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Saturday, December 18, 2004

Education or Educational Bureaucracy? The Bureaucrats Win

Thanks to Betsy's Page, who references Katie, who in turn cites Ryan Sager's blog which references Sager's column in The New York Post (WHEW! out of breath just doing courtesies in that one!)

A pastor in upstate New York was driven to start a charter school due to the abysmal educational status of many adult parishioners....

"The tragedy is this," says Hague. "In my church, I have apologized to young adults and middle-aged adults, people who used to be called Generation X . . . They sit in my pews in my Bible class, and they cannot read."

"And now their children are a second generation of failure," he says.

"I have a young girl that is nine years old," he recounts. "We gave her a part in the Easter pageant, she memorized her lines perfectly, she sings in our children's choir . . . And she's repeated first grade three times."

There is another boy, he says, who was inducted into the National Honor Society last year. Now he's struggling with English, but his school is offering him no help.

That's why Hague has put together his plan for the Niagara Charter School — which the state Department of Education is recommending strongly for approval. There, he would offer kids an extended school day (nine hours) and year (200 days), he would put the kids in uniforms and he would drill them relentlessly on the basics — all of the elements that have proven successful in other charter schools around the country."

Parents were thrilled, but the local teachers union was infuriated, aghast, and motivated to wage what amounts to a bureaucratic war.

* On Monday, Hague sent a letter to the Regents alleging that "threats have been made to the livelihood of several initial board members" of the proposed school. The culprit, says Hague, is the superintendent of the Niagara Falls City school district, Carmen Granto (who denies this charge). So far, three members of the board have resigned, one an architect who had business with the city and one a public school teacher.

* Parents have also been discouraged in various ways from showing support for the school. According to Hague and people who gathered signatures in support of the school, parents were terrified to sign petitions lest the district "blackball" their children.

Meanwhile, the Niagara Falls Teachers Union gathered thousands of signatures opposing the new charter — calling parents, making sure every teacher had signed and even keeping schools open late (something they're reluctant to do when it comes to giving kids extra instruction time).

"I've had people come up to me and tell me, 'Pastor, this isn't personal. I have to because of my job'," says Hague.

* Lastly, the political powers-that-be in Albany — mainly Niagara's Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, let the chancellor of the state Board of Regents, Robert Bennett (who also represents the Niagara area), know that he'd better toe the line. His term as a Regent is up in 2005, and his road to reappointment goes through Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver.

So, the school was denied charter last week. I suppose someone considers themselves winners in this "fight." It is always the kids who lose.

The traditional yule fear factor

James Lileks is a hoot when it comes to lampooning the PC idiocy about "Merry Christmas"

"Maybe it's just me. Perhaps I'm overly sensitive. But when I wish a store clerk 'Merry Christmas!' they often appear stunned and flummoxed for a moment, as if I've just blabbed the plans for the underground's sabotage of the train tracks in front of the secret police. I've said something highly inappropriate for the public square, and I almost expect a security guard to take me aside on the way out. He'll lead me to a small room. He has no enthusiasm for this; it's the end of his shift, and he's done this a dozen times already today. But policy is policy.

Sir, you realize that the store does not use the, um, ah, C word. We have nothing against it, of course, and wish you a merry (cough)mas, as well. But when you say that to a store employee, it puts them in a difficult position.

'You mean that position where they have to smile while wondering if they're going to be disciplined for saying the wrong thing?'

That's the one, yes. I hope you understand that we have a long-standing relationship with the (cough)mas holiday --

'Like the relationship between a sucker fish and a whale? Only the fish isn't really interested in whether the whale exists or not, only that it doesn't fall off and die.'

Sucker fish, remora, intestinal parasite -- we don't have an approved aquatic metaphor for the relationship. But that's not the point. We prefer the term 'festive season.'

Which is a euphemism for Christmas, of course.

Yes. And 'Happy Euphemism' is acceptable on store property. You must understand that this is not about Christmas, but about the holiday season, which encompasses many beliefs.

Hence the trees, the lights, the berries, the Santa costumes, the Nutcracker statues, the Nat King Cole music on the speakers, the poinsettias, and other symbols of Hinduism. Come on! It's Christmas! What's the problem?'

Sir, you needn't use that tone of voice. It's hostile, and --

'It's not hostile. It's festive! See? I'm happy! Big grin. I'm happy for a variety of reasons, and one of them is the yearly reminder that my britches are not as tightly cinched as yours. You could celebrate every single religious holiday and I wouldn't mind. If your staff all wished me a merry whatever, I'd take it as an expression of goodwill. The other day, for example, the Disney Channel had a little ad between shows wishing the viewers a Happy Hanukkah. My kid asked what that meant, and I explained it as best I could, even spinning around like a giant dreidel. We went to the grocery store and got latkes, even. With some nice cream cheese. If anyone had looked at us, your textbook goyim, and said 'Happy Hanukkah' I would have taken it as a warm and friendly wish to celebrate the goodwill inherent in the holidays crucial to the great religions. So why can't I say Merry Chris -- no. Wrong question. Why can't you say it?'

