The Purest Form of Teaching

One-on-one tutoring.

I was thinking about that while mountain biking with Lev Vgotsky in Capital Forest recently. Well not literally with Lev, figuratively.

Literally, I was cycling with Lance, one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Sometimes though even the nicest guys have a devious core. Lance took me on a trail clearly outside my zone of proximal development.

He said it was a relatively mild Cap Forest trail which means I really suck. I went down twice, once I laid it down fairly gently into the dense shrubbery lining the super muddy 18″ wide trail and another I went over the bars. In this pic you can’t really appreciate how much blood is flowing from my knee and ankle under the layer of caked on mud. Badass, I know.

Blud and mud

I told mi esposa, una professora de Espanol, it was like dropping a Spanish 1 student in the center of Mexico City.

One of the central challenges of teaching well is adapting one’s curriculum and methods to students’ widely divergent preexisting knowledge and widely divergent skills. That is what non-educators don’t fully appreciate about teaching.

For example, take a high school swim team with 45 swimmers, 15 or so who swim on a club year round, 15 or so who only swim during the season, and 15 or so who are starting from scratch. What do you do? “Excellence” advocates might suggest cutting the “bottom thirders” but public school teachers don’t have that liberty. So what do you do when some seventh graders read, write, and ‘rithmetic at a 2nd grade level and others at the 12th? Then, for good measure, add in English Language learners, students with special needs, and well, maybe teaching is harder than it first appears.

In one-on-one tutoring it’s easier to figure out what the student knows and can already do, and therefore, it’s easier to adjust one’s material and methods in light of their zone of proximal development. Given that, maybe we should redesign our middle and high schools based upon one-on-one tutoring.

Probably unrealistic because people are so resistant to change. People would protest: we can’t have students coming and going from campus all the time; we can’t have students lose in the community; scheduling would be impossible; we can’t expect administrators, district bureaucrats, and parents to pitch in; we can’t expect students to be responsible and work more independently; we can’t redesign report cards; and we can’t do anything that disadvantages our students in the college application process.

Here’s how it might work. We wouldn’t need nearly as many administrators dealing with crowd control and discipline issues. So we take most of their walky talkies and deputize the majority of them as tutors. Same with district bureaucrats. We also deputize responsible adults in the community to both supervise student interns engaged in service-learning and to serve as tutors. We also ask parents to sign on as tutors in an academic, voc-ed, or life-skill area of their choice—Spanish, math, construction, baking, tax preparation, bicycle repair.

Some parents either won’t be qualified to, won’t be available to, or won’t want to participate, others may volunteer to tutor not just their children, but others too. For citizens that volunteer regularly, we could reduce their property taxes like Colorado did for seniors who volunteered in schools. Minimum expectations for community-based tutors could be detailed and teacher-leaders could design internet-based “how to tutor” modules and train them.

At high schools at least, we would also add in a layer of peer tutoring. Every student would be guided through a process of picking an academic subject (writing persuasive essays or solving algebraic proofs), extracurricular skill (competitive debate, swimming), or vocational ed set of skills (cooking or basic car maintenance) that they would be expected to teach a few of their peers. Again, teacher leaders could design internent-based “how to tutor” modules for students and teach peer tutoring first thing in the school year.

We’d completely rework the traditional bell schedule. At any one time, an expert swimmer would be teaching a beginner how to breath during freestyle, an advanced violinist would be teaching a beginner proper feet position and posture, an accomplished math student would be explaining to a less accomplished one how to solve for “x”. Upper and lower tracked students would interact regularly.

At home, in school libraries, and in community libraries, students would spend about half of their time reading, writing, and preparing for tutoring sessions.

Teachers would spend half of their time tutoring in their specialized academic areas and half as mentors supervising the tutoring network of ten or twenty students who they will get to know particularly well over the course of working with them for all three or four years of middle or high school. Thoughtful teacher supervision of each individual student’s tutoring network will be critical. This approach to teaching and learning would only work if the sum of the disparate tutoring experiences equaled more than the individual parts.

In any one day, a student would meet one-on-one with an adult in or near their home, with another adult somewhere in the community as a part of a service project or internship, with a few peers in school both as teacher and learner, and with a few teachers both to be tutored in core academic areas and to synthesize what they’re learning from all of their different tutors. And again, in between tutoring sessions, they’d be reading, writing, and preparing for upcoming sessions.

