Miscellany34: Hormone Therapy; Wal-Mart Not to Blame; US Wages; The Decline of Quality; US Leaders Are Pronounced Idiots; Medical Insurance at Zero Cost!; Homework a Waste of Time; America: A Prison Society; The Cost of a Border Fence; Illegal Aliens Kill More Americans than Die in Iraq War; Partitioning Iraq; Gillette Blue Blades
© 2006 Joseph George Caldwell. All rights reserved. Posted at Internet web
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Commentary on recent news, reading and events of personal interest.
The real tragedy in this is that, in most cases, the hormone therapy was intended simply to delay the effects of aging, or to ameliorate the “hot flashes” associated with the onset of menopause. It was elective and discretionary, for cosmetic purposes. Not at all worth dying for.
This is not the first time that medical science has made a terrible mistake. When I was young, women were encouraged to have regular breast X-rays, or “mammograms,” as a means of detecting breast cancer. After several years, it was determined that the X-rays had caused more cancer than they had detected.
Everyone is going to grow old, and everyone is going to die. You can’t cheat Death, and you can’t fool Mother Nature.
The Public Broadcasting System’s Frontline television program last week aired a segment about Wal-Mart,
and its practice of buying cheap goods from
The program was very informative. One thing that seemed a little strange,
however, is that people seem to be blaming Wal-Mart, because of its large-scale
buying and selling of foreign goods, for the destruction of American
manufacturing and loss of high-paying jobs for middle-class American
workers. Wal-Mart is not at all to blame
for either of these events. They are a
direct cause of the
Economists decry doing this, because it is “inefficient.” More goods can be produced for the same cost, or the same amount of goods can be produced for less cost, under free trade. Economists say that everyone is therefore better off. This, however, is a lie. Everyone is not better off. Some are better off (e.g., workers in Third-World countries), and some are much worse off (e.g., American workers). On average, there are more goods per person under free trade, but the high-wage earners cannot continue to earn more than the low-wage earners, once the low-wage earners have access to the same machines of production, ceteris paribus. So, under free trade, the wages of middle-class American workers will fall, and their quality of life will decrease.
This has already happened to a great degree. When I was young, in the 1950s, a typical
The only segments of our economy that are immune from
decreasing wages because of massive international free trade are service
industries in which the service must be provided locally, such as the medical
industry, the legal industry, the construction industry, and other local
personal services. Under the
Some firms are trying to stay alive by hiring illegal aliens, who are willing to work for very low wages. This approach works mainly for firms engaged in low-wage activities, such as agriculture, construction or fast-food stores, and, once again, only for services that are provided locally and cannot be outsourced to foreign countries.
So, the next time you hear people criticizing Wal-Mart for
destroying American manufacturing and depressing the wages of the American
middle class, please correct them. This
is indeed happening, but it is not Wal-Mart that is causing it. Wal-Mart is simply trying to operate as
efficiently as it can, completely legally, in the
massive-international-free-trade environment that the
Also, the next time you hear someone say that massive
international free trade is good for everyone, take him to task. Tell him that it is not good for everyone. It is
good on average, but it is very bad for the high-wage worker in the
The PBS Frontline program discussed a business practice of Wal-Mart’s in which it buys in large quantities from a supplier, and then, after the supplier has scaled up his operations and is very dependent on Wal-Mart and vulnerable, Wal-Mart dictates a lower price, sometimes so low that the supplier is driven out of business. The example given on the program was the case of Rubbermaid.
But this is nothing new. My late father-in-law was vice president of a department-store chain that competed with Sears & Roebuck. He described how Sears would do exactly the same thing as Wal-Mart is now accused of doing – giving much business to a supplier, motivating his to expand, and then forcing him to lower his prices or go out of business. That was in the 1950s and 1960s. Once again, this practice was and is perfectly legal, even if it is not admirable. If the supplier firm chooses to expand so fast that it becomes crucially dependent on Sears’ or Wal-Mart’s business, that is its decision.
Massive international free trade is destroying American
manufacturing capacity, and is destroying the good quality of life of the
American middle class. To see how
dramatic this effect is, it is interesting to cite some figures presented by
the Frontline program. A reporter was interviewing an official at
By its policy of massive international free trade, the
When I was young, many things were of much better quality than they are today.
When I purchased my first two new homes, in the 1960s, both had hardwood floors throughout. If a house was carpeted, it still had hardwood floors underneath the carpet. In today’s homes, carpeted area is over cheap plywood, not hardwood.
One of these two homes had wet plaster walls. Now, all but the most expensive homes have drywall construction. If you have ever lived in a home with wet plaster walls, you will be amazed at how quiet each room is.