Sir, this conversation no longer sounds real, but has come to resemble a fictional contrivance designed to make you seem sensible at my expense. I shall have to pepper spray you.

AAAUUUGGHHH! Man, I hate it when my straw dogs fight back. Have to go wash out my eyes. Hold on.

There. Anyway. I probably exaggerate a bit, but I spent yesterday at the Mall, and the word 'Christmas' was nowhere in sight - except for the signs that detailed the holiday store hours.

They were closed on Christmas, for some peculiar reason.

I don't get it. There's this peculiar fear of Christmas that seems to get stronger every year, as if it's the season that dare not speak its name. Check out the U.S. Postal Service Web site: two different stamps for Kwanzaa. One for Eid, two for Hanukkah. Two for non-sectarian 'Holiday,' with pictures of Santa, reindeer, ornaments, that sort of thing. One for the Chinese New Year. One for those religiously inclined -- it features a Madonna and Child. But the Web site calls it 'Holiday Traditional.' The word 'Christmas' doesn't appear on the site's description of the stamps. Eid, yes. Hanukkah, yes. Kwanzaa, yes. Christmas? No. It's "Holiday Traditional."

Friday, December 17, 2004

Another candidate for the Darwin Awards. - News Of The Strange - Friend Killed On Dare After Bullet Pierces Protective Vest. Just unbelievably stupid.
I grew up in Northern Alabama. I grew up with guns. I have also been very very drunk at times (which I suspect in this case, I cannot conceive of a sober person doing this). Never never never never do the two (alcohol and guns) mix.
My own suspicion is that idiocy shootings like this come NOT from the proliferation of guns, but rather the opposite. Like I said, I grew up with guns. It was understood that there were clear rules for how you used them. They were potentially deadly, and you treated them with RESPECT. Many kids nowadays see the glamour and excitement and hoopla on TV, but have no actual experience with guns in their youth. They grow up and have an horror of them, as if they are some sort of handheld "Christine," or they have a stupid DISrespect for this one.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Italy to pull out of Kyoto agreement

Headline news from Sky News: "'Seeing as these countries do not wish to talk about binding agreements, we must proceed with voluntary accords, bilateral pacts and commercial partnerships....." sez Altero Matteoli, environmental minister of Italy.

Ostensibly it is because China, India, and the US are not on board..., but maybe it is REALLY because he read STATE OF FEAR, Michael Crichton's new book, which debunks most of the junk science behind global warming as it kept him enthralled. Nah, probably not

However, I am reading this book. More on it when I am finished, but it is another page turner by Crichton, probably the best since the Andromedae Strain.

Proposition 200, Immigration, and Political Tightwires

You will not find a more ardent proponent for hispanic immigrants than yours truly. I butt heads with many "conservatives" on this issue. My counter to rants like Pat Buchanan's The Death of the West (the "bible" of many anti immigrationists) is that the loss of western culture comes from the flaccid state of Western Civilization itself. If our culture were more vibrant, we would absorb the immigrants and change THEM more than they change us. The solution of many "hard border" advocates is indistinguishable from statism: they simply wish to erect legal barriers to immigrants rather than be willing to compete economically, culturally, linguistically, etc.

That said, Proposition 200 in Arizona is a good thing. It simply limits social "benefits" of the state to legal residents. I realize this puts a burden on the "foreigner among us" by denying state services to the poorest and most vulnerable. However, the alternative is to simply bust the system. The one issue of undocumenteds/illegals literally shutting down emergency health care clinics has caused resentment and backlash against some of the finest future citizens we could ask for.

Prop 200 is an attempt to:
1) Gain control of our borders. In an age of terrorism, this is mandatory
2) Control our social welfare net. Social Security is the ultimate payor of these benefits, thru state mandated medicaid. That system is going BROKE, and all the lugubrious handwringing about corporate greed and excessive lifestyle of rich white people won't change that. Fiscal collapse brings far greater problems than some selfish jerk tooling around in an expensive car.
3) Force a re-think on our immigration policies. We have the most hypocritical system one can imagine. We are dependent on entry level labor. Market economies always are (maybe I should say REAL economies always are...., as command economies are consistent basket cases). We want to import people into our system to mow our lawns, build our houses, prepare our food, clean our homes, etc etc, but we don't want to acknowledge their presence. So, we deliberately do not enforce our own border laws, and allow people to live in a state of no status, no chance of legally entering society, no possibility for citizenship. We complain (and rightly so) that illegals strain the social programs we have in place, but allow no legal avenues for them to get OUT of the lowest economic rungs. This is just crazy.

