Tuesday, June 29, 2004


Here is a great site for vocabulary words and quizzes.


Place the right word in the blank. Answers at the bottom. Also, at the bottom you will find a pargraph that uses all the words. Study it after you have learned the words.


1. Jack's brother had such an ________ for cars that he subscribes to four automotive magazines!

2. Since Don was such an ________ bore he had few friends and was rarely invited to dinner.

3. Authorities watched the ________ carefully to be sure there would be no violence on the streets.

4. The nurse worried that if Emily continued to live such a ________ life, she would gain a lot more weight.

5. Craig was an astute politician and managed the meeting with great ________.

6. Margaret will ________ with her friends to see when everyone can gather for the picnic.

7. Martha asked the children to lower their ________ voices so she could hear her sister on the telephone.

8. The senator was treated with ________ respect since she had earned admiration from others.

9. The ________ gossip spread rapidly until Jim discovered the truth and stopped the rumors.

10. Matt got a ________ answer to his question about the restaurant's reservation system.

11. Even thought there was just an ________ spot on the window, Grandma saw it and wiped it off.

12. Parents really appreciated the teacher's concern and ________ approach to her teaching and to their children.

1. affinity -- if you have an affinity for something, you like it. You might have an affinity for baseball.

2. insufferable -- if a person is insufferable, he cannot be tolerated. Rembmer "in" means not, so this means not sufferable, not capable of being suffered.

3. dissident

4. sedentary -- if you are sedentary, you don't get up and have an active life; you sit down on the couch a lot.

5. finesse -- if you handle things with finesse, you handle things well, and delicately.

6. confer

7. vociferous -- means loud

8. deferential -- if you are deferential, you defer to someone; sometimes parents say that children should be deferential to their parents.

9. insidiuous -- hurtful, malicious, intended to hurt

10. definitive -- final and factual

11. infinitesmial -- small

12. assiduous -- marked by care and attention

Ken certainly has no AFFINITY towards that INSUFFERABLE DISSIDENT who leads a SEDENTARY life and has absolutely no FINESSE. On the one occasion that they had CONFERRED, the VOCIFEROUS DISSIDENT was not at all DEFERENTIAL and made INSIDUOUS remarks that were cause for concern. While he was DEFINITIVE in all his statements, he had only an INFINITESIMAL knowledge of the facts. Ken, on the other hand, had made an ASSIDUOUS study of all the details! Ken had little respect for anyone so unprepared!


Go here and click on #10 and read.


The first new SAT I test will be given in March 2005. The first new PSAT test will be given fall 2004 (although this test will not ask students to write an essay).

Go here to read a few essays and to see their scores. Read the annotations too.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Interesting News Item

In 1949 a newspaper reporter contacted the FBI asking about some of the most dangerous fugitives it was searching for. The reporter wrote about the top 10 most wanted persons. The public found the article fascinating and J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, then decided to regularly release a Top 10 Most Wanted list. Go here to see who is on the list today.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

The Bill of Rights

The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights. here they are. As you read them, ask yourself which right you consider the most important. If you could only have one of the rights below, which one would you choose and why?

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. [One way to judge a country is by whether or not it has laws that are similar to Amendment I here. How many people would want to live in a country that didn't protect the speech?]

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. [Some say that this is the amendment -- the second amendment -- that gives people the right to bear arms. The first thing a dictator might do is get rid of such a right.]

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Writing: Eliminating Wordiness

Go here and read how to eliminate wordiness.

Grammar: Subject-Verb Agreement

Go here and read the material and take the test.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Become a TV Writer

Go here and learn how to become a TV writer. Half-way down the page you will see a writer's workshop. Click on the link.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Well-Written Essay

Go here to read a well-written essay. At the end of the essay you will find reasons given for why the essay is so good.

A puzzle

Go here and try to solve the puzzle. Click on the solution after you have thought about the problem for at least 5 minutes.

Article: Rational Men and Women

Read what it means to be rational in economics.

Rational Men and Women

Economists have a particular view of the world. Specifically, economists assume human beings are rational.

That’s right, rational. If you are like most people, when you read the word “rational,” you sort of laughed. Most people believe there are enough irrational people out there to make the world kind of nutty at times. Most people—but not economists—equate rational with unemotional, calculating, reasonable, or logical. Irrational, then, becomes the same as emotional, uncalculating, unreasonable, or illogical.

But economists have a different meaning for the word “rational.” According to economists, a rational person is one who thinks and acts in terms of costs and benefits. Specifically, a rational person is one who tries to maximize his net benefits in life, or who seeks to maximize his utility or satisfaction.

Again, noneconomists tend to laugh. Do economists mean that human beings go around quickly calculating the costs and benefits of various activities and choose to only undertake activities where the benefits outweigh the costs? Well, yes, this is exactly what economists mean.

Instead of using argument to try to convince people that human beings are rational, economists have chosen a somewhat indirect approach to the subject. They build models to explain real-world events. Economists base their models on the assumption that people are rational; and then the economists have the rational people in their models act, choose, and think about real-world events. In other words, economists people the world of their models with rational individuals.

Now the models that economists build make predictions. If the predictions are validated by real-world data, economists then say: “See, we built a model and in that model we assumed people are rational—that they act and think in terms of costs and benefits and seek to maximize their net benefits. Our model then made certain predictions. We have collected relevant data, and the data validate the predictions. So, we conclude that if the predictions of a model based on rational individuals turn out to be true, then individuals must be rational.”

To illustrate the process, we’ll build a model based on a rational criminal. This rational criminal, we hold, thinks and acts in terms of costs and benefits. Furthermore, we hold that this criminal has two equations in his head. The first equation relates to the benefits of committing a criminal act, and the second equation relates to the costs of committing a criminal act. We assume the criminal act is burglary. The first equation, the benefit equation, is:

EB = Ps x Loot

where EB is the expected benefits of burglary, Ps is the probability of successfully burglarizing a house (getting into and out of a house with the goods), and Loot is the dollar take.

The cost equation looks like this:

EC = Pp x (I + F) + AC

where EC is the expected costs of burglary, Pp is the probability of imprisonment, I is the income the criminal gives up if caught and imprisoned, F is the dollar value the criminal puts on freedom (how much the person would pay to stay out of prison), and AC is the anguish cost of committing a burglary.

An economist would say that a criminal simply substitutes various numbers into the equations and then determines whether or not the expected benefits of the criminal act are greater than, less than, or equal to the expected costs. If the expected benefits are greater than the expected costs, the person commits the crime. If the expected benefits are less than the expected costs, the person does not commit the crime. And if the expected benefits equal the expected costs, the person flips a coin: Heads, commit the crime; tails, don’t commit the crime.

Let’s make up some numbers. Suppose the person sets the following numbers:
Ps = 80 percent
Loot = $400,000
Pp = 30 percent
I = $80,000
F = $42,000
AC = $3,000

When we substitute these numbers for the variables in our two equations, we find that the expected benefits (EB) equal $320,000 and the expected costs (EC) equal $39,600. With these numbers, the person goes ahead and commits the crime.

Now our simple two-equation model of a rational criminal makes some interesting predictions. The model predicts that:

1. If people put more locks on their doors and install more security devices in their homes, the probability of success (Ps) will fall, lowering the benefits of burglary. And, lowering the benefits of burglary will lead to fewer burglaries.

2. If more police are on the streets, the probability of being arrested after committing a crime will rise, and the probability of being imprisoned (Pp) will rise too. Thus, the costs of committing a burglary will rise, and fewer burglaries will be committed.

3. During a recession, incomes usually fall and unemployment usually rises. Thus, the income one forfeits is usually lower during a recession than during boom times. Lower income foregone (I) lowers the cost of burglary, and thus will lead to more burglaries.

4. If prison became more severe (hard labor), a person would pay more to stay out of prison (F). Paying more to stay out of prison raises the cost of burglary, and fewer burglaries will be committed.

More predictions are possible, but you get the point. Just by raising or lowering the values of the different variables in the two equations, we can make predictions that are logically consistent with the model.

Now if we collect relevant data and find that all our predictions are true, we’d have to say that our model has some merit. And what kind of person does the model assume? A rational person.

Models constructed assuming that people are rational might predict accurately or might not. If they predict accurately, it is likely they do so because what they assume about people is correct. A rational choice model of crime that predicts accurately tells us something we might not have been willing to accept earlier: criminals—no matter how irrational, emotional, or unreasonable they seem to us—are rational individuals.

What the Economist Thinks
• Arguing about whether men and women are rational is useless because so many people misunderstand what it means to be rational. Instead, it is better to build a model based on rational men and women, make predictions based on the model, and then see whether or not the model predicts correctly.