The quality of furniture has plummeted. When I was first married (1950s, 1960s), we
bought only walnut furniture. Our
favorite was Benbow Reproductions. Mrs. Benbow
operated a small, family-owned furniture factory in
Because of mass immigration, it was soon not possible for everyone to have quality furniture at a reasonable price. Soon, all of the walnut was gone, and so the furniture manufacturers switched to cherry. Then, all of the cherry was gone, and the manufacturers switched to mahogany – a wood previously scorned as an unacceptable foreign product. Then, there was a massive increase in the amount of veneer – a thin layer of an expensive hardwood, such as mahogany or rosewood or teak, over a “base” wood.
Economists say that this is fine. That is does not matter if mass demand causes the exhaustion of a resource. As the resource is exhausted, continuing demand will cause the price to go up, stimulating more production of the resource. But this never happens. All that happens is that the first resource is exterminated, and society moves on to consume all of the next one, of lesser quality.
The same thing happens with fish. After all of the redfish are gone (after the “blackened redfish” fad), there is simply no more blackened redfish on the menu, at any price. It is gone, period.
When I was young, many working-class families could afford
to have a farm, or a vacation home nearby, in the mountains on a river or lake
or the ocean. Now, with so many people
Perhaps there is a millionaire somewhere who can maintain
his own private stand of walnut trees and still have solid walnut
furniture. But for the average person,
such as I was at one time, it is no longer possible to have quality furniture
for a reasonable price. This loss of
quality is a direct result of there being far too many people in the
I heard an interesting report on the news the other day, that many electronic goods are now being imported from
On CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight program, host Lou Dobbs is
becoming more and more frustrated with the
But many of them are not as stupid, however, as they appear
to be. Lou Dobbs criticizes them for
taking actions that hurt the middle class, and he calls their behavior idiotic
with respect to the goal of maintaining a good quality of life for the middle
class. But that is not at all their
No, Lou, those people are not the idiots that they appear to be. They are venal, evil men, doing what works for them and for the wealthy elite to whom they are beholden, and it is not what works for the American middle class – or for the preservation of the biosphere!
I was approached a short while ago by an offer that really surprised me. The offer was that if I would purchase a Medicare supplement insurance package for my wife, the premiums would be zero! Initially, this sounded too good to be true. But it is true! The Medicare business is now so lucrative that the medical providers are now willing to absorb the cost of your premiums, just in order to bill the government their wildly inflated fees and expenses for their services and pharmaceuticals. (The insurance company makes its fees from processing claims, which are now wildly inflated.)
Sachem was the last straw. Or was it kiva? My 12-year-old daughter and I had been drilling social-studies key Words for more than an hour. It was Our entire evening had, as usual, consisted of homework and conversations (a.k.a. nagging) about homework. She was tired and fed up. I was tired and fed up. The words wouldn't stick. They meant nothing to her. They didn't mean much to me either. After all, when have I ever used sachem in a sentence-until just now?
As the summer winds down, I'm dreading scenes like that one from seventh grade. Already the carefree August nights have given way to meaningful conversations (a.k.a. nagging) about the summer reading that didn't get done. So what could be more welcome than two new books assailing this bane of modern bane of modern life: The Homework Myth (Da Capo Press; 243 pages), by Alfie Kohn, the prolific, perpetual critic of today's test-driven scbools, and The Case Against Homework (Crown; 290 pages) a cri de coeur by two moms, lawyer Sara Bennett and journalist Nancy Kalish.
Both books cite studies, surveys, statistics, along with some hair-raising anecdotes, on how a rising tide of dull, useless assignments is oppressing families and making kids hate learning. A few highlights from the books and my own investigation:
According to a 2004 national survey of 2,900
American children conducted by the
· Most of that increase reflects bigger loads for little kids. An academic study found that whereas students ages 6 to 8 did an average of 52 min. of homework a week in 1981, they were toiling 138 min. weekly by 1997. And that's before No Child Left Behind kicked in. An admittedly less scientific poll of parents conducted this vear for AOL and the Associated Press found that elementary school students were averaging 78 min. a night.
· The onslaught comes despite the fact the an exhaustive review by the nation's top homework scholar, Duke University's Harris Cooper, concluded that homework does not measurably improve academic achievement for kids in grade school. That's right: all the sweat and tears do not make Johnny a better reader or mathematician.
· Too much homework brings diminishing returns. Cooper's analysis of dozens of studies found that kids who do some homework in middle and high school score somewhat better on standardized tests, but doing more than 60 to 90 min. a night in middle school and more than 2 hr. in high school is associated with, gulp, lower scores.
