Thursday, February 28, 2008

School Breakfast

The Detroit Free Press puts the best possible face on the program. Kids need a healthy breakfast every morning, and what can be better than having that breakfast with your "breakfast buds?"
Alyssa Callihan isn't a morning person. So her mother makes sure the second-grader takes advantage of the breakfast program available at Harwood Elementary in Warren Consolidated Schools.

"It's nice to have the option to have her eat at school," Jennifer Callihan said. "She gets to socialize with her friends before school, plus they serve a nice balanced breakfast."

Alyssa's mom said she thinks the healthy breakfast helps her daughter do better in school. And research promoted by the School Nutritionist Association, for National School Breakfast Week -- which starts Monday -- says mother knows best.

"Hunger can result in confusion, anxiety, indecisiveness, fatigue, and all of these interfere with children's learning," said Caroline Dylewski, nutrition services supervisor for Warren Consolidated. "Research shows kids who eat a good breakfast have more academic success."
See? What could possibly be wrong with a program like this? And because of its success, they want to expand it.

"It's nice to have the option to have her eat at school," Jennifer Callihan said. "She gets to socialize with her friends before school, plus they serve a nice balanced breakfast."

Alyssa's mom said she thinks the healthy breakfast helps her daughter do better in school. And research promoted by the School Nutritionist Association, for National School Breakfast Week -- which starts Monday -- says mother knows best.

"Hunger can result in confusion, anxiety, indecisiveness, fatigue, and all of these interfere with children's learning," said Caroline Dylewski, nutrition services supervisor for Warren Consolidated. "Research shows kids who eat a good breakfast have more academic success."

This year, Warren Consolidated increased the number of kids eating breakfast at school by 22%; last year's increase was 19.7%. But the total number of students remains low, with about one in 11 participating this year.

The key to expanding the program is more flexibility, according to the district's nutritionist. The district offers a variety, including hot ham and cheese bagels, turkey sausage, fresh fruit and yogurt parfaits, and breakfast pizzas. It also offers grab-and-go items, such as cereal bars and muffins.
Each school adds its own incentives. Warren Mott High School students are holding a contest to develop a school breakfast Web page that will be part of the district's Web site. Elementary schools have kids coloring pictures of fruits and vegetables while they munch on their breakfast. Middle school students have breakfast clubs and have decorated the cafeterias for School Breakfast Week.

And Warren Mott student Kristen Sitek, a 15-year-old sophomore, won the Fuel Your Imagination creative writing contest sponsored by the School Nutritionist Association. Her story, which points out how eating breakfast gives students a more focused attitude, is now being professionally illustrated.
Because as we all know,
"When I don't eat a breakfast, I get headaches sometimes. I'm really slow moving, and it's hard to concentrate on tests," Sitek said. "I know lots of kids blow it off."
I am a big breakfast fan. It's one of my top three favorite meals of the day. And I think it's nice that schools are offering that option to students. But shouldn't parents be feeding their kids? I've got some of my own, and so far, they've been reasonably well fed. They don't always eat their veggies, but they're healthy. I have this weird idea that I should take the responsibility for feeding them.

I'm guessing that some of these students qualify for free and reduced meals. In the district where I teach, the majority of the students do. I've seen parents drive up in Hummers and Jaguars to drop their children off for their free and reduced price breakfast. Sometimes we joke that students need a good dinner too, so why not offer optional dinners? And what about a place to sleep? After all, who can do school work if they haven't slept well?

How much of our parental responsibility are we supposed to give up?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Basic Economics

I just happen to be reading Thomas Sowell's book, Basic Economics. It's the updated and expanded third edition. He's added new information and entire chapters since the second edition. There are also quizzes on each chapter at the end. I like the quizzes because if I were studying this the way I should be studying it, taking these quizzes would help me remember what I've read. Page numbers are given to help one find the answers to the questions. And it's not even like the questions are that difficult if you've read the book. The way Sowell explains things, a lot of this stuff is common sense.

