Pentagon Said to Offer Cuts in the Billions,” by Eric Schmitt, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/30/politics/30military.html, 30 December 2004 (from Democratic Underground).

News at first troubling

Under the proposal, the Navy would retire the carrier John F. Kennedy – one of the oldest carriers in the fleet, having first been deployed in 1968 – next year. The Kennedy, based in Mayport, Fla., recently completed a tour in the Persian Gulf, where its air wing was flying 60 missions a day, including flights to Iraq.

The Kennedy’s retirement would, for the first time since the mid-1990’s, reduce the size of the Navy’s carrier fleet.

The proposal also calls for reducing the number of new LPD-17 San Antonio-class amphibious landing docks, which are designed to transport Marine assault vehicles, amphibious landing craft and Osprey aircraft, to trouble spots around the world. The Navy had originally planned to buy five of the ships over the next five years, at about $1.2 billion apiece. The vessels are built by Northrop Grumman in New Orleans.

Another major change would be to build fewer new Navy destroyers than planned over the next six years. A team of contractors, led by Northrop Grumman, is building the ships, currently called DD(X), at a cost of $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion per vessel, in Pascagoula, Miss., and in Bath, Me.

In addition, development of the Army’s $120 billion Future Combat System would be delayed. The system is designed to link soldiers by computer with remotely piloted aircraft and combat vehicles

But signs that Donald Rumsfeld has been pushing for this for a while

When Donald H. Rumsfeld became defense secretary in 2001, he took aim at costly weapons systems that he and his top aides said were relics of the cold war. Since then, the Army has canceled the $11 billion Crusader artillery system and the $38 billion Comanche reconnaissance helicopter program.

But the armed services have until now resisted deeper cuts and have been buoyed by big increases in military spending since Sept. 11.

No comment. This is a big change happening under the radar. But to what end, and how effective will it be?

The Family

Portrait of a family at war: Kim Jong Il purges relatives after alleged coup bid,” by Jasper Becker, The Independent, http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia/story.jsp?story=596607, 29 December 2004 (from Democratic Underground).

Kim Jong Il is imprisoning those closest to him

North Korea’s Kim Jong Il has purged some of his closest relatives, accusing them of trying to seize power, reports in Beijing and Seoul said.

The purge began some months ago when Kim Jong Il put his brother-in-law, Chang Song-taek, under house arrest along with 80 other officials and their family members. Many have reportedly been sent to North Korea’s Gulag in the largest purge in a decade.

But me may have god reasons to be afraid

A trickle of reports coming out of North Korea paint a picture of a regime in its dying days, with leading members of the ruling family at each other’s throats.

Government sources in Seoul said Austrian intelligence was reported to have foiled an attempt last month to assassinate Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of Kim Jong Il, when he was visiting the country. Austria’s Foreign Ministry has denied the story.

Another report circulating in Seoul says that in September Kim Jong Il’s sister, Kim Kyong-hee, was seriously injured in a traffic accident, which is assumed to have been an attempt on her life.

Let’s hope they kill each other off… or that someone else saves them the trouble

Not long after the purge, Kim Jong Il paid an official visit to China and, around the time of his return, there was a huge train explosion at Ryonchon, close to the Chinese border. Official reports said it was an accident and that Kim’s train had passed through hours before, but there are persistent rumours that he escaped by only 20 minutes. Whatever the truth, diplomatic sources say Kim has been treating the train explosion as an attempt to kill him. He has dismissed senior officials responsible for his safety, including the interior minister in charge of internal security, and ordered the confiscation of all mobile phones in May this year. A mobile phone is thought to have been used to set off the explosion.

Even if it is the People’s Liberation Army

But with the re-election of George W Bush, Kim Jong Il has little realistic chance of realising his hopes, and there are growing signs that even China is beginning to lose patience with him. Beijing has moved some 60,000 troops from the Shenyang garrison to the border in case it needs to intervene.

Chinese sources also claim a growing flight of senior and middle-ranking officials and generals, with one report alleging as many as 130 generals have sought refuge in China.

