Friday, January 30, 2009

The Left Gets, Caused and Embraces the Crisis

From an opinion in the Wall Street Journal (January 30, 2009 P. A13)

"'Think Long' To Solve The Crisis"
By George P. Shultz

Mr. Shultz as brilliant as he is, doesn't get it. I don't believe the Left is stupid, so they understand that living beyond our national and personal means is a disaster beyond imagination for this country. But to them the current economic crisis is simply an opportunity to extend their power. Much of what Mr. Shultz writes is accurate from a reasonable, rational person's point of view, that we are in a crisis which will lead to a catastrophe; but in my opinion to the Left, it is an opportunity, as I wrote, to extend their power. It didn't start with a"prolonged period of Fed-provided, exceptionally easy money", it started with Franklin Delano Roosevelt's brilliant strategy of 1) segmenting voters and 2) buying each vulnerable segment. "People…behave more responsibly when they have…some 'skin in the game'". Well, Mr. Shultz, I hate to break this to you, but the Left since FDR has taken each group's skin out of the game by handing out skin in exchange for votes. There have been some ups and downs of this strategy, but generally it is working. After President Obama's almost certain changes to taxes, around half of voters won't pay anything to maintain their government (federal income taxes). Nothing. And almost everyone is financially dependent on the government; in essence they are paid in one way or another, to vote for Democrats. Rather than name the people and groups so dependent, I challenge anyone to describe on affinity group that isn't. So, understand, Mr. Shultz and "conservatives", there is no "wake-up call', there is little "skin in the game". It isn't from a "failure to deal adequately with clear problems" it is that liberals have purposely caused these problems and instead of the Left being punished for pushing this country into virtual-bankruptcy by being voted out, their newest leader is welcomed like a rock-star. America is so over!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A "tax lapse" isn't illegal if Obama says it isn't

Timothy Geithner won confirmation as President Barack Obama's treasury secretary inspite of his criminal activities in not paying taxes. Unfortunately this reinforces the fact that Democrats are above the law. Because Obama said "Tim's work must begin at once", everything illegal he did is OK. That is the moral picture of Obama's self-righteous, self-centered administration. Whatever you want, Mr. President... Throw Geithner into the pool with other tax cheats such as Charlie Rangel, moral liars such as Eliot Spitzer and former-Democratic almost-candidate John Edwards, conflict-of-interesters such as Barney Frank and Chris Dodd and out-and-out crooks such as Rod-O Blag-O. A group of which to be proud.

But the real tragedy is the continued clueless weakness of Republicans. They are continuing their losing streak. America is the real loser.

I will be updating this regularly with news of Democrat vs Republican crooks.