I think we should FIRST Change our immigration policies. Yes, even before controlling our borders.

a) Bush's recent moves to grant permanent status to those who have been living here and productively employed is a GOOD thing (despite the fact that he said he was against "amnesty" in the debate.

b) We really need to change the entry requirements. The inscription on the base of the Statue of Liberty may as well read: "Give us your rich, your elite, your braintrusts and those who won't be a 'burden'..... and screw the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. We don't need em." We should set a limit on the number of immigrants we will receive (and it should be LIBERAL), and take anyone who can prove no criminal background

c) Rather than sending our military to 150 countries around the world, they should patrol our border and forcibly evict ANYONE coming over. Anyone caught illegally coming in should be documented, fingerprinted, and permanently denied entry.

All that said, the recent decision by an AZ court to delay Proposition 200 is a bad thing. Having a welcome out means HAVING A WELCOME OUT., not having hypociritical laws that we feel guilty about and depend on a activist court to set aside.

In an interesting aside about this issue Hillary Clinton has decided to shed her liberal image by coming in on the right side of Pat Buchanan. Just listen to her quotes on illegal immigration quoted by Tony Blankley in his Washington Times: Editorials OP-ED "[I do] not think that we have protected our borders or our ports ... we can do more and we can do batter?I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants... Clearly we have to make some tough decisions as a country, and one of them ought to be coming up with a much better entry-and-exit system so that if we are going to let people in for... work...lets have system that keeps track of them... People have to stop employing illegal immigrants."

It is a crazy world when the Dem diva for prez in 2008 starts howling over illegal immigrants, and the born again bible quoting Republican president catches hell from his base because he wants to legalize illegal immigrants......, but I guess that is what politics does to you.

Rockets and Newspapers and Ideology

Most of the major newsies have a headline out there similiar to that of theThe New York Times : Defense Missile for U.S. System Fails to Launch, announcing yet another "failure" of the missile interceptor system.

Miserable failure, the second time straight, right?
Power Line has this commentary:

The Reuters report by Jim Wolf of a failed missile defense test last night is flawed by either intent or ignorance.

The first test in nearly two years of a multibillion-dollar U.S. anti-missile shield failed on Wednesday when the interceptor missile shut down as it prepared to launch in the central Pacific, the Pentagon said.

The interceptor missile did not shut down because of some malfunction, it was shut down intentionally because of inability to monitor performance of a boost stage rocket detected during pre-launch system checks. The boost stage might have been set to work properly or it might not have, but a test of this magnitude and expense demands ability to monitor all mission critical systems so that all necessary data is available for post-mission review. When it became clear that this would not be the case, the mission was scrubbed, not failed.

About 16 minutes earlier, a target missile carrying a mock warhead had been successfully fired from Kodiak Island, Alaska, according to a statement from the Missile Defense Agency.

The aborted $85 million test appeared likely to set back plans for activation of a rudimentary bulwark against long-range ballistic missiles that could be fired by countries like North Korea.

Unfortunately, a very expensive target drone was lost, and somebody is presently being chewed out because of that. But the kill vehicle and its delivery system remain intact for future use, and by far most of the test hardware funds were expended there. As for schedule delay, expect this test to be rescheduled as soon as a replacement target is ready.

Media coverage of scientific and technical issues is driven largely by ideology, not science. ...The MSM will continue to denounce missile defense as impossible--I think they've given up on the argument that it would be "destabilizing"--right up to the moment when it is successfully deployed.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

John Quincy Adams speaks out on Jihad

In a fascinating piece FrontPage magazine profiles John Quincy Adams and his relationship as president and policy maker to Muslim nation-states. He had extensive knowledge of Islam, both from review of the Quran and other holy literature, and from the different armed conflicts (Barbary Coast Pirates, for one) the USA had with Muslim entities.

He understood clearly that the Quran states that there are two classes of persons, those in submission to Allah and his prophet, and those at WAR with Islam. The idea of of Jihad being some internal spiritual struggle is selling the West what it wants to hear. Adams understood that central to Islam is the idea of extending the Muslim religion by the sword. It is really an amazing review. If you spiff up the stilted 18th/19th century language a bit, the issues really haven't changed at all.

Species come and go, so when will the moonbat environmentalists die out?

Mark Steyn does it yet again. Why the hysteria over global warming and the consequent extinction of species? He absolutely center rims the most glaring paradox of concerns among Western Environmentalists. THEY, as Europeans are going extinct. Birth rates are plummeting, their traditional culture is being supplanted by some type of EU goo, and rather than panting over their own de-speciation (did I just coin a word?), they are hyperventilating over krill. To quote: "......if he doesn't care if he survives, why should the penguins and the krill feel any differently? Given the choice between the krill's hypothetically impending extinction and their own impending extinction already under way, Europeans would apparently rather fret about the denizens of the deep. Even Chesterton, who observed that once man has ceased to believe in God he'll believe in anything, might have marvelled at how swift the decay from post-Christian to post-evolutionary."