Crazy? Maybe I did hit my head on that over the handle bar number I did.

Fraud Antennae

By comparison, we’re a very strange family. We almost never talk to and never text with Away At College Daught (AACD). We Skype on Sunday nights. Typically, six days without any contact. I understand if you want to tar and feather us.

So it was quite surprising when AACD called mid-morning, mid-week recently. Someone had just called her from her bank and said they needed her debit card number because they were having problems with their network. She gave it to the caller. And immediately realized she’d been duped. Her mom told her to immediately call the bank and everything would be okay. She did and it was, but her experience begs an important question. How do we form meaningful trusting relationships with others while simultaneously guarding against criminally inclined people looking to take advantage of us? More succinctly, how do we develop fraud antennae? The more desperate people’s economic lives become, the more critical it is we develop fraud-detection skills and sensibilities.

I told AACD’s younger sissy the debit card story as a precautionary tale and explained to her surprise that there are people in the world who wake up every morning trying to figure out better ways to steal elderly people’s life savings.

Bernie Madoff, besides offering regular 20% returns, was supposed to be pretty charming. Nicholas Cosmo probably was too. A minnow compared to Madoff, Cosmo only defrauded 4,000 investors out of $195m. Or consider David Dutcher’s experience. Here’s a teaser to get you to read the entire LA Times article:

David Dutcher met Sharon on in late 2008, a few months after separating from his wife. “We had a lot in common,” he recalled. Sharon loved four-wheel-drive trucks and sports. They met for coffee, then dinner. Sharon was tall, slender, blond and beautiful. She moaned that she had not had sex in a long time. She told him he had large, strong hands and wondered if that portended other things. She described his kisses as “yummy.” “It felt a lot like Christmas,” said Dutcher, 49, a tall, burly engineer with wavy red hair. The women fiddled with Dutcher’s tie and massaged his neck and shoulders. The brunet unbuttoned her blouse to reveal generous cleavage. “I am way over my head with these girls,” he remembered thinking. “I hadn’t been out dating in a while.”

Apparently Dutcher’s Christmases are different than mine, but I digress. “Sharon” had been hired by Dutcher’s ex-wife. The night ended much worse than Dutcher imagined—with his arrest for driving under the influence by a cop working with Sharon and Dutcher’s ex. The age-old honey trap* with some crooked soccer moms and cops thrown in for good measure.

The crooked uniformed cop, an admittedly extreme example of fraud, brings to mind the uniformed Norwegian killer who every adult on the island somewhat understandably, albeit tragically, assumed was legit.

Dutcher simply needed to stop staring at the cleavage long enough to ask himself if what he was experiencing was so far out of the ordinary that maybe he had been set up. This is what I’m going to call the “so far out of the ordinary/too good to be true test” and maybe that’s the answer to my question. Then again, a lot of very smart and successful people didn’t think that Madoff’s promised 20% investment returns in a wildly fluctuating, but mostly down market were too good to be true so how can I expect D-squared to have applied the test?

More importantly, how do we guard against more subtle attempts at fraud, like the stream of fake emails or phone calls seeking debit card numbers? And how do we teach young people to form meaningful trusting relationships with others while simultaneously guarding against criminally inclined people looking to take advantage of them?

Experience is the best teacher. AACD is less naive as a result of that phone call, panic, and quick trip to the bank. But what kind of curriculum, dinner conversations, and other resources might help young people be proactive in detecting and thwarting the fraudsters in our midst? More simply, how do we teach them things may not be as they appear?

* When I was a teacher at an international school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia back when Al Gore was inventing the internet, the US embassy folks invited my male colleagues and me to the embassy for a meeting where they cautioned us about beautiful Ethiopian women known to seduce American men in the hope of weaseling their way out of the country. Even showed a film with case studies on how it was done. This had one effect on my friends and me. We were more excited than normal to go clubbing the next weekend. Alas, I regret I was never a victim of the honey trap. :)

House Hunters International on HGTV

Love it.

Or I should say “really like it” since moms always says, “You can’t love something that can’t love you back.”

Each tightly packed episode is a thirty minute long travel/house hunting fix. A person, couple, or family chooses among three residences in some foreign country. Recently, while watching a college football game, I caught most of two episodes*. The first was about a British man and an American woman who met in Orange County, California. They were moving to England. Immune to our recession apparently, he needed a large garage for his cars and she needed a dance studio.

