, offered for sale by the church as a “Best of…” series, were played on national TV. The resulting uproar has focused attention on “Black Liberation theology.” This church is attended by middle class people in spite of the admonition on the church web site to “Avoid Middleclassness.” That admonition has since disappeared but, by the magic of the internet, here it is. What does the statement about “middleclassness” mean ? Here is a suggestion.

Remember the fuss about “Ebonics” in Oakland school ? Well, that is only part of it.

At the NAACP meeting, Wright proudly propounded the racist contention that blacks have inherently different “learning styles,” correctly citing as authority for this view Janice Hale of Wayne State University. Pursuing a Ph.D. by logging long hours in the dusty stacks of a library, Wright announced, is “white.” Blacks, by contrast, cannot sit still in class or learn from quiet study, and they have difficulty learning from “objects”—books, for example—but instead learn from “subjects,” such as rap lyrics on the radio. These differences are neurological, according to Hale and Wright: whites use what Wright referred to as the “left-wing, logical, and analytical” side of their brains, whereas blacks use their “right brain,” which is “creative and intuitive.”

When he was of school age in Philadelphia following the Supreme Court’s 1954 desegregation decision, Wright said, his white teachers “freaked out because the black children did not stay in their place, over there, behind the desk.” Instead, the students “climbed up all over [the teachers], because they learned from a ‘subject,’ not an ‘object.’” How one learns from a teacher as “subject” by climbing on her, as opposed to learning from her as “object”—by listening to her words—is a mystery.

Leo High School seal

This is ugly stuff. Fortunately, I don’t think this is the mainstream of thought in black educational circles. For the past ten years, I have contributed to my former high school in Chicago. It isn’t too far from Rev Wright’s church, as the crow flies, but, hopefully, it is light years away in concept. When I look at the web site, I don’t see Ebonics or anything about rap music learning. I do see a 96% graduation rate and a college acceptance rate of over 90%. Note the process of application. The school interviews the parents.

This is not a prep school for wealthy black families like the Obamas. This is a blue collar neighborhood and the kids who attend Leo today are working to better themselves. The tuition isn’t cheap for a working family but the school tells me that over 95% of parents are current on tuition at any given time. This is the American dream in action. The last reunion I attended, my 50th, was two years ago. At the first one, in 1996, I saw only one table of black alumni. Two years ago, there were a least three. The white alumni turn out and contribute in hopes that the younger graduates will take over as we die off. It looks like that will happen.

In the meantime, I think a toast to “middleclassness” is in order, no matter what the black liberation theorists say.

The value of a college education II

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Several months ago, I posted on the value of a college education. We now have a new standard for useless college educations, and it is from Dartmouth. I have a degree from Dartmouth and know that it is a highly sought college admission. I am also aware that there is a struggle going on between alumni, who wish to maintain the high standards that go back to colonial times, and new left wing activists who are attempting to wrest control of this ancient institution away from the alumni and from traditional standards.

A previous attempt in 2006 failed and so the college administration has changed the rules, packed the trustee committee and has another ballot being voted on right now. For Dartmouth, the stakes could not be higher and those students threatened with a lawsuit because of their evaluations know it. The Dartmouth Review has   the story.

The post-American world

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

This essay by Fareed Zakaria is interesting although some of his suggestions for solutions are weak. His analysis of the decline of the British Empire is incomplete. He blames the Boer War for the beginning of the decline.

Britain’s exalted position, however, was more fragile than it appeared. Just two years after the Diamond Jubilee, Britain entered the Boer War, a conflict that, for many scholars, marks the moment when British power began to decline. London was sure that it would win the fight with little trouble. After all, the British army had just won a similar battle against the dervishes in Sudan, despite being outnumbered by more than two to one. In the Battle of Omdurman, it inflicted 48,000 dervish casualties in just five hours while losing only 48 soldiers of its own. Many in Britain imagined an even easier victory against the Boers. After all, as one member of Parliament put it, it was “the British Empire against 30,000 farmers.”

In fact, as pointed out in several books on the history of technology, Britain did not absorb the second phase of the Industrial Revolution. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes, by Louis XIV in 1685, sent the Protestant tradesmen and technicians of France to England for refuge and they took with them the Industrial Revolution. The inventions of the early 19th century were a result of that diaspora from France. By mid-19th century, however, England was failing to adopt the new science of chemistry. In France, now recovered from the convulsions of the Revolution and Napoleon, Louis Pasteur studied wine chemistry and from there moved on to bacteriology and the revolutionary advances in medicine. In Germany, newly united, the Kaiser supported science education as a way to catch up to the great rivals of Germany in Europe. Organic chemistry took off from its origins in Germany and the other nations did not catch up until after the Second World War.