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Research points to new theory driving evolutionary changes

This interesting note: from SW Texas Medical Center in Dallas is another stake through the heart of monistic naturalism. It is very amusing to watch otherwise reasonable and hyper-rational people cling religiously to materialistic Darwinism as an explanation for the diversity of species. This is in the face of evidence that increasingly demonstrates the mathematical probabilities of such an ascension as nil.

Murry Eden in the 1966 Wistar Institute cranked up the science of genetics, probability theory, and the computers of MIT, and told the world that the math just did not support Darwinism.

Since then, there have been tremendous advances in computing ability and mathematical probability theory, as well as huge jumps in our understanding of genetics. The present article is simply one more illustration of that. It is also an illustration of how scientists, many of whom support Darwinism, are incapable of providing a naturalistic model of change over time that harmonizes with what we know about genetics, probability, and time. The theory has attempted to move with the times, but despite the efforts of prodigious minds like the late Steve Goulding, Darwinism is increasingly a religion which cannot reinvent itself to provide a model which makes sense of the science which birthed it.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Real Reform for Social Security

Does David Brooks EVER get it wrong? The first line of his article: "Before we get lost in the policy details, let's be clear about what this Social Security reform debate is really about. It's about the market. People who instinctively trust the markets support the Bush reform ideas, and people who are suspicious oppose them."
Bingo again, David.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Matthew Shepard's death, not a hate crime

Turns out that the evidence is piling up that Matthew Shepards death was completely unrelated to his sexual preferences. He was a known drug dealer and meth head who dealt to meth heads.Turns out that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson were simply strung out speedfreak customers of Shephard looking for money and drugs.

Anyone who know anything about crystal meth (I lived on it for almost 3 weeks during a summer back in H.S., over 20 years ago) knows that it is BAD stuff and causes depression, rage, and violent behavior.

Speed kills. It was true then. True now.

ABC News: Famous Atheist Now Believes in God

If Ravi Zacharias, John Frame, John Stott, or CS Lewis (deceased) had suddenly announced they were abandoning the Christian faith in favor of atheism, it would make headlines overnight.

However, that is -uh, sorta- what has happened with one of the worlds most outspoken and quoted atheists. Anthony Flew , the celebrated British philosopher and now ex-atheist has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Flew contends that a super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature.

Flew has not become a Christian. Rather, his belief in God is a kind of deism, where God remains uninvolved in the details of people's lives. He credits his changed mind interestingly enough, to an OLD OLD OLD argument that Flew himself has "disproved" many times over the years. The argument from design goes back at least to the writers of Romans and Psalms, was codified by Aquinas, and states that the complexity of the universe itself argues for a creator.

Sir Fredrick Hoyle , the British mathematician and physicist who coined the term "big bang" for the theory of an explosion as the beginning of the universe, came to a similiar non-orthodox belief in God toward the end of life.

This just reaffirms my view that dogmatic atheists hold their views not because "science" demands it, but for other, non empirical reasons.

Letters to Santa

Shamelessly ripped of from an unacknowledged site, these letters are pretty good. They are edited for decency:

"Dear Santa,
I wud like a kool toy space ranjur fer Xmas. Iv ben a gud boy
all yeer.
Yer Frend,
Dear Billy,
Nice spelling. You're on your way to a career in lawn care.
How about I send you a decent grammar book so you can learn to read
and write? I'm giving your older brother the space ranger.
At least HE can spell!
Dear Santa,
I have been a good girl all year, and the only thing I ask
for is peace and joy in the world for everybody!
Dear Sarah,
Your parents smoked pot when they had you, didn't they?
Dear Santa,
I want a new bike, a Playstation, a train, some G.I. Joes, a
dog, a drum kit, a pony and a tuba.
Dear Francis,
Who names their kid 'Francis' nowadays? I bet you're gay.
Dear Santa,
I left milk and cookies for you under the tree, and I left
carrots for your reindeer outside the back door.
Dear Susan,
Milk gives me the runs and carrots make the deer fart in my
face when riding in the sleigh. You want to do me a favor?
Leave me a bottle of scotch.
Dear Santa,
What do you do the other 364 days of the year? Are you busy
making toys?
Your friend,
Dear Thomas,
All the toys are made in China. I have a condo in Vegas,
where I spend most of my time making low-budget crappy films.
I unwind by drinking myself silly and flirting with the
cocktail waitresses while losing money at the craps table.
Hey, you wanted to know.
Dear Santa,
Do you see us when we're sleeping, do you really know When
we're awake, like in the song?
Dear Jessica,
Are you really that gullible? Good luck in whatever you do.
I'm skipping your house.
Dear Santa,
I really really want a puppy this year. Please please please
PLEASE PLEASE could I have one?
That whiney begging junk may work with your folks, but that
Crap doesn't work with me. You're getting a sweater again.
Dearest Santa,
We don't have a chimney in our house, how do you get into
our home?
First, stop calling yourself 'Marky', that's why you're
getting your butt whipped at school. Second, you don't live
in a house, you live in a low-rent apartment complex. Third,
I get inside your pad just like all the burglars do, through
your bedroom window.
Sweet Dreams,