The second couple, an Irish man and an American woman moving from Chicago to Ireland, had two small girls. Appears as if Euro men are stealing our women, but I digress. Their Chicago house had a small yard “where every time the girls kicked the ball it hit the wall”. He wanted at least an acre which they eventually found a few minutes from where he grew up.

A few times in the episode he implied his girls needed a large yard, but I couldn’t help but think he was projecting his past on their present. We all do that to some degree don’t we? Recreate our childhoods for our own children in some form—whether tangibly in terms of the house and neighborhood environment or intangibly in terms of norms, expectations, ethos?

Did the toddlers really “need” a soccer pitch-sized backyard? Would their lives turn out much differently with a small yard or if they found a house near a public park? All I could think of was how much of his time and money he was going to have to spend maintaining his giant patch of grass. To each is own.

Dear HGTV network. How about a show with the same format, but focusing on minimalists proactively embracing our new economic realities by looking for smaller yards, less space, less clutter, lower energy costs? People convinced that some cliches, like “less is more,” might just be true.

House Hunters Downsizing. Or Downsizing House Hunters. Either way, I’d watch it during college football commercials.

• This requires deft remote controlling. And I’m the deftest. Which brings to mind the best sports story from the last month. A 97-year-old man who wanted to watch a Milwaukee Brewers playoff game called 911 to report someone had stolen his remote control. According to the Greenfield police report: The man called 911 to report someone had stolen his remote control from his residence in the 9300 block of West Howard Avenue prior to 8 p.m. Sept. 26. The remote control was found after police responded, so the man was able to watch the Brewers game.

Living Peacefully and Joyfully

During Sunday night’s Skype session with Nineteen I learned she’d been on a nice walk with KN, the uber-nice mother of one of her best friends, who was visiting Midwest leafy liberal arts college for Parents’ Weekend. On that walk KN revealed that she has read three books that I’ve recommended. Cool dat. Note to self: Make a batch of “I read” t-shirts to give to subscribers and loyal readers. No doubt a future status symbol*.

I have another book recommendation for KN. I don’t read books consistently enough, as a result I don’t get through all that many, as a result, I choose what I read carefully. I don’t know if I’ve ever chosen as well as in 2011. The ten month long hot streak continues with A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine (2009). So good I read it twice, the second time taking nine pages of notes since I plan on using it in a future writing seminar.

Irvine says the public’s preconceived notions about Stoicism are wrong. Stoics were fully engaged in life and worked to make the world a better place. The goal of the Stoics was not to banish emotion from life but to banish negative emotions like anger, anxiety, grief, and envy. Musonius Rufus (Is there a better jazz/funk name?) said that “a cheerful disposition and secure joy” will automatically follow those who live in accordance with Stoic principles. Would be Stoics, Irvine writes, will take to heart the Stoic claim that many of the things we desire—most notably, fame and fortune—are not worth pursuing. Instead they will turn their attention to the pursuit of tranquility and virtue.

The word “tranquility” is hardly ever used in conversation today, probably because few of us experience much of it, but it’s the central concept of the book. Irvine says “Tranquility is a state marked by the absence of negative emotions such as grief, anxiety, and fear, and the presence of positive emotions—in particular joy.” On a scale of one to ten, what’s your tranquility quotient?

The bulk of the book is about how to practice Stoicism. Irvine does a great job of adapting the Ancient Roman philosophy to modern times. He acknowledges that people should choose a philosophy of life that fits their personality and that Stoicism won’t be for everyone. He points out that in some significant ways Stoicism and Christianity overlap; consequently, they can be complementary.

For Irvine the greatest problem is that few people have any coherent philosophy of life. As a result, they succumb to mindless consumerism; consequently, at the end of the road they often regret that they’ve squandered their time. What is your philosophy of life? To what degree does it shape your day-to-day actions?

The body of the book is a description of five Stoic psychological techniques and Stoic advice on ten topics such as dealing with other people, anger, old age, and dying. Probably best read with a significant other or a small group of friends who you can discuss it with.

* Any graphic artists out there interested in creating a PressingPause logo? If so, please email me (see the “contact” tab at upper right).

Coaching’s Costs and Benefits

My Atul Gwande bro-mance or man-crush continues to build steam. He begins his most recent New Yorker essay explaining he’s been a surgeon for eight years and. . . for the past couple of them, my performance in the operating room has reached a plateau. I’d like to think it’s a good thing—I’ve arrived at my professional peak. But mainly it seems as if I’ve just stopped getting better.