Maybe I'm weird, but I'm finding most of this book fascinating. It could be because I'm interested in the subject. Or maybe I enjoy learning new things. Perhaps it's because I like seeing self-defeating myths smashed with a healthy dose of rationality and intelligent thought. There are a lot of real life examples in the book demonstrating how and why some economic theories work and others don't. One reviewer on Amazon simplistically titled his review, Capitalism Good, Communism Bad. He then went on to trash the book. Some people don't like it when their cherished irrational beliefs can't handle the reality of life. Sowell does compare the success of Capitalism to the failures of Communism, but due to the general disdain among our elite opinion makers of Free Market Capitalism, I think Sowell was right to make these comparison as often as possible. Not that it will quiet the free market haters, but it does offer lessons to those who will read and listen honestly. And it shows why people who still believe in Socialism and Communism just don't get it.

Reading this book helped me appreciate two articles in the current issue of City Journal. The first one is Hearts of Darkness by Michael Knox Beran.
Paternalism was supposed to be finished. The belief that grown men and women are childlike creatures who can thrive in the world only if they submit to the guardianship of benevolent mandarins underlay more than a century’s worth of welfare-state social policy, beginning with Otto von Bismarck’s first Wohlfahrtsstaat experiments in nineteenth-century Germany. But paternalism’s centrally directed systems of subsidies failed to raise up submerged classes, and by the end of the twentieth century even many liberals, surveying the cultural wreckage left behind by the Great Society, had abandoned their faith in the welfare state.

Yet in one area, foreign aid, the paternalist spirit is far from dead. A new generation of economists and activists is calling for a “big push” in Africa to expand programs that in practice institutionalize poverty rather than end it. The Africrats’ enthusiasm for the failed policies of the past threatens to turn a struggling continent into a permanent ghetto—and to block the progress of ideas that really can liberate Africa’s oppressed populations.

The intellectual cover for the new paternalism comes from economists like Columbia’s Jeffrey Sachs, who in his recent bestseller The End of Poverty argues that prosperous nations can dramatically reduce African poverty, if not eliminate it, by increasing their foreign-aid spending and expanding smaller assistance programs into much larger social welfare regimes. “The basic truth,” Sachs says, “is that for less than a percent of the income of the rich world”—0.7 percent of its GNP for the next 20 years—“nobody has to die of poverty on the planet.”

Sachs headed the United Nations’ Millennium Project, created in 2002 by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to figure out how to reverse poverty, hunger, and disease in poor countries. After three years of expensive lucubration, the project’s ten task forces concluded that prosperous nations can indeed defeat African poverty by 2025—if only they spend more money. “The world already has the technology and know-how to solve most of the problems faced in the poor countries,” a Millennium report asserted. “As of 2006, however, these solutions have still not been implemented at the needed scale.” Translation: the developed nations have been too stingy.

We’ve heard this before. The “response of the West to Africa’s tragedy has been constant throughout the years,” observes NYU economist William Easterly. From Walt Rostow and John F. Kennedy in 1960 to Sachs and Tony Blair today, the message, Easterly says, has been the same: “Give more aid.” Assistance to Africa, he notes, “did indeed rise steadily throughout this period (tripling as a percent of African GDP from the 1970s to the 1990s),” yet African growth “remained stuck at zero percent per capita.”

All told, the West has given some $568 billion in foreign aid to Africa over the last four decades, with little to show for it. Between 1990 and 2001, the number of people in sub-Saharan Africa below what the UN calls the “extreme poverty line”—that is, living on less than $1 a day—increased from 227 million to 313 million, while their inflation-adjusted average daily income actually fell, from 62 cents to 60. At the same time, nearly half the continent’s population—46 percent—languishes in what the UN defines as ordinary poverty.

Yet notwithstanding this record of failure, the prosperous nations’ heads of state have sanctioned Sachs’s plan to throw more money at Africa’s woes. In July 2005, G-8 leaders meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland, endorsed Sachs’s Millennium thesis and promised to double their annual foreign aid from $25 billion to $50 billion, with at least half the money earmarked for Africa. This increased spending, the Gleneagles principals proclaimed, will “lift tens of millions of people out of poverty every year.” No doubt, too, Africans will soon be extracting sunbeams from cucumbers.
Using logic, reason, and the 60 year record of failure of other African poverty reduction programs that have consisted of throwing money at Africa, he shows why the people involved in the current scheme are either deluded or are self-serving liars.