From another blog, 2-29-09
Economic Crisis, The Audit — April 28, 2009 06:12 PM
Bronte Capital with a Major Scoop on Alleged Fraudster
By Ryan Chittum
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John Hempton the excellent Aussie blogger who writes Bronte Capital appears to have a blockbuster of a scoop.
A Connecticut hedge fund called Ponta Negra Group, run by 27-year old Francesco Rusciano has been frozen by the SEC, which accused it of fraud. Hempton was all over this a few weeks ago, but had to take down his posts when Ponta Negra lawyers threatened to sue him. They’re back up now.
But the big news here is Hempton’s discovery that the allegedly fraudulent fund has some, um, oddly coincidental connections to Vice President Joe Biden’s son and brother, who run a firm called Paradigm Global. The firms are run out of the same floor at 650 Fifth Avenue in New York, share the same “marketer,” a guy named Jeffrey Schneider of Onyx Capital LLC, whose website is currently down, and the SEC filing gives a phone number for Ponta Negra that goes through Paradigm’s switchboard.
Ruh roh.
This wouldn’t be the first time the Bidens’ fund has intersected with an alleged fraudster. Two months ago it was discovered to be entangled with disgraced financier Allen Stanford in a $50 million fund co-branded Paradigm Stanford Fund and marketed by Stanford.
Mr. Schneider was involved in that joint venture, which the Bidens say they made without ever even meeting Mr. Stanford:
A Paradigm marketer, Jeffrey Schneider, confirmed accounts provided by others that he brought in the Stanford business. Stanford would bring clients to the fund and Paradigm would manage it, according to Mr. LoPresti.
Now, I suppose there could just be an amazing amount of coincidences here. Hempton is good on the “to-be-sure” stuff:
I was worried at first that Ponta Negra might be a legitimate fund headquartered in another cubicle on the 17th Floor of 650 Fifth Avenue. It turns out that there are several funds also HQ’d there. Paradigm it seems does all the signage on the floor – but once you get past the couple of Paradigm people on the front desk you find several doors behind which reside several hedge funds – a hedge fund hotel if you want. Most of the offices were empty mid-morning – which was very surprising. These funds are largely marketed by Paradigm.
Still there could be a fund (Ponta Negra) independent of Paradigm on the 17th floor. There could be – they too would need to employ a Jeffrey Schneider as a marketing agent.
But let’s face it:
Ok – by this point you should at least be open to the possibility that the Vice President’s son and brother employ someone who uses the good Biden name and a stolen client list to market Ponzi schemes.
There is no allegation here that the Bidens are involved. Just that their standard of due diligence is low. Very low.
Now the Biden’s hedge fund hotel contains an assortment of other colourful funds. One of them is a SIPC registered broker dealer who also manages client money. This broker dealer does not list their auditor anywhere on their website. However they report startlingly good funds management results for 2006 and 2007 though they have surprisingly failed to update their website to include 2008 results. Their website boasts that their trades will be completed with zero commissions and transaction charges allowing them to focus exclusively on the investments that best meet the needs of the clients without the concern of transaction charges and hidden revenue sharing…
Here’s what Dow Jones says about Rusciano:
According to the complaint, Rusciano previously worked at UBS Securities before forming the Ponta Negra Group, but was later forced to resign after he allegedly misreported certain Brazilian bond transactions and non-deliverable forwards. He now also faces charges by the Federal Reserve that he engaged in illegal trading and banking practices and schemed to defraud UBS by trying to conceal major losses, the complaint said. After starting up his own company, the SEC further claims he never disclosed the Fed’s allegations against him or the reasons why he left UBS.
Not only did Hempton break the news on what he originally called a “Ponzi scheme” before having to take it down under legal threat, he’s put together this Biden family connection.
Just outstanding work.
It wouldn’t be the first time a fraud has been cracked by a blogger before the big media and regulators lumber around to it. Alex Dalmady broke the Stanford scandal, with a big push from Felix Salmon, then at Portfolio—and got disgracefully little credit by the media.
This is going to be a big story. I’ll be eyeballing the press closely to see how it handles attributing the news to the Bronte Capital blog.
(h/t Felix Salmon)

Did President Obama's auto czar Steven Rattner's former firm Quadrangle Group "intentionally deceive" the city of New York's pension funds when it failed to disclose paying a finder's fee to now-indicted political advisor' Hank Morris for a New York Pensioin Funds' investment in Rattner's firm's hedge fund? The New York City's comptroller's office is conducting an investigation. The suspense continues.

Democratic Representative from California, Jane Harman, denied any wrongdoing when she was wiretapped having as she said, "casual conversations and kid[ding]around" with pro-Israel lobbyists about seeking leniency for two of them being investigated for espionage by trying to influence the Bush administration. And apparently she was trying to convince Queen Nancy Pelosi to put her on the House intelligence committee, whatever. Change as usual.


News Alert
from The Wall Street Journal

Steven Rattner, leader of the auto task force, was one of the investment-firm executives involved with payments now under scrutiny in a state and federal probe into an alleged kickback scheme at New York state's pension fund.

3/12/2009 Chris Dodd, Chair Senate Banking Committee. Received two preferential-rate mortgages from Angelo R. Mozilo, founder of Countrywide Financial Corporation in 2003. In addition, he -- like President Obama -- entered into a real estate transaction, in Dodd's case a 10-acre estate on the island of Inishnee on Galway Bay off the Ireland Coast, County Galway, purchased with a shady "investor" who sold his share back to Dodd at a low-call price, thus increasing Dodd's net worth by potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars. Along with them was Edward Downe, Jr. a convicted insider trader for whom Dodd got then-president Clinton to grant a pardon. It is possible that Sen. Dodd lied on his Senatorial disclosure documents about this transaction.

