Saturday, December 24, 2005


I will be flying tomorrow and the next day, so I did want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hannukah!

DISCLAIMER: My failure to mention any other holiday celebrated at this time of year is strictly intentional.

I've been in the air quite a bit of late, which explains my sparse to non-existent blogging. I did want to take a moment to briefly address this tempest-in-a-teapot, better known as the domestic spying "controversy".

Look, I believe in the Fourth Amendment as much as the next guy. The fact is though, unless you are in a totally secure inranet environment, emails are not really that secure. Quite frankly, I feel a whole lot more secure knowing that national security types are electronically scanning this material in an effort to track down terrorists as it has been shown that this is the way they have communicated in the past.

Am I concerned that data crawlers are probably, even as we speak, looking at my emails in an effort to thwart a terrorist attack on this country? No, not really. I don't think that NSA gives two hoots in hell as to my personal business or anyone else's for that matter, unless your personal business is a threat to national security. All of this hyperventalating about our loss of civil liberties as a result of this data mining simply rings hollow. I don't think that my liberties have been curtailed in the very least, and I have not heard one instance of any of these tactics leading to the detainment of any innocent individual. If that starts to happen, then perhaps it will be time to take a second look.

We should also keep in wind that this is a war. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I believe these measures are eminently reasonable given our past experience.

I also find it curious that, not too long ago, the buzz was about the administration's "failure to connect the dots". Now, those same people not only do not want to connect the dots, they want to make the dots off-limits altogether.

As for this report:
In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts.

I am no legal scholar, but in terms of sheer practicality, I fail to understand how checking for radiation levels is a violation of civil liberties! Have we gone mad?

Clearly, all of this is being portrayed as evidence that we are living in some sort of authoritarian police state and I simply do not see it. What I see is a government that has recognized a threat and is taking prudent steps to protect its citizens. What I also see are those who would stop at nothing to bring down the Bush administration, up to and including the crippling of our ability to protect ourselves.

Whose side are these people on?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Well, I Can't Say I'm Surprised By This

WASHINGTON - An estimated in one in 20 U.S. adults is not literate in English, which means 11 million people lack the skills to perform everyday tasks, a federal study shows. From 1992 to 2003, the nation's adults made no progress in their ability to read a newspaper, a book or any other prose arranged in sentences and paragraphs. They also showed no improvement in comprehending documents such as bus schedules and prescription labels.

The adult population did make gains in handling quantitative tasks, such as calculating numbers found on tax forms or bank statements. But even in that area of literacy, the typical adult showed only basic skills, enough to perform simple daily activities.

Perhaps most sobering: Adult literacy dropped or was flat across every level of education, from people with graduate degrees to those who dropped out of high school.

Inside the numbers, black adults made gains on each type of task tested in the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, run by the Education Department. Hispanics, though, showed sharp declines in their ability to handle prose and documents. White adults made no significant changes except when it came to computing numbers, where they got better.

The results are based on a sample of more than 19,000 adults, age 16 or older, in homes, college housing or prisons. It is representative of a population of 222 million adults.

The 11 million adults who are not literate in English include people who may be fluent in another language, such as Spanish, but are unable to comprehend text in English.

Aside from the obvious question as to why our education system is producing functional illiterates, I think that there is a very real danger here.

First, I don't think it unreasonable to expect people who reside in this country to speak English. We simply must have a common language in this country.

Secondly, it's not unusual to encounter native-born Americans who have only a passing knowledge of simple grammar and who are completely dumbfounded by multi-syllable words - and I'm talking about people with college degrees. Their knowledge of history is equally thin.

Our culture, our civilization, is a thread that stretches from our past to our present. We cannot understand the present, much less prepare for the future, without a solid knowledge of the past and literacy is the only tool available to maintain our hold on that fragile thread.

At a time when our civilization is under attack, news such as this is especially troubling. How can we expect people who do not even understand our civilization to defend it?
Iraqi democrats and American Democrats

I just wanted to take a moment to cheer on the Iraqis and their burgeoning democracy. These are people who truly give new meaning to the word "democrat".

As for American Democrats, their actions of late mock the very name of their party.
New Blog

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