• If the model based on rational men and women predicts correctly (especially if it consistently predicts correctly), then—and only then—can we reasonably believe that men and women are rational.

Questions to Answer
1. Some people say that love is not a rational activity. In other words people “in love” do not think in terms of costs and benefits. Do you agree or disagree? Explain your answer.
Answers may vary.

2. Smith smokes cigarettes and Jones does not, so obviously both persons cannot be rational. Comment.
Different behavior is not evidence that one person is rational and the other is irrational. People perceive costs and benefits differently. For the smoker, the benefits of smoking are higher than the costs; for the nonsmoker, the benefits of smoking are lower than the costs.

3. Can a person be unhappy and rational too? Why or why not?
Sure. For example, suppose Billy’s options are (1) be operated on or (2) die. We doubt that Billy is too happy with either option, yet he will likely consider costs and benefits when making his decision about what to do.

4. Some people are said to have a bad temper—they “fly off the handle easily” or get unusually angry over little things. Are people who have bad tempers irrational while people who do not have bad tempers rational?
People who have bad tempers are not irrational. Watch them closely. They usually fly off the handle easily with people who will accept their behavior, and they don’t fly off the handle with people who will not accept their behavior. People might lose their tempers with their friends but usually not with their bosses (who can fire them).

5. Can a person be rational and uninformed? Why or why not?
Yes. In fact, when the costs of becoming informed are greater than the benefits of becoming informed, it is rational not to be informed.

Grammar: Pronouns

Go here and read about pronouns. Afterward, take the quiz.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Sports Writing

Here is an sports article by Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. Study his writing.

June 24, 2004
Yankees Reverse Roles, With Lieber in Lead

BALTIMORE, June 23 - Jon Lieber's right arm is fooling him. [Great first sentence: short, rhythmical, and makes you wonder.] It has felt fine for six months, and to Lieber, that should mean his pitching is fine, too. For a while this season, it was. Now, it is not. [Great paragraph. Makes the reader want to read more. Often the first paragraph of an essay contains shorter sentences than other paragraphs in an essay.]

The Baltimore Orioles shelled Lieber and two Yankee relievers on Wednesday night, pounding out 17 hits in a 13-2 victory at Camden Yards. [Look at how much this sentence tells us in such few words. We know what the Orioles did, how many hits, the size of the win, and where the game was played.] Eleven of those hits came off Lieber, who is finding that recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery is even more challenging than he thought it would be.

"People I've talked to said it's not going to be an easy road that first year, and you're not going to be as consistent as you'd like to be," Lieber said on Tuesday. "Even though you might feel good, as far as command of your pitches, it's going to bury you from time to time. It's just going to be a battle."

The Yankees lost to the Orioles for the first time this season, in the eighth game between the teams. They had gone 11-2 here the last two seasons, routinely pummeling the Orioles, but for one night, at least, the roles changed.

Baltimore had a 3-0 lead before the first out in the bottom of the first inning, and Lieber never settled in. He has struggled to find a steady release point in his delivery, and for a pitcher who relies on precision within the strike zone, the results have been discouraging.

"I've never gone through something like this before," Lieber said on Tuesday. "The last 10, 11 years of my career, I've usually had a pretty good idea, for the most part, of how I'm going to pitch that night and been able to hit my spots 90 percent of the time. I feel like I haven't played up to par on that, whatsoever."

His season did not start out this way. In his first five starts, Lieber went 4-1 with a 3.53 earned run average.

But in his last five starts, he is 1-4 with a 7.48 E.R.A., allowing a staggering 51 hits over 27 2/3 innings. Wednesday's start was Lieber's shortest of the season, and the third in which he allowed at least 11 hits.

Lieber will always give up hits; that is a reality for a pitcher who is consistently around the strike zone and almost never walks a batter. When Lieber succeeds, he keeps his fastballs, sliders and sinkers low in the strike zone, where hitters cannot drive them into the power alleys.

"Most of his problems come when he's up in the zone, which is not like him," the pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said before Wednesday's game. "All we work on between starts is getting him to have better command down in the zone. He's coming along. I see some very nice improvement in his side work."

Lieber could not take it into the game. He gave up a single, a triple and two more singles to the first four hitters he faced; the triple, by David Newhan, bounced off the top of the wall in right center.

By the end of the inning, the Orioles had a 3-0 lead on five hits, and Lieber did not survive a similar onslaught in the fourth.

Javy Lopez dumped a leadoff single to center, but Ruben Sierra threw him out from right field after misplaying a single by Jay Gibbons. Luis Matos followed with a bunt single, and Lieber botched a grounder by Larry Bigbie, allowing Gibbons to score.

It was a crucial misplay, and Stottlemyre went out to the mound. But Jerry Hairston knocked a one-hop double off the left-field wall, scoring two runs, and Newhan singled with two outs to score Hairston.

The Orioles led by 7-1, and Tanyon Sturtze came in to replace Lieber. The Yankees, meanwhile, were struggling to finish off rallies against Baltimore's rookie starter, Erik Bedard. They grounded into inning-ending double plays in the second and third, and Bedard left with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth.

Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli turned to Jason Grimsley, the veteran acquired from Kansas City on Monday to restore some order to a dreadful pitching staff. Grimsley sparkled in his debut, striking out Sierra and Tony Clark and retiring Miguel Cairo on a groundout.

The Yankees still trailed, 7-2, and it got much worse soon enough.


Learning how to write well consists of four things:

1. Learning how to think clearly.
2. Learning good grammar.
3. Learning how to rewrite.
4. Developing an "ear" for good writing (this is the reason you should read good writing). Just as you can tell good music from bad music, or music that is in key from music that is out of key, you should develop the same ability with writing. The more good writing you read -- and study -- the better writer you will become.

The College Essay and Interview

Here are some of the characteristics and value that colleges are said to be looking for in applicants. Supposed you were asked to give an example from your life where you exhibit each of the following characteristics or values. What would you say? Can you think of a story where you were reliable? motivated? industrious? By the way, these are pretty good characteristics and values to keep in mind when you choose friends, a husband or wife, etc.

* Reliability (intellectual and personal integrity, promptness, conscientiousness)

* Motivation (attitude toward learning and achievement)

* Emotional Stability (self-control, judgment, consistency, maturity, dependability)

* Social Values (sensitivity to needs of others)

* Intellectual Curiosity (interest in learning)

* Industry (drive, initiative, work habits, performance)

* Personality (manners, courtesy, tact, poise)

* Leadership (ability to inspire confidence)

The College Essay and Interview

Here are some of the characteristics and value that colleges are said to be looking for in applicants. Supposed you were asked to give an example from your life where you exhibit each of the following characteristics or values. What would you say? Can you think of a story where you were reliable? motivated? industrious?

* Reliability (intellectual and personal integrity, promptness, conscientiousness)

* Motivation (attitude toward learning and achievement)

* Emotional Stability (self-control, judgment, consistency, maturity, dependability)

* Social Values (sensitivity to needs of others)

* Intellectual Curiosity (interest in learning)

* Industry (drive, initiative, work habits, performance

* Personality (manners, courtesy, tact, poise)

* Leadership (ability to inspire confidence)


One of the tricks of debating is to take what your opponent has said to its logical conclusion. To illustrate, suppose your opponent says that we have a problem in America today. The problem is that foreigners are selling us too many cheap imports and thus putting Americans (who can't compete with the cheap imports) out of business.

First, distill the essence of what your opponent is saying. It is this: Cheap imports = Bad.

Second, apply logic. If cheap imports = bad, then it must be the case that expensive imports = good. Ask your opponent, "Would it be better if we had to pay three times as much for the imports we buy from foreigners?"

This should give your opponent some pause. Everyone knows it is better to buy cheap than expensive. So what does your opponent say now?

Or you could say that if it is bad for us to buy cheap imports, it must (logically follow) that it would be horrible for us if foreigners simply gave us their products at zero price.

Again, here is the logic:

1. If cheap imports = bad, then
2. Free imports = worse, and
3. Expensive imports = good

Sometimes when we take our opponents' arguments to their logical conclusion we can show them how ridiculous their arguments are.

Grammar: Dangling Modifiers

Go here and read about dangling modifiers. Then go here and read more about dangling and misplaced modifiers. At the bottom of the page you can click on a button to take a quiz. Do so.

Ideas: Capitalism and Democracy vs Communism or Socialism and Totalitarianism

There are many people today who decry the evils of capitalism. They argue that capitalists are greedy people who take advantage of people. Often these same people argue that socialism is preferable to capitalism.

We do not argue the merits of capitalism and socialism any longer. In the 20th century, there were three major experiments where capitalism and socialism were tested: in Germany, China, and Korea.

