Monday, February 26, 2007

Illiteracy and Teachers' Pay

Here is an article slamming teachers' unions for demanding more money when so many illiterates are being churned out by our public schools. As the article states (quoting The Washington Post)
† Low health literacy affects up to 90 million Americans, according to a 2004 report by the Institute of Medicine. These adults are unable to “obtain and understand basic health information and services needed to make informed decisions.” … [A] surprisingly large number of adults were perplexed by the meaning of the term “orally,” didn’t know the difference between a teaspoon and tablespoon and were unable to calculate the proper dose of medicine.

† Forty-three percent of adults have basic or below-basic reading skills – reading at roughly a fifth-grade level or lower - according to a nationwide assessment of adult literacy conducted by the US Department of Education in 2003.

† Fifty-five percent of adults have basic or below-basic quantitative abilities; many are unable to solve simple arithmetic problems, including addition. … [M]any Americans could not determine the difference between two prices using a calculator or were unable to write a brief letter explaining a credit card billing error.
As a public school teacher of many years, the problem I'm having with this article is that I agree with it. We are turning out an inexcusable number of illiterate students. The big reason Americans currently have such low reading skills is because there is no mandated reading curriculum that begins with explicit phonetic instruction.

By beginning phonetically, students begin at the beginning of reading, and if taught correctly, they are given the code to unlocking the English language. For some reason though, those in charge of teacher education have discounted the continuous and overwhelming evidence to the contrary and have convinced themselves that their non-phonetic methods work. I've taught both ways, and I can say unequivocably that explicit phonics instruction in the best method for beginning reading instruction. For more information, visit The Riggs Institute.

I'm mentoring a student teacher this term. Fortunately she gets it, and we are able to work past all of the B.S. that is expected from her college. On her midterm evaluation, which I was required to fill out, her university is concerned with things like,
The intern teacher understands and appreciates the liberal arts as demonstrated by/through . . .

C. Using global and international perspectives in planning, teaching, and reflecting on practice.

D. Respecting individual differences, including those of culture, race, gender, religion, and ethnicity.

E. Respecting individual rights and values.
Later on there is,
Planning instruction to accomodate diversity.
The other important area is technology. I won't reprint those standards. They don't matter. After all, teachers teach, techology is appropriate after students have learned enough to use it correctly. You can do much more in the beginning, with paper and pencil than with a computer.

Some of the standards do apply to teaching, but there is no standard for content knowledge. Modern teachers' guides are written to be idiot-proof so teachers really have to know very little. Is it any wonder students graduate knowing nothing?

The Apartheid State . . .

. . . of Saudi Arabia

(photo swiped from Little Green Footballs)

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Movie Review

I'm looking for a movie about the founding of Israel for a class I teach. I've been examining the reviews at Netflix. I figure the more the Israel-bashers complain that a movie is propaganda for not showing the "Palestinian side" the better it is. But I'm having trouble with the following review.
1.0 Stars
(See my other reviews ...)

5 out of 50 people found this review helpful.
This video of lies is designed to make the Palestinian people look like maniacs. Ask yourself though, if you were a neighbor to a nation that insisted on existing by using their military might, wouldn't you send your children off on suicide missions to kill as many of their men, women, and children as possible? This movie wants you to sway you to believe that shredding 50 civilians at a cafe with shrapnel is somehow immoral. Any one of you would do it too, if pushed that far.
My problem is; I can't figure out if this reviewer is being sarcastic, or if he/she is an idiot. If it's sarcasm, I'm very impressed.

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Forget ethanol; save corn for bourbon

Nolan Finley of the Detroit News has an interesting take on the current ethanol debate.
A s a bourbon drinker and grandson of a moonshiner, I naturally perk up when talk turns to distilling corn.

Grandpa cooked corn into sour mash whiskey in a process nearly identical to the one used today to produce ethanol.

But while the feds chased Old Pap up hills and down hollers to stop him from running off a batch or two of home brew, the government this year will provide more than $7 billion in subsidies to encourage a massive expansion of ethanol production.

I think Jim Beam could do more good with that corn and money than the purveyors of E-85.

