Saturday, April 21, 2007

Our British Brothers In Arms

For a while now since I have lived in Britain, I have gained great respect for our fellow brothers in arms, the British. Since living here, I have found that most Americans view the UK forces as slightly subordinate to the US forces, and also that the US forces are superior. Nothing could be further from the truth. The British forces that work with us are just as equipped, smart, and capable as our own American soldiers. I respect our British allies, and thank them for the hard work they give to their country, their friends, and humanity.

Excerpt from Michael Yon:

The plan for Operation Arezzo was cleverly contrived. While Americans count on helicopter support for deliberate high-intensity combat here, the Brits were going into extremely hostile terrain, outnumbered, without helicopter support, relying instead upon timing, terrain, maneuverability, firepower, and sheer audacity.

In an operation that lasted over four hours, British forces killed 26-27 enemy and sustained no casualties. 5 Platoon fired more than 4,000 bullets before their guns began to cool, and about 15 of the enemy kills were accredited to 5 Platoon.

The British are planning future operations. These soldiers are so good that I have requested from British commanders to be allowed to stay longer.

Read the whole Yon post here.

Wii Rock

Came across this article, which discusses who's on top and what's happening with the big 3 consoles. No surprise, the Wii has been dominating, even though it's plagued with serious supply issues. I waited for 3 months for mine that my lovely wife got me for Christmas before cancelling my order because I got fed up. Interesting that all the articles I have read have trashed the PS3. They blame the high price, and foolish marketing decisions for the dead last Sony console's issues.

"The downside of such a strong opening position is that there's little room for improvement and plenty of distance to fall, and Sony had nowhere to go but down. Meantime, as the PS3, and its diminutive (but equally black and shiny) brother the PSP continue to come up short in the software department, Nintendo and Microsoft are both quite happy to take chunks out of Sony's hindquarters. It's not hard for shoppers to come up with convincing justifications for buying a Wii or a 360, but until some better games come along, the PS3's key advantages are narrowed down to the Blu-Ray drive's movie-playing ability, and the considerable future potential of the powerful hardware. Sony's games division is not in a happy place at the moment."

read the whole thing here.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Fred Thompson: tough words on gun control

From The Fred Thompson Report:

So Virginians asked their legislators to change the university's "concealed carry" policy to exempt people 21 years of age or older who have passed background checks and taken training classes. The university, however, lobbied against that bill, and a top administrator subsequently praised the legislature for blocking the measure.

The logic behind this attitude baffles me, but I suspect it has to do with a basic difference in worldviews. Some people think that power should exist only at the top, and everybody else should rely on "the authorities" for protection.

Despite such attitudes, average Americans have always made up the front line against crime. Through programs like Neighborhood Watch and Amber Alert, we are stopping and catching criminals daily. Normal people tackled "shoe bomber" Richard Reid as he was trying to blow up an airliner. It was a truck driver who found the D.C. snipers. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that civilians use firearms to prevent at least a half million crimes annually.


Many other universities have been swayed by an anti-gun, anti-self defense ideology. I respect their right to hold those views, but I challenge their decision to deny Americans the right to protect themselves on their campuses -- and then proudly advertise that fact to any and all.

Whenever I've seen one of those "Gun-free Zone" signs, especially outside of a school filled with our youngest and most vulnerable citizens, I've always wondered exactly who these signs are directed at. Obviously, they don't mean much to the sort of man who murdered 32 people just a few days ago.

He also has this valid point:

The statistics are clear. Communities that recognize and grant Second Amendment rights to responsible adults have a significantly lower incidence of violent crime than those that do not. More to the point, incarcerated criminals tell criminologists that they consider local gun laws when they decide what sort of crime they will commit, and where they will do so.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Guns in the hands of Thai citizens have also served to curb terrorist attacks in a plan that has the backing of the Queen:

Soon after the beheading, the residents of Lampaya, about 800 kilometers, or 500 miles, south of Bangkok, banded together, bought 150 rifles, received weapons training from a program initiated by Thailand's Queen Sirikit, and began a 24-hour patrol system.