In each of these countries, part of the people lived under capitalism and part lived under socialism. People in West Germany lived under capitalism and the people in East Germany lived under socialism or communism.

In the People's Republic of China people lived under communism. In Taiwan, people lived under capitalism.

In North Korea people lived under communism and in South Korea they lived under a mild form of capitalism.

In all three cases, the people who lived under capitalism were much freer and richer. In all three cases, the people who lived under socialism or communism were not free and poor. Also, it is important to recognize that where communism rules, the people are not free to leave the country. The only time a government has to prevent people from leaving a country is when many people want to leave the country. People have shown -- time and time again -- that they hate to live under communism and socialism. They always want to get out of a country run by communists. That is why the Berlin Wall was built -- to keep people from leaving East Germany.

Books: Death by Government

Go here to look at the deaths caused by governments in the 20th century. Notice that most of these governments are either communist (Soviet Union, China) or fascist (Nazi Germany). R.J. Rummel is a political science professor at the University of Hawaii. He has spent most of his work life cataloging the deaths caused by governments -- especially communist and fascist governments. He has stated that 61 million people were killed by the Soviet government and 35 million by the Chinese communist government. Many of these killings are from forced starvation, labor camps, concentration camps, and mass murder. The greatest mass killer of the 20th century was Joseph Stalin -- about 43 million deaths are attributed to him. Once you have clicked on the site, you may want to click on the various countries (Soviet Union, China) to get more details.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Article: Great Presidents

Here is an article by Patrick Buchanan.

With the passing of President Reagan, historians, scholars and journalists have again taken to rating our presidents.

Invariably [without a doubt], greatness is ascribed to only three: Washington, Lincoln and FDR [Franklin Delano Roosevelt]. Which reveals as much about American historians, scholars and journalists as it does about American presidents.

Certainly, Washington is our greatest president, the father of our country and the captain who set our course. But Lincoln is great only if one believes that preventing South Carolina, Georgia and the Gulf states from peacefully seceding justified the suspension of the Constitution, a dictatorship, 600,000 dead and a resort to a total war that ravaged the South for generations.[Many people think Lincoln a great president because he fought to keep the country together. However, when the states agreed to form a union, they also said they they had the right to secede from the union if they no longer found it worthwhile to be part of the country. This was the agreement. Lincoln essentially said that they couldn't do this and fought a war to prove it.]

As for FDR, he was the greatest politician of the 20th century. But why call a president great whose government was honeycombed with spies and traitors, and whose war diplomacy lead to the loss of 10 Christian countries of Eastern Europe to a Muscovite despot [talking about Stalin] whose terrorist regime was the greatest enemy of human freedom in modern history?

FDR restored the nation's confidence in his first term and won a 46-state landslide to a second. But by 1937, the Depression was back and we were rescued only by the vast expenditures of World War II into which, even admirers now admit, FDR lied his country. The man talked peace as he plotted war. [There is some thought that FDR knew there was going to be an attack on Pearl Harbor and just sat back and let it happen. Why? Some say that he wanted the United States to enter WWII, which it did after Parl Harbor.]

None of the historians, scholars or journalists rate Reagan a great president. Yet his leadership led to the peaceful liberation of a hundred million children and grandchildren of the people FDR sold down the river at Teheran and Yalta, as well as of the 300 million people of the Soviet Union.

And why are Wilson and Truman always listed among the "near great" presidents?

While our entry into World War I ensured Allied victory, Wilson brought home from Versailles a vindictive peace that betrayed his principles, his 14 Points and his solemn word to the German government when it agreed to an armistice. [The treaty of Versailles was very stiff on Germany for starting WW I. Some say it was too stiff and made Germany poorer than need be. The German people resented this and this resentment, it is said, gave rise to Hitler. If the treaty had been less stiff, maybe Hitler would not have arisen.] That treaty tore Germany apart and led directly to Hitler and a horrific war of revenge 20 years later. Moreover, Wilson's stubborn refusal to accept any compromise language to protect U.S. sovereignty led to Senate rejection of both his treaty and the League of Nations. Why, then, is this obdurate [stubborn] man "near great"?

As for Truman, he dropped two atom bombs on defenseless cities [there was really no need to drop the bomb on populated cities; Truman could have dropped the bomb in the ocean and showed the Japanese what he could do if they didn't surrender], sent back 2 million Russian dissidents and POWs to his "Uncle Joe," [Stalin was called Uncle Joe] death and the Gulag [the prisons in Soviet Union were often called the gulag], offered to send the USS Missouri to Russia to bring Stalin over to give him equal time to answer Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech, lost China to communism, fired Gen. MacArthur for demanding victory in Korea, presided over a corrupt administration, left us mired down in a "no-win war" and left office with 23 percent approval. [Truman was also very bad when it came to economics; he knew very little.]

What is near great about that? Why is Eisenhower, who ended the Korean War in six months, restored America's military might and presided over eight years of secure peace not the greater man?

Now consider one of the men whom all the raters judge a "failure" and among our worst presidents, Warren G. Harding.

Harding served five months less than JFK, before dying in office in 1923. Yet his diplomatic and economic triumphs were of the first order. He negotiated the greatest disarmament treaty of the century, the Washington Naval Agreement, which gave the United States superiority in battleships and left us and Great Britain with capital-ship strength more than three times as great as Japan's. Even Tokyo conceded a U.S. diplomatic victory.

With Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, Harding cut Wilson's wartime income tax rates, which had gone as high as 63 percent, to 25 percent, ended the stagflation [stagflation is inflation combined with high unemployment] of the Wilson presidency and set off the greatest boom of the century, the Roaring Twenties. When Harding took his oath, unemployment was at 12 percent. When he died, 29 months later, it was at 3 percent. This is a failure?

If it is because of Harding's White House dalliance with Nan Britton, why does not JFK's White House dalliance with Judith Exner make him a failure? And if Teapot Dome, which broke after Harding's death – and in which he was not involved – makes him a failure, why does not the Monica Lewinsky scandal that led to his impeachment make Clinton a failure? Of the seven Democratic presidents in the 20th century, only Truman and Carter did not have lady friends in the White House.

Harding's vice president, Calvin Coolidge, succeeded him, won one of the great landslides in U.S. history and was, as Jude Wanniski writes, an inspiration for Ronald Reagan, who considered Silent Cal a role model and put his portrait up in the Cabinet Room as a mark of respect.

Harding, Coolidge, Eisenhower and Reagan were men who kept us out of war and presided over times of peace, security and often of soaring prosperity. Yet, the 20th century presidents who took us into war and who lost the fruits of war – Wilson, FDR, Truman – are "great" or "near great." These ratings tell us less about presidents than they do about historians, scholars and journalists.

You might be asked to write an essay on the SAT about what you thinks makes a great president? How would you answer the question?

Article: On Harvard

The Silence of the Lemmings
Reagan dies. Harvard shrugs.

Monday, June 21, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--My family drove here from New York last weekend to celebrate our elder daughter's graduation from Harvard's Graduate School of Education. It was a time to rejoice in her accomplishments, and I couldn't help but feel a kindred pride with the other assembled parents and siblings.

But for me, at least, the weekend was bittersweet. President Reagan had died, and I felt both tremendous sorrow and thankfulness. While I anxiously awaited the commencement speeches, I wasn't overly optimistic that there would be glowing reviews of Reagan's rather obvious accomplishments. After all, I was in the epicenter of liberalism, surrounded by as many as 35,000 people, almost all to the left of Chris Rock.

But, foolishly, I expected something. What I got was silence, the silence of the lemmings, ready to jump off yet another cliff, into another abyss of America-bashing, of shantytown pluralism. Not a mention of President Reagan, who along with FDR dramatically changed the country--and the world--in this last century.

The dean of the School of Education talked about our country's isolation and "our need to learn more about" Islam and Muslims--not their need to learn about multicultural capitalism that embraces and allows so many avenues of expression and growth.
And when the rain stopped, Kofi Annan [head of the United Nations]started. Distinguished and eloquent as ever, he first disparaged [put down] President Bush (to cheers), then asked: "What kind of world would it be, and who would want to live in it, if every country was allowed to use force, without collective agreement, simply because it thought there might be a threat?"

I raised my hand, and above a whisper and below a shout (so my daughter wouldn't be embarrassed), I said, "Me!"

A few people looked at me, disdainfully, and one apparent father asked me, "How could you not agree with that?"

"Simple," I replied, "the United States, while not perfect, has perhaps the world's best checks and balances of liberties and legalities in the world. And when we've gone wrong, we try to address the wrongs."