Ethanol is a fraud of an alternative fuel.

It's too costly to make. It can't be shipped economically. It offers only a minimal impact on the greenhouse gasses linked to global warming, while creating other types of dangerous air and water pollution. And it won't break our addiction to foreign oil.

Even if every available acre of crop land in the United States were converted to growing corn, we'd still be about 20 percent short of what is needed for ethanol to replace gasoline.

Ethanol just ain't going to happen here.

But don't bother trying to explain that to the politicians. They're too busy conning themselves and voters that spending truckloads of tax dollars to create an ethanol industry will free us from the oil sheiks and break the earth's rising fever.

Ethanol bites consumers

If this were nothing more than a waste of taxpayer money, I'd remain indifferent. Taxpayer money gets wasted by the billions every day, and we still manage to get up in the morning.

But as often happens when politicians meddle in markets, the anointment of ethanol will cost consumers in the pocketbook.

Corn prices shot up 55 percent last fall and are expected to double this year as ethanol plants gobble up more of the crop.

If you want to know how that affects you, take a look at the ingredients label on almost anything in your food pantry. Chances are you'll find corn syrup or another corn derivative on the list.

Already, riots have broken out in Mexico to protest the soaring price of tortillas. Corn flakes, too, cost more.

The weekly grocery bill will go up in equal measure with the output of ethanol.

If you're a corn farmer, you're loving this. Speculators have made corn ground hotter than Manhattan lofts.

But if you're a beef or dairy farmer, things aren't so swell. With more of the corn crop diverted for ethanol production, the cost of feed is climbing. As is the price of beef and pork.

The corn boom inevitably will be followed by a corn bust when ethanol is exposed for its impracticality.

Taxpayers will see their "investment" in ethanol infrastructure evaporate.

Bourbon drinkers, however, may cash in. Something will have to be done with the glut of ethanol refineries.

Converting them to giant stills to make corn liquor would be a fine way to rescue this boondoggle from total ruin.
Ethanol fans will disagreee, but I have yet to see or read actual facts that conflict with what Finley writes. I'm sure ethanol boosters will have bad names to call him, but I'd still like to see Finley's charges answered . . . before food prices shoot up any higher.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

The Truth as Presented by the Nation of Islam

There is a big Nation of Islam convention this weekend in Detroit. It features our local newspapers' favorite Jew hater, Louis Farrakhan. There have been a few articles in both the News and the Free Press, whitewashing Farrakhan's legacy of anti-semitism. In today's Detroit Free Press, for example,
The Nation of Islam and Farrakhan, who is known in the group as the Honorable Minister, have been accused of anti-Semitism, a charge the Nation denies.
In the past, Farrakhan has drawn fire -- particularly from Jewish groups, for remarks they deemed anti-Semitic.
I don't remember Mel Gibson being given that same courtesy. For some reason, his drunken anti-semitic rant was taken at face value, while Farrakhan is repeatedly excused. The Detroit News had this at the bottom of one of its articles,
Local Jews reject assertions that Farrakhan has moderated his point of view, so that the Nation of Islam will be more inclusive.

"This stuff is so anti-Jewish, it is so anti-Israeli, it is so homophobic, it is so anti-white, it is hard for me to believe that the community where I live in, the community that I work in, can feel this way towards him," said Betsy Kellman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.
Those darn "local Jews" always trying to rain on the Jew-hating parades. And there was this from a previous, mostly fawning article on Farrakhan,
Jews have accused the Nation of Islam of anti-Semitism, based on remarks Farrakhan delivered publicly over the past three decades. Farrakhan has sought to issue further explanations of those statements, asserting that he was misunderstood, and he has met with some Jewish leaders.

But the Anti-Defamation League still describes the Nation of Islam as a hate group, and it was highly critical of remarks Farrakhan delivered in Chicago at the 2006 Saviour's Day event.
I forgot, they're always either misunderstood, misquoted, or taken out of context.

Another big event at the Big Event, was a speech from the President of Sudan.
The President of Sudan told a cheering crowd of Muslims at the Nation of Islam's convention in Detroit on Friday that his country is being unfairly targeted by Israel and Western countries "who do not respect the will and dignity of our nation."