From some blog today, March 19, 2009:
White House Calls Vivek Kundra's 1997 Theft Conviction 'Youthful Indiscretion'Eric Krangel, Silicon Valley Insider
Should a crime committed 12 years ago stick with you forever? That's the question being asked of America's CIO Vivek Kundra. Earlier this week, it surfaced Vivek pled guilty to a charge of misdemeanor theft (less than $300) back in 1997, when he was 22. Nick Shapiro, White House spokesman, weighs in: "Twenty years ago, Vivek committed a youthful indiscretion. He performed community service and we are satisfied that he fully resolved the matter." (1997 was twenty years ago?) There's also an ongoing FBI investigation into bribery and kickbacks at Vivek's old office. "Mr. Kundra has been informed that he is neither a subject nor a target of the investigation," the White House says. Still no word on just what it is Vivek stole.

It is reported (The Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2009, page A14, "Congress's Own Liechtenstein") that Democrat, Representative Pete Stark, from California has been claiming --illegally -- that he lives in Maryland to beat the punitive taxes in his home dacha, California. He, along with fellow Congressperson, Democrat from New York (another Soviet colony) Eliot Engel, has been told nada, you can't do that, Comrade Mr. Congressman.

A fund of hedge funds managed by the brother and son of the Vice President of the United States, Joseph Robinette "Joe" Biden, Jr. , was marketed exclusively by disgraced and accused Texas "financier" (crook?) R. Allen Stanford. It is alleged by the Securities and Exchange Commission that he engaged in an $8 billion fraud. The fund, co-branded by Stanford Financial Group and the Bidens' Paradign Global Advisors LLC was Paradigm Stanford Capital Management Core Alternative Fund and had $50 million, including $2.7 million of Stanford cash for seed money. Little Biden son, Hunter, wanted to be a hedge fund operator like the big boys and apparently bought Paradigm with Uncle James -- Joe Biden's brother. Apparently Joe didn't want HuntHunt to be a lobbyist, which he was, when Daddy ran for President, which he laughingly did. Even John Edwards beat him. And with respect to its purchase the Bidens are suing some guy named Anthony Lotito Jr. who sounds like an Italian. Can't say it's illegal, but did those 104 investors ($49.8 million) want something from VP or Senator Honest Joe? Also can't say if HuntHunt or Uncle Jim knew anything about hedging or investing. The hugely successful asbestos litigation firm, SimmonsCooper invested put up $2,000,000 for Hunter and Uncle Jim after teaming with another Joe son, Beau Biden's firm in Wilmington, Del.In 2005, SimmonsCooper shifted its focus away from Madison County, Illinois, after Chief Judge Edward Ferguson transferred the mammoth asbestos docket from Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron to Circuit Judge Daniel Stack. The firm targeted Delaware because many businesses incorporate there and the firm's roster of defendants always includes Delaware corporations.No one at SimmonsCooper held a Delaware law license, so Beau Biden's firm filed the suits and SimmonsCooper identified itself as, "of counsel."Beau Biden dropped an asbestos defense client to accommodate SimmonsCooper.At the same time, Joe Biden resisted asbestos litigation reform in the Senate judiciary committee. HuntHunt and Uncle Jim reportedly bought Paradigm from a drug addict with a partner who specialized in providing ACCESS to public employee retirement funds for money managers and apparently had been engaged in touting a number of penny stock "investments". In addition there were rumors of "side deals", kickbacks and representation by a lawyer heading to prison for fraud. All this is too sick for me to continue. He is our vice (so to speak) president, anyone interested in this crap can Google it all.