I continued: "Would you rather we hand over our autonomy to the French, Germans and Russians, all of whom promised to protect Saddam Hussein for illegal business transactions and payoffs? Or to the nations that comprise the U.N.'s Human Rights Committee--the Libyans, the Sudanese? To whom would you entrust our fate other than to your neighbors? To the Arab nations, for whom Judenfrei--and Christian-frei--amounts to a national anthem?"

Without reply, they walked away from me, a leper in the colony of the pure, as I glanced towards my family, hoping they hadn't witnessed my latest provocation.

In the shadows of the magnificent red-bricked and domed buildings of Harvard, I wished I had a huge sign, asking Kofi whether he was stonewalling on the Oil for Food program, and why his son's firm had been given the contract to oversee the corrupt mess that dwarfed Enron and Global Crossing. The lemmings in Harvard Square cheered as Kofi brought up corporate scandals, but had he been a CEO of an American corporation and let $10 billion pass through in payoffs, he'd have been pilloried before uttering a sentence. These "enlightened" students would have shouted him down.

Even before Mr. Annan, Harvard's president, Larry Summers, warmed up the crowd of 15,000 by talking about the growing disparity of our society, the "haves and have-nots," pledging that Harvard would be accessible to more underprivileged students.
Great, I thought before quickly calculating the cost to my family. We put our two daughters through private school in New York City at tremendous cost: over $25,000 a year for high school for our younger one last year. We spent about $300,000 on our daughters on primary education, largely because public schools have failed. "Underprivileged" students get scholarships, which means at least 25% of our tuition costs, or $75,000, went to subsidize them. That's before taxes, meaning we had to earn $150,000--plus pay another $50,000 or so in school taxes over the years--to contribute to the utopian dream. We don't mind it, but now Mr. Summers is asking for more of a sacrifice, and I can't help but wonder what is his sacrifice? Will he give up his post for someone who has had less opportunity? I don't think so.

Don't get me wrong, I recognize the benefits of scholarship and diversity, and believe they accrue to my daughters--and society. But who is calculating the cost?

Eager to talk about President Reagan, I engaged a friend of my daughter--a brilliant and likeable high-tech engineer, who ultimately conceded that Reagan changed the world for the better, but only because he was "lucky" to have run into a concessionary Mikhail Gorbachev. A mild victory, I concluded, and left it at that.
By 2:30 p.m., my daughter and her in-laws want to detox by taking a walk in the forest. I hate forests. I prefer Manhattan, hiking on Madison Avenue, the Lower East Side or anywhere on the West Side, where I can engage, or at least look at, a diversity of people. My only engagements with trees seem to be tripping over their roots.

So I pulled a "sciatica" and retired to my endearing converted firehouse hotel, where I turned on the TV to watch the solemnity of burying President Reagan, thankful that his spirit, his vision and his courage endure, if not for the crème-de-la-crème in Cambridge, at least for the millions of people of Eastern Europe and beyond who lost generations, but never hope, to a singular utopian dream driven by despots and their faithful liberal lemmings in the cathedrals of American higher education.

Mr. Bromley lives and writes in New York City.


Which is correct?

A. The delivery boy knew he carried strange cargo, but still ventured off unafraid.

B. The delivery boy knew he carried strange cargo, but he still ventured off unafraid.

B is correct. What we have here are two independent clauses. A clause contains a subject-verb combination. An independent clause completes a complete thought.

"The delivery boy knew he carried strange cargo" is an indepenent clause. "Still ventured off unafraid" is an independent clause if we add the word "he." It is proper to write the entire independent clause, not just part of it. When you have two independent clauses, you punctuate with either a comma or a semicolon.

A. My math teacher doesn't know how to lecture, she should have remained a student.

B. My math teacher doesn't know how to lecture; she should have remained a student.

B is correct

A. Gregor has not changed physically; but has given himself an excuse to separate himself from the pain of previous experiences.

B. Gregor has not changed physically; however, he has given himself an excuse to hide from the pain of previous experiences.

B is correct. Rarely do you use a semicolon before "but."


Review these words:

1. loquacious -- talkative
2. lugubrious -- mournful, gloomy
3. laissez faire -- economic doctrine that opposes government intervention
4. lexicon-- dictionary, specialized words
5. abrogate -- abolish
6. circumnavigate -- to proceed around completely
7. evanescent -- vanishing or likely to vanish into vapor
8. feckless -- lacking purpose or vitality
9. fiduciary -- having to do with trust
10. filibruster -- using obstructionist tactics, especially prolonged speechmaking
11. hubris -- overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance
12. incognito -- disguised or concealed
13. inculcate -- to impress upon the mind by frequent instruction
14. omnipotent -- having unlimited or universal power
15. pecuniary -- of or relating to money
16. plagiarize -- to use and pass off as one's own
17. recapitulate -- to repeat in concise form

Article: Iraq History Lesson

Iraq History Lesson

By Charles Krauthammer

Friday, June 4, 2004; Page A23

"Today the guns are silent. . . . The entire world is quietly at peace." So said Douglas MacArthur in September 1945. Last week, seeing that quotation, now inscribed in stone at the new National World War II Memorial in Washington, I was struck, touched, by its optimism.

And transience. [transient means transitory]The end of the war brought peace to Germany and Japan, which had been reduced to rubble. But that was the peace of the grave. There was no peace in Greece or China, where guerrilla war continued through the 1940s. There was tremendous civil unrest in France, where communist parties came very close to winning power. And then, of course, the post-colonial aftermath: wars in India, Palestine, Indochina, Burma, and the list goes on.

A few days after my encounter with that MacArthur quotation, I read a brilliant and impassioned article by the eminent [good word; means standing out above others]British military historian John Keegan, skewering the commonplace and ahistorical idea -- claiming World War II as a model -- that wars end cleanly, neatly and completely. Keegan's article (London Daily Telegraph, June 1) detailed the bloody aftermath that continued for years after MacArthur's words on the battleship Missouri.

Keegan's larger point was contemporary, however. "The British and American media retail with evident satisfaction every scrap of information" -- bad war news, coalition soldiers' misconduct -- that "undermines any expectation by readers and viewers of a successful outcome to the Iraqi involvement." That the transition from the coalition conquest of last April 9 to whatever new Iraq emerges will be difficult, bloody and contentious is the historical norm, argues Keegan. Yet it has been used by critics to discredit both the war and Bush and Blair for having undertaken it.

Keegan does not just know more history than all the sage Iraq critics combined. Within hours, his resistance to the Iraq panic sweeping Washington and London was looking prescient. The panic-mongers had been telling us that all was chaos, that the June 30 date for the handover of power to an interim Iraqi government was approaching with nothing but violence and bickering and no one to hand the reins to.

As of this week, we have an interim Iraqi government, remarkably balanced in terms of ethnicity, region and tribe. Such encouraging developments, however, are apparently not to be permitted to puncture the current defeatism.

A moderate Shiite is appointed prime minister, and the headlines prominently mention that he was supported by the CIA, thus implicitly encouraging the notion that the man is illegitimate.

First of all, from where was an Iraqi exile, hunted by Saddam Hussein, to get help, if not from the CIA and MI6? From France? Germany? Russia? Kofi Annan? George Soros?

Second, Ayad Allawi cooperated with the CIA in a mission that was entirely honorable (though terribly bungled by the CIA): a coup to overthrow the Hussein dictatorship.

Then it is said that this new Iraqi government is illegitimate because it consists of just the old, discredited interim Iraqi Governing Council reappointing itself. In fact, the new government of 36 ministers contains just four from the Governing Council.

Then comes my favorite: The new government has no legitimacy because it is composed of so many exiles. What kind of political leadership does one expect in a country that endured three decades of Stalinist tyranny in which any expression of opposition met with torture and death?

Strange. I do not remember any of these critics complaining about the universally hailed Oslo peace accords that imposed upon the Palestinians a PLO government flown in from Tunisia composed nearly entirely of political exiles.

Ah, but Yasser Arafat, thug and terrorist, instantly wins legitimacy in the eyes of Western intelligentsia because he is a self-proclaimed revolutionary, while Iraq's interim prime minister, who was nearly axed to death by Hussein's agents in London, is dismissed as an "exile."

Who better than these exiles -- some rather heroic, many of whom created and sustained organized political opposition for decades -- to run a transitional government? Note: Transitional. Unlike the Palestinian Authority, a tyrannous kleptocracy that grabbed power and has not relinquished it for 10 years, this Iraqi government will be out of business in seven months. Its major function is to prepare elections, which will ratify the rise of indigenous leaders who have emerged in the (by then) year and a half since the fall of Hussein.