He points out that top athletes and singers have coaches and asks whether you should too. He asks the question in the context of his own story of contacting his mentor from med school, a well-known highly respected doc, to see if he’d be willing to observe him in surgery and offer suggestions. I recommend the whole essay, but long story short, Gwande breaks through his plateau as a result of his mentor’s objective, insightful, detailed feedback.

Mid-point in the essay, Gwande explains how teacher-to-teacher coaching is one of the most promising reforms being implemented in some school districts.

He also acknowledges that many of his fellow docs and many teachers probably aren’t quite secure enough to open themselves up to pointed constructive criticism.

But he fails to mention another at least equally significant hurdle, sufficient money to compensate experts for their coaching time. School districts have to release coaches from their own classrooms meaning substitutes have to be paid for or everyone has to teach larger classes. And I can’t believe he expects teachers, lawyers, dentists, and other professionals making far less than professional athletes or elite singers to pay for coaching out-of-pocket. It’s unclear how financially strapped school districts and hospitals are supposed to add in coaching costs.

If only I had a magical “financial resource” wand. Now that I’m in better touch with my stubborn, self-defeating self-sufficiency, I see areas in my life where I could benefit from coaching.

In late August the personal trainers in mom’s swanky FL health club were doing some intriguing exercises with their clients. Made me want to toss medicine balls and run around with giant rubberbands around my ankles. And I’m sure I could benefit from swimming, running, cycling, triathlon coaching. Listening/marital bliss coaching. Cooking/nutrition coaching. Gardening coaching. Bicycle maintenance coaching. Golf coaching. Social media coaching. Parenting coaching. Writing coaching.

You get the drift.

Does Absence Actually Make the Heart Grow Fonder?

The title of Jessica Grose’s review of Iris Krasnow’s new book The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What it Really Takes to Stay Married.

Krasnow’s thesis—there can be positive aspects to time spent away from a spouse—at least for (non-military) wives.

Potential benefits include greater emotional and physical self reliance and more in-depth communication.

Quoting Grose: Krasnow says that the most important marital lesson she took from the hundreds of women she spoke to was the importance of maintaining a sense of evolving self, apart from one’s relationship. It’s not that geographic space is the only way of achieving a separate identity—for example, several of the wives said reconnecting with physical pastimes helped them develop their sense of self—but it is a surprisingly effective one.

Must be an autobiographical work given the focus on double X’s. Newsflash—men also stand to benefit from maintaing a sense of evolving self.

There’s more than one way to stay happily married for the long haul. Some of my friends seem to be doing the opposite of what Krasnow is suggesting. They spend as much of their non-work time at home together and they’re in near constant texting and calling contact with one another. It’s easy to understand their desire to spend as much non-work time together as possible when commuting long distances and/or working especially long hours, but I have to confess to not understanding the need to be in near constant contact. I wonder, when they eventually sit down to dinner after sending fifty texts and talking twenty times during the day, what do they talk about?

I can’t read Krasnow’s book because my brother said my recent poem crossed the fem vortex line. But I’m sympathetic to her thesis. I wonder how some of my “single-minded family” friends are going to fair when their last children fly the coop.

The wife and I definitely benefit from time apart. It makes negative visualization tons easier—what would my life be like without her/him? Upon reuniting, we always appreciate each other a little more.

In some alternative universe, it might be nice if we didn’t need to spend any time apart to maintain genuine, mutual appreciation for one another, but we’re fallible, so we do.

The Life Changing iPhone 4S

The earliest adaptors, the tech glitterati, have determined that the iPhone 4S, or the phone’s Siri voice recognition feature more specifically, is a life changer. John Gruber said he “could live without it, but wouldn’t want to.”

Funny how one day life is rolling pretty darn well without voice recognition on phones and the next a few peeps start asking, “How did we ever live without it?” And before long, we’re wondering how did we ever get off the couch to change the television channel and how did we ever use our phones just to talk to people.

Walt Mossberg provided this life-changing Siri voice recognition example. WM, “Find a French restaurant.” 4S, “I found 13 French restaurants, 7 in Bethesda.” WM, “Remind me to call my wife when I get home.” 4S, “Okay, I will remind you.”