Individual genius still was prominent in England as the discoveries of Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell were fundamental in the new science of electromagnetism and electric power. Still, the tradition of the “gentleman amateur” held back British science finally and Germany built the great chemical industry that brought the second Industrial Revolution.

He does make a good point that Britain would have been far better off to have stayed out of the First World War, although the building of the German High Seas Fleet made that very difficult. Had they, and we, stayed out, it would have been another Franco-Prussian War. As a practical matter, however, the Kaiser was determined to be a rival to his British family. He was Queen Victoria’s grandson and had a pathological inferiority complex that led to disaster.

Some of Zakaria’s conclusions are reassuring for America.

No statistic seems to capture this anxiety better than those showing the decline of engineering in the United States. In 2005, the National Academy of Sciences released a report warning that the United States could soon lose its privileged position as the world’s science leader. The report said that in 2004 China graduated 600,000 engineers, India 350,000, and the United States 70,000 — numbers that were repeated in countless articles, books, and speeches. And indeed, these figures do seem to be cause for despair. What hope does the United States have if for every one qualified American engineer there are more than a dozen Chinese and Indian ones? For the cost of one chemist or engineer in the United States, the report pointed out, a company could hire five Chinese chemists or 11 Indian engineers.

The numbers, however, are wrong. Several academics and journalists investigated the matter and quickly realized that the Asian totals included graduates of two- or three-year programs training students in simple technical tasks. The National Science Foundation, which tracks these statistics in the United States and other nations, puts the Chinese number at about 200,000 engineering degrees per year, and the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Ron Hira puts the number of Indian engineering graduates at about 125,000 a year. This means that the United States actually trains more engineers per capita than either China or India does.

Others have questioned his focus on education, pointing out that 40% of the population, the “left side of the bell curve” are not likely to benefit by advances in nanotechnology and biotechnology industries except as consumers. This makes Zakaria’s emphasis on the benefits of unlimited illegal immigration less logical. He writes:

Immigration also gives the United States a quality rare for a rich country — dynamism. The country has found a way to keep itself constantly revitalized by streams of people who are eager to make a new life in a new world. Some Americans have always worried about such immigrants — whether from Ireland or Italy, China or Mexico. But these immigrants have gone on to become the backbone of the American working class, and their children or grandchildren have entered the American mainstream. The United States has been able to tap this energy, manage diversity, assimilate newcomers, and move ahead economically. Ultimately, this is what sets the country apart from the experience of Britain and all other past great economic powers that have grown fat and lazy and slipped behind as they faced the rise of leaner, hungrier nations.

That is all very well for the hundreds of thousands who are educated and are waiting for the sclerotic legal immigration system to process their applications. The illegals who flood the border states, however, are mostly illiterate and uneducated and unlikely to contribute anything but competition for low-wage jobs for that “left end of the bell curve.” He needs to get out of his ivory tower at Newsweek to see the reality.

His political prescriptions are also unlikely to be helpful as he is blind to the regressive politics of the Democratic party which favors dead end education in “Women’s Studies” and “African-American studies” while attacking free trade and favoring high capital gains taxes even if they lose money for the tax system.

It’s worth reading even if I disagree with some of his points.


Sunday, April 27th, 2008

The Reverend Jeremiah Wright has complained that his sermons explaining how the US government created the AIDS virus as a form of genocide for blacks, and his other interesting theories, have been taken “out of context.” That the “sound bites” are not representative of his preaching. Hugh Hewitt has helpfully posted links to many more complete sermons so that those interested in Obama’s mentor can judge for yourselves.

For example:

Remember, it was soldiers of the 3rd Marine Regiment of Rome who had fun with Jesus, who was mistreated as a prisoner of war, an enemy of the occupying army stationed in Jerusalem, to ensure the mopping up action of Operation Israeli Freedom. These people were blinded by the culture of war. Do you know what it is like to live under military rule 24/7, 365? These people were blinded by their circumstance of oppression. Their enemies not only had all of the political power, with Governor Pontius Pilate, y’all call him Pontius Pilate. He’s Italian, Pontius Pilate. Pontius Pilate was running the provisional government. Their enemies also had the military power. They not only had political power, they had the military power. It was Roman soldiers who kept Jesus up all night. It was the Italian army who led Jesus out to Calvary on Friday morning. It was the occupying military brigade who forced Simon of Sirene to carry the cross for Jesus. These people were tired of their oppression, they wanted the enemy up out of their land. Some of them did, some of them did not. The businessmen did not, those in bed with the enemy, let’s be clear. But the average citizen wanted them out, and they also wanted revenge. They wanted their king to get this military monkey off their backs. They wanted a regime change, if you will, and look what they called Jesus.