Michael Crichton - Environmentalism as Religion

A PHENOMENAL speech by Michael Crichton, on Environmentalism as Religion is a must read.

Remeber that his blockbuster book series "Jurassic Park" is actually a tract warning us against unbridled research into the favorite demon of the greens these days: "frankenfoods" or genetically manipulated foods. He is not some anti environmentalist, but he is a realist.

Best lines of the speech were "In short, the romantic view of the natural world as a blissful Eden is only held by people who have no actual experience of nature. People who live in nature are not romantic about it at all......The truth is, almost nobody wants to experience real nature. What people want is to spend a week or two in a cabin in the woods, with screens on the windows. They want a simplified life for a while, without all their stuff. Or a nice river rafting trip for a few days, with somebody else doing the cooking. Nobody wants to go back to nature in any real way, and nobody does. It's all talk-and as the years go on, and the world population grows increasingly urban, it's uninformed talk. Farmers know what they're talking about. City people don't. It's all fantasy.."

Happy "Armed Jews Week" a.k.a. Hanukkah

Dave Kopel, over at Slate has a GREAT historical overview of the origins of Hanukkah, the history of armed Jewish resistance to tyranny, and the implications of this history to current Zionism. Hats off.

Friday, December 10, 2004

And you thought it was about racism and civil rights?

Charles Pickering has decided to bail on the confirmation process. He had been a recess appointment, but that is only temporary until Congress reconvenes, at which time he must go though the "advise and consent" process of Senate confirmation again. This article tells the real story. Ostensibly, the earlier filibuster was about racism, but the real story is about had nothing to do with race. As a matter of fact, the "racist" Pickering was such a model for racial equity that the Klan had a contract on him in the 1970's according to FBI records.

The inexcusable aspect of Pickering that made him filibuster material was his strong views on pro-life issues. Read the article. It is just the way it is.

The tragedy of all this is that a man who was a real hero FOR racial reconciliation during a time of ugliness, who made personal stands that were unpopular and took sides against the white prejudice is EXACTLY the kind of man we want on the bench. He understands the principle that justice trumps societal whims. It is precisely a societal whim (abortion) that has kept the man off the bench. Like I said, it is a real tragedy.

Hugo Chavez passes law censoring Press

The International Herald Tribune has an article this a.m. detailing the new law that Hugo Chavez has signed to silence his critics.

I think it is pretty clear that Venezuela has actually elected this creep, from the best we can tell. It is also clear that the left, for all its palaver about rights of the little people, is all about protecting the sinecures of power they attain once they are in power.

It is a sad, sad time for Venezuela. The middle class (what there is of it) is fleeing in droves. Small businesses, bankers, attorneys, engineers, shop owners and more are heading for the USA, Costa Rica, Spain, even Ecuador.

It is a story that has been told over and over, in country after country. When government seeks to "help" the poor, they do no such thing, but choke off avenues of escape from poverty and stratify society into 3 classes 1) The desperately poor (who have no way out) 2)the government bureaucrats and 3) the ruling elite (who live in a manner similiar to our decadent Hollywood narcissists).

For an alternative to the wreck going on in Argentina, Brazil, and now in a spectacular flash of socialistic failure in Venezuela, read Hernando de Soto's wonderful bookThe Other Path: The Economic Answer to Terrorism. He is a Peruvian economist who argues that the most compassionate, wise, and healthy path for Latin America is to embrace capitalism. He argues that the peasantry is blocked from entering the legal economy by a myriad of idiotic rules and laws (as an example, he chronicles how he tried to open a tailor shop in Lima. It took him 2 years and 2,000 dollars to obtain the necessary permits). The first step is to acknowledge that the "black market" is the REAL economy and legitimize it by eliminating onerous regulation. The second starting point would be to simply grant land title to the millions of squatters living in the favelas, or slums, surrounding the major cities of Latin America. That source of credit for capital (banks could lend to the destitute, using property as collateral). Combine those with tax encouragement of small businesses vs the present system, which is designed to protect the big boys. It is a formula for economic growth, and more importantly, the lifting of desperately poor into self-sufficient proud citizens.