Speaking from Sudan, Omar al-Bashir addressed hundreds of Nation members and other Muslims in a video conference that Nation members said was broadcast live inside the African country.

"Colonial powers ... want to come back" to Sudan, al-Bashir said through a translator to a crowd inside Cobo Center, the site of a three-day convention by the Nation, founded in Detroit and headed by Louis Farrakhan. There is an "American, Israeli, British alliance to dominate all the region."

In recent years, al-Bashir and his government's military forces have been criticized for allegedly killing people inside Sudan, allowing slavery, and providing a haven for terrorists. The U.S. State Dept. lists Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism.

But al-Bashir said that "there is no ethnic cleansing at all" and "there isn't any slavery in the Sudan."
What other idiocies did he utter? I don't know. I do know that you can always depend on cheering crowds when you blame Islamic brutalities, corruption, and deficiencies on Israel and the West, even if you are in Detroit.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Quoting Neal Boortz

Up until a few minutes ago, I'd never heard of Neal Boortz. He's got a new book out, available at Borders, and everywhere else that sells books, I'm sure. I don't know if I'll buy it, but I do like this tiny excerpt that Borders prints from his book. And here is an excerpt from that excerpt:
I can't speak for you, but I am an individual. I exist for me, my family, and friends—not for the state. I have individual likes and dislikes, wants and needs. Like you, I am unique not merely a stamped-out variation on some larger group template.

Government exists to protect my rights, not to order my life. And I damn sure don't exist to serve government.

Every single person in this country should loudly proclaim his or her status as a unique and rare human being. We should loudly reject the group classifications that the left tries to force on us.

If this book accomplishes nothing else, perhaps it will wake you up to the reality of the leftist war against your status as a sovereign human being. This has been going on since the days of Lenin, and Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy carry the torch today.

You are not a tool of the state. You are not to be used as political cannon fodder for the elevation of a politician or political movement. You belong to you, certainly not to the government. Reclaim your ownership of yourself, and let these politicians know that you recognize and reject their war on the individual.
And here is another quote I like from Boortz' website. It's by Alexander Tyler, who was writing about the fall of the Athenian Empire.
"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

From the Socialist Utopia of Venezuela

People clamor for it over and over, even people who should know better. It's failed every time it's been tried and yet, even among intellectuals who can read and who do know their history, it remains popular. BDS sufferers and socialist true believers throughout the world cheer whenever their latest Socialist darling, Hugo Chavez thumbs his nose at President Bush. And yet in this report we discover,
Faced with an accelerating inflation rate and shortages of basic foods like beef, chicken and milk, President Hugo Chavez has threatened to jail grocery store owners and nationalize their businesses if they violate the country's expanding price controls.

Food producers and economists say the measures announced late Thursday night, which include removing three zeroes from the denomination of Venezuela's currency, are likely to backfire and generate even more acute shortages and higher prices for consumers. Inflation climbed to an annual rate of 18.4 percent a year in January, the highest in Latin America and far above the official target of 10 percent to 12 percent.
And yet,
Chavez, whose leftist populism remains highly popular among Venezuela's poor and working classes, seemed unfazed by criticism of his policies. Appearing live on national television, he called for the creation of "committees of social control," essentially groups of his political supporters whose purpose would be to report on farmers, ranchers, supermarket owners and street vendors who circumvent the state's effort to control food prices.
"It is surreal that we've arrived at a point where we are in danger of squandering a major oil boom," said Jose Guerra, a former chief of economic research at Venezuela's central bank, who left Chavez's government in 2004. "If the government insists on sticking to policies that are clearly failing, we may be headed down the road of Zimbabwe."
Shortages of basic foods have been sporadic since the government strengthened price controls in 2003 after a debilitating strike by oil workers. But in recent weeks, the scarcity of items like meat and chicken have led to a panicked reaction by federal authorities as they try to understand how such shortages could develop in a seemingly flourishing economy.