Football and Cars

No, the answer then isn’t choice,” by “Aaron,” tdaxp, http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2004/12/26/attacking_success.html, 29 December 2004.

Aaron offers a well worded apologia to throwing money at the problem.

“No, the answer then isn’t choice. The answer is money.

Then why is American public school expenditure exploding with no increase in performance?

I’ll be the first to tell you that my low-cost university education was sub-par at best. I know I’d have learned a ton more and had many more opportunities at MIT or even UMN or U. of IA. However, I couldn’t afford to go to them.

Expensive high-quality education is affordable. It is much more affordable than “free” poor education. Saying that expensive things are easier to afford for rich people doesn’t change this fact. Nor does it directly affect the issue of choice.

At this point, I would posit that Dan would have a bevy of “amortize the cost of education out over your whole life” arguments. However, the difference between Billy Cheney having an expensive schooling paid for and walking into the real world debt-free, and [tdaxp] leaving college with a fair amount of debt is astronomical. Why move this harsh reality up 15 years in a student’s life? Do mom and dad have to mortgage the house to send Dan to a good primary school? Do they have to jump through endless hoops and tax chicanery to qualify for vouchers?

If society is concerned about the fairness of the situation, create government-funded scholarships or vouchers.

Aaron says money is the problem. If that is the case, the cost of education will go up anyway. Making individuals pay for their children’s education in a free market would be no more or less than making individuals pay for their children’s education, instead of relying on property tax.

So the distance between the rich and poor increases. The poor kids attend poor schools, the wealthy kids attend good schools. What will the requirements be for the voucher program? Hard to say.

It’s certainly less well known than the current classist system.

The fact is, if you’re rich you almost certainly get a better funded public education than if you’re poor. Public education is usually partially paid for out of local property taxes. As the property values are much higher in wealthier districts, wealthier districts get more money.

The only saving grace of the current regime is that every student is trapped in a choiceless monopoly. So poor kids (disproportionately latin or black) serve their sentences in decrepit buildings, while rich kids (disproportionately white and asian) waste time in style.

I know I was happy to come up in public school. I know the people who wanted to get ahead did. I know the people who were content to revel in a social experiment didn’t.

Again, I make my case, the problem isn’t the school, it’s the culture. America equals football and cars.

Some generational causality is obvious: if a child is abused, he is more likely to be abusive when he grows up. Some, less so: if a child is hugged often, he is more likely to make an effective white-collar worker, but less likely to make an effective blue-collar worker. But the connection between failing, monopolistic schools and Aaron’s posited wrongheaded culture is clear.

Children are captives of schools most days of the week for most weeks of the year for most years of childhood. Children come into school naturally academically curious, and come out believing “America equals football and cars.” There is no connection?

Schools are a means of imposing a dominant culture. Many countires choose to impose, through their monopoly schools, a vision of their future. Perhaps its conformaty to authority, pacifism, militarism, or social justice. Some schools actually stress academics. In America, we brainwash students into believing in “football and cars.” Great.

You have a choice in school. Succeed or don’t.

Truer words have never been said. Except in Brown v. Board of Education.

The quality of schools affect the quality of graduates. “Students succeed if they want to” is an excuse for all tyrants, whether racists or monopolists or other.

Would people prefer their children to have a one-sided education, where they could be indoctrinated to solely their parents’ values? Dan might say that’s a good thing. His parents were “right”. That was convenient for him. Let’s say Dan’s parents had been crazy Jehovah’s Witnesses or worse and Dan learned that the solution to life’s problems, financial and otherwise, was a hefty dose of self-flagellation… At least in a public setting, he could’ve learned about the wonders of “science” and “math” and all these other crazy things that you need in life.

What to criticize? That public schools (presumably) do not offer a “one-sided education”? That public schools teach “science” and “math”? Or that public schools teach “other crazy things you need in life”? Why not all three?

Because most children are incapable of critical thought, education is going to be propoganda. This is true in all schools, but its most hurtful in public schoools, as we all must subsidize this choiceless PR.