And speaking of ..."Texas Businesman Sought for Influence in Corridors of Capitol. (The Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, February 18, 2009, page A13) and the next article down. "SEC Charges Financier Stanford With 'Massive' $8 Billion Fraud". Both are about Texas "businessman" R. Allen Stanford, of the Biden article above, and how 1) he stole and 2) contributed greatly to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D. N.Y.), iand $250,000 to the Democratic Party, among other Democratic coffers. His main lobbiest is Ben Barnes, "influential Democratic lobbyist and fund-raiser, Men Barnnes to whom he paid $1,125,000 lobbying for Stanford Financial Group. Stanford is also fighting the IRS over $70,000,000 in back taxes and interest.

"FBI investigates generous donor to Dicks, Murray" (Seattle Times, March 23, 2009, front page ). Seems the PMA Group, Arlington, VA, has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to mostly Democratic members of the Appropriations Committees in exchange said politicians earmarked millions of dollars to PMA clients. These Democrats have killed any effort -- so widely advertized while they and President Obama were running for office -- to rein in such extortion. Hopefully the FBI -- under Obama's Justice Department -- will be allowed to really investigate and also hopefully it won't all be swept under the table by these dirty politicians donating "questionable donations" to charity. And from another blog, March 30, 2009:
Criminal Inquiry Into Murtha Lobbyist Heats Up
Monday, March 30, 2009 2:28 PMBy: Rick Pedraza
Article Font Size
The PMA Group, a lobbying firm that was raided in November as part of a federal criminal probe into embattled Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., has closed up shop after reports that federal prosecutors recently raided the office and home of its top operative Paul Magliocchetti, the New York Times reports.
Magliocchetti, who is under investigation for making campaign donations in the names of other people, reportedly directed tens of millions of dollars in contributions to lawmakers while steering hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarked contracts back to his clients at PMA.
Murtha earmarked millions of dollars for the Electro-Optics Center at Penn State University, which then rerouted the money to clients of PMA Group, a military-oriented lobbying firm that has close ties with Murtha, Politico reports.
Former PMA staff members familiar with the inquiry tell The Times that prosecutors are focusing on the possibility that Magliocchetti used straw campaign contributors to give large sums in coordination with PMA, whose offices were raided by the FBI in November.
The front, which allegedly funneled illegal donations to friendly lawmakers, carries a felony charge that could result in a minimum sentence of five years.
Prosecutors also are looking into whether violations of longstanding Congressional ethics rules occurred, which could lead to more serious bribery charges if linked to official acts by Murtha.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Murtha has collected $2.37 million in campaign contributions from PMA lobbyists, the Associated Press reports.
“All the combustibles are here for a very salacious set of allegations that could go far beyond his campaign finance problems,” Stanley Brand, a Washington criminal defense lawyer, tells The Times.
Murtha, who is head of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, was involved nearly three decades ago in the Abscam corruption probe, a federal investigation that convicted several lawmakers of taking bribes in return for doing business with the government.
A spokesman for Murtha says the lawmaker had done nothing wrong and is not involved in the investigation. The FBI is continuing its investigation into whether Murtha earmarked special-interest spending provisions in return for campaign contributions.
“We have not been contacted by any federal agency,” Murtha spokesman Matt Mazonkey tells Newsmax, “and no one is suggesting that Congressman Murtha has anything to do with this investigation.”

"Acting Director of OTS (Office of Thrift Supervision) Put on Leave Amid Probe (From the Wall Street Journal March 27, 2009 )
This was backdating a capital infusion into IndyMac Bankcorp a bank which arguably a letter by Senator Charles Schumer (Democrat) put into failure. This same bank is being bought by investor including Uber Democrat George Soros. Hmmmmmm.

April Fools Day, 2009: "Cabinet pick has tax trouble" (Seattle Times page A4) Another Obama cabinet selection, this time Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, made "errors" on tax returns, this time for fudging charatable contributions, the sale of a home and business expenses. Only $8,000 and "unintentional".

Is the NY Times (or Seattle Times, for that matter) railing about Democrat corruption yet?


Thursday, January 22, 2009

American Idol - Elmer Gantry?