Teachers in many of the nations that outperform
Success on standardized tests is, of course, only one measure of learning – and only one purported goal of homework. Educators, including Cooper, tend to defend homework by saying it builds study habits, self-discipline and time-management skills. But there's also evidence that homework sours kids' attitudes toward school. "It's one thing to say we are wasting kids' time and straining parent-kid relationships," Kohn told me, "but what's unforgivable is if homework is damaging our kids' interest in learning, undermining their curiosity:'
Kohn's solution is radical: he wants a no-homework policy to become the default, with exceptions for tasks like interviewing parents on family history, kitchen chemistry and family reading.
Or, in a nation in which 71% of mothers of kids under 18 are in the workforce, how about extending the school day or year beyond its agrarian-era calendar? Let students do more work at school and save evenings for family and serendipity.
Bennett and Kalish
have a more modest proposal. Parents should demand a sensible homework policy,
perhaps one based on Cooper's rule of thumb: 10 min. a night per grade level.
They offer lessons from their own battle to rein in the workload at their kids'
private middle school in
Why don't more parents in homework-heavy districts take such actions? Do too many of us
think it's just our child who is, struggling, so who are we to lead a revolt? Yup, when it comes to
the battle of homework mountain, we've got too many Indians and not enough sachems.
[End of Wallis article.]
The following article was presented on Yahoo! News on
Seven Million in US Jails, on Probation or Parole, by Kasie Hunt, Associated Press Writer.
A record 7 million people — or one in every 32 American adults — were behind bars, on probation or on parole by the end of last year, according to the Justice Department. Of those, 2.2 million were in prison or jail, an increase of 2.7 percent over the previous year, according to a report released Wednesday.
More than 4.1 million people were on probation and 784,208 were on parole at the end of 2005. Prison releases are increasing, but admissions are increasing more.
Men still far outnumber women in prisons and jails, but the female population is growing faster. Over the past year, the female population in state or federal prison increased 2.6 percent while the number of male inmates rose 1.9 percent. By year's end, 7 percent of all inmates were women. The gender figures do not include inmates in local jails.
"Today's figures fail to capture incarceration's impact on the thousands of children left behind by mothers in prison," Marc Mauer, the executive director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based group supporting criminal justice reform, said in a statement. "Misguided policies that create harsher sentences for nonviolent drug offenses are disproportionately responsible for the increasing rates of women in prisons and jails."
From 1995 to 2003, inmates in federal prison for drug offenses have accounted for 49 percent of total prison population growth.
The numbers are from the annual report from the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics. The report breaks down inmate populations for state and federal prisons and local jails.
Racial disparities among prisoners persist. In the 25-29 age group, 8.1 percent of black men — about one in 13 — are incarcerated, compared with 2.6 percent of Hispanic men and 1.1 percent of white men. And it's not much different among women. By the end of 2005, black women were more than twice as likely as Hispanics and over three times as likely as white women to be in prison.
Certain states saw more significant changes in prison population. In
[End of Hunt article.]
Here is a copy of the plank of my draft American Independence Movement platform, dealing with prison policy:
Prison Reform. No incarcerations will last longer than ten years, with hard labor as a rule. As an incentive to behavior modification, sentences will be shortened for good behavior (e.g., one month commutation for each month of good behavior, such as active participation in approved training or education programs). Public short-term punishments (stocks, pillories, caning) will be authorized for lesser offenses. The death penalty will be used as a punishment, not as a deterrent. (The goal of prison sentences of not more than ten years is not that radical a suggestion: sentences exceeding ten years are very rare in most countries of the world.) There will be a reaffirmation of the concept of English common law, which served this country so well for so long, as the basis for our judicial system.
The following was presented on the
DOBBS: Your Homeland Security Department at work again. It
turns out a new virtual fence that's been proposed along the U.S.- Mexican border could cost actually 15 times more than
originally projected, that according to the Homeland Security Department.
The cost of that virtual fence, which excites a lot of people who don't want to have real border security – well, the cost of electronic monitoring, as it turns out, along the border, originally estimated at $2 billion. Well, it turns out the true cost, or at least as the truth is now available, could be anywhere between $8 billion and $30 billion for a virtual fence.
The first part of that program is planned for a 28-mile stretch of the border near
[End of Lou Dobbs segment.]
If the US/Mexican border is 1,951 miles long, we could place a machine-gun post every mile, and have very effective border control. The cost of this would be substantially less than the amounts being touted for the “virtual” fence. Moreover, it would be very real and very effective.