How many times will a public schoolchild hear the following from teachers:

1. Nazis are/were bad
2. Racism is bad
3. Sexism is bad
4. Brown v. Board of Education established “seperate but equal is inherently unequal”?

Forcing these unquestionably on a society is dangerous.

At my graduate university, I detected a clear admiration for Hitler among many foreign students, combined with a complete disregard for his racism (after all, if you’re from southern India, Jews, Germans, and Russians all look the same). All morality aside, a resurgence of National-Socialism would be a catastrophe, because it is a philosophy that brings great-power war.

How are Americans supposed to combat this? If you say “Nazis are bad,” a less doctrinaire “not all bad” is replied. If you say “Racism is bad,” they say “I agree.” By simpliying our enemeis to characatures, monopolistic public education has disarmed us in the war of ideas.

Likewise, the PC-for-the-1970s philosophy spouted by public education paints a far too simplistic view of the world. Whatever you think of them, the terms “racism” and “sexism” are not interchangable. Further, they are often confused with the more complex issues of tribalism and genderism. Societal discussion of race and sex will naturally trend towards different directions, and painting both with the same brush of “prejudice” dumbs-down discussion of both.

Likewise, one of the most important Supreme Court decisions in a hundred years is routinely misdescribed by drones who do not know better. Brown v. Board of Education upheld Flessy v. Fergeson. If was not the first SC decision against racial segregation, and unlike earlier decisions it changed almost nothing — ten years later, almost all southern schools were still segregated. How are we preparing pupils to be future crusaders for one America when their understanding of American history is so cartoonish?

Second, U.S. public schools clearly do not teach science and math. Its empirically shown in study after study.

Third, if by “other crazy things” Aaron is refering to a basic understanding of consumer finance or how to file a small-claims case, schools fail here too.

U.S. public education: still terrible.

A Defeat

Iraq to dissolve National Guard,” BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4133039.stm, 29 December 2004.

A set-back in the Global War on Terrorism (Second Battle of Iraq)

Iraq’s interim rulers say the National Guard (ING), currently spearheading anti-insurgency activity, is to be dissolved and merged with the army.

The merger was originally planned for much later, after ING defeated the insurgency with the help of US force.

As a comparison, imagine that the mafia had proven so intractable that the FBI was dissolved. The ING was supposed to be the “big guns” on which the Iraqi police would rely. The National Guard proved helpful in dealing with the Shia holy places in Najaf, but has suffered terrible casualties.

A little mystery further on

The paramilitary ING, which is responsible for internal security, has more than 40,000 troops, according to figures given to the United Nations by US forces occupying Iraq.

The regular army is thought to number barely one tenth of that.

I’m unsure what Iraqi “regular army” the article is talking about. This is the first I have heard of it.

This is the clearest sign yet the Iraqi government expects an ongoing civil war. If the Sunni insurgency does not stop, already existing militias (including the Kurdish Peshmerga, the armed wing of the Surpeme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraqi, and even al Sadr’s Mahdi Army) would be more reliable than the ING troops, many of whom are jobless Sunni Arabs.

American Left Statism

Recruitment, war force look at draft,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com/editorial/Wednesdayarticle1.shtml, 29 December 2004 (from South Dakota Politics).

The famous Democratic Sioux Falls Argus Leader gives a facile analysis of the military

America’s National Guard is desperate to reverse a disturbing trend of recruitment shortfalls. We’re doing OK here in South Dakota, in fact ranking No. 1 in maintaining troop strength. But nationwide, the picture is grim: 7,000 short last year, 10,000 short this year and an even bigger goal for the coming year.

Will the new efforts work? Let’s review the cause of the trouble:

• We’re in the middle of a war. Guard units are in harm’s way, just like regular Army soldiers. In some cases, they’re in even more danger.

• Unexpected, lengthy deployments are causing financial and emotional stress on families.

• Even when enlistments are up, soldiers are kept in the service and in the field.