Perhaps starting with Sesame Street, or parenting, where expectations of offspring became few, I don't know, but America has become obsessed with a pretty face, a pretty voice or something beyond real-world achievement. Thus, in my opinion, we have just elected American Idol - Presidential Version. But it also proves that "religion" is alive and well in America. We all need to believe in something. And now we have Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States of America. Most citizens have been swept away and, while believing, have suspended belief. President Obama, a charismatic figure, has been appointed CEO of the largest, most complex organization in history. Sort of like me being made CEO of MobilExxon. President Obama could have a backbone stronger than our last president; he could embrace the free-enterprise system as the best ever invented in the world; he could stand back, like President Reagan, and manage to a few basic first principles. Or he could Carter-like attempt to micromanage each aspect of the country; he could be bulldozed by Congress; he could yank the country further toward anti-free-enterprise socialism. I hope President Obama succeeds at being the grown-up in the midst of the liberals' sandbox of playthings. Is he Mr. Rogers or Elmer Gantry? Putting our economy into the hands of data-driven "intellectuals" as he is doing is putting it into the hands of those who invented the mortgage-backed securities, derivitives and other computer-modeled securities that have decimated our economy and hiring for Treasury Secretary who didn't pay his taxes and broke the laws of hiring illegals, isn't a good start.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hope Can't Pay the Bills.

Today is the Inauguration (Coronation) Indoctrination Day. The 44th President of the United States of America, January 20, 2009. President Barack Obama ran and won on the promise of CHANGE and HOPE. (Well perhaps the ineptness of John McCain his opponent and the overwhelming financial “meltdown” elected him.) But hope won’t pay the bills. He has never made an important decision. He has never hired anyone. Now he is running the largest institution in the world. Our experiment in Democracy has come full circle from where democracy meant white, male, property owners those typically with success, intelligence, worldliness, education running things. Now democracy is proving out its weakness: everyone gets to vote. (Well if they are citizens and at least age 18.) There needs be no intelligence, worldliness, education nor stake in society. In fact today something like 38% of the working people pay no federal income taxes and about half of them get welfare back (“Earned Income Tax Credits”). Franklin Delano Roosevelt first discovered the segmentation of voters into subgroups and pandered to each of them in exchange for votes. Some (me) might call it buying elections, and indirectly that is exactly what the Democrats have done. By promising only retirement security and healthcare for seniors the country owes somewhere around $60 trillion in future obligations to its citizens. And that was only the beginning. In every nook and cranny of our lives the government intrudes and increases costs, red tape and reduces freedom. We are not a free country. And it will only get worse.
Along with seniors, FDR bought farmers, trade union leaders (who could then more easily unionize workers and take their union dues to gain power, live well and elect Democrats), Negroes, the unemployed, and, in a stroke of unanticipated consequence, artists, writers, and the “liberal”, who went on to be newspaper writers, authors, painters, movie producers propagandizing citizens’ minds for the Democrats. In recent decades environmental evangelists with their lawsuits, trial lawyers with their money and the homosexual affinity group (“gays”) with their audacity and publicity have joined the crowd. It is clearly the popular place to be – a Democrat, a liberal. But they are anything but liberal. They want nothing more than to control our lives. From embracing and releasing criminals to give them their “rights”; handcuffing and lambasting the police for its “abuses”; to monetizing victimhood from which trial lawyers reap billions of dollars; to controlling where we smoke; what we eat; how and where we build things; criminalizing thought and speech (“hate crimes”); while legalizing that which used to be illegal; curtailing organized religion; demonizing business and the successful; and promoting, not equal opportunity but absolute equality for all.
Equality is impossible, those promising it are liars.
Government pays for healthcare, education, lost jobs, "safety", diversity, accessability, and on and on. But who pays for government? Business, commerce, companies. Only businesses can create wealth from nothing. Only business can create lasting jobs. Therein lies my problem with Democrats, they are anti-business, anti-free-enterprise. They think they know better how to run business than those who created those businesses and those who manage them, because they'll run them for "stakeholders" -- employees, the public, the government, the environment. Their supporters: trial lawyers, union leaders, environmentalists among others can only have power and wealth through taking from businesses, thus weakening them, thus diminishing wealth in the United States, thus causing it to be unable to “grow its way out of its unfunded liabilities.
But Democrats know they are right and moral and how we should manage our lives. They are our overseers.
Our nation is doomed to mediocrity, and with it, comes "equality" on a much lower level. Well, equality for everyone except those in power. Some things never change.

