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The Therapy Sessions
Thursday, June 30, 2005

That nagging compliance issue

From 1990 (Kyoto's base year for measuring changes) to 2002, global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, increased 16.4 percent, reports the International Energy Agency. The U.S. increase was 16.7 percent, and most of Europe hasn't done much better.

Here are some IEA estimates of the increases: France, 6.9 percent; Italy, 8.3 percent; Greece, 28.2 percent; Ireland, 40.3 percent; the Netherlands, 13.2 percent; Portugal, 59 percent; Spain, 46.9 percent. It's true that Germany (down 13.3 percent) and Britain (a 5.5 percent decline) have made big reductions. But their cuts had nothing to do with Kyoto. After reunification in 1990, Germany closed many inefficient coal-fired plants in eastern Germany; that was a huge one-time saving. In Britain, the government had earlier decided to shift electric utilities from coal (high CO2 emissions) to plentiful natural gas (lower CO2 emissions).

On their present courses, many European countries will miss their Kyoto targets for 2008-2012. To reduce emissions significantly, Europeans would have to suppress driving and electricity use; that would depress economic growth and fan popular discontent. It won't happen. Political leaders everywhere deplore global warming -- and then do little. Except for Eastern European nations, where dirty factories have been shuttered, few countries have cut emissions. Since 1990 Canada's emissions are up 23.6 percent; Japan's, 18.9 percent.

Tell me again why the Kyoto Treaty was such a good idea...

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Ireland points the way

How to rescue (most of)Europe from the economic doldrums? They need not look to us. Ireland illustrates the point just as well.

Thomas Friedman:
Here's something you probably didn't know: Ireland today is the richest country in the European Union after Luxembourg.

Yes, the country that for hundreds of years was best known for emigration, tragic poets, famines, civil wars and leprechauns today has a per capita G.D.P. higher than that of Germany, France and Britain. How Ireland went from the sick man of Europe to the rich man in less than a generation is an amazing story. It tells you a lot about Europe today: all the innovation is happening on the periphery by those countries embracing globalization in their own ways - Ireland, Britain, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe - while those following the French-German social model are suffering high unemployment and low growth.

Ireland's turnaround began in the late 1960's when the government made secondary education free, enabling a lot more working-class kids to get a high school or technical degree. As a result, when Ireland joined the E.U. in 1973, it was able to draw on a much more educated work force.

By the mid-1980's, though, Ireland had reaped the initial benefits of E.U. membership - subsidies to build better infrastructure and a big market to sell into. But it still did not have enough competitive products to sell, because of years of protectionism and fiscal mismanagement. The country was going broke, and most college grads were emigrating.

"We went on a borrowing, spending and taxing spree, and that nearly drove us under," said Deputy Prime Minister Mary Harney. "It was because we nearly went under that we got the courage to change."

And change Ireland did. In a quite unusual development, the government, the main trade unions, farmers and industrialists came together and agreed on a program of fiscal austerity, slashing corporate taxes to 12.5 percent, far below the rest of Europe, moderating wages and prices, and aggressively courting foreign investment. In 1996, Ireland made college education basically free, creating an even more educated work force.

The results have been phenomenal. Today, 9 out of 10 of the world's top pharmaceutical companies have operations here, as do 16 of the top 20 medical device companies and 7 out of the top 10 software designers. Last year, Ireland got more foreign direct investment from America than from China. And overall government tax receipts are way up.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Oddity noted

Big business conservatives!
How odd that liberals on the U.S. Supreme Court have come down on the side of influential corporations and their profits, and against less resourceful homeowners.

At least that's the view of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor who wrote the dissenting opinion in Thursday's appalling 5-4 decision that allows local governments to seize homes, businesses and other private property to hand over to big profit-driven developers.

For some, it should be the conservative justices who would endorse an assault on homeownership to make big business happy. But it wasn't. The court's three most conservative justices--William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas--joined O'Connor in the dissent. The court's most liberal justices were solidly on the side of this expansion of government's eminent domain powers at the expense of homeowners.

Strange how that works.


The unnecessary war...

Brendan Miniter:
In another era the U.S. probably wouldn't need to be involved with tens of thousands of troops in the Middle East. But then in another era, Osama bin Laden would be a two-bit thug, the Iranian mullahs would be little squirts, and we Americans could go on with our lives oblivious to them all.

There have always been and always will be terrorists. What's different today is that in a large swath of territory, mostly the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, civilization itself has been disintegrating.

