Choir Preacher

John McCaslin

4/2/2008 10:31:11 AM - John McCaslin

That was 91-year-old American author Herman Wouk, who filled bookshelves with "The Caine Mutiny," "The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance," meeting with Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, who it's worth noting has tried but failed numerous times to resurrect a "Truman Committee" to fight waste, fraud and profiteering during wartime.

"You know, I don't know much about what happened after 1945, but I know everything that happened before 1945," the senator paraphrased Mr. Wouk as remarking during their meeting. "Do you know anything about the Truman Committee?"

One can only imagine Mr. Dorgan's expression at that moment.

"Do you know anything about what happened in the Second World War with President Harry Truman, then-Senator Harry Truman, who created a committee, a special committee in the United States Senate, bipartisan, to go after this issue of contract fraud that was going on with respect to defense contracting?" Mr. Wouk went on to say — likely "in jest," the senator suspects.

More or less

Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy this week became the latest Democrat to issue a fundraising appeal in hopes of increasing his party's current Senate majority.

But as Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky points out: "Some on the other side are talking openly about a grand strategy for picking up more seats in November, but their vision seems to end right there. They seem to forget that once these seats are filled, people expect us to accomplish something."

140 candles

How lucky are our grandchildren that they will live to be 140 years old?

On the other hand, it's too bad they won't be enjoying dogs and cats because of the infections they will be carrying, making household pets uncommon.

These are just a few of the startling predictions by some of today's greatest thinkers, found in an upcoming book edited by Mike Wallace of CBS News and "60 Minutes" fame: "The Way We Will Be 50 Years From Today: 60 of the World's Greatest Minds Share Their Vision of the Next Half-Century."

The greatest minds include Vint Cerf, vice president of Google and considered the "father of the Internet"; Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist George Smoot, who helped solidify the "big bang" theory of the universe; and Kim Dae-jung, former president of the Republic of Korea and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Other predictions: every job will involve information processing because intelligent or semi-intelligent machines will do all the manual labor, researchers will have discovered how to prevent breast cancer, and heart disease virtually will not exist.

Good grief

Are we dummies, or what?

The latest National Assessment of Education Progress was discussed on Capitol Hill this week — and for good reason, given that it finds elementary, middle, and high school students falling short on memory when it comes to American history, if they ever learned it in the first place.

But it gets worse, noted Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, when students graduate high school and attend "what are considered our top universities and colleges."

He cites one recent survey of college freshmen and seniors revealing that many "are ignorant" of U.S. history.

"For instance, only 47 percent of freshmen knew that Yorktown brought the Revolutionary War to an end. Seniors did even worse — only 45 percent knew," he says. "Forty-two percent of college freshmen could not identify on a multiple-choice test the 25-year period during which Abraham Lincoln was elected president."