Entering a supermarket here is a bizarre experience. Shelves are fully stocked with Scotch whisky, Argentine wines and imported cheeses like brie and camembert, but basic staples like black beans and desirable cuts of beef like sirloin are often absent. Customers, even those in the government's own Mercal chain of subsidized grocery stores, are left with choices like pork neck bones, rabbit and unusual cuts of lamb.

With shoppers limited to just two large packages of sugar, a black market in sugar has developed among street vendors in parts of Caracas.
None of this is new. All of this has happened in other during other attempts to subvert the marketplace. Some people just don't pay attention.
"There seems to be a basic misunderstanding in Chavez's government of what is driving scarcity and inflation," said Francisco Rodriguez, a former chief economist at Venezuela's National Assembly who teaches at Wesleyan University.

"There are competent people in the government who know that Chavez needs to lower spending if he wants to defeat these problems," Rodriguez said. "But there are few people in positions of power who are willing to risk telling him what he needs to hear."
So the climate of fear keeps Chavez in power and protects him from the truth.

Suggestion for the fearful; buy the following books. Secretly place them under Hugo's pillow before he goes to bed. Maybe he will get curious enough to read them:
Free to Choose, by Milton and Rose Friedman
Applied Economics, by Thomas Sowell.
While your at it, read them both yourself. Then you and Hugo can discuss them.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Edwards, Jews, and Iran

According to various Jewish publications, John Edwards, like other presidential hopefuls wants to appeal to as many demographic groups as possible. So, of course, he has to pander to the Jews. We may be small in number but I hear we control all of the wealth in the world (although I'm still waiting for my #%!*#*! share). From an article in The Jewish Week,
Edwards, with his Herzliya speech this week and a trip to Israel last year, may be making the most aggressive pitch to pro-Israel voters in the early campaign. He also brings to the mix a strong fundraising base, with an emphasis on trial lawyers—a group that includes many Jews.
A recent article in the New Jersey Jewish Standard reported on the current panderthon - I mean - attempts to reach out to the Jewish community, and had this to say about Edwards,
The appearance by the former Democratic senator from North Carolina at last year’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s policy forum was the first substantial sign that he was considering another run for the White House after he failed in his 2004 bid to win the Democratic primary and then the vice presidency.

The millionaire trial lawyer had focused almost exclusively on his "two Americas" theme in combating poverty and advocating for universal health care in his primaries campaign, and Republicans cast him as a lightweight on foreign policy.

He drew loud applause when he endorsed AIPAC’s trademark issue: isolating Iran as long as it resists nuclear transparence.

"For years I have argued that the United States has not been doing enough to deal with the growing threat in Iran," he said. "While we’ve talked about the dangers of nuclear terrorism, we’ve largely stood on the sidelines as the problems got worse. I believe that for far too long, we’ve abdicated our responsibility to deal with the Iranian threat to the Europeans."

Such talk has helped draw major Jewish donors to Edwards’ campaign. He raised eyebrows late last year, however, when he named as his campaign director David Bonior, a former Michigan congressman noted for his tough criticism of Israel.

Bonior and Edwards reached out to top pro-Israel figures and assured them that Bonior’s role would not extend to foreign policy.
Edwards must have, at some point, forgotten about the Jewish vote. From a link at Little Green Footballs, there was this gem from Edwards, quoted at National Review Online which also has link to the full article,
The aggressively photogenic John Edwards was cruising along, detailing his litany of liberal causes last week until, during question time, he invoked the "I" word — Israel. Perhaps the greatest short-term threat to world peace, Edwards remarked, was the possibility that Israel would bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. As a chill descended on the gathering, the Edwards event was brought to a polite close.
It seems to me that Mr. Edwards inadvertently spoke his mind. Will this hurt his prospects among Jewish voters? I think in the primaries it might and for fundraising, it might. But as we've seen before, for too many Jews, it is more important to parade their liberal values than to work for their own survival. If Edwards were to be the Democratic candidate, I know a lot of Jews who would go through intense mental gymnastics in order to prove that Edwards is more pro-Israel than whoever ends up as the Republican candidate . . . just as Edwards is sure to do in the next day or so.

