Challenge to pro-school-choicers

February 24, 2005

I usually argue in favor of school choice on the grounds that poor children should be forced to attend schools that abuse their monopoly power. But this article from the Philly Inquirer (via Power Line)

THE SCHOOL’S 1999 valedictorian has just been charged with having joined an al Qaeda chapter in Saudi Arabia four years ago and is now accused of plotting to kill President Bush, either with a car bomb or by shooting him.
And the school itself has been accused of teaching students to shun or dislike Christians and Jews, and once used an 11th-grade textbook that claimed trees will say on the Day of Judgment, “Here is a Jew hiding behind me. Come here and kill him.”
You could call it Terror High – the Islamic Saudi Academy in suburban Alexandria, Va., near Washington – a more- than-1,000-student high school at the center of these high-profile incidents. The academy is funded by the Saudi government, a supposed ally of the United States in the fight against terrorism.
Daniel Pipes, director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum and a well-known advocate of aggressive anti-terror policies, said the school is like “having a little piece of Saudi Arabia” in northern Virginia. He claimed the Islamic Saudi Academy is a classic case of pitting free speech against protection from future attacks.
“It’s like the Nazis having little Hitler schools in America during the 1930s,” Pipes said last night. Fifteen of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudi, although the oil-rich nation is a close ally of the Bush administration.

I don’t think the operation of such a school constitutes a clear and present danger. But in the same way that we have laws against child abuse and child negligence, there may be merit in laws that protect children from …dangerous lessons? I don’t know the answer here. Perhaps all that is needed here is transparency. Perhaps we just need to make it easy for others to know what schools are teaching, but I don’t know that that is enough.

Perhaps we need to require that children be subject to propganda by the state on its own behalf to counteract stuff taught by parents. It sounds incredibly objectionable when phrased that way, but that is, in effect, what public schools actually do. And perhaps that is a valid social function. Certainly many American liberals don’t object to forcing Christian children to be taught about evolution over the objections of their parents…


HAppS 0.2 Released!

February 22, 2005

I’ve been working on an application server in Haskell on and off for a while. Here is the announcement I just posted to the Haskell mailing lists:

HAppS is a Haskell library for building Internet applications, featuring:

  • HAppS.ACID: Guarantee application integrity in the face of unplanned outages using this module’s integrated write-ahead logging and checkpointing framework.
  • HAppS.DBMS: Do relational operations in Haskell (rather than SQL) on Haskell sets (outside the IO Monad). Define custom indices for your Haskell datatypes (e.g. geographic/geometric types). Use in combination with ACID for a robust relational DBMS customized for your application.
  • HAppS.Protocols: Expose your application using as an HTTP server and/or by recieving and sending SMTP.

HAppS is released by under the terms of the GNU General Public License Version 2, a copy of which is enclosed with this package.
How do I get HAppS?
More information is available at
A tarball of HAppS is available at HAppS is also available via darcs:

darcs get

Paying to avoid war

February 21, 2005

I periodically post about the idea of paying the Arabs to leave the West Bank and Gaza (also see here). Brian Gongol posted a fascinating analysis of the US Civil War showing that it would have been cheaper to buy out the South rather than it was to fight the war. He begs the question of how much the North expected the war to cost and whether it was rational for the south to fight it at all knowing that they were going to lose. But the math is interesting, nonetheless.

Against Gaza Withdrawal

February 17, 2005

VOA reports that Sharon is facing increasing opposition to his plan to transfer the Jewish residents of Gaza out of the area. His rationalle for this plan is that the Israeli government expends too many resources protecting these people from a surrounding population of hostile Arabs and the presence of Israeli troops makes a peace with the local Arabs more difficult to achieve.

He believes it is possible to make peace with a people who demand their land be Judenrein. He further believes that it is okay to transfer Jews who are not demanding genocide but it is not okay to transfer Arabs who are.

My view: If Israel is going to being transfering anyone, it should be Arabs out of Gaza. If it is not going to be transfering anyone, it should be a basic premise of any peace agreement that the Jewish residents of the territories will be safe from harm. If the Arabs can’t uphold such an agreement, they are really not prepared to make peace.

Defend the Defenders

February 15, 2005

Josh in the comments section of a prior post insists on quoting the repeatedly discredited Juan Cole’s claim that those who advocate going to war are hypocrites unless they are willing personally to go and fight.

As I said in the comments, I believe in fighting crime, but don’t join the police. And I believe in fighting fired, but I don’t join the fire department. Josh responded:

oh, and you don’t think that imminent fires or rampant street crime is the greatest threat to the united states and freedom in general. that’s why i’m not calling you a chickenshit for not joining the fucking FIRE DEPARTMENT.

Ignoring the fact that Josh is getting too overwrought to engage in respectful discussion, I would note that if there were no police or fire departments, fire and street crime would be existential threats to our way of life. The reason why neither Iraq nor any other country is an exsitential threat to us is because we periodically fight wars BEFORE they get there. As Wolfwowitz said “we cannot wait to act until the threat is imminent. The notion that we can do so assumes that we will know when the threat is imminent.”

Josh and his ilk do not think the US can or should be the world’s police force. Perhaps they are right, but note the metaphor.

More recently, Josh posted a link to a site for sending whitefeathers to Jonah Goldberg. But, Jonah notes:

The reference is to WWI when women would give young men not in uniform feathers to shame them into enlisting. It’s a clever bit of web-bullying I suppose. But the analogy is stupid. Those women supported the war. The people reprising the role of WWI prim ladies on the homefront do not.

Perhaps Josh is on the verge of changing is mind and supporting the war. He does say:

go to iraq. sign up right now. you’re still young enough. i will support your actions utterly. i will help raise money so you have decent supplies and armor in your outfit. i’ll put a ‘support the troops’ bumper sticker on my car, proudly, and i will sing the praises of the men in iraq because THEY ARE MY FRIENDS who CHOSE TO RISK THEIR LIVES FOR WHAT THEY BELIEVE IN.

I appreciate that he would extend me this honor. But it is telling that he refuses to extend the same honor to our fellow citizens who are already doing so.

I just learned that a junior high school classmate of mine who joined the Marines and fought in both Gulf wars is about to stand trial for the murder of two Iraqis he thought were about to attack him. If conviced he may be subject to the death penalty. His mother is raising money for his defense at DefendTheDefenders. The website is down because it has exceeded its bandwidth but you can find out more details here.

I’ve donated to the fund and so has my brother. I don’t know whether Josh will or whether he is simply blathering. Anyone who wished to defend the defenders can Paypal funds to merriko AT

Will China overtake US power in 20 years?

February 15, 2005

Big Picture forecasts China overtaking the US in GDP in 20 years.
Resource competition for econmic growth will dominate relations over this time. I think China has a good story simply because of the size of their population. I am less optimistic because their one child policy means that 12% of their population will be over 65 in 20 years. On the other hand anti-aging technology may net them a win here in any case.

I’d be more interested in forecasts of China’s per-capita productivity. I’d also be curious to know how easy it is to share productivity gains with others (e.g. the Internet).

Welcome Dan

February 15, 2005

Dan is now guest blogging here. See last post. Enjoy!