Yes, Iraq is a mess. Postwar settlements almost invariably are. Particularly in a country where the removal of a totalitarian dictator leaves a total political vacuum. Of course there are difficulties and dangers ahead, and no guarantee of success. But the transition to Iraqi rule is underway. The first critical step has just been taken.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Article: Milton Friedman on Reagan

Milton Friedman is the winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Economics. Here is an article by him on President Reagan in the Wall Street Journal.



Freedom's Friend

June 11, 2004; Page A8

I first met Ronald Reagan in 1967, shortly after he had become governor of California. We talked about his plans for higher education in the state. He clearly understood the economics of higher education -- a system in California whereby the residents of Watts subsidized the college education of the children from Beverly Hills -- and was determined to do something about it.

I first realized what a truly extraordinary person he was in early 1973 when I spent an unforgettable day with him barnstorming across California to promote his Proposition 1 -- an amendment to the state constitution that would set a limit to the amount the state could spend in any year. We flew in a small private plane from place to place and at each stop held a press conference. In between, Gov. Reagan talked freely about his life and views. By the time we returned to our final press interview in Los Angeles, I was able to give an enthusiastic yes to a reporter's question whether I would support Reagan for president. And, I may say, I have never been disappointed since.
* * *

Proposition 1 was narrowly defeated but it started a movement that is still very much alive, as evidenced by the recent passage of a "Prop 1" look-alike in Colorado. Moreover, it was only one way of achieving one major component of his policy from the beginning of his career: holding down non-defense government spending as a way to limit the size of government. Defense spending was another thing. That financed a -- or, the -- basic function of the federal government, and he used it for his great achievement of winning the Cold War by outspending the Soviet Union without having to outfight them on a bloody battlefield.

The trend before Mr. Reagan is one of galloping socialism. Had it continued, federal non-defense spending would be more than half again what it is now. Mr. Reagan brought the gallop to a literal standstill. He did so in three ways:
• First, by slashing tax rates and so cutting the Congress's allowance.

• Second, by being willing to take a severe recession to end inflation. In my opinion, no other postwar president would have been willing to back the Volcker Fed in its tough stance in 1981-82. I can testify from personal knowledge that Mr. Reagan knew what he was doing. He understood that there was no way of ending inflation without monetary restraint and a temporary recession. As in every area, he stuck to his principles and looked at the long term.

• Third, and in some ways the least recognized, by attacking government regulations. The Federal Register records the thousands of detailed rules and regulations that federal agencies churn out in the course of a year. They are not laws and yet they have the effect of laws and like laws impose costs and restrain activities. Here too, the period before President Reagan was one of galloping socialism. The Reagan years were ones of retreating socialism, and the post-Reagan years, of creeping socialism.

To Mr. Reagan, of course, holding down government spending was a means to an end, not an end in itself. That end was freedom, human freedom, the right of every individual to pursue his own objectives and values so long as he does not interfere with the corresponding right of others. That was his end in every phase of his remarkable career.

We still have a long way to go to achieve the optimum degree of freedom. But few people in human history have contributed more to the achievement of human freedom than Ronald Wilson Reagan.

Rankings of some UC colleges

21 - UC Berkeley
26 - UCLA
32 - UCSD
43 - UC Davis
45 - UC Irvine
45 - UC Santa Barbara

Grammar: May/Might

Most of the time “might” and “may” are almost interchangeable, with “might” suggesting a somewhat lower probability. [Think: May = 80 percent; might = 50 percent] You’re more likely to get wet if the forecaster says it may rain than if she says it might rain; but substituting one for the other is unlikely to get you into trouble—so long as you stay in the present tense.

For events in the present or immediate future, use either may or might (I may [might] decide to go after all), but for past time, most Standard users still prefer only might, as in Yesterday I might have decided to stay home, not the increasingly encountered Yesterday I may have decided to stay home. Journalese is now peppered with may where until recently might has been solidly entrenched.

Interesting Item: Saying "God Bless You"

Why do we say "God bless you" after a sneeze?


Dear Straight Dope:

How or why did saying "God bless you" become associated as an expression one says to another after the other sneezes? I've found some reasons listed below, but, somehow, I don't think any of them are very legitimate:

* When someone sneezes his heart stops and saying "God bless you" means "I'm glad your heart started again."
* Saying "God bless you" when you sneeze keeps the devil from flying down your throat.
* When someone sneezes, say "God bless you and may the devil miss you."
* When you sneeze your soul tries to escape and saying "God bless you" crams it back in (said by Millhouse in an episode of The Simpsons).

How about giving me the Straight Dope? --Rob Amato, Washington, DC

SDSTAFF Songbird replies:

If you've just sneezed, Rob, I think I'd rather give you a box of Kleenex.

The custom of saying "God bless you" after a sneeze was begun literally as a blessing. Pope Gregory the Great (540-604 AD) ascended to the Papacy just in time for the start of the plague (his successor succumbed to it). Gregory (who also invented the ever-popular Gregorian chant) called for litanies, processions and unceasing prayer for God's help and intercession. Columns marched through the streets chanting, "Kyrie Eleison" (Greek for "Lord have mercy"). When someone sneezed, they were immediately blessed ("God bless you!") in the hope that they would not subsequently develop the plague. All that prayer apparently worked, judging by how quickly the plague of 590 AD diminished.

The connection of sneezing to the plague is not the first association of sneezing with death. According to Man, Myth, and Magic: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mythology, Religion and the Unknown, many cultures, even some in Europe, believe that sneezing expels the soul--the "breath of life"--from the body. That doesn't seem too far-fetched when you realize that sneezing can send tiny particles speeding out of your nose at up to 100 miles per hour!

We know today, of course, that when you sneeze, your heart doesn't stop, nor will your eyes pop out if you can keep them open (www.straightdope.com/classics/a2_30 4.html), nor does your soul get expelled. What does get expelled are hundreds upon thousands of microscopic germs. The current advice when you sneeze is to cover your mouth with your arm rather than your hand. That way, all those germs won't be on your hands when you touch the countless things you're going to touch in the course of the day (don't tell us; we don't want to know).

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Article: Vaccinating Livestock

Here is an article from the Economist.

An injection of innovation
Jun 3rd 2004
From The Economist print edition

Vaccinating livestock may be a way to slow global warming

Get article background

BURPING sheep and cattle may not sound much of a hazard, but their burps contain methane, and methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. In Australia, a place with a lot of livestock, this methane amounts to 13% of the country's greenhouse-gas emissions. That is a tempting target for politicians looking for ways to meet Kyoto protocol targets without having to curb consumer lifestyles.

But how do you stop a sheep burping? André-Denis Wright, of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation's laboratory in Perth, has an idea. The methane is generated not by the animals directly, but by bacteria that live in those animals' stomachs. So a vaccine against these methane-generating bacteria should switch off the gas supply. On top of that—and of more direct interest to farmers—methane-producing microbes consume over a tenth of the food the animals eat, making cattle less beefy.

In a forthcoming paper in Vaccine, Dr Wright and his colleagues describe the progress they are making towards such an inoculation. Most methanogens, as the gas-producing stomach bugs are known, are not true bacteria. They actually belong to a class of micro-organisms called the archaea, whose separate existence was recognised only recently. The archaea are not well understood, and are difficult to grow in a laboratory. And if a bug cannot be grown in a laboratory, then a vaccine against it cannot be made.

Indeed, Dr Wright's first attempt fell at this hurdle. Constrained by what he could grow, he made a vaccine against a mixture of seven of the methanogens that he was able to grow from cow and sheep guts. It did not work.

At that point he decided to try a different tack. Instead of restricting himself to those stomach bugs he could grow, he sought to identify the full range of what was there using a new technique called environmental genomics. This trick, pioneered by Craig Venter in the United States, breaks all of the DNA in a sample of liquid from, say, a stomach, up into small pieces. It then sequences each piece to establish the order of the genetic “letters” in it, and uses a computer to fit the pieces back together by matching the overlaps between the sequences of letters. That way, if all goes well, the genomes of the bugs in a sample will emerge from the soup of pieces, and the organisms can be identified without the need to grow them.

The researchers surveyed the microbial populations of 17 sheep stomachs in this way, and revealed several new species of methanogen, including some from a group of archaea not previously known to inhabit digestive tracts. Crucially, knowing the genomes of these ungrowable organisms allowed Dr Wright to identify close relatives that it was already known could be grown. He used three of these relatives to make a new vaccine, and got an 8% reduction in methane production from the sheep he vaccinated.

Not a bad start, and certainly enough to prove the point. Dr Wright is now extending his “library” of sheep methanogens by taking samples from around Australia, in order to discover how much variation there is. He is also planning to extend the work to cattle, which are ten times as gassy, but are too big to fit in the current generation of gas-collecting boxes. If he succeeds, he will be the toast of both environmentalists and ranchers—a rare and enviable coincidence of views.