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A Review of Robert Spencer's, The Truth About Muhammad

Lately I've been reading a lot of reviews. Generally I read CD reviews before I buy a CD. When it comes to books, though, I read the reviews after the purchase. In both cases, I go to Amazon, AMG, and other sites to read what nonprofessional reviewers, you know, regular folk, the great unwashed, have to say. I especially like to read the negative reviews of things that I want. Sometimes these people make good points, and sometimes they serve to show where we may differ in taste or where the reveiwer's prejudices lie.

When it comes to reviews of certain books, it's obvious that the reviewers never even read the book they are reviewing. This is glaringly apparent when it comes to Muslims who review books critical of Islam or books that point out the unpleasant truths about Islam. Wait, that would be the same thing. You can also tell where Israel-bashers condemn books favorable to Israel without having read a word.

My new favorite book review is this one from Barnes and Noble.
Nina, A reviewer, 01/29/2007 Customer Rating for this product is 1 out of 5
Very disappointing and false.
This is the most ignorant book I have ever come across...'Founder of the world's most intolerant religion'?!?! That is the most ignorant statement I have ever read. Read the Quran and teachings from actual scholars to find out the truth about Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. This book should be categorized under non-fiction because that is exactly what it is.

While not all of the phony reviews are this funny, they are this obvious.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Everybody Wants to Get Into the Act

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judiasm has issued a foolsh postion paper regarding the Iraq War. In it, they pretty much follow the lead of the quisling Democratic Congress. On the one hand they state,
The Union for Reform Judaism’s 2005 Resolution on Iraq called on the United States Government to take several actions including “some withdrawal of troops [that] should begin after the completion of the parliamentary elections [December 2005]…with the continuation…as soon as possible, in a way that maintains stability in the nation and empowers Iraqi forces to provide for their national security.” The 2005 resolution urged President Bush to provide a “clear exit strategy to the American public.”
But then, in typical mealy mouthed, talking out of both sides of your mouth fashion, they also call for,
Commending our service women and men (and their families) who have answered duty’s call and served our nations honorably…and support generous benefits for them;
Ensuring the United States government provides sufficient armor, supplies, and security for our troops through the completion of phased withdrawal;
In other words, force our troops to fail, but claim support because they get equipment they won't be able to use to complete their mission and then give them a hearty pat on the back for the service they've rendered to their country . . . which we didn't allow them to finish.

There are also the obligatory calls for diplomacy, you know, talking to our trustworthy opponents in Iran and Syria, as is suggested in the Baker/Hamilton report, the same report that calls for talks regarding Israel, but doesn't include Israel as a partner in those talks. Sure, why not throw Israel to the wolves. After all, it's strictly in the interests of peace.

And speaking of diplomacy, having the U.N. and the E.U. talking to the Iranians certainly slowed down the "peaceful" Iranian nuclear program, which the Iranian leadership has promised to use to "peacefully" destroy Israel and threaten Europe.

And then there's more proud parading of ignorance, as when they claim,
Regionally, the collapse of Iraq threatens the stability of Iraq’s neighbors. They have an essential role to play in preventing that collapse through financial support; reconstruction; securing Iraq’s borders by preventing incursions of terrorists and destabilizing actors; reinstating diplomatic relations; and encouraging national political reconciliation
So they haven't been paying attention to the fact that Iran has been playing all three sides of the street; encouraging and helping Sunnis to kill Shias, Shias to kill Sunnis, and their own terrorists to kill Americans. In other words, they want chaos in Iraq so that they can be the local power broker. Those facts don't matter as they continue,
Iran and Syria particularly play central roles in the region and can help or hinder the security of and situation within Iraq. Due to the ethnic makeup of both Iran and Syria, these countries should be pressured to engage in dialogue with their counterparts in Iraq to encourage an end to the insurgency and the beginning of stability.
Yeah, sure.

But wait, there's more; like this little tidbit:
A declassified intelligence report released in September 2006 stated that “The Iraq conflict has become the ‘cause celebre’ for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.”
Right, let's ignore what we already know, that the U.S. failues in Vietnam, Somalia, Lebanon, etc., have been the best actual jihadi recruiting tools and that failure in Iraq would be the greatest advertisement for jihad anyone could hope for. They think we're a paper tiger, the Religious Action Center wants us to prove it. And if we did accept failure - I mean an exit strategy, who of our friends would ever believe in our steadfastness again?