As a result, while surrounding villages have had about 20 killings by insurgents since the beginning of the year, the residents of Lampaya proudly report that they have had none.

Global Warming... eh, Climate Change hype

In looking for research regarding how the world has been variable and climate has changed for millennia of years, I found this article that talks about how many important data are ignored when it comes to the IPCC's little black book. In short it discusses the possibility that there might be a bigger play in the universe that causes global warming. The Sun. Really, that big mass of constant nuclear fusion creating incomprehensible heat might have more of an effect on global warming than a small insignificant amount of a gas that's a natural byproduct of life on a planet.


"So one awkward question you can ask, when you’re forking out those extra taxes for climate change, is “Why is east Antarctica getting colder?” It makes no sense at all if carbon dioxide is driving global warming. While you’re at it, you might inquire whether Gordon Brown will give you a refund if it’s confirmed that global warming has stopped. The best measurements of global air temperatures come from American weather satellites, and they show wobbles but no overall change since 1999.

That levelling off is just what is expected by the chief rival hypothesis, which says that the sun drives climate changes more emphatically than greenhouse gases do. After becoming much more active during the 20th century, the sun now stands at a high but roughly level state of activity. Solar physicists warn of possible global cooling, should the sun revert to the lazier mood it was in during the Little Ice Age 300 years ago."

Read the whole thing, here.

Girls Against Boys

No, we're not going to have a post my wife would love to have a say in. This one's more on a lighter note. Seeing as all the posts have been heavy going lately, I stumbled across this site that has one of Swizstick's and my own favorite band play live. see them, here. And hey, if you like them, buy their music, here.

I especially recommend Basstation.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Kirkuk report from Michael Totten and Patrick Lasswell

Michael Totten's report, with plenty of pics and video, can be found here:

Kirkuk’s terrorists are, my Kurdish hosts explained, mostly Baathists, not Islamists. Their racist ideology casts Kurds and Turkmens as the enemy. They’re boxed in on all sides, though, and in their impotent rage murder fellow Arabs by the dozens and hundreds. They have, in effect, strapped suicide belts around their entire community while their more peaceful Kurdish and Turkmen neighbors shudder and fight to keep the Baath in its box.

American readers may be uncomfortable by the explicitly racial nature of this description, but that’s just how it is in Kirkuk and I cannot apologize for it. Iraqis kill each other over race and religion and power. If you go there yourself you had better pay attention to who lives in which neighborhood and what they think of others. Otherwise you will not survive. I'm a bit awkwardly self-conscious about it, but race blindness is punished in Iraq with the death penalty.

Patrick Lasswell's report is here:

This is the part my wife is going to hate. Kirkuk isn't just nasty, it really is dangerous. In the month we were in Iraq, there were dozens of attacks there including one memorable day when four idiots detonated themselves inside of eight hours. The potential wealth of the area draws terror financing and organization. For perspective, imagine a VA Tech psycho attack once a week in a metro area the size of the Omaha, Nebraska. One difference is that the police and the citizens are prepared and willing to confront murderous idiots with appropriate force.

Mark Steyn: A Culture of Passivity

Over at NRO:

We do our children a disservice to raise them to entrust all to officialdom’s security blanket. Geraldo-like “protection” is a delusion: when something goes awry — whether on a September morning flight out of Logan or on a peaceful college campus — the state won’t be there to protect you.

Read the whole thing. Hat tip to Instapundit.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Where do the locals eat?

My hotel was of the 5-star variety and was ideally located and beautifully decorated. An internet acquaintance of mine had commented that he felt it was one of the best, if not THE best, hotels in all of Asia. I found it hard to argue with him as the service was impeccable and the rooms were roomy and well decorated with many amenities. The windows had beautiful wooden shutters on the inside that opened up to a beautiful view of the skyline and local neighborhood. I would stand at the window and watch the morning chaos of scooters and bicycles emerge as the day began. As with all such accommodations, I was grateful my company paid the bill – which they should, after all I was here on their business – because if I had traveled to Vietnam on my own I would most certainly be staying in a cheap hotel of questionable quality.