Article: Talkers and Doers

Here is an article by Thomas Sowell.

Talkers versus doers

June 9, 2004

The big divide in this country is not between Democrats and Republicans, or women and men, but between talkers and doers.

Think about the things that have improved our lives the most over the past century -- medical advances, the transportation revolution, huge increases in consumer goods, dramatic improvements in housing, the computer revolution. The people who created these things -- the doers -- are not popular heroes. Our heroes are the talkers who complain about the doers.

Those who have created nothing have maintained a constant barrage of criticism of those who created something, because that something was considered to be not good enough or the benefits turned out to have costs.

Every time I get on my bicycle and go pedalling down the road, I remember from my childhood that old geezers in their 70s didn't go biking in those days. They sat around on the porch in their rocking chairs.

Partly that was the style of the times but partly it was because old people did not have the energy and vigor that they have today. Much of that has been due to medical advances that not only added years to our lives but life to our years.

Doctors and hospitals have helped but much of the improvement in our health has been due to pharmaceutical drugs that keep us from having to go to hospitals, and have enabled doctors to head off many serious medical problems with prescriptions.

Yet the people who produce pharmaceutical drugs have been under heated political attack for years -- attacks which often do not let the facts get in their way.

During the anthrax scare of 2001, for example, the maker of the leading antidote for anthrax was accused of making "obscene profits" even though (1) the total cost of treatment with their drug was just $50 and (2) the company actually operated at a loss while they were being denounced for obscene profits.

People who know nothing about advertising, nothing about pharmaceuticals, and nothing about economics have been loudly proclaiming that the drug companies spend too much on advertising -- and demanding that the government pass laws based on their ignorance.

Today, we take the automobile so much for granted that it is hard to realize what an expansion of the life of ordinary people it represented. There was a time when most people lived and died within a 50-mile radius of where they were born.

The automobile opened a whole new world to these people. It also enabled those living in overcrowded cities to spread out into suburbs and get some elbow room. Trucks got goods to people more cheaply and ambulances got people to hospitals to save their lives.

Yet who among the people who did this are today regarded as being as big a hero as Ralph Nader, who put himself on the map with complaints about cars in general and the Corvair in particular? Hard data on automobile safety and tests conducted on the Corvair both undermined Nader's claims. But he will always be a hero to the talkers. So will those who complain about commerce and industry that have raised our standard of living to levels that our grandparents would not have dreamed of.

Home-ownership is far more widespread among ordinary people today than in the past because of entrepreneurs who have figured out how to produce more, bigger and better houses at prices that more and more people could afford. But can you name any of those entrepreneurs who have been celebrated for their contributions to their fellow human beings?

Probably not. In California, anyone in the business of producing housing is more likely to be demonized as a "developer," a word that causes hostile reactions among Californians conditioned to respond negatively -- and automatically, like Pavlov's dog.

As for computers, no one made them more usable by more people around the world than Microsoft. And no one has been hit with more or bigger lawsuits as a result.

Why can't the talkers leave the doers alone? Perhaps it is because that would leave the talkers on the sidelines, with their uselessness being painfully obvious to all, instead of being in the limelight and "making a difference" -- even if that difference is usually negative.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

News: D-Day and More

Here is an article from Mother Jones. The author reports that while we often hear much of the Normany invasion, we do not hear what the Soviets were doing on the eastern front.

The Real War

By Tom Engelhardt

We were engulfed this last week by vast waves of media-driven nostalgia -- for a past American war and a past president. The urge to feel good -- a post-Vietnam desire that Ronald Reagan rode to the White House -- is certainly powerful. At least, Reagan promised a new "morning in America" (whatever he actually delivered). It's striking that the Bush administration in its speeches promises only a drumbeat of fear, terror, and war to eternity. Perhaps that's why George looked so generic in Normandy yesterday, his pallid speech buried in stirring clips of Ronnie speaking there twenty years ago. In fact, it may be a barometer of the times that, to experience a few good moments, Americans have had to reach into the relatively distant past -- the landings at Normandy and the Reagan Presidency -- and then to narrow the focus and blur the lens so dramatically. The heroic, bloody, near-disastrous landings at Normandy now exist in "history" without so much as a nod toward the larger panorama of the global war against fascism; and the figure of Ronald Reagan, the genial host, stands alone on stage with most of his administration out of sight. (For a wider lens on the Reagan presidency, don't miss Juan Cole's Reagan's Passing) You might say that blotting out both allies and history is a distinctly unilateral way of feeling good.

Christopher Endy at the History News Network website suggests that we might have celebrated the 60th anniversary of D-Day more in the -- gasp -- French manner ("French memories of the war are more inclusive and accurate than our own. Americans have lost sight of the fact that even World War II's ‘greatest generation' could prevail only with substantial help from its allies, including the Soviets, British, Canadians, Chinese and many others. When Americans ignore this lesson, as they have in Iraq, the result is a world that resents, rather than admires, the United States"); and he reminds us that, to this day, you can descend into the Paris Metro and travel underground from Franklin D. Roosevelt station to Stalingrad station and back again. Mike Davis offers a similarly timely reminder below.

Remembering Bill and Ivan
By Mike Davis

The decisive battle for the liberation of Europe began sixty years ago this month when a Soviet guerrilla army emerged from the forests and swamps of Belorussia to launch a bold surprise attack on the mighty Wehrmacht's rear. The partisan brigades, including thousands of Jewish fighters and concentration-camp escapees, devastated the rail lines linking the German Army Group Center to its bases in Poland and Eastern Prussia.

Three days later, on 22 June -- the third anniversary of Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union -- Marshal Zhukov gave the order for the main assault on German front lines. Twenty-six thousand heavy guns and rocket launchers pulverized German fortifications in a matter of minutes. The banshee-like screams of the Katyusha rockets were punctually followed by the roar of 4000 tanks and the battle cries (in more than 40 languages!) of 1.6 million Soviet soldiers. Thus began Operation Bagration, an assault launched over a 500 hundred mile long front.

But what American has ever heard of Operation Bagration? June 1944 signifies Omaha Beach not the crossing of the Dvina River. Yet the Soviet summer offensive was almost an entire order of magnitude larger than Operation Overlord (the invasion of Normandy) in both the scale of forces engaged and the direct cost to the Germans.

By the end of summer, the Red Army (which included full divisions of Poles and Czechs) had reached the gates of Warsaw as well as the high passes of the Carpathians which command the entrance to Slovakia as well as Hungary. Soviet tanks, in a stunning reverse blitzkrieg, had caught Army Group Center in steel pincers and destroyed it. The Germans would lose more than 300,000 men in Belorussia alone. Another huge German army had been encircled and would soon be annihilated along the Baltic coast. The road to Berlin had been opened.

Thank Ivan.

It is no disparagement of the brave men who died in the sinister hedgerows of Normandy or in the cold forests around Bastogne, to recall that 70% of the Wehrmacht is buried on the Russian steppes not in French fields. In the struggle against Nazism, approximately forty "Ivans" died for every "Private Ryan."

Yet the ordinary Soviet soldier -- the tractor mechanic from Samara, the actor from Orel, the miner from the Donetz, or even the high-school girl from Leningrad -- is invisible in the current celebration and mythologization of the "Greatest Generation." It is as if the "new American century" cannot be fully born without exorcising the central Soviet role in the epochal victory of the last century.

Indeed, most Americans are shockingly clueless about the relative burdens of combat and death in the Second World War. And even the minority who understand something of the enormity of the Soviet sacrifice tend to visualize it in terms of crude stereotypes of the Red Army: a barbarian horde driven by feral revenge and primitive Russian nationalism. Only G.I. Joe and Tommy are envisioned as truly fighting for civilized ideals of freedom and democracy.

It is thus all the more important to recall that -- despite Stalin, the NKVD, and the massacre of an entire generation of Bolshevik leaders -- the Red Army still retained powerful elements of revolutionary fraternity. In its own eyes, and that of the slaves it freed from Hitler, it was the greatest army of liberation in history.

Moreover, the Red Army of 1944 was still a Soviet Army. The generals who led the brilliant breakthrough on the Dvina included a Jew (Chernyakovskii), an Armenian (Bagramyan), and a Pole (Rokossovskii). In contrast to the class-divided and racially segregated American forces, command in the Red Army was an open, if ruthless, ladder of opportunity.

Anyone who doubts the revolutionary élan and rank-and-file humanity of the Red Army should consult the extraordinary memoirs by Primo Levi (The Reawakening) and K.S. Karol (Between Two Worlds). Both hated Stalinism but loved the ordinary Soviet soldier and saw in her/him the seeds of socialist renewal.

So, as George W. Bush demeans the memory of D-Day to solicit support for his war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, I've decided to hold my own private commemoration.

