Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The War Against Civilization

With today's horrific attack in Mumbai, India, radical Muslims ramped up their on-going assault on civilization. There are several lessons we might take from the terrible news coming out of Mumbai. First, as long as there are Muslim extremists there will be savage brutalities like today's. The jihadis are convinced that history and Allah are on their side and no matter how often they are beaten down, as soon as they're able they'll strike again.

Secondly, this is not a war for territory or wealth. It's a war to spread a religion and the Islamists will not stop until every man, woman, and child has either bowed to the Koran or has been killed. In other words, this is a war that will last for generations, indeed, it has been ongoing since the middle ages, and Americans need to face up to that fact and prepare ourselves for a long struggle.

Thirdly, because Islam is a world wide faith, the war is world-wide. No democracy is immune and no non-Islamic or moderate Islamic country is safe. Democracy is antithetical to the beliefs of the imams who teach their young in many madrassas and mosques and any nation which values free people, free markets and moderation in religion is a target.

Fourth, it's remarkable that for seven years we have not had a terrorist attack on our soil. As hard as it must be for those who have derided George Bush throughout that span of time our security is a testament to his vigilance and effectiveness; and not just to him but to all those who work tirelessly to keep us safe.

On this Thanksgiving eve we should thank God that we have had a president and a security apparatus who have been so effective and successful in keeping us and our children safe.


Do the Right Thing

President Bush still has two months left before his term in office expires, two months to do the right thing, but I'm beginning to wonder whether he'll do it.

For the last two years two former Border Patrol agents, Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos, have been languishing in prison because they shot a notorious Mexican drug smuggler in the buttocks as he fled apprehension and they then allegedly tried to cover up the shooting. For refusing to confess that they were guilty of anything more than a couple of procedural infractions they received eleven and twelve years in prison. They have been severely beaten by other inmates and have served in solitary confinement for their offense. Murderers often serve less time than they will if they serve their full term.

In any event, President Bush should pardon these men, but although he pardoned fourteen and commuted the sentences of two others just the other day, Ramos and Compean weren't among them. The men who were pardoned included drug dealers, welfare cheats, embezzlers, and thieves, but the two men who were trying to protect us from the predators who cross our borders to sell our children drugs he has as yet shown no sign of pardoning.

President Bush has eight weeks left to do for Ramos and Compean what he did for Scooter Libby. I dearly hope he does because if he doesn't it will forever diminish him in the eyes of those who have been his most constant supporters. And here's an irony: If Bush doesn't do the right thing there's a very good chance that President Obama will. His chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel, co-sponsored a resolution calling for clemency for the two former agents last December when he was a member of congress. Obama could go a long way toward winning over many of those who opposed him in November by using his executive authority to pardon Ramos and Compean. It would be a shame if Bush squandered the good will he has among conservatives by failing to do this, but if Obama stepped up where Bush failed to tread it would be not only the right thing to do, it would be a stroke of political genius.


Too Busy

I taught in a public high school for 35 years and am a little sensitive to criticism of public school teachers. I've worked with so many good ones over the years, people who exhaust themselves in doing the best job they can for their students, people whose motto it was that it was better to burn out than rust out, that I find criticism of them often uninformed and unfair.

And yet sometimes I have to marvel at some of my erstwhile colleagues.

My daughter is a senior going through the college application process which means she needs letters of recommendation from her teachers. So, she asked a teacher she thought she had a good relationship with if he would write one for her. I was stunned when my daughter gave me his reply. This guy, who, as far as I know, does nothing else at school but teach, told her that he was too busy. Too busy?!

He's getting paid in the neighborhood of $70,000 for 187 days of work and he's "too busy" to do the job for which he's being paid? Writing letters of recommendation for one's students is part of the job. Assisting one's students as they seek to move on to college is part of one's job. If a teacher is "too busy" to do this maybe he should be in another line of work.

Tell the athletic and forensics coaches who teach all day and then give up their evenings and weekends for their kids - these are people, mind you, whose remuneration comes to pennies per hour - that a colleague who doesn't have any extra-curricular responsibilities is too busy to write a letter for one of his students.

Tell the teachers running science fairs, student council, the yearbook and a host of other activities that require endless hours of work in addition to their labors in the classroom that someone who doesn't do any of this is too busy to give a student a few minutes of his time.

Tell it to the teachers who bring their students in early and on weekends to give them additional instruction to prep them for their AP tests, etc. that someone who's making even more money than are some of them just can't find the time to do everything his job entails.

I don't want to be too hard on this guy because maybe he has something going on in his personal life that I don't know about, but if not, his response to the request for a letter of recommendation is very disappointing. Frankly, for me, as a former teacher, it's embarrassing that a member of my profession would ever be too busy to help a student.