Friday, July 29, 2005

Lost Liberty Project Update

Logan Clement of Freestar Media and the driving force behind the Lost Liberty Hotel project, has an e-mail update on the progress so far. Clement writes that the town of Weare's Selectmen oppose his plan to take the home of Justice David Souter by eminent domain but that the proposal can be placed on a ballot initiative if there are twenty five signatures endorsing the move:

The Weare New Hampshire Board of Selectmen has expressed complete opposition to The Lost Liberty Hotel Project. It seems they don't believe that Supreme Court Justice David Souter should be subject to the consequences of his own ruling. They claim to be defending property rights. However, while they are shielding Souter, thousands of other Americans who are fighting eminent domain proceedings enjoy no such shield. In fact ALL Americans are under threat of losing their home after the June 23 Supreme Court decision.

In New Hampshire citizens can bypass the Selectmen and make law directly. From what we've researched so far, it appears that it will take only 25 signatures to put on the ballot a measure to begin eminent domain proceedings to take Souter's land at 34 Cilley Hill Road and clear the way for the construction of The Lost Liberty Hotel. Several of our supporters in the town of Weare have mentioned that they plan to start this process. We want to help them by hiring the best attorney money can buy to draft the initiative in such a way that it can withstand attack from the Selectmen or other hostile parties.

All the pieces are coming together to make this project a success. Several real estate development companies have expressed an interest in leading this project forward. We also talked with engineers, attorneys, architects and other professionals who want to help. And of course financing it will be no problem as thousands of you want to own a piece of this living landmark. We are considering making some rooms in the Lost Liberty Hotel a timeshare so that hundreds of you can own a piece of it instead of just a few.

Clement's newsletter can be found here.

Can't Argue With Success

Debra Saunders gives credit to President Bush for the recent good news on the National Assessment of Educational Progress:

For years, nothing helped. America's children weren't reading as well as they should. An achievement gap showed black and Latino students trailing behind their white counterparts in reading and math. Educators and politicians agreed Something Must Be Done, but they made halting progress. Until now.

This month, the National Assessment of Educational Progress -- also known as the national report card -- released good news on long-term educational trends in America. Reading competency for 9-year-olds has reached its highest level since NAEP began measuring progress in 1971.

What is more, the achievement gap is narrowing. The gap between black and white 9-year-olds tested for reading was 44 points in 1971 to 26 points in 2004, while the gap between white and Latino students narrowed from 34 points in 1975 to 21 points in 2004. Half the gap-narrowing has occurred since 1999.

Of course, educrats are scrambling to make sure that no credit goes to President Bush or his No Child Left Behind program. The American Federation of Teachers issued a statement through an official, who noted that efforts that led to the higher scores predate the Bush presidency.

The AFT is right. The reforms that boosted scores predate the Bush presidency. That said, when he was governor of Texas, Bush had the good sense to jump on the right horse. He believed in pushing basic literacy, even if he wasn't as strong on phonics as I would have liked. He urged better testing to hold failing schools accountable. The approach paid off. When Bush was governor, black eighth-graders in Texas led the country in math and reading.

While Bush was on the right horse, some teacher groups and top educrats were leading a stampede of bad horses, carrying American children headlong toward ignorance. They eschewed phonics, dispensed with multiplication tables, denounced testing -- unless it gave credit for wrong math answers with clever essays -- and preferred failed bilingual education programs to English immersion programs for children learning English.

Look at any reform that has boosted student performance -- phonics, direct instruction, English immersion -- and the chances are, the educrats were against it. When parents revolted against whole language -- which teaches children to read language as a whole, without teaching them to decode words -- the educrats argued against a return to phonics, which they dismissed as "drill and kill."

When reformers pushed for tests that could show which curricula worked best, educrats denounced testing. If children steeped in phonics scored well on reading tests, they were not impressed -- it was because the children were brainwashed, not literate. And if whole-language learners scored poorly, well, it was because they were so creative.

When Bush and company demanded accountability, they complained that standards would hurt poor children -- as if under-educating poor and minority students didn't hurt poor and minority kids.

The educrat lobby in California opposed the switch from bilingual education to English immersion. Fortunately, California voters, not educrats, had an opportunity to switch to English immersion programs, and now more immigrant children have mastered English.

Over time, classroom teachers have seen their students make progress. Many have come to see the wisdom in emphasizing phonics -- it may be boring for teachers, but it helps kids learn to read better.