That should clear things up.

More here. Plenty of context.

The end game cometh

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

UPDATE: The Clinton supporters smell blood in the Bill Ayers story and there may be more there than we know.

Eleanor Clift has seen the first shivers in the Obama edifice in her piece in Newsweek. Could this be the first day of the end of Ozymandias ? Hillary’s wrath will be terrible to behold if she wins. I still don’t think she can beat McCain without the black vote and I don’t see how she gets it. Still, she looks like a hell of a lot more competent president than Obama would be. President Hillary with a wounded and bleeding Democratic Party is better than the Obama juggernaught to socialism.

Now, for what Bush got right

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

I’m not happy with Bush on the domestic front but he did get one thing right; the Iraq War. As I get farther into the Doug Feith book, it is apparent that most of the folklore about how we came to invade Iraq is wrong. Time will take care of most of that although the fact that most historians are leftist politically may delay the final reckoning. Maybe when the climate turns colder, they will begin to doubt a few of the liberal pieties that so consume them.

Anyway, Bush has made huge gains with our allies in Asia as a result of America’s steadfastness in prosecuting the war. That is all the result of Bush having the courage of his convictions. The next president could screw it up but we are probably so far along that not even Obama could lose it.

A look at Lanny Davis’s Huffington Post piece is reassuring on that score. If Hillary does pull it off, she will cause the black vote to stay home. If Obama wins the nomination, the Reagan Democrats will return to the fold.

Hopefully, our victory in Iraq is secure.

Where do I sign ?

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

Cindy Sheehan, pitiful tool of anti-war activists, needs 10,198 signatures to run against Nancy Pelosi for her seat in Congress. Where do I sign ?

Has Bush lost Texas ?

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

Peggy Noonan has an interesting column today on the consequences of the Global War on Terror and Bush’s presidency. I don’t agree with her completely but she has some good points.

And, as always: Why do we do this when you know I am not a terrorist, and you know I know you know I am not a terrorist? Why this costly and harassing kabuki when we both know the facts, and would agree that all this harassment is the government’s way of showing “fairness,” of showing that it will equally humiliate anyone in order to show its high-mindedness and sense of justice? Our politicians congratulate themselves on this as we stand in line.

She is writing about the annoyances of air travel and the general angst of ordinary people who have had to give up some privacy for what seem like trivial benefits. A frequent guest on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, and former Israeli security officer, comments that the TSA security system is not really a security system; it is a system to annoy people. The purpose, as he sees it, is to prove that the government is doing something to protect us.  Profiling of travellers to make the system less intrusive was rejected by the then Secretary of Transportation, Democrat Norman Mineta who was reacting to memories of the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Less understandable is the rejection of a system for frequent fliers who could be screened and then allowed a less intrusive (and less time-wasting) security check once they had been identified by biometrics. Apparently, this would not be sufficiently “nondiscriminatory.” Even pilots must go through the entire procedure when it is obvious that, if a pilot decided (like the Egypt Air flight 990 pilot) to crash a plane in a suicide mission, he has only to do so with the controls.

Also, ground security for aircraft not in service has been exposed as a weak spot.

The TSA mess is not the only reason why people are unhappy with Bush. The political left assumes that most of the unhappiness is due to the war but I don’t agree. The left would be antagonistic no matter what was happening in the war because they are still angry about 2000. I am about 1/3 into Doug Feith’s book on the decisions that brought us to war in Iraq. He points out a fact often lost in the debate. As a consequence of the Florida vote debacle, and the Democrats’ anger, the Bush administration had only a skeleton crew until the summer of 2001. Feith was not confirmed to the #3 spot in the Defense Department until July 2001. That was true of most Bush appointees and it had a lot to do with the failure to “connect the dots” that is the subject of the 9/11 Commission Report.

The reasons for the quiet break with Mr. Bush: spending, they say first, growth in the power and size of government, Iraq. I imagine some of this: a fine and bitter conservative sense that he has never had to stand in his stockinged feet at the airport holding the bin, being harassed. He has never had to live in the world he helped make, the one where grandma’s hip replacement is setting off the beeper here and the child is crying there. And of course as a former president, with the entourage and the private jets, he never will. I bet conservatives don’t like it. I’m certain Gate 14 doesn’t.