Everyone’s dancing around the real effects of this, though. The recruiting shortfalls call into question the continued viability of our all-volunteer military. When 40 percent of the troops in Iraq are made of National Guard and Reserves, it’s easy to see why there’s concern.

Followed by the ever-so-regreful “fear”

As distasteful as the idea may be, we may have little choice but to consider a draft.

SFAL is correct that the National Guard system is outdated. But its perspective is horribly short. We are not “in the middle of a war.”

The Global War on Terrorism is not going to end soon. Indeed, the front-runners for the White House in ’08 (Senators McCain and Clinton) are both more hawkish than President Bush. Tom Barnett was recently asked how we will know we are winning the Middle East — he answered we will know when we find ourselves in central Africa instead.

We cannot expect our forces to come home, and applauding the de facto merging of the National Guard and Army is insane. We need one force to take out nations and deter China. We need another to fight the dirty wars of peace. The first must be kill-oriented, the second life-oriented. A draft army is neither.

But Sfal gains two things by discussing a draft army. More generously to the editorial board, it seeks to embarras the President by scaring the people. Perhaps more honestly, it advances the American-left infatuation with statism.

Don’t control your schools? Don’t controll your retirement? Don’t control your life in war? Vote leftist.

The Sunni Side of Factions

Are Fortresses, and many other things to which Princes often resort, Advantageous or Hurtful?,” by Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, http://www.online-literature.com/machiavelli/prince/20/, AD 1513.

Analysis: Iraq edges towards civil war,” by Richard Sale, World Peace Herald, http://www.wpherald.com/storyview.php?StoryID=20041227-041929-7953r, 27 December 2004 (from Democratic Underground).

At first glance, glum assessments from UPI

“We are starting to play the ethnic card in Iraq, just as the Soviets played it in Afghanistan,” said former CIA chief of Afghanistan operation Milt Bearden.

“You only play it when you’re losing and by playing it, you simply speed up the process of losing,” he said.

Phoebe Marr, an analyst who closely follows events in Iraq, told United Press International that “having the U.S. military unleash different historical enemies on each other has become an unspoken U.S. policy.”

Bearden, Marr and others also referred to the Pentagon’s tactic of pitting one group of enemies against another in Iraq as being fraught with danger.

For example, during the assault on Fallujah, wary of the reliability of Iraqi forces, the Marines used 2,000 Kurdish Peshmerga militia troops against the Arab Sunnis. The two groups share a long history of mistrust and animosity, according to Marr.

Both ethnic groups are Sunni, but Kurds speak a different language, have distinct customs, and are not Arabs.

“I think the U.S. military is trying to get ethnic groups to take on the insurgents, and I don’t think it will work,” Marr said.

According to a former senior CIA official, the agency is dealing with reports of ethnic cleansing being undertaken by the Kurds in areas near Kirkuk.

“It’s all taking place off everyone’s radar, and it’s very quiet, but it’s happening,” this source said.

Original reports disclosing that up to 150,000 Arab Sunnis had been uprooted and placed in camps have proved to be unreliable, several U.S. officials said.

“There’s so much white noise, so much unreliable rumor in the air,” said Middle East expert Tony Cordesman. “You are going to have to get data from people on site, not from those in the rear areas.”

According to Marr, Iraq has always been a complicated mosaic of religious and ethnic groups and tribes. The tilt of the Bush administration towards Iraq’s Shiites, who compromise 60 percent of the population, upset the balance of power, she said.

Former Defense Intelligence Agency chief of Middle East operations, Pat Lang, said the key blunder was the disbanding of Iraq’s 400,000-man army. “At a stroke, we went from a liberator to an occupier.”

A Pentagon official said that the Iraqi army had been “a respected institution,” in Marr’s words, “a focal point of national identity,” utterly abolished.

From the beginning, sectarian and ethnic groups have been quietly at war. A U.S. intelligence official told United Press International that soon after the U.S. victory, there were Shiite assassination squads “that were going around settling scores that dated back from the time (Iraqi leader) Saddam Hussein was in power.

