Once More Unto the Breach, Dear Friends

The forces of educational stagnation have launched a comprehensive attack on school choice in Arizona.  The ACLU-and-friends lawsuit in September against the state’s new education tax credit was followed yesterday by a challenge to two new voucher programs.  This is the first time that the education establishment has dared to turn its fire on school choice programs that help disabled and foster-care children.  This recent move signals panic among school choice opponents, who now begrudge a few thousand of the most disadvantaged children in Arizona a choice in education, along with everyone else.  Hopefully the court will go with recent precedent in Kotterman vs. Killian (1999), where the Arizona Supreme Court upheld personal donation tax credits, and find that vouchers supporting parental school choice isn’t government support of religion (which AZ’s anti-Catholic Blaine amendment prohibits).

More on 2006

Some more interesting numbers from Election 2006:

The Democrats won 29 seats held by Republicans or formerly held by Republicans (open seats). In 2004 President Bush won 19 of those districts with an average of 56 percent of the vote. Senator Kerry won 10 of the districts, taking an average of 52 percent of the vote.

In 15 of these 29 districts, Bush won 54 percent of the vote or more in 2004. In other words, those 15 Democrats will represent strongly Republican districts. Those 15 House members would, if they return to the GOP, deprive the Democrats of a majority.

We may see both divided government and, on some issues, a divided House majority.

Fire Up the Favor Factory

In the Senate, the Republicans have just elected pork barrel champion Trent Lott (R-MS) to be their second-ranking leader.  I guess the GOP wants to get a headstart on losing the 2008 election. 

Over in the House, the battle over the majority leader’s position is being fought between John Murtha (D-PA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD). According to the Washington Post, Murtha is a corruption-tainted supporter of the recent orgy of congressional earmarks, while Hoyer is a more moderate and sensible choice for leader.

But let’s not get too excited about Steny Hoyer. In a 2004 story, the Washington Post portrays him as an unapologetic champion of bringing home federal spending goodies to his Maryland district. Indeed, he is one of the 10 most prodigious porkers in the House. When asked whether Congress ought to end pork barrel spending, Hoyer said “I hope not…pork barrel is in the eye of the beholder.”

Richard Haass on Iraq and U.S. Foreign Policy

The German publication Spiegel has posted a lengthy interview with Richard Haass, current president of the Council on Foreign Relations and former director of policy planning at the State Department during George W. Bush’s first term.

Haass is not an anti-Bush partisan hack. Given his Republican leanings, and recognizing that his uniformly bleak assessment of the state of U.S. foreign policy is not aimed at scoring political points for the Democratic Party, that makes his assessment of the state of U.S. foreign policy all the more sobering. He concedes that President Bush still has over two years in office, and that crises may come along that will allow the president to re-shape his legacy. As it now stands, however, “the world is not a safer place.” And the situation is not likely to improve any time soon.

Here are some notable excerpts:

On Iraq:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Haass, were the election results a message from the voters to President George W. Bush that it’s time for US troops to be pulled out of Iraq?

Haass: The mid-term election is a signal of widespread popular dissatisfaction with the course of the Iraq war. But it should not be read as a signal of support for a particular alternative. Nor will it lead most Democrats in Congress to call for a quick and complete withdrawal of US forces. Instead, it will reinforce the likelihood that American policy will be adjusted. We can anticipate force reductions and redeployments and possibly a greater emphasis on diplomacy, both within Iraq and with Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran and Syria.

[…] 

SPIEGEL: Is Iraq still winnable for the United States?

Haass: We’ve reached a point in Iraq where we’ve got to get real. And this is not going to be a near-term success for American foreign policy. The Iraq situation is not winnable in any meaningful sense of the word “winnable.” So what we need to do now is look for a way to limit the losses and costs, try to advance on other fronts in the region and try to limit the fallout of Iraq. That’s what you have to do sometimes when you’re a global power.

On an emerging Iraq syndrome: 

SPIEGEL: The disaster of the last years leads many Americans to doubt the military strength and moral superiority of the nation. Is this country on the verge of a new isolationist phase?

Haass: The danger is an Iraq syndrome. The war is one the American people weren’t quite prepared for: They had not been told it was going to be that difficult and expensive. After the military battlefield phase, they thought it was going to be easy. So this has proven shocking. Nearly 3,000 Americans have lost their lives. Maybe 15,000 - 20,000 Americans have been wounded. Hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent. It has been disruptive on many levels. The danger is that the United States now will be weary of intervening elsewhere, like the cat that once sat on a hot stove and will never sit on any stove again.

On the Bush legacy:

SPIEGEL: Can you remember a time when US foreign policy was confronted with so many challenges and difficulties?

Haass: The short answer is: No. During the Cold War, the United States faced a single challenge that was greater than any we face now. But I can’t think of a time when the United States has faced so many difficult challenges at once. What makes it worse is we are facing them at a time when we are increasingly stretched militarily. We are divided politically. We are stretched also economically, and there is a good deal of anti-Americanism in the world. It’s a very bad combination.

[…]

SPIEGEL: Will Bush leave the world with more problems than he found when he came into office?

Haass: Most likely. That said, the administration still has two years to go, so it is too early to judge. All you can say is that it’s sobering where we are. As of now, you would have to say the world is not a safer place.

 

Apocalypse Cancelled

Remember in the 1990s, when the rainforests were alleged to be disappearing and forests of all kinds were being clear-cut around the globe at such an alarming rate that mass species die-offs were inevitable and the planet’s lungs would soon give out lest we, I don’t know, turn the globe into one giant Ted Kaczynski National Forest

Well, it turns out that this is yet one more doomsday predication that won’t likely pan out.  According to an article that appears today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 22 of the 50 countries around the world with the most forestland saw forest acreage expansions over the past 15 years, and most of the rest are transitioning from deforestation to reforestation.  Now that’s out of the way, let’s move on to the next “end is near” prognostication ….

Hollywood - Green Thyself!

Next time you run across some self righteous, moral preening Hollywood-type going on about the environmental doom that awaits us like the Gaian sword of Damocles lest we turn away from our gluttony, our self interest, and money-grubbing capitalist ways, keep this in mind: a recent study has found that the movie industry is the second largest source of pollution in LA.