My hosts were not free for dinner that first night so I was on my own. I simply dropped my luggage in the closet and headed out for a bite to eat. Sure, I could have played it safe and expensed a fat dinner at one of the hotel’s prestigious restaurants, but what’s the fun in that? Here I was in a new city I had never been to before and would have no idea when I might be back. Working all day long meant few chances to see anything, so I decided to take advantage of the hotel’s ideal downtown location and find a local place to eat that wasn’t inhabited by tourists and businessmen.

Easier said then done. In the U.S. we have our Chinatowns, Little Kabul, Little Saigon, Little Italy, etc. In some places, like Oakland or San Francisco, the Chinatowns’ are large enough and offer a diversity of businesses (along with huge Chinese/Asian populations) that an immigrant from China could completely live and survive within their own culture, never having to fully learn the language or fully involve themselves in mainstream American business and culture. The same thing is true of what we call the expat culture overseas; westerners tend to congregate in mostly foreign occupied housing, go to English speaking international schools, shop at English speaking western-style supermarkets, etc. I saw the same thing when I lived in Hong Kong, where entire luxury apartment buildings, clubs, restaurants, supermarkets, and even office buildings catered almost exclusively to expats and foreigners. I knew of one guy who had lived in Hong Kong for over 10 years and couldn’t speak more than a few words of Cantonese and couldn’t remember the last time he had ever ventured off of Hong Kong island, not to mention his own general neighborhood. He worked in an international company with other foreigners and English speaking local staff, ate with colleagues and friends in western-style restaurants, bought his food on the weekend from the local international supermarket located within walking distance from his home, cooked and ate the same food he ate in his home country and mostly hung out with his foreign neighbors and friends. He basically lived life no differently then when he was at home. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, he was a great guy who just didn’t fancy the Chinese culture or cuisine and felt more comfortable living in his “own environment”.

Downtown Ho Chi Minh City is no expat village, but since it’s mostly a collection of international hotels, multinational office buildings, and tourist attractions it certainly tends to attract a mostly expat clientele. While there were plenty of locals bustling about, there was also an equal amount of, if not more, foreigners milling about, particularly at dinner time as employees were leaving the offices after a day’s work and heading home. In this environment, finding a nice “local” restaurant turned out to be impossible. I first wandered around the streets just to get a feel for the neighborhood, and I am a fast walker and enjoy exploring, so I covered a lot of ground. There were plenty of restaurants, but they catered entirely to expats and foreigners – Italian restaurants, German restaurants, Japanese restaurants, French restaurants. There were some restaurants that claimed to actually serve local Vietnamese cuisine, and perhaps they did, but when I looked through the windows all I saw where western faces looking back at me – which I took as a bad sign, considering I was in Vietnam!

Perhaps some travelers like the “comforts of home” so to speak but when I travel to a new destination I want to try something new, experience at least a taste of local life, and what better way to do it then to try some local cuisine, preferably in a local setting and not chock full of tourists.

Another thing I noticed was the prices. This was Vietnam, after all, a still developing country where the GDP per capita was only $3,100 and food supplies were therefore relatively cheap, comparably speaking. Yet the prices I was seeing on menus were more than I would pay back home in the U.S. It didn’t affect me directly since I could expense it with my company, but normally when I travel to Asia I tend to spend less eating out then back at home.

I finally gave up trying to find out where the locals ate and settled on a Thai restaurant, of all things (having just traveled from Thailand). There were ZERO locals in the restaurant, the only Vietnamese people in there were those that worked there and they all spoke English. Various couples and people from a multitude of origins populated the restaurant. There were some Indian people there, plenty of Caucasians, and a handful of Asians who appeared to be from either Singapore or Hong Kong. I ordered an herb tea, an appetizer, and one small noodle dish: total bill, including tip? USD 20.00. The food was certainly good, but the same meal in Thailand would have cost less than half as much.