I’m not anti-tech, but the hyperbole in the reviews helps distinguish between those earliest adaptors and the much later ones like me. As an AAPL investor I follow the phone releases, and I’m glad when they’re successful, but my heart rate doesn’t quicken at the thought of standing in line to purchase one.

Call me crazy, but the life-changing bar is a little low if it hinges on finding a French restaurant or receiving a reminder to call someone.

Wake me when an iPhone can accurately fulfill these types of requests:

• Find a nearby, inexpensive restaurant on the water with great vegetarian dishes, quick service, and a table near a television programmed to the game.

• Alert me 30 seconds before my wife is about to ask me a “how do you feel about” question.

• Whenever my wife asks a “how do you feel about” question, provide me the optimal answer.

• Show me AAPL’s closing price for next Friday.

• Alert me 30 days before the UCLA basketball team’s next National Championship.

• Tell me if it will rain next Saturday afternoon anywhere in Thurston County between noon and 3p.m.

• On the first day of every month, please remind me how much time I have to live.

Be still my beating heart


Chelsea Clinton and the Meritocracy Myth

Yes, I'd be happy to join your board.

After reading a few accounts of Chelsea Clinton’s recent appointment to the Board of InterActiveCorp (IAC), a company that runs sites including,, and, here’s what I think we’re supposed to conclude.

There’s one winner and one loser.

The obvious winner? C-squared herself. The Wall Street Journal explains. Ms. Clinton will receive an annual retainer of $50,000. In addition, she will receive a $250,000 grant of IAC restricted stock.  

IAC’s stock is up 41% this year. Say she serves for ten years. With stock appreciation that will be well over $1m in income for attending what I suspect are quarterly meetings. Winner, winner, several very nice chicken dinners. She’s currently working on a Ph.D at Oxford. Sure hope they reimburse her for her airfare.

The loser is actually losers. From Alyce Lomax in Daily Finance:

This new appointment is a big — and possibly bad — deal for IAC shareholders.

Boards of directors are charged with protecting shareholder interests, whether many investors realize it or not. These days, plenty of corporate problems — such as out-of-control CEO pay — can be correlated with dysfunctional or flimsy boards that have nothing near an independent spirit that’s willing to challenge management teams.

Now 31, Chelsea Clinton was in her teens during the dot-com bubble and only about 20 years old when it burst, for example. That was a make-or-break time for companies like IAC, but she was probably still pretty preoccupied simply with the process of growing up.

GMI’s Nell Minow commented on Clinton’s appointment on PBS’sNightly Business Report, arguing that the best directors have decades of achievement to speak for them. She also pointed out that IAC’s Diller has a tendency to populate his board with “cronies,” which is just one reason The Corporate Library gives that company a near-failing “D” grade for its corporate governance.

In addition, Diller supported both of Clinton’s parents’ campaigns, which gives shareholders no reason to believe this is the kind of independent director that helps make a robust boardroom. In fact, she sounds a bit dependent on her parents’ careers at this point.

Name-dropping “important” or “known” appointees instead of adding truly experienced directors indicates weak corporate governance and madly waving red flags for shareholders. 

The unreported loser is the notion of meritocracy that the right loves to trumpet. This is the idea that the relative work ethic of U.S. citizens determines their success instead of the color of their skin, their gender, or their parents’ connections. Ironic that a first family of the left disproves one of the right’s foundational ideas.

C-squared’s appointment proves the playing field, that is life in the U.S. in 2011, isn’t level, the starting line of life is staggered, and an individual’s personal capital sometimes trumps others’ smarts and work ethic.

Stereotyping Occupy Wall Streeters

A conservative Republican friend who I refer to affectionately as a “right wing nutter” is increasingly becoming a conservative Independent. He rails about many of the same things the OWSers (Occupy Wall Streeters) do including the negative influence of lobbyists and the unfair advantage gigantic corporations have over small businesses. Even though his fixes would no doubt differ from theirs, the Nutter and the OWSers diagnosis of our economic problems would overlap a lot.

Add into the mix, a “talking to” he gave his teenage son recently. Synopsis—being a man entails living passionately and standing up for and fighting for things that are important to you.

Connecting those dots, I asked him what he thought of the Wall Street protests.

Knee-jerk derision.

Why? My guess is anti-hippie bias. Can’t get past some of the protesters’ “out there” outward appearance and “in your face” style which he probably associates with liberal symbols from the counter culture movement in the 1960’s. Can’t quite get to the content of their character.