Bush packaged his approach under his promise to fight "the soft bigotry of low expectations." For years, educators blamed parents, demographics, money -- you name it -- for poor student performance.

Bush didn't want to hear the excuses -- and his Texas swagger paid off. As Hoover Institution fellow and sometime Bush adviser Bill Evers noted, "There's no doubt that high expectations and trying to hold the system accountable from top to the bottom is having an overall positive effect."

And so the educrats are left with weak criticisms. They complain that No Child Left Behind is underfunded -- even as Bush budgets money for the Department of Education. They argue that students have no motivation to apply themselves when they take tests -- and still the NAEP numbers are up. They note that NAEP high-school scores are flat without acknowledging that they opposed reforms that are helping more of today's 9-year-olds read.

There are good reasons to be leery of assessments based on standardized tests, but if the NAEP numbers do indeed reflect student improvement and are not just the consequence of teachers teaching to the test, well, one would be more than a little silly to argue with success.

Stopping the Contagion

Fareed Zakaria hits the bullseye with this piece of analysis in Newsweek. Zakaria notes that the ideological irrationality of the radical Islamists is similar to that of ideologues everywhere. He recounts a bit of history by way of illustration:

If you want to understand what motivates suicide bombers, watch the recent movie "Downfall." Based on eyewitness accounts, it chronicles the final days inside Hitler's bunker. In a particularly harrowing scene, Joseph Goebbels and his wife are given the opportunity to have their six young children flee to safety. But Magda Goebbels refuses and instead drugs the kids to sleep. Then she inserts a cyanide capsule into each child's mouth and presses the jaws until the capsule breaks. When explaining why she won't allow her kids to escape, Mrs. Goebbels explains, "I can't bear to think of them growing up in a world without national socialism."

This is the power of ideology. Magda Goebbels had embraced a horrific world view that made her believe that murdering her children was a noble act.

Zakaria rejects the conventional explanations that terrorism is a consequence of economic deprivation, lack of education, or American foreign policy:

What this is about, as Tony Blair has argued, is fanaticism. Radical ideologies of hate and violence have often seduced disaffected young men searching for some great cause. Forty years ago they would have embraced Leninist revolutionary dogma, with Che Guevara as the bin Laden of his day. Today, for Muslims, it is a violent interpretation of Islamic fundamentalism. Born in the Middle East, it has spread like a virus across the Muslim world and into the Islamic diaspora in the West.

He might have added that the hatred and violence are a consequence of the feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and jealousy joined to a dogmatic, intolerant religion that countenances extreme violence as a means of spreading its ersatz "gospel" and which demands that the religion be imposed upon the entire world.

Other than that the only quibble I have with Zakaria's essay is when he says this:

But Western countries can do more as well. We're fighting a military battle against a phenomenon that is largely nonmilitary. In a battle of ideas, no one bullet will win. We must present a positive vision for Muslim societies, be seen as a friendly and progressive force by them and thus strengthen the moderates and liberals.

The problem with this is that it is contradicted by what he has said earlier in his piece. The 9/11 and London bombers were educated and the latter lived their whole lives in England. They were not ignorant of England's progressive, tolerant society. They had every reason to believe that England is a haven for, not a threat to, Muslims. Yet they wished to destroy it.

I disagree with Zakaria that Western countries can do more. We went to war in the nineties to rescue Muslims from Christians in Serbia and al Qaida thanked us by bombing the U.S.S. Cole and the World Trade Towers. We have given billions to help Muslims around the world, most recently the victims of a devastating tsunami. Osama bin Laden demanded we get our troops out of Saudi Arabia and we did. Western nations have provided refuge, opportunities, and freedoms to Muslim immigrants unheard of in Muslim nations, but all these things make no difference.

Despite all that the West has done to help save Muslims from themselves in the last fifty years Islamic nations in the U.N. refuse even to condemn the suicide bombers because to do so is to repudiate people they see as heroes of the faith.

There really is nothing more that the West can do to appease Muslims, who are intoxicated with an inexplicable sense of their own moral and religious superiority, except convert to Islam and abandon Israel. Only then would the jihad subside.

So Zakaria is incorrect in saying that there is more that the West can do. The West has done enough. The scalpel is in the Muslim's own hands, and it is they who must remove the suppurating corruption in their own flesh.

Otherwise, Zakaria's article is very good. Give it a read.