Walking back to the hotel I kept getting bothered by bicycle tour guides, where you sit in a little cab pulled by a bicyclist. Other vendors also bothered me with wares or service, and like Bali they were very insistent. I was polite at first, but unlike Bali they didn’t leave me alone. So I finally ignored them and just kept walking faster. At one point I had like 3-4 guys hurriedly following me, all shouting at once for my business – I think I would have been treated differently had I not been alone – perhaps families or groups were bothered less, but it’s a little unsettling to be in a foreign city in the dark at night, walking alone, and having people accost you aggressively for business.

To be continued….

Which is why I plan to build my next computer.......

Walt Mossberg comments over at Personal Technology:

I'm distinguishing these programs, sometimes called "craplets," from the full-featured, built-in Sony software meant to enhance the computer, or from entire, useful programs Microsoft builds into Windows, such as music and photo organizers.

On my new Sony, there were two dozen trial programs and free offers. The desktop alone contained four icons representing come-ons for various America Online services, and two for Microsoft. The start menu and program menu had more items that I neither chose nor wanted. Napster, a music service I don't use, was lodged at the lower right of the screen.

The worst was a desktop icon called "Watch Hit Movies Now!" This turned out to be four full-length films from Sony's movie studios, which the company had preloaded onto my computer at the cost of more than four gigabytes of precious hard-disk space. But they aren't a gift. If you want to play them, you have to pay Sony.

Then there was the security-software mess. I signed up for a 60-day free trial of Symantec software that Sony offered. This required multiple rounds of scary warnings, scans and updates -- on the first day of using a new machine. Plus, when I tried to use a feature that stopped some unwanted programs from loading, I was forced to launch a second, somewhat redundant, security program from Microsoft.

On top of this, Sony informed me it had 21 different software updates available for my brand new laptop.

Hat tip to BizzyBlog.

Estonia flat tax = booming economy

Yet another story about a developing country's success with a flat tax system - the Cato blog links to a story by John Stossel over at TownHall:

Estonians need an average 10 to 15 minutes to file their income taxes. Most do it without leaving their desk: 84 percent file online. … Unsurprisingly, Estonia is booming. The former Soviet republic used to be poor, with an average income 65 percent below its European neighbors. Today, Estonians are almost as rich as their neighbors, and their economy is growing more than 11 percent a year. Corporations like a tax system that is low and simple, too, and that leads them to do more business in flat-tax countries. American companies such as Microsoft, Colgate, 3M, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, and Johnson & Johnson opened businesses in Estonia after the flat tax was adopted. Twelve years ago, foreign investment in Estonia made up only 5 percent of GDP, but today, it’s up to 20 percent.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tax payer funded luxury vacations


Thompson’s office said he toured the Caribbean because he now chairs the Homeland Security Committee and wanted to see vacation hot spots to “examine border security and port security.” Three other members of the delegation also brought along their spouses.


At the Caneel Bay resort, where room rates reach $1,100 per night, the spokeswoman said Thompson and his wife paid the “government rate.” But, according to the reservations department, Caneel Bay doesn’t “offer any government rates.”


The Caribbean trip led by Engel, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, explored the “best practices for emergency disaster relief” and energy policy, according to his office.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Traffic, Traffic, and more traffic......