Many jump to negative conclusions about others based upon superficial things like clothing, tatts, piercings, hair coloring, mohawks, purple Converse hightops.

Young 1950’s and 1960’s Civil Rights activists were shrewd to wear their “Sunday best”. Maybe 2011 Occupy Wall Street activists don’t want the support of independents like my friend enough to change their individual, idiosyncratic personal style.

Here’s a 6+ minute film that provides an on-the-ground feel of things. And some stills.

Look pretty Main Street to me

Percussion and face painting, oh my!

Shouldn't there be a law about the mixing of tye-dye, bandanas, and the flag?

Occupy Wall Street protesters wake up and start their day in their encampment in Zucotti Park as people walk to work through the park Tuesday morning.

For the love of God, they're sleeping under tarps.

Mitt’s Grand Idea—Let’s Spend More on Defense

This is written for the three independent voters—one in Montana, one in Vermont, and the other in Oregon—that will most likely decide the 2012 presidential election.

Completely lost in the weekend “Mormonism is a cult” hubbub, is a much more serious two-part problem. Mitt Romeny is a liar and in serious denial about our nation’s finances.

Indira A.R. Lakshmanan reporting for Bloomberg Business on October 8th:

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama of bowing to global adversaries and promised, if elected, to boost America’s military strength by expanding the Navy and missile defenses.

“America must lead the world, or someone else will,” Romney said, reprising the argument from his 2010 book, “No Apology,” that U.S. military strength and leadership are essential to deterring tyrants and keeping world peace. “In an American century, America has the strongest economy and the strongest military in the world.”

Note to Mitt: “Our century” was the Twentieth. We’re in decline in large part because we’re spending way too much on Medicare and defense.

Romney pledged in his first 100 days in the White House to boost naval shipbuilding, deploy Navy carriers to deter Iran’s suspected military ambitions. . . and invest heavily in missile defense and cybersecurity.

At The Citadel and Oct. 6 aboard a World War II aircraft carrier in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, Romney repeatedly said Obama is slashing defense spending and gutting missile defense, assertions that are contradicted by official data.

According to government figures, military spending under Obama is higher than it was under former President George W. Bush. Total Defense Department budget authority for non-war and war spending increased 3.6 percent from fiscal year 2009 to 2010, according to Pentagon budget data. Obama requested $708 billion in budget authority for war and non-war spending in fiscal 2011, an increase of 2.5 percent. 

Romney showed “once again that he is willing to say anything, regardless of the facts, to get elected,” Obama’s re- election campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt said in an e-mail.

The former Massachusetts governor on Oct. 6 released a list of foreign policy advisers, including many who served former President George W. Bush and advocated the invasion of Iraq. Several had supported so-called enhanced interrogation techniques or rendition of terrorism suspects to third countries, including former State Department counter-terrorism coordinator Cofer Black, former CIA Director Michael Hayden, and former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.

Aboard the USS Yorktown Oct. 6, Romney called for reinforcing the Navy and Air Force and adding 100,000 active- duty troops to reduce battlefield rotations.

One U.S. service member costs the government $100,000 per year on average, according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, meaning Romney’s plan would cost $10 billion per year, or $100 billion over the 10-year timeframe for reducing the nation’s deficit. 

Echoing a theme of American exceptionalism that was a favored Bush motif, Romney asserted that “God did not create this country to be a nation of followers. America is not destined to be one of several equally balanced global powers.”

Yes we most definitely are destined to be one of several equally balanced global powers.

Romney told listeners that he would ensure U.S. “leadership in multilateral organizations and alliances.” Romney has previously swiped at Obama for “leading from behind,” a reference to the White House’s push for NATO to take joint ownership of the military support campaign that allowed Libyan rebels to oust Qaddafi.

So this is what it’s come to, both sides competing to be the “Defense” party. I’ll spend more than you. No you won’t. Meanwhile, that frees up all the “follower nations” to use their finite economic resources to rebuild their infrastructure, strengthen their education systems, and improve their public health systems. Which in turn will enable them to close the economic gap with us even more quickly.

And to think some people are more worried about Mormonism’s multiple heavens and belief that Jesus visited the Americas.

This “my defense budget is larger than yours” bullshit makes me long for a third party. Since that’s not likely, I guess the only thing that “global military superpower” weary fiscal conservatives like me can do is support the side that will increase defense spending the least.