Ted Wight, Coronation Day, 2009.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

"Investment in Clean Technology Suffers Steep Quarterly Decline"

"Investment in Clean Technology Suffers Steep Quarterly Decline"


TECHNOLOGY JANUARY 7, 2009, 10:28 A.M. ET Investment in Clean Technology Suffers Steep Quarterly Decline Article, Wall Street Journal.

Venture-capital investment in clean technology fell 35% in the fourth quarter from the prior quarter amid the economic slowdown, the steepest quarterly drop in two years.

In total, $1.7 billion was invested in the sector in the fourth quarter, the smallest amount in six quarters, according to estimates by the Cleantech Group LLC, a market-tracking firm in San Francisco. Clean technology includes technologies such as solar that, in general, makes industry greener.

The swoon in what has been one of the hottest venture-capital sectors was largely driven by the global economic downturn, and is likely to persist at least into the current quarter, say officials of Cleantech, which tracks venture activity world-wide. But they say clean-tech spending is likely to rebound, given indications by the incoming Obama administration that it will invest heavily in green technologies as well as a long-term push by corporations to become more energy efficient.

"The fundamentals are still strong when it comes to clean tech," said Brian Fan, Cleantech's senior director of research. "We know the world has to get off coal and has to replace oil."

For 2008, venture investments in the sector rose 38% to a record $8.4 billion, up from $6.1 billion in 2007, according to Cleantech's estimates. The numbers, which exclude some places like Japan and South America, have shown growth every year since 2001 when reported transactions totaled $506.8 million.

Solar continued to account for the lion's share of investments with 40% of the total, followed by biofuels, transportation and wind. Some of the biggest investment rounds went to thin-film solar companies, which use materials typically cheaper than the silicon solar panels that have dominated the industry.

In 2008, U.S. clean-tech companies raised $5.8 billion in 241 disclosed investment rounds, up 56% from 2007. Those companies accounted for 68% of the global total tracked. Top investors included Khosla Ventures, which participated in 21 disclosed rounds, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which participated in 18. Both Silicon Valley venture-capital firms have been pioneers in clean-tech investing.

Write to Jim Carlton at

Response by Superamerican, emailed to Wall Street Journal, January 7, 2009:

This article has it all wrong. Venture investment in "clean technology" [sic] fell because the price of oil/gasoline fell. If these so-called new technologies can't pay off economically for investments made, no investments will be made. This is a great time for me to promote my idea of a floating federal gasoline tax, where the price of gasoline at the pump remains relatively fixed and high enough to encourage private investment in alternative technologies. The tax would float up or down opposite to the underlying wholesale price of gasoline thus keeping the same retail price for gasoline. This would yield huge sums to the federal government for infrastructure spending while encouraging the private sector to invent new technologies alternative to fossil fuels. If gasoline is, say, $3.00 or $3.50 and relatively fixed it would serve as a base on which to develop business plans for alternative energies. This would be a win-win-win: 1) government would get funds for infrastructure from users; 2) alternatives to oil could be invented and developed by the private sector, where such innovation always comes. At the same time it would keep the federal government out of "investing" in alternative energy which typically would see funding for either technologies which are bureaucratic favorites or large campaign contributors. And the final "win" 3) would be to allow consumers to have a continuing fixed gas price from which to budget their expenses. Add a fourth win: 4) it would allow public transportation companies to reliably budget operating expenses and capital expenses for expansion.

Theodore M. Wight
2201 Third Avenue
Seattle WA 98121
(206) 956-011

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

"Time to update schools' reading lists"
By John Foley, guest columnist, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 6, 2009, Page A 9

"Last updated January 5, 2009 3:35 p.m. PT

Guest Columnist: Time to update schools' reading lists

The time has arrived to update the literature we use in high school classrooms. Barack Obama is president-elect of the United States, and novels that use the "N-word" repeatedly need to go.

To a certain extent, this saddens me, because I love "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Of Mice and Men" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." All are American classics, and my students read them as part of approved sophomore and junior units, as do millions of students across the nation.