Bangkok, Thailand is famous for its bumper-to-bumper traffic; it makes Los Angeles traffic look like a cake walk. But nowhere I have been can compare to the horrid mess that is known as Ho Chi Minh City traffic. There is only word to describe it: chaos. Make that two words: utter chaos. Ho Chi Minh City is a city undergoing massive development on a very fast scale along with rising incomes and a growing middle class. The preferred mode of transport in and around Ho Chi Minh City is the scooter. I had heard that scooters were prevalent in Vietnam but nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced. Scooters were everywhere, going everywhere, and in every direction, in complete disregard to the right of way, signage, and basic road laws. In Ho Chi Minh City, everyone wants to go all the time regardless of direction, traffic flow, or traffic cops. At certain intersections and especially during rush hour traffic cops play a losing battle trying to direct the mass of scooters, motorcycles, buses, and cars and everyone tends to ignore them.

Another problem is that once you get outside of Ho Chi Minh City proper the quality of the roads declines considerably. Whereas the airport area and downtown look like just another bustling, developing big Asian city, once you venture far enough away things start to take on a decidedly worn feel. Nicely paved and divided streets turn into potholed sloppily paved streets with gravel sidewalks. Occasionally the pavement would end and we would find ourselves on dirt roads for awhile occasionally cruising through deep mud holes before finding a patch of pavement again.

Before my trip I had planned to visit a number of businesses located in what I considered close proximity to Ho Chi Minh City. Then my agent had informed me that it would be very difficult to visit so many factories in such a short period of time and scaled things down. I accepted the scaled down version but insisted on keeping a couple of key factories on the list, insisting that we find a way to fit everyone into the schedule – after all, none of the factories were more than a 10-15 miles away from each other. My agent patiently explained to my ignorant self that the transportation infrastructure in Vietnam left much to be desired. No worries, I thought, I had seen some dodgy roads here and there in my time – how bad could it be?

Bad. Really bad. From the airport to the first factory was only about 20 miles – and it took us over an hour. As mentioned above, crowded city streets gave way to single lane, roughly paved roads with gravel sidewalks. These in turn became pot-holed nightmares with the occasional dirt patch thrown in. At times we turned completely off the main road and were cruising on rough dirt roads along with bicyclists, water buffalos, carts, and pedestrians. I have no idea what war-era Vietnam looked like, but I can’t imagine much has changed outside of Ho Chi Minh city. Lots of bicycles, scooters, and pedestrians driving down narrow, poorly maintained roads, with rickety storefronts facing the streets with faded residences upstairs; the occasional rice paddy or tended field, carts being pulled by water buffalo, and old communist party murals and pock-marked billboards from the war era. Occasionally you’d even see the rusted hulk of some military vehicle or other war-era relic, overgrown with weeds.

Eventually we made it to the first factory, which was a sprawling facility in the middle of the jungle, a good 20 minutes from what passed as the main road. I’ll spare you the details of factory visits and business meetings, but suffice it to say there are huge disparities between the fairly new private ventures and the old-school government owned and operated factories.

The private facilities were often bustling with activity, well organized, with many modern manufacturing procedures and processes in place. Government owned factories tended to be less organized, less efficient, and simply appeared as if they had seen better days. They tended to boast official party connections with numerous certificates from party organizations and multiple pictures of prominent party members. It’s not that these factories weren’t producing – they were, and they certainly worked hard, but they have some catching up to do if they want to be the equivalent of the private market.

Another thing I noticed, which I am sure will rankle the true communists out there, is that the employees in the non-government run facilities had a safer working environment and were often paid better and treated better than their comrades in the government operated factories (Although they also worked harder, and faster too). There seemed to be a lot of down time at some of the government run facilities. At one government run facility I went to they were constantly boasting of their party connections and that they were better than all the other factories in the neighborhood – not because of some perceived competitive advantage or that they had some kind of unique product or manufacturing process, but simply based on their party affiliation. There was no logic to it, but they seemed to believe that they were superior simply because they were more strongly connected to the party. Every time I questioned them about what I saw were deficiencies that needed to be improved it was dismissed with a wave of the hand and a pronouncement that their close party ties would solve everything.

