Friday, December 27, 2002

Well, that obviously hasn't panned out. I did get as far as reviewing everything Quiggin had written in on the subject in both the posts and the comments, and it didn't really amount to as much of a substantive challange to the "American Triumphalist" opinion as I had originally believed. Therefore, if I do find the time, I will instead address those subjects that he did raise.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

I have been meaning to write a short essay on the coming crisis in Europe, but, as with so many other things, haven't found the time to do a decent job of it. This essay from The American Enterprise by Karl Zinmeister seemed to obviate any need to do so. He made most of the same points I would have, and the article seemed to possess a wealth of data that I would never have had time to locate, even if I knew to look for all of it.

I subsequently found this critique (via USS Clueless) which, while I had reservations on several points, seemed well reasoned and rather devastating to Mr Zinmeister's puported data, and by extention to his arguments. Zinmeister's response to the criticisms was, to be charitable, disappointing.

There are few things more irritating than to see someone arguing - poorly! - in favor of position you hold. When you combine that with intellectual dishonesty, it compounds the problem. Therefore, in a follow up post, I will attempt to formulate a more credible reply.

Several months back I read a story on China which made the (to me) startling statement that their economy would surpass ours within the next 20-25 years. I thought that was idiotic, but I have since seen other statements by experts on the issue which tended to support it.

It is with that background that I read this welcome bit of contradictory information:

TNR (requires registration)


But what if they're wrong? Look closely at the Chinese economy, and you'll find a far less rosy situation than that portrayed in most of the business press. The country's growth rates are vastly overstated, the result of cooked books and massive deficit spending. Companies selling to the Chinese market--foreign and domestic alike--are struggling just to break even. The economy is plagued by persistent deflation and a useless banking system. "Businesspeople have created a lemming effect," says Graeme Maxton, a specialist on China's auto industry. "They have convinced themselves they have to be in China or their competitors will overtake them, so they ignore economic fundamentals." The Chinese economic miracle, in other words, is largely a house of cards. And, when it falls, the consequences could be catastrophic.


Wednesday, December 11, 2002

It's been a while. I think I will be posting over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

A prescient article from 1990:


Islam is one of the world's great religions. Let me be explicit about what I, as a historian of Islam who is not a Muslim, mean by that. Islam has brought comfort and peace of mind to countless millions of men and women. It has given dignity and meaning to drab and impoverished lives. It has taught people of different races to live in brotherhood and people of different creeds to live side by side in reasonable tolerance. It inspired a great civilization in which others besides Muslims lived creative and useful lives and which, by its achievement, enriched the whole world. But Islam, like other religions, has also known periods when it inspired in some of its followers a mood of hatred and violence. It is our misfortune that part, though by no means all or even most, of the Muslim world is now going through such a period, and that much, though again not all, of that hatred is directed against us.

We should not exaggerate the dimensions of the problem. The Muslim world is far from unanimous in its rejection of the West, nor have the Muslim regions of the Third World been the most passionate and the most extreme in their hostility. There are still significant numbers, in some quarters perhaps a majority, of Muslims with whom we share certain basic cultural and moral, social and political, beliefs and aspirations; there is still an imposing Western presence -- cultural, economic, diplomatic -- in Muslim lands, some of which are Western allies. Certainly nowhere in the Muslim world, in the Middle East or elsewhere, has American policy suffered disasters or encountered problems comparable to those in Southeast Asia or Central America. There is no Cuba, no Vietnam, in the Muslim world, and no place where American forces are involved as combatants or even as "advisers." But there is a Libya, an Iran, and a Lebanon, and a surge of hatred that distresses, alarms, and above all baffles Americans.

At times this hatred goes beyond hostility to specific interests or actions or policies or even countries and becomes a rejection of Western civilization as such, not only what it does but what it is, and the principles and values that it practices and professes. These are indeed seen as innately evil, and those who promote or accept them as the "enemies of God."



The cause most frequently adduced for anti-American feeling among Muslims today is American support for Israel. This support is certainly a factor of importance, increasing with nearness and involvement. But here again there are some oddities, difficult to explain in terms of a single, simple cause. In the early days of the foundation of Israel, while the United States maintained a certain distance, the Soviet Union granted immediate de jure recognition and support, and arms sent from a Soviet satellite, Czechoslovakia, saved the infant state of Israel from defeat and death in its first weeks of life. Yet there seems to have been no great ill will toward the Soviets for these policies, and no corresponding good will toward the United States. In 1956 it was the United States that intervened, forcefully and decisively, to secure the withdrawal of Israeli, British, and French forces from Egypt -- yet in the late fifties and sixties it was to the Soviets, not America, that the rulers of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and other states turned for arms; it was with the Soviet bloc that they formed bonds of solidarity at the United Nations and in the world generally.