There were also suicide bombings of Shiites by Islamist jihadis allegedly led by Abu Musab Zarqawi, an Islamist militant now associated with al-Qaida. According to the intelligence official, Zarqawi in the late 1990s was responsible for bombing Shiites in Iran from his base in Pakistan where he was associated with the militant SSP party.

The Sunni Arabs, once the leading political group under Saddam Hussein, feel threatened and made politically impotent by the Shiite majority, according to U.S. officials.

Compounded by gloomy words from the father of realism

… I do not believe that factions can ever be of use; rather it is certain that when the enemy comes upon you in divided cities you are quickly lost, because the weakest party will always assist the outside forces and the other will not be able to resist.

But the situation is much better.

Iraq is in a civil war. We are seeing in Mesopotamia what we might have seen in South Africa if not for the leadership of Mandela and de Klerk. Sunnis represent around 20% of the population, and have been progressively realizing what 20% in a democracy means. It’s has about the electoral power of a Black-Italian voting block would in the United States. Nothing to sneeze at, regionally predominate in areas, but never a natural ruling coallition.

Kurds are also about 20% of the Iraqi population, but they don’t have the same disease of declining Empires. Like 1920s Germans Iraqi Sunni Arabs can, easily, remember when “they” were important. Like 1950s Jews Iraqi Kurds are thrilled not to be dead. Hence the violent attempt to reimpose ethno-racist rule by the Sunnis, and the muscular attempt to create a homeland by the Kurds.

Machavelli’s advice is not operable in the current situation. George H. W. Bush’s Persian Gulf War established that the Carter doctrine still has force — any aggressor in the Gulf will be dealth with. While there are regional hegemons, the United States is easily able to enforce the boundaries. The Sunni Arabs know this. No matter how divided Iraq is ont he Sunni Arab v. Everyone Else lines, the sunnis still lose. The more they resist democracy, the more they are trapped in a prison of their own making.

Not That Terrible

Home School Standards,” by Chad M. Shuldt, Clean Cut Kid, http://www.cleancutkid.com/index.php?id=102, 28 December 2004.

Should more be done for our public schools?,” by Chad M. Shuldt, tdaxp, http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2004/12/26/attacking_success.html, 28 December 2004.

Commenting on a recent post here, Chad M. Shuldt says

This comes down to a question of accountability. Should home-schooled students be subject to the same standards as public-schooled students? I would ask why should they not be?

Expounding on this on his blog, he repeats

Home-schooling presents a great option for parents, and I know several people that have done it. However, I have often wondered why there is no real accountability when a child is home schooled. The extent to which parents are upholding their responsibility in a home-school situation needs to be measured somehow. It comes down to accountability and responsibility.

Should home-schools be more like public-schools? Only if we want to be more like Tunisia.

Our public schools are terrible. Is this the fault of parents? Teachers? Principals? Politicians? I’m not interested in blame-games. Clearly we have a systemic failure in public education. We are approaching the problem in the wrong way, and getting terrible results for our efforts.

Public schools must be more like home-schools. They must be more accountable to parents. They must be more agile and more competitive. They must not be owned by unions and politicians.

American public schools are unacceptably terrible. Asking if home-schools should be as good as U.S. public school twists reality.

Home schools are great friends of education reform. They are a cannibalizing agents. Their success tells the rest of the educational world “be more like us.” Why should we punish success and reward failure? Why waste effort burdening successful schools with the same regulations which have dragged down the rest?

To those who claim to care about accountability: why are you not holding public schools accountable? Every moment you slow down education reform, every roadblock you build against new educational methods, every regulation you burden those who do not accept “better than Tunisia” with, saves public schools from accountability. The bankruptcy of the current system is exposed. Millions of students waste away in useless mush mills every school day. And Kooistra’s proposed reforms would only build the prison walls higher.

Why should home schools not be held to the same standards as public schools? Because home schools should not be that terrible.

Unaffordable Child Warehousing

Charts: 10 Facts About K-12 Education Funding,” U.S. Department of Education, http://www.ed.gov/about/overview/fed/10facts/edlite-chart.html#1 (from Power Line).