Change the slums-to-property into the land grants of settlers here claiming land, and you have a abbreviated history of the USA, the richest nation in history. It works wherever it is practiced. Handwringing advocates for the poor are too often involved in creating a monster that institutionalizes poverty. They are offended and indignant when they are confronted with this truth, and when they have power (as Chavez in Venezuela) it is more convenient to simply shut up those who confront.

Looking for something to be thankful about living in USA?

One of the really great things about living in the USA is how the passion, fury, fear, and "it all comes down to this election" attitudes so prominent less than 40 days ago have been replaced by a big YAWN, as the country adjusts to the idea of four more Bush, and move forward to the really important issues, like bitching about why Auburn is not going to the Orange Bowl.

It is a blessing that we take for granted. Grab a look at Pohoretz in the NY Post this a.m. for an amplification of this too-neglected truth.

Powell Says He Won't Seek Office

Colin Powell said yesterday that he would not run for political office. Powell is definitely no red meat conservative. I think the Republican faithful would wind up being as frustrated with him as they have with Arlen Specter.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Bottom for the dollar or dead cat bounce?

There is an old joke in the financial markets "Even a dead cat will bounce if you throw it down from a high enough building."

This refers to a "technical" or "oversold" rebound that sometimes occurs when a financial instrument (stock, bond, commodity, currency, etc) takes off for the cellar. The big money has been short the dollar for some time. Warren Buffet publicly stated two years ago that he was short the dollar, and the big funds have been, as well.

Why is the "price" of the dollar important? Because the value assigned to a nation's currency by the international market is the surest sign of the health of that nation's economy. It is like a "vote of confidence" in the nation itself by the international community.

Despite those who would talk up a cheap dollar as good for experts, devaluation of a nation's currency is a bad thing. Ultimately it is ruinous to a nation. We in the US can "get away with it" on a temporary basis because of our tremendous economic strength relative to the rest of the world. That picture is changing, and changing rapidly. Our very success has led to such a dramatic differential in international production costs, and the ease of moving data of all sorts over the internet puts other nations in the position of being able to compete with us. The European Union has a larger Gross Domestic Product than the USA, and both China and India will continue to make inroads in the world economy due to their vast supply of cheap labor (both technical and "blue collar").

It has only been since October or so that the euro's rise has turned to rout. This kind of radical move usually signals a "blow off," or the end of a price move. By the time it makes the newspapers everyone who is someone has already bought/sold the instrument. Now the only people entering the markets are the speculative dentists in Albany GA, and they don't have the staying power (translated: capital) to push it any lower, they are just late to the party looking for a "sure bet." When I used to trade "in the pits" I looked for "retail" sales coming in, from the brokers for Merril Lynch, Shearson, etc. That was a signal that the public was becoming aware, and usually a signal that the move was about over, at least temporarily. When the market turns against them, as it did with the dollar over the past two days, they have to get out, and get out NOW, at any price. That is what caused the following tumble in the euro against the dollar.

45 min euro chart

So, is this a "dead cat" in a long slide against the world's currencies? I think not. It is true that the Republican congress is guilty of fiscal recklesness that makes "spending like a drunken sailor" an insult to drunken sailors. However, the positive signs for the dollar are strong. Here are some:

1) There is a large interest rate differential between the dollar and the rest of the world's currencies.
2) Our productivity is continuing to grow.
3) Oil prices have peaked (or so it seems). We actually have excess capacity in reserves, and OPEC is talking about a "floor" for prices. That is GOOD.
4) Republicans may not have been able to restrain spending , but they can cut taxes, which is GOOD for both business and the populace....., in that the growth caused by tax cuts causes revenue to both the public and private sector.
5) Last but not least, we are a FREE society, with the closest thing to free markets that the world knows. Ultimately, that is a powerful trump card, as markets respond and adapt better than bureaucratic planners ever can.


Bloomberg this a.m.has reason 6 to append to those above. When governments start noticing that currency rates are hurting their economies, they start trying to make moves to change policies that affect those exchange rates.

The most obvious one is to step into the market itself to buy or sell euros/dollars/yen/francs or whatever. Although this won't stop a long term trend, it will often cause sharp and violent corrections, as a nation's treasury suddenly unloading a billion dollars worth of euronotes is a big bite for the interbank market. Traders who have been happily piling on to a clear trend get nervous.

The second and more serious step is changing interest rates. That is more complicated in Europe, with all the interconnected nations and the central bureaucracy in Brussels. However, if the exchange rate continues to cause problems within the EC, look for them to take serious steps to halt the dollar slide.

