Ruminations in November
2. The crisis in Pakistan has revealed that some 65 million of the nation’s 160 million people subsist on less than a dollar a day. Another 65 million live just above the poverty line. But since 1954, the United States has given $17 billion in military assistance to Pakistan. Since 2002, we have been subsidizing the nation’s army to the tune of $150 million every month. It’s an old story in the history of military assistance and foreign aid in general; cash often doesn’t reach the people. Still we must have allies, especially in the war on terrorism, and we are forced to deal with those in power. The Administration, backing the Bush Doctrine, has made our passion for democracy crystal clear, in Pakistan and elsewhere.
3. Eric Felten, writing in the Wall Street Journal, notes that U.S. military personnel in World War II were not allowed a liquor ration. When they couldn’t find ways to obtain alcoholic beverages from troops of other nations or the locals, Americans made their own. Some of their brews were toxic. Felten cites the Army’s history of World War II medicine: “there were more deaths in the European theater due to a single agent, alcohol poisoning, than to acute communicable disease.” That same official prohibition policy exists today, reinforced by the desire not to offend Muslims.
4. A 2006 nationwide survey conducted by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement found that 56% of young people ages 15 to 25 did not know that only citizens can vote in the United States. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor exclaims, “Today, only a little more than one-third of Americans can name the three branches of government—much less explain the balance of power among them.” In a 2006 survey of California high school graduates who had recently completed a course in American government, half were unable to identify correctly the function of the Supreme Court, a third were unable to name the state’s two U.S. senators, and 41% did not know which of the two major political parties was more conservative. Nothing new here. Our greatest educational challenge is to find ways to reverse the anti-intellectualism behind such ignorance. The solutions involve not just schools but the course of our entire popular culture. Still, educators can make a big difference. See the success story of the Milwaukee College Preparatory School, using the Knowledge Is Power Program, at www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=686492.
5. Here are five interesting facts about the current budget struggle in Washington, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal. 1. The Bush Administration’s total defense request for 2008 is 20.1% of federal outlays, down from 21.6% when Clinton took office. 2. Federal revenue is about 18.8% of GDP, compared with the 18.2% average of the past four decades. 3. Congressional earmarks soared to $29 billion in the 2006 fiscal year; up from $18.5 billion in 2001. (Democrats reduced the requests to about $13 billion for the current fiscal year.) 4. This year, taxpayers will shell out $235 billion on interest due on the $9.1 trillion national debt; that’s 9.1 cents on every dollar of government revenue. 5. Throughout our history, Congress has overturned 2,557 presidential vetoes only 107 times, a rate of 4%.
6. How long before we, or more likely the Israelis, attack Iran? Many believe that Iran enjoys sufficient oil revenue and has the technical knowledge to overcome all sorts of Western pressures designed to stop the construction of nuclear weapons. While the U.N. dithers, Iranians are reportedly preparing to purchase Russian and Chinese aircraft. Of course, there are innocents and ideologues who believe Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he claims that Iran is developing nuclear energy only for peaceful purposes. Bush and Cheney are not among them. An inhibiting factor is the threat of a jump in the price of world oil. Hugo Chavez, an Iranian ally, says that after an invasion oil will hit $200 a barrel. Ahmadinejad assures all concerned that no one will attack.
7. The month ended with the Associated Press ranking a story about the decline in national consumer confidence on a par with the earth-shaking news that Barbra Streisand was backing Hillary. Has journalism made any progress since the days of The Front Page? Or since the time of Trollope?
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Jonathan Dresner - 11/29/2007
If you look at Mr. Reeves' past posts, you'll find that I don't bother responding to every one. You'll even find that I've agreed with him on rare occassions.
This one, for example, just doesn't have anything particularly thought-provoking (the military Prohibition is kind of interesting) or absurdly wrong -- though he's doing the standard Republican trick of leaving supplemental Iraq/Afghanistan costs out of his budget figures -- and I have better things to do with my time today.
Thanks for asking, though!
John R. Maass - 11/29/2007
Mr. Dresner: Its been hours--hours!-since Mr. Reeves has posted today. Where's your customary counterattack??
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