Finally, there is this bit of absurdity:
The alarming devastation wrought on civilians—driven by insurgents and terrorists but then exacerbated by U.S. responses—has made this perhaps the most damaging war for civilian casualties in modern history.
Now, I could be wrong, but it seems to me that with the Holocaust, the Rape of Nanking, destruction of various cities throughout Europe and the Far East during WWII, (not to mention the Russian atrocities in Afghanistan and Chechnya, which nobody does mention since the Russians are neither Jewish nor American) places this last quote in the realm of hyperbole, unless the term "modern history" only goes back to January 2007.

This is just another poorly thought out report by people who should be added to the list of what Julia Gorin correctly refers to as Dumb Jews.

On the other hand, it does show that the stupid claim of "the Jewish Lobby" that allegedly forced us into this war is . . . well . . . stupid.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Muslim Mau-Mauing

Over the past six years we've seen a depressing number of news sources accept their dhimmi status and bow to Islamic thugs at CAIR and other Muslim pressure groups. They were afraid to publish the Mohammed cartoons. They condemned the Pope for his statements rather than violent Islamic reaction to the truth he told. They bought the Hezbollah propaganda during last summer's Lebanon war without question. Now Newsweek is trying to present Iran as a possible victim of American agression, or as it states in its insanely and blindly sympathetic to Iran article,
The Iranians have reason to feel paranoid.

Fortunately, not every journalist is ready to bend over. Rod Dreher boldly refuses to join the majority of his collegues in submission to Islamic pressure groups.
Dallas is home to a large and relatively prosperous Muslim community. The Dallas Central Mosque is Texas’s largest. The area’s Muslims, though, have had a contentious relationship in recent years with the Dallas Morning News, mostly because of the paper’s groundbreaking 2001 reporting on the Holy Land Foundation, whose leadership is now under federal terrorism indictment. Since then, local Muslim leaders have engaged in a running dialogue with the News, with the declared aim of improving relations.

It was in that spirit that Sayyid Syeed, then head of the Islamic Society of North America, came in, together with a local delegation, to see the editorial board a few months after I arrived from New York in 2003. Syeed made a laborious presentation about how journalists needed to join with the organization in promoting peace, tolerance, and reconciliation. I knew something about ISNA and asked Syeed why—if his group truly supported peace and suchlike—its board included members directly linked to Islamic extremism and anti-Semitism, including the notorious Wahhabi-trained Brooklyn imam Siraj Wahhaj. The professorial Syeed dropped his polite mask, shook his fist at me, told me that I would one day “repent,” and compared my question with a Nazi inquisition.

Hysterical indignation, I soon learned, is the standard operating procedure for Islamic groups in dealing with the media in this town. Shortly after the Syeed meeting, I published a column in the News decrying the media’s evasion of legitimate questions about Islamic figures and organizations, hoping to shame journalists into posing them. That’s how I became, in the designation of one (now-defunct) Muslim website dedicated to criticizing the News, “the new face of hate.”
Read the whole thing for more on Dreher's battle against his local Dallas Islamists. He is inspiring and he gives me hope that others in his business will listen to him and realize what the Islamic supremecists are trying to force on us. Then write to your local news outlets and demand that they be vigilent in not succumbing to Islamic pressure. Especially write to the dhimmis at Newsweek and ask why they are taking the side of Iranian psychopath, Amadinajad. Have they no shame?

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Friday, February 09, 2007

The Wonders of Socialism

From the Washington Post:
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Meat cuts vanished from Venezuelan supermarkets this week, leaving only unsavory bits like chicken feet, while costly artificial sweeteners have increasingly replaced sugar, and many staples sell far above government-fixed prices.

President Hugo Chavez's administration blames the food supply problems on unscrupulous speculators, but industry officials say government price controls that strangle profits are responsible. Authorities on Wednesday raided a warehouse in Caracas and seized seven tons of sugar hoarded by vendors unwilling to market the inventory at the official price.