Minnesota's Health Care Gamble

David Broder has an interesting article about Minnesota's new attempts to reform health care within the state. I am extremely leary of so called "public private alliances." This program is almost a carbon copy of Clinton's proposed national system. It will be an intereresting watch to see what winds up happening. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Early Universe Remains a Mystery

The actual title of the article referenced is How the Early Universe Got Dusty Remains a Mystery, but it is a reminder to me how true science is not nearly as dogmatic as some of its protagonists.

The universe is a grand display of creative majesty and keeps confounding those who tell us they have a monistic comprehensive picture sizing it all up.

Remember the big bang as a succinct model? Turns out that doppler effects show us that the rate of expansion of the universe is EXPANDING, defying every gravitational law known and leaving the interstellar physicists scratching their heads for a new model.

Here we go again. This is another explanation why there are more religious people studying interstellar physics than any other scientific disciplines.

Why should it be so strange to admit that "the Heavens declare the glory of God?"

Dean urges Democrats to stick to convictions after losing

At a speech today at George Washington Universty Howard Dean said "Democrats must campaign on their convictions and not give in to the temptation to behave 'like Republicans.'"

That settles it. Dean is definitely on Karl Rove's payroll.

Silly PC Holiday stuff

Let me start with this: The idea that people or civic structures should refrain from religious, ethnic, or political activity because someone might feel intimidated or hurt by it is silly, stupid, and lackwitted. Showing an awareness that we are a pluralistic society does not equal repression of civic or private speech. That type of "sensitivity" is simply the tyranny of the hypersensitive.

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper seems to be intent on becoming a poster child for the easily offended. First, he was forced to back down after he announced that next year the phrase 'Merry Christmas' would be removed from the city building and replaced with 'Happy Holidays. Then he told marchers in the parade (snow parade? seasonal vanilla happy time parade? wintertime special march?) that they could not represent any church or religious sentiments. My understanding is that a gaggle of unorganized religious rabble defied city hall, marched in front of the parade, sang hymns (about JESUS, no less!) and offended the godless by inserting Christmas into "their" holiday. The really great thing about it is that they weren't mad. They were happy, joyful, and had great attitudes, but they just blew off the mayor and his loopy restrictions. It is a Christian holiday, there are lots of Christians (and non-Christians) who would like to acknowledge it as a Christian holiday, and they just laughed at the silliness of city hall. ROCK ON, Denver.

Yeah, I would love to see it from your perspective, but ......

I can't quite make it to that position.

Is there ANYPLACE we don't need legislation?

RealClearPolitics has a story of how once more we need the government to step in and save us. WHY in God's name Senator McCain thinks there needs to be special federal legislation regarding the use of steroids in baseball is genuinely befuddling to me.

Maybe I can get some lobbyist to come with toilet paper when I have to...... oh, nevermind.

Book Plug Freeing God's Children : The Unlikely Alliance for Global Human Rights

Recently introduced to this book "Freeing God's Children : The Unlikely Alliance for Global Human Rights" by Allen D. Hertzke.

This is a good intro to a good subject. Concern for Human Rights from Christians has morphed into a generalized, secular, across the board awareness of Human Liberties around the globe. The author has anti fundamentalism as a thread through the book, but acknowledges the influence of Christians in raising awareness to human suffering

Natalism and Cultural Trends

David Brooks
has this article on how (yet another) cultural divide in the country. It is an interesting read, if only for the proclamation that having kids is itself a rejection of the hyper individualistic materialism in the west.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Mort Zuckerman nails it down

This should be my final post re: the values issue in the recent election. Some in blue America have a hysterical vision of redstate nazis turning DC into a Christian camp meeting revival, complete with inquisitions, witch burnings, replacing science texts with Bibles, and madated prayer everywhere, simply because of an exit poll question. Mortimer B. Zuckerman ( one of the truly levelheaded and incisive editiorialists today, imho) puts the brakes on this with a couple of common sense observations, the first being a question:

1) why fear a "mandate" based on an exit poll that got the election itself wrong?
2) the poll question was so poorly worded that it could have meant almost anything.
3) a general concern for values issues does not equate to Christian values (though there is a correlation)

Doubtless Bush will bring his own religious convictions into play when it comes to issues that affect the bedrock of society (definition of marriage), but he has clearly shown that he is unwilling to incite hysteria in the 49% that did not vote for him (as if some of them needed help!) by hamfisted moral legislation. He has repeatedly said that legislative action on issues like this must be accompanied by widespread change in the hearts of the people.

Friday, December 03, 2004


Remember that munitions dump that caused such a flutter just before the election? The one that had unguarded high explosives? This link is fairly interesting: "As American forces closed in on Baghdad last year, senior members of Saddam Hussein's government devised a plan to send suicide bombers in vehicles packed with devastating high-energy explosives that were under UN safeguards."

