Ross Mackenzie
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Additional stops on a random walk through a garden of issues currently in the news . . .

A study of student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test (NAEP) since the early 1970s reaches dismal conclusions. On a scale of 500, test scores by today's high-schoolers average a pitiful one point higher in reading and just two points higher in math.

Do the scores not shout that la-de-da experimentation (today's "progressive education") doesn't cut it -- and teachers should take the kids and run, not walk, back to the basics?

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Possibly the best development during the new administration is the replacement of the top general in Afghanistan -- a conventional warfare guy -- with two generals boasting extensive experience in special operations. As Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in announcing his decision, "From a military perspective, we can and must do better."

As for instance Ulysses Grant did in the 1860s, Matthew Ridgway in Korea, and David Petraeus with the late-hour "surge" in Iraq, surely in Afghanistan the right generals can put us on the road to victory.

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Israel's new prime minister will meet America's new president Monday -- and the principal topic of discussion likely will be, or should be . . . Iran. President Obama wants an independent homeland for the Palestinians. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concurs with that long-term objective.

But Netanyahu regards dealing effectively with Iran -- its nuclear ambition, its practice of terror through clients such as Hezbollah and Hamas, and its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the Mad -- as central to the success of both a Palestinian entity and Middle Eastern peace.

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The White House budget office now acknowledges the Obama administration's first-year budget deficit will at least quadruple the record-setting final-year deficit of the Bush administration -- all deficits in all budgets of course ratified by the practically useless U.S. Congress.

Remember the screaming outrage at Bush/Republican deficit spending? It's funny -- isn't it? -- the deafening silence that greets a looming one-year Obama/Democrat deficit at least four times higher.

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As he did regarding so much, Mark Twain had it right about your on-the-job federal legislators -- saying: "No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while Congress is in session."

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Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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