At lunch time my colleagues appeared visibly nervous and began chatting furiously with each other and the driver in Vietnamese. We got out to the main road and made several u-turns and went down a few side streets before I finally asked them what was wrong. They smiled shyly and said they didn’t know where to eat. This was officially “the sticks” by Western standards and they didn’t know where to eat that would be deemed “suitable” by my Western mind. I politely informed them that I considered myself a world traveler who relished living and eating with the locals as opposed to staying in the sanitized picture of 5-star hotels and business restaurants that catered entirely to foreigners. They looked at me skeptically – Was I saying that I would be comfortable eating at some roadside restaurant with the locals? Absolutely, in fact I preferred it. They found my reply humorous and, obviously relaxed now, quickly gave the driver some directions.

I found myself at a small, airy, very clean open air restaurant with high ceilings and numerous fans to keep the hot, muggy air moving. The restaurant staff froze when they saw a white face and stared at me, standing there in slacks, a button-down shirt and tie, eyes wide open with surprise. My colleagues chuckled and I got the impression that maybe, just maybe, this restaurant rarely served foreigners. I was laughingly asked what I wanted to eat as the menu was completely in Vietnamese – no surprise of course. They then told me we would be eating a very typical local lunch.

It was nothing I hadn’t eaten before in Vietnamese restaurants in the U.S., but the way it was served was much different. Basically we ate spring rolls, but unlike in the U.S. where they come to the table all wrapped up and on a plate, here they bring you several plates of flat wraps and a huge platter of ingredients and sauces. You picked the vegetables and other ingredients you wanted to eat, wrapped it up, and chowed down. We also had small bowls of noodle soup as well. It was refreshing and delicious. The restaurant was meticulously clean and before eating they had distributed plastic-sealed sanitary wipes to clean our hands before eating. My colleagues were pleased that I enjoyed the meal and openly relieved that they didn’t have to drive around in circles for an hour trying to find a “foreigners” restaurant.

At the end of the day I checked into my hotel which was conveniently located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City in close walking distance to all the major attractions and the main business district of the city.

To be continued…….

UK Doctors advise against a career in medicine

Citing "terrible" morale.

The survey, conducted by Hospital Doctor magazine and the website Medix, asked doctors if they agreed with Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, when she said 2006 had been the best year for the NHS. Nearly 90 per cent disagreed.

One doctor told the survey: "As more hospitals try to balance books by sacking staff, the remaining staff are having to pick up the slack, resulting in more mistakes being made. Morale is at an all-time low and getting worse."

Stephen Campion, the chief executive of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, was "saddened" by the results of the poll.

"Traditionally, many doctors have followed in their parents' footsteps and increasingly we are hearing doctors saying they wished they hadn't recommended a career in medicine to their children.

"This is indicative of the extreme frustration and low morale hospital doctors are feeling."

A spokesman for the British Medical Association said: "The survey shows how doctors believe constant Government reforms are taking them further away from their vocation - to treat patients."

Emphasis ours. Big hat tip to BizzyBlog.

Bill Roggio's Daily Iraq Report 4-16-07

Good and bad news from Bill Roggio on Iraq, noting that U.S. and Iraqi raids over the past 48 hrs have resulted in the capture of 129 insurgents, including a number of Al Qaeda members.

Iraqi security forces, with the help of the Anbar Salvation Council, killed Ahmad Hadid, the leader "Islamic State in Fallujah," and Ibrahim Keitan, Al-Qaeda's military coordinator in Al-Anbar. An American military intelligence official tells us Ahmad Hadid is the brother of the notorious Omar Hadid, Abu Musab al Zarqawi's right hand man in Fallujah until he was killed in Novermber of 2004. Thirty-seven al Qaeda were captured in Fallujah, 6 in Amiriya and another 11 were captured along the Euphrates River Valley.

Coalition raids in Taji, Mosul, Baghdad and Amiriya netted 17 al Qaeda, including the "al-Qaeda emir of Rusafa and former vehicle-borne improvised explosive device cell leader." In Basra, British troops killed 8 members of two roadside bomb teams as they were in the process of planting IEDs. On March 11, Iraqi police captured 2 members of a cell thought to be "responsible for planning and building improvised explosive devices containing chlorine."