I don’t completely agree here and some of the comments on the WSJ site side with me in this matter. Bush has lost a lot of Republicans when he has acted like a Democrat. The Republican Congress lost its way after Gingrich destroyed himself with personal foibles similar to those of Bill Clinton. The incumbents began to act like incumbents. They spent and earmarked and generally made themselves indistinguishable from Democrats. Bush did not veto a spending bill. I have read that this was the advice of former Speaker Denny Hastert. If so, this was bad advice.

“I think to some extent you’re seeing a liberated George Bush,” Mr. Wehner said, discussing the current spate of veto threats. “When Hastert was speaker, one of his red lines was that he did not want any spending bills vetoed. That, to some extent, restricted the range of actions that we had. It made it difficult to veto certain bills like the transportation bill and the other ones conservatives didn’t want.”

The election of 2006 ended the fantasy of permanent incumbency bought with high spending. If Republicans act like Democrats, the voters may decide they want the real thing and elect Democrats. The unhappiness of many conservatives with Bush stems from this issue. Also, we had a series of high profile scandals like Mark Foley (Who had planned to retire from Congress and the clueless RNC convinced him to run one last time.)

Then came the issue of immigration. The Wall Street Journal is unlikely to emphasize this issue in a recital of Bush’s mistakes but it was a big one. It is also the source of much uneasiness with McCain. I have previously posted my concerns about McCain and his conversion may or may not be permanent. I would be happier if he got rid of that advisor.

Of course, the State Department makes McCain look good when you see their advisors and the policies they seem to be advocating.

I don’t know how Bush will look in ten years but I think Iraq will be the least of the problems with his presidency.

Jared Diamond and Revenge

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Jared Diamond is an anthropologist at UCLA who has written a couple of excellent books, one of which, Guns, Germs and Steel , I used heavily in writing the chapters of my book on prehistoric man. He is an authority on New Guinea and the highlands culture that was only discovered since the Second World War.

He has an article in New Yorker this month on the basic human need for vengeance that is excellent. Until I got to the end, I was afraid he was going to use the usual leftist cop-out but he didn’t. The failure of governments to punish evil-doers in the 1960s led to the lawlessness of the 1970s. One reason was the failure to convince those tempted to break the law that it was too expensive. The other reason was the failure to convince the victims and their families that justice had been done. This is a powerful explanation of how that worked.

Obama’s advisors

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Obama has had a parade of advisors depart the campaign after various gaffes. First there was economic advisor Austan Goolsbee who tried to reassure the Canadians that anti-free trade talk by Obama was just for the consumption of the bitter “rubes” of the Rust Belt. Then there was foreign policy advisor Samantha Power who thinks the Iranian nuclear program is a figment of Bush’s imagination.

The war scare that wasn’t stands as a metaphor for the incoherence of our policy toward Iran: the Bush Administration attempts to gin up international outrage by making a claim of imminent danger, only to be met with international eye rolling when the claim is disproved. Sound familiar? The speedboat episode bore an uncanny resemblance to the Administration’s allegations about the advanced state of Iran’s weapons program–allegations refuted in December by the National Intelligence Estimate.

A common theme among Obama advisors is antipathy to Israel. Joseph Cirincione is the Obama nuclear advisor. Here is Cirincione’s opinion of the Syrian nuclear site before it was proven to be a North Korea-built reactor.

This story is nonsense. The Washington Post story should have been headlined “White House Officials Try to Push North Korea-Syria Connection.” This is a political story, not a threat story. The mainstream media seems to have learned nothing from the run-up to war in Iraq. It is a sad commentary on how selective leaks from administration officials who have repeatedly misled the press are still treated as if they were absolute truth.

Of course, we now know the reactor was not “a lie.” And Cirincione is still advising Obama.

This is what passes for wisdom on the political left these days.

I am coming to the conclusion that Democrats realize Obama may be another McGovern. They are willing to lose the election since the loss can be blamed on racism, further binding blacks to the Democratic Party. The alternative, nominating Hillary, would split the party.

A loss is a tactical retreat and can be used to further demonize Republicans to the blacks who are knee-jerk Democrat voters.

“[T]he vast, vast majority of voters who would not vote for Barack Obama in November based on race are probably firmly in John McCain’s camp already,” he says.

Yup. There it is. No mention of the racists in Rev. Wright’s church.