A supermarket worker explains to a customer that their meat section is out of beef and chicken in Caracas, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2007. President Hugo Chavez's administration blames the scarcity of basic food products on unscrupulous speculators and government opponents, but industry officials blame government price controls which they say are strangling profits and causing distortions in the market.

A supermarket worker explains to a customer that their meat section is out of beef and chicken in Caracas, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2007. President Hugo Chavez's administration blames the scarcity of basic food products on unscrupulous speculators and government opponents, but industry officials blame government price controls which they say are strangling profits and causing distortions in the market.

Major private supermarkets suspended sales of beef earlier this week after one chain was shut down for 48 hours for pricing meat above government-set levels, but an agreement reached with the government on Wednesday night promises to return meat to empty refrigerator shelves.

Shortages have sporadically appeared with items from milk to coffee since early 2003, when Chavez began regulating prices for 400 basic products as a way to counter inflation and protect the poor.

Yet inflation has soared to an accumulated 78 percent in the last four years in an economy awash in petrodollars, and food prices have increased particularly swiftly, creating a widening discrepancy between official prices and the true cost of getting goods to market in Venezuela.

"Shortages have increased significantly as well as violations of price controls," Central Bank director Domingo Maza Zavala told the Venezuelan broadcaster Union Radio on Thursday. "The difference between real market prices and controlled prices is very high."

Most items can still be found, but only by paying a hefty markup at grocery stores or on the black market. A glance at prices in several Caracas supermarkets this week showed milk, ground coffee, cheese and beans selling between 30 percent to 60 percent above regulated prices.

The state runs a nationwide network of subsidized food stores, but in recent months some items have become increasingly hard to find.

At a giant outdoor market held last weekend by the government to address the problems, a street vendor crushed raw sugar cane to sell juice to weary shoppers waiting in line to buy sugar.

"They say there are no shortages, but I'm not finding anything in the stores," grumbled Ana Diaz, a 70-year-old housewife who after eight hours, had managed to fill a bag with chicken, milk, vegetable oil and sugar bought at official prices. "There's a problem somewhere, and it needs to be fixed."

Gonzalo Asuaje, president of the meat processors association Afrigo, said that costs and demand have surged but in four years the government has barely raised the price of beef, which now stands at $1.82 per pound. Simply getting beef to retailers now costs $2.41 per pound without including any markup, he said.

"They want to sell it at the same price the cattle breeder gets for his cow," he said. "It's impossible."

After a meeting with government officials Wednesday, supermarkets association head Luis Rodriguez told the TV channel Globovision that beef and chicken will be available at regulated prices within two to three days. He did not say whether the government would be subsidizing sales or if negotiations on price controls would continue.

The government has urged Venezuelans to refrain from panic buying and is looking to imports to help.

Jorge Alvarado, trade secretary at the Bolivian Embassy in Caracas, told the state news agency that Venezuela's government plans to import 330 tons of Bolivian beef next week, eventually bringing that to 11,000 tons a year. It also plans to import 8,250 tons of beans, chicken, soybeans and cooking oil, Alvarado said.

Government officials dismiss any problems with price controls, while state TV has begun running tickers urging the public to "denounce the hoarders and speculators" through a toll-free phone number.

"The weight of the law will be felt, and we demand punishment," Information Minister Willian Lara said Wednesday.
Ain't Socialism grand, bringing so much happiness to so many people?

Of course, the fault isn't with Socialism, it's the fault of those hoarders and speculators who refuse to behave the way that Marx predicted socialists should behave.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Frank Zappa on the Steve Allen Show

I've recently discovered YouTube. I've known it was there and I've viewed things based on emails and other people's suggestions, but then I started searching. I've seen videos featuring John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and other of my jazz favorites. Today I dug deep into the Frank Zappa section and came up with a two parter. Here is the first part. Here is the second part. A young Frank Zappa (at age 23, I believe) is featured on a segment of the Steve Allen Show. This is a must see for all Zappa fans, and for all Steve Allen fans. You have to give Steve Allen a lot of credit for allowing the unknown Zappa to perform this piece of music. He really was generous in exposing new talent to the TV audience. And seeing the poise minus the extreme sarcasm young Frank demonstrates is impressive.