On the bad news, Al Qaeda also carried out two successful suicide bombings.

A suicide car bomber murdered 47 Iraqis and wounded scores more just several hundred yards from the Imam Ali mosque in Karbala, while another suicide car bomber destroyed a bridge in Baghdad. The Jadriyah bridge, which crosses the Tigris river, is the second bridge attacked by al Qaeda in Iraq just this week. Ten were killed and fifteen wounded in the Jadriyah bridge bombing.

Under the readership of Abu Ayyub al-Masri Al Qaeda in Iraq is proving agile in its ability to switch targets in Baghdad while continuing to strike at sectarian fault lines outside the capital. Prior to this week, al Qaeda's last major bombing inside Baghdad was in a Shia market on March 29. With security ramping up inside Baghdad, markets appear to have become tougher targets. The attack on the bridges will at the least increase the security, and may force the closure their closure.

Australians send 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan

After insisting with the mostly European ISAF that their troops would be "...under Australian national command and interpret their rules of engagement in an Australian way."

Via The Belmont Club who comments:

The Australians know what the Europeans should soon rediscover: the danger comes from within one's self; that there are none so lost as those who have misled themselves.

More appeasement from the Western World

As UK teachers refrain from teaching about the Holocaust for fear of offending Muslim students:
The findings have prompted claims that some schools are using history 'as a vehicle for promoting political correctness'.

The study, funded by the Department for Education and Skills, looked into 'emotive and controversial' history teaching in primary and secondary schools.

It found some teachers are dropping courses covering the Holocaust at the earliest opportunity over fears Muslim pupils might express anti-Semitic and anti-Israel reactions in class.

The researchers gave the example of a secondary school in an unnamed northern city, which dropped the Holocaust as a subject for GCSE coursework.

The report said teachers feared confronting 'anti-Semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial among some Muslim pupils'.

It added: "In another department, the Holocaust was taught despite anti-Semitic sentiment among some pupils.

"But the same department deliberately avoided teaching the Crusades at Key Stage 3 (11- to 14-year-olds) because their balanced treatment of the topic would have challenged what was taught in some local mosques."

Fred Thompson on taxes

Over at the WSJ:

The results of the experiment that began when Congress passed a series of tax-rate cuts in 2001 and 2003 are in. Supporters of those cuts said they would stimulate the economy. Opponents predicted ever-increasing budget deficits and national bankruptcy unless tax rates were increased, especially on the wealthy.

In fact, Treasury statistics show that tax revenues have soared and the budget deficit has been shrinking faster than even the optimists projected. Since the first tax cuts were passed, when I was in the Senate, the budget deficit has been cut in half.

Remarkably, this has happened despite the financial trauma of 9/11 and the cost of the War on Terror. The deficit, compared to the entire economy, is well below the average for the last 35 years and, at this rate, the budget will be in surplus by 2010.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about this success story is where the increased revenues are coming from. Critics claimed that across-the-board tax cuts were some sort of gift to the rich but, on the contrary, the wealthy are paying a greater percentage of the national bill than ever before.

The richest 1% of Americans now pays 35% of all income taxes. The top 10% pay more taxes than the bottom 60%.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Flat Tax: If they can do it, why can't we?

If lesser developed nations like Montenegro, Albania, and East Timor can implement a low flat tax, why can't we?

Montenegro is moving to a 15% flat tax on personal income that will gradually be lowered to 9% by 2010. Albania's will be 10%. East Timor seeks to set itself up as a free-trade nation (much like Hong Kong and Singapore) with income tax rates between 5-10%.

Update: Russia's politicians reject progressive tax scheme, keeping the current flat tax system in place:

Russia’s flat tax has been remarkably successful. Growth is reasonably strong and tax compliance has improved. Indeed, inflation-adjusted personal income tax revenues have been growing at double-digit rates.