In the 1990s it reached a point where organized terrorists would be able to amass tremendous power and weapons capable of spreading mass chaos in the Western world. That's the enemy we have to keep our eye on defeating.



Betraying Central America

A quarter-century ago, Daniel Patrick Moynihan noted how it was the Republicans who had become a party of ideas, while the Democrats' philosophical foundation was "deeply eroded." But even Moynihan would be surprised by the bankruptcy in the Democrats' current intellectual account.

Take trade and Central America. The status quo there is widespread poverty. The Bush administration has proposed doing something about it: a free-trade agreement encompassing five Central American countries plus the Dominican Republic.

It's a no-brainer. If we have learned anything from the last 25 years in China, India, Chile and other centers of amazing economic growth, it is that open markets and free trade are the keys to pulling millions, indeed hundreds of millions of people, out of poverty. The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) is a chance to do the same for desperately poor near-neighbors.

You would think this treaty would be a natural for the Democrats, who have always portrayed themselves as the party with real sympathy for the poor - contrast to the Republicans, who have hearts of stone, if they have any at all. The Democratic Party has always seen itself as the tribune of the oppressed of the Third World and deeply distressed by the fact that "the United States by far is the stingiest nation in the world for development assistance or foreign aid," to quote Jimmy Carter, former Democratic president, current Democratic saint.

You would think, therefore, that Democrats would be for CAFTA. Not so. CAFTA is in great jeopardy because Democrats have turned against it. Whereas a decade ago under President Clinton, 102 House Democrats supported NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), that number for CAFTA is down to 10 or fewer. In a closed-door meeting this month, reports Jonathan Weisman of the Washington Post, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi put heavy-handed pressure on all congressional Democrats to observe party discipline in killing the treaty.

Arguing free trade is particularly tiresome because it is the only proposition in politics that is mathematically provable. It was proved by British economist David Ricardo in 1817 that even if one country is more efficient in producing two items, trade between two countries based on the relative efficiency of production is always beneficial to both countries.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Kofi Annan: "I helped!"

Kofi Annan lauds the successes in Iraq. It should be required reading for all people who think the cause in Iraq is lost. But Kofi can't bring himself to acknowledge why these good things happened:
The Brussels conference is a chance to reassure the Iraqi people that the international community stands with them in their brave efforts to rebuild their country, and that we recognize how much progress has been made in the face of daunting challenges.

Elections were held in January, on schedule. Three months later the Transitional National Assembly endorsed the transitional government. The dominant parties have begun inclusive negotiations, in which outreach to Sunni Arabs is a major theme. A large number of Sunni groups and parties are now working to make sure that their voices are fully heard in the process of drafting a new constitution, and that they participate fully in the referendum to approve it and the elections slated for December.

Indeed, just last week an agreement was achieved to expand the committee drafting the constitution to ensure full participation by the Sunni Arab community. This agreement, which the United Nations helped to facilitate, should encourage all Iraqis to press ahead with the drafting of the constitution by the Aug. 15 deadline.

As the process moves forward, there will no doubt be frustrating delays and difficult setbacks. But let us not lose sight of the fact that all over Iraq today, Iraqis are debating nearly every aspect of their political future.

Well this is good to hear, Kofi.

And yes, it is true.

But Annan is from the European school of public relations: say something good and take credit for it.

Whether this is fair or accurate is irrelevant:
The United Nations has been strongly urged by a wide spectrum of Iraqis to help them maintain momentum, as we did with January's elections.

We? Excuse me? Annan repeatedly called for elections to be postponed; they could not be held as long as there were people in Iraq willing to set bombs. Since there will be these people in Iraq for the foreseeable future, that postponement would be for a very long time.

Annan only provided tepid support when it was apparent that the US - not the international community - was committed to the January 30th deadline.

Do you remember this, Kofi?
The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has told the BBC the US-led invasion of Iraq was an illegal act that contravened the UN charter.

He said the decision to take action in Iraq should have been made by the Security Council, not unilaterally. The UK government responded by saying the attorney-general made the "legal basis... clear at the time".

Mr Annan also warned security in Iraq must considerably improve if credible elections are to be held in January.

It didn't. And they happened anyway. I believe that had something to the US and its military.

And the UN wasn't helping very much at the time: Limited U.N. Role Hinders Iraq Vote.
The United Nations has failed to fully staff its operation in Iraq, imperiling the timing and quality of the elections there and forcing inexperienced Iraqis to take the lead in preparing for the country's first democratic balloting, due in January, U.S. officials and election experts said.