The other article is, Criminalizing Capitalism by Nicole Gelinas.
Politicians and business pundits saw Enron’s collapse as an unprecedented market failure that cried out for a new remedy. Hadn’t the country’s best stock analysts believed the Enron “story”—permanently high growth through dazzling innovation? Hadn’t the nation’s bond-rating agencies awarded Enron a rating implying that prudent investors could lend to the doomed company? Hadn’t Enron’s “independent” auditors and outside counsel signed off on its crazy financial statements? And hadn’t Enron employees who had invested heavily in company stock seen their life savings evaporate?

Yet Enron was actually an example of how markets work—messily, sometimes tardily, but in the end with ruthless efficiency. Even as most Wall Street analysts bought Enron’s sales pitch and accepted its financial statements, investors slashed the value of the company’s shares in half—far surpassing declines in the broader market—during the year before the accounting scandal broke. Investors had begun to withhold money before the government launched investigations. When Enron declared bankruptcy in December 2001, the regulators were left only to certify the market’s verdict. Those investors and lenders who hadn’t scrutinized the company lost money, as they should have.

Though Enron didn’t signal a market failure, it was a business failure, of course. The company overvalued its assets while undervaluing its liabilities—the oldest trick in the fraud book but also sometimes an honest mistake. In the 1930s, Samuel Insull, a utility entrepreneur who created the modern power grid, did the same thing; so did savings and loan banks in the 1980s. Enron’s chief financial officer, Andy Fastow, did it by vastly overstating the company’s assets and hiding liabilities, such as off-the-books sums owed to outside “investment partnerships” (he stole cash on the side, too). It was easy for Enron to perform accounting hocus-pocus because many of its assets, such as a one-of-a-kind power plant in India and speculative broadband ventures, were difficult to value. Enron’s assets were worth what Enron said they were—until the market decided otherwise. By booking future profits right away, Enron worsened its predicament; a mistake or a lie compounded over 20 years is far greater than one that covers only one year. What’s more, the company didn’t disclose clearly enough, in hindsight, that it was funding those precarious investment partnerships with its own stock—which it might have to replace with cash if the stock price fell.
In its effort to clean up and micromanage the market, the government only makes things worse. As Sowell points out repeatedly in his book, controlling the market is an impossibility. Others have tried and failed. We have examples of these failures both throughout history and in today's world. But for some reason, people still think the market can be reigned in and made to behave, that it can be forced to be kind and gentle to "the people."

Sowell's book, these articles, and reality all show that it can't.

All of this should be read in their entirety. In fact, I'm thinking about buying extra copies of Basic Economics for some family members.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ethanol - the Environmental Scam

I linked to this one from American Digest. It's an article in the Wall Street Journal. It's another load of reasons why we shouldn't buy into the biofuel scam, no matter how the environmental lobby tries to scare us into believing that we are killing the planet. Unfortunately, Congress and the president have bought the whole line of crap.
The ink is still moist on Capitol Hill's latest energy bill and, as if on cue, a scientific avalanche is demolishing its assumptions. To wit, trendy climate-change policies like ethanol and other biofuels are actually worse for the environment than fossil fuels. Then again, Washington's energy neuroses are more political than practical, so it's easy for the Solons and greens to ignore what would usually be called evidence.

The rebukes arrive via two new studies in Science, a peer-reviewed journal not known for right-wing proclivities. The first, by ecologists at Princeton and the Woods Hole Research Center, reviews the environmental consequences of increased biofuel consumption, which had never been examined comprehensively. Of course, that didn't stop Congress and the Bush Administration from jacking up the U.S. mandate to 36 billion gallons by 2022, a fivefold increase from a mere two years ago. Such policies are supposedly justified because corn-based ethanol and other "alternatives" result in (very modest) reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions when mixed with gasoline.
Read the whole thing and be sickened. How is it that after almost fifty years of variations of "the sky is falling due to the effects of humankind", anyone still buys into this lunacy?