Thursday, October 10, 2002

On a recent note on The Corner, Jonah Goldberg stated:

I don't blame homeschoolers for choosing to educate their kids at home. To me it seems like a rational response in many circumstances, in much the same way it is a rational response -- and strategic retreat -- to put your kids in a Catholic parochial school even if you're not Catholic. But, what I am saying is that if the public schools weren't such a mess, if the educational culture in this country were in better shape the need to homeschool or for school vouchers for that matter would be much smaller and so would the numbers of people who homeschool.

I understand what he's saying, and to a certain extent agree. When my wife became pregnant with our now 3 year old son Alexander, we decided that we were going to homeschool him. If public (or government, which does seem more appropriate if you think about it) schools were better then we would undoubtedly never have considered it. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. However, that doesn't mean that if in the next 2-3 years public schools were 'magically' cured of PC problems, crime, poor teachers, etc., etc. and reverted back to some 'golden era' of public schools that we would then decide to send him there. The wretched state of public schools was just the impetus for us to consider the question. After looking at the issue in depth, we would never send a child of ours to any public school, and very few private schools either.

The real problems with schools are embedded in their very foundation. If anyone is interested in some radical perspectives on our school system, I highly recommed that they read just about anything by John Taylor Gatto (a conservative) or any of a number of books written by the late John Holt (a liberal). A sample of each:


From the Six Lesson School Teacher

The first lesson I teach is: "Stay in the class where you belong." I don't know who decides that my kids belong there but that's not my business. The children are numbered so that if any get away they can be returned to the right class. Over the years the variety of ways children are numbered has increased dramatically, until it is hard to see the human being under the burden of the numbers each carries. Numbering children is a big and very profitable business, though what the business is designed to accomplish is elusive.

In any case, again, that's not my business. My job is to make the kids like it -- being locked in together, I mean -- or at the minimum, endure it. If things go well, the kids can't imagine themselves anywhere else; they envy and fear the better classes and have contempt for the dumber classes. So the class mostly keeps itself in good marching order. That's the real lesson of any rigged competition like school. You come to know your place.

Nevertheless, in spite of the overall blueprint, I make an effort to urge children to higher levels of test success, promising eventual transfer from the lower-level class as a reward. I insinuate that the day will come when an employer will hire them on the basis of test scores, even though my own experience is that employers are (rightly) indifferent to such things. I never lie outright, but I've come to see that truth and [school]teaching are incompatible.


"Children begin life as eager, successful learners, Holt points out, but their lust for learning soon dies. "What happens," he writes, "is that it is destroyed, and more than by any other one thing, by the process that we misname education—a process that goes on in most homes and schools."

Schools and parents unwittingly do this damage, Holt explains, by making children perform senseless, tedious tasks; by encouraging and compelling them to "work for petty and contemptible rewards"; by breaking up life into "arbitrary and disconnected hunks of subject matter"; but most of all "by making them afraid, afraid of not doing what other people want, of not pleasing, of making mistakes, of failing, of being wrong."

And we do all this, Holt writes, "without knowing that we are doing it, so that, hearing nonsense shoved at them as if it were sense, [children] come to feel that the source of their confusion lies not in the material but in their own stupidity."

Holt lays out this harsh indictment in his final chapter. But How Children Fail is not long on sweeping generalizations; rather, it is filled with stories about the kids in Holt's classes and his thoughts as he puzzles through their struggles and failures. This is the beauty—and the weight—of the book. We know these children, and we recognize their difficulties. Holt makes us squirm because so much of what he's saying rings true."

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

According to this statute (19:3-10), Lautenberg isn't the legal Democratic nominee even if the 51/48 day deadline is thrown out by judicial fiat. It states:


19:3-10. Name not printed on ballot; next highest name printed

If it shall be determined in a manner hereinafter provided, that the nomination for an office of a successful candidate at any primary election is null and void, and if such determination shall have been made ten days before the election at which the candidates nominated at such primary election are to be voted for, an order shall be made by the court or judge making such determination prohibiting the printing of the name of such candidate on the ballot to be used at such election, and the name of the candidate for nomination or party position at such primary election receiving the next highest number of votes shall thereupon be printed upon the ballot as the nominee for the office.


Now I've hunted and hunted for the breakdown of the Democratic primary results, but to no avail. Every news report I've found merely states that Torricelli ran unopposed. However, if you look at two different pages of the NJ Division of Elections website, it is clear that someone else received votes.

Compare this page: "Total primary ballots cast" with this page: "Official Primary election results". There are over 60,000 Democratic votes unaccounted for in the "official results", plus about 30,000 unaccounted for Republican votes (so those 60,000 votes aren't 'cross-overs'). Who did those 60,000 Democrats vote for? It seems that by NJ law, whoever received the most of those votes should be the de facto Democratic nominee - NOT Lautenberg.