I will recall, first, my kindhearted Uncle Bill, the salesman from Columbus, although it is hard to imagine such a gentle soul as a hell-for-leather teenage GI in Normandy. Second -- as I'm sure my Uncle Bill would've wished -- I will remember his comrade Ivan. The Ivan who drove his tank through the gates of Auschwitz and battled his way into Hitler's bunker.

Two ordinary heroes: Bill and Ivan. Obscene to celebrate the first without also commemorating the second.

Mike Davis is the author of Dead Cities: And Other Tales, Ecology of Fear, and co-author of Under the Perfect Sun: the San Diego Tourists Never See, among other books.

Writing: Wordiness

Good writing is simple and direct. One way to make your writing simple and direct is to cut out useless introductory phrases. Here are some examples.

With reference to your question, I think we should go on Thursday.
Just say: I think we should go on Thursday.

It goes without saying that the poor who are helpless need assistance.
Just say: The poor who are helpless need assistance.

At that point in time, he had no vocational goal.
Just say: He had no vocational goal.

Also, avoid "It is" and "There are"

It is time that heals all wounds.
Just say: Time heals all wounds

There are some writers who cannot help being words.
Just say: Some writers cannot help being wordy.


Introspection means self-examination or to look closely on one's feelings. He was an introspective person, always considering his motives for doing things.

Hapless means luckless or unfortunate. A hapless person is unlucky.

Nefarious means that which is wicked or unjust. To what nefarious end has this information been withheld?

Monday, June 07, 2004

Ideas: Physics

Take a look at this physics site. Read about speed and acceleration. What type of thinking is involved in physics?

Ideas: Calculus

Here is a short piece on calculus.

Date: 05/06/97 at 09:41:35
From: matthew doedtman
Subject: Calculus

What is calculus and how does it work?

Date: 05/06/97 at 14:25:39
From: Doctor Ceeks
Subject: Re: Calculus


Calculus is a branch of mathematics.

Calculus was created in large part by Newton and Leibniz, although
some of the ideas were already used by Fermat and even Archimedes.

Calculus is divided into two parts, which are closely related. One
part is called "differential calculus" and the other part is called
"integral calculus". [In high school, most differential calculus is tarught]

Integral calculus is concerned with area and volume. How do you
determine the area of a circle or the volume of a sphere? Another way
of putting it is: how much paint do you need to color in a circle? How
much water do you need to fill up a ball? Integral calculus explains
one way of computing such things.

The basic idea of integral calculus is this: the simplest shape whose
area we can compute is the rectangle. The area is the length of the
rectangle multiplied by its width. For instance, a "square mile" is a
piece of land with as much area as a square plot of land with sides
measuring one mile each. To compute the area of a more complicated
region, we chop up the region into lots and lots of little rectangles.
When we do this, we will not be able to succeed completely because
there will always be pieces with curved sides, generally. But the key
idea is that the sum of the areas of the rectangular pieces will be a
very close approximation of the actual area, and the more pieces we
cut, the closer our approximation will be.

Differential calculus answers the following question: imagine you go
on a car ride. Suppose you know your position at all times. In other
words, at 10 a.m. you're in the garage, at 10 a.m. and 5 seconds
you're just outside the garage, at 10 a.m. and 10 seconds you're on
the road just in front of your house...and so on... At the end of
your trip, you realize that at every moment during your trip, your
speedometer showed the speed of your car. Just from the knowledge of
your position at all times, can you reconstruct what your speedometer
showed at any time? The answer is, yes, you can, and differential
calculus provides a method for doing this.

The basic idea of differential calculus is this: the simplest
situation where you can compute what the speedometer read is when you
drove at the same speed over the entire distance. Then, you can use
the formula: speed equals distance divided by time. For instance, if
you drive 50 miles in one hour all at the same speed, then your
speedometer read 50 miles per hour the whole trip. In the situation
where you didn't drive at the same speed, the idea is to imagine your
trip as lots and lots of short trips, say, one trip involving pulling
the car out of the garage, another trip getting the car onto the road,
and so on...even trips which involve going from one lamp post to the
next. Over each of these tiny trips, your speed doesn't change much
and you can pretend that your speed didn't change at all. This puts
you in the situation where you know how to compute the speed for each
tiny trip, and gives you a good idea of what your speedometer read for
that part of the big trip. However, the assumption that the speed
didn't change over each tiny trip is generally wrong, and so you only
get an approximation to the correct answer. But the key idea is that
the smaller you make the tiny trips used in your computation, the more
accurate you will be able to compute the actual speedometer reading.

-Doctor Ceeks, The Math Forum
Check out our web site! http://mathforum.org/dr.math/


Go here and click on "Grammar" and then in the pull-down menu choose "who, which, or that." Read and then complete the test.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Ideas: Big Bang Theory

Read about the big bang theory here.

News: Reagan's Passing

Ronald Reagan passed away yesterday and today is D-Day. Here is the speech President Reagan gave on D-Day, 1984.

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today
"One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for."

Sunday, June 6, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

(Editor's note: President Reagan delivered this speech June 6, 1984, the 40th anniversary of D-Day, to a group of World War II veterans at Pointe du Hoc, France.)

We're here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue. Here in Normandy [France] the rescue began. Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but 40 years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers on the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the Continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting only 90 could still bear arms.

Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there.

These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.

Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender's poem. You are men who in your "lives fought for life . . . and left the vivid air signed with your honor."

I think I know what you may be thinking right now--thinking "we were just part of a bigger effort; everyone was brave that day." Well, everyone was. Do you remember the story of Bill Millin of the 51st Highlanders? Forty years ago today, British troops were pinned down near a bridge, waiting desperately for help. Suddenly, they heard the sound of bagpipes, and some thought they were dreaming. Well, they weren't. They looked up and saw Bill Millin with his bagpipes, leading the reinforcements and ignoring the smack of the bullets into the ground around him.

Lord Lovat was with him--Lord Lovat of Scotland, who calmly announced when he got to the bridge, "Sorry I'm a few minutes late," as if he'd been delayed by a traffic jam, when in truth he'd just come from the bloody fighting on Sword Beach, which he and his men had just taken.

There was the impossible valor of the Poles who threw themselves between the enemy and the rest of Europe as the invasion took hold, and the unsurpassed courage of the Canadians who had already seen the horrors of war on this coast. They knew what awaited them there, but they would not be deterred. And once they hit Juno Beach, they never looked back.

All of these men were part of a roll call of honor with names that spoke of a pride as bright as the colors they bore: the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Poland's 24th Lancers, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, the Screaming Eagles, the Yeomen of England's armored divisions, the forces of Free France, the Coast Guard's "Matchbox Fleet" and you, the American Rangers.

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith, and belief; it was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge--and pray God we have not lost it--that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. [Very good point. Force is not wrong if used for the right thing.] You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you. People of your countries were behind you.

The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home. They thought--or felt in their hearts, though they couldn't know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4 a.m., in Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying, and in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell.

Something else helped the men of D-Day: their rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause. And so, the night before the invasion, when Col. Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer, he told them: Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask his blessing in what we're about to do. Also that night, Gen. Matthew Ridgway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee."

These are the things that impelled them; these are the things that shaped the unity of the Allies.

When the war was over, there were lives to be rebuilt and governments to be returned to the people. There were nations to be reborn. Above all, there was a new peace to be assured. These were huge and daunting tasks. But the Allies summoned strength from the faith, belief, loyalty, and love of those who fell here. They rebuilt a new Europe together.

There was first a great reconciliation among those who had been enemies, all of whom had suffered so greatly. The United States did its part, creating the Marshall Plan to help rebuild our allies and our former enemies. The Marshall Plan led to the Atlantic alliance--a great alliance that serves to this day as our shield for freedom, for prosperity, and for peace.

In spite of our great efforts and successes, not all that followed the end of the war was happy or planned. Some liberated countries were lost. The great sadness of this loss echoes down to our own time in the streets of Warsaw, Prague and East Berlin. Soviet troops that came to the center of this Continent did not leave when peace came. They're still there, uninvited, unwanted, unyielding, almost 40 years after the war. Because of this, Allied forces still stand on this continent. Today, as 40 years ago, our armies are here for only one purpose--to protect and defend democracy. The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest.

We in America have learned bitter lessons from two world wars: It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We've learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent.

But we try always to be prepared for peace; prepared to deter aggression; prepared to negotiate the reduction of arms; and, yes, prepared to reach out again in the spirit of reconciliation. In truth, there is no reconciliation we would welcome more than a reconciliation with the Soviet Union, so, together, we can lessen the risks of war, now and forever.