Thursday, December 02, 2004

The flick that got Van Gogh murdered

It is a short feature film, named SUBMISSION

Informed Comment

Juan Cole , a history prof at U of Michigan has a very nice and succinct review of the cultural divide over Iraq, using the slide show I referenced yesterday on Fallujah. He is dead on re: the "liberal" v. "conservative" views on the use of force to settle issues like these. My only criticism is that he makes an assumption that Sunni opposition to the occupation is equivalent to the willingness of the population to take up arms. My contention is that MAYBE these "weekend warriors" he cites are willing to take up arms only so long as they think they can win. Fallujah showed them that we WILL kill you, and we WILL kill you in disproportionate numbers. Further, you saw marines entering mosques and graveyards that had been co-opted for military use, and there was no hysterical uprising by Sunnis (or Shiites) over this "desecration" by "infidels." That is the most telling point about Fallujah, in my opinion.

Sullen resentment from a population segment used to being minority rulers does not necessitate endless bloodshed to the point that government cannot function. Just ask Northern Ireland about that.

I went on a rant this a.m.

I was in a conservative bulletin board on a thread re: national policy. Some person posted the following below, re: how we are biblically mandated to support Israel. It ain't that simple.

We are facing a crisis with God's commandments toward the treatment of His chosen people. If we do not adhere to His Word, then THIS nation will fail no matter what our government does to protect us.>>
God's "chosen people" has as much to do with the atheists occupying a strip of land in the Middle East as the mineral Pyrite has to do with 24 carat gold. God's "chosen people" are the people who choose him, end of story.

Please, for a change, put down Tim Lahaye and pick up the Bible. It states CLEARLY in both Galatians and Romans that the "irrevocable covenant" was made NOT with Abraham and his physical progeny but with Abraham and his spiritual seed.., ie, those who follow the faith of Abraham. According to Paul (again in Romans 9-11 and in Galatians) this includes Jew and Gentile Christians and EXCLUDES unbelieving Jews (and Gentiles). To go back and impose a wooden literalism that says "Israel means Israel" in such an unthinking manner says that Paul simply doesn't know how to interpret the promises of the covenant as well as Darby, Scofield, and some Irvingite charismatic milkmaid from the 1800s. Not only Paul, but Jesus himself was mistaken, as he stated that the political Hebrews of the day were not sons of Abraham at all, but rather sons of Satan. Children of faith are children of Abraham. The geopolitical ethnically exclusive OT was like the scaffolding used to construct the worldwide, many peopled true Israel. The scaffolding is simply removed when the building is finished. You don't long for the day when the building will be mystically removed so that you can gold plate the scaffolding because that was the "original" plan.

I raise this obscure theological argument (which really belongs in another thread) because I see well meaning but poorly informed Christians shrieking "ISRAEL, ISRAEL" as though we were failing to make the yearly pilgramage to Jerusalem and offer sacrifice and Amos was standing on the grassy knoll in DC rebuking us for our national covenant failure.

America will likely be judged because of the rampant selfishness, shallowness, prayerlessness and incredible biblical ignorance of its believing "remnant," as well as the general godlessness of a godless culture. In that mix will be included the way we treat other nations, including both Israel AND the Palestinians. I am confident that the divine calculus will NOT include dredging up a promise to "bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you" and apply it to an entity not even recognized by old or new testaments. To make that the centerpiece of our national policy is unbiblical and silly.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


A three dollar drop today (that is HUGE, by the way) is a nice precursor to settling crude prices. That is not supposed to happen on the heels of a howling winter storm in the midwest, so we should see some good downward action in crude over the next few months. Any way you cut it, this is great for our economy. Oil prices are reflected in everything we do. The wild card in all this is still China, with its voracious appetite for oil.

China may be in for an ugly choice soon, though, as many traders are claiming we are letting the dollar slide for many reasons, but not least is to force China to revalue the yuan. If that happens, the humongous trade deficit will shrink, (the ostensible goal, if you listen to some people) and China's appetite for foreign goods (of ALL kinds) will shrink. Not the least of these would be gold, which has enjoyed a nice run. If we do hit a slump in crude that looks like it is going down to the 35 dollar range, I am betting that shorting gold is a good side bet.

Final note: Anyone who thinks that the political process here in the USA and the perceived stability (broadly speaking) in Iraq has no influence on the price of crude is an idiot. A good trade is always to go long the US Marines. Fallujah seems to be a big hit in settling the fears down re: Iraq.

If I know so much, why ain't I rich?

Netherlands Hospital Euthanizes Babies

Do you remember 20 something years ago when right wingers were screaming that abortion would ultimately result in euthanization of already born babies? Thanks to Europe for being on the cutting edge once more on this issue. Damn backwards fundamentalists over here just can't seem to realize we are past all that moral absolutism nonsense. Here is the link to the article.