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A Progressive Reading List

Although I very rarely purchase anything from, when I'm thinking about buying a book, especially an expensive book, I like skimming the reviews left by "regular people". The problem is that, as a dedicated browser, I spend too much time linking to other related books, useless discussions, and other people's reading lists. While browsing this morning, I found this Progressive Reading List. Going through this list, I had to seriously wonder; are these books fodder for rational thought, or paranoia? If this is a true representation of Progressive thought, they've lost any toehold they once had in reality. Troofer books are overly represented as are anti-Bush conspiracy theories. How does someone make sense of a complicated world when everything is a conspiracy directed against them? They're better off reading Philip K. Dick. As wacky and delusional as he was, at least he knew (most of the time) that he was writing fiction.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Cutting Through the Insanity

George Will has in interesting column in the current Newsweek on the government's idiotic, ill-conceived rush to embrace and subsidize biofuels.
To avoid drilling for oil in ANWR's moonscape, the planet savers evidently prefer destroying forests, even though they absorb greenhouse gases. Will ethanol prevent more carbon-dioxide emissions than would have been absorbed by the trees cut down to clear land for the production of crops for ethanol? Be that as it may, governments mandating the use of biofuels are one reason for the global rise in food prices, which is driving demand for more arable land. That demand is driving the destruction of forests—and animal habitats. In Indonesia alone, 44 million acres have been razed to make way for production of palm oil.
Back in the days when I distrusted rational thought from the Right in favor of what passes for rational thought on the Left, George Will used to make me angry.

Dr. Sanity in a totally unrelated post offers a lengthy analysis on the sexual maladjustment and complete misogynistic mindset of Islam that forces men to become murderers and to abuse their women and children in order to avoid "humiliation". Laws that demean women and allow for their abuse and dehumanization are codified in Sharia law, as are excuses for the sexual abuse of children.
Glazov goes on to argue that Islamist terror can be thought of in part, at least, as a response to sexual rage, frustration, and the humiliation of being connected to a "degraded mother." Thus the men in the culture must constantly assert their masculinity, defend their masculine "honor", and strike out in rage against any who "shame" them.

This is apparent in the sexual mutilation of terror victims who are perceived as "inferior" by the Islamists, and on a par with women of their own culture. It is also seen in the Freudian symbolism of the barbaric act of beheading; as well as in the ubiquitous rape of non-muslim women around the world.

To some extent, such behavior has been seen in all cultures that debase or oppress women. In misogynistic cultures (and individuals) there is usually both the revulsion of the "whore" combined with a perverse obsession with, attraction to, and idealization of "perfection" in a woman (the "madonna" complex). In order to be idealized, women must be stripped of any hint of sexuality.
Needless to say, the family dynamics in viciously misogynic cultures like those dominated by Islamic extremists, create severely impaired girls and boys. It has been noted by many researchers and observers that children of both sexes are routinely physically and sexually abused by male relatives (indeed there are religious rules in Islam that designate under what circumstances babies may be used for sexual gratification by adults) . The boys are publicly circumcised and the girls clitoridectomized. Since a woman's behavior is the source of all shame and dishonor for the men in Islamic society, women must be ruthlessly controlled. The degree of control is proportional to the degree of sexual repression and frustration (and hence rage) that is mandated by the culture/religion.
Male children in societies that demonize or debase women must overemphasize their "maleness" in order to separate from the mother. As grown men, far from being able to mitigate the aggressive impulses of a child, such men will encourage these impulses in order to "prove" to the world at large that they (and later, their sons)have not been "feminized". Cultures where women have extremely low status almost always encourage the development of inadequate, "macho" men, who need to prove their manliness and constantly.

Both articles should be read in their entirety.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cartoonists protest

According to the Detroit Free Press,
When you look in your Free Press Sunday comics, know that "Candorville" by Darrin Bell is a protest. He and at least nine black and minority comics artists are drawing the same comic Sunday in their own styles to protest the notion that their comics are interchangeable.

They feel lumped into a limited category as "black strips" -- even though each of these comics has its own voice, content and nonracial category (family strip, kid strip, friends strip, political strip, etc.).