Of the 35 U.N. officials in Iraq, only four or five are election experts, U.N. officials said. In Afghanistan, which has a similar-size population, the U.N. had 600 international staff, including 266 election experts, for the first democratic poll this month.

Oh, no matter. Kofi blabbers on...
(Iraqis) have sought our support in constitution-making, in preparing for the October referendum and the December elections, and in coordinating donor assistance for the political transition as well as reconstruction and development.

Our response has been prompt and resolute. We have set up a donor coordination mechanism in Baghdad, deployed a Constitutional Support Unit, and established an active and collaborative relationship with the assembly's constitutional committee. Today more than 800 U.N. personnel -- both local and international, including security staff -- are serving in Iraq in the U.N. assistance mission.

It is nice to get some support from Annan.

Yes, a democratic peaceful future for Iraq is still the most likely outcome of what is certainly going to remain a long difficult progress.

But it's not nice for Annan to try to take credit for everything, stripping it away from 150,000 soldiers of the US-led coalition.

In fact, not once does Annan acknowledge that soldiers - from dozens of countries - made it all possible, by going in when the UN said stop.

Kofi did a similar thing in the wake of the Asian tsunami: while the US military was getting aid to the people who needed it, Kofi was skiing.

Later, he claimed that the UN was coordinating the aid.

An interesting perspective, especially when most of the aid organizations were operating from the deck of a American aircraft carrier.

The UN's habit of claiming responsiblity for successes that it tried to hinder is why the UN - especially with regard to Iraq - has become largely irrelevant.

No matter how many paper pushers they "deploy."

Monday, June 20, 2005

A letter from an Iraqi

The Iraq we never here about from our media::
Dear Friends,

Just a quick note, to the American public: this is no time to lose heart, the fight is just now changing gear. We the Iraqis are confident of winning this battle. This so-called "insurrection" may be characterized as the unpopular revolt rather than the opposite. It is doomed to failure. We have never pretended that this can be achieved overnight. It takes time and struggle, but to those who think that the insurgency is growing I would like to say this: It is the power of the people that is growing, it is the strength and effectiveness of the new patriotic security forces that is growing, such forces that are for the first time in our history representative of the majority of the people. Time is on the side of the people and not their enemies.

Yes, this is no time to lose heart friends.


Government snoops

Libraries Say Yes, Officials Do Quiz Them About Users:

Law enforcement officials have made at least 200 formal and informal inquiries to libraries for information on reading material and other internal matters since October 2001, according to a new study that adds grist to the growing debate in Congress over the government's counterterrorism powers.

In some cases, agents used subpoenas or other formal demands to obtain information like lists of users checking out a book on Osama bin Laden. Other requests were informal - and were sometimes turned down by librarians who chafed at the notion of turning over such material, said the American Library Association, which commissioned the study.

Big deal.

As a libertarain leaning person, I'm supposed to get all bent out of shape about this kind of thing.

But I don't.

If a man was accused of molesting children, and a search warrant revealed that he had a stash of child pornography, that reading material would be evidence. If an acquaintance of his was a convicted child molester, that would be evidence too.

Nobody would have any problem with that. He would not being convicted of knowing a child molester; he would be convicted of molesting children. His acquaitances and his taste in illegal movies would just make his guilt more obvious.

If a man was accused of being a terrorist, and he was known to have talked to Mohammed Atta in August of 2001, that would also be evidence.

Why? He only talked to him! Yes, only talk - but it would be the kind of thing that a jury should know about. He would not be convicted for having talked to Mohammed Atta; he would be convicted of being a terrorist.

I would argue that the books that somone takes out of library are not that much different than the people the accused talked to and the types of movies that person watched.

Yes, there are perfectly innocent reasons for interest in bomb making or the writings of Osama Bin Laden.

But there are a lot of bad ones too.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The case for CAFTA

I'm thinking of a product produced both in the US and abroad. See if you can guess what it is.

Foreign countries can produce this product very cheaply. They have been doing so, and our American production facilities have been virtually wiped out.

These foreign producers are often state-owned, receiving unfair help from foreign governments. This help is a factor in enabling foreign producers to keep this product at prices that American producers cannot match.

To make matters worse, the states that profit from selling this product to American consumers are involed in crime. Undoubtedly, some of this money is going to people who want to kill us.