On a recent edition of CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight, it was reported that, according to the US Department of Homeland Security, only 14 percent of the US/Mexico border was “under effective control.” The DHS was contacted to determine the definition of “effective control,” and it was unable to provide a definition. The comment was made that one million apprehensions of illegal aliens are made each year, and it is estimated that 1-2 million illegal aliens get through, unapprehended.
DOBBS: Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff today gave a bleak assessment of our ability to
secure our southern border. Secretary Chertoff said
illegal immigration so far has defeated all the enforcement measures this
government has been able to muster. Jeanne Meserve
has the report.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every day and every night, there is ample evidence that
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Only a temporary worker program will give us the ability to deal with that tremendous economic draw which has time and again over the years defeated all of the enforcement measures that the government has placed on the border to try to get security for this country.
MESERVE: But some argue that a guest worker program could in fact make the problem of illegal immigration worse.
DAN STEIN, FEDERATIOIN FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM: If we're not prepared to put in place the resources needed to make sure aliens leave when they're supposed to, to ensure employers can only hire lawfully authorized workers, to make the law have credibility again, nothing about a guest worker amnesty plan is going to make that a reality. Our borders will be out of control and our national security and our communities will be in jeopardy.
MESERVE: Chertoff contends that in the past year there has been measurable progress in stanching the flood of migrants pouring illegally over the borders. He credits the end of so-called catch and release, under which non-Mexicans caught by the border patrol were simply let go.
[End of Dobbs report.]
It is noted that the “catch and release” program has been ended only for nonMexicans caught within a few miles of the Mexican border, not for the 12-20 million illegal aliens who are already here. That works out to stopping the catch and release program for about 168 thousand illegal aliens, not for the 12-20 million already here. The government should stop saying that it has ended its catch and release program. This statement is false. It does not even try to catch the vast majority of illegal aliens, and it still releases most of those who are caught.
Each year, illegal aliens are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, by murder and by motor vehicle deaths. Here is an excerpt from one of my earlier articles (Miscellany28):
It is an unavoidable
aspect of human life that murders occur.
When they occur at the hands of a fellow countryman,
that is bad enough. But when they
occur at the hands of an illegal alien who is allowed to stay in our country
because our government – the government of the most powerful nation on earth –
does not have the will to keep them out, that is an
entirely different matter. Ask any
mother whose child has been murdered by an illegal alien what she thinks of the
In the preceding, I
have tallied the cost of immigration attributed just to murder and automobile
deaths caused by immigrants. In
addition, there are countless other crimes perpetrated against US residents by
immigrants, such as rape, robbery, assault, identity theft, fraud and arson.
[End of excerpt.]
In all, counting both murders and automobile deaths, the 11
million illegal immigrants currently in the
It is amazing that 10-20 million illegal aliens have invaded
In my May
8, 2004, article, “How to Win the War in Iraq” (http://www.foundationwebsite.org/HowToWinTheWarInIraq.htm
), I argued, based on the long-established principles of war and politics, that
the way to end the war in Iraq, and “win the peace,” was to partition the
country into three parts, reflecting the three dominant ethnic groups – Sunnistan, Shiastan, and
Kurdistan. From recent new reports, it
appears that people are finally coming around to this point of view. A recent article on this subject appeared in
that is being talked about now that I strongly disagree with is the suggestion
that an attempt be made to share the country’s oil, which occurs mainly in the
When I was
a boy in the late 1940s and early 1950s, I would visit my grandparents, who
The show had many Gillette commercials, and I must have heard the Gillette Blue-Blade commercial a thousand times, but the other day, when I tried to recall it, I could not. So, I checked the Internet, and here is what I found:
To look sharp every time you shave.
To feel sharp and be on the ball.
To be sharp, use Gillette Blue Blades.
It's the quickest, slickest shave of all!
Now, this sound correct until half-way through the third line. The end of this line involved many more syllables than “use Gillette Blue Blades.” I am not sure of the last line.
If anyone recalls the original words to this song, I would appreciate knowing them. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Those were fascinating times. The Sunday edition of the paper contained comics that featured mainly adventures. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan was at the top of the first page, and Superman was at the bottom. National Geographic magazines were only in black and white. Coca-colas cost five cents (six cents in some stores), as did other soft drinks. Coke contained six fluid ounces, whereas Pepsi contained 12. Chestnut trees were everywhere, and the boys would play “knockers,” in which shoelaces were laced through a chestnut and one boy would smash his chestnut against the other boy’s chestnut, in an attempt to break it.