Go and watch.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Mr. Boffo

Mr. Boffo is one of my favorite comic strips. It's a must read every day. There are strips I've stopped reading, some that I've never started, but Mr. Boffo has a bizzare sensibility that keeps me chuckling every morning long after I've read the daily strip.

Or at least it did. This past week or so, there's been a definite change in the strip. It's almost as if someone else is trying to imitate Joe Martin, but since he isn't Joe Martin, and can't get into his brain, there have been day after day of flops, not even "almosts" but flops. Somebody is trying for the joke, but isn't reaching it. The situation is set up, but the punchline is defective. Something is just wrong here.

I can't even compare it with things like Segar Thimble Theater vs post-Segar Popeye, or Barks ducks vs non-Barks ducks. There is a twisted psyche that's become untwisted. It's like Garfield being the emasculated version of Get Fuzzy. (Yes, I know Garfield came first, but Get Fuzzy is still the funnier and more intelligent of the two.)

Has anyone else noticed it? It's been bugging me for days.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Palestinian Utopia

According to the perceptive and depressingly honest Carolyn Glick,
In the world of international diplomacy few issues receive more wall-to-wall support than the notion that it is essential to establish a Palestinian state. Leaders worldwide are so busy speaking of how essential it is for a State of Palestine to be founded that none of them seems to have noticed that it already exists.

This state was officially founded in the summer of 2005, when Israel removed its military forces and civilian population from the Gaza Strip and so established the first wholly independent Palestinian state in history. Israel's destruction of four Israeli communities in Northern Samaria and curtailment of its military operations in the area set the conditions for statehood in that area as well.

And so it is that as statesmen and activists worldwide loudly proclaim their commitment to establishing the sovereign State of Palestine, they miss the fact that Palestine exists. And it is a nightmare.
So, it ain't exactly paradise. As the article goes on,
In the State of Palestine, two-year-olds are killed and no one cares. Children are woken up in the middle of the night and murdered in front of their parents. Worshipers in mosques are gunned down by terrorists who attend competing mosques. And no one cares. No international human rights groups publish reports calling for an end to the slaughter. No UN body condemns anyone or sends a fact-finding mission to investigate the murders.

In the State of Palestine, women are stripped naked and forced to march in the streets to humiliate their husbands. Ambulances are stopped on the way to hospitals and wounded are shot in cold blood. Terrorists enter operating rooms in hospitals and unplug patients from life-support machines.

In the State of Palestine, people are kidnapped from their homes in broad daylight and in front of the television cameras. This is the case because the kidnappers themselves are cameramen. Indeed, their commanders often run television stations. And because terror commanders run television stations in the State of Palestine, it should not be surprising that they bomb the competition's television stations.
And now for the truly depressing part:
Yet this doesn't stop the US and Israel from pouring guns and money into the hands of Fatah terror chiefs.

[ . . . ]

And with each passing year, as the reality of Palestine has become clearer, the Israeli leadership's will to resist this pressure is increasingly eroded.

So it is that last week Defense Minister Amir Peretz announced that he supports negotiating with Hamas. Peretz laid out his "vision" for the reinstatement of the so-called peace process with the Palestinians, and stated that, to "empower" the Palestinians, he supports extending the ban on IDF operations from Gaza to Judea and Samaria. It should go without saying that such IDF operations are aimed at preventing massacres of Israeli civilians like the one that happened in Eilat Monday morning.
So the Palestinians, due to the moral cowardice of the West, and the totally blind and inept American and Israeli leadership, have been allowed to create a terrorist haven. And we are told that they deserve more.

How much longer can this insanity continue? How much more insane will it get? Are we in the West really this eager to whittle away at our freedoms and our way of life and put ourselves at the mercy of Islam?

Note to our leaders: It's way past time to fight back. While we've been worried about hurting deicate Muslim sensibilities, they've been murdering us and weakening our societies in every way they can. Wake up, you dopes.

Note about Carolyn Glick. She is honest and she is important to read. If she were as funny as Mark Steyn, she would be easier to read. I do enjoy laughing as I read about the impending destruction of my civilization.

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