It is completely unfair. There should be boycotts! Trade protections! It is a slam dunk case for import quotas and tariffs! Those state subsidies alone would make an excellent WTO case, wouldn't they?

Why isn't our government going full throttle to implement policies to protect from this devastating import?

In truth, the government is doing NOTHING. Because the product is OIL. And without affordable oil, a modern economy grinds to a halt.

Even Chimpy McHallibush can figure that out.

The economy benefits - and our standard of living is increased by - EVERYTHING we import. Cheap foreign steel makes it more economical to build factories, stores and offices. Cheap food makes it easier to feed a family. Foreign cotton and textiles makes our clothing more affordable. Foreign cars make transportation more reliable and cheaper, even for the poor.

A land with plentiful skilled workers with a high - but affordable - standard of living is a good investment climate. This is why Japanese automakers are building their plants here and not in Japan. The US is a relatively cheap place to live and invest.

This is one reason why CAFTA is important. Free trade will increase the affordable standard of living of the American worker.

That means more - not less - jobs.

NAFTA opponents claimed that jobs would be "sucked away" to Mexico in the nineties. Can we admit that they were wrong? The 1990's was one of the sustained job booms in American history, and unemployment is still very low today.

It is trade protection - not free trade - that kills jobs. And it is trade protection that causes the greatest corruption of government policy by corporations.

Pick up a can of soda. Read the ingredients. Chances are excellent that it has been sweetened by corn syrup. In every other country in the world, soda is sweetened by sugar. But in the US, it is too expensive to use sugar. Companies like ADM - which makes corn sweetener - push hard to keep American sugar expensive by retricting imports. It is a good deal for domestic sugar producers, but it is a terrible deal for everyone else. Food producers who need access to cheap sugar - particularly candy producers - have moved to Canada. And of course, hundreds of millions Americans pay a little more in grocery bills to save the jobs of a few well off sugar producers.

In the 90's, steel producers said they needed protection. Everyone else who used steel - Boeing, GM, Ford, Caterpiller (and the rest of America's biggest manufacturing employers and exporters) - opposed the import quotas that would make steel more expensive. The steel producers won, and US exports to the world became more expensive and uncompetitive.

CAFTA will - were it to pass - help our unstable Latin American neighbors build stable economies. And the US would be well positioned to sell them tools they will need to build.

The US gets richer. Our trading partners get richer and more stable.

This is why increasing trade has always been a win-win proposal throughout history.


The will to win

Austin Bay:
I find that this return visit to Iraq spurs thoughts...of American will to pursue victory. I don't mean the will of US forces in the field. Wander around with a bunch of Marines for a half hour, spend fifteen minutes with Guardsmen from Idaho, and you will have no doubts about American military capabilities or the troops' will to win.

But our weakness is back home, on the couch, in front of the tv, on the cable squawk shows, on the editorial page of the New York Times, in the political gotcha games of Washington, DC. It seems America wants to get on with its wonderful Electra-Glide life, that September 10 sense of freedom and security, without finishing the job. The military is fighting, the Iraqi people are fighting, but where is the US political class? The Bush Administration has yet to ask the American people - correction, has yet to demand of the American people - the sustained, shared sacrifice it takes to win this long, intricate war of bullets, ballots, and bricks. Bullets go bang, and even CBS understands bullets. Ballots make an impression.

In terms of this war's battlespace, the January Iraqi elections were World War Two's D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge combined. But the bricks - the building of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the other hard corners where this war is and will be fought - that's a delicate and decades long challenge. Given the vicious, megalomanical enemy we face, five years, perhaps fifteen years from now occasional bullets and bombs will disrupt the political and economic building. This is the Bush Administration's biggest strategic mistake - a failure to tap the reservoir of American willingness 9/11 produced.


The Ponzi scheme

The mother of all mismanaged retirement plans:
While the vast majority of retirement plans are run responsibly, unethically using workers' retirement contributions to fund current expenses, instead of saving them for workers' retirement, is still an all-too common occurrence.

By far, the biggest perpetrator of such shenanigans is the US government.
Unlike responsible plan administrators, which save all retirement contributions rather than spend them, the government immediately spends most of our Social Security contributions on current retirees. Were other retirement plans to do that, it would constitute an illegal Ponzi scheme, in which money from new investors is used to pay off old investors.