We tell you this because the other African-American comics artists the Free Press carries -- Robb Armstrong of "Jump Start" and Nate Creekmore of "Maintaining" -- aren't participating in the protest.
The interchangeable strip is here. It is the Candorville version. It's the only one carried by my local newspaper. I don't read the other strips involved in he protest so I don't know if their complaint is valid. I used to read Candorville until it became to painful to waste those few precious seconds. Since it's the only one of the strips I can respond to, I hate to break it to the creator of Candorville, but if he finds himself in a comic strip ghetto, it's one of his own making.

As you can see from the strip I linked, according to Darrin Bell, it's the fault of the stupid white reader for not being savvy enough to understand Candorville's modern, relevent, edgy humor. The stupid white reader longs for the simpler, safer, whiter world of yesterday, exemplified by Blondie and Dagwood. As a long time comics fan, (ask my wife and kids) I take issue with Darrin Bell's inaccurate and self-serving caricature. It is the job of the artist to communicate the idea to the viewer/reader. If the reader/viewer finds that artistic vision lacking, the creator needs to reassess the creation.

Candorville is trapped in the early 1970s world of newly integrated TV shows where dumb white people didn't know how to react to their black neighbors, coworkers, etc. He's using jokes and stereotypes that are 30-40 years out of date. They were funny back then. They are painfully dated now. His is a black strip in the sense that his characters are caricatures and he focuses on the view that white folks can't relate to black folks because all white people are racist whether conscious or unconscious. He has a very limited view of the world.

Let's contrast that with another strip by a black artist, Jump Start. Read it for a few days, or weeks, or months. You will be treated to characters that are more than lines on paper. Over the years, they have grown and changed. They have developed. They have humanity and a range of human emotion. This is a strip that has heart. Rather than a creator that tries to show off his supposed superiority, Robb Armstrong works to create a believable world on the comics page. His characters go off on flights of imagination, but these flights are entertaining and believable. This is a strip in the tradition of other great family strips like, For Better and For Worse, and Gasoline Alley - back when it was being done by Frank King.

My advice to the cartoonists who are protesting; take a good look at your strip. Be honest. Are you focusing on your ethnicity and politics to the exclusion of all else? Or are you dealing with universal themes?


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Echos of the Past

Below is a cartoon by Ed Hall. As you can see, it accompanies a piece by the authors of the current version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Walt and Mearsheimer.

Check out the next cartoon.
It's a Nazi propaganda cartoon from a magazine called Die Brennessel. The caption, as stated here, says,
"A Scene from the 'Good Old Days.'" The theme is freedom of the press. This supposedly depicts the situation before 1933, when the Nazis claimed the Jews controlled the German press. (2 January 1934)
I don't want to call Ed Hall or the L.A. Times Nazis or Jew haters. There is enough name calling these days. And I'm sure that neither the Times or Mr. Hall think of themselves as Jew haters. I don't even know if they would admit to the current dodge of modern anti-Semites who claim to have nothing against the Jews but instead refer to themselves as "anti-Zionist". I do know that there is a frightening similarity in the two cartoons, and an equally frightening willingness on the part of major American newspapers to give editorial space to people with opinions that ten years ago were only openly spewed by neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other unsavory characters. They call it free speech, but as we've seen it only works in one direction. I'd like to see the same scrutiny applied to CAIR, The Muslim Brotherhood, and Saudi Arabia.

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Reasons not to vote for Obama

Debbie Schlussel has some great reasons here and some even better reasons here to not vote for Obama. If that weren't enough (and for me it is), there is this at Little Green Footballs. It's most troubling point is that Obama proclaims:
“Once I’m elected, I want to organize a summit in the Muslim world, with all the heads of state, to have an honest discussion about ways to bridge the gap that grows every day between Muslims and the West.”
And that was not a one-time-and-then-forget-that-he said-it statement. Yesterday on CNN, he stated again that he would sit down with our friends and enemies, or as Abe Greenwald calls it, he would maintain a position against our enemies calling for
. . . a doctrine of pre-emptive appeasement and the perfect advisory team to institute it, . . .

Ahh, but that's not all, boys and girls, for over at American Digest, we have this.

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