It is fitting to remember here the great losses also suffered by the Russian people during World War II: 20 million perished, a terrible price that testifies to all the world the necessity of ending war. I tell you from my heart that we in the United States do not want war. We want to wipe from the face of the earth the terrible weapons that man now has in his hands. And I tell you, we are ready to seize that beachhead. We look for some sign from the Soviet Union that they are willing to move forward, that they share our desire and love for peace, and that they will give up the ways of conquest. There must be a changing there that will allow us to turn our hope into action.

We will pray forever that someday that changing will come. But for now, particularly today, it is good and fitting to renew our commitment to each other, to our freedom, and to the alliance that protects it.

We are bound today by what bound us 40 years ago, the same loyalties, traditions and beliefs. We are bound by reality. The strength of America's allies is vital to the United States, and the American security guarantee is essential to the continued freedom of Europe's democracies. We were with you then; we are with you now. Your hopes are our hopes, and your destiny is our destiny.

Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee."

Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.

Thank you very much, and God bless you all.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Interview Questions

Here are some common questions asked of students in college interviews.

Tell me about your course work?

What is your GPA?

How do you find time to study?

How long have you been in school?

What are your favorite books?

What kinds of extra-curricular activities have you been involved in?

Have you had courses in ____?

What is your proficiency in ___?

Why are you majoring in ____?

What did you learn about yourself in _____ class?

What classes have you enjoyed the most?

Is there any class you have completely disliked? Why?

What was your most difficult class?

How have you changed since you started college?

Is there anything you have been involved in at high school that you are really proud of?

What are your strengths? (or Tell me something about your skills.)

Why would you be an asset to our college?

What is your best quality?

What has been your greatest accomplishment? Your greatest disappointment?

Tell about your leadership skills?

What do you perceive as an area that could use some improvement? (or, What is a quality that is not your best?)

If you start Monday on a self-improvement course, what one area would you like to improve?

Have you ever had a communication- problem with anyone?

How do you handle people who are critical? (or How do you handle rejection?)

Are you a good loser?

Give me a little bit of your background.

What motivates you?

Give me three words that describe you.

What are your interests? (or What types of activities do you like the best?)

How do you think your friends would describe you?

What type of career are you looking for?

Would you describe yourself as motivated more by your goals or by money?


Go here and click on "Grammar" on the left. Then, in the pull-down menu, choose "Subjects and Verbs." Read the section, then take the test.

New Item: Journalists

Here is an article from the Christian Science Monitor. One of the ways to stay active in reading is to ask questions about what you are reading. When you ask questions, you stay more engaged in your reading and you also begin to read for answers. This keeps us focused on the reading material and raises our comprehension. My questions are in [].

Newsroom conservatives are a rare breed

If you'd like to check out an endangered species, don't bother with a trip to the zoo. Just drop by the newsroom of your favorite newspaper or TV station and ask to see the conservatives. [Are there few conservatives?]

According to a new survey [I wonder what survey?], only 12 percent of local reporters, editors, and media executives are self-described conservatives, while twice as many call themselves liberal. At national news organizations, the gap is even wider - 7 percent conservative vs. 34 percent liberal.[Why a bigger gap at the national level than the local level?]

That gap, which has grown wider in the past decade, does not necessarily prove that America's mainstream journalism is biased, as conservatives have long complained. But the survey does confirm that US newsrooms do not mirror the political leanings of the nation at large. [Why is this? Why don't newsrooms mirror the political leanings of the nation at large?]

But in an election year, and an era of growing partisanship on the airwaves [what has led to the growing partisanship of the airwaves -- could it be the introduction of cable news?], the question of alleged media bias has currency. Some editors contend that at the very least, media outlets should acknowledge that ideologically unbalanced newsrooms are bad for journalism and, in a time of declining circulation and viewership, bad for business, too.[Is the idologically unbalanced newsrooms leading to declining circulation? Is there cause and effect here?]

"We should acknowledge that maybe the biggest problem is that most of us think too much alike and come from the same backgrounds," says David Yarnold, editor of the opinion pages at The (San Jose) Mercury News. "Find the pro-lifers in a newsroom. That's harder than finding Waldo." [Why do reporters favor abortion?]

Many editors and news executives argue that the goal of balanced reporting can be reached, and generally is, through professional ethics. [I sense this may be a theme of the piece. Is it?] Even those who are alarmed by the survey don't necessarily advocate a political litmus test in hiring.

Still, the survey shows a sharp disconnect in viewpoint between the press and the public. The nonpartisan Pew Research Center found the gap between journalists and other Americans particularly wide on social issues [such as what?]. The sample of 547 journalists and executives in a wide range of print and broadcast organizations, found that 88 percent of those surveyed at national media outlets think society should accept homosexuality; about half the general public agrees. And while about 60 percent of Americans say morality and a belief in God are inexorably linked, only 6 percent of national journalists and executives surveyed believe that.[If I were taking a test on this material, I bet there would be a question on this statement. By the way, not all statements written are equally like to contain material that a tester can ask about. Some more than others. We need to start figuring out which statements are most important.]

But if editors and recruiters are thinking more about ideological balance, newsrooms remain distracted by budget cutbacks and continued embarrassment over the another gap: a severe shortage of minorities relative to the general population. [Why so few minorities?] To make things more complicated, no one wants to put a "Bush or Kerry?" question on an application form, and some journalists assume conservatives simply aren't interested in joining their ranks.

Then there's the matter of changing attitudes in a profession that prides itself on the ability of reporters to set their personal views aside."Most journalists try to do a fair job and are quite careful to make sure that their personal point of view doesn't overwhelm the story," says Jeffrey Dvorkin, ombudsman at National Public Radio. "In talk radio and cable television, the goal is to be opinionated. But the majority of journalists feel opinion gets in the way of doing good journalism." [Is there a difference between opinion news and regular news?]

Indeed, the Pew study doesn't prove that news stories themselves are biased - although it found that most national journalists think the media are giving President Bush a free ride.[Free ride on what? On the war? The economy? Why isn't the author specific here?]

Some analysts also note that publishers and station owners are anything but icons of the left. "Journalism in general in the United States tends to be fairly conventional and traditional. Even if [reporters] individually see themselves as liberal, the framework in which they work isn't necessarily a liberal structure," says Aly Colón, head of the diversity program at the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank.[In other words, the structure is different than the people within the structure. Possible test question.]

Still, many Americans say a liberal bias does exist. In a Gallup poll last fall, 45 percent of Americans said the news media are too liberal, while 14 percent said too conservative. (Some 20 percent of Americans now call themselves liberal, versus 33 percent who say they're conservative.)[This is interesting: more people call themselves liberal than conservative. Is there some other term people use to describe themselves beside liberal or conservative?]

Gallup also found TV news and daily papers near the bottom - on par with Congress and labor unions - in its ranking of public confidence in US institutions.

Mainstream US media outlets nowadays scrupulously try to avoid taking political stands outside editorial pages, unlike their newspaper ancestors in the 18th and 19th centuries or their contemporary European cousins. [Why the change from the earlier centuries? Possible test question.]

Even so, reporters exert plenty of influence over their coverage, and some critics say they can't help missing parts of the big picture if they look at things the same way. And the trend toward a liberal viewpoint appears, if anything, to be rising. In 1995, 22 percent of journalists told Pew they were liberal, and 5 percent conservative. Now it's 34 and 7 percent, respectively.

Journalists are often blind to their bias, says Bill Cotterell, political editor at the Tallahassee [Fla.] Democrat. "It starts when we decide to cover one story and not another, and decide some people are kooks and not worth calling," says Mr. Cotterell, a registered Democrat. "I get the feeling that [journalists] don't think they're biased unless they sit down, hold a meeting and take a vote to support this side and oppose the other."[In other words, the bias might come in when deciding what story to cover, who to talk with, what evidence to report, etc.]

What to do? Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, suggests that news organizations reach out to Christian colleges and woo people from other walks of life, like the military. "Just look around," he says.

Editors can also try to recruit reporters from different parts of the country and from a variety of backgrounds, says Peter Bhatia, executive editor of The [Portland] Oregonian. Mr. Yarnold, the San Jose opinion editor, adds that job interview questions can draw out whether applicants are ideologues or critical thinkers.

It may help that the news industry isn't a stranger to diversity campaigns. Through internships and other outreach programs, media outlets routinely make special efforts to hire minorities. The diversity efforts have had mixed success, however. According to a new survey by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, minorities hold only 13 percent of newsroom jobs at American newspapers surveyed, up from just 4 percent in 1978.

If you had to summarize this article in a paragraph, what would you write? What is the major theme here? Does the author identify a problem? If so, what is it? Does the author tell us how to solve the problem? If so, how?