U.S. Public Education: Still Terrible, Now Unaffordable Too!

We spend more than anybody except Switzerland
Primary and Secondary education costs continue to rise
“Disadvanced Children” grants are exploding
Average spending per pupil falls skyward
Special education exponentially rockets
As done federal spending

But at least we’re better than Tunisia!


Bush Plan Could Imperil Tax Write-Off for New York,” by Ian Urbina, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/27/nyregion/27taxes.html?oref=login, 27 December 2004 (from Democratic Underground).

A dish, best served cold.

As the Bush administration looks to revamp the tax code, New York officials say they are particularly worried about one idea being considered: eliminating the federal deduction for state and local taxes.

If the president pursues this plan, New York State would lose about $37 billion per year in federal tax deductions, more than almost any other state, according to Internal Revenue Service data. The change would affect about 3.2 million households in New York, three-quarters of which are middle- and low-income, tax records indicate.

This change would be one of the worst things for New York to came out of Washington in a long time,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer. “But if they take this route they can expect a serious fight.”

But there’s more to this than financially punishing blue-staters.

Weirdly, the U.S. tax system encourages states to adopt income tax, by making money individuals pay to states in income taxes deductable from their national income tax debt. Why the government would wish to depress the marginal willingness to work of Americans is a question best left behind in the dark FDR error. Happily, the Bush administration is looking to modernize this. President Bush is promising to push a simpler, pro-growth tax code, and removing the income tax deduction would be a great first step.

Attacking Success

Home-school testing debated,” by Terry Woster, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com/news/Sundayarticle1.shtml, 26 December 2004.

If you can’t do the job right, stop someone else from doing it

PIERRE – A Garretson lawmaker wants the state to monitor home-school testing and tell parents of low-achieving students that their children might be required to return to public school for further education.
The measure, offered by Republican Sen. Clarence Kooistra, is sure to spark emotional debate in the next Legislature about the relative balance between state and parental interests in a child’s education.
Kooistra and co-sponsor Democratic Rep.-elect Elaine Roberts of Sioux Falls say it’s an issue of quality control, a way to ensure that children tested at home meet the same standards and take their tests under the same conditions as those in formal school settings.
“I don’t think you can consider valid the scores reported by home school people, since there’s no state monitoring,” Kooistra said. “There’s no accountability.”

Clearly the good Republican Kooistra is completely honest. After all, there’s no accountability. Oh wait, there is

Advocates of home schooling – formally called alternative instruction in state statutes – say it’s an unnecessary intrusion into a family’s choices in educating their child.
“We do have to turn in scores. We can’t make them up,” said Peggy Schoon, a Brandon mother who has testified on alternative-instruction issues in the past.
“I think what he’s suggesting is unnecessary,” Schoon said. “I don’t think Mr. Kooistra has made a case that there’s a problem.”
The immediate issue is the Kooistra-Roberts bill that would change “may” to “shall” in a couple of sections of state law dealing with alternative instruction. Currently children educated at home must take a nationally standardized test at grades two, four, eight and 11, as do public school students. The law says the test may be provided by the state, but it also may be another nationally standardized achievement test the parent or guardian chooses.
The law also says the state may monitor the test. Kooistra wants the law to require that home schools use the state test and that the state monitor those tests.

The United States has some of the worst public schools in the industrialized world. Tunisia isn’t better than us, but almost everyone else is. At the same time, U.S. home scholars score high above the average. Both in American standardized tests and international settings, American students schooled at home have better academic and social skills than their state-warehoused colleagues.

If Rep. Clarence Kooistra was serious about education, he would be hard on our failing public schools. He would demand strict monitoring of these child ghettos, and notify parents of areas of concern on a semesterly basis. When a school is underperforming, he would pay for student vouches directly out of principal and teacher salaries. At the very least Kooistra would insist that home-teachers monitor public school students during standardized tests, to prevent conflicts of interest.

That’s if Representative Kooistra cared about education. As he seems more concerned with state power and valueless educational uniformity, he’s attacking home-schools instead.