They all must go.

I hope they go to private and public libraries and remain in high school classrooms. I would keep copies in my own classroom and encourage students to read them. But they don't belong on the curriculum. Not anymore. Those books are old, and we're ready for new.

Even if Huck Finn didn't contain the N-word and demeaning stereotypes, it would remain a tough sell to students accustomed to fast-paced everything. The novel meanders along slower than the Mississippi River and uses a Southern dialect every bit as challenging as Shakespeare's Old English.

Explaining that Twain wasn't a racist -- or at least didn't hate African-Americans (he had a well-documented prejudice against Native Americans) -- is a daunting challenge. I explain that Jim, a black man, is the hero of the book. I tell them Huck eventually sees the error of his ways, apologizes to Jim and commits himself to helping him escape slavery. Yes, I tell them, he does all this while continuing to refer to Jim by the demeaning word, but Twain was merely being realistic.

Many students just hear the N-word. This is particularly true, of course, of African-American students. I have not taught Huck Finn in a predominantly black classroom, and I think it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to do so effectively. With few exceptions, all the black students in my classes over the years have appeared very uncomfortable when I've discussed these matters at the beginning of the unit. And I never want to rationalize Huck Finn to an angry African-American mom again as long as I breathe.

John Steinbeck's "Mice" and Harper Lee's "Mockingbird" don't belong on the curriculum, either. Atticus Finch, the heroic attorney in Lee's novel, tells his daughter not to use the N-word because it's "common." That might've been an enlightened attitude for a Southerner during the Great Depression, but is hopelessly dated now.

What books should replace these classics? The easiest call is for "Mockingbird." David Guterson's fine "Snow Falling on Cedars" has similar themes and many parallels, and since the novel is set in the San Juan Islands, it would hold more interest for Washington students than the Alabama setting of Lee's novel.

I think a good substitute for "Mice" would be Tim O'Brien's Vietnam novel "Going After Cacciato." Like George and Lennie in Steinbeck's novel, Cacciato dreams of peace and a better world. And the Vietnam War is a more recent -- and arguably more painful -- era in American history than the Depression, and one of more interest to teens.

"Huck Finn" is the toughest book to replace; it's so utterly original. The best choice, in my view, would be Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove." Like Huck, "Dove" involves an epic journey of discovery and loss and addresses an important social issue -- the terrible treatment of women in the Old West. That issue does not rank as high as slavery on our national list of shame, but it definitely makes the list.

Some might call this apostasy; I call it common sense. Obama's victory signals that Americans are ready for change. Let's follow his lead and make a change that removes the N-word from the high school curriculum.

John Foley of Vancouver is an English teacher at Ridgefield High School in southern Washington.

My response:

While I respect Mr. Foley's suggestions, I submit that he is dead wrong. First, to replace true literature of the past with something that's new, fast-paced and perhaps trendy is equivalent to not teaching history because it's old-fashioned. Additionally, the problem always becomes who will choose what to replace and with what? Who chooses the chooser? Time and widespread acceptance have proven the value of Huck Finn, Mockingbird and "Of Mice and Men", not the dictate of a single person or entity. But the most disturbing part of Mr. Foley's guest column is that to pretend "The N-Word" doesn't exist or to command that it not be used is to give it a cachet of darkness, which only breeds desire. In our time of change transparency is the watchword. More than banish such words, thoughts and feelings develop a course on Stereotypes and Epithets, and study them. Show students through education that people who use such words are simply ignorant of the world about them. Let such a class be a boarding gate into the acquisition of knowledge. I believe that if that word and others weren't elevated to such importance that, when they were used, the user would be looked down as ridiculous, then they wouldn't even be thought of. And, finally, Mr. Foley, you state that some students "appeared very uncomfortable" in discussing such "matters". Isn't it the job of a teacher to confront such uncomfortableness with education? In fact to celebrate such emotion, explain it and diminish it by discussion, not by making believe it doesn't occur. No, book banning should not be a part of any curriculum, but education about free speech should be.

Theodore M. Wight
2201 Third Avenue
Seattle WA 98121
(206) 956-111