The Social Security contributions that do not get spent on current retirees are commingled with general funds, going toward government salaries, departmental budgets, pork-barrel projects, foreign aid, and the many other things that the government spends money on. Not a penny of it is ever saved for workers' retirement. In the private sector, that would be grounds for certain conviction.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


Canada: Armed Agents Needed on U.S. Border:
A Canadian Senate report says customs agents and inspectors along the Canadian side of the world's longest unarmed border should be trained and allowed to carry firearms in an effort to prevent terrorist threats.

In a report to be released Wednesday, the Senate Committee on National Security and Defense will recommend that Parliament consider arming customs officers along the 4,000-mile border with the United States.

While U.S. Border Patrol (search) agents along the frontier are armed, officers of the Canada Border Services Agency (search) are not allowed to carry firearms.

I don't even know why this should have become an issue.

Should Canadian border patrols carry firearms?

Of course they should.

How exactly do you protect anything without guns?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Enough about China

Mark Steyn:
China hasn't invented or discovered anything of significance in half a millennium, but the careless assumption that intellectual property is something to be stolen rather than protected shows why. If you're a resource-poor nation (as China is), long-term prosperity comes from liberating the creative energies of your people - and Beijing still has no interest in that.

If a blogger attempts to use the words 'freedom' or 'democracy' or 'Taiwan independence' on Microsoft's new Chinese internet portal, he gets the message: 'This item contains forbidden speech. Please delete the forbidden speech.'

How pathetic is that?

Not just for the Microsoft-spined Corporation, which should be ashamed of itself, but for the Chinese government, which pretends to be a world power but is terrified of words.

Does 'Commie wimps' count as forbidden speech, too? And what is the likelihood of China advancing to a functioning modern stand-alone business culture if it's unable to discuss anything except within its feudal political straitjackets? Its speech code is a sign not of control but of weakness; its internet protective blocks are not the armour but the, er, chink.

Well said.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Self delusion

Myth and Reality in Europe by Bret Stephens:
In the spring of 2003, I was invited to meet a high-ranking European diplomat who was visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories on a fact-finding trip. I was then the editor of the Jerusalem Post, and the diplomat wanted to hear what representatives of 'civil society' had to say about the intifada. I argued that the violence was of Yasser Arafat's making and would not go away until he did. In reply, the diplomat observed that Israelis and Palestinians alike could benefit from the example of France and Germany, which after centuries of conflict had wisely agreed to set differences aside and embark on a path of harmonious collaboration, the result being the European Union.

The soft nostrums of European diplomacy are always hard to take, especially when the people to whom they are offered are being blown up daily. But what struck me most about the diplomat's exhortation was his evident sincerity. He really seemed to believe that the EU was the product of some kind of spontaneous moment of enlightened European statesmanship, which by pure chance occurred sometime in the late 1940s, rather than of Germany's annihilation as a military power, American dominance in Western Europe and the Soviet menace. And it was through this prism of a mythologized past that he had come to the Middle East to offer his prescriptions for peace.

So true.


European decline

Interesting commentary on secular Europe and its evolution away from freedom:
Here is Weigel: 'Christianity taught European man his own dignity' and 'a proper respect for individuality.' It can hardly have been otherwise. Christianity values the individual. The state doesn't. Answer: Restrain the state; make it respect individual dignity. John Paul II's assertion of that truth helped undermine communism. All of a sudden the pope's fellow Poles weren't just cogs in a vast machine. They were images of their creator with dignity and rights. Evil could no longer face them down. They faced it down.

There is certainly some truth to that. Some of Europe's leaders would do well to remember it.

Unfortunately, Europe's biggest faith is in a proven falsehood: the power of the state to make everything right.

They are in for a rude awakening: the state has no morality of its own.

Is there any hope for Europe?

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Diversity Kit

Oh. My. God.

Kerckhoff Coffeehouse: The Diversity Kit
A friend of mine was given this at his government job, and sent it to me. The things on the list were actually included in a little ziplock accompanying the list:
Button - To remind you to "button your lips" to keep from saying hurtful things about others and to keep from making remarks or jokes which might be racist, sexist or in any way hurtful to others.

Lifesaver - To remind you that you can be a lifesaver to others by courageously standing up to negative statements which can erode an individual's self-esteem.

Band Aid - To remind you to heal hurt feelings whether they are yours or someone else's.

Rubber Band - To remind you to be flexible. Someone else might have a better idea or a different experience which can provide valuable solutoins.

Toothpick - To remind you to "pick out" the good qualities in everyone regardless of their race, ethnicity, sex, age, or any other factor which differs from yours.

Eraser - To remind you that everyone makes mistakes sometimes and we need to ease our embarrassment when a mistake has been made by ourselves or by others.

Tissues - To remind you to dry someone's tears, or perhaps your own, so you can see the tears caused by racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination.

Mint - To remind you that, in valuing diversity, you are worth a mint to your organization.

Rainbow - To remind you of the many colors and cultures in our world, and to show you how beautiful these can be when blended together.

What a wonderful way for my friend's government employer to spend tax dollars.

Except that my friend is an adult.

I kept most of the items in the kit. The button to repair my favorite shirt. The Lifesaver, because it's banana flavored: MY FAVORITE!! The Band Aid, because I might cut myself some day. The rubber band to keep my bread fresh. The eraser, because the one on my pencil is worn to the nub, and I might need it to erase something I've written in error.

I blew my nose with the tissue, and ate the mint because my breath currently reeks of the onions I had with breakfast. The toothpick was handy for prying that sausage from between my molars.

The rainbow colored swatch is bound for our local landfill, where I hope it will serve to inspire rats and seagulls to coexist harmoniously.

Perhaps they should include some Ex-Lax in the diversity kit.

Anyone who can read halfway through that garbage without feeling a need to take shit needs chemical assistance.



Europe's malaise:
The economic growth rate of the European Union nations since 2003 has limped along at about half that of the U.S. In the 1980s and '90s the U.S. created about 40 million new jobs; Western Europe created some 10 million, well over half of which were in the public sector. If this divergence in economic performance continues for 40 years, the American worker will be roughly twice as wealthy as his European counterpart.

The Europeans have created a vast constellation of domestic policy interventions that are cloaked in the seductive rhetoric of compassion, fairness and cultural sophistication. These policies include highly generous welfare benefits for the unemployed; state ownership and subsidy of key industries (such as Airbus); rules that make it difficult to hire and fire workers; prohibitions against closing down plants; heavy protections of labor unions against competitive forces; mandatory worker benefit packages that include health insurance, child care allowances, paid parental leave, four to six weeks of vacation; shortened work weeks; and, alas, high taxes on business and labor to pay for these lavish benefits.

In sum, European nations penalize work and subsidize non-work, and, no surprise, they have gotten a lot of the latter and far too little of the former. By contrast, the U.S. model--allegedly cruel and 'laissez-faire'--has done much better both by economic growth and worker opportunity.

Why is it so obvious from this side of the pond?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

My goodness

Dale Franks:

Christina Hoff Summers says, enough already with this idea that our children are such delicate flowers.

It seems that many adults today regard the children in their care as fragile hothouse flowers who require protection from even the remote possibility of frustration, disappointment or failure. The new solicitude goes far beyond blacklisting red pens. Many schools now discourage or prohibit competitive games such as tag or dodge ball. The rationale: too many hurt feelings. In May 2002, for example, the principal of Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica, Calif., sent a newsletter to parents informing them that children could no longer play tag during the lunch recess. As she explained, "In this game, there is a 'victim' or 'It,' which creates a self-esteem issue."

Which games are deemed safe and self-affirming? The National PTA recommends a cooperative alternative to the fiercely competitive "tug of war" called "tug of peace." Some professionals in physical education advocate activities in which children compete only with themselves, such as juggling, unicycling, pogo sticking, and even "learning to ... manipulate wheelchairs with ease."

But juggling, too, poses risks.

A former member of The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports suggests using silken scarves rather than, say, uncooperative tennis balls that lead to frustration and anxiety. "Scarves," he points out, "are soft, non-threatening, and float down slowly."

Judas H. Priest!

What is it with educators, who seem to have boundless energy for everything but educating children?

Man, it's gonna be a real shock to some of these kids when they turn 18, and they are faced for the first time with a boss who doesn't care about their fragile feelings, and doesn't give two hoots about their self-esteem.

In the real world, self-esteem comes from accomplishing difficult things, and it's something you obtain yourself. Not only does can one else give you self-esteem, they don't care if you have it. In the real world, "good try" doesn't cut and "close" only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Maybe for teachers, where tenure gives them permanent employment, and they get summers off, life is a warm fuzzy cocoon, with sensitive, caring colleagues. The world most of us live is just isn't like that.

"Tug of peace